I believe there was a time when being labeled a geek or a nerd was actually a serious charge. But I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had to face the stigma that was once attached to those people.
With geek culture become more and more chic, being a geek, or in my case a stats geek, isn’t that un-cool. This is just another social phenomenon that us millennials are lending our hands to.
Now, what exactly is a stats geek? Well, it’s someone who not only loves sports, but also all the numbers and raw statistics that athletes and teams generate when they compete. We’re people who believe that numbers generally give a better picture of how good athletes are. No, they don’t tell you everything, and we don’t pretend that they do, but they are extremely valuable measuring tools.
Don’t get me wrong: I love a good ole-fashioned touchdown or grand slam as much as the next diehard sports fan, but I also love diving into the world of statistics. I may not go as deep as some (and some can go really, really deep), but I’m talking about more than just batting average or home runs.
Ten years ago, no one ever heard of on-base percentage in baseball. Now, they’re making a movie with Brad Pitt about the man who made the statistic one of the best measuring tools in baseball. That says something, especially considering how on-base percentage has already begun to take a backseat to even newer metrics.
And with on-base percentage being just the tip of the baseball stats revolution, now there’s VORP, BABIP, FIP, RF and a bunch of other sabermetric formulas that can tell you so much more than what you see when you watch.
Similar developments are happening in basketball and football. Passer rating has become one of the top measuring tools of a quarterback’s performance. And in the NBA, plus/minus rating, field goal percentage, and offensive/defensive efficiency are all becoming normative statistics.
The best part? It’s perfectly cool to throw all these numbers around when you’re having a lighthearted conversation about sports. You’re not a dweeb. But why?
Two words: Fantasy sports. Based on the idea of drafting virtual teams with rosters full of real players whose real, in-game numbers and accomplishments translated into points for your team, fantasy sports were born. When fantasy sports were created in the 80s, it was considered just as cool as D&D. So, yeah. Not cool at all.
True, the people who created fantasy sports weren’t millennials. But we are embracing it. Fantasy sports come hand-in-hand with the tech revolution of the 2000s, another singular moment driven by millennials. It’s so much easier now with these new innovations to really delve into these statistics, not to mention for the people who created them to get the message out about them.
Today, millions and millions of people play fantasy baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. People to go painstaking lengths when analyzing which players to draft, start, pick up, and drop from their rosters.
“Player X has a low on-base percentage but a high batting-average-on-ball-in-play; averages less than 15 steals a year but the average throw-out rate by catchers in the division is the worst in baseball so he might set a career high. Player Y hits has a huge slugging percentage but has never stolen more than five bases in a season and the average throw-out rate by catchers in his division is the best in baseball; he may historically be a home run hitter but his team’s in a new ballpark that’s terrible for fly-ball hitters; the pitchers in his division also have the lowest home run rate in the league. Player X hits sliders at a .349 clip but the pitchers in his division throw sliders only 9 percent of the time, and throw him sliders less than 5 percent of the time.”
OK, maybe I exaggerated a bit. But analysis like that goes behind a lot of decisions people make when they have to choose between two different players. And don’t even get me started on fantasy draft preparations.
People take their fantasy teams seriously, and that’s not considered a bad thing. In fact, if you’re not caught up on this new wave of statistics and sabermetrics, you might be seen as out of the loop and un-cool. Just like stat geeks used to be.