Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Game of Fails

Sure, I might have watched Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey this Sunday evening, but another great event that occurred around that time was the first game of the MLB season. Over the past few months, I have been studying about spirituality and the general perspectives when it comes to success and failure. Shall we begin?

(Disclaimer: There will be times in the post where I am going to sound absolutely ridiculous. Bear with me. There is a reason behind all of this.)

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

The summer after I had graduated from grade school, I took part in a softball day camp held by the high school I was going to attend that upcoming September. One of the things I remember hearing from the coaches was this: "baseball is a sport of failure." I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about at the time. (I was 13, cut me some slack.) As time went on, I thought about that, and it all began to make sense. From a numbers aspect, the sport of baseball (and softball) is ultimately a game of failures.

It's time to throw around some FUN FACTS!
Wheee! I love fun facts!

-- In the past 15 years, the best record posted by a Major League team was 116-46 by the Seattle Mariners in the 2001 season. This is a .716 winning percentage. With this number in mind, they weren't the ones that went all the way that year; in fact, they lost to the New York Yankees in the ALCS, who later lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in seven games in World Series.

-- In the past 15 years, the highest batting average posted was Larry Walker of the Colorado Rockies hitting at .379 during the 1999 season.

These are incredible statistics, yes? Let's look at the top percentages from this past MLB season.

-- The 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and Runner-Up St. Louis Cardinals had regular season records of 97-65, or a winning percentage of .599.

-- The batting champs of the American and National League were Miguel Cabrera and Michael Cuddyer. They hit .348 and .331, respectively.

On the other hand, we have facts like these as well:

-- The Houston Astros offense suffered at least 14 strikeouts in four consecutive games, the first to do so in Major League history. They also ended the season on a 15-game losing streak.

-- There were three no-hitters during the 2013 season, meaning that offensive squads failed to get a hit off of a starting pitcher.

Where I went to college, the minimum score you would have to achieve to get a grade of C is a 73, or for the sake of consistency in this post, a .730.
In conclusion, the 2013 Major League Baseball season was a complete and utter failure in the eyes of statistics and the American educational system.

Luckily, nobody dies in this series.
Right now, you're like: "What? This girl is an idiot." In fact, this very quote may be going through your head. But let's be real here--all sports are bent upon someone's failure, am I correct? For instance, the goalkeeper may miss a shot, or the NFL running back might fumble the ball. Every action has a reaction. It can either be positive or negative, depending on one's perspective.

Each action in the game of baseball will have a reaction. It will take the grit of one player or the slip-up of another to pave the way to the outcome leading to success and failure.

Within 50 at-bats, a hitter has to maintain a .300 batting average--which isn't too shabby at all--by successfully getting only 15 base-hits. This is to say that he does not record a base-on-balls, which adds to another statistic that I will mention later. With that said, this hitter will fail to reach base 35 times in order to achieve this batting average of .300, which will place him among the top hitters in his league come August/September. If a player plays at least 75% of the season (we're talking along the lines of 115-120 games), he will have at least 500 plate appearances. To play at the Mendoza Line--a.k.a. have a .200 batting average--all you have to do is not screw up 100 times. I mean that literally.

The failures of a pitcher will be the fortune of the hitter as well. When it comes to the OBP, or on-base percentage, hits and walks will be incorporated into that statistic. When the OBP number is higher, it will show how efficient the hitter is at the plate when it comes to scouting pitches. That isn't to say that it's a high-looking percent, either. Although a player like Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds had an on-base percentage of .435 for the 2013 season, that's still a failing grade. In fact, it's barely a 50-50 chance of getting on the bases. With that 50-50 chance, it's the same kind of odds for the pitcher to succeed. His ERA, or earned run average, is on the line, and that's the one statistic where a high number can be looked down upon. See? It's the action/reaction thing again. It's like a seesaw.

There is a major thing that one must consider when you watch baseball: the players have so many chances to do something right, and the failure is only accentuated in a critical point of the game. For example, if there is a runner on third and there are less than two outs, you would think that there would be no issue in getting that runner on third to home. When that's the main objective, you are dead-set on that, and if you can't get that job done, you're sunk, and for that lack of a better term, "you totally suck." However, you are the greatest player in the world when you hit a gapper and not only do you score the runner on third, but you also get the runner from first all the way home as well. In your success of getting those runs in, you feed off of the failures of the outfielders either not taking an efficient route to the ball, or they were too slow to get to it so that less damage could have been done.

Now that all of these cases are out of the way, these notices of failures in a sport like baseball aren't all that bad. You see, there's a reason behind all of this failure. 
To be more clear on this matter, the underlying message in sports can be translated into a life lesson:
In life, you are going to fail. You are going to fail a lot. In fact, you are going to fail so much that you think you're awful at absolutely everything, but there are people out there that still look up to you and see you as their hero. However, there is going to be that one time, that one chance where things are going to be super shiny and super hopeful. You are going to find that peace, and every ounce of failure that you had experienced will be fuel for the success that you are about to earn. Everything you've worked on and struggled upon will come to a positive something that you will achieve. However, on this note, you must focus only on yourself, because the success that you will receive will result in a failure for someone else. It's almost like a "keep going and don't look back" sort of deal.

Yes, sports can be a game of failures. Baseball is a notable one because there are so many statistics behind the sport, and they're all numbers that a student wouldn't be proud of in his first year of college, 550 miles away from his unsuspecting parents. However, we don't notice these as complete failures. Why? Because of the the atmosphere of the sport and the degree of difficulty to do certain tasks (for the record: hitting a fastball isn't as easy as it looks), we don't see things as failures unless if it is a collective loss or a streak of misfortunes among a team. That, or if a singular player isn't doing well at all and it is showing among a team of above-average players. In a judgmental society, we are quick to say whether something is good or bad instead of seeing it as a learning experience because they are professional players and that they should be "perfect." Well, that's not how the world works. We're all human, the last time I checked.

Embrace the failures. It's what makes the victories that much sweeter.