The World Series is over, we have witnessed one of the great pitching performances in the history of the game, and now Indians fans enter what is an incredibly interesting off-season. I wrote this as a precursor, before we start to analyze and toss around names, let us consider baseball itself.
Baseball is wonderfully complex, aesthetically speaking, that is one of the great gifts that it provides the consumer, while some sports offer Coliseum-esque displays of masculinity, baseball offers nuance.
Nuance, not only in how teams are built, but in how every game is played; monitoring seemingly minute events in order to make decisions offers a technical understanding or vocabulary that is inherently complex.
One of the great beauties of baseball is that it offers levels of nuance and complexity which allows the fan to choose how to consume. Most of us fell in love because of its narrative quality, following a season, even of futility, offers a brilliant and unpredictable tale of highs and lows. Watching young players develop, enduring pain and frustration, even in some moments elation over a long period of time, has a certain joy to it.
Some of us fell in love with it because the narrative has the ability to intertwine itself in our lives, because baseball and its everyday existence mirrors, in a small way, the up and downs of our lives, a modicum of sitting down and sharing who we are with those we care about.
So baseball is simple, but it is also complex, it is whatever you want it to be, whatever you need it to be.
I am of the opinion that nothing is finer than attending a minor league came, watching a prospect, dreaming on what they might be, and reveling in the timelessness of baseball. Baseball is both discrete and continuous, limited in length, infinite in time.
I am writing this because I believe we often get caught up in, and struggle to communicate the beauty that lay in the simplicity of the game. Over the past two years I have penned many a SABR leaning column, with critical opinions and from time-to-time, absurd amounts of data, some visual and some not so much.
I have noted a disconnect, in how we discuss baseball, in how we consume baseball and what discussing baseball has become. For myself, the move towards advanced metrics is delightful, another avenue to learn more and more about the game I love, the game I played from five years old to eighteen years old, badly but with the intensity and respect required of any competitor.
It is about discovery, yielding more detailed conclusions about what we see or don’t see. Baseball’s nuance is incredible because of height and its width. Often, when perusing any of Brooks Baseball, Fanrgaphs or Baseball Reference, I move more horizontally than forward. Baseball is beautiful because of its great questions, which become innumerable the deeper you look.
Player projection remains so out of reach, we have taken great leaps in our ability to understand aging curves, regression, and fluke performances, but so much remains a mystery.
The mystery of baseball remains at whatever level we care to consider, be it coming home to watch it every night with family and a Yuengling, or spending 12 hours searching through data to better understand the sustainability of Lonnie Chisenhall’s BABIP.
This is the beauty of modern baseball, it is aesthetically pleasing no matter how one chooses to consume it, and it is fruitless to get lost in the passe debate between new school and old school measurement; rather get lost in baseball itself, the unpredictability, the narrative, no matter how you choose to consume it, gets lost in baseball’s beautiful complexity.