Monthly Archives: December, 2014

Reality vs. Myth

Los Angeles Dodgers v St. Louis Cardinals

So, I overhead a conversation between a couple of HS seniors this weekend about how the HS school teams were stacking up this year.  In talking about one of the teams that has been good in recent years, one player said “They lost Player A and Player B, so they will not be as good”.  The other player agreed. A and B were well known baseball names, and had been since they were 12 years old.

But, the reality was that there was a Player C on that same team that out-performed Player A and B for the past 2 years.  But, Player C was a late bloomer and did not have the “myth” aura surrounding him.  He was just really, really good and very competitive and physically a late bloomer.  So, he led the team in offensive production and no one noticed.  Not his peers, not the Post Dispatch, not college coaches. I am not sure even his high school coaches noticed (or cared).

How does this happen?

Well, this happens A LOT in baseball, and is increasingly a problem with the early college recruiting cycle.  A lot of “prospect” rankings are based on the “myth”.  Everyone just talks to everyone else and sooner or later the myth emerges.  Observed data that supports the myth is amplified, all non-supporting data is ignored.  Meanwhile, Player C works his tail off and gets better and better and no one notices.  College coaches get sucked into this all the time — especially at top notch colleges who love to recruit the “name” players.  They fall for hype and let myth distort reality.

Here is reality:

Dominance in 12-14u baseball has little meaning

Velocity does not equal outs.

Bat speed is useless unless a hitter squares up live pitching consistently with real bats (not toy bats)  and can hit an off speed pitch.

High velo throws over 1B or cutoff man’s head result in losses.

Foot speed has no value unless you get on base and take good angles.

Physical size has nothing to do with heart, competitiveness or mental toughness.

All the potential in the world means nothing unless you can perform, during games, against other players.

The problem with baseball is that you need to observe LOTS of data to make a real conclusion, or have a very, very well trained eye. Without lots of data, all you have is myth.  

It’s the way the human mind works.  We latch onto data that supports existing beliefs while ignoring other data. You remember the 400′ bomb, but forget the 8 chased curve balls in the dirt.  You remember the 92 on the gun, but forget the 50% strikes that ruined the game.   That’s how myths are fed.  That is why scouting is so hard and draft/recruiting results so inconsistent.

My problem is that I love Player C kids.  They are fun to coach, fun to watch and have more long-term upside because they have learned to work hard and overcome adversity.  But, it takes a lot of mental toughness, personal courage and passion to fight through being in the shadows while the spotlight is searching for the myths.  Too many Player C’s get disappointed and give up their passion before their body catches up to their skill and hard work.  

If I was a college coach, I would just recruit late-bloomer Player C kids and not chase myths.