Friday, September 9, 2011

Optical Illusions: Bats

By Mark Smith
I can only partially explain why I have this connection in my head, and perhaps by the end of this, I will fully explain it. But does anyone else associate lighter-stained bats with power hitters and black bats with contact hitters? I assume my association with this began with Chipper Jones, as many of my baseball-related associations have. He’s my favorite player, and in many ways, I’ve grown up and learned a lot from him and his experiences. I began my conscious watching of baseball when he was a rookie, and I became a real fan in 1995. When he cheated on his wife, I learned that baseball players are human as well, and while he screwed up, it became a valuable learning point for my young understanding of relationships. I learned the value of job satisfaction and team-employee loyalty when he took contracts below market value (though I realize he made himself a #$%^load of money anyway) and restructured contracts to help the team. Those are obviously somewhat serious lessons, but I’ve also been the victim of some other ones.

If you look at the picture above, it shows Chipper hitting from both sides of the plate, and you’ll note Chipper using a lightly-stained bat from the left side and a black bat from the right side. As a left-handed batter, he’s hit .305/.407/.546, and from the left, he’s hit .304/.392/.501. That’s actually pretty close, but you will note that he’s hit for quite a bit more power from the left side in his career. That’s certainly been his reputation, anyway. After 16 years and countless at-bats, this has to have had an effect on me, no?

I imagine another part of the issue is the general idea that black makes objects appear smaller. It’s why people wear black to make themselves look thinner. I assume this is because the black gives the object a definite visual end, whereas other colors somewhat blend into the background and give the illusion that they look a little bigger. That’s the way it looks to me, anyway. So when it comes to guys at the plate, it’s natural that power hitters would use the lighter-stained bat, and the contact hitters would use the black bat. Okay, you want more explanation than that. Because the lighter-stained bat appears larger (I realize there’s a difference between what I perceive and reality, but bear with me), it must take a stronger man to wield it, and contact hitters, who must be weaker, want the smaller bat for better bat control and line drives. It makes sense, right?

Okay, so it probably doesn’t, but I became aware of it the other night while playing MLB: The Show. When I play, I play in the Franchise Mode, and I create my character once I get in the season. I was never good at pitching, so I won’t create myself as one. Instead, I’ll create a position player from just about any position. I used to think black bats were cooler, so I would always give myself a black bat when I was younger. Over the past several years, however, I’ve changed slightly, and I can imagine you know where this is heading. If I’m a power hitter, I use a lightly-stained bat, and if I’m a contact hitter/speedster, I use a black bat.

Has anyone else made this association? Does it even make sense to anyone else? Are there other associations you make? Ah well, I guess I’m just crazy. Fun thing to think about on a Friday afternoon.


Lil' Loquacious said...

It does make sense to me, and when i used to watch a lot more baseball I kinda thought the same thing. I also make associations between the "classic" light stained bat and old sluggers while I associate the black one with younger, quicker "contact hitters." When I think Babe Ruth, I think light; when I think Ichiro, I think black.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Great post. Doesn't matter what color they are when Mariano Rivera pitchers. They all become sawdust.