Archive for the ‘Regular Season’ Category

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The Wrong Way To Play Baseball

April 30, 2010

Prince Fielder hits a homerun to win a game for some of his best friends while 25 thousand people cheer for him. But then he ruins it by untucking his shirt as he rounds third base. What do you do?

Kill Him.

Well maybe not. It seems like some people wanted to, though. Last year Torii Hunter decided it was his place to flip his lid about the Brewers celebrating a victory in a game that took place in a different stadium, timezone, and league than Hunter and his Angels (in the process undoing all of the good will I had towards him for the combination of his robbing Barry Bonds’ all star game homerun and making this commercial). It was a rant of bitterness, misplaced nostalgia and absurdity matched only by Torii Hunter’s rant for the current season about the plight of the black baseball player, which he seemed to think is caused in part by the lowball offers received by “imposter” blacks, namely Dominicans and other Caribbean islanders. I seem to have drifted off of my intentioned path on to a Torii Hunter rant, so just one more Torii Fact™ before I continue: when Torii’s children have fun at school he tells them “School isn’t supposed to be fun,” and then hits them with a baseball between the shoulder blades.

The main issue with “unwritten rules” is that they vary from person to person. Why do some celebrations rub people the wrong way, while others are okay? Why is it bad to talk trash but fine to hit someone in the wrist with a fastball? It seems very hypocritical for people to think they can determine how others will express their personality on (or off) the field. J.D. Drew quiet off of the field, and is a smooth fielder who takes good routes to the ball and doesn’t have to dive very often. Therefore, he is a loafer who doesn’t care. Jacobi Ellsbury runs around like a lunatic because he doesn’t know where the ball is, and has a pretty face. That makes him scrappy and clutch. Robinson Cano used to have occasional mental lapses in the field, which seemed to give an impression of him being lazy or not caring. Kevin Youkilis is a total dick, but that gets read as passion and fire.

I think what I am trying to get at is that you can’t judge someone’s personality because of what they do on a baseball field. Getting back to the Brewers antics of last season, why did so many people jump all over them for their various homerun celebrations?

This rules, don't argue

Why is is such a big deal to have fun on the field? I guess the obvious answer is that it can be construed as “showing up your opponent.” Well you know what was way more embarrassing than Prince Fielder pretending to be a bowling ball? Prince Fielder hitting a game winning homerun off of one of the Giants pitchers. If you don’t want someone to celebrate, don’t give them a reason to. This isn’t Prince Fielder hitting a homerun off of a little leaguer, then taking a dump on the mound after touching home. For one at bat he dominated a major league pitcher and he should get to do all of the celebrating he wants after the game.

You don’t have to like it when someone celebrates, but it doesn’t hurt you when they do. It doesn’t hurt J.D. Drew to have as much personality as a sack of potatoes, he’s a fantastic ballplayer either way. Matt Kemp isn’t a prima donna loafer because he is off to a slow start. Plus I already told you, he is awesome.

Baseball is a game. Games are fun. Everyone has their own way of playing, and bitching about creativity in a game that has hardly changed in 100 years is inane.

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Who is The Best Base Stealer in MLB?

March 20, 2010

After several seasons of watching Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton run amok around the A.L. East, it’s been refreshing to see elite speed on the Yankees in the form of Brett Gardner (side note: have you ever seen the actual definition of the word amok? Less mischievous and more sinister than I would have guessed. A manic urge to murder. Yikes.) As a team, the Yankees have been a better than average base stealing team for the past several years (ranking 7th in the A.L. in 2009, 4th in 2008, 4th in 2007, 2nd in 2006 and 6th in 2005). However, that’s more due to the fact that they featured so many players capable of stealing bases, with none being at an elite level. Jeter, Damon, Abreu, and A-Rod have all been capable of 20-30 steals in their time as Yankees, and both Joe Girardi and Joe Torre have been more than willing to let them run. None of those players possess the base stealing potential or the incredible speed that Brett Gardner does. While it is certainly way too early to say Brett Gardner is the best base stealer in baseball (he hasn’t even played a full major league season), his ability and potential to take that title have made me wonder just who is.

Rickey Henderson still leads the league in Rickey

Aside from the list of players above, there are a number of others who belong in the discussion: Jose Reyes (operating on the assumption that his bionic legs are intact), Jimmy Rollins, Brian Roberts, Michael Bourn, Ichiro, Willy Taveras and Chone Figgins. A few others perhaps worth mentioning but who I’m not factoring in the the discussion are Rajai Davis and Nyjer Morgan (like Gardner they haven’t had enough time to fully display their skills in the majors but will probably be among the best in the years to come), and Carlos Gomez and Joey Gathright (neither of whom plays enough due to other limitations to make full use of their ability… but there’s always this).

I’m going to look at the last three years worth of data, checking out the basics (stolen base totals, stolen base percentage) plus trying to figure out how well they put their speed to use. A simple (and very, very raw) way of estimating how much use these players get out of their talents would seem to be how many bases they are stealing in relation to how much they play. Now of course that is very heavily dependent on a lot of other factors (where in the lineup they bat would affect how often they’re on base with men in front of them, and could also impact how comfortable a manager would be green lighting a steal), but it should hopefully provide a rough estimate. The way I will be calculating that is:

(Stolen bases-caught stealing)/plate appearances

Unlike finding data for batting with men on base, finding data for base running with other men on base has proven to be a bit difficult, so this quick formula neglects it (as well as neglecting a ton of other factors). Even with a decent margin for error I think it will be a helpful tool in figuring out who the best base stealer in baseball is. By the way, for a running total of spring training SB’s you can click here.

The google doc is here. So, what say you dinosaur writer guy? Well, let’s look at the counting totals first, and remember everything is for 2007-2009:

In spite of all of his missed time Jose Reyes has the highest total, followed by Carl Crawford. Figgins was caught the most in the group, followed by Reyes and Upton.

Jimmy Rollins has an incredible 87.5% success rate. Upton and Figgins probably run more than they should, stealing below the magic number of 75% success.

Now as for who makes the most out of their skills. Willy Taveras is not very good at getting on base. His career OBP is a hilarious .321, easily the lowest out of of the entire group. Yet he still produces more successful steals (discounting for CS) per plate appearance than any of the others. What that’s saying is that if Taveras had even average on base ability, say somewhere in the range of .340-.350, you could be looking at a guy who steals 80 bases annually.

So who do we conclude as the best base stealer in baseball? I’m going to have to go with Taveras. Among all of the top base stealers he has the second best success rate, which he maintains even while taking off more liberally than any of the others. In a perfect world Brett Gardner turns into a base stealing clone of Rollins, Ellsbury or Taveras, hopefully getting on base more often than any of them (and playing better defense, in the case of Ellsbury). Best case scenario is that Gardner turns into a 100-110 OPS+ player who steals a ton of bases and plays excellent defense at a premium position in center. Worst case would seem to be a much better version of Gathright; a defensive replacement and pinch runner who can be valuable depending on the situation and proper use.

By the way I think manic urges to murder needs to become a more frequently used post tag. I will use it every time I write an article ranting about Mike Lupica.

thzxUnlike finding data for batting with men on base, finding data for base running with other men on base has proven to be a bit difficult.
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My Favorite Players for 2010

March 10, 2010

Am I the only person who finds themselves randomly attached to players and teams that have nothing to do with your own fan base? I don’t mean rooting for guys who have moved on from your own team, like Chien-Ming Wang and Jason Giambi. Just players who seem genuinely likable for one reason or the other; they’re exciting players, they seem underrated, or they just plain seem like nice guys. Every year there’s a couple of players and teams I find it hard to root against, even if the Yankees are involved. Last year for me was the Upton brothers. This year there are a bunch more, but the three in particular that I plan on watching religiously are Brett Anderson, Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Kemp.

As you may or may not be aware of depending on your level of reading comprehension and attention to my blog, I have been spending the better part of my time in northern California. Between that and my fiance being a A’s fan the team has begun to grow on me (the same could be said for the Giants, and who could resist Tim Lincecum and his luscious hair). I watched a lot of Brett Anderson last year. I heard a lot about him in the minors, both before and after he was traded for Dan Haren from Arizona. I’m sure a lot of you know him, but you really need to watch him pitch. Just look at his stat line, it is a thing of beauty: A 4.06 ERA, a 3.69 FIP, 7.70 k/9 against 2.31 bb/9, all as a TWENTY-ONE YEAR OLD ROOKIE. Absurd. Oh yeah, and he’s a lefty. Bold Prediction: Brett Anderson will start the all star game this year.

Troy Tulowitzki is a bit more seasoned than Brett Anderson, and probably much more widely recognized. Appearing in a World Series as a rookie will do that for you. I have liked Tulo’s game since he came up, and even my A’s loving lady has had an obsession with him since his rookie year, one matched only by Tulowitzki’s own obsession with Derek Jeter (by the way, since I have mentioned her twice, her list of favorite non players would probably be topped by Tulowitzki and Nick Swisher). Jeter and Tulowitzki make for a fun comparison. Discounting Tulo’s injury plagued off-year of 2008, the two match spot on in wOBA, and the small difference in OBP is made up for by an inverse difference in slugging and speed.

Tulowitzki’s defense was vastly superior to Jeter’s early career, but Jeter’s immense improvement has closed that gap and each can now be considered a good defender.

My explanation for Matt Kemp is a lot simpler. He has a cool twitter page. He is dating Rihanna. And this picture is awesome:

I'd wear my jersey EVERYWHERE if I were in the big leagues.

For an almost creepy amount of Matt Kemp photos check this out.

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Swisher and Abreu Matched Up

October 15, 2009

(This was a discussion on Something Awful’s Sports Argument Stadium, which I decided to string out and further here)

Angels Mariners BaseballBy the end of the 2008 season it seemed like it was becoming obvious that Bobby Abreu wasn’t going to be back. He was 34 (now 35), with a walk rate that had declined each of the previous two seasons and a continuous and worsening absurd fear of the outfield wall. Offering him arbitration would have likely meant skipping the signing of one of the big three acquisitions last off-season, and would have handed Abreu a hefty salary that he probably didn’t deserve.

Now, that last statement was not meant to be a knock on Abreu. He’s been a remarkably consistent player, in spite of his gradual downgrade with age. But a minimum salary of near $13 million (arbitration would have resulted in a contract of no less than 80% of Abreu’s $16 mm salary) seemed like an obvious pass in the economic climate of last year. Being that Abreu only signed for $5 mm (with another million headed his way in bonuses) should tell you whether the Yankees made the right business move.

mulletguy_7In his place the Yankees acquired Nick Swisher (though it didn’t turn out Swisher would be the regular right field until after the signing of Mark Teixeira and the injury to Xavier Nady) for minor league pitcher Jeff Marquez, infielder Wilson Betemit, and the key pieces of the trade, magic beans and sexual favors. Those last bits I have assumed, because why else would a team dump a young outfielder/first baseman who OPS’d  .836 and .864 the two seasons prior to a BABIP ravaged 2008? A guy who also plays average or better defense at three positions, all while making a reasonable salary? All for a minor league pitcher yet to show any improvement on several mediocre minor league seasons and an infielder who can neither hit nor field.

Well as it turns out both Swisher and Abreu bounced back from (while not terrible) below standard seasons to have excellent 2009’s. The question I am pondering is whether or not the Yankees made the right decision in letting Abreu walk and replacing him with Swish.

I’ll assume Abreu would have gotten the minimum allowed salary via arbitration of $12.8 million for 2009 (while he only signed with LAA for $5 mm, if he were to remain a Yankee it would have been through arbitration). He in all likelihood would have made more than that, I can’t think of any instance where someone was awarded the bare minimum in an arbitration hearing, and Abreu didn’t exactly have a bad year. Swisher on the other hand made $5.3 mm for 2009 (and is signed for 2 more years plus an option year for a three year total of $26 mm). That’s a savings of $7.5 million, almost equal to the salary given to Andy Pettitte for this season. Also, by no means am I insinuating that the Yankees wouldn’t have been able to afford Pettitte if they kept Abreu, but even they don’t have an infinite bankroll. Someone else from the 2009 roster wouldn’t have been here (probably Burnett).

Abreu has been for the bulk of his career a vastly superior player to anything Swisher has ever been, but in 2009 they were near equals. In fact, Swisher probably has an edge due to his defensive advantages. Swisher was near neutral in the outfield with a total UZR of -1.9, while Abreu’s was a -4.6.

A quick offensive side by side:

                Swisher          Abreu

BA              .249                 .293

OBP            .371                 .390

SLG            .498                 .435

wOBA        .375                 .367

The biggest difference was that Swisher belted almost double the homers (29:15). Abreu’s on base advantage (due to his vastly higher batting average) creates a near wash of the two in terms of offensive output. All in all, you can’t go wrong with either player. But Swisher, for a savings of $7.5 mm, with a contract that runs potentially until 2012, and for a player who is not yet 29 years old (more than six years younger than Abreu) appears to be a better deal both this year and in the next several seasons.

The Yankees could be facing the same situation this off-season with Johnny Damon’s contract expiring. Hopefully the left field spot transitions as smoothly and successfully as the right field position did. There’s a host of possibilities for this but I’ll save those for an off-season article. There are more important things to look forward to this week! The whole point of this discussion, of course, is that Swisher and his counterpart are meeting in the playoffs starting Friday night. My gut/instincts/women’s intuition tell’s me Yankees in six. Hopefully Chone Figgins doesn’t make us his plaything like usual and the Yankees can take it in four.

Oh and just for fun, here is perhaps the best picture of A-Rod ever taken:

Just waiting for that roofie to kick in.

Just waiting for that roofie to kick in.

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Playoff Preview: ALDS

October 2, 2009

The Twins and the Tigers each won today, which means the winner AL Central will come from a tie breaking 163rd game to be held on Tuesday (at the incredibly awkward time of 5:07 Eastern/4:07 local time; that is a gripe for another day). I’d been planning on doing a quick preview on here because they are fun to do and I enjoy reviewing head to head match-ups. Instead I waited the entire weekend only to see the Tigers flounder in their series against the White Sox. Luckily for you I have, as usual, concocted a scheme to make all well again: a three team head to head to head comparison!

It seems to be common perception that pitching and defense are what wins in the playoffs. That may or may not be true, but either way you have to score to win. You can hypothetically win a game in which you allow twenty-three runs; you can’t win one scoring zero. So let’s begin with offense:

arod

migueljoe-mauer

The Yankees led the majors in runs scored, by a pretty fair margin, with 905.  The Twins were seventh in all of baseball, something that surprises me each time I look at it. I think I am still used to the buntbuntbuntscrap days of the Twins, but they’re a fairly dangerous offensive team (in spite of a few of the dreadful regulars in their lineup). At the other end were the Tigers, who were fourth worst in the AL in runs scored (17th ranked in all of baseball). With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what made up each of their offenses.

The Yankees set a team record for homeruns this season (with 242), as well as homeruns at home (129). There is good power in almost every slot of the lineup, as well as on the bench. A lot was made of the absurd homerun rates at New Yankee Stadium, but that seems to have cooled lately. There were only 16 more homeruns hit at home then on the road this year. Whether the “wind tunnel” will turn out to be an annual Spring/early Summer surge, or if it was simply an aberrational stretch, it seems a lot more evident that the homerun records for this team were the result of the lineup more than anything.

The Yankees, like in runs, pretty handily led the league in homers. In spite of their low run totals, the Tigers actually finished tenth in baseball in homers (in a rather large park) with 178, six ahead of the 13th ranked Twins. The Yankees also (surprise) led baseball in slugging and isolated power (ISO). The Twins were ninth and 15th, the Tigers 16th and 12th in those respective categories.

As far as getting on base, the Tigers (.330 OBP) were way behind both the Yankees (.362) and Twins (.344). The Tigers also finish a distant third to the Twins and Yankees in batting average and total walks. It’s pretty clear why they’re offense sputters, in spite of the decent homerun totals.

ccverlanderTwins Tigers Baseball

The pitching matchup is not quite as lopsided. In ERA, the Yankees come in 12th in baseball (but 4th in the AL) with a 4.30 line. The Tigers are just about on the level with them, 6th in the AL with an ERA of 4.35. The Twins (once again, this was a surprise all season) had a 4.51 ERA and actually had the best bullpen ERA of the three teams, which further shows just how iffy their rotation can be. I guess it shouldn’t be as unexpected to me as it is, they don’t exactly have a Johan Santana in their rotation anymore.

(By the way, in their most important game of the year, the Twins started Carl Pavano on 3 days rest. They’ve come a long way.)

For a more nuetral look at the pitchers performances, let’s check out their FIP. The Yankees were right in line with their ERA with a 4.31 FIP. The Tigers were at 4.53, and the Twins 4.38.  That highlights the defensive differences in the two teams, with Tigers pitchers receiving more help (thanks, Adam Everett!) than those for the Twins (thanks, Delmon Young!).

Speaking of defensive help, the Tigers pretty much have three things going for them if they make the playoffs: at least two games from Justin Verlander each series; Miguel Cabrera; and their defense. They were third in baseball with a 50.5 team UZR, tremendously ahead of the Twins and Yankees, who were at -36.3 and -16.2, respectively. I think the Yankees play a little better than that number, but they’re still definitely behind Detroit. Robinson Cano, for example, played better than his -5 UZR this year (so I think, anyway… defensive evaluations get much better next season when batted ball and player data begin to be tracked and examined in the same fashion as pitch fx).

As their records would indicate, the Tigers and Twins are fairly well matched and the Yankees are far ahead of either of them in overall talent. The Twins are going to have home field advantage for the play-in game, and in a game where the pitching matchup is fairly even (Scott Baker for the Twins against Rick Porcello of the Tigers) you have to go with the team that was better offensively all season long.

tl;dr: Yankees will win in 3 or 4 games, regardless of this rounds opponent.

I promise to be less smug if/when the Yankees make the ALCS; like any sane Yankee fan, I respect the Red Sox and am deathly afraid of the Angels, who turn the Yankees into a little league team every season.

Hopefully the network friendly broadcast schedules don’t run the games or prevent anyone from seeing their hometown team (though I’m sure this will happen). Every series should be fun. Nothing beats playoff baseball!

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Yankees Clinch Division and Home-Field Advantage

September 28, 2009
Hopefuly we'll be seeing this a few more times.

Hopefuly we'll be seeing this a few more times.

After missing out on the postseason for the first time since baseball went on strike, the Yankees started anew by clinching the AL East and homefield advantage in the playoffs. On top of that, thanks to the arbitrary all star game rule (AL won, receives home field in the world series), the Yankees have home field for the entire playoffs.

It’s been a foregone conclusion that they’d make the playoffs this season, but it is still an exciting day to be a Yankee fan, if only for the glorious hive of sexually awkward photos that come from the clubhouse.

I also heard some rumblings in the past week about players celebrating clinching playoff berths. Apparently they didn’t have celebrations “back in the day.” On top of this being not true (players were just as big dicks 40 or 50 years ago as they were today), it’s also terrible logic. Or maybe I’m one of those sassy gen-Xers who doesn’t respect his elders and listens to music too loud. Perhaps we should go back to the days when racism was more prevalent, polio was a legitimate concern, TV was in black and white, and leadoff hitters ran the bases with all the discretion of Kanye West on crank.

That’s a pretty stupid thing to even argue about though since anyone who shares that idea is old, fat, or retarded.

Coming tomorrow: Playoff previews! Enjoy these select photos of Yankees in awkward and semi-disturbing poses.

Not pictured: CC's bitches.

Not pictured: CC's bitches.

No, I don't know who that dude on the right is either.

No, I don't know who that dude on the right is either.

You won't see Mariano smile this big again until Jesus returns.

You won't see Mariano smile this big again until Jesus returns.

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Disco Hayes Doesn’t Advertise

August 31, 2009

I’m apparently on a kick of linking minor league blogs that have been passed on to me this week, but here is another: Disco Hayes, submarining right handed reliever for the Royals AAA affiliate. This is probably the most entertaining and fun blog I’ve ever seen from a ballplayer, and if the Royals ever wise up and give him a major league chance I will buy one of his jerseys.

Artist's conception of the origins of Disco.

Artist's conception of the origins of Disco.

Although the way things are run in KC we may have to wait it out, as Disco seems to be getting the Chad Bradford treatment. No one trusts a guy who can’t crack 90 mph on his fastball, regardless of the results. Plus this is the same team who are keeping Kila Kaaihue banished in AAA while they run out Mike Jacobs to patrol first base with an OBP around .300. Oh and as a reward for the brilliant trade to bring in Jacobs, as well as the terrific signings of Kyle Farnsworth (2 years, $9.25 million, 5.40 ERA) and Jose Guillen (in year 2 of a 3 year, $36 million contract; .688 OPS), Royals GM Dayton Moore is about to receive an extension through 2014. Royals Baseball, catch the fever*!

*May be lethal.