A Year-Round Conversation About the Game We Love

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Avoid Winter Blues - Welcome to Infinite Baseball

If you are like many baseball fans, it's depression time. The season is over and the three dreaded non-baseball months are staring us squarely in the eyes.

I'm writing this blog to help you survive the seemingly endless winter until the only time we care about finally rolls around, that joyous day in mid-February when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

So especially for these dark times when we're forced to scour for scraps of baseball news, I offer this blog as an online buffet to enjoy tasty conversation about baseball year-round.

We'll look at the game from the perspective of some of its most interesting inhabitants, sometimes players, but most often the coaches, managers, trainers and other behind-the-scenes baseball personnel.

For 13 seasons, I was lucky enough to work with major league players and coaches, primarily helping them analyze statistics and video. This 1999 ESPN SportsCenter Video segment explains what I did.

Besides making it easy for players to sort and watch video of any game situation on laptops [a big deal back then in the VHS tape era], we focused mostly on isolating what you could call organic statistics. By organic, I'm talking about information that can help players in actual game situations.

This is different from looking at broader measurements such as batting average, ERA, OPS and the like which are used for evaluating player performance by big league GM's to make personnel decisions and more important, by fantasy league managers.

Baseball reduced to its core elements is about pattern recognition and adjustment. Its atomic structure consists of endless singular battles in which pitchers try to fool or overpower hitters.

Since he's holding the baseball, the pitcher controls these battles. To help hitters offset this advantage, our program had a feature called NextPitch that would predict the type and location of the next pitch, based on all previous similar situations. It could also be useful to pitchers, as Curt Schilling noted in the ESPN video. The last thing a pitcher wants to do is become predictable.

That is the constant battle, the pitcher going after the hitter's known weaknesses and tendencies, and the batter adjusting, and trying to anticipate what a pitcher will throw next. Adjusting and readjusting, pitch after pitch, at-bat after at-bat; it is the game within the game.

Okay, like many of you, I could talk baseball forever but I'll wrap up this first post here. I'll be back again soon with more thoughts on the game we love, thoughts you can consider and weigh in on.

I'll also be bringing in some special guests from the professional baseball world to talk about what they do and answer your questions. And if there are any aspects of the game you would like to see covered in this blog, feel free to drop a comment in the box or e-mail me.

So buck up. Now you have a place to get your baseball fix between Halloween and Groundhog Day. And hey, pitchers and catchers report in about 100 days. We can make it. Let's talk baseball!

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