Almanac Baseball: To The Third Decimal Point

Now that the MLB season has been underway a few weeks, the stats are starting to mount and in baseball that means we have a slew of them to the third decimal point. There are far too many to cover in one post so I will focus on winning percentage and batting average.

The former is straightforward. Each of the 30 teams play 162 games during the season. Most end up with somewhere between 70 to 90 wins to give a band around the 50:50 mark of 81. An exceptional season is to get over 100 wins like the Cubs did last year with 103 wins for a 0.640 winning percentage (yes I know that’s a fraction not a percentage but terms are fluid in MLB world). So as the season unfolds teams are looking to stay above the pass mark with something around the 0.550 figure likely to make you a postseason contender. My team, the Red Sox, finished 2016 with 93 wins and 0.574 WP. This was enough to win their conference, the AL East, which is generally acknowledged as the toughest and most competitive. They are tracking around that mark now but there is a long way to go until October.

As for batting average, it is the proportion of hits a batter makes in regards to total at bats. Any hitter with any longevity aspires to be above 0.300 but that is rarefied air as seen in the graph. Another quirk of baseball is that averages are generally referred to in hundreds as in ‘he bats two eighty two’ for someone with a BA of 0.282. The leading hitters in the early part of the season are often at four hundred until the grind of the season inevitably causes the droop in their graphs.

There are a multitude of three decimal figures over the course of the season and it is remarkable how crucial the last decimal point can be once we get closer to the postseason. That is always something to look forward to as the permutations and possibilities of postseason matchups and individual honours get within reach.

For now, it’s sufficient to marvel at the beauty of numbers to the third decimal point. There aren’t many equivalents in sport or life generally. For a country that stubbornly sticks to the imperial system it is a joy to behold that they have given us so many three decimal point stats to pore over. But then I have lost track of the anomalies that can be pinned on America. Embrace the chaos I say, as long as it can be measured to a thousandth of its life.

About

Grew up playing the rugby codes in suburban Sydney. Moved to Melbourne during the Carey era so becoming a Shinboner was the natural call. Still love the game they play in heaven. Took an interest in MLB a few years back and have become infatuated with America's pastime.

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    I bunted my way to the batting trophy for Centrals U/15s in 1974/75. I knew my averages to about 10 decimal places, (batting and fielding). Such a team player I was.

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