I've decided that the one thing I want to contribute to this site is instigating heated arguments about small ball. In that spirit below is a link to a great posting on firejoemorgan.com on that subject. They're talking about an article about playing small ball (a.k.a. playing the game the right way) written by former shitty baseball player Jose Mota.
Some highlights -
Aggressiveness is not a style, but the right way to play the game, and it is the right way to teach the game.
Oh. It's black and white. Home runs are wrong. Walking is wrong. Clogging the basepaths is wrong. We should accept this wisdom because...why again?
We can go back to our Little League days when our best coaches encouraged us to be aggressive and to have fun on the basepaths, to move a buddy over with a bunt so he can get closer to scoring that big run, to be unafraid of taking a chance on a wild pitch, to choke up on the bat with two strikes and make contact. Most of us can remember the coach who said, "I won’t be upset if you get thrown out as long as you are being aggressive and smart."
It's funny, because so many of these well-worn baseball ostensible truisms are diametrically opposed to say, Bill James' 10 Commandments of Sabermetrics, which include:
1) Thou Shalt not Bunt.
2) Thou Shalt Have no Low On Base Percentages Before the Cleanup Hitter.
3) Honor the three-run homer and the leadoff walk.
4) Thou shalt not steal at anything less than a 70% success rate.
5) Thou shalt make no idol of the light-hitting middle infielder.
But then again, I have no idea if Bill James ever coached Little League, and he certainly never accumulated 36 at bats for the 1991 San Diego Padres, so you can probably throw his opinions out the window. That's all they are, right? Opinions, from some nerd who's only pored over reams and reams of data and carefully used statistical analysis to determine what baseball plays actually contribute most to scoring baseball runs.
Who needs that kind of opinion?
I played with seven organizations during my 12-year career, including big league stints with the Padres and Royals, and I can tell you that every one of them emphasized what they thought were the key components to winning. During spring training, we spent countless hours not talking about hitting three-run homers, but on how to maximize opportunities when it was our turn to hit.
Argh. Back to the craziness. Those Padres and those Royals OPS+ed 94 and 87, respectively. Maybe you should've chatted more about power hitting, yeah?
Many lessons had to do with playing the game with a high level of awareness. Every morning during spring training the routines were similar when talking about creating runs: bunt runners over, execute the hit-and-run, move the runner over from second to third with nobody out by hitting the ball to the right side. And when baserunning, recognize where the outfielders are positioned and know their arm strength. Tag the bases and slide properly. The ways to gain an edge are endless.
Other ways to gain an edge:
1. Get on base more than the other guys.
2. Make the other guys throw more pitches than your guys.
3. Don't bunt (except for the rarest of circumstances).
4. Don't give away outs.
5. Have more powerful dudes.
6. Force Edwin Encarnacion to bunt, making him so angry he hits a gargantuan home run.
7. Repeat with Adam Dunn.
8. Hit nine 3-run home runs every game.
9. Fold your arms in the dugout and smile.
By the way, anyone who can find the Rob Neyer/Bill James 10 Commandments of Sabermetrics would be my hero for at least a day.