You may think I have a bounce in my step because spring is on the way, but every sense available to me during this winter without end says you’re wrong. You could argue it’s because baseball is being played again in Arizona and Florida, but I'm not there to witness it, and even the densest cluster of pixels can't impersonate a warm breeze. No, it was Kris Bryant's first spring training at-bat that made me so giddy, the one that ended after nine pitches when the young third baseman blasted a towering drive to straight-away center. Before Bryant launched that ball into the mesosphere, I was the same skeptical Cubs fan I had always been, longing for but never truly expecting greatness. By the time it landed on the berm past the center field fence, however, I started to feel something I hadn't experienced in so long I nearly didn't recognize it: belief.
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Immortalizing more of the arguments that you'd most like to see die.
Last week I presented Part One of the list of 14 nominees for the “Hall of Famously Weak Arguments,” a compendium of the most annoyingly wrong positions we sometimes hear baseball fans or commentators defend. The first seven nominees will be listed below without further comment from me; the final seven nominees are then listed, along with descriptions of when they’re heard, why they’re weak, and (in the interest of fairness) when they might be correct.
Immortalizing the arguments that you'd most like to see die.
One of the enduring joys of baseball fandom is the ability to engage in spirited debates on baseball topics both great and small—award voting, lineup construction, in-game strategies, anything and everything that makes up the game we all love. Baseball fandom without arguments would be like baseball without keeping score—aesthetically pleasing, but devoid of the passion that makes it worth paying attention to.
The recent times that teams were right and we were wrong.
Here at Baseball Prospectus, one of our main jobs is to have opinions on just about every move made by every organization ever. Over the years, as the analytics revolution has spread throughout baseball—a process that amateur and semi-pro sabermetricians can take some credit for—the percentage of ridiculously unwise decisions that we can get all snarky about has been significantly reduced. Still, we do occasionally criticize a move, and even less occasionally, our opinions turn out to be wrong.
Reviewing a new documentary about the often agonizing July 2nd signing process for international amateur prospects.
During last year’s Wisconsin Film Festival, I watched a documentary entitled Open Season, about the events surrounding the tragic shootings of eight deer hunters in northern Wisconsin by a trespassing Minnesotan. The film was reasonably well-made and even-handed, given that the shooter happened to be a Hmong refugee and the victims were white Midwesterners, facts that could have easily enabled a broad black-and-white narrative of culture clash and racism rather than the grey-scale collision of individuals in a moment of escalating conflict. Watching the film didn’t teach me anything new about the shootings and subsequent trial, as both occurred near my hometown, two of the victims were related to me, and it was unlikely the filmmakers could learn and express as much about the events and the environment surrounding them as I already knew, having to some extent lived them.
Following up with eight more baseball arguments that often don't make sense.
Last week in this space, I unveiled the first seven nominees for the Hall of Famously Weak Baseball Arguments, my fictional museum of unsupportable or outdated baseball beliefs. Below you’ll find those initial seven listed without further comment, along with the final eight. As before, I’ve essayed to describe the times and places where you’ll hear these groaners, why I believe they’re weak, and situations in which they may actually be correct.
Deconstructing seven baseball arguments that usually don't make sense.
In the wake of this year’s Hall of Fame voting season, and to help remove the bad taste left by some of the mind-numbingly bad arguments I’ve heard and read over the last few weeks for or against various HOF candidates, I thought it might be fun to open my very own Hall of Famously Bad Baseball Arguments. To do this, I need your help. I am hereby nominating you for membership in the BBWAA—Baseball Weak Argument Arbiters—and empowering you to nominate and vote for the baseball arguments that you find the most irritating and least convincing.
Ken checks to see how many of his pre-season Over/Unders the readers called correctly and picks the most prescient BP reader.
Last spring in this space I introduced a contest entitled “Setting The Line,” wherein I selected two key players from each American League and National League team, set a benchmark for what their 2011 season might produce in a given metric, and invited participants to select whether each player would score Over or Under that line. Now that the season is over and we are into awards season, it’s time to announce a winner. By a landslide, the most prescient prognosticator this year was Matthew Kenerly, who ran down Rex Babiera in the home stretch by choosing the correct side of the line on 39 of 50 players. No one else had more than 37 correct, so Matthew showed himself to be head-and-shoulders above the crowd and has our permission to proclaim himself the wisest of all BP readers, a title I’m sure will earn him due deference during comments section discussions throughout the coming year. Less importantly, Matthew has won himself a free copy of Baseball Prospectus 2012 with as many author signatures as I can manage to round up this spring. Well done, Matthew.
How to start rooting for a contender in mid-season without compromising your principles.
It’s late August, and if the team you root for is already out of contention, you’re not alone. According to our Playoff Odds Report, only 12 teams currently have even a 5 percent chance of making the postseason, meaning that fully 60 percent of teams are realistically playing out the string with more than a month to go. If you follow one of those teams and are the sort of fan who finds that having a heart-felt rooting interest greatly adds to your baseball enjoyment, what are you to do with the rest of the season? My recommendation is to become a bandwagon jumper, or more specifically, an Ethical Bandwagon Jumper (EBJ).
Checking in on the pre-season over/unders to see who's exceeding or underperforming expectations halfway through the season.
Last spring in this space I introduced a contest entitled “Setting The Line,” wherein I selected two key players from each American League and National League team, set a benchmark for what their 2011 season might produce in a given metric, and invited participants to speculate about whether each player would score Over or Under that line. Now that we’ve reached an approximate midpoint to the season, I thought it worthwhile to take a look at where these players are compared to their set line and identify how well our readers have done at picking the over/under, both collectively and individually.
A trip through the annual unlocks Ken's inner muse.
Among the bells and whistles currently found on our player pages, by far my favorite section is the list of player comments taken from BP Annuals past. The cast of authors may change from year to year, but each season’s comments are equally well-written and educational, and when read chronologically, they often provide a tremendously entertaining overview of a player’s career—or at least how a player’s career has been perceived over time.
A lot of younger veterans are having huge starts to their years, but are the stat lines legit, or will they be turning back into pumpkins soon?
Last year around this time, I wrote a series of articles about the “All-Bounceback Team,” highlighting aging players who were off to such great starts that they had already provided more value than they had during the whole previous season, and predicting whether they could continue on at that level. In trying to put together a similar list this week, I noticed there are far more young veterans surpassing their recent performances than there were older veterans reclaiming their mojo. Thus, I’ve decided to use this year’s columns to identify whether these players’ performance so far points to a “Bounceback” for a veteran player, a “Breakthrough” for a young player who has never experienced much success, or is merely the “Balderdash” of small-sample success that’s doomed to erode.