Friday, September 17, 2010

Halftime Adjustments: Does October Baseball Favor Surprise or Experience?

Over the last few weeks, a minor debate has been ongoing about the wisdom of Joe Girardi not bringing in his most talented bullpen pitchers in to key games against the Tampa Bay Rays. When I first read the coverage, my response was to think that the reporters were missing a key element of play-off baseball. In a seven-game series against the Rays, Joe can't lean on the same talented pitchers seven times. He will have to go deeper into his bullpen than usual. What better way to prepare his less-talented and experienced pitchers for October pressure than to insert them into regular-season games against the Rays? This way he also knows which one of these pitchers he can rely on. So at first, I thought some bloggers might be giving Joe too little credit for managerial acumen. Also, I really like using the word acumen, it makes me sound edumacated.

However, there's a flaw in this theory. This assumes that players learn to play under pressure, rather than being born with the ability to remain calm. Is that truly the case? Isn't it quite clear rather early in life how a person reacts to stress?

Consider further that now, various members of the Rays have had experience against these lesser-known pitchers. Of course, there is plenty of film on each Yankees pitcher in action. However, there's a difference between trying to watch a pitcher on video and having actually seen his curve ball dip when you were in the batter's box. Might Manager Girardi's move rob his pitchers of the element of surprise against the Rays' hitters should the Yankees face the Rays in the playoffs?

I can't decide myself, so I leave the question open to you. Is using more pitchers than usual against the Rays in a regular-season game an excellent way to give those pitchers experience under pressure, or an unfortunate way of tipping the Rays off on how to best exploit those pitchers?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Halftime Adjustments: Will Rings Truly Fix Lebron's Reputation as a Pitchman and Player?

KOBE N LEBRON Pictures, Images and Photos

Lebron James has seen a sharp drop in his popularity since "The Decision" aired. He's gone from having one of the highest positive Q-ratings for any athlete to being disliked by 40% of the population (link). For a man so obsessed with money, Business Lebron has to be concerned about the effect on his endorsements. But surely a championship or two will restore him in the public eye? You would think...but let's compare him with Kobe Bryant.

Kobe is often cited as the example of rehabbing one's reputation via winning. He is now America's favorite sports star. But the comparison between the offenses Kobe and Lebron committed against sports fans do not hold up over time. Kobe's crimes were helping to push Shaq out the door (and time has shown that might have been the right decision) and sexual impropriety in Colorado (in which the case was settled out of court). Neither incident had an easily definable, televisable moment that can be replayed over and over again. Neither incident was watched by millions of sports fans live. And neither incident was a crime against an entire fanbase (or perhaps two, depending on how delusional Knicks fans are given Lebron's previous statements about NY). To compare Kobe's situation to Lebron's fails to recognize the differences between the two...but then again, what else is new when it comes to Kobe-Lebron comparisons?

Halftime Adjustments is a new type of blog I'm working on to sniff out bad comparisons, generalizations, and analogies in ongoing stories. Feel free to submit your own angles on developing stories in need of adjustment to me via my email or twitter (links on sidebar).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Poor Phil Davison, Literally

By now you've probably seen the Phil Davison speech on Youtube--I saw it on TheBigLead, among other places. It does seem funny, as an emotional, over-the-top political speech that doesn't resonate with anyone. Yet another out of context politician, right? But then I went over to TalkingPointsMemo for more information. Sandwiched inbetween the amusing revelation that Phil doesn't know what Youtube is and some random political fluff to justify the interview was this statement:

"Davison, 39, earns $260 per month for his part-time council position. He is in between employment and looking for work. His last job was as a bailiff at the county courthouse and he's paying the bills thanks to a savings account."

A jobless man, almost 40, making less than $4000 a year, trying to make something of himself. That might explain the tremble in the voice and awkward phrasing as well, right? My voice would crack too if I saw a job interview like this as my last chance to make something of myself and earn a livable wage. Ah context, there you go, ruining yet another viral video sensation.