What does phrase “he got hammered” mean? When is it appropriate to use


This comes from the movie "Moneyball".

General Manager is trying to sell baseball player Venafro to another baseball team

Steve: "Is (baseball player) Venafro hurt?"
Billy: "No, he's fine. It's just an issue for us."
Steve: "Last couple times, he got hammered."
Billy: "Not his fault. That was us. We misused him."

Best Answer

"Getting hammered" in baseball slang applies to a pitcher and simply means getting hit hard—that is, failing too induce batters to make weak contact (or no contact at all) with one's pitches. Instead, the batters make solid contact, hit line drives or deep flies (often over the fence), and (usually) score lots of runs. This is also sometimes called "getting pounded," "getting shellacked," "getting bombed," "getting torched," etc. One of the great players of the twentieth century, the outfielder Henry Aaron, was nicknamed "Hammerin' Hank" because he hit the ball so hard (and homered so often).

Here is how the exchange, which takes place during the 2002 baseball season, plays out:

Steve: "Is [baseball player] Venafro hurt?" = "Is Venafro [who is a left-handed relief pitcher] trying to play through an injury [which might explain why he is performing so poorly]?"

Billy: "No, he's fine. It's just an issue for us." = The problem isn't with the pitcher; it's with management.

Steve: "Last couple times, he got hammered." = "In his last two appearances [when called upon to pitch in a game], he gave up a lot of hard-hit balls and the opposing team scored a lot of runs."

Billy: "Not his fault. That was us. We misused him." "The problem isn't that Venafro can't help our team win games when used properly; it's that the manager (primarily) and pitching coach (secondarily) are bringing him into games and/or staggering his pitching assignments in a way that fails to take advantage of his strengths as a pitcher and instead exposes his weaknesses."

Not to go into too great detail about Moneyball, the thesis of the book (and the movie) is that the Oakland Athletics general manager, Billy Beane, has adopted a highly statistical analysis of baseball players (called sabermetrics) that tracks multiple facets of each player's strengths and weaknesses. In the case of a pitcher, it means identifying things like how well the pitcher performs after varying amounts of rest between games in which he pitches, his split in success between left-handed and right-handed batters, his relative success against power hitters versus slap hitters, his relative performance in day games versus night games, etc., etc.

So when Mike Venafro gets hammered like the mole in whack-a-mole in two consecutive pitching performances, Billy Beane looks at how the manager (Art Howe) is using him in games and concludes that the bad results are due to Howe's ignorance of the statistical details that would dictate the appropriate circumstances for bringing Venafro into a game—or to Howe's unwillingness to make decisions based on those statistical details.

This is a theme of the book (and movie): a brilliant and innovative young general manager (whose genius seems to owe a large but only glancingly acknowledged debt to Bill James's books on sabermetrics) tries to build a superior baseball team without spending a lot of money on big-name players—but to do so must overcome the mulish resistance of old-time baseball men who believe in playing hunches and abiding by various statistically disproven points of received baseball wisdom.

Whatever Billy Beane's opinion of Venafro's abilities may have been at the moment in the film cited in the question above, he sent the pitcher down to triple-A Sacramento of the Pacific Coast league in late July of 2002 and didn't recall him to the major league team until the second week of September. He also didn't attempt to resign Venafro in the off-season. And the next season (2003), Venafro was signed and released by three different teams (Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Houston) between January 13 and August 29. Impressively, between January 2002 and November 2007, Venafro was on the major league rosters of fourteen different teams (with no repeats); he was traded twice, granted free agency five times, and released six times. So maybe Venafro's getting hammered prior to that scene in Moneyball wasn't entirely Art Howe's fault after all.

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