Researchers: guys with short, wide faces hit more homers

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Sounds like phrenology to me, but what do I know. I have a bachelor of arts degree:

Tucked into the latest edition of Biology Letters, among articles on emperor penguin surface temperatures and predator-prey size relationship, is a study that suggests that the shape of your face may indicate whether you’d make a good power hitter.

University of London researchers Hikaru Tsujimura and Michael J. Banissy tracked nearly 200 Japanese players in one of that country’s two pro baseball leagues over the course of two seasons and found that players with short, wide faces tended to have higher-than-average home run numbers.

There’s even a sabr-sounding stat for it: fWHR, or acial width-to-height ratio. Which, even though it was created and researched by university psychologists, will likely cause a bunch of old school baseball columnists to use it to mock statheads. Tell me you’d be surprised if you read this one morning:

Some stat-obsessed researchers in Japan (who knew they had research labs in mothers’ basements?) have determined that guys with short, wide faces hit a lot of homers. Hope no one tells them about [Player with long, skinny face who hit a big home run the night before], because it’d be a shame if all of their research went to waste.

Actually, I doubt if we have to wait until some skinny guy hits a homer. I bet someone uses this stuff as a launchpad for an anti-science, anti-stats rant. Because, hey, it’s just the sports pages.

Anyway, this kind of thing is fun, even if it has even a remotely identifiable practical application.

The Japanese playoffs are super unfair

Hiroshima Carp
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I know a little about Japanese baseball. Not a lot, mind you. Like, I couldn’t hold my own with people who actually watch it or report on it or whatever, but I could explain some of the broad differences and similarities between the NPB and the U.S. majors.  I can say a few things about how the two leagues compare competitively speaking. I can name some stars and (I think) all the clubs. But there’s, quite obviously, a ton I don’t know.

A thing I did not know until today: the NPB playoffs are really messed up.

The NPB is divided into two leagues, the Central and the Pacific, with the winner of each league facing off in the Japan Series. Like the U.S. majors, they have preliminary playoff rounds in each league. Each league has three playoff teams, with the second and third seed teams playing a series first, and the winner of that series playing the top seed — the team with the best record in the league — in what is called the Climax Series.

Here’s the weird part: the higher-seeded team in the Climax Series — the team which won the league in the regular season — gets every single playoff game at home. What’s more, that team begins the Climax Series with an automatic 1-0 advantage. So, yes, it’s a seven-game series on paper, but one of the teams only has to win three games to advance to the Japan Series.

Oh, in Japan, they also have no problems ending a playoff game early if it rains. That’s what happened in the Central League Climax Series last night, where the lower-seeded Yokohama BayStars took on the league champ Hiroshima Carp. Here’s the report from Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times:

The rainy conditions in Hiroshima caused the umpires to stop play for over 30 minutes and ultimately call the game after five innings, minutes after the Carp put three runs on the board. Just like that, it was over. The Carp won 3-0, with Yokohama robbed of the four innings (at least) it would’ve had to try and rally.

Even better: as Coskrey notes, there are five days in between the end of the Climax Series and the beginning of the Japan Series, so there is no reason they could not suspend a game and resume it the next day. They just choose not to. The upshot: the Carp were staked to a 2-0 series lead despite the fact that they had only played five innings of baseball. UPDATE: they played a full game today, the BayStars won, so now it’s 2-1 Hiroshima.

Imagine if that happened in the NLCS. Imagine if the Dodgers began the series with a 1-0 lead over the Cubs and played all of their games in Los Angeles. Imagine there was a freak L.A. storm and it ended one of the game in the fifth inning, right after Justin Turner hit a homer. I’m pretty sure people would riot.

Kinda makes our complaints about the replay system seem rather quaint, eh?