The Greatest Offensive Catcher in Baseball History

Yeah, I know, this is a blog about politics and culture, not baseball.  But bear with me:

Back in the mid 1980s there was this catcher named Matt Nokes.  He came up in the Giants’ system, but I remember him for his phenomenal rookie season with the Detroit Tigers.  That year (1987), he hit .289, drove in 87 runs, and hit a phenomenal 32 homers, good enough to tie for 5th overall back in the pre-steroid days.  This was unheard-of power from any catcher, let alone a rookie…

You know how the story ends, of course, because you’ve never heard of Matt Nokes, a journeyman who hit just 107 more home runs over the course of a ten year big league career with five different teams.  The only real reason I remember him is because I had his rookie card, which by some quirk was quite rare, and I vowed to not end up like my Dad who, like everybody’s Dad, once got Mickey Mantle’s rookie card but ruined it by paper-clipping it to the spokes of his bike.  For about six months there, Matt Nokes was gonna make me rich.

Which brings me — record scratch — to Global Warming.

Apparently there’s been some activity in the Thread that Wouldn’t Die over at Morgan’s place.  I bear the responsibility for this — a fellow called Captain Midnight followed my link and posted a comment; our favorite hysterical collective is evidently still monitoring this thread (!!) and posted a reply; and Captain Midnight has been cheerfully flensing them ever since.

The Captain observes:

So direct temperature measurements don’t show this trend using equipment designed to measure temperature. Instead climate scientists “discovered” the expected heat that their models predict, but that their instruments don’t detect, by treating wind as a better measurement for temperature than thermometers.


If a model isn’t backed up by measurements and facts, the model should be reexamined for accuracy. Instead climate scientists are looking to wind to fit their models. Sounds to me like coming up with epicycles to force the planets to fit the Ptolemaic theory of perfect circular orbits rather than examining the Ptolemaic theory of astronomy for accuracy.

Which pretty much says it all.

And which brings me back to poor Matt Nokes, he of the lifetime .254 batting average.  I’d be laughed out of the room if I argued as follows:

  • Matt Nokes hit 32 home runs in his rookie season, an average of 32 per season;
  • Mike Piazza, generally considered MLB’s all-time best offensive catcher, hit 427 homers in 16 years, an average of only 26.6 home runs per season;
  • Had Matt Nokes played the same number of seasons as Piazza, he would have hit 512 home runs;
  • Therefore, Matt Nokes is actually the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history.

But I defy anyone to show me how this differs in any important respect from the actual arguments being made by the global warming proponents in that thread.  You’ve got Matt Nokes’s actual stats — .254 /136 / 422 lifetime — and then there are the stats my model predicted, .289 / 512 / 1392, which leaves Mike Piazza (.308/ 427/ 1335) in second place.

“But what about statistical backscatter?,”  I hear you asking.  “[T]he data must be homogenized, that is, biases and discontinuities removed to provide the best possible reconstruction,” as the phrase seems to be.  Well, thanks to, we can homogenize like a sumbitch, and as it turns out, in the years their professional careers overlapped (1989-1995), Nokes was clearly the superior player.  In 1990, for instance, Nokes hit 22 home runs against major league pitching (for three different teams!); Piazza, meanwhile, managed only six against the fearsome bullpen arms of the Single-A Florida League.

And here’s the kicker — neither of them are in the Hall of Fame.

Here’s where it might actually be helpful — rather than just fun — to hoist leftists on their own petard.  Lefty liberal arts majors love Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions because it lets them pontificate about quote-unquote “science” without having to know anything about, you know, science.  It’s one of those Casablanca books — you know the main ideas (“paradigm shift”) like you know “play it again, Sam,” so cliche has it become through endless repetition and reference and parody.

But “paradigm shift” has its uses for all that.  Here’s wiki’s summation, with key highlights by yours truly:

Stressing the importance of not attributing modern modes of thought to historical actors, Kuhn’s book argues that the evolution of scientific theory does not emerge from the straightforward accumulation of facts, but rather from a set of changing intellectual circumstances and possibilities.


According to Kuhn, the scientific paradigms preceding and succeeding a paradigm shift are so different that their theories are incommensurable — the new paradigm cannot be proven or disproven by the rules of the old paradigm, and vice versa. The paradigm shift does not merely involve the revision or transformation of an individual theory, it changes the way terminology is defined, how the scientists in that field view their subject, and, perhaps most significantly, what questions are regarded as valid… Such incommensurability exists not just before and after a paradigm shift, but in the periods in between conflicting paradigms. It is simply not possible, according to Kuhn, to construct an impartial language that can be used to perform a neutral comparison between conflicting paradigms… Scientists subscribing to different paradigms end up talking past one another.

In other words, during a paradigm shift, there’s an argument over the nature of science itself.  What, exactly, counts as “science?”

You can see why lefties love it.  Science, quote-unquote, isn’t the accumulation of truth; it’s just the worldview of the winners in an essentially political struggle.  He who controls the paradigm in a very real sense controls reality.

It’s extra humorous, then, to see our oh so smugly leftist interlocutors in The Neverending Thread getting caught in the paradigm shift.  Kuhn argues that

As a paradigm is stretched to its limits, anomalies — failures of the current paradigm to take into account observed phenomena — accumulate. Their significance is judged by the practitioners of the discipline. Some anomalies may be dismissed as errors in observation, others as merely requiring small adjustments to the current paradigm that will be clarified in due course…. But no matter how great or numerous the anomalies that persist… the practicing scientists will not lose faith in the established paradigm for as long as no credible alternative is available; to lose faith in the solubility of the problems would in effect mean ceasing to be a scientist.

But eventually, of course, enough anomalies accumulate to force the titular “scientific revolutions,” and let us all spare a thought for all the poor astronomers royal and papal who were suddenly put out of business by Copernicus and Galileo.  I sure hope they landed on their feet.  Something tells me our climate-change alarmists will soon be finding out for themselves.



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One thought on “The Greatest Offensive Catcher in Baseball History

  1. Captain Midnight

    I, too, was disappointed to see that the data shows Matt Nokes trailing Mike Piazza’s overall stats when the model clearly shows otherwise. And yet I’m convinced that there must be another way of counting home runs. Sure, I could just, you know, count home runs, but instead, I decided to use crowd volume as a proxy for home runs. We know that the crowd goes wild with a home run, so we can count each loud cheer as a home run and analyse the data that way.

    And dang if I didn’t torture the data enough to make it fit the model! Who could have predicted that?

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