Sometimes The Numbers Do Lie…

There are some stats and ratings in sports that are so complicated that they require a small computer program to produce. Even with said complexity, they often produce results that just make no sense. As evidence, allow me to point out that Chad Pennington is the sixth highest rated QB of all time according to the NFL’s QB rating system. Duante Culpepper is ninth; Trent Green is thirteenth; Rich Gannon is eighteenth. Consider that according to this same rating system, Dan Fouts and John Elway rank 44th and 45th on the all-time list. Say what?

Well, there is another rating system out there that makes exactly no sense whatsoever – - even though I do not know how it is calculated nor would I expend the neural energy to try to understand it. I am referring to whatever calculus comes up with the rating for “The #1 Golfer In The World”. This is not some algorithm that tries to compare great golfers over the ages one to another; this purports to tell us who is – in the present tense – the best golfer in the world. According to whatever the formula is, that person is Tiger Woods. Anyone who believes that on 10 August 2010 Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world is a dunce. Whatever the formula is, it needs revision – - badly.

The nominal best golfer in the world has not won a tournament this year and last week finished 78th in a field of 80 golfers – - a mere 30 strokes behind golfing legend, Hunter Mahan. Folks, Tiger Woods needs to win something badly – - maybe even if it is only a Member/Guest tournament at a small country club somewhere. Alternatively, maybe what he needs is a “slumpbuster”. I am sure his peeps can find a way to get in touch with Mark Grace to get advice on how to arrange for a “slumpbuster”.

Speaking of Mark Grace, he was on the HoF ballot last year for the first time. He did not receive 5% of the votes and so he is off the ballot for a while until he becomes eligible for the Veterans Committee – - or whatever they might call it in the future – - to consider his candidacy. For the record, I do not think Mark Grace was a Hall of Fame worthy player except for one little thing:

    Mark Grace led all MLB players in base hits in the decade of the 1990s.

    Every other player who achieved that feat for every decade up until then – - except Pete Rose who is a special case with regard to the HoF – - is in the HoF.

Maybe – - I said maybe – - the voters for the MLB HoF discarded Mark Grace’s name a bit too soon? Maybe he should have survived on the ballot for a couple of years?

Here is an amazing baseball statistic I ran across recently. For his entire 13-year career, Joe DiMaggio struck out only 369 times. In 1941 – - the year of the 56-game hitting streak – - DiMaggio had 621 plate appearances (541 official at-bats) and struck out only 13 times. Wow!

Will everyone who knew that Tina Thompson became the all-time scoring leader in the WNBA last weekend please raise your hand. Fine.

OK, Tina, you can put your hand down now…

In Florida, Urban Meyer closed the first couple of days of football practice to the public. That is certainly something he can choose to do and he cannot be the first college football coach to have done it. Nevertheless, his explanation as to why he did it was a bit puzzling. Meyer said he did it in part to protect his players from rogue NFL agents and their associates. Let us analyze that portion of his reasoning for just a moment:

    1. Might not people be admitted to practice but restricted to a seating area or a viewing area separated from all the players and the staff? After all, they rather do that at games, don’t they?

    2. What might be Coach Meyer’s plan to keep his players away from the rogue agents and their associates for the roughly 120 hours a week that the players are not at practice?

    3. If this is a “security issue” why open the practices after only a few days? Have those rogue agents and their associates given up already and headed out of town to go and prey on the players whose practices are open? Really?

    4. If there is a perceived threat here, that would mean that the coaching staff at Florida would be incapable of keeping ne’er-do-wells away from the players during practice – - where these rogues could slip cash and car keys to the unwitting players between conditioning drills. If that is actually the case, how can they possibly keep coaches from rival schools from standing right next to the players listening to the instructions the players are receiving?

What has happened to candor? If Urban Meyer – - and Nick Saban and other college coaches – - believe that NFL agents are fouling their programs with improper contacts, why not just close the practices and say to everyone that they are doing this as a protest of those tactics? If it is a big deal, then close the practices for several weeks and make it clear that any approaches to players by runners or associates of NFL agents will be announced publicly. If this is a big deal, treat it as a big deal and do something that has even a minuscule chance of being effective. Closing practice for two or three days is less than feckless.

Speaking of “less than feckless”, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald regarding a “less than feckless” fan reaction:

“A 10-story-tall mural of LeBron was removed from the side of a Cleveland building after it was pelted with rocks. Perfect. Because what says futile outrage more than throwing rocks at a cement wall?”

Finally, Dwight Perry offered this entry from the sporting lexicon in the Seattle Times recently:

“A ‘healthy scratch’ is:

    “a) an able-bodied hockey player who doesn’t suit up.

    “b) a common sight in any baseball on-deck circle.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • Steve  On August 10, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Should Mr. Wood’s performance trend continue in the same manner, at what point do you cease referring to him as “Tiger” and return to the erstwhile used shristian name of “Eldred”?

  • Ed  On August 10, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    IIRC the golf ratings are judged over the latest 12 months. Tiger has had a few weeks where Mickelson could have passed him – Phil needed a 4th this week, IIRC.

    Here’s one for you – that 1941 season, who finished second in BA? It was the hit leader, who was NOT Ted (.406) Williams or Joe D. Cecil Travis. Guy few had heard of, hit .315+ 7 times, mostly as a SS, went off to war, never found his game again.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 11, 2010 at 7:20 am


    I had forgotten that I used to refer to Tiger Woods as Eldrick when he was not a Tiger on the golf course. Thanks for the reminder.


    I realize that the ratings cover times past – - I thought it covered the last two years not just one but I could be wrong and I do not have the interest to go and look up the “formula”.

    Imagine what a shortstop who had seven seasons hitting .315 or higher might make today were he a free agent…

  • Tony  On August 11, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Golf’s ranking system sounds about as convoluted as tennis’ – back when I was paying attention to tennis (late 90′s), the system took the best 14 tournaments from the previous 52 weeks to determine your ranking. I remember seeing a critcism at the time which said that you could pretty much tank a number of tournaments or take months off without it affecting your ranking.

  • Ed  On August 11, 2010 at 11:59 am

    You are correct about 2 years, at least for the world ratings, and weighted for recent performance.

    Clearly, Tiger needs some work on his swing, or a new girlfriend or 6.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 12, 2010 at 10:28 am


    Agree that the tennis ranking system has its flaws too but could someone really go more than a year without winning any tournaments and still remain the #1 player in the world. If so, then that system needs revision too.


    It is not sufficiently weighted for recent performance if it purports to tell you who is the #1 golfer in the world in August 2010.

    Six new girlfriends probably would not hurt…

  • Ed  On August 12, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Well, you know who could take over the ranking this week?

    Steve Stricker.

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