What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

The Twelve Most Useless Statistics in Sports

12) Minutes Played 

Let’s be honest. In basketball, it isn’t about how often you get on the floor, it’s what you do when you get there. That’s probably why all the leaders all-time in minutes played are (or will be) in the Hall-of Fame.  This statistic gets even more worthless when you add the divisor “per 48 minutes.”  To quote the great Charles Barkley, the only reason you need to calculate what a player would do in 48 minutes is because he’s not good enough to play all 48 minutes.

11) Penalty Minutes 

In general, the more penalty minutes you have in hockey, the more of a goon you were.  It would make more sense to me to simply count fights won vs. fights lost like we do with boxers. If you have a lot of penalty minutes and weren’t a goon, you were just a cheater. Either way, a minute count just tells me how often you weren’t available because you broke the rules.

10) Time of Possession 

Fans of football have been duped into believing this statistic is an excellent predictor of wins.  The logic is that the more you can control the ball, the more you can control the outcome of the game.  This thinking ignores some crucial issues, such as quick scores – as in long passes, kick returns, and turnovers in general.  Plus, hanging on to the ball for eight minutes then settling for a field goal after stalling inside the 20 doesn’t really help a team.

9) Shots On Goal 

This one really perplexes me. If you think about it, this stat really counts the number of time a hockey player fails to score, and uses that as an indicator of success, as if the team who takes the most shots scores the most goals.  Actually, the team that makes the most shots scores the most goals, which should seem pretty obvious.

8 ) Wins 

This statistic applies to baseball pitchers, hockey goalies, and Tim Tebow. Remember last fall when we were in the throes of Tebow-Mania? Remember how his defenders obfuscated the discussion about his lousy number by claiming “he just wins?” See, the problem is that in team sports, individuals don’t win; teams do. The Tebow-philes never seemed to remember that in almost all of the Broncos wins with Tebow at quarterback, it was the defense who kept the team in position to have a shot at winning the game.

Many baseball purists may revile at this thought, but that a pitcher has the sole determination in whether his team wins or loses completely defies logic, because the is no hard correlation between the pitcher’s performance and that pitcher earning a win.  How many times have I watched Tim Lincecum pitch eight scoreless innings, then give up a solo home run and lose because the Giants can’t score? Conversely, how many times have I watched (insert Yankee pitcher here) serve up half a dozen earned runs and still get a win because the Bronx Bombers plated 10 runs?

Don’t even get me started how a “win” recorded by a relief pitcher is usually just a blown save…

The same applies to netminders, with the distinction being goalies are far more dependent on their team’s defense, specifically it’s ability to kill penalties. A goalie who has a bad won-loss record very easily can be a guy who has to play short-handed too often. Imagine what would happen to a pitcher if he had to play an inning without a shortstop?

7) Holds 

While holds are not an official major league baseball statistic, they do show up in some box scores, and they are exceptionally worthless. While intended to measure the effectiveness of middle relievers, it lacks a uniform means of calculation.  In some means, particularly that used by the now-defunct SportsTicker, it doesn’t even matter if pitchers can get batters out.  A pitcher can get shelled, not even record a single out, but still be credited with a hold if the next pitcher out of the bullpen cleans up his mess without giving up the lead.

6) Saves 

Saves are really just “wins” for the guy designated to pitch the ninth inning.  But, just like wins for a starting pitcher, this is a flawed measure of a reliever’s performance. First of all, the criteria are completely arbitrary; it really can be just a circumstance such as being the last guy to pitch for the winning team.  If a pitcher enters the game with a lead and pitches the final three innings and the team wins – even if he comes into a 10-0 game and gives up 9 runs – that pitcher gets a save. Pitchers also can earn a save for pitching with a three-run lead in the 9th inning.

5) Plus/Minus Rating 

This may be the ultimate in useless statistics, because a player can rack up numbers here simply by being on the ice. While being specifically defined as a measure of a player’s “goal differential,” it really is just “minutes played” combined with “minutes where good stuff happened.” In other words, anytime a goal is scored (not including penalty shots or power-play goals) the Plus/Minus rating is increased by one (“plus”) for those players on the ice for the scoring team; likewise for those players on the ice for the team giving up the goal, their rating decreased by one. While this is purported to be a measure of defensemen and forwards who largely play a defensive role, two of the top three single-season ratings belongs to two of the great scorers of all-time (Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr).

4) Championships (as an individual statistic)

The two groups of people most responsible for using championships as an individual statistics are basketball fans and people judging the greatness of NFL quarterbacks. You’ve heard the argument; a player can’t be truly great without having won a championship. It’s a complete load of crap because championships are team accomplishment. Charles Barkley never won a ring, yet he is one of only 4 players with 4,000 assists, 10,ooo rebounds, and 20,000 points. Stacy King has three rings and only led the league in weight gained on the bench. Which would you rather have?

3) Batting Average 

Baseball fans love this stat; and as much as I love baseball, I find it to be largely irrelevant on its own.  To me the prime example is in a comparison between the average season’s of a high-batting average player like Tony Gwynn (.338/9 HR/76 RBI/92 runs scored) and a run producer like Jay Buhner (.254/34 HR/106 RBI/88 runs scored). Gwynn collected more unproductive hits, whereas Buhner produced more scoring. Scoring wins ball games, not singles.

2) Player Efficiency Rating (PER) 

Here’s the first example of a statistic that was created by ESPN. PER attempts to account for just about anything a basketball player does by mashing positives like points, rebounds, shooting percentages, blocks, et cetera into a gargatuan complex formula with negatives like turnovers and fouls. The trouble is that it is nearly impossible to understand, and it does almost nothing to quantify defensive contributions other than rebounds.

1) Any System for Rating Quarterbacks 

Whether it is the Passer Rating or that goofy Total Quarterback Rating that ESPN dreamed up, they are both so convoluted they manage to do exactly the opposite of what they were intended to do. The entire concept of either of these formulas was to give a clear and quantifiable value accounting for all the things quarterbacks do. Of course, you could just watch the damn game and figure that out.  Besides, when’s the last time you heard somebody say “Wow, did you see that game last night? That quarterback must have had a rating of at least 95!”

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What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

18 comments on “The Twelve Most Useless Statistics in Sports

  1. Oh, this is good. I’ll be back to comment more once I’ve read through it all. I just wanted to see where you ranked the +/-.

    And you didn’t just compare Jay Buhner to Tony Gwynn, did you?


    • J-Dub
      March 16, 2012

      There is no comparison…I’d much rather have Buhner. Seriously. And I feel the same way about Wade Boggs after 1990, too.


  2. aero
    March 16, 2012

    Championships being a factor in judging a players worth always bothered me. With all due respect to Emmit Smith, there is no doubt in my mind that Barry Sanders was the greatest running back in the game.


    • J-Dub
      March 16, 2012

      Much like Ted Williams never won a World Series, but tell me he’s not the greatest hitter ever…


  3. Chris Ross
    March 16, 2012

    Great post man. Right on the money, especially with the championships. Can’t stand championships constantly being used to evaluate an individual’s success so often.


    • J-Dub
      March 16, 2012

      There’s a reason I’ve always called it the “Stacy King” rule.


      • Teeblerone
        March 16, 2012

        I’ve always called it the “Trent Dilfer” rule


      • J-Dub
        March 16, 2012

        Either way, you get the point…


  4. chappy81
    March 16, 2012

    A stat I’m having a hard time caring about is WAR. First, how do you establish the line of what is average, and after that how do you really say that one player produces that many wins above their replacement. Doesn’t it depend on whose next in line to get the gig?!?


    • J-Dub
      March 16, 2012

      All great points…I was sticking to the ones that get shoved down our throats…


  5. Speaking of useless statistics, after yesterday, I think it’s safe to add #2 seedings to this list.


  6. Sam's Sports Brief
    March 17, 2012

    While I do agree with some of these, I think saying that championships is an overrated stat is ridiculous. Winning a championship is why players play and if you don’t have a ring, you’ve got nothing.


    • J-Dub
      March 17, 2012

      That’s a completely invalid argument in a team sport. You can’t use team accomplishments as a measure of individual greatness. Again, by your logic, LeBron can’t be considered a “great” player, which is ridiculous.


      • Sam's Sports Brief
        March 18, 2012

        He is considered a great player, but he will never be in the same class as Kobe or MJ until he wins the big one.


      • J-Dub
        March 18, 2012

        Kurt Rambis has six NBA championships. Does that mean he is as good of a player as Michael Jordan?


  7. One final thing on quarterback ratings, particularly ESPN’s new QBR, which is probably the brainchild of John Clayton, the bottom five QBs in the league last year were Blaine Gabbert, Curtis Painter, TIm Tebow, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez… although we probably didn’t need a calculator to figure that out.

    Too bad that QBR thing doesn’t measure Christian intangibles.


    • J-Dub
      March 24, 2012

      Wait…you mean to tell me Mark Sanchez sucks?


  8. Ryan Meehan
    October 19, 2012

    I am glad you brought up time of posession because that historically has never meant anything. I bet you anything that if you took a look back at NFL history for example, you’d find that the team who has the ball wins exactly 50% of the time and loses with the same frequency



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This entry was posted on March 16, 2012 by in Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, NFL, Soccer, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , .

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