Extracting baseball wisdom from Olympic curling


Maybe the second the most exciting game in the world is curling. Curling is played on ice. Players push heavy granite stones across the ice. The friction is low because the contact between the stone and the ice is weak (the bottom of each stone is convex and the ice is in pebbles). Friction is further reduced because the stone is so heavy that a micro-layer of water forms on the ice pebbles. As the stone moves, the shooting team can sweep the ice in front of the stone, which changes how the stone moves.

“The first written evidence [of curling] arose in Latin, when in 1540 John McQuhin, a solicitor from Paisley, Scotland, recorded in his protocol book a challenge between John Sclater, a monk of Paisley Abbey, and Gavin Hamilton, a representative of the abbe. The report stated that Sclater threw a rock on the ice three times and claimed he was ready for the agreed-upon contest. — World Curling Federation website

Last week I watched the US mixed doubles team compete in the Olympics. I watched their first four games, each about 2 hours long. Let’s look at two areas:

  • similarities between curling and baseball.
  • the wisdom of curling applied to baseball.

Curling and baseball have similarities.

Strategy (taking into account your opponents’ abilities and their next moves) can change the outcome of the game.

The mental game is important because both games involve a high failure rate. Significant surprises also occur. Both games require mental discipline and strength to succeed.

Both games are relatively slow. In 2021, time per court was approximately 1.3 minutes (total playing time divided by total number of courts, data from Baseball Reference). The time per stone down on the ice was 1.5 minutes (480 minutes for four mixed doubles curling matches with 329 stones). Caveat – I watched a replay and maybe the time between ends was removed. The pace of curling is slightly slower than that of baseball. Like a slow-moving exclamation point, curling stones move at glacial speed compared to a thrown baseball.

The pitcher must release the ball before going down the rubber, while the curler must release the stone before it crosses the hog line.

When a curling team declares a power play, it looks like a baseball player swinging for the fence. During play, stones may be stacked in the scoring area, similar to baseball where runners may be added to bases.

Mixed doubles matches consisted of 8 ends. This is similar to baseball games which normally have 9 innings. And there are exceptions like 7 innings doubles. In the event of a tie in curling, extra innings are played, which is similar to extra innings in baseball.

The wisdom of curling can be applied to baseball.

In curling, players who know the angles have an advantage when it comes to hitting rocks. In baseball, players with the speed of the bat and who know the best swing angles can hit the baseball farther. Outfielders running in the correct direction have the shortest distance to get to the ball. The wisdom applied to baseball is to know the importance of angles.

Curling teams that constantly exchanged information while shooting (remember the icy speed of rocks) seemed to execute their shots better. I’m less sure about the Italians who seemed to constantly bicker. Maybe it was just the nature of the Italian language. The wisdom applied to baseball is that the exchange of information during play contributes to the success of the team.

The curling teams pushed their stone with perfect technique, except the Italians who lost a stone by crossing the hog line without letting go of the handle of the stone. Then they used their athletic ability to sweep to correct when the ice wasn’t playing as expected. Similarly, baseball players often swing with perfect technique and then use their athletic ability to adapt during the swing because the pitch does not move as expected. The wisdom applied to baseball is that athleticism and technique are equally important.

In curling, statistics can be misleading because scoring occurs after the last stroke of each set. Stones in scoring position before the last move remained in scoring position, influenced the final position, or were swept away before the last move was completed. In curling, each stroke is influenced both by stones in scoring position and by consideration of the opponent’s next stroke. Similarly, in baseball, statistics can be misleading because scoring only occurs when runners cross home plate. If the runner does not score before the end of the inning, this scoring opportunity is lost. The wisdom applied to baseball is that every pitch is influenced by the runners on base and the next batter.

Once per curling match, players may request a time out to speak with their coach. The coach and the players are put on the microphone so that the fans have an idea of ​​their way of thinking in a critical situation. Perhaps on baseball mound tours, mound tour attendees should be on microphone so fans can enjoy what is often a boring minute. The wisdom applied to baseball is that fans like to hear the manager and the players talk about strategy every game.

In summary, five bits of wisdom from curling can be applied to baseball.

  • Know the importance of angles.
  • The exchange of information during the game contributes to the success of the team.
  • Athletics and technique are equally important.
  • Each pitch is influenced by the runners on base and the next batter.
  • Fans love to hear the manager and the players talk about strategy every game.

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