If Jesus says it, it must be so

28 May

Let’s pretend you’re a local journalist trying to understand the reason behind Joe Mauer’s recent power surge. You can’t just write an article chalking it up to a torrid hot streak or a guy naturally getting stronger as he fills out – readers these days revolt when fed plain ol’ common sense. So you take advantage of your full access to the Twins and start badgering teammates, coaches and even Baby Jesus himself for answers. Then one day he finally opens up, if just slightly, to say: “I might be taking a few more chances in the zone. When I have a hitter’s count, I’m looking for something in a zone.”

What do you do with this information? Well, if you’re Pioneer Press writer Tom Powers, you take the player at his word and write a story as if you’ve finally cracked the case open, writing:

Bingo.

Mauer gets ahead in the count, looks for a certain pitch in a certain spot and takes a hard cut. In the past, he might have looked to merely make contact. Or perhaps he’d try to further work the count. Now, he’s looking for something specific and taking a whack at it. In the past, he rarely took those big cuts.

You fire it off to your editor, close up shop, grab your tattered fedora and head home for the day. Case closed, mystery solved, show’s over, nothing more to see here.

Of course, if you’re like the rest of us – people who care about facts and the truth and actually giving an effort once in a while – you would immediately wonder if Mauer was right about being more aggressive when ahead in the count. At which point you’d fire up your trusty naked lady machine, head to baseball-reference.com and look up Mauer’s 2009 “splits.” This would take you probably 30 seconds at most.

On the splits page, it’d take you a precious few more seconds to learn the counts in which Mauer’s homeruns were hit. The data is here:

Count (homers)

0-1          (1)

1-1          (1)

1-2          (1)

2-0          (2)

2-1          (4)

3-1          (1)

3-2          (1)

At which point you would count – you could do this with your fingers, wouldn’t even need a nerdy calculator like those idiot know-it-all bloggers – to discover that Mauer has hit 3 homers while ahead in the count, 5 with the count even, and 3 with the count behind. (You wouldn’t consider a 2-1 situation as ahead in the count, obviously, since it’s two balls away from a walk and two strikes from a K. That’s an even count. You wouldn’t make this mistake, because you are not a dummy.)

After your exhausting research that took you upwards of three minutes, you would have a few choices. You could write an accurate story saying Mauer’s claims of being more aggressive while ahead in the count may be a mental aspect but don’t tell the whole story, or you could geek out and poke around BR to try to find a telling nugget that is actually true, or just think of something else to write about. Something that involves bona-fide research, or what people in the real world refer to as “work.”

But then you wouldn’t be Tom Powers. You might be a nitpicky jackass who demands a lot from your local sportswriters, but still. That is a far, far superior alternative.

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4 Responses to “If Jesus says it, it must be so”

  1. NIH May 29, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    I’m a dummy. 2-1 is not an even count. It’s a hitter’s count and therefore should be marked “ahead in the count”.

    But it does not take away from the fact that Powers is lazy.

  2. B. May 29, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    Sorry, friend. Because you get 4 balls and only 3 strikes, 2-1 is in fact an even count. Both 1-1 and 2-2 counts are advantages for the pitcher.

  3. Gates June 1, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    Guess what? If you are a pitcher and you face every batter with the goal in mind of getting the count to 1-2 rather than 2-1 in the first 3 pitches, you’ll get a lot of outs. The opposite can be said for hitting. This sounds dumb and obvious because it is, but I saw Tony Gwynn and Orel Hershiser talking about it so it must be true.

  4. NIH June 1, 2009 at 11:48 am #

    Fine, math says its an even count. But math is a wiener. On a 2-1 count Mauer can sit on a particular pitch, usually a fastball, and if the pitcher can spot an offspeed pitch, God bless him. But Mauer can sit on the fastball on 2-1, just like he can on 2-0 or 3-1, and if it’s in his zone he’s gonna swing harder than he has in the past. I admit that its a gray area, but in my opinion 2-1 is a hitter’s count, especially for Mauer.

    Either way, as you said, Powers didn’t bother to do the research as he should.

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