There are hazards to reading anything Rick Morrissey writes. Â Mostly, you risk the danger of another one of his ill-thought-out hot takes making you dumber, but occasionally, they can cause hysterical blindness. Â I’m not really sure what his meeting of the minds with former Cub and current White Sock Jeff Samardzija was supposed to accomplish, other than to make Jeff seem like the dummy many of us have suspected he is.
Morrissey, a numbers man, who can successfully count well into the hundreds by ones, and to 15 by threes, wanted to talk to Samardzija about sabermetrics.
Why? Â Why does Rick Morrissey do anything?
Jeff’s answer, was pretty much what you’d expect from a player.
â€œSabermetrics, nyeh. Sounds like a lot of hot air,â€™â€™ Samardzija said, smiling. â€œI think there are definitely positive aspects to it. I think there is some information you can take from it thatâ€™s important. But ultimately from a playerâ€™s point of view, you want a coach that can relate to you. Can help you with adjustments mid-game.
â€œI think preparation with numbers and stats and all thatâ€™s great, but when the bullets are flying, you need a guy that knows your personality, can relate to you and get you to change or fix whatâ€™s going wrong. If you donâ€™t respect the guy thatâ€™s telling you that information, youâ€™re not going to listen to him.â€™â€™
We don’t expect, and actually, we probably don’t want, our players taking a deep dive into advanced metrics. But who in this conversation had the expectation that a coach was going to stroll out onto the mound during an inning and start spouting advanced stats to a pitcher? Â This certainly seems like neither the questioner nor the questionee has any idea how teams actually use these numbers.
As far as using these numbers for practical, on-field purposes, they are used for gameplanning. Â The players don’t have to understand why they should throw a particular batter sliders when he’s behind in the count, they just need to do it. Â It wouldn’t matter if that intel came from a guy behind a computer or some grizzled old scout travellingÂ across the country “bird-doggin'” players, eatin’ at Stuckeys and pissing in empty coffee cups while driving. Â (The three best reasons to become a baseball scout.)
But it sure seems like Samardzija thinks some teams hand out math quizzes in the dugout during games.
â€œSo much of the game happens so fast that youâ€™ve got to trust yourself and your instincts and trust what you remember before from facing guys,â€™â€™ he said. â€œYou go off that. I think a lot of money is wasted in Sabermetrics, in producing information and hiring people to produce information. If itâ€™s not being taken from the paper and processed by the player, it might as well just be a waste.”
“Gameplan? Â Sure, they tell me what to throw to certain hitters, but like a great Chicagoan once said, “Life moves pretty fast. Â If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” Â So I just say, “Fuck it,” and throw the heater.”
Hey Jeffy, just throw what the catcher asks you to, OK, bud?
â€œI think you need to know the player and what they like and what they donâ€™t like. If they like numbers and they like to see those percentages, then you feed it to them. If not, then you go about it a different way.â€™â€™
Sure. Â Let’s just do what the players like. Â That seems like a sensible strategy. Â “Hey guys, we were going to do infield practice today, but instead we’re going out for steaks and blowjobs again!”
But Jeff was just warming up. Â He hadn’t even said the single dumbest thing yet.
â€œListen, I can get (hitters) out without even throwing a pitch,â€™â€™ he said. â€œIf I can intimidate them or maybe Iâ€™ve had success against them in the past, then sometimes these guys are out before they even get to the plate.”
Hey, at least nobody with a brain thinks this is anything other than idiocy.
I absolutely love this from Jeff Samardzija: “Listen, I can get (hitters) out without even throwing a pitch.”
â€” Joe Posnanski (@JPosnanski) February 23, 2015
Well then, no wonder everybody talks about how part of Samardzija’s value is that he has less wear and tear on his arm than most pitchers his age.
That wasn’t even as dumb as the way he finished his thought.
Or theyâ€™ve had success against you, and it causes you to four-pitch walk them. There are a lot of numbers that donâ€™t get written down or canâ€™t be kept. A lot of internal things that take place with guys, confidence and rhythm and things like that that arenâ€™t on paper.”
“Look guys, you can show me all the stats in the world, but it will never replace the fact that when I face, say Ryan Zimmerman, I can just wink at him and he’s out. Â But when I face like Andrew McCutchen–who I hardly ever get out–I just stand on the mound and shit myself. Â The only number I’m thinking about when I face him is a big old number two.”
â€œ(Metrics enable) a lot of people to have jobs in baseball, I think. But is it necessary? Yes and no.â€™â€™
Well said. Â Keep those deep thoughts coming, Jeff.