This Is Why I Watched Moshidora

Moshidora is a fundamentally sound anime. You would think a show about management principles would at least have the “principle” part down in the subject matter. It has to; because a core tenant of sound management is to determine and follow through these underlying principles. And it’s a NHK animated special, it has to be fundamentally sound…right?

I think what elevates Moshidora beyond a trite exercise at edutainment is that I can soundly apply cynicism towards its primary subject matter (which, not to be confused with baseball, is management) and the show respond to it. But whole manager’s angle to sports (and by manager I mean high school girl, and by high school girl I mean a anime-style 2D-construct voiced by Hiyocchi, and…you get the idea), is why I’m here, too.

On the conflict of goal-oriented versus process-oriented philosophies: it’s a philosophical conflict rather than one that results in fundamental problems. As in, I personally believe either way gets you where you want to go. More specifically, when there is only one way, both philosophies will lead you to it. The way they may diverge simply imply that goals were not set to include all your stakeholders, or someone is hiding something. I believe the “right” read here during Minami’s last chat with Yuki is suppose to show that Minami has lost sight of the long-term, unspoken goals and was too focused on the intermediate ones.

It’s kind of like talking with amateur fans who watches too much SC2 pro matches and not realize the goal is  to just have fun when playing the game, or not realizing the context in which these very high level games were playing at, that as applied to their bronze-level play it doesn’t really make sense.

That is an overarching purpose of sportsmanship. One that is sorely not cultivated in the age of video games. We need it badly.

On the hardness of life, Evirus spelled it out well. Baseball is unrelenting like that: statistics is yet another type of tool of the devil. I’m not a sabermetrics person but I believe in some of its fundamental concepts; hard working person, doing everything right, has no guarantee of success. It’s only when taken from a large sample, the statistics would say they are successful. It’s an illusion when applied individually, but it can highlight sound baseball principles. It just means nothing in a single-game face-off, and little more in a best of 5 or best of 7. It is not about being the best, it’s about being the best all the damn time. (See: the dude who chokes 3 times in a row.) The former is achieved through the stuff all those crying baseball anime is about (as in, it’s fiction; a fantasy), the latter is achieved through management.

Going to bounce off Evirus’s post some more: on pitching and control, I think it’s a little more specific than that. No-bunt-no-ball strategy is just a simplified version of style of play when your pitcher is pitching-to-contact. You’re playing the odds, and you can manipulate the odds somewhat when you execute certain plays: namely when your pitcher can consistently throw 2-seam fastballs and a complementary pitch for strikes. IIRC in the high school level, 2-seam fastballs are the predominate form of fastballs? In Oofuri, it’s actually much less about control and more about delivery–Mihashi’s out pitch is a fastball that isn’t, he gets hitters out by fooling them. (I think Evirus just didn’t get far enough to see this.) At least, once we get over how amazing he can throw pitches to the 9 zones at his level, anyways. Which is to say that’s the usual sort of the miracle plot devices I give these baseball anime/manga a free pass on.

The last thing to bounce off: no-bunt has a specific context. Bunting in MLB is something you do mainly because either the batter at the plate is probably not going to have a productive at-bat (which can be due to a lot of different reasons, such as the opposing pitcher is on a row, or the pitcher is batting, etc), or you want to just threaten to bunt, giving the infielders something to think about or position them a certain way. At that level of play, the infielders have tremendous responsibilities given the average caliber of batters being able to muscle any pitch (even a lot of balls) through the infield by strength alone. That additional threat of bunting can be a big deal in terms of opening gaps in the infield defense. There are times when a speedy lefty batter would bunt for a hit, but it’s safe to say those hitters do so to keep the infielders on their toes; hitters at that level is expect to be able to slug, if at least to expand their marketability as an all-around player.

In the context of Japanese high school baseball, bunting is often the statistically smart move to play given an uneven lineup for moving the runner. Not bunting means a few distinct things:

  • You don’t need to do bunt drills–remember these are noobs, and students, who are time-throttled and thus you can optimize their training more on hitting. It also optimize their at-bat experience. Someone who bunts all the time isn’t going to get those good looks at the pitcher.
  • You don’t need to keep the defense honest by reminding them you’re bunting. By the book, the bunt is always on with less than 2 outs with a runner on base. It would be a reliable psychological factor until the opposing coach got enough of a scouting report on you. For the unprepared coaching staff, they may even plan their inning wrong.

That’s all on top of the whole Moneyball stuff Evirus aluded to. There are other advantages: every batter is a RBI risk (psychologically); no easy outs means you wear the opposing pitcher down more, giving your pitcher more rest between innings (a big deal for those summer tournaments), whatever.

Now I can nitpick Moshidora in terms of how scouting play a role in competitive baseball at that level (read: it plays a huge role) but whatever. For people who can appreciate all that nonsense, the show is a fun watch. If the economics doesn’t get to you first.

PS. What if a high school baseball team’s manager read Lewis’s Moneyball? Does this mean my cynicism is naturally, uh, American?

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2 responses to “This Is Why I Watched Moshidora

  • Emperor J

    The difference between applying Moneyball and Management in this scenario is that the former simply wouldn’t work. Lewis’s book is applicable to the selection of talent to build a team, which simply isn’t possible for all but the top high school baseball teams.

    The strategy employed to pitch to contact I thought was due to limiting pitch count. The no-bunt strategy was the real revelation, as shown by the match against the university team. It was almost unthinkable to the experienced players that a team would choose not to sac bunt with a player on 1st and less than 2 outs.

  • omo

    >> the former simply wouldn’t work

    Except…it does work. I even linked to the example.

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