Now, whenever I go to the ballpark just to watch a game and the maniac next to me in the upper deck is screaming bloody murder at the home plate ump, I think: This is someone who has never umpired; this is someone who has never come upon the sudden understanding that the strike zone is malleable by the mind, that every pitch is a puzzle, that just about every ball has strikelike qualities and almost every strike is ballish. —Bruce Weber, As They See ’Em: A Fan’s Travels In The Land Of Umpires
Over the years, I’ve read a lot of proofs Rob Neyer has written that I could never find again, that were tucked into longer pieces or chapters, that elude search engines or scans of his online archives, but that I have gone back to so many times in conversation and thought that they stay with me. One of these proofs was about the flimsiness of the Human Element argument, the case against instant replay that praises umpire error as a loveable quirk of the game, like Tal’s Hill or pitchers batting. Fine, Neyer said, it’s a quirk. But who’s to say that we have exactly the right amount of human element? Why not more? Why not hire only umpires with bad vision, and refuse them glasses, if the human element is so good?
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It's Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, but it's not just Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
There’s no Grand Theory here. I just keep getting asked—by people at church, family members, Ben—why the Angels have been so bad, and I just stutter a bunch of stuff about Albert Pujols’ legs, and Josh Hamilton’s slump, and Jered Weaver’s injury, and small samples. But it’s not just Albert Pujols’ legs, or Josh Hamilton’s slump, or Jered Weaver’s injury. Or even small samples. Of the 14 players who had starting jobs with the Angels on Opening Day—the nine regulars, and the five members of the starting rotation—11 are underperforming their PECOTA projections. Of the three who aren’t, Mike Trout is perceived as underperforming, and Peter Bourjos might soon be underperforming, as he sits on the DL and waits as games pass him by. And this doesn’t even include the bullpen, which has the American League’s 13th-best ERA, despite a pitcher’s park and a good group of defenders behind it.
So if somebody says it’s because of Hamilton, push back. If they say it’s because of Pujols, argue! It’s nearly the whole team, and this is simply an accounting of how it’s the whole team:
Reviewing Kazmir's performance in his first victory since 2010.
On Saturday, Scott Kazmir and the Indians faced Joe Mauer and the Twins. Kazmir was looking for his first victory since 2010, and he got it. Mauer was looking to break out of a 4-for-38 stretch that had dropped his OBP nearly 100 points. He reached base twice, but only once against Kazmir, and with weak contact.
For three seasons, Scott Kazmir and Joe Mauer shared space at the top of prospect lists. From 2003 to 2005, Kazmir ranked 11th, 12th, and seventh on Baseball America’s lists, while Mauer was fourth, first, and first. Each player debuted in 2004; each started the 2005 season on a major-league roster, and each had a strong rookie season—though Kazmir (3.7 WARP) finished just ninth in Rookie of the Year voting, behind Jesse Crain, while Mauer (3.0 WARP) received no votes, behind Jesse Crain. They faced off in three games through 2008, with each player demonstrating some of his signature skill: Mauer banged out three line drive singles in 10 trips to the plate, while Kazmir struck out Mauer, one of baseball’s toughest tasks, three times.
What assorted still images suggest about how baseball is played.
It’s the year 3030.
Good morning, and welcome to the International Conference On Reverse Engineering The Rules Of 21st Century Recreational Activities. I’ll be leading this breakout session on a sport called baseball, one of the most popular recreational activities of the era. Much writing about the sport exists from the era, but most of it is vague and mawkish, describing the sport’s qualities in the abstract but offering few specifics. That means that we know, for instance, that baseball has quote no clock, no ties and no Liberal intrusions into the organized progression end quote, but we have never known whether it is played on land or in air, what equipment is needed for it, how a victor is determined, or why anybody would watch it. Now, for the first time, we can answer those questions. A recent cache of photos, the only images known to exist from the era, has recently been discovered. We believe that these images provide all the information necessary to recreate America’s Past Time. Break out the skunks, everybody. It’s time to play baseball!
What can we learn about hitting from a pitcher with five career hits?
As you know, pitchers seem to demonstrate a small amount of control over their BABIPs, and hitters seem to demonstrate a larger amount of control over their BABIPs. Within reason, at least. No active player has a career BABIP below .244, and no active player has a career BABIP higher than .368, unless you lower the plate appearance threshold to something too low to be significant.
But if you lower the plate appearance threshold to something too low to be significant, then you get to include everybody, including pitchers. Your BABIP if you played baseball would likely be null, because you wouldn’t put any BIP. But if you did put some BIP, your BABIP would be something ridiculously low, like .098 or something absurd.
Dissecting three matchups between two of baseball's most must-watch players.
On Friday, the pitcher with the second-best ERA in the NL took on the batter with the second-most home runs in the NL. Neither player was old enough to drink remember the TV show California Dreams. Because of the first sentence, and because of the second sentence, the two players might be the most Flip to Their Game players in baseball right now. Who would win the three matchups between Bryce Harper and Matt Harvey? Please don’t say “all of us,” please don’t say “all of us,” please don’t say “all of us,” please don’t say “all o
The two were drafted in the same first round, and the two debuted in the majors within a couple months of each other, so as you might imagine, they played in the same league a couple times as they moved up the ladder. Harper and Harvey both played in the Double-A Eastern League during the second half of 2011, and both played in the Triple-A International League to start the 2012 season. While they were in Triple-A, they faced off at least once, the video tells us. The super sexy conclusion:
There was a time when goliaths roamed the Earth. Runs were plentiful, and with few natural enemies, these behemoths could grow larger and larger, more and more sedentary. They had no need to run, so they lumbered about, leisurely returning home unmolested by predator or foe.
But the metaphor could not last forever. Eventually, offense in baseball went back down to more typical levels, and the game once again welcomed back the singles hitter, the glove man, the productive out. And, as runs went down, stolen bases went up. I gave the following graph, showing leaguewide scoring and stolen base totals by year, a pun title.
What we see when looking at leaderboards, maybe before we should be.
Back when I was a community news reporter, editors were always stressing the idea that “everybody has a story.” Not everybody is powerful, or newsworthy, or “good,” but everybody has a story. And so it is with early-season leaderboards. Obviously they’re lousy for analysis and their lifespans are short, but they exist, if only for a few moments, and we should acknowledge that they existed, if only for a few moments.
Or, put another way, early season leaderboards are God’s way of showing us how much crazy ish is happening all the time and we don’t even notice it.
Featuring Matt Moore, Jose Fernandez, and everyone who faced Brett Wallace.
You could have an intro here, or we could go straight to the sweet and sexy pitches. Nobody pays for the intro (literally, in the case of BP's paywall), so forget the intro. To the pitches!
3. Matt Moore, fastball, against Asdrubal Cabrera, in which Moore eagerly unveils the new slider he's been working on; "guys," he tells everybody before he throws it, "it's such a swell slider, sliding all over the place and real hard like, so I can use it on two strikes and it'll break way out of the zone and batters will swing at it because they don't anticipate how much it's going to slide," upon which Moore proceeds to throw it and everybody tells him that, as far as sliders go, it actually breaks the wrong way, that clearly Moore is doing it wrong, sending Moore into a funk until he figures "ah shucks to it all, I'm going to throw it anyway."