In other words, are there any two games in baseball history that, if I were to pick up the scorecards for each, they would be indistinguishable?The difference between Lar and pretty much everyone else in the world is that he actually set out to crack this mystery. He created a Retrosheet database and methodically broke down the potential possibilities resulting from each plate appearance and quickly came to the conclusion that the odds would of two games playing out exactly the same would be astronomical.
If you think about the numbers involved, it's not surprising in the least: with at least a dozen possible standard outcomes available for each plate appearance (and another dozen or more possible, but highly unlikely outcomes), and with 60 or 70 or even 80 plate appearances per game, the odds become fantastic that two games would be identical.Furthermore, if it were possible to have each plate appearance broken down by pitch, it would become even more impossible to find two identical games. Click through to see how similar the pairs of games he isolates actually were. You might be surprised.
Take into account that it is wildly unlikely that any two baseball games have ever played out in exactly the same way, and remember that the next time some tries to apply hindsight to something that almost (or supposedly should have) occurred in a sporting event of any kind. "Oh man, if the ump had called that obvious strike, then Pettitte gets out of that inning, those two runs don't score, and the Yanks would have won." Those are the same people who think "everything happens for a reason" and that everyone has a soulmate.
The title of this post comes from something that Michael Kay likes to say during Yankee broadcasts. I've had some fun with Mr. Kay 'round here, but I must agree with him on this one. There is NO chance that the game would have played out the same way and to believe so is to subscribe to the fairy tales of Destiny and/or Fate.
Lar went back over the entire history of recorded MLB game data and couldn't find anything close to two identical scoresheets. That database consisted of 100,000 games. When people try to isolate one event and keep the rest of the game the same, they are saying that not only is the imaginary divergent outcome of the game is the same as another that occurred in baseball history (essentially impossible), they are saying that it is the same as the actual outcome of THAT game (essentially impossible multiplied by 100,000+).
This is the kind of stuff that makes life endlessly fascinating. Even in a sport like baseball where things are endlessly categorized and recorded, it is almost impossible (no, fuck it, it IS impossible) to have two games which are the same, even on a scorecard.
That's why I hate the concept of "everything happens for a reason". Ironically the people who say this are usually talking about things beyond human control, which are actually the exact things that don't happen for a reason. There is plenty of stuff in life that happens without any reasonable explaination at all, and the best we can do is try to make sense of it logically.