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The desire for perfection in statistics

Sports fans can be placed into several categories. Perhaps these are aligned with the fan’s self-ascribed learning style. The auditory learner can listen to the game on the radio, while the visual learner watches their team on fancy screens. The kinesthetic learning fan engages in the sport themselves for the amusement of others. While fans engage in a blending of the formats, everyone has their preference. For me, it’s in the numbers.

The numbers have a certain feel. It is unnerving to see your favorite player come up short of a round number in their final season total. Milestone expectations are ingrained into the observing fan early on. The 30/30 milestone in baseball is a season that displays both power at bat and speed on the basepaths. The 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season club has “members of hall of fame” potential. As a young fan I learned of the historic 30/30 seasons of Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Barry Larkin. Matt Kemp learned how close is close enough in his own 30/30 season in 2011. The then 26-year-old all-star hit 39 home runs and stole 40 bases. He stole 40 bases and he fell one home run shy of the 40/40 club. I’ll say this louder for the people in the back, 39 home runs and 40 stolen bases is still a 30/30 season.

While the feats of these athletes are impressive, the nitty gritty statistics diggers adopt preferences for a general neatness of the numbers. It is remarkable that one home run or one stolen base can keep an athlete out of elite company. Giancarlo Stanton, while he led the MLB in home runs last season, fell short of an elite group as well. By hitting 59 home runs last season for the Miami Marlins, Stanton joined a club of 30 men who have hit 50 home runs. Stanton falling one homer short of 60 kept him out of the elite 60 home run club. The five members are all-time home run leader Barry Bonds, World Series Champion Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris and Babe Ruth. This isn’t to degrade the impressiveness of socking almost 60 homers, but I’m going to say this once more: 39 home runs and 40 home runs is still a 30/30 season.


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