Someone has replaced Prince Albert as the most likely to make history.
As September kicks into gear and the playoff races begin to heat up, another race is piquing the attention of a large population of baseball fans. The difference is that the race to which I am alluding is not assured of producing a winner. In fact, it has not produced a winner since 1967, when Carl Yasztremski led the American League on the mighty triumvirate of batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. Leading the league in each of these categories in the same season is referred to as the Triple Crown, and for the first time in quite a while, there exists a strong possibility that the feat will be achieved. Say what you will about the relative merits of the batting average and RBI stats, but cliché saber-oriented rants aside, leading the league in all three is incredibly impressive.
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PITCHf/x shows that Tim Lincecum is in the midst of making a transition.
On the first day of September, Tim Lincecum dominated the Rockies, allowing just one run over eight innings. He walked one batter and tallied nine strikeouts. This was the prototypical Lincecum game in the previous two seasons and one that would produce more, “yeah, that looks about right” reactions than anything else. After all, Lincecum was a strikeout machine with impeccable control and a devastating fastball-curveball-changeup repertoire that kept hitters off-kilter. He won, and deserved, two straight National League Cy Young awards and was presumably not even at what would normally be considered a pitcher's peak. The 2010 season has been of a different variety for “The Freak,” however, and his great performance against the Rockies elicited a different reaction—a collective sigh of relief from the Giants’ faithful. See, at a very crucial juncture with the wild card within reach and the NL West seemingly up for grabs, Giants fans were more worried than confident that their ace would deliver the goods.
Players who shine from both sides of the plate are becoming rarer.
When Chipper Jones hit the disabled list following a spectacular play in the field, the biggest question was not when he would return, but if he would continue his career. If he decides to hang up his cleats when the Braves' season comes to a close, baseball would bid adieu to one of the best switch-hitters of all time.
Albert Pujols and Joey Votto both have a chance at the first Triple Crown since 1967, if Omar Infante doesn't get in the way.
At the end of last week I wrote about the idea that a Triple Crown is not a far-fetched feat this season. Miguel Cabrera is very unlikely to supplant Josh Hamilton atop the American League batting leaderboard, but in the National League, sluggers Joey Votto and Albert Pujols find themselves ranked first or second in all three categories. To make matters more interesting, each is within striking distance of one another in the categories as well, meaning that over the next month we might bear witness to a race almost as noteworthy as that which centers on qualifying for post-season play. The main reason I argued that a Triple Crown could be achieved this year is that the number of specialists had declined; that is, there didn’t seem to be anyone running away with the batting title who didn’t hit home runs or knock runners in, and Ryan Howard was not going to mash 45-plus homers this season.
A rundown of the starting pitchers from both leagues who have been just a tick below the level of greatness this season.
In addition to being a baseball nut, I consider myself to be a movie buff. I used to work somewhat in the field and just love taking breaks from reality to watch Schwarzennegger make silly puns after beatings, Lee J. Cobb make his patented scowl, or even the wide array of characters that Richard Jenkins and Stephen Tobolowsky can play with ease. While thinking of all the wonderful pitching performances that have been on display this year, these two passions collided, and I was taken back to the 1994 Academy Awards. In that year’s ceremony—technically, it was held in 1995 to honor the movies of 1994—the best picture went to Forrest Gump.
Examining those pitchers who have been in the upper echelon over the past decade.
People love groups, plain and simple. There is something innately fascinating about grouping together people, places, or things in order to express a point or frame an argument. In baseball especially, representative groupings are important given the very large quantity of available information.
Injuries to trade-bait players wreck even the best-laid plans.
Injuries are never fun, even when they take their toll on teams you root against. There exists something unfair with regards to when they occur, as best-laid plans set forth at the onset of the season can spiral out of control if players counted on to contribute are literally unable to play the game. They can also come out of nowhere, a statement to which the Phillies will easily attest; arguably the healthiest team in the sport over the last two years, they have experienced situations this season when their backup shortstop needed his backup to play. Injuries can also have a compounding effect on team resources, especially if the bug-bitten player is costly; not only does the team lose his production and on the field, but his salary requirements could prevent them from acquiring an impactful replacement.
The 2010 Florida Marlins are who we thought they were. While their upper brass may have had pipe dreams about a potential contender during the spring, a more likely scenario had the Fish finishing the year as close friends of the .500 mark. Entering play Wednesday, only a recent streak of hot play has them hovering around .500. This streaky play exemplifies their status as a team with several solid pieces but with a decent number of faults as well. Perhaps these characteristics were all put on display last weekend when they blew a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning to the Braves thanks to poor defense and below-average pitching. The Marlins may boast star power in the forms of Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, but neither their hitting nor pitching in the aggregate has intimidated opponents—they rank 15th in the NL in WXRL, 13th in OBP, 12th in SLG, and 13th in Defensive Efficiency.
There are major differences between statistics, and it is important not to misuse them.
In this day and age, baseball players are defined by their statistical attributes much more than they were a few decades ago. That isn’t to say that stats rule all by any means, but rather that teams are starting to be built with more of an eye toward numbers than in the past or at least with an eye toward numbers that provide more information. We have witnessed the defensive revolution. This past offseason, not only did the Red Sox make a conscious effort to bring aboard the darlings of fielding metrics—Mike Cameron, Marco Scutaro, and Adrian Beltre—but teams shied away from the likes of Jermaine Dye, who averaged 33 home runs and a .279/.347/.528 line over the last four seasons, because his overall contributions were not in line with his asking price. And last offseason, the glut of hard-hitting but poor-fielding corner outfielders suffered financially; it’s hard to imagine players with skill sets similar to those of Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu being offered so little even just a few years ago.
The Astros ace wants to move, but who could make a plausible offer that feeds Houston's needs?
With the major-league trading deadline right around the corner, it is safe to say that we are going to soon find ourselves immersed in rumor after rumor, proposed trade after proposed trade, and we will love every single minute of it. Cliff Lee can no longer be had after the Rangers executed what felt like the baseball equivalent of a last-second eBay sniping, but there are still a bevy of potential playoff contenders with starting pitching improvements on their radar. Even though Lee is off of the table, these teams can still bolster their starting staff, be it through impact toward the middle in the form of Ted Lilly, or the removal of waste at the back end by adding the likes of Jeremy Guthrie.
It appears Jered Weaver's mastery of a relatively new pitch has allowed him to punch out hitters like never before.
When Jered Weaver made his major-league debut on May 27, 2006, the Angels were 20-28, in last place in the American League West, and five games behind the division-leading Rangers. After the mega-prospect blanked the Orioles over seven strong innings to the tune of a 75 game score, Angels fans were more than enthused that their rotation had been vastly improved by his addition. Weaver would finish the season with a 2.56 ERA in 123 innings with an impressive 3.18 K/BB ratio and 1.03 WHIP. He walked few, proved stingy with allowing hits, and recorded his fair share of strikeouts. Though his rookie numbers were impressive, many would agree that Weaver’s lack of progress since then has been disheartening.
Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch made the wrong decision in allowing Edwin Jackson to throw 149 pitches during his no-hitter last week.
Evaluating managers from a quantitative standpoint is no small feat. There have certainly been attempts and discussions in the past, but no such framework has ever taken hold of the analytical community and forced its way into our vernacular. It can be easy to suggest that the job consists of little more than penciling names onto a card to hand the umpires or lift tired starting pitchers to insert more effective relievers. These are areas that could potentially be quantified, but they're not the sole responsibilities of a skipper. Even so, sometimes the second of those two aspects of managing can become tricky and less clear-cut.