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I think I'm groping for some elaboration on what it is you hate so much about the suburbs. Wasn't there a stat a while back that more than 50% of Americans live in the suburbs? If you combine that with your distaste for the snootier qualities of your Lawrence circles, that's (by extrapolation) a huge chunk of the U.S. that you're sort of writing off there, and I had never really heard anything like that from you before. Just interested in what your take is on all that, that's all.
Asked by: wovenstrap

Answered: 8/21/2018
 You're trying to build a logical pathway toward something that has nothing to do with logic.  


Here's one that seems to crop up--so how good was Rogers Hornsby's  glovework at second?  Was he really that bad,  or was he just a guy with a goodish arm,  okay on dp,  bad range?  Do you have a read on that?  
Asked by: Manushfan

Answered: 8/21/2018
 Almost all players who have long careers at second base are exceptional defensive second basemen.  Hornsby wasn't a BAD defensive player, but he had this obvious weakness, which is that had trouble with pop ups; if the ball was popped up and there was time, somebody else had to handle it because Hornsby wasn't good at that.   
Because he was such a tremendous hitter, Hornsby had a relatively long career despite not being an excellent defensive second baseman, which is unusual.  But I don't think it is fair to say that he was a bad defensive second baseman.  


Can you clarify what you mean by suburbs? I've driven through and lunched in Lawrence, and I saw a lot of residential neighborhoods that consisted mostly of houses and lawns, etc., which is more or less how I classify suburban life. I live within the city limits of a major metropolitan city (AL Central team) but my block is almost indistinguishable from a lot of neighborhoods I would call suburban, and I grew up in the (not very regimented) suburbs of NYC. To me, if you're living in a house it's probably at least somewhat suburban. But you mean something different, pockets of conformity at some remove from cosmopolitan values, or something. Asking for clarification, not argument -- I basically agree with you.
Asked by: wovenstrap

Answered: 8/20/2018
I have no interest in defining "suburbs", no.   Of course there are suburban areas around Lawrence.  


Bill, I also mean no offense so I apologize if this is offensive, but if you shudder at the thought of the suburbs and are repulsed by your urban neighbors, you probably made a very good career choice to work with numbers instead of people.
Asked by: raincheck

Answered: 8/20/2018
 No offense; there are ignorant assholes everywhere.  Why is it you think I don't work with people?  I would bet I work with more people than you do.  


From a recent Hey Bill: "It's a timing issue; when the batter is late, the ball is both on the ground and in a different direction."  
I don't think this is correct.  If a batter has an uppercut, then when he is late, he will tend to pop the ball up to the opposite field.  It is when he is early that he will tend to hit ground balls to the pull field.
Asked by: mikejenkins

Answered: 8/20/2018
 RIght.  You're right; I mis-stated it.  WHen a hitter is EARLY the uppercut produces a ground ball.  When he is late it produces a pop up.  


In response to Marc Schneider, I would argue that we choose to live and work in a certain town, we choose urban or suburban or semi rural neighborhoods within that town, we value being near certain amenities or far from certain annoyances, we probably just sort of "feel comfortable" in a certain neighborhood.  With a given amount of money we can live in all sorts of different pockets of an urban center, or we can live outside of one.  I lived in Southern California and, at different income levels over time, I always had the choice of different neighborhoods with completely different character.  
We may choose to be near people like us without doing it consciously.
Asked by: raincheck

Answered: 8/20/2018
 OK.  I don't mean any disrespect to people who live in suburbs, and I apologize to those of you who will take it that way, but I personally have an almost visceral reaction to suburbs.  I just can't stand them.  They give me the creeps.  If I have to visit a relative or friend in a suburban area I shudder, and I find the drive in to be very uncomfortable.  
I know that I didn't feel that way as a young man, and you are probably right that it reflects some sort of choice.  But on the other hand, my . ..what do we say?   My college-town neighbors have attitudes and belief systems which they almost all share, but which seem to me to be pretentious, shoddy and careless.  So I'm not 100% comfortable in either place.   


"For reasons that Murray somewhat explains and somewhat doesn't, we have isolated ourselves from people who are NOT like us, and chosen to live next to people who ARE like us, and this is demonstrably much more true now than it was a generation ago. "  
It's not clear to me that people choose to live with people only like themselves but that it happens sort of organically. What I think has  happened is that various socio-economic groups, such as college-educated professionals, have congealed around certain values more than in the past and these people tend to live together because of having similar incomes.  When we were buying a house, we didn't go out and survey if the neighbors shared our political/social values.  But, most likely, most-but not all-do.  
Asked by: Marc Schneider

Answered: 8/19/2018


Sports Illustrated recently had a "Where are they now" article on Johnny Bench which includes the following story.  Do you know if this is true?  From some poking around online, it seems there are variations of this story floating around going way back:  
"Though barely in his 20s, Bench comported himself like a veteran. During just his second season in the majors, he reckoned that the arm of his pitcher, Gerry Arrigo, was tiring. So Bench called for a curveball. Six years older than Bench, Arrigo declined. When Arrigo reared back and threw a fastball, Bench caught the pitch barehanded. Point made. As Bench once recalled to Sports Illustrated, "I didn't want to show him up, but...."
Asked by: Ben from New York

Answered: 8/19/2018
 I don't have any idea if it is true, no.   I do know that I read the same story about Ernie Lombardi.   Lombardi supposedly would catch fastballs bare-handed to make a point sometimes.  


Hey Bill, is it just me or does it seem that when teams shift, they only do it with their infielders? If you're gonna shift, wouldn't it make sense to do it with both infielders and outfielders? Thanks
Asked by: manhattanhi

Answered: 8/19/2018
 No, for several reasons.   First, a hitter often hits to the outfield in a radically different pull pattern than he hits to the infield.   It's a timing issue; when the batter is late, the ball is both on the ground and in a different direction.   Second, three defensive players are different than four.   THe real reason that the shift works is that it takes away the ball hit right up the middle.   Before the shifts, the most common place for singles to go was right up the middle, right over the mound and more or less over second base.   The shift works essentially because it takes those hits away.   In the outfield, there is already a player behind second base, so that's not really relevant.  
And third, the risks are different.   If you leave an area unprotected in the infield, it's a single.   If you leave an area unprotected in the outfield and the ball is hit there, it's extra bases.   It's different math.   You can't reason that what works in infield would also work in the outfield, because it's just different math.  


Is there a pitcher who has demonstrated such a willingness to "throw any pitch at any time" that the usual expectations about what pitch was likely to come next have successfully been thwarted, in the minds of batters? Or is this kind of thing actually common among top-flight pitchers?
Asked by: wovenstrap

Answered: 8/19/2018
 It's an important question and I wouldn't want to dismiss it with a quick general answer.  First of all, in the 1920s and 1930s pitchers threw a much wider variety of pitches than they do now.  In that era teams had no pitching coaches; pitching coaches started in the late 1940s and didn't become universal until about 1960.   No pitching coaches.  
In that game, the dominant assumption was that a major league pitcher should be expected to be able to throw any pitch.  I remember reading a story about a pitcher who was called up sometime in the 1930s, and in his first game the manager signaled for him to drop down and throw side-arm.  He couldn't do it; he couldn't throw side-arm instead of overhand, so he got sent back to the minors.   A major league pitcher was expected to be able to throw a curve, a change, a fastball, and, in most cases, a knuckleball.   Once the slider came into the game, almost everybody threw a slider, and the "curve" included a big curve and a hard curve and a drop curve.   It was standard repertoire.  
Once the pitching coaches came into the game, the pitching coaches generally believed that the pitcher should focus on the pitches that he threw BEST, rather than being expected to throw everything.  Modern pitching coaches don't want you throwing your third- or fourth-best pitch.   They want you to know what you can do best and to focus on that.  Over time pitching repertoires became more and more limited.  
There's a parallel process in basketball players moving from high school to college.  A high school player may have 30 different shots that he tries to make.   He may shoot 10-foot jumpers, 25-foot set shots from the corner, 6-foot hook shots, 15-foot floaters, may shoot off the drive, may shoot off the pass.   The college coach in almost all cases will sort through the things that the player does in high school, and tell him which ones he can continue to do, and which ones he should stop doing.  
Things go wrong, in that process.  Sometimes the college coach tells the player that he doesn't want him shooting that high arcing jumper from the corner, but the player thinks he can hit that shot and does not accept that it's not part of his game anymore.   The player will transfer to another school.   Even very good coaches sometimes lose excellent players because they don't understand their players' skill sets.   Bobby Knight lost Larry Bird because he didn't really understand Larry's game.   It happens. 
The same thing happens to baseball pitchers.   When Charlie Leibrandt came up with the Reds, Johnny Bench didn't want him using his fastball as an out pitch.   He wanted him to throw his fastball out of the strike zone as a setup pitch, then try to get the batter out with changeups and sliders.   It didn't work.   Leibrandt failed with the Reds, then became an outstanding pitcher when he got with another team and realized that Bench was totally wrong, and that he needed to use his fastball in the zone.   It happens all the time; pitchers fail with one team, go to some other team and improve tremendously because the team lets them throw the stuff they need to throw.  
A few years ago, probably ten years ago, I developed a method to measure the variety of pitches thrown by each pitchers, a "repertoire index".   A pitcher like Tim Wakefield, who just threw knuckleballs on every pitch, had a repertoire index not much above 1.00, while most pitchers had repertoire indexes in the range of 2.20 to 2.60.   
But there was one pitcher, Shaun Marcum, who had ridiculously high Pitch Repertoire Indexes, much, much higher than any other pitcher.   They were around 4.00, meaning that he would throw any of four different pitches, one as much as the other.  Nobody else was over 3.00, although maybe a couple of guys were at 3.15 or something; I don't exactly remember.   I remember than Marcum was an outlier. 
But Marcum was also dramatically more EFFECTIVE than he should have been, given his stuff.   Not to disrespect him in any way, but the second half of his career, his arm really was shit.  BUT HE STILL GOT PEOPLE OUT.   He was pitching well with an 86-MPH fastball, and he was able to do that, it was clear to me, because the hitters just never knew what was coming.   He would throw any pitch at any time.  
So it was never clear, to me, that the conventional wisdom of pitching coaches--that the pitcher should focus on his best pitches and stay within his repertoire--was actually correct.   Ideas like that take possession of the way a group of people think, often when there is nothing to them accept that everybody else says this so it must be true. 
I THINK this is beginning to change or has changed, but I don't really know.   It's complicated by the growth of these 1-inning pitchers, who mostly just throw 1 or 2 pitches, but I BELIEVE that starting pitchers now are more likely to throw something off-beat on a count.   
El Duque is relevant here (Orlando Hernandez).  He would just throw any goddamned thing on any count, like Marcum; you just never knew what he would throw.   Greinke is like that.  I believe that there is more tolerance for that now than there was 10 years ago.   But again, I am not really certain.  


According to Statcast, the longest home run of the past 4 years was Giancarlo Stanton's 504ft blast at Coors Field in 2016.  
A section in Jane Leavy's Mantle biography, 'The Last Boy', quoted physicists speaking at length about the scientific limitations of hitting a baseball, and the likelihood that 500-520 ft is the farthest that is humanly possible without the aid of strong wind.  
Assuming that modern players are the strongest they've ever been, would you discount the historical estimates of Mantle's 565ft home run at Griffith Stadium or Reggie Jackson's 535ft All-Star homer at Tiger Stadium? Have human beings reached the limits of home run distance? Or, as with the 100m dash, do you believe we are capable of inching the record farther and farther along (better training, new bat technology)?
Asked by: rossbtaylor

Answered: 8/19/2018
 What is missing from those calculations, in my experience, is the variation in the resiliency of the baseballs.   We deal with this in Fenway all the time with regard to the Red Seat, where Ted Williams hit a home run in the late 1940s.  It seems an incredible distance, and many people don't believe it is possible to hit a baseball that far. 
But what people are not thinking about is that the baseballs in the 1940s and 1950s were hand-made, or elements of them were hand-made which are now machine-made, and because this is true one baseball is quite a bit different than another.   If you measure the resiliency of baseballs NOW and assume that the results can be applied to baseballs of the 1940s and 1950s, you could be way, way off in regard to one particular baseball.   


If you're making us into those 3 or 4 countries, one of the places I lived, Milwaukee, is unrepresented and homeless. This wouldn't be worth saying except I think it's also about Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, and the rest of Wisconsin, also most of Illinois. And BTW, which precinct.....uh I mean country :-) includes Kansas? And is Lawrence in that country, whichever it is (I guess Texas) or is that sort of a Kansas island that's being ceded to New York? And I'm not sure you're got the Dakotas and Idaho covered. (P) By the time we're done sorting this out, aren't we going to wind up back with a lot of states?
Asked by: MarisFan61

Answered: 8/5/2018
 Well, Maris, the real issue is this.   Do you want to resolve these difficult issues by democratic methods, or do you want to resolve them by civil war?  


I live in Longmont, work in Boulder, 2 cities of comparable size 10 miles apart in Colorado. Your description of Topeka and Lawrence is spot on, if I were kidnapped, blindfolded and for some reason dropped off in a restaurant in either city, it would take me less than a minute to guess what city I was in. Everything you say about Topeka and Lawrence applies equally to Longmont and Boulder.  
But this does make me question your regional separation idea. While South, NE, Midwest, Far West all still have real differences, our present civil war seems almost neighborhood to neighborhood. Longmont and Boulder would choose different new nations given a choice and I have no idea how we resolve those differences.
Asked by: jdrb

Answered: 8/5/2018
 A valid point.   Thanks. 


That Carlos Santana, leaves a 102-win team that immediately drops to the level of an 88-win team (so far), while his new team jumps from 66 wins to (projected) 90 wins. Not attaching any meaning to this but it would be fun to figure out the most "impactful" player for each off-season going back a few decades, I bet there'd be some surprises in there.
Asked by: wovenstrap

Answered: 8/5/2018
 You'd find somebody who went 1-for-7 with Team A and 0-for-8 with Team B, but had a tremendous "impact" by this line of analysis.  


I'm always baffled by the Munson for the HOF discussion.  To me, it's just ridiculous.  Even among his contemporaries, he's not close.  I'm not trying to speak ill of the man, and I mean no disrespect to him, his family or his fans - but come on!  Gino Tenace, Reggie Smith, Dewey, Simmons, Davey Lopes, Ken Singleton, etc. I think there's a looooong list of his contemporaries far ahead of him.  
Asked by: DHM

Answered: 8/5/2018


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