The Broken Bat: A Lucky Home Run

Good Afternoon, It’s Wednesday, Septemeber 2nd, and this is The Broken Bat: A Lucky Homerun. 

So, there has been this tweet that has been bothering me the past couple of weeks. Philadelphia Eagles reporter Eliot Sharr-Parks tweeted about the NHL playoffs and said, “I could maybe score a touchdown. I could luck into a home run. I could probably get two points in an NBA game. I could play hundreds of games of hockey and never ever score a goal. It looks impossible.” I agree with the point of this tweet saying that scoring an NHL goal is one of the hardest things to do in sports, but there is one part of the tweet that has kept me up at night. “I could luck into a home run.” This claim is preposterous. Yeah, sure, anyone can put a glove on and run out on the field, but it takes an incredible amount of skill to succeed. To achieve those skills takes a considerable amount of time. Hitting a baseball is one of the most challenging things to do across all sports. 

The average batting average for the entire MLB has historically been around the .250 range, although this year that number is down to .244. Regardless, that number means that the average MLB player will record a hit 5 times for every 20 times he steps up to the plate or that he won’t hit the ball 15 times out of every 20 attempts.  The average team has 37 plate appearances a game spread across nine players ,and therefore, each player has about 3 or 4 plate appearances, a game. That’s one hit a game for the average player. Combine that with the fact that most of these hits are small singles or doubles, and a Major League team only hits about 1 home run per 8 hits. 

Two other factors make it nearly impossible. The first is seeing the pitch thrown at you. Most Major League pitchers can throw 90+ mph, and some can even throw over 100 mph. It is nearly impossible to see a pitch that fast coming at you. A famous expression in baseball is “blink and you’ll miss it.We don’t even notice when we blink unless we think about it. If you can swallow a 90+ mph fastball, good luck trying to swing at another pitch. Today, pitchers will follow a 95 mph fastball with an 80 mph curveball that confuses even the majors’ best hitters. Below is a video from the tv show Sports Science and it explains the process and difficulty of seeing an MLB pitch.

The Sports Science video talks about seeing fastballs, but that’s only half the battle. Pitchers today can create such great movement and spin. A twitter account that I have been fascinated with this MLB season is called Pitching Ninja. Pitching Ninja is an account that posts videos of the craziest pitches for that day’s games, and it is just mesmerizing to see how pitchers can do that. If you take five minutes to look at the page, it puts it in perspective how good these pitchers are in the MLB and how it would be so hard for someone off the street to even make contact with a pitch. Los Angeles Dodgers Pitcher Dustin May has a pitch nicknamed the “Demon Pitch”. This pitch is one of if not the nastiest pitches I have ever seen ,and I plan to write an article about it soon. I attached a video of the pitch below from Pitching Ninja’s account.

One of my favorite videos from Pitching Ninja

Another factor is the physical makeup and talent of the person hitting the ball. Some of the best home run hitters are big hulking mounds of muscle such as Yankee’s outfielder Aaron Judge, which of course helps with power hitting. Still, there are also players like Houston Astro’s slugger Jose Altuve, who is 5’6 and only weighs 160 pounds. He is an excellent home run hitter and hits his home runs with a combination of hand speed and form. Altuve didn’t just suddenly luck into being able to hit with such finesse and talent. He spent years and countless hours fixing the tiniest mechanics to perfect his swing to muscle memory.  This combination of mental and physical skills makes it nearly impossible for someone off the street to simply “luck into a hitting a home run.”

The Hot Lap: Belgian GP and Season Summary

Good Afternoon, It’s Sunday, August 30th and this is The Hot Lap: Belgian GP and Season Summary. 

The sport of Formula 1 is currently experiencing one of the worst parity problems that I have ever seen from any sport and this weekend was a clear indication of that as fans of the sport needed any more reason to believe the issues. Before we get any further though, let’s recap the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. 


The classification for this race was a very similar story to the rest of the year at the top but outside of the top 3, there were some interesting surprises! The Renault F1 Team displayed a more consistent showing of their pace that we had seen in flashes throughout the earlier races this season.With Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon both reaching Q3 and qualifying P4 and P6 respectively, the race outlook was bright for the French team still looking for its first podium this year. Coupling that strong start with outstanding defense and the fastest lap of the race from Ricciardo, solid strategy across the board, and a brilliant overtake by Ocon on Alex Albon during the final lap of the race, Renault took home their biggest point haul and best-combined finish of the season! 

Another strong performance came from the Frenchman Pierre Gasly, racing with a heavy heart on the weekend of the one year anniversary of the passing of close friend and fellow Frenchman Anthoine Hubert, who brought home P8 and at one point was running all the way up into P4. Gasly didn’t entirely set a strong qualifying time, not making it into Q3 and qualifying P12, but did set his time on the hard tires which allowed for him to race a longer first stint than all but one other driver (Sergio Perez who was also on the Hards). Gasly’s only kryptonite in this race was the oh-so-common Safety Car that came out on lap 10 which allowed his competitors a free pit stop to switch tires and lessening the advantage that Gasly had built up until that point. Gasly was still able to produce a strong finish and come home P8. 

Even though his successes are something that fans have come to being used to, this race was one of Lewis Hamilton’s finest. Barring a tire disaster like the British GP or some form of a mechanical problem similar to the one that we saw in Austria, this race was over on Saturday. Hamilton, in what was his last race with the so-called Party Mode, ran away from everyone in qualifying setting his pole position lap time over 5 tenths quicker than teammate Valtteri Bottas and then cruised through the race. He built a large gap between himself and Bottas early and then repeated the feat after the safety car all while managing his tires brilliantly. In a race where before today Hamilton had more retirements (4) than victories (3), he once again proved that he is the most dominant racer of the 2010s and arguably of all time.  

Surprisingly, this race was also a strong one for Alex Albon and Red Bull. The Belgian GP was the first time that Albon had driven the race in a Red Bull for the second time outside of the repeat races this year due to him making his debut for Red Bull at Spa in 2019. During his time at Red Bull, Albon has struggled on Saturday in qualifying but has made up places during the race. Even though he finished a place below his qualifying spot, his P5 on Saturday and P6 during the race points to an upward trend in form and improved consistency that Helmut Marko, Christian Horner, and the entirety of the Red Bull Racing organization should be very excited about. 

In a year that we didn’t think it would be possible for situations at Scuderia Ferrari to get worse, they managed to get worse. Even though the Ferrari hasn’t looked great all year, the Prancing Horses have had success at Spa in recent history with Sebastian Vettel winning in 2018 and Charles Leclerc winning in 2019. Ferrari failed to even come close to those standards or even the relative success they’ve had this year with both cars failing to reach Q3 for the first time since 2014… The race wasn’t much better for them as they finished in their same qualifying positions even though Leclerc was in P9 at one point. 

WDC - 8:30 - Belgian GPF1 is currently having a parity and competition crisis. Depending on which team you cheer for, this is either a great thing or a bad thing. Mercedes has dominated the sport on a level that hasn’t been seen in other sports arguably since the Bill Russell Celtics of the 60s. There hasn’t even been a relative competition. Just look at the current World Drivers’ Championship standings. Lewis Hamilton is holding a 47 point advantage over Verstappen in second and even he and Bottas are miles away from the rest of the drivers. It’s so bad that in Shift F1’s podcast before the Spanish GP someone asked a question about whether Nico Hulkenberg’s 6 points would be enough for 16th place in the championship at the end of the year. Hulkenberg filled in for Sergio Perez for one race when Perez tested positive for COVID-19. Haas, Alfa Romeo, and Williams all have struggled to reach the P8-P10 range during the race, let alone finish there with only Magnussen and Giovinazzi scoring points from those 3 teams. Hulkenberg’s 14th place in the championship looks to be a solid bet with him being in 16th or better only having better odds. 

The main issue of parity in F1 is not at the bottom but rather at the top. With the gap from 4th to last being 48 points and the gap from any 4 consecutive places being around 10 points, the midfield this year is an intense battle with drivers at risk of losing more than one position every week with a bad race. That 48 point gap from 4th to last, however, is smaller than the gap from 3rd to 4th and also the gap from 1st to second. Nobody is catching the Mercedes except for the most talented driver (arguably) on the grid in Max Verstappen. He’s the only driver outside of Mercedes’ Hamilton and Bottas to win a race or even be a threat to the lead. There are only 2 drivers other than the Mercedes Drivers to have made Q3 in every race this year: Lando Norris and Max Verstappen. F1 has often been a sport all about who has the best car and Mercedes absolutely has the best car in their W11 this year, but their car has been so dominant that every race except for the opener at Austria and the wild British Grand Prix has been a race that was over at Lights Out. They’ve qualified on pole in every race and have locked out the front row in all but one. This season is practically over in terms of podiums and the Drivers Championship and it’s week 7. Sadly, change isn’t entirely coming soon. Due to COVID-19, the budget cap introduction was pushed back to 2022 and only partially introduced in 2021. The only hope that F1 fans may have is the FIA’s decision to only allow for one engine mode throughout an entire race, but we will have to wait until next week to see if that has any effect on the sheer dominance of the Mercedes in the sport today. 

Welcome To The Wubble: August Edition

Good Afternoon, it is August 28th, and this is Welcome to the Wubble: August Edition. 

First and foremost the WNBA has been one of the leading voices in demanding social justice from the opening moment of silence for Breonna Taylor, absence for the anthem and recently their boycott of games in protest and memory of Jacob Blake and regardless of my perspective on these issues, the solidarity and unity of action from all these athletes is commendable and, at the moment, unseen in any other league. 

Switching perspectives to the action on the court with our MVP race update as of August 28th. The leading 4 frontrunners for the MVP award are, in no particular order and in my opinion, Breanna Stewart (SEA), A’ja Wilson (LV), Candace Parker (LAS) and Courtney Vandersloot (CHI).

Starting off with Breanna Stewart who currently is the league leader in win shares with 3.2. Stewie is playing her first season back from a torn achilles which she suffered in a EuroLeague game causing her to miss the entirety of the 2019 WNBA season. However, she has returned to similar form that she had during her 2018 MVP season when she dominated the league en route to a League Championship. Additionally, she leads the league in efficiency, is top 5 in points and top 10 in rebounds, blocks and steals. If I had to vote on a player to give the MVP to at this point: My vote goes to Breanna Stewart. 

However, the award isn’t given out in August and there are a group of 3 athletes who are having seasons worthy of knocking Stewie off the top and taking the MVP award back home to their respective trophy cases. A’ja Wilson is free and on the loose again out in Las Vegas. Earning more of a volume share due to Liz Cambage’s medical exemption from the Wubble, Wilson’s numbers have expectedly jumped back up to SuperStar status. Sitting in 3rd in scoring and inside the top 5 for both blocks and rebounds, Wilson is unanimous all star (if there was a game) and a big threat to the dominant Seattle Storm this season. 

Staying in the western conference is the Wonder Woman herself Candace Parker. Parker is one of only 2 players in the WNBA to be averaging 10+ points and 9+ rebounds a game. Parker has a 26% Point rate for the Sparks meaning she’s scoring 26% of their points per game she has played in. Her MVP candidacy so far has ridden not on the flashy point scoring or stat-stuffing but rather in her stingy defense. Parker leads the league (among players playing in 7+ games) in defensive rebounding percentage with a whopping 30.4%, 3% higher than the next highest qualifying player. Parker is denying buckets and removing second chance opportunities to propel the sparks to a 10-3 record, good for 3rd in the entire league. If Parker can somehow take her already excellent offensive game to another level while keeping these defensive numbers she can put up a compelling case for MVP. 

Finally from the east we find guard Courtney Vandersloot or as I like to call her “The Point Goddess.” If you want a pure offensive beast, the 2020 Vandersloot Campaign is one to watch for her. She leads the league in all of the following categories: total assists, assists per game, assist percentage, offensive win shares, offensive rating. Her numbers in those categories? OUTSTANDING. She has 131 assists (50 gap to second place), 8.7 assists per game (3.2 gap), 41.5% assist percentage (7.5% gap), OWS of 2.3 (.7 gap to Stewart and second), and an offensive rating of 126.8. Oh and did I mention she’s also averaging 13.5 points and an AST/TO ratio of 4? She does that too. Just to top it off she’s .005 away from being in the 50/40/90 club and the 50/50/90 club.  The offense is there for Vandersloot and if she continues to produce at this level (which she has for the past 4 years) she can be the MVP easily. 

The Heat Index

HOT: The Seattle Storm (11-3) The Storm recently had their 9 game win streak ended by the Indiana Fever with some controversy coming from that game. The run was a historic one setting records in margin of victory over 4, 5 and 6 games. The top tier of the WNBA is currently a lonely one with the Storm sitting alone at the top. But, all it takes is a couple of ill timed mistakes to find yourself on the couch at the end of the year. 

HOT: The Las Vegas Aces (10-3) Out in Las Vegas lies a real threat to the dominance this season of the Storm. A scheduled clash between the two was postponed due to the boycott so we will have to wait before we witness round 2 for these teams. (Aces won 82-74 in the First Meeting). Let’s talk about scoring. The Aces lead the league in PPG with the Storm and Sparks in 3rd and 4th respectively and are led by A’ja Wilson and Angel McCoughtry. It’s easy to see why this team is so dangerous as they have 4 games scoring over 95 points and can shoot the lights out at a 48% rate. Two of the Aces 3 losses have been by a combined total of 4 points to the Chicago Sky so when it comes to luck it appears these Aces may not have it, but if that luck can flip, Watch out. 

HOT: The Chicago Sky (10-5) Offensive Firepower galore. 5 players in double figures for scoring and the #2 scoring offense in the league. They lead the league in FG% with 49.5%, a figure that is crazy high for any team. The Sky have both a ton of close wins and close losses (<5 points) but at the same time were on a 4 game win streak before the New York Liberty handed them a 2 point loss. The team can squeak out a win when needed and can get hot fast, both very dangerous things. 

COLD: The New York Liberty (2-12) Oh the sweet Liberty. If you thought Sabrina Ionescu was a difference maker in college, look again at the Liberty. Losing the #1 overall pick to injury in game 2 is bad enough but to only make matters worse, the team has 7 rookies and lost Asia Durr for the opening due to a positive COVID test. Any player as good as Ionescu will leave a gap but Layeshia Clarendon, Kia Nurse and Amanda Zahui B are doing their best to fill it on the court. Clarendon is averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds which is remarkable on a team only scoring 74 points a game. Zahui B is also playing an above average season averaging a solid 10.7 points and 8.2 rebounds. Expectations for the Liberty were low and the loss of Ionescu didn’t help.

COLD: The Atlanta Dream (3-11) The Dream are an interesting situation. In the beginning of the year they were either winning or losing by 10+ points. That is a scary inconsistency. Good news for the Dream is the rookie phenom Chennedy Carter is back from injury and has adjusted to the WNBA pace leading the team in scoring with 17 points a game. Things aren’t great for the Dream right now but the Dream are becoming less of a nightmare. 

Current League Standings

  1. 12-3 Seattle Storm
  2. 11-3 Las Vegas Aces
  3. 10-3 Los Angeles Sparks
  4. 9-4 Minnesota Lynx
  5. 10-5 Chicago Sky
  6. 7-7 Phoenix Mercury
  7. 6-8 Connecticut Sun
  8. 5-9 Indiana Fever
  9. 5-10 Dallas Wings
  10. 4-9 Washington Mystics
  11. 3-11 Atlanta Dream
  12. 2-12 New York Liberty