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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hardball Times: Learning the Language of the Clubhouse

What I’d been looking for was some insight into the ideal ground-ball rate for a hitter. The Royals were hitting the most ground balls in the league, and I thought it might be affecting their power. Since I knew Eric Hosmer was the one behind me laughing at me, I thought I’d be the adult. I asked Butler about ground balls, but I motioned at Hosmer (I see you there): “I was asking Eric about this, but are ground balls and fly balls something you think about when you get up to the plate?”

“I think about putting the barrel on the ball.”

The peanut gallery exploded. “He gets paid to put the barrel on the ball, you guys get paid to think about fly balls and ground balls,” offers Hosmer clearly on the tape. Which wouldn’t be so bad, he’s right. But as I finished up the interview — Butler was great, he admitted that he looked for the low ball, since the pitcher was trying to throw it there anyway, something I found very interesting in terms of game theory — there was a hum behind me that threatened to take away my concentration.

I didn’t know who exactly was talking, but the tone of the stream and the intent was clear: “we get paid to put barrels on balls man, what the f— is this guy talking about, walk rates, ground-ball rates, barrels dude, barrels, what’s up with this hair, must be because he’s Greek, yeah or blind, these are some stupid questions, man, I’ve never heard anything like this, dude needs to shut up, bothering us about ground-ball rates man, barrels, dude, barrels, nut sacks more like.” The interview with Butler had been getting better, but there was one last emphatic statement from the trio behind me before they exited: “This guy’s the f—ing worst.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 13, 2014 at 10:52 PM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: anthony rizzo, billy butler, clubhouse, cubs, darwin barney, eric hosmer, jeff samardijza, media, mike moustakas, royals, ryan vogelsong

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   1. John Northey Posted: March 14, 2014 at 08:53 AM (#4671329)
Heh. Lots of fun. Back in university I did the stats/newspaper reporting for the team we had. The coach loved the numbers and so did a couple of the players but some saw it as a total joke. Trick was finding ways to take advantage of the competitive nature of athletes. I think he was on the right track telling the one guy that he was the best defensive second baseman in the league by some stats - nothing gets a player more interested than hearing he is #1 in something - but the mistake of saying 'league' when meaning National League hurt a bit. Laughing at yourself is critical with athletes as they do that to each other, a very hard thing for 'nerds' to learn to do I find. I suspect part of the trick in a clubhouse setting is to admit (in a silly way) that you said something they wouldn't get via backhanded compliments ala 'dang, forgot your nickname was Country Breakfast' then adjusting the question into simple terms, ideally super simple but in a way that will help get people laughing. Problem is misused it can cause more troubles (viewed as insult rather than joking along with them). Also showing respect is critical - telling them 'good point' here and there helps them buy into whatever you are saying. Of course, I'm sure the writer knows all this by now (more experience than me).

FYI: with the university team I actually helped a pitcher turn his season around by pointing out how he almost never threw a ball outside the strike zone because he was always told to throw strikes, told him to start mixing up pitches outside the zone to increase the swing and miss rate (his was horrid, over 90% of swings made contact) since he knew he could throw a strike at anytime if he fell behind. Suddenly a 10+ ERA guy became a sub 2 ERA (at university level the hitters swing outside the zone a lot). He told one of the pitchers who didn't understand stats to do the same and similar results occurred. Suddenly I had buy in from almost everyone on the team when I said something. Good advise can do wonders.
   2. Foster Posted: March 14, 2014 at 10:20 AM (#4671418)
As a reporter during the 2007 World Series, I asked Todd Helton something about the difference between "playing 'em one game at a time" vs "keeping up the momentum" of a winning streak.

(Basically asking, "which is it?" I was being a bit of a smartass, trying to see he really believed in either, coming off a pre-World Series winning streak followed by a World Series game one pounding.)

He was patient and nice enough about his confusion, but clearly had no idea what I was getting at. Afterward, another reporter chuckled and told me that Todd wasn't the best equipped guy to get philosophical with.





   3. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: March 14, 2014 at 10:45 AM (#4671459)
what’s up with this hair, must be because he’s Greek

At least Hosmer didn't call him a Greeceman.
   4. boteman asks Where's My Ring? Posted: March 14, 2014 at 11:02 AM (#4671474)
He should pick up the best selling Language of the Clubhouse by Dan Warthen.
   5. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 14, 2014 at 11:18 AM (#4671492)
what’s up with this hair, must be because he’s Greek


"I turned to Moustakas for help, but he only stared at me with cold, dead eyes."
   6. puck Posted: March 15, 2014 at 03:07 PM (#4672127)
Looking at GIS, Hosmer and Moustakas do look kind of similar. Though it's hard to tell from GIS since Moustakas doesn't seem to smile much.

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