Jonah Keri from Grantland wrote a piece based around Derek Jeter’s reaching the 3,000 hit plateau and how round numbers are blown out of proportion:
To solve this kind of disconnect, we count. The problem is our obsession with our fingers. We have 10 of ‘em, which means base-10 numbers take on great meaning. We celebrate .300 hitters, ignore the .299 guys. We honor 20-game winners, vastly underrate those who frequently win 18 or 19. It’s a lousy way to count, one that obscures the greatness of players who happen to fall a tick short.
So true. There is a lot of value placed on round numbers, when in reality they don’t mean a lot. Keri goes on to about Wins Above Replacement (WAR):
The simplest way to recalibrate greatness is to use better numbers. Wins Above Replacement weighs a player’s offensive contributions, his defense, his base running, the era in which he played, and several other factors, then shows you the single most important measure of any athlete’s worth: the number of games he wins for his team. If you’re an 85-win team and you replace a scrub with a 5-WAR player, now you’re a 90-win team. That’s it.
WAR is slowing becoming the gold standard to evaluate players. Because it takes so many things into account it can be used across positions and generations. It’s definitely a stat I constantly reference.