As the 2013 season concluded, Alex Anthopoulos’ chair in Toronto was, per reports and common sense, wobbly. “He needs a winning season in 2014 or he will likely be fired,” wrote Richard Griffin, in an article that suggested opposing teams had cracked his tactics, putting the Blue Jays in a disadvantageous position on the trade market. Now, of course, the Blue Jays are the class of the AL East, the most improved team (by winning percentage) in baseball from a year ago, and as likely to make the playoffs as the Tigers are. Clearly, Anthopoulos had a tremendous offseason. Clearly, he’ll be in contention for executive of the year. Anybody who foretold his dismissal clearly didn’t see this incredible act of General Managing in the winter of 2013-2014. Let’s review the seven key moves that Anthopoulos made:
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So far as I can tell, ballplayers aren’t all that interested in our concern for their safety. They probably understand the risks better than we do (or feel like they do) and they understand the unintended consequences of ‘solutions’ better than we do (or feel like they do). So there’s a certain pointlessness to any article that dwells too much on the suspensions doled out by Major League Baseball, which are (theoretically) supposed to incentivize responsible behavior and reduce the risks violence imposes on players.
At what rate do big leaguers beget more major leaguers?
A word you’re going to hear during this week's draft is “bloodlines.” Nick Gordon will get drafted early in the first round, and noted will be his bloodlines—son of Tom, brother of Dee. Cobi Johnson will get drafted in the supplemental round, and noted will be his bloodlines—son of Dane, who you’ve never heard of, but still, bloodlines. If last year is a good guide, around 100 of the 1,200 players drafted will have been sired by pro ballplayers. (Many others will be brothers or nephews of pro ballplayers.)
Last month, we started a thing: Trying to identify, and then appreciate, the single best defensive game any player had that month. Partly an excuse to make sweet moving pictures, mostly an attempt to put excellent short-burst defense in perspective, so that we can intuit the value of a great defensive game just as easily as we can process Chris Davis’ 4-for-5 with three home runs. To do that we had to turn these defensive plays into something like numbers, and to do that we turned to Inside Edge, provider of defensive data to major-league clubs, media outlets, and elsewhere. Inside Edge rates each defensive opportunity thusly:
Why we might be overestimating pitchers' offensive abilities. Yes, OVERestimating.
You can see what Buck Showalter was going for on Tuesday night. Mark Reynolds is a hitter. Not always a great hitter, but one of the couple hundred best in the world, and very capable of ending the game with one swing. The guy behind him was a pitcher. Not a terrible hitter, pitcher-wise, but a pitcher. In the categories our brain creates, pitchers are non-threats. Given the choice between a threat and a non-threat, the decision to intentionally walk the threat to face the non-threat feels obvious, if you don't do the math. But you should do the math:
Congratulations, your team just walked off with an error. Now what do you do?
There were runners on first and second with nobody out when Desmond Jennings batted in the bottom of the 15th inning on Saturday. The game was still tied. Jennings was asked to bunt. A rundown of possible outcomes here, ranked by how proud Jennings could be afterward:
Which is worse for the pitcher: having Billy Hamilton on first, or David Ortiz on second?
On April 16th, Johnny Cueto singled against Francisco Liriano, which brought up Billy Hamilton, who grounded weakly to shortstop Jordy Mercer, which sets up a question we don’t ask very often but, in this case, must: Should Mercer have taken the out at second, or ignored Cueto and thrown Hamilton out at first?
Have the Marlins figured out how to beat the Giants at their own ballpark?
Buster Posey represented the tying run when he batted in the ninth inning against Miami on Friday night. He got a 1-1 slider in the middle of the plate and drove it into deep right-center, toward triples alley. As soon as the crowd could raise its voice, though, it went quiet: Giancarlo Stanton was standing right there.
Despite replay, ejections aren't down (or aren't down by much) this year.
I remember last summer, the day after Bob Melvin had been ejected in what would turn out to be an extra-innings loss to the Astros, Melvin talking to the media in the dugout. He was abashed to have been ejected from such a game. I wasn’t trying to get run, he stressed. As opposed to all the other ejections we see.
Is swinging on 3-0 counts a stathead philosophy or an old-school staple?
On Sunday, in the first inning, Derek Norris homered on a 3-0 pitch from Gio Gonzalez. Then in the second inning, the same guy did the same thing on the same count against the same guy. “They've given me the green light a few times this year,” Norris said afterward, which is interesting. The A’s haven’t generally given their hitters many green lights on 3-0. Assistant GM David Forst once said that “we typically don’t allow guys to swing 3-0. When one of our guys does it, it’s a big deal. It happens only three or four times a year.”
Reviewing the most egregious starts of the last decade and a half, with an assist from Old Hoss Radbourn.
On Tuesday, 23-year-old Zack Wheeler threw a career-high 118 pitches. That’s not all that many pitches, except that they were crowded into just 4 ⅓ innings; all but 33 of those 118 pitches were thrown with men on base, and all of the innings were extended: