Keeping an eye on the big picture

I tuned into the Yankees-Indians game on Saturday at the bottom of the 7th inning, and watched what looked like a smooth cruise to a 4-0 win for the Yanks. I did sort of idly wonder, as I watched each new batter's stats, whether saya, .295 hitter with one hit already that day was done, and whether the pitcher could relax. And then, as the pitch counts rose, I realized, of course not. We live in a complex physical world, in which the pitcher needs to throw strikes, or at least pitches that persuade the batter he should swing. The stats tell us about the long run, but each new at-bat, in fact each pitch, might have any result. It did not occur to me to wonder why the Yankees were going through so many pitchers.

On Sunday morning, I read the Times article about the game and realized I had totally missed the big story: starting pitcher Bartolo Colon strained his hamstring and had to leave the game. The lesson? Stats are interesting, but they're never the whole story.

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