Welcome to another installment of great questions, in which our writers debate life's most important queries and further the cultural conversation. If you missed our first two installments, in which we tried to figure out what sports God would be good at and how much we'd have to be paid to go through lifetime house arrest, check 'em out.
Today’s query: What would you hit if you played a full MLB season? Presume that you cannot be injured and cannot be taken out of the game due to sucktitude. Presume also that the average baseball has around 650 at-bats during a year.
Reggie Noble: It’s human nature to overstate one’s abilities. This question presents difficulty for me because baseball is my jam. I played well enough in high school to get Division II scholarship offers, and ended up briefly walking on to a major program. As time passes, the urge to hang onto our glory days intensifies. Let’s see if I can set aside my pride and arrive at a logical figure here.
First off, let me say that my strength as a player was on the mound and not in the batter’s box. I hit around .300 in my high school career and didn’t have a tremendous amount of extra-base power. Because of that, I began to work the count, realizing that, for a table-setter, a walk’s as good as a single.
While I rarely hit the ball out of the park, my ability to put the bat on the ball was pretty impressive. Striking out was a rarity, although there were plenty of weak groundballs and meek popups.
Hard throwers weren’t an issue, but if they had a breaking ball, it spelled trouble. As we learned in “Bull Durham,” pitchers have incredible secondary pitches in The Show. This is not a recipe for success.
My strategy would be to take as many walks as humanly possible. The chances of me connecting on a double, triple, or home run would be slim. The odds of a major league pitcher missing the strike zone four times in seven pitches have to be higher than the odds of me blooping a Texas Leaguer in front of the right fielder.
With the amount of scouting that teams do, I can’t imagine a scenario where the outfielders weren’t extremely shallow. That’s if, IF I make contact. Honestly, I don’t like my chances.
The first couple of months would be absolutely abominable. We’re taking a strikeout nearly every at-bat. With time, though, it’s logical that my skills would improve. The first 3,000 93-mile-per-hour fastballs would be impossible to hit. With practice, they would conceivably get easier to swat.
There’s also the possibility of a bunt. A well-placed bunt down the third-base line is a tough play for even a major leaguer to handle. Doing that 100 times would yield at least 10 hits.
Swinging away, I put my level of success slightly lower. But deep down, I really believe I could get a hit five percent of the time – mostly through luck. Averaging these two, I arrive at a season-long batting average of .075. With walks and the inevitable hit-by-pitch (ouch, goddamn it), I envision an on-base percentage of .150.
This, of course, would cast me as the worst player to ever play in the big leagues. And that’s me being cocky.
The lesson? Baseball is hard. That’s why there’s steroids.
Andy Moore: The last time I played baseball full-time, I hit .420. My average was bolstered by a particularly dynamic three-game swing halfway through the year when I had nine straight hits. Just straight crushed it those three games. It may even be the moment that my life peaked.
Of course, that was in 8th grade at Mount Olive Middle School, playing against some kids who still non-drunkenly peed themselves at night. Since then, my baseball skills have been honed by just the occasional softball and dizzy bat games. So, if I were to go into this endeavor, I’m going in with not, shall we say, a lot of experience.
Like you, Reggie, I believe that I’ll steadily improve through the season. I’ll have access to the world’s best coaches, training facilities and equipment. I’ll be around asshole professional baseball players who will threaten to beat me up/not give me groupie access if I continue to screw up. Everything will be in place for me to succeed, even if my starting point is a whole world of suck.
Of course, my steady improvement doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll get a hit in my first two months. A guy who hasn’t played full-time in eight years doesn’t just use his new-found access to hand-crafted Louisville Sluggers and start hitting frozen ropes off Justin Verlander. Presuming we play this out all year, I’m looking at going about 0-for-145 the first month and a half, with maybe five walks/hit-by-pitches thrown in for good measure.
By this point, if I haven’t been murdered by a deranged fan angry at me for totally torpedoing his team’s season, I think I’d get my first hit or two in the month of June. This would probably come off either an R.A. Dickey fastball or anything Jamie Moyer throws. Since baseball is a game of streaks and of fickle confidence, I think this initial success would spur me to get a few more hits in the dog days of July and August—presuming I stay healthy. (And this is a huge presumption, because for as much sh*t as we give baseball players for going on the 15-day DL with hamstring pulls, I know I’d be on the 60-day the first time I got hit in the ass with a pitch.)
So for June, July and August, let’s put my number at 20-for-400. One hit out of every 20 attempts is certainly reasonable. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometime.
Finally, in September, I see the number dropping back to April and May numbers. Pitchers will catch on to my tendencies, and will probably be able to pitch around me since my batting stance will strongly resemble Henry Rowengartner in “Rookie of the Year.” Let’s say in September I go 3-for-75. At this point, I will presumably be left off the playoff roster.
Final average: .037
Alright, guys: What would you hit?