baseball

Why do baseball players wear baseball gloves?

A baseball glove is a large leather glove worn by baseball players of the defending team. They’re sometimes called “mitts.” They are meant to assist players in catching and fielding baseballs hit by a batter or thrown by another teammate.

If a baseball player is right-handed, he wears his glove on this left hand. Conversely, if a baseball player is left-handed, he wears his glove on his right hand. This allows the baseball player to throw the ball with the hand that is not occupied by the glove.

To expound a bit, a baseball team is challenged with of two main jobs. To accumulate runs and to stop runs. A game is comprised of 9 innings and there are two halves to each inning. The visiting team always bats first, which means they’ll be on offense during the top-of-the-first inning, at which point the home team with be on defense. After the top of the inning, the teams switch. The home team then goes on offense, as the visiting team makes its way to the field to defend against the offense.

The field is comprised of defensive positions. Catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base are your infield positions. There are three outfield positions – right field, center field, and left field. When a team is on defense, they send a man out (wearing a glove) to occupy each of these positions. Sometimes the manager of the baseball team might induce a shift, which means positions shift to another part of the field. For example, if the left-handed hitter at the plate has a propensity to pull the ball, the team on defense might institute a shift, moving defenders to a far right position.

Historically, the team on defense puts these efforts into place in an attempt to prohibit hits. For example, the second baseman and shortstop wear gloves and are standing at a ready position in the event that the baseball is deflected from the bat to where they can stop the baseball with their glove. If they catch the baseball in the air, it’s an automatic out. If they stop the baseball, after the baseball has already hit the ground, they must throw the ball to first base before the batter crosses the bag. If the batter crosses the bag before the first baseman catches the ball, this is called a hit.

Up until very recently hits mattered, which warranted the above mentioned baseball players and scenarios. Since 1887 baseballs that were hit, landing where defenders were not located, which didn’t make it over the wall (which is called a home run) mattered. One of the best hitters during the 20th century was Roberto Clemente. While younger generations now might not recognize him as an effective baseball player, because he was very proficient at getting hits, its important to remember the history of the game.

While hits no longer matter, clinical psychologists are trying to understand why giving up hits does seem to matter. Studies have shown that fans, and even writers, seem to display angry online behavior if a baseball player gets lots of hits, which would lead one to believe that, by the same logic, they would not care if their favorite pitcher gives up lots of hits. But alas, no-hitters and prohibiting hits are still en vogue on the defensive side of the ball.

There have been many new progressive solutions to fix the game of baseball since discovering that hits don’t matter. One idea has been to allow the defenders to play red rover while the opposing team is up to bat. The pitcher and catcher, of course, would not be able to engage in the game of red rover because they would be occupied with throwing to the batter, trying not to give up home runs (the only type of offense that is now awarded with any type of statistical value or online respect).

Another idea that has been floating around thought circles has been to allow the defenders to engage in staring contests. Some analysts include blinking in the confines of staring contests, while others believe that as long as you don’t laugh or smile, you win the contest. According to Baseball America, Matt Wisler of the Atlanta Braves has the strongest stare and could be one of most effective starers in 2018.

Perhaps the idea that is gaining the most popularity over the last several months is also the most noble idea, because baseball fields (especially world-class Major League baseball fields) are meticulously maintained, there seems to be an opportunity to turn these green spaces into urban farming communities. Opponents of this idea argue that if this were done, teams would be wasting money that they already have invested in defenders, especially center fielders. The argument against this is – if teams can teach defenders basic farming practices, they could utilize their investments (the players) in more effective and noble ways. Concerns of covered stadiums still need to be addressed, should MLB go this route.

According to the Ecology Center, urban farming communities do more than merely harvest food. They reduce carbon emissions, they improve overall public health, and most importantly, they enhance the overall food quality.

Such drastic changes and ideas are certain to bring fear into the more traditional baseball fan. But, now that hits do not matter and baseball players like Nick Markakis serve little-to-no purpose, something needs to be done to make the baseball field matter again.

Since baseball gloves are also no longer needed to prevent hits, there have been many folks within the baseball community trying to figure out new innovative ways of using the baseball glove.

Toronto Blue Jays fan and musical artist, Justin Bieber, has offered to incorporate a baseball glove in his act, much like Michael Jackson’s famous glove. The idea would be to enhance his stage performances when people like Andy Harris go to watch him.

Another idea has been reallocating gloves to pursue medical needs. Proctologists for years have touted the glove snap. Because of this, progressive thinkers believe that former baseball fans like Stephen Tolbert might be open to having their prostates examined for sticks up their anal cavities if said proctologists were using baseball gloves to perform their examination. This could encourage men to get checked at younger ages, which could in turn prevent prostate cancer.

Now that hits and their counterpart, baseball gloves, no longer matter, hopefully baseball fans can now turn their attention to other things that actually matter. Like spending time with each other, exploring the great outdoors, or rescuing a dog from a local shelter.

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Scratching the Yel-itch!

At this point, everyone in Braves country is hearing rumors of the Braves going after Marlins outfielder, Christian Yelich, and perhaps even their catcher, J.T. Realmuto.  While I think Realmuto and Yelich are both terrific players, I’m left with an itch that’s begging to be scratched. Call it a “Yel-itch”.

I’ve always been a big fan of Christian Yelich, and I’ve frequently thought that he has been criminally underrated. His defense is solid, his offense is on the rise, he’s shown flashes of the potential to be a 5-tool player. I even think the future could be brighter for Yelich. He is likely to increase his home run rate, his production, and, away from the prairies of Marlin’s park, improve his defense.

And yet, I’m opposed to the Braves trading for him.

Why?

Good question. There is this interesting operating philosophy in baseball that simply acquiring great players will, in turn, make a great team. Certainly, there is a measure of truth to that idea. However, I also think there has to be more to your philosophy than simply collecting great players.

We could look back through history and find, time and again, where teams that were comprised of “great” players simply didn’t win. Revisionist history would tell us that it was because some of those players perhaps were not as “great” as we originally thought, but perhaps there is more to it than that. Perhaps, the team they were on and the role they were asked to play made them less great.

Unless your team is the Cleveland Browns, I don’t believe in bad luck or sacred goat curses. However, I do believe that team chemistry is important. And by team chemistry I don’t mean clubhouse personalities and how people get along (although there is some truth to that as well).  What I mean is that a team has to be comprised of players that fit a big picture purpose for the baseball team.

For me, it was the downfall of Fredi Gonzalez as a baseball coach. Fredi seemed convinced that he could massage and manipulate lineups that put players in different positions on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis, to maximize match-ups and play to the current ‘momentum’ of the team. But baseball is a job at the end of the day, and a player needs a clear picture of the job that he’s been hired to perform.

‘I mean why don’t he just hit baseballs and play gud defense, ain’t that what every gud baseball player does’

It’s true that hitting baseballs and playing defense is the core of the game, but those terms are broad and often misleading. The truth is – it’s more complex than that. Much more complex.

Do you want your leadoff man to get on base? Is that his primary role? If so, he needs to take more pitches, be more selective, work more counts, and shorten his swing and aim for more singles. Or maybe you want a leadoff man with a higher WRC+ who has more pop and power? Unless his name is Mike Trout, you pretty much need to understand he’s going to get on base a bit less, going to strike out more, and swing away at more first pitches.

Philosophically, do you want your best hitter hitting second? He’ll get about 60 more at-bats a year if you do. Or maybe you’re a traditionalist that likes him batting 3rd, do you want him to aim for power? Swing away? Do you need to protect him in the lineup? Oh, and if so, what do you protect him with? Power? Is that still the answer in today’s strikeout heavy world of power hitters?

At the end of the day, I think the Braves have some philosophical holes to fill. Is Ender your leadoff hitter or Ozzie? What are you looking for from your #2 hole hitter? Is Acuna going to bat 2nd? And if so, how long before you get him there? So far, the Braves have always used Freddie to bat 3rd, so where is Yelich? Is he really a 4th hole hitter?

Yelich has traditionally hit 3rd for Miami, yet last year he only hit .282 with 18 home runs. I mean that certainly isn’t bad, but let’s compare that to Freeman who batted .307 and hit 28 home runs (oh, and missed 6 weeks). Is a .282/18HR guy really what you want protecting Freeman?  (Protection matters.) Do we really need another 15-20 HR guy with good defense or would we be better served with a 30+ HR guy that might lack a little defensively, or not have the greatest OBP (ie. Martinez, Duvall, etc). 

Perhaps Yelich will make up for it on defense?

Well, just as on the offensive side of things and creating a lineup, you have a defensive philosophy as well. Yelich is a terrific defender, right? Well, that’s what people keep telling me, yet in 2017, he saw a significant decline in his defense, finishing the year with -6 DRS. I’ll be the first to stand up and scream that defense runs saved isn’t the best stat ever, but it is an indicator for sure.

Yelich’s potential value is primarily built upon the idea that he will continue to get better. And he certainly may, but the biggest part of the puzzle is always cost/value. To acquire Yelich is going to be an expensive overpay. I’m the kind of guy that’s sometimes guilty of over-valuing prospects, but I’m actually ok with overpaying for pieces I think fit the right holes in the philosophy and have future value in line with what you’re giving up. Any trade is risky. Yelich is young and on a mostly cost-friendly contract. There are reasons to think he will soar to his potential value. But many Braves fans (and now Cubs fans) are familiar with 26-year-olds with great stats and superstar potential don’t always pan out … sometimes they suddenly can’t remember how to hit baseballs and their entire 5 tool concept suddenly becomes 2 tools. Yes, I’m looking at you, Jason Heyward.

If we were talking about Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, even my personally-hated Bryce Harper, I think there is very little room to doubt the future ascent of their rise to franchise anchoring status. At one point, I thought Yelich was headed there. But while I think he was once undervalued, the perception of him may now have gone in the other direction, and his perceived value may actually be higher than reality. It’s not that he has significantly declined, or regressed. In fact, he may continue right on up, yet even at his best, I wonder if he is truly a top-tier player worth the cost that he inevitably will demand. His K% is league average, his DRS is slightly above average, his 18 HRs is a little above average, his slugging .463 is a little above average. I think Yelich is better than average, but is he really a superstar? And even if he is a superstar, is he the superstar the Braves need to empty their coffers for?

Is it really worth giving up four prospects from your top 15, and perhaps seven from your top 25, some of which project to be a good bit better than just above average? (I’ll be the first to admit prospects bust frequently, but from the richest farm in baseball that’s not chump change.) It’s easy to want splashy moves for names we like. It’s much harder to stay the course, stick to your philosophy, and find the answers to the holes you have on the team you are already fielding. When I look at the Braves I don’t see the hole begging for Yelich. I see a team missing power, missing defense, and missing quite a few other roles (3B, pitching, etc) that Yelich simply cannot fill.  Would he be another great player on the Braves team? Absolutely. Would it make the Braves a much better team? I’m not so certain.

The answer to Yelich’s value to the Braves is an itch I’m not sure I want to scratch.

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