What We’re Reading: July 26

With the MLB Playoff race to October heating up, and less than ten days until the trade deadline, this week we’re checking in with the latest in the world of Major League Baseball. We’re focusing on everything from the importance of character players to home run highlight videos, and why they’re not all that great.

  • One of the major obstacles MLB teams face is the inability to manage the unmanageable: injuries. Managers are finding new ways to mitigate pitcher injuries sustained from over-throwing in practice. Using Catapult’s wearable harness–which provides data via accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer–to measure the force and movement of the body, coaches gain better insight into the repercussions of over-use and fatigue for individual pitchers.   

  • According to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo power ratings, which measure a team’s strength at a given moment during the season, both the Astros and the Dodgers have achieved the supposedly unachievable: they are comparable to the legendary 1927 Yankees. And while Houston and LA might be at the pinnacle of baseball, the historic performance level is a constant throughout baseball’s highest echelon this year. Each of the top six teams as categorized by Elo have the strongest ratings in modern history. This should make for an interesting October, and an even more interesting trade deadline.

  • Speaking of the trade deadline, the weeks and days leading up to July 31st have been frenzied with rumors, talks, and a first-mover fear that stems from fragmented standings. With the top spots secured, teams on the perimeter are forced to ask how much they are willing to pay to win the wild card.

  • What is the most exciting thing to happen when you’re at baseball game? Inarguably, a home run. While nothing beats a day at the ballpark, most fans keep track of their favorite team through video highlights. Most highlights show everyone’s favorite part of the live game, the home runs, but Sam Miller of ESPN argues that home runs actually are not great highlights in that there is no element of surprise in the outcome. What really makes for great highlights is the suspense found in uncut footage of a player reacting and adapting to overcome an obstacle and achieve a surprisingly positive outcome.  

  • Even the most analytics-focused baseball teams require something unquantifiable: character players. With the commotion of the trade deadline underway, and despite all the data that goes into helping managers make informed decisions, teams still take into consideration the intangible impact that veteran players have in the dugout through mentorship, leadership, and confidence.