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Saturday, July 16, 2011

N.Y. Times: Light-Eyed Players Deal With Glare, and Doubts

[Mark] Kotsay is not alone. As one of the roughly 16 percent of Americans with light-colored eyes (Kotsay’s are a soft blue), he is more affected by glare, experts say. ...

The root of the problem, said the sports optometrist Dr. Donald Teig, is that light-eyed people lack pigment in their macula, which is “a little dot, about the size of a pinhead, that sits conveniently in the most centralized portion of the eye as light passes through your pupil to get to your retina.”

“It really handles the impact of light better the more pigmented it is,” Teig said.

The concerns for light-eyed athletes came into focus recently when Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, who has struggled to hit as effectively during the day as he does at night, revealed that team doctors told him his eye color could be a contributing factor. With a reduced sensitivity to contrast, he has a harder time picking up the seams of the baseball — the part of the ball hitters use, in a fraction of second, to identify what pitch is coming. ...

[R]esearch by the Elias Sports Bureau and The New York Times found that, among players who began their careers since 1970 and had at least 500 day-game plate appearances, 12 of the 19 largest career drops between night- and day-game batting averages belong to light-eyed players.

Among active players, five of the 13 largest gaps are light-eyed players, including Hamilton (a 94-point drop) and San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley, who has greenish-blue eyes and a 53-point disparity (.286 to .233) through Thursday. ...

Cashman and Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson each acknowledged the importance of vision in evaluating players but said eye color was not specifically a significant aspect. The form Yankees scouts use to record player information does not even have a line for eye color, Cashman said.

Allard Baird, the vice president for player personnel of the Boston Red Sox, said he had not heard of eye color being a factor discussed by scouts, though he includes a vision section on his player cards where evaluators are asked to assess whether a prospect has any obvious indicators of eye problems.

But Baltimore Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said he had known about this issue “for years.” Showalter said that although scouts have a laundry list of axioms about a player’s body type — “Don’t draft a kid with a beard because it probably means he’s done growing,” Showalter offered as an example — anything that has to do with vision is important to a player’s success.

“To this day, when I see a prospect or a kid we’re going to sign, I’ll look at his eyes,” Showalter said. “Anybody who tells you they don’t notice eye color when they’re evaluating a player probably isn’t a very good scout.”

bobm Posted: July 16, 2011 at 09:32 PM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, brewers, orioles, rangers, red sox, rockies, white sox, yankees

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   1. Magnum RA Posted: July 17, 2011 at 02:24 AM (#3879293)
I'm confused.
   2. Mayor Blomberg Posted: July 17, 2011 at 02:39 AM (#3879297)
I'm enjoying the Buck Showalter show this year.
   3. Tricky Dick Posted: July 17, 2011 at 02:41 AM (#3879300)
“Don’t draft a kid with a beard because it probably means he’s done growing,”


Huh?
   4. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: July 17, 2011 at 02:42 AM (#3879301)
Hey Buck, somebody told me that guys with three nipples hit sliders better. What do you think?

I knew that in the womb. Anybody who isn't checking for an extra nipple during a physical is less brilliant than I am.
   5. Transmission Posted: July 17, 2011 at 02:44 AM (#3879304)
Having dated a Bipolar Bisexual Polyamorous Borderline-Personality-Disorder woman with albinism, (it's a hell of a story, in its own right) I have seen this problem first-hand. People with very light eye pigmentation (like people with albinism) are remarkably light-sensitive. I regularly was astonished at her visual sensitivity to changes in cloud cover that I didn't even notice.

It is hard to characterize since I don't experience it myself, but when Hamilton made his remarks, I quickly could relate it to someone I know with unusually light eyes (and, of course, no other pigmentation, elsewhere) who struggled with vision problems from glare that I can only begin to fathom.
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: July 17, 2011 at 02:46 AM (#3879306)
My eye doctor last year warned me to wear sunglasses pretty much any time I'm outside during the day, even if it's not that sunny.
"Because bad things happen to light-eyed people if they don't," he said.
"I have light eyes?" I asked.

I mean they're blue, but not Paul Newman/Martina McBride blue.

So while exceptions prove every rule, I didn't take the Josh Hamilton thing as complete nonsense either.

Funny to see a medical description of blue-eyed people as "lacking" anything.
It didn't exactly hurt in the dating department!

"Yeah, you seem like a nice guy, but I prefer a guy with, well, pigment in his macula."

:)
   7. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 17, 2011 at 03:04 AM (#3879314)
Having dated a Bipolar Bisexual Polyamorous Borderline-Personality-Disorder woman with albinism

you had me at hello
   8. Transmission Posted: July 17, 2011 at 03:06 AM (#3879315)
you had me at hello


Yeah, I came down with a severe case of Arctic Fever.
   9. base ball chick Posted: July 17, 2011 at 04:05 AM (#3879331)
transmission

we don't know
The Rest Of The Story -
which sounds pretty interesting

as for light colored eyes, well, i agree. i have experienced it my own self. i can't be on the beach during the day with the sun out without sunglasses or it really hurts. i can't drive without sunglasses until the sun sets or it hurts my eyes

i'm surprised there aren't sunglesses contact lenses
   10. Transmission Posted: July 17, 2011 at 04:28 AM (#3879335)
http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/blue-eyed-players-hit-just-fine-in-day-light/

FanGraphs tried to identify as many blue-eyed players as possible by crowd-sourcing, and their findings run contrary to the NYTimes article. I'll be interested to hear FG's response.

BC - it is pretty interesting. If only freakish visual sensitivity was the full extent of the issues that arose.
   11. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: July 17, 2011 at 04:38 AM (#3879338)
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said, “We’ve seen many instances where a player struggling during the day is staying out too late the night before.”


Jeez, even here Cashman finds a way to run down his players. He's really mavericking it up this year.
   12. Joe Kehoskie Posted: July 17, 2011 at 04:46 AM (#3879342)
Jeez, even here Cashman finds a way to run down his players. He's really mavericking it up this year.

I'm having trouble deciding if Cashman has entered the "Get off my lawn!" stage of his career or if he's just a slight outlier in a group of MLB execs who increasingly talk like U.S. Senators.
   13. ptodd Posted: July 17, 2011 at 04:55 AM (#3879343)
Yankees 27-5 in day games this year (841 OPS day, 752 night). They must have fewer players with light colored eyes?.

OPS day/night

Jeter-926/572
Teixeira 924/813
Gardner 868/688
Granderson 998/901

No other regular has significant splits, and from this short list, I guess I am a skeptic it has anything to do with eye color.

They probably should check Jeter for cataracts though.
   14. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: July 17, 2011 at 06:07 AM (#3879351)
Dusty Baker was right all along....
   15.  Hey Gurl Posted: July 17, 2011 at 08:49 AM (#3879358)
something something Jeter something calm eyes something
   16. valuearbitrageur Posted: July 17, 2011 at 09:11 AM (#3879360)
OPS day/night

Jeter-926/572
Teixeira 924/813


Obviously players with dreamy eyes suffer during night games.
   17. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: July 17, 2011 at 09:43 AM (#3879361)
How does this affect Max Scherzer?
   18. ChuckO Posted: July 17, 2011 at 10:04 AM (#3879362)
#13, couldn't it be that those reduced OPS values for day games has nothing to do with their eyes? Given that it's the Yankees, with their Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford tradition, I'd guess that it's because they're still hungover during the day time. But then, aren't some guys supposed to play better hungover? Oh, the variables, the variables!
   19. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: July 17, 2011 at 08:02 PM (#3879525)
Don’t draft a kid with a beard because it probably means he’s done growing
It's been a long time, and maybe this is incredibly ignorant of me, but the way I remember it is that as soon as I hit puberty, I had to start shaving in order to avoid growing a beard. Isn't this, uh, the way it works?
   20. BDC Posted: July 17, 2011 at 08:37 PM (#3879550)
Cal Ripken Jr has the most impossibly light-colored eyes one can imagine. His career day-game OPS was .800; night-game, .783. (And coincidentally, we know he wasn't getting benched or played selectively in certain parks or times of day.)

Though all that proves is that the "light-eyed glare" issue is a generalization, not a sentence to ride the bench when the sun's out.
   21. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: July 17, 2011 at 08:38 PM (#3879552)
How did Billy Beane miss this one?
   22. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: July 18, 2011 at 04:22 AM (#3879923)
#18, the guys in #13 perform better during the day (this season), not worse.
   23. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 18, 2011 at 04:28 AM (#3879932)
It's been a long time, and maybe this is incredibly ignorant of me, but the way I remember it is that as soon as I hit puberty, I had to start shaving in order to avoid growing a beard. Isn't this, uh, the way it works?


Not for everyone. I didn't shave for the first time until my freshman year in college.
   24. Howie Menckel Posted: July 18, 2011 at 04:55 AM (#3879961)
I still have my lifetime "moustache" effort immortalized on my senior year college ID. not so much.

looked liked 2 days growth to many guys, just getting started.

3 years later, even skipping a day of shaving, I looked sloppy. and that continues.

There is an amazing range depending on ethnicities, and individuals.
   25. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 18, 2011 at 05:34 PM (#3880295)
“To this day, when I see a prospect or a kid we’re going to sign, I’ll look at his eyes,” Showalter said.


Can't this step just be combined with the one where you look deep into his eyes to determine his character, makeup, killer instinct and fire within?
   26. Neal Traven Posted: July 18, 2011 at 06:54 PM (#3880373)
At the SABR convention, I asked Dave Smith whether Retrosheet had eye-color data. He snorted derisively.

Still, I wouldn't be shocked if Dave's SABR42 presentation uses his monstrous database to debunk/examine this question.

Can I attribute my immense lack of baseball skills on my blue eyes?
   27. Gaylord Perry the Platypus (oi!) Posted: July 18, 2011 at 07:01 PM (#3880379)
Can I attribute my immense lack of baseball skills on my blue eyes?

Sounds good to me. I'll do the same thing.
   28. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 18, 2011 at 09:27 PM (#3880546)
a Bipolar Bisexual Polyamorous Borderline-Personality-Disorder woman with albinism


The list of BTF handle candidates just gained a new #1.
   29. Something Other Posted: July 18, 2011 at 11:20 PM (#3880661)
“To this day, when I see a prospect or a kid we’re going to sign, I’ll look at his eyes,” Showalter said.

Can't this step just be combined with the one where you look deep into his eyes to determine his character, makeup, killer instinct and fire within?
Studies Have Shown that when given pictures of mass murderers and, well, not mass murderers, people can't tell the difference. Doesn't mean Showalter can't detect The Fire Within, but it's a lot more likely he's simply full of ####.

i'm surprised there aren't sunglesses contact lenses
There are. They're called sunglasses.
   30. The Most Interesting Man In The World Posted: July 18, 2011 at 11:42 PM (#3880705)
Did Mike Piazza perform unusually well on Ladies' Night?
   31. Something Other Posted: July 19, 2011 at 05:29 AM (#3881080)
Are you suggesting there were fewer distractions?

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