Sunday, May 20, 2012

John Kruk: Terrified of numbers of all kinds

I have to admit, Krukie's BBTN analysis has improved over the years.  He used to say stuff like this and this.  Lately he's a lot less offensive and has even learned to read a teleprompter.  Good for him.  Tonight, though, he put together a little mini rant that I found both amusing and illuminating.  Amusing because let's face it, it's always funny when a fat idiot gets worked up about something, and illuminating because it showed that ex-player neanderthals like him who hate advanced stats also hate any other numerical information that's not batting average/number of pitching wins.  In other words Kruk showed that the universe of stuff he'd rather not understand is a lot larger than I previously thought it was.

ESPN occasionally does these little Sport Science bits; they're actually not a huge waste of time.  They dumb down the physics behind awesome stuff that athletes do and then present their analysis with some cool-looking production.  Here's how much force LeBron generates when he jumps to dunk, here's the amount of torque Tiger Woods generates when he swings, etc.  It's like a video version of a USA Today infographic.  Early this evening on BBTN they did one about this Justin Sellers catch.  The narrator (who is not one of the anchors; it's a pre-recorded bit) described the amount of time Sellers spent looking at the ball to judge its trajectory, the "optimal acceleration cancellation" his brain used to create a vectored route that would intersect with the ball's trajectory, the speed at which he was running when he tumbled into the stands (19 mph), and the force of impact he made with the wall (somehow equivalent to being hit by a car going 20 rather than 19 mph).  It was reasonably entertaining.  And when it was over, we were taken back to the studio to get Kruk and Karl Ravech's thoughts.  Take it away, Larry B's DVR.

Sport Science narrator, wrapping things up:  Sellers manages to hold onto the ball after tumbling into the stands, and grab our play of the week.  

KR: I love it.  I love what I just saw.  I love that stuff.  There he is.  He basically caught the ball, got hit by a car, and held onto it.

JK:  At twenty miles per hour.

[graphic on screen: Most defensive runs saved by Dodgers in 2012.  Sellers is second on the team with 4 in just 90 innings in the field.]

KR:  At twenty miles per hour.  That's Justin Sellers there, Jerry Hairston Junior, as far as the Dodgers go... (obviously trolling Kruk) Krukie, what part of that resonates with you?  Was it the optimal acceleration cancellation?  

JK (sarcastically):  That was... that was where I really got into it.  (pause)  Karl.

KR (chuckling):  What.

JK:  My optical illusions told me when I watched that play that it was a great play.  I don't need science to tell me that was a great play.  I don't.  I don't care how long his eyes were on the ball.  I don't care if a car going FIFTY miles per hour hit him.

KR:  Yeah, well, that was-

JK:  He made a great play.  I didn't need science to tell me that.

KR:  Well, it allows to just-

JK (exasperated):  Sometimes, let's just use our eyes.  Let's just use our eyes!

KR:  So... you don't want to know HOW great a play it was.

JK  (still exasperated):  No.  I know how great a play it was!  It was very difficult!

KR:  He caught it.  Got hit by a car.  And held onto it.

JK: (exhales audibly)  I feel like I got hit by a car.

What's the best part of that?  Him pleading with us to "just use our eyes," as if one could enjoy Sellers' play by knowing the Sport Science facts but without actually have seen the catch?  "My optical illusions?"  Ravech unashamedly setting Kruk up for a rant against an in-house production piece?  Pretty fun.  I also enjoyed their signoff about 30 minutes later, before Sunday Night Baseball began, in which Karl awkwardly announced that they'd be back for more Baseball Tonight after the game in part because he didn't think he and Kruk had done anything to get fired during the show.  Great stuff.


Chris W said...

Poor Krukkie. He spent his career worshipping the .300 batting average, even going so far as to shamelessly retire midseason for no other reason than to preserve his career BA numbers only to find out that people are starting to not care about Batting Average, and that the only other stat he has left where he's near the top is "Most years spent having Lenny Dykstra keep you from being the dumbest guy on your team"

Biggus Rickus said...

In fairness, he also got on base at nearly a .400 clip, which is still considered important. His career OPS+ was also 134. The dude could hit. That said, he's a fucking idiot about statistical analysis and would not appreciate the argument I just made in his favor.

Chris W said...

Dude was definitely a valuable hitter. Just saying,, he worshipped at the altar of the .300 average and retired 40 games into a new contract just to make sure that he ended with a .300 average that increasingly fewer and fewer people will care about at the expense of his reputation as a guy who's not a huge douchebag. Oops!

Alex said...

Yeah, I have to agree that Kruk was a great hitter.

About Sellers. A long time ago, playing centerfield, I chased down a fly ball all the way until I hit the fence.

It just stuns you. BANG! How I held on to the ball I don't know. I remember my friend coming to me just talking to make sure I was alright.

Sports Science was a useful show I enjoyed watching. Too many opinion, flash shows these days. For example, up here, I get Sportsnation, PTI and Around the Horn all in a row. In between that, ESPN jr. in Canada - TSN- throws in its own sportstalk shows like Off the Record. While they can be, I guess, entertaining, they're all rooted in OPINIONS.

All cover similar subjects and topics.

Science as a form of entertainment is under rated in sports.

What Kruk doesn't seem to grasp is that stats and/or science bring empirical evidence to the table. He may want to believe his eyes (quick, what Simpsons character complained the goggles didn't work?), are telling the truth but sometimes they don't.

He has to learn to balance both.

The Catholic church didn't like what Galileo was saying but they had to adjust, right? Not even the Pope can lie about science.

cs said...

He retired early to preserve an average that the majority of baseball people at the time respected... so what? Not everyone had Ted Williams' balls I guess.

Gulag said...

I wonder if Kruk also has an Easterbrook-esque hatred of fractional timing.


Larry B said...

That's a great Easterbrook bit, Gulag, although I think "Zod" might not sound gentile-y enough for his taste.

Chris W said...

CS: you mean "two of them"?

Gulag said...

Very true, Larry B. "Zod" always struck me as a pretty Germanic name.

cs said...

CW - touche

Anonymous said...

Rainier Wolfcastle is the answer to trivia question.

Alex said...

Nice! I'm sure FJM have some prizes to hand out.

Alex said...

On a side issue, Larry B, did you notice who scored the winner propelling the Kings into the finals?

The ironic thing (as per Simmons) is that LA may win with Penner and not with Clowe!

The officiating is a joke this year.

jacktotherack said...

Alex, I'm sure we will be waiting awhile before we hear any sort of mea culpa from The Sports Guy over how wrong he was about the LA Kings and Dustin Penner. Of course right now he is too busy jacking off over the possibility of writing a 10,000 word ode to Greg Steimsma and how he can make a tortured "Cleveland Steimsma" joke.