More replay in baseball is evitable. As evidence, we have Bud Selig's latest unconvincing argument.
With the All-Star game upon us, it’s a good time to take a look at the state of the game. So, on the pulse of things as always, that’s exactly what commissioner Bud Selig did. He pontificated about a number of topics last week, but the one that stood out was his brief discussion of instant replay. Here’s Commissioner Bud on the expansion of instant replay in baseball (via Paul Casella of MLB.com)
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There are surprises that are awful, like Carl Crawford's collapse. Then there are the other kind.
As sabermetricians, we are imbued with the idea of sample size. The larger the amount of data we have, the more certain of our conclusions we can be. But sometimes it’s the strange things that happen over a third of a season, the very things you’d be nuts to predict, that make the season exciting.
Take, for example, Daniel Nava. He plays left field for Boston. That’s weird, you say, because the Red Sox have a left fielder. True. His name is Carl Crawford. He played nine years for the Rays/Devil Rays, displaying defensive brilliance, above-average power, and speed that could alter the molecular structure of water. Between 2004 and 2010, his last season in Tampa, Crawford hit .301/.344/.461 with gold glove defense (as opposed to Gold Glove defense which is often worthless). After that, the Red Sox snapped him up for seven years, $142 million. He was the heir apparent to Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, and Manny Ramirez.
Just when Matt thinks he's out, a new prospect pulls him back in.
We all love prospects. Not in a sexy way, though Jose Iglesias does have a certain magnetism about him. No, it’s their promise we love, the possibility that each player in the top 11 could become great, thereby helping propel my favorite team (not yours) to the World Series. Prospects are lottery tickets in the common parlance of the term, a role of the dice as to whether they’ll ever figure out the game enough that they can contribute at the major league level. But they’re also lottery tickets in promise. Each represents what could be, what we hope will be, and while most don’t reach the upper reaches of their ceiling, the height, the potential of that ceiling makes them baseball’s ultimate exercise in optimism.
The Red Sox have too many good players, and, yes, this could turn into a problem.
How do you solve a midseason roster crunch? If there are two players for one position, there are a number of options. Trade one of the players, demote one, put one on the disabled list, or even sit one on the bench and play the hot hand. None of those solutions necessarily maximizes the team’s assets, but sometimes that is okay. If we are talking about two last-guy-out-of-the-pen types, then it isn’t of particular importance.
Sometimes the stakes are higher. When the Yankees traded for Alex Rodriguez, they found themselves with two Hall of Fame-caliber shortstops and only one shortstop position (Joe Maddon hadn’t been invented yet). Demoting, trading, and the rest of the above list were not options. Sometimes there are too many babies for the bathwater. Nobody wants dirty babies.
I spent 10 years living in Philadelphia. I moved there on a lark, intending to leave almost immediately, but every time I’d try, I’d fail. I got the first job I cared about there, did the dating thing, met my wife*, attended and graduated from graduate school, and had my children there, all in the city.
* Me: Hello, I’m Matt. Woman: Hello, I’m your wife.
Can Josh Hamilton or David Wright do it? And what does 'it' really mean?
April and May are Crazy Stat Months (copyright 2012… ah, never mind). Josh Hamilton is slugging .877, and on pace for 94 home runs. Emilio Bonifacio could steal 80 bases if he continues like this, and at this rate Adam Dunn will strike out over a million times*. Hamilton’s 94-homer thing is clearly nuts, as it would best Bonds’ single season mark by 21. His slugging percentage would be a record as well, though not by such a substantial margin. Bonds slugged .863 in 2001, the year he hit 73 homers, and Babe Ruth slugged .847 and .846 in 1920 and 1921, respectively. Plus, who but us pudding-eating basement dwellers pays attention to slugging percentage? Dunn’s 1 million strikeouts won’t happen because I made them up. And who cares, relatively speaking, about stealing 80 bases nowadays? Boooooring.
* It’s really 234 strikeouts for Dunn. I added an extra 999,766 for emphasis.
Can Gameday's newest feature teach us anything about the game?
Those of you who follow baseball via the computer—and unless your secretary printed this piece out for you I assume that description fits everyone reading—have probably encountered MLB.com’s Gameday feature. It’s the ingenious little program that tracks each pitch in real time and allows you to follow the action without actually seeing the action.
I’m not sure exactly when Gameday was launched, but I remember using it back in 2000. Gameday has made a lot of improvements since then. When it started, Gameday was a very simple application that wasn’t much more than a moving box score. It looked like this:
I’m in the tank for Nick Johnson. Two days after the call-ups of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have captured baseball’s collective attention, I submit that we need to focus more on Nick Johnson. There are many good reasons to root for Trout and Harper, but they’re both very young. There will be plenty of time for each. Johnson is 33 this year and, at any point, his head could fall off. Something could happen and you would be deprived of the enjoyment of watching Nick Johnson play baseball. I don’t want that to happen.
You may remember Nick Johnson as Baseball Prospectus’ No. 1 prospect back in 2000. Baseball America had him ranked fifth. Between then and now he has bounced around, and he spent 2011 slugging .332 in Triple-A, but this year he is back. It’s true. He’s got a uniform and everything. He’s even beenmentionedhere in these virtual pages from time to time, proof that his career isn’t over. Yet.
Fourteen days of futility in Boston is more than some reasonable fans can take.
The Red Sox this year were expected to compete with the Yankees and the rest of the American League. They have instead imploded as much as any team can within the constraints of 14 games. The starting pitching has been monkey-with-irritable-bowel-syndrome putrid, the manager’s in-game decisions haven’t backfired so much as they’ve taken their weapons and joined the other side, and to see the relief work as remotely viable one must hearken back to a time before people could read and write and therefore did not know what “remotely viable” means. But the bench has been decent. So there’s that.
While they don’t have the worst record in baseball—that belongs to the Royals—they are third. That would have shocked the projection systems. Our own PECOTA had the Red Sox at 89 wins. My projection system, IMADETHISUP, had the Red Sox winning 120 games. Instead, the team is on a 46-win pace. The difference between PECOTA and the Red Sox’ actual pace is equivalent to the difference between last year’s playoff Rays and the 1962 Mets.
It happens every spring: we talk way too much about reserve outfielders.
Just before spring training ended, an email arrived from two friends of mine. They’re both Philadelphia Phillies fans. As you are likely aware, the Phillies have the greatest starting pitching staff in the history of ever, but they aren’t without problems elsewhere. Ryan Howard’s recovery from a ruptured Achilles and Chase Utley’s on-going knee injuries have ripped the heart out of an offense that was once the National League’s best. Their stranglehold on the NL East is now in doubt.
None of that was discussed in the email. Neither was Jonathan Papelbon’s ridiculous contract, or the disintegration of the farm system, or the aging nucleus, or even Charlie Manuel, possibly the funniest manager in baseball history. Nope, none of that.
Pat Venditte made his Triple-A debut Friday. He's one stop from the majors. This matters.
Baseball’s norms are 150 years old. Because of the reverence that comes with age, we don’t challenge them. But by violating certain norms, a player could, in theory, put the game into an indefinite holding pattern. The pitcher could throw to first base forever. There is no rule to prevent it. With a runner on base, a pitcher could walk in circles around the mound, pick at his spikes, fix his hat, step on the rubber, and then repeat the whole thing all without throwing a pitch. A catcher could refuse to put down the sign his pitcher is waiting for, cycling endlessly through a series of pinkies, index and perhaps middle fingers. These things don’t happen, because there is inherent understanding that the game must go on. The players have an obligation to that effect.
However, there are some situations where that social obligation doesn’t yet exist, because nothing has happened to ever create it in the first place. Take, for example, Pat Venditte.