“Boosting” — the performance-enhancement one gets from injuring oneself

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This doesn’t come from the world of baseball. It actually comes from paralympics. And while it is something people in that world have known about and dealt with for some time, it’s news to me:

Elite athletes are often told to work through their pain… it may be more than merely stoic advice. Some athletes with disabilities have discovered injuring themselves enhances their performance. It works so well, it’s against the rules. The International Paralympic Committee has banned the practice. but that hasn’t stopped some athletes to continue to seek out the competitive edge.

Breaking toes, sticking themselves with pins, filling their bladders and any number of other things to give themselves momentary bursts of adrenaline or elevated heart rates. One guy explains via audio embedded on the linked article what it feels like to get electric shocks and how it helps him in rock climbing.

Obviously there are limits to comparisons between paralympic athletes and baseball players in that some of the “boosts” paralympians might give themselves could be specific to dealing with their disabilities. But I am fascinated by the body hack aspects to all of this.

On some level all athletes have done this forever. Rituals they use to pump themselves up, foods they eat, clothes they wear under their uniform and so on could give them mental edges and perhaps physical edges as well. But I bet there are a lot of other things baseball players could do that they haven’t even thought of to help them out in terms of adrenaline and heart rate boosting. I wonder how much of it goes on we don’t know about. And whether, if we did know more about it, people would consider it unfair or call for bans on the practice.

(Thanks to John Measor for the heads up)

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.