Quantifying a Player’s GRIT Capacity

Boring is beautiful: the $180 million everyman
NFC Title Game Open Thread
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Yesterday, we looked at the origin and definition of GRIT capacity, one of the newest baseball metrics available to those who want a full composite of the courage and tenacity of a player without having to resort to anecdotal descriptions like “gutsy” or “spunky.” No longer will fans be bound by the words of baseball announcers who may tab a player as “gritty” for affecting a scowl or waving a towel when we know full well it’s the guy who can taste the onset of a four-game win streak by licking a blade of outfield grass who’s the real GRIT hero.

Now that we’ve established what GRIT capacity is, we can quantify it by first isolating and then totaling its four primary components: Guts, Resolve, Instinct, and Toughness.

We’ll start with guts, GRIT’s most integral component. To decipher it, we first select the player’s offensive stats that are most associated with a presumptive likelihood of engaging in a bar brawl: hit-by-pitches, seasons played as a member of the Boston Red Sox, and public displays of false bravado. Each of these components factors into the guts subset and receives its real numeric value.

To exemplify this, let’s take Player X’s 2008 season.

Having played four full seasons for Boston, in 2008, Player X was hit by four pitches. Also, despite a reputation for insufferable petulance, he engaged in only one public display of false bravado. Knowing this, all that’s left to do here is to find the sum total of all of these elements, which gives Player X the above-average guts component score of nine. In other words, here’s a player we can envision willfully taking a 95 MPH heater to the ribs, and then three hours later, shattering a bottle of Schlitz against a biker’s jaw after losing 2 out of 3 in beer pong.

Next up, we have resolve, the GRIT component that measures a player’s drive and stamina. This time, we’ll combine a new set of criteria that establishes a player’s ability to endure abject pain and misery: total games played (during the 2008 season), plus total years spent toiling in the minor leagues prior to his big league call-up, plus additional years beyond one’s free agency date spent playing for the Pirates (if applicable). We then divide this sum by the sum of the universal indicators of physical and emotional frailty: disabled list stints and in-season lollygags, each of which receives a numeric value of 2.

Looking at Player X, we see someone who breezed through the minors in three seasons and played in 157 games in 2008 while accruing zero DL stints. However, for a player with an otherwise growing list of impressive GRIT peripherals, he also accumulated a staggering eleven lollygags. In fact, one such misstep cost his team a pivotal late-season game against the rival Tampa Bay Rays in which he inexplicably stood motionless as he leered at his own flexed right bicep while a slow grounder trickled past for the game-winning hit. Along with not sprinting to first base after a walk, removing oneself from a game after tweaking an abductor, or draping a heated water bottle over one’s lap in the dugout during a night playoff game at Comiskey Park, few things decimate a player’s GRIT faster than adoring or fondling one’s arm, ab, or calf muscles during crucial moments of a game. There’s no doubt these on-field lapses proved costly to Player X’s 2008 resolve quotient and overall GRIT capacity. But for now, it’s enough to know that he finished the season with a resolve component quotient of 14.5.

Instinct is the GRIT component that measures what’s frequently dubbed by veteran analysts as a player’s “feel for the game” or “Baseball I.Q.” As such, it accounts for four elements that are attributed to players with keen mental awareness and a higher understanding of the game: sacrifice bunts, sacrifice flies, stolen bases, and the third – but often overlooked – indicator, which is intuition (sometimes referred to as “horse sense”), which receives a numeric value of 10. Valued for their focus, versatility, and wild-eyed awareness, players with a strong instinct component can compensate for a shortage of talent with uncanny powers of perception. Brett Gardner, for example, who was second only to Scott Podsednik in leftfielder GRIT capacity in 2010, has been known to literally taste the rotation on a breaking pitch as it approaches the plate. By placing his hand on the infield prior to a game, veteran shortstop David Eckstein can predict within 98 percent accuracy the total number of bounces groundballs will take during the entire ensuing game. And Twins shortstop Nick Punto can smell a baby crying in the upper-deck bleachers (which, he claims, carries the scent of lemon Now and Laters).

Player X initially shines in this department with seven sacrifice bunts, nine sac flies, and twenty stolen bases. But does he possess the critical third indicator of intuition? Sadly, it turns out, he does not. Despite flashing a knowing smirk that seems to indicate a superior knowledge of his surroundings, when our Player X was asked about whether or not he believed himself to have keen powers of perception, he stared confounded at the interviewer and then responded with, “Your face is a keen power of perception – ha! Nah, you’re face is cool – just messin’ with ya! Whatever, ya know?”

As a result, Player X receives a surprisingly mediocre instinct component score of 36, well below the league leaders from 2008.

Lastly, we have toughness. Players who exhibit this characteristic have an abnormally high threshold for both receiving and inflicting pain and anguish. Think of the kid back in P.E. class who got off on pegging terrified freshmen in the face with dodgeballs, only to prove he wasn’t above it all by inexplicably slamming his own forehead into his locker before Physics class amidst his own blood-curdling pleasure cackles. Thus players with a high toughness component don’t merely endure pain; they marinate in it. They dive into the stands on balls looped into the upper loge section or barrel into home plate with their team up by eleven. And they lobby their managers for them not to have to wear a batting helmet, even though they’ve been mandatory since 1971.

For players with unusually high toughness ratings, catching a boring sinker in the elbow fills them not with anger, fear, or even defiance, but mild disappointment – like the feeling one gets when a delicious meal or great movie has come to an end. When they get plunked, the look on their face doesn’t say, “Damn, man…Damn!” or “You don’t know me!” but rather, “It’s over? And so soon?” Coaches, managers, and reporters remind us that these aren’t sado masochistic sociopaths; they’re warriors who should be looked upon as everything that’s right with the game.

Assessing Player X’s toughness component will take almost no time at all, since there’s only one true element to measure: Hair. This may seem inane and painfully superficial at first, but when one considers baseball history’s litany of hard-nosed players, these designations prove remarkably accurate. The graphs below reflect hairstyle translation scores.

Still unconvinced? Ty Cobb had a flat-top, as did Billy Martin. Pete Rose and Johnny Bench were both proud owners of impeccable bowl cuts. Phillies tough-guy backstop Darren “Dutch” Daulton wore a classic Mullet. And as for his entire 1993 hardscrabble pennant-winning Phillies team? Every last player on the 24-man roster be-mulleted.

Our Player X scores a solid 12 points here with his traditional #2 metal razor buzz cut, which closes out his toughness component and preps him for his final GRIT score. Because we’ve already made all the preliminary calculations, we’ll determine this by doing some fairly simple arithmetic:

Guts (+9) + Resolve (14.5) + Instinct (36 ) + Toughness (12) = 71.5

And there you have it. Player X’s 2008 GRIT capacity was 71.5, which put him among the elite at his position for the 2008 season, as illustrated by the chart below:

Whether or not GRIT translates to “good” is still open for debate, although judging from the table above, there seems to at least be a strong correlation. As the answer to this question begins to emerge, at the very least we no longer have to acknowledge a player’s grit based on what Hawk Harrelson thinks is “heady,” whom Rick Sutcliffe believes has “that look,” or what Joe Magrane is talking about when says “spunk factor.”

Boring is beautiful: the $180 million everyman
NFC Title Game Open Thread
  • Sly Robbie

    Dude, you are not funny. Tripe like this simply wastes bandwidth.

    • bakekrukow412

      Thats an opinion. I found this to be hysterical.

      • http://www.runninglocal.wordpress.com BobK

        You’re absolutely correct– that Mr. Cohen is not funny and that tripe like this simply wastes bandwidth is an opinion. Unfortunately, it’s an accurate one. This is not clever writing– it’s a cudgel wrapped in two pounds of month old beef tripe.

  • http://twitter.com/AnaMariana42 Ana

    Agreed about the combover. However, jheri-curls are gritty as ****.

    • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

      Just let your Soul Glo

  • Mrgfeeny

    Really? This joke was old 4 years ago when fjm retired. Im not trying to be mean here like most people on the internet who dont like something…but this was just really lame. Please stick with the baseball analysis…

  • mbonzo

    How many grit points do you get for fielding from your knees when you have a rib through your lung and shattered cankles?

  • derek

    you make me hate the weekend

    you have RUINED the WEEKEND!

    • Katie

      If you read this and it ruined your weekend it probably speaks to how lame your life is.

  • Dexception32

    I gotta say this was well done, the joke has as has been mentioned existed for awhile, but the execution is interesting, encompassing and most of all well illustrated. I thought our RAB readership only faltered when it came to b-jobbers and trolls, it is sad that we too find ourselves just as petty and “angry” as those who we so openly condemn. He titled it whimsy, don’t like it? skip it….simple solutions are always best. See Joba nightmare for opposite example of such. Damn you brock for not giving me an article detailing an offseason program and how that player looks better than ever. :)

    • Brock Cohen

      Ivan Nova’s in the best shape of his life.

  • Thomas

    I was shocked to learn player X was gritty, since his link to B-Ref is:

    I would have assumed Pedro Du was not gritty, even though he wears number 1.

  • Chris

    This is the reason RAB will go down the toilet… horrendous writing and drivel that is only getting WORSE with these new people.

    Embarrassing. Take back the reins, mike

    • pete

      I like that you included the expression “horrendous writing” and the word “reins” in the same post. Well done there, bub.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Here’s a hint: We publish over 50 posts a week. If you don’t like two of them written by the same guy, don’t read those two. I’m getting very sick of hearing people tell us how to run the site. You get free, unlimited content here, and no one — no one — is forcing you to read it. The same goes to all of you commenting about it in this thread. Go outside and unplug if it bothers you that much. It’s not going away.

      If you want to know why RAB will go down the toilet — which it won’t — it’s because of the recent influx of intolerant people commenting and the extreme negative tone of those comments. It’s not going to be because of our weekend writers who post on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

      • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS
      • Slugger27

        this is spot on, and i couldnt agree more. every time i go on a hiatus from this site, its never for the content. its usually from being jaded at the comments section, particularly game threads and posts about breaking news regarding a personnel move the yankees made

        im not really a fan of this kind of writing, but its crazy to think itll hurt the site. guys like “chris” hurt the site way more than this piece

      • NZ Samuel

        Joe, Ben, Mike, you guys are the best. I love this website, the cancer is us, not anything with the site or the extras providing even more content. *Bows down to overlords*

      • Mrgfeeny

        Oh im sorry. I thought this was america. Next time ill only comment to felliciate the poster. The great thing about blogs are the immediate feedback u can get from posts. Flaming every critique of an article makes u no better than the “msm” u guys love to shit on.

      • Ted Nelson

        I see no need for the “don’t tell us how to run our site” stuff. Part of the appeal of a blog is the community feel and the reader input. I would personally try to maximize that rather than going for a top-down msm attitude. Not criticizing the way the site is run at all, just that comment about being sick of being told how to run the site. You’ve got customers and they’re going to feel entitled to critique your product. Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman, or any Steinbrenner can’t turn around and tell the media “I’m getting very sick of you writers and fans always telling me how to run my team.” Fans are both customers of and stakeholders in the Yankees, just as readers are for your site.

      • The209

        Hey Ben:

        I’m a longtime reader, and occasional commenter. I love the site, and stop by at least a few times a week, minimum.

        I’ve even donated a few times. (Just kidding: does anyone ever do that? Really?)

        Anyway, no offense, but you guys kinda breed this “intolerant, negative” commenting: just look at your own comments when someone tells you “the wave” at YSIII is OK; Mike reads a comment / tip / suggestion he doesn’t like from a commenter, and retweets it for 1,500 followers to laugh at; etc.

        And actually I agree with you. The commenters have been out of hand re: the weekend crew. The people complaining about free content sound like entitled little snots. (Here’s an idea: STFU & submit your own article).

        But telling people — on a f*ing blog — they shouldn’t tell you how to run the site is ridiculous: you mean they should only tell you how to run it when you’re doing a good job, right?

        You guys always laugh at the MSM: I don’t think the Times ever said, “no negative letters to the editor, please”

        Lastly, you’ve always had a large % of commenters here who are long on snark/vitriol, and seemingly a little short on actual life experience.

        It’s funny to see you deal with it now that it’s directed at you. You should deal with it better, or turn off the comments.

        Anyway, that’s my opinion.

        Love you, love the site!

  • mike hc

    Funny. And the stuff about gardner being able to taste the breaking ball was classic.

  • Super Nintendo Chalmers

    People are way too annoyed about a FREE service that RAB is giving its readers. Do I think this is funny? No. So I don’t read it. If you don’t like Brock’s posts, skip them.

    • Rick

      It’s not about skipping them. The negative comments are all fair, even if some of them are over the top. People coming to this site for baseball thoughts and analysis, which is what the site was founded on, are naturally disappointed to find articles like this posted.

      IMO, the “GRIT” factor got old halfway through the article yesterday. As you suggest, I completely skipped the one today but chose to quickly skim through the comments to see if this type of post annoys others as well.

      RAB is fantastic but this type of post seriously detracts from the site as a whole. Stick to the baseball guys, it’s what you do best.

      • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

        Again 50 posts a week. If you don’t like two of them by the same author, don’t read them.

        • Matt

          A little sensitive , are we today? You have a valid point but be careful chastising the readers because without them, RAB is just a bunch of nothing floating around in cyberspace. If you don’t like the readers comments then maybe you should take your own advise and not read them either.

        • Rick

          That is absolutely what I do, Ben. I didn’t think my previous comment was overly negative or offensive so I apologize if it was. I just think it’s worth pointing that these kinds of posts are receiving much more negative criticism than the other articles on this site. You guys have a great thing going here, wouldn’t want that to ever change.

      • I Voted 4 Kodos

        CBG: Last night’s “Itchy & Scratchy” was, without a doubt, the worst episode ever. Rest assured that I was on the Internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world.
        Bart: Hey, I know it wasn’t great, but what right do you have to complain?
        CBG: As a loyal viewer, I feel they owe me.
        Bart: What? They’re giving you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you? If anything, you owe them.
        CBG: [pauses] Worst episode ever.

        The above scene is all that comes to mind when I read all the irritating, whiny comments.

        I enjoy the offbeat tone of these posts, especially when there’s very little happening the Yankeeland.

        • Midland TX

          Exactly. It’s an offseason weekend fercrissake. Less annoying and way more creative than repetitive Cashman/Girardi complaint comments by an order of magnitude.

  • Matt

    I guess you can cut the writer some slack, after all nothing is going on with the Yankees on a sunday in late January HOWEVER this column is pretty lame. If I want humor I’ll go watch Family Guy or go to Youtube. I come here for baseball info, analysis and opinions by writers and many of the posters who I respect. A tongue in cheek attempt at humor that isn’t even funny in my opinion doesn’t belong here.

    • derek


      • http://www.facebook.com/dougchu Doug

        It’s FREE. Your quality of life is in no way impinged by an internet blog entry. I am very sorry that you will never get back the 30 seconds it took you to skim the thing and decide you didn’t like it.

        Hope that helps.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dougchu Doug

      If I want humor I’ll go watch Family Guy or go to Youtube.

      This tells me everything I need to know.

  • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S.


    And it’s not exactly “humor”. It is satire.

    Yes it is different.

    • Chris

      The end result of both is they are supposed to be entertaining which many apparently feel this was not.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dougchu Doug

        No. The purpose of satire is to affect change in society by revealing its flaws.

  • MikeD

    Keep ’em coming. One way to keep a site fresh is to expand the type of content and to not be predictable.

    Good stuff.

  • Brian

    this was really funny

    • Brian

      especially this:
      “To decipher it, we first select the player’s offensive stats that are most associated with a presumptive likelihood of engaging in a bar brawl: hit-by-pitches, seasons played as a member of the Boston Red Sox, and public displays of false bravado”

  • http://www.facebook.com/dougchu Doug

    Brock, I like this, but it’s too long. The idea of a fangraphs-style analysis of GRIT is great, but your posts are just as long as what they’re parodying, and it’s tough to both hold reader interest and stay funny for that long.

    I’m thinking of http://www.downgoesbrown.com, which is one of the most reliably funny sports blogs out there but uses a really simple, formulaic style. Lots of setup-setup-punchline stuff.

    Keep it up, haters gonna hate, etc.

  • thurman’s stache

    I want to thank RAB for a great site. I’ve read for years and rarely comment or bother reading the comments. By his second article I had decided that Brock is not for me. By his third it was confirmed. I now pay attention to the author and decide whether to read or not.

    Ben… you’re right and since it is a free site, people can elect to stop reading. However, as one of the founders, you should be looking for feedback on how your new “staff” are doing. Sooooo, take it with a grain of salt. Your readers may sound ungrateful, but they may also be chiming in that there is some bigger issue here.

    Again, thank you RAB. You and Lohud are my daily Yankee reads and I look forward to pitchers and catchers right around the corner.

    • J-Man

      The article may not have been the best on RAB, but give him some slack, he is new, RAB is trying to add variety good stuff. What did you lose? 2 minutes of your boring life? There is little to talk about in Yankee-Land anyway. The reason that this site has isn’t the same as it was is because of all the trolls and negativity in comments. The RAB writing and content is as strong as ever, but the commentors need to chill out.

  • mbonzo

    I hate having to do this, its so cheesy and don’t feel like it belongs as part of our discussion… but it should be said.

    Dear Brock,
    This post, your others posts, your writings style, and your wit are… kickass. Its amazing the kind of detail you put into them, and its a pleasant change from the serious, stat oriented discussions. Whats not pleasant though? The jerks in here. I’m reading people say that RAB is changing, but all I see changing is the community. You haters are a bunch of intolerant whiners ruining a place thats simple purpose is to enjoy talking baseball.

    I enjoy reading your articles Brock, hopefully these commenters will leave and we can again enjoy talking baseball as well.

  • Robb

    Ok people let us put this in perspective. It is the slowest time of the baseball year. Do we really need another why Joba should be in the rotation post or is there another Greg Cadaret rehabbing in the carribean somewhere we could sign post.
    Different and change doesnt equal bad folks. Give the guy a chance once ST starts and baseball starts. Think if he tried to do a post like everyone else he would be compared to Mike, Joe, or Ben.
    Finally it’s easy to take pot shots from the peanut gallery but to actually put yourself out there to be criticized by everyone takes real GRIT. Something alot of commenters could not ever grasp.
    Brock keep it up. The only way to improve is to keep trying. Please keep this young man around and let him grow.

  • Mattchu12

    Everyone that is complaining needs to take that stick out of their ass.

    It’s January. It’s satire. If you don’t want to read it, skip on over it. WTF? Did Brock come over and tie you to a chair and force you to read it? I highly doubt it. Grow the hell up, you’re making yourselves look like giant douche bags.

    • Brock Cohen

      Actually, I have a confession to make. I have 79 P.O.’d RAB readers tied up in my cellar right now watching me type up the next seven installments in my GRIT satire series…Natives growing restless.

      • Not Funny

        So not only are your posts not funny but you also have to be an ass? Good for you Brock Lesnar, good for you.

      • Mattchu12

        I stand corrected. You sir, are a monster.

  • http://ablogforarod.blogspot.com/ The Captain

    I thought for sure the “I” in GRIT was going to be for “Intangibles.”

    Everybody knows that the true grittiest players exhibit the best intangibles like hustle, heart, and the classic “winning attitude.” Those things more than make up for their glaring lack of tangible skills that are shown in their league-average or below stats and make them such great teammates.

    See: “Eckstein, David” or “Cabrera, Orlando”

    • Ted Nelson

      “Those things more than make up for their glaring lack of tangible skills that are shown in their league-average or below stats and make them such great teammates.”

      I think that grit will actually mostly be reflected in stats. Even your “good teammate” claim should be quantifiable by looking at teammates’ performances and consistent overachieving by their teams year-to-year.

      If a player is “gritty” for any baseball-related reason it will show up statistically. Gets infield hits? Reflected in stats. Makes tough defensive plays consistently? Reflected in stats. Good bunter? Reflected in stats. If they are making some sort of consistent long-term impact on the field, that’s going to show up statistically. Maybe you’re talking more about overachieving your skill level and physical gifts. If you’re grit hasn’t helped you become a passable MLB performer, though, who really cares? Become a coach or a minor league lifer.

      • http://ablogforarod.blogspot.com/ The Captain

        You honestly think “grit” shows up in statistics? You really think if David Eckstein or Nick Punto makes a good play at short or beats out an infield single it’s because they hustled more or had more heart than other guys?? Not a chance, dude. It’s more than likely because the ball got hit in a spot that didn’t hurt their chances of not making the play or not beating out the throw due to their natural, God-given physical abilities, which weren’t enough to accomplish that feat alone.

        The fact of the matter is “grit” and “scrappiness” in baseball are myths created by the MSM to praise guys like Eckstein and Punto who don’t have the natural ability to succeeed at the sport at the level that the Pujolses and Josh Hamiltons of the world do. The overwhelming majority of Major League Baseball players are giving it their all at all times, with the few that don’t just being general slackers and lazy asses (cough, cough: Manny), and so grit and heart and effort become unquantifiable as a result. The reason that Pujols and Hamilton get on base and drive in more runs than Eckstein and Punto is because they are simply better players and that is what shines through when the maximum effort that all 4 players give is cancelled out.

        Maybe I missed the boat completely, but I thought the whole point of the post was to poke fun at people in the MSM who talk about “grit” like it actually IS some kind of measurable stat, which it is not. You can talk about grit all day if you want, and you will if you’re a Red Sawx fan, but the fact of the matter is Robinson Cano is a better baseball player than Dustin Pedroia could ever hope to be, and it has nothing to do with the effort, grit, or heart either exhibits. If it were, then Pedroia, Eckstein and Punto would be making more money than they are and probably winning a few more championships.

        • The209

          Brett Gardner probably has the most “grit” on the current roster … he also appears to be the fastest — and one of the most physically fit — players.

          You suck

  • Ted Nelson

    Grit will pretty much show up in statistics, but I would be careful just acting like it doesn’t exist or is a silly notion.

    A guy who runs over the catcher to score a run is rewarded a run. A guy who plays through an injury others would not is rewarded their production during that injury period (assuming they’re still outperforming their back-up and there are no negative long-term impacts, that’s a good thing… if not, not so good). A guy who is mentally tough enough to stand in there and get a hit after an 0-50 slump is rewarded the hit.

    As a fan there may be no need to look at “grit” in the long-term. Performance both incorporates and trumps grit. As a team making a 7, 8, 9 figure investment in a human being, I might try to get a look at it. Not particularly scientific if it hasn’t shown up statistically yet, but maybe there are some red flags. Two guys with similar performance, but one is “grittier.” Staying away from a large investment in a guy you think lacks toughness. Etc.