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Joe Bologna's suggestion for a new baseball statistic

July 6, 2011 |  9:27 am

While the Society for American Baseball Research holds its convention in Long Beach, actor and writer Joe Bologna offers an idea for a new baseball statistic to measure offensive effectiveness:

Having grown up in Brooklyn in the 1940s and '50s, when Los Angeles stole our team, I switched my allegiance to the Mets. I even embraced the detested Yankees. And, I switched all my enmity to the Dodgers. However, it was difficult because there always seemed to be some lovable connection to New York -- Pee Wee, Campy, Duke, Koufax, Drysdale, Alston, Lasorda,
Torre and now Mattingly.

Consequently, I have been able to hate them only in spurts. However, irrespective of whom I’ve rooted for or against, I’m never bored by baseball, because I’ve always had ... statistics!

To a baseball junkie who revels in its statistics (most career triples – Sam Crawford, 309!), there is no greater joy than inventing a new statistic.

A heretofore-unchallenged adage says, “Baseball is a humbling game, because even its greatest hitters fail two out of three times.”

OK, time for a new statistic: Your leadoff batter goes 1 for 3. So, according to the adage, he indeed has failed two out of three times, for a .333 batting average. A leadoff batter most often comes to bat five times a game. Let’s say he has walked once. The statistic is recorded in his on-base percentage, but it’s also an unofficial at-bat. But is it not also a successful at bat? Therefore, in successful at-bats, he is now 2 for 4, a .500 average.

Mariners3 In the other of his two unofficial at-bats, he executes a sacrifice bunt; another successful at-bat. He is now 3 for 5, a .600 average. Going 1 for 3, he’s had two official failures, since he’s made out twice.

Let’s say he led off the game grounding out weakly to the mound. But, before he grounded out, he consistently fouled off potential strikes and forced the pitcher to throw 10 or 15 pitches. Thus, not only causing the opponents’ starting pitcher to make so many extra throws, but affording the hitters behind the batter the ability to see the starting pitcher’s array of stuff. Would that not be considered a successful at-bat?  His manager and teammates even might consider it his most successful at-bat.

Our batter is now 4 for 5, an .800 average. And finally, in his other recorded failure, there’s a man on first and no outs, late in a tie game. Our batter hits a hard ground ball, behind the runner, down the first-base line. The first baseman has to dive to knock it down and has time only to throw the batter out. But the batter has successfully moved the runner into scoring position and a subsequent single brings him home with the winning run. A successful at-bat? You bet! He is now 5 for 5, a 1.000 average!

So, the new statistic I suggest is SAB, successful at-bats. It would help fans and future fans of the game appreciate the beauty and elegance of its fine points. It would also make agents happy, giving them ammunition to prove that the worth of the indispensable “banjo” hitter is equal to that of the sexy power hitter.

Long live the SAB! Long live baseball statistics! Long live the “banjo” hitter!


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--Joe Bologna

Joe Bologna has appeared in films such as "My Favorite Year," "Blame It on Rio" and "Big Daddy." He and his wife, Renee Taylor, have co-authored many Broadway plays, movies and television specials, have received an Academy Award nomination and Emmy and Writer’s Guild awards.

Photos, from top: Pittsburgh pinch hitter Xavier Paul lays down a sacrifice bunt during a game against Detroit in May (Credit: Charles LeClaire / U.S. Presswire); Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki hits a foul off Angels pitcher Jered Weaver (not pictured) during a game in June (Anthony Bolante / Reuters)