Dogs vs. cats. Beer drinkers vs. wine snots. Conservatives vs. liberals. These creatures are at each other’s throats at all times. They are polar opposites.

Yes, baseball has such a duo as well. It’s the numbers crowd versus the traditionalists. The calculator crowd, borne out of fantasy baseball, believes the answer to all of baseball’s riddles can be found on an Excel spreadsheet. Traditionalists believe baseball is part of athletics.

Joe, who leans heavily on the traditionalist side (though Joe believes in the strength of match-ups), had a long, beer-pouring session with a numbers cat recently.

For reasons unknown, the SABR crowd seems to dismiss strikeouts, shrugging their shoulders at strikeouts as a method toward the dreaded phrase, “Working the count.”

Traditionalists believe large numbers of strikeouts are the vile result of undisciplined baseball.

As Joe told this numbers dude in this discussion, if a batter puts the ball in play, Joe doesn’t know, nobody knows, what will happen. A strikeout? Joe knows exactly what will happen: Batter drags the bat in the ground on his way back to the dugout after an out has been recorded.

The skill/beauty of putting the ball in play is what gave the Rays a win today.

Yes, it was three sacrifice flies that gave the Rays a 3-0 lead en route to a 6-2 win. That nice lead, oh, and Desmond Jennings’ two-run blast, gave Merlot Joe enough of a cushion to go to his otherwise shaky middle relievers after pulling winner Jeff Niemann in the sixth.

The bullpen, fortunately didn’t get blasted too bad, thanks largely to putting the ball in play which meant three runs.

Nice job Rays!

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17 Comments

  1. Justin says:

    Joe,

    I hate defending the numbers folks, but in some cases, strikeouts are better than the alternatives.

    Examples: I'll take a strikeout instead of an inning ending grounding into double play, popping out on a first pitch, instead of a prolonged at bat that extends the pitcher further into his pitch count.

    Sometimes strikeouts are better.

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    • Namirsolo says:

      Exactly. A strikeout guarantees only one out. If the ball is put in play, it can sometimes be two. The "numbers guy" did not explain himself very well.

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  2. Ken says:

    Thought I saw Maddon give BJ an "atta boy" in the dugout after his sac fly. Nice to see.

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  3. Dave L says:

    Joe I thought the Rays method had already been accepted by the knowledgeable fan base as already proven to be the most effective way of maximizing our weak hitting lineup.

    Last year we maximized our run production vs batting average just look it up.

    And today was a prime example when our number 7-9 hitters in succession did what is thier most positive outcome this year which is get on base through patient at bats BB,BB, HBP none of which includes a hit.

    Its always better to strike out later in the count rather than earlier, correct?

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  4. Joe Rays Fan says:

    Justin:

    When the ball hits the bat, you know it will result in a double-play how?

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    • Justin says:

      It's never about knowing what will happen, Joe. You're in logical fallacy land. How do YOU know it WON'T be a double play? The question you asked is unanswerable, but the real question is regarding strikeouts vs. other types of outs.

      You seem to think strikeouts are the worst kinds of outs. I gave you two examples of WORSE outs than plain striking out.

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  5. Steve Shissler says:

    I tell our little leaguers the following:

    If you strike out, you're out, the defense doesn't have to do anything.

    If you at least put the ball in play on the ground, the defense has to do three things to get you out: They have to field it, throw it and make the catch to put you out.

    Yes, I'm a traditionalist!

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    • Ken says:

      Good advice Steve.

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    • Beth says:

      Yes, and if you are a little leaguer the odds that a well hit ball will result in an out are slim. If you are a major league baseball player, the odds are much better. So I'm not sure how exactly your advise to little leaguers is relevant here.

      I think all this "traditionalist" vs. "numbers" is completely ridiculous. The numbers guys are not saying players should go up to bat trying to strike out. They are merely noting that a strike out is not ALWAYS the worst possible outcome. I don't see how you can argue with that.

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      • don says:

        Yes, there could be an earth Quake..that would be a worse outcome...
        But in baseball a strike out is as bad as it gets...just ask the guy who just struck out..

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        • Beth says:

          How is a double play better than a strike out? Maybe if bases are loaded with no outs and it scores a run, but otherwise....I'm no "numbers guy" even I can figure out that two outs are usually worse than one out.

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    • Justin says:

      This is plain wrong. If you strike out, taking 10 to 15 pitches to do so, you don't think the pitcher is taxed?

      Maybe at the LL level, throwing the ball from second base to first, is a challenge, but at the ML level, it's not. One to three pitch at bats that result in weak grounders are child's play at the ML level.

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  6. Dave L says:

    Right now in the AL we are 9th in batting avg and 5th in SO. That doesnt usually mean good things. Tradionally that is a recipe for bad outcomes.

    But with the Rays philosophy we are also #2 in walks and #4 in both OBP and OPS. and 4th in homers.

    That leads us to NUMBER 4 in RUNS.

    Ahead of us is Texas NYY and BJays. They have more experienced better hitters so their coach lets them swing. Well the Blue jays just swing anyway.

    The object is to score runs not satisfy what your little league coach taught you.

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  7. don says:

    The day 3 walks beats 3 hits then I'm on board.... even a double and two fly outs beats 3 walks..... then try to beat the Rangers walking.....

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    • Rob says:

      Assuming you are starting an inning with either three walks or a double and two flyouts (the only way a double and two flyouts works is if you get them in that order with no outs) you end up with the bases loaded and nobody out or the bases empty, two outs and a run in. Which is better? Is one bird in the hand better then two in the bush here? I guess if you are a statistician you would look over a long period of time and figure out which situation produces the most runs. If I were to guess, I would probably say the three walks to start an inning, which means over the long haul, that is better than a double and two flyouts (though I don't have any empirical evidence of that).

      This also leads me to a question I have asked before and to which I never have seen an answer. The Rays seem to leave the bases loaded a lot. Is there a stat that show who leads the majors is loading the bases with no outs and not scoring? I think the Rays must have done that 7-8 times last season - so frustrating!

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    • Dave L says:

      If two of your three batters were as in the instance I referred to, SRod and Johnson you better damn well take the 3 walks (or 2 walks and HBP). Guys batting below the Mendoza line should take their walks and you should appreciate it as sound baseball 2012.

      If you don't then you arent going to enjoy the Rays and by your posts I doubt you ever have enjoyed watching them.

      You believe borderline Major league hitters should be free swingers and the Rays braintrust wants them to be patient and get on base any way they can. I will go with what has worked for the past few years.

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