Games » Texas RangersMay9
Thank God for Frank White and Ryan Lefebvre (and I’m almost positive I’m an agnostic). I have to watch every pitch of every game…let me run that by you again…I HAVE to watch EVERY pitch of EVERY game. When you turn the channel because the Royals are down by 10 and the pitcher is working slower than a Kansas City street repair crew, I have to keep watching.
When Trey is making his third pitching change of the inning and they’re showing the same Ford ad for the fifteenth time, I have to keep watching.
So thank God for Frank White and Ryan Lefebvre. They’re funny and informative and have gotten me through some tough innings.
When Frank said he wasn’t sure Yuniesky Betancourt could change the way he caught pop flies and Ryan said maybe he could work on it in Omaha, I laughed out loud.
When the camera showed a young woman covered with tattoos and piercings and Frank, clearly at a loss for words, murmured, “Wow,” and Ryan said, “Well said,” I cracked up. (By the way, you guys were wrong…that woman was hot.)
They’re not homers, either. Last year, when Jose Guillen (I think it was him) started to run off the field after two outs, Frank said, “Y’know, in a major-league ballpark, there are plenty of opportunities to find out how many outs there are.” Jose was standing in front of Fenway’s giant scoreboard at the time.
When Alberto Callaspo was playing second, got a double-play ball and ran up to tag the runner, who dumped him on his can, Frank said, “In my day, we would throw the ball to the shortstop and avoid all that.”
Frank’s the kind of guy who can put the knife in so smoothly you don’t notice until you begin to wonder where all the blood’s coming from.
Anyway, if you’re reading this, thanks, guys. It may be the eighth inning of some dreadful blowout that seems meaningless, but somewhere, someone is watching and hoping to be entertained by the two friends they invite into their living room every night.
Wow, that was beautiful. I think I’m going to cry…mainly because I HAVE to watch EVERY pitch of EVERY game.
Ballplayers vs. stat geeks…
There’s a battle going on in baseball: ballplayers vs. stat geeks. (I’m not talented enough to be a ballplayer or smart enough to be a stat geek, so I guess I’m a ball geek…wait a minute, that didn’t come out right.) Everyone knows who the ballplayers are, so let’s concentrate on the stat geeks.
From what I can tell, they’re people (generally guys) who really and truly love baseball but never played at a high level. There are exceptions (Brian Bannister has the reputation of being a semi-stat geek), so it would be unfair to paint them as tape-on-the-glasses couch potatoes who would pee their pants if anyone ever threw a 95-mph fastball in their general vicinity. So let’s just say they’re MAINLY tape-on-the-glasses couch potatoes who would pee their pants if anyone ever threw a 95-mph fastball in their general vicinity.
(By contrast, I have had someone throw a 95-mph fastball in my general vicinity…at least that’s what it sounded like; I usually close my eyes while praying…and I didn’t pee my pants…thought about it, but held back.)
The attitude of the stat geek seems to be, “Oh, sure, you’re the great athlete with the cheerleader girlfriend who can actually PLAY the game, but I’m smarter than you.”
This has led to a lot of numbers generated by guys with calculators and computers intent on proving ballplayers don’t really understand the game…at least not the way a really smart guy, living in his parents’ basement, does.
The stat geek needs to prove the accepted wisdom is wrong. Otherwise, what’s the point? You don’t need a fat guy with a computer to tell you Willie Mays was a good ballplayer, but if he can come up with a stat that shows Willie Mays WASN’T a good player, now he’s got something going. He can prove everyone else is an idiot and feel a little better about himself.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think all the numbers generated by these guys are useless. The Bill James Gang has found some new and interesting ways to look at the game. I just think a lot of these stats might tell you something, just not as much as the people who come up with them want you to believe.
For instance: I saw a stat that showed what a hitter had done on grass and turf, and the analyst concluded that this was a turf player. The analyst also went on to conclude that if the player had a lick of sense, he would immediately get traded to a team that had a turf field.
Maybe…but is there any chance who he FACED on grass and turf affected the outcome?
If you face Zack Greinke on grass and me on turf, I think I can guarantee that you’ll look like a turf hitter.
Then there’s the stat that shows a runner on first with nobody out has more chance of scoring than a runner on second with one out. Therefore, all those managers who call for sacrifice bunts are morons.
Once again, a stat that’s interesting, but possibly misleading. That stat is based on all runners in all situations, but let’s say you’re facing a pitcher who’s been shoving it up your posterior sideways for seven innings and this is only your third hit in a one-run game. The most likely thing the next hitter is going to do is make an out. Shouldn’t it be a productive out? An out that means you only need one more hit to score a very important run? Or do you think your odds of getting two more hits in the same inning off a very tough pitcher are better?
And how many hits will you get BECAUSE you sometimes bunt and the corner infielders are playing in? That number won’t show up in a box score.
That’s the problem with the stat geek: assuming that one stat gives you an answer (bunting is bad) when there are so many other factors.
This site had a viewer…reader…(what the hell are you guys, anyway?) who argued that Mitch Maier was a better outfielder than Rick Ankiel because last year Maier had 250 putouts in 879 and 2/3 innings while Ankiel had 203 putouts in 795 2/3 innings. Therefore, since he has a higher rate of putouts per inning, Maier is the better outfielder.
Or maybe those numbers prove the Cardinal pitchers were better at keeping the ball from being hit to the outfield. A friend of mine, who’s a coach in the minors (and is also foolish enough to believe Rick Ankiel is a good outfielder) said, “Ankiel’s got a great arm…what stat shows how many baserunners DIDN’T attempt to go second to home on him?”
There just isn’t one number that tells you the answer in any situation. Professional managers have made that clear to me over and over again. So anytime you hear a stat that PROVES something, take it with a grain of salt the size of a ’63 Buick LeSabre (had one of those…great car).
And in the battle of ballplayers vs. stat geeks, I’m with the ballplayers.
Although I’m fairly certain they don’t want me.
New ways to lose
It’s often said that a team is playing so poorly, it’s finding new ways to lose. Usually that’s an exaggeration.
In the bottom of the third inning, with runners at first and third, Vladimir Guerrero hits a sacrifice fly to left. All eyes are on Andrus, tagging up at third. Meanwhile, Josh Hamilton has gone halfway between first and second. Podsednik makes the catch, Andrus beats the throw home easily and Hamilton takes off for second…without tagging up.
Billy Butler is standing right there, but doesn’t appear to notice that Hamilton has missed tagging the bag by, oh let’s say, a mile and a half. This is an appeal play; the umpires don’t make a ruling unless you ask for one. The Royals didn’t ask for one.
Naturally, the Rangers go on to score two more runs in the inning, and the Royals lose by…two runs. Butler got the mental error, but everyone else on the team ought to get an assist.
Billy Butler, eight other players on the field, Trey Hillman, his coaching staff and every player in the dugout, failed to notice the missed tag or the fact that Josh Hamilton would have to be beamed down by the Starship Enterprise to get to second that fast. How does something like that happen?
Well, as someone who once visited the mound for a conference with his pitcher and catcher without calling time, thereby letting the runner on third jog home to score, I think I’m qualified to speculate.
Lack of focus.
When you let your mind wander, bad things happen. That’s the challenge of baseball that fans rarely notice. One-hundred sixty-two games, 8,748 outs (give or take a few hundred) around 50,000 pitches, give or take a few thousand…and ballplayers need to know the situation on every one of them.
What’s the score? What inning? How many outs? What’s the count? Do they hit and run? How did we say we were going to pitch this guy? What’s our pitcher throwing? Can he hit his spots? Does the hitter pull or go opposite field in this situation?
That’s the stuff ballplayers are supposed to be thinking on every pitch…every pitch of a very long summer. And when something happens to take your mind off the next pitch (because it’s the only one that matters), bad stuff happens.
My brain-dead trip to the mound happened because we were losing by 10, everything was melting down on the field and in the dugout, and when I came out to talk to the pitcher, I saw my catcher say something to the umpire and assumed it was “time.” Apparently, it wasn’t. (We hit the guy who scored from third later. We also told the guy who bunted up by 10, because he wanted to “work on his average,” that the next time we saw him, we’d “work on his on-base percentage.”)
Misery can also take your mind off the business at hand. We once played a doubleheader in 100-degree heat. Won the first one 2-1 with two runs in the ninth and were tied in the fifteenth @#%$#&! inning of game two, when our third baseman hit a sacrifice fly, with our pitcher on third, that should’ve won the ballgame.
Except he didn’t tag up, and I didn’t tell him to. We were both so hot and miserable our minds weren’t on the game. Our brains were lightly broiled. Afterward, when the players who weren’t too exhausted yelled at us, I said, “Hey, maybe you should’ve tagged up or something.”
Luckily the next batter got a hit, won the game and took us off the hook.
So I know what it’s like to have your mind wander. I know what it’s like to have an entire team out of focus. I don’t know what it’s like to be playing the getaway game of a long, lousy road trip on a gray, crappy day in Texas when all you want to do is get to the plane and go home…but I can speculate.
And just so I’m clear: I understand, but good teams don’t do this.