That was weird. In some ways, what the World Cup did was replace one of baseball’s best attributes. It’s always there. You have plans? That’s ok, baseball will be there tomorrow, and there will be fifteen games for you to pick between. For two weeks of World Cup, there were three matches a day, and even after that the games kept coming. Soccer can’t usually scratch that daily itch, but during the World Cup it steps up.
But daily World Cup matches are also nothing like daily baseball games. The World Cup is much more the playoffs than the regular season. Baseball’s pace and intensity and different during the season, and no other sport can really compare. I got myself prepared for each World Cup game. I just kind of turn on each baseball game. It’s a good change of pace.
The other big thing with soccer is its newness. Not only is the sport reasonably new to me, as a fan, but there’s a huge in how much statistical research has been done. So if I have a question, I usually have to collect the data and do the work myself. And in trying to do the work myself, I’ve found big error bars on nearly everything. Even when something seems like a solid finding, the next week’s results always seem to invalidate it.
I’ve been wondering to what degree that’s true in baseball, too. While obviously baseball breaks into discrete events much more readily than soccer, and provides a much larger sample of events to study, so much remains indeterminate. The 2013 Red Sox certainly played toward the limits of their ability, but with most of the team returned, the Sox have not been good. Xander Bogaerts isn’t hitting despite looking for all the world like an amazing prospect. The Orioles are kind of good, and so are the Brewers. Nelson Cruz is amazing somehow. No one really knows for sure who’s good at fielding. Big chunks of the game, it seems to me, remain at the limits of analysis. I’m not saying I feel like doing new research on baseball, but trying to do new research on soccer has left me with the feeling that baseball has more mysteries than I had previously acknowledged.