For 55 years I have been saying "no, statistics are what is most interesting about baseball," and for the last 30+ years I would say it has been dying baseball's salvation. Listening to Bill Simmons discuss the declining popularity of baseball with Chuck Klosterman, I am having strange thoughts. Simmons noted that no one has baseball arguments anymore. He gave as an example whether having Wade Boggs on your team was a good idea. People used to complain about empty stats because he didn't drive in runs, while his defenders would point to his batting average and walks, and the critic would respond with walks not being that important, and he was a leadoff hitter who didn't steal bases, on and on. Now there are answers to that.
I turned them off* and went on thinking in that vein. I talk baseball with a few people at work, but most of them don't really understand statistics all that well, they just have impressions. They "don't trust" Joe Kelly. I am betting that they are still thinking of Opening Day, when he was terrible, and let them talk. They both immediately reference that game, no others. He had no bad outings in April or May. None. He had one bad and two very bad outings in June in July. 41 appearances, 4 of them bad. I try to work this in, but they "just don't trust him." This is common, and I think the people who understand statistics don't get into arguments with such people because there is really no point.
Statheads have their favorite ways of looking at things, and are always looking to uncover a new statistic that will explain some phenomenon even better. But that window is narrower now. I might prefer ERA and you prefer WHIP, but both will tell similar stories. We will both find "Saves" unsatisfying as a measurement. You can still get into arguments about steroids and the Hall of Fame, but that is a different type of argument. Baseball stories are now about how to build a team, or how the style of swing is changing. Mike Trout is having a spectacular season. You can go to Single Season Leaders to find out how spectacular (projecting to full season required). It's one of the top 20 of all time, and might hit top 10. Up there with Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, and not many others. That's it, that's the whole discussion.
So half the baseball fans can no longer talk to the other half, other than grim politeness.They can't even read the same writers that smoothly. This is a serious blow to a game that takes too long to watch.
*I like both but find them frustrating. Both know many things, and frequently have interesting observations that have eluded others, as above. Both can be witty. However, neither seems to critique his own ideas very well, and will run off into some fairly stupid stuff and keep going. Klosterman in particular seems to think by flashes of lightning, then go dark. His But What If We're Wrong? was a great concept, with mediocre execution. I commented years ago on one of his cultural claims. (The posts overlap. Pick one or the other.)