#Hot Corner

Sabermetrics: Ruining the movie for everyone since 1977


A couple years ago I stumbled on a Science Channel show called "If We Had No Moon." As a tireless advocate for the destruction of the Earth's moon, I wanted to know how fulfilling my lifelong dream might affect us. It turns out blowing up the moon would not be the panacea I once assumed it would be. The moon stabilizes our axis, keeping the Earth's hot parts hot and the cool parts cool, sort of like a galactic McDLT container. Because Mars has two small, stupid looking moons that hardly deserve to be called moons at all, its axis wobbles. Imagine the North Pole tilting all the way down to where the equator used to be, and you've got the idea. It would be less than ideal.*


Anyway, at some point during the program the narrator, Patrick Stewart, said: "No one knows why but a full moon spells trouble ahead for hospitals, prisons, and the streets of any city. Ask a nurse. Ask a guard. Ask a cop." I haven't been this disappointed in Stewart since he blew his chance to rid the Federation of a mortal enemy.

It's not true that troublesome or weird things happen more often during a full moon (and even if it were, "ask a cop" would hardly qualify as supporting proof). Weird things happen, and when they happen during a full moon, people notice. When they happen during a new moon, no one notices.

Which brings me to that sturdy announcer's saw, "And wouldn't you know it, McCutchen makes a diving play to rob Votto of a double, and now here he is leading off the bottom of the inning." Actually, it seems like broadcasters stopped saying this unironically a few years ago. Nevertheless, in case anyone still harbored the idea that ballplayers are more likely to lead off the inning (or get a hit, in one variation) immediately after making a great defensive play, John Dewan can check that:

We can check that! Baseball Info Solutions tracks plays defensively on a scale of one to five, with five being impossible plays (hits that fall in that no one could possibly have fielded) and one being the most routine of plays. The most difficult playable plays are scored a four ... This is truly a great play.

Looking at our data ... there were 2290 times during the 2013 season that a fielder made an out on a play scored a four. How often did that player bat lead-off the next inning? 233 times. That's 10.2 percent, or a little less than the one out of nine (11.1 percent) chance he had of leading off the next inning anyway. If we limit ourselves just to plays that were scored a four and were the third out of the inning, there were 735 of those, after which the fielder that made the play led off the next inning 70 times. That's 9.5 percent. So it doesn't look like there is any truth to that old adage after all.

Sabermetrics is like a blabbermouth who ruins the movie by telling you how it ends.

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