We live in an information age in which the flow of information is faster and the volume is higher now then at any other time in human history. There is a twenty-four-hour news cycle, social media makes it easier to access the newest trends and almost anything can become viral now. The internet makes research on any topic much more accessible then before. The question is how much of it is accurate and reliable? What is the information really telling us, what can one decipher and thus apply moving forward? These are all questions that one must factor in when making choices. To put it in laymen’s terms why did someone decide to do what they did, and was the outcome optimal.
The first thing to keep in mind when watching a baseball game (or even in daily life) is that absolutes are few and far between. What I mean by that is that numbers and data typically show us what has happened in the past and not necessarily what will continue moving forward. Although if you have seen something enough for a pattern to develop then a probability exists that such an event might occur again. An example of this would be looking at player statistics over the course of their career. The variance from year to year can differ greatly when examining any category.
Let’s take Minnesota Twins player Joe Mauer, in his 14 years in the majors he has 132 home runs, That works out to a 162 game average of 13 per year. His year to year production is not uniform as the totals vary as is the case with most players. His single season career best came during his 2009 MVP campaign, a year in which he hit 28 home runs. Mauer also would lead the American League in a number of other offensive categories such as Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, OPS (on-base plus slugging) & OPS+. However, his next closest single season home run total is 13 (2006 season).
So what happened in 2009, in what can be viewed as a statistical outlier. A couple of things come to mind right away. The ballpark changed as 2009 was the last season that the Twins played in the Metrodome before moving to Target Field and thus playing their home game outside, so although Mauer was always on the Twins the hitting environment was obviously different. It more so depends on how one actually views Mauer as a player, what they see in his approach/skill set and what is expected from him. Is he a home run hitter or someone who has a high contact rate? It is likely that home runs are not the best statistic with which to evaluate a player such as Mauer. It is better to judge him on his slash line Batting Average/On-Base/Slugging, which currently sits at a 162 game average of .307/.390/.444. The reason for this is because Mauer is a player who hits doubles and tends to hit for a high average. Although Mauer was a player who hit a higher then average number of home runs in 2009 (relative to the rest of his career), he has profiled more as a contact hitter then a prototypical power hitter over the course of his career.
Mauer was the 1st overall pick from the 2001 Draft and considered the top prospect in the game by Baseball America after the 2003 & 2004 seasons. Although not a big power hitter in the minors (9 home runs over three seasons), some Twins scouts felt at the time that he would develop into a 35 plus home run if he changed his swing plane (adding more loft) and matured. In hindsight, this was not the case however as his natural swing was and is more line drive and gap to gap. When examining a player, one has to look at the information that is most relevant to that individual player as not all players and skill sets are created equally.
It is important when watching a game or examining an individual team/player that one asks themselves the simply question of why did that outcome occur and attempt to put themselves in the shoes of the current situation. There is a reason that teams/managers and players do what they do. The outcome may not be ideal (such as giving away an out or failing to drive in a key run late in the ballgame), but you have to sometimes step back to determine if the process was sound. Just because the outcome was poor it doesn’t necessarily mean that the decision was sub optimal. Information is a wonderful thing but it’s important that one can determine which pieces of information are most valid and beneficial.
After all information is power when used properly.
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