I was thinking about David Cameron’s post about Tim Hudson, and how a number of pitchers have been putting up excellent numbers despite low strikeout totals.
Then I came across this statement by Robert Bly, in an introductory note to some David Ignatow poetry:
A shoemaker in the Middle Ages…could be in business and yet never have to slide into statistical mentality, since he probably knew everyone who bought shoes from him, and one works on a shoe long enough so that love energy can rest in it, even for a few moments. But it’s clear that business in quantity, that is most post-Industrial-Revolution business, requires that Eros consciousness be given up, and the love energy be pulled back inside.
In Swedish, there’s a word for this “love energy”: snickarglädje, which translates roughly as the “joy of carpentry”. The word refers to the delighful little excessive details that craftsmen lovingly add to their work, not for the functionality, but just for the sheer joy of making something beautiful.
At a statistical level, there’s no such thing as snickarglädje. The quirks that rise up at an individual level get smoothed out in quantity.
If there’s anyone in major league baseball who exemplifies snickarglädje, it’s Tim Hudson. He has about six or seven different kinds of pitches he throws at different speeds with different arm angles. He seems to be making things up as he goes along, inventing new pitches as the situation calls for. Like that shoemaker in the Middle Ages, his work seems custom-made for every client. It’s a joy to watch. No formula can explain it.