Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Biancalana and Yellin: A Look At Baseball Geeks vs. Traditionalists

Guest Post by Buddy Biancalana and Steve Yellin of PMPMSports

I just returned from the Winter Baseball Meetings in Indianapolis. The gathering is always an interesting few days for me due to my partner, Steven Yellin, and my working to introduce new methods of teaching sports.

Baseball traditionalists, as one general manger told me, are very slow to change, whether it has to do with technology or something pertaining to training techniques.

I understand the resistance to new ways in our fast changing world.

A day doesn’t pass for me that I don’t think I should be taking greater advantage of social media. I know it’s the quickest and most economical way to spread information, but I still don’t utilize it to the degree I could and should.

Why? No good reason, except that I just haven’t decided to stretch myself in that direction yet.

Another interesting experience for me at the Meetings was looking around and seeing so many “non baseball looking” people. The geeks, as we know, have infiltrated baseball and have brought great creativity, analytical methods, and knowledge.

Although, for decades scouts have been able to look at a stat sheets and gather beneficial information, the geeks have come up with new names for these stats, created new stats, and bunched them together to give us useful information. I really enjoy speaking to the geeks and learning about their hypothesis of the game and its players.

Statistics certainly can tell a lot about a player. When I began to understand the mind-body connection about 13 years ago, I quickly realized that on-base percentage was the best statistical indicator of a player’s mind-body connection.

A high OBP indicates a hitter is not swinging at bad pitches and is drawing walks. When he swings, he is getting hits. So OBP, for the most part, indicates how well a hitter executes his intention when at the plate—his body is executing what his minds wants.

Some years later, the stat OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage, was introduced. OPS is an even better stat in measuring a hitter’s mind-body connection, because not only does it indicate the hitter’s ability to draw walks and get hits, but also indicates his ability to fairly consistently get his hands and body in position to drive the ball for extra base hits. OPS also indicates whether the hitter has good timing.

It tells the story if the hitter is able to release his hands on time in order to hit a big piece of the ball and elevate it (not a fly ball, but a rising line drive). Great mechanics are wonderful, but its good timing that allows for outstanding sports performances.

Along with the many gifts the geeks have brought to baseball, they have also brought many second baseman and left fielders who don’t run, throw or drive the ball as well as clubs would like. But these players have a strong mind-body connection, and therefore, a history of a high on-base percentage.

But going base-to-base on offense and allowing runners to take the extra base when playing defense, is not going to help produce many championships. That is often the case for such players.

The reason the geeks have been able to be of help in the baseball world, is because many of the traditionalists were having difficulty developing the tremendously, talented perfectly sculptured player. Many owners and general managers needed to look at different ways to protect and increase the returns on their money.

It could be said that many of the Traditionalists didn’t understand the mind-body connection, and thus opening the door, and in walked the geeks along with their line of second baseman, left fielders, and some talented players with high OBP.

Over the last several years or so, I think both parties would agree they have learned how to coexist and utilize the gifts each possesses.

What would make the geeks very happy is if the traditionalists on the field could do a better job at getting their second basemen and left fielders to have high OPS and not just high OBP.

What would make the traditionalists very happy would be teaching the tremendously talented, perfectly sculptured players how to access deeper levels of mind-body coordination so they could consistently get their hands and bodies in position to drive the baseball with excellent timing.

Then, all of us lovers of baseball could more often enjoy the beauty of watching stallions take the extra base, and also experience the thrill, or disappointment, of a runner thrown out at third or home. This is our expertise at Perfect Mind-Perfect Motion.

Happy Holidays,

Buddy Biancalana & Steven Yellin

Once per month, freelance writer Todd Civin shares his space with former Major League shortstop Buddy Biancalana. As a 1st round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals, Biancalana played Major League Baseball with the Royals and Houston Astros. As the starting shortstop for the 1985 World Champion Royals, he received the highest number of MVP votes of any position player. He and famed tennis instructor, Steve Yellin, are the co-founders of PMPM Sports.

Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report , Sports, Then and Now , and Seamheads . He is a supporter of A Glove of Their Own , the award-winning children’s story that teaches paying it forward through baseball.

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