What’s the Deal With Math?

Okay, seriously guys, how many of you read that headline in the voice of Jerry Seinfeld? Speaking of Seinfeld, he is a huge baseball fan and that makes me happy. I think baseball fans are smart, funny, and interesting people to be around. I imagine a situation where I could run into Jerry on the streets of NYC and not be a crazy fanboy. I would just strike up a conversation about baseball and he would happily engage. Because who doesn’t like talking baseball?

I wonder where Jerry stands on the whole sabermetrics thing. Isn’t it ridiculous that one must have a stance? As if it’s going away, or as if the guys who are doing the research will just quit. I mean, there is no valid argument to say that sabermetrics don’t enrich the game in some form. If almost every team in MLB has an analytics department it’s safe to say that this shit matters to some extent.*

*Is it every team now? Are the Phillies on board?

I really don’t understand the push back and resistance against information. Some argue that the sabermetric “geeks” don’t watch the games. Do you really believe that? Do you really believe that baseball fans don’t watch baseball? This has been written about over and over. People fear what they don’t understand. Even when it literally has no effect on how they choose to enjoy the game. A person who hates sabermetrics can go sit in a stadium or sit on their couch and watch baseball without being forced to read about advanced statistics. Why do I bring all this up?

I recently entered back into academia … well, community college. I’ve been out of the college game for a while, so before I enroll in a four-year (crossing my fingers for Vanderbilt – anybody influential out there that can give me a solid recommendation letter?) I’m getting my feet wet at the local community college. Back in 2001-03 when I was an actual college student of a traditional age, I dropped my college algebra class every single semester out of fear. I hated math. I wanted nothing to do with it. After all, I was just waiting for the opportunity to drop out of college to go on tour with a band … which I did.

So, here I am with 42 credit hours, none of which are MATH. I signed up for the easiest sounding one that would meet the degree requirements for the state school I will probably end up at: Math for Liberal Arts. Something strange has happened. I love it. I love the math. I’m finding myself pumping my fist while doing my homework when I correctly fill out a truth table or Venn diagram. I’m having fun.

After a few weeks of this I found myself on Amazon. “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract” arrives tomorrow. After placing that order I went and subscribed to BaseballProspectus.com.

Ok, so I don’t for one second believe I am some secret genius of mathematics. Not at all. But now that I am 32 years old I am finding that education gets me much more excited than it did when I was 18. Mostly because I had no goals whatsoever for my college education. Now I am able to see how education is going to make me a better writer, and surprisingly might allow me to understand baseball in a way I never thought possible.

I’ve been interested in advanced stats for a few years now, in the sense that I like to read about them and see what the smart people are saying. I think that many of the newer stats better evaluate the players we love to watch. Key word: WATCH.

I’m looking forward to continuing to learn and open my mind to the possibility that everything I ever learned about baseball strategy growing up playing the game may have been wrong. That isn’t scary. It’s exciting. Knowledge shouldn’t be tossed aside. It can’t hurt you – I don’t think? Unless you are Edward Snowden? I am ready to explore baseball in new ways. And I can assure you I won’t be doing it from my “mom’s basement.” Because I’m an adult with a house and a wife and two kids. I like, have sex and drink beer and stuff. I love watching baseball. I love learning about stats. These things are both ok.

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