Sunday, March 30, 2014

Turning the Page

©Kayla Chadwick 2013
Red Sox players' desire to "turn the page" on last season has been well-documented - and from a player's perspective, it makes perfect sense. You can't win games this season while reminiscing about last season - no matter how spectacular those memories are.

But as a fan, I'm not ready to turn the page. Last season was incredible, from April to October, made all the sweeter because of the terrible disappointment of 2012.

But now we're on the cusp of a new season (yes, I know technically the season is two games old, but I'm ignoring what happened Down Under), and last year's World Series is about to be relegated to the history books, whether we're ready or not.

Soon enough, I'll be swept up in the new season, but I reserve the right to live in the past for just a little longer - at least until the Red Sox home opener.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Beauty in Numbers

When it comes to baseball analytics and particularly newer metrics (defensive measurements chief among them), there's a tendency within the baseball world to split into two camps: that which embraces the new world order wholeheartedly and without question, and that which rejects new methods, preferring instead to rely on conventional wisdom.

These two groups battle it out on online message boards and comment threads, in sports bars and in the stands, and even in clubhouses and front offices across the game. In most major league cities, the verdict is in, and the geeks have won - any major league manager or GM that ignores his stat department won't have a job for long.

But does the issue really have to be so black and white? The stat people argue that their counterparts are stuck in the past, too stubborn to embrace tools to improve their teams' performances. The old guard feels as if numbers and equations threaten to overshadow the simple beauty of a knee-buckling curveball or a soaring home run.

From where I'm standing, both sides have their merits. Statistical measures make baseball unique and allow for another dimension of quantitative understanding. But I fell in love with the qualitative parts of the game: the pop of the catcher's mitt, the smell of hot dogs cooking at the ballpark, and the looks on the faces of the players when one of their teammates does something incredible.

I play fantasy baseball, and I read FanGraphs, and I'm a loyal consumer of everything Bill James puts out - but the game I love wouldn't be the same if it didn't play out in real time, on real grass (except in Toronto and Tampa Bay), with real people.

I love the numbers because they describe and (sometimes) predict what I see on the field. It seems that the most successful teams neither abandon the old, go-with-your-gut ways of scouting, nor scorn the ever-changing field of sabermetrics. No, success comes when the old guard embraces the new, and the front office listens to conventional wisdom and innovative new techniques.

Ten years ago, you would never see OBP on a graphic for a televised baseball game - now even the most casual fan expects it as a baseline. But the traditional box score staples are still around, and the combination makes for a more complete baseball experience.

And as someone who practically goes into mourning between November and February, I'm always looking for a more complete baseball experience.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Peavy sidelines himself

Photo source
Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy will be on the bench for the next few days while he waits for a self-inflicted knife wound to heal.

Peavy is hardly the first player to suffer a strange injury unrelated to baseball activities during spring training. Indeed, with a team full of avid hunters and fishermen, it's practically a miracle that this kind of thing doesn't happen more often.

The most interesting part of the whole saga might be Peavy's immediate reaction to the blood gushing from his hand: instead of heading to a medical facility, he made his way over to John Lackey's place - prioritizing swapping his bloodstained clothing and fulfilling a promise he made to his children.

While it's certainly a concern that Peavy didn't seek medical attention, the anecdote certainly is a testament to his toughness, and the closeness of the players in the rotation - I don't have many friends I would turn to when bleeding profusely.