It comes up almost every time an umpire’s call decides the outcome of a game. The standard response from some people is that you can’t complain about the call. You should have done your job so that the call didn’t matter. That certainly has been mentioned this week after the Patriots were screwed over by the non-interference call on Monday. Well, if the Pats hadn’t fumbled earlier, it wouldn’t have mattered that the ref’s are morons. If the defense had tackled better, it wouldn’t matter that the ref’s lacked the integrity to make a tough call against the home team. If the Pats had just executed better.
It’s that “executed” term that I always focus on. The Patriots certainly use it all the time. The Red Sox do too. I’ve heard many Sox players reference executing the game plan against a certain hitter or pitcher. It’s all about execution.
Whenever that term is used, it’s implied that all a team need to do in order to win is execute the plan. Which, I suppose, is true. If the plan is to strike out Miguel Cabrera by pitching him away, and Tazawa does that, then he got him out by executing properly. But, when players and coaches talk about execution, it’s also implied that perfect execution is possible. Do they really think it is?
Another football example. A Detroit Lions coach once was talking about drawing up running plays for Barry Sanders. Sometimes, they’d create the play, and realize that there was one defender that wasn’t accounted for in the blocking scheme. They decided that that was the guy that Barry needed to make miss the tackle. So, if Sanders executed the play properly, he would fake that one guy out of his shoes, and everyone else would be blocked.
But, can you assume perfect execution on a play?
Obviously, teams don’t assume perfect execution when they set up all procedures. After all, on a groundball to the infield, the catcher is supposed to run down the baseline to back up the play at first. So, the catcher needs to execute the play in case the infielder doesn’t execute. If all the infielder needed to do was execute the play, there would be no need for a back-up. Same thing with a play at the plate. The pitcher goes and backs up the throw home. There’s a system in place to account for a lack of execution.
What about other plays? Take the pick-off play that ended game four of the World Series. The Sox were mocked by just about everyone for holding the runner on at first. But, apparently, they felt they saw something that could allow them to pick the runner off. So, if Koji could execute the play, they could get the out. But, if Koji couldn’t make a good move and put the throw where it needed to be, it would all be for naught. They would have left a gaping hole on the right side with nothing to show for it.
How much slop in execution is expected?
I assume there has to be some allowance for talent when it comes to a game plan. They don’t say that Jon Lester and Felix Doubront are both lefties, so they both get the same game plan. All they need to do is both execute it. Obviously, Lester’s ability to hit the exact spot needed to get the out is different than Doubront's. Right? They don’t just put the pressure on Doubront to figure out how to properly execute it, right? When they say to throw a fastball on the outside corner, do they assume the fastball will be right where they need it to be? Do they assume it will work if the ball is a half inch off? An inch? Is that the job of the catcher? To only call a pitch that he knows the pitcher can execute? Is that why the pitcher shakes the catcher off? Because he knows he can’t execute that pitch, but could execute another option? What if he can’t execute any of them?
Where does the need for proper execution of a plan stop, and talent present in a human being take over? Do you need an ability to execute factor?
When did my ability to properly execute a decent blog post end and my ability to write something worth reading come into play?