Apr 30, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

☕️ Good morning! Today's edition is dedicated to all of the Bobs in our lives. Continue reading to find out why.

1 big thing: ⚾️ A new breed of hitting coaches

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As baseball, like all sports, becomes more data-oriented and technology-driven, MLB hitting coaches are no longer required to have actually played in the big leagues.

  • Instead, teams are looking for coaches who are well versed in how to use the new technologies available to them (hitting apps, machines) and leverage the data they produce.

By the numbers: 19 of MLB's 30 hitting coaches played less than 100 big league games, 13 never played in the majors and four never even played in the minors.

  • All but four were hired in September 2016 or later, proving just how much fresh blood has entered a once insular community of former batting champions.

The big picture: At the turn of the century, most general managers were former big leaguers. They've since been replaced by an influx of Ivy League grads with skillsets seemingly more cut out for the trading floor than the baseball diamond.

  • The hitting coach revolution is the "next wave of that trend: giving outsiders a uniform and making them coaches," writes WSJ's Jared Diamond (subscription).

The bigger picture: The changing role of an MLB hitting coach is a reflection of what's happening in society as a whole, where technological advancements are fundamentally changing or straight up eliminating jobs, while also creating new ones.

  • Plenty of professions are starting to resemble the modern hitting coach: less about what you know, more about how good you are at absorbing mass amounts of information and knowing what to do with it.

The bottom line: While their predecessors functioned as history teachers, passing down the lessons they were taught, today's hitting coaches are more akin to if your AP Physics and AP Statistics professors had a baby. (Sorry for the visual.)

2. 🏀 NBA dashboard
Thing of beauty. Source: Giphy


Go deeper:

  • Best Jokic description: I've been watching Nikola Jokic play basketball for years, and last night, I finally came up with a way to describe his game: "A hungover camp counselor wearing flip-flops on a traction-less floor, who won't stop dominating the campers." 37-9-6 line for the big fella last night.
  • Best performance north of the border: The Sixers' Game 2 victory was tough, kind of ugly, but ultimately successful. In other words, it was Jimmy Butler's game personified. His final stats: 30 points (12 in final eight minutes), 11 rebounds, 5 assists.
  • Best role player: Ahead of tonight's game, FiveThirtyEight went deep on Houston's P.J. Tucker, the NBA's ultimate role player. Not since Shane Battier in 2009 has a player logged so many minutes and done so little on offense.
  • Best big man matchup: Al Horford, who we all seem to forget is good as hell until the playoffs roll around, shut down Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 1. Can he do it again tonight? It's the key to the whole series.
3. Where have all the Bobs gone?
Bob Gibson in 1972. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

According to the latest documentary from SB Nation's in-house mastermind Jon Bois, the name "Bob" has all but disappeared from sports.

The backdrop: The first athlete named Bob was Bob Thoms, an Englishman who briefly played cricket in the 1850s. And since 1855, there has always been at least one Bob in sports.

  • By the 1880s, Bob had become a pretty common name, and by the turn of the century, there were more than 100 athletes named Bob.
  • From the 1940s through the 1970s, there were consistently around 500 active athletes named Bob, many of them all-time greats. That includes three of the best pitchers in MLB history: Bob Gibson, Bob Feller and Bob Lemon.

But then: All the Bobs began to leave, with the total number plummeting year after year with ruthless consistency.

  • 1980: 339 Bobs.
  • 1990: 184 Bobs.
  • 2000: 105 Bobs.
  • 2010: 51 Bobs.
  • 2019: There are a grand total of nine Bobs left in the world of sports by Jon Bois' count. That is utterly insane.

The big picture: Unsurprisingly, this trend extends far beyond sports. "Robert" was one of the five most popular baby names every single year from 1918 to 1971. It hasn't made the list since.

4. 📸 Yesterday in photos
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Trump hosted coach Kim Mulkey (left) and the Baylor women's basketball team in the Oval Office to celebrate their national title. ... The UVA men's team has already said they'll be declining their invitation.

Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

DALLAS, Texas: Mats Zuccarello of the Dallas Stars battles for the puck against a St. Louis Blues defenseman. ... St. Louis scored with 1:38 left in a wild third period to win 4-3 and take a 2-1 series lead.

Photo: Mark Brown/Getty Images

DAVIE, Florida: New Dolphins QB Josh Rosen addressed the media in an introductory press conference. Watch the whole thing.

  • Go deeper: If you haven't read SI's deep dive into how the Rosen trade went down and how he's handled this wild ride, please do so now. Best thing I read yesterday. Slowly turning into a Rosen fan.
5. 📚 New book: "SprawlBall"
Courtesy: @kirkgoldsberry

ESPN writer and master statistician Kirk Goldsberry's new book, "SprawlBall," examines the evolution of basketball and the analytics movement that ushered in the modern NBA.

  • But really, it's a picture book, full of gorgeous illustrations and eye-popping charts.

The backdrop: Goldsberry began his career as a cartographer before applying his mapmaking skills to basketball, where he was the first to produce detailed heat maps that showed (A) how often and (B) how well every player shot from each spot on the floor.

  • "If early sports analytics focused on the outcomes of static one-on-one encounters, Goldsberry expanded the genre, hoping to better understand spacing," writes the Post's Ben Strauss. "It is not hyperbole to suggest that he has changed the way the game is played."
Courtesy: @kirkgoldsberry

Buy the book.

6. ⚾️ April 30, 1939: Gehrig makes history
Photo: Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics via Getty Images

80 years ago today, Yankees legend Lou Gehrig played in his then-record 2,130th consecutive game. It was also his final game.

The big picture: Less than two months later, Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS. He would succumb to the disease in 1941.

  • Gehrig's record stood for 56 years before being broken by Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995. Ripken would go on to play 2,632 straight games — a record that will likely never be broken. (Though people said that about Gehrig's, too.)

Consecutive game leaders:

  1. Cal Ripken Jr. (2,632)
  2. Lou Gehrig (2,130)
  3. Everett Scott (1,307)
  4. Steve Garvey (1,207)
  5. Miguel Tejada (1,152)

🎥 Watch:

7. 🏀 NBA trivia

With 201 points in this last five games, Kevin Durant became just the fourth player in the last 30 years to score 200+ points over a five-game stretch in the playoffs.

  • Question: Who were the three other players to accomplish this feat?
  • Hint: All three were on Eastern Conference teams at the time.
  • Submitted by: Anthony Amoroso (New York)

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🚁 Drone racing, minus the humans
Photo: Suzanne CordeiroAFP/Getty Images

From Mike Sykes: In an attempt to drive interest and research into autonomous vehicles, the Drone Racing League and Lockheed Martin have partnered up to create the AlphaPilot competition.

How it works: Nine teams, each armed with their own autonomous drone, will compete in the competition this fall. The team that develops the fastest drone will win $1 million, and if the drone can also beat a human pilot head-to-head, they get an extra $250,000.

Why it matters: Autonomous drones are part of our future. And for them to be useful in places like disaster areas, they need to be able to fly fast, far and without human oversight.

  • Right now, that's a huge challenge, as they lack the ability to detect real-world environments and can be thrown off by something as simple as a shadow, which limits their top speed.
  • The hope is that the AlphaPilot competition leads to increased awareness about the future of not just autonomous drones, but all autonomous vehicles. And maybe even a technological breakthrough.
9. Everything else
Photo: Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

🤑 CBB: Texas Tech has signed Chris Beard to a new six-year, $27.5 million deal that makes him the fourth highest-paid coach in the country. It also makes Tech one of the few schools that pays its basketball coach more than its football coach — a group that includes some schools you'd expect (Duke, Kentucky, Kansas) and some you might not (Tennessee, Oregon, Missouri).

Skiing: Remember that summer skiing video I shared yesterday? Found an even better one.

🏈 NFL: Apparently, the trade proposal that Cardinals GM Steve Keim was most willing to entertain on draft night didn't even come from an NFL team. It came from comedian Frank Caliendo, who called him pretending to be Jon Gruden and proposed a trade that Keim thought was real.

🏉 Rugby: The fledgling Major League Rugby just received huge news: French superstar Mathieu Bastareaud, 30, will join the league's New York franchise on a loan next season.

📺 Media: "Sports media and entertainment is growing fast in Orlando, a region that has long been known for theme parks and tourism," Axios' Kim Hart writes.

⚽️ Soccer: Friendly reminder that Tottenham plays Ajax in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal today. Kickoff is 3pm ET on TNT.

10. Elsewhere on Axios...

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In the latest phase of the desperate race to survive against Amazon's immense selling power, brick and mortar stores are increasingly aping one of the retail giant's most potent practices: dynamic pricing, Axios' Kaveh Waddell writes.

  • This increasingly popular tactic (example: hiking hotel prices during a big convention) benefits both buyers and sellers, its defenders argue. But as pricing is increasingly automated, the dangers include price gouging and discrimination.
"We are headed, long term, in the direction of prices that are constantly changing, either by time of day or by individual or by demographic type."
— Joseph Turow, media and marketing professor at UPenn

Go deeper in the Axios stream.

Kendall Baker

See you tomorrow,

Kendall "Bob" Baker

Trivia answer: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Allen Iverson

👋 Thank you for reading Axios Sports. Invite your friends, relatives, coworkers and enemies to sign up here.