This past spring, Hideo Nomo won his 200th career game, immediately making him eligible for one of the Japanese baseball Halls of Fame. Hearing that news made me think: should the Halls of Fame here in America do the same thing? Should 500 home runs, 40,000 yards passing, or 20,000 points scored be good for automatic qualification into the Hall of Fame?
While I think that might be interesting to some extent (certainly would end a lot of the debates as far as who should be in or not!), I also think that a move like that would celebrate the numbers, and not the players themselves. That's not what Halls of Fame should be about, and that's not what sports should be about.
Maybe that's why I'm not as big of a baseball fan as I should be, because in that sport, statistics are everything. They and they alone determine a player's greatness in his sport, his value to his team, and his ability to hurt his opponent. Nothing else matters. There is no other sport that is so dominated by its own numbers.
BBs. Ks. BAs with RISP. OPS. 73. 4,256. 1.12. Need to know what Vladimir Guerrero's bating average is when the moon is in Sagittarius? I'm sure someone out there has it all figured out. Everything a baseball player does can somehow be broken down numerically, and what the numbers say completely dictate his future.
In football, though, individual and team greatness is harder to quantify statistically. Why? Well, in football, numbers often lie. But that hasn't stopped people from trying to apply baseball's statistical approach to football. Heck, fantasy football wouldn't exist if that were the case. But to me, basing a football player's value and a team's worth solely on numbers is as inaccurate as the gas gauge in my car.
Some numbers lie more than others. First downs, for example. It's not how many first downs a team racks up, it's what they do with it. It's kinda like the "hits" column in a baseball linescore; sure a team can rap out 12, 13, 14 hits in a game, but how many of those guys actually came around to score? Same thing is at work here. I've seen many games where the team that had more first downs lost the game anyway. A similar case can also be made for the time of possession category.
Don't get me started on completion percentage. OK, too late. This is the most overrated stat in football, and it's a direct result of the proliferation of the Bill Walsh Offense. It's no coincidence that as passing games became shorter, completion percentages shot through the roof. As they should have... if the quarterback is only throwing the ball four yards downfield, he should be completing 70% of his passes!
The more important ratio to look at isn't completions-to-attempts, but attempts-to-yardage. Ideally, I want my quarterback to average 10 yards gained per throw, because to me, the measure of a passing game's effectiveness isn't how many passes my quarterback completes, but whether my quarterback's passes are moving my team downfield.
It's just too bad that the quarterback rating stat is so directly tied to completion percentage. So much so that 3-of-3 for 9 yards equals a higher rating than 1-of-3 for 48 yards. The latter means you're in scoring position, if not in the endzone. The former means you're punting. I never understood that.
I'll make even another comparison (one I made on the BootBoard Plus not too long ago). Last year against U$C, cal's Aaron Rodgers completed 29 passes in 34 attempts (including 22 straight), but all those completions went for just 267 yards. In San Jose State's game against Rice last year, Spartan quarterback Dale Rodgers completed just 10 passes, but for 359 yards. Final outcomes aside, I'd take Dale's stat line over Aaron's any day of the week.
There are some numbers that do tell an accurate story. Third-down conversions is one. That stat almost never lies. Teams that convert on third down win. It really is that simple. Turnover margin is another. Can't win if you can't hang on to the ball.
Another one is rushing yards. Whether you run to win or you win to run, the correlation between winning and running is unmistakable. It's also a good indicator of how good a team's offensive line can be. A quarterback can throw for 300 yards with average blocking, but if a team runs for over 200 yards in a game, that generally means the big guys are getting it done.
So some football numbers tell you more meaningful information than others. But for the most part, numbers aren't anywhere near as important in football as they are in other sports. After all, the biggest necessity in football is heart, and the last time I checked, they hadn't found a stat for that! Well, not yet, anyway...
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
We asked for Trent Edwards, and Fran Tarkenton showed up! Wow. That was a sensational performance by Edwards and the Stanford offense last week. You really had to be there to see it live to truly appreciate it. The Cougars had no answers. None. Hopefully it's the start of big things throughout the rest of the season...
Tidbit of the Week: Washington State head coach Bill Doba is listed in the local white pages. Wonder how many Cougar fans reached out and touched him after Saturday's game...
One troubling trend for Stanford: they've left points on the board before halftime in three of their four games so far. Trent Edwards' fumble at Navy and missed field goals against UC Davis and Washington State. And, if you want to be picky, you can also throw in the Hail Mary interception in the endzone at the end of the first half against Oregon. Can't win games if you're leaving points on the board, especially at the end of the first half...
Methinks Jeff Tedford is spending extra time with his special teams units this week after their disasters against UCLA...
Sam Keller threw two picks against Temple in ASU's season opener. I thought about voicing some concerns on that in the season's first Corner, but his stellar performances in the Devils' next three games settled me down a bit. Now he's thrown seven INTs in his last two games. That can't continue...
Not a Pac-10 thought, but... which division is worse: the NFC North of the NFC West?
Not a Pac-10 thought, but... flew straight from Pullman to Hartford and got into Connecticut on Sunday morning. Started at ESPN Radio on Monday. And I still haven't seen the sun since Pullman. What's up with that?
OK, so since I'm in the process of moving I haven't been able to access my e-mails yet. Hopefully that changes before I write next week's corner!
Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or on anything else that's on your mind, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org! The best e-mails I get will end up in next week's Corner…
Washington @ Oregon. I have to admit, Oregon's defense really impressed me last week. Or maybe it was the Guinness I was sipping at the Sea-Tac airport. So even though I like the progress the Huskies have made on offense so far this year, I don't expect that progress to continue this week. I like Oregon by 21.
UCLA @ Washington State. If there is ever a situation where an ambush seems likely, it's this one. Unless Alex Brink is still sailing passes to his receivers, I have a funny feeling the Cougs find a way to get it done. I like WSU by 6.
Last week: 2-1 (straight-up), 1-2 (ATS).
This year: 8-2 (straight-up), 5-5 (ATS).
Troy Clardy is a host and reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, airing Saturdays on FSN Bay Area.
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