Thursday, September 18, 2008

conCERNed with the 4th Boson starter

Obama knows division is bad; so who wants to win the division anyway? Wild Card it is, then. It has a nice ring to it. (Pun, as always, intended.)

So, it turns out that choosing the Sox' 4th (and final) starter for the playoffs is a philosophical dilemma. Assuming Colon is out of the running, (also intended), it's between Wakefield and Byrd. Both are perfectly capable of shut outs and getting bombed. Though Wake's numbers are a bit better overall, he has two stinkers lately, and the stats aren't too far apart. So what's left? Symbolism, naturally.

There's the dialectic of physics and luck, on the one hand, and of will. I like to think of pitching, where so much is in the pitchers hands (I'll stop point them out), in terms of the human categories of will, focus, and drive. Hitting, though, is reactive, and is so often physics and luck; trajectory, geometry, physiology, wind...ology. (By the way, for these notions applied to Beckett vs. Sabathia and the 'o7 ALDS, see here.)

Assuming this schema, I can't stand watching Wakefield "pitch." He's all physics and luck; the knuckleball simply exploits laws of physics, it doesn't finesse them. There's little craft (though of course there's skill.) Off it goes, and, as is so often said, once it leaves Wake's hand, even he doesn't know where its going. Because 'he' doesn't have anything to do with it; it's in the universe's hands, now.

By amusing to me contrast, consider what I wrote about Paul Byrd a few weeks ago; in short, that Byrd can continue guiding the ball as it travels to the plate (it's kind of like in Nintendo's RBI Baseball); that's how subtle and sly the craft of the finesse pitcher is. I like to imagine a metaphysical extension of the self in the finesse pitcher; his will extends beyond the confines of his body to continue to finesse the ball as it travels to home, its teleological destination. Wake is detached at the albeit finely filed fingertips, and the ball is as likely to end up at the backstop as anywhere else; no natural home-seeking motion with the indiscriminate blind particle that is the knuckleball.

So I just can't leave the postseason to chance. For some, the postseason is the most meaningful of events. For others, it's too small a sample size. For the postseason to be meaningful, it has to be thought of as definitive, not random, the result of the virtues- perseverance, talent, and all that etc- not either statistical determinism or fluctuation, a blip off the bell curve. People are right to feel a sting at the disproof of the existence of clutch; it's a moral category replaced by measurement. Clutch is meaningful, not metrical.

So even if Wake can throw a gem- which of course he can- it doesn't mean the same to me. I want to see Byrd battle the elements, his physical shortcomings in the form of an 87 mph fastball, the battle against physics and luck for the sake of will and guts, even if those guts get splattered, rather than take the trial and error that maybe proves that there's a Higgs boson and maybe blows up the universe that is Wakefield.

Though I could be a bit biased. I was at the Aaron Boone game, after all.


Rooster said...

The first round is best of 5, so part of who the #4 starter would be is dictated by circumstance. If the Sox win the first 3, obviously there's no need for a 4th. Also, the #1 guy can be brought in on short rest if the need is urgent.

Plus, we did not expect to use Derek Lowe at all in the '04 playoffs. Then, he started game 7 of the ALCS. You just never know.

Since Colon has gotten so little work, unless he pitches two very solid starts before the playoffs, I doubt he'll make the roster. My guess is Wake and Byrd will both be on. One of them can start game #4 on a short leash. Get in trouble, and switch!

Soxlosophy said...

Good call Rooster.

So I decided to check the numbers, though, and Wake is more better, as they say, overall than Byrd.

Byrd- 98 ERA+, 101 with the Sox, 1.31 whip. With Sox, 4.74 K/9, 1 HR and 1 BB per 4.75 IP, And eek, .792 opponents OPS this year, .826 with the Sox.

Wake- 109 ERA+, 1.21 whip,
1 HR per 6.8 IP, 2.9 BB/9, 5.72 K/9, and only .699 opponents OPS.

Whatever. I'm sticking to my guns. I think.