Tag Archives: baseball strategy

“THE FASTER THEY COME IN, THE FASTER THEY GO OUT”

Those are the words my high school baseball coach used to say when he tried to get me to use breaking balls more often against power hitters. I didn’t buy into it preferring power vs. power and let the chips fall where they may. Which in a way is what we’re seeing in the game today.

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The game of baseball today at its highest level is all about power. the talk in baseball after the All Star Game, and especially after Giancarlo Stanton’s Home Run Derby explosion (video), is this……..what’s up with all the home runs this year? 

A degree of panic is setting in as once again MLB has to answer the question yet again – do we have a bunch of juiced up players in the game today?

Commissioner Rob Manfred answered the question while in San Diego this way….”We think it has to do with the way pitchers pitch and the way hitters are being taught to play the game. You’ve seen some unusual developments in terms of home run hitters being up in the lineup to get them more at-bats. So we think it has more to do with the game this time around, because we’re comfortable we’re doing everything we can on the performance-enhancing drugs front.”

Typical spin you might expect from the man hired by the owners who like to see the “asses in the seats” that home runs bring as George Steinbrenner liked to say……except for one thing……

In this case, he’s probably right and here’s why……

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HEY, WHO’S STEALIN’ THE STOLEN BASE FROM BASEBALL?

Like the golf cart that used to bring relievers in from the bullpen, the strategy of the stolen base appears to be all but disappearing from the game as it is being played today.

The only playerimage I can think of with “base stealer” attached to his repertoire now is Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds. Dexter Fowler maybe but he has other skills that overshadow him as a base stealer.

As always, imagethe numbers (while boring) demonstrate the decline. According to Sweet Spot – ESPN, “The number of stolen bases across baseball last year was historically low. In 2015, Major League Baseball players stole 2,505 bases, the lowest total since 1974 (2,488) when there were six fewer teams. Last season’s per-game average of 0.52 stolen bases per team was the lowest since 1973. There were 259 fewer stolen bases in 2015 than in 2014 and a whopping 724 fewer stolen bases in 2015 than in 2012.”

So it’s clear. But the scintillating question remains – Why?

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“90% OF THIS GAME IS MENTAL – THE OTHER HALF IS PHYSICAL ” (Yogi Berra)

Okay, well maybe Yogi wouldn’t qualify as a baseball statistician or mathematician,image
but he certainly understands a underlying truth about baseball – a game that is engulfed in failure and the ability to bounce back from it over the course of a long season.

But at the same time, imagine the mental fatigue of someone like Corey Kluber  (below) imageof the Cleveland Indians who was the AL Cy Young Award winner only two years ago  – but who now finds himself with a record of 10-19 since then and a ERA of about 5.50. What happened?

Or, how about Adam Wainwright  who won twenty games just two years ago with a ERA of just 2.38. How does he get from there to a point where he’s still looking for his first win of the season and allowing more than seven runs a game. With injuries that should be behind him now………..what happened?

Or, how about Michael Cuddyer  image (who wins a batting title in 2013 with a.331 average, comes to the New York Mets two years later, hits .259 and abruptly retires from baseball saying “I just can’t hit anymore.” while leaving millions of dollars on the table………

Like riding a bike, you don’t suddenly forget how to pitch or hit a baseball…….or do you? Does Paul McCartney wake up one morning realizing he’s forgotten the lyrics to “Hey Jude”? Does James Patterson lose his ability to write best selling novels?

What is it then about baseball that seems to be so different…….

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FROM A HITTERS PERSPECTIVE – PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE……

In the last few days, we’ve been concentrating on the art of pitching along with the benefits that come from making the batter hit your pitch and being able to economize spent energy as well as wear and tear on the arm (Location, Location, Location….).

But becauseimage pitchers are only one half of the equation that comprises the best one on one contest in all of sports, it might be even more revealing if we take look today at the perspective of the “other guy” – namely – the hitter. 

And if the pitcher’s job is to economize and get 27 outs any which way he can…….then it follows that the hitter’s job is to negate that by forcing the pitcher to throw him as many pitches as he can each at bat. 

The first thing to be noted when you look at the stats provided by Sporting Charts is that like pitchers, the bulk of major league hitters do not seem to be buying into what obviously appears to be a sound road to success at this level.

And any time I see something like this……I want to know why………

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DECISIONS, DECISIONS – ALL THOSE DECISIONS……

As Spring Training winds down and Opening Day creeps closer, decisions will be made by managers and general managers of  all thirty teams in the coming days that will trigger and affect not only the performance image of each team for the first month or so of the season, but they’ll also have an effect on the lives of many people (ballplayers) who are on the cusp of being cut or making the team.

As fans of the team(s) we follow, we’ll be watching the transactions section of newspapers and MLB.COM to weigh the decisions our team chooses to make, as well as those that participate making your final selections in your Fantasy League.

Whittling down to 25 from as many as 60-70 invitees to your camp is not a welcome or easy task. Especially when you realize that at some point or another you’ve sat down with this particular player and said imageto him, “We want you to be a part of our organization.” 

And yet, these decisions have to and will be made. Not all, but some of these decisions will sever ties with players forever while some will not be a divorce but only a temporary separation from the team with a renewal of life to come at a later time.

The factors and questions that go into making these decisions are complex and one decision often leads into another decision creating almost a domino effect that can change everything for a team……….

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BUNT OR BLITZ – THAT IS THE QUESTION…….

Perhaps in a few years, we’ll be debating super stats and success rate of “the shift” –  but for now the strategy of the sacrifice bunt remains in the forefront of water cooler and bar stool conversations about baseball strategies.

In his legendary sketch he called “Baseball vs. Football” (YouTube video here), George Carlin put it this way…..” In imagebaseball, we have the bunt. While in football, we have the BLITZ “. And maybe that’s the crux of the argument. Bunting is being a sissy in a game that rewards power. First and second – nobody out – you go for the three run home run that puts a crooked number on the scoreboard. Or, do you move the runners along and hope for a base hit, passed ball, or maybe a error that will score a run…..and then maybe more…….

But as with virtually everything, it isn’t always quite that simple…..

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OVERRATED BASEBALL STRATEGIES…..OR MAYBE NOT…..

We’ve seen these plays time and time again in baseball. We often wonder why do they even bother. What’simage the use – do you think this is Little League? Are major league ballplayers that naive…..or is the employed strategy so sublime that it’s genius in design and bound for success more often than we think?

Just for fun, I’ve put together a few videos that capture the essence of trying to out think the opposition in baseball. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, it makes for pretty good entertainment.

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