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Monday, April 26, 2010

Why the Wall Street Journal's home run trot study is way off base

The Wall Street Journal is making a push to expand both its sports content, and its New York content. To that end, they've done a study showing which Yankee takes the longest time around the bases (in case you were waiting for an answer to this burning question!) But this statistical analysis raises more questions than it answers.

The article, by David Biderman, is entitled, "No Rush, A-Rod, We Have All Day." It claims:
In case New Yorkers needed another way to compare Derek Jeter to Alex Rodriguez, we've found something new. When Mr. Jeter hits a home run, it takes him 20.19 seconds to round the bases, the second-fastest time among Yankees starters. Mr. Rodriguez needs 24.94 seconds, the slowest mark on the team.
That sounds about right. A-Rod isn't a Manny Ramirezesque strutter, but he sometimes takes a second to look towards the Yankee dugout after hitting a homer. Plus, if it's a walkoff, he always throws his helmet in the air, which probably adds a second or two.

My problem with the study is the methodology used. The WSJ claimed to have "clocked how long every 2009 home run took" for the Yankees. But they really only include the "current Yankee starters with at least 10 home runs last year" in compiling these numbers. That team average is "22.1 seconds—all of Mr. Rodriguez's home-run trots were slower than that."

However, that criteria excludes 81 homers, a third of the 244 Yankees' home runs last year, but adds 30 homers by a fast player who wasn't on the team last year. Here's how:

* By confining the study to "current Yankee starters with at least 10 home runs last year," the 52 combined dingers (21% of the 244 homers the 2009 Yanks hit) Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon hit last season are not counted.

* When you add in the homers of other ex-Yankees, like Melky Cabrera, Eric Hinske, along with current Yankees like Brett Gardner who only hit a few homers in 2009, you have another 29 homers (12%.)

* Curtis Granderson leads the team with the faster home run trot of 2009, at 18.8 seconds, even though his 30 home runs were hit for the Detroit Tigers.

How in the world can you consider a "team average" home run trot that leaves out 33% of all the homers the Yankees hit last year? And then adds in somebody that wasn't even on the team then?

This playing around with the numbers doesn't stop there. Even though the WSJ's numbers include Granderson, they do not include new Yankee Nick Johnson, one of the slowest players in baseball. That's because he only hit eight homers last year, and the study defined the criteria as having hit 10 or more homers last year. Sounds pretty sneaky, if you ask me, and it sure makes it look as if this "study" wanted to have a predetermined outcome.

So the WSJ's big analysis features exactly seven Yankees: A-Rod, Jeter, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson, and covers only two-thirds of the homers hit by Yankees last year, with 30 additional homers by a speedy player who wasn't even on the team last year. Not very fair criteria, if you ask me.

Now, it may very well be true that Rodriguez does have the slowest home run trot of the team, even if you count in all the homers. But the way the WSJ defined their criteria so narrowly doesn't exact inspire confidence.

The Wall Street Journal may be a new player in the New York sports arena, but this piece's storyline sounds all too familiar.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

1 comment:

Uncle Mike said...

Well, you have to remember, Manny's home-run trots are slowed by the fact that he's carrying about 15 pounds of hair, not to mention a couple of pounds of mud on his helmet. Not to mention his skull is suspected of being made of concrete. And all that steroid use has begun to turn his bones to stone.

Wonder what these guys would have said about my man Reggie in his pomp? Or, dare I say it, Mel Hall? Or, perhaps slowest of all, Darryl Strawberry?