Posted on March 26, 2019
by Steve Janowick
Move over, Pee-Wee, Babe, Reggie, Whitey and Hank!
You’re too old school. Outdated. Irrelevant and, well, just plain ineffective in today’s game. Your experience is overrated. Your instincts, although definitely proven, really don’t carry any water in our future plans. Your gut feelings? Our new system can’t quantify feelings! Sheesh! And don’t get me going about your mojo! The math, the numbers, will tell us when you’re hot and when you’re not!
Yea, a little over the top, I know. But there’s no denying America’s venerable pastime, the one that’s been reliable and constant for over a century and a half, is going through a bit of a metamorphosis; a creeping transformation that’s slowly, but methodically, redesigning how we think about it.
Analytics have been around since baseball’s genesis-sure. But they’ve gone from tallying home runs and strike outs to post in the Sunday paper to actually predicting and shaping every aspect of the game. No decision is made, in today’s model, that doesn’t include hundreds of precise calculations-actual formulas and equations-being considered first. And these calculations aren’t being mulled over by Skippy the trepidatious intern. No, teams are employing actual scientists (NASA type folks) to sit around, collect huge private sector checks, and crunch the numbers. Dudes and gals who may have never played the game, or even know the basics of how it’s played, are making major decisions about teams’ decisions and players’ futures.
These ain’t your Grandfather’s geeks!
Line drives are now measured by launch angles and velocities. Fast balls are dissected into dozens of different mechanical variables like finger pressures and rotations per millisecond. And if it’s a day game on natural grass in the fifth inning with two outs-then player X is likely to perform better than player Y.
That’s where we’ve come.
I don’t think there’s a human alive that wouldn’t concede that science and statistics and analytics have improved humanity as a whole. Of course, they have. Whether it’s medicine or transportation or communications, analyzing and implementing data are vital to progress. A good thing. A positive.
But does it belong on the ball field? Do we want to spend our lazy Sunday afternoons with a glove in our hands or a calculator? Do we want our kids dreaming of hitting the game winning homer or having the highest WAR? Do we want to replace the human-ness of such a human game with cold, inanimate facts and figures? The modernist will argue yes, and the traditionalist will resist tooth and nail.
And the classic man?
He understands the forces at play. He welcomes a little cohesion, a little harmony, the old intersecting with the new. He’ll play it straight down the middle.
A rotating sphere on a linear trajectory…that’s right over the dish!
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