Coppola: Math Class Or Baseball Instinct?

By William Coppola

Breaking news from ESPN: “Former NASA engineer Sig Mejdal leaves Astros for Orioles.” Holy smokes, that is amazing news! “New Baltimore Orioles general manager, 35-year-old  Mike Elias called upon a familiar face to help rebuild the club. His title will be assistant general manager for analytics.
Mejdal will report to Elias and will oversee all aspects of the club’s growing analytics effort and serve as an adviser to Elia.” Man, that is something we have all been talking about here in baseball land USA. Another real rocket scientist to figure out this complicated game of baseball.
By the way, it is NOT breaking news anymore to read that another BA, MS, & PHD mathematical genius from an engineering school has just been hired to fix a troubled ball club. My curiously confusing question is, where have all those baseball people who have spent a lifetime in the game gone? Has the game changed so much now that we need people like Pythagoras, Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton to figure it all out for us?
When we went to the moon the players were the astronauts and they understood the engineers around them. Do you really think ballplayers fully understand these new professors around them?
Baseball has always been the one game that everyone could identify with as we went from kid to adult to senior citizen. We played it on the same size diamond as the pros. We could get the same exhilarating feeling a big leaguer has of hitting a ball even though it could never go as far. We understood the game and all the possibilities from manufacturing runs to pitch selection.
Every game was a place we could afford to go to with our family. Fathers taught their sons and daughters how it worked. How to recognize a situation that called for a bunt or a steal. “He’s going on this pitch son because they need to move him into scoring position for our power hitter on deck.”
Young kids grew to understand the game and develop baseball instinct. A tool that comes from playing the game and learning from your own mistakes. Today it seems like the powers that be are trying to make it into a class at MIT where 1+1=2. Well in baseball sometimes 1+1= 3 and it works. That is the beauty of this game, it’s imperfection. Trying to make it perfect by involving mathematical, analytical engineers will only make it boring and predictable.
I’m sure the Orioles will get better but will it really be because they brought in more young analytics or will it be the result old good old fashioned scouting and player development. The game has always been about the players. They are the game and why we even go to a game or watch it on TV. There is no analytical, mathematical formulas for finding a future big leaguer. That comes from years of experience by scouts who scour the earth looking for the next Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.
Someone has to physically show a kid how to hold a ball, field a grounder and hit. How to run the bases and what base to throw to. There is no book on that and 99% of the time it is a dad, mom and older brother or sister who gets that started. All of that work done over many years is what puts them on the field. When the players are on the field it becomes their game to win or lose.
When managers, GMs up in the suites or video and analytical non uniform people in an organization start to make decisions for them that are not coming from each player’s individual baseball instinct, disaster will strike. The last world series proved that to me when the Dodger play book blew the world series for them for the second year in a row.
Good luck Baltimore, just don’t let those analytics show you guys how to make crab cakes.
WILLIAM COPPOLA  WITH 40 YEARS OF BASEBALL EXPERIENCE IS A FORMER PLAYER, COACH, UMPIRE, AND CURRENTLY AN ADVANCED SCOUT
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