While recently they’ve embraced analytics more, the Baltimore Orioles are a fairly traditional team. You hit the ball, you run to first base, etc. That’s how the game has always been played – until now. Recently there’s been a push to embrace every available stat and every available trend to use it to one’s advantage. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But purists aren’t fans.
During a twitter exchange with a fan once I was told that purists are ruining baseball. That somehow doesn’t exactly make much sense given that purists do things the way they’ve always been done. It’s the new age analytical thinking which is in fact new. These people’s idea is that the new age thinking is keeping younger viewers into the sport.
ESPN encompassed this last night in their coverage of the AL Wild Card Game. They had a traditional broadcast, which is where I found myself watching. on ESPN2 they also had a Statcast Broadcast with three different announcers. Those who care about things such as launch angle and exit velo were presumably watching there.
Unequivocally, no it’s not purists such as I who are hurting baseball. In my view it’s the over-abundance of stats such as what I wrote above. There are some teams who go way over-and-above what’s necessary. If there’s a stat which says that a specific batter hits at a steeper launch angle against a specific pitcher while he’s wearing a pink tutu on the mound, teams would consider bringing him in wearing just that. (Steeper launch angle meaning that the ball would have a better shot at being caught in the outfield as opposed to a home run.)
I suppose my point is that you can’t leave these things up to stats – totally. Stats and trends are important for sure, and they don’t lie. But they also remove the human element from the game. They remove the manager or players having a feel for what’s going on. And there’s no substitute for that.
This is spreading to other sports as well. When I heard that John Harbaugh of the Ravens was going for two-point conversions because the analytics said that was better, I hit the roof. Again, there’s no substitute for a coach or athlete having a feel for the game. As a purist, that’s not something that we should let die.