A growing criticism of baseball is that the sport has exploded when it comes to individual statistics used to measure a player’s abilities on the field. While baseball junkies might love these stats, other fans feel it’s overwhelming to the point where it’s become a distraction. Of course, what fans think is one thing, but what about the impact of statistics on players? Short of having survey results to examine, we can only speculate, but from my personal experience of working with many baseball players over the years I can tell you for most guys the numbers do get “in their head,” sometimes to the point where that’s all some players think about.
Baseball isn’t the only sport with a lot of stats, as other sports have their own growing lists of measurements designed to objectively quantify player potential and productivity. Ironically, even with all these objective measurements, there are still many factors that are important to sports success that aren’t measured. Some of these variables include “heart” (or the will to win), motivation, resiliency, or even how a player performs in the clutch. Other important criteria to team success clubhouse influence and “team” player factors (how well a team member interacts and positively influences teammates).
Statistics will always be a part of sports, but to the degree they impact athlete success is something we can only speculate about until more comprehensive research is conducted. It is interesting, though, to examine the differences between sports and the degree in which stats are used — for example, while baseball has a seemingly endless list of statistics, other sports, like soccer, don’t have that many stats at all. With fewer stats, do athletes spend less time worrying and more time simply playing? Probably. On the other hand, with more statistics do athletes tend to focus too much on trying to keep up their “numbers” while overlooking the importance of simply focusing on the next play? That one I can say with confidence is a big YES.
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