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Pujols & Predictability PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Tuesday, 06 June 2006
AFF Sentinel Vol.3 #12

To those who admire athletic prowess, one of the most beautiful sights is a majestic, powerful and blindingly quick uncoiling of power and coordination in a baseball swing.

In his first five seasons in the baseball's big leagues, Albert Pujols has carved out an undeniable position as the best hitter in baseball. Each season he has hit over .300, hit over 30 home runs and had over 100 RBIs (runs batted in).

Pujols' swing is not the traditional one, either. Without stepping into the pitch, his swing adopts the stability of a golf swing. He's striving for a consistent, "quiet" swing.

So what does Pujols do after every at-bat during home games in Busch Stadium? He leaves the dugout, goes to the nearby video room and reviews every swing of that at-bat, to make sure the habits ingrained in thousands of swings during his winter regime have stayed consistent ("A Swing of Beauty," Sports Illustrated, 05/22/06). The Cardinals have three cameras, one in centerfield and one each down the third- and first-base lines. Their technology affords a split-screen view of each swing from the side and head on.

Anyone who's ever played baseball or golf knows that consistency is the most difficult thing to maintain amidst the movement in a swing. Whatever seems to help one time, a person starts doing more of the next time and the next until the swing looks nothing like what it started as. The greatest hitter in the game doesn't rely on his talent, on his feel, on chance. He also doesn't wait until after the game. And he never has to make major adjustments, because his constant vigilance means he's never far off his optimum.

"The adjustments he makes are tiny, minute," Chad Blair told Sports Illustrated. He is the video coordinator who has taped and charted every pitch of every Pujols at-bat in the majors. "To take that approach for 700 at bats, to have his swing that fine- tuned, is amazing."

You can't keep performance consistent without constant monitoring. Even a thing as intuitive and magical as a hitter's swing can be monitored and kept consistent using technology and diligence.

So what does the beef industry have going? We have people and their groups scratching and clawing to keep us running an industry solely on subjective evaluation. After all, everyone knows that every packer buyer only has to look at a steer and know its quality grade, yield grade, dressing percent, red meat yield, tenderness and plate palatability, right? Every time. No? You mean you don't know until it's meat?

Then how can we take a product - biological in nature and the result of thousands of variables - and make it top quality and consistent, if our whole system is based on guess? We should be manic about measurement and monitoring every step but rewarding the end results that satisfy our consumers.

Yet we have groups working to eliminate any focus on results-oriented systems. Their answer is to guess. Get paid on the mystery, not hard facts. Oh, and by the way, they want top dollar for every calf they produce - they're all the best. Bar contracting, get rid of grids, eliminate alliances and branded programs.

Pujols says specifically he's not trying to be a "... genius baseball hitter," By genius, he means going on pure instinct and feel, rather than the careful and constant monitoring of his swing.

I think the beef industry also needs less genius, more measuring and more of a system that pays people based on the end product. What some folks are trying to bring back is too like the old shell game. Under which shell is the Choice, YG 2, tender carcass, sucker?

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 June 2006 )
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