The super-cool, super-modern, super-fun strategy that might not be doing anything.
Last week, we looked into The Shift and whether it was actually doing what we said it was supposed to do, which is to be a better way of getting hitters, especially pull-happy hitters (and double especially groundball-heavy, pull-happy, left-handed hitters) to make more outs. The traditional story of The Shift is that because those hitters are going to be sending most of their ground balls to one side of the field, why not put more fielders over that way?
Here’s a cheeky question that I ask in complete sincerity: How many home runs were hit against The Shift last year? I’m sure someone out there knows the answer to the question, but there are probably more people wondering why I even bothered to ask it. If the ball was hit over the wall, what does it matter whether The Shift was on or not? Either way, the fielders weren’t going to be able to get to it.
Testing the belief that ninth-inning losses hurt more.
There’s nothing more thrilling in baseball than a ninth-inning comeback. Unless, of course, it’s your team being victimized by the comeback. Then, there’s nothing worse. To have fought for eight innings and held the lead, only to have the game snatched away in the ninth. It might leave the other team breathless, but it will leave you with a nasty scar.
It’s 2016 and Statcast is everyone’sfavoritenew toy. It’s not exactly a new toy, of course. Bits and pieces of the system were rolled out in 2014 and last year, there were plenty of chances for the data to make themselves known on game broadcasts. Baseball fans have begun to absorb a new set of numbers as they watch the game. Unlike some of the “advanced” stats that have come before Statcast, these are numbers that a lot of people had actively wondered about, but had very little ability to measure. How fast was he running on that play? That looked like a long way to run to make that catch, but how long was it?
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.