A question of priorities: Comparing available statistics for baseball's "boys of summer" to those for U.S. chemical production and use

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

I’ve often been amazed when watching sports games on TV how quickly commentators can dig up the most obscure statistic about a player or team in real time, truly on the fly.  It’s not uncommon to be watching a game when a batter comes to the plate and I am immediately provided with his on-base percentage when batting left, facing that specific pitcher in the 9th inning when there’s a runner on second and his team is trailing by two or fewer runs.

I was reminded of all that this morning when perusing the New York Times sports page, which had this incredible graphic.  It depicts the exact location of every ball put in play this season by Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira, who’s having a bad year, comparing how well (or in this case, poorly) he does when he bats left- vs. right-handed.

In the accompanying article, there is a link to Teixeira’s BaseballReference.com page showing batting stats for his entire career.  These include his batting stats for home vs. away games, games before vs. after the All-Star Game break, stats broken down by month of the season, by whether his team won or lost, by whether he was a starter or a substitute, by what position he was playing, by his position in the batting order, by inning, by what the ball-strike count was when he got a hit, by what bases were occupied at the time – this list represents only half of the slices and dices of the data provided on this one player’s page.

One player out of hundreds active this year, all with such stats available at the flick of a mouse.  Comparable stats on past players for decades past.  And this is just major league baseball.  There’s football, soccer, tennis, horse racing.

So, just one question:  Would somebody tell me why can’t I find out how many chemicals are produced in the U.S. and how they’re used?  Or what their hazards or risks are?

Speaking of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and baseball, I can’t help but point to this recent quote (subscription required) that, believe it or not, links the two.  It was delivered by Fisk Johnson, CEO of S.C. Johnson & Son, at the American Chemical Society's 15th annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Washington, DC on June 21:

Your child has a better chance of becoming a Major League Baseball player than a chemical has of being regulated by EPA.

Now there’s a  statistic!

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One Comment

  1. blanphear
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Richard:

    Great commentary — I had the same thought about our failure to track chronic disease or environmentally induced disease. How is it that we have ongoing updates of thousands of stocks — literally updated each and every second — but we haven't established accurate national surveillance for the number of cases or deaths from chronic disease?

    Bruce