Ask Hal: Stop it already with these newfangled baseball stats

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to

Q: What is the reason behind designating it as a foul pole when it is in fair territory? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Call it what you want, if a ball strikes the pole, it is not only fair, it’s a home run. But I’ve always wondered why it is called a foul pole when it is in fair territory. Call it the fair pole and be done with it. The best reason I could find is that the foul pole is an extension of the base-lines. Semantics. Bad semantics.

Q: Does baseball have too many stats that have been added since you covered The Big Red Machine? — GEORGE, Morton Grove, Ill..

A: Absolutely. When I’m looking for Elly De La Cruz’s batting average, RBI, stolen bases and strikeouts, I find wOBA, wRC+. xwRG+ and BsR. Are you kidding me? I’ve covered baseball for 51 years and have no idea what they mean, nor do I want to know. I signed up to cover baseball, not algebra. There are too many analytics gurus sitting around making this stuff up.

Q: Does a manager, like the players, have to wait five years after retirement to be eligible for the Hall of Fame? — KAREN, Liberty Twp.

A: First of all, a manager can’t be voted in by the writers. Only players. Managers have to be voted in by a special committe. And, yes, they have to wait five years, unless they are over 65 years old, then the wait is a mere six months. They have to have managed at least 10 years in the majors. While we’re on the subject, why aren’t Jack McKeon and Lou Piniella in the hallowed hall of Cooperstown?

Q: Will they ever consider evaluating plate umpires by watching tapes to see how accurate they are on balls and strikes? —THAN, Urbana.

A: Oh, but they do. Every pitch. The tapes are checked thoroughly and umpires are graded by MLB as to their accuracy percentage. And it is discussed with each umpire. Not only that, umpire supervisors sit in the press box and take notes, then immediately visit the umpires in their dressing room after the game to discuss their work. Former umpire and Northern Kentucky resident Randy Marsh is a regular in the Great American Ball Park press box, furiously scribbling notes.

Q: Have you encountered players with a fear of flying and what do they do about it? — JERRY, Springfield.

A: You mean me, too? No, I love to fly. But a fear of flying is rampant in the majors. Joc Pederson even visited a psychologist in an attempt to rid his fear. I never heard a Reds player express that fear, but when turbulence hits some reactions say it all — prayers mumbled, kissing of family photos. When Dusty Baker managed the Reds, he said some players drank too much alcohol to saturate their nerves. It doesn’t help them when it is pointed out that the odds are one in 11 million that the plane you’re on goes down. They say, “Yeah, but there’s that one and I don’t want to be on it.”

Q: If they are called uniforms, why is the Kroger patch on the right sleeves on some Reds jerseys and on the left for others? — JOHN, Dayton.

A: Elementary advertising, dear John. The left-handed batters wear the patch on their right sleeve and the right-handers wear it on their left sleeve. Why? So the patch is always facing the TV camera when they bat for maximum advertising exposure. It’s all about marketing, which means money.

Q: Baseballs used in Coors Field are stored in humidors, so why isn’t that considered doctoring the baseballs? — TIM, Xenia.

A: The humidor to store baseballs was first introduced in Coors Field because of the thin mile-high air in Denver that permitted baseballs to travel farther. That could be construed as doctoring for one team. But since then, humidors are now used in all major league parks to keep the balls uniform. When Jack McKeon managed the Reds, he and I could have stored our cigars with the baseballs.

Q: If they had replay/review at the time, would Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga been credited with a perfect game when umpire Jim Joyce missed the out call at first base? — MARK, Cocoa, Fla.

A: Asbsolutely. The call was so blatantly missed that Joyce immediately admitted he blew the call. Had there been replay/review, it would have taken them 15 seconds to reverse the call and call the runner. And Galarraga would have his perfect game. But there wasn’t and Galarrage probably gets more recognition for the missed call than if he had pitched the perfect game, which he did.

Q: What are some baseball books that you would recommend? — DAVE, Springboro.

A: I am a voracious reader of baseball books. My home office has wall-to-wall shelves with about 300 baseball books, many autographed by the author. So it is difficult for me to chose. The best I’ve read lately is Charie Hustle by Keith O’Brien. The best I’ve read in the last year is Joe Posnanski’s The Baseball 100. For sheer entertainment, the old standby is Jim Bouton’s Ball Four. But I’m easy. I enjoy nearly all baseball books and here is a shameless plug — even my own book, The Real McCoy, My Half-Century Covering the Cincinnati Reds, was well-received.

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