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Cheer the players? Nah. Just crunch their numbers.

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At some point during the World Series, which begins Saturday, one broadcaster will turn to another and say something like, "This at-bat should be a good matchup for Tigers infielder Neifi Perez. Normally, he's a light hitter, but he's 8 for 15 against left-handers whose uniform numbers are higher than 12."

Or maybe something like, "Here comes Joel Zumaya in from the Tiger bullpen. You don't often see him in the second inning, but our research shows he throws hardest between 4 and 4:20 p.m."

An exaggeration? Maybe. Broadcast sports analysis isn't yet quite like astrology.

But there's a larger point here, and it might come as a surprise to casual fans, the kind who only tune in for the Series: Number crunching is swallowing baseball.

Old standbys like batting averages and RBIs (Runs Batted In) have been outmoded for years. Now, general managers and serious fans talk about QERA (an acronym for "QuikERA"), VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), and other measurements that sound like unheard-of species from "Lord of the Rings."

Some of these tools have reinvented professional baseball. Others cause real mathematicians to break out laughing.

Baseball lifers – figures often associated with the word "crusty" – believe some of them ignore the role chance and personality play in the game. Earlier this week an interviewer pointed out to Tigers' manager Jim Leyland that the American League has won six of the last eight World Series. What did Leyland think of that?

"Not one [bleeping] thing," said Leyland. "Nothing."


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