The offensive-dependent Brewers and defensive-dependent Mariners are on the verge of becoming baseball's Light Brigades.
When I was younger, I used to play a board game called “Circus Maximus” which simulated chariot racing. At the start of the game you would have four points to assign to four categories: team speed, team endurance, chariot size, and driver skill, all of which would help your chariot in different ways at different times of the race. Any combination could win, depending on how the race unfolded, but the game required you to choose up front the factors at which your team would excel. The challenge was to follow your strengths and avoid race situations that exposed your weaknesses.
Ted Lilly's recent performances should give him a better payday, but where will he play next year?
When the Los Angeles Dodgers and starter Ted Lilly square off tonight against the Astros in Houston, very little will be at stake for either team. While the Padres’ recent freefall has allowed the surging Giants and Rockies to vault back into playoff contention, the struggling Dodgers’ team goals have been reduced to keeping players healthy, sorting out their options for 2011, and using the 12 remaining games against their more aspirational National League West rivals to play spoiler. Oh, and hopefully entertaining their paying customers more by their on-field exploits than the spectacle of their owners’ uncanny impersonations of Oliver and Barbara Rose.
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August again sorted out the contenders from the pretenders.
During the marathon baseball season, the month of August can often be thought of as the league’s Sorting Hat—a time when the playoff contenders separate themselves from the pretenders and position themselves for September’s sprint to the finish. As Baseball Prospectus' John Perrotto has been documenting each week, the playoff races have recently taken on a much clearer shape, with the Yankees, Rays, Twins, Rangers, Braves, Reds, and Padres becoming prohibitive favorites, and the Phillies a better-than-even bet to fill out the post-season dance card. As thrilling as the September race to the wire can (and hopefully will) be, a team’s performance in the dog days of August—after the trade deadline, before roster expansion—can often cement a team’s playoff ambitions as time slowly ticks away on the rivals chasing them.
Jose Bautista's assertion that the Pirates were a couple of quality pitchers away from being a winning team in 2007 is almost laughable.
I guess I must have slept through 2007, because my memory of that year is apparently pretty fuzzy. According to a recent Associated Press report, the Pittsburgh Pirates that summer were loaded with talented young position players, some of them future All-Stars, whose clear destiny to bring winning baseball back to western Pennsylvania was undermined by a group of front-office pinchpennies. According to a number of former players quoted in the AP report, if only the miserly, besuited scrooges who run the franchise had merely picked up the phone and called in an order for some veteran pitching, instead of going all Gordon Gekko on the workforce and breaking up a sure winner for no better reason than to line their pockets in the short term, the Pirates’ long string of losing seasons would certainly have ended.
The 2006 class is a tough one to beat among a strong recent group of rookie classes.
Earlier this week, the folks at Beloit College released their annual MindsetList, a document designed to explain the cultural differences between the incoming class of college freshmen and the older faculty hired to teach them. The idea is to highlight the small and large ways the world has changed in the last 20 years by mentioning things that were true during the life span of oldsters that were never true for those under 20, e.g., the existence of things like a telephone cord, a country called Czechoslovakia, and a baseball commissioner not named Bud. For me, a man who fervently hopes Jamie Moyer comes back next spring to ensure I won’t have to face being older than every major-league ballplayer, this is always a time to reflect on youth and age, both in life and in baseball—especially so this year, since the current Mindset List includes a reference to the term Annus Horribilus, which I happened to use in last year’s BP Annual, but which I now know dates me almost as much as saying “23 Skidoo.”
Continuing his series, Ken discusses the last 21 of his (mostly) baseball beliefs.
Last week, in response to a conversation I had with a casual acquaintance I’ve chosen to call Chet (but who would probably be more aptly called Polly Perkins), I laid out the first half of my list of 42 things I believe—almost all related to baseball, some related to metrics, some not. You can find the second half below. To reiterate, these are just my off-the-cuff beliefs, and some of them aren’t necessarily backed up by anything more than my own personal feelings. Feel free to praise or flame, and I encourage you to add your own beliefs in the comments.
Ken brings the Funck with the first 21 of his 42 personal tenets of the game.
I have engaged in baseball conversations with a greater number of people in the past year since becoming a contributor to Baseball Prospectus than in the previous five years combined. Casual acquaintances, or good friends who aren’t particularly baseball zealots, have been interested in hearing what I write about, and how it might differ from what they read in the local paper or see on ESPN. Mostly these conversations are exceedingly pleasant, since like most people I like to talk about myself, and I can spend time pretending to be an “expert” with a willing audience to discuss concepts that many people have never really heard about or considered.
A look at the surprise home run hitters of 2010, relative to their pre-season PECOTA forecasts.
On Tuesday night in Kansas City, Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista launched his major league-leading 26th home run, continuing one of the most unexpected power surges in recent memory. Long known as a journeyman with decent patience and a modicum of power, few expected Bautista at this stage of his career to suddenly turn into a long-ball machine. It’s always fun to see players suddenly show a propensity for the long ball—perhaps we identify with players who manage the baseball equivalent of the young Marty McFly balling up his fist and decking Biff with an unexpected haymaker.
Should the mainstream media be introducing sabermetric concepts into baseball analysis?
Let’s say you’re at the water cooler at work, or some other casual environment surrounded by acquaintances, and the conversation turns to baseball. Someone states that Jimmy Sticks is the best pitcher in the league since he has the best record; others back Jamar Pickett, who has the lowest earned run average. You happen to know that Sticks has gotten the most run support of any starter in the league, while Pickett pitches in front of a great defense in the most pitcher-friendly home park in the league, and neither player is in the top 10 in Support Neutral Win Percentage. What do you say?
A look at the best and worst free agent signings, at least at the season's midpoint, from last winter.
Like most sports fans, over time I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with the concept of free agency. Since I happen to root for a team that’s seemingly gone a galactic year since last winning a title, the idea of getting something for nothing (since it’s not my money being spent) and adding a player for “free” is a powerful one. From an entertainment perspective there’s something to be said for the off-season interest that the annual free agent feeding frenzy engenders, while on a sociopolitical level it’s hard to argue with the concept of a worker bargaining his own worth on the open market.
One man's exercise in trying to see what's involved in reviewing umpire calls.
In the weeks since Jim Joyce’s missed call at first base transformed Armando Galarraga’s rare perfecto into an even more memorable faux-hitter, lots has been said and written about expanding the use of instant replay in baseball. Some have come out against any increased use of technology to correct umpire mistakes, a few with arguments seemingly cribbed from King Ludd, but most with reasonable concerns about game length, undermining authority, and the difficulty of determining where to place runners after an overturned call. Others have supported increased use of replay in various forms, from allowing managers a set number of challenges, to the installation of a replay umpire to intervene when a suspicious call is made. While polls have shown a surprising lack of support among players for replay, a majority of fans seem to like the idea, and Bud Selig has at least tepidly agreed to ask his curiously-constructed “on-field matters” committee to explore the idea.
Pitchers are having more problems in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings than ever before.
Pretend for a moment that you’ve been hired to direct a major-league baseball team’s pitching staff, yet have no knowledge of current or historical pitcher-usage patterns. After pinching yourself to make sure you weren’t in the middle of a Walter Mitty daydream, and ignoring Groucho’s timeless advice by joining an organization that would choose you for such an important job, how would you go about structuring your staff? Your overriding concerns, of course, would be to: (a) allow the fewest runs possible; (b) keep your best pitchers healthy (unless you insist on remaining altruistic in the midst of a competitive environment, in which case you’ll probably try to keep all your pitchers healthy); and (c) ensure that those runs which are allowed are timed such as to add up to the fewest losses.