Or at least to have things you've long suspected reinforced by someone else.
I'm now about two-thirds of the way through the stathead book I wrote about earlier, and discovered two things (so far) I completely agree with the statheads about. Who knew?
1) When faced with an infield shift, bunt the other way. It works. It kills the shift. Do it more than once and not only do you raise your average, you might get some bunt doubles. And you'll discourage teams from shifting on you, basically killing their annoying habit.
I was surprised to see this because someone in the comments was always raging about how this was completely stupid, that it took away the power of hitters like McCann and Tex, that the power was why we put them up there, yada yada yada. Bullshit. The only problem with the bunting strategy is really that nobody knows how to bunt anymore. Our guys are pathetic at it. Most guys on most teams are. Why? Because it's all about the long ball, it's all about preserving the swing that makes guys so pathetic against the shift, because baseball is a different game than it used to be...whatever the reasons, it's absolutely mind-boggling that somebody can make five or ten or fifteen million dollars a year and not be able to handle a basic skill of the game. Plus, it's fun. And what's even more fun is seeing the gobsmacked look on the other team's face when you're standing at second base and your bunted ball barely made it to third.
I didn't think statheads believed what a lot of us believe about this. We have allies we didn't know of.
2) The way almost every team uses it's closer is moronic.
The going wisdom is that you bring in the closer only when there's a save situation and basically only in the ninth inning. This is so dumb, it's astounding. On a lot of teams, the closer is statistically and in reality the best pitcher on the staff in one to three inning situations. Statistically, Mariano's most effective year as a pitcher was 1996, BEFORE he was the closer, when he used to come in during crucial late innings and stay for more than three outs. Gossage, Fingers and the rest of the guys from their era used to come in anytime after the fifth if the situation called for it.
Simply put, if the most crucial at-bats of a game are in the fifth or sixth or seventh, why wouldn't you bring in your best guy to have the best chance of getting through it? And leave him in if he has the kind of arm that will bounce back quickly the next day or day after. Yes, if you have one of those guys (or a couple of those guys) who have the psychology that they are reserved for the ninth or eight or whatever, you have to respect that. No use screwing with their heads if they're good at what they're doing. But if someone is open to more flexibility, let them be flexible, fer chrissakes.
This wouldn't have helped us in Boston this weekend, since Dellin is awesome and bringing him in was as sure as a sure thing gets in this game. Or would it have? I don't have a little black binder, so I don't know if it might have been a better idea to bring in Miller instead in either one or both instances. One thing is for sure, as the strictly ninth inning guy who only comes in to close out a win, he sure isn't suffering from arm fatigue with this team. Why not bring him out for the eighth or the seventh? Why not let him work two or three innings if he's up for it and cooking? Why not use him when it counts, instead of saving him for a situation that's not going to happen with regularity?
This stuff seems like common sense, but baseball is not a place where common sense has a place of honor. There's a lot of posturing and bullshit and hidebound traditions that kill mediocre (or worse) teams like ours.
If the Yankees are one of the handful of teams truly embracing stats, why aren't we doing it in more ways that actually work, instead of in ways that obviously don't?
Yeah, I guess that's a rhetorical question.