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This is a baseball writing thread
March 11, 2008 11:19 AM   Subscribe

John Rawls gives six reasons why baseball is the best of all games. Marianne Moore's "Baseball & Writing." John Updike's "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu."

"Let no one post 'Casey,'" shall be the whole of the law.
posted by anotherpanacea (89 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Baseball vs. Football
posted by shotgunbooty at 11:24 AM on March 11, 2008


Second: the game does not give unusual preference or advantage to special physical types

Well, that used to be true.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:24 AM on March 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


that is, from the start, the diamond was made just the right size, the pitcher’s mound just the right distance from home plate, etc.

Until they moved it.
posted by drezdn at 11:33 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


He left out my most important reason for loving baseball: no spear carriers. Every player on the field can be a star, because every player bats. There's no equivalent of football's offensive line, unknown and unlauded.
posted by Class Goat at 11:37 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


One of the things I love about baseball is the focus on both individual battles (say the batter vs. the pitcher) and the effort of the team as a whole.

The long season and the nature of the game also means that even the worst teams will win games and even the best teams will lose at least 60 times a year.
posted by drezdn at 11:37 AM on March 11, 2008


Your favorite sport sucks. Film at 11.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:39 AM on March 11, 2008


I submit that Masters of Orion is a better game for several reasons: I can play it inside, I can play it by myself, I can play it while eating junk food and drinking bourbon, (ok, that last one can be done in base ball as well, but the difference is, I can be a fat drunk and still be good at MoO, only Babe Ruth could pull that off playing base ball.)
posted by quin at 11:44 AM on March 11, 2008


I’d rather it were by Lou Rawls. Would have been mellow and a lot smooother sounding. Way too much “Per contra” this and that.

Jesus, ok, you like baseball. Can I go hit someone now?
That and I never saw the no time limit as a big plus. One of the things I like most about Rugby is the game moves right along, there’s always action and you get penalized if it doesn’t.
There is teamwork in baseball, but not the kind of integral teamwork as football or especially rugby. Being a lineman in football is being part of an integrated unit. I think any astute fan knows how critical an offensive line is (especially after the season the Bears had).

I suppose it is a good spectators sport. And it’s a nifty way to pass the time, toss the ball around, so forth. Everyone can play baseball. But let’s not bandy about athleticism, not when you’ve got guys like John Kruk being a big hero.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:50 AM on March 11, 2008


One of the things I love most about baseball is that you can watch one highlight reel a year, and in less than three minutes you can see all the baseball worth seeing from that season. I'm a busy man, and that's a huge time saver.
posted by mhoye at 11:57 AM on March 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


But let’s not bandy about athleticism, not when you’ve got guys like John Kruk being a big hero.

The points from the first link are pretty old, so mostly pre-John Kruk (though there are plenty of examples of "fat" baseball players).

There are different things to appreciate in any sport. For football, one of the coolest things is when the offense opens up a gap and the running back gets through it. For basketball, a three at the buzzer over the defender is really cool. For athleticism in baseball, diving to rob a batter from a hit can be stunning.
posted by drezdn at 12:01 PM on March 11, 2008


Open-ended time is a good value and all, so long as it's not so gawd awful boring as baseball. Then again, watching just about any sport is horribly boring on the face of it, so carry on.
posted by Skwirl at 12:04 PM on March 11, 2008


Watching baseball has gotten to be like metafilter. No way you have time for the whole thing unless you have no life.
posted by srboisvert at 12:05 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cricket DOES have time limits- very broad ones that don't always encumber the game, but a "one day match" is called that for a reason.

Rawls, like most Americans (and presumably most Mayflower-stock Boston Brahmins, which was very, very, very much one of), never watched hockey, which is too bad- it doesn't completely favour size, it utilizes players' whole bodies, it's more visually transparent than, say, football, and it's a blast to watch, which cannot be said for baseball, a fact that Rawls neglects.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:06 PM on March 11, 2008


Every player bats, unless it is an American League game.
posted by sbrollins at 12:10 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Baseball is watchable (though Hockey is really fun, especially close to the action), it's just not a good television sport. There's a lot going on that is really subtle but interesting if you're into it from defensive shifts, to signs being relayed, to the intimidation tactics between the batter and the pitcher. Television rarely talks about those things, focus just on the pitched ball and whether the batter hits it or not.
posted by drezdn at 12:15 PM on March 11, 2008


10 best seasons by fat pitchers in MLB history
posted by 1 at 12:16 PM on March 11, 2008


Aside from the observations on baseball I thought that letter was great. I'm not one to bang on about the death of letter writing but just that simple communication seems such an age away from the sort of thing I see now, fractured and fragmented. On the other hand, perhaps it would be a blog post instead and we all could read it.
posted by patricio at 12:20 PM on March 11, 2008


“There are different things to appreciate in any sport.”

Yeah, I didn’t really appreciate baseball (although I played as a kid) until I started watching games with a buddy of mine who is a sportwriter. The deep strategy, minute corrections, and how big plays can change the whole face of the game, all that stuff. I tend to prefer hockey tho, bit faster and plenty of strategy. And I prefer to play contact sports because I like, well, contact (I expect to be fighting at sixty...not well, but y’know). Matter of taste. But I do appreciate the love folks have for baseball. It’s not ill placed.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:29 PM on March 11, 2008


as a soccer player growing up (and still to this day, actually), it was head-asplodingly frustrating to have my favorite sport constantly called "boring" by baseball fans.

i still only sort of understand the appeal of baseball. hitting something with a stick is pretty gratifying, but that's what, 20% of the game? diving catches, ok, i can get with that. then what?
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 12:30 PM on March 11, 2008


I noticed he didn't even *try* to compare baseball to hockey.
posted by sharpener at 12:40 PM on March 11, 2008


When the hell did John Kruk become the epitome of a baseball "hero"? Ten seasons, three all-star appearances, once in the World Series... meh. Baseball Reference compares him to Mike Easler, Orlando Merced, Kevin Millar, Rusty Greer... hardly a stellar showing. Kruk had some good years (good, not great), and was entertaining because of his personality.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:41 PM on March 11, 2008


First: the rules of the game are in equilibrium: that is, from the start, the diamond was made just the right size, the pitcher’s mound just the right distance from home plate, etc., and this makes possible the marvelous plays, such as the double play. The physical layout of the game is perfectly adjusted to the human skills it is meant to display and to call into graceful exercise. Whereas, basketball, e.g., is constantly (or was then) adjusting its rules to get them in balance.


Just like science textbooks are constantly being revised and no one ever had to revise the bible.
posted by Citizen Premier at 12:43 PM on March 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


7. It's only really played by Americans (Japanese & Cubans, to a lesser extent). This keeps the septic tanks from colonising, dominating & eventually ruining all the good sports, like cricket, rugby & aussie rules football.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:59 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


sharpener, I'd never put down soccer.

One of the things that I like about baseball is the idea that even though the game has more than a hundred years of history, there's still times every year where a one-of-a-kind feat happens. Say Ichiro hitting an In the park homerun.

To me, another interesting bit that often gets overlooked is the game from the pitcher's perspective. He's trying to hurl a ball in such away that it's hittable, but isn't hit. He has to try to mess with the batters mind as the batter probably read reports telling him exactly what the pitcher will do in that instance. Some pitchers will try their best to never let the batter hit the ball, while others will try to get the batter to hit a ground ball.

Ideally, the pitcher is throwing the ball in such a way that it stays in the same plane most of the way and then moves at the absolute last second. If he does anything wrong the ball will hang and the hitter will hit it far or it'll be out of the strike zone.

There's also the human drama, old players battling back from injuries, new players trying to make a name for themselves, future stars that might be warming the bench, and the heart-breaking injuries that could take any of them at any time.

The team dynamic is stranger than some sports too, as the players need to spend 162 games together each year and get along, even though each individual's performance can effect other players on the team. A bad infielder can lead to a pitcher having to get extra outs. A good catcher can make bad pitches look good, etc.

Numbers in baseball are cool too. It's fun to argue about batting order, and whether a player is on their way up or down. Is a pitcher bad, or unlucky?
posted by drezdn at 12:59 PM on March 11, 2008


Watching baseball has gotten to be like metafilter. No way you have time for the whole thing unless you have no life.

I have to disagree, I think it's just the opposite. To say you don't have time for baseball is to say you don't have time to live.

Some things in life don't suit a stopwatch -- a day at the park, or the beach, or listening to a symphony. Baseball is like that. Some things are greater than our short attention spans.
posted by edverb at 1:05 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


(like a five-day cricket test match)
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:07 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Numbers in baseball are cool too.

oh god, don't get me started on The Fucking Stats in The Fucking Baseball. you would think they're describing an economics model or experimental physics data. Dirty Dirty Dancing about architecture.

harumph. also, my lawn? get off.
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 1:10 PM on March 11, 2008


@acid freaking... The appeal of baseball comes from the entirety of the game. It's one of the few games where the DEFENSE controls the ball. Yes, "hitting something with a stick" is fun, but in order to do that, you have to realize there's someone throwing that something at you, at speeds from 70 to 100mph, at times making that something change direction quite dramatically. It may well be the single hardest element of any sport to accomplish, and the people who do it best still fail more than 6 times out of 10. Hitting the ball is only the start; you need to hit it where they ain't, as Wee Willie Keeler would say. And that's a thing of beauty itself, with eight players scattered around the field of play (and one outside it, too) conspiring against you, often performing feats of acrobatics to reach the ball, either leaping on the fly for the catch or digging the ball out of the dirt and firing it on to a base in one smooth motion for a putout. Make it safely to base, and the drama continues. Baserunning is fraught with strategic decisions - yes it's the game's goal to move up the bases to get closer to home, but if you do advance you might take the bat out of the hands of a powerful hitter. Defensively, every player is required to be alert at all times because you never know when you'll be needed. Oh, I could go on forever about what's great about baseball.

Soccer? Everybody's trying to do the same thing, move a ball up field and into a goal. Hockey, Basketball and American Football are virtually the same, with only different window dressing. One player has the ball, and is trying to score (or give it to someone in a better position to score). Everyone else is trying to either support or prevent that player advancing. That's not to denigrate those sports - they're fun to play and watch, certainly. But the fundamental force of those games are the same, in their pseudo-war styling. Golf is an exhibition, tennis a pissing contest. Baseball has no easy comparison. Its elements are complicated, its rules often arcane, and its balance of elements sublime. It's not gratifying in the way working yourself to exhaustion can be gratifying. You don't expend your last ounce of energy in baseball to achieve victory. It's gratifying because it calls on every part of you to win. You can't put your head down and rage through to the goal. You need to remain in control at all times, while still calling on the deepest reserves of strength to achieve something together. You need the passion and the intellect in equal measure, always.

And you'll never fully appreciate it, no matter how many years you watch or play. You'll only keep appreciating it more as time goes on.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:12 PM on March 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


Baseball rules, because in what other sport, except possibly golf, could it be an ADVANTAGE to be tripping hard on LSD while playing, as Dock Ellis was when he threw a no-no for the Pirates in 1970(ish)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:28 PM on March 11, 2008


GhostintheMachine: you realize i can do the same thing right back at you, right?

you say soccer is just trying to move a ball up field and into a goal. baseball is just trying to get a guy to run 360 yards to a plate. each statement is just as valid there, right? You're ignoring tons of tactical and physical elements of soccer when you describe it that way. It's way way more of a mind game than you think (of course, i also believe that a lot of its beauty comes from its place in the simple-rules-with-complex-outcomes family of games, but that's another argument).

It's trying to get the defense to move in a way where they think they have the advantage, but really they've left themselves open to attack. You can't do this as a single player, you need a coordinated, organized team with you. A team can't just approach a game with the mindset that they just need to get the ball downfield to someone in front of the goal. It takes a lot of strategy, that when we move in pattern X, the defense will respond with Y, so if we fake X the defense can't respond to Z. Only several levels deep, at an individual AND team basis.

It also requires incredible technical skill to take a ball soaring over your head from 50 yards downfield and lie it onto the ground without a bounce using only the top of your foot. Or to slalom through 3 defenders moving the ball a few inches at a time and then rocket it into the upper corner of the net. It takes intense team coordination to run an offside trap, and when one of your teammates is a step slow, you pay for it with a goal, usually. There are so many intricacies of soccer, the complexities arise from the play rather than the rules.

I understand all of the difficulties in baseball (part of why i left it decades ago), the crux of my original comment was that you don't get to call soccer "boring" when you like a sport with very little (or at best short bursts of) actual, physical things happening.
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 1:35 PM on March 11, 2008


But let’s not bandy about athleticism
posted by mr.marx at 1:37 PM on March 11, 2008


Millionaires in Pyjamas, the lot of them...
posted by sporb at 1:51 PM on March 11, 2008


sporb reminded me of my most irrational favorite nugget about baseball. The players wear dressy belts.
posted by drezdn at 1:56 PM on March 11, 2008


The problem – amply illustrated by the article – is that the vast majority of baseball fans just don't know enough sport to make a fair judgement that baseball is any better than any other.

In the past 7 days I've watched Football (various levels in the UK & EU), Aussie Rules, Basketball (NBA & ULEB Cup)

GitM: Based on your criteria, cricket pisses all over baseball.

If you want the world's game, the one most loved and most universally understood it is football. If you want sheer physical fitness & mental strength, top level cycling – eg Tour de France – is hard to beat. For outright power it's Rugby League followed by Gridiron (only because there's no padding in RL), for power combined with skill it's Aussie Rules, for skill and fighting it's hockey and for style, excitement and razzmatazz it's (NBA) basketball and for a game to befuddle everyone apart from those who know the game, it's either cricket or kabbadi.

Baseball is fine but ultimately it's a bunch of fat blokes in their jammies spitting a lot.
posted by i_cola at 1:57 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not sure why that 'In the past...' half sentence is there still. Please ignore. <>
posted by i_cola at 1:59 PM on March 11, 2008


Regarding hockey, my complaint is that it, for me, simply is not entertaining on television. Perhaps that's that fault of how directors approach it—if Ozu filmed Wings games, I'd watch 'em all. But the joy of hockey is seeing the long swoop of plays developing. It's like an airshow, with fighter formations. That's fantastic, but totally cut away by the framing on television. It may be one of the few sports that I enjoy more from the cheap seats, where it's even easier to see the whole thing, than right up alongside the playing field.

Regarding soccer, I fully grant that it's simply my lack of knowledge regarding the game, but I tend to tune out when it's just the long booting of the ball back and forth. I can enjoy the footwork (in fact, that's what I like to watch the most, when a couple of folks are going back and forth), but soccer's just a million times more fun to play than it is to watch.

And for baseball, I guess I can understand it not being interesting without a personal investment in the outcome—that's why I never watch National League games—but I enjoy picking out the minute variations that lead to massively different results. That, and the Tigers are awesome this year (as they have been for the last couple), and that's always a thing of beauty.
posted by klangklangston at 1:59 PM on March 11, 2008


If you think you don't like baseball, go to a game in a good park (minor league parks are often really great, and cheap), on a sunny, cool summer afternoon, with someone who really knows the sport and the teams you're watching, and can tell you about what's going on. Have a beer, watch the dizzy-bat races and other inter-inning goofiness. If you can resist that, there's something wrong with you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:48 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Baseball.


I haven't played a game in at least ten years, but I still love it dearly over any other sport. It shouldn't be argued that baseball is better because of the physical or athletic prowess it demands (and it does demand), because every modern major sport demands similar amazing feats. I find it amazing that in one sport, you're goal is to use a piece of metal at the end of a stick to hit a ball only a couple inches wide over hundreds of yards and into a hole barely much bigger. In another sport, you're expected to take a ball about a foot wide, and toss it from distances up to numerous yards into a hole that again, is barely wider than the ball. In another sport, you're expected to use a stick to guide a flat round object on ice into a goal covered by a goalie who fills most of it up...and keep it from the other guys. It can go on and on, because in general, the breadth of human athleticism and ability can be simply marvelous.

But what is baseball? It breaks away from the general rectangular field that nearly all other sports use in one form or another. Perhaps that is its single identifier.

Baseball is special, perhaps, because very few other sports have been held so cherished for so long by one people. When great-grandfathers can have the same conversation with their great-grandkids that they had with their grandfathers, its remarkable. The personalities and the individual feats, the duals between teams and players. It all exists in other sports, but baseball provides for that moment when the great picture faces the great batter alone. The result of that moment depends entirely on those two and whomever is the better and it happens again and again and again, simply in one game alone.

But in the end, baseball is just one more sport, granted. I have spent thirty minutes (I don't have to spend!) typing and erasing, again and again. Ultimately, it just dissolves down to the smell of the leather glove, the sound of the bat, the what if of every moment, as the game progresses through every out and inning. I have played many sports, enjoyed most of them, but have loved only one.
posted by Atreides at 2:57 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think the key question here is if you had to choose one sport from behind the veil of ignorance, would it be baseball?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:58 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


For outright power it's Rugby League followed by Gridiron (only because there's no padding in RL)

You could probably add endurance & skill, since for the most part, players in the rugby codes (league & union) play the entire game, almost non-stop, and need to be able to play both offence & defence. On top of that, they all need to be reasonably skilled with the ball, unlike in gridiron, where the quarterback is about the only guy who actually needs to know how to throw the ball, and even in the offence team, half the players probably never really need to know how to catch, as far as i can tell.

but those gridiron players have it all over most rugby players for sheer size, strength and / or speed - mostly because they're only required to contribute in very short, intense bursts.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:03 PM on March 11, 2008


"Casey" is banned from this thread, huh? Then I'll recite
These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double --
Words that are weighty with nothing but trouble:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."

It's the Cubs' year this year; they're due.

I've never understood the attitude that says "You like sport x? Pfft. Sport y is far superior; I hold you in lower repute because you follow sport x, and I deride those who devote their careers to it." À chacun son goût. And all sport is good. Frankly, it's the enormous amounts of money plowed into sports -- and a lot of public money, too -- that causes me grief.

To be honest, I didn't get that much into baseball until I picked up a little book entitled The Joy of Keeping Score and starting scoring games on my own -- even ones on TV, at first! Keeping your own scorecard is a very good way of making you pay attention to every pitch, and helps you begin to understand the strategies and to appreciate the wealth of stats and probabilities that underlie the game.
posted by BrotherFeldspar at 3:04 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


That's like asking "If you had to choose one language from behind the veil of ignorance, would it be English?" Or whether you'd rather be a photographer or a painter or a musician.
posted by klangklangston at 3:07 PM on March 11, 2008


Soccer is interesting, and fun to watch, but gets amazing once you are emotionally invested in a team/club. More so than in other sports, because everything that happens in a soccer match is important. There is suspense throughout the whole game. It is almost (multi)orgasmic, the feeling, the rush of the offense setting up a goal and SHOOoooting!.... ohh and you come back down, sit back down in your chair, only to get riled up again when another goal is attempted. Each goal is extremely important. It is this emotional roller coaster of a game. It is suspenseful. It is beautiful.

American football keeps you interested with the downs system. Every first down is like a score, like a mini-victory. Every third down is like a mini red zone play. Every down, there is a different strategy. There is always something happening.

I love basketball, but I can see why some people find it boring. It is too high scoring of a game. The most interesting part is the last couple minutes in the game, and only if it is close. But, professional basketball does have the appeal of having on display arguably the most athletic people on the planet, routinely achieving physical feats of grace, power, speed, agility, quickness and skill. And with only 10 players on the court at any given time, it is possible to see these players' incredible athleticism up close. Basketball also allows for the most physical creativity of any sport.

Baseball... I don't know. It's difficult. But its boring.
posted by shotgunbooty at 3:11 PM on March 11, 2008


If you think you don't like baseball, go to a game in a good park (minor league parks are often really great, and cheap), on a sunny, cool summer afternoon, with someone who really knows the sport and the teams you're watching, and can tell you about what's going on. Have a beer, watch the dizzy-bat races and other inter-inning goofiness. If you can resist that, there's something wrong with you.

LobsterMitten's on the money. Most sports are vastly more enjoyable if you find a local, grassroots competition, where there's enough skill for it to not be totally half-assed, but where there's still a good fun, family & community vibe.

One of my favourites is the Newtown Jets - a rugby league team representing Sydney's main boho / student / queer / grungy / punky / hipster area. When they score a try (touchdown) the PA plays a version of the club song performed by well-known Aussie punk band, Frenzal Rhomb. It's only a few bucks to get into the ground, whereupon you can relax with a cheap beer & sausage sandwich & take part in heckling the referee.

And if you're lucky, the sister club - the dykey Netwown Jetettes - might play the curtain raiser.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:15 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I understand all of the difficulties in baseball (part of why i left it decades ago), the crux of my original comment was that you don't get to call soccer "boring" when you like a sport with very little (or at best short bursts of) actual, physical things happening."

See, but this is wrong. There's ALWAYS something happening in baseball.
posted by klangklangston at 3:16 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


The funniest thing about this thread is that all the baseball lovers should really be watching cricket as it has at least triple what they seem to love about baseball :-)
posted by i_cola at 3:16 PM on March 11, 2008


"See, but this is wrong. There's ALWAYS something happening in baseball."

So what's happening when they cut to commercials? :)
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 3:23 PM on March 11, 2008


Thats when the ceremonial 3rd, 5th, and 8th inning bat duels to the death occur.
posted by Atreides at 3:29 PM on March 11, 2008


It's only really played by Americans (Japanese & Cubans, to a lesser extent

Man, don't tell the Venzuelans, Dominicans, Canadians, Mexicans, Taiwanese, Puerto Ricans (technically part of the U.S., yes), South Koreans...

And that's just players in the Major League.

Even though the SF Giants are going to suck this year, I can't wait for the first game.
posted by rtha at 3:38 PM on March 11, 2008


Man, don't tell the Venzuelans, Dominicans, Canadians, Mexicans, Taiwanese, Puerto Ricans (technically part of the U.S., yes), South Koreans...

I stand corrected.

It's only really played by Americans and sundry miscellaneous loser countries.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:46 PM on March 11, 2008


So what's happening when they cut to commercials?

Sausage Races!
posted by drezdn at 3:46 PM on March 11, 2008


"So what's happening when they cut to commercials? :)"

Far too often, they're cutting away to commercials while there's pitching going on, though usually it's in between innings. Fox is particularly bad on this.
posted by klangklangston at 3:48 PM on March 11, 2008


One of the things about baseball that seems interesting, and puzzling too, is how arbitrary it is. It's such a constructed game. Everything about it is made up, either from whole braincloth* or bits of other games like cricket, which seems nearly as invented as baseball.

Lots of games are invented, yeah. Putting a ball through an elevated hoop, getting a ball across a line, kicking a ball into a net or hitting a puck there with a stick. But these are all team sports in which there's equal teams all in play at once, trying to oppose each other under roughly equal conditions. Baseball, on the other hand, is decidedly unequal; one side's options are vastly different than the other's. Football is a bit like this, but fumbles and interceptions still make it possible for one side to become the other in the middle of a play.

I know, I know, that doesn't seem to follow from my original point. I guess I'm still trying to get baseball to fit in my internal ludological schema. Or maybe I'm just using weird words because I like how they sound. Never mind me.

*Lore Sjoberg's coinage, I believe
posted by JHarris at 3:49 PM on March 11, 2008


Holy crap, something John Rawls and George Will can agree on!
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:54 PM on March 11, 2008


Baseball has statistics. Soccer, not so much.

Baseball's the only game where I've heard two people argue over how good players are solely based on a statistic that none of them could actually compute in their head (UZR).

Soccer, it's goals, saves, shots, woodwork, penalties, injury time. Baseball, it's ERA, OPS, WARP, PECOTA, CHONE, RARP, G/F, UZR.... Maybe that's the problem with baseball -- it attracts too many people with TI-81s and slide rules.
posted by dw at 5:07 PM on March 11, 2008


The problem – amply illustrated by the article – is that the vast majority of baseball fans just don't know enough sport to make a fair judgement that baseball is any better than any other.

Hmmm. As an enthusiastic Arsenal supporter still sporting a sore throat from screaming for the Super Bowl champion NY Giants, a former New Jersey Devils season ticket holder from the dark days of the late '80s, a Formula 1 and endurance/sports car racing fanatic, a Tour De France watching recent convert to the Boston Celtics, someone who frets County Mayo may never shed their first-runner-up status in the GAA championship game, and someone who used to (before work and family grew) enjoy 20 to 30 baseball games a year at Fenway (as a Yankees fan, no less) I take exception to that, and have to disagree with your "vast majority" statement. And then....

Baseball is fine but ultimately it's a bunch of fat blokes in their jammies spitting a lot.

...you reveal yourself to be as lacking in sports acumen as those you just attacked - I don't really like cricket because I'm comfortable in admitting I just don't understand it, not because I'd ever think it was, let's see, a "a bunch of skinny blokes standing around all day dressed for tea and crumpets" or some rubbish like that. Kettle, meet pot.
posted by jalexei at 5:08 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Baseball, it's ERA, OPS, WARP, PECOTA, CHONE, RARP, G/F, UZR.... Maybe that's the problem with baseball -- it attracts too many people with TI-81s and slide rules.

One of things I love about baseball is that this stuff is there for those who want it while being pretty much ignorable (beyond batting average and ERA) for those who don't. The beauty of soccer is the artistry of its play against the backdrop of its simplicity (and by simplicity I mean a relative dearth of rules compared to say, baseball). Two very different flavors I don't find it hard to enjoy almost equally.
posted by jalexei at 5:14 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


jalexi, thanks, for this:


One of things I love about baseball is that this stuff is there for those who want it while being pretty much ignorable (beyond batting average and ERA) for those who don't


I meant to convey something similar but fell far short.
posted by drezdn at 5:37 PM on March 11, 2008


Another thing, too: I've always known female baseball fans. In fact, Seattle Mariners games usually have a 55:45 male-female attendance ratio.

Female football fans, American or "soccer," have been an anomaly until recently. When I lived in the UK a decade ago I was shocked by how "blokish" soccer is there.
posted by dw at 5:47 PM on March 11, 2008


The Story Of Baseball: You Can Go Home Again: an essay comparing baseball to the Odyssey.

Y'all are missing the point: baseball may be the game most in keeping with the Difference Principle, and it may not be. But whatever it is, it's a game that inspires great prose and poetry. What's your favorite baseball essay?
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:56 PM on March 11, 2008


A point-by-point rebuttal of the deceased's major claims:

Claim 1: "Everything is laid out as pretty as can ever be".
Rebuttal: This is just silly. There are many sports with appropriate dimensions: soccer, tennis, and - dare i say - cricket! This is not a worldly man obviously.

Claim 2: "There is no unusual preference or advantage to special physical types."
Rebuttal: Have you ever read the official rules of Major League Baseball where they define the strike zone? Here let me help you: "The Strike Zone is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the top of the knees. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball. [In 1996, The Strike Zone was] expanded on the lower end, moving from the top of the knees to the bottom of the knees." Now what about short persons (5'5" to 5'9")? They would have a considerably smaller strike zone than a tall person (6'1")...especially those who have some shortness of the torso and legs. Just as tall players have an easier competitive time, short batters have a statistical advantage over any pitcher in a highly statistical game.

Claim 3: "Everybody plays soccer with their arms glued to their torsos."
Rebuttal: Unlike baseball, soccer has positioning and direct physical contact with the opponent regularly. I'm sure a person without arms while not being incapable of playing soccer would indeed be at a significant disadvantage when attempting to jump for a header, protect himself, play goalie, perform a quick throw-in, or shield the ball along the touchline. Sure he could head-butt his way into stardom, but he's not Zidane trying to get the American public interested in his career. Sure you need acute eyesight to play baseball, but you don't need peripheral vision! Try playing soccer without peripheral vision and you'd be a baseball player without knees. (omg, where's the strike zone then!)

Claim 4: "Everything is easy to see happen." (See Claim 1)
major supporting claim: "close calls arise from the marvelous timing built into the game and not from trying to police cheaters etc."
Rebuttal: Actually close calls arise by having a very tiny ball that is usually hidden in a glove and having very loose-fitting clothing. The only "close calls" there are in soccer (football) is when the ball crashes into the woodwork or there's a scruff near the goal line. By professional standards, these happen in both soccer and baseball with similar regularlity. I in fact think it's awfully difficult to be sure of calls in baseball without slow motion instant reply because the eye has to to watch very accurately both the foot hitting a bag and the receivign of the ball in a mitt several feet away from each other and time that. In soccer, just follow the ball. How beautiful is that, dead guy?

Claim 5: "Baseball is the only game where scoring isn't done with a ball."
Rebuttal: Ever hear of cricket and a think called wickets? Or maybe you've heard of Archery which back in the middle ages was a very popular sport. But I'll give you this claim anyway as it's the most solid point you've made so far...and I don't want to take that away from a dead person.

Claim 6: "The losing side always has a chance to come back and win."
Rebuttal: Until the bottom of the 9th inning. I'm pretty sure cricket doesn't have time running out either, hence the marathon multi-day single games. This is a silly decadent point of yours Rawls. I expect more from a guy friendly with a dead University of Chicago professer.
posted by wantwit at 6:17 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


You should probably know more about baseball before attempting that rebuttal, wantwit:

Now what about short persons (5'5" to 5'9")? They would have a considerably smaller strike zone than a tall person (6'1")...especially those who have some shortness of the torso and legs. Just as tall players have an easier competitive time, short batters have a statistical advantage over any pitcher in a highly statistical game.

Meet Bill Veeck. Basically, this balances out, with shorter players having a harder time hitting the ball as far, and having a more limited range of swing. And for claims of statistical advantage, you'd better well provide those statistics.

Rebuttal: Unlike baseball, soccer has positioning and direct physical contact with the opponent regularly.

Rebuttal denied. Baseball also has positioning and direct physical contact with opponents regularly. Watch for it around second base and home plate.

The only "close calls" there are in soccer (football) is when the ball crashes into the woodwork or there's a scruff near the goal line.

Or when there are fouls, which tend to have the same subjective problem as in basketball. Baseball's rules tend to, in Latin legal sense, have a remedy for every situation and require far less interpretation (though far more memory).

Rebuttal: Until the bottom of the 9th inning.

If it's the visiting team, which only gets to bat at the top of the 9th, sure. Otherwise, wrong—a home team can still win in the final half of the inning (whether 9th or later, in extra innings).

That's actually something kind of nice about baseball—each side gets equal attempts. I know, I know, cricket, but since baseball is better than cricket in other ways (like not taking days to decide a game), you're still whiffing.
posted by klangklangston at 6:35 PM on March 11, 2008


kland,

eh, i'm not going to bother spending enough time rebutting your rebuttals of my rebuttals: Regarding soccer, I fully grant that it's simply my lack of knowledge regarding the game but there are some things that i will clarify.

but there were a few places where if you replace "regularly" with "frequently" you'd have a more difficult time rebutting. I mean to say frequently however i did not originally.

the reason baseball has any "remedy" for "tough calls" is because they don't let individuals directly compete at all. it's all by proxy through a bat and a ball. an entire game of baseball can be played without touching an opposing player directly or with force. that can't happen in soccer.

i would hardly call sliding into 2nd base "positioning". strategy yes. positioning no. The whole "equal attempts" thing as well is also an artifact of placing a single player individually against an entire team. if you look at any team vs team sports (soccer, basketball, football, water polo, lacrosse, hockey, etc.) you don't have to pull the "tricks" in the rulebook for it to be egalitarian.

I'm with the soccer player above who believes that the best games are ones with complicated playing based on simple sets of rules.

as for why baseball loving america cannot get behind soccer i think has to do largely with how little americans think critically about comparing sports. Now this would apply when american sports don't always catch on elsewhere. In general sport all has similar "rules of beauty and elegance" regardless if it's largely based on a complicated set of rules (baseball, etc.) or based on a very simple set (tennis, curling, futbol). However when it comes to sports entertainment, adults tend to go with what is familiar and therefore more of a mind-numbing distraction.
posted by wantwit at 7:19 PM on March 11, 2008


Baseball? Oh, you mean Rounders, that game you had to play at school camp and everyone just wanted to play cricket but the sports coordinator was too pussy and worried that Damian Solomon wold get hit on the head with a ball and cause all sorts of trouble like he did last year when his mum and dad complained to the school, so now we all have to play Rounders on camp because is soft and gentle and all the kids get a go, even Peter Oventen who everyone suspects has mild autism, except us kids who don't know what that is, but we keep away from him anyway. We also have to play Rounders instead of cricket to give the girls a go, because they don't play cricket, they play Rounders.

That Rounders?
posted by mattoxic at 7:31 PM on March 11, 2008


The problem – amply illustrated by the article – is that the vast majority of baseball fans just don't know enough sport to make a fair judgement that baseball is any better than any other.

I love watching all sports under the right circumstances, and right moods. Soccer (Football) has the grace and the emotional crescendos. Football (Gridiron) has the battle-strategies and power (and the any-weather rule, which I like). Basketball has, as was mentioned above, the most athletic creativity, and playing it in a driveway is one of the best ways for fathers and sons to stay connected even through difficult patches. Hockey has the kick-ass team formations, the unique feel of being near the glass, and the most interesting fans I've met of any sport on earth. And Rugby is just like a two-hour-long Brawndo ad. (Go Wales!)

Still, there's nothing like Baseball. The feel of walking through the tunnels in Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium and seeing the field for the first time - green in the way you generally only think of Ireland - is the first step. You sit down with your beer and your glove, because there's always a chance of catching a fly ball, and you go over the starting line-up, wondering why the manager made these choices on this day. Then the National Anthem (I really want to go to a Blue Jays home game one of these days, just because opening a game with "Oh Canada" would be fascinating enough), and the game really starts.

The game is anything but boring. Every single pitch is a new and unique set of circumstances, and puts the ball into play with two of the most athletically difficult things imaginable. One is hitting the ball, which is tricky enough, but the more astounding one is pitching it at the big-league level. To be able to throw the ball with that amount of speed and control, not only deciding what the situation requires to outsmart the batter, but having to physically accomplish it as well? That's on the level with Luke hitting the weak spot on the death star. And they do it upwards of 100 times per game.

In addition to this, the field has to be ready for anything, and to respond in a moment's notice. Last year there was a thread about an unassisted triple-play, something that had only happened 13 times before in history, but the fielder was ready for it. Like with any sport, the more you understand and appreciate it, the more you can anticipate what the players should or shouldn't do, but like with American Football, the halting of the plays really amplifies this. A lot of people in this thread have looked to all the times when the ball is not in play and concluded "boring." The rest of us will see that time and say "suspenseful." It's all about knowing and understanding the game well enough to appreciate what's at stake at any given time.

Finally, I read recently somewhere that "The difference between an Englishman and an American is that an Englishman thinks that 100 miles is a long distance, and an American thinks that 100 years is a long time." Americans have a definite "history deficit," and most of our history has been through times which change too fast to feel like they have much relationship to each other. "The one constant, through the years, Ray, has been baseball." It is antique, and it is here and alive, all at the same time. The rosters of the NFL can be filled with dog-fighters, car thieves and date-rapists, and we barely bat an eye, but if someone is juicing at baseball, we hold congressional hearings. There are some things that you just don't fuck with.

Growing up in this country, there are very few things which seem both American and - for lack of a better term - magical. Old-growth forests at twilight, creaky Victorian-era houses, and baseball are all that come to mind.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:17 PM on March 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


That Rounders?

No. Baseball.
posted by dw at 9:39 PM on March 11, 2008


the reason baseball has any "remedy" for "tough calls" is because they don't let individuals directly compete at all. it's all by proxy through a bat and a ball. an entire game of baseball can be played without touching an opposing player directly or with force.

OK, that's just silly. Takeout slides? Collisions at the plate? Hard tags? Outfielders who don't know how to yell "Yo la tengo?"

There's plenty of contact. And honestly, while I love footie, there's something about a game that rewards you handsomely for being able to make contact with a ball and reaching base safely only three times in ten, even if that ball is coming at you at 95mph and is going to bend and dive and tail away from you at the last second (or come at you at 44mph and who knows where it's going).

And your whole speech pretty much assumes watching Ichiro throw strikes from 350 feet away is boring.
posted by dw at 9:56 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


wow - hadn't seen that Ichiro video. (To the non-baseball people: he's not a pitcher, and he's throwing from more than 5x the distance the pitcher normally throws from, but with the same precision.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:57 PM on March 11, 2008


As a huge baseball fan, I enjoy it because of the opportunity for tension and drama, which stems from not having a clock. No game is ever truly out of hand because everyone has the same opportunity (27 outs).

Soccer/Football/Rubby/Basketball/Hockey can all have tension and drama, but for me it usually requires the specific game to be significant (World Cup, Superbow, playoffs, March Madness, etc.). I'm sure dedicated fans of these sports can find the tension/drama, but for me those sports are more about visceral excitement, spectacular plays, etc. That's fine too, of course, but isn't enough for me.

I moved to Australia a year and a half ago, and I have desperately tried to like Cricket, but it just hasn't happened. While I like to make fun of the tea breaks, I think it is because you don't have to run. That removes all semblance of drama for me. The outs are a freak occurrence, and the scoring has this plodding, inexorable quality that bores me.

However, arguing with people about which sport is better is a fruitless task. Ultimately, as Seinfeld once said, we're rooting for laundry here. All sports are irrational/random.
posted by philoye at 11:27 PM on March 11, 2008


as for why baseball loving america cannot get behind soccer i think has to do largely with how little americans think critically about comparing sports.

This is even sillier. There are whole books on sports criticism in the US. Shelves and shelves of sports books.

The truth about soccer in this country is that it never stood a chance. In the 19th century, the rugby rules took hold in the US and Canada and pushed aside the association rules.
posted by dw at 11:34 PM on March 11, 2008


"the reason baseball has any "remedy" for "tough calls" is because they don't let individuals directly compete at all. it's all by proxy through a bat and a ball. an entire game of baseball can be played without touching an opposing player directly or with force. that can't happen in soccer."

Oh, bullshit. If you knew more about baseball than what you learned with your Tiger handheld, you'd understand just how retarded each of those clauses are. The only games I've seen without "touching an opposing player with force" have been such absolute blowouts that half the team was on the bus to the next game by the third inning.

And Christ, isn't it supposed to be the Americans who are louts? Here you are, confusing violence for sport—no wonder you riot like Steelers fans.

as for why baseball loving america cannot get behind soccer i think has to do largely with how little americans think critically about comparing sports. Now this would apply when american sports don't always catch on elsewhere. In general sport all has similar "rules of beauty and elegance" regardless if it's largely based on a complicated set of rules (baseball, etc.) or based on a very simple set (tennis, curling, futbol). However when it comes to sports entertainment, adults tend to go with what is familiar and therefore more of a mind-numbing distraction.

Do I look like I ordered stomach? No? Then don't feed me tripe.

I mean, fuck, listening to you complain about complicated rules in baseball is like listening to the prosecution at a witch trial. "Well, the rule is, she weighs the same as a duck…"

Something that hasn't been mentioned here, that I think plays into baseball's charm and into your inability to understand it, is that they play 162 games per season. That means that there are often two games a day for teams. That plays into the low percentages of any significant achievement, and it also helps to explain why the rules are "complicated": there's precedent for nearly every play. If I were you, I'd make some ignorant statement about how that shouldn't impress a soccer fan, since there's, what, only been five goals since the beginning of the Premiership. But what that means is that yes, there's a rule for what happens when a hit pitch goes straight up in the air and lands on home. Because it's happened, though it was a total fluke. So there's a ruling that's based on precedent, and on what's considered fair for both teams, because they'll both be in a situation in which that rule may apply in the future.
posted by klangklangston at 11:38 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


wow where to begin. let's start with the hatemongering...shame on you! you're attributing very specific denunciations to very general overarching statements that i made.

1) response to dw: It is boring after seeing it a couple times. Excitement and astonishment are different. Excitement builds while astonishment is a bit more fleeting because once one realizes what he has seen as being feasible and reproducible then it's no longer so astonishing. Remarkable still, but not necessarily astonishing.

2) another response to dw: just because we have a lot of books about sports doesn't mean that the average fan understands on any substantial level what about a sport he likes and can apply that to sports that he knows nothing about!

3) response to klangklangston: I stand by my point of baseball being abstracted competition rather than direct competition between individuals. In fact thank you for supporting it by proving that while you CAN have a baseball game where no opponents ever touch another, you CANNOT in a soccer/football/hockey game. I'm not saying it's less of a sport but it's a different KIND of sport along the evolutionary tree of sport TOWARDS golf.

4) response to klangklangston: Nowhere did i say that by "complicated rules" do I mean "LARGE VOLUME OF RULES". You misunderstood very simple language. Despite being dismayed at that (as well as your tone) I did enjoy your Monty Python reference...even if i found it inaccurate :)
posted by wantwit at 1:41 AM on March 12, 2008


Oh come on people.

You don't love a sport because you sat down with a pro and con list and rationally chose which one to support. You love a sport because your grandpa took you to a game and explained it to you and bought you a hat, or you played it as a kid, or you thought that number 23 looked really very nice in those short shorts, or your boyfriend was a complete nut about it and you learnt the rules so you could ask sensible questions. And you kept watching because people like competition and watching skilled talented people do what they do best and it makes you feel connected to a community part of something bigger than your own little life. And you choose to overlook some of the more ridiculous features of your sport of choice (or even violently defend them) because of the amount of pleasure it gives you.

Love is not rational. Any discussion about the superiority of one sport over another is like attempting to argue that your religon is the best. And will probably be about as successful.
posted by kjs4 at 5:01 AM on March 12, 2008 [7 favorites]


acid freaking:

Everything *you* say about soccer - the tons of tactical and physical elements, the mind game, getting the defense to move in a way where they think they have the advantage but are open to attack, using a co-ordinated team to accomplish this, the incredible technical skill, intricacies and complexities from the play... ALL those things are true in baseball as well.

And I didn’t call soccer boring. It isn’t, or at least it doesn’t have to be. There are no boring sports, period. Who the hell would play or watch something boring? Seriously. It’s practically the definition of sport. I was just pointing out why baseball is so interesting, in part due to its fundamental differences from other sports. You don’t score when you’ve moved an object to a point at the end of your opponent’s zone, as you do in hockey, football, soccer, tennis or basketball. Few team sports can say that. That’s what makes baseball *interesting*. Is it the better sport? Well, “better” is a subjective thing, so that’s just personal preference.

I love watching basketball and football up until the very end, then the interminable timeouts kill my interest. Just play the damned game! I prefer hockey for that reason, but the fights annoy me. Just play the damned game, already. I would probably enjoy watching a good soccer match, as they seem to avoid those pitfalls. The histrionics of the diving divas pisses me off to no end, though, so the fewer of those the better. Just play the damned game, ya fakers. What annoys me about baseball? Having to wait all winter to see my team play again, that’s all. Personal preference. It’s a fundamentally different game. That doesn’t make it better, but it does make it more appealing to me.

And yeah, cricket. Not played much around here, and never shown on television, so I can’t really comment. I have seen some locals play on the Halifax Commons, and I did enjoy it, though. So there.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:17 AM on March 12, 2008


you're attributing very specific denunciations to very general overarching statements that i made.

Well, there's your trouble.

It is boring after seeing it a couple times. Excitement and astonishment are different. Excitement builds while astonishment is a bit more fleeting because once one realizes what he has seen as being feasible and reproducible then it's no longer so astonishing. Remarkable still, but not necessarily astonishing.

You're talking silly. Few people on this planet could throw a ball 350 feet and get it to a dinner plate style target. Fewer still can do it on the fly.

I just find it astonishing that people can manage to hit a 95-97-100 MPH fastball safely three times in ten. Soccer? Well, I can play it, kick at the goal. Just about anyone can.

just because we have a lot of books about sports doesn't mean that the average fan understands on any substantial level what about a sport he likes and can apply that to sports that he knows nothing about!

Do you think the average Millwall fan can understand on a substantial level about what sport he likes? Or you think he's just going to break your face?

Most Americans DO know what they like. Just like we know what kind of ice cream we like. But sometimes those decisions are as much about emotion as they are about long treatises on what's good and what's not -- which is a bulk of American sports writing.

Americans have thought long and hard about this. And honestly, association football is just something that's never been at the top of our list. And even if American football had never developed, we'd probably still all be playing rugby. And the English would be pratting on about how THEY invented the game but the Americans RUINED it.

I stand by my point of baseball being abstracted competition rather than direct competition between individuals.

Well, in your vision of the world, all racket sports are abstracted competition. Any sport where you have to do anything but move a ball with a part of your body is an abstracted competition.

So, a Federer-Nadal rally is an abstracted competition. All that running around, well, that's not as REAL as a sloppy Conference game between Leaking Bottom and Drippy Nose.
posted by dw at 8:09 AM on March 12, 2008


dw, that Ichiro video is so awesome. Thanks.
posted by generalist at 8:41 AM on March 12, 2008


Nthing the total, astonishing amazingness of that Ichiro video. Holy shit.

Would that our (SF Giants) pitchers had that much control and precision!
posted by rtha at 9:42 AM on March 12, 2008


Nowhere did i say that by "complicated rules" do I mean "LARGE VOLUME OF RULES". You misunderstood very simple language. Despite being dismayed at that (as well as your tone) I did enjoy your Monty Python reference...even if i found it inaccurate :)

Oh, so you just don't know what you're talking about then.
posted by klangklangston at 10:20 AM on March 12, 2008


I prefer Brännboll
posted by mr.marx at 10:53 AM on March 12, 2008


apparently it is impossible to find anything in baseball that isn't good. metafilter used to be a rational place...
posted by wantwit at 11:52 AM on March 12, 2008


It's certainly harder to find things in baseball that aren't good if you don't know a damned thing about baseball. Seriously, you sound like a NASCAR fan complaining about how boring F-1 racing is because they don't go in circles.
posted by klangklangston at 1:37 PM on March 12, 2008


apparently it is impossible to find anything in baseball that isn't good. metafilter used to be a rational place...

The DH rule kinda sucks, though, thats my opinion. I also don't like how a lot of ballplayers wear their pants legs down to their ankles, instead of stopping at the calf or knee. <>
posted by Atreides at 3:10 PM on March 12, 2008


The DH rule makes for better pitching and better hitting. I mean, I understand arguments about the "purity" of the game, but the NL sucks, man.
posted by klangklangston at 5:32 PM on March 12, 2008


The DH rule kinda sucks, though, thats my opinion. I also don't like how a lot of ballplayers wear their pants legs down to their ankles, instead of stopping at the calf or knee.

Please stop invading my brain and stealing my thoughts.

I would add: I hate that so many players wear their uniforms what looks like a size or more too big. The bagginess is dumb enough on 15-year-old boys.

additionally: You kids call that music? That ain't music - that's just noise! Shut the radio off and get the hell off my lawn.
posted by rtha at 6:01 PM on March 12, 2008


I've always assumed and thought that the NL generally had more top quality pitching than the AL. Though, I'll gladly stand for correction.
posted by Atreides at 8:03 PM on March 12, 2008


I'm kind of with you on the bagginess. Love the high-socks look (Soriano comes to mind).

I can see the "purity" argument against the DH rule, in that you want all the players to be able to play defensive positions -- ie, no lumbering monsters who just come in to hit and then sit down again. But on the other hand, I love my David Ortiz with all my heart and soul. (Though Ortiz is shockingly nimble as a position player.)

About NL pitching vs AL pitching:
with Santana in the NL (just traded to the Mets), it's probably about even right now. (That's the view of my household baseball analyst). They're hard to compare because the NL pitchers' stats are improved by their pitching against pitchers -- they have very good ERAs against pitchers, and because they get that little "break" each time through the lineup they can go longer into games. It's hard to just factor the differences out to get a clear comparison of pitching quality.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:51 PM on March 12, 2008


"It's hard to just factor the differences out to get a clear comparison of pitching quality."

Well, if someone wanted to prove the NL/AL pitching dispute definitively, it'd probably be best to round up the DERAs and DNERAs of pitchers in each league since the modern era, withholding AB pitched to pitchers and DHs.

But that's more database mining than I have any real interest in.

I'd wagerer that you could also come up with a guestimate based on pitchers who switch leagues, controlling for natural decline with age.
posted by klangklangston at 8:18 AM on March 13, 2008


To bring this thread back to it's original intent (kind of), I've read several baseball books this winter, but not many essays on the sport.

My favorite player account has to be Me and the Spitter by Gaylord Perry. It tells the story of his life as a pitcher with a nod and a wink and an "aw shucks" vibe.
posted by drezdn at 8:57 AM on March 13, 2008


You'd think this post was about fat people from the way the trolls came out.
posted by davros42 at 3:16 PM on March 13, 2008


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