Thursday, March 27, 2008

Too Many Statistics Create Myths

In 1962, Bill Fischer had eleven (11) consecutive starts without issuing a single base on balls. On the surface this looks like quite a feat but after further review you discover that these numbers add up to nothing. Unfortunately, for the lifetime W-45 L-58 hurler, Fischer played for the lowly Kansas City Athletics (whose record that season was 72W 90-L) and his record during this amazing run was 2-Wins and 8-Losses. In 71-Innings pitched, he allowed 86 hits, walked none and struck out 18. He had to be a batter's dream, seeing as how he was around the plate and wasn't really fooling anybody.

Seems with statistics there's always something you can uncover if you dig long enough. And with trivial things like myths the more you delve into them the more you see how far-fetched or absurd the originator of said myth was in how he/she tried to get their point across.

With most statistical lists, there will be a name or two whose careers have dispersed into the stratus of dubiety.

Take the worst trade in major league baseball history. There are many who say the worst trade was on December 9, 1965 when the Baltimore Orioles sent well-traveled Jack Baldschun, throw-in du jour Dick Simpson and Miltiades Stergios Pappastediodis (americanized to Milt Pappas) to Cincinnati for Frank Robinson. (I remember Simpson as a throw-in along with an outfielder named Steve Whitaker who came from the Milwaukee Brewers to the San Francisco Giants for starter, Bobby Bolin. Bolin's claim to fame was in the year (1968) Bob Gibson had the 1.12 ERA, his ERA was 1.99.)

But I beg to differ.

I say the worst trade in MLB history was when the Chicago Cubs parted ways with African-American hopeful, Louis Clark Brock by dealing him to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio on June 15, 1964. Actually there were other players involved in this trade who are so anonymous and were the epitome of what a throw-in, player-to-be-named later stereotype was that you would win any trivia contest if you could name the others involved. (Jack Spring, Paul Toth and Lou Brock to StL for Doug Clemons, Bobby Shantz and Ernie Broglio. Shantz was a 24-game winner for the Philadelphia A's in 1952. So the grizzly veteran was the token "throw-in" du jour.)

Milt Pappas wasn't a Cy Young award winner but he was serviceable. His first major league game was on August 10, 1957, at the age of 18. On a blustery afternoon, September 24, 1971 to be exact, as a member of the Chicago Cubs, Pappas threw 9 pitches in the 4th inning, all of them for strikes. In the history of major league baseball not many pitchers (37 pitchers did it and 3 pitchers did it twice. Robert "Lefty" Grove did it on 8/23/1928 and again on 9/27/1928. Sandy Koufax did it in 1962 and 1964. Nolan Ryan did it 1968 for the Mets and 1972 for the Angels) accomplished this feat. But, as with most statistics, there will be a name or two on the list whose careers have dispersed into dubiety.

It shall be duly noted that when it came time for the Reds to trade "Gimpy" to the Atlanta Braves on June 11, 1968, the Reds acquired: Woody Woodward, Clay Carroll and Tony Cloniger. All 3 of these players were contributors to the Big Red machine years. Unlike those nobody throw-ins sent and received in both deals.
Pappas and Robinson and Brock all did their parts. But for the number of players involved I say the Lou Brock trade was the worst because the Cubs didn't get a thing. Every other team involved got value. Baltimore got MVP, Triple Crown winning, hall-of-famer Frank Robinson, Cincinnati got the aforementioned 3 players when Pappas was shipped to Atlanta and the Cardinals got hall of famer, Lou Brock.

Kevin Marquez