Today, I thought I’d dust off an idea of mine that has been sitting on the shelves, the type of idea I was always planning to write at a later date. I couldn’t tell you why I never wrote it, but this is an idea formed while the season was happening, and if I had to guess, baseball season things got in the way of writing it. And for whatever reason, while scanning on what to write now, I suddenly remembered this idea.
We all love baseball - well I assume we all love baseball. Sorry for assuming. But most of us love baseball. Most of us also have things that, gradually throughout a season, start to annoy us a little bit more each time. The kind of thing that when you hear, you object to, and then you hear it again, and you only become more resolute in that opinion the more it happens. And it never really stops happening.
Some would call this a pet peeve. A good example, which I will not use because it’s definitely out of style, is calling a home run a rally killer. I haven’t heard that one in a minute, so I’m not adding it to my list, but once upon a time, it would have been on this list.
“He spoils the pitch.”
I think there is a place for describing a foul on a 2 strike count as “he spoils the pitch.” Unfortunately, it is Danny Mac’s go-to-call describing any type of foul with two strikes on the batter and every time I think he’s using it incorrectly, I die a little inside. Which happens a lot, so I’m basically a dead body whose mind hasn’t learned it’s dead yet.
Spoiling a pitch should describe a batter who fouls off a particularly tough pitch that any reasonable person would not blame the hitter for swinging at, whether it’s a strike or not. What it should not describe is a hitter who swings at a fastball in the other batter’s box. Or a fastball firmly in the middle of the strike zone that the hitter can only hit in the stands. Danny Mac does not seem to understand the distinction. I hope you do. Simply staying alive with two strikes does not mean the hitter is spoiling a pitch. It actually has to be a pitch the pitcher threw exactly how he wanted in the place he wanted and the hitter “spoils” the pitch and the pitcher’s plan. Not a mistake pitch.
“He beats the shift.”
I’m truly sorry Danny Mac. I actually like you as an announcer and it’s pretty inevitable any announcer, even Vin Scully, would have something that would annoy me if I listened to that person close to 162 times a season for 3 hours each time. And at least, in this particular phrasing, Danny Mac is far from alone here.
So this particular phrase bothers me when a hitter would have gotten a hit whether or not a shift was employed. My rule of thumb is that you can say he beat the shift, if you specifically hit it into an area where the defense is now absent because of the shift. If you, for example, rope a liner over the 2B’s head in short right field, you are not beating the shift. The shift isn’t impacting the play in the slightest. If you where to hit it where a 3B would normally be standing, that’s beating the shift.
The same applies to “he hits it into the shift” by the way. If a ball would have been an out in any defensive formation, the shift truly has no impact on what happens. Most groundouts with the shift on would in fact have been outs without a shift. This annoys me mostly because I don’t like the shift given credit when it doesn’t deserve credit.
“Even the best hitters fail 7 out of 10 times.”
Okay so my first two examples are me being pedantic, which is why they’re pet peeves, but this common baseball saying drives me crazy. BECAUSE IT IS FALSE. IT IS 100 PERCENT FALSE. What best hitter out there has a .300 OBP? I’m aware there are good hitters who have a .300 OBP, but it is very, very hard to have a .300 OBP and be one of the best hitters in baseball.
No, the best hitters in baseball are far, far more likely to be closer to failing 5 out of 10 times than 7 out of 10 times. Ted Williams had a career .482 OBP. He had three seasons with a greater than .500 OBP! Barry Bonds did it four times! I know “even the best hitters fail half the time” has much less of a ring to it, but it’s closer to the truth than 7 out of 10 times.
“If he could just raise his average to x, I’d take that”
Do you have any relatives or coworkers who say things like that? Because my dad says it all the time about Harrison Bader. “If only he could raise his average to .250 or .260.” My dad, to be clear, is very much a Bader fan, but he can’t quite get over the low average. I find myself in the weird position of having to ask him to lower his expectations because that’s very unlikely, but also in the position of telling him that it’s fine if he doesn’t because he’s still a good player without it.
Some fans just can’t get over average. There’s like an internal calculation they make on what average a certain type of player needs to have and if they hit that magic number, suddenly they can accept it. I honestly don’t know how they make that calculation either because it can seem pretty random. It’s especially apparent whenever I’ll say something negative about a bad offensive player whose average has entered the acceptable range and I get some pushback. Perfect example is Matt Wieters in 2019, who was not very good, but a weirdly high number of fans would defend Wieters if you said anything bad, because .214 average with 11 HRs sounds okay with the playing time he got, ignoring the fact that he never walked. (More importantly with Wieters, his defense was atrocious)
When it comes to the lineup, there is a tendency to pretend that defense doesn’t exist. The Cardinals have, at least by projections, a below average lineup... offensively. Thankfully, a good number of the people in that lineup make up some of that lost value by being really good defensively. I am someone who doesn’t care how a player is a 3 WAR player if they’re a 3 WAR player. Some people do care.
The worst, in my opinion anyway, are when people want to acquire a better offensive player who ends up pretty much as valuable as a guy the Cardinals already have (or worse!), they just like the shape of that player’s value more. I’m aware you can’t have an entire team of 80 wRC+ elite defensive players, but you can have a lot of 90-100 wRC+ with great to elite defense in your lineup. Getting a 115 wRC+ guy with below average defense to replace the guy with a 95 wRC+ and great defense isn’t going to make your team better.
The Cardinals have, arguably, five players in their lineup who could be as good as +5 at their position and are definitely above average defensively who will probably be below average offensively and who, despite that, could still be above average players easily. This does not include Yadier Molina, who has a lower standard by virtue of being a catcher even without factoring in defense. And of those five players, three of them have a halfway decent shot of being average or better offensively (with the exceptions being, in my opinion, Bader and Tommy Edman.)
I’m sure, with the passage of time, there are other things I could have written about that have simply exited my memory, but these are the ones that I could remember. And honestly, I want to know if I “missed” any, so please, please post your own examples. There is clearly a market for people being annoyed with mundane and unimportant things if Larry David’s career is any indication, and I’m very much in that market, so do not be afraid to share.