Why your team's hopes aren't dead by the eighth inning, and why baseball isn't either.
Is the dramatic comeback dead? Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated thinks that it is, and that it’s because teams have loaded up their bullpen with power-armed specialists who are just so good that if a team gets to the late innings with a lead, they are more likely to keep it, and thus scuttle the chances for someone to make a dramatic comeback in the late innings. A lot of the great games in baseball history involve late-inning heroics and comebacks from the brink. Everyone loves a comeback, but Verducci suggests that if the comeback becomes a lost art, it will suck all the life out of baseball.
There’s an endless game of cat and mouse to be played among pitchers and batters. Ted Williams famously said that hitting a baseball was the hardest thing to do in all of sports, but what makes it so hard? Sure, hitting something that small traveling that fast with a blunt instrument takes Olympian levels of reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and raw strength, but put even a decent minor-league hitter up against a pitching machine that is “throwing” 95 mph and eventually, he’ll start squaring it up every single time.
The question of cultural competence is one of the struggles that will define the next generation of Sabermetrics.
"The game is becoming a freaking joke because of the nerds who are running it. I'll tell you what has happened, these guys played Rotisserie baseball at Harvard or wherever the f--- they went and they thought they figured the f---ing game out. They don't know s---.” –Goose Gossage, March 11, 2016.
I’d say that Fuller House, the Netflix revival of the 1990s sitcom of a slightly shorter name, is a guilty pleasure of mine, but first you have to feel guilty about it. Yes, the scripts are still uproariously bad, but the cheese factor was what made the show good to begin with. In a world where everyone has to be too cool for everyone and everything, it’s nice to think that we can all solve our problems in the space of 30 minutes with a hug. Maybe it’s just nice to remember the 90s, when everyone wasn’t so uptight about everything.
Should we pity the poor catcher whose manager won't give him a doggone break?
Catching might be the most exhausting job on the field. While everyone else can stand up straight and meander about their appointed pasture, you, the pitiable catcher, have to crouch behind the plate. And stop 90 mph balls with your glove. And call the pitches. And be the front-line psychologist for the pitcher. And take foul tips off the chest protector. And… oh dear, R.A. Dickey is pitching today. Plus, you gotta hit and run and sign autographs for the 8-year-olds.
We have a lot of problems in the United States, and every few years, we get to hear a bunch of people blather on about what those problems are, what causes them, and how to best fix them before the very order of things that we know falls apart. We know of course that most people don’t pay attention to these issues until after the World Series is over (or so the saying goes), but this really is an opportunity to make the American Past Time great again. So on this Super Tuesday, I think it’s time we had a discussion about tax policy.
Did PECOTA fuel the Royals' championship run last year? Will it, and the Royals, repeat?
Last year, the Kansas City Royals were the defending American League champions. They had just won 89 games in 2014, the American League pennant and had come oh so close to winning the 2014 World Series. And no one believed that they were for real. It was hard to find a pundit prediction which had the Royals finishing in third place in the AL Central, much less making the playoffs. If you were paying close attention last season, you know how that one turned out.
What really happens when we try to compare players across positions empirically.
I’m guessing that many of the people reading this will have come to appreciate the game of baseball the way I did, through the magic of baseball cards. When I was growing up, a baseball card told you three things on the front of the card: the player’s name, the player’s team, and the position that he played. It’s something that’s deeply ingrained in how we understand baseball. Players have their positions. And we know all nine of them. Well, of course, there were the utility infielders. I remember when I was 7 that I called them “switch-position” guys. They got little dashes in the little circle where it showed their position. SS-2B. 3B-1B. In baseball, it’s perfectly legal to shift around the park, but the good players, they had a regular spot to hang out in.
Okay, okay, we get it! Catcher framing is really superduper important. Getting an extra called strike can turn an at-bat, which can turn an inning, which can turn a game, which can turn a season, which can turn someone’s summer from one that they’d rather forget to one that they’ll write a bad novel about 20 years later.