So the Home Run Derby was last night. Judging from Twitter, I think Prince Fielder won. As you can probably tell, I didn't see the end.
It's not that I don't like the Home Run Derby. Actually, compared to what I was seeing on Twitter yesterday afternoon and evening, I really like the Derby in comparison with others. Contrary to all those people that see it as pointless and boring, I find it kinda fun to watch players try and bash the ball as far as humanly possible again and again and again. As a kid, I used to love participating in impromptu Derbies, challenging other kids to see which of us could hit the most balls past the jetty at the beach. It was glorious fun, and to me, there's still something really charming in watching the official Home Run Derby. Sure, it doesn't mean anything and it's rather pointless, but there's nothing wrong with fun for fun's sake, right?
That said, Chris Berman is absolutely terrible. And the Derby does go on really long. I had my fill about halfway through the second round and zoned out after that. I wish Mark Trumbo had ended up winning -- mostly because his pure power is unreal and I love rooting for overlooked and underrated players -- but hey, kudos to Prince. Hopefully he'll finally start hitting some home runs when it counts and help out my fantasy team (/death glare at Prince).
And now that I've watched the All-Star festivities for the NHL and NBA, why can't baseball have a skills competition like they do? It seems like the Home Run Derby would make so much more sense if it was a part of a larger competition of various baseball skills, including things like throw accuracy, arm strength, bunting, stealing, etc. It would be fantastic and it would include so many more players, and highlight the multitude of skills that go into the game of baseball. Seriously MLB, do it.
The big news yesterday in the sabermetric world is that Russell Carleton -- otherwise known as The Artist Formerly Known As Pizza Cutter -- has returned to the masses. After contributing so much to the development of sabermetrics as we know it, he got hired by a team to work on a number of projects for them. He went into hiding then and worked full-time in baseball for a couple of years, and now he's back and writing at BPro.
And his first article back is a doozy. He can't tell us the secrets he discovered, but he can hint that there is so much more we have no idea about. In fact, there's some stuff we may be dead wrong about:
In my reflections (and uh, Gregorian number-crunching) I came to some rather interesting conclusions. I can't get into specifics (so please don't ask) but I will say this: there are things that are generally publicly held as sabermetric doctrine-in some cases, crucial underlying assumptions-that are demonstrably false. Statistical models are wonderful things, but they are only as good as the data that power them and the understanding of the programmer who defines them.
Overall, Carleton's piece wasn't really earth-shattering. By now, we all know that there's a ton of value in scouting information, and that sabermetrics will only show you one piece of the puzzle. Sabermetrics has still barely begun to scratch the surface in so many areas -- especially in evaluating pitching and defense -- and the bulk of our knowledge and stats can sometimes come across as rather underwhelming. You mean to tell me we haven't been able to improve significantly over UZR or FIP over the past 5-10 years? There is so, so much we don't know.
But I do find it interesting that Pizza Cutter is suggesting that there are a couple things out there right now that we're dead wrong about. Sadly, I'm beginning to feel like there are too many writers out there in the saber-sphere right now and not enough researchers for us to continue to make large strides in the public field. How long until the front offices outdistance us? How long until "evaluating" trades and signings becomes a sham again, and we're left believing we're correct when we really have no idea? I don't know, but thoughts like that make me really want to keep digging deeper into FanGraphs spreadsheets.
Other links of note:
- During the Rangers - Twins game on Sunday night, a bolt of lightning struck the stadium and nearly gave 30,000 people heart attacks. The GIFs of the event are wild.
- Carl Crawford suffered a setback (strained groin) in his rehab recently, and now it sounds like there are still questions about Crawford's arm. He seems to believe that although he can play on his arm now, it's going to need Tommy John surgery eventually...the only question is when it'll finally go. It's absolutely mind-boggling to me how quickly his contract went down the tubes.
- I never tire of reading articles about Billy Hamilton. At this point, he needs to become a star in the majors because he'd absolutely light the game on fire. Just watch him run...it's a thing of beauty.
- What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% of the speed of light?