Author Archive

Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 10/17/18

12:00
Meg Rowley: Good morning, and welcome to a special Wednesday edition of chats with Meg!

12:00
Meg Rowley: Who else is tired? I feel tired!

12:00
machado: Do you think Machado’s actions the last two nights will impact his free agency value?

12:01
Meg Rowley: I do not.

12:02
Meg Rowley: I think he should stop being a bonehead, especially if his preferred method of being a bonehead puts him the neighborhood of potentially injuring other players on the field, but in the end he’s very good at baseball.

12:02
Meg Rowley: Lot of dudes who get up to boneheaded stuff end up with big contracts.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 10/9/18

2:00
Meg Rowley: Hello, and welcome to the chat!

2:00
Meg Rowley: It feels strange to chat without the help and humor of my colleagues but I guess we must soldier on.

2:00
Nate: Angel Hernandez’s performance last definitely hurts his lawsuit, does it not?

2:02
Meg Rowley: Obviously, I don’t know anything more about his case or claim than what has been reported, but I think it is important to remember that his poor performance does not mean that he couldn’t have faced discrimination. I would hope (and imagine) that whatever judge or arbiter is hearing his case will approach it more dispassionately than sports fans watching a playoff game.

2:02
CamdenWarehouse: As we sit here watching Osuna pitch, do you get any sense that MLB has heard people about DV suspensions and post season play? Any chance of a change coming?

2:03
Meg Rowley: I don’t have a sense of how the league office is viewing this, or how much of the discourse online has gotten to them or the union.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 9/25/18

2:00
Meg Rowley: Hello and welcome to the chat!

2:00
Gerald: Do you like prospects? Baseball prospects to be clear.

2:00
Meg Rowley: Gerald, we’ve already talked about this.

2:00
Omar Linares: Can we please take a second to laugh at Mike Rizzo for trading away Blake Treinen and Jesus Luzardo for Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle?

2:01
Meg Rowley: That seems like too big a reaction, and an unkind one.

2:02
Meg Rowley: Doolittle has been hurt for stretches but still managed a two win season this year, and I don’t think most people thought Treinen would be quite this good.

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An Investigation into Sandy Leon’s Current State of Worry

I hope you will, in the service of a brief investigation into human worry, allow me to engage in some baseless speculation.

We tend to think of player decline as a gradual business. Guys get good, peak, turn 30, and then start to be less good. They lose a step on the basepaths, a tick on their fastball. The idea of making new friends wears them out. Their doctors tell them they just have to live with some uncomfortable stuff now. Any given player’s career might buck those trends, of course. Some failure to develop entirely, nary a peak to be found. Pitchers hurt their elbows and retire young; a designated hitter or two keeps trundling along past age-40. But most players have time to get used to the idea of being at home more.

Except, what if they didn’t? What if for a hitter, it weren’t an issue of injury, or being hit by a car, but the gift deciding, quite suddenly, to leave you? Poof! Gone! We know that isn’t how this stuff generally works. Players age or get hurt or someone better comes along; yips are a throwing dysfunction. But I have often wondered how much of a player’s reaction to any given strikeout is a concern that they will never get a hit again. That this is the first in a series of whiffs and groundouts and balls caught at the track that concludes with them no longer being baseball players. They could hit, and now, quite simply, they can’t.

To wit, Sandy Leon hasn’t had a hit since August 23. In 13 games and 30 plate appearances, he has walked just once and been hit by a pitch twice. He has a -73 wRC+ over that stretch. I watched the at-bats. It wasn’t screaming liners and vindictive BABIP. He has just been quite bad at baseball. He looks resigned. And I wonder how worried he is. I mean, of course he is worried, and probably a lot. He hasn’t played since Saturday. The Red Sox are in a great dream and he is trapped in a small nightmare. But I wonder when he has felt the most worried about this, this idea that he can’t hit anymore, this secret concern, and how much worried he was.

You might think the low point was this past Saturday, when he struck out looking against the Mets’ Daniel Zamora, and his own broadcast spent much of the at-bat talking about the Cy Young chances of a pitcher who wasn’t pitching that day, or in the American League.

This was his last at-bat before being benched. He is probably 13 percent worried here. It has been a while. He’s in a bad way.

Or perhaps in the moment after he pointed to his hand so as to assert, yeah, Lucas Giolito had hit him with a pitch, such an obvious plea for and acceptance of charity. Here, 4%. Yes, he’s worried, but also, that hurt. He’s thinking mostly about how much it hurt. And feeling indignant that he was doubted. But also feeling that it hurt. Ouch.

Or perhaps on September 4, when he twice came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs and twice failed to capitalize. Maybe 10%? That’s a lot of suck in a three hour span, but also, his team won. He was probably high-fived by his teammates at the end of it, though likely in a perfunctory way.

But I think the real answer is September 7, at home against Gerrit Cole. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Sandy struck out swinging, but reached base when the pitch skittered away from Martin Maldonado. This is 18% at least, and probably as high as 25.

He wants to be on first, needs it badly, but not like this. All that erased his failure was someone else’s worse stumble. Maybe there isn’t work as we understand it in a hit-by-pitch, but there is some sacrifice. There’s a dignity in it. Sandy was wounded in a trivial service. But a ball that gets away, a bit of luck that necessitates such a hard run down the line, telegraphing so strongly all his pent-up desperation, his concern he won’t speak of?

After it is clear that Leon is safe, first base coach Tom Goodwin puts out his hand for a fist bump, and there is just the smallest pause from Sandy, a pause in which I assume he looked his worry square on, wondered if he would ever reach base by a hit again, and considered not accepting Goodwin’s gesture. Fist bumps are for ballplayers, and what if suddenly he isn’t one of those anymore, only he doesn’t quite know it yet? Most of him probably moved on to running the bases. But I bet 18-25% didn’t.

The other day, my DVD player stopped working in the middle of a movie. I got it a year ago. Sandy Leon will almost certainly hit again. He might tonight! He’s a professional baseball player. He’ll get at least a few more chances. But I bet he is worried, at least 4% of him and maybe as much as 25. Sometimes things just crap out and take your copy of Tombstone with them.


Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 9/18/18

2:00
Meg Rowley: Hello, and welcome to the chat! There are a lot of Mariners and Mets questions in this here queue, but I’ll try to mix it up as much as possible.

2:00
Mr. Dobolina: Who is your favorite Cubs player

2:01
Meg Rowley: Hey look at that! Baez is hard not to like, and why try hard to enjoy an enjoyable thing less. I was pretty wrong about his ability to take a step forward. He has been great, great fun.

2:01
Jedidiah: The Mariners could save $14 million next year by installing Vogey as their DH. They’re not going to do that, are they?

2:02
Meg Rowley: I think it is a toss up whether or not they bring Cruz back. They’ve expressed public interest in that, but teams fib sometimes, and he’ll be sure to test the market anyhow.

2:02
Meg Rowley: I would like to see Vogelbach get something approaching anything like regular playing time, and I would very much not like to see him playing first so…

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 9/11/18

2:00
Meg Rowley: Hello, and welcome to the chat. What a fun bit of baseball we’ve had, and likely will continue to have, and…

2:00
tb.25: Sad King Felix is sad to think about :(

2:00
Meg Rowley: Well, drat.

2:00
stever20: Rockies next 2 weeks get 3 with Arizona, 3 with San Francisco, and then after 3 with LA get 3 more with Arizona.  are we going to see them finally pick up their 1st division title ever?

2:01
Meg Rowley: I… I don’t really think so.

2:02
Meg Rowley: I still think the Dodgers will manage this somehow, and for reasons that might not be especially smart, I believe in that D-backs team more. How is the Rockies offense like this? Just, how?

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An Incomplete Study of Pitchers in Blowout Games

On Tuesday, the Brewers beat the Cubs 11-1. It was the 71st game this season decided by 10 or more runs, and the 183rd decided by eight or more, and it got me thinking about failure. Baseball has an awful lot of failure. So much, in fact, that it feels sort of trite to mention it. It’s mostly failure of the small, survivable variety. We learn a lot from those sorts of tumbles. It makes our moms worry, but life’s lessons generally come after we’ve strung a bunch of snafus together. The how and why of a pitcher getting lit up, or a defensive alignment not working, enhances our understanding of the game, even if just to say, “Well, don’t do that again.”

But baseball also does big failure, extreme failure. Baseball does blowouts. Some of them come early, while others develop late. Sometimes they’re the result of a series of foul-ups; other times it’s one big inning. But in their extremity, we learn something about the everyday. So I took a look at blowouts, adopting pitchers as our guides through this land of suck, to see what we might discover. I present a not-brief, incomplete study.

The Reliever Whose Boss Only Cares About Him a Little

One of the crueler things about blowouts, and baseball more generally I suppose, is that no matter the score, someone has to pitch. The game doesn’t believe in mercy; the game believes in wearing one. We’re used to feeling the cruelty of a starter who has to stay in down seven runs to save the bullpen. It’s natural to feel sympathy for someone having a bad day. But cruelty isn’t the exclusive province of losers; there’s a smaller meanness reserved for victors, too.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 9/4/18

2:00
Meg Rowley: Happy first day back at work after the long weekend!

2:00
Meg Rowley: I hope this chat eases everyone back in to their ho-hum day time responsibilities.

2:00
Morbo: Good afternoon!

2:01
Meg Rowley: It’s still technically morning here.

2:01
Shaun A.: Hey Meg, do you think Ohtani will still be pitching 2 years down the road?

2:01
Meg Rowley: I’m trying to decide how to deal with “still” in this question.

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Contending Brewers Trade for Often Good Pitcher

The National League Wild Card race is nuts. Here’s the currently field of clubs competing for it, through Thursday’s games, with our playoff odds.

National League Wild Card Race
Team W L GB Proj W Proj L ROS W% Win Division Win Wild Card Make Playoffs
Cardinals 75 59 0.5 88.8 73.2 .494 4.1% 63.0% 67.3%
Brewers 75 60 0 88.7 73.3 .508 4.5% 61.8% 66.4%
Rockies 72 61 2 86.2 75.8 .491 14.6% 14.7% 29.4%
Dodgers 72 62 2.5 89.2 72.8 .616 56.4% 17.4% 73.8%
Phillies 71 62 3 86.2 75.8 .525 35.3% 6.2% 41.6%

That’s just nuts! In the American League, the next closest Wild Card team, the Seattle Mariners, is 4.5 games out of a playoff spot. The next closest team behind them is the eight-games-out Rays. The next closest NL team, as you might notice, is significantly closer than that. The NL has eight teams whose odds of making the playoffs are over 25%; the AL, meanwhile, has just five such teams.

And so, with the NL’s relative nuttiness in mind, the Brewers traded this afternoon for left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez to bolster a rotation that is still in search of reinforcements after losing Jimmy Nelson to a shoulder injury before the season started and Brent Suter to Tommy John surgery in July. In return, the Nationals will reportedly receive two minor leaguers, though at the time of publication, those players’ identities are still unknown. As such, we’ll evaluate this trade in terms of Gonazalez’s merits for the Brewers and what the trade signals for the Nationals’ late-season tear-down. We should also note that the trade, famously a disruptive event, was remarkably convenient for Gonzalez, who — as a result of the two teams playing one another today — simply had to walk across the field to the Brewers’ dugout.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 8/28/18

2:00
Meg Rowley: Hello! Welcome to the chat. Let’s chat!

2:00
Los: What piece are you stuck on?

2:01
Meg Rowley: Writing a thing on pitchers in blowout losses and am in that stage where I know what I want to say and have done all the research and gathered all my GIFs and now I just have to write the damn thing. I’ll finish today.

2:01
Meg Rowley: Or tonight, when the 2AM sillies hit.

2:01
tedthrilliams: with the two clear AL cy young favorites sidelined for the immediate future, who do you think takes charge of the race? gerrit cole seems to me the most likely “next best up” but i could see blake snell getting a lot of attention even with the innings deficit

2:02
Meg Rowley: I wonder how we’d react if Kevin Cash won Manager of the Year on the back of managing the opener strategy (I don’t think he’ll win, but do think he’ll get some down ballot consideration) and Snell won the Cy as their only guy who ever really starts.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 8/21/18

2:00
Meg Rowley: Hello, and welcome to the chat.

2:00
Meg Rowley: There is a lot of smoke in Seattle. It is a bummer. But, a chat!

2:00
Nick : Robinson Cano had a dramatic HR for the Mariners last night. Is this the Mariners keeping their heads above water for a little longer before they finally drown? Or is there a rescue boat nearby?

2:01
Meg Rowley: I think it might be best described as there is a lifeboat nearby, but the crew of the boat has dropped one of the oars in the water and also, the A’s are a giant shark whose fin we can see.

2:02
Meg Rowley: The AL West being a race is very exciting and winning is better than losing. And surely the A’s can’t win like this… forever? I think the division still probably goes to the Astros, but it is hardly a far gone conclusion, and the A’s still probably hold on to the second wild card, but the M’s aren’t dead yet.

2:02
Nick : Why is Luis Urias still not on the Padres?

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Introducing the Best Ways to Lose a Baseball Game

No one likes to lose, baseball players perhaps least of all. We’ve all heard ballplayers talk about the necessity of putting losses behind them, but I bet some disappointments stick in the backs of their minds. I sometimes wake up at 3am feeling badly about things I did in middle school; I imagine giving up seven runs in two innings could have a similar effect to when I was nasty to Charissa in French 2 because Laura was mean to me, and I wasn’t sure how feelings worked quite yet. Ghosts haunt their haunts at the oddest times.

But losing is also part of baseball, like spit and dust and strikeouts. Twelve teams have losing records this year. Baseball’s losingest team by win percentage, the Orioles, have as many wins (36) as the Red Sox (the winningest team) have losses. That’s a lot of losing! That’s losing days in a row. That’s losing weeks at a time. That’s the sort of losing you have to get used to if you’re going to carry on living. Which got me thinking about the best ways to lose. Losing stinks, sure, and baseball players hate doing it, but how can you lose and grin and bear it and avoid revisiting it at 3am on a Tuesday night? There are a great many ways to lose, but I believe I have arrived at the best five.

Beaten by God
Giancarlo Stanton hits a 453-foot walk-off homer.
The Mariners’ mistake was asking Ryan Cook to face God. There are whole books in the Bible dedicated to the various ways in which the Ryan Cooks of the world don’t prevail when forced to square off against the divine. And sure, Ryan Cook was angry when Giancarlo Stanton thwacked a dinger to end the game.

Here Cook is, being angry. Aw buddy! You messed up good.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 8/14/18

2:00
Meg Rowley: Hello! Welcome to the chat!

2:00
mike sixel: I’m sorry I had fun at work today….won’t happen again…..

2:00
Meg Rowley: I assume this is in reference to David Bote.

2:01
Meg Rowley: One thing is, bat flips are fine. Bat flips can be great! Bat flips when one has one on a walk-off grand slam are terrific.

2:01
Meg Rowley: Another thing is, we could collectively be more selective about who we give the time of day to.

2:01
Mike: Are DRA and DRA- ever coming to Fangraphs?

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Bruce Dreckman Had a Bug in His Ear

To be an umpire is to be something of a bad time. Umpires embody the same spirit that leads our mothers to force a helmet on us at the roller rink. They’re your friend Wanda, who just wants to remind you, because you did complain last time, that strong beers give you heartburn, so even though it’s your birthday and you just want to have some fun, you might want to lay off. Wanda isn’t wrong — your body doesn’t do well with all sorts of things anymore — but she could also be described as “harshing the vibe.”

Umpires stomp on our good time and get in the way of our boys and their wins, so we yell and squawk their way, but we’d be lost without them. They’re a very necessary bummer and they normally perform their bummering quite ably. You can tell, because we have baseball at all. They aren’t perfect, and they have their foul-ups and biases, but if umpires were much worse at their very hard jobs, even just some medium amount worse, we couldn’t have the sport. It would offend us; it would get us down. The action on the field would grind to a halt. We’d say baseball was stupid.

The calls, especially at home plate, have to be mostly very good mostly all the time, or the whole thing comes tumbling down. And so umpires do their very hard jobs mostly very well with very little thanks and a not small amount of jeering. And what’s more, they’re calm while they do it. That mellow is important. The job well done keeps us moving; the calm lets us believe it’s fair. The calm lets us trust it. And so they’re calm. Not perfectly so; not when the yelling and the squawking really pick up. But usually? Quite calm.

Case in point: on Wednesday evening, a bug flew into second base umpire Bruce Dreckman’s ear during the ninth inning of the Yankees-White Sox game. Here is Dreckman, running in from the infield as Jonathan Holder prepared to pitch to Nicky Delmonico. He calls for a trainer, looking vaguely stricken, but only vaguely. Greg Bird appears confused. What’s going on here? Well jeez, Greg, he has a moth in his ear.

Dreckman grasps the shoulders of Steve Donohue, head athletic trainer for the Yankees. It’s moving around in there, Steve. Oh god, it tickles.

Bruce and Steve descend into the dugout, with Bruce giving his ear the little dig-and-flick of a man who has just gotten out of the pool and is unable to shake that last. little. bit. of. water. Except it is not water. It is a bug.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 8/7/18

2:00
Meg Rowley: Hello, and welcome to the chat!

2:01
Meg Rowley: After a couple weeks of swapping stuff around this should (*should*) be the normal chat time now, which will avoid us having two chats at the same time.

2:01
Mike from Tempe: Is there any chance of getting minor league splits into the Fangraphs stat pages? Only reason I still use BR, and I’d rather stick with FG.

2:01
Meg Rowley: I will ask. Also, B-R is great and very deserving of your clicks!

2:01
john cale: rougned odor has a 225 wRC+ in the second half. maybe 24 year olds can still figure things out, after all.

2:02
Meg Rowley: Sure they can! They’re bright young things full of promise! We’ve also seen Odor be good for a stretch and then just be dreadful before.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 8/3/18

12:00
Meg Rowley: Good afternoon from Boston, and welcome!

12:01
Meg Rowley: This should be the last week for a while where the schedule is wonky, so thanks everyone for being patient.

12:01
stever20: Is Bryce Harper officially back?

12:02
Meg Rowley: Was Bryce Harper ever really gone? I know this season has not gone the way that he or the Nationals wanted it to. I know that the increase in strike outs has worried some. I also don’t want to chalk it all up to BABIP.

12:03
Meg Rowley: But barring some injury we don’t really know about, I think this is a fluky, weird year, that we’ll look back on and think, “Huh, that was strange.”

12:03
Moelicious: Does Meg purchase overpriced stadium food or sneak in her own treats?

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FanGraphs Saberseminar Meetup: Tonight!

Saberseminar, the excellent annual baseball research conference, begins tomorrow and that can only mean one thing: it’s almost time for FanGraphs’ Saberseminar meetup at Meadhall in Kendall Square in Cambridge! As we have in years past, we’ve reserved space on the bar’s mezzanine level and ordered some tasty snacks to share. We’ll kick things off at 7 p.m., just in time to have a beer and watch the Red Sox and the Yankees continue their battle for the AL East.

Event Info
Today, Friday, August 3rd from 7 to 10 p.m.
Meadhall, Upper Mezzanine
90 Broadway, Cambridge, MA

In addition to many of Saberseminar’s presenters, there will be a number of FanGraphs folks in attendance, including David Appelman, David Laurila, Jeff Zimmerman, Sean Dolinar, FanGraphs alum Paul Swydan, and yours truly. Seminar organizers Chuck Korb and Dan Brooks generally make an appearance, as well. It should be a fun evening of good beer and good conversation, and we hope to see you there. Until then, please enjoy this GIF of the Red Sox outfield goofing around!


Let Us Like Baseball

On Sunday, I asked a few friends a question: what is your favorite sort of baseball play? One said a well-placed bunt for a hit on the third-base line. Another, preferring defensive highlights, elected for a smartly turned 6-4-3 double play with the shortstop going to his backhand, or else a home run robbed. One described the thrill of watching a pitcher who, after finding himself facing a bases-loaded, no-outs situation, manages to wiggle off the hook. Strikeouts swinging on a 100 mph fastball, and long balls that thump the batter’s eye, and outfield dances and coy smiles at a job well done, each answer was different, making up a tableau of the game’s joys.

For my part, I tend to be drawn to the interstitials between plate appearances, the little bits of tragedy or humor that bring alive the stats and those who make them, the funny faces that suggest a favorite passage from a book or that the pitcher has pooped himself. We can like so many different things, and baseball has room for all of them, the whimsy and rigor, the skill and struggle. It is your most compelling friend, your most interesting hang, a great, hard puzzle. It’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten, hearty and surprising. This is baseball’s greatest strength. It has so much to offer. But it also has some grumps.

I think we sometimes make the mistake of paying grumps too much attention. They’re so obviously grumps after all. When good fights present themselves, we should fight those good fights, but much of the grump’s grumping is so clearly just dumb, so plainly wrong, as to be beneath our sustained notice. This past Saturday, Braves broadcasters Joe Simpson and Chip Caray engaged in a bit of silly fuss over what the Dodgers wore during batting practice. They grumped. We chirped and rolled our eyes. We moved past it.

But on Monday, as we sifted through Sean Newcomb and Trea Turner’s tweets and subsequent apologies, and grappled with the Astros trade for Roberto Osuna, I kept thinking about Simpson and Caray. I thought about baseball, with all its room for what we like, also having room for hurt and pain. I kept thinking about how brittle our affection can be. I thought about that and those grumps, and I worried.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 7/27/18

12:00
Meg Rowley: Morning all, and welcome to the chat!

12:00
Meg Rowley: I am obviously not Jeff. We’ll be swapping chat times this week and next so that he can engage in various adventures.

12:00
CrashedDavis: more a Jaffe question, but you’re chatting: with statcast and the associated stats (plus future innovations) allowing us to much better judge over/underperformance, how are we going to evaluate that over full careers in HOF debates 15+ years from now?

12:01
Meg Rowley: Just as we have a much better understanding of who is actually good now than we did 50 years ago, I would imagine it will continue to enhance how voters think about who is worthy of induction.

12:03
Meg Rowley: I think there is a limit to how much stats like xwOBA can change that process, because ultimately the Hall is concerned with the careers guys really had, but it’ll have an effect.

12:03
Meg Rowley: I imagine it will also force us to change how many guys voters can vote for at any one time as we better understand just how amazing a lot of these guys are.

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On Shin-Soo Choo and the Charity of a Hit

It’s so funny, the things that stick with us from when we were kids. I don’t remember learning to read, but I do vividly recall the time my father told me I shouldn’t eat raisins because they are actually roly-poly bugs. I’ve since come to learn that Dad was fibbing, but I still don’t care for raisins. I carefully pick them out of trail mix in favor of M&Ms and peanuts. Part of it is the taste and some of it is the little seeds, but at least a bit of it is a concern that one of them will start moving around in my mouth as I chew. I know I’m not appreciating raisins as I should, but I just can’t shake what my dad said. And I think baseball types, so long enamored with batting average, might be similarly stuck when it comes to on-base streaks, even though our tastes have matured past thinking we’re eating bugs.

Shin-Soo Choo has a 51-game on-base streak, and we aren’t really talking about it much. We are talking about it some, of course. Back on July 6, when Choo’s streak was 44 games long, Jay Jaffe checked in on the venerable company Choo could soon be keeping if he kept streaking. The Rangers have mentioned it on their broadcasts. But a search of MLB’s twitter account for “Choo on base” since May 13, when the streak began, doesn’t return any results. I don’t recall any At-Bat notifications about it. It seems to have gone largely unremarked upon, which suggests it isn’t thought to be that remarkable, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

I should say, hitting streaks have a greater degree of difficulty. After all, there is only one thing you can do to extend a hitting streak — which, most obviously, is to get a hit. No player has really come close to challenging Joe DiMaggio’s famous 1941 56-game hitting streak; the next closest batter, Pete Rose, tapped out at 44 hits during in 1978.

But it’s more than just the degree of difficulty. I think it’s that we see too much charity in the walks and hit by pitches that find their way into on-base streaks. We tend to think of hits in terms of action and, importantly, in terms of having earned something. They’re about the hitter doing. Walks, or a pitch that plunks a guy in the ribs, on the other hand, seem to carry with them the generosity of strangers. Sometimes it’s the pitcher’s, for being unable or unwilling (undoubtedly the worst sort of charity in this calculus is the intentional kind) to locate. Sometimes it’s a fielder, who doesn’t get an error but really ought to have gotten that ball. Or else it’s the umpire’s, for balls that really ought to be strikes. Even though we know that patience is a skill — a skill we prize! — we can’t shake the sense that the batter has been given a little gift. Has done a little less doing. And while that’s partly fair, I would assert that how we seem to think of Choo’s streak suggests that we see too much of the charity in walks and hit by pitches (a rather mean sort of present!) and too little of the charity in hitting.

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