July 29, 2013

Grit: The key to success

Every now and then a player will come along who inspires the phrase – he’s a "gritty" player.  For Angel fans names like David Eckstein come to mind almost immediately or perhaps Darin Erstad or even… Bobby Grich.

For a long time – you could attach such a label to a ball player and nobody would really question it at all.  With the emergence of sabermetrics and more in depth statistical analysis – some people view grit as nothing more than fairy dust.  In other words it’s not real because it’s not really measurable.  Admit it; when you read the title of this blog, you smiled and maybe even chuckled a bit at the notion that something like “grit” was real.

Is “grit” real?  Are there players who have it and those who don’t and is it a factor in the success or failure of a player?  Before you attempt to answer those questions – please spend six minutes watching the video below.  It’s just six minutes long, but it could shed some new light on the subject.

Duckworth describes grit in a variety of ways.  She says it’s about  “passion and perseverance.”  She goes on to say that “grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Her data shows that grit is “usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.”  

Duckworth also admits that science knows very little about how to build it.  Her studies are clear that talent alone does not necessarily translate into success.  In fact, her data shows that grit is unrelated or inversely related to measures of talent.

The most telling part of her talk is that those who have grit don’t view failure as a permanent condition.  I think good closers have grit because they’re able to put past failures behind them and attack the next opportunity.  

The idea that grit is a factor also feeds into one of my own philosophies about Cuban born players.  Given what some of them have had to go through just to have an opportunity to play in the major leagues is beyond amazing.  When you really think about guys like Kendrys Morales who made 8 attempts to defect it makes you stop and realize that playing baseball isn’t pressure at all.  In fact, it’s easy compared to their other life experiences.  Does Morales have grit?  I’d think he’d have to, wouldn’t you?

In any case - I think there's some merit to the notion that having grit matters.  How about you?

1 comment:

  1. I think it's an interesting question.

    But, if you really dig down and get gritty (so to speak), I would say the thing sabermetricians are railing against is the idea that grit can make up for a lack of talent.

    If two players are of identical talent (impossible, I know) and one works harder than the other, his "grit" will manifest itself in on-field performance. So, grit in and of itself is no way to measure a ballplayer, but if it's part of the package, it will help him achieve.

    So, in the end, results are what matters. How a player gets there (within the rules of the game, of course) isn't important.

    Those are my two cents. Hope they add something to the discussion.