Hey Bill

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Have you followed the Markelle Fultz situation?  #1 NBA draft pick in 2017, has had his career completely derailed by what seems to be a bad case of the shooting yips.  While a lot more common in MLB than the NBA, I can recall a few similar situations.  Nick Anderson had a bad case, and Chuck Hayes had a minor case, but this is the worst I recall seeing.  Do you know of any others?
Asked by: Ben from New York

Answered: 12/7/2018
 I have seen many free throw shooters who could hit 70, 75% of shots in practice, but 45-50% in a game.  KU has one of them now, Udoke Azobuke.   He worked hard on his free throw shooting over the summer, came out in the first or second exhibition game and nailed 5 straight free throws, looked like he had beaten it.   But then he missed a couple, and immediately went back where he was.   I think it's a common thing.   I've had players tell me that EVERYBODY in baseball gets the yips about something sometime; it's just a question of whether you can work through it before other people start talking about it.   We had a catcher a couple of years ago who got the yips about throwing back to the pitcher, but he came out the next morning and threw back to the pitcher like 250 times, and beat it in one day.  People were very impressed with him, because he beat the yips in one day.   


Is it helpful to look at other sports when determining whether clutch hitting or pitching exists?  For instance, shooting free throws at the end of a game is not dependent on any person other than the shooter's abilities, including their clutch (or unclutch) abilities, making it a more "pure" activity to investigate the idea of clutchness.  Putting in golf seems to be another example of that.  Field Goal kicking has much less noise from others as well (although the abilities of the snapper and holder do have some effect).  So would you think a study of clutchness can look at activities like that to "find" the ability and then try to come back and apply it hitting or pitching in baseball, both of which activities are much more affected by luck and others' efforts, both for and against the competitor.
Asked by: bhalbleib

Answered: 12/7/2018
Bowling would be another example of a "pure" environment.  Any situation in which the defense is not allowed to play defense, or the impact of defensive play is muted. 
The amount of clutch ability which COULD exist in baseball would be limited by the extent to which clutch ability exists in these "defense free" zones.  In other words, if you could measure what clutch ability is in these defense-free zones--it's probably zero, but I'll let you study it--but whatever it is there, it would have to be LESS than that in baseball, because in baseball the "true underlying skills" are always interacting with the forces of randomness, which are very powerful and which constantly blind us to the underlying realities.  


A good one in terms of some skill set is talent with platoon advantage.  Puig is the current outlier.  But as you showed 30 years ago and again we did the same in The Book, while there may very well be SOME hitter who hits better against the same side, to identify THAT hitter will be at best 50/50 odds and likely much lower.  Puig is probably the closest since Mike Sweeney in showing that skill among RHH.  Probably Ichiro for LHH.  
Platoon advantage is more interesting than clutch because (a) it happens more often (i.e., every plate appearance), (b) is easy to define (LHH or RHH), (c) actionable (starting lineup, facing reliever).  
Pitchers are even easier to identify if they have a platoon advantage, so, they are the most interesting of all.
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 12/7/2018
 Thanks.   Platoon advantage, being real, is routinely used as input into strategic decisions.  While some people may still believe in clutch hitting, no one believes in clutch hitting the way that everybody believed in clutch hitting in 1974.  


Regarding recent proposals to restrict the use of shifts: how would this be umpired? Will be subject to video review?
Asked by: mrm10128

Answered: 12/7/2018
 Of course not.   You just draw three lines through the infield dirt; there has to be one player in the area defined by each set of lines at the time that the ball leaves the pitcher's hands.  In my view, the rule can't fail and cannot cause problems, because there is nothing complicated about it.  If is no more complicated than the rule saying that every fielder except the catcher has to be in fair territory when the ball is delivered.  Did you ever see that one cause problems?  
I'm not in favor of such a rule.   I just don't see what is complicated about it.  


I have lost all interest in Hall of Fame voting, because I don't believe the voters can tell me anything that is worth knowing.  Does this make me a bad person?
Asked by: PeteRidges

Answered: 12/7/2018
 Only if you do bad things. 


For purposes of studying the issue of whether or not clutch hitters exist, what is a good working definition of clutch hitting?  
Asked by: evanecurb

Answered: 12/6/2018
 Consistent performance in high-leverage situations.  


Could you explain, in a sentence, what exactly the mistake was that you (we? them other dumbass sabermetricans?) made regarding clutch hitting? I found some of the things you (personally) wrote on the subject over the years, enlightening, funny, accurate and visionary--sometimes all four at once.
Asked by: Steven Goldleaf

Answered: 12/6/2018
Two sentences.  One of our member offered evidence that Clutch Hitting did not exist.  Our mistake was to accept the argument far too early in the debate, thus trapping ourselves into a position on the issue which may or more not be the better position.  


Clutch hitting: I tweet this all the time, so for the benefit of the readers here:  
This is why I accept, unequivocally, that Clutch Hitting is indeed a skill.  And Clutch Pitching is indeed a skill.  And Clutch Running.  Clutch Fielding. Humans are involved, so it CANNOT be 100% random. But, that's very uninteresting.  The interesting thing is: HOW MUCH is it a skill. What is the degree or magnitude that it is a skill?Furthermore, how much are we in a position to IDENTIFY such skill? And with how much uncertainty? Those are the questions to answer.  
In The  Book we showed the degree that it is a skill, but identifying it at the player level has so much uncertainty, that it can only be actionable in a tie-breaker sense.
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 12/6/2018
 Thanks.   Been working on a related essay. . . 


Hi Bill,  
I was reading your 2019 Handbook essay on launch angles, shifting, and bullpenning when I came across your phrase "gobsmacks you in the mackerel." I understood what you meant, but I had also had never heard the phrase before. I looked on Google for other instances of usage, but it only mentioned the 2019 Handbook. My question is: did you know you were inventing a phrase? Did you do it intentionally? Thanks!  
Asked by: Roel

Answered: 12/6/2018
 I was aware that I was inventing a phrase, yes.  On reading the paragraph from a previous version I thought that the language was dull.  


Scientist or not: Michael Lewis had a great line about you in Moneyball, paraphrasing, "Bill James prefers leaving an honest mess to a tidy lie."  It's a beautiful line, one that I use for myself.  We ask a question, we study the issue, we find one POSSIBLE answer, and we also get two more questions. And if we get the right answer, that probably means we'll have four more questions.  Most other research I see, the conclusions are made with so little uncertainty, that you are left scratching your head as to what the researcher did NOT tell you.  
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 12/3/2018
I, on the other hand, will wind up dragging in 32 irrelevant topics, leaving some readers wishing they hadn't heard about that.  I do think it is important not to become too convinced too early that you have a topic figured out.   Clutch hitting is the worst example in our field.  We jumped the gun, reached a premature conclusion on faulty research, and created an issue for ourselves that plagued us for 40 years.  


Mauer/Carew- longtime Twins known for batting titles at defensive positions; both had one year where they were likely the best player in the game but could not hold the value; both became first baseman and became considerably less valuable players.  Obviously Carew moved to the Angels, and probably had slightly better late career value, but I find it an interesting parallel.  I don't think many opposed Carew as a hall of famer, but that was just when Sabermetrics was starting to catch on.  Would it be different now? I find myself leaning in on Mauer.  
Asked by: joeashp

Answered: 12/3/2018
 I don't think it is really questionable whether Carew is a Hall of Famer.  If he played now there would be more skepticism about his overall value as a player.  


Maybe you've already beaten this to death, but I can't find the search button for the "Hey Bill"s, so I'll ask anyway: can you elaborate on what you don't like about the launch angle approach to hitting? I get what you're driving at but I wonder if you could give a little more detail. And then could you tell it to the Phillies' front office?
Asked by: markbern

Answered: 12/3/2018
 I wrote about it in the 2019 Handbook.   


Ok, how many out there when doing crossword puzzles do this - if the clue is "contemporary of Pizzaro", do you try to answer Gary Peters?
Asked by: joeashp

Answered: 11/30/2018


Not a question, so I don't require an answer. I've never been near Lawrence either, but I like maps.  
I read your tweet about a lake near Lawrence. I consulted some 1880s era maps and there was no lake shown anywhere near Lawrence. But there is (now) a cutoff meander of the Kansas River, called Lake View, which is an oxbow lake. It is south of the river, but north of Lawrence. Oxbows dry up naturally after the connection to the parent river silts up. Sometimes humans help the process along.  
In the 1880s that meander was still connected to the river, forming a big loop. The main channel flow would then be across the shortcut, the meander barely flowing. When the Santa Fe RR  laid their tracks they went across that loop/meander. I don't know if the railroad ever constructed bridges or just filled in where they wanted to cross. Today the old river channels north of the tracks are gone, and appear to be filled in. Only a small section of the oxbow south of the tracks remains.
Asked by: stevebogus

Answered: 11/30/2018
 Yeah, but that's not it.  This is probably puzzling to people who didn't see the Twitter discussion, but. . .well, long series of problems there.  
(a)  You can't get south of the river, but north of Lawrence.   Lawrence goes to the river.  It always has; it was founded on the riverbank.  
(b)  I know what you are talking about with the "cutoff meander of the Lawrence River".  I actually own a good portion of that land now; it is not particularly valuable land, in that some of it floods in a flood year so you can't build on it and it is too rough to farm or anything.   People don't realize it is private land; there is a public path through it and people assume that the city owns it, but actually we own it; the deed says so.   
(c)  This is very clearly NOT the lake referred to in the 19th century newspapers.  It is extremely clear that that lake was on the north side of the river. 
(d)  Part of what you are missing is that the term "lake" did not have the common meaning then that it does now.   People referred to things that would now be called ponds as lakes; this is actually mentioned in The Man from the Train.  The lake we were trying to find is too small to be considered a lake in the modern usage of the term.  


"So a Libra from Australia would be an Aries in the Northern hemisphere?"  
Damn! I married the wrong woman! That explains.... nothing.
Asked by: Bruce M

Answered: 11/30/2018
 Maybe it explains why there were all of those 1-1-9 calls to your house.  


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