Tell Your Stats To Shut UP

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hebsybaseballpic

By Mark Hebscher/blog 

From a baseball perspective, it was a gem. From a statistical perspective, it was an opportunity lost. Chris Sale of the Whitesox won the game, but failed to strike out at least 10 Blue Jays, which would’ve set a record for most consecutive games with 10+ Ks. Instead of the record that nobody cared about, Sale and Mark Buehrle made beautiful baseball music in less than 2 hours. Now, that’s a record to be proud of.

The heavy rain arrived on the South Side of Chicago just after Chris Sale and Mark Buehrle pitched the quickest MLB game in the past four years. One hour and 54 minutes. Did you get that? Time of game: 1:54. And while the Cubs were getting rained on a few miles to the north, (their game would be delayed by over an hour at Wrigley Field), the Sox and the Jays all got to have an early dinner and a few beers after Chicago’s 4-2 victory, which ended around 9 p.m. Chicago time. Sale was trying to set some kind of a record for most consecutive games striking out 10 or more batters. It’s a record nobody had even heard of a few weeks ago, and for good reason. It’s a stats-geek special. It’s one of those records that sportscasters and sportswriters and bloggers love to point out, but is basically useless information. Had Sale struck out ten or more Jays last night, (he only had six) the game would’ve taken over two hours to play and would’ve been delayed by that same downpour that affected the Northsiders. So, even though the Jays lost, they were part of history. Not since August 9th, 2011 had a game been played in quicker fashion.

I didn’t bother to dig out the stats for that game (I’ll leave it for the geeks), but I was totally impressed with the job the two lefties did last night. Sale threw 104 pitches, walked none and fanned six. Buehrle threw 108 pitches, walked none and struck out two. Neither pitcher allowed a batter to step out of the box for any length of time to adjust his batting gloves or any nonsense like that. And, let’s face it, with the forecast calling for heavy rain in Chicago, the two starters wanted to work even quicker than normal. With MLB so concerned about the length of games they even put a clock in every ballpark this year, this was a welcome sight. In five of Sale’s last 7 starts, the games have ended in 2:12, 2:26, 2:13, 2:19 and now 1:54. He’s the guy you want on the mound on getaway day. By way of comparison, Buehrle works just as fast, and is just as successful. Since late May, he’s started games that have ended in 2:25, 2:15, 2:13, 2:26, 2:19 and yesterdays eye-popping 1:54. Now, if these guys can pitch that quickly, why can’t MLB force pitchers to watch their games and do the same thing?

Baseball is the one game that is not affected by a clock. It’s meant to be played at it’s own languid, unhurried pace. But that doesn’t mean that we have to embrace a slow, plodding, affair that sees pitchers (and hitters) take their sweet time. The clock can only do so much to hurry things along. The umpires can only do so much. It’s up to the pitchers to move things along, make sure the batter stays focused, and take into consideration the fact that most fans, either at the park or watching or listening somewhere, have better things to do with their time than sit through a 3 hour plus game. I used to love watching Dave Stieb pitch for the Jays. He would throw a pitch, get the ball back, toe the rubber, wind up and throw again. When Stieb was pitching, you were pretty much guaranteed that the game would be over in less than 2 and-a-half hours. Those were the days when you could make firm plans for dinner after the game (unless it went into extra innings). I wish we could go back to those days. Today, with everybody in a hurry maybe it’s time we concentrated more on keeping the game moving, rather than hoping some guy breaks some obscure record by striking out 10 in the middle of a rainstorm. And do you really think Chris Sale cared about that stupid record after all? Here’s his postgame comment: “Hey, it’s cool, it’s fine. It’s one of those things. But we won the game and I’m not going to pout at all” No, there’s no pouting in baseball anyway, Especially if you didn’t set some obscure record that has already been forgotten by now.

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