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.
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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:
Sometimes you think big. You have hypotheses or theories about how the game of baseball works in some fundamental way or you have a deep analysis of a player or a team or transaction that shines a light nobody has yet shined.
About Torii Hunter and aggression and strike zones and adjusting.
Here's Joey Votto, whose power travails you've probably heard about and whose weird stat line has been the subject of some head-scratching, through Monday's action: 63 plate appearances, 21 walks, one homer, one triple, one double. That's the highest walk rate in baseball (it's not close) and an isolated power of .146. This article isn't about Joey Votto. That makes this maybe a weird "lede" but bear with me.
A new book looks at the many obstacles along the route to becoming a major-league city.
The history of the business of baseball is filled with at least as many scoundrels and thieves as the history of the game on the field. Google something like "worst owners baseball history" and you'll find reams of blog posts and articles with stories of racism, and rich men laying waste to cities, and incompetents, and all manner of other hoodlums. Of course, team owners never act alone. Cities and counties and states are run by the same power elite that produces the lead dogs of sports franchises, and leagues frequently have help from local politicians in their schemes to build boondoggle stadiums, place expansion franchises, and shift teams from city to city.
Just because teams can't necessarily measure clutchness and chemistry doesn't mean they don't have to think about how to buy it.
Baseball knowledge expands rapidly, inside the organized professional realm and out. We know things about outfield defense and batted balls and catcher pitch-receiving and pitcher skill and the best way to score a run that we did not know 10, 20, 50 years ago. There is also plenty we do not know, sometimes particular to baseball and sometimes dealing with general human knowledge as applied to baseball. (Think about questions of psychology, for instance.) The question, or one of the questions, if you're in a front office, is how these areas of knowledge intersect with your willingness to pay D dollars for player P.
BP Alumnus Marc Normandin and I are cat-lovers. No, no, we're not cats who make out with each other. We have cats, and we love them. We're also, duh, baseball-lovers. What better way to combine our interests than to have our cats make their best guesses at who the winners of the 2013 season will be?