An “Exceptional Play” Stat Is Exceptionally Idiotic.

First it was the truly bad idea of holding a nine-game World Series, complete with a “World Series Weekend” at a neutral field in order to create a Gross Baseball Spectacle akin to the Super Bowl (which completely ignored the reasons why the Super Bowl works the way it does). Now, agent Scott Boras is interested in inventing new statistical categories, probably out of a desire to have another quantitative stat to jack the asking price for his stable of baseball studs every off-season. It’s not that I have a problem with Boras as an agent — yes, he may be the most recognizable face of the group that drives up salaries to absolutely ridiculous heights, but it’s not on him that owners are willing to pay them. The devil, he is not.

However, if he thinks adding a stat called an EP, or exceptional play, is actually a good idea, questioning his actual intelligence regarding the game of baseball is at least acceptable.

The official scorer would be asked to distinguish between an exceptional play and a routine one in the same way he is asked to distinguish between a hit and error.

In that way, Boras said, fans can debate whether a play should merit an “EP” and compare a player with 20 EPs to another with 10 EPs, whether an EP saved a game just as a big hit might have won it. The only common defensive statistic is an error, he says, and zone ratings and other such new defensive metrics are neither instantly identifiable or widely understood.

Fans can look to blocked shots in basketball, he said, or interceptions or sacks in football.

“One thing we do not do well in this game: We do not recognize defense,” Boras said. “We need to bring defense to the fans. Give them a statistic, and they’ll recognize the player for it. The fans get something else to enjoy the game with.”

Actually, we do recognize defense and we do have a stat for it, Scott — it’s called fielding percentage, and when you don’t make errors, that fielding percentage stays high. Granted, it is not glamorous like batting average, home runs, RBIs, etc., but when those fielding percentages stay high, people win Gold Gloves, and those equal defensive recognition. We talk about them pretty frequently. The EP would actually be harder to qualify than an error currently is; when you see Derek Jeter make another throw across his body to nail a speedy runner at first, or Torii Hunter robs another home run, when it does it stop being exceptional and just expected of the player? We don’t know. We can look at whether someone bobbled the ball and cost their team an out. That’s fairly simple.

So, with that rationale out the window, is there another explanation that would actually make sense in explaining this particular proposal?

The EP, Boras said, should be an easy sell.

“ESPN has told us we need to do this,” he said. “They have web gems.”

Say no more. Where’s the rule book?

14 Responses

  1. are you kidding me!!

  2. Some of his ideas are a little offbeat namely the EP stat, that shouldn’t happen. However, he was on 1050 in NY yesterday, and he seems like a really bright man and given his ability to get JD Drew boatloads of money he’s obviously a smooth talker. Or he’s satan, take your pick.

  3. […] I can hear it now: ‘Hey but Andruw had 24 EPs. That’s 10 more than the average for an outfielder. Each one of those 10 EPs represents a million dollars saved for the team and a million dollars per EP that should land in the pocket of my client.’ (Thanks S2N) […]

  4. Wow, just wow. That is a truly horrible idea. How in the heck could you really distinguish between a normal scoring play and an ep?

    You’d have guys that do nothing for the whole season but are praised because they have three ep’s… awful, awful idea.

  5. I agree that the idea needs alot of details worked out, but I kinda like it. I mean, why not have the opposite of an error? Why not have “web gems” basically be a stat?

    Of course, you are totally correct that he’s motivated by the potential to market the defense of his clients in the same way he markets their offense and pitching abilities. Still, it might be a cool stat….

  6. This should never be mentioned to Selig. This is a ploy for Boras to get his clients more money and more for his self. If it really is an EP the crowd will applause, and defenses get Golden Gloves and their is this thing called fielding percentage

  7. Simon – oh, I’m willing to acknowledge Boras’ smarts in getting clients ungodly money, and anyone calling him “Satan” has to admit that the owners have to take some responsibility. He wouldn’t be getting these contracts if the owners had the power to say no. Anyone who knows how to negotiate a contract is generally a smart person. As far as trying to promote baseball through “ideas” like this one, he’s a moron.

    SML – my objection is that most baseball stats have objective metrics (even your newfangled ones) that are measured through actual results, even though some of them are in ways that I couldn’t comprehend. Errors are the only ones with a semi-subjective component. I don’t see a need to add another one of those, and judging an EP would be ten times more subjective than deciding whether a play was a hit or an error (and most decisions between a hit and an error verge on whether the runner would have been safe or advanced without the gaffe.) In one sense, I blame announcers and analysts: if they would talk about fielding percentage the way they talk about batting, on-base, and slugging percentages, we’d know more about defensive impact.

  8. S2N: I agree that it is subjective, much like the “error” stat is. The error stat is far more subjective than you give it credit for – yes, there are “obvious” errors, but there are a lot of judgment calls. A surprising amount of politics sometimes goes into what is called an “error” versus what is called a “hit”, depending on the situation. A no-hitter, or an active hit streak, for example might draw a favorable call. And there are examples of pitcher’s who are able to lower their ERA because of a favorable error call in their favor from the official scorer (I forget whether it was Clemens or Maddux, but one successful pitcher had a reputation among scorers for being a hardass, and therefore started getting beneficial calls more often than others).

    So my point is this: we already have the one subjective stat to measure bad fielding… why not have a similar subjective stat to measure good fielding? It would seem to balance it out, no? Wouldn’t you get a better feel for Rey Ordonez’s fielding if you knew he lead the league in errors and exceptional plays?

    The problem with fielding% has always been that it only measures the plays you make, it doesn’t measure the quality of the plays you made. That’s the problem with all the fielding stats right now, period.

    Look at Andruw Jones – I picked 2001 arbitrarily, but I’m sure it’ll apply to any year he’s won a Gold Glove: according to the stats, he was about the 12th best OF that year; Doug Glanville had a better fielding%, less errors, only two less assists, a similar range factor, and similar zone range. Yet we all know Jones is the better fielder, right? All those Gold Gloves mean something, right? It’s because we all see the amazing plays on defense he makes. So why can’t we measure that somehow, even if it requires a little subjectivity?

    Anyway, it’s fine if you think it’s not necessary, but I personally think it’s not a terrible idea.

  9. That’s actually the lamest thing that I’ve heard in quite some time

  10. […] An “Exceptional Play” Stat Is Exceptionally Idiotic. [image]First it was the truly bad idea of holding a nine-game World Series, complete with a “World Series […] […]

  11. SML – you’ve got a point, but I just can’t get there to think having the EP would make it better rather than make the subjective calls even more confusing. I can see the argument happening with maangers and players gripipng about the official scorer not calling an EP an EP.

  12. Retarded. Completely moronic.

    So, when Juan Pierre makes a diving catch on a ball that he got a freaking terrible jump on in the first place, he actually gets credit for his ineptitude that nearly cost his team an out?? Idiotic. I can totally see this EP stat happening too…which will be just another example of ESPN’s Highlight Era infiltrating the sanctity of the game.

  13. Anything that can help Mr. Boras extort more money from teams…anything.

  14. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of this… though I just want to say fielding % is not a good way to measure someone’s defensive performance. I mean, it’s one thing, but it doesn’t tell us that much.

    But there’s a problem with the EP stat… I know you mentioned Derek Jeter, and he is as surehanded a SS as there is, but he does not have good range. So if he goes to his right to backhand one and jump and throw, while another SS with better range or in better position makes the play look more routine, does Jeter get an EP and the other guy doesn’t? Just because the other guy may have more range?

    Bottom line, I agree with you in that this potential stat would suck.

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