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Baseball Told the Right WayIn-depth Baseball analysis on various topics regarding the sport we all love!
The Little Things Count Too
Great article by Eric Neel (one of the few bright spots of ESPN) about the art of the pickoff move. An excerpt:
It's one of the real under-appreciated dramas in baseball. Each guy is lying about himself and trying to read the other, and the conclusion, whether it's a pickoff or a steal, comes with a sweet, stinging "gotcha" punch right in the gut. Think about the successful pickoffs you've seen at the ballpark; they're not just outs, they're exercises in shame and humiliation. Guys head back to the dugout with their heads down and taunts from the crowd ringing in their ears. Hits are common, strikeouts are cheap, but a pickoff is something to see.
I couldn't agree more. There is probablly nothing more embarrassing in sport. Its right up there with letting a ground ball through your legs or airballing a free thow. Considering the frequency with which the other two occur, I'd say getting picked off is as embarrassing as doing any of the others without any pants on.
Its also a lost art in Major League Baseball. The article mentions only Brian Anderson, Terry Mulholland, Kenny Rogers, Mark Buehrle, and Andy Pettitte (all lefties). There isn't really anybody else that can pick people off, and mostly these guys get by on reputation alone. I'm sure if someone (not me thank you very much) could find the average number of steal attempts off a pitcher, the numbers for these guys would be a tiny fraction of that. Even if one found the average number of steal attempts only off of lefties, these guys wouldn't even be close. You'd have to separate out the catchers effect (a lefty with Mike Piazza catching has no chance), but there is real, tangible value in not allowing baserunners to even think about stealing.
And besides the measurable effect of nobody stealing bases with a certain pitcher on the mound, think about the unmeasurable effect of having guys start with a two foot lead. And think about how many times when a good lefty is on the mound, the runner at first takes a step back to first instead of getting a secondary lead as the pitch is thrown. Do you think that runner is going first to third on a single?
There are so many little things in baseball, so many underapreciated nuances that so many big name players ignore. Baserunning, defensive positioning, duking baserunners on balls in the gap, trash talk, the lost art of stealing signs. In these days, with the rise of statistical analysis, where more and more baseball is measurable, it sure seems that the small unmeasurable things are getting forgoteen more and more often.
Go ahead and Email Curt to tell him that Jose Canseco letting a ball bounce off his head for a home run was WAY more embarrassing.