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Spiritual Exercise re: Henderson Alvarez & Tom Milone

In his Discourses, noted Roman Stoic Epictetus proclaims that, to live a life free from anxiety, that each of us must become like a “spiritual athlete.” To that end, NotGraphs presents this exercise, with a view towards helping to tighten and tone the spirits of the readership.

The price of spiritual infirmity: death by bears.

Notes: Toronto right-hander Henderson Alvarez and Oakland left-hander Tom Milone make their respective season debuts tonight — the former at 7:07pm ET; the latter, at 10:05pm ET. While throwing from different sides and at considerably different velocities (Alvarez’s fastball sat at around 93-94 mph last season; Milone’s, at 88 mph), the pair posted almost identical strikeout and walk rates during their major-league debuts: 15.4% and 3.1% for Alvarez, 13.6% and 3.6% for Milone. Furthermore, Steamer projects the pair for almost identical FIPs this season: 4.12 for Alvarez, 4.00 for Milone.

Exercise: Consider how Alvarez and Milone use different means to arrive at a similar end (i.e. being a mostly effective pitcher at the major-league level) — Alvarez with plus velocity and very good command of a fastball and changeup, Milone with below-average velocity and plus-plus command of up to six pitches. Now consider what would happen if Alvarez attempted to imitate Milone; or Milone, Alvarez. Each would likely fail.

As with Alvarez or Milone, each of us are both (a) constrained by and (b) most likely to succeed with our particular abilities. Emerson explores this idea in his Spiritual Laws, writing:

Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him. He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless exertion. He is like a ship in a river; he runs against obstructions on every side but one; on that side all obstruction is taken away, and he sweeps serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea. This talent and this call depend on his organization, or the mode in which the general soul incarnates itself in him. He inclines to do something which is easy to him, and good when it is done, but which no other man can do. He has no rival. For the more truly he consults his own powers, the more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other.

The spiritual athlete will ask himself, “What are my talents?” — and, with equal frequency, “What are my shortcomings?” An intimate knowledge of both will best facilitate happiness and freedom from anxiety.