Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
It's a Beautiful Time to Be Alive
2007-03-01 12:56
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Well, not so much in Boulder, where it snowed with a vengeance again yesterday. But in Arizona there are guys wearing spikes and gloves swinging sticks at balls and it's like poetry.

I'm not a box score breakdown guy. I tried doing that sort of thing my first year over on MLBlogs and it doesn't really suit my style. You get into this whole synonym game trying to find new/old ways of saying "he hit a homer" and "he went 2 for 4" that really don't add anything to the discussion. I mean, you guys know that what's great about box scores is how much information they present in an easy-to-understand, quickly absorbable manner. On the other hand as a writer I rather enjoy being misunderstood. Box scores and I are kind of at cross purposes, in that sense. With that said, I don't see how any Colorado fan could possibly avoid rejoicing in the first box score of 2007. Atkins 2 for 3! Hawpe 3 for 3! Holliday 2 for 3! Brian Fuentes, four batters faced and three strikeouts! Only two walks for Rockies batters (a sore spot for me since way, way back in the day), but on the other hand look how many White Sox Colorado pitchers struck out: twelve! It doesn't mean very much of anything, of course. If I really wanted to darken your day, I could mention that Javy Lopez was ominously two for three with a pair of doubles. He could make the team! That would be horrible: Chicago was 3 for 3 attempting steals on Lopez. I don't want to darken anybody's day, though. It's spring training! It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Big extension for Michael Young. I love Young if I'm drafting him for my fantasy team, but I don't know about signing guys whose chief skill is batting average to long-term deals after their age 27-28-29 seasons are behind them.

There's been plenty of discussion on Murray Chass and his Ludditism this week, and I reflected for a while on whether I had anything particular to add to the debate. I mean, I like stats. I think one thing I have in common with a lot of passionate, intellectual baseball fans my age (an interest group, by the way, which is a lot smaller than it by all rights ought to be) is that while I loved baseball as a kid, it was learning about the underlying mathematical pulses of the game in high school and college that really made me into an obsessive. I've become less dogmatic of a Bill James disciple since I've gotten a little older and a little wiser (and considerably more romantic), but there are still some statistical breakthroughs the utility of which are so obvious that it makes me sad when people resist them for no good reason. Does it make the dazzling variety of the game any less spectacular having a probablistic framework for what's likely to happen in my head at all times? Of course not. In fact, it makes it more enjoyable, because when something ridiculously improbable does happen I am able to quantify just how far-out it was. And that's pretty cool.

I'm not saying every baseball fan in the country ought to carry around a little laminated card with the Expected Runs Matrix in their wallets as the research department and I do, but it is every man's journey to come to better understand the world before he leaves it. Why throw out obviously useful information based on antiquated and illogical principles that not even those who parrot them really believe? That ain't baseball, that's religion. And I hate religion. Given the choice between VORP and baby Jesus, I'll choose VORP every time. But even making the comparison points out how silly it is to suggest that one necessarily supecedes and invalidates the other.

Anyway, all I really wanted to share was this image I keep coming to in my head. I have this vision of Chass wearing a Civil War uniform and leading a squadron of guys armed with breech-loading single shot muskets over a hill towards a mechanized infantry squadron. After the rout, limbless and alone, he moans: "No fair! They're ruining war with their technology!"

2007-03-01 13:32:49
1.   Shaun P
Your war image was hilarious, Mark - thanks for sharing.
2007-03-01 23:13:44
2.   deadteddy8
Note to self: Make a small card with most recent, reliable, expected runs matrix you can find printed on it. Laminate.
2007-03-02 09:09:02
3.   Ali Nagib
Incidentally, you can "laminate" a small card like that with scotch tape pretty easily. Just make sure you cut the pieces carefully and put them on smoothly.
2007-03-02 10:37:02
4.   Kels
Nice piece on Deadspin today, Mark.

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