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Baseball Energy

June 15, 2010

Hey Pedroia, that necklace is wicked smaht.

Last night I was watching (most of) the Mets-Indians game, thinking a couple of things:

*Why can’t the Mets ever have a shutdown closer? I don’t remember a time when there was an automatic feeling of, “Oh, Timothy Closer Guy is coming in, it’ll be a 1-2-3 inning.” I hate you, Francisco Rodriguez. Why are you destroying my heart rate?

*Poor Justin Masterson. With better defensive positioning, that game would’ve looked a lot different without those infield singles. Before Ike Davis hit that homer in the fifth, not a single ball was hit hard.

*And this: Shin-Soo Choo, who on Sunday against Stephen Strasburg was wearing Bryce Harper-like eye black, was wearing his kick-ass titanium Phiten necklace during the game.

Regardless of the efficacy of eyeblack (though this study says it is quite effective), both a player slathering that on under his eyes and wearing one of these necklaces showcase the overarching superstition of the professional athlete.The necklaces that these guys have been wearing for the past four or five years – and by these guys, I mean what seems like a hundred ballplayers – are called Phiten Necklaces. Not just the paid endorsers, who in the past have included Randy Johnson, Justin Morneau, Joba Chamberlain, and Josh Beckett, but also Choo, Brandon Webb, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka (yes, 4/5 of the Red Sox rotation altogether, and no idea why John Lackey hasn’t come around), etc, etc.

Phiten’s a Japanese company that’s been around for almost 30 years, but have only started coming into the American public (via athlete) consciousness in the last five or so. Their website is full of the seeming-scientific jargon of the “body’s energy system” and how good energy can lead to “less stress and a greater range of motion.” Their biggest product is the necklace, but there’s a broad assortment of specialized goods, like the Titanium Power Sleeve, Arm Bands, MLB-specific jewelry, and, uh, Hello Kitty Titanium Bracelets.

So what’s the technology behind the Phiten line?

“Phiten Technology is based around the different applications of our high-intensity Phild Process. Titanium has been found by our scientists to be particularly responsive to the Phild Process; meaning, it is consistently effective in emitting, or “passing on” the stabilizing effect of the Phild Process.”

It's science, kids!

Oh. Ok. What’s the Phild Process? Apparently, it’s about dissolving titanium in water and then absorbing it into the shirt/jewelry/whatever. It then “emits energy that effectively controls your bio-electric current.”

So it shouldn’t come as much of a shock that the FDA hasn’t approved (nor evaluated, according to company pamphlets) their product line. Though this isn’t Scientology-mandated aura-removal for the ultra-wealthy. The paraphernalia goes for generally between $13 and $32. Of course, then there’s the pure titanium jewelry that goes for $230. You know, for those who want / can afford a better level of aligned energy cubes.

Yeah, it’s most likely hooey, but wandering through their product line I also found the MLB Titanium Discs to put on wherever it hurts, essentially. To get the energy flowing. So maybe this is all new for athletes, but there are a bunch of people affiliated in the performing arts who’ve been dabbling with this kind of thing for years. They’re just called Chakra Healing Crystals.

Back in 2005, Mark McCluskey of Wired wrote a good piece on Phiten, and his takeaway is pretty much right on: The placebo effect can be very strong for an athlete when luck in a game of inches can often determine a homer or out, strikeout or a walk. And players are often doing that very thing to help get one more thing in their favor. Like Moises Alou and Jorge Posada peeing on their hands to toughen them up; Gehrig and Ruth eating pickled eels to break slumps; Wade Boggs eating chicken before every game, Turk Wendell acting like a freak, and so on and so on.

But to return to Cleveland outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. According to the Phiten Facebook page, Choo started wearing the necklace in the last weekend of July 2009, after he stopped by a store in Seattle. Fair enough. Let’s take a look at his stats pre- and post-August.

Choo April – July ’09: .296 BA, .406 OBP, .476 SLG; 15-16 on the basepaths.

Choo: August – October ’09: .307 BA; .372 OBP; .512 SLG; 6-7 on the basepaths.

He got less patient! He tallied more extra-base hits! Phiten Power, activate!

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