Mighty Casey struck out, but Mighty KC almost never does.
Kansas City beat the NY Mets last night and lead the World Series 3-1. They can claim their first championship since 1985 with a victory in New York tonight. While I typically don’t give a damn about anything KC-related (Chiefs, Sporting, barbecue, the states of Kansas and Missouri in general) I’m really behind them for a basic reason – they’re good for baseball.
For one thing, they’re doing it without spending the GDP of a mid-sized South American nation, and when teams can succeed through smarts and hard work it’s great for everyone.
[Warning: grumpy old man alert]
More importantly, though, they’re winning with a very old-school philosophy: hit the damned ball. In recent years the base hit has become increasingly unfashionable. No matter the situation, the modern player is swinging for the fence. Runner in scoring position with two outs and you’re in the hole 0-2? Swing as hard as you possibly can, even though with your strength and skill you could shorten up, make contact and help your team with the simple, old-fashioned bingle.
I am sick to fucking death of guys who think a single is an affront to their manhood, guys who’d rather strike out six times a game than stoop to moving a runner over and helping their team. Of course, advanced stats don’t care that you strike out 200 times a year.
Know what my favorite advanced stat is? Rings.
KC batters posted 973 strikeouts this season. They were the only team in the bigs to whiff fewer than 1100 times. Their philosophy – keep the line moving. And you can see the impact as all those Mets fireballers are consistently unable to get Royals hitters out the way they have everyone else all year. It’s hard as hell to get a swing-and-a-miss against this crowd. Get some wood on the ball, put it in play, and see what happens.
A little perspective. Babe Ruth was known for swinging hard, right? The most he ever struck out in a season was 93 in 1923. This year 139 players struck out more than that. In a full day of games there are 255 starting position players (and a lot of those are platoon players who don’t get 600 appearances a season). In sum, better than 1 in 5 plate appearances this season ended in a K.
I watch less baseball every year, and this year I don’t think I watched a full game. Part of the reason is this – there’s just nothing interesting about watching muscleheads who’d rather walk back to the dugout than hit a single.
But, one thing we know about sports organizations: they’re sheep. If a team wins the league doing something, the next year more teams are going to be doing that something. So with luck, KC will lay the wood to Matt Harvey tonight and win the game without an extra base hit – or a strikeout.
If that happens, the next few years might result in baseball that’s actually watchable.