The NBA & Match Quality

The best NBA teams are the best investors. They understand where they get the most return on their investments and choose to go all-in.

From the 2013-14 season through the end of the 2017-18 season, the two most valuable areas to shoot from were within a few feet from the rim and right around the 3-point line.

A 3-point shot is worth 50% more than an 8 foot jumper despite the 8-footer going in less than 4% more often.
Total points divided by total shots = Points per shot.
Clearly, shots within the restricted area and the corner 3 are the best investments for an NBA offense.

Playing the law of percentages, NBA players would be foolish to shoot in less-efficient areas of the court. They choose to invest in areas that provide better returns than others.

An NBA game looks significantly different now than it did at the start of the 21st century.

As this message has made its way down from the quant office and into the hands of today’s players, they’ve changed their on-court behavior patterns. These changes can be understood with an idea from economists.

Match quality is the term economists use to describe how the work a person does matches who they are. I first learned of this idea in David Epstein’s latest book, Range, and I see its application in this discussion of the NBA.

Since the NBA introduced the 3-point line in 1979, players have gradually shifted their skill sets to get the best results in The Association. If you can get to the rim and drain three-pointers, you “match” the needs of your environment and will likely be compensated in accordance with that match.

Think about the legends of the game. Mikan, Chamberlain, Robertson, Alcindor (Abdul-Jabbar if you’re not a Bucks fan). They all earned their legendary status by dominating defenders with their back to the basket.

In contrast, today’s best players are a different breed. The best players in the game spend the majority of their time hovering around the court’s suburbs. Last year’s MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, added a 3-point shot to further his dominance. That wouldn’t have been a thought for the greats of yesteryear.

The game has changed. The game’s best match their skill sets to the demands of the game.

In a highly specialized industry (like the NBA), workers benefit from extremely high match quality. Each off-season, the league’s general managers make that known by paying a premium for a stretch five or a 3-and-D wing that would have been a role player two decades ago.

NBA players can improve match quality in two ways: 1) doing more of what will get them the best results or 2) improving their ability to score from in-demand spots on the floor. And a funny thing happens when you are able to do what the industry wants: your playing time and bank account tend to get bigger. Funny how that works.


All images in this post come from Kirk Goldsberry’s book, Sprawlball.

The Infinite Game of Coaching

There’s a game within the game.

You may coach baseball, but you are not playing the game you think you’re playing.

You see, in the game of life, you’re either playing a finite or infinite game.

What is a Finite Game?

I learned about finite and infinite games from Simon Sinek, author of the upcoming book The Infinite Game, on a podcast he did with Cal Fussman

To paraphrase him, finite games have a beginning, middle, and end with agreed-upon rules. There are a winner and a loser.

The game of baseball is a finite game.

One team wins; the other team loses.

What is an Infinite Game?

An infinite game is vastly different.

Infinite games have no defined start and end.

There’s no winner and loser.

Business is an infinite game. So is your career.

You can’t win business. Just like nobody wins their career.

Infinite games require your own scorecard because there’s no defined set of rules. No agreed-upon terms to let you know when you’ve won (or lost).

Infinite games require a long-term mindset.

The good news? You get to decide which game you want to play.

Finite vs. Infinite Players

The choice is yours as to what kind of player you will be.

You get to choose which game you will play.

So what defines a finite player or an infinite player?

The finite player focuses on winning, being #1, beating their competition.

The infinite player will approach life differently. They keep an inner scorecard. Their concern is to become better than they were this morning and consistently upgrade their skills and understanding of the world.

Finite players play to beat the people around them. Infinite players play to be better than themselves.

The finite player gets caught up in the wins and losses of today, the promotions of next quarter.

The infinite player thinks 5, 10, x years down the road. They know where they’re going, but they don’t quite know how they’re going to get there.

The finite player gets caught up in what and how.

The infinite player starts with why.

The finite player will do anything for a win.

The infinite player cannot possibly lose.

Coaching: Finite or Infinite Game?

Coaching is interesting.

On game days, we and our teams take part in a finite game.

The National Anthem resounds through the stadium, the first pitch is thrown, and the game starts.

After a predetermined amount of time, the game ends with a winner and a loser.

Baseball is a finite game.

That’s okay.

But coaching, that’s different.

While the games are finite, coaching is best played as an infinite game.

The finite coach is over-concerned with wins and losses.

The infinite coach sees beyond the immediate external scoreboard and chooses to play a different game.

They want to win games, of course. But their true measure of success goes beyond wins and losses.

They’re concerned with impact. Player and personal development. Leaving people everywhere better than when they first met.

They’re not gunning for a promotion, sacrificing others upon the altar of their career.

They recognize that when it all ends, they won’t “win” their career.

They’ll simply be content with the impact they made and the men and women they helped along the way.

I want to be an infinite coach.

On Coaching Significance & Satisfaction

As young coaches, we aspire to make an impact. We want our work to be significant. 

Filled with zeal, we’re concerned with becoming the best. At first, it’s a noble pursuit. We want to become better than we were yesterday.

Then, something shifts.

We become concerned about others. Our kaizen approach to coaching disappears and we begin playing finite games.

We try to become #1. We play the game perpetuated by our hyper-driven culture and become okay with taking others down on our way to the top.

We crave external, superficial significance. Each promotion is another win for us.

We forget that in all finite games, our win is someone else’s loss.

Traditionally, baseball coaches have seen significance as wins, draft picks, and promotions. In today’s age, significance now includes social media followers and viral tweets.

All of this stuff is noise. A viral tweet has a resemblance of significance, but it’s as filling as Skittles after a deadlift workout. The sugar-high of social media significance makes us crave more, but more never provides the fulfillment that we are after.

But what if I told you that those things aren’t what makes a coach significant?

At its core, coaching is about helping other people.

You get to empower others to become better at what they do. As a result, you are rewarded with a deep sense of satisfaction.

You know that what you’re doing matters.

You’re playing an infinite game in a world full of finite players.

The way to satisfaction isn’t getting to the top of your field. There will always be another hill to climb.

It’s about maintaining an inner scorecard. It’s about playing the game you’ve decided to play. 

True impact comes through becoming a signal in a world full of noise. It’s about making complex things simple. It’s about helping men upgrade themselves on a daily basis.

It’s easy to contribute to the noise.

But becoming a coach of significance is reserved for the few who will choose to go deep, invest in relationships, and make an impact on the lives of others.

Which will you choose?

How Small School Pitchers Will Get Drafted in 2019 and Beyond

Who this article is for

If you’re a shoo-in for the first round, stop reading right now. This article will not benefit you.

BUT, if you’re a fringe draft guy from a small school who has clawed his way to developing into someone worthy of a draft conversation, this article is for you.

I make no promises

This is not a guarantee. This is merely a prediction. A prediction that I believe in, but a prediction nonetheless.

My story

I have a hankering for the new.

I seem to always be among the first to find out about new things, and I’m usually an early adopter of a new technology or a new app that revolutionizes the world 2 years after I first gave it a try.

In March 2015, Driveline Baseball was a little-known baseball training company with its homebase in Puyallup, Washington.

Somehow (I can’t remember how), I discovered that they were launching a new online training service.

I was a long-time skimmer of their blog, and had my first interaction with Kyle Boddy on the Let’s Talk Pitching forums six earlier when he prescribed me a program that I most certainly did NOT do.

In the weeks that led up to March 23, 2015, I had been tearing through the Driveline blog reading everything I possibly could and hoping I’d throw harder through Internet osmosis.

(It didn’t happen)

To make a potentially long story short, I invested $392 in the Driveline Baseball Online MaxVelo program and over the next two years, came closer than I ever imagined to being the third Trinity Christian College baseball player ever to play affiliated baseball.

Over that span, I not only gained 14 MPH of throwing velocity and actually gained some sort of idea on how to throw strikes (debatable), I also built a personal brand and an incredible network around my baseball career.

Even though these numbers pale in comparison to true influencers, I build up a following of 2,900+ on Instagram through my niche account and 1,700 on Twitter.

I did this through documenting so much of my development process—the ups, downs, and in-betweens.

I truly believe that without my online presence, I would have slipped through the cracks.

But with my willingness to put out content and add value into the online community, I earned favor with highly influential people in the game that did all they could to get me signed.

While I never threw a professional pitch, I got closer than I ever imagined to playing professionally before eventually deciding to not pursue it any further.

As I look at baseball now, I see a trend that could benefit you if you take advantage of the opportunity available to you.

Here’s what I want you to get out of this: If you’re a fringe college player, you NEED to build a personal brand.

In a world where everyone throws 90+, you will no longer stick out solely because you throw “hard” (below average).

Yes, you will need to throw harder. There’s no question about that.

But you can also take advantage of the massive opportunities the Internet gives you to build a personal brand that might be the key to you pitching professionally or landing yourself a sick new job in cubicle nation.

Trends I see

Progressive coaches are being hired off Twitter

The gold rush has begun.

Professional organizations everywhere are picking up coaches who are data-driven and can use research-backed programming methods to get their players better.

It started with Jason Ochart being hired by the Philadelphia Phillies as their Minor League Hitting Director and has spread to tons of private coaches all around the country landing jobs with Major League organizations.

These coaches are in-tune with the best training methods and will support you in your usage of Driveline PlyoCare balls. As more coaches are hired from this area of the baseball landscape, these preparation methods will become even more accepted throughout the game. This benefits you greatly.

These coaches are tuned into social media

These coaches are proficient on Twitter dot com. In addition, many of them were discovered through Twitter and other social media channels or their own websites.

These coaches are eager to find athletes they believe in

Part of the job of professional organizations is to sign the next group of players for their organization. Year-after-year, organizations draft 40 players and sign dozens more to fill their rosters with the hopes that a small percentage of them pan out and become valuable players.

As my old boss Mike Rathwell says, “If you throw 95 on the black in Siberia, someone will find you.”

The good news is that you no longer need to be found solely through sheer luck. You can leverage the power of the Internet to dramatically improve your chances of being discovered, scouted, and signed if you focus on building your brand.

You’re a Marketer

I don’t care what you’re in school for or the degree you have. You are a marketer.

A marketer is anyone who seeks to make change in the world. Marketing is all about creating change.

In a world filled with hustlepreneurs whose answer to everything is to do more, publish more, be in more places, there’s another way to create a personal brand that you can be proud of.

Your personal brand isn’t your clever marketing strategy. Nor is it the perfectly planned aesthetic of your Pitching Instagram account.

No.

Your personal brand is your reputation.

When it comes to marketing yourself as a fringe professional baseball player, you should be leveraging the Internet to store and circulate your entire process.

When scouting directors think of you, what will they remember?

You have the power to influence what these decision-makers think of you.

Will you use it?

Athletes who document their training – all of it – will benefit

Gary Vaynerchuk talks about the value of a “document, don’t create” strategy of content creation.

For fringe draft guys like yourself, I believe this strategy will be effective.

In an age where more of the decision-makers are siding with progressive training methods, you can stand out in the crowded marketplace of draft-eligible pitchers by documenting your training process.

How to Get Drafted (Using the Internet)

Create a Website

I did this for college recruitment, and college coaches loved it. The website is now down, but it had basic information on it: my most recent recruiting video, my game schedule, past season stats, and contact information.

If I did this today for getting a professional job, I would upload videos with radar gun readings in the shot, post regular training updates with thoughtful insights and videos, and provide a way for them to contact you.

I believe that competency in understanding your training will be a differentiator between fringe draft guys in the future.

Use Twitter dot com

Twitter is a gold mine for networking with people within professional baseball. Learn how to network by adding value to an already-existent community. Give first, give some more, give a lot more, then maybe someone will give something back to you.

I recommend posting short videos of training and game performance on here and engaging in thoughtful conversations with others. The Pitching Twitter world is full of good-intentioned, curious people who love a good conversation. Enter that community and share what you’re learning. You’ll be surprised what happens.

Document Everything

I don’t necessarily recommend posting everything you do online, but you should document it.

Here’s a situation I’ve imagined before:

A team is deciding between two college seniors who are similar in every category. One of them is you.

The only difference between the two of you is that you’ve documented the last 2-4 years of your development online. They can trace you from the time you enrolled in Southern Kansas Community College throwing 84 to now when you’re a 95 MPH flamethrower.

They’re interested in your journey, and the scout who’s been following you has an affinity for your training methods.

Now what if they ask for your training logs? Is it far-fetched to think they might do this?

I think not.

How great would it be to send them a Google Sheets link with all of your training logs over the last four years. They could see everything you’ve done.

Does this scare you?

It’s not unreasonable to think it could happen.

Will you be ready?

Will any of this happen?

I don’t know.

That’s the beauty of it.

I anticipate that if 100 people read this article, maybe 2 guys will actually try it.

It might be too early in the game for this, or the timing might be right.

There’s only one way to find out.

Take the leap.

Burn the ships.

Break the status quo.


If you read this and want to do it, send me an email at tanner@tannerrek.com. I’d love to help you get everything set up and talk about the uniqueness of your situation.