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The hardest thing to do in sports? Trying to hit Ryne Stanek down 0-2

The hardest thing to do in sports? Trying to hit Ryne Stanek down 0-2

Not long ago, the Tampa Bay Rays called Ryne Stanek out of the bullpen to face Giancarlo Stanton with two runners on in a three-run game.

It’s quite possible there has never been a physically stronger hitter than Stanton. Of the 10 hardest-hit balls this season across the major leagues, Stanton has hit eight of them. Only two players in history, Mark McGwire and Babe Ruth, have homered more frequently than Stanton has in his career. Even on a pitcher’s pitch, even when he looks beat, he can slap a ball over the wall in right field. With Stanton representing the tying run in a close game, this matchup represented, I will argue, the hardest thing to do in sports.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

“The hardest thing to do in sports” is such a hopeless, pointless question, it’s amazing we don’t argue about it more. Ted Williams famously launched the argument — “I’ve always said that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports” — but in the very next breath, he also showed how easy it is to plead for almost anything else: “But fishing takes a lot, too,” Williams continued. “Learning the habits of the fish, what kind of flies to use, how to rig ’em just right, when to apply tension to the rod, all that. And patience, patience, patience.” So, hitting a baseball or rigging a fly rod just right.2

The truth is that almost everything in sports is easy to do poorly — my daughter hit her first baseball when she was 3 years old and still lost her balance on sidewalks — while almost everything in sports is extremely hard to do well. That’s the point of watching the literal best in the world attempt something against the literal second-best in the world. This question is so hopeless. So pointless.

There’s an answer, though. I can’t believe Ted Williams missed it. The answer is facing Ryne Stanek after falling behind 0-2, as Stanton had to do that day in the three-run game.

Forty-one hitters have attempted it this year. Those 41 batters have hit .050/.073/.075. In major league history, about 2,000 pitchers have batted at least 100 times. Only 13 of those 2,000 pitchers had a lower OPS than major league hitters have against Stanek after an 0-2 count this year. Thirty-one of those 41 hitters struck out, a rate of 22.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

It doesn’t have to be Stanek. Instead of Stanek, we can maybe say “after falling behind 0-2 against an elite power pitcher in a strikeout era.” Wade Davis, after an 0-2 count this year, has allowed a WHIP of .077 — that’s a zero in there. The lowest WHIP in history in regular, non-0-2 baseball, is .570, so hitters behind 0-2 against Davis have been one-seventh as likely to get a hit or walk as if they were facing the single-best pitching season in history.nike jerseys nfl cheap

Against Josh Hader, batters have a .029 on-base percentage after an 0-2 count this year, which is to say that in a world where batters all started 0-2, Hader would throw the equivalent of a perfect game between each baserunner. Aroldis Chapman has struck out 67 percent of all batters, 503 of them, who have fallen behind 0-2 against him in his career. Jose Fernandez struck out 266 batters who fell behind 0-2 in his career; he walked two.