Friday, July 22, 2011

Numbers that capture their subject perfectly

A baseball post this time. If you go to Eddie Murray's page on and check out the OPS+ column (*) from 1981 to 1984, you see this remarkable series of numbers: 156, 156, 156, 156. Yes, that's his story, that's exactly the hitter I rooted for as an Orioles fan growing up in Maryland, that's him, right there. So consistent it was eerie. Steady Eddie brought his same great game every day and every year. Murray ranked either 2nd or 3rd in the AL in OPS+ in all four of those seasons, and he won the Gold Glove at his position in three of them. Sustained excellence. He was an intensely private guy, not a rah-rah type at all, not a sports media favorite - Eddie led by example. Some mistook his quietness, thought he didn't care that much. I can't blame him for not answering, seeing as how he was kind of busy at the time putting the team on his back and carrying them in crucial games in August and September.

(*) - OPS+, for those who aren't familiar, is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, adjusted for the effects of the hitter's home park and compared to league average. It's a sound measure of a hitter's overall productivity. A hitter with a 100 OPS+ is dead average for his league. A hitter with a 156 OPS+ is kicking serious ass.

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