April 18, 2012
The Lineup Card
10 Favorite Player/Executive Attributes
1. Giancarlo Stanton's Power
Nearly four decades later, my favorite player to watch take batting practice is Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. His swing looks so effortless, yet he routinely hits BP pitches over 400 feet. Stanton is just 22 years old and already has 56 major-league home runs to his credit. And who knows how many he has hit in batting practice. —John Perrotto
2. Sergio Romo's Slider
A look at Romo's player card on Brooks Baseball yields some of the most eye-popping statistics you'll find on the site. During the 2011 season, when Romo posted an incredible 70-to-5 K/BB ratio over 48 innings, he threw his slider 53 percent of the time, one of the highest rates in the league. But this thing is no ordinary slider—it resembles something closer to a frisbee, moving more than a foot away from a right-handed batter, with late sink. Not surprisingly, righty hitters whiffed on more than half of their swings (52.24 percent) against it last year.
Here's Romo striking out the side on 12 pitches on June 10, planting fastballs on the outside black to Chris Heisey and Ryan Hanigan, before delivering the frisbee of death to Paul Janish. Here's Alberto Gonzalez looking silly in extra innings (1:15 mark) on July 6. Here's Scott Hairston looking even sillier in Romo's first save of the season on July 9.
If only Gen. Burnside had such a weapon at his disposal at Fredericksburg... —Daniel Rathman
3. Coco Crisp's Arm
Erstwhile Oakland center-fielder Coco Crisp doesn't quite fit this pantheon of defensive laggards, but the tool that comes to mind as my favorite in all of baseball is Crisp's arm. It has never been clear to me how a major leaguer gifted with such athletic talents (+60 runs on defense for his career, 81 steals in 93 attempts the last two years) simply cannot throw the baseball. His motion is some sort of weird, over-the-top grenade-toss thing, and the ball comes out of his hand with zero explosion. It loops out. It goes nowhere. And it promptly dies, having barely known the world. It is, in other words, entirely delightful for those of us who value levity with a touch of the absurd in our baseball contests. —Jason Wojciechowski
4. Nate Schierholtz's Arm
Two innings later, Howard again lined one to deep right field, another easy double, and this time Howard didn't even try it. He just stood at first base and watched Schierholtz field, spin, and fire another strong throw to second base.
The rest of the Phillies weren't as quick to learn. Chase Utley was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double in the ninth inning of the same game. Schierholtz started just 41 games in the outfield that year, and he threw out seven runners. In 2,300 career innings in right field—about 250 games worth—he has 27 assists, and he might have had 28 if Ryan Howard had been a bit more ambitious. —Sam Miller
5. Derek Jeter's Hit Tool
Jeter is as good as hitting 'em where they ain't as anyone who has come along in the past four decades. He ranks fourth in batting average on balls in play since 1901, with his career .355 mark behind only Ty Cobb (.383), Rogers Hornsby (.365), and Rod Carew (.359); it’s better than Ichiro Suzuki (.351) or Wade Boggs (.344) or anyone else you'd care to name. He's already past 3,100 hits, with an excellent chance at a top-10 spot (3,316 or more), and a fighting chance to surpass Stan Musial (3,630) for fourth on the all-time list before the end of his current contract. If this era has a Hit King, as skilled in the basic art of bat meets ball, it's Jeter. —Jay Jaffe
6. Ichiro Suzuki's Bat Control
7. Josh Tomlin's Control
Tomlin had the fifth-slowest average fastball velocity of any non-knuckleball pitcher who threw at least 150 innings in the AL last season. He also had the fifth-highest home-run rate. In fact, Tomlin allowed more home runs than walks, even if you count the two intentional passes Manny Acta asked him to issue.* Those home runs hurt him, but not nearly as much as they would have had he put more runners on. On the whole, Tomlin is, at best, a mediocre pitcher. If his BABIP regresses, he’ll be less than that. But he does do one thing better than almost anyone else, and I enjoy that ability all the more because he’s unremarkable in all other respects.
* There’s something profoundly wrong with telling Tomlin to walk someone intentionally, like relieving Old Hoss Radbourn or getting one of the Goonies to say die. —Ben Lindbergh
8. Mariano Rivera's Cutter
Aside from the annual What's Wrong With Mariano Week, Mo is seemingly unhittable on the mound, serving as the ultimate contrast to David Robertson's Houdini act. And Mo is going to pitch forever, right? —Stephani Bee
9. Theo Epstein's Cool
In between World Series wins, he called the team owner's bluff and escaped his job and Fenway Park in a gorilla suit. What's cooler than that? Nothing. Nothing is cooler than that. Of course, he got his job back when he wanted it and probably with more money and a trained hairless cat to sit on his lap during Baseball Ops meetings. That seems safe to assume. "Cool" is also looking like you don't care when you really do. When the Cubs opened Wrigley this year, the picture on the cover of one of the local papers was of Epstein confidently striding across Lake Michigan with Chicago in the background. He was looking ahead and a little upward, as if to say, "I'm aware I'm walking on water right now, but that doesn't matter. The Cubs matter, and we're going places." They are. Also, I'm not totally sure that picture was Photoshopped. In the end, you can have a winning team without a cool GM. Heck, you can win the World Series without a cool GM. But who would want to?—Matthew Kory
10. Cole Hamels' Changeup
You have to understand: Cole Hamels' changeup is probably the best single pitch in baseball. In 2011, he threw it for a ball less than any of his other three pitches; it was four times more likely to result in a ground ball than a fly ball, and 29 percent of all batters who faced the pitch swung and missed. It's not a surprise pitch, either. Hamels relies on his change as his primary out pitch. He keeps it low in the zone; his arm action is fast, and the circle grip he learned from his high school pitching coach makes sure it fades away from righties. Why else would right-handed batters have posted an OPS of 577 against him in 2011? Because the changeup dies 20 feet from the plate, two feet off the ground, going about 84 mph. And by the time the hitter gets the guitar line from "Hells Bells" out of his ears, he's sitting back in the dugout and pondering his oh-fer. —Tommy Bennett