Great Moments in Sabermetric Discourse

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I have always had great respect for Mitchel Lichtman, known more widely as MGL, sabermetrician extraordinairre. He’s a really smart guy who is able to cut through a lot of baloney when it comes to baseball stats. Most of my experience with his work has been me looking blankly at what he says or writes, failing to comprehend it and then, some time later, be it ten minutes or two years, saying “wow, that was pretty damn insightful.”

But I have to be honest and also admit that, if any sabermetrician comes close to fitting the stereotype that non-stats people throw at them, it’s Lichtman. He has a fierce dedication and seriousness to his craft which, intended or not, comes off as humorless and lacking in larger perspective. Specifically, the perspective that baseball is, you know, kind of fun and cool sometimes, even if the fun and cool stuff causes us to lose sight of the nuts and bolts of it from time to time.

Maybe his best ever example of this came in a series of tweets last night:

I don’t think anyone reasonably thinks that Tim Lincecum is the same pitcher today that he was three or four years ago. And I don’t think appreciating his no-hitter yesterday — or even his messy no-hitter last year — requires one to make a judgment about his overall quality. Yes, people will go overboard when stuff like that happens, but c’mon.

Put differently: lighten up, Francis. Maybe pick a different battle? That game was as fun as hell to watch and seeing an outstanding performance from someone who has lost the thread in his game in many ways is way, way more uplifting and inspiring than seeing someone at the top of their game remain at the top.

Put differently again: Mitchel, let’s go get a beer sometime and just enjoy a ballgame on a shallow, entertainment-first level. We can really do that once in awhile.

Sean Manaea pitches the first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.