Lessons from a Cardinals Game

Lessons from a Cardinals Game

written by: Derek Weber

I try to draw inspiration from everything around me, and yesterday’s Cardinals game was no exception.  It would be really easy to point to Skip Schumaker’s dramatic walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth as the source of inspiration and excitement.  There’s nothing quite like seeing a stadium of 40,000+ jump to their feet and yell all together in jubilation at the same time and continue to do so long after the hitter sprints around the bases and is mobbed by his teammates at home plate…the explosion of sound and excitement that comes with a walk-off home run is one one of those experiences that every person, sports fan or not, should have at some point in their lives.

…but as exciting as the walk-off was, I pulled something else much greater from earlier in that inning that showed me that sometimes when you make a decision that was unsuccessful, it does not mean it was a failure.  The batter before Skip, Daniel Descalso led off the inning with a soft liner down the left field line.  Descalso out of the box was thinking double the whole way.  Baseball is a game of inches and split-second decision making, and here is the information that went through my head before the pitch, as soon as the ball was hit down the line, and then in the analysis afterwards.

Before the Pitch:

  1. Tied game in the bottom of the ninth, nobody out.  The lead off hitter must find a way to get on base, whether it be by a hit, bunt, walk, hit by pitch, reach on an error…what ever it takes.
  2. The third baseman is even with the bag, to try to cut down on the possibility of a bunt single.
  3. The right fielder is playing off the line a bit, not thinking that Descalso will be able to pull the hard-throwing lefty Collins down the line.
  4. Bottom of the lineup is up. Skip Schumaker follows Descalso, who handles the bat fairly well, but is not a power hitter.

Once the Ball is Hit:

  1. The ball was hit fairly slowly, just off the line, and remember the right fielder is playing off the line, so he has a long way to run.
  2. The right fielder throws right handed and has to run towards the left field line.
  3. This means, the right fielder has to run to his left, scoop up the slow rolling ball, turn back to his right, and accurately throw to 2nd Base.
  4. Descalso got out of the box quickly and ran hard to first thinking double the whole way.
  5. The right fielder is Jeff Francoeur, who has one of the strongest, most accurate throwing arm in the Major Leagues.
  6. HE’S GOING FOR SECOND!!!
  7. …and he’s out.  Damn.

Analysis:

  1. Leading off the Bottom of the 9th in a tied game, it is the right move to be extra aggressive.
  2. Possible Scenarios:

  • Lead Off Batter Gets to 1st Base
    • If the lead off hitter gets to first base, the next batter would put down a sacrifice bunt to advance him to 2nd base–Odds of Success: ~75%.
    • Once the leadoff hitter reaches 2nd base with 1 out, one of the next two hitters must come through with a base hit that is not hit right at an outfielder, who will most likely be playing in (not counting for a walk, infield single or anything else that would result in a batter reaching base but not scoring the runner)–Odds of Success: ~33%
    • So, a lead off runner on 1st with no outs would statistically end as a game winner about 25% of the time (33% of 75%)

  • Lead Off Batter Gets to 2nd Base
    • Now, if the lead off batter reaches 2nd base with nobody out, it changes the percentages drastically.  The next batter would put down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to 3rd, which is a harder play defensively–Odds of Success: ~80%
    • With the leader off runner on 3rd Base with one out, the number of ways to score increases exponentially: any base hit through the infield, fly ball to the outfield, wild pitch, balk, etc, etc.–Odds of Success: ~60%
    • So, a lead off runner on 2nd with no outs would statistically end as a game winner about 50% of the time.

Looking back at the information from “Before the Pitch” as well as “Once the Ball is Hit” along with the statistics (which are not scientific, just my opinion) that doubled the Cardinals chance of winning, the decision for Descalso to challenge the cannon of Jeff Francoeur was sound…but he was not successful.

Soon after he was thrown out, my wife looked at me and said something to the effect of “what was he thinking, that was so dumb”.  To which I responded, it took an absolutely perfect play and perfect throw to get him out.  If someone makes a perfect play and gets you, sometimes you just have to tip your cap and say ‘nice play’.   Then soon after, Skip drove a fastball into the right field bleachers for a walk-off winner that put the Cardinals back in 1st Place…hellz yeah.

It wasn’t until later in the evening that I reflected back on that situation to find the deeper meaning in it.  Every day, we all make decisions that affect the path we are or will be walking, more like running, on.  As Entrepreneurs, these decisions have enormous ramifications including the financial future of our families, businesses, and employees.  The number of decisions and the speed at which they must be made make it absolutely impossible to have all the information for every, more like any, one we make.  So, when we come to a cross road and have to decide which way to go, we have to take what information we have, filter it through our experiences and wisdom (and often those of others as well), look at both the impact and urgency, make a choice…and run down that path full speed ahead with out looking back.

Sometimes we make the right choice…sometimes we don’t…but the key is that we make one and act.  Then we must re-examine as we go and pull learning lessons from both the good and bad decisions and add them to our bank of experiences and wisdom to create a better filter in the future.  So, in business and life, just like baseball, we must first understand the situation we are in and the ramifications of the decision (before the pitch), once a decision is made, commit to it 100% but be aware of changing variables (once the ball was hit, Descalso committed himself for 2nd base), and then afterwards take a moment to reflect on the decision was made and how you got there (jogging back to the dugout looking out to right field at Francoeur rehashing what just happened), learn, and then move on.

At the end of the day, the success of a decision should not only be judged by the success or failure of the outcome, but also by the criteria used to reach that decision.  You can make the right choice and still be unsuccessful and on the other hand, make the wrong decision and still come out with ahead.

So, going forward, as hard as it may be, try to judge the success or failure of a decision not only by the outcome but by the criteria and analysis used to reach that conclusion.  If you focus on making sound decisions that have a statistically positive ROI, you will come out ahead more often than not…even though sometimes you may choose the right path, and have somebody make a perfect throw and throw you out at 2nd base…and you just have to tip your cap and say ‘nice play’.

…and hope those around you help pick you up and hit a walk-off home run!

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