Friday, October 12, 2007

Frustrations & "Small ball"



Well, the launch of this blog has unfortunately coincided with one of the worst moments in recent Angels' history, as they were dumped out of the playoffs in 3 games last week. They were slaughtered at the hands of the Red Sox, a good antithesis to the Angels’ small-ball, first-to-third mentality. I’m going to go ahead and be upfront, I can’t stand small-ball.

It really wasn't my intention to start this blog on a sour note, but to be honest this is not a happy moment for the Angels' organization or the fans. So I will take it out on the Angels' style of play...

I don’t understand the concept of gifting the opposition with an out to bunt a runner over, attempting to steal when you’re not 100% sure you can take the bag, getting guys thrown out
trying to “create offense,” etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that small ball could work. If you have a team where runners only steal when they can swipe the bag, (90-100% stolen base percentage), it would be good to run like crazy. If you have a team of perfect bunters that never pop a bunt up, it might work. If the guys who hit behind these perfect bunters always drive the runs home (90-100% of the time), it could work. If your runners are so fast and intelligent on the bases that they never get
thrown out, it would be worth running around the bases aggressively to manufacture runs.

Sadly, the reality is that no team is full of these perfect running machines. These small ball tactics, assuming a good running team, will lead to stealing some runs and may inevitably help win a couple games a year. However, these tactics will undoubtedly give back a lot if not more of these runs created to the opposition. Stealing a base is great and adds value to the offense, but having a runner thrown out causes a lot more harm than a successful steal.

At the end of the day, having a runner at first with no outs is good, and having a runner at second with no outs is clearly better. However, having 5 runners at first with no outs in a game is better than 3 runners at second and two wiped out trying to steal. Outs are precious. That is the moral of the story. Giving them away consistently, especially if you don’t have extra-base firepower in the lineup, is unacceptable.

Maybe the Angels are masochists.




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