In his new "Historical Baseball Abstract," Bill James pondered if there was "any such thing as a hitter so good that it would make sense simply to walk him every time he came to the plate?"
The obvious hitter who might fit this bill would be Babe Ruth, so James crunched the numbers. He ran two 1,000-game computer-simulated seasons in which a slightly improved 1921 version of Ruth was teamed up with a group of mediocre players. He then gave the computer two different sets of instructions regarding how to deal with the Bambino. In the first, the computer was ordered to walk Ruth every time he was at bat. In the second, the computer could pitch to him, except for those times when it would normally walk him.
After running both scenarios through the process, the answer to the question was quite clear: Walking Ruth every time was a whole lot worse than pitching to him, both in runs scored and outs generated. James concluded that this study shows "there is no such thing as a hitter so good that he should be routinely walked."
NFL offensive coordinators are of the same mindset when it comes to targeting dominant defensive backs. New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis saw this last season when he was targeted a league-leading 102 times, despite posting a phenomenally low 3.6 yards per attempt (YPA) total.
The Steelers can take solace in that there are certain route types that work quite well against Revis.
That means Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will likely be looking to find ways to get the ball to vertical threat extraordinaire Mike Wallace, even if Revis is assigned to follow him around the field. Since Revis is playing exceptionally well of late (4.3 YPA since Week 9), it begs the question of how does one go about getting productivity out of a receiver when he is going to spend the day on Revis Island?