Elvis Andrus is Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doing the Impossible
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Success in today’s hyper-competitive MLB offense requires approach adjustments to maximize offensive potential. Much hoopla has been made in recent years about the Launch Angle Revolution, where many players have used data-driven analysis to add loft to their swings to engineer offensive breakouts.
This year, one player has opened a completely new way to run circles around competition. While most hitters are trying to increase their batted ball air time, one player is bringing about a sea change.
Elvis Andrus is breaking the mold by making a drastic change to a much-overlooked part of a hitter’s game: walk-up music. This Spring Training, instead of choosing a rap song or rock anthem, he made waves when he announced that his walk-up music would be “Baby Shark” by Pinkfong. Yeah, the South Korean educational Youtube song with the eerily overenthusiastic kids in shark pajamas.
As soon as Andrus debuted the song, he went 3-for-4 with a dinger. Then Jose Iglesias was inspired to also use the Baby Shark walk-up song and went 2-for-3. Then an organist playing the Baby Shark ditty directly caused Enrique Hernandez to launch a home run on the next pitch. This phenomenon made some tongue-in-cheek headlines, and then folks moved on faster than the great Yanny vs. Laurel debate (because it was obviously Laurel so there wasn’t much of a debate). The humorous coincidence let spring training fans have a good chuckle, but to Andrus this was no laughing matter.
Following the 2018 season, Andrus reportedly had difficulty coping with the retirement of former teammate and perennial head-rubbing victim Adrian Beltre. Andrus said “Beltre was my best friend, and he would definitely say the same thing,” then dodged a question about Beltre not answering any of Andrus’s last 17 text messages. Andrus continued, “I felt burdened, I didn’t know how to carry on the legacy of our camaraderie, until my own baby shark showed me the light.” After a heart-to-heart conversation with Elvis Jr., his then 18-month-old son, Andrus realized that while he can no longer annoy Beltre, he can instead annoy everyone.
It’s hard to argue with the results. This year Andrus has performed swimmingly with a .309 with six home runs, 33 RBI and 13 stolen bases. Meanwhile, copycat Iglesias, who entered the season signed only to a minor league free agent deal, has made his own triumphant return. After being inspired to latch on to the trend by his 8-year-old son, Jose Jr., he’s hit .293 with four home runs and a stolen base, earning semi-regular playing time. However, since walk-up music can usually only be witnessed while attending the game and are not included in life broadcasts, it is safe to say that the Baby Shark Revolution will not be televised.
Perhaps the success of this revolution can be attributed to the distinct psychological advantage the Baby Shark song gives the batter. Scientists have dubbed the song a potent “earworm.” Andrus’s walk-up music lodges itself deep into the pitcher’s cerebellum which effortlessly locks onto the syncopated “do do do do do do” rhythm, subconsciously interfering with their windup coordination.
To extricate the tenacious tune requires substantial cognitive bandwidth from the prefrontal cortex, which happens to not only be involved in inhibition of the impulse to dance, but also in making decisions such as pitch selection. This allows Andrus to prey on the flailing pitcher’s mistakes and tear the ball to shreds. This Baby Shark Revolution may have positive externalities on other apex predators. This may explain the unusual success of Hunters, most notably Pence, Dozier and Renfroe.
Although some may say that the sample size of two is a bit too small, the conclusions on its effect are obvious. Take for example Gregory Wimschlitz of Malden, Massachusetts, who in Low-A had been using the Walk-up-song of “All I Do is Win” and was hitting .100 with no homers. But in the two weeks since he switched his walk-up music to the Baby Shark song, he has been released by the team. But that’s probably a coincidence.
This year, PitcherList’s own Alex Fast stepped up the baseball analysis game after devising a new stat for pitchers, Called Strikes + Whiffs, or CSW (sadly, my request to call it “CaSheW” was politely ignored). Now I have devised a new stat for hitters, researched by yours truly, which will surely take the baseball world by storm. That statistic is the Baby Shark Index, or BSI. Based on our research, a high BSI is correlated with a high batting average, excellent shortstop defense, and a tendency to have a son named after you.
Andrus currently leads the league with a fantastic BSI of 100, Iglesias pacing him at 75, whereas the rest of the league currently has a BSI of 0 (even so-called shark Jeff Samardzija). Indeed, one can observe that the vast majority of players with a 0 BSI do not play elite shortstop defense. While a low BSI shouldn’t be considered a deal-breaker, it should be taken heavily into consideration, in conjunction with approximately 147 other critically important hitter statistics.
While the BSI statistic has yet to be added into the Fangraphs searchable database, MLB.com, in their recent desire to be at the forefront of advanced metrics, has added a searchable database of every player’s walk-up music. You can find that here, and I swear this is real and not just a link to Rick Astley (another joke that has not gotten one bit stale).
Judging from the Texas Rangers’ page, Andrus makes it clear that he’s never gonna give Baby Shark up, but Iglesias has had his walk-up music de-listed. While he initially promised to stick to the ditty, his faith in the process may be wavering. Now it’s up to Reds fans to keep tabs on this, as the song also happens to be the only thing that’s keeping teammate Yasiel Puig from going off the deep end.
Still, some skeptics may question if BSI is truly a revolution. After all, if the pajama-clad walk-up music is clearly responsible for hitter breakouts, why haven’t more hitters followed suit? Here I invoke the story of legendary NBA free-throw shooter Rick Barry, whose unorthodox underhand style of free throw shooting allowed him to dominate. He taught that free throw technique to teammate Wilt Chamberlain, who then scored a career-best 100 points, nailing 28 of his 32 free throws underhanded.
Despite the obvious improvement, due to pressure to conform he quickly abandoned the “Granny Shot,” reverting to his previously mediocre free throw ways. To bring the example back to the baseball world, one in which outdated traditions abound, it’s safe to say that most major league hitters are also lousy free-throw shooters.
While the strategy was an unmitigated success early on, lately pitchers have made effective adjustments. After having a Great White-hot April, the production of Andrus and Iglesias have tailed off some in recent weeks. A few opposing pitchers have been observed preparing for Andrus at-bats by stuffing pine tar into their ears. Still others have resorted to taking extra time on the mound to counter the earworm by singing “Mambo No. 5,” or in desperate cases, the jingle for “1-877-Kars-4-Kids,” a move which can only be described as a devil’s bargain. But Andrus feels ready to make counter-adjustments to keep riders on the Baby Shark hype train chomping at the bait.
“I’ve been studying the tape and realized that I might need to make changes. Like, when I’m up against Spanish-speaking pitchers, I gotta switch the walk-up lyrics to “Tiburon bebe.” And I’m also working on a recording in reverse that sounds like a demon saying “hanging curve”.
Oh and my boy [Texas Rangers hitting coach] Luis [Ortiz] is working on a mash-up where the “do do do do do do” is changed to Chris Berman yelling “back back back back back back. That one will definitely help get balls over the fence.” Andrus then suddenly ran away from the interview to crash the Beltre jersey retirement ceremony to rub his head one last time. Then he sprinted back to the microphone and continued “See I’m like Jaws with a steel nose guard. Nobody can punch out this baby shark.”
Original Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire, modified by Ben Pernick