There's a spring training story about Kris Bryant's choices, and a September story about Kris Bryant's season. Do they communicate with each other?
Kris Bryant never made much secret of the fact that he liked to hit the ball in the air. “I liked hitting home runs when I was little,” he told the Chicago Tribune last year. “To do that, you have to hit the ball in the air, so that’s why I caught on pretty quick to the idea of hit it high and hard.”
That approach—executed by way of a steeply uppercut swing—carried Bryant, with immodest success, through high school, college, and the minor leagues. The home runs came easy. Even in the big leagues, the harsh uppercut produced 26 home runs in 2015, Bryant’s rookie season.
The world's been terrible, but the Seagers have been joy.
This is a curiosity, really, more than anything else. There’s no deeper meaning to it, and you probably won’t leave this piece with a better sense of why the sky is blue, the sea deep, or the winter cold. But it’s a fun curiosity, I think, and moreover it’s possible you’ll find the 10 minutes you invest in reading the words I’m about to write a worthwhile diversion from your ongoing journey toward nonexistence. Here’s Corey Seager’s 2016 line, through games played on Monday night:
Are contact, line-drive hitters better positioned to succeed against this era's best pitchers?
About a week ago, I contributed a portion of an article published on this site that was centered around a simple conceit: Sam Miller and I would each design and manage an All-Star roster optimized to win a single game, and a single game only. In the introduction to my section of the piece, I noted that I found the whole exercise a little foolish:
Sometimes, a hitter adjusts so quickly that it’s hard to tell exactly what he’s doing, as he’s doing it. Perhaps it’s a new front-foot tap that’s helped him get his timing down on that tough fastball, and he debuts it on a Sunday and sees success with it right away. Perhaps it’s a sudden recognition of a particular pitch, out of a particular arm slot, that allows him to start crushing before anybody really notices how it’s happening. Perhaps. It doesn’t often happen that fast.
Within Mookie Betts' otherworldliness, baseball happened.
An improbable event is amazing not because it happened but because of all the times before when it didn’t. When a penny falls from your wallet and lands in such a way that it’s balanced precisely on its rim, you’re amazed not only at the fact that you had a penny in your wallet in the first place (which is a pretty rare thing, these days) but also because your brain has been jarred from its stupor: Every other time you dropped a penny, from an infinite past eternity on forward to that auspicious present, it fell flat onto one of its sides or another, or, more drearily, bounced away into some grimy crack or crevasse. In any event, it falling onto its rim was entirely unexpected.
The Giants won yesterday, 4-3 in extra innings against the Padres, and even before they did, they had the best week of any team in baseball. By BP’s own reckoning, in the form of our Playoff Odds report, their chances of making a postseason appearance this year increased by the largest amount—17.0 percent—of any other team this week, and that’s before the system had a chance to consider Brandon Crawford’s walkoff single by the bay last night. When it does, their odds of tasting October in this, an even year, will go up further, not only because the Padres are a division rival but because, as well, the season is one day closer to its end.
Firing Fredi Gonzalez is no cause for celebration in Atlanta. Right now, nothing is.
When you have nothing to say, sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all. By firing Fredi Gonzalez earlier this week, the Braves simultaneously said something and, at the same time, implicitly admitted that it would have been far, far better to say nothing at all. Because what, really, was the point of what happened this week? When you choose to enter the year with a manager in place—particularly a manager who, as is the case with Gonzalez, has been around for a while—you’re making a statement about your confidence in that manager’s ability to see you through the season in the way you’ve designed the season to be played. If you weren’t confident in the same, you would have made a change in the offseason.
Let me begin by saying this: this was not my idea. Last Friday, I attended a talk at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology given by Farhan Zaidi, formerly the AGM in Oakland and currently the GM of the Dodgers. (He’s one of many.) During the course of his talk, Zaidi highlighted the phenomenon I’m about to describe—among others—as an example of intriguing applications of economic theory to baseball analysis. He credited this particular discovery (if that is, indeed, the correct term) to his in-house R&D team. So, credit goes to you, anonymous L.A. baseball ops staffer. I’m sorry I don’t know your name.
It's too soon to say conclusively that Aaron Nola's six excellent starts aren't a fluke, but we can definitely say they aren't an accident.
When a player throws 20 consecutive scoreless innings at the major-league level, as Aaron Nola just has, he makes an implicit demand upon your time which, rendered explicitly, reads like this: Sit up and notice me! When that same player has Nola’s pedigree—drafted seventh overall by the Phillies in 2014; ranked in the Top 100 prospects in the game by this very publication that same year—but has not yet achieved consistent success in the majors, the demand is read at twice the volume.
Rethinking Dusty Baker, with the help of some Nationals.
Early Sunday evening, somewhere in the bowels of Nationals Park, the questions came flying at Dusty Baker thick and fast. Why did he double-switch Bryce Harper out of the game immediately after Harper's ninth-inning home run, and instead put Chris Heisey into the game, thus burning the Nationals' last position player? I mean, it meant that he had to let a relief pitcher (Oliver Perez) take an at-bat with two outs and runners on base in the bottom of the 15th inning, for crying out loud! Why, for that matter, did he leave Stephen Strasburg in the game for 114 pitches? And what the hell was Yusmeiro Petit doing throwing 4 ⅓ innings in this game, anyway?
If you zoom in far enough, the laws of classical physics break down. Gravity is a wonderful tool if you want to understand (inter alia) how the planets move, but produces nonsensical results when tasked with explaining the behavior of photons or quarks. To understand that, you need rather a different approach. Physics, thus, has two toolboxes with which it approaches the world: the “big” physics of Newton, and the “small” physics of quantum mechanics. Depending on the scale of the problem under consideration, one or the other is more appropriate for use.