Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Winning isn't Everything

Some people (my mom) don’t understand why winning isn’t the most important thing in spring training. If the goal was to win the manager would play his best players all nine innings, pitching his best pitchers and saving the closer for the last inning. The team would win more games, but it would wear the pitchers and position players out before the grind of the 162 game season even begins.

For established major league position players and pitchers, spring training is a time to work on the weak parts of their game. A batter might swing at a pitch in an exhibition game that he’d normally lay off of during the regular season, in an effort to be ready in case he saw that pitch down two strikes with the game on the line. Pitchers use spring training to work on pitches they have trouble commanding, trying to add additional pitches to their arsenal. They don’t show opposing teams their best stuff, saving their secrets for the regular season (and in some cases the playoffs). Greg Maddux didn’t mind giving up a home run in an exhibition game, knowing that batter would be looking for the same pitch later in the year.

Think about it. A major league organization has over 125 players to look at in spring training. They need to see fifty of the top players face off against the top players of other teams. This can’t happen if the top nine players are playing every day. That’s why the starters only play long enough to get two at bats, so the rookies and top prospects can fill in and get at bats against top tier competition. That’s why teams split their squads and play two games most every day: one at home at one on the road. Hard to win when half your team is an hour down the road playing another game.

In fact the only reason we know whether a team wins or loses in spring training is because the score is kept. Runs are counted to help track the performance of pitchers and hitters and baserunners. But the win or loss isn’t the news, it’s the progress made by each player. Some are recovering from injuries and are taking it slow.  

The late Roy Halladay’s goal was to finish the season with fewer walks than games started. He achieved that goal in 2003, 2005, and 2010. Sports Illustrated said he and Cy Young were the only pitchers to combine such precision and power (they were wrong). Over eleven season Halladay had an era of 2.98. Some called him the greatest pitcher of his generation.  

Greg Maddux had fewer walks than starts in six seasons (including three straight seasons). In other two seasons his walk and start totals matched, and in 2005 he had one more walk that games started. In fact over his last 15 seasons Maddux had fewer total walks than games started (492 BB vs 496 GS). With a lower ERA and WHIP over seven more seasons (and 45% more innings) Maddux was unquestionably the greatest pitcher of Halladay’s generation.   

98-13 2749.1 2646 1135 1034 236 592 2117 203 105 1.18 3.38 RH
86-08 5008.1 4726 1981 1756 353 999 3371 355 277 1.14 3.16 GM

Karaoke is when the music for a popular song plays and the participant has to sing the song.

Not long ago Whitney posted a list of things people might do, asking how many things on the list people hadn’t done. People posted their answers, most hadn’t done between 7 and ten. One person had done all but two. I hadn’t done the most: 15, making me the most boring according to that set of criteria. But I was using the strictest, most literal interpretation. Loosen the interpretation and I am Mr. Wild Man…

Broken a bone. Broke my shin bone playing softball. And stayed in the game.
Skipped school. Yes. And not just in my mind.
Fired a gun. Yes. Killed a man? No.
Been skydiving. Once I jumped off a ladder to get away from a bee.
Ridden in a limo. Does a taxi count?
Had braces: as a kid I wore braces on my legs.
Gotten a massage. Yes, just not a professional massage.
Gotten a tattoo: Permanent = no. Temporary = yes.
Been swimming in the ocean. Yes. And not just the measly Gulf of Mexico.
Dyed my hair: I put powder in my hair to enter a Steve Martin look-alike contest.
Watched Star Wars: duh.
Ridden a horse: on a carousel.
Given birth: not that I can remember. Every time I go to the hospital they give me anesthesia. Not sure what happened after that.
Sung karaoke. Heck, I impersonated Elvis.
Gotten a ticket: Speeding, baby. More than once.
Gone scuba diving: I’ve been snorkeling.
Eaten sushi. Yes. Also swallowed a goldfish.
Been on a train. Yes, a real train. Forget MARTA.
Gone zip lining. And a high ropes course. Wearing flip flops.
Been camping. Yes. Lost a kid in the woods (but we found him).
Eaten food that fell on the floor. Want to know the details?
Gone skinny dipping. Stretching the literal meaning, the answer is yes.
Traveled out of the country. Yes. And not just to Niagara Falls.
Been in an ambulance. I leaned against an ambulance once. I think.
Met someone famous: I’m good buddies with Lang.
Been on TV: Local TV. And Network TV. And a movie.
Been on a cruise. I’ve been on a boat cruising around Lake Lanier.
Gotten anything pierced: one time I bit through my tongue.

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