Corbett: Stop thinking like a GM; start thinking like a player

From Matt Corbett at FanGraphs on September 15, 2015:

Like many baseball fans, I have played a lot of baseball in my life. I wasn’t anything special—Just A Guy in HS-age select ball, a starter in college only by virtue of attending a notoriously nerdy institution, and a player in the kind of adult league where a typical pitcher throws 80 and a double play ball has about a 50/50 shot of actually becoming a double play. What might be atypical about me is that as both a player and fan of baseball, I never had to struggle with sabermetrics upending conventional wisdom. For me sabermetrics was conventional wisdom from the very beginning. I grew up in a house with every single Bill James book ever published on the bookshelves and knew who Pete Palmer was when I was twelve.

Here’s the honest truth: Sabermetrics provided essentially no help in making me a better baseball player.

If a sabermetrician (or saber-partisan) wonders why the larger baseball world has not discarded Medieval Superstition for Enlightened Science, foregoing the burning of witches to instead guillotine the likes of Hawk Harrelson, he should think about all that is implied by the above.

Sabermetrics has immeasurably improved the management of baseball, but has done comparatively little to improve the playing of baseball. The management of baseball (meant generically to encompass front office as well as in-game management) is primarily an analytical task, but the playing of baseball is at heart an intuitive one. Getting better at managing involves mastering and applying abstract concepts. Getting better at playing involves countless mechanical repetitions with the goal of honing one’s neurology to the point at which certain tasks no longer require conscious attention to perform.

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Originally published: September 15, 2015. Last Updated: September 15, 2015.