You often hear people hold the virtue of “consistency” aloft as the gold standard in sports.  It’s great to know that Joe Star is going to go out and put up the same stellar numbers in every game, right?

Not necessarily.  At some point, we get into diminishing marginal returns of sucky performances.  Let’s say Joe Bad goes out and throws four interceptions and loses two fumbles in a game.  Joe Worse throws seven interceptions and loses four fumbles.  Joe Worse hurt his team a lot more, right?  No, not really.  Joe Bad’s team was almost certain to lose the game with him turning the ball over seven times.  Throwing a couple more interceptions and fumbling two more times might look worse in the stat sheet, but it only affects the chance of winning a small bit.

The same principle comes into play in my favorite sport.  If you haven’t noticed, that sport happens to be baseball.  It makes little difference if a pitcher gives up seven runs or 27.  Unless the game is in Coors Field, it’s an almost certain loss for his team.  The 27 run outing is going to absolutely kill the guy’s ERA, but his team still lost just one game that day. 

Sometimes, you will hear announcers talk about pitchers with similar numbers, but point out (negatively) that one pitcher has a tendency to get his brain bashed every once in a while.  In actuality, this guy is probably the more valuable pitcher.  He might be getting absolutely rocked in 10-20% of his outings, but he’s outperforming the other guy in the other 80-90% of the games in order to have similar season numbers.  It’s important not to miss the forest for the trees.  The single game in which the pitcher took a beating accounts for just 1/162 of the season.  It should not overshadow the rest of his performances.

The takeaway on this?  Don’t dwell on the outliers; look at the entire body of work.

 

THE RESIN BAG

Giants (and ESPN) announcer Jon Miller made a fool of himself by accusing the Colorado Rockies of cheating via ball swapping trickery.  The Rockies have an MLB-approved humidor to keep baseballs at a constant humidity level.  Without the humidor, the balls quickly dry out at the high altitude, resulting in lighter balls that travel further.  The humidor is an attempt to keep a bit of a lid on offense.  (Why don’t all parks have humidors?  I don’t know.  I personally think they should.)  Anyway, Miller suggested that the recent hot streak by the Rockies might be a result of them sneaking non-humidored balls in to the umpire when they needed some offensive help late in games.

There are a few reasons why this isn’t particularly feasible.  First, the umpire rubs down all the balls with mud before the game (to reduce glare from the white surface).  How would the “cheater” balls get re-separated after the rubbing?  Second, what happens if the ball boy gives the ump several “cheater” balls and then the inning ends on the next pitch – the opposition would have the advantage of hitting the “cheater” balls.

But the most damning factor is that many pitchers have said that there is a discernible difference in the way the humidor balls feels as opposed to how a dry ball feels.  Not only is there a difference in the way it feels, but also the weight of the ball.  It might not be enough of a difference for the casual fan to notice, but pitchers are going to notice.

 

LeBron James decided to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosch on the Miami Heat.  I wasn’t shocked by the move, but was saddened a bit.  For the last few years, the only reason I have followed the NBA was to see if LeBron could bring a title to his hometown.  I’m not a fan of the style of play, and have been a marginal follower for the past decade. 

The NCAA basketball tournament is going to expand to 68 teams.  Instead of having four play-in games where the winner will play the #1 seed, the last eight at large teams (likely 11 or 12 seeds) will face off against each other for the right to stay alive in the tournament.  I hate this idea, because I think that 64 is the perfect number.  This change is likely to mess up a lot of bracket pools around the country.  Do you start counting games on Tuesday or on Thursday?

18 year old Mike Trout, an Angels farmhand, had a nice weekend.  In the Futures Game over the weekend, he had a single and double and reached twice on errors caused by the defense trying to hurry to beat his speed.  Later, he was promoted from low-A Cedar Rapids to high-A Rancho Cucamonga.  Trout has blazing speed and could have good power by the time he fully develops.  If he can stay in centerfield, he could be an extremely valuable player for years to come.

And speaking of reaching on an error … a batter is credited with an out when he reached on an error.  That’s why Trout was listed as 2 for 4 in the game.  In the same way, a fielder is credited with an assist even if the player he throws the ball to makes an error.  This is a bit weird, as players are being penalized (or rewarded) for things that should have happened.  In the case of the fielder, I don’t have a big problem with it.  But for the batter, I don’t like it, especially when the player forced an error with his speed.  Shouldn’t the batter get some credit, or at worst, simply not get charged with an at bat (as is the case with sacrifices)?

George Steinbrenner passed away at the age of 80 following a heart attack.  The much maligned owner had been in poor health for the past few years.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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