Deeper statistics

Watching /listening to tonight’s Red Sox – Dodgers game at Fenway Park tonight (well, I wasn’t actually at Fenway, but alternating between watching it on TV and listening to it on WEEI) and hearing a remark by a commentator about the matchup between Dodgers pitcher Odalis Perez and Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, both Dominican, I started thinking about all the history between batter and hitter, or any player and any other player, from levels below the Major Leagues.  Surely Perez and Ortiz had either faced each other in the Dominican Leagues or played together at some point in their past. Likewise, the memory and experience of many major leaguers of others they face (not to vouch for all) certainly extends into minor league, collegiate, school and sandlot ball.  We all remember many things about people we knew at earlier points in our lives, and it is often extremely difficult to divorce those impressions, experiences and feelings from current happenings.

Thus begins a disconnect between the official statistics of Major League Baseball and the real life experience of the players who are being documented.  Sure, for official statistical reasons there is a big difference between what happens at the Major League level and what happens in the neighborhood field at age 13, but to baseball players, what they have always been doing their entire lives is play baseball, and the CV of accomplishments flows well past those of most other professions.  For players with a long history of playing with/against one another or at least knowing each other (witness the recent often-remarked commentary about Nomar Garciaparra and Jay Payton’s friendship from Georgia Tech, or the ridiculously derided) , that time that some guy took another guy deep back in 8th grade in a summer league actually means something to both players. 

While it is easier to document the US players’ histories (by identifying where they went to school, as well as the better recordkeeping), it becomes more difficult and more vague to figure out how the foreign players fit in together. 

In any case, we often have no idea about the relationship between players on the field and how they relate to one another. This certainly isn’t something that is captured by statistics.  Memory and emotion are still-elusive qualities of sports but affect much on the field or the court.  But the official story and statistics of sports, much like the official story and statistics of many other things in the world, don’t paint the whole picture.

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