Having lost my bile depository over the weekend*, I thought that I could enter this week well disposed to everyone. But I guess the lack-of-goodwill kind of bile is metaphorical, because I seem to have plenty.
I had originally written a longish thing about Marcell Ozuna, but I’m shelving it. Instead, I want to take on an evergreen topic: Chip Caray. And I’m not going to focus on all the things I’ve talked about before, like (a) his inability to use his voice to tell people not at the game how well a ball is hit; (b) his frankly idiotic views on pitch selection; (c) his self-deprecation as a defense mechanism; (d) his total focus as the fifth inning ends on the pitcher win; (e) his ownership of baseball (“our game”); (f) his maniacal anticipation of every potential double play and home run opportunity, all prefaced with the verbal tic that drives me and no one else up the wall – “Let’s see if…”; (g) his disdain for “three true outcome baseball” combined with a celebration of every Braves homer and walk at the plate and pitcher’s strikeout; (h) his latest decision that pitchers aren’t throwing enough fastballs without a scintilla of interesting data to back that up; (i) the hackneyed pseudo-catchphrases (“Right man at the right time” “thank you very much”, etc, etc.); (j) the unalloyed love for small ball and the off field hit, again without data; and, last but certainly not least; (k) the Cubs.
Wow… that was a pretty long list of things I’m not going to talk about. I guess there’s definitely some residual bile.
Anyway, my new peeve is Chip’s nattering about recent irrelevant performance. Clearly, in order to keep the solecisms at a minimum, Chip is now showing up with, and I expect actually studying (to give him some credit) what players have done in their last week of at-bats, or in the last ten at bats (sometimes occurring over 3 years) head-to-head between batter and pitcher, or on a pitcher’s last five starts against a team (a team which is radically different than the teams he faced before, save style of cap.) Small sample sizes are actually meaningless, and the more outlying and surprising the stat, the more meaningless it is. The less outlying the stat is, the more irrelevant it is.
Look: I know Chip has to keep talking, and left to his own devices the results would not be pretty. But handing him irrelevant statistics to spout really isn’t any better, especially since he takes every one of them so seriously. Let me ask you all. Y’all have been watching Braves baseball this season: how much information does a reliever’s last three appearances give you about what he’s going to do today? Since the answer is, to a first approximation, one gnat’s ass, why is it invariably cited? It’s perfectly fine to say: “Freddie has been seeing the ball well in the last week.” But his batting average in the last week tells you almost nothing about that. Nor for that matter, would some spate of strikeouts.
I want to be clear: I have no problem with the use of this sort of thing to tell you what happened over the last week. But it’s being used, at least implicitly (and often combined with a “let’s see if…,” explicitly) to provide evidence about what you’re about to see. And that’s ridiculous.
I’m sure this doesn’t bother everyone. I spent a career as a professional economist and statistician, though, and I have too much respect for numbers and calculations as evidence to see numbers with no evidential value used to fill time. For those who let this sort of crap just glide by without irritating the brain pain centers, choose from (a)-(k) above instead.
It took me the first five innings to write this. And the first five innings saw three total hits. The Braves pitched Tucker Davidson, who joins Ian Anderson, Luke Jackson, Chris Martin, Grant Dayton, Charlie Morton, Sean Newcomb, and Will Smith as pitchers with the surnames of American colleges or universities. (That leaves out only Minter, Matzek, Santana, Tomlin and Fried, though I believe that the KFC executive training program is known as Fried University.) Oh, and Smyly, but I no longer think of him as a Braves pitcher. He’s dead to me.
Through 5 2/3, “Wildcat” Davidson gave up a lone single, but he walked five and Snit brought the hook in as he does for everyone except the late Drew Smyly, for whom he waits for a few fan souvenirs before taking him out. He was matched, though, by Patrick Corbin until the bottom of the 6th, when an Acuña single and stolen base was followed by an Albies single which I’m pretty sure no one in baseball could have scored off of other than Ronald — he had to break back to see if Turner was going to field it, turned around flat-footed when it got by Turner and scored from second. A Riley double inside the first base bag scored Albies, and a long home run by Dansby made it 4-0 really quickly. Corbin was gone in about as Smyly-esque fashion possible. Patrick Corbin is making $24.4 million this year, well over double what Smyly is making. Instead of bitching about Smyly we could be Natinals fans bitching about Corbin, twice as loud.
(Let me just make another editorial comment here: Chip and Frenchy talked for a solid 40 seconds about how the shift on Dansby meant he ought to go to right to bring home Riley. Somehow, all that incisive analysis was lost when Dansby hit one 400 feet to left. I never played baseball professionally, but I don’t think a player consciously trying to beat a shift can easily adjust to a hanging breaking ball, certainly not as well as a player trying to take his normal swing.)
The Braves added another Acuña-Albies combo run in the 7th with Ronald scoring easily from first on an Albies double.
A kinda meaningless scratch run off Smith with two outs in the 9th ruins the shutout.
One last issue. Defenders of the Win stat — explain how Josh Tomlin “deserves” a win in this game. Especially, see (d) in the Chip Caray Pantheon of Inadequacy. Let me restate my position: I have no problem with any metric that summarizes a pitcher’s performance accurately. Wins and losses sometimes do, but often don’t. They don’t even facilitate cross-era comparisons, since what starting pitchers do today is so different from what starting pitchers did as little as 20 years ago, much less in Cy Young‘s era.
So we split with the Capitol gang and the Ring-bearing Dodgers bring their talents to Atlanta over the weekend. Go get ’em.
* Thanks to all for the good wishes. I feel great. I woke up from surgery and played golf 72 hours later.