Rally Killing With Homers

Home runs do not kill rallies. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, none, that suggests they do kill rallies, and there is detailed and more or less irrefutable mathematical evidence that says they don’t. We’ll get to all of that in a second, but that’s not exactly the point here. The point is about bullshit.

Not too long ago, I wrote a little something about Bill James and while it covered a lot of ground, the main point was that word he loves so much: Bullshit.

“Bullshit has tremendous advantages over knowledge. Bullshit can be created as needed, on demand, without limit. Anything that happens, you can make up an explanation for why it happened.”

The other day, Mike Schmidt — not for the first time and I’m guessing not for the last — made the suggest that home runs kill rallies. It’s a funny point for Mike Schmidt to make considering that he’s in the Hall of Fame in part because he led the league in home runs eight times and hit 548 in his career. I couldn’t help but tweet this out:

But Schmidt is not alone in believing that home runs kill rallies. Dusty Baker has said it more than once, a few others have suggested in private conversations that they believe it, and so on. I wouldn’t call the “Home Runs Kill Rallies” Party especially large, but it’s probably bigger than the Green Party.

Home runs do not kill rallies. We know this because people count stuff in baseball. Tom Tango offers the data:

— This year, with zero outs and nobody on you expect teams to score .552 runs.

After a solo home run with nobody out, teams score .553 runs the rest of the inning.

— With one out and nobody on, you expect teams to score .309 runs the rest of the inning.

After a solo home run with one out, teams score .301 runs the rest of the inning.

— With two outs and nobody on, you expect teams to score .103 runs the rest of the inning.

After a solo home run with two outs, teams score .133 runs the rest of the inning.

Same … same. Home runs do not kill rallies. They do nothing to rallies. They just put runs on the board. That’s all. A hitters job is to help his team score the most runs, and the best way he can do this is by hitting a home run. Then the next guy comes up. That home run neither helps nor hurts the batters coming up.

But the point here is not to confirm what is probably obvious to most people … it is to talk about bullshit. Because it’s one thing for Mike Schmidt or anyone else to believe that homers kill rallies. People believe lots of stuff. I believe people at drive-thru windows get my orders wrong three times more often than they do the average person.

But it’s quite another thing for people to then explain WHY homers kill rallies, which is exactly what followed. After I made the little Schmidt-Elton John gag, I had several people tweet and email EXPLANATIONS for why Schmidt was right.

You see: Home runs give the pitcher a clean slate. They don’t have to pitch out of the stretch anymore. There’s no pressure on fielders. Everyone can take a deep breath and reset. The first baseman doesn’t have to hold on the runners. Teams can go into the shift again. Pitchers tend to refocus.

On … and on … and on … glorious and thoughtful and detailed and right-sounding explanations for something that is absolutely not true. This is the astonishing power of bullshit. You can use it in any situation and for any argument, and it’s easy to come up with on command, no research necessary other than leaning on life experience.

And that’s in BASEBALL where we keep careful records on everything that’s going on. Obviously, the bullshit is even thicker in real life.