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Numbers don't lie (most of the time) - When stats go wrong

The thing we love most about stats, outside of the measured perspectives they offer into the games we love, is the occasional insane anomaly offered up by the glorious mathematical magic of a small sample size. You take a very, VERY short period of goodness or badness, plug it into a formula, and some bizarre figures come back out. This is pretty standard information for that one annoying guy on your fantasy team who only drafts injured players because statistically, they’ll help him the most. Sure, the stats work out, but come on, Brian, you’re making it less fun for all of us!

But when your fantasy team isn’t on the line, weird statistical anomalies are usually good for a laugh. Case in point, here are some of our favorite incidents of stats-gone-goofy.

The Most Efficient Fifteen Minutes Ever Played

Deandre liggins.jpg

Here’s who had the all-time greatest NBA seasons in Player Efficiency Rating, as sourced through Basketball-Reference.

  1. 2013-14 DeAndre Liggins, 129.1 PER
  2. 2004-05 Jackie Butler, 90.3 PER
  3. 2008-09 Steven Hill, 88.3 PER
  4. 1966-67 George Lee, 77.0 PER
  5. 1990-91 Ian Lockhart, 76.3 PER

Combined, they played exactly 15 minutes on the court, and scored a total 30 points. Liggins, the chairman of this lofty group, solidified his legacy by checking in with the Miami Heat exactly one time for one minute last year, scoring a single basket and grabbing a single offensive rebound. Now he’s immortal, just like that. A basketball career glowing as brightly as it possibly could in less than 60 seconds.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of these guys are tied for first in career field goal percentage - all at 1.00.

The Most Inefficient Minute Ever Played

Gheorghe Muresan was that really, really tall guy. He was the 7”7 Romanian, just another in a long line of freaky anomalies that had a cup of coffee in the NBA because why wouldn’t you take a number on a guy who could dunk flat-footed?

All-Anomaly Team: Five NBA outliers pulling off strange statistical feats

The problem was that unlike the Yao Mings, Manute Bols, and Rik Smits of the world, Muresan had absolutely no game. He was just a horrible, horrible basketball player whose incredible size carried him to an inexplicable five year career. His legend will permanently be inscribed in the single minute he played for the New Jersey Nets in the 1998-99 season. The Big Gita checked in, missed a shot, turned the ball over, and checked back out. He finished the season with an all-time worst -90.6 PER.

I can think of no player more deserving of such a substantial place in history.

Doc Hamann’s Infinite ERA

Doc Hamann probably wasn’t the worst pitcher of all time. He was just some 22-year old kid from rural Minnesota, who earned a trip to the big leagues with the Cleveland Indians. Doc’s first MLB appearance was in the midst of a 15-5 blowout against the dastardly Boston Red Sox on September 21, 1922. He faced six batters without recording earning a single out, and the man named Hamann would never sniff the big leagues ever again.

It’s the kind of story your grandpa would tell you over and over again in his senile years to reassure himself his life hasn’t been a total wash. But Doc doesn’t even need to pretend, because Doc is one of the most statistically bizarre people to ever compete in professional sports. On that fateful Autumn where he was batted around the park by a couple of Red Sox, Hamann became one of the very few players to record a lifetime infinite ERA. (This is due to the way the ERA is calculated - since Hamann never completed a full inning, the equation divides by zero, which results in infinity).

I love this, because it implies that somewhere beyond the cosmos, there’s a celestial Doc Hamann haplessly letting perpetually-replicating baseball players run around the bases. He was so bad that he actually broke the math. What have you done lately?

The Least Surprising Statistic of All Time

It seems like every year a couple quarterbacks end up throwing a game with a perfect passer rating, from obvious all-timers like Peyton Manning to random mid-level strokes of greatness, like Ken Anderson’s 17/21 thrashing of the Colts back in ‘74. But there are a select few players that have registered both a perfect passer rating in one game, and a 0.0 passer rating in another game. Yes, there is a list of quarterbacks out there that literally embody the yin and yang of sports.

Guess who headlines that list.

No seriously, guess, you have a better shot than you think.

Yep! You got it! It’s Eli Manning.

Eli Manning walking with helmet off.jpg

Eli Manning, the very concept of inconsistency, would thrash the Raiders 44-7 going 8/10 with two touchdowns, posting an immaculate 158.3. A few years earlier, his 4/18, two-interception performance earned him a benching in the 4th quarter and an enormous 0.0. At least he’s trending upwards, right! Right? Oh…

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