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Which Stat is THE Stat?

Since the days of Ty Cobb, fans and sports journalists have argued over which of the many baseball statistics is the true measure of a players ability - - which stat indicates the worth of a particular player to his team. Time for me to chime in.

On base percentage. No fooling.

The big four can be misleading. Batting average - home runs - rbi's & stolen bases pay the bills, but don't provide as many wins as you might think.

Case in point: Former Senator third sacker Ed Yost. Yost, who played for the Nats for much of the 1950s, never hit much more than .270. But he consistantly led the league in walks, and by a huge margin. In 1953, Yost hit .273 with 123 walks. Gil McDougald, the quality Yankee third baseman, walked only 60 times, about average for third baseman during this era. What if we took all those Yost walks (those above 60) and turned them into singles. After all, a walk is as good as a single. right? That .272 average turns into .381 and he leads the league in batting by almost 70 points.

Gil Mcdougal had an OBP (on base percentage) of .395, very good even by today's standards. (Remember, Christian Guzman has an OBP of .313 for 2004). Eddie Yost had an OBP of .485.
What? .485? That's Barry Bonds territory. Eddie Yost, this little ol' third baseman who hit only 9 homers and knocked in only 45 rbi's, got on base almost half the time. The result? He scored 107 runs, a full 16% of his team's runs for the '53 season. By comparison, Gil McDougal scored 82 runs, or 10% of his teams runs. What does this all mean? Simple

It's not how many homers you hit, or how many runs you drive in; it's how many runs you score. The more you are on base, the more runs the team scores, and the more games you win. That same year, Brooklyn's Junior Gilliam walked 100 times and scored 125 .. Stan Musial walked 105 times and scored 127. Walks = runs scored.

So, how does current third sacker Vinny Castilla compare to Mr. Yost (we'll use his stats from two years ago in Atlanta -- don't want to use inflated mile-high numbers). Vinny walked (are you ready for this?) 26 times in 542 at-bats, scored 65 runs, and had an OBP of .310. Even if he approaches these numbers for the Nats next season, I am afraid there wont be a great deal of run production (runs scored + rbi's) from third.

I am an Ed Yost fan of long-standing but he never had an OBP of .485. I believe his highest was .440 in 1950.
And, to be fair, you would have to add a base hit for every walk for other players as well to compare BA. I'm guessing that the .381 wouldn't hold up as the best BA in 1953.
Still, Eddie was and is still my favorite ball player ever.
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