I am a slow pitcher... I am a replaceable pitcher. I am a mediocre pitcher. I think there is something wrong with my slider. But I rarely know what is truly wrong with my stuff, and I can seldom say for sure whether my fastball is too fast or too slow. Some of you will probably not understand this, living where you do. But it is the way I have lived outside of St. Louis—a career borne forward on a current of spite and outside junk. If the ball is scuffed, let it stay scuffed!
I have been pitching this way for a long time now, thirteen years—I am 37. Once I was a prospect, but a bad one. It is only in St. Louis that I receive some measure of satisfaction. Only there may we finesse pitchers, lost underfoot in the sabermetricians' crystal palace, kick things over! Only there may we fight rationality, exhibit our own control over ourselves and the pitches we throw, and live according to our own pitch-to-contact will.
I am writing to you—as though it can be written down, this futile push against the barrier of 3*BB+13*HR-2*K/IP— to say that my spleen is momentarily subsided, temporarily brought low. It is only in St. Louis, against these Cardinals, that I am freed from my own insecurities.
It is like this in the world around us, the one we've so eagerly constructed for ourselves: most baseball teams, in their brutal conformity, hit far better against we finesse pitchers than they do against power pitchers, who believe themselves able to impose their own cool rationality on the chaos that burns within a man's soul. Their vengeance works unaware within the stats on the back of a baseball card. (Of course, they always say, you could pitch like that, Brian—but I say: what can be done when one knows about DIPS? I can't throw a knuckleball, and my fastball keeps me from society and ESPN. I know they are right. I cannot throw a changeup through this brick wall, and yet I cannot accept it! I must forever nibble at the margins.)
The league average OPS in these recent years tells the sad story better than I am able; while teams in the National League hit just .236/.323/.379 against power pitchers, those pitiable—and yet enviable!—creatures, they struck us finesse pitchers for a line of .281/.337/.446! There is simply no getting around BABIP, the great rational force of the baseball diamond.
Ah, but in St. Louis there is respite for the weary, for those who seek to topple their self-awareness and replace it with momentary glory. For the Cardinals have no understanding of BABIP, and here, where I am allowed free reign to push against the shackles of Voros McCracken's hideous organizing discovery, I have never lost a game. My comrades fare nearly as well; the Cardinals, in 2009, have hit just two percent better against us than they have against our enlightened rivals. Their BABIP sits at .272, far below the .300 average to which I have resigned myself.
What could it be? Is it random chance—I should only hope so, as though a part of me wishes that I be regressed forcefully and decisively back toward the mean. (Why do I take pleasure in this?) Certainly their superior 2008 performance against our kind suggests it is so. Or is it something else? Once a friend of mine pushed me toward a meeting with Dave Duncan, Privy Councillor of the Cardinals pitchers, knowing that his style and mine—always pitching toward contact, never striking out batters—meshed as well as one human's desires can mesh with another.
And I told him, in a terrible bout of sentimentality—"David, aren't you aware that one day all these pitchers will stop striking out batters entirely? Must we submit ourselves to this inevitable, planned existence, where there is no room for finesse or style or elegance?" I spoke at length about the way I wanted to pitch, the way I felt I had to. I told him all about my fear of the strikeout, about the terrible secrets of the four seam fastball and the changeup and all the pitches invented to miss the bat entirely, as though that were any way to play baseball. I was getting past myself, red-faced, and I worried that he would laugh in my face.
"Why, you—you speak as though from a book," he said. I could detect a terrible irony in his voice.
That sent a pang to my heart. Of course I should have known that he wants to believe as I wanted to believe, but I was too shaken. I left him there with Mr. Titular Councillors Reyes and Perez, for whom I am little more than a scoundrel, a non-entity, and I went to Florida, underground, where a man can live and play baseball as anonymously as an insect.
But now I see that maybe he understood me. The Cardinals, who prize finesse pitching above all else, who flout BABIP by throwing the ball directly at the bat, struggling against pitchers of their own kind! Why, it is arranged by Dave Duncan or else it is an irony piled upon ironies! ...
[The notes of this paradoxalist do not end here, however. He could not refrain from going on with them, but it seems to us that we may stop here.]