THT Poetry: Kerry Wood (1998-2012)

In the prior edition of THT Poetry, we trailed Dee Gordon around the base paths. Today, we reflect on Kerry Wood‘s up and down career, with scattered references to statistics and to Cubs history/culture. Enjoy …


Now, a challenge for you. I self-imposed three major constraints on the structure of this poem, each grounded in Kerry Wood’s statistical record. Specifically, the total number of lines, the syllable count of each line, and the relative frequency of two distinct sounds throughout the poem. The first is easy, the second is probably pretty apparent, but the last one may be tough to crack! The first reader to identify (via research or lucky guess) the “statistical significance” of each constraint is invited to suggest/demand a topic for a future baseball poem. It might take me awhile to write ‘em, but I will honor your topics if you can crack my poetry code.

Oh, and yes, that squiggle in lines seven and eight is a stripped-down version of FanGraphs’ win probability chart for Game Six of the 2003 NLCS. I’ve embedded the full interactive chart here for your suffering/amusement (hover over for play-by-play details):

Source: FanGraphs

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  1. RoundHeadedKid said...

    Wow! Pretty impressive poem! Bartman’s graph doesn’t even interfere with the onomatopoeia! Wow!

  2. Linda Baie said...

    I loved, and was intrigued by, your poem, Ed.  I can’t figure out all your structure, but I tried, & I learned much about Kerry Wood in the process.  Baseball is awesome & I follow our Colorado Rockies avidly, although they’re making it hard this year.  Thanks for your clever words!

  3. Ed DeCaria said...

    Thanks for the comments/compliments, Joe, RHK, and Linda. I love that you looked up Kerry Wood’s stats, Linda.

    Okay, since we don’t seem to have too many guessers, I will give away the first/easiest one:

    There are exactly 15 lines in the poem, including the blank second line, because Kerry Wood pitched 15 seasons from 1998-2012.

    Another clue: the number of syllables in each line is representative of Kerry Wood’s career progression in a certain statistic across those 15 seasons.

  4. Mary Lee said...

    I won’t lie, Ed. I have exactly NO desire to uncover the hidden baseball code in the structure of this poem.

    HOWEVER, I lovelovelove that you gave yourself this challenge in your writing, and that there is someone out there who is as baseball stats-crazed as you are who will appreciate your poem at every level!!!

  5. domd said...

    I’m going to guess that the sounds are “Kuh” and “Wuh”, symbolizing his initials but also K’s and either W’s or BB’s (I counted the “Buh” sound as well…).  I count 25 K’s (20 in the first 9, which could be his 20-K performance), and 7 W’s could be… hell I don’t know.

  6. Ed DeCaria said...

    Thanks, Mary Lee. Yes, it actually was a significant challenge, and very limiting in terms of what I could write, or how I could write it. Made for some tough word choices, but in the end the poem is better for the restrictions applied. I will write more of these.

    Now … domd … you are CLOSE, but I don’t think I can call you a winner just yet. I will repeat my initial clue, with emphasis added: “the RELATIVE frequency of TWO distinct sounds THROUGHOUT the poem”. Can you get it? Will someone else beat you to it?

  7. Ed DeCaria said...

    Oh, and if/when you re-count the sounds, count S-L-O-W so you don’t miss any. If you miss any, you will not get it right.

  8. Ed DeCaria said...

    Okay, time’s up. Here are the three big statistical influences in the poem:

    1) The poem is 15 lines long because Kerry Wood’s career spanned 15 seasons.

    2) The number of syllables in each line corresponds with the number of innings pitched by Kerry Wood in each season. I divided his IP by 10 and rounded up to arrive at my syllable count for each line. So, it shook out like this:

    ‘98: 166.2 IP / 17 syllables
    ‘99: 0.0 IP / 0 syllables
    ‘00: 137.0 IP / 14 syllables
    ‘01: 174.1 IP / 18 syllables
    ‘02: 213.2 IP / 22 syllables
    ‘03: 211.0 IP / 22 syllables
    ‘04: 140.1 IP / 15 syllables
    ‘05: 66.0 IP / 7 syllables
    ‘06: 19.2 IP / 2 syllables
    ‘07: 24.1 IP / 3 syllables
    ‘08: 66.1 IP / 7 syllables
    ‘09: 55.0 IP / 6 syllables
    ‘10: 46.0 IP / 5 syllables
    ‘11: 51.0 IP / 6 syllables
    ‘12: 8.2 IP / 1 syllable

    3) There are exactly 29 “kuh” sounds in the poem. There are exactly 12 “buh” sounds in the poem 29/12 = 2.4. Kerry Wood struck out (K) 1,582 batters and walked (BB) 666 batters in his career, for a career kuh/buh (K/BB) ratio of 2.4.

    Hope you enjoyed the poem.


  9. domd said...

    I guess I needed to read more slowly…  In any event, great poem, made even more fantastic by the statistical “easter egg hunt” inside.  More please!

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