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September 27, 2011

Wezen-Ball

No Stats Allowed

by Larry Granillo

A conversation between the author and his imaginary friend, Jay Whitman. Jay is not a fan of sabermetrics or advanced stats of any kind. We enter as the author, in a spirit of contrarianism, challenges Jay to explain why Reggie Jackson was a better player than Adam Dunn.

LG: Come on, this should be easy. Reggie's a Hall of Famer. Mr. October. Reggie Bars! Adam Dunn's just some guy who couldn't get a decent contract two years ago who (supposedly) hates baseball.

JW: Dunn? Come on, he's the worst player in baseball this year.

LG: Ignore 2011 for a minute. We're talking Reggie vs. Adam Dunn. It shouldn't be too hard to say why Reggie is better than even the 2010 version of Dunn.

JW: Alright, alright. Let's see, where d-

LG: One other thing: no stats. You're a big "no stats" kind of guy. Tell me why Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson - Mr. October! - is better than Adam Dunn without any stats.

JW: Uh... ok. Sure. Why not. Reggie is, pure and simple, one of the greatest power hitters of all-time. Ask anyone who watched baseball during Reggie career. When he stepped up to the plate, you knew he was hitting a home run.

LG: Well, a home run or a strikeout...

JW: Sure, a home run or a strikeout. But the strikeouts didn't matter when he was hitting 563 home -

LG: BUZZ!

JW: runs and three home runs -

LG: BUZZ!

JW: in Game 6... What the &*#% was that?

LG: The "Big Obnoxious Buzzer". I'm going to ring it every time you cite a stat.

JW: What? 563 home runs? That's not a stat.

LG: BUZZ!

JW: ...

LG: Are you an idiot?

JW: Okay, fine. No stats. Reggie's still obviously better than Dunn.

LG: How?

JW: Have you ever seen a Reggie Jackson home run? I'm pretty sure they invented the word "moonshot" for Reggie.

LG: Have you ever seen an Adam Dunn home run? The guy knows how to do three things: strikeout, make hilarious errors in the field, and hit the ball about three miles at a time. He doesn't do much else.

JW: Fine. But what has he done in the postseason?

LG: What's Reggie done in the postseason?

JW: What?! This is Reggie. Mr. October. He destroys the postseason. He batted over .350 in the -

LG: BUZZ!

JW: World Series with four straight home -

LG: BUZZ!

JW: runs for the Yankees. Four World Series rings.

LG: I'll give you that. But, come on, is it really Dunn's fault he played for some really, really crappy teams?

JW: Well, if Dunn was so good, they wouldn't have been so crappy, wouldn't they? Reggie was on a bunch of great teams for a reason.

LG: Ah, is that it?

JW: Not a coincidence, I'll tell you that.

LG: … So what makes Reggie "one of the greatest sluggers of all-time"?

JW: That power. All those home runs. Those RBIs. He has something like 1700 RBIs -

LG: BUZZ! - C'mon, Jay.

JW: Fine... The power, the homers, the RBIs, that humongous swing.

LG: But how is that different than Dunn?

JW: Well, look at when they were hitting home runs. When Reggie played, he'd lead the league with -

LG: BUZZ!

JW: What the hell, man!

LG: That's a stat!

JW: Well -

LG: Listen. Is your entire argument that Reggie hit a lot of home runs with a bunch of RBIs and was really good in the World Series? Because, honestly, that's not very convincing.

JW: It's more than that. You have to watch the games. Reggie was better.

LG: Sure, sure. I know. You just can't tell me why.

Related Content:  Reggie Jackson

10 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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ScottyB

Even by the most rudimentary of stats (BUZZ) Reggie was way better than Dunn. I guess I don't see the point of your article.

Sep 27, 2011 09:34 AM
rating: 0
 
Peter Benedict

The point is that even "anti-stats" types build their argument with stats. The real argument isn't stats vs. non-stats, it's which stats have meaning.

Sep 27, 2011 09:54 AM
rating: 13
 
BillJohnson

How about "Reggie could actually play defense, while Dunn is about as mobile in the field as the Washington Monument"? And "Reggie didn't get artificial boosts to those stats I can't use in the discussion, because he played on good enough teams that they couldn't pitch around him, or at least thought they couldn't"? And "Reggie didn't turn into a complete pumpkin in all aspects of the game once he hit 31"? And "Reggie did all this in an era that made it hard for big, slow home-run hitters, while Dunn has played in an era where the product is tuned to reward guys like that?"

Sep 27, 2011 13:20 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

Well, first, please don't think that I actually think Adam Dunn is as good as Reggie Jackson. That's silly.

But, tell me, could Reggie actually play defense, or is it just the he did play defense? I only remember old Reggie, and I'm pretty certain old Reggie was kind of a statue.

As for the rest: does that make a convincing case for Reggie, without using numbers? I'm not so sure - especially since the strongest point there (the hitting environment) would need some stats to back it up in a discussion.

Sep 27, 2011 14:31 PM
 
BillJohnson

The younger Reggie played defense well enough that they sent him out there to do it even when there was a viable alternative (DH). Quantifying that is a statistical argument (which btw supports the point -- the younger Reggie, up to about Dunn's current age, was quite a decent defender according to the statistical models I've checked); noting that we saw him play the outfield long after the DH was instituted isn't.

Reggie first came up, and creamed the ball, in a time when the pitching mound was significantly higher than it is now. You'd have to use statistics to quantify that, too (i.e., measure the mound); but anyone who ever had a Bob Gibson or a Sam MacDowell standing on top of that Everest-like mound and breathing fire at them needs no quantification.

Finally, by their peers shall ye know them. A point frequently missed in the arguments about Reggie playing for world-championship-caliber teams (particularly the claims that it shouldn't really matter) is that such teams _wanted_ him badly enough to meet his (then) steep asking price early in the free-agent era. It wasn't chance that put him on the best teams; it was that the best teams went out and got him, when they could have spent their (relative) megabucks elsewhere. You certainly can't say that about Dunn. That doesn't necessarily establish "why" Jackson was better than Dunn, but it is powerful evidence that it was so.

Really, I think the effort is fundamentally bogus here. _Any_ baseball conversation turns to statistics if you define the term "statistics" broadly enough. (That is true of most, if not all, other sports as well.) This is particularly the case since you started the whole thing with a quantitative premise anyway, i.e., Jackson>Dunn.

Sep 27, 2011 15:54 PM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

Scouting, at its core, is about statistics, too. 20-80 scale is a statistic. MPH is a statistic. Length of bombs is a measurement (ie. statistic).

Sep 27, 2011 16:08 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

Good to know about Reggie's defense. Makes him a more multi-dimensional player in my mind. It's important to note, though: teams used their DH spot weird in its initial years as they figured it out. Just because a team kept someone in the OF doesn't make it the right call.

Also, very good point about Reggie being on good teams because they were who wanted to pay him. It's not a perspective I've heard about anyone before, but it makes a lot of sense.

As for the premise: there are many, many people out there who hate stats and insist that they don't need any stats to enjoy the game or to know who the best players are. (Many of them seem to have quite the loud megaphone, too.) Of course this exercise is bogus - that's the point.

(And, no, I would never call the measurement of a mound height a stat.)

Sep 27, 2011 16:13 PM
 
harderj

Just for accuracy's sake, Reggie had his breakout season in 1969 (his second full season in the major leagues), the year the mound was lowered and the majors expanded by four teams, so his career was almost entirely post that (and the context more comparable to Dunn in that regard).

Now, with tongue firmly in cheek...

Reggie Jackson is better than Adam Dunn because

...he was the straw that stirs the drink
...he was Mr. October
...he was a Genius (can't use the Mickey Rivers' retort without IQ stats)
...he entertainingly fought with Thurman Munson and Billy Martin, but also joined Jewish teammates Ken Holtzman and Mike Epstein in wearing black armbands after the Munich Masacre
...he was a four-sport star in high-school (including throwing several no-hitters as a pitcher), prompting three prominent Southern universities to be willing to integrate their football teams for him and the San Francisco Giants to offer him a contract
...he ended up playing football and baseball at Arizona State (turning down an offer from the Red Sox to sign with them after his freshman year)
...he played center field in college, replacing Rick Monday, the first player ever selected in the amateur draft
...he was the first college player to hit a home run out of Phoenix Memorial Stadium
...he was drafted among the very top prospects the year he was eligible
...he evoked memories of Babe Ruth and Roger Maris in 1969, when he chased their sacred records during the season and nearly hit one out of Tiger Stadium in the All-Star Game
...he told Charlie O and Dick Williams to F*c& Off about his spring training beard, and thus became the first major league player since Frenchy Bordegaray in 1938 to wear facial hair throughout an entire season
...he appeared on the cover of SI dressed in combat gear
...his uniform number was retired by two different teams
...he was a highly-sought after free agent
...he was a spokesperson for Panasonic
...home town fans cheered him, opponents jeered him
...he wrote not one, but two autobiographies
...his was the baseball card I always looked for in a newly-opened Topps pack
...and finally, Reggie Jackson is better than Adam Dunn because he was one of my favorite players growing up (along with Bobby Bonds), and in the 1971 Strat-O-Matic season I'm playing against my 12-year old son I have him on my team.

Now, if I owned Dunn in my keeper Strat league it might be different.

Sep 29, 2011 08:16 AM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Is notoriety a stat? My wife knows who Reggie Jackson is. Hell, my *mom* knows who Reggie Jackson is. They know who he is because of the general publicity he received for his exploits on the field. Adam Dunn has no publicity outside the baseball world.

Ergo, Adam Dunn < Reggie Jackson.

Sep 27, 2011 19:01 PM
rating: 0
 
greenengineer
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

This is just dumb. I'm Sorry I tried to read it.

Sep 27, 2011 19:09 PM
rating: -7
 
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