It is one of the only things that links generations and eras together.
Because the game has changed so little over the years, it is the reason that we can compare players like Babe Ruth to Albert Pujols. Or Steve Carlton to Roy Halladay.
But, in this new "Moneyball" age of baseball, stats are becoming increasingly more important when organizations make personnel decisions in regards to their on-field product.
Just look at the Red Sox for example. The current ownership group doesn't hide the fact that they put an emphasis on numbers and take a more statistical approach to scouting and developing players. They try to blend it with the traditional approach of trusting scouts' eyes when evaluating talent.
Stats have almost become too important. Wins above replacement (WAR) and zone rating and value over replacement player (VORP) may be a foreign language to some fans — and gospel to others — but they are stats that teams are looking at more and more in today's game.
They all tell a different story, and maybe most importantly, they tell it in a different way. They have their advantages and their drawbacks.
But new-age statistics aren't always the only ones that can be misleading. Take, for example, pitching wins. Practically forever, it was deemed that a pitcher wouldn't be considered for a Cy Young award without 20 wins. Twenty was the gold standard.
That's why many are picking CC Sabathia as the front-runner in the AL this season. Well, that, and the fact that he has been a workhorse again for the first-place Yankees, but his entire array of stats and numbers, not just wins, tells the story.
A better illustration could be looking at the other side of things. Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels has a pedestrian 10-10 record this season. On the surface, that's not very impressive. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find he sports an ERA of 3.06 and will likely eclipse 200 strikeouts this season.
Things don't get much easier on the offensive side as runs batted in is another example of a tricky stat. It's one of those stats, that in some cases, is dependent upon the team a player plays on almost more so than a player's skill. Runs scored is the same way. A player could have incredible on-base percentage, but if he's not being driven in, his run total will be low. The same could be said for a player with high run totals who bats at the top of a strong lineup.
Baseball statistics have been used to settle — or prolong — debates for as long as the game has been around. But for this debate, what is the most overrated stat in baseball?
Share your thoughts below.
Monday, Sept. 13: Where will Adrian Beltre be playing in 2011?