Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Brains

Last night (and maybe you saw this) Ian Desmond strode to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth. It was a tie game thanks to a blown save as predictable as a sunrise.

A single would win the game. So would a fly ball to the outfield, a balk, a walk, a wild pitch, a passed ball, a forfeit by the Cardinals, an error, and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting.

The important thing is that Desmond needed to get the ball to the outfield. Not only did he not do it, he completely didn't do it. After he dove at that first slider like a dying eagle, everyone - from me to Ian Desmond - knew he wasn't going to make any but the gentlest contact.

He struck out, of course, but it's OK because we won, and Desmond really did play some good defense in that game, and if we have to choose between a shortstop who can hit but not carry out even the most basic of his fielding tasks or a shortstop who's the other way around, the latter option is not necessarily the worse. That was a really long sentence, but I ain't changing it.

This isn't really about Desmond; it's about my perception of Ian Desmond. Owing to some kinda combination of confirmation bias, Dunning-Kruger effect, selective memory, manifest destiny, the ablative absolute, the phantom time hypothesis, and Moore's law, I have this idea that Desmond strikes out every time he comes to the plate with men on base. "Here comes Desmond to kill another rally," I say to myself. And then he does it. Every time!

But actually no. I did some actual reporting or at least fact-checking, and my impression was pretty much the opposite of true. Desmond hits better with men on base, and his strikeout rate drops significantly (I was about to say it drops noticeably, but I certainly didn't notice it). The lesson here is don't trust your eyes. Or at least don't trust my eyes, not that there was any great danger of that.

The nifty thing about this is that when Desmond leaves at the end of the season, I won't miss him even though I should. So I'd like to thank my brain for preemptively cushioning that blow. Thanks, brain!

2 comments:

Todd Boss said...

Desmond career split line: .270/.318/.432

Desmond clutch split line:
- 2 outs, RISP: .234/.298/.353
- late and close: .246/.285/.340

To me, this is proof that Desmond is not clutch. I think its fair to say that most players see declines in their slash lines when "late and close" thanks to specialized relievers ... but he experiences a mass drop off.

To compare, here's the career slash lines for the three above scenarios for David Ortiz:

.285/.379/.545
.276/.411/.534
.260/.373/.501

Ryan said...

Yeah, maybe it's the 2 out/RISP number that my brain was noticing. That's pretty grisly.