Let's Have Some Fun!
So our guy Tom Tango has come up with something totally new — a formula to determine which are the most fun players to watch. Before I tell you the formula (and before we take our own stab at it) here are the Tango top 10 fun players in baseball history (min. 2,000 plate appearances):
OK! There’s an awful lot to unpack here. There are some unquestionably super fun players on this list — Judge! Acuña! Ohtani! Bo! Buxton! — and some less so. Trevor Story at the top? Joey Gallo? Miguel Sano?
Bill James has always said (more or less) that the best way to test a formula is to see if the results make sense to you. These sort of do. And they sort of don’t. You scroll through the top 25 and you see all sorts of unquestionably fun players (Eric Davis! Babe Ruth! Trea Turner! Javy Baez!) and some head-scratchers (Emil Brown? Russell Branyan?* Drew Stubbs?).
*Russell Branyan is one of my friend Chardon Jimmy’s all-time favorite players; he will insist that Russell the Muscle was TONS of fun.
I have a theory why the list is both great and quirky, which I will share in a moment. First, we’ll look at how the Tango Fun Formula works. Basically, Tom is handing out points to players for when they do fun things. What would qualify as a fun thing? Well, we all can agree that triples are fun, right? So, Tom gives out 12 points for every triple.
Doubles are fun, too … but maybe not as fun as triples. So Tom gives out nine points for doubles.
Home runs are fun … but how much fun? Tom did a couple of fan polls and determined that fans find home runs to be more fun than triples. So he gives out 14 points per home run.
Here’s the formula as Tom has it.
Walks and hit-by pitches: 1 fun point*
Strikeouts: 3 fun points (we’ll talk about this in a minute)
Singles: 4 fun points
Stolen bases: 6 fun points
Caught stealing: 1 fun point
Doubles: 9 fun points
Triples: 12 fun points
Home runs: 14 fun points
*Intentional walks get 0 fun points, as it should be.
And then you just take the total and divide it by plate appearances to get a fun score!
Now, here’s where you probably ask the first question I asked: How is it FUN for a hitter to strike out? That’s not fun at all. But here’s the thing: Tom is looking at the game in a fun-neutral way. That is to say he asked fans what kind of stuff like they like to see when watching a baseball game. Fans like strikeouts. They might say they only like it from the pitcher’s perspective — it’s fun to watch Pedro or deGrom or Kershaw strike out 15 in a game — but Tom’s idea is that if strikeouts are fun, then batters have to get some fun points for striking out.
Maybe you buy that. Maybe you don’t.
OK, so what would the list look like if you simply took strikeouts out of the equation? Well …