Writers get HI

Jayson Stark, ESPN:

Nominate any scandal in the history of sports. My vote is that this is worse.

Geoff Baker, Seattle Times

This might be the worst scandal in the history of sports.

Ted Keith, Sports Illustrated

A-Rod controversy spoils entire 2009 campaign before it begins.

Alex Rodriguez taking steroids is the worst scandal in the history of sports. This revelation has ruined baseball for 2009. The world is coming to an end.

Here on FanGraphs, we’ve introduced people to a lot of new metrics over the last few years. Whether its been WPA or wOBA or FIP or UZR, we’re constantly quantifying things and giving them acronyms. So, today, I’d like to introduce you to a new one.


No, I’m not saying hello. Welcome to our newest metric – the Hyperbole Index. This measures the hilarious (and simultaneously sad) overreaction of sports writers to every event that now occurs on earth.

Santonio Holmes makes a nice catch to give Pittsburgh a Super Bowl win in a game they were hardly ever trailing? The Greatest Super Bowl Ever.

Manny Ramirez hits well for two months in Los Angeles? The Best Clutch Performance Of All Time.

Alex Rodriguez admits steroid use five years ago. The Greatest Scandal In Sports History. The 2009 Season Is Ruined.

Using the Hyperbole Index, we can quantify just how ridiculous these claims really are. There’s no more wondering how the high horses of today compare with the bully pulpits of yesteryear. Using this handy tool, you can now compare the dead horses currently getting beaten to the whipped carcasses (carcii?) of long ago.

So, stay tuned*. As your favorite writers compete to make the most ridiculous claims in the history of the universe (this sentence fragment has an HI of 183), we’ll be right here to tell you just how ridiculous their hyperbole really is. Who will win the battle to be the writer with the most HI? We won’t know until next week, which I’ve heard is going to be the most fantastic seven day stretch since living things populated the planet.

*Don’t really stay tuned. I’m going to do my best to ignore these blowhards. I suggest you do the same.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

35 Responses to “Writers get HI”

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  1. Matt B. says:


    Why is everybody acting surprised to a problem that wasn’t exactly a secret?

    Move on, get over it.

    A’Rod (Bonds, Clemens etc) was good before, during and after steroids.

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  2. KingKirkpatrick says:

    That was the worst article in the history of the English language. Never before in the history of stringing words together to form sentences has something been so harmful to my ears. You should never write something again and should just sit in an empty room the rest of your life. You have ruined my children’s life, sir.


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  3. KingKirkpatrick says:

    Also……we need someone to take over where firejoemorgan.com left off……

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  4. kensai says:

    If somebody says steroids killed Lyle Alzado one more time…

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  5. Josh S says:

    Agreed… Time to move on…

    //What will this do to the HI.. OH NO

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  6. Karl says:

    I think this necessitates a weighted situational version of HI, also.


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  7. csiems says:

    183!? There is no baseline for that listed in the Glossary. Unless you plan on creating HI+ (scaled to press corp average) or HI* (regressed Hyperbole relative to years that a journalist has been engaging in gross exagerrations). Oh please, let there be an HI*.

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  8. Rich says:

    Thanks for making sense.

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  9. EnglishMariner says:

    I think your new tool has one major flaw Dave. How can we possibly hope to compare the dramas of different eras accurately? Is the A-Rod saga more depressing than the Black Sox episode? Is the treatment of Hank Aaron comparable to the vilification of Pete Rose?

    Fortunately, my new metric, HI”+” properly regresses all of these sorry affairs from different eras, and takes into account important factors such as weighted-slow-news-day [wSND] and media format effects which if not properly accounted for can skew these important results.

    My confidentiality clause with ESPN.com forbids me to go into any more detail, unfortunately. Rest assured though this is THE END OF BASEBALL AS WE KNOW IT. When I typed the A-Roid sage into my excel spreadsheet, instead of an actual integer for the HI+ I was instead faced with a picture of THE DEVIL.

    This is truly the BLACKEST day for our once great sport.

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  10. Larry Yocum says:

    The HI is part of the Critical Reporting Across Publications metric system and if you don’t rank high on the HI, how will you rank high on the CRAP list? Add A-Fraud to the So He Injected Testosterone list and we just have one more name from the era to our $H*T list.

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  11. EnglishMariner says:

    Seriously though, I wish every sportswriter would just take the day, nay, the rest of the week off to sit at home and contemplate just how important this news really is. Is baseball any more tarnished today than it was last week? No. The truth is, most of us now believe that the game is relatively clean due to increased drug checks. What happened in the past is irritating, but is just that: the past. I for one look forward to April to give those famished sportswriters something interesting to talk about each day.

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  12. JI says:

    Joe Jackson should be in the Hall of Fame

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  13. James says:

    I’m so glad people are with me on the Super Bowl thing. Holmes’ catch is the Greatest Super Bowl Catch Ever, Harrison’s pick 6 is the Greatest Defensive Play in Super Bowl History, and of course the game itself is the Greatest Ever. How can these people take themselves seriously?

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  14. Xeifrank says:

    I think AROD just single-handidly screwed up the Yankees whole offseason with this news. :)
    vr, Xei

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  15. David says:

    Simply put –THANK YOU! It’s a sad time when sports reporting requires a version of FAIR.

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  16. scatterbrian says:


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  17. Jacob Jackson says:

    That Jason Stark one-liner is unfathomable. Without even leaving the sport of baseball itself – much less the history of all sports – we have the example of the 1919 World Series, where players deliberately threw a series for pay.

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    • bushe says:

      I’m partial to the 1994 world series where they decided that staring at each other was too important to play games as the low point myself.

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  18. Brent says:

    This article is classic.

    I pretty much shrugged off this A-Rod story after Tim Kurkjian made a video spot dubbed “Dark Days Ahead” or something like that. Really? I though it was eulogy. Don’t these tools realize sporting news shifts gears faster than the attention span of a 5-year old? Last year we were declaring 2008 as the worst year ever in sports with Vick, the Mitchell Report, crooked NBA refs…

    Meh, when do pitchers and catchers report?

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  19. Mike Ketchen says:

    I am probably being way to fickle but am I the only one annoyed that they are ignoring the fact that he you know had slightly better numbers in a much better hitters park! Sure he used juice, big friggin deal. But if I have to watch these “anaylisis” and “writers” completley ignore the fact that it is a god damn launching pad that one of the best hitters of all time blasted off from for a few seasons im going to pop a vessel!

    That is all, thank you very much.

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    • h48yrf says:

      Yeah, my local news station put up a graph of his yearly triple crown averages from 1996-2000, 2001-2003, and 2004-present and noted the spike and subsequent drop in home run totals. Well, of course the 25-28 year old averaging 621 at bats in Arlington is going to hit more home runs than the 20-25 year old averaging 586 at bats in the Kingdome and the 28-33 year old averaging 574 at bats under the most intense microscope on Earth even before performance enhancing drugs come into play.

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      • philosofool says:

        This may be the number one reason we need sabermetrics to make it just a little closer to the mainstream. You can argue about WAR and wOWA in MVP balloting all you want. I don’t care. But park factors and age are something that even pretty simplistic statistics handle well and it’s not hard to show that the graph your describing will apply to almost any player under those circumstances.

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  20. Raf says:

    Has there been a study on the affect of PEDs/steroids in the game? I would’ve thought that with all the hue and cry from the public, someone would put together a study proving or disproving the impact the drugs have on the game.

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    • Clayton says:

      It would be nearly impossible to study the affect of PEDs on baseball performance and reach a valid conclusion, and beyond impossible to “prove” drugs had an impact on the game. There are too many confounding variables and unknowns in previous data, and a controlled experiment would be unethical.

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  21. Bill Walton says:

    This article is deplorable. This is some of the worst writing in the history of written word. Your effort is lacking c’mon throw it down big man.

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  22. Marcus says:

    I have wasted more than 1,000 hours of my life reading David Cameron’s baseball musings. That time would have been better spent sawing my fingers off with a cheese grater and marinating the stumps of my knuckles in salty lemon juice.

    Geoff Baker is to analysis what Albert Pujols is to a baseball swing. Hear this, Dave: Your attacks on beat writers will be the end of your pitiful legacy, the end of Fangraphs, and the end of sabermetrics as a discipline. Take your shots now, because at the end of 2009 we’re going to find out that Derek Jeter was actually the love child of Barack Obama and Anna Nicole Smith, but the story will pale in comparison to the scandal that is A-Roid. And Jason Stark will laugh at you, you ridiculous fool of a man, you tiny man without a sense of the bigger picture, you tiny ridiculous fool of a man whose very presence in our country makes us the most unintelligent nation the world has ever known.

    And Tim Lincecum possesses the most otherworldly young arm that has ever, or will ever, throw a pitch in the major leagues.

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    • Terry says:

      How dimwitted would one have to be in order to partake in an activity for a full 46 days before they realized it had less value than sawing their fingers off with a cheese grater and marinating the stumps of my knuckles in salty lemon juice?

      Might we therefore question your judgment on the legacy/sabermetrics statements?

      I sincerely hope you don’t feel a need to stick your fingers in a flame, your tongue to an ice cold flagpole, or your male organ in a light socket.

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  23. Don Zinck says:

    Thanks for the HI idea – it’s spot on, as some people say.
    Is it possible to call events from six years ago a “scandal” of the present day? I believe it may have been something of the kind back then, but now it’s like a WWII movie – maybe interesting and worth knowing about, but hardly a matter to get worked up about.
    And the greatest “scandal” of baseball was probably the exclusion of so many for so long for reasons of race. The 1919 World Series was next.
    BTW, I agree that Joe Jackson should be in the Hall of Fame. Didn’t his lifetime ban expire when he died?

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