Had I paid more attention to school instead of to movie screens, I “probably” would have been better equipped to evaluate 21st-century major-league talent, now regularly monitored via such esoteric stats as WAR (wins above replacement—covering batters as well as pitchers as I understand it); FIELDf/x and Reaction Analysis (respectively measuring a player’s defensive value and how much ground is covered, as well as how quickly); ISO (Isolated Power, derived by subtracting batting average from slugging percentage); wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus: a stadium- and league-adjusted power measurement); UBR (Ultimate Base Running: self-explanatory); and undoubtedly others, even a little older, like WHIP (walks-hits-innings-pitched: the lower, and even below “1,” the better).
How probable is it that, as the brokerage houses say, past is predictor of future performance? Over the grueling course of 162 games, quite. But do all the spectral statistics and Rotisserie Baseball hoohah in the world predict a Bobby Thomson or Bucky Dent home run? A 56-game batting streak? Jackie Robinson stealing home, perhaps with a little help from the umpire, against a great left-handed pitcher no less? (The southpaw faces third base from the set position; in this case, always-cocky and crafty Whitey Ford works from a full windup, as one sees in the clip, below.) Reggie Jackson belting three dingers on three straight at-bats (on three straight pitches from three different pitchers in succeeding innings! unthinkable!), likewise in a World Series—and punctuating the entire season at that? A perfect game or a 20-strikeout performance? Perhaps the stats document needs to be eaten…with extra grated cheese and that proverbial grain of salt.