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September 11, 2014 6:00 am

Skewed Left: It's Not a No-Hitter 'til _____

2

Zachary Levine

A guide to when to tune in to a no-hitter in progress.

There were some years in there, before he got busy and I got Twitter, that my brother and I would have this arrangement. He would text me or I would text him “turn on the Phillies game” or “turn on the ESPN game.” The rest would go untexted, not because either of us was necessarily all that superstitious, but just because the rest was assumed. Somebody had a no-hitter going.

When to send the message, though? Too early, and you’re wasting somebody’s time. Not that baseball is a waste of time, but if we weren’t watching the game, we were probably doing something better. Too late, and you’re depriving him of some of the more exciting innings.

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March 6, 2013 5:00 am

Pebble Hunting: How Baseball Returns Our Investment

10

Sam Miller

A review of a book about betting on baseball.

In 2010, a writer named David Bentley Hart wrote an essay about baseball for the theological magazine First Things, in which he argued that baseball “captures traces of eternity’s radiance in fugitive splendors here below.” That is to say, as I understand Hart’s piece, baseball reflects God and is Godly. It’s a beautiful piece with big and hopeful ideas, but that’s not to say that it isn’t also pompously romantic. For instance:

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If it doesn't make sense to call for pitchouts, why do major-league managers keep doing it?

Last week, my colleague Sam Miller ran a few numbers on the pointless, yet poignant play that is the pitchout (a billion points to whomever catches that reference) and concluded that pitchouts are actually a net loser: they cost the defense/pitching team more in runs than they gain. Sure, individual pitchouts sometimes nab a would-be base stealer (and that's a good thing), but overall, managers guessed wrong so often that the expected payoff wasn't high enough to justify the strategy. Rule number one of strategic thinking is that just because you got lucky on a stupid bet, it doesn't negate the fact that it was a stupid bet.

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