"Aesthetic" Ballplayers


Terry McDermott says,


I think a huge amount of Ackley's obvious appeal is aesthetic. I know, I know, the data has been run out and it indicates greatness. But what persuades isn't the data here, it's the eye.  The kid looks contemptuous at the plate. Is that all you've got? Really, that's it?

Put him where he belongs, CF, and we can start examining those Dimaggio comps a bit more closely.

That's a good point - that Ackley looks so gorgeous on the field that maybe we're getting skewed a bit.   J.D. Drew maybe somewhat similar, but then again, his healthy year he did get 8.9 WAR...


Your Dodgers battled Will the Thrill a time or two, right?  A list of "aesthetic" players would be an interesting one to attack .... hm.

Junior would actually be in that category for me, probably.  

Ichiro definitely is way up there in my book.  Generally, Japanese players look smoother and more elegant to me, as opposed to American-born players who muscle the game.

Fred Lynn was one of the most beautiful players ever ... wonder if, subconsciously, Dr. D matched the two of them based on that.  Does PECOTA have a data field for this?  :- )  If not, "unusually graceful" will be in the comp algorithm at some point in the 21st century.


As far as Joe Morgan is concerned, my impression of him was not one of grace, though he probably was.  My impression of him was of overwhelming baseball intelligence.  

Bill James once remarked about the fact that, when the other team pitched out against Morgan (who stole what, 50 bases a year?), the catcher would take the pitch and then look over and Morgan, back on the bag, hands on his hips.  "I always thought teams pitched out just to watch him do that," Bill wrote.

To me, Morgan did not move in an unusually graceful way; he angled into the weak spots of a baseball game through brains and explosiveness.

His teammate Johnny Bench was a super-aesthetic player to me, although it was in a 220-lb. interpretation.


In basketball, you remember Derrick McKey?  I wonder if "aesthetic" players, as a group, are overrated as very young players and then unfairly judged as underachievers ...

Clark looked tremendous on a baseball field, but looking at his career you have a sense of disappointment.  Wonder if the expectations were too high based on the fact that he looked so beautiful on the field.

Without a doubt, baseball scouts grade players up based on the Will Clark factor.  We need to be aware of this bias and adjust for it.  If there is a saber light bulb to be gained here, maybe it's that.  Don't overrate the smooth players?

Hope none of this means that we're selling Ackley a little long, based on the fish-in-water impression that he gives.  I don't think we are.


Here is a related article, with 50 suggestions as to "smooth" players.  Amos Otis, Stan Musial, etc.  

Am not sure I agree with their suggestions of Jeter and Robbie Alomar.  Did even they look as attractive on the field as Ackley does?

Paul O'Neill looked real good.  They've got Joe Mauer and ... oh yeah.  Josh Hamilton on there.

Maybe looking like "The Natural" isn't a death sentence after all.  :- )



Bench was quite graceful...and not just for a catcher.  Was he the greatest defensive catcher ever?  Well, he's on the short list anyway.  But I always thought his offensive value, over a career, would have been magnified if they had let him play 1st or left or 3rd.  But if you goback and look at those Reds teams, you find a bunch of Lee Mays and Tony Perezes playing first and some Bernie Carbo's an Geroge Fosters in left and some Tory Perezes and Pete Roses at 3rd.  But even in his 13th straight year as a fulltime catcher (1980), and on gimpy knees,  he still whacked out a 123 OPS.  What would his numbers have looked like if they had put him at 1stbase in '74 and left him there? 
Guys I watched:  I always thought Mike Schmidt was incredibly athletic and graceful, but not in a striding/gliding sort of way.  In an, from here to there, explosive sense, he was incredibly graceful, cat like.  If Ichiro and Junior and Ackley are cheetah-like graceful, Schmidt was a male lion. When he moved, it wasn't over a great distance, but it was something to behold:  Wait, wait, wait, NOW, BOOM!
Dale Murphy, too.  He tracked down balls in CF with that huge stride and he looked like something large and powerful, yet very smooth. 


Smoak had the same pattern.  "Golden" in the minors until hitting AAA at age 22, at which point mediocre.  Then solid again back at AAA at 23.
Don't know if it's just an odd thing or a harbinger of doom.  Based on everything else they did in the minors, both Clement and Smoak should be, at a minimum, solid MLB regulars.  Sandy's bearish outlook on Smoak doesn't help.
I don't know if it's been noted here, but the "buzz" on mlbtraderumors.com was that if a Fielder signing happens, Smoak would be put on the market.


I saw that, too, Spec.
Interesting:  Is that a recognition that Carp has the better bat, going into the future....or that Smoak brings the better return.


Let's remember that Zduriencik has been Justin Smoak's biggest fan.  He burned a lot of phone-cred sticking it to the Yankees, so he could acquire Smoak.  The park's part of it, natch.

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