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Simon Smale

Roar Guru

Joined September 2014

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Sports-mad Englishman in Brisbane. Tragic Southend United Fan... BUT I don't discriminate, I love and follow pretty much anything to do with sport, especially if it's live and local... For more musings, follow me on Twitter: @simon_smale

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There’s a lot of emphasis on fielding in baseball – in particular how players get charged with Errors, so are accountable for any mistakes that they make. It’s funny he struggles with the batting though – I guess it must take time to adjust. Hopefully he develops into a secret weapon for you next year!

Is the gap between baseball and cricket disintegrating?

Totally agree Jack – it’s kinda naive to think that baseball pitches just come in a straight line… There is just as much variation in pitches as there are types of bowling delivery, albeit without the variation off the pitch in cricket… But you’re right, it’s the ability to hit the ball and that hand eye co-ordination that’s key.

Your second point is true as well, although I read an interesting article (I think on CNN) that highlighted that the major fielding positions don’t tend to become vacant in too often, whereas there is a constant supply of talent coming through the college system. It’s not that these players aren’t World Class, it’s more that they don’t get the chance to take the place of an established name in a Major League side and are left to languish in the Minor Leagues – on a barely liveable wage.

Julien Fountain (the switch hit 20 guy) thinks that with the burgeoning number of t20 leagues around the world there might be an option for players to make this switch – but you’re right, there are far more cricketers hunting down those contracts and it’s probably unlikely that many will make the grade.

But it could help in the formation of an American t20 competition in time – in the same way that, in theory, there is a ready made supply of rugby and rugby league players in American based on the number of College football players unable to make the grade in the NFL.

Is the gap between baseball and cricket disintegrating?

It definitely has that advantage doesn’t it anon. Although I think when I saw a game at Yankee Stadium I wasn’t in the same borough as the diamond I was so far away in the bleachers!

Is the gap between baseball and cricket disintegrating?

Ye I stumbled across that whilst I was reading up for this article – really interesting isn’t it! And you’re right. Even it it were only popular in a couple of States it would be enough to sustain a decent comp you’d have thought.

And that last point is an interesting one as well… I guess there would have had to be come contingency to avoid a draw taking place if it were to have been sustained there… 😉 But having said that, the Japanese football league in the ’90’s and perhaps before used to end all drawn games with a penalty shootout…

Is the gap between baseball and cricket disintegrating?

Ye you’re probably right Skulbow – I’ve only fairly recently discovered Australian Baseball since I moved here 4 years ago. But they do get half decent crowds – and it’s a really great match day experience from a supporter point of view. I know since I’ve been going I’ve converted some total baseball novices into pretty avid fans. And there were a sell-out 4,000 fans sat in the pouring rain last night watching Brisbane lift the Claxton Shield – so there still is a culture of people heading to baseball games in Australia – even if it’s probably more of a sub-culture at the moment.

no one in particular is right in it being a development league – the MLB has a couple of them dotted around the world as “winter leagues” to be used either by prospects to get some game time up or by released players hoping to perform and earn a call up to Spring training. This year Bandits player Donald Lutz was re-signed by the Cincinnati Reds organisation after previously being released from their farm system.

I can see what you mean about the baseball converting to cricket too… I think it would be much harder in the longer forms of the game. But I can definitely see an unconventional hitter do well in twenty20 given a bit of practice. There was actually a “home run derby” type exhibition between Ernie Banks (Hall of Fame baseball hitter) and Graham Gooch in 1988. Banks (who was 57 at the time) belted 3 home runs to 33 year old Gooch’s 0. Banks blamed Gooch’s failure on technique. “It came down to swings, I tried to teach him to swing up and get the ball in the air. He was used to a low, straight swing of cricket, and every time he tried to swing up, he’d pop the ball up.” So that suggested that the cricketers would have more trouble – but I can’t imagine Gooch put too much preparation in seeing as he was still a current player…

Is the gap between baseball and cricket disintegrating?

I agree with what you’re saying to an extent Ryan – compared to t20 baseball is, dare I say it, a bit more of a thinking sports-fans game – which does make it more like Test cricket for the reasons you mentioned. The statistical approach in baseball too is one which matches Test cricket over the fun, carefree attitude of t20 matches.

However I disagree that there is no crossover. From a playing perspective you’re right again, I don’t think there will be Major exchange of personnel, but the idea is not totally abstract or fanciful. Cricket teams at a number of levels has employed baseball coaches to improve fielding for one, and while power hitting becomes more and more important in cricket through t20’s, the skills involved in hitting a fastball over 100metres to the fence with a baseball bat aren’t a million miles away from slapping the ball to a boundary just 70 metres away with a much wider implement.

Another aspect, and perhaps the main reason I wrote the article was that I went to a baseball game (Sydney v Brisbane at Holloway Field in the ABL) then straight to the ‘Gabba for a Heat v Hurricanes BBL match. The game day experience was virtually identical. Music, fan engagement, gimmicks. It felt like I was watching some kind of double header where the off-field entertainment was organised by the same group. The fact that Cricket Australia operations manager Mike McKenna said they specifically looked at American Sports to see what they could do makes this no surprise – and underlines my point that off the field, there is a crossover.

It’s an outlandish statement to say they are merging no doubt – but I don’t think it should be dismissed… I know they aren’t going to evolve into one another and I don’t want them to either – I like both sports. But the sports could learn from each other – and if that makes each “product” better – then how can we as fans not support it?

Is the gap between baseball and cricket disintegrating?

Yes that’s the impression I was under too Mister Football. I’ve only really got into the GAA stuff recently but I’ve really got into the hurling… Football less so because of the defensive dominance. I listen to the podcasts though and thats what I’ve been getting out of what’s going on over there.

In terms of forums:

The Hogan Stand is one I normally go to,

http://www.hoganstand.com/Forum/MessagePage.aspx?PageNumber=2&TopicID=95173

Or the gaaboard

http://gaaboard.com/board/index.php?PHPSESSID=bf9dd9efb4b36f7d3dc0624f5953c9ac&topic=26430.45

Then there are the comments on the 42.ie and the RTÉ match reviews…

http://www.the42.ie/kernan-irs-2015-reaction-2459873-Nov2015/

http://www.rte.ie/sport/gaa/2015/1121/748346-ireland-hold-on-for-rules-win-over-australia/

Let the International Rules Series continue

Some of the message boards are saying the GAA could learn from this style of game too – perhaps by including marks to encourage kick passing more and introducing the AFL style tackle to the game in Ireland. I’m not sure the ball change would get much of a look in mind… there’d be plenty of resistance to that idea!

Let the International Rules Series continue

There are some pretty strong opinions on here about this concept… It’s really interesting to see the response it provokes amongst fans. A part of me wonders why though – is it similar to Francis Leech’s opinion that it devalues an international jersey? Or are the main naysayers fans of codes that aren’t Aussie Rules and don’t like it for that reason?

Personally, I love the concept (as was probably clear from the article) but I get why people are against it. After all, it is a sport that is played just once a year and I don’t see how it spreads the AFL game to Ireland… Most are already aware of the AFL as that entity who steals their players – or at least offers a golden carrot to some players suited to the Australian game.

Having read some of the message boards on GAA websites, a lot of sceptics actually enjoyed the game. And it was a good contest, that much is undeniable.

Plenty on the message boards in Ireland are saying one Test wasn’t enough and others who even think the game could learn from this compromise code in making the game more exciting, especially considering the dour matches in the Championship fans were subjected to this year.

But either way, I enjoyed it, it sounded like the fans in the stadium enjoyed it, and there has been a good response from players and fans alike on both sides of the world.

Let the International Rules Series continue

“if anything, the Ireland vs Australia series is the true champion of the very origins of football itself.”

This is a great statement Mister Football, in that sense it truly is a marvellous concept!

It’s also a really relevant point in that this was used as a commemoration of the events of Bloody Sunday, and the pre-game commemoration was very moving.

Let the International Rules Series continue

I love the amount of feeling this seems to inspire in people. I had always assumed that people were largely ambivalent towards the idea, or weren’t interested enough to bother, but there is genuine vitriol in a lot of posts.

I have to agree that the “spreading the message” statements are a load of tripe. Spreading the game would mean playing full AFL games overseas. We can definitely agree on that.

I’d prefer they went with the line that this game fosters the relationship between Ireland and Australia, and more specifically the GAA and AFL. There has been some crossing of players between the two codes, and lets be honest, they are similar.

As for the USA trip – Clarkson is keen on playing a game there next year – and RTÉ reporting that it might be played there next year. And there is a precedent there, with there being a GAA team from New York who play in the Championship, and there was even a hurling exhibition played in the States on the weekend (albeit in Boston’s Fenway Park). I think the New York trip was a fact finding mission for this possibility…

Sometimes people need to just sit back and enjoy sport for what it is. Entertainment.

Let the International Rules Series continue

“And aren’t all games “made-up pretend” ones?”

Couldn’t agree more with that statement.

Sport is fun, for peoples enjoyment, and that game was entertaining. Does it matter whether it means anything?

Let the International Rules Series continue

Croker holds 82,300 people, the bottom tiers were pretty well full and are a lot bigger than the top levels – no doubt the hospitality boxes were pretty well populated too. Just under half full seems about right to me to be honest…

Let the International Rules Series continue

Ye absolutely Tony – probably a problem with the language I used there.

I simply meant to highlight that these are two major sports played at a high level where there was no higher representation available. Granted, that’s not strictly true in GAA, seeing as the whole concept of both football and hurling is built upon a foundation of representation, be it your parish, county or province, but there is no international option.

NFL is the same, and would be one of the others, but that fact notwithstanding, the GAA and AFL are two of the worlds major sports leagues that exist without a form of international representation.

If the argument is that GAA and AFL aren’t “major” sports, I would disagree. Domestically, both are incredibly well supported, and therefore “major” in their own countries. NFL has a larger global reach admittedly, and therefore you’re right – it is probably the number one, but that doesn’t mean that the GAA and AFL sports are not major in their own right 😉

Let the International Rules Series continue

It is a big factor in favour of the Irish – but I think perhaps adapting to a round ball with its regular bounce would perhaps be easier than changing to an oval ball…

In the hurling/shinty compromise rules, the Irish hurlers use their hurleys while the Scottish shinty team use their shinty sticks (kind of like hockey sticks)… Which I would have thought would be a major impact – and be akin to playing a compromise baseball/cricket game and allow the cricketers to use their bats and the baseballers to use theirs, but I could be wrong (I know nothing about shinty or the compromise rules there!)

I wonder whether the pitch could slightly vary depending on who’s hosting? On an oval in Australia and a rectangle in Ireland. I think it would have an equally huge impact so probably wouldn’t work tbh. I agree that the behind posts should probably go.

Let the International Rules Series continue

I see what you’re saying WLC, and I guess part of the art of captaincy is utilising the best players in the most appropriate positions for their skill set. I would expect that if a player was put in a position – no matter what that position was – they should probably be able to catch the ball though…

I’m sure I read or watched something where players overall reach was measured (I might be inventing this though…) and the size was definitely a factor, but smaller players still had as good a reach due to superior foot work… Although obviously a 6’2″ player would have more chance of catching a high ball than a 5’2″ one…

Fielding statistics: Cricket's next great numerical frontier

Ye absolutely Rellum, all those factors would have to make an impact. Love the tracer bullet analogy though – perfect description!

Fielding statistics: Cricket's next great numerical frontier

And I can see that – when I went to my first MLB game in the states I could not believe how hard and flat they threw the ball in the outfield – so much so that it seemed to hold its horizontal trajectory for an absolute age… (probably an optical illusion of sorts from high up in the gods at AT&T Park in San Fran and Yankee Stadium but impressive none the less!)

Ichiro Suzuki (who I’ve mentioned in another comment) is someone who exemplifies that. Fielding far out in right field he would still get the ball into the diamond – and occasionally as far as third base with extraordinary power and accuracy. It was amazing.

I wonder would the gloves be a factor in the throwing as well in the sense that they know the guy they are throwing to will be able to catch it pain free? Subconsciously perhaps? Probably not actually but is interesting. Plus they are throwing to a man in baseball, with a greater range than perhaps a single fielder in cricket who is hovering over stumps…?

Fielding statistics: Cricket's next great numerical frontier

Absolutely Baz, someone could be a great fielder in the deep yet pretty ordinary at silly point or silly anything for that matter. And slips are effectively specialist positions akin to the wicketkeeper. Fielding could therefore be split into “close”, “midfield”, “outfield” and “slip” or something similar.

I guess with the whole positional issues there is the problem that bowlers tend to field at fine leg when they are in the middle of a spell… Mitch Johnson had an amazing arm, but plenty of others don’t quite have that powerful a throw, particularly towards the end of a spell…

I’m inclined to agree with Rellum in the sense that if a fielder gets a hand to a catch then it should be counted as a chance… however I get your point. Perhaps there could be a stat for one handed verses two handed catches and drops etc…

Fielding statistics: Cricket's next great numerical frontier

Ye Rellum, the wides and byes issue is an interesting one for wicket keepers… on occasion you see runs given as byes when realistically there is no way any ‘keeper would have got to it and it should perhaps have been called a wide…

Fielding statistics: Cricket's next great numerical frontier

“You sort of need to record the negatives to give meaning to the positives.”

Exactly Chris. Saying someone has caught 30 catches in a season effectively means nothing other than he has caught 30 catches. Saying they have only dropped one in that season means when the ball has got within arms reach of them, they’ve caught the ball ~97% of the time. If they had dropped 40 but caught 30 – well 43% success rate isn’t so hot is it!

I agree that the number of times the ball is fielder per player would be interesting, as well as what they do with the ball when they get it (i.e. parry it, clean pick up, pick up and throw, catch etc.) That would have a variety of applications – although perhaps that would keep once scorer busy for the majority of the game!

I think with the drops I agree with Paul D, it just has to be a judgement call. As with Marsh’s effort when he dropped Taylor – was it a drop? Well he got two hands to it, so I would actually say a fielder of his standard should have caught it. Would I say the same if he got a finger tip to it? No – thats harsh. Commentators readily argue over whether or not an aerial ball was a “chance” or a “drop” throughout a game. Some are harsher than others – which would make things difficult in terms of consistency. But then again wides are often a judgement call, as are byes (much to the chagrin of wicket keepers at times!)

Fielding statistics: Cricket's next great numerical frontier

Australias fielding was always brilliant in his era – although the standard hasn’t dropped too dramatically for me (another judgement call no doubt!). Makes sense that a baseball fielding coach would improve the standard. With errors so starkly highlighted in baseball they are simply not acceptable or tolerated in any way – so they have to be almost perfect.

When you look at scorecards from the MLB I’m still impressed as to how few errors you see recorded… Granted the gloves help, but overall the movement and athleticism from the fielders is incredible. Ichiro Suzuki is a classic example – his highlights real is exceptional and his arm is frankly ridiculous.

Awarding Golden Gloves is a nice way to recognise excellence in the field and gives credence to the title of “best fielder”.

Fielding statistics: Cricket's next great numerical frontier

Ye agreed Paul, it seems like every sport seems to provide more and more data as time goes on – but cricket resolutely ignores fielding in its statistics. Champion Data or Opta are almost certainly able to provide this service (and as I’ve mentioned in another comment – perhaps they already do as part of a marginal-gains style analysis of the opposition?) and there is no doubt they should. Most first class cricket games seem to have two scorers, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that they could record these pieces of information.

I wonder if any scorers do record these sorts of stats already? I’ve encountered some pretty dedicated scorers in my brief time in village cricket in England – who produce works of art masquerading as scorecards – with more information than you’d typically see on a scorecard…

Fielding statistics: Cricket's next great numerical frontier

Absolutely TB, great points about the runs… I guess in theory every scoring shot is worth no runs unless it goes to the boundary or the batsmen decide to run – it’s as much their judgement call as it would be a scorer as to how many runs are saved. How many times in ODI’s or T20’s do the crowd bemoan a turned-down second run when the batsmen settle for one. Was it good fielding or bad running?

Stats should always be taken in context – they can be used to prove virtually anything after all… But yes, I guess my biggest point was that the data isnt being taken in the first place, making all these ideas purely speculative. It would be great to have the data of catches, drops and run-outs, and then that data can be used as fans or analysts see fit – much in the same was as sabermetrics are used by fans in baseball.

Fielding statistics: Cricket's next great numerical frontier

And yet El Greco, that is precisely the reason why it would be more useful in twenty20 cricket! The bookies would love it. It adds yet another thing that can be bet on officially during the game (as if they needed more) and even means that because so much money is being bet on these games, the punters can be more savvy with their bets and more aware of exactly who they are betting on in terms of their ability to take wickets in the field. It’s just another piece of information that can be used. In fact, I’d bet there are teams who have this analysis going on in-house already just for this reason.

Fielding statistics: Cricket's next great numerical frontier

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