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Brian Kenny Has Taken to Twitter to Question the Value of No-Hitters, Other Baseball Measuring Tools

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Since moving over from ESPN, Brian Kenny has been positioned as the resident sabermetrician at MLB Network. To promote the new show “MLB Now,” the network painted Kenny as the analytical, thinking man’s baseball analyst against Harold Reynolds as the traditional, “old school” ex-player who still values RBIs as a measuring tool. The promos were set to the music of War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” and painted the show as place to expand upon the Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout MVP debate from last fall.

Last Wednesday morning, in the wake of Homer Bailey’s second career-no hitter, Kenny went on Twitter and wrote a series of tweets wondering why everyone from fans to the media still put so much emphasis on a no-hitter. At one point he even went as far as to label them as ‘antiquated.’

In the modern era of baseball history 237 no-hitters have been tossed. It’s still a rare accomplishment and very impressive, but as Kenny pointed out, guys like A.J. Burnett have thrown no-hitters allowing as many as nine walks.

It would be easy to say Kenny is trying to stir the pot by playing contrarian, but it appears he truly believes in the more progressive way to looking at baseball through numbers instead of using the accepted (and primitive) statistical tools adopted back in the late 1800s by Henry Chadwick. That said, painting a no-hitter as no big deal might be taking the Sabremetric approach dangerously close to the area where it drains all the fun out of baseball.

The crux of Kenny’s argument appears to be that up until the last couple years, when statistical analysis has become much more prevalent, most baseball people still valued a base hit or batting average over a walk or on-base percentage as a way to evaluate the worth of a hitter. As far as no-hitters go, using it as a blanket judgement tool for dominance is misleading since there enough fluky, walk-laden no-nos in baseball history that show it doesn’t necessarily mean a pitcher threw an all-time great game.

If nothing else, Kenny’s suggestions make good food for thought. He added this on Twitter late Thursday, likely lost in a sea of fireworks memes:

Since this update Kenny has spent time on Twitter using the hashtag #killthewin, so this could only get more interesting as the summer progresses.

Call me naive but the ability to think about baseball in multiple ways and still come away with enjoyment is part of what’s made the game great over parts of three centuries. The two schools of thought don’t necessarily have to remain mutually exclusive, do they? There has to be a balance.

It would be nice if the believers in advanced metrics and regular old fans who want to enjoy a ballgame with a beer and dog didn’t have to be so hostile toward each other at all occasions. At the very least, stop the name-calling. That’s probably asking too much, isn’t it?

Previously: Ryan Zimmerman: Nerds Are Wasting Time with PECOTA Because Hey, Things Happen

 

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