Must-Click Link: We’re probably thinking about baseball wrong

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I’ve known Ken Arneson, in that way you “know” certain people on the Internet, for years. He’s an incredibly smart guy who thinks about baseball in ways that form a bit of a tangent from your typical analytically-minded person. He’s certainly well-versed in sabermetrics and the like, but he’s also maintained a good bit of healthy skepticism and distance from it all.

Which allows him to drop utter bombs like his piece today, which should blow people’s minds. At least the minds of people who are familiar with¬†advanced analysis but maybe don’t engage with it themselves in a hands-on way. I’m one of those people — a fellow traveller of the stats folks and, at times, a member of its liberal arts wing, as Jay Jaffe describes it — and because of that I am not the first person to identify flawed thinking among the folks whose work I otherwise appreciate and follow.

But Ken is a computer science guy, and today he has some amazingly smart observations about how baseball is analyzed and what, as a result of that process, is missed. Fundamental things about how the basic language we use colors our ability to see certain things. About how, because we use databases to analyze baseball, we are biased in favor of things databases can capture but unwittingly blind to those it cannot.

The central observation and biggest takeaway, I think, is that THE biggest thing in baseball is this:

But I do know that if I were to build a technology for analyzing baseball, this is where I would begin, right at the core of the game, the engine that drives the sport: what pitch the batter is expecting from the pitcher, and what happens when the pitch he gets conforms or deviates from that expectation.

Ken lays that all out in very clear and illuminating terms, and it is incredibly compelling. He allows that teams may very well be working on this game theory-ish piece of the game already — I’m assuming they are — but the public analysis of the game at places like sabermetric websites, blogs and, increasingly, mainstream baseball outlets fails to capture this because it really doesn’t have the tools to do so.

Just some super thought-provoking stuff that you should check out ASAP.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.