There is a moment in “While We’re Young” — a better-than-average, charmingly authentic recent film about aging hipsters and millennials — in which the four main characters are trying to remember a useless fact.
One of them reaches for a smartphone to gain the instant answer, but another shuts it down by saying: “Let’s just not know.” The lingering unscratched itch is captured perfectly, and it is perhaps the film’s most enduring moment and line.
It’s perfect for this day and age — particularly for sports fans — because most of us can’t help ourselves. If there is something to know, why wouldn’t we want to know it? Facts, figures, numbers and stats … they’re so readily available, and they’re so satisfying.
They help explain not just the what but the why, taking the mystery out of performances and identifying patterns before they even become trends.
But there is also a sort of sublime satisfaction in not knowing and simply appreciating, which I thought about Thursday as a I nonetheless crunched numbers for a blog post about Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson.
The “what” with Gibson is simple: he’s thrown 17 consecutive scoreless innings, including six of them in Wednesday’s blowout win over Oakland.
That’s impressive in any league, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a “yeah, but …” lingering deeper inside the performance and Gibson’s overall numbers.
Sure enough, a few red flags emerged. The biggest one is that in 36 1/3 innings pitched this season, Gibson has allowed 15 walks while only recording 11 strikeouts. That means that even when successful, he’s often grinding out innings and relying on his defense.
Gibson is allowing opponents to hit just .256 this season on balls put in play, a staggering mark considering no MLB team is hitting below .261 this year when putting balls in play.
It’s fair to wonder: Is that low number the product of good fortune or the product of the movement, location and variation of Gibson’s pitches forcing weak contact (if not strikeouts).
Gibson has also stranded 78.8 percent of opposing baserunners without allowing them to score, a very good mark that will keep the ERA down — but again, one that can either be attributed to bearing down in the clutch, having some good fortune or a little bit of both.
The conclusion was that Gibson’s success might not be sustainable if he doesn’t start missing more bats, but that he also might be one of those rare pitchers who thrives despite a dangerous mix of too many walks and not enough strikeouts because of his ability to miss the fat part of the bat.
In short, it was a conclusion without an answer, which sometimes is the best kind. Let’s just not know. Let’s just watch him pitch and find out.