Thursday, June 19, 2003

Numbers compound mysteries

Doing the math

By Mike Lopresti
Gannett News Service

What was it English statesman Benjamin Disraeli said about there being three kinds of untruth - "lies, damn lies and statistics"?

And that was before salary arbitration. So here we are, on a sports landscape where the numbers do not always add up. A few figures that make little sense, less sense, or no sense ...

.199: The batting average of the Reds' Adam Dunn, which sounds like it belongs to the backup shortstop ... in Chattanooga. Except he's leading the National League in home runs. Bleachers-or-bust, Dunn has 22 homers and 18 singles.

182: That's where David Duval ranks on the PGA Tour money list, with 11 missed cuts in 14 tournaments. Never mind Tiger Woods. This is a real slump.

0: All-Star appearances by pitcher Jamie Moyer. It seemed worth mentioning since he has the best winning percentage in baseball - 115-52 for .689 - since 1996. Better than Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and anyone who has worn an Atlanta cap. Moyer is 10-3 this season. Maybe they'll let him in one.

20: Minutes Steve Kerr played in the NBA Finals for San Antonio. Long enough to help win pivotal Game 5, dispense dozens of usable quotes and get his fifth championship ring.

"I've got the greatest job on earth," he said. "I come in, I play like six minutes, I make a couple of shots, and then I do interviews in the interview room."

.249: The career batting average, before this season, of one Melvin Mora of the Baltimore Orioles. He's now appearing at the top of the American League batting leaders, hitting .358.

7: Sammy Sosa's season home run total. It's enough to give cork a bad name.

130: Weight of Takeru Kobayashi, the two-time defending world hot dog-eating champion, who inhaled 50 1/2 of them last year in 12 minutes.

Now we hear Kobayashi will have a new challenger for his threepeat attempt July 4 at Coney Island - William "The Refrigerator" Perry, who used to play for the Chicago Bears. Perry is reportedly just under 400 pounds and qualified by eating 12 dogs in 12 minutes.

"I'm just having fun, enjoying life, eating like I always do," he said Tuesday. "My chances are as good as anybody's."

But 12 is a hog or two short of 50 1/2. Kobayashi, who weighs about as much as one of Perry's legs, is probably not intimidated. As the old saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder it is for them to button their pants. Perry said he's making no special preparations for his chow-down. But as he said goodbye, he did add, "I'm going to eat me a hot dog or two."

9th: Where the Braves ranked in the National League in pitching Wednesday, a plunge for a staff that has been No. 1 or 2 in the major leagues for 11 seasons. By the way, the Braves are on pace to win 108 games.

29th: Where the Los Angeles Dodgers ranked in the majors in runs. By the way, the Dodgers are a game out of first place.

20: The combined strokes Woods finished behind in the Masters and U.S. Open. It was silly to think he could keep turning out majors like Burger King turns out Whoppers. But does it mean anything that he's not finishing in the same zip code as the winners?

"I've really tried," he said, "not to get caught up in the roller coaster ride."

Best way to do that, of course, is not pay any attention to statistics.

Mike Lopresti writes for Gannett News Service.

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Numbers compound mysteries
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