Looking at the players who should be in the MVP conversation who have never been in the MVP conversation.
A thing I do is steal from my betters. Two of my betters, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, spent some time a few months ago on Effectively Wild discussing the idea of unlikely MVPs. Now that we're halfway through the season, let's pick that up and bring in a quasi-formal definition that will get us a pool of interesting players to look at. What follows are the top five players by WARP in each league who have never received an MVP vote and (here's where some squish comes in) who are not very recently megaprospects. (The latter may be displeasing to some, especially Orioles fans, but if the point is "genuine surprise," then it would be weird to include Manny Machado, who was, after all, a no. 3 overall pick—that's the spot of Paul Molitor and Robin Yount and Matt Williams and Lonnie Smith. There's no pick from which you are "supposed" to get an MVP, but there are picks from which you are less surprised when you wind up with one.)
Alternating by league, then, from "bottom" to top:
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Jason dives into San Jose's case against MLB in the city's ongoing pursuit of the Oakland Athletics.
You've heard about it at this point: The City of San Jose sued Major League Baseball for not letting the A's move to their fair municipality. You can find the complaint, which was filed in federal court in San Jose, here (pdf). It's long, though I've seen longer. The PDF is 188 pages, but that's with exhibits. The text of the complaint itself is 46 pages. It's 203 paragraphs.1
One reason it's so long is that the first six pages (23 paragraphs) are essentially a narrative background of the case. The point of a complaint in the federal courts (warning: I'm about to vastly oversimplify a contentious area of law) is to notify the other party of the claims against it. That's what it boils down to. That does not mean that a complaint saying, "I'm suing you for breach of contract" would be sufficient. Which contract? How was it breached? When was it breached? In order to inform the other party of the claims, then, the complaint has to actually allege facts.
Jason, a labor lawyer, trains his eyes on the Biogenesis disputes.
When news broke on June 4th that MLB would be seeking to suspend a slew of players connected to the Biogenesis clinic in Miami, I was on an airplane back from Pittsburgh, where I was attending a labor lawyers conference. So, a week later than you might have hoped to have it, what I'd like to do, building on the ESPN report linked above as well as Maury Brown's very good piece discussing some of the financial and personal issues raised by the case, is lay out the key contractual provisions and some of the quasi-legal doctrines surrounding this case to provide some idea of the groundwork that the massive structure of strategy and politics covered by Maury, the ESPN team of T.J. Quinn, Pedro Gomez, and Mike Fish, and others is built on.
I'm not a reporter. I don't have inside knowledge about the union, individual player, or management strategies and tactics. What I have are the two basic documents, the collective bargaining agreement (technically called the Basic Agreement, but I'll call it the "CBA") and the joint drug agreement ("Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program"—that's a mouthful, so let's just say "JDA"), read with a labor lawyer's eye. (To inform you of my biases: I am, specifically, a union-side labor lawyer, and not by accident.)
Scouting Lancaster, a relative gem in an aesthetically challenging league.
I don't usually go in for a shocking lede to grab your attention, but: I left the house three times recently. (Where "recently" means "in the last month.") Here are the things I like to do when I leave the house: watch baseball; drink beer; ... yeah.
Lancaster,1 California is in Los Angeles County, which is also the county in which I reside, but it takes something like 75 minutes to get to Lancaster from my house. There's only one highway, unless you count the Angeles Forest Highway, which runs smack through (ready?) the Angeles National Forest, so I don't. Count it, I mean. In an entire country full of boring drives, the cruise up state highway 14 past Palmdale and into Lancaster is a standout of nothingness. There's this church on the west side of the road not long before you hit Palmdale that I really like. There's also a point where you lose the L.A. radio stations and start picking up a whole lot more music extolling the virtuous life and its heavenly rewards.
Some bunts are followed by big innings, believe it or not.
When nerds (your humble narrator included!) argue about bunting, they often rely on a metaphor that's barely a metaphor but is really a way of comparing baseball to other sports. In basketball and football and hockey and rugby and lacrosse and sometimes ultimate frisbee, there is a clock, an explicit timekeeping device used to mark the end of the match (or segment of the match) and how near it draws. If the score on the pitch is 13 to 2 and the hard time cap of 40 minutes is just 90 seconds away, well, it's physically impossible to score that many points in that little time, even for Reggie Miller. Baseball, by contrast, has no clock, only outs. If you have fewer runs than the other team once you use up your 27 outs, you lose. Outs are thus analogized to time, with the idea being that intentionally taking precious units off the clock is not a winning gambit.
The metaphor alludes to the infinitude of baseball, the idea that there's nothing in the rules preventing a game from happening to the end of time in a different way than in timed sports. In basketball, a game could have infinite overtimes, but there's something about the clock starting over every five minutes that feels distinct from the infinite baseball game—I think it's the visual image of an endlessly tied basketball game, where the clock loops back to five minutes again at the completion of each overtime, that makes it feel finite, just a circle that we can hold in our hands and our minds, not a line (score) extending out past our contemplation the way a baseball game does.
Adam Dunn walks away. Alex Gordon walks away. Other players' walks, also, have gone away.
Not all samples are small, but all samples are samples. Still, some samples are better samples than other samples. Russell Carleton showed us which are which last year, by which I mean that he showed, for a variety of stats, how big a sample we need for the signal to outweigh the noise. One happy outcome from that study is that walk rate for hitters is a stat that "stabilizes" faster than almost any other.
Bartolo Colon, the most extreme pitcher in baseball.
Let me put this right up front, because it's the eye-catching number: Bartolo Colon's percentage of batters walked through eight starts this season (i.e. through 47 1/3 innings pitched, i.e. through 189 batters faced, i.e. almost 30 percent of the way to the number of hitters he faced last year) is 1.1 percent.
Baseball is, it has been said repeatedly, the quasi–team game, the sport that is more than one-on-one and yet, in the conflict that lies at its essence, not. You don't need me to pontificate on that general subject. What you do need me to do is guide you on a stroll through one of the team-oriented aspects of the game, with a promise of some historical greatness at the end. (Don't skip there, though—it's more rewarding this way.)
A review of Robert Weintraub's The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball's Golden Age
On Tuesday, I read a good essay by Michael Bourne1 at The Millions, a book blog, arguing that the current state of information distribution requires that book reviewers abandon their news-oriented approach to reviewing and move toward an analytic mode. That is, reviewers should assume that potential consumers of a book can find out all the basic details about a book's author, its plot, its writing style, and whether people like it by going to Amazon and Goodreads and any number of other sites. So assuming, reviewers should, if they wish to retain relevance, not bother with these basic details in their reviews and should instead: