Analysis, enjoyment, and some time off

Jared Wickerham

Don't forget to smile a bit during the World Series, it's the last MLB baseball you'll see for a few months. Maybe it's the one time to turn off the analytics switch.

The World Series is the perfect time for the analytical baseball fan to turn of his or her brain. Don't worry, I haven't fallen off the deep end, embraced the dark side, or become a dissenter. The meaning behind my statement derives from a few sources. First though, let me explain what it means to "turn one's brain off," and more importantly why the World Series proves to be the best and most opportune time for this seemingly odd act.

Baseball has the longest regular season in American sports. Each team plays 162 games, during a season that encompasses the very end of the laboriously drawn out NBA and NHL playoffs, and the very beginning of the domineering NFL season. For six months, America has nothing to turn to for legitimate sports entertainment other than the occasional tennis tournament and of course, baseball. Other than the All-Star break, teams in major league baseball play every single day.

The length of the season allows for those who study the sport as much as enjoy it, for most the two are synonymous, a solid sample size of data with which to work. From April to September, some team plays, and some writer, pundit, fan, etc... discovers new and interesting facts, statistics, and other notable events that come from few other sport-related distractions and a continuance of play. When it comes to the playoffs though, the field of teams goes from thirty to ten, and the series played actually expand from three-game sets to best of five or best of seven.

These series present themselves though with a different approach. Lose the series and wait the winter to lace up the cleats again, or win and move on to another round of "win or go home." As someone who worked this entire summer collecting and analyzing data concerning the entire league, watching a constant stream of random games, I learned to appreciate the romantic notion of attending a live game. That same notion rings true when it comes to the World Series. During the playoffs I have sat and watched every game, dissecting them afterwards, with the hope that some new and interesting strategy or pattern might present itself that could have an impact on future playoff series or even just the next game. This has proven fascinating and fruitful, and the brilliant work of my colleagues here at Beyond the Box Score, as well as other writers I respect on other websites.

For some reason though, when it comes down to the World Series I find myself wanting to just turn those analysis goggles off. I'm sure I'll continue to scrutinize pitch selection, yell at the T.V screen when a manager decides to sacrifice bunt, and lecture anyone who might be in earshot, random neighbors included, about the base-out situations and run expectancy. Still, it is at this point in the season, just prior before the magic dissipates, that I understand the wondrous ability baseball has to captivate me for half a year.

Still, the news cycle goes on, and for the last week in which writers, reporters, and fans can discuss baseball, the machine will continue to purr. I'm not advocating that the World Series is some magical time during which dreams come true, heroes emerge, and dragons slain. This series determines the champion of the sport for the year, an apex desired by all, and also the final instance during which analysis of games played can occur. I plan though to turn off my analytical side, and just try to enjoy the games. I guess it helps that I have no allegiances to the teams involved, but more importantly, especially with the economic analyses forthcoming during the dark offseason, this week will be my time to enjoy the games. It's a dishwasher moment; one in which I'll perform necessary baseball ablutions to come out in the offseason ready to ramp up the analysis, scrutinize, and attempt to forecast every upcoming trade, contract, and announcement.

Baseball is amazing, but like anything else in life we love, sometimes we need to step back and remove the magnifying glass so as not to burn anything. The Cardinals and Red Sox matchup incredibly well to play each other, just as any of the four teams left in the championship series would have. Both teams sport good coaching staffs, a wealth of young and veteran talent, pitching up to wazoo, and a flare for the dramatic that should provide all viewers some great baseball. It'll be difficult, but for the betterment of my own baseball mind, the side that loves to question everything and tease out tidbits, I need to just tone that side down a bit, just for one week.

Maybe this doesn't apply to you, and maybe this whole editorial seems like a piece one reads on more mainstream sites in which the author attempts to enlighten the geeky analysts of the game to the sentimentality of the game. I in no way hope it comes off that way because instead I'm only implying that a slight rest, moment in which we take some stock and perspective of the work and devotion put forth for this sport. Continue to enjoy baseball in which every manner suits you best, but for me, for this one week, I'll be turning my brain, or half of it, from on to off.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball-Reference.

Ben Horrow is a writer at Beyond The Box Score and The Good Phight. You can follow him on Twitter at @Summerpastime.

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