September 4, 2012
They Move Like Living Things
Synchronized and graceful, they move like living things.
Being among the estimated 40-plus percent of San Diegans who cannot watch Padres games on television in 2012, I find myself watching many games involving two teams in which I have no rooting interest. Watching baseball without regard for outcome is weird but also liberating. It allows me to focus on aspects of the game I might not otherwise consider.
I end up watching metabaseball.
Sure, there's the usual stuff like paying attention only to a particular defender or trying to guess pitch sequences before they happen. But there's also the consideration of performance and narrative. Everything within a game is driven by context, but if you step outside that context—as I once did by watching a contest between the Red Sox and Yankees set to the music of Radiohead (well, part of one; once the tunes stopped in the top of the fifth, I lost interest)—you begin to see interesting things.
In sabermetrics, we often talk about the search for objective truth, which itself is a loaded term that invokes Karl Popper and leads us to strange and sometimes disturbing places. We talk about narratives and seek to disprove some of the more popular and misguided ones. We do this systematically, setting up studies and examining evidence. We hypothesize, we test, we refine.
It's kind of like science, at least in methodology.