Monday, April 23, 2018

Brandon Belt's vanity

Yasmani Grandal Brandon Belt San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers
The other day in the Chronicle John Shea squandered more than a thousand words defending Brandon Belt's vanity as a hitter (Why Giants’ Brandon Belt gets bum rap on strike-zone approach):

Three weeks into the season, the Giants’ first baseman has been an easy target for frustrated fans...They’ve seen him strike out looking to end a 10-inning game and a few other times and, judging from social media rants and barstool chatter, figure all he wants to do is walk.

Even if it means taking close pitches in two-strike counts...“I think I’ve shown over my career I have a pretty good strike-zone awareness,” Belt said. “I know where the strike zone is. For me to be successful, I can’t swing at balls. I’ve got to swing at strikes. That’s just the way it is. Hopefully, the umpires and I are on the same page that day. As far as me being successful at the plate and driving the ball and having the best chance to get hits, that’s me staying in the zone.”

Shea followed this with a flurry of stats on how often Belt strikes out looking as opposed to swinging compared to other players.

More from Belt:

“You can’t sit there and say, ‘Oh, the ball’s barely at the plate, I’ve got to swing here.’ It’s a reaction. My reaction is to swing at strikes and lay off balls. That’s just all there is to it.”

No, that's not all there is to it. Shea and Belt know that all at-bats are not the same requiring the same "approach." If you end an inning in a close game by taking a third strike with runners in scoring position---particularly if it's the last out of the game---you have gravely sinned against the baseball gods. If you do it in a game in which your team is either ahead or behind by ten runs, it doesn't mean anything, except to your batting average.

Would a quarterback refuse to throw a hail-Mary pass in the last seconds of a game because it was unlikely to succeed? Would a basketball player refuse to take a last-second shot in close game because it was a bad shot?

Ending a one-run game by taking a third strike with the bat on your shoulder with runners in scoring position is indefensible. As a hitter, you have to protect the plate with two strikes by swinging at anything close. Defending that bad baseball play by invoking your keen sense of the strike zone's parameters is bullshit and prima donna vanity.

Maybe Belt had those critical "media rants and barstool chatter" in mind yesterday, when he fouled off a record 21 pitches, many of them out of the strike zone.

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The transportation we need

Romance of the Rails

“Urban transit was developed for a kind of city that no longer exists,” says an op-ed in USA Today, “one in which most jobs were downtown and most residents lived near downtown.” 

For people who can’t or don’t want to drive, ride hailing makes much more sense than mass transit, so we should be happy to see transit (and the taxes we pay to subsidize it) decline...

...instead of trying to “perpetuate obsolete transit systems,” cities should prepare “for the transportation technology that people actually use. Whether electric- or petroleum-powered, shared or owned, human-driven or computer-driven, that means automobiles” and, in the case of intercity rail, buses and airplanes...

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