What follows is actually about sports. I apologize sincerely to our dozen readers.
Among the (I’m sure) many things he did today, Rob Neyer wrote this (a response to this) on his blog in re sometime Cardinal shortstop and surfer-looking dude Khalil Greene, who’s been struggling this season — both with his lack of performance and, apparently, issues of self-abuse:
He needs to play better?
We still think he’s capable of playing?
What, are we still living in the Dark Ages? What’s next, maybe a good bleeding? Or some wisdom teeth removed? Is there anyone outside of St. Louis who doesn’t realize that Greene needs a long break from baseball, during which he engages in some serious talk therapy and perhaps a bit of medication.
I do not mean to make light of this situation. Khalil Greene was a good player for four seasons, a league-average hitter and a decent enough shortstop. And then, suddenly and shockingly, he was not. Suddenly, he went from being worth $10 million per season to being worth nothing. As a ballplayer, I mean.
I know that’s harsh, but it’s the truth. Still, one might have assumed that Greene’s 2008 season was a fluke, the product of some terrible convergence of randomness or (more likely) an injury that wasn’t enough to impress his manager but was enough to limit his abilities on the field.
Now, though? Greene apparently looked fine in spring training with the Cardinals, and yet now he’s playing worse than ever. Now, you simply can’t say things like “He needs to play better” or “We still think he’s capable of playing.”
Really? Why would you think that, exactly? John Mozeliak is not a foolish man. But the notion that Greene’s once-impressive skills are going to suddenly snap back into place is approximately as reasonable as believing in fairies and unicorns and leprechauns who wear little pointy shoes.
My guess is that Neyer might have uberpitcher Zack Greinke in the back of his mind as he writes this — the same Donald Zackary “Zack” Greinke who left baseball for almost a year to better understand and treat social anxiety disorder and depression.
If Greene’s brain chemicals are f-ed then, yes, it is advisable that he seek medical counsel.
Here’s the thing, though: thanks to the baseballing nerdbones at Hardball Times, we can see that Khalil Greene is actually playing better now than he has in a long time. When adjusting for the random variation of batted balls, Greene’s line of 202/283/303 (AVG/OBP/SLG) actually ought to look alot more like 286/359/421.* That line would constitute his best performance since placing second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2004 while batting 273/349/446 for the Padres of San Diego.
The most likely culprit? An unsustainably low BABIP of .212 (compared to a league average of ca .300). Greene has always sported low-ish BABIPs, yes, but that is due most likely to having played half of his games in the terrible, cavernous Petco Park. His recent move to the slightly less terrible and cavernous Busch Stadium should only help the situation.
My second guess** is that Khalil Greene’s self-abuse issues are a reaction to what he perceives as poor performance — not to fielders making plays on well-hit balls. And if that is the case, then Greene has nothing to worry about. If his BABIP begins marching towards league average, as it’s almost sure to do, his slash stats will make a comparable march towards respectability.
So, the question is: what is he worried about?
Well, my third guess is that Khalil Greene doesn’t read baseballing nerdbone websites like yours truly does and yours truly’s co-bloggers do and yours truly’s other favorite people in this world do. In fact, outside of Kansas City’s Brian Bannister, there seems to be very few other baseballers who make it their bidness to acquaint themselves with the little lower layer of baseballing analysis. I say that, of course, without intimate knowledge of even one baseballer. Still, I’ve never been one to reserve my generalizations, no matter how sweeping.
The point of all this is, if Khalil Greene needs to do anything, it is not “play better,” as Tony LaRussa has suggested — or even, probably, “seek treatment.” The real answer seems to be “get nerdier.”
And that’s good advice for anyone!
*Which, for the non-baseball fans who read the blog, is good.
**My first was the thing about Neyer and Greinke.