As a lifelong A’s fan, I recently found myself flipping through the LA Times sports section on the eve of yet another delicious Angels loss, luxuriating in schadenfreude. I found what I was looking for, but not in the expected place.
Pop Quiz: See if you can spot the logical fallacy in the following direct quotation from Bill Shaikin’s column on the Angels’ sweep at the hands of the woeful Astros.
The Astros might be on pace to lose 103 games, but the Angels are on pace to lose 92. That’s $1.6 million per loss for the Angels — and $200,000 per loss for the Astros.
Did you catch it? If not, you may be Bill Shaikin, especially since I sort of called it out in the title of this piece.
Teams do not pay for losses. They pay for wins. Calculating the price paid per loss is not only illogical on its face, it can produce absurd results if we extrapolate from Shaikin’s example. For example, if my $60 million A’s team loses 60 games this year, they will have paid $1 million per loss (and of course, they’d be happier about that than the Astros and their $200,000 per loss figure). Conversely, if they were to lose one game all season, they will have paid $60 million per loss. According to Shaikin’s reasoning, this would be a bad thing. But it gets worse: the 1972 Dolphins paid infinity dollars per loss. No wonder Miami can’t afford to keep its sports stars: it will take a long time to dig themselves out of that hole.
Ordinarily, it might be petty, if not downright bitchy, to bring something like this up, but Shaikin – in addition to his day job as an “Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite” lookalike – is the head of the Baseball Writers Association of America. And the BBWAA is the organization responsible for not only the inscrutable and illogical results we’ve witnessed in recent Hall of Fame elections, but also approximately 8 jillion articles on how advanced statistics are meaningless hokum. Well, they certainly are if you have no idea how to use them.
As misguided as Shaikin’s methodology is, the underlying point he’s trying to make is valid. The Angels are paying $2.1 million per win. The Astros? A mere $349,000. And that brings me back to where I began: basking in the karmically justified misery that Arte Moreno has wrought.
Cross-Posted to Sidespin