Sunday, January 06, 2019

Mighty Observations

The unsung hero of the old "Casey At The Bat" poem is clearly the player hitting after Casey in the Mudville lineup.  Casey is Mr. Everything superstar, yet Mudville's opponents don't seem to even consider intentionally walking him to set up a force play at any base for the third out.  Mighty Hitter-After-Casey must've been the real threat, or maybe the opposing team was trying for some lefty vs. righty matchup strategy or something.

Or, maybe the opposing team knew they could fool Casey since they knew he was a gigantic egomaniac who'd apparently let two strikes sail right by him because they "ain't his style."  One needn't be a baseball stats guru to know that the pitcher gets a huge edge on an 0-2 count, so this was just a ridiculously cocky move from Casey.

If I'm reading the poem correctly, this was some innovative lineup usage from the Mudville manager.  Common sense would seem to dictate that you'd always put your best hitters at the top of your lineup to ensure they'd get the most at-bats, though for years, teams tended to want a "leadoff man" type of a quick base-stealer who didn't necessarily always get on base at a proper clip.  Not Mudville --- here's big slugger Casey, ostensibly hitting leadoff.  One has to assume that Flynn and Blake were the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup given their ignominious (and vaguely homophobic) designations as a "lulu" and a "cake."

That is, unless, it was actually HORRIBLE lineup construction.  Maybe Flynn was hitting leadoff only because he was fast, logic many managers have used over the years before people got a clue about on-base percentage.  Blake then hits second due to...uh, who knows.  That would put Casey in the #3 spot in the batting order, traditionally reserved for a team's best batter.  This actually might be the most logical scenario since if my previous theory was correct, Blake the #9 hitter would've been the pitcher.  (CatB was written well over 80 years before the creation of the designated hitter rule.)  Surely you'd think the poem's author would cut Blake some slack for his inability to hit if he was actually a pitcher, that seems unfair.  Then again, this was 1888; hitting your pitcher ninth wasn't a hard-and-fast rule at this point.  Mudville's pitcher could've really been hitting anywhere in the lineup while Flynn and Blake were just regular position players who stunk and were thus the #8 and #9 batters.

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