The Astros follow Bill Simmons’ advice

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Bill Simmons in 2006:

I’m becoming more and more convinced that every professional sports team needs to hire a Vice President of Common Sense, someone who cracks the inner circle of the decision-making process along with the GM, assistant GM, head scout, head coach, owner and whomever else. One catch: the VP of CS doesn’t attend meetings, scout prospects, watch any film or listen to any inside information or opinions; he lives the life of a common fan. They just bring him in when they’re ready to make a big decision, lay everything out and wait for his unbiased reaction.

The Houston Astros 2012:

The Astros boosted their commitment to a data-driven existence under new general manager Jeff Luhnow and CEO George Postolos with the hiring of Sig Mejdal as the club’s director of decision sciences … “Really someone to oversee the architecture and ongoing operation of all the systems that we’re going to utilize to make better baseball decisions,” Luhnow said.

People who work for the Astros who make bad decisions will now light themselves on fire.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.

Ryan Braun heads to the disabled list after injuring his calf again

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Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun had been off the disabled list for four whole days. Now he’s going back on it after re-aggravating his calf injury yesterday against the Diamondbacks. It’s the same injury that put him on the DL earlier this month.

Braun has been productive when he’s been able to play, hitting .262 with seven homers, 19 RBI and stealing four bases in 30 games, but calf injuries tend to be nagging things, especially for dudes over 30. He’ll have an MRI to determine how much time he’ll miss.

In the meantime, left field duties will be shared between Hernan Perez, Nick Franklin and Eric Thames.