What I'm Reading
I wrote about how the Astros dismantled the Twins’ infield shift during the Wild Card series. The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh dove in further, detailing how right-handed hitters should not receive the shift treatment:
In September, Tango took a more rigorous look. The noted sabermetrician, who now serves as MLB’s senior data architect, examined the results of bases-empty matchups since 2015 between the same batter-pitcher duos, with and without three fielders on one side of second. He found that left-handed hitters suffered a 24-point drop in wOBA against the same pitchers when the shift was on. Right-handed hitters fared 38 points better with the shift on. When Tango repeated his study but treated batter-pitcher duos as different if the pitcher had changed teams, the takeaway was even clearer: a 25-point drop for lefties against the shift, and a 43-point improvement for righties. Tango also found a similar boost to right-handed hitters’ stats when he looked into 2020 alone.
For the record, the Twins finished 5th in shifts versus right-handed hitters -- overloading the left side in 31.5% of plate appearances in 2020. That’s actually down from last year when they did that in 34.9% of plate appearances, second only behind the Dodgers.
Bo Jackson Was Amazing:
Jeff Pearlman tweeted a May 16, 1989 sidebar which lauded the Royals outfielder for hitting a batting practice home run into the upper tank at the Metrodome, one of the longest shots in stadium history.
The twist? The right-handed hitting Jackson was doing this from the left side of the plate.
Peter Gammons detailed that event in a Sports Illustrated article later that season:
"Bo, it's your turn. One last swing," hollered Kansas City Royals hitting coach Mike Lum. The righthanded Jackson darted into the cage and jumped up to the plate—on the lefthand side. He took his one cut, and it was the last scene from The Natural, in nonfiction. The ball towered past the dome lights, crashing off the Hardware Hank sign on the facade of the second deck in far right center-field, an estimated 450 feet away and only 30 feet short of the longest rightfield homer ever hit in the Metrodome.
Kirby Puckett, standing in back of the cage with several other Twins, howled at Bo as he walked slowly toward the dugout to put the bat in the rack. Jackson glanced back at Puckett and yelled, "I got work to do," then picked up his glove and strolled nonchalantly out to leftfield to take some fly balls.
All Right All Right All Right:
Not a read but an audio segment from an interview of Matthew McConaughey on the Tim Ferriss Show (full episode here). In the segment, the actor/pitchman describes how he keeps a journal: making sure to log something in during good times and bad times.
Whereas some people have a tendency to spend more time journaling during tough times, McConaughey says he details the moments of success as well as failure. That way he can look back at the positives, helping him with his present mindset.
This practice reminded me of something former Minnesota Twin and current announcer Justin Morneau talked about this year -- maintaining a hitter’s journal.
“One of the things someone told me as my career was going on, write down what you are thinking right now,” Morneau said. “Write down what is going through your mind in your at bats, what you feel like you are doing well. So when you are struggling, you have something to look back on.”
This is definitely something that can be utilized on and off the diamond.
The 3 M’s Of Deliberate Practicing:
Speaking of journaling, that’s one of the key tenets of deliberate practice. Here are three things to keep in mind while engaging in deliberate practice:
Instead of mindlessly practicing a skill for months without improving, being deliberate can result in a better performance, and to a shorter road to mastery. Deliberate practice requires three specific skills:
- Measurement. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. Deliberate practice requires to objectively track and measure your progress. You do not need complicated tools: a simple note-taking app or a spreadsheet can do the job.
- Metacognition. Simply measuring your progress is not enough; it’s important to make space for self-reflection. Journaling can be a powerful metacognitive tool to understand and improve one’s performance.
- Mentoring. Finally, having a coach or a teacher can vastly improve the impact of deliberate practice. The mentorship often consists in assisting with both the measurement and the metacognitive aspect of deliberate practice. For instance, an expert could keep track of your progress while you are practicing, and recommend improvements before you give the activity another go.
Recently listened to The Office: Untold Stories of the Greatest Sitcom Series of the 2000s.
It’s a fascinating look at how one of the most popular television series was conceived and executed -- recommended for any fan of the show as well as anyone interested in how to build a really good culture in an organization or team.
One story that stood out was how Creed Bratton was added to the cast.
Bratton had been a musician in The Grass Roots, a late 1960s psychedelic pop rock band that landed a pair of top ten radio hits and performed in large West Coast music festivals. Bratton however was kicked out of the group in 1969 after having a bad acid trip on stage during a show at the Fillmore West (Bratton had already stirred up issues within the band prior to that meltdown). As his music career fizzled, he would have bit parts as an extra or stand-in in movies and shows but no steady work.
That is, until the American version of The Office.
In trying to make the Dunder Mifflin office to look like a real workplace, the producers tapped several people for non-speaking roles. Bratton was one of them. One of the show’s original directors, Ken Kwapis, had known Bratton as a stand-in during their time together at The Bernie Mac Show and so Kwapis got Bratton a seat at a desk as a background role for the pilot episode.
Because of the relationship, Bratton returned to the background in several more of the episodes during the first season.
It was in the second season when the showrunner, Greg Daniels, had an episode where one of the office's employees -- background actors Bratton or Devon Abner -- would be fired by the branch’s boss Michael Scott. To the show’s producer, it didn’t matter which one of the background actors was permanently removed from the series. The two non-actor actors reportedly discussed who would get the ax from the show. Bratton, whose musical skill set and quirky improvisation endeared him to some writers, won out and Devon, who was slated to star in an off Broadway play, left.
That episode -- Halloween -- was the first in which Bratton had an actual line in the show. The show's producers weren't even sure if he could act.
At 60 years old, Bratton recognized he may never get an opportunity like this again. In the book, Bratton talked about how much time he devoted to learning his lines. He said he set up a tape recorder to listen to them as he fell asleep at night. He did an unbelievable amount of preparation for what amounted to a few on-camera words. Knowing the decision-makers might not present another chance like this to showcase his skills, he wanted to deliver the best performance possible.
Bratton’s performance in that episode was well-received and so eventually he was given more lines and was later added to the full cast.
Bratton was on the cusp of being removed from the show. Instead, he made his way from being a background actor who held up the scenery to one of the cast members -- a cult favorite at that -- of the biggest shows of the early 2000s.
You never know at what point a life-changing opportunity is going to present itself.