Yahoo’s Jeff Passan has a story about Chris Sale and what makes him tick. One thing that doesn’t make him tick? Attention to advanced metrics. Or any metrics, really. He says he doesn’t look at his ERA or anything else all season. He just pitches. What’s more:
“All I know I’ve got to do is give up less runs than we score,” Sale said. “I don’t care about anything else. Not the numbers. Not the ISPFMLBLSSRs and whatever else Brian Kenny has come up with to define what makes a good player or not.”
Reminded the numbers love him, Sale said: “I don’t love them back.”
Sad. Because now he’ll never realize that when he lost his no-hitter by giving up a homer to Xander Bogaerts last night it was a textbook case of ISPFMLBLSSR regression. How he doesn’t care about that I have no idea.
In all seriousness, though: baseball players have no more of a need to know about or even care about advanced metrics than supernovas have to know about or care about telescopes. The stats aren’t for them, they’re for people trying to understand or explain what they do or trying to put teams together. And ballplayers did everything they do long before Henry Chadwick wrote down the first box score.
It’s one thing if a ballplayer seems to have no grasp of what he needs to do in order to perform his job well. That’s kind of a problem. But there’s no reason on Earth a ballplayer needs to understand why what he does is significant as long as he knows what the heck he’s doing. And Chris Sale knows what the heck he’s doing.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉