Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Mellinger describes something I've vaguely felt from time to time but hadn't really thought about until now:

August is a month where talent takes over.

Anybody who lives the baseball season knows that the last month or so is a "low energy time" in ball. The All-Star break is past, and you're far enough along that monotony is setting in but not close enough to the end that you're giving that final push. The good teams are playing hard, because every game counts, they're in races, all that stuff, but even for them it can be a struggle. For the rest of baseball, the game's lower class, it's impossible to bring the same energy everybody has in April or the contenders have in September . . .

. . . When everybody's effort dips, on both sides, teams win on talent and little else. Fewer guys are grinding at bats, or doing the things during, before and after games that most of us don't notice, so they're winning (or losing) based more on their talent. Talent doesn't go anywhere. So if teams are operating at 85 percent instead of 95 percent, talent makes up a bigger part of that.
I've long criticized pro basketball for the obviousness with which teams mail in games during the season -- all season in the NBA, not just down the stretch -- but watching as much baseball as I have since I started this blog, I just can't ignore the fact that it happens in baseball too. It's not as obvious -- there are no man-on-man defensive breakdowns which stick out like in the NBA -- but it happens, especially on getaway days.

A guy behind in the count may give up a little easier than he might have in May. A leftfielder may run a little slower to retrieve that ball rattling around in the corner. Even a manager might decided to just let a guy get creamed longer than he may have earlier in the season, maybe to save the bullpen, but maybe to move things a long a bit too. Is this quantifiable? I can't see how. I can only say that I get the feeling that it's happening, even if I can only rarely point to a specific example.

Am I alone in this? Anybody else recently seen this kind of dogging it? Non-Manny answers only, please.


tHeMARksMiTh said...

I've said the Braves have been mailing it in since about oh July 29th.

melodyjbf said...

I don't know... it seems a little silly to suggest that talent and effort can be separated, and further that if everyone's putting in less effort, what's left over must be talent. I think someone's talent is more like a ceiling that their effort allows them to reach. Or better yet, it's simply the players who are in fact putting in effor that stand out.

alice-q said...

Sheer exhaustion can't be excluded. There was a play in last night's Mets-Brewers game where Ricky Weekes was thrown out trying to stretch a single. Before the replay, the Mets announcers were wondering if he had busted out of the box. The replay clearly showed that he had. But--and granted, it took a great throw to get him--perhaps he simply had a little less in the tank. It's a long season, and they're all playing hurt (some, like Kevin Gregg, are playing injured and, by so doing hurting their teams). So, the same level of effort doesn't necessarily lead to the result that would have obtained earlier in the season.

mooseinohio said...

I suspect that it occurs to some extent however some of the talented guys may be the ones slacking as they rely on their talent to get through but guys who make teams as grinders tend to always be grinders. One could also make the opposite assertion that August is the time for the grinders to showcase their talents and earn spots for next year as September callups are often for the talent, especially talented draftees with limited minor league experience, to demonstrate their potential. So the mid-20's fourth/fifth outfielder on a team out of the playoff race (realistically about half) has to make his case in August and earn his spot or get the attention of another team for trade/FA considerations as they may see less playing time as a Drew Henson or Josh Booty (forgive the dated references) get playing time in September.

Michael said...

It happens. Guys are tired. Losing teams lose heart and want to go home.

Anonymous said...


Look no further than the A's. Before the ASG, their record was 51-44 and I was writing about the quality of their play, particularly the starting pitching and defense.

But Billy Beane had other ideas, and traded away Harden and Blanton. Then Duchscherer got hurt. Then the rookie lefty starters (Eveland and Smith) got exposed to longer starts because the bullpen had their own injuries and became unreliable.

Result: 12-31 since July 17, run differential has dropped from + 66 to - 41.

The trigger was the trades. The team drooped visibly. Mark Ellis of all people was guilty of poor quality at bats, as were most of the team, although his defense did not suffer. Really only Kurt Suzuki and Ryan Sweeney have maintained consistent approaches in the field and at the plate.

Getaway days immediately after the trades were clearly sub-par performances.

Luke said...

Craig, I know you don't really watch the Tigers games, but can't you tell from some of the wrap-ups that they're mailing it in? They have been even before they were out of the hunt (not just the players, the manager/GM too...keep trotting Sheffield out there instead of Joyce/Thames? Really? Inge is a starting catcher? Really? We have a chance with that rotation? Really?)