This new-age baseball stat drives me crazy because it's a complacency crutch

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Tomase: Why this new-age baseball stat drives my crazy originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Baseball's statistical revolution has moved us so far into the realm of the theoretical, it's like we shouldn't waste our time with what actually happens on the field.

You may think players are judged on their results, but increasingly we're being told that what really matters is their expected results.

Don't worry that Christian Vazquez is batting .220 or that Nick Pivetta's ERA is pushing 8.00. The former may only have two extra base hits, but his expected slugging percentage is over .400, based on his quality of contact and where he's hitting the ball. The latter is snakebit, with an unlucky average on balls in play and a FIP more than two runs lower than his ERA. He hasn't pitched well, but he hasn't pitched as poorly as his results.

We can make similar claims for Alex Verdugo, who's hitting .238 but "should" be batting .305, or Christian Arroyo, who's slugging .256 vs. expected production of .481 that would put him in a dead heat with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers for the team lead.

If the Red Sox want to lean on expected production, as tracked by Statcast, to avoid panicking over their putrid offensive start, that's fine. It's not like they have a lot of options at this point to make changes. It's too early to swing an impact trade, and the farm system isn't blessed with a ton of upper-level offensive options, especially if the front office is determined not to rush first baseman Triston Casas or even outfielder Jarren Duran.

Red Sox prospect update: Is now the time to call up Triston Casas?

Here's my problem with expected averages. For one, they discount actual results and can thus serve as a complacency crutch; i.e., "We don't need to upgrade at catcher, because our starter's luck will turn." Meanwhile, if the Red Sox continue playing .400 baseball for another month, their season will be over, and there's nothing hypothetical about that.

For another, what exactly constitutes an expected hit? Re-watching a number of Arroyo's recent at-bats, there's little doubt he's hitting the ball hard. Not only did he homer vs. the Orioles as one of the few offensive highlights of the recent road trip, but he also laced a series of lineouts to deep right field in Tampa, Baltimore, and Toronto.

That's good contact, but is it really threatening a hit when A) Arroyo has only recorded two home runs to the right of center in his career, and B) outfielders are playing deeper than ever to take away doubles? For the most part, Arroyo's outs didn't require above-average effort from right fielders already stationed in that direction.

And as long as we're talking about fielders, how do shifts factor into expected outcomes? If a left-handed hitter consistently hits screaming line drives on one hop to a second baseman stationed in short right field, that hit should only qualify as "expected" insofar as the defense expected him to hit it there. The same goes for Devers flying out against the four-outfielder alignment the Blue Jays threw at him. Contact historically yielding hits may no longer produce results.

The pitching side is just as bad. Plenty of analytically inclined fans will point to a pitcher's FIP -- fielding independent pitching -- as a better measure of how he's throwing, because it focuses on the three outcomes a pitcher can best control. Those would be walks, strikeouts, and home runs, which only account for about 35 percent of all plate appearances.

FIP ignores the rest, which is why two high-ranking MLB analysts separately told me when they get resumes citing FIP research, they toss them in the trash. "It doesn't account for outs," one of them told me with disdain.

And yet, FIP can be used to justify sticking with a struggling starter, as if his problems are simply bad luck on balls in play.

Sometimes an offense isn't hitting because it has holes at, say, first base, second base, catcher, and right field, only one of which might fix itself. Sometimes a bullpen leads the league in blown saves because its stuff actually kind of stinks.

Sometimes what a team expects to happen doesn't matter, because reality tells the story.