Indirect Insult

In today’s The Chicago Sun-Times, Gary Crouch discusses last weekend’s article on luck in The Wall Street Journal, which featured yours truly. He views the article positively, but he insinuates that I wasn’t such a good baseball player in my youth.

It’s always fun when professors, scientists and experts explain sports and how they can be broken down not into sweat and hard work, but rather into scientific equations. Remember the kid who always was forced to play right field, standing there pushing the glasses back up off his nose? Well, he had to grow up and do something. In this case, though, several teams are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for his research.

First, I don’t wear glasses…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Second, I was a power-hitting first baseman who once hit two home runs—the kind that go over the fence— in one game. I batted third and made my league’s All-Star team.

Just setting the record straight. :-)

9 Responses “Indirect Insult”

  1. John W says:

    One of the things that jumped out at me from that article was that Todd Walker seems to have a better grasp of the role that luck plays in his final statistics.

    “I’ve hit .320 in years with good luck and .280 with a lot of bad luck. The [number of] strikeouts didn’t change, so absolutely something else was happening. There’s a small part of the game that’s unexplainable.”

    I wonder how many players realize this.

  2. Marc says:

    I think most hitters realize this. All hitters go through stretches where they hit the ball hard and its caught. I think players understand the role of luck far more than fans do. And luck plays a huge role in the playoffs, far more than most people want to acknowledge.

  3. Rob Bonter says:

    The luck factor is predominant in the post-season because the 3-tier short series format negates accomplishments and established superiority over the 162 games it took to get there.

    I mean, did Houston or St. Louis deserve to represent the National League in the WS last year? What a great match-up, White Sox – Cardinals, the two best teams in baseball by far last year, baseball fandom was denied seeing, in deference to a bigger jackpot payoff.

    What a shame we now have more “lucky” world champions than deserving world champions. MLB sold out to the special interests, a rather familiar theme in American society at this stage of our devolution.

    You tell me, when was the last time the best team in each league met in the World Series, because I cannot even figure it out. Really tired of phony championship match-ups in all sports. Television money controls the world and especially weak-character sports magnates.

  4. Houser says:

    JC, I noticed you disputed 2 statements above, but not the part about teams spending “hundreds of thousands of dollars” for your research….

  5. Matt says:

    Nothing annoys me more than proving to my roommate with numbers and statistical analysis that “clutch hitters” do not exists only to have him tell me that I never played high school ball so I wouldn’t understand.

    Maybe he’s right though. Maybe scoring runs isn’t about getting on base and hitting doubles or homeruns and not wasting outs. Maybe it has more to do with “sweat and hard work”, and grit, and hustle, and “playing the game the right way.”

    How could I have missed it? It sounds so much more logical.

  6. Mike says:

    I did a sort of sabermetric literature review for a final project in my Sport Psych master’s program… one of my classmates was Bob Tewksbury, and I’ll never forget explaining DIPS theory to him. It reminded me of how someone who saw UFO’s would react when someone finally believed them – he completely agreed with the notion that as a pitcher he had relatively little control over what happened when a ball was hit off of him, and he seemed relieved that someone finally agreed with that idea.

    It sounded to me a lot like this was something he had tried to explain to pitching coaches or teammates or something, and couldn’t get anyone to agree with him or believe him due to just typical baseball dogma.

  7. Mike says:

    And for what it’s worth… while I’ve never gotten paid to do baseball stats (though my site did get “noticed” by a baseball fan who ended up hiring me for an enjoyable quantitative position with his company), I was most certainly the right fielder who “had to do something” when he grew up. One hit in my entire final season of 13-year-old baseball, though in hindsight I probably had an OBP of like .500 since I used to get up there and pray for walks so I could actually get on base and try to steal…

  8. Doug says:

    Email the dude this link and he won’t give you any more trouble.

  9. Marc says:

    Anybody that has gone to a game in person realizes how much luck is involved. A pitcher gives up a shot that goes right to an infielder and everyone talks about how well he is pitching; then someone gets a seeing eye hit and suddenly the pitcher stinks. It’s really been eye opening for me going to more games in person because things like that become more obvious.