Column: Get rid of the LOB

By Lucas Deal

On Tuesday afternoon, the Illinois baseball team dropped a 10-6 decision to Eastern Illinois in non-conference action in Charleston. Not long after the game, I received an e-mail from the team’s Sports Information Director Ben Taylor that featured a story on the loss as well as link to the game’s box score. The headline for the article on the game said, “Illini Fall at Eastern Illinois, 10-6”; and the subtitle read, “Illinois Strands 12 Runners; Snowden Reaches Base 4 Times in Loss.”

Now before I continue, let me preface this column by stating that when it comes to baseball, I am an old-fashioned kind of guy. I don’t like change, and I don’t root for the obvious.

I am not impressed when a home run hitter hits a home run; I do not cheer when a strikeout pitcher records a strikeout, and I will never root for a team that tries to simply out slug teams 11-10 every night to win.

I am, however, a huge fan of the hit-and-run, a well-placed suicide squeeze and the pitcher’s best friend, the double-play ball.

Hence, Jim Thome hitting a walk-off home run is not exciting to me – and not because I’m not a White Sox fan – but because Thome is known for just that, hitting home runs. Now if Thome was to win a game for the Sox on a squeeze play in the 13th inning, even if it was against my beloved Cardinals, I would still stand and applaud (assuming it didn’t occur in the World Series, because in that case, screw Jim Thome).

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    That’s just my style.

    And now that you’re all sufficiently confused as to what this has to do with Illinois’ loss at Eastern, I shall continue.

    I’m sick of the left-on-base stat, or ‘LOB’ as it is commonly seen in newspapers and box scores. I don’t want any part of it.

    It magnifies poor execution and missed opportunities, two aspects of baseball that drive coaches, players and fans nuts.

    And yet, ‘LOB’ continues to gain popularity throughout baseball and has even forced its way onto TV scoreboards along with baseball’s three ageless mainstays: runs, hits and errors. Why?

    Do fans really need to be reminded of their teams’ missed opportunities every inning? Are players better in the clutch in the eighth inning if they know they left three runners on base in the fifth?

    Now, I can’t speak for Illini head coach Dan Hartleb, I wasn’t at Tuesday’s game and have no idea how he felt afterwards, but something tells me the last thing he wanted to see when the final out was recorded was that beautiful ‘LOB’ stat in the box score.

    He knows how many runners the Illini left on base, the media doesn’t have to rub it in his face. Besides, he’s got enough problems trying to settle on a starting rotation to worry about runners being left on base.

    I mean, he can hope his hitters get better at driving in runs, but that’s all he can do. There’s no drill the Illini can run in practice that will make them better hitters with runners on base. Either they get a hit or they don’t, it’s that simple.

    And I’m not trying to attack Ben or any other reporter who mentions how many runners a team leaves on base after close losses, because everyone does it. I know I have, and as much as I hate the stat, I have a feeling I’ll do it again. It’s a sign of the times.

    I just really wish it wasn’t.

    Lucas Deal is a junior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected].