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BillJohnson
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BillJohnson
(2635)
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So no love for <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=102123">Alex Reyes</a></span>? Sticking him into the backup list in place of Cooney would seem to push the Cardinals up at least one or two places in line. Yes, he'll miss the first month-plus of the season because of the DOA suspension, but he'll be back well before your mid-season cutoff.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

"The first rule of the Cardinals is: You do not talk about the Cardinals. The second rule of the Cardinals is: You do not talk about the Cardinals." Right, Jeff?

 
BillJohnson
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Completely bogus reasoning, because what actually happens in MLB is that managers make their decisions based on "the averages AND your gut." We are completely lacking in reliable information on what would happen if the gut is taken out of the decision making process, because it NEVER is. Russell is accurate in identifying places where that probably leads to non-optimum decision making. But it's only "probably." We don't know. BTW, I have seen plenty of people say "always." They generally don't know what they're talking about.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

The Peltzman Effect observation is interesting, and it evokes a moment in a game I watched on TV many years ago. The unforgettable Tommy Lasorda was making a mound visit to some pitcher -- I want to say <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=17155">Orel Hershiser</a></span> but I'm not sure -- who was doing a lot of "nibbling" at the strike zone and working himself into trouble. You didn't have to be a proficient lip reader to see what Lasorda was saying; he had the kind of lips, and face, well suited for reading. What he said was "THROW THE BLANK-BLANK BALL OVER THE PLATE!" -- with the obvious substitutions for blank-blank. The pitcher got the message, got the next guy out, and proceeded to work normally for the remainder of his (successful, as I remember it) start.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

Out of curiosity, where would <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=102629">Rob Kaminsky</a></span> have fit into this list if they hadn't traded him for a somewhat marginal return (<span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=45457">Brandon Moss</a></span>)? I see he's sixth on a deep Cleveland list; where would he be on this one?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

The management/organization have no obligation whatever to "address questions related to however this theory is quantified." Their responsibilities are to their owner, their organization, and if they're decent at managing "resources," their players. Commentators and analysts are all but irrelevant to those responsibilities, a thing that commentators and analysts are prone to forgetting. (Thanks for subtly pointing this out, Russell.)

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I'm missing something here. How can a guy drafted only this year be named in a trade? Isn't there a one-year post-draft moratorium on trading new draftees, unless as a "player to be named later" ("later," in context, meaning at least a year post-draft)? Or did that rule get changed recently? Can somebody explain why that doesn't apply to Swanson?

Dec 09, 2015 2:31 PM on The Shelby Shocker
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

You might add <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=50054">Peter Bourjos</a></span> (Cardinals) to this list, at least in spirit if not completely accurately. He was glommed off waivers by the Phillies hours before he would have been non-tendered (and immediately signed with them, possibly for more than he would have got if the non-tender process had run its course). There is general curiosity at this, first why the Cardinals would waive him, and then as to how much he's got left -- still has elite wheels but hit below the Mendoza Line this year.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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So is goodness/badness at <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=EPAA" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('EPAA'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">EPAA</span></a> avoidance robust from year to year? Since you have the model set up now, and have data available on WP/PB at least as far back as 2010, you should be able to find that out fairly quickly. One would certainly expect that it would be robust if the model is measuring a real thing, although one can posit a "learning curve" for catchers as they get better with experience, then a decline as the years behind the plate take their toll. Anyway, interesting stuff here.

 
BillJohnson
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What I want to know is: how can a guy named Kieboom NOT be a power hitter?

 
BillJohnson
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Worth it for the metaphorical, and correct, use of "syzygy".

Oct 12, 2015 7:04 AM on More Like McClen-don't
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Disclaimer: I have no rooting interest either way in this game. That said, I agree wholeheartedly with the comment about the neighborhood call. Tejada HAS to dodge the base on this play, or he has a serious risk of being injured even more severely than he actually was. If you're not going to make the call there, then get the thing explicitly off the rulebook.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Of course, the Cardinals also punted three games at the end of the season that didn't matter to anyone except the pitchers of record, to keep players from getting hurt in unplayable conditions and missing the games that will actually matter. This division wasn't as close as the final W-L records make it look.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

A note to Pedro Moura (thanks for bringing him in for this podcast, btw -- the following quibble notwithstanding, he was fascinating): The Angels do NOT lead MLB in one-run wins "by a wide margin," either on a total basis or a winning-percentage basis. In fact they don't lead in these categories at all. Both of those marks are owned by Pittsburgh, with a 36-17 record in one-run games. Beyond games played as of podcast time, the Angels would have had to go 3-1 to catch the Pirates; note that they actually lost a 1-run game Wednesday, to break their streak and force them to win their final three games by one run to catch up.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

The chess analogy actually works surprisingly well if you look not at chess itself, but rather at its variant Kriegspiel, in which you only see your own pieces on the board and have to infer where the opponent's are -- see e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriegspiel_(chess) for a description. The addition of the problem of imperfect information (since your inference about the opponent's pieces is always incomplete) makes the decision-making process very similar to what a manager goes through.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -2

Or your closer's arm might fall off because you've been managing to win for the last five nights. Note that in a domed stadium, that is ... more likely than rain. Extreme underanalysis. Keep the good stuff coming, Jeff.

Sep 05, 2015 8:36 AM on On Manager Analysis
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

The comment about Plummer's judgment of the strike zone being better than the umpires' at GCL is interesting and a bit disturbing, not so much for his sake as for the questions it raises about player development at the GCL, nominally a "development" league where players are learning their craft from a comparatively basic starting point. If this is really true, one has to ask whether having players "learn" the strike zone there is a beneficial part of their development at all. Are there other GCL players who might be getting held back by this?

Aug 11, 2015 6:08 AM on August 11, 2015
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

Not sure I go along with all the accolades for <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Billy+Hamilton">Billy Hamilton</a></span>'s catch, which looked to me like a misread followed by desperation. When he's locked onto a hard-hit line drive going deep, grass passes under his feet at a remarkable speed, but that wasn't happening there, he was going at considerably less than full tilt. It was a hard ball to read, probably, but I still suspect there were at least two center fielders in his own division (McCutchen and Bourjos) who would have made the same play rather more routinely by the simple expedient of getting there.

Aug 05, 2015 9:26 AM on August 5, 2015
 
BillJohnson
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<span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=102123">Alex Reyes</a></span> is at Springfield, the Cardinals' AA affiliate, rather than Memphis, their AAA team.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Hitting .310 in Albuquerque is not a particularly notable achievement.

 
BillJohnson
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I mean the comments by the MLB people. The fans' positions are easy enough to understand and I would not expect them to cut TLR and Stewart a break. But for the other front-office types quoted in the article not to voice the dog-that-didn't-bark position -- well, that surprises me.

Jun 24, 2015 7:40 PM on Hot Takes on Touki
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

There is a very interesting dog-that-didn't-bark component to these comments. Ever since I heard about this trade, my opinion has been that the only way it makes sense is if the D-backs know something (bad) about Toussaint that the rest of us don't. This seems entirely possible; he's in their organization, after all, and they are presumably monitoring him closely. Yet, obvious as it seems, it wasn't mentioned as a possibility in any of these remarks. Why not?

Jun 24, 2015 1:07 PM on Hot Takes on Touki
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

The Wallace promotion shocks me, as I had just seen him in Albuquerque this week and watched him play possibly the worst defensive third base I have ever seen in the high minors. He had two errors plus several "errors of omission" on plays he didn't make. Slow reaction times ... poor footwork ... inability to jump/lay out for a play ... throwing miscues ... he had 'em all. I really quite like Walrus and would like to see him succeed in the majors, but I cannot see this ending well for San Diego.

Jun 22, 2015 6:39 AM on Sour Chen Music
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

No mention of the unsuccessful mass invasion of the St. Louis box seats by Milwaukee fielders? For one of the funnier blooper-reel moments I've seen this season, check out this MLB highlights video, starting at the 40-second mark: http://m.mlb.com/video/v142793883/6215-lynn-throws-a-gem-as-cards-win-pitchers-duel/?game_pk=414428 Oh, and if you want to see a taut pitching duel between <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=58410">Lance Lynn</a></span> and <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=60202">Tyler Cravy</a></span>, watch the rest of that, but the blooper is the most fun part.

Jun 03, 2015 6:28 AM on June 3, 2015
 
BillJohnson
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I only saw the Big Ugly once in person, a complete-game win vs. Kansas City in the old dome. <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=17889">George Brett</a></span>, nearing the end but still a force, understandably didn't start, but he did pinch-hit with two out in the 9th, and he hit a ball about as far as I have ever seen one hit without reaching the seats. It was caught, however, and RJ had his <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=CG" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('CG'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">CG</span></a>. That game was notable in having four probable Hall of Famers in it, the most I have ever seen in one game; Ken Griffey Jr. and <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Edgar+Martinez">Edgar Martinez</a></span> were also there.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I question the seemingly automatic 20-point penalty that an NL team gets for playing in the NL and the corresponding advantage for AL teams. The record so far this year suggests that the imbalance is down considerably from the recent past, as several writers have predicted. Why can't this be an updating thing that reflects how the league balance is working at the actual time of writing?

May 13, 2015 8:53 AM on Wednesday, May 13
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

I tend to agree (note that I have no particular rooting interest for/against either of these teams). There seems to be conventional wisdom out there to the effect that a <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=HBP" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('HBP'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">HBP</span></a> on an off-speed pitch is never intentional ("come on, he's not gonna throw a changeup<" says Sam), which exonerates Kazmir. I don't buy this. There have been altogether too many "slips" in recent years on breaking stuff in these semi-retaliation situations that wind up slipping into a hitter's foot, or higher.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Uh, the NL Central is a tough enough place already without adding Miami to it, <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=55886">Henderson Alvarez</a></span> or no Henderson Alvarez. Thanks for at least giving them the Mets and Atlanta to drag the mean back down, though.

Apr 13, 2015 8:33 AM on April 13, 2015
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

It may bend the ripple-effect rule slightly, but a better choice for the Cardinals might be acquiring <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=31525">Khalil Greene</a></span> at the expense of <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=50258">Luke Gregerson</a></span> (and, incidentally, <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=49176">Mark Worrell</a></span>). Gregerson is about the only prospect they've traded recently who flourished somewhere else, and their bullpen, already strong, would look even nastier with him. He was a free agent this off season, but -- and here comes the ripple-effect question -- it is within the Cardinals' m.o. to extend valued guys for a year or two beyond their walk date, so they could plausibly still have him this year. Great article, btw, and I don't think that "don't invest with Madoff" should be off the table for the Mets. It's hard for me to think of any single contract that has done a team as much damage as that did, although they are finally emerging from the years-long funk that it threw them into.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

That's very interesting. It would probably be better to look at this in terms of the "quality" of pitches thrown in the various circumstances rather than just zone percentages, but that probably exceeds our current ability to evaluate pitches unless someone has an ESP link to catchers and pitching coaches that I don't know about. That's kind of the point, actually: if it is something about the pitchers and they weren't taking the threat from Yelich seriously enough, they'll have wised up by now and his 2-out hitting will take a tumble in 2015 as they make adjustments. (Of course, that's also what to expect if there is absolutely nothing there with either Yelich or pitchers and it was all random fluctuations in 2014.) There are many situations like this, probably more than we suspect even after being sensitized to the issue, where we can't really "know" what's going on without getting into the heads of the players and managers and knowing what was intended, not just what happened. May it ever be so; that's one of the things that makes baseball great.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

"Still, for now, Yelich has figured out something that Trout hasn’t, and indeed, that the rest of the batters in the league haven’t." Interesting statement, but I wonder: is this the explanation, or is it that pitchers have <i>not</i> figured out that they have to be careful with Yelich in 2-out situations, while they obviously know that they do have to be careful (at all times) with Trout? This year's version of this chart may answer that question. Maybe. Thanks for one of the most thought-provoking pieces I've seen here in a long time.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Cameron's line "while the Cubs clearly want to win this year, no player is so great that missing 10 games would meaningfully alter a team's expected results" gets at the heart of this, not by what it says but by what it misses. In a league with three fairly clear favorites to win divisions and then a vast sea of contenders for wild-card slots, ANY voluntary weakening of one of those contenders comes with great risk, particularly one right on the cusp of contention as the Cubs are. The marginal value of Bryant for those ten games is arguably greater for the Cubs than it would be for any other single team, because the one win (rounding up) they risk by not having him is more likely to be the margin between success (post-season slot) and failure than what any other team would risk in the same situation. Combine that with the fact that 2015 is a known quantity, while the Cubs of Bryant's walk year are pure speculation, and it seems obvious to me that they screwed up here ... but then again, they're the Cubs, you expect screwups.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

The concern for Josh Hamilton is, if genuine (and there is no reason to believe it is not), praiseworthy, whether by members of the media or by MLB. Russell, you've done an excellent job of laying out the issues there. However, MLB has some other irons in the fire: handling this situation in a way that also helps future and even current players battling addiction, and thereby, helps MLB as a whole. What is best for that present and future constituency is not necessarily what is best for Josh Hamilton specifically, and I don't see the difference getting addressed as thoughtfully as what you've done here. Suppose you could take a shot at it from your ex-clinician's perspective? What kinds of things serve as deterrents for people teetering on the edge of addiction? Does making an example of a Hamilton (positively or negatively) have any effect at all on the next one in line? Thoughtful, non-political discussion of that would be appreciated.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

To add to the one-gamer list, let the record show that for one brief, shining moment on August 2, 2002, the shortstop position in St. Louis (well, "in" Atlanta, actually, but "for" St. Louis) was manned by one Jose Alberto Pujols. You may be more familiar with him under a different name. Speaking of former Cardinals, another player with ... well ... an "improbable" body type who appeared at shortstop in the minors was The Walrus himself, Brett Wallace, he of the 6'1", 240# proportions and thighs larger in diameter than some players' waists. To his credit, he volunteered to fill in there for Houston's AAA team in Oklahoma City, when injuries and promotions left the team without a regular SS. The conversion didn't exactly take, however, as his .912 fielding percentage attests.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Congratulations on your attempt to set a new world record in the "whistling past the graveyard" competition.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Interesting to see that Alexander Reyes and Marco Gonzales are so close together on this, but there's no sign of Rob Kaminsky, who seems to be generally thought of as only a baby step behind them. Is he really that far behind the other two? Or is it just that when you get down to the lower 50 on this list, the differences among candidates are very slight?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Disappointed not to see Walt Dropo here. A thirteen-year career, and after his massive (both in production and in body type) RotY campaign in 1950, the rest of it combined had less WARP than that year. He was the first name I thought of when I saw the title of the article. Alas, his fielding in that rookie year was so bad as to drag him below your WARP threshold. He still should be mentioned, although I'd agree he's trumped in the Harper Lee competition by Black.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 5

Lefty Grove, maybe? He had a famously high leg kick, and they said his pitching hand just about touched the ground when he leaned back. Thanks much for digging up the old Marichal footage. He and Tiant were the names that came instantly to mind when I saw the title of the article, and there aren't that many batches of footage left for players from the 1960s. If you ever repeat this for relievers, you'll have a rich vein to tap, but for the first nugget, I nominate Gene Garber, who had a weirdly mechanical reverse pivot.

Feb 03, 2015 6:09 AM on Grading the Funk
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Ah, but "shear waves" are very important in earthquakes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-wave So maybe Pompey has groundbreaking speed when moving side to side?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

One of the more amusing malapropisms I've seen on BP: "Pompey’s meteoritic rise this past season..." Um, meteorites, as opposed to meteors, don't "rise," exactly the opposite: they fall to earth, typically leaving craters. Somehow this isn't the fate I predict for Pompey...

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

You say that on the Stanton/Miller homer, the catcher (A. J. Pierzynski) "set up low and away." I beg to differ: Pierzynski's glove was flopping around back there like a beached fish. He never "set up" anywhere at all, in the sense of giving Miller a clear target to throw to. It is tempting, although not necessarily correct, to speculate that this had something to do with the outcome. Who were the catchers for these various homers? One can't help but think that at least in some cases, they share some responsibility for what happened.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Interesting that even Randy doesn't see any of these guys winding up with the Cardinals, making them the only team that neither software nor wetware thought was signing a FA. Did you set it up so that they were #31 out of 30 possible destinations?

Nov 04, 2014 7:53 AM on The Free Agent 50
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

There were times during this post season when Matheny's moves struck me as having a bit of petulance to them. "All right, critics! You've been on me ever since the first playoff game to use Michael Wacha more. So I'm going to bring him in here, in this incredibly high-leverage situation, and you'll see!" *BOOM* "See? I told you!" On the other hand, doesn't an event like that argue just as strongly that he was right to be cautious about using Wacha in the first place?...

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 6

I am seeing this "considering what [X] had done all season" line all over the place, where X equals Puig or Kershaw or Taveras or Strasburg or just about anybody, and I consider it badly misguided. Of course Mattingly considered what Puig had done all season; that's why Puig got starts in the previous three games. He then saw something -- we may never know exactly what, since it's not necessarily the kind of thing that a manager will discuss candidly -- that convinced him that Puig not only shouldn't start this one, but shouldn't be trusted with a key at-bat. The question is whether what he saw was (1) correctly seen and (2) sufficient to trump Puig's rest-of-season record. We'll never know. "What he had done all season" has become the latest analyst's unthinking mantra. It is far more valuable, when a manager departs from "what he had done all season," to ask why, rather than to blindly criticize the manager for doing it.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Having discovered an error in the above (more on that shortly), I did some digging and can answer some of my own questions. What remains, however, leaves the question of just what BABIP tells us still open. I had misread the plate appearances in Russell's table above to be "plate appearances leading to balls in play." It isn't; that number is much less. The actual number of Cardinals hitters who put balls in play against him from 2011 through 2014, ignoring sacrifices and SFs (not sure how they factor into all this), was 197 if I count correctly. (There may be an error of 2 or 3 in this, for reasons I do not understand.) A BABIP of .343 means they got 67 or 68 non-home-run hits in this time -- again, I can't explain why this isn't an integer. Over that same time, CK had an overall BABIP of about .280 (a third mystery: I can't make this number agree exactly with Russell's, but to adequate precision, it doesn't matter). He would therefore have been "expected" to allow roughly 55 non-HR hits to the Cardinals. Assuming normal distributions, the excess of Cardinals hits works out to a shade under 2-sigma -- at least as compatible with luck as with anything real, and a bit less than I'd been hypothesizing previously. The basic question remains, though: just what is the distribution of observed BABIPs around the "average" value? There are reasons to believe it isn't strictly Gaussian -- some factors would broaden it (e.g. wind will affect the likelihood of balls falling uncaught, and wind velocities in a park certainly aren't Gaussian) and some would actually narrow it (e.g. the fact that certain important classes of batted balls, for example foul popups, have zero chance of contributing positively to batting average under any conditions). So Russell, I'm still interested in hearing your analysis of just what BABIP really does look like. It's relevant.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

A lot of this analysis comes down to the basic question "what does BABIP tell you about a pitcher?" that you addressed in last year's article that you quote. Okay, I get the point that a typical pitcher's BABIP is about .300, and some fraction of the time, the pitcher gets unlucky and gives up a .340 BABIP instead. However, it does not follow from this observation that a .340 BABIP is always the result of bad luck. 2- to 3-sigma "signals" are the observational scientist's nightmare (a nightmare I lived for my entire career as a scientist), because they're improbable enough that they might not be something random -- even though they usually are. I suspect that a .340 BABIP for a pitcher is roughly a 2-sigma deviation from the norm over the number of at-bats the Cardinals have had against Kershaw, which puts it just on the fringe of that "maybe, maybe not" territory, but I don't know that for sure. Do you know, off the top of your head, whether the scatter around the average BABIP does look Gaussian, and if so, how many sigma above the average this "event" is? Just what IS a standard deviation for BABIP over 300 batters faced?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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"Wanted," not waned, obviously. Sorry, can't type...

Sep 25, 2014 2:44 PM on Buxton or Beane?
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Is there any evidence that she actually waned that job? It's not exactly one of the plums among GM positions, and she's not going to be hired into it against her will.

Sep 25, 2014 2:43 PM on Buxton or Beane?
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Personally, I think Wong just screwed up, but how about if he intended Psalm 38:16 and forgot the 8? The second half of the verse is a baseball player's (and even more, manager's and GM's) lament: "when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me."

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Interesting how little some things change, just as your comments about "players from past eras" suggest. I remember, a long time ago, reading an interview with the great pinch hitter Smoky Burgess, while he was still active. The title was something like "Burgess on pinch hitting: Swing at the first pitch" -- don't quote me on that, but I do remember the next line: "Pitchers will usually lay it in there." This was just about fifty years ago...

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Incidentally, I would also argue that Miller "hit his spot" with that pitch in a way that (1) kept McCutchen off base -- he too was pitching in a scoreless game -- and (2) is consistent with the way some other famous knockdowns (think Roger Clemens vs. Mike Piazza) have gone. The message got across without actually putting a potential run on base.

Sep 04, 2014 10:04 AM on September 4, 2014
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

This "stems from LaRussa[sic] days with the Cards"? Nonsense. The practice of retaliating for a perceived intentional HBP is as old as baseball itself. Read Sam Miller's BP article from last year (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=20914) for perspective on that -- as he points out, this kind of thing has been happening for nearly a century and a half. what has changed is that one particular team has adopted a pitching philosophy that institutionalizes that kind of behavior. McCutchen is paying the price for that.

Sep 04, 2014 9:59 AM on September 4, 2014
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -2

Pirates pitchers are "taught" to throw inside? Duck hunters are "taught" to lead their targets, which is precisely what Pirates pitchers are doing -- they are throwing to a place that is unoccupied when the ball leaves their hand, but will be full of batter's hands when the ball gets there. What they are doing amounts to reckless endangerment. The Adams HBP was clearly an accident. The Holliday HBP was in the reckless-endangerment category. I am not unsympathetic to Cutch as the chosen scapegoat for the response to that behavior, but let's call reckless endangerment what it is.

Sep 04, 2014 9:09 AM on September 4, 2014
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

The McCutchen story might have mentioned that it wasn't just Matt Holliday getting hit by a pitch before Cutch had to take evasive action; the next batter after Holliday, Matt Adams, was also plunked, although by a slow curve rather than the 95-mph heater that nailed Holliday. This pushed Pittsburgh's MLB-leading HBP total to 74 (MLB average is 47). Note that they also have their own hitters plunked at a high rate; what goes round comes round.

Sep 04, 2014 6:04 AM on September 4, 2014
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

"there are plenty of players who swing after 6 straight balls on the Cardinals." Actually, there aren't. Since the All-Star break, there have been precisely zero instances of a Cardinals player swinging on the first pitch of an at-bat after the previous hitter had walked on four pitches and the one before that took ball 3 and ball 4 in succession. George Kottaras came close against Zack Greinke on July 19, when he swung at the second pitch (the first was a called strike) after Greinke had thrown five consecutive balls to previous batters. That's all. Note that Kottaras was released not long afterward. The interference call wasn't borderline at all. Video clearly shows him running with his left foot in fair territory. That's Baseball 101. You don't do that, particularly if you're a left-handed hitter as Taveras is.

Aug 09, 2014 12:00 PM on Seven Days with Oscar
 
BillJohnson
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Not included in this compilation is "Taveras grounds into a double play on the first pitch, about a foot outside, from a pitcher who had just thrown six consecutive balls to walk the bases loaded." That also happened this week. So did "Taveras called out when he is hit by a throw in fair territory while running to first base." That happened this week too. He is an enormously talented prospect, but he pulls his fair share of rookie boners and then some.

Aug 08, 2014 3:24 PM on Seven Days with Oscar
 
BillJohnson
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I don't like the Cozart call either, but there's a principle here that's applicable in competitions ranging all the way from baseball and football to chess and bridge: if you don't give the other guy a chance to screw up, he probably won't. If Mathis had had his left foot as little as maybe two inches to the right of where he actually had it, he almost certainly would have got the call.

Aug 01, 2014 2:07 PM on August 1, 2014
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 3

So how robust is this analysis for veterans not named Trout? If you go back and apply it to highly touted hitting prospects who made it big (Stanton), not so big (say Jason Heyward), and to everyone's puzzlement, not at all (say B.J. Upton), how do the curves look? As a Cardinals fan, it's nice to know that Taveras seems to have much in common with Trout in terms of the way his at-bats are going, never mind the results so far, but I can't help but wonder how things worked out with similarly touted prospects who never made it big.

 
BillJohnson
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Apparently the weather in St. Louis yesterday was "mentally cloudy with a chance of stupid." How else to explain an entire team, two sets of announcers and the umpiring crew all failing to notice what Jay's count was?

Jul 24, 2014 11:16 AM on July 24, 2014
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 3

Missing from this analysis (and this isn't a criticism; you did marvelously on the part of the situation within your field of expertise, which what I'm about to mention is not) is any information on just what the physical turned up and what its significance is. Confidentiality means that we may never know exactly what the physical found, but I do wonder: what precedent is there, other than R. A. Dickey, for would-be pitchers to succeed despite a "quirk" in the pitching elbow? What fraction of all drafted pitchers have something out of the ordinary going on with ligaments or bones or whatever? What is the outcome when they do? I'm not a doctor (or at least not "that kind of" doctor), but I would love to get a good, clear report on the medical situation with out-of-the-ordinary pitching elbows to match the terrific work you've done here with the legal side.

 
BillJohnson
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And another Rowan Wick homer, as despite a recent "slump" that took his batting average down to a mere .380, he continues to have more HRs personally than half the teams in the NY-Penn league do. Why isn't this guy moving up?

 
BillJohnson
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I will say without elaboration: one of the things I really value about the current staff of Baseball Prospectus is the way you folks cover baseball as comprehensively as possible, without letting your fandom for your personal favorite team determine which parts of the game you will talk about. You're fans, of course; we all are. But partisanship for your favorite team doesn't warp the coverage. Thanks.

Jul 16, 2014 8:50 AM on Being There
 
BillJohnson
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I don't see it. The whole point of replacement-level players is that there are more of them around than there is room for on major-league rosters. I'd guess that at any given time, about two thirds of all active players with skill levels that are replacement-level to plus or minus, say, half a game over a season, are in the minors rather than the majors -- maybe (pure guess) 5 in the majors, 8 or 9 at AAA, and maybe one oddball stuck at AA. What good does it do a team to raise that 8-or-9 figure to 13-or-15? Not obvious that it's enough to justify the cost. Of course, the story changes if greater spending in the minors produces two or three additional guys a year who are clearly better than replacement level. However, I don't see that happening. As far as I can tell, very few players with >1-WAR talent call it quits in the low minors because they're so poorly paid -- but I may be wrong.

 
BillJohnson
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The flaw in this reasoning is the assumption that teams want all of their prospects to become major leaguers. They can't. Something approaching 50 guys enter a farm system every year, between the amateur draft and IFA signings, and even if every last one of them manages to play at the major-league replacement level (no small accomplishment), there will still be no more than 7 or 8 on average who actually reach the Show. There just isn't room for more. The huge majority of the guys who are signed down-draft serve their organizations not by becoming major leaguers, but by providing the rest of a minor-league team so the the fortunate few who do have what it takes can actually play games. What they get out of it is a meager living plus the ability to say "hey, I played rookie-league ball with Joe Superstar in East Poison Spider, Wyoming!" when they cash it in and go back home to live their lives and tell stories. This is no small thing, those who have that privilege are enriched by it, and in my experience, they are uniformly grateful to their former team for letting them play with Mike Trout or Albert Pujols or Greg Maddux. But paying them more than the bare minimum is not necessarily in a team's best interest.

 
BillJohnson
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The Hawkins game doesn't count as an "official" no-hitter, since he was pitching for the visiting team and didn't have to come back out for the 9th inning, the opposing White Sox having already salted the game away. Hawkins somehow managed to give up 4 runs while accomplishing his "feat". I've long thought the current major-league scoring rule, that denies a visiting team's pitcher a no-hitter if he keeps the home team hitless through 8 but gives up a decisive run so that the home team doesn't bat in the 9th, is a little unfair. This wasn't the only time it happened.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Right idea, wrong Johnson: it was Ken Johnson, not Randy, pitching for Houston in 1964.

 
BillJohnson
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You guys need to get out and see more games. :-) More accurately, you need to see more pre-game batting practice. I once watched Albert Pujols take a turn in the cage when he had obviously decided he needed to work on hitting behind the runner. (Repeat: this is Albert Pujols we're talking about, and I mean, mid-career Pujols.) Out of a dozen batting-practice pitches, he hit ten line drives into a spot in right field maybe twenty feet square. One of the dozen was a ground ball hit to the same area, and he "missed" on the last one. Stanton isn't Pujols, and batting-practice pitchers aren't major-league game starters, but I still think, based on that exhibition, that guys like Pujols and Stanton would have little difficulty turning a home-run swing into a screaming-liner swing that cuts way back on the homers but still gets lots of hits.

 
BillJohnson
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Seems to me the Cardinals would have glommed onto Pomeranz if available, being that they're the Cardinals and have this thing about power arms. What was your reasoning in passing him by, Mark? Did perceived dissatisfaction with the Pomeranz who'd already already been in their system (Drew's brother Stu Pomeranz, a Cards farm hand from 2003 to 2007) have anything to do with it?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

Hey guyz, would you pleaze fix the embedded link to the player page so that it pointz to Marco GonzaleS, not Marco GonzaleZ? There waz a Marco Gonzalez in the Cardinalz' farm zyztem lazt decade, but he wazn't very good. Thankz!

Jun 24, 2014 5:56 AM on Marco Gonzales
 
BillJohnson
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"You’re taking a shot at glory away from a bunch of these kids nationwide, maybe the only shot that they’ll ever have in baseball, just so that a half-dozen or so lucky guys who eventually do make it to the majors later in life won’t need TJs" -- thank you for saying this, because it's the great conundrum of the high-school pitcher. And the message generalizes to other areas too. It isn't just the world of sports for which high school is, for many people, As Good As It Gets.

 
BillJohnson
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Somehow Peterson doesn't seem like a very Cardinals-like selection for St. Louis. They haven't taken a medium-ceiling first-base-only guy in the top five rounds since Brett Wallace, and while they got reasonable value in trade for him, they can't have been satisfied with the way he worked out. I'd have considered Ciuffo instead; even Molinas don't last forever.

Jun 10, 2014 2:43 PM on How Much Has Changed?
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

You could make an entire article out of thinking what would have happened if somebody, ANYBODY, had realized that Albert Pujols had something more than 13th-round talent.

Jun 04, 2014 9:05 AM on 11 Draft Day What-Ifs
 
BillJohnson
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Why can't we give thumbs-up (or down) to staff comments? Because this definitely deserves one.

Jun 04, 2014 9:00 AM on 11 Draft Day What-Ifs
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

Don't expect him to be amazing. Expect him to be good, and hope that he becomes amazing, because he can.

Jun 01, 2014 6:58 AM on Oscar Taveras
 
BillJohnson
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Baseball is large, it contains multitudes. Not one of these cases, all of them fully warranted, came to my mind as I was considering the article headline. The one that did? Mark Fidrych.

 
BillJohnson
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One thing that might be useful to add to these reports is an indication of the score of the game at the time of the bunt. Tactical moves are always made in context, whether by fielders or by hitter (bunter). Knowing that context will aid in understanding how the anti-shift strategy works in practice.

 
BillJohnson
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Nice play by Pollock, but the announcers' assertion that the metrics say he's the best center fielder in the major leagues holds water only if you ignore all the ones who are, well, better. (One of whom was in the same ballpark as Pollpock last night, although he did not actually play CF.)

May 21, 2014 7:46 AM on Chris Davis Going Deep
 
BillJohnson
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No, I understood that. It's the "questionable calls he/she does not think it's worth challenging" that are the reason why I isn't a constant. As the number of calls available to be challenged goes up (because more review analysts have more time to notice them), the number where the challenge will be successful does not rise with it, because umpires do their job right the large majority of the time. Yet, since there is no penalty for an unsuccessful challenge comparable to the loss of a time out that happens with an unsuccessful challenge in the NFL, there's no disincentive to make challenges that are unlikely to succeed. As a result, it becomes possible, among other things, to make challenges in lower-leverage situations, potentially diluting I. There is room for this to happen since not every manager uses all of his challenges, as you point out.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

This is extremely interesting, but I see one important and possibly fatal flaw in your methodology: the assumption that I, the average impact of a challenge decision, is a constant. In a strict sense, if you choose to define it as a constant, well, it's a constant, but there are a number of reasons why that's probably not the way to go. The main one is that your "constant" is almost certainly a function of how frequently calls are challenged, with a point of diminishing returns setting in as the number of challenges approaches the number of calls that should be challenged. I should be considered a dependent variable that depends on success of a challenge. That, in turn, depends on the frequency of challenges. Take away the two or three -- or maybe it's five or ten, it doesn't change the argument although it moves the point of diminishing returns -- times during a game when the umps clearly screwed up, and subsequent challenges become less likely to have any impact on the game, because the challenges are less likely to succeed. This analysis presumes that there is no penalty to a team in making a challenge that is not upheld on the field. That's basically the way the rules are right now, and it's hard to see how they could be changed without drastically impacting the way baseball is played. I accordingly don't think the case for adding replay analysts is as strong as you make it (acknowledging that you say to take it with a grain of salt anyway). I do think your point about the value to a team of spending more bucks on staff work is good, but I'd spend them elsewhere; my personal favorites would be on reliable assessments of "makeup" and injury risk. But there's room for argument on those as well, of course.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Rosenthal got it up to 99 today against the Cubs, and had several in the 97-98 range in a 1.2-inning save. His command still seemed a bit shaky. I share your concern that there's an incipient elbow problem, but I also wonder if Matheny may have just told him to dial it back a little, since he hasn't closed for an entire season before. This is the kind of thing where ground truth is difficult to come by if you're not in the clubhouse, although the anonymous scout's view seems to argue against that

May 15, 2014 2:04 PM on May 15, 2014
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

I don't think it's a "big" inefficiency, by and large, although there are a few franchises that are having trouble with it -- probably considerably fewer than generally thought. The people who own major-league baseball teams are preposterously wealthy individuals who have skadzillions of people working for them in non-baseball pursuits. It requires only the slightest bit of business acumen to know that leadership works, and know more than a little about how it works. People who are that wealthy are almost a lead-pipe cinch to have that much business acumen. I would therefore expect that, while they may have different views of what "effective" leadership looks like to the outside world, they're all selecting for it in their internal decision making. These people aren't stupid.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

Too late, Shelby is already broken.

May 09, 2014 2:10 PM on Making Setup Man Magic
 
BillJohnson
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Jeter's handling of that rundown was a thing of beauty, but I wonder: don't they teach rundowns in fielding instruction any more? Admittedly, the presence of the potential winning run ahead of the play was a complication, but that still took at least two or three more throws to finish than a rundown ever should. Not the first time I've seen such a ridiculously extended rundown lately, either. If I'd seen a play like that by my kids when I was coaching Little League, I'd have had a quiet "teaching moment" with them at the next practice.

May 05, 2014 7:02 AM on Weekend Wrap-Up, 5/5
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Probably the face as well.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Looks like Alex Reyes' control bugaboo is under control, at least for the moment. If this lasts, sound the helium alarm.

 
BillJohnson
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Note that Taveras did not receive the call when St. Louis decided (finally) that Shane Robinson needed to be put out to pasture; Randal Grichuk has been called up instead. That is most likely a service-time move, since he's unlikely to see much game action in the Cardinals' crowded outfield, and they're not as concerned about losing/overpaying him early as they would be about Taveras or Stephen Piscotty.

Apr 28, 2014 5:49 AM on Games of April 25-27
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Correct, it's A+.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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But don't become too caroused.

 
BillJohnson
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International League playoffs, anyway.

Apr 19, 2014 7:08 AM on Friday, April 18
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Incidentally, lest I be misunderstood, I intend no disrespect to Wang, nor disregard for his injury. It hurts to see a ballplayer get hurt, and I wish he could get back to his old, pre-injury self. It's his boss for whom I have no sympathy in that little incident.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I also remember the tantrum that one of the Steinbrenners threw, about how those mean old National Leaguers made his incredibly skilled and highly-paid pitcher do something as unnatural as running the bases, didn't they have any respect for his investment? To which all I can say is, cry me a river. Position players have been known to blow a tire running the bases too; just think back to the awful scene of Ryan Howard making the last out of the 2011 NLDS. The question is, do pitchers do it significantly more often than position players? Anecdotes don't answer that.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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As regards the injury to Joe Kelly: dude can run -- he has been used as a pinch runner in the past. I wonder, though, what the historic risk of injury by a pitcher running the bases really is. Other pitchers have been used as PRs, some of them frequently; there was a BP article on the subject of PRs some time ago (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=6085) that noted that Blue Moon Odom even led his league in pinch-running appearances one year. Were those guys any more prone to baserunning injuries than other pinch runners? That should be researchable.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Davidson's strike zone was indeed ludicrous (for both sides), bur his running Carpenter, whom he was clearly baiting, was worse. How does Davidson rank among active umps in ejections per game umpired? He acts as though he wants to be at the top of that statistic, and as though that is a good thing.

Apr 15, 2014 7:18 AM on Back-and-Forth Baseball
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

You're missing the point. Once Ryan can't flash the leather (and while the quality of his defense may be a "murkier" subject for sabermetricians than offense, managers and GMs have definite opinions about it), any near-replacement-level shortstop is a possible replacement for him. Better-than-average defensive shortstops who absolutely cannot hit aren't that hard to find. There will be someone "ready to step in" rather than pay major-league salaries to a guy with a .563 OPS. Once Ryan's defensive skills deteriorate to merely better than average, rather than elite, I repeat: he's toast.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Of course, the moment Brendan Ryan can't flash awesome leather, he's toast too. Which raises a point. It is tempting to speculate that for any position except pitcher (and DH, to the extent that it is a "position" rather than the absence of one), having a diverse tool set protects a player from premature retirement, by allowing the player to step up his game in one area, at least in principle, when it declines in another one. It isn't so simple, of course; having one's defense tool go from 70 to 40 due to weight gain, let alone injury, doesn't mean that a corresponding increase in the hit tool will occur or is even possible. But -- I speculate -- players who can make those tradeoffs work will have a better sense of a long career. They can't do that if they only have the one tool to begin with, no matter how outstanding it is. What does this have to do with Cano? Dunno, but he does strike me as a multi-tool kind of player, unlike some of the guys who are given inexplicably long contracts when in or leaving their prime.

 
BillJohnson
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Fascinating, to hear what Craig Fehrman has to say about the local media, and then to listen to the Fay interview. To me, Fay comes off as a complete idiot -- which is entirely consistent with what Fehrman was saying. Weird media market.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

It would be reasonable, but not automatic, to count him, as he came over after being drafted by Atlanta and playing in that system through AA. The basic talent recognition was done by Atlanta people. Turning him into a finished product was a joint accomplishment for both franchises. Turning him from prospect to ace happened once he reached St. Louis. On the other hand, WW was a first-rounder and could "expect" to have a decent short at the Show. So was Wacha. The hallmark of the Cardinals success, and presumably of the "Cardinal Way" if such a thing exists, is all the value they've got from later-round draft choices -- Craig, Jay, Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, Kevin Siegrist, Matt Adams, etc., guys whose profile did not scream "future major leaguer" when they were drafted. IMO, it is more rewarding to look for the effects of the "Cardinal Way" among those guys than among the ones who were good bets to make it even before the Way's alleged benign influence.

 
BillJohnson
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I agree that the audio was subpar, actually on both parts. At times it was difficult to hear what was going on.

 
BillJohnson
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Yes, the Ryan Howard comment was ... pithy.

 
BillJohnson
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I observe that the "ups" for next year far outnumber the "downs". Does this mean the downs are expected to go WAY down?

 
BillJohnson
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Wow. So they really do expect ultra-regression. I'm shocked. I would have expected a post-regression Pittsburgh to be a middle-of-the-pack team, not a bottom-ten bunch. There are just too many other teams in baseball that really aren't very good.

 
BillJohnson
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There'll be some regression, maybe a great deal of regression. However, I can see no reasonable ranking system that puts them behind all of Toronto, Seattle, LA Angels, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, San Diego and Colorado. I am by no means a Pirates fan, but they're just clearly better than those teams, and probably better than several others as well. Anyway, the next episode features Philadelphia instead (reasonably), so either things are indeed out of order or Nick simply misspoke. It happens.

 
BillJohnson
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I don't get the Segura extension talk, nor do I get why Segura himself is the one who "might prefer to take his time". Everything about his performance in 2013 screams "career year" to me, or rather, "career half year". For the second half of the year, he wasn't a much superior player to, uh, Pete Kozma -- who is definitely not someone you want to offer an extension to. Doesn't it make more sense from the Brewers' perspective to at least wait one more year to do this, just to avoid unpleasant surprises?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

"Tomorrow I'll be talking with [missed the name], who covers the Pittsburgh Pirates..." Say what? Surely you're not saying that Pittsburgh is the next worst team in baseball after the White Sox, are you? Please tell me these interviews are done significantly out of rank order, or there'll be a pretty severe credibility hit to this whole process.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Thank you for this reminder of what kind of man Pete Rose really is.

Feb 17, 2014 10:03 AM on February 10-16
 
BillJohnson
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Uh, Washington?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Can you say ".383 BABIP"? I thought you could.

 
BillJohnson
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Probably not, with maybe one or two exceptions. Guys on the 40-man who have rookie status and don't appear on any of these lists include Keith Butler (unexceptional RH reliever), Eric Fornataro (ditto), Sam Freeman (LOOGY who would be a Factor on the Farm for most teams -- love the writeup on him in the annual), Jorge Rondon (RHP, what's he on the 40-man for? I have no idea), Audry Perez (catcher, not much of a prospect but was useful as Martinez's bullpen catcher and interpreter last fall), Greg Garcia (the exception; probable utility-infield callup if/when they decide Kozma and Descalso aren't worth keeping), Joey Butler (OF, nothing special), Mike O'Neill (the other exception; great OBP but nothing else, might get a call as a 4th outfielder if someone gets hurt), Rafael Ortega (who?). Any might get callups and some could play significant roles, but only if injuries, etc., deplete the major-league roster severely.

 
BillJohnson
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Somewhat sad to see Tyrell Jenkins fall off this list, after several years on it. Even in this system, they don't all blossom.

 
BillJohnson
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Shouldn't this analysis separate left-handed from right-handed pitchers? I'm not so surprised to see Cliff Lee and Madison Bumgarner in that lower-left part of the chart, in that they have one degree of "differentness" wired in just by being lefties. There probably are interesting lefty/righty comparisons to be done here, but lumping them all together seems to me to run an apples-and-oranges risk.

Feb 06, 2014 7:16 AM on Entropy and the Eephus
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

One way of looking at this may be to assert that chemistry is good as long as it isn't bad; that is, to look not for evidence that good chemistry helps, but rather, for evidence that bad chemistry hurts. That evidence might -- might -- be easier to find and quantify.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

This is a lot of work for the players, but for the teams, it's fairly straightforward, and leads to the following table (I wish I could present this in graph form, but oh well): Team, predicted WAR, actual WAR ARI, 54.2, 50 ATL, 93.4, 122 BAL, 67.8, 34 BOS, 56.8, 142 CHA, 86.4, 102 CHN, 99.7, 79 CIN, 81.1, 42 CLE, 128.5, 87 COL, 89.8, 47 DET, 89.9, 41 FLA, 86.3, 78 HOU, 60.4, 95 KCR, 66.4, 0 LAA, 69.2, 119 LAD, 63.4, 91 MIL, 70.4, 46 MIN, 95.0, 112 MON, 43.5, 47 NYM, 60.7, 77 NYY, 88.8, 160 OAK, 97.2, 116 PHI, 70.3, 106 PIT, 74.1, 21 SDP, 71.5, 82 SEA, 63.9, 63 SFG, 39.3, 85 STL, 54.6, 123 TBY, 75.3, -1 TEX, 86.9, 66 TOR, 136.7, 75 The correlation between predicted and real WAR is positive but weak (correlation coefficient = 0.102), with some remarkably accurate hits (Arizona, Montreal/Washington, Seattle) but also some very severe misses. In general I think PECOTA did pretty well in predicting player performance, but this prediction of team performance is nothing to brag about. One could do just as well -- no, not "just as well," rather "a great deal better" -- by just "predicting" that good teams will continue to be good, and bad teams will continue to be bad; the correlation between 2002 WAR and summed 2003-2007 WAR is vastly stronger (correlation coefficient = 0.739).

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Blass and Wohlers would be excellent additions to the might-have-been list I posted earlier; thanks for remembering them where I forgot. As for Ryne Duren, I don't know that answers to his legendary wildness are going to be found in his mechanics as much as in his inability to see the plate (he wore some of the thickest glasses ever seen on a baseball field, and it wasn't for show) and the fact that he was known to be not altogether sober sometimes when he took the mound...

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Speaking of spelling, Marco Gonzales is not the same player as Marco Gonzalez -- thankfully.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: -1

Interesting to see Alex Reyes on this list. He has been getting limited play on the Cardinals fan blogs compared to Lee Stoppelman, Zach Petrick, the 2013 first-rounders, and so on, but you're right, he's a real prospect. I do wonder, though: was his inclusion at least partly a nod to the fact that the Cardinals constantly seem to be finding and developing some diamond-in-the-rough pitcher that nobody expects to make it, like Kevin Siegrist last year?

Jan 27, 2014 7:57 AM on Top 101 Prospects
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

A little research on the late-career pitching start by Babe Ruth sheds some light on what was going on there (and in an even later, and theoretically more remarkable, start three years later). Both of these late-career starts were at the very end of the season, against Boston Red Sox teams that were ghastly to begin with, and had several of their regulars (such as they were) on the bench and rookies or part-timers starting. In one he gave up 3 runs against a ragtag lineup, but still got the W and the CG; in the other it was 5 runs, again with W and CG. In other words, the opposition was a team that was poor even by the standards of his day, probably wasn't highly motivated, and still almost managed to beat him. These games are more in the line of the proverbial dog walking on its hind legs than anything to judge talent on: the marvel isn't that the dog walks well on two legs, it's that it can do it at all. So also Ruth. He didn't have to pitch well to win those games, he just had to make it through without his arm falling off. That is no small feat in itself; try throwing 150 pitches even at 70% and see how your arm feels. But I would not draw, from those games, the conclusion regarding quality that you guys did. They weren't "serious" games. Baseball was like that back then, too.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Sounds like people are coming up with more than enough future projects for you :-), but that isn't going to keep me from suggesting one more. In some ways, as interesting as the all-time greats are, the "might have beens" among their contemporaries might be even more interesting. I remember the late, great Roberto Clemente saying that day in, day out, Gibson had the best fastball he had to face, but when Jim Maloney was right, his was even better. Problem was, he wasn't always right, and he also had enough injuries to end his career after only nine full years in the Show. There are others from the post-WWII era who were spectacular for short stretches, but lost the heat due to injuries (or other things) -- Mark Fidrych, Vida Blue, Sam McDowell, Bill Singer, etc. Some managed to hang on as major leaguers after the fastball went away, but too many, like the Bird, did not. It might be very interesting to look at some of these guys and see if there was something on their mechanics report card that suggested that they were career-ending, or -altering, injuries waiting to happen. One studies the survivors and learns from them, but the ones that don't survive also have a tale to tell, if a sad one.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

To me the surprising thing is that you were able to find as many as five teams that didn't make some public pronouncement about good chemistry. It's a cheap throwaway line for making the fan base feel good, and everyone will talk about it. That doesn't mean that everyone has it.

 
BillJohnson
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Suggest you go back and re-examine the contention that pitcher hitting is getting worse. Pitcher hitting is getting worse in the American League. (Hoo boy, is it ever.) In the NL, however, there has been relatively little decline in pitchers' OPS over the past ten years, and not even that much since the introduction of the DH. The bulk of the decline happened between about 1960 (the 1950s had a number of years when NL pitchers OPSed over .400) and 1975.

 
BillJohnson
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Just for reference, here is Zachary's comparable article from the 2012-3 off season, written a bit later in the season than this one but with the same general way of looking at things: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=19025 Also for reference, here are the predicted finishes within the divisions derived from those odds, compared with the actual finish order in the divisions: AL East: NYY: predicted 1, actual 4 TOR: 2, 5 TBY: 3, 2 BOS: 4, 1 BAL: 5, 3 AL Central: DET: predicted 1, actual 1 CWS: 2, 5 CLE: 3, 2 KCA: 4/5, 3 MIN: 4/5, 4 AL West: LAA: predicted 1/2, actual 3 TEX: 1/2, 2 OAK: 3, 1 SEA: 4, 4 HOU: 5, 5 NL East: WAS: predicted 1, 2 ATL: 2/3, 1 PHI: 2/3, 4 NYM: 4, 3 MIA: 5, 5 NL Central: CIN: predicted 1, 3 STL: 2, 1 MIL: 3, 4 PIT: 4, 2 CHC: 5, 5 NL West; LAD: predicted 1/2, 1 SFG: 1/2, 4 ARI: 3, 2 SDP: 4, 3 COL: 5, 5 Can somebody run a regression on these? To my eye, these odds simply say that bad teams are gonna be bad, and that how non-bad teams will do is a SWAG. Well, duh. This is not an interpretation that leads me to attach much significance to the changes in odds that Zachary reports here; they're interesting from an anthropological perspective, and I'm glad you reported them, but in terms of baseball meaning ... well ...

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

That wasn't my intention with the comment. Rather, I wonder if being under exceptionally intense, and sometimes invasive, scrutiny, as can happen anywhere in the Yankees organization, can cause makeup issues. Some people don't handle being in the limelight well, although they do just fine when the spotlight isn't as intense. Of course, any major leaguer is going to be under a very intense spotlight on arrival in the Show, but for most, they get to learn how to adapt to that spotlight on the way up. I speculate -- and I stress that it is speculation -- that that isn't the way things work for Yankees prospects. It's sink or swim (I speculate), and let's face it, not many 21-year-old kids are already fully equipped maturity-wise when they're suddenly thrust into situations like that.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: -1

I noticed that too, and I wonder: how many of them would have make-up concerns if they were in, say, the Tampa Bay or Houston organizations? Even minor-league players come under intense scrutiny with this franchise, or more accurately, with the media jackals who follow them around waiting for a kill. That can't be a good situation in which to develop a professional mindset.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

The idea that by paying Chris Carpenter a lot of money, and not paying Jason Schmidt a lot of money, the Cardinals got "the worst of both worlds," is one of the more amusing things the wayback machine has unearthed.

Dec 10, 2013 5:54 AM on Winter Meetings Review
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

This is a fascinating response, and addresses a number of the key questions about PED use, while raising others. (One it raises: could the MLBPA objection to a zero-tolerance rule be overcome with a one-to-three-year "amnesty" program to allow current users to get clean without repercussions?) However, I'm both puzzled and, to be honest, disturbed by your contention that Pete Rose and Joe Jackson should be in the Hall of Fame "no doubt." Are you really equating PED use with gambling on baseball? This seems appalling to me.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: -1

You don't find a "solid 10 point penalty for all starters," unless you hand-wave it away; that's the whole point. For the power pitchers (or at least the ones who throw predominantly fastballs, who I presume are power pitchers by and large), it's the other way around, as your first table irrefutably shows. Making that table vanish, rather than trying to understand its message, is what I object to.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 2

"I'll also combine the third and fourth times through the order again so that we don’t have those nasty small samples in the “fourth time” data." It is tempting to read this as "I don't like what the data are telling me, so I'll manipulate the data until the message becomes more palatable." While I appreciate the effort you've made here, this bothers me. A better approach, in my opinion, is to accept the data and message, and try to understand better what they're telling us. There seems to be a simple explanation available: guys only make it to the fourth time through the order if they're pitching well, or at least successfully, in which case the wOBA for the whole game is going to be suppressed compared to the overall average wOBA they allow. Here's an easy test for that one: if you look only at games where pitchers did reach the fourth time through the lineup, how does wOBA vary as a function of times through? There were comments on the previous article that hinted at the importance of this question as well, but no followup. That in turn leads to the more interesting question: is a pitcher more likely to make it to the fourth time through if he throws multiple types of pitch? Lots of fertile ground for exploration here, and thanks for doing all this, but simply brushing off the fourth-time-through anomaly via data manipulation is weak.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: -1

Carlos Beltran's position on this list is -- I'm not sure whether to say "mystifying" or "entertaining".

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: -1

There appears to be more optimism for Jesus Montero here than in other sources I read, several of which are already labeling him "big bust." I do not follow Seattle closely and have no informed opinion on this, but why the more favorable view here?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

There's actually such a manager in the Hall of Fame, even: Frank Selee. Bonus points if you can describe why he got elected. (The "how" is easy: another one of those Veterans Committee things that make you scratch your head.)

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

Oh, I'm sure they'd have released him too, if they'd had the opportunity.

Nov 04, 2013 7:53 AM on Tools of Intelligence
 
BillJohnson
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I'll join in the congratulations, and wish the best of luck to the Houston front office as well (now that they're no longer in the NL Central, anyway). I do wonder, though: is there any risk that their move to scoop up smart, analytically-oriented people from outside the traditional baseball mainstream may be too much of a good thing? I guess we (you) are about to do the experiment. Anyway, congrats again, and have fun!

 
BillJohnson
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Any chance Wilson could slide over to shortstop? Because if he can, there's, uh, kind of an opportunity on the Cardinals' major-league roster.

 
BillJohnson
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This, as with several other observations regarding Siegrist, rather misses the point that he isn't a LOOGY. Yes, he shut down left-handed hitters during the season. He also shut down right-handed hitters during the season (.138/.233/.246), unlike Randy Choate. Siegrist was the more appropriate pitcher to use in situations where more than one batter would be faced, and he was indeed used, effectively, in such situations. He pitched in four games, and the last three of the times he was used were high-leverage, as Series appearances in all but the most extreme blowouts are. If there's a puzzle to Matheny's bullpen use, it's more a matter of the overall roster construction than use of Siegrist individually. It still isn't clear to me why one of Mujica or Miller wasn't replaced by Sam Freeman, although he isn't really a LOOGY either. I rather suspect that if Matheny had known how thoroughly berserk David Ortiz was going to go, he'd have made sure Freeman was available to pitch to him, but who could know that?

 
BillJohnson
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So how do the comparable percentile tables look for the other teams in the post season, notably St. Louis?

 
BillJohnson
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Well said. It's been aggravating, not just with this Series and these two teams, but throughout the playoffs, to see the managers under a dissecting microscope for minutiae, while the large-scale meltdowns of pitching/hitting/fielding are essentially dismissed as luck. (And it certainly hasn't been limited to BP. I've seen that in every baseball blog I read.) Yes, there is an important factor of luck in the game outcomes. But as no less a baseball mind than Branch Rickey said, luck is the residue of design. It bends credulity severely to imply that in-game tactical decisions were the "design" feature that allowed Boston to be "luckier" than St. Louis.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

#5 starter, not #%, obviously. Wish I we could edit these things for a while after they're posted!

 
BillJohnson
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Except that that isn't really what has been happening. Siegrist has appeared in 3 games so far. Only Martinez has more. Overall, Matheny has been just a tad more willing to go to the bullpen in the Series (18 relief appearances in 5 games) than in the regular season (472 relief appearances in 162 games, if I tally it up correctly, and one of those was Rob Johnson who really doesn't count...). Clearly we are still in small-sample-size space, but when one factors in the fact that he doesn't have to use his #% starter (which Miller turned into during September, rightly or wrongly), Matheny's bullpen use has been at least as active as in the regular season, probably a bit more. The real story of this Series has been: why can't St. Louis score any runs? We're long overdue for a searching look at that question.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 2

It's actually quite normal for there to be one or two players on a team who are on the Series roster but never get into a Series game. Over the last ten years, a large majority of Series teams haven't used their whole rosters, with one or two guys being saved for "break glass in case of major emergency" roles. The only thing that makes Miller's appearance in that role unusual in any way is that he was good during the regular season, rather than being the 25th man (the no-shows seem to be either spare catchers or mop-up relievers as far as I can tell).

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -7

Remember that the Cardinals were one Seth Maness ground ball from getting out of that sixth inning unscathed. This from a guy who is a ground-ball machine and whose HR rate this year was one per 15.5 innings, over 50% better than league average (1/10.2). It has been fashionable this year to rip managers for decisions, particularly pitching decisions, rather than looking at what is actually going on. What was actually going on in that game was that the Cardinals were being shut down by Boston pitching, plain and simple. A thoughtful look at why that shutdown is occurring would have been much more valuable than joining the herd of lemmings rushing to blame it all on the manager. I'm disappointed in this article.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

Agreed. Sam, I greatly enjoy your writing and value your opinions on things, but you whiffed on this one.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 11

Completely, thoroughly wrong. The runner is under no obligation to avoid obstruction in a situation like this. The obligation is 100% with the fielder. The rulebook makes that clear.

 
BillJohnson
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I suspect that both managers' willingness to leave pitchers in to bat, when there were compelling reasons for them not to, was rooted in the fact that there are still two more games to play before there's an off day. Reluctance to go to the pen on Monday, when a travel day will allow the relievers to rest (such as it is), would (will) be just boneheaded. Here, knowing that there will be two more occasions to use the pen before it can rest, it may be more defensible. When looking at managerial decisions, we have a tendency to focus on short-term, purely tactical considerations. Actual managers don't have that luxury.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

Well said, Clay (and great to have you back on BP commenting). At the time that Craig was being obstructed, the ball was rattling around somewhere down the third-base line. The language in the rule book was practically written with this situation in mind. The way for Middlebrooks to avoid obstructing the runner in this situation is to CATCH THE FRIGGIN' BALL.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

I guess, if one considers 12 such appearances, out of 74 total, "a lot." Interesting, though, that they came to a near-halt once he got the magic "C" on his shirt, visible or otherwise. As I said, Matheny has been quite consistent about that.

 
BillJohnson
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Actually, your statement that Trevor Rosenthal had "a lot" of appearances where he entered in the 8th inning in a save situation is incorrect. Only once all year did he enter in the 8th in a save situation and stay for the 9th, against Arizona in early April -- and he blew the save. (Arizona eventually won in the 16th.) In every other appearance where he went more than one inning, it either wasn't a save situation or came earlier in a game where someone else (Mujica) got the save. Matheny may or may not be correct in holding him out of extended saves, but he's at least been consistent.

 
BillJohnson
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I think it's a bit misguided to criticize the media talking heads for their emphasis on fielding percentage. Those who understand range factors, zone ratings, etc., correctly point out that those are more robust indicators of whether a defense is going to help a pitcher, by getting to balls in play that weak fielders don't get to. However, the play must still be made once the ball is reached, and errors remain the most destructive way of screwing up a play that "should" be made once the fielder has succeeded in reaching the ball. Fielding percentage is not an inappropriate way of judging the likelihood that the fielder will do that, although it's clearly the wrong way of predicting whether the play will be made at all.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

Robinson gets the start.

 
BillJohnson
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Is it clear that Jon Jay will get this start in CF? With a lefty on the mound, it seems normal for Matheny to go to Shane Robinson, who would also improve the outfield defense.

 
BillJohnson
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Thanks for this look at Boston, one of the teams in the World Series. However, the last I looked, the Series requires that two teams play. Would it be asking too much to have a similar interview of someone who knows a little about that other team, whoever they are? Dayn Perry might be available.

 
BillJohnson
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Thanks for doing the research. I'd thought of Kemp but had no idea who occupied the niches for the other teams. To me there is a difference between a guy being physically unable to go, like these three (or Chris Carpenter as the expensive guy on the 60-day DL for St. Louis), and one left off the roster because he's not as good as the players on it, like Westbrook. Injuries happen, to expensive players as to cheap ones, and it's not bad judgment on the GM's part to have such players, although it might or might not reflect on the organization's medical staff. Paying a guy who's not good enough to play, though ... that's a screwup, and one of relatively few Mozeliak has made.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Use of the LCS roster may flatter the Cardinals a little more than is necessary (although they've done a superb job of talent development any way you cut it), since the fairly expensive ($8.7M) Jake Westbrook, still on the 40-man roster but not on the playoff roster, was acquired by trade. The payroll disparity would close considerably if he was on the LCS roster in place of one of the rookies. Who are the most expensive players on the other teams' 40-man rosters who aren't currently active, and how were they acquired?

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 2

The point is that the failure to send Gordon is also a managerial decision, and Mattingly got it wrong.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

The analysis of the Gordon substitution misses an important point, although the conclusion that Mattingly screwed up is sound. If Gordon then steals second, the odds of scoring (once) in that inning go up considerably, probably enough to offset the scoring-probability hit in later innings. For the move to make sense, Gordon MUST attempt a steal once he's in the game. That is of course risky with Yadier Molina behind the plate, but even Molina doesn't have a 50% kill rate, and Carlos Martinez isn't the best at holding runners on. Gordon may get thrown out, in which case the pundits will be yammering for Mattingly's head. He has to just let 'em yammer, and having said A, say B.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Kenny comes off as an egotistical, confrontational, self-absorbed twit here. However, his kill-the-win campaign deserves some rational discussion. (In a nutshell, I think he's wrong; a tool that is inadequate for doing precision work is not necessarily inappropriate for looking at the big picture.) Any chance of a BP article to consider that in greater, more detached detail?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Wow. I knew Oakland had a pile of excellent young arms last year, but I didn't know so many had rookie status. I'm impressed. Some of the teams on this list are examples of why I inserted that "depth" qualifier. For example, a large fraction of the value of the 1955 Indians rookie pitchers was concentrated in the tragic form of Herb Score, that year's Rookie of the Year and one of the great, sad "What Might Have Been" baseball stories. Essentially the whole value of the 1957 Phillies rookie pitchers was in Jack Sanford, who won the RotY (at age 28), and Turk Farrell. Similarly the 1975 Giants (Montefusco) and so on. Spreading the value widely across the newcomers, as the Cardinals did this year and Oakland did last, appears to be rare.

Sep 30, 2013 11:16 AM on Handing Out the Hardware
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

Fascinating to see how you folks see these races, but it does pose the question: is BP going to do the Internet Baseball Awards again this year, so the rest of us can have our own say? I haven't seen anything about the IBAs yet. Incidentally, if you do run the IBAs, you might include "Entire Cardinals pitching staff" as a choice for the NL RotY vote. How do this year's Cards rank historically among value contributed by rookie pitchers? If you measure by depth rather than by contribution of the one top guy (although Miller still had a great year), I can't think of any others recently that come close.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

That head knock by Casilla left me thinking worse than concussion at first. His neck bent sideways in a direction a neck doesn't usually bend unless there's a rope around it. Compared to a cervical fracture, a concussion is a little knock on the head -- well, most concussions are, anyway. It was still numbing to see it happen, but hoo boy, could it have been worse.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

If you've ever seen a little kid in the left field bleachers wind up with a home-run ball, have his face light up, and then get pressured to throw it back until he caves in, you'll think it should be discouraged too. I have seen that, and it's heart breaking -- not to mention bad for baseball. jessemumm, if all you know is one-syllable words, feel free to keep using 'em, and don't bother going to your dictionary to create things that don't make sense.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

This was a lot of fun, but I take issue with your praise (or so it seemed) for the fan who threw back the Alvarez ball. There are so many reasons why this is a ritual to be discouraged (and I am appalled that it has spread beyond Wrigley) that it really doesn't need even a lukewarm benediction from a BP writer.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

So nobody in the Rockies game did anything notable?

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

It might be entertaining to consider this spreadsheet sorted by current team. First number is total players, second is players with a career percentage over (or equaling) .500, third is players with a career percentage under .500: Arizona: 4, 2, 2 Atlanta: 6, 6, 0 Baltimore: 5, 1, 4 Boston: 7, 5, 2 CHI Cubs: 0, 0, 0 CHI Sox: 4, 1, 3 Cincinnati: 6, 4, 2 Cleveland: 4, 2, 2 Colorado: 4, 3, 1 Detroit: 6, 5, 1 Houston: 0, 0, 0 Kansas City: 5, 1, 4 LA Angels: 4, 4, 0 LA Dodgers: 11, 9, 2 Miami: 3, 1, 2 Milwaukee: 5, 2, 3 Minnesota: 3, 1, 2 none (players released or retired): 10, 3, 7 NY Mets: 1, 0, 1 NY Yankees: 12, 9, 3 Oakland: 4, 1, 3 Philadelphia: 3, 3, 0 Pittsburgh: 5, 1, 4 San Diego: 3, 0, 3 San Francisco: 2, 1, 1 Seattle: 3, 1, 2 St. Louis: 4, 3, 1 Tampa Bay: 7, 4, 3 Texas: 5, 4, 1 Toronto: 7, 4, 3 Washington: 5, 1, 4 There's a lot of commentary here on the states and attitudes of the various teams...

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -4

"Anyone who doesn't agree with me is a moron." Yes, I think I understand the reasoning here. Fact is, many players do NOT have zero control over his overall team's strength beyond his individual contribution. One of the most interesting things to come out of Baseball Prospectus this season has been the series on catchers' skill at framing pitches, which I absolutely guarantee does affect the way the pitchers themselves perform. That is merely the tip of the non-linear-effects iceberg, and by this point it can be considered proven. That's reality. Deal with it.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Nothing about the one interleague game? Oldtimer and curmudgeon that I am, I wouldn't mind at all if interleague play vanished until the post season, but just making the games vanish from the reporting doesn't seem like the right step in that direction. :-)

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Maness was also a starter in the minors, which disqualifies him from this list as well. He's been successful in the majors, though, so he's still a glimmer of hope for other guys like Law who throw strikes to ridiculous extremes. Note incidentally that his K/BB ratio in the Show has dropped to only a shade over 2, but that's mainly because a majority of the walks he has allowed this year have been intentional(!).

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I'm surprised and disappointed at the answers to the kickstarter question. Kickstarting a campaign for improved analytics is at best frosting on a cake that is already being eaten. By FAR the most value from a kickstarter campaign would be education, education, education, at the absolute grass-roots level. If every Little League outfit, particularly those serving communities where there is currently little organized ball, had a paid "club pro" equivalent to what golf has, you'd be amazed at the surge in both interest and talent level of incoming players. I could really get behind a kickstarter like that.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Might want to fix the Marco Gonzales text; he is indeed an LHP, as in your title line, not a "right-hander out of Gonzaga." As regards Krook, did anything become public about his bonus demands? Was he a good-faith draft choice whose asking price just became too steep? Or did the Marlins mail this one in?

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

I've wondered for years about Cueto and his knee pop. If it's obvious to us armchair managers, it must be glaringly so to those of the major-league variety. And if they can see it, so can the umps. So why doesn't it get called? Has there been an official "ruling" to disregard this particular part of the balk rule, or what?

Aug 05, 2013 7:16 AM on The Holding Company
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

This is fascinating stuff, and I hope a similar analysis will be done for the other two legs of your GM stool, talent acquisition via free-agent signings and the draft. I would point out, however, that there's a fourth leg that's much less obvious but nearly as important: the decision NOT to hurt a team by retaining has-beens and never-wases. An analysis of the "value" lost to teams via non-tenders and releases should also be done if one is to get a decently complete GM report card. Like Kenny Rogers said, "know when to walk away, know when to run."

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

Agreed. Somehow, on an intuitive level, it seems like it should be easier to take e.g. Angel Hernandez to the cleaners than some others.

 
BillJohnson
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It's not impossible, for sure, but I'd expect to still see him in St. Louis next year. He's arb eligible, but that never deters the Cardinals from keeping someone they want; they're not averse to "middle-class" contracts. Unless his health decays badly, a lineup with Carpenter and Freese will still have more pop, at least next year, than one with Carpenter and Wong. And the Cardinals do have several middling 3B prospects in the minors who are due to arrive around the time Freese hits his walk year (which coincides well with when his value is likely to drop off). It'll be interesting to see how they play it, but one thing I'd bet on is that they'll play it "right."

Jul 26, 2013 8:51 AM on July 26, 2013
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

This probably had less to do with actual baseball than any other Effectively Wild I've ever heard, yet it was as funny and enjoyable as any of 'em. Thanks for doing this, but don't make a habit of it. ;-)

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Kolten Wong may project as a low-risk, solid average regular, but unless Matt Carpenter turns into a pumpkin, that's not going to get him to St. Louis -- a situation they can hardly have anticipated when they drafted him. (This is a team that, when they drafted him, was coming off a season of splitting time at 2B between Skip Schumaker and Aaron Miles, after all.) Presumably the Cardinals will hold onto him for a while as Carpenter insurance, but I suspect he'll be trade bait next year. So just how valuable is a guy with his profile? What can they get for him in trade? I'd suspect the answer is "very" and "a lot," respectively.

Jul 26, 2013 6:08 AM on July 26, 2013
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

Lots of interesting questions here, but I think you guys missed the boat rather badly when talking about injuries and playing in the rain. It is very definitely NOT the case that baseball is the only major sport where life-threatening injury is possible. Look at the number of spinal-cord injuries that have happened in pro football, any of which were potentially life-threatening and some of which did in fact result in permanent paralysis. That's obviously much more severe than an ACL tear. Another important point regarding playing in the rain: if you have ever talked to a groundskeeper (or someone who speaks for one) about a major-league field, one thing that jumps out is the remarkable engineering to get a field to drain quickly. Presumably similar "tuning" of field design could be done to make the field more playable, and less likely to lead to severe injury, in rainy conditions. That might be an interesting thread to pull.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Amusing to see Pete Kozma listed as one of the "top hitters" for the day. His first two hits, the ones that got the RBIs, traveled a total of about 100 feet or so: a bunt that was unwisely allowed to roll, fielders hoping it would go foul, and another infield dribbler that went for a hit because of mispositioning. Of course, they all look like line drives on the scorecard...

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Not for detecting the movement of the catcher's glove, because the distance in the third dimension, down the camera's line of sight, is essentially unchanged and is known. It's a different situation than trying to figure out where a pitch crosses the place, as is needed for PITCHf/x. Nothing as complicated as PITCHf/x or COMMANDf/x is needed for this; screen captures will do. Math on request.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I continue to be struck (so to speak) by how many of the "worst frames" are on pitches where the catcher sets up in a spot and the pitcher misses it badly, even though the pitch is still in the strike zone. It might be valuable in these summaries to include information not just on how far from the center of the strike zone a pitch is, but also, how far it is from the center of the catcher's glove as the pitch leaves the pitcher's hand. That shouldn't be too hard to set up, and it would tell us much about why the umps are screwing up -- as, let's face it, they are.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

"The bar for starting an ASG should be higher than that" -- what? Do you not realize how incredibly high a bar that IS? The history of baseball is not exactly replete with guys who have opened a season 11-0. The last major leaguer to do it was some dude named Clemens. It hasn't been done in fifteen years. It's only been done 15 times in the history of the game. If you want to argue for a different, forward-looking (and therefore analytically-based) way of evaluating potential ASG starters, fine, do so with my blessing. But the implication that an 11-0 start doesn't establish an adequately high bar runs very badly afoul of the history books.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

"Why wins, MLB official?" Because wins are what COUNT, that's why. There is a widespread and therefore pernicious tendency in sabermetric circles to make two closely-related errors: to conflate predictions of future performance with outcomes of the season to date (note that this is precisely what we justly accuse the mediots of doing, from exactly the opposite direction), and therefore, to lose track of why we calculate all the advanced metrics in the first place. Advanced metrics are a great way to look into the future and see what the likelihood is that a player will contribute, in that future, to the team meeting its ultimate goal of winning games. Major-league teams, even Leyland's, use them for that purpose just as we do. They are far better for that purpose than raw wins, RBIs, and so on. But an 11-0 record says more about the success a pitcher has had TO DATE -- which may no longer be true tomorrow, as analysis tells us -- than what his "game scores" have been. The only game score that a guy inside baseball cares about when looking at yesterday, or the day before that, is the one that tells him whether his team won.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Jason, do you subscribe to the general BP position that health is a skill, or at least a tool? If so, I'm a bit surprised that Oscar Taveras remains as high as #2, as he is showing some disturbing signs of a deficiency in that particular tool. Still a brilliant offensive prospect, but you can't get at-bats while you're on the disabled list...

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: -1

Do you really think that MLB would be so stupid as to not see something like that coming? Of course there would be review processes and appeals.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -2

I like your first and second points (although not the third one), and they fit nicely with my own preferred solution to this problem, which is very different from the one proposed in this article, and is also rather radical -- which means it's never going to be adopted. My solution: Give the pitcher complete, 100% immunity from consequences of a hit-by-pitch -- unless that HBP does lasting damage. And then throw the book at him. A little flesh on the bones: screw this "warning" business; it doesn't work and may create bigger problems than it solves. When a pitcher delivers a ball to the gluteus maximus or similarly robust anatomy, and the batter hasn't violated your points 1 or 2 (which should be applied rigorously), then the batter is awarded first base and the game goes on. If there's a brawl, it's 100% the batter's fault and he is ejected, no questions asked. (Ejections and other penalties for those joining the brawl later are the same as for any other brawl.) End of story... BUT: If the pitcher inflicts such injury by a HBP (other than one to a batter's hand while still on the bat -- your point 2) as to cause the batter to miss playing time beyond removal from the game where the HBP occurred, then the pitcher is suspended for a time equal to or greater than that missed by the batter. This extends all the way to a career-ending injury. I think this would do a marvelous job of cleaning up these ridiculous brawls on the one hand, and deterring pitchers from throwing at batters' heads on the other. ("Are you really willing to risk your career for the privilege of rearranging Zack Greinke's dental work, Mr. Kennedy? I didn't think so.") Yet it allows for messages to be sent by way of the nerve endings in the hitter's fleshy bits. So what's wrong with this proposal, other than that it's such a departure that a conservative business won't like it?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

BP, where were you when I needed you? I had the pleasure of meeting Art Shamsky a couple of years ago (and found him to be a pleasant gentleman, very enjoyable to talk baseball with), and I really wish I'd had the story of this game at hand, to see what he remembered of it. I suspect the answer would have been "everything." Days like that tend to lodge in one's memory! Belated or no, thanks for unearthing another treasure from the wild, weird and wonderful history of baseball.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Looks like it.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

Something about the walk-up song's lyrics, maybe? Not my kind of music, so I don't know the lyrics, but from the Wikipedia description, there could well be stuff in it for a long-time minor leaguer to take exception to.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Note that Ankiel homered last night against his original team, causing mass schizophrenia in St. Louis almost on the scale of the 1982 World Series, when Ted Simmons did the same thing. They still love him there. Unfortunately, that doesn't help him hit.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Oops: when I said "reputations of teammates," I really meant "objective capabilities of teammates." I wish we could edit these comments to fix things like that. Anyway...

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Thanks for the followup, and I understand your methodology a little better now, notably the fact that you almost must use KR21 because of the limitations of the data set. However, that's kinda my concern in a nutshell. Two points. First, the assumption that all grounders or pop flies are of equal difficulty is obviously wrong (nor do you claim it to be otherwise, for sure), and it leads to the inclusion of lots of plays in your data base that really don't contribute much in terms of discriminatory power. Any ground ball hit within 5 feet of a fielder is going to turn into an "accepted chance" for that fielder, to use 60-year-old terminology, unless the guy is immobile on the scale of a late-career Frank Howard. Those chances may shed light on the inadequacy of guys with real hands of stone, or a terminal case of the throwing yips (think Steve Sax or Chuck Knoblauch), but otherwise they don't contribute much except added statistical clutter. Second, the contention that all that clutter "cancels out in the wash" is dubious, because not all fielders have the same proportion of non-trivial plays attributed to them. There are a number of reasons for that, ranging from the fielders' own reputations to the reputations of teammates to the surfaces they played on to the pitchers they played behind, and so on. In essence, they aren't all taking the same fielding exam -- which again is one of the key points about KR21. Yes, I understand now that with the limitations of the data set, you probably can't do better. But with the "right" data set, that is, a reduced set that looks only at balls in play that really do have discriminating power, I'd be pretty confident that the numbers required to achieve some degree of stability would be much reduced, although you'd have to use a more powerful algorithm to test that claim.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I rapidly get out of my depth when the Kuder-Richardson formalism comes up, so the following question may not make sense, but I'm going to ask it anyway. :-) If I understand it correctly, one of the underpinnings of the KR21 formula, at least as applied to test construction for exams in classes, etc., is the assumption that the "test questions" are of broadly equal difficulty. That clearly doesn't apply in a baseball setting. Unless a fielder is just incomprehensibly bad, he'll make all of the "easy" plays. It'll be the "hard" plays that separate the good fielders from the bad ones, and the "incredibly hard" plays that separate the great fielders from the good ones. Why, then, is KR21 an appropriate formalism for this subject? Aren't you asking it to do an analysis that it's not really well suited for?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

You're wrong, of course. Observations (what's going on here rather than your condescending "anecdote") most certainly are data. They are simply not conclusive data, at least as far as fielding is concerned. They allow hypotheses to be framed -- in this case, the hypothesis that Choo is really, really uncomfortable in center field -- that can be supported or rejected by additional tests, which can take the form of more observations (hard to do in baseball because it's hard to make enough observations) or statistical analysis (getting better for fielding, although still imperfect) or better, a combination of the two. That's Scientific Method 101. Deal with it.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 9

Long story that I would rather not go into in detail here. (Private mail would work.) The short version: they took exception to a camera that I was carrying, never mind that I've taken it into parks all over the country without problems. When I took it back to the car since they wouldn't let it into the park, a malfunctioning elevator made me walk down five stories' worth of stairs on a bad, post-surgery knee. I was in pain for two days from that. They did nothing about it. Worst treatment I've ever had at a major-league park, and I don't know why they did it. It certainly wasn't a professional photographer's setup, and I am certainly not a professional photographer. Were they afraid I was going to take and publish pictures of protesters or something?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

Your remark about treating the fans with "respect" hits home. Having seen a game there this spring as part of a project to see games in all 30 MLB parks, all I can say about this decline is "Good." It was by FAR the most disrespectful, miserable experience I have ever had at a ballpark (for reasons quite distinct from what was happening on the field), and if they are going to treat other fans the way they did us, then I would suggest it's in the fans' interest to stay away in droves. You have to feel a bit sorry for the players as a result, but they're well paid and can escape in a very few years, which is not true of the Miami taxpayers and the other people Loria has screwed.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I'd like to hear more about the methodology here, and in particular, what part of that methodology justifies having not one but two AL teams with sub-.500 records ranked above ANY National League team. Not that the internal rankings for the NL teams themselves seem to make much sense either, with two teams with winning records slotted #20 or below, but first things first.

May 03, 2013 4:24 PM on Friday, May 3
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Just a heads-up: following Boggs' debacle last night, he has apparently been optioned to Memphis, and Carlos Martinez has been added to the 40-man and brought up to St. Louis. No official confirmation yet, but Derrick Goold, the STL newspaper source, is excellent about getting news like this (and avoiding "unconfirmed" rumors). Looks like the massive STL farm system is in the process of arriving in St. Louis en masse; Matt Adams is also starting a rehab assignment.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Sobering thought: Are we in the middle of seeing Albert Pujols transition onto this list?

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

LRRRLRLLRR with the proviso that I may be wrong on every last one of these, although I have been following this series faithfully, and learning from it (or so I thought). One suggestion for what has become one of my favorite BP series this year. Any chance of setting these up with pushable radar buttons poll-style? I've found it hard to keep consistency between what I was saying to myself as I saw the GIFs and what I wrote in the reply at the end of the article. This is such an excellent feature that making it easy to use, and therefore getting it used by a wider cross section of readers, would make it not just excellent but a valuable tool.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Surely the PIT-STL summary might have included the fact that Joe Kelly managed to give away the two-run lead Jake Westbrook had handed him within the first five pitches he threw, the fifth of which became the HR by Russell Martin. The St. Louis bullpen's performance so far this year has been like the little girl with the little curl. The horrid days are getting very horrid indeed, more frequent, and distributed among some guys who were anywhere from average to brilliant in last year's pen. What's going on there?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Thanks; this makes sense. It does, however, open another question, although (fortunately) one that we're not going to have to think about for more than another two or three years. If a guy signs (signed, since they can't do it any more) a major-league contract when he's drafted, what obligations does the signing team have as regards keeping him on the major-league roster? Could he have been DFAed as early as 2011, if the Cardinals had decided by then that he was a dud? Certainly the fact that nobody put in a waiver claim on Cox says all that need be said about his prospect status. It isn't necessarily a slam on the draft pick, though. It's easy to forget that only 3/5 of all 25th choices, as Cox was, make it to the majors at all, and only about half of the ones that do make it then go on to real "careers."

Apr 04, 2013 4:14 PM on The DFAs
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Zack Cox was drafted in 2010, not 2009, and thereby hangs a bit of a mystery. He was signed originally to a major-league contract, which was one reason why the Cardinals were happy to unload him for an unexceptional reliever (Edward Mujica) and clear roster space. However, since he didn't start playing in 2010 until well after the draft, people I've talked to who know the option rules better than I have opined that he still had an option left, making the DFA and subsequent outrighting unnecessary. Presumably the Marlins front office also knows the option rules (although, being the Marlins, one wonders...), and if they could have optioned him instead, they would have. So what happened here? Why was this step necessary? Did his truncated 2010 season count against his options after all? Why?

Apr 04, 2013 7:58 AM on The DFAs
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I realize that most of these are rather tongue-in-cheek, but if you're calling our attention to Pierre's and Thome's accomplishments, surely it would have been possible for someone to point out that Albert Pujols is well within reach of a rather more significant counting-stat milestone (if "significant" and "counting stat" don't constitute a contradiction in terms). Incidentally, speaking of Pierre, you might also have pointed out how many more seasons he'd have to play to pass Jolting Joe on the career walks list. It's ... a rather large number.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

Well, do we really know what Strasburg would have achieved pre-TJ pitching as a reliever? Point is, he didn't; he had, and has, to "sustain" (in the multi-inning sense) his fastball, while Chapman does not. Meet us half way on this one. Who gets the nods for best today/ever if the conversation is restricted to starters?

Apr 01, 2013 9:55 AM on Best Pitches
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Or cutter?

Apr 01, 2013 7:00 AM on Best Pitches
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

Agreed. To quote the article itself: "The basis for application of these 20-80 grades is sustained velocity, not peak velocity." It is too early to make the call on what Chapman can "sustain," as he isn't being called on to "sustain" much of anything yet. For this reason I'd have gone with either Strasburg or Verlander as having the top current major-league heater, and one of the ones you name -- probably Ryan -- as best ever, although Chapman could challenge for the role if he becomes a starter and can keep the velocity up.

Apr 01, 2013 6:59 AM on Best Pitches
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I'm puzzled by something here. "Marlins designated 3B Zack Cox for assignment." Why does Cox get a DFA rather than just optioning him? He was signed after the 2010 draft, and even though he was signed to a major-league contract at the time, he should have an option left this year if I understand the option rules correctly. Indeed, there was one other news report I read that called this an option move rather than a DFA. So what's going on with him?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

A rising tide lifts all boats. Things that increase the popularity of Major League Baseball writ large also work to the well-being of all the individual teams, at least excluding the things that are specifically designed not to do so (e.g. luxury tax in the draft). For example, the things he's talking about, if successful, will affect media packages across the league, some of which will have immediate payback into Cleveland and all of which will contribute to Cleveland being able to cut a more lucrative deal the next time it comes up for negotiation. Yes, there are surely things he didn't want to tell the White Sox how to do better. That's why "There were some limits to what King was willing to share," as the article says. But a piece of cake may grow in size both by growing the fraction of the cake you get as your piece, and by growing the size of the cake overall. Sound financial strategy is to attempt both.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

"Their" actual worth, obviously. Wish these comments were editable!

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

LOL, and rec'd, but in all seriousness, is a guy who "can play any position on the field" really a replacement-level player? There aren't many of those -- whatever there actual worth may be.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Oh, for sure, and I just focused in on replacement level as one of those components. The point still stands, though: WARP and things like it are outputs of models. A scientist knows that a model's outputs are only as good as the model itself, in combination with the input data. Since there are differences of opinion/assumptions from model to model, not to mention that the data set itself gets squirrely once one gets away from balls, strikes, hits, etc., to defensive "zones" and definitions of line drives versus fly balls, there's a lot of judgment/subjectivity to the models that we often ignore. As long as those things are handled consistently and with some detachment, the resulting conclusions have value. They're still not as detached and objective as some of the more fervent advocates of the models would have us believe they are.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

And in the difference between this 49-win figure, and the 40-win figure accurately cited by swarmee as the theoretical basis for replacement level, can be seen the essence of Ryan's argument, which I believe has some merit -- not a lot, but some. Let's be honest here: there IS a component of judgment -- or if you prefer, "subjectivity" -- as to where replacement level resides. If there wasn't, everybody's values for players' WAR (or WARP) would be the same. They aren't. Most of the time they are fairly similar, but there are occasional extreme outliers. This is in contrast to traditional stats, where at least everyone's understanding of batting average, HRs, RBIs, ERA, etc., is exactly the same (which is not to say that that understanding then translates to a correct understanding of value). Furthermore, we ARE making it up as we go along. There is constant fine tuning of the calculation of WAR/WARP/whatever. I submit that this is a good thing, not a bad thing; it means that we are continuing to think hard about what it means to be good at baseball. The "making it up" is on a long-term basis, rather than just pulling numbers and formulas out of some body orifice that are different today than yesterday so that we can "demonstrate" the superiority of the guy we perceive today as being the best player. (Ryan apparently doesn't get that.) But it still goes on. This doesn't mean that I agree with Ryan; at the 90% level, I don't. However, I do agree with him that it's important to avoid overclaiming what WAR can tell us about players, and about baseball. (Incidentally, I'm also a physicist.)

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I honestly had no idea that Sabathia was so far ahead of the pace toward 300. It's interesting how the oft-maligned (and I would say correctly so in many cases) East Coast media machine has overlooked this guy.

Feb 28, 2013 6:06 AM on Count to 300
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Nice to see that, as much as the Cardinals appear to have screwed up by signing Ty Wigginton to a multi-year deal for anything more than league minimum, at least it wasn't a screwup to match these, or at least not in your collective judgment. That's reassuring, in a bizarre sort of way.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

The shortage of first basemen on this is interesting. Of course several of the nominal 3B, OF and C will play first in the majors if they make it that far, but this is the fewest prospects in recent memory who have 1B as their nominal starting position. Wonder why? Difference in the way Jason and Kevin view prospects? Disappearance of large slow guys who hit the ball a long way? Unusually high graduation rate from last year's list, or unusually small rate of converting 3B/C prospects? Statistical fluke?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Thus far Ruf is 0-for-spring. Kinda hard to make a "highlight" out of that. Obviously it won't stay that way forever.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Guys, if you can say (and I'll understand if you can't): what was behind the decision to use Joe Strauss as the local sportswriter voice in this, rather than someone like Derrick Goold or Jenifer Langosch or B. J. Rains? Without going into detail or throwing stones, I think that this interview would have gone rather differently if you'd picked one of those other folks to talk to instead. Either way, I enjoyed this; thanks for doing it. It's perceptive to home in on "player development" as something that this organization does well. I've thought for a long time that player development was a subject that BP could render us a service by examining closely across the majors. Maybe this will prompt someone on staff to do that.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

How many of these guys were their team's sole representative in at least one year when they were chosen? I believe McBride was the Angels' only representative to the second 1961 ASG, as teammate Ryne Duren had been the first one (where McBride was not on the team). He's the only one I can find, but my search has not been exhaustive. The requirement for each team to be represented has certainly led to some odd ducks on the team, but in general, the really doubtful ones didn't put in repeat appearances.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Reports have Miller shut down for a while with shoulder soreness/tightness. Allegedly "precautionary" rather than a known serious injury. We'll see. The Cardinals do have a pretty spectacular Plan B in Rosenthal.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Agreed, great article. Another scrubeenie here, although I will point out that I did manage to finish my sophomore season with a .500 batting average (1 for 2...). It's funny, though: throwing a fastball into that tiny target honestly looks a lot harder today than when I was trying to do it back then, 40 years ago. (Never successfully enough that the coach would let me do it in a game, mind you, but still.) It just seemed like something you've gotta learn to do, rather than the awesome feat that it is. Youth is wasted on the young. Nice comment about how big a "soft-tosser's" 85-mph fastball really is, BG.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 6

The elephant in the room here is mechanics. I propose the following long-term study: Get two groups of people together to predict pitcher injuries based on what they see of pitchers' mechanics from the videos that are abundantly available today, one group comprised of so-called "experts" on pitching mechanics, one of random fans like most of us are. Conduct a modified Delphi experiment to get predictions on say 100 pitchers or so, then simply seal them away, unread, for the rest of the season. Haul them out after the season is over and see what happened, whether there is a correlation between predicted breakdowns and actual days lost. (And also, how much better the "experts" do at predictions than the hoi polloi; that too would be interesting to check out, and is the reason why I suggest two groups. Is there such a thing as "wisdom of the crowd" when it comes to pitching injuries? I really wonder.) BP is one of the few sites out there that could actually bring this off, between access to some of those experts on the one hand, and continuity in your own staff, to be custodians of the predictions without spilling the beans, on the other. How about it?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 5

There is one important problem with this analysis. Prior to the 2007 meltdown, and including some years when they were contenders for the "worst system in baseball" title, the Astros had finished lower than second in their division exactly one time since 1994. It was hardly a "one near success" situation for them. On the contrary, they had been having "near successes" for so long that it wasn't unreasonable -- in isolation -- for them to think that their long record of near successes could become real successes with only minor tweaks. A willingness to literally sell the farm gets much easier to understand against that background. Note also with that long record of "near successes," they'd been drafting (or wrote off chances to draft) late in the first round for a long time. It has been demonstrated many times, here and elsewhere, that the value of a first-round draft slot declines very rapidly as one gets deeper into the first round. Between 1994 and the 2007 meltdown, they had only one chance to draft in the top ten slots, where the real talent is concentrated. Admittedly, they screwed up that one chance; Chris Burke didn't have the kind of career that a top-of-the-first-round guy really should have. Still, you can't extract value from guys who are gone before you have the opportunity to draft them.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 5

Oh, the above list revealed something to me, the thinking fan: it revealed that I am old. I remember Bill Monbouquette quite well, and I remember his no-hitter. Curse you and this column for making me think about my age. (Seriously, nice stuff here.)

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Add me both to the call for a worst-system article and to those who really appreciate this one, but one caveat: just because a system was called the worst system in baseball at one point doesn't mean it actually was the worst system at that time. It may well have had eventual significant contributors who were flying under the radar for some reason. In fact, yet another companion piece that I would love to see is one that asks the retrospective question: how did we (BP, community consensus, whatever) do with our evaluations of "good" and "bad" systems? What did we get right, what did we get wrong, where did the surprises come from and how? That would be excellent perspective as we start to collate the information on farm systems going into this season.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Oops, should have been clearer: only the middle paragraph, not the last one, comes from Langosch. The last paragraph is my own read on the situation. Sorry, but I don't know the markup for embedding quotes in a comment.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

A quote from MLB beat reporter for the Cardinals, the excellent Jenifer Langosch, and her article on the subject: "Any time we discuss free agents -- whether it is early in the free-agent market or now -- it's not something we publicly go about doing," Mozeliak said. "In terms of how we look at our staff right now, we do have confidence in what we have. If something makes sense for us and as a group, if we feel like it's in our best interest to consider, we may. But I don't want to get into specifically talking about one player today." This is predictably vague, but the interesting thing about it is that it is something of a retreat from earlier statements that Mo had made, to the effect that they and Lohse had moved on. I'm not sure I would go so far as to say they're going to "take a look at Lohse," but he's no longer saying they've already had that look and decided mutually to pass.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

I'm not the good perfesser, but to help him along, here are a few other names you might hear about: Stephen Piscotty, 3B/OF; Greg Garcia, MIF; Anthony Garcia, OF; Mike O'Neill, OF; Breyvic Valera, MIF; Kevin Siegrist, LHP; Seth Maness, RHP (a personal favorite of mine who may provide the ultimate answer to how far a pitching prospect can advance with middling velocity and preternatural command/control); Boone Whiting, RHP; Jordan Swagerty, RHP. Most all of these guys, as well as others Jason mentions in the "Prospects on the Rise" and "Factors on the Farm" sections, would have a chance of appearing on some teams' top tens, with the rankings among them being probably a matter of taste.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -3

This is a very solid analysis. I would have made a couple of minor tweaks -- swapped Rosenthal and Martinez, bumped Adams' future potential up half a notch (it's "potential," after all; you nailed the most probable trajectory), and maybe moved one of the Garcias, Anthony or Greg, into the #9 and/or #10 spot. But these are a matter of taste. Two questions. First, nobody in their right mind expects Pete Kozma's month of glory last year to carry over into the rest of his career, but what was your reasoning in putting Ryan Jackson on the "Factors on the Farm" list and leaving him off? Seems to me that exactly one of those two will probably spend significant time on the roster this year. Or do you think Jackson has that sewn up? Second, much has been made of the "worst to first" transition this system has (apparently) made. Fact is, however, several important contributors to the successful teams of the last two years -- Jon Jay, David Freese, Allen Craig, Mitchell Boggs, Jaime Garcia -- were already in the system by the beginning of 2008. Might the system have been underestimated back then?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

I think Rosenthal has to be considered an 8 arm as well, and not just "at times" as you say. Derrick Goold, now chief baseball writer for the St. Louis paper that covers him, has written this: "Of his 81 pitches this postseason, Rosenthal has thrown 43 at 99 mph or faster, and his fastball has averaged 98.9 mph." And unlike Rondon, he's thrown them for strikes. His record for the whole post season (he added to the count after Goold's article) was: 142 pitches thrown; 101 strikes, for a 71% strike percentage. That's almost too good.

Jan 30, 2013 6:57 AM on Respect the 8
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 6

Nonsense. Disagreeing with a point of view, no matter how vehemently, doesn't automatically make those who hold that point of view irrelevant. If Susan Slusser jams a sabermetric approach down the throat of voters, she will be doing us as great a disservice as if she jammed the opposite approach down their throat. Fortunately, she's smarter than that.

Jan 22, 2013 7:43 AM on She Got the Beat
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

His version may be less redundant, but "perfect warrior" and "perfect knight" are what's on the statue, which goes back to the old park. I would tend to presume that it was reasonably well researched at the time. Many a tale is improved in the telling.

Jan 21, 2013 2:23 PM on The Man of Missouri
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

Thank you for breaking this news so compassionately and gently.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

Great article. There are a couple of factors that you didn't mention, however. First, weird injuries happen to non-ballplayers too, all the time. We just don't hear about them unless they involve someone we know. Raise your hands out there: how many readers have seen an unimaginable injury sustained at a bachelor party? Myself, I once managed to subluxate a shoulder playing -- chess. (Never mind that I'd screwed it up previously playing basketball; that doesn't make for as good a story.) But these injuries don't make the front pages. Ballplayers' lives are under a microscope. Ours aren't, which is just as well. Second, and less fun, consider how many of these accidents are "lubricated." (I neither confirm nor deny that alcohol was involved in my shoulder injury, but it's certainly involved in a lot of bachelor-party injuries.) Fact is, ballplayers drink, and some drink more than most of us do. This is hardly a shocking statement; they're young men with a lot of money. Alcohol certainly played a role in some of Waddell's weirdness, although there are some indications that mental illness may also have been involved in his case. It also played a role in some of the anecdotes in this article. Accidents sustained while drunk are not the mark of "compelling characters." They're just sad.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

In my opinion you could have written a much more insightful article if you had just concentrated on your Epilogue throwaway. I'm pretty sure that any manager would tell you that the primary function of a pitchout isn't to get the guy running on that pitch; it's to deter him running the next time, or cause him to be less successful if he does. I can think of any number of observations that could be made with the goal of assessing whether this more sophisticated tactical goal is being met by pitching out. Looking at those would have told us more about the tactical value of pitchouts than just the raw number and rate of successes, which anyone who actually watches baseball already knows is small. No criticism of your work is intended -- it had to be done as phase I of a more complete study, at the minimum -- but there is still fertile ground to be plowed here.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I was baffled by that ranking for Vizcaino. Rule Number One of Dealing With Atlanta: If the Braves offer you a former pitching prospect in a deal, with the idea that he'll return to his former glory after you acquire him, walk, don't run, in the opposite direction unless his name is Adam Wainwright or something like that.

Jan 11, 2013 10:01 AM on MLBDepthCharts Mailbag
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

Consider camera angles. They were both superb pitches, just catching the outside corner. A more up-the-middle camera position would make this clear.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: -2

Uh, they reveal that people here think the best pitcher of the Morris era was Stieb. Never make the mistake of confusing what people believe to be true with what is actually true.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

You kinda missed the point. Fifteen years IS an "era" in baseball terms, in that very, very few careers last longer than that. 1998 looks very distant to us now from the perspective of baseball in 2013. So also 1970 to 1984. For there to be no HoF-worthy starting pitchers debuting in that time is an extreme, indeed unprecedented, anomaly, and one that suggests that the historical view of Morris might be missing something. Might.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

An important point about Tanana was that the bulk of his career didn't live up to the spectacular promise he showed in his first five full years. This hurt him in two ways. First, it left him rather deficient in the "black ink" and "gray ink" categories used by Bill James to assess how likely a player is to reach the Hall -- not how much he deserves it, but how likely he is to actually be elected. (On the James monitors he's nowhere near as close to being a Hall candidate as Morris.) Second, it made a lot of people cluck sadly over "what might have been" if he'd lived up to that "potential." In fairness, he did not live up to it. That didn't keep him from being an excellent pitcher for a long time. Tanana and Stieb are going to cause future baseball historians to wonder "WTF were they thinking?" when they look at HoF voting on pitchers from 1970 to 1990. It's an interesting question that goes far beyond the infatuation with Morris.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Oddly enough, these graphs cause me to draw exactly the opposite conclusion from yours, to the point that I am beginning to seriously question my long-held opposition to Jack Morris as a Hall of Famer. The graphs show, and study of individual careers confirm, that not one starting pitcher who debuted between June 1970 and May 1984 is, or (other than Morris) is likely to become, a member of the Hall of Fame. That's a "generation gap" spanning nearly fourteen years, which is a very long time in baseball terms. It is also a gap that is utterly unprecedented in baseball history. Going all the way back to 1875, there has never been a time, not one, when ten years have passed without a single Hall of Fame starting pitcher making his debut. The closest were six-year gaps between debuts in 1930 (Lefty Gomez and Dizzy Dean) and 1936 (Bob Feller), and in 1942 (Warren Spahn) and 1948 (Robin Roberts -- Satchel Paige made his "major-league" debut that year but his circumstances were obviously unusual). The difference between six years and fourteen years, in baseball time, is enormous. To put it another way: dozens of players had long and satisfying (up to 10 years) careers entirely within a time period when no new starting pitcher appeared who had a stronger Hall of Fame case than Jack Morris. That had never happened before, and it has never happened since. That starts to make a case that Morris WAS the leading pitcher of his generation, in a way that I never imagined possible before I saw this graph. Still not sure I'd vote for him if I had a ballot, but this was really thought-provoking, even if my thoughts don't line up with yours.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think a #2 starter, which I believe Trevor Rosenthal is quite capable of becoming, is more valuable than a wipe-out 7th-inning reliever, which his performance at the end of last year suggests he may already be. The question is: does it interfere with his development into the former role if he's pressed into season-long major-league service in the latter one? I don't know, but if it does, he'll start the year in the minors, as St. Louis has made it clear that they'd like him to be a starter. Incidentally, it is mildly inaccurate to say Rosie "flashed" a 98-mph fastball. In fact he "sat at" 97-98, deep into games as a starter in the minors, while "flashing" triple digits on a non-trival number of major-league pitches in September and October. This kid has a big-time arm.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Correction, Westbrook rather than Kelly in that non-injury rotation. Kelly will be on the team, but most likely in the bullpen.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Nah, it's not a priority, and starters haven't been mentioned in any of the very limited trade buzz with the Cardinals. Remember that Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal were starters in the minors and have had their work loads managed accordingly (153 and 140 IP, respectively, last year across all levels including post season). Both have been told to report to spring training conditioned as starting pitchers (as have Kelly and Lynn). They're about as ready to jump into that rotation as a player can be. Weird thought: suppose things go to the opposite extreme, and all of the walking wounded are healthy and effective to start the year. The rotation to start the season then looks like Carp, WW, Garcia, Lynn, and maybe Kelly -- and the Memphis rotation could be Rosie, Miller, Carlos Martinez, and then two out of {Michael Wacha, Seth Maness, Tyler Lyons, and Kevin Siegrist, who by all accounts looked excellent at AFL}. How many major-league teams would rather have that rotation than the one they've actually got?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

A lot of Cardinals fans hope mblthd has it right with Carpenter. He is definitely getting some reps at 2B during the off season, in the hope that he can step in there. However, a brief in-season flirtation with him at second was worrisome. Neither his range nor his agility around the bag looked good at all. I personally doubt whether this experiment will succeed, even to the modest extent that the similar one with Skip Schumaker did. Unlike Skippy, Carpenter doesn't have a second baseman's body. The large majority of upper-tier second basemen (Chase Utley is a rare exception) are short, cobby men no more than six feet tall, with low centers of gravity. The 6'3", 200# Carpenter looks like a string bean (I'm surprised he weighs as much as 200) among this crowd, and while he's certainly a pro athlete with all that that entails, I am skeptical of his ability to develop the kind of quickness (including evasion of takeout slides) that the position requires. One can always hope, I suppose; he does at least seem to have good "baseball instincts."

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

"Thin"? You write off three of the anticipated rotation (at least two of whom are very likely to be able to pitch), identify five strong-to-solid starters remaining, and don't even mention the guy they picked up two years ago to plug in as a spot starter as well as a bullpen arm (Marc Rzepczynski) or the vast stack of break-glass-in-emergency guys (Nick Additon, Tyler Lyons, etc.) at AAA and AA, and consider that "thin"? Starting pitching is NOT a shortfall that Mozeliak is trying to remedy right now.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

So nothing about the Cardinals and their 2B problem? Or do you expect them to "return to contention" with Daniel Descalso there?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

It may be that a shortstop in the 15-HR, .350-OBP, .280-BA, etc., class looks like a "superstar" today, but I think it should be kept in mind that it hasn't been that long since there were multiple guys who were approximating that kind of production at the position, not all of them "superstars" as we now think of the term. The 2006 shortstop BVORP tabulation reachable through the statistics page is something to drool over, but calling Rafael Furcal and Carlos Guillen "superstars" rather stretches the term, in my opinion. Furcal in particular looks like a pretty good perfect-world projection for Lindor (extending to the switch hitting). He is and has been a very good player. Superstar? Not so sure.

Dec 04, 2012 5:56 PM on On the Brink of Elite
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 13

Reasonable enough, since all of the 1927 Murderer's Row Yankees are dead by now...

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

One thing that certainly hasn't hurt Cueto's kill ratio (and to be sure, other pitchers have been the beneficiaries of it as well) is that the balk call on pickoff moves has all but disappeared from modern baseball. Last year NL teams averaged fewer than 5 balks for the year; Cueto had 3 by himself, which was one of the higher individual totals in the league. Contrast the run-crazy 1980s, when team totals were usually more than 3 times that. In 1988, for example, David Cone by himself had more balks (10) than any 2012 team in the NL except Arizona, which also had 10. This isn't a knock on Cueto; he has a tremendous move, and again, every other pitcher in the league could also benefit in principle from this reluctance to call balks. However, one can't help but have the feeling that MLB can essentially "fine-tune" the importance of the running game by varying umpires' instructions on when to call balks. In particular, it seems to me that the call of a balk if the pitcher "delivers the pitch from Set Position without coming to a stop" (Rule 8.05) is all but ignored in the modern game. What's the world coming to?...

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

I continue not to get it with Miami. Apparently they only want two guys on their roster born before 1980. Why should those two be Pierre and Greg Dobbs? Because yeah, they're cheap, but they're also not very good.

Nov 22, 2012 6:57 AM on Home for the Holidays
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

Naw. In Russia, the networks black YOU out.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

100% fair. The existence of occasional (sometimes more than occasional) condescension toward coaching in articles favoring statistical analysis doesn't mean that the more thoughtful members of the sabermetric community don't Get It.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I certainly have, and it didn't sit well with me. I think CJ pretty well nailed this one; thanks for writing it, big guy.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

There's a third backup-catcher signing as well: the fairly forgettable Rob Johnson signed a minor-league contract, with NRI, with St. Louis. Presumably he'll be one of the zillions of catchers showing up to early spring training, and then mentor the young guns at Memphis while waiting for Yadier Molina or Tony Cruz to get hurt (perish the thought).

Nov 16, 2012 7:52 PM on Laird Do Well
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

Bob Dutton's point here -- "I talked to a lot of players (not just Royals) and to other reporters who talked to a lot of players -- and the result was overwhelming [for Cabrera]" -- is an interesting one. Take whatever pot shots at his Cabrera vote you wish, but there was method to his madness, and he did his research. I applaud the idea of seeking the input of other AL players. Those guys may not be professional statisticians, but they are also not the big dumb lunks of stereotypes gone by, and if their own experience (which includes fielding, running the bases, etc.) tells them that Cabrera was their "overwhelming" preference, it's something to listen to, and balanced against other, more analytical inputs. Evan Grant's statement, however -- "For those carping about the BBWAA awards, a quick reminder: They are OUR awards" -- merely suggests that he is an idiot.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

Well said. I find this kind of bad voting to be far more disgusting, and far more concerning, than differences of opinions on the values of traditional vs. advanced metrics and making the playoffs vs. stand-alone performance. There should be no place for personal vendettas, blatant homerism, etc., in BBWAA balloting. Of course, there has been for as long as the awards have been given -- just think back to the Ted Williams outrage of 1947 -- but that doesn't make it acceptable.

Nov 16, 2012 12:34 PM on What Were They Thinking?
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

"Teams might now decide to invest more in their medical staff, but that’s doubtful." I can't help wondering: how many of these lost days, or those incurred by other teams near the bottom of the rankings, would a larger/better medical staff actually have prevented, or at least mitigated? I can't see much a superior medical staff could have done about Markakis, Niemann, Keppinger, A-Rod, Pettite, or Ellsbury, and there were several others on this list that may have been beyond the pale as well. For that matter, can a better medical staff really help a pitcher avoid blowing out an elbow and losing a year to TJ surgery? Not trying to pick a fight here, I'm just curious how much of these rankings can be pinned on either poor medical work or a player's fragility, and how much is just dumb luck.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Of course, the same domino effect involving Holliday that wins the 2012 World Series for St. Louis also loses them their shot at the 2011 Series, since Craig is injured for much of 2011 and without either him or Holliday they don't get the wild card. The Phillies blast through the NL that year, without Ryan Howard blowing a tire on the last out of the NLDS, and meet Texas again in the Series. What happens then? Dunno, but chalk another Series win up for Bay either way.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I will withhold judgment on the new format until I see a few more writeups, since several things you've said imply that the Astros have a rather unusual system, at least in terms of depth. It may be clearer how their system compares to others, which I think is one of the things people are clamoring for, once we've seen the writeups for those others. This said, it's good writing technique to make some readily-accessible "summary" available, whether that takes the form of stars or something else. Maybe copy the "Overall Future Potential" lines in the "top ten" list at the top of the article? One way or the other, thanks for keeping the content alive.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

"(H)ealth issues like blood clots in the throwing arm scare people." Man, no shock. What kind of a physical did Ruiz have to pass before they signed him?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

What "rumors" about a Lohse contract are these? It seems like everywhere I go on-line, there's someone warning anyone who will listen that Lohse is going to be horrendously overpaid -- to the point that I'm almost wondering whether the market is going to be so skittish about him that he decides to accept the QO(!) just because everyone else has been scared away and won't give him a big contract. Are there credible rumors that make it clear that that won't happen? I certainly haven't heard any.

Nov 04, 2012 7:20 PM on The 50 Best Free Agents
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

Incidentally, full credit for wielding the English language like a finely honed dueling weapon. Not often you see "adumbrated" in a sentence, and less often you see it used correctly.

Nov 03, 2012 11:13 AM on The 50 Best Free Agents
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Interesting to see how these predictions break out on a team-by-team basis. 20% or more of the 2013 Red Sox and Yankees rosters would be 2012 free agents if these hold. One thing I don't get is the prediction that Seattle will play heavily in the FA market, coming in tied for third in total number of signees. With all of the other teams going after several of these guys, the motivations are understandable: either do what the rich teams (BOS, NYY) always do, or exploit a time-is-now window of opportunity to contend. Seattle has no such opportunity. They are very unlikely to be serious contenders in 2013 or 2014 even if they do sign Hamilton, Villanueva and Liriano. So why is it in their interest to shell out the megabucks to do so?

Nov 03, 2012 9:42 AM on The 50 Best Free Agents
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Haren "lost nearly 20 games" to injury? Maybe I'm missing something here, but he made 30 starts (compared to a previous career average of 33+ since becoming a regular) and threw 176 innings (226). He missed no more than 3 starts in July because of injury, and the reduced inning count isn't just because of injury, it's also because he wasn't very good and didn't go deep into games. Spending 17 days on the DL does not translate to losing nearly 20 games if you're a starting pitcher. Like many people, I was initially speculating that this deal fell through because the Cubs learned something about his injury and saw him as a 2013-long DL stint waiting to happen. Now I'm not so sure. It'll be interesting to follow the rumor mill on this one.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I enjoyed this greatly; thanks for doing it. One thing I noticed in all the footage, that I hadn't recognized before, was the incredible wrist action that the Unit got. That last video in the article makes it look like he has a whole extra arm joint that gets into the kinetics of the pitch, and adds 15 mph to it. It's not an extra arm joint, it's just his hand and wrist, which appear about as long as my forearm -- and I am not a small man. One more idea. When you get done with your list of greats, how about studying an anti-Johnson who was also successful? I'm thinking of 1985-vintage John Tudor, who had one of the great pitching seasons in recent history without throwing a pitch above 85. Comparing him to Dwight Gooden that year, whose season was even better (barely), would be very interesting because they were so different -- left-handed extreme control soft-tosser versus right-handed flamethrower. This series seems like the perfect way to spend the long cold nights until spring training. Thanks again for doing it.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I'm not sure I've ever seen a free agent who is as universally panned as Lohse. Laying aside whether it is justified (I have my suspicions about those PECOTA predictions), is it possible that all this bad-mouthing is going to lead to him being UNDERvalued, because not a single team will be willing to shell out big bucks for him? The flip side: If St. Louis makes him a qualifying offer for the sake of the draft pick, might he actually take it?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I'm a little surprised the Cardinals are even letting Oscar Taveras play in the DWL. He's clearly not going to learn much there, and why expose him to injury risk? Is there an upside that I'm missing other than just being able to put another string of awesome numbers in his bio?

Oct 30, 2012 11:59 AM on Games of October 29
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

You both miss the point, which isn't about Bogaerts; it's about the value of young, excellent, cost-controlled players, one of whom plays the same position that Bogaerts does (did?). It would take more than one guy with a whiff of AA experience to pry either of those two away from their teams, even if that whiff is highly promising. Again, a commentary on players like Upton and Andrus, not a knock on Bogaerts.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

Please, why on earth would anyone want to trade Justin Upton or Elvis Andrus for Bogaerts?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Thing is, what's the risk? Lohse is at the stage of his career where if anyone dangles a multi-year contract in front of him, he's likely to take it even if the per-year amount is slightly lower than the one year of $13M guaranteed. However, you're nibbling around the edges of the right question if there is really a chance that he accepts. The Cardinals have so much young pitching talent that it's not clear they'd want him back at that price, even if the 2012 version of Lohse is the real thing. I agree that this one isn't as "easy" as it is described as being, although I do think he'll get the offer.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I had much the same reaction, but it may not make sense to dangle him as trade bait until he has recovered from surgery and shown he's the same player as he was for the first half of 2012. Some risk of selling low until he gets the rebound from that.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Agreed. So many of the usual characteristics of pitchers don't seem to apply with this guy, it would be very interesting to see whether he really did have unique mechanics, or classical (great) mechanics disguised by a super-weird body.

Oct 26, 2012 11:45 AM on Pitchology, Final Exam
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Psychology is a liberal-arts subject?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

A couple of web sites that I will not name will say the Tigers are overwhelming favorites and cite the fact that they play in, quote, "the stronger league" as evidence to support the claim. Absolutely nothing that occurs on the field will have anything to do with that evidence.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

1964, and remembering how much I wanted to be either Ken Boyer or Bob Gibson, never mind that I was left handed. At that age such trivialities didn't seem to matter.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Vastly? Very unlikely. We are talking about a 31-year-old middle infielder with a .663 OPS last year who was overextended in the unfortunate starting role he was pressed into. Utility infielders who hit like that are nearly as fungible as relievers, and he ain't gonna get better as he ages.

Oct 22, 2012 3:45 PM on Offseason in October
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

This Farrell thing feels very weird to me. One could argue that Boston got at least fair value, and possibly the better of the deal, just in the straight player-for-player swap. And "throwing in" a manager too? In a trade with an intra-division rival? Why would Toronto ever agree to this?

Oct 22, 2012 6:39 AM on Offseason in October
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Once upon a time, long ago in a kingdom called rec.sport.baseball, Gary Huckabay had a statistic he called "Flakiest Pitchers," based on the best and worst starts that guys had and the frequency and severity of the extremes. Any chance of resurrecting that for a look at Zito? It might be fun to apply it to Lance Lynn, Adam Wainwright, maybe Bronson Arroyo, and some other post-season guys whose performances have been ... erratic.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Jermaine Curtis also gets style points, as he's the only player I have ever heard to use "O Fortuna" from "Carmina Burana" as his walkup music. He's kinda blocked in St. Louis, but someone who does something like that should really bring his talents to the majors somewhere, don't you think?

Oct 19, 2012 9:55 AM on Games of October 18
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

This is a thing of beauty. Thanks for sharing it.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

"Narratives are useful in simplifying complex things so that we can understand them better, but we have to be careful that we aren’t simplifying things to the point where they no longer do a good job of representing what it is we’re talking about." Wouldn't this sentence do just as well at representing attempts to oversimplify baseball if one substituted "statistics" for "narratives"?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

So are you an "MLB rules expert"? Or did you just gawk at a gif like the rest of us?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 5

Why would anybody be any kind of fit? Because of the possibility that A-Rod improves their team, that's why. I will never be confused with a Yankees fan, but it is absurd to scoff at a trade without considering benefit to BOTH teams. "Good for the Yankees" does not imply "the other team is New York's bitch." Third base is not exactly a position of strength in the AL at the moment, and there are several teams whose primary DHs weren't as good at the plate this year as A-Rod. It is entirely reasonable to look to those teams as possible partners in a win-win trade, although I personally would not make such a trade as the GM of most of the teams that qualify.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

Note that the rules draw a distinction between a "play on a batted ball" and a play on a thrown ball. There is no language in Rule 7.08(b), or any of its Comments, that addresses a play on a thrown ball. The distinction is significant in a great many baseball contexts involving interference. It would be good to get an actual MLB rules expert to address this one, but I've never, not once, seen this call made when the sliding runner's trajectory took him to and over the base he was sliding into. Holliday's slide qualifies.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

"This is why second basemen used to jump to make their relay throw..." This is a very important point, and goes far beyond the comments on this particular play. If you watched the great second basemen of times gone by, they were practically levitating on the pivot. Old Bill Mazeroski footage is an amazing thing to see. This isn't just a matter of "back in the good old days," because there are still 2Bs around who do it. I do think, however, that there are fewer now, and one reason may be the devaluation of 2B so that it's played by (comparatively) less athletic guys and/or converted utility men who haven't made a career of avoiding the takeout slide. It's not coincidental, I think, that Scooter falls into that second category. So do the guy who'll be on second tomorrow for the Cardinals (Daniel Descalso) and the possibles for Detroit (Omar Infante and Ramon Santiago, although Infante at least has now settled into 2B comparatively regularly). Only the Yankees have a second baseman for whom that position has been his career-long home.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Minor correction: Sam Freeman isn't on the Cardinals' roster, and Joe Kelly is.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I enjoy these comparisons of teammates. For your next one, how about some of the stable of flame-throwing youngsters that St. Louis has accumulated and is now beginning to put into important post-season innings? I'd particularly love to see what you think of the 101-mph heat that's generating buzz for recent arrival Trevor Rosenthal, and how it compares to a more "established" mega-prospect like Shelby Miller.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

Oh, get a life. It has been "right" ever since MLB decided to adopt the wild-card format. Teams went into that format with their eyes wide open, knowing what they had to do to get to the post season, and they all played (at least within their leagues) by the same rules. It is no longer productive to wax nostalgic for a long-gone era that wasn't as great as people remember it to be anyway.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 8

I thought at the time that Johnson had made another, critically important tactical error that may go against the grain of some people here: not walking Pete Kozma intentionally to load the bases in the 9th. This wasn't because Koz has some preternatural late-season powers (although one begins to wonder...), but rather, a recognition of two things. First, a pinch hitter for Jason Motte was going to be required, and with Skip Schumaker and Matt Carpenter and Shane Robinson already expended, the Cardinals bench wasn't nearly as strong. Second, and very important, it got Motte out of the game. The remaining bullpen options (Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Shelby Miller) weren't as strong, or as reliable, as the fire-breathing closer who finished the game off with a 100-mph heater to induce a pop-up. No matter what Kozma and the pinch hitter (presumably Tony Cruz) do, Washington is going to get another chance to bat, and I'm shocked that Johnson didn't gain them the best chance to hit against a less formidable pitcher -- pleased, being that I'm a Cards fan and all, but still shocked.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Certainly Carlos Beltran is a lot happier being behind it rather than in front of it.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Disappointingly superficial analysis here. You expected Strasburg to pitch both games 2 and 3, maybe? Which one of Jackson and Zimmermann would not have pitched if he'd been available? I am quite confident the answer is "neither." They got lit up on their own performances, not because the other guy wasn't on the active roster cheering them on. I agree, Johnson's tactical moves were poor, but I'm not so sure about Matheny's. Trevor Rosenthal has been a bullpen beast for St. Louis lately, and if he'd been called on to pitch two complete innings, rather than the 1.1 he did, his availability for the next two games would have been more in doubt, in games that are likely to be closer than this one. The Cardinals had enough of a lead when Carpenter stayed in for an at-bat that Matheny had the rare (in the post season) luxury of thinking long term. I'd have made the same move. The Jay bunt is harder to justify, but I can't totally condemn a move that makes it unnecessary for 37-year-old pitcher's legs to sprint hard from second to score on a single. Whether this analysis is sound or not, just thinking in terms of run expectation is a pretty superficial way to look at a post-season managerial decision. Context matters on these things!

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Do those odds take into account the fact that if Latos starts, it'll be the first time in his major-league career that he has done so on three days' rest?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

Snort. Is an opinion valuable only if it has numbers attached to it? I thought this article was right on the mark. The thing that makes major-league baseball distinct from (and superior to) other team sports is the fact that teams play a long season to decide which few of them can advance to a post season that also is not a sudden-death proposition. I don't want to see it become either the NBA and NHL, with half the teams getting in, or the NFL, where every post-season game is sudden death. We should celebrate the game for what it is.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

And be playing until mid-November because of all the travel days required to accommodate this goofy home-field advantage idea.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Thanks for pointing this out. Among all MLB pitchers who threw at least 100 innings this year, he had the ninth easiest opponents as measured by oppOPS, out of 130-odd qualifiers. (His opponent, Kyle Lohse, finished somewhere around 85th, i.e., had tougher batters to face.) And that includes the guys he faced out of the bullpen before becoming a starter, which were generally against stronger teams than the ones he started against. It'll be interesting to see how he fares against a much more potent lineup than he's been facing for the last couple of months. A winning expectancy of 64% for Atlanta seems pretty weird in the light of this observation.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Actually, the Cardinals were right at league average in sacrifices per plate appearance for the year, just a tiny bit over but within easy statistical reach of average. Jay may look like an odd choice, but he has also been known to try to bunt for a base hit with nobody on; he's fast enough that bunting has some chance of working, and he's not a big power guy (.095 ISO) so that he's not giving up much of a probability of hitting the ball out of the park by doing it. (None of this is acknowledged by the Cardinals fans who grump about all of Matheny's bunting.)

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Correction, grounded out rather than struck out.

Oct 04, 2012 8:52 AM on Thursday, October 4
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Note that Lance Berkman made it back yesterday, for a pinch-hit appearance (Logan Ondrusek struck him out). Nice, in a bittersweet way, to see him get one last appearance, but he almost certainly won't be on the playoff roster beyond the play-in game, if the Cardinals do advance.

Oct 04, 2012 8:42 AM on Thursday, October 4
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -6

Okay, let me summarize this article in 25 words or less: "Acta hewed to the principles of sabermetric orthodoxy. Those principles cannot be wrong. Therefore his problem was something else. Of course, it had to be."

Sep 29, 2012 7:11 AM on Mourning Manny Acta
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 7

It seems to me as if there are two things to think about here: first, whether we're asking the right questions, and second, whether there has been a real change in prospect maturation when measured against those right questions, whatever they are. The first of these intrigues me, because I have long suspected that at least for starting pitchers, there may be something bogus about the concept of "replacement level" as applied to starting pitchers. "Replacement level," if I understand it correctly, is that level at which talent is more or less freely available. Replacement-level players are fungible: if yours goes down, you can find and acquire another who'll do approximately as well, and never know the difference (ignoring salary, "clubhouse leadership," etc.). So consider the starting pitchers who are clustered around replacement level according to today's stats pages: Philip Humber, Chris Volstad, Jeremy Guthrie, Nathan Eovaldi. I fully believe that, at any given time for one inning, you can find other "freely available" pitchers who will do as well as these guys. But how many "freely available" (as in, not already in a major-league starting rotation) guys are there who can do that for five innings at a stretch, 30 times a year? Given the large number of pitchers in major-league rotations with negative VORPs, I suspect the answer is "not many." So my point, relevant to this article, is: Maybe the bar for judging whether a pitching prospect has really "succeeded" in having a big-league career is too high, and/or fails to give sufficient credit to those who shoulder a starter's workload. Guthrie, to pick one, would drag down the 2002 prospect class average if you reported it. That doesn't mean there are many guys who could do better.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

The DUI may have happened during spring training, but I have a hard time with the notion that his "general character [and] disposition" was off playing golf during the off season and needed to be whipped into playing shape during the spring. Bodies may get out of shape during the winter. The underlying person remains what it is. This said, for me, rule #3 would be a tie-breaker rather than something that absolutely vetoes voting for a guy, unless the breaches of character, disposition, loyalty and effort are blatant and huge.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 6

I cannot begin to tell you how gratifying it is to wake up in the morning and find that TOOTBLAN has gone mainstream.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I think it is badly mistaken to consider the fact that a player was drafted in the XXth round, where XX is a number much greater than 1, as an indication that "what he did doesn't matter." Scouts miss guys, or misjudge what they see, sometimes. One need look no further than the 402nd selection in the 1999 draft for evidence of that. (We all know what that was, don't we?) Draftees as late as the 48th round (Angels catcher Bobby Wilson) are currently playing in the Show, and quite a few guys from the lower rounds are actually proving useful to their teams. St. Louis currently has no fewer than seven guys (Jason Motte, Jaime Garcia, Adron Chambers, Tony Cruz, Sam Freeman, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Carpenter) on their roster who were drafted in the 10th round or later, and all of those no-chance guys sure aren't hurting their playoff aspirations any. Turning up one's nose at a prospect just because he was drafted in a late round seems rather silly to me. (Or did you intend that sarcastically? If so, it doesn't come across in the writing.)

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

I'd start with Jose Altuve, who qualifies on both counts, and go from there.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

Yes, I would say that this banter was a LOT less homophobic than what Escobar did. Any sexual content at all to it strikes me as in the eye of the beholder, rather than the notoriously goofy Wainwright and whoever left him the message. Honi soit qui mal y pense.

Sep 24, 2012 10:48 AM on September 17-23
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

A fair enough point. There are two ways of dealing with the no-name problem. One is to go out and sign "name" players, which is exactly the pitfall that CRP13 points out above. That doesn't work well if the team behind those two or three "name" players is bad. The other is to cultivate some "names" among what they've got, and here Luhnow may be able to help. Literally for decades now, the Cardinals have had a very effective "outreach" program into the St. Louis metropolitan area (which needs all the "outreach" it can get...), which must have helped maintain their famously loyal and rabid fan base. Luhnow is a shrewd enough guy to have seen this and understand how it helps. An aggressive effort to "sell" some of the more interesting and charismatic players via outreach programs seems likely, and it may do more to address this problem than adding a couple of big names to a team that will just drag them down. They'll have the resources to do that, and a much larger community to engage in the outreach. All told, the no-name problem strikes me as solvable.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

I remember the Wainwright/Thurston switch, and based on the way Sloppy Joe was playing that year, I would consider the statement that he was "a better batter" to be rather less than axiomatic.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

While making no judgments on the appropriateness of this step in response to a PED suspension, one thing it does do is produce a little more of an apples-to-apples comparison to previous BA winners than might have existed. The guys that win the batting titles, at least in the NL, have a very pronounced tendency to have higher BAs in the first half of the season than the second. Of the last ten titlists (including presumptive winner Andrew McCutchen this year, although not his top competition, Buster Posey), only one, Carlos Gonzalez in 2010, had a higher BA in the second half of the season than in the first. Cabrera too was showing a distinct first-half/second-half split, although SSS applies and even the reduced average in the second half might not have sufficed to drag his average down to second if it was maintained through September. Point is, it wasn't.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 8

I detect in this article the beginnings of a shift away from BP's long-standing antipathy toward RBIs as a stat, and in my opinion, that shift is long overdue. RBIs have long been dismissed condescendingly here with the observation that driving in runs isn't a skill. Maybe it isn't; for the majority of players, clearly it isn't. However, it is still a good thing to do, and big RBI totals may serve as a marker that the player amassing them needs to be looked at more carefully. Usually that careful look will find that the totals are either a statistical outlier or the result of an unusually large number of opportunities. Sometimes it doesn't, though. The problem with out-and-out dismissal of RBIs as significant is that it deters the deeper looks at the exceptional cases, like what you're doing here. There's a lesson to be learned from this. Thanks for swimming against the tide.

Sep 19, 2012 6:48 AM on Ryan Howard Laughs Last
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Oh, I don't think they'll be so thick that their opinions aren't valuable. :-) The talking heads for Yahoo and CNN, now ... THOSE guys are thick.

Sep 17, 2012 1:54 PM on Down the Home Stretch
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I am by no means a Reds fan, but the first half of this thing was pretty lame, guys. Second best record in baseball, an 11-game lead in their division, players overperforming everywhere on the roster, huge mismatch between Pythagorean record and the real thing, and you spend half of your time talking about what a flake Bronson Arroyo is?! Give me a break. The Rizzo segment, however, was very good.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

"Problems" like that tend to take care of themselves. Adams may be ready for the majors, but given his recent surgery, he's not ready for baseball at all at the moment, and they'll probably move slowly with him. Note too that a couple of the guys on your list have health issues. It'll work out. I'm actually more curious what they'll do with their pitching. If Maness is for real, then you've got Miller, Martinez, Rosenthal, him, Michael Wacha advancing rapidly from this year's draft ... And all of them seem to have the necessary endurance to be starters. That's an awful lot of excellent starting pitching to be waiting in the wings.

Sep 13, 2012 7:45 AM on Games of September 12
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

"Her" life. Wish it was possible to edit one's own comments here.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Thanks for the response. To be fair, as a relative newcomer, you may not be aware of the routineness with which McCarver is pilloried around here. Frankly, that grates on me, regardless of who's doing it, because people tend to misunderstand the job he's trying to do, which is not to reach a saber-savvy bunch of enthusiasts but rather a viewing public that doesn't know conventional wisdom from conventional warfare. We think he is speaking to us. He is not; he is speaking to my 80-year-old mother-in-law who's never been to a baseball game in your life. That's not your fault. As I said, the rest of the article was very good. Keep 'em coming.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Quoted without comment: "No sooner was the tag laid down than we heard Tim McCarver’s gears grinding about the mortal sin Hanley had committed."

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

Generally, this is really excellent stuff, and I hope we see more of it here. However, I do have two quibbles. First, it seems a little odd to call that pitch to Pence a "sinker." It starts high, keeps rising, and only begins a downward trajectory at just about the point where plain old gravity decrees that it should. Got an f/x for that pitch? Ideally something that shows the Newtonian trajectory and how the pitch departs from it? My second criticism is more serious. You take a pot shot at McCarver, which we've come to expect as the norm for BP articles. Then, buried in some rather muddled and self-contradictory reasoning regarding pitch sequence, we find this telling little phrase: "Although McCarver’s chirping of a centuries-old truism wasn’t really off the mark..." And the fact that the man's truism is EXACTLY applicable here is never mentioned again until the summary paragraph. This isn't baseball analysis, it's political commentary, or at least it's the same kind of self-justifying refusal to admit the flimsiness of one's own position that has become daily bread with the extremes of the political spectrum these days. Rather than taking "a slight dig at McCarver" as you claim, how about acknowledging that this IS a case where he may have a point, and going back and challenging your own assumptions? Because in my judgment, his pithy analysis of this particular play is more likely to be right than yours.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Well, the next time you and/or John talk to scouts, maybe you can conduct what amounts to a straw poll: raise the question of Kinsler's fielding with a few of them, and see what the range of opinions is like. I suspect there may be a surprise or two coming. But maybe not. I used to mess around professionally with the modified Delphi method for questions similar to this (which I cannot discuss here in detail), and in the right setting, consensus of disinterested experts can be a very powerful thing. This could be an interesting test case on how it works in evaluating baseball skills. It's sufficiently limited in scope that you won't be driving scouts nuts by bombarding them with questions, and it is amenable to being benchmarked against the metrics. Can't ask much more of a test case than that, and it is likely to either shed light on diversity of opinions among scouts, or possibly on the metrics. Either is valuable.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Amendment: I see that you didn't ignore the farm-team playoff exception at all, excuse me for implying that you did. However, I do think it's important as a constraint on who gets called, and that does produce an inequality.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Ironically, the fact that your "fact" is untrue -- some but not all farm teams will continue to play for some time, in their own post seasons -- is really about the only justification I consider valid for changing the rules. Teams whose farm systems are deeply involved in playoffs are handicapped in bringing guys up, unless they don't mind enraging the farm systems. That leaves them at a disadvantage compared to teams whose farm teams really are done for the year. (Has this been studied? Is there a [negative] correlation between number of guys called up and playoff appearances by the AAA and AA farm teams? It seems like there would be, but objective data should exist.) Otherwise, I don't understand the pressure for this change. What problem needs solving here? Seeing farm hands showcase themselves in September isn't a problem, it's an opportunity, and the opportunity is available to all teams. Failure to take advantage of it rests on the team, not on the concept of expanded rosters.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 8

Not to put words in tannerg's mouth, but presumably, it's because defensive metrics seem to say that over the course of his career, Kinsler got to more balls than the average second baseman, which is at odds with what the scout says. However, two comments. First, the metrics are not speaking as highly of his defense this year as in the past, and this scout is talking about the here and now, not what he did in 2011 and years gone by. Second, a scout who is savvy enough to recognize the importance of plays not made is probably worth listening to even if he disagrees with the metrics. We're not talking about Jeter-adoring media here; we're talking about someone whose job is to take a critical look at players, and he at least seems to know what to look for. I agree, the scout's statement isn't preposterous at all, even if it is at variance with some metrics.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Cardinals, Dodgers and "Mets" as the threats to Atlanta's wild-card niche?

Sep 05, 2012 9:10 AM on Wednesday, September 5
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Yadier Molina may have passed the concussion test (post-game quote: "They did a bunch of tests. I was fine with the tests. There was no concussion. Just a really bad headache."), but that didn't stop the Cardinals from pulling caddy Bryan Anderson out of his AAA game and immediately launching him toward Pittsburgh, where he will be activated.

Aug 29, 2012 6:07 AM on Wednesday, August 29
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Actually, the Cardinals attempted a squeeze last night, or at least started to attempt one. Yadier Molina was batting with Allen Craig on third base, and he squared around as Craig sort-of-broke for the plate in a "safety squeeze" setup. However, it didn't come off -- I think Molina bunted foul, but there may have been something else involved. The attempt wasn't repeated, and Molina got Craig home on a more conventional sacrifice fly a pitch or two later. As for Mike Matheny making lots of pitching changes, when I counted changes a couple of weeks ago, I found to my surprise that the Cardinals were actually making fewer changes than their opponents in their games, by about 10 changes over the course of the season to date. Is this consistent with your observation about fourth most changes for the season as a whole? Yes, it is. Facing the Cardinals' thumpers, it would seem reasonable to conjecture, causes other managers to go to the pen more often than when facing less potent lineups.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 8

Rather a cheap shot at Ryan Braun that your one unnamed source made. I am no Braun fan, and no Brewers fan, but come on, he's not the only guy who's running out of steam as the end of the season approaches.

Aug 16, 2012 6:42 AM on A Clubhouse Scorned
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Note also that the flameouts on that list didn't necessarily have much to do with baseball skills, or lack of them. Alan Wiggins looked like a useful player for a while, but fought a losing battle with cocaine addiction. Donell Nixon was following in the footsteps of big brother Otis until a rather nasty compound fracture, and was never the same after that.

Aug 13, 2012 9:16 AM on Monday Morning Ten Pack
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Seconded. It also sounds like he's figured out a few of those non-mechanical things that get grouped under the general heading of "makeup." There was a very interesting sort-of-interview with him on MiLB.com recently where he had some things to say about being on the same wavelength as his catcher, and him coming to the realization that when he reaches the majors, he's going to be throwing to a catcher (Yadier Molina) that he's not going to shake off. One gets the impression that that was kind of an "aha!" insight for him, and coincided with the turnaround.

Aug 13, 2012 8:02 AM on Monday Morning Ten Pack
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Homer Bailey may have given up six runs in the fourth to the Padres, but look who won the game. I am in no way, shape or form a Reds rooter, but it's time to start taking that team seriously, blue smoke and mirrors or no blue smoke and mirrors.

Aug 01, 2012 6:16 AM on Wednesday, August 1
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

One can't help but notice the volatility of the perception of being a contender. It wasn't that long ago that the consensus of Baseball Prospectus staff was that the Brewers were going to be the second best team in the NL Central, just a hair behind Cincinnati, and with a goodly number of first-place votes. (See http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16245 for the article.) To go from that perception, which was by no means unique among writers at the time, to this deal -- well, it makes you wonder whether all of major-league baseball is suffering from collective ADHD.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Come again? Sale's minor-league appearances were all in the bullpen, not as a starter. Both his player card here, his data sheet at baseball-reference, and his bio at mlb.com concur in this.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Yes, that last pitch would have been a perfect opportunity for sweet, sweet revenge, wouldn't it? "Sorry, blue, he was supposed to throw a 75-mph curve in the dirt and I went down to block it. Here, let me help you get your nads out of your throat."

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

It's a funny story from the early days of the game. Furthermore, unlike many such stories, it's true, and documented. I'll leave the rest to you, but it's really worth looking up.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I can't help but look at Wojciechowski (btw, any relation to Jason?) and wonder if Jeff Luhnow packed, in the bags he brought over from St. Louis, any spare elixir of the kind they used there (and no, I am NOT making a PED reference, this is symbolic/rhetorical) to turn Lance Lynn from a very large, pedestrian innings eater into a very large, fire-breathing devourer of worlds. Wojo strikes me as physically similar, and whatever technique worked with Lynn (as I understand it, largely a matter of telling him to move from a 2-seamer to a 4-seamer and just throw the **** out of the ball, which he most certainly has done) might work with him. If so, this could be a bit of Luhnow larceny.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

How could you possibly make it through this article, Larry, without telling the story of Uncle Robbie, Casey Stengel and the grapefruit? I thought surely this was going to be warmup for a re-telling of that one. (So if terminal velocity for a baseball is 95 mph, what is it for a grapefruit?)

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

+1. All indications are that the organization thinks very highly of this guy. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I see this promotion as grooming him for bigger and better things, not just showing him off as a trading chip.

Jul 18, 2012 7:46 PM on Top False Trade Values
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

So how to reconcile the fact that Adams is just destroying AAA pitching with his mediocre showing as a Lance Berkman replacement? Is the difference between AAA pitching and major-league pitching really that great? Small sample size? Something else? It doesn't seem as though other AAA sluggers see their numbers drop off that dramatically in the Show, even allowing for park effects.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

What makes this all the more remarkable was that he pulled up slightly going into second to get a look at the play. That might have cost him, oh, maybe another tenth of a second.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

"The Cardinals’ catcher comes with the full package (except running, of course)." Amusingly, the ponderous Molina leads all catchers in stolen bases so far this year (and has only been caught once), and has been in the top ten for the position every year since 2009. It's not exactly a critical skill for the position, of course. Being in the "top ten" in 2011, for example, only required stealing four bases.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 9

That low rumble you readers in southern California just felt wasn't the San Andreas Fault twitching, it was Arte Moreno and Jerry Dipoto synchronously quaking in their boots when they read this.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

Ramsey was widely perceived as an overdraft, while Wacha was thought to have fallen a few slots below where his talent might have placed him. Interesting that with them now in the same organization, their levels are reversed, although my understanding is that Wacha is expected to move up to the FSL soon.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

Interesting that Martinez is the second Cardinal rather than Kolten Wong. Position scarcity (the international pitchers do not strike me as a particularly imposing crew), or are you expecting Wong to end the revolving door of second-base mediocrity in St. Louis by next July?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

Hits: 1: R 2: R 3: R 4: L 5: L 6: R 7: R 8: R 9: L Pure SWAGs, and every guess could be wrong, but based on the hitter's balance, and particularly, the way he appears to be tracking the pitch. In other words, it has to do with the way things are going at the plate end, not the mound end.

Jul 06, 2012 8:47 AM on The Blind BABIP Test
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

The Braves will be "reticent" to pull the trigger on a Teheran deal? So you mean they won't talk about it until it happens?

Jul 03, 2012 5:51 AM on NL East
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

I'm curious: what about Taveras' "approach" needs improvement? He's not drawing BBs by the bucketful, but a BB% of 8+ doesn't suggest an "approach" problem to me.

Jul 02, 2012 8:32 PM on Monday Morning Ten Pack
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

Oops, hit the return too soon. That difference is not restricted to ABs during interleague play, however. It's the whole season's OPS for the aggregate of AL DHs, compared to OPS only in interleague play (obviously) for the NL ones. The difference is quite large compared to season-long OPS differences at other positions, which tend to favor NL players on average, usually by 15 points or less. Note that AL pitchers OPSed .292 (as of five days ago) to .320 for NL pitchers over the whole season.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

I looked at this recently, and found that AL DHs have an OPS almost 75 points higher than NL DHs.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

Don't misunderstand, I wasn't complaining. More than anything else I was just wondering whether the bloom was off the rose with some of those guys -- not Taveras and Wong, whose performance has been enough to get them into the Futures game, but rather, some of the others in the Cardinals' system who'd been appearing here earlier but aren't as frequently now.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

"It is common to see slide-stepping pitchers who fail to find their release point on the first few deliveries from the stretch... The result is often an under-rotated pitch that misses high and to the arm-side of the intended target, which is a sure-fire recipe for falling behind in the count or hanging a hittable pitch." Okay, I buy this, as one who has wondered about the slide step for a long time (and also one who loves the running game). However, saying something is a common result doesn't automatically make it true. I was hoping this article would show some actual evidence that the slide step results in less effective pitches, which obviously are what the pitcher is out there for, not shutting down the running game. No such data are in evidence, merely sweeping statement like this one. Got anything more concrete (e.g. HR/pitch rates for slide step versus kick) to back your position, Doug? If so, I'd love to see it.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

I find it interesting that these updates are featuring a much smaller fraction of Cardinals prospects than earlier in the season. Pure coincidence, or is there a reason? I rather suspect that Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras aren't surprises any more; by now it is quite obvious that day-in, day-out, they're durn good. And Shelby Miller hasn't done much to justify his top-prospect status this year (yet). But the disappearance of the others intrigues and puzzles me.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

I've been a Trevor Rosenthal believer for a fair while now, but I think it would still be premature to jump him over Miller in the prospect lists. That the conversation is even possible, for a guy who was viewed as maybe their #5 pitching prospect going into the season, tells you the Cardinals' system is loaded with pitching, however.

Jun 18, 2012 7:49 PM on Monday Morning Ten Pack
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

I've heard a rumble to the effect that some off-the-field issues may be affecting Miller. No details, but it's easy to forget that most of these "prospects" are not merely human beings but young adults, and subject to forces beyond those acting on their muscles, joints and hand/eye coordination.

Jun 18, 2012 12:46 PM on Monday Morning Ten Pack
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I'd have been tempted to consider Shane Robinson's the trot of the day, simply because of the improbability of Robinson getting one out of the park. There are bigger eight-year-olds.

Jun 08, 2012 10:34 AM on Trot Times for June 7
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

So where on the young/good continuum does somebody like Oscar Taveras fall? Currently 19 (turns 20 in two weeks) and putting up .318/.370/.588 at AA. Young AND good?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

Thanks. I'd wondered about exactly that point.

Jun 05, 2012 1:12 PM on First Round Recap
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Right, this is consistent with what Maury says on his bizofbaseball site too. However, I am unable to find anything in the CBA that confirms this until the International draft starts (and I've looked about five times). Was this penalty worked out in some side document rather than in the CBA itself, or what? Lacking an International draft in 2013, there will be other penalties for international signings (prohibition of high bonuses), but that doesn't affect the Rule 4 draft.

Jun 05, 2012 12:19 PM on First Round Recap
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

I'm confused about something. The "signability" issue seems to revolve around the penalties teams will pay if they offer draftees contracts that, in aggregate, exceed their allocations. Maury Brown once said, apparently quoting from an MLBPA release, that those penalties could range up to loss of draft choices in future years. However, I've read through the relevant parts of the CBA, and I don't see where these penalties are mentioned for the Rule 4 draft. They're there for the "International" draft if one ever occurs, and have counterparts in the "pool" for International signings if the countries don't get their act together for an International draft, but I simply don't see it for Rule 4, particularly this year. So what are the penalties for a team significantly overspending this year? Because they don't appear to be as I had previously understood them to be. Cite language from MLB, please; people's "opinions" on this seem to be predicated on some assumptions that I don't think are valid.

Jun 05, 2012 8:29 AM on First Round Recap
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

An article on the Rockies approach, from outside either baseball or the Christian/religious webspace, is http://ezinearticles.com/?Define-Your-Position:-Values,-Ethics-and-Leadership&id=334934 (well worth a read). Judging from this article, it would be hard to believe they would downgrade Fried if he was a mensch, i.e., "a person of integrity and honor ... someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character" (Wikipedia and quotes there), regardless of what his actual religion was.

Jun 03, 2012 12:32 PM on Updated Mock: 1-15
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

This is an excellent point. However, it is instructive to take it to its extreme. If your whole roster is constructed of guys who manage 10 WARP over a 10-year career, like Oddibe McDowell (7 years, but who's counting), your team is going to be chronically mediocre, rarely having enough career years at one time to reach the post season, and occasionally having so many bad years at once as to qualify for a high draft pick. Move the bar up to something like Kennedy, and your analysis becomes right on the mark -- which maybe is telling us that that's where the bar should be.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

A very important datum is missing here, namely where in the first round the pick falls. A team that has one of the first three slots and gets nothing more out of them than a Ryan Klesko career cannot be very happy with the outcome. One drafting in slots 20 to 30 (it almost doesn't matter where) would be ecstatic to be guaranteed a Klesko, and would be happy to be guaranteed an Adam Kennedy (16.3 WARP). (Being guaranteed a McDowell may not be good enough, though.) Even if your ground rules are such that you don't know where your slot will fall in future years, the same kind of variability shows up. Some teams never get high slots. St. Louis hasn't had a top-3 slot since 1996, the Dodgers since 1993, the Braves and Yankees (the Taylor fiasco) since 1991. None of these teams has had a Klesko-sized career out of a late-first-round draft in the last 15 years, although the Dodgers will eventually get there with Chad Billingsley (slot #24). One would have to think they'd be delighted to be guaranteed something Kennedy-ish. Contrast a team like Kansas City, which gets high choices almost as an entitlement -- for all the good it does them. Even they would be happy with a Klesko a year, but no way would they settle for a McDowell, and probably not for a Kennedy.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

We may just have different definitions of what "first-division" means, then. Yes, Cano, Pedroia, Kinsler set the bar pretty high (I'm less convinced about Uggla, very erratic player), and no, Wong isn't likely to reach that bar, although stranger things have happened. But are you saying there are really only three or four "first-division 2B" in baseball? That seems strange, given that there are, by definition, fifteen first-division teams in baseball. Not disagreeing with you here, just trying to get calibrated on what "first-division" means in the context of prospects; it comes up frequently enough that the calibration would be useful.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

"[I]t’s unlikely that [Wong] will be able to match the offensive production normally delivered by first-division second basemen." In what league is this? Because it doesn't appear to be the majors as we know them. Fewer than a dozen major-league 2Bs have an ISO of .150 or greater, and many of the ones that do also have some issues with contact and getting on base. Laying aside what Wong will or will not do, the offensive bar for being an upper-echelon major-league 2B isn't very high at the moment.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Make that last year's Quad Cities crowd who have now arrived in Springfield after bypassing high A. That QC team was impressive.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Seconded. I'd even have been willing to wait a year to hear about one of Jenkins or Martinez, since Rosenthal is higher in the system and has been moving faster (he's another of last year's Springfield crowd that skipped high-A altogether, like Wong and Taveras).

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

I'll be there (and thanks for doing the chat), but first, one dumb question that may fend off similar dumb questions then and replace them with more interesting ones: just what IS a "Qualified Free Agent"? That wasn't clear from the article. Any whose salary, subject to the definitions you cite, places them in that top-125 category? ANY free agent who gets that way as a result of playing past the last year of a contract, regardless of what salary they got in the previous year? What?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

To a Cubs fan, anyone who points out that a Cubs idol may have feet of clay can only be a Cardinals fan. Someone hypothesized that Wood's HPB rate would be typical of power arms who don't control their curves well, as evidenced by high BB/9 rates as well. This is testable. Here are the BB/9 leaders among active pitchers (minimum 1000 IP), along with the HBP/PA numbers: Oliver Perez: 5.08 BB/9, 1 HBP per 88 PA Jamey Wright: 4.43 BB/9, 1 HBP per 57 PA Kerry Wood: 4.34 BB/9, 1 HBP per 59 PA Kip Wells: 4.25 BB/9, 1 HBP per 84 PA Miguel Batista: 4.12 BB/9, 1 HBP per 108 PA Ryan Dempster: 4.11 BB/9, 1 HBP per 110 PA Carlos Zambrano: 4.04 BB/9, 1 HBP per 94 PA Chad Billingsley: 3.90 BB/9, 1 HBP per 117 PA A. J. Burnett: 3.77 BB/9, 1 HBP per 86 PA Barry Zito: 3.74 BB/9, 1 HBP per 110 PA Well, at least there's one here who throws at people more than Wood does -- one out of nine, with none of the other nine even close. Does that make you feel better? Of course that fact that Wright also had something of a ... reputation may not.

May 22, 2012 9:40 AM on Farewell to a Phenom
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -11

You're free to "believe" whatever you want to, but the facts are that his HBP rates were higher with the Cubs (i.e., the first half-plus of his career) than with the later teams. The difference is very slight, and for practical purposes, his rate was constant over his career, once small sample size effects are taken into account. It certainly does not justify an assertion of much increased rates late in his career. Anybody who thinks that throwing at hitters only happens on first-pitch fastballs would be well advised to talk to some major leaguers and see if they agree. And while you're at it, ask some of those guys if it's true that Wood "never had that rep either." He most definitely DID have that rep. Keep rationalizing, Cubs fans. You have plenty of practice.

May 19, 2012 9:39 PM on Farewell to a Phenom
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -9

Lost in all of this Wood love is one small reminder that there were some regards in which he wasn't so lovable. I refer to this little throwaway: "He walked 201 batters, hit 30 more..." Here are hit-by-pitch rates for Wood and some of the guys he's compared to, here and elsewhere: Roger Clemens: 1 HBP per 127 batters faced Don Drysdale: 1 HBP per 92 batters faced Mark Prior: 1 HBP per 89 batters faced Rick Reuschel: 1 HBP per 169 batters faced Nolan Ryan: 1 HBP per 143 batters faced Kerry Wood: 1 HBP per 59 batters faced One of these things is not like the others. Wood may have been a great guy who was loved by the fans and gave them memorable moments, did all this great stuff in the community, etc., but there's no getting around it: the man threw at hitters. That was clear not just from the rate, but also from his body language when he did it.

May 19, 2012 7:24 AM on Farewell to a Phenom
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Just remember that you're talking here about a guy who devastated (.348/.438/.632) AL pitchers during interleague play. He didn't seem to have any trouble learning them then.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -2

I must be missing something here. The MLB bunting average is .430, you say. And the MLB BABIP is around .300. What conclusion do these two numbers suggest?

May 11, 2012 10:01 AM on Donnie Buntball
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 5

Fun fact about John Gast, whose pickoff move is so evil that major-league pitchers like Jaime Garcia have tried to learn in: In that game he also got his fourth and fifth (or fifth and sixth, depending on one rather murky box score) pickoffs of the season. His total number of stolen bases given up so far, again if I read the boxes right: zero (0). It's really too bad that the Reds don't have a farm team in the Texas League, because the battle between Gast and Billy Hamilton, once he gets promoted to AA, would be one of the all-time great immovable object/irresistible force collisions.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

Good work, and a couple of stories I hadn't heard before, notably Greenberg's. However, I'm not sure any of these are worse than what happened to Juan Encarnacion. That was near the end of a career rather than at its beginning, to be sure, but the combination of the sheer randomness of the injury on the one hand, and the horror of the thing, would have it on my list, maybe instead of Richard. What happened to Richard was awful, and the career it truncated could have been brilliant, but it stretches the definition somewhat to call it an "injury" rather than an "illness." Unless you're saying that something about the workout caused the stroke?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I think I'd add Adam Wainwright to at least the tweeners list, and maybe the #1s, if he makes it all the way back from TJ; certainly he was in that perpetual-CY-contender class before the surgery. He also raises an interesting question about the power arm requirement. He doesn't sit in the nineties with the fastball; it's around 89-91. What he does do is throw a curve that starts in geosynchronous orbit and winds up (pre-TJ, this is the thing that hasn't come back yet) just barely tickling the outside corner, or just barely not. FILTHY pitch, and I would claim, an existence proof that there are other ways than big heat to reach #1 status. Those other ways are surely rare, however.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 11

Or not. Personally, I find it strangely reassuring that no matter how severe a brain cramp I suffer, with the result that I totally miss an article's point and submit a completely clueless comment here, there are others that are worse.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Any truth to the rumor that Oscar Taveras is going to get his own daily, personal Future Shock page soon? This is the fourth time he's appeared here in the last two weeks.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

"Pitchers have committed three balks while Billy Hamilton was on base." Promising, very promising. However, he still has a ways to go before getting into Vince Coleman territory. If I remember my trivia correctly, there was one point during, I think, the 1987 season when more than one out of six balks (15 out of 89 is the fraction I remember) called in the National League was with Coleman on base. Of course, stealing bases and annoying pitchers was about all Coleman was good for. Hamilton has the chance to be a lot better than that. I'm with you, Sam: this guy has the chance to be enormous fun to watch.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

Have the inquiries included a request to be able to leave comments? Because I'd like to have that, and the new format doesn't make it obvious (or, as far as I can tell, possible) how to do it. That would be appreciated.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

The takeaways from this are (1) Pudge definitely belongs in the Hall and (2) Ted Simmons really got screwed during his years of BBWAA eligibility -- really "year" rather than years, which makes it even more outrageous. Other than allow too many passed balls, what did Simba do to hack off so many writers? Use too many polysyllablic words that they couldn't understand? Because he could do that. We really need a Ron Santo Prize for the player most preposterously overlooked in the years immediately after he retired. Simmons would be the second recipient, after the eponymous Santo and before the equally overlooked Bobby Grich.

Apr 20, 2012 7:11 AM on Pudge Retires
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Since he seems able to hit at any level, one almost wishes the Cardinals would send him back to Springfield, where he'd join Gast, Wong, Trevor Rosenthal, Oscar Taveras, etc., on what would have to be one of the most entertaining minor-league teams in recent memory.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

If Tyler Matzek was pitching right-handed, that would probably be a pretty good tipoff as to where his velocity went, as he's a lefty.

Apr 07, 2012 10:30 AM on Opening Day Notebook
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

My reason for speculating on the "depth" guys is that one can envision situations where neither of the front runners for #1 is available. Miller gets promoted in June, or less happily, blows out an elbow (I need to wash my mind out with bleach for having that thought), while Taveras either burns his way to the bigs or has something nasty about his swing exposed by better pitching. It's unlikely that both will occur, which is why you listed Adams and Martinez as 12/1 and 20/1 shots. But are the top unnamed guys (Wong, Rosenthal, Jenkins) really that much less likely to reach the top slot, if disaster or promotions do happen to the top two, than Adams and Martinez are? BTW, I'm with you as regards Martinez.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

The Cardinals odds look about right to me. Those 5/2 odds on Miller sound like Kevin's assessment of the chances that he'll still be eligible next year; if he is, he's still probably #1. He may show up in the bigs this year, but unless things go very right for him and hideously wrong in the major-league rotation, it probably won't be for long enough to exhaust his rookie eligibility. If there is a surprise in that list, to me it's that with the depth this system has, there aren't more guys (notably Wong and Rosenthal) coming in at the 20/1 level. That may simply be that Kevin wants to limit the number of candidates per team, though.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Thank you very much. I meant, compared to LAST year. Who can beat a ring?

Mar 29, 2012 8:52 AM on Opening Day Haikus
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

How much of Young's decline is the result of being devastated by an Albert Pujols liner, and how much is just the natural problem that a great big tall guy experiences with moving parts moving the wrong way? He got a double whammy, so to speak, but what in his situation generalizes to lessons to other 6'10" pitchers?

Mar 29, 2012 5:49 AM on Extending Lucroy
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Steph, your Cards bit's weak. "Better luck next year," you say? How can things improve?

Mar 28, 2012 10:40 AM on Opening Day Haikus
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

As I said: a LOOGY is "defined for these purposes as a left-handed reliever averaging less than one inning per appearance." The "second LOOGY" is then the LOOGY on a staff who accumulates the second most value as measured by RAR. I will be the first to agree that that isn't the best possible definition (for one thing, it discounts the ill effects of a really bad LOOGY who stays in the pen all year, pitching badly, so that a late-season call-up gets more value without being there for most of the season), but it's simple, easy to use, and not all that misleading. Literal LOOGYs, left-handed pitchers who get exactly one out per appearance, are rare. Second left-handers who sit at the end of the pen and cause short-pen advocates to grumble about them aren't. More nuanced definitions also run into a problem that I'll come back to. For RAR I just used the baseball-reference.com definitions (and statistics). Again, one might do better, but they're easy to use for something like this. Regardless of what offensive metric one uses, the point is clear: back in the Good Old Days of long starts and short bullpens, there was a drastic dropoff in the quality of offensive players after the top six or eight per team, just as there is today. This does not recommend a short bullpen to me. People tend to believe much about pre-WWII baseball that is not necessarily so, and the belief in the 4-man "iron horse" rotation is a good example. VERY few starting pitchers back then really approached starting in 1/4 of their team's games, and there were numerous pitchers on each staff who got occasional spot starts frequently enough for the whole thing to look more like a modern 5-man rotation than one might think. This fact complicates direct reliever-to-reliever comparisons. Coming up with a set of definitions that works well in both eras is therefore not easy.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

"A dedicated pinch runner, for instance, may seem like a rather limited use of a roster spot. But I don't know that a pitcher who can only face left-handed batters in the last three innings of a ballgame is any more useful." One would think not. However, one would be wrong. Analysis of the optimum use of the last few roster spots is a subject that would take a whole column or three to explore. However, insights can be gained by doing another now-and-then analysis. Specifically, consider this question: How many hitters on a 1930-1931 team contributed more value than the SECOND most valuable LOOGY (defined for these purposes as a left-handed reliever averaging less than one inning per appearance) on a 2010-2011 team? The answer may be surprising. Looking at NL LOOGYs only (the DH complicates things in the AL, so let's keep it apples to apples) for 2010 and 2011, the best LOOGY on a team averaged about 8.2 runs above replacement, while the second if any (at least one team didn't have two LOOGYs in a season) averaged 1.6 RAR, with very large scatter in both numbers. Perusing the 1930-1931 NL stats reveals that on average, about 11.6 guys had value as batters (measured by total RAR and therefore giving credit for defense to some lousy hitters) of 2 or greater. Of those 11.6, almost invariably one, and sometimes as many as three, would be a pitcher(! -- some of those old guys could hit...), and one or two more would be "regulars" or at least frequently-used reserves who were acquired mid-season. It would appear that at any given time, roughly 8 or 9 position players would be contributing more value on average to a team back then than that second LOOGY does now. That's all. Even the starters at fielding positions didn't necessarily contribute more value than the second LOOGY does today, let alone the last guy off the bench. I don't claim this methodology to be perfect, or even particularly good. However, it does raise a serious question as to whether the second LOOGY is the fifth wheel you seem to believe him to be, and if he's not a fifth wheel, you certainly can't blame a manager for using him.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

"This has meant less space on the roster for position players." Yeah, but so what? A less-than-comprehensive, but still detailed, perusal of run producers in the 1930s, compared to in the last ten years, seems to show that in both eras, the dominant RAR/WAR production was coming from about six to ten players per team, and once you get deep into the bench, you're talking about unproductive players. More accurately, you were talking about unproductive players in the 1930s, when the bench did go 8 or 9 players deep. Only two or three of them would be productive, a number not unlike what's seen in today's game. So what's the point of "space on the roster for position players" who don't contribute much by being there?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

The Storen throwaway leaves me scratching my head. Strep throat is contagious as all get out, and one would suspect that spring-training facilities are conducive to the kind of "close contact" that spreads it. Is Storen under quarantine to keep that from happening? Also, any thoughts on a report I've read that Chris Carpenter has gone back to St. Louis for more evaluation of his neck?

Mar 21, 2012 10:04 AM on Fillet o' Philly
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

I realize you don't have time to go in and interpret the IDs and put in names for all of the entries, but really -- you MUST tell us who "stink001" is.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

A subject near and dear to my heart. For favorable slots beyond the first 100, try 106 (Dave Stieb and Tim Raines), 113 (Josh Johnson and Yadier Molina), 140 (Ryan Howard and Javier Vazquez), 159 (Charlie Hough, Mike Flanagan and Joe Nathan), 185 (Doyle Alexander and Tim Hudson), 200 (Tim Wakefield, Eric Davis), 233 (Fred McGriff, Jesse Barfield, maybe Tom Browning). It thins out further from there. Very few slots have more than two star-level players drafted and signed in those slots in the nearly 50-year history of the draft. Interesting, isn't it, how third-to-seventh-round slots seem to produce more pitchers that succeed big than position players? It could be a small-sample-size effect, but I don't think so. It may also have been looked at more carefully than I've done; does anyone have a reference?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Uniquely to baseball, when mamma look down and spit on the ground every time the name gets mentioned, it's probably chaw...

Mar 07, 2012 3:52 PM on What the Batboy Saw
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

That's already the way the rule reads. Managers can DH for whichever of the nine fielders they want to.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Hey, I've got this great idea. If we're going to adopt the DH in the NL to shield these poor pitchers from injury in bunting practice, why stop there? Pitchers also face ruinous injury from batted balls, as Juan Nicasio and Chris Young and Bob Gibson and Herb Score and lots of others can tell you. So why not make those screens that they put up for guys throwing batting practice a regular part of the game? You can even put a strategic element into it by making the screens adjustable, so a pitcher and manager can decide which way they want the ball to carom off it. While we're at it, outfielders get hurt a lot by running after fly balls, don't they? Who's looking out for their interests? So have a cadre of designated fly-ball-runner-downs to do the chasing for them. In fact, invite kids from the stands to do this job! And you can even pay them MLB minimum wage for the game they're out there, and require them to become union members. That'll make a lot of people happy, and it'll swell both the union coffers and the crowds, without doing anything so committal that it inconveniences owners. That's what's important, isn't it? I mean, come on -- if you're going to trivialize the role of being an actual athlete when baseball is played, do it right!

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 5

Seconded, and I'd up my subscription fee a buck or two to help pay for them. We'll miss you.

Mar 02, 2012 5:25 PM on The Final Broadside
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

While I'd agree that the Cardinals may miss Duncan more than TLR, an important point is being missed in this analysis. You're right that Duncan "made a career of turning trash to treasure and coaxing innings out of injury cases." However, the Cardinals don't have much trash in their pitching staff any more. No longer are they relying on recycled arms like Franklin, Batista, Chuck Finley and Woody Williams of times past, etc. Instead, their bullpen is full of (relatively) young fire-breathers like Motte and Lynn and Sanchez, the starting rotation is stable and established (barring injury, of course), and more help is on the way from the farm than they've had in decades. Dunc would still be great to have, no doubt, but the skill set required for the current staff isn't necessarily the same thing, nor unique to him.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

To me, by far the most interesting of these is Colby Rasmus. We really need to see whether the sprained brain that he incurred in St. Louis will heal or become a chronic condition. I am not optimistic, based not only on his late-season performance last year, but also on the fact that he gave some rather odd interviews during the off season that suggested lasting damage to what's between his ears.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

This seems credible, and it works for the arbiters as well as the people contesting the case; there is precedent for that in the Real World (tm) of law. Rarely does the Supreme Court make a decision that radically overturns case law pertinent to the case in front of them. Much more often their decision turns on some little point that officially leaves the larger questions unresolved -- yet their decision still amounts to a "win" for one side and a "loss" for the other. I wouldn't be surprised if the panel breathed a massive sigh of relief at being able to take this "easy" out, rather than having to address the real issue of just WTF happened to produce such a weird test.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

This is the key point. The 50-game ban or non-ban is basically a transient that affects one man, playing for one team, in one season. The completely inexplicable test result -- the "insanely high" levels in his urine, so high as to be unexplainable by "normal" steroid abuse, if the reports are accurate -- is a much wider-ranging problem. That needs to get resolved for reasons extending far beyond Ryan Braun and the Brewers.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 7

Remind us about "technicalities" if you ever have to stand trial based on evidence where chain of custody was not preserved.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 5

Kevin's point about a pitching-rich system being "just what Arizona needs" is something to think about. In terms of pure talent, this system doesn't match up with those of Toronto, San Diego, St. Louis, etc. But which is "better": a system full of high-powered talent that's blocked from making it to the majors, or one that may not have the raw talent, but does have exactly what the major-league team needs?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

This gets close to what I used to do for a living, and I will say that risk is not that abstract. Computational models for determining risk based on event-tree analysis exist, and while they can be time-consuming to set up, they're conceptually simple and do a reasonable job -- if the input data are good. The problem is, they're an extreme Garbage In, Garbage Out kind of thing. Miss the probabilities of the risk-inducing thing happening (injury, loss of effectiveness, getting in a manager's doghouse, etc.) and the resulting assessment is completely bogus. I take the liberty of claiming we know a lot more about quantifying risk than we do about the chances of Dusty Baker or Ozzie Guillen getting down on a guy.

Feb 21, 2012 6:22 AM on Evaluating Risk
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Would a left-handed version of Gary Sheffield be a reasonable perfect-world comparison? I was always mildly awed by the violence of Sheff's swing. Of course a 500-HR guy is a very perfect-world comp, and one should not expect Taveras to be anywhere near that good. Furthermore, Sheff had plate discipline that is not yet evident in Taveras. But one can always hope ...

Feb 14, 2012 8:06 AM on Top 101 Prospects
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Many people seem to think Carlos Martinez is destined for the pen because of his small size, in which case he'd presumably bump Reed as closer. He certainly has a closer's stuff.

Feb 13, 2012 8:34 AM on Top 101 Prospects
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Screwed? How? He's flanked by other four-star guys (Gose and Lee). Not everyone who makes this list is a five-star prospect. As Kevin has explained in times past, there aren't many of those.

Feb 13, 2012 8:33 AM on Top 101 Prospects
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Kolten Wong (#88) was also a 2011 draftee.

Feb 13, 2012 8:27 AM on Top 101 Prospects
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Good stuff as always. I'm not sure how you choose your team-specific sources, but for the Cardinals, might I suggest Future Redbirds? Their top-20 list is now up, at http://www.futureredbirds.net/2012/01/18/future-redbirds-2012-top-20-prospects/ , and as usual, is well researched and carefully thought through.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

He played the middle infield in college, but has not done so in the minors. His long, lean physique is a bit odd for a second baseman. A distinct minority of MLB 2B are as tall and skinny (relatively) as he is. It could probably be done, though. Again, SSS warning, but when I've seen him play, he looked reasonably athletic and at home on a ball field.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

"Kid covers a TON of plate" ... right. Also covers a ton of what's ON his plate. In fairness, I will agree with Kevin's comment that his conditioning has improved, but when I saw him in Springfield this summer (warning: small sample size applies), it still looked like he had a ways to go. I hope he gets there.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 5

Measured in kilograms, maybe?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Interesting that Bryan Anderson doesn't make this list, even in the "nine more," seeing that he's probably the front runner for the backup-catcher slot on the big-league roster going into spring training. He tends to get ignored as a prospect, possibly because of the perception that he's been around a long time without ever breaking through. However, he's still only 25.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Certainly less purple south of that belt, maybe less so on the north; there were still abundant Cards fans for another fifty miles or so north of Bloomington, the last I checked (the "small town" I mentioned was Normal, which is not so small any more). Part of the reason -- and I think there's a connection to the Cubs/CWS dichotomy in perception and fan support here -- may be that historically, downstate Illinois has never had much love for the Windy City, in regards transcending mere sports rivalries. You can see it in state politics; in town-and-gown issues that appear at the large universities (the major state universities in Illinois are downstate); in lots of things. The Cubs, because of their aura as "America's lovable losers," have fans even among a demographic that still doesn't like Chicago. The White Sox, lacking that patina, don't. This may spill over into the decision (or lack of decision) that the Sox have made not to market to downstate crowds; if it wouldn't work because of the resentment on the part of down-staters for things Chicagoan, why spend the money on it? Pure speculation here, but it does fit a number of facts.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Richard, you didn't need to say they were delusional; they're Cubs fans. That suffices. Suggestion for Bradford: How about a future column that talks about what it takes to get a fan to switch loyalties? I'm a similarly diehard Cardinals fan (and would enjoy knocking one or two back with you, Richard -- there's plenty of room for friendly rivalry in those warring fan bases that really is friendly), and literally cannot imagine a course of events that would cause that to change. My wife, by contrast, grew up a Dodgers fan because of the proximity of a Dodgers farm team, but changed to being an Arizona fan when their major-league team popped into existence within reasonable driving range. (I do not understand my wife.) How many people do undergo such "conversion", and how? How important are "converts" to ticket sales by most teams? And what do converts have to do with the Chicago situation? I bet the answer to that last one, anyway, is non-zero.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

How little things change. I grew up in a small town about half way between Chicago and St. Louis, slightly closer to the former, that had its own newspaper, equipped with a very good sports columnist, the late, lamented Jim Barnhart. He pointed out that there were two kinds of baseball fans in town: Cardinals fans and Cubs fans. There was reportedly some other team in Chicago, but nobody seemed to know much about it. This despite Comiskey being considerably the closest park of the three to reach from there. He then went on to describe the typical demeanor of the Cubs fan, which he described as a face saying "Next Year In Jerusalem" (this was rather a long time ago...). I suspect strongly that Laura Ricketts was a product of that mentality, based on that final quote.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

LOL, that was hilarious ... I will say, however, that far from having "got old after about two minutes," the Rally Squirrel has become part of Cardinals folklore, and this for a franchise sufficiently rich in folklore as to have a rather high bar. The Rally Squirrel features on T-shirts that still sell on mlb.com, apparently fairly well. Actually, my favorite part of the way the Rally Squirrel played out was the shot of Angel Hernandez trying to calm down Roy Oswalt, a big grin on Angel's face (although it was almost obscured by his equally big nose). Then, when Oz walked back to the mound with a little grin of his own, and a "Wow" that any lip reader could clearly distinguish, his status as one of my favorite players was sealed. Well done, sir!

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

More likely a setup guy, with possibilities of moving into the rotation if somebody goes down. Two comments on the St. Louis situation. First, Mike Matheny isn't Tony La Russa, and it is entirely unclear how he will view the closer role -- anoint somebody, do closer by committee, go with the hot hand, etc. Second, it is a bit misleading to list Salas as the 2011 closer. In fact TLR used a bunch of guys in that role in 2011; Motte got the job at the end of the season, and Eduardo Sanchez filled the slot very well mid-season. (We will not speak of the one who had the job before Salas and Sanchez.) This gives Matheny plenty of options for closer-by-committee or hot-hand approaches should he choose to go that way. He's just an unknown quantity at this point.

Jan 26, 2012 10:27 AM on The Closer Carousel
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Kevin, would it be amiss to also consider Ryan Jackson as a riser? He hit well at the AFL (not that that's all that difficult to do...), and since it's always been thought that he had plenty of glove to play shortstop in the majors but may not have enough bat, one would think he might fit on this list too. Or is a .342/.438/.500 AFL line insufficient to generate excitement even for a shortstop?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I'll certainly add my congrats to the list (although, as a fan of a certain other NLC team, I hope you're not overwhelmingly successful until the Astros move to the AL...), and at the same time, I think Baseball Prospectus deserves some congratulations as well. Mike is just the latest in a long line of BP writers whose skills have been noticed in the game itself and who have moved into jobs that most of us would give ten years off our lives to have. One of the greatest compliments that can be paid to an organization is to have its people in hot demand to move on to bigger and better things.

Jan 25, 2012 5:59 AM on Last Pitch
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I'll second this. Houston probably had the best ballpark food (at least the best we actually ate) among the more than 20 major-league parks I've visited. However, you pay for it. The policy change is almost surely a good thing on balance when trying to retrieve fans through cost cutting.

Jan 24, 2012 6:02 AM on Tuesday, January 24
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 6

Read what was said, not what was not said. Batting .400 with RISP certainly can be argued to be "the HEART of Detroits success from an offensive standpoint." (I personally would prefer "a" heart to "the" heart, but that's a quibble.) The statement should not be controversial. Teams score more runs -- a lot more runs -- when somebody performs like that than if the same hitter bats .200 with the same RISP, all else equal; that is obvious. It does not imply, however, that Martinez would have been as successful with RISP going forward. The understandable allergy of statistically-oriented observers toward "clutchiness" as a skill often obscures the fact that players do have clutch performances, sometimes over a considerable period of time. It just isn't something they can be counted on to do again.

Jan 18, 2012 9:27 AM on Wednesday, January 18
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I've wondered about this in the context of the 1980s Cardinals as well. They had no power to speak of, yet scored a lot of runs in their best season by exploiting the running game in a way that has rarely been seen before or since. Would that have worked as well with a high-OBP slow guy at the front of the lineup? In today's game, with the de-emphasis on speed and the belief (well demonstrated through experience) that OBP is life, it's absurd to talk about "clogging the bases" with walks. That doesn't mean it was always so.

 
BillJohnson
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Agreed, and it's a very important distinction. If the Hall confers fame upon the deserving, you get a totally different membership than if it rewards fame for those who have already achieved that fame, warranted or not. In the latter case, guys like Jack Morris have a legitimate case for membership. Personally, I much prefer the former definition; fame is a fleeting thing, and the function of the Hall should be to conserve it for the deserving, so that future generations can understand how great a player was. But it is not axiomatic that that is the goal of the Hall, and sportswriters for decades have given that second definition at least a head-nod. Does anyone know what the Hall's own charter has to say on the matter?

 
BillJohnson
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This is a very powerful argument. Do that with Morris, and even if you believe (as I do) that the value of being routinely a very good, but not great, pitcher in an exceptionally large number of innings per year is underestimated, he still isn't exactly in scintillating company. In many regards his closest comparable among HoF pitchers is then Catfish Hunter, who is a reasonable claimant to the title "worst pitcher in the Hall of Fame." Incidentally, one conclusion that I'm reaching from all this is that the guy who has been positively screwed by the way 1980s-era pitchers are viewed is Dave Stieb. All of the things in favor of Morris' candidacy, with the single exception of that World Series game, are also true of Stieb, and in the bargain, he was a much better pitcher.

Jan 13, 2012 1:40 PM on Jack Morris in Motion
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Fair enough, and also something where data should be locatable. Did the CS/SS/B ratios change when Morris was allegedly pitching to the score, compared both to tighter games and to the behaviors of other pitchers?

Jan 12, 2012 3:24 PM on Watching Jack Play
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I wonder if there are players who are, to put it bluntly, too dumb to succeed above AAA. Once upon a time I read that the athletes who reach the top echelons of their sports tend to be people of somewhat (slightly, not drastically) above average intelligence. According to the article, which I really wish I could find again, the highly intelligent athlete is difficult to coach, because he/she challenges the coaching. The below-average athletic intellect, by contrast, just never gets it to begin with. I am thinking of one particular highly-touted prospect, whom I won't name, who was hailed as a can't-miss hitter on the way up, but is doing a pretty creditable job of missing so far, and in the process, has said and done some things that make me suspect he's not the brightest light bulb in the scoreboard. Consensus seems to be that this guy will eventually figure it out, but I really wonder. There must be others like him. So how smart DO you have to be to succeed at baseball?

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 5

Fair enough, Jay, and I think you're approaching the heart of the matter: whether comparison to replacement level properly accounts for the skill of being able to throw 250+ effective innings/year for a long, long time. Because while Heyman doesn't put it in those terms, it's really the heart of his argument, when you strip away all the silly ad-hominem stuff. I am coming to suspect that the answer is that it does not -- which is a very different conclusion than I held in previous years, when I pretty well pooh-poohed the notion of Morris as HoFer. Being able to throw that many effective innings IS a skill, and a rare one in modern baseball. Morris finished in the top ten in MLB innings pitched seven times in his career. The list of Morris contemporaries with that many top-10 finishes is very short, and very distinguished (basically, Clemens, Maddux, and maybe Johnson, Smoltz and Carlton to the extent they were Morris contemporaries). Include the guys who did it six times, and it's still a highly distinguished list (P. Niekro, Blyleven, Valenzuela). Most of those guys, I would claim, had value beyond their raw WAR totals, for all the reasons you say aren't being captured, and others like them (not to mention for sheer awesomeness). It's not unreasonable to me to consider the possibility that Morris also had such excess value. All of this still doesn't convince me that Morris is really a HoF-worth pitcher. It does, however, convince me that the case against him is not as clear-cut as I long thought it to be.

Jan 11, 2012 12:55 PM on Watching Jack Play
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Because the issue isn't whether pitching to the score affected his ERA, it's whether it affected his ability to pitch lots of innings. Again, who would you rather have pitching for your team: a guy who's throwing 220 innings with an ERA+ (I use this metric for a reason) of 130, or one who throws 265 innings with an ERA+ of 115? The former is Tim Lincecum this year (and a modern pitcher who puts that line up year after year is a HoFer in the making), the latter is Morris at his peak in the 1980s. In today's game, I'd rather have Lincecum. In the 1980s, with 4-man rotations and significantly less deep bullpens than today, you can make a case that Morris was the better guy to have around. If pitching to the score really did help him be 1985 Morris rather than 2011 Lincecum, then it helped him be valuable in the context of his time -- which was not the present day.

Jan 11, 2012 10:09 AM on Watching Jack Play
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

That part, I think I can follow Heyman on, and -- get this -- I'm not sure he's wrong. The answer to the "why" question is -- theoretically -- so that there are more top-flight, out-getting pitches left in the pitcher's arm as the season goes on. The implicit assumption is that a pitcher can only throw just so many pitches per year at 100% effort, whether it's by dialing a fastball up to 95 rather than sitting at a "comfortable" 90, settling for a few rpm less on the snap imparted to a curve ball so that it doesn't break as hard, and so on. "Pitching to the lead" then amounts to pitching with less than 100% effort on every pitch. Doing so once one has a big lead, so the argument goes, preserves the arm so that the top stuff is available when needed in more games. This, again so the argument goes, was the thing that allowed guys like Morris to get into 250-inning territory year after year, whereas a 2011-vintage pitcher, who's throwing at near peak effort all the time, risks his arm falling off if he gets beyond 230 or so. The obvious down side is the possibility that the opponents get back into the game by teeing off on the less-than-100%-effort offerings. "Pitching to the score," "knowing how to win," etc., is then a special trait of those pitchers with a particularly accurate sense of when they can get away with backing off from peak effort and when they can't. Most statistical studies of pitching to the score, e.g. by the late, lamented Greg Spira, focus on the outcome, and conclude that it didn't really happen. In my opinion this is misguided. What should be done is a careful look at whether it HAPPENED, as manifested by slower fast balls, mushier curve balls, etc., when the game wasn't in doubt. I am not aware of this having been done, and would love to be corrected if it has. Seen in this light, I can begin to understand some of the arguments for Morris. In the context of his time, which was more valuable: a pitcher who was lights-out for 200+ innings, or one who was good-but-not-great for 250? Could Morris -- or any other pitcher -- choose to be one and not the other? Was there a unique ability that allowed Morris to be "effective enough" while throwing a 95%-effort pitch a third of the time? I don't think so, but the data don't allow me to refute people who think the answer is yes, of whom Heyman presumably is one. Can anyone else do better?

Jan 11, 2012 9:11 AM on Watching Jack Play
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Was he ever? Seeing him at #14 on this list two years ago struck me as a rather significant stretch even then.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Presumably the mid-term plan is to do one of two things, possibly both. One, use a "mix and match" outfield in which four guys play regularly and platoon splits are observed, which is what TLR tried to do this year until Colby Rasmus self-destructed, as Beltran won't (unless he can't stay healthy). If Jay, Holliday and Craig are all temperamentally OK with that, it may have value in keeping them healthy (no small consideration with several of those guys), not to mention having a serious thumper on the bench. Two, if Beltran is healthy and productive, Craig and (to a lesser extent) Jay may become very interesting, cost-controlled trade bait. The Cardinals are solid at most positions but could still use an upgrade at second base, and a fifth starter superior to Westbrook would be a useful thing. Is there a team they could dangle Craig in front of that needs a booming bat at DH, and could help with those holes? Not obvious to me, but the possibility can't be ruled out.

Dec 23, 2011 3:11 PM on Trial By Fire
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

All of these are excellent in a macabre way, but I'm really surprised not to see Vince Coleman getting eaten by a tarpaulin machine in the 1985 post season on this list.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Thanks. I'm really looking forward to that.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Thanks for a highly informative article. Any plans for a follow-up addressing the labrum rather than the cuff itself? As someone with SLAP tears in both shoulders, I'm looking forward to becoming informed on that kind of injury as fully as you've just done with the cuff. It isn't just abstract fan knowledge that one can extract from these articles -- some of what's in them helps people understand their own injuries.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Who's the Pirates' roving pitching instructor in the minors, if they have one? He may have an interesting year ahead of him.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Sometimes the dog that didn't bark is interesting. R.J., got any candidates for guys who _were_ tendered contracts, but you can't figure out why? For example, there is puzzlement among Cardinals fans at the decision not to non-tender Skip Schumaker and Kyle McClellan, and other teams will have similar puzzles.

Dec 14, 2011 8:42 AM on Love Me Non-Tender
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 7

I think you've homed in on the key point here. When a weird result is reported -- and this is as true in the hard sciences, where I work, as in news reports about PEDs -- the analytical mind starts by saying "gee, this is weird, what's going on?" rather than jumping to an immediate conclusion. The scientific woods are full of "bad science" that resulted when that question wasn't asked -- cold fusion, polywater, thorium halos that were interpreted as arguing for a young earth, I could go on like this for a long time. The solution to that problem, which in the real world is essential to the scientific method, is to try to DISprove the weird result and the ensuing "theory," not by name calling but by experimental tests. If the weird results withstand the tests, then people begin to take them seriously. Unfortunately, while scientists routinely share data (or at least experimental details) with each other so that those tests can be conducted, the drug testers certainly don't share comparable things with the media or fans. There is consequently a credibility problem when a "gee, this is weird" result crops up, as may or may not have happened here, depending on these leaked news reports. Jay, I love your "I'm mostly curious as to why this case is so curious" line. In my opinion MLB owes it to us to clarify some of those curious things. To continue the science analogy, we fans are the "funding agency" that, by way of buying tickets and other MLB commodities, pays for the "experiments" of players using or avoiding PEDs, and of testing labs that try to catch them cheating. A real-world funding agency would be very unhappy about one of its researchers asserting or refuting a weird finding based only on little bits of information that dribble out via leaks. We the public, IMO, are entitled to have our "curiosity" -- which really means "suspicion" -- resolved on this one, as long as we're buying tickets to games.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 5

OK, so what we're hearing now is that "substance was prohibited, but not PED" -- and also that testosterone levels were "insanely high." Is there any imaginable set of circumstances under which both of these statements can possibly be correct?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

The link to the Goldstein tweet seems to be busted. I'd love to read it; can it be fixed?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

Agreed, and let's try to extend the same courtesy to others in the same situation. Due process is important here. (And I say this despite being no fan of Braun or the Brewers; I am, however, a strong fan of the concept of not seeing people screwed by the system, ANY system.)

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

A fair point, but one of the objectionable things about Haudricourt's ballot was its preposterously blatant homerism. That's the thing that leaves me disinclined to take him seriously in this case, not his bizarre views of what constituted "value."

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -2

Wasn't it Haudricourt who turned in the unspeakably bad MVP ballot in 2008 that he then tried to justify in the press? His credibility is not high with me. This said, I'm waiting with bated breath for the next shoe to drop on this one.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Add Musial to that list; he missed 1945 due to Navy service, although he didn't see combat. Greenberg lost three whole years (1942-4) and might well have been in the top ten 1B ever, apart from that loss. Williams, of course, missed the most time overall, having served for three years in WWII as well as his more celebrated, but shorter, Korean War service. However, it's kinda hard to move up the rankings from where he is!

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Relatively short career (the war really hurt him), career WARP under 60, no single monstrous season, behind Gehrig in production for most of their joint career. He was a thoroughly deserving HoFer and clearly among the top 20 1B ever, but the list only went ten players deep, and he wasn't top ten at the position.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Very nice analysis, and I must say that as a Cardinals fan, I'm horrified at losing the guy -- although you have to feel good for the sake of anyone who makes it to the highest job you can have in baseball without swinging a bat or wearing a glove. This said, one side comment. The Cardinals felt it necessary to elevate John Vuch to be sort of "co-guy-in-charge" of the farm system alongside Luhnow. I'm not close enough to the inner workings of the team to be able to interpret this, but consensus is that it was recognition that Luhnow may have bit off rather more than he could chew when it came to fixing the farm system (which, to be sure, he did in spades). This may be something to watch: can he organize and delegate, in the face of an organization that's pretty screwed up and may not realize how screwed up it is? Either way, congratulations to him. This is an opportunity to flex his muscles, the likes of which few of us will ever see. He earned it. And don't worry, Cardinals fans; with Vuch, Sig Mejdal, etc., remaining, the team's farm system will be fine even with this severe a loss.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

I wouldn't go that far. Pujols is such an historically unique talent that it is probably not straightforward to say what _does_ have relevance to his trajectory.

Dec 08, 2011 4:21 PM on Winter Meeting Winners
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

It is tempting to speculate that Pujols' VERY subpar April/May 2011, which dragged down his entire 2011 line, was due at least in part to the contract wrangle that was still going on when spring training started. We may call him "The Machine," but he's still human, and subject to human emotions. Remove those two months and his 2011 looks typically Pujolsian. This year, the contract wrangle got sorted out long before spring training started, so it should have nothing to do with his performance. If he gets off to a slow start in 2012, concerns about a decline may be in order. If not ... well, there's a reason he's become a meme.

Dec 08, 2011 1:31 PM on Winter Meeting Winners
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Going back and looking at this article four months later, some of these comments look mighty ironic, don't they?...

Dec 08, 2011 8:35 AM on Trade Deadline Winners
 
BillJohnson
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Atlanta fan, by chance? The question isn't how bad he has to be; it's how long he has to be bad. Despite stinking the place up in Georgia for the last two years, he still is more or less an average hitter over his career, which means that before 2010, he was actually reasonably good, if not the star people hoped he would be. RJ frames this correctly: the Bucs are gambling that they'll get 2008 or 2009 out of him rather than 2010 or 2011. If they get that, it's not a bad signing, particularly at the price. Is 2009 so far in the past as to be no longer applicable, then yeah, they're out $1.75M for something they're better off without.

Dec 07, 2011 4:05 PM on A Two Buc Gamble
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

In one of those delicious bits of irony, Tony La Russa, of all people, went at least partially with the best-pitcher-available model for much of the season. Sure, he always had a designated "closer." For much of the year, that closer was not the best pitcher available, and he'd run firemen out there who were better. And the flip side was that his use of his closer du jour was not always for the routine 9th-inning save; even after Jason Motte inherited the closer's mantle in late August, he continued to get called on in non-save, or at least non-9th-inning, situations. Therein lies a lesson, I think. Once he finally wised up and defenestrated Ryan Franklin, Miguel Batista, etc., the Cardinals had a remarkably deep and capable bullpen that would allow good relievers to be used in just about any setting. And once he had that weapon, he used it. Stockpiling effective firemen had much to do with getting the Cardinals to the post season, even as the nominal "closer" position continued to exist.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

I second that last sentence, RB. All it does is make Cubs fans look vindictive and petty. As for whether "some sort of collusive vendetta" is required to explain how long it took to get Santo into the Hall, this claim is silly. All it takes is disagreement as to whether a hitter who derives much of his WARP value from walks, particularly one batting cleanup for mediocre teams as he did for the first half of his career, is really contributing as much by doing so as the raw stat would imply. The modern position is that a walk is a walk, that a batter is helping his team by drawing walks, and a high walk rate as part of WARP, TAv, etc., is a good thing regardless of where one bats in the lineup. This assertion is not carved in stone, and to this day there are knowledgeable baseball people who deny that it is so. Those people would look at Santo's enormous walk totals and see a guy whose value was not as great as it is now perceived to be. Are they wrong? Possibly, maybe probably. But a "collusive vendetta" is certainly not required to have this view.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Cut. Off. Nose. Spite. Face.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

The path forward for Morrison seems surprisingly onerous. I assume the surgery will be arthroscopic, right? If it's really nothing but cartilage damage, why the crutches? I've had both knees scoped, with cartilage/meniscus damage in both, and for the second one, five years after the first, was walking the next day -- not so well with the first one, but surgical technique has advanced since then. If a decrepit old guy can be back on his feet quickly from such a procedure, why not a young, fit ballplayer? Or did I just luck out?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 6

So you're saying here that certain players like Mo have "earned," or should earn, exemptions from the rules defining the strike zone? the NBA-ification of MLB continues....

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Don't underestimate how badly this team's front office has alienated its community. The stadium may not be enough to get fans back. The stadium plus Pujols AND Wilson may not be enough.

Dec 01, 2011 7:15 PM on Tuesday, November 29
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I would further note that Rogers Clemens wasn't a very good pitcher. And who's this Snyder guy? Cory? Russ? Someone else I don't know about? Seriously, guys, some very poor proofreading and copyediting in this one. There are quite a large number of comparable goofs elsewhere in the text. Might there have been a rush to get it to e-press before it was fully scrutinized?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

This troubled me too, but part of the problem may be that we don't know exactly what a five-star prospect is (or four, three...). Kevin, unlike previous years, you started this year's prospect series without an introductory paragraph in the first one, or in a previous article, explaining what the stars mean. Any chance of doing that, so we're looking at these things from common ground? (After you enjoy your Turkey Day off, of course; first things first...)

Nov 24, 2011 11:37 AM on Cubs Top 11 Prospects
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

Fair enough, but Cardenas wasn't just a one-trick pony; he got named to several All-Star teams, largely as a backup, and almost entirely on the "strength" of abominable offensive seasons. He made as many or more All-Star teams than several Hall of Famers (Hank Greenberg, Richie Ashburn, Phil Rizzuto, numerous pitchers). Javier was also a repeat All-Star, as was Alley. My point is not that these guys were undeserving. They were all up-the-middle players, in a time when it was almost taken for granted that shortstops and catchers couldn't hit; Cardenas, for example, was fourth in the league in TAv among shortstops, with a "robust" .236, and the top NL SS TAv belonged to Dal Maxvill, of all people. It is that the bar is higher today, not lower. Yes, Jay, I agree, making it to multiple ASGs does count for something. However, it counts for more today than in the sixties, simply because it's harder to do.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Actually, I'd say the opposite problem may exist. The rosters haven't expanded by nearly as much as the leagues have. With the requirement for at least one player per team, the competition for roster slots has intensified, not weakened. I was looking at exactly this point in connection with Santo, who was the starter in 4 of his 9 ASG appearances, and was named a reserve in the others. Look at the starting lineup for the NL in the 1968 ASG: Mays, Flood, McCovey, Aaron, Santo, Helms(!), Grote(!!), Kessinger(!!!), Drysdale. The reserves included such "stars" as Leo Cardenas (career OPS+ of 88, and that wasn't one of his better years), Gene Alley (also a career OPS+ of 88), Julian Javier (career OPS+ 78!, although that, to give credit where due, was not as bad as many of his years), while the AL had Don Wert (OPS+ of 67 that year) and Duane Josephson (who?) as reserves. Hanging around with that kind of company does not necessarily mark one as one of the greats of the game, although to be sure, being in a starting lineup with Mays and Aaron, and hitting in one of the power positions, does suggest that Santo wasn't exactly chopped liver.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Thanks for this article. Not only is it highly informative; it also puts into sharp focus what has been bugging me for years about the notion of Ron Santo as Hall of Famer. I hadn't quite been able to focus it before. I can now. Put simply, it just seems extraordinary to me that the sad-sack Cubs teams of the 1960s and early 1970s could have had as many as four future HoFers playing for them at the same time. We are not exactly talking about a Yankees-like dynasty here. The only other team in, say, 1971 to have this many HoFers at one time was San Francisco, which during this time period was a considerably better team, and also -- I can't think of another way to put it -- _felt_ like they had future Hall of Famers. I am well aware that "feelings" are not a good basis for evaluating who belongs in Cooperstown. But four Cubs at once ... it just can't help but raise the question of whether these metrics, which assuredly do improve on gut feelings, are really as good at identifying Hall-worthy players as we think they are.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Alas, four benighted souls did.

Nov 21, 2011 2:39 PM on National League
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 5

Look. You're basically saying that the only stat (at the minimum, the key "peripheral") really worth looking at is K/9, and that Pineda should have finished above Nova because he was better at striking guys out. Essentially all of your other arguments for Pineda have been met by one or another objection here. K/9 is a pretty good metric for a pitcher's raw stuff, and has some degree of predictive power going forward. To claim it as the thing that makes this comparison "ever in Pineda's favor" so that preferring Nova is "disgraceful" is just silly. You can do better than this, Derek.

Nov 21, 2011 11:02 AM on Voting Outrage
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

No. If every voter used the same basis for deciding on his/her votes, the voting would be unanimous. That's a very different statement. There are many entirely rational criteria for determining votes, based on different weightings of things. "Correct" weightings are not holy writ inscribed on a stone tablet somewhere.

Nov 21, 2011 8:41 AM on Voting Outrage
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

I'm not sure which observation is more mystifying to me: that over 30 voters would leave Clayton Kershaw off their CY ballots, or that there is someone out there who actually gave Nyjer Morgan a #1 MVP vote.

Nov 21, 2011 8:34 AM on National League
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 5

I'll give you two reasons for preferring Nova over Pineda. One, Pineda benefited from an impossibly, unsustainably low BABIP that was the only thing keeping this "close" (sic). Two, Nova had a considerably better ERA+, not just ERA. Yes, I am aware that the second reason arguably isn't as strong as it looks, when you look at actual opponents faced. It seems to me as though your real argument here is that the voters didn't look at "the right" advanced statistics, rather than that they just fixated on wins.

Nov 21, 2011 6:26 AM on Voting Outrage
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Not really. If you go through the NL rosters for 2011, you will find that very few teams had real "long guys," in the sense of relievers with IP/game approaching 2, at all -- St. Louis is practically the only exception, with Boggs, Lynn, McClellan during the part of the year when he relieved. Most teams didn't have that luxury. The overwhelming majority of NL relievers had IP/G averages of 1 or thereabouts. When you consider that few teams carried an acceptable 11th (or 12th) man who pitched significantly fewer than the 50-ish innings a typical reliever pitched, it is not obvious at all that pitchers to absorb the added load that MGL proposes can be found. St. Louis would actually have been better equipped for this than most -- and I STILL wouldn't want McClellan or Boggs to up their innings count.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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The point, though, isn't just the run prevention (or lack of it) by the relievers; it's also wear and tear. When I read the part about "What all these scenarios have in common should be obvious", my immediate reaction was "they were all in the post season, when you don't have to worry about overextending the bullpen any more." This is not the case during the regular season. McClellan, to take one, had a very substantial first-half/second-half split in 2011. He threw too many innings as it was. Piling on more innings in the second half of the season, when he became the long guy after starting for the first half, would not have ended well. And it wasn't going to be the LOOGYs absorbing those extra innings, whether the calculation talks about "an average reliever" or not.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

A shortcoming of this otherwise interesting analysis is that it presumes that the innings not pitched by starters as a result of the quick hook would be spread evenly around the bullpen. This is clearly not the case. The closer wouldn't get more innings (except maybe as an indirect result of having a couple more more late, tight leads to hold), nor would the 8th-inning guy, nor would the LOOGY(s). The load would consequently fall disproportionately on one or two "long guys" in the pen. That is undesirable for two reasons. One, the long guys usually aren't very good. Two, one of the main reasons long guys are long guys (the other one being their stuff) is that they don't have the resiliency to tolerate a starter's work load. As a Cardinals fan, I would not have been happy to see Mitchell Boggs or Kyle McClellan take on fifteen or twenty more innings in 2011 than they actually pitched -- McClellan was overextended as it was. Interesting analysis, though, and worth some exploration. And who would have thought that St. Louis would have suffered second most severely in the NL, over the last several years, as a result of Tony La Russa NOT messing with his bullpen?

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Ryan Vogelsong was born in 1977, which indeed makes him a "youngster" to my 50-plus-year-old eyes, but to call him one in baseball terms seems ... unusual.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Private planes figure altogether too prominently in the sad compilation of premature baseball deaths. To the tales of Munson, Lidle and Koenecke should be added that of Ken Hubbs, former Cubs shortstop and 1962 Rookie of the Year, who made the classic blunder of trying to beat bad weather, flew into a storm, and crashed his Cessna. What made that one particularly ironic was that Hubbs had been deathly scared of flying, and had taken flying lessons to overcome his fear, which otherwise would cripple his baseball career -- see under Jackie Jensen, whose fear of flying caused him to retire early (another unusual "demise" in baseball terms).

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -2

Must be a really slow off season, if Jamey Carroll's signing is a reason for this much electronic ink.

Nov 14, 2011 9:53 AM on The Twins Go Carolling
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 0

Having sustained food poisoning that apparently resulted from a cheese pizza at the otherwise excellent 3Com Stadium, I can vouch for the literal truth of this.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

The less-talent argument certainly has legs. However, another thing is the "resilience" of the team, its ability to absorb losses to actual contributors and replace them with somebody useful. There should be some metric for that: how well does a team do in compensating for the loss of someone important via injury? The unexpected (by some) emergence of Allen Craig as a significant offensive force was enormously helpful to St. Louis in papering over the Pujols and Holliday injuries, although Craig himself spent enough time on the DL to hurt the team. By contrast, if the Reds had had anything comparable to fill in for Scott Rolen (Miguel Cairo, Todd Frazier, Juan Francisco -- ecchhh!), the sprint to the wild-card finish line might have been even more exciting than it was.

 
BillJohnson
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Thing is, Ramos isn't a "millionaire ballplayer." He was a rookie this year, with the usual $415k salary -- far more than most of us make, to be sure, and enough to make him look pretty durn rich in the eyes of the impoverished end of the Venezuelan social structure, but hardly so much that he can just toss off the expense of bodyguards, not just for himself but for his family, in a casual way. This may be a problem that MLB itself should intervene in, rather than leaving it to the individual ballplayers; having players subject to extortion can't be in the best interests of the game, to say nothing of the people who play it.

 
BillJohnson
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Maybe a bodyguard would take the joy out of a Venezuelan player's life, but to be brutally frank, not having one may take the LIFE out of a Venezuelan player's life. An ounce of prevention and all that. I too certainly hope and pray for Ramos to get out of this in one piece, but it's probably time for MLB to accept that there is a problem in Venezuela and start looking for an organized response.

 
BillJohnson
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One important difference: curve balls wouldn't curve, since they require air resistance. Nor would knuckle balls knuckle, sinkers sink, etc. I'd recommend the fielders play REALLY deep, and bullpen management would be a very topical problem, because it's gonna be a hitter's game.

Nov 09, 2011 2:24 PM on Lunar Baseball
 
BillJohnson
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Aargh. I said this exactly backward from what I intended. (It would be nice to have a feature here to allow a commenter to edit one's own comments.) I think the sides trading FOR the prospects -- in other words, Duquette's trade partners in the Reitsma and Tankersley deals -- will come out the "winner" less frequently than one might expect. There are just too many ways a prospect can bomb out, and too much hype surrounding many prospects.

Nov 08, 2011 8:30 AM on When Good GMs Go Bad
 
BillJohnson
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I was thinking much the same thing about Reitsma and Tankersley. A fun project for long winter nights might be to delve back through the history of prospects-for-spare-parts trades made not just by Duquette, but by other GMs, and see how they have worked out in the long run. The BP Transaction Analysis compilations would be an excellent starting point for doing that, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the side trading the "prospects" will come up a winner in the long run rather less frequently than one might expect. Of course, when the prospects do win, they may win big -- can you say Hanley Ramirez? So a related question is: given that trading for a prospect is a low-probability, high-reward proposition, at what point in a team's success cycle does it make sense to be a partner with guys like Duquette or Walt Jocketty/ Because they don't make those prospects-for-parts deals in a vacuum; they must have trading partners whose situations must also be considered.

Nov 08, 2011 7:18 AM on When Good GMs Go Bad
 
BillJohnson
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I stand corrected: I see that USHOCK did mention Clarke above. Still, it's very little advocacy for a guy who occupied that slot for a long, long time.

 
BillJohnson
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I don't think Hutchinson managed the Reds long enough for this status; he was their manager only in 6 years, and for not all of the last one owing to his sad final illness. He'd be at the top of my list of "tragic" figures among managers, right along with Dick Howser, but that's a different list. Bill McKechnie is another Reds candidate, having managed them for longer and with equal or greater success (2 pennants, 1 WS win). However he is largely forgotten because that all happened 70 years ago. The problem with lists of "iconic" this-and-that is that people's views of icons tend to be rather short-range. Nobody has proposed Fred Clarke as Pittsburgh's iconic manager, for example, even though he managed the Pirates for far longer at a stretch than anyone else and had a couple of pennants and a WS win to show for it. Problem is, he did all that a hundred years ago, and almost nobody now alive -- quite possibly _exactly_ nobody -- saw him manage. Icons fade!

 
BillJohnson
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Very interesting. I went back and looked at last year's lists, and found that exactly 2/3 of them had at least one two-star prospect on them, while 1/3 did not. So there seems to be an element of truth to both positions: it's not unusual for a list to be 3 stars and up, but most aren't. Incidentally, there was an incredibly pronounced AL/NL asymmetry to the deep lists. A majority of AL teams (9/14) had a three-star guy as the #11 prospect. Only one NL team did. That seems ... remarkable.

Nov 03, 2011 11:04 AM on Twins Top 11 Prospects
 
BillJohnson
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This strikes me as sort of a glass-half-empty analysis. Wouldn't most rebuilding franchises be overjoyed to have three-start prospects all the way down to the #11 slot and maybe beyond?

Nov 03, 2011 7:07 AM on Twins Top 11 Prospects
 
BillJohnson
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To this list should be added Ben Zobrist, who has been productive and has made the transition to 2B gracefully, and probably Rickie Weeks, who has certainly produced when healthy. One must also keep context in mind. Phillips plays in a noted launching pad, and his raw numbers get a spike from it that advanced methods aren't impressed by. His TAv turns out to be exactly tenth this year (his best in TAv) among second basemen with at least 200 at bats. Fold in the fact that he's (barely) on the wrong side of 30, and "a case to be made" probably works better than "no brainer" does.

 
BillJohnson
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True only if Westbrook looks more able to start than he did for most of this year. I'd definitely keep Lynn or Scrabble handy (and look for a pigeon to dump Westbrook on...).

 
BillJohnson
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So whose fault is this? The team isn't exactly in win-now mode and hasn't been trading off prospects to patch holes. That must mean the prospects aren't there. Springer was their top 2011 choice, right? Who did they pass on for purposes of acquiring a mere 4-star guy with a rather early draft slot?

Nov 01, 2011 7:10 AM on Astros Top 11 Prospects
 
BillJohnson
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I agree wholeheartedly that it would be a terrible injustice if TLR or one of the other recent, Hall-worthy managers (Cox, Torre, maybe Leyland) wasn't around by the time of his enshrinement. At the same time, though, I wonder: if you average over the last, say, thirty years, just what is the rate of HoF managers retiring? We're seeing an enormous bump in the retirement rate right now, because of a whole generation of managerial titans leaving the scene all at once. How many giants like that retired between 2000 and 2005? I'm not completely convinced that the aberration that we're definitely seeing right now is an adequate reason to change the system and risk the kind of lowering of standards that plagued the Veterans Committee for so long.

 
BillJohnson
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Well, looks like Bowden got the "bold move" wrong. (Surprise.) They'll now have to make a "bold move" and find a new manager.

Oct 31, 2011 9:02 AM on St. Louis Cardinals
 
BillJohnson
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It's a bit misleading to talk about the Cardinals having the "NL's oldest collection of pitchers," given that the staff "aged" incredibly rapidly at the trade deadline and shortly afterward with guys who were never intended to be more than rentals. This seems to be a TLR trademark: add "veteran presence" for the stretch run, without any clear expectation that that presence will endure. Arthur Rhodes and Octavio Dotel make that staff look older than it is, and there's no way they'll both be back for the whole season next year. This said, who will replace them? When healthy, the Cardinals have an abundance of young right-handed guns for the pen (Eduardo Sanchez may have been the best pitcher left off the post-season squads of any of the 8 teams), and replacing the ancient Dotel from within shouldn't be difficult, which is not to say TLR will allow the front office to do it. A Rhodes replacement is harder to find in the farm system, but second LOOGYs are a dime a dozen in the off season. Anyway, the concern over that "oldest collection of pitchers" looks somewhat misplaced to me.

Oct 31, 2011 6:30 AM on St. Louis Cardinals
 
BillJohnson
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At your service. There were 68 runs scored in this Series, 59 of them earned, for a percentage of 86.8% earned. From 1992 through this year, 912 runs were scored, 822 of them earned, for a percentage of 90.1% earned. So this Series had a larger fraction of unearned runs than average, but again, it wasn't way out there; 5 of the other 18 Series in this time (there was none in 1994, remember) had larger fractions, with the 2006 slopfest between St. Louis and Detroit being the worst, with only 72.7% of all runs being earned. A few other trivia: the only "perfect" Series, in which all runs were earned, was the 2007 blowout of Boston over Colorado, where all 39 runs (29 of them by Boston) were earned, according to B-R. By contrast, every 7-game Series (SSS alert, of course) had an earned-run percentage that was worse than average for that time period. A majority of the 6-game Series were also sloppier than average. I haven't done the math yet for regular-season play during this time, but for the 2011 regular season, a grand total of 20,808 runs were scored, of which 19,067 were earned. That works out to 91.6% of runs being earned, slightly more than in the Series since 1992, but probably not significant. Still, all else equal (and of course all else is _never_ equal), one would expect the better teams to allow fewer unearned runs, wouldn't one? But that isn't what has happened. It's hard not to draw the conclusion that the circumstances of the World Series -- late in the year, with tired and banged-up players playing in crummy weather (remember how lousy the weather was in 2006?) and under a great deal of nervous tension -- do lead to errors, mental and physical, that wouldn't happen in the regular season. This probably needs further looking into, and I wonder if anything similar is observed in other sports with post seasons. It's interesting that in the very un-baseball world of grandmaster chess, commentators routinely remark on the unusually high number of errors in world championship matches, and normally take them for granted, rationalizing it all away as a natural product of the nervous tension of the match.

Oct 30, 2011 10:16 AM on A Card Fought Win
 
BillJohnson
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Well, since you asked: This Series had 14 errors in 7 games (one of which went to extra innings, which we'll ignore), for exactly 2 errors per game on average. The average number of errors per Series game since 1992 has been 1.52, so this Series had more than average. However, there were several during this time with a higher average than this one. Interestingly, the most error-free Series on a per-game basis were also the shortest ones (e.g. 2007, with only 2 errors in a 4-game Series). Compare this to regular-season games, which averaged around 1.25 errors per game, with surprisingly little variation from year to year. The number of games are great enough that the difference between regular season and Series error rates is very unlikely to be a small sample size effect; the Series games just tend to be sloppier. Why? Several reasons come to mind -- banged-up players at the end of the season, bad weather, nerves and nervous fatigue, who knows. Anyway, this Series was sloppier than average, but not outrageously so.

Oct 29, 2011 9:21 PM on A Card Fought Win
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

The Rivera error is another example of a point that I wish would be made more often: for a game or a Series to be "great" from a dramatic standpoint does not require that it be error-free, either on the scoresheet or in decision making. Clearly you don't want a game to be so blunderful that it is remembered mainly as a "comedy of errors," and those have happened in the Series. But many an incredibly riveting game has resulted from an error of commission, omission or tactics that grossly ratchets up the drama. Was this the "best" Series ever, in terms of error-free, precise play? No, and neither were the 2001, 1975 or 1986 Series. The most error-free seven-game Series since WWII (just counting player errors, not umpires' errors ...) was in 1985, between Kansas City and St. Louis. That isn't usually considered a "great" series from a dramatic perspective.

Oct 29, 2011 2:39 PM on A Card Fought Win
 
BillJohnson
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You found Hargrove "fun" to watch and root for, with his dilatory tactics? Memorable, probably, but about as much "fun" as watching paint dry, IMO. Bill Madlock fit into the same model, although he was probably the better player. Both, in any event, fail to meet the "bad players" criterion, unless one's definition of "bad" extends to the effect they had on the game with all the dawdling, not to their production.

 
BillJohnson
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No love for the pre-firecrackers version of Vince Coleman here? He may have contributed more outs than offense, but even when he had an OBP around .300 or below, when he did reach base, he was sure fun to watch.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

The existing rules allow entirely comparable things to be done -- and also give the umpires the authority to keep them from being done, if in the judgment of the umpires, those things make a "travesty" of the game. From Rule 4.15: "A game may be forfeited to the opposing team when a team ... (b) Employs tactics palpably designed to delay or shorten the game..." I have never seen this called in a major-league game, and suspect that it would be called only in really extreme cases. However, what you're talking about probably qualifies. That introduces the question: did what TLR do also qualify? Interesting question, but I don't think so, at least no more than taking a long, slow walk to the mound to change pitchers does, rather than trotting briskly out and signaling to the bullpen while en route. Furthermore, in this case, he paid a severe tactical price for buying time. I'd be very interested to know exactly, in detail, what happened in this weird situation. We probably never will.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 9

Oh, good night. Who named you high judge? If you want to write a polemic about the wild card, do it somewhere else. The Cardinals reached the playoffs by doing what MLB has decided qualifies a team for the playoffs. Then they won two playoffs to reach the Series. Get over it.

Oct 25, 2011 12:43 PM on Mixed-Up Confusion
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

Jackson "took advantage of Kulpa’s wide strike zone" too -- whoa, are you looking at the same scatter plot that I am? I don't see a single inside or outside pitch of Jackson's called a strike. If he "took advantage" of Kulpa's non-regulation zone at all, it was to get a few marginally low pitches called strikes. Truthfully, if that plot is to be believed, Kulpa's strike zone was more by-the-book than many. There were no large number of bad ball/strike calls compared to lots of others we've seen this season. Such as there were, however, worked much to the Rangers' advantage. I don't see any evil conspiracy here; that was an artifact of Jackson's wildness. He and the relievers didn't throw many un-offered-at pitches into that gray area where a pitch might be called a strike even though it technically isn't one. That hurt them.

Oct 24, 2011 6:29 AM on Mr. Holland's Opus
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Um, these haven't been late starts in most of the country (read: any part of the country outside the Eastern time zone). There's more to baseball than the East Coast.

 
BillJohnson
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If it was only a 0.0002% chance, probably not. But one, I'd be stunned if the chance was that small, and two, TLR has a better idea of Lohse's susceptibility to cold weather than we do.

 
BillJohnson
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That is an utterly damning assessment.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 5

Speaking of "oversimplified," it's worth noting that "with Franklin, Batista, Augenstein, Tallet, Miller in his bullpen working high-leverage situations," the TLR bullpen was actually doing quite well. Franklin (whose adventures as closer led Cardinals fans to call him "Franklinhausen") had (and blew) his last high-leverage appearance on June 1, at which time the Cardinals had a 33-24 record and were in first place in their division. They were still only half a game out of first at the time of Batista's final appearance wearing the birds on the bat, three weeks later. Already by mid-April, TLR and Duncan had figured out that Salas and Sanchez were going to be useful (to put it mildly), and they were racking up scoreless innings galore by the end of the month. Indeed, Sanchez's _last_ appearance until the final week of the season was the thing that coincided eerily well with the Cardinals losing their grip on first place, on June 12. Meanwhile, Augenstein was already on the DL by the time Salas made his first fire-breathing appearance; his roster slot was the one Salas filled. The narrative about TLR over-relying on decrepit old players may be emotionally satisfying. That doesn't make it correct -- in this particular case. If you want to cast aspersions on his roster management, look to the abomination he was running out there as a middle infield for the first half of the year, not the bullpen, where he didn't really do nearly as badly as he was accused of, and would have done quite well indeed if Sanchez and Lynn hadn't got hurt.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

Seconded enthusiastically, and if easy to do, I'd expand this request to have those links say where the team's farm system ranked that year compared to the 29 other teams. Watching trends in these systems is a fascinating exercise.

 
BillJohnson
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I must admit that I was wondering that too, but the temperature must be the answer. You really don't want Lohse pulling a hamstring in that situation.

 
BillJohnson
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Simple, actually: he runs better than Molina (which isn't a very high bar...) and is the only backup catcher the Cardinals are carrying.

 
BillJohnson
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I second (third? tenth?) the positive reception for doing this in draft order, but a question: is this order definitely set now? If so, how did the tiebreaks get resolved among teams with identical W-L records? Kansas City, San Diego and Chicago Cubs, for example, all finished at 71-91; when was that order (KC, CHN, SD) decided, and how?

 
BillJohnson
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Which in fact may or may not have arisen, with a slight variation, last night. There was a pitch to Lance Berkman earlier in the game that the home plate ump appeared to call a foul tip, but which never touched the bat (as was also obvious on the "usual" camera). In context, it didn't matter, as the at-bat didn't end in a strikeout, and wouldn't have ended immediately in a walk if he'd got the call right (calling a ball on a check swing). However, that kind of thing could easily happen again, in circumstances where it does matter. Incidentally, I find it interesting that the video clips available at MLB.com now describe that pitch as one where Berkman is taking exception to a, quote, "called strike." Interesting euphemism for "ump screwup on a foul-tip call", don't you think? Because that's not only the way it looked at the time, it's the way MLB originally described the video.

Oct 20, 2011 12:55 PM on Hot Spot in the Park
 
BillJohnson
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Hey, we certainly don't want it lumped in with the Southwest, either! (Says the resident of the subject of Rodolfo Anaya's aphorism "Poor New Mexico -- so far from God, so close to Texas".) We'll take the matchup, though. This is going to be a fun series.

Oct 19, 2011 4:34 PM on The Midwest Showdown
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

Tony Plush is "endlessly entertaining"? Perhaps in a pro-wrestling sense. I, for one, would be saddened beyond words to see baseball turn into pro wrestling.

Oct 19, 2011 1:12 PM on Milwaukee Brewers
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

As regards the Garcia early hook, wasn't it Joe Torre who said that in the post season, you manage every game as though it's the seventh game of the World Series? It looks like TLR is taking that to heart, and there is wisdom to it. Managing a pitching staff is very different in the post season, when you know you'll have a rest day after at most three days of playing, compared to the non-stop grind of the regular season. TLR seems to get this.

 
BillJohnson
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"Rzepczynski" would work if a blank was used for one of the Z's. Of course it would also require that four letters already be on the board in the right places. I'd love to see a Scrabble layout constructed so that that could happen; if I count it right, the resulting score could be at least 179 points, maybe more.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Thanks for writing this in a way that doesn't try to, quote unquote, "blame" somebody on the Cardinals for losing this game. An unfortunate characteristic of the reporting of this year's post season -- not just the playoffs but the stuff happening on non-playoff teams -- is that there must always be somebody to blame for a team's failure to win it all. The mainstream media have been ludicrously bad about that, but of course one expects it of them. I've been saddened to see it creep in at Baseball Prospectus. It's worth keeping in mind that the worst player in major-league baseball is in fact really, really good at the game. Wil Nieves may have had the worst TAv in baseball this year (pitchers excepted), but he is still one of the two thousand or so best baseball players in the world. This means that out of every 3,000,000 people in the world, he's better at baseball than 2,999,999 of them. How many of us can say that about what we do? With that kind of talent pool, most baseball games aren't lost because a manager screws up or an outfielder takes a bad route to a fly ball or somebody else does something to cause the loss to be labeled his "fault"; they're lost because the opponents are _really, really good_.

Oct 14, 2011 8:15 AM on Sending the Wolf
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

So the basic contention here is that as the fifth greatest manager of his time (Cox, La Russa, Torre, Piniella), Leyland has the chops to get into the Hall. Question: does the fifth greatest second baseman of his time (the current time) also have such a case? Or the fifth greatest shortstop? Among active players with 10+ years of service time, those would be Brian Roberts and Rafael Furcal, if I read my WARs correctly. I assume your answer is along the general lines of "are you out of your mind?", and to be sure, I neither advocate those two worthies for the Hall, nor consider their situations comparable to Leyland's. However, a sense of perspective is no bad thing. It's credible that we are, in fact, living in a time with a surfeit of extraordinarily great managers.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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I think you're still going to need to fix the link, which continues to point at the "draft" directory, rather than Kevin's current article, now up and visible to us. Anyway, yes, that article is a nice companion piece to this one. Epstein does have his work cut out for him ...

Oct 12, 2011 10:25 AM on Curse to Curse
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Looks like it's linking to an article number 15289 that's still in draft form. Maybe we'll see it later today, although the link should still get changed.

Oct 12, 2011 9:23 AM on Curse to Curse
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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I wish you hadn't fixed it -- it was funny the way it was! :-)

 
BillJohnson
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Under the circumstances, I would have been _very_ surprised if Greinke's first pitch was thrown at the head of Willie Bloomquist, seeing that he was back in Arizona and all...

 
BillJohnson
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Wow. Thanks for the followup. I'll look at the articles. I'm not sure, however, that I agree that the data support the claim that it is a shifted zone, not a bigger one. If a pitcher knows he's going to get the call four inches outside, he'll avoid the inside strike like it was a Uwe Boll movie. The data seem to bear this out: compare the density of dots (red or green) inside the strike zone near the inside corner to the density beyond the outside corner. Then repeat the exercise for RH hitters. Of course, it would be better to do this looking at actual, numerical information rather than density of dots. Is that available anywhere?

 
BillJohnson
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The strike zones for left handed hitters are so consistently skewed that I wonder if there's a bug in the data presentation here. If that's really the way calls are going, then St. Louis, with its numerous LH hitters and switch hitters who will bat LH against the predominantly right-handed Milwaukee pitching, may be screwed. So, of course, will be Prince Fielder (today's game notwithstanding), but having one guy victimized by a weird strike zone is not as bad as four or five, which St. Louis may have in some situations. Are you _sure_ those data are right, Mike? That just seems like an extraordinarily severe preference for the outside strike to lefties that isn't nearly as overwhelming for righties.

 
BillJohnson
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If the Phillies what?

 
BillJohnson
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Aargh. I hereby move that the words Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton be banned from appearing again on this board unless they are referring to Russ, Whitey, Joe, Miles (undistinguished current farm hand for Arizona), Homer, and Lou, respectively, or others of their ilk. There are other bulletin boards out there for politics. I come here to get away from them.

Oct 07, 2011 5:06 PM on Moneyball and Money Men
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 2

I think that's one of those hindsight-is-20/20 things. The late Sixties were in many regards the heyday of urban renewal, what with the HUD Act, etc. What worked in a lot of cities (look at the way Pittsburgh is today compared to Pittsburgh vintage 1960) may not have worked in Oakland to date, but could a team owner have known that it wouldn't? I'm not sure there was _anywhere_ in California that one could have confidently predicted, around 1970, not to have growth potential. And Oakland actually has grown, as have neighboring towns. Having no rooting interest either for or against the A's except in the general sense that I love all baseball, something that annoys me is the frequently repeated message, by the team's apologists and to some extent the team itself, that "we have no choice but to have all these problems that we can't solve." Implying that the move there was doomed from the get-go only contributes to that.

Oct 07, 2011 2:44 PM on Moneyball and Money Men
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

"there was little or no consideration given to the future growth or decline of any of the cities in question and whether the organizations might fare better in some other location." I don't buy this. Owners were seeing greener pastures elsewhere, and were leaving stagnating metropolitan areas for some that at least had growth potential. Every franchise that moved wound up in a city that has moved up in the rank order of metropolitan-area populations since they moved, and left a city that did not. As for the contention that "Within another fifteen years, every one of the other 1950s travelers was either struggling where it was or had moved on again," the best I can say is "not proved." I had a big statistical analysis of this that unfortunately got wiped out by a refresh problem, but in a nutshell, Baltimore certainly wasn't "struggling," and the Milwaukee Braves were still doing okay before they moved on to Atlanta. San Francisco endured some lean years attendance-wise about 17 years after they moved, but in the main, have been middle-of-the-pack in attendance, until their massively successful Aughties. The only franchise besides the A's for whom this assessment is unequivocally correct is the Braves, and that only on the technicality that they had moved to Atlanta within fifteen years (barely) of leaving Boston. (And then they've drawn well upon getting there.) Some sloppy analysis here, methinks.

Oct 07, 2011 9:03 AM on Moneyball and Money Men
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 3

In the dugout? TLR has it in his head. Problem is, he treats it just like he treats the voices.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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Seconded. The Adams SB creates this mental image of a bison stampede.

 
BillJohnson
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Not "shenanigans," but "allegations of shenanigans." Tony La Russa made headlines several weeks ago with some speculation that there might be something going on, and there was another, similar speculation by someone else earlier in the season. Of course, nothing was ever proven.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 4

"It's hard to argue with La Russa's decision not to pinch-hit for Garcia with two outs in the bottom of the sixth" -- maybe it would be hard to argue with it in the regular season, but I got a sinking feeling when I saw Garcia batting. Between the post-season rest days, and a bullpen that (after the long-overdue defenestration of Ryan Franklin and Miguel Batista) is a lot better than people think it is, this seemed to me like the ideal time for La Russa to succumb to his La Russian proclivities and start throwing switches. This wasn't a regular-season game, and it shouldn't have been managed like one.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
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You do realize, don't you, that Ken addressed Buckner in his contribution? And he managed to do it without umpty-seven unreadable and unnecessary exclamation points.

 
BillJohnson
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Interestingly, Milwaukee has been almost exactly the same team on the road this year as they've been for the last few: 2011: 39-42 2010: 37-44 2009: 40-41 2008: 41-40 That's consistency. Seeing things like this, coupled to their gargantuan home record, almost makes you wonder if there might be something to the allegations of shenanigans when they played this year in Miller.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 3
 
BillJohnson
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Interesting to see all three Cardinals position players in this article (and none of their pitchers). Given the generally lower level of pitching in the AFL compared to hitters, it wouldn't be surprising to see Adams pulverize the pitchers, and Jackson hold his own. The one that'll be most interesting to watch is Taveras. Not only was he destroying the ball at low A, he's also the youngest AFL player not named Bryce Harper. If somebody in that category hits at AFL ... well, he gets interesting. Kevin, would you agree that the Cardinals are a reasonable candidate for the title "most improved farm system" this year? When you consider that the strength of their system is pitching, not hitting ...

 
BillJohnson
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I'm looking forward to seeing the National League counterpart of this article.

Oct 02, 2011 7:15 AM on Constructing a Champion
 
BillJohnson
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Nonsense. It means that the Yankees are seriously deep in talent this year, as indeed they are. Losing any one player and replacing them with the next best guy in the league wouldn't eviscerate their team. Take, by contrast, Albert Pujols away from the 2006 Cardinals, for example, and a World Series winner becomes a second-division team. He should absolutely have been MVP that year. Or Josh Hamilton or Joey Votto last year, although you could make a case that Cincinnati would have been as good if they'd had Pujols at 1B instead of Votto. There have been many, many first-place teams where having their best player replaced by someone else would have struck a serious blow to the team. This year's Yankees happen not to be one of them. FWIW, my AL MVP ballot would (and, if IBA happens, will) start out with 1. Verlander, 2. Bautista, 3. Ellsbury. The performance gap between Bautista and Ellsbury is too large for the "how much difference did he make" criterion to overcome it. The gap between Verlander and Bautista, IMO, was not, and if Detroit hadn't had Verlander doing what he did, they'd have been screwed. In essence, the criterion is a "tiebreaker" among very high performers. Verlander and Bautista were close enough in value for it to be in play. Bautista and Ellsbury were not.

 
BillJohnson
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Yeah, TLR had to win without Pujols being Pujols. However, he also "had" to win with Ryan Franklin and Miguel Batista being Franklin and Batista (shudder) for half the season. TLR's stubborn insistence on not jettisoning has-beens until absolutely necessary (and way beyond) made the wild-card race closer than it needed to be, and the race for the NL Central less close than it should have been.

Sep 30, 2011 11:04 AM on Handing out the Hardware
 
BillJohnson
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The "different definitions of value" observation is right on the mark, and I reject the notion that there is a single, unique definition that's "right." Certainty that there is a "right" definition leads to name calling (which, unfortunately, is popping up here) that does little to address the question of who's a credible MVP. My personal criterion -- I make no statement that it is "right," and certainly not that it is uniquely so -- is: based on what we know from studying (advanced) statistics, plus the usual bloviation about character, etc., could this guy have been replaced by anyone else in baseball, and have his team do better as a result? If not, he's a candidate for a top MVP vote. Bautista surely belongs in the discussion on that count. However, replace Verlander or Ellsbury with anyone else at their positions, and equally surely, their teams do _worse_. Swap Bautista for, say, Curtis Granderson, and Toronto is still a 4th-place team. I would therefore,like apbadogs, devalue Bautista somewhat in my voting -- without asserting that my position, or anyone else's, is "right."

Sep 30, 2011 10:13 AM on Handing out the Hardware
 
BillJohnson
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Speaking of such things, are the IBAs going to run this year? Haven't heard anything about them.

 
BillJohnson
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So you're saying that Sabathia pitched pretty well against the teams over .500, while Verlander merely obliterated them? Yeah, sounds like an argument for Sabathia, all right.

 
BillJohnson
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Which is fair. There are a lot more than five teams out there that could improve decisively by getting Reyes. Bowden isn't trying to apportion big moves equitably among teams; he's trying to say, "here's what THIS team should do," one team at a time. That'll leave all but one of those teams disappointed, but them's the breaks.

Sep 29, 2011 3:24 PM on Atlanta Braves
 
BillJohnson
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The younger Reggie played defense well enough that they sent him out there to do it even when there was a viable alternative (DH). Quantifying that is a statistical argument (which btw supports the point -- the younger Reggie, up to about Dunn's current age, was quite a decent defender according to the statistical models I've checked); noting that we saw him play the outfield long after the DH was instituted isn't. Reggie first came up, and creamed the ball, in a time when the pitching mound was significantly higher than it is now. You'd have to use statistics to quantify that, too (i.e., measure the mound); but anyone who ever had a Bob Gibson or a Sam MacDowell standing on top of that Everest-like mound and breathing fire at them needs no quantification. Finally, by their peers shall ye know them. A point frequently missed in the arguments about Reggie playing for world-championship-caliber teams (particularly the claims that it shouldn't really matter) is that such teams _wanted_ him badly enough to meet his (then) steep asking price early in the free-agent era. It wasn't chance that put him on the best teams; it was that the best teams went out and got him, when they could have spent their (relative) megabucks elsewhere. You certainly can't say that about Dunn. That doesn't necessarily establish "why" Jackson was better than Dunn, but it is powerful evidence that it was so. Really, I think the effort is fundamentally bogus here. _Any_ baseball conversation turns to statistics if you define the term "statistics" broadly enough. (That is true of most, if not all, other sports as well.) This is particularly the case since you started the whole thing with a quantitative premise anyway, i.e., Jackson>Dunn.

Sep 27, 2011 3:54 PM on No Stats Allowed
 
BillJohnson
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How about "Reggie could actually play defense, while Dunn is about as mobile in the field as the Washington Monument"? And "Reggie didn't get artificial boosts to those stats I can't use in the discussion, because he played on good enough teams that they couldn't pitch around him, or at least thought they couldn't"? And "Reggie didn't turn into a complete pumpkin in all aspects of the game once he hit 31"? And "Reggie did all this in an era that made it hard for big, slow home-run hitters, while Dunn has played in an era where the product is tuned to reward guys like that?"

Sep 27, 2011 1:20 PM on No Stats Allowed
 
BillJohnson
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Nothing about park effects in here? I assume you've done some analyses like the odd-year/even-year graph to convince yourself there aren't any, or something like that?

 
BillJohnson
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We too are seeing games in every major-league park we can reach (18 of 30 franchises so far), and also can report a negative impression of watching a game in Oakland (on one occasion -- on the other, things really weren't complainable). Thing is, though, that's something that the franchise really can do something about. Certainly they can make clear to ushers and other employees what their job responsibilities are, i.e., making the experience enjoyable through treating people decently and in a friendly manner, removal of obnoxious drunks who cross boundaries, etc. They can't necessarily keep fans from being boorish to start with, but by refusing to tolerate boorish behavior, they could make a dent in the problems that you experienced. In general I am left with the feeling that the franchise doesn't really _care_ if they draw crowds. This also shows up in the way the physical plant is getting run down, the rather diffident advertising, community outreach that appears far less effective (I don't live in the bay area, so I'm not completely sure about this, but that's the way it "looks") than many franchises have, and so on. Isn't this too a front-office function? If so, and if my perception is accurate, then I think it's a failing of the Beane regime, as much as a "simply hopeless" situation.

Sep 23, 2011 9:58 AM on Losing Hope in Oakland
 
BillJohnson
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This is right on the mark, and it gets to the real heart of the TLR problem, which is obsessive reliance on "his guys" in high-leverage situations. Motte had become one of "his guys" late in the season and is now paying the overuse price. The irony of that, given that TLR does all that lineup shuffling under conditions that are not high-leverage, and spreads the playing time around (a good thing, IMO, if it doesn't cost runs/wins), is considerable.

 
BillJohnson
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Very interesting analysis. Any chance of doing something similar soon for Pujols and the Cardinals?

Sep 22, 2011 10:18 AM on Life Without Fielder
 
BillJohnson
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The Matzek comment is intriguing, particularly since my own contact with my high-school coach, many many years ago, was ... less productive. How many high-school or even college coaches are there out there who can fix underperforming pitchers when an A-level pitching coach can't? Did Matzek just happen to have a particularly good one, and/or have a problem that his old coach was uniquely positioned to fix? Or is the gap between pro coaching and scholastic coaching less than I think it is?

Sep 22, 2011 8:53 AM on Colorado Rockies
 
BillJohnson
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And why is that retirement a bad thing? Agreed, the union wouldn't be happy, but this is a baseball fan stepping into the commish role, not a union steward or a publicist for an owner.

Sep 14, 2011 2:16 PM on Commissioner for a Day
 
BillJohnson
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Fair enough, Jay, and I'd certainly agree the Yankees were off the deep end on security, etc., for too long. However, my infuriating experience wasn't at the 2001 World Series, when it was still unclear just what the US was facing; it was this June, ten years later, at an utterly pedestrian regular-season game, with exactly zero threats out there (at least in public) to justify the outrage. Entirely apples and oranges. I will not get into the politics of homeland security, although I will say that I worked professionally in counterterrorism for years and certain things that I worked on are in fact in use in places like New York. None of that matters to baseball. What matters is for baseball to be a good and worthwhile and enjoyable -- fun -- thing for its fans. If the team is going to whine about Czar Bud's behavior when they were trying to play the 9/11 card for good PR, at the same time as they're treating the fans who come to their games as potential criminals, all I can say is "cry me a river." And I repeat: I'll never go to one of their home games again.

 
BillJohnson
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Well, excuse me for calling you nobody. :-) I do wonder, though, what you saw to produce optimism. He still "looks like" a baseball player, for sure, but has anything changed about the fundamental vision problem? His rookie-league line strikes me as exactly what you'd expect for a highly athletic and skilled young man who gets fooled much of the time because he can't see the pitches clearly.

 
BillJohnson
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I'm going to avoid the overtly political part of this article, but one comment: Citi Field is the one and only ball park I've been to, and I've been to a lot of 'em, where I was physically patted down by a security weenie as I was coming into the game. As a result of that treatment, I will never, as long as I live, set foot in that stadium again. They can give me tickets if they want to; they can pay me to use them. I will not. What does that have to do with this article? Mainly that I find the fact that this particular tempest in a teapot blew up with this particular franchise -- the franchise that condoned, indeed, enforced that behavior that I found outrageous (and note that I was NOT frisked while going to a game played by that other New York outfit) -- sufficiently ironic to have an "ask me if I care" reaction to the whole thing. If Selig had thus treated any other franchise in baseball, even the Yankees, I might join in the outrage. But not that one.

 
BillJohnson
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Mateo is kinda old news at this point, isn't he? Wasn't the eye fiasco a 2010 thing rather than this season? I didn't think anybody had any expectations for him this year.

 
BillJohnson
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Would velocity off the bat work as a surrogate for hard-hit balls, Kevin? That should be measurable. It wouldn't be as easy as measuring pitch velocity, because of the necessary correction for batted balls in directions other than the direct line of sight, but that's simple math.

 
BillJohnson
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Yes, that was mentioned in the S&S article. Two things. One, I note that there is no one from the late, not particularly lamented St. Louis Browns here. May I propose one Ernie Nevers? He was a thoroughly undistinguished Brownie pitcher who deserves mention for two bits of trivia: he was one of the guys who gave up multiple home runs to Babe Ruth in 1927 (60 HR year), and he was more successful in football than baseball, being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame for his exploits as a fullback. (Of course, being more successful in football than baseball wasn't difficult for Browns players, even the ones who didn't play football!) Second, back on Cerv and hard sliders, I hadn't really thought of Morgan as fitting into this category. It takes more than one hard slide to make a guy a legendary hard slider. Albert Pujols, for example, had that one slide where he (cleanly) devastated Josh Bard at home plate, but I don't know that he does it so routinely as to make this list -- although he might. Nobody else just jumps out at me for routinely bowling guys over on the bases today. Ty Wigginton, maybe? Seems like I've seen him make more than his share of take-out slides -- and I'm not convinced all of them are completely clean.

 
BillJohnson
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I too have a certain fondness for Bob Cerv, and would amplify your description of him being "slow-footed" to add that slow-footed or not, he was devastating on the bases -- not because he was fast (he wasn't), but because he was viewed as the hardest, most reckless slider of his day. Somewhere in my box of childhood possessions I have a Street&Smiths annual that had an article about the hardest sliders in the game, then and ever, and Cerv was at the top of the list -- ahead of TY FRIGGIN' COBB! Apparently he didn't just "slide," he barreled into the base like a T-34 tank (this was before the M1, remember...). The article was illustrated with a picture of a second baseman's or shortstop's legs flying out of the left-hand side of the picture as Cerv came rolling into second from the right. Incidentally, I would find it entertaining for a writer to update this list. Who's the hardest, nastiest slider in today's game? I have a hard time thinking of anyone with a consistent reputation for that. Modern players, they're such wimps. ;-)

 
BillJohnson
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Interesting point that you pass on from Weber, but don't you think that a consistently-called strike zone, as prescribed by the rulebook, would result in hitters making the adjustments so that the zone IS the region where hitters can hit the ball? Batting stances aren't cast in concrete, they're an adaptation to the strike zone as called.

 
BillJohnson
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Kevin, do you think Oscar Taveras would have trumped Liriano if he'd been able to play the whole Midwest season? His slash line (.386/.444/.584) pretty well dwarfs Liriano's, and I have seen no credible suggestion that it overstates his talent. He doesn't have the speed tool, but there's no substitute for tearing the cover off the ball. And he's even younger than Liriano. Does this choice surprise you? Or is there a concern about Taveras that we're missing?

Sep 07, 2011 1:35 PM on Minor-League MVPs
 
BillJohnson
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It seems like Oscar Taveras is showing up at least twice a week in these updates -- and this is a guy who's the third youngest player in the league that he's destroying. How high would he rank on your overall prospect list now, Kevin? It seems hard to escape the conclusion that he's for real.

 
BillJohnson
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Interesting not to see low-A hitting machine Oscar Taveras here. He has played all three outfield positions in the minors, but overall, has racked up more games in center than the others. This year, however, he's been mostly in right. Corner-outfield transition in the making, or less explicably, does he not stack up to the others above with the bat?

 
BillJohnson
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Speaking of large Cardinals pitchers, Lynn has been DLed. What's a normal prognosis/return time for that type of injury, Corey?

Aug 10, 2011 5:50 PM on Backed into Corners
 
BillJohnson
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Yes, it was a deep draft, but not so deep as to make a big-time blue chipper available at the #22 pick. I would be hard pressed to name anyone who was available for that slot that I thought had more big-league potential than Wong, and that was with him having expectations of a "good" year in A ball rather than the "excellent" year he's really having. This is looking like a pretty good draft choice to me. (BTW, Kevin, you weren't one of the "critics" that I think Wong is answering.)

 
BillJohnson
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Kolten Wong sure seems to be answering the critics who claimed the Cardinals made, well, the wong choice there. How does he stack up in terms of level and expectations? It looks to me as if a late first-rounder with a little time at a good college program, at age 20+, is more or less in a "normal" situation playing at low, but full season, A level. That he's not just playing there, but tearing it up, suggests that he may be a real player. Or am I too sanguine about him being at Quad Cities rather than a higher rung of the Cardinals' ladder?

 
BillJohnson
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Hate to disillusion you, but years ago, I subluxated a shoulder playing chess. Seriously. Of course, the fact that that shoulder had (and has) a chronic subluxation problem owing to a basketball injury had something to do with it.

 
BillJohnson
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Nothing about running into a wall, Larry? Or another player?

 
BillJohnson
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Seconded. Amusingly, MLB.com originally had the Pujols HR listed as inside-the-park. A 23-second inside-the-parker would have been something to see, wouldn't it? (In fact it was a typical Pujolsian blast to the second deck.)

Aug 05, 2011 12:06 PM on Trot Times for August 4
 
BillJohnson
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Question, guys: can Mark DeRosa EVER "put his wrist troubles behind him"? Or is this just one of those chronic situations that is some day going to force him into retirement? Incidentally, would either of you happen to know a good shaman/medicine man/witch doctor that could remove the voodoo curse that seems to have befallen David Freese? That guy seems positively snake-bit when it comes to bizarre injuries.

Aug 05, 2011 9:53 AM on Shoulder Woes
 
BillJohnson
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Interesting idea, but it doesn't seem to be supported by the facts. A semi-random check of many (but not all) LOOGYs active in the last 15 years reveals that most have HBP rates ranging from about 7 per 1000 batters faced to 12 -- in other words, more or less the same as league average for that time, maybe just a tad lower. Outliers range from 3/1000 to close to 20/1000 (I had no idea that Trever Miller was such a "gunner"). The possibility remains open that LOOGY use increases HBP rates indirectly, by reducing the RH/LH at-bats that, by Mike's reasoning, rarely lead to HBPs. However, the LOOGYs themselves don't seem to be particularly guilty, by and large.

 
BillJohnson
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Interesting to revisit this after some of the HBP unpleasantness of the last week. One historical note: While Don Drysdale was every bit the head hunter he was made out to be, Bob Gibson's career HBP rate was only slightly above league average at the time, at about 6.3 HBP per 1000 plate appearances. (Drysdale's rate approached twice that.) Of course, the players _thought_ Gibby was throwing at them, and they should know. This leads to an alternative interpretation of those curves: might there be era-to-era variations in the probability that a pitch thrown in the direction of a batter's body actually hits him?

 
BillJohnson
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So by cross-referencing to your pre-season top 101 list, it looks like prospects #43, 52, 63, 71, and 99 were traded, plus a bunch of guys who weren't in the top 101. On your mid-season top 50, it's #20, 29, 32, 36, and non-top-50 guys. So teams have been hinky about trading prospects with significant upside -- reasonably enough. Any chances that pre-season top-101 or mid-season top-50 guys are among the PTBNLs still out there on various deals, Kevin? I'd think the answer would be no.

Aug 03, 2011 1:46 PM on Top 10 Traded Prospects
 
BillJohnson
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Smart play, or still in the honeymoon? Certainly even the top players can benefit from (some) advice from friends and family; I well remember the way a high-school teammate's observation turned the 1985 version of John Tudor into pure, concentrated awesomeness after he started the season 1-7. But there are limits. Papa Raz exceeded those limits when his kid was in St. Louis; that TLR was (or may have been) excessively thin-skinned in responding doesn't excuse that. There will be limits in Toronto, too. Maybe, for Colby's sake, he won't exceed them. If he does ...

Aug 01, 2011 2:55 PM on Trade Deadline Winners
 
BillJohnson
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OTOH, Whitey also ran Keith Hernandez out of town on a rail and traded a high-powered shortstop in Garry Templeton to get Ozzie (who didn't look as high-powered at the time of the trade, although that would change ...). He also dispatched Ted Simmons as soon as he saw that "his" kind of catcher (Darrell Porter) was available. At least the first two of those moves were defensible based on off-the-field issues. The Cardinals have always needed to run a tight ship -- "needed" because their success hinges on drawing large crowds from a small but fanatical fan base. Contrary to some of what is written, St. Louis is definitely NOT a large-market team; anything but. Guys with Templeton's behavioral issues, and Hernandez' drug problems, were a threat to that connection with the fans. The defenestration of Simmons, however, is evidence that Whitey too had "his guys." That's only to be expected; every manager in baseball does, except for the ones that every player hates equally (can you say Vern Rapp, while we're on the subject of Cardinals managers?). The only real issue is whether TLR has too many of them for the team's good, and deals with them counterproductively. I think the jury is still out on that one.

Aug 01, 2011 12:54 PM on Trade Deadline Winners
 
BillJohnson
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One likely reason was that the first time Ozzie Guillen had to field a complaint from Colby's father, he would have "gone nuclear" and yielded four kilotons, one from each ear and one from each nostril. That's kinda hard on a recently refurbished ballpark. :-) Seriously, I wonder if even Toronto is going to regret signing up to deal with what seems to be an absolutely world-class helicopter parent.

 
BillJohnson
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Thanks for the nuanced view of the Rasmus situation. Most writers seem to be describing this trade in apocalyptic terms, believing that in some hypothetical future universe, Raz and TLR were going to kiss and make up, so that Colby would start cranking out 5-WAR seasons that aren't going to happen for St. Louis now. Well, in some alternative universe maybe, but not in this one.

Aug 01, 2011 6:42 AM on Trade Deadline Winners
 
BillJohnson
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There is a difference between "win now" and "all in." The Indians HAVE gone all-in; they don't have a single chip left on the table to gamble with, and any further gambling is going to involve giving up parts they'd be nuts to give up, like Chisenhall. The poker analogy works. A player who has gone all-in might be able, at least in some future game, to buy more chips by mortgaging his house or selling his car or something else he doesn't want to do. For the present game, though, that's all there is and there ain't no more. However, you're correct that it isn't strictly a "win now" move (not that Kevin claimed it is). A successful gamble achieves a big payoff that extends well beyond the present year. I would also assert that a team that drafts shrewdly, as Cleveland appears to be, can restock the farm system quickly enough that the barrenness resulting from an all-in decision need not last very long.

 
BillJohnson
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Indeed. I have a hard time reconciling the term "fantastic plate discipline" with a guy who has struck out in over a third of his major-league plate appearances so far. His 2011 slash line (.172/.351/.483) is so bizarre (and also so consistent with his major-league career to date, spanning parts of three years) as to defy simple interpretation, IMO, but I suspect something other than "fantastic plate discipline" is at the root of it, even if I'm not sure what it is.

 
BillJohnson
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Incidentally, the actual KG article from 2006 closest to a 5-years-ago Future Shock was this Monday Morning Ten-Pack from July 31: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=5369 Not bad, Kevin, not bad at all. This had several currently interesting names in it (along with, to be sure, a few swings and misses). So what ever did happen to Yuliesky Gourriel?

 
BillJohnson
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Zack Cox still shouldn't have a major-league contract, but one must admit, he seems to have learned how to hit AA pitching. Any chance he gets the call when (not if) David Freese has his next physical breakdown?

 
BillJohnson
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It's a win-now deal, but contrary to the way reactions have been running, that doesn't necessarily make it a lose-later deal. In my opinion it is very much open to question just how much Rasmus would have contributed to the Cardinals going forward, and not just because TLR doesn't like him. We have seen plenty of other promising careers derailed by players' inner demons. Does Raz have such demons? Of course he does; if he didn't, this conflict would never have reached the intensity it has. Will he and Toronto be able to beat them into submission? I hope so, and eventually we'll get the answer to that one. Would he have been able eventually to subdue them in St. Louis? THAT one, we'll never know ... but I have my doubts. If the answer is no, then in fact, the Cardinals did not harm their future prospects by making this deal.

 
BillJohnson
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Given the regularity with which Matt Adams is appearing in these reports, is a consensus beginning to build on just what he is? Or does that weird body and lack of walks still baffle scouts? I promise, I'm not going to say the G-word...

 
BillJohnson
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Actually, the most satisfying part of this whole thing is the rumint that has the Cardinals, quote unquote, "asking for a ton." This suggests that the front office is taking a measured, realistic view of the situation, and won't just dump a potential star to get him out of the manager's hair (and vice versa). Developments of last night may affect this entire situation. On the one hand, Rasmus pulls a spectacular boner on the bases, although one that you'd almost have to be an acrobat to avoid (getting hit by a batted ball that was smoked). On the other hand, Berkman comes out early, which puts down a marker that the shoulder issue is real and provides extra incentive for the team to keep Raz around until they know whether Berkman will be out (and for how long). Having four good outfielders (plus Craig coming off the DL shortly, and while not a good fielder, he can rake) to play three outfield positions is the kind of problem most teams wish they had, of course.

 
BillJohnson
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Exactly. One can see this pairing getting "resolved" speedily, but can it be done without resulting homicide charges?

 
BillJohnson
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The Rasmus situation has an extraordinary number of complications to it. This article does a nice job of addressing many of them, but there are more. How does Lance Berkman's bad shoulder affect a possible Raz trade? You'd think it would just about eliminate the possibility, but only the Cardinals know for sure. On the flip side, will Allen Craig's impending return from the DL paper over the Berkman injury and make a trad possible after all? And not least, what team, if any, would be well equipped to take on not only the super-talented but moody player that Raz appears to be, but also his world-class helicopter parent? Because it appears you can't have one without the other.

 
BillJohnson
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What means "modalities" in Kyle Lohse's treatment plan? Not familiar with the term in this context.

Jul 25, 2011 8:34 AM on Overextended
 
BillJohnson
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So Kevin, if you got a do-over on the top 50, where *would* Oscar Taveras fit? Because yeah, he's getting interesting.

 
BillJohnson
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I'm a Cardinals fan, and I must say, I'm happy to see this development. Pleasant and interesting surprises in baseball CANNOT be a bad thing, even if they threaten one's own rooting interests. The NL Central will be a more interesting place with Pittsburgh's return to viability.

 
BillJohnson
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Agreed. Actually, as much as it hurts to say this, I think a reasonable case can be made that they shouldn't be making any sell-the-farm deals at all, because they are unlikely to improve the team sufficiently to win the division. Whatever they do, the fact remains that they're without Wainwright and Pujols is not recovering to the point of being his usual, Pujolsian self. What remains in their absence isn't going to be fixable with one or two trades.

 
BillJohnson
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I suggest reading this BP article, by Dave Cameron, which addresses exactly this issue: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=2273 There really are very pronounced similarities. Part of the lack of enthusiasm for Carpenter may be that he didn't hit during a cameo in St. Louis. It remains to be seen how significant that failure is, but in any event, St. Louis has other 3B prospects, and therefore may have decided not to take an overly optimistic view of this one.

 
BillJohnson
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As regards Zack Cox (btw, it's Zack, not Zach; first name is spelled Zackary): when you get a guy who's in his first year in pro ball and has a very pronounced first-half/second-half split, as Cox does (around 100 points of BA), it's tempting to infer that he's actually learning something as he plays at the new level. Are scouts saying anything about that, Kevin? Or is this split just a small-sample-size bit of luck, whether good or bad or both?

 
BillJohnson
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I don't know about that. Mispronouncing his first name as "ruined" might have ... unfortunate implications for an advertising campaign.

 
BillJohnson
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The brothers Worrell were actually quite close in games pitched, Tim winning by the margin 678-617 exclusive of post-season appearances. Tim pitched significantly more innings, having been a starter for part of his career. Todd was more effective when he did pitch, particularly in his fire-breathing first five years, before he got hurt. If Mark (not closely related to either, btw) ever gets to be half as successful as either of them, he'll have had a decent major-league career. In one way, he's already succeeded; on June 5, 2008, he joined the exclusive ranks of players who homered in their first major-league at-bats. It was a 3-run shot in the bargain.

Jul 18, 2011 12:50 PM on Weekend Roundup Edition
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 24

OK. So: 1. Bryce Harper 1 2. Matt Moore 10 3. Julio Teheran 5 4. Shelby Miller 15 5. Jurickson Profar 78 6. Manny Machado 16 7.Jesus Montero 3 8.Brandon Belt 22 9. Desmond Jennings 18 10. Jameson Taillon 8 11. Devin Mesoraco 53 12. Brett Lawrie 57 13. Martin Perez 33 14. Manny Banuelos 27 15. Jason Kipnis 28 16. Taijuan Walker NR 17. Arodys Vizcaino 50 18. Miguel Sano 31 19. Haek-Ju Lee NR 20. Drew Pomeranz 43 21. Travis D'Arnaud NR 22. Carlos Martinez NR 23. Mike Montgomery 21 24. Dellin Betances 32 25. Matt Harvey 75 26. Jacob Turner 23 27. Brad Peacock NR 28. Cheslor Cuthbert NR 29. Jarred Cosart NR 30. Yasmani Grandal 86 31. Jake Odorizzi 77 32. Robbie Erlin NR 33. Zach Lee 54 34. Tyler Skaggs 83 35. Casey Kelley NR 36. Zack Wheeler 52 37. Leonys Martin NR 38. Bryce Brentz NR 39. Gary Sanchez 29 40. Will Middlebrooks NR 41. Jean Segura 35 42. Jose Altuve NR 43. Michael Choice 74 44. Nick Castellanos 65 45. Jedd Gyorko NR 46. Gary Brown NR 47. Kaleb Cowart 90 48. Allen Webster NR 49. Jonathan Schoop NR 50. Wil Myers 13 The format, obviously, is {Top 50 position/Name/Preseason top 101 position}. "NR" means Not Ranked, i.e., not on the pre-season list. Incidentally, at least the top 30 from Kevin's pre-season list, and possibly deeper, are all either on this list, or playing in the bigs (or DL'ed from same) and therefore ineligible for it. Interesting observation on the quality of Kevin's pre-season analysis.

 
BillJohnson
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This is tremendous work, as usual (and as goes almost without saying). One request the next time you do it: it would be very helpful if you included the rankings on your pre-season Top 101 list, for those members of the mid-season top 50 who were on it. I have spreadsheeted all that and will post it here if there is interest, but I don't want to steal your thunder, KG, so if you're going to do that already, I'll defer.

 
BillJohnson
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Agreed, it's brilliant work, and the spelling corrections aren't intended to nit-pick it. Getting the spelling right, however, helps years later, when people use BP's "Search" function to try to find articles describing what these guys were like before they were stars -- or asking "what ever happened to ..." questions about the ones we thought were going to make it big, but didn't.

 
BillJohnson
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I believe it's Oscar TavErAs, not Oscar TavArEs. However you spell it, the kid can hit. He took a "hammy double whammy" this year, tweaking a hamstring and then tweaking it again when he tried to come back too soon(?). Are there any medheads reading this who call tell us whether this is likely to become a chronic problem?

 
BillJohnson
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To this day, watching Tudor pitch in 1985 remains one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had with my pants on. In looking back at him, however, one should keep in mind that it wasn't just wear and tear from high pitch count that year that cut into his effectiveness going forward; he also incurred a bizarre injury in 1987 that had nothing to do with pitching. (Hint to dugout dwellers: never try to catch a catcher.)

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: -1

What's wrong with the "approach" other than his seeming inability to draw walks? A .351 BA and .649 SA doesn't suggest that he's swinging at a lot of things he shouldn't be, at least in terms of his ability to do damage to what he swings at. Kevin, you've scolded me before for using Vladimir Guerrero as a basis for comparison (not a comparable, which is a different thing), and I get that Adams probably doesn't have "80 tools," but that second sentence could have been written about Bad Vlad 15 years ago. Given that there IS no obvious comparable for Adams, which is one of the reasons why he's so difficult to evaluate, is it so bad to use Guerrero to assess what he might do in the future? Or is Adams' "approach" so grossly different from Guerrero's at the same stage that it doesn't make sense? One way or another, this is a fascinating guy to try to make sense out of, whether he ever becomes a major-league masher or not.

 
BillJohnson
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Someone once pointed out to me that teams don't pay stars the big bucks to play baseball for them; they do it to keep the stars from playing baseball for their opponents. I wonder if that's part of the story here. If K-Rod is "strengthening" the Milwaukee bullpen, he won't be "strengthening" the St. Louis one, which -- to those who believe in the cult of the closer -- may need him more. Did Milwaukee conclude that it was worth two PTBNLs to keep a division rival from making a similar deal?

 
BillJohnson
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Last night was also Kolten Wong's fourth CS, or something like that. It's nice to see somebody with wheels and aggression in a system that has been rather slow and plodding for a few years, but he's going to have to figure out that running on a professional catcher isn't quite the same as running on college kids.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 6

The poet was wrong. That Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance business wasn't even close when it comes to the saddest of possible words. THESE are the saddest of possible words: "The Cubs also have no plans to rebuild."

Jul 11, 2011 8:46 AM on Digging the Long Ball
 
BillJohnson
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I think it would be interesting to see reviews of ballpark experiences, stressing the kind of thing you hint at with your "random fan" comment and generalizing to the question "what's the 'best' and 'worst' park for the student of the game?" Or "attentive fan," "fact-oriented fan," choose your way of phrasing it. That's a somewhat different topic than "best fan experience," and I am unaware of reviews that have addressed this type of question. This said, having seen games in a majority of teams' home parks (and having a family project of seeing a game in all 30), my limited data base says that if you go to a game in Seattle, St. Louis or Boston, your chances of running into random fans who know exactly what's going on are very good. (I'll omit the ones at the other end of the scale, although one park stuck out in our experience.) Dodger Stadium is one we haven't yet seen, and based on this review, I'm almost tempted to make an exception and not bother with that one ...

 
BillJohnson
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Umbricht was struck down mid-career by a particularly nasty variety of cancer (melanoma) and died in 1964 at age 33. His number was retired immediately, due in no small part to the enormous amount of publicity that his battle against the disease got. Given that the Astros (then Colt .45s) had only been around for two years at the time, his was the first Houston number to be retired, and it was as much a matter of building rapport with the community as recognition of his value as a player, teammate, etc. Numbers have been retired for worse reasons.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

On its merits, Franklin's defenestration was long overdue. I wonder, though, whether the Cardinals were hanging onto him in the hope that he himself would realize that he was finished, retire honorably, and take a job in the organization as a roving pitching coach (he is reputedly good with young pitchers) or some such. In a way, it's sad that it didn't work out that way.

 
BillJohnson
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Reports have him moving up to AA Springfield, so his visibility may be increasing.

 
BillJohnson
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I might have thought the Potentate of Pickoffs, aka John Gast, might have been mentioned here. He had three more POs yesterday to go with two caught-stealings (and no successful steals), for five guys retired on the bases against him (for high-A Palm Beach). Fun observation: the Cardinals kept this guy in their spring training camp a little longer this year than planned, so that a high-A pitcher could teach some of their left-handed major leaguers his pickoff move. Even if he never sniffs the Show, that's entertaining.

 
BillJohnson
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Amen. Steinbrenner the Lesser took a significant credibility hit last year when he whined that he paid his incredibly valuable pitchers too much to be risking their health by having them run the bases, which was why the DH should be used in all games. That was only half as dumb as what Sabean said here. Can it ever be good to have one's own credibility compared to that of a Steinbrenner? Incidentally, a blast from the past: Many, many years ago, I started a thread on the ancestral rec.sport.baseball on the subject "Best I Ever Saw *At*..." The goal was to talk about specific baseball skills (pickoff move, strike-zone judgment, lining up the relay from the outfield, etc.) and the players who were tops at them. One of those skills was blocking home plate, and I well remember a certain Baseball Prospectus founder's call as to who was best at this one: "I abstain. I dislike this practice and wish it could be stopped." This despite said founder having what might be charitably termed a catcher's physique. Once again BP was ahead of its time! Huck, we miss you ...

 
BillJohnson
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Some reports have Matt Adams moving up to AAA as the cascade of Cardinals injury-related moves continues. Mark Hamilton's return to the big club certainly creates space for him. If he mashes there the way he did in Springfield ...

 
BillJohnson
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Cleto looked nervous as a chicken at a KFC company picnic out there in his first, disastrous inning. In his second he looked much better. I'd be very interested to hear what some scouts thought of that outing.

 
BillJohnson
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Thanks for the Sandoval comp, DM; it's the closest I've seen to Adams as a big-hit-no-walk guy in the minors who has been valuable in the Show, although we don't yet know just how good Panda will be. Is the gap between Adams and Guerrero really that large, Kevin? I'm struck by the similarities between their AA slash lines at comparable stages of professional development, and the age difference isn't enormous. Slash stats are by no means the best way to compare guys in the minor leagues, to be sure. They may suggest that this guy needs a closer, careful look, though.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: -1

Even the people (of whom I am one) who have doubts about Matt Adams because of his low BB %age have to admit that you can't blame a guy for not walking in a game where he goes 4 for 5. Still, you worry. Who are his comparables, Kevin? Can you think of any first basemen or corner outfielders who hit a ton in the minors without drawing many walks, then went on to successful major-league careers? Every Adams-like power behemoth who went on to major-league stardom that I've looked at had a better minor-league BB rate than he does. But surely there must be SOME success story among players with his profile -- mustn't there?

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 1

Rookie (just barely) Allen Craig is currently being tested for this role at St. Louis. He was a lousy defender at each of the corner positions, yet is getting time now at 2B, where statistically he's a below-average defender, but not as experiment-terminating bad as he was expected to be. If he can actually stick at the position, he'll qualify. Note that the defensive standard for a Cardinals second baseman is not high at the moment, courtesy of the unfortunate precedent set by Skip Schumaker, himself a convert from generic outfielder.

 
BillJohnson
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If there are as many as four or five plausible #1 choices, the chances that the Pirates will "screw up" and take a complete clunker are very small. However, this draft is going to a barometer on fan support, because the flip side is that no matter who they take, they'll be open to criticism for not taking someone else instead. Patience with Huntington and crew seems appropriate, at least from my perspective as having no particular rooting interest in the team, for or against. I don't envy the guy his situation.

May 31, 2011 9:51 AM on Draft Notebook
 
BillJohnson
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The walk rate has been a subject of hot debate at Future Redbirds, a Cardinals' minor-league blog. The question is: how worrisome is a low walk rate when the guy murders everything he does get a bat on? And will the lack of walks be a problem once he runs into pitching that he can't count on hitting hard? My own views are "quite" and "too likely," but there are differing opinions. Question: Are there any Adams comparables who have succeeded as power hitters in the bigs without having a minor-league BB rate above 5%? I'm hard pressed to think of any. As for the body, word is that the Cardinals want to put him on a serious fitness/conditioning regime this winter. He'll always be a big guy, but excess fat can be dealt with (although I sure wish I could find a good way to deal with my own!).

 
BillJohnson
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For one thing, he's not on the 40-man. For another, he hasn't burned an option yet, and the arbitration clock hasn't started. Ask this question again after early June, though. Descalso has played some spectacular defense this year that may also be giving them some pause about replacing him. Whether it's _good_ defense, now ... SSS, etc.

 
BillJohnson
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That's the claim. I'd still love to get RJ's take on it, not so much because of what was done as because of what was not.

 
BillJohnson
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Nothing about the Cardinals' inexplicable decision to send a pretty decent reliever to AAA while leaving two unspeakably awful ones on the 25-man?

 
BillJohnson
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It might be worth putting a footnote on the Reds' ranking, noting that they've been fattening up on their not-so-great brethren in the NL Central (24 games against Cubs, Pirates, Brewers and Astros, if I count it correctly). Some "correction" is probably coming when they start playing the East (only three games so far -- note that the hotly-pursuing Cardinals have gone 8-4 against East teams in the same time period). Is strength of schedule taken into account at all on these rankings, Jay? Seems like it should be, at least until the All-Star break or thereabouts.

May 18, 2011 9:44 AM on Braving the Storm
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

At a time like this, it is ironic that my one clearest memory of the Killer is associated with pain. He somehow got named starting first baseman on the 1968 AL All-Star team, despite 1968 being perhaps his worst year until his final decline phase. In the All-Star game, he had to make a big stretch to field an errant throw. "Flexibility" was never at the top of his game, and the poor guy suffered what looked like the most excruciating groin strain I have ever seen on a baseball field. I cringe just remembering it. Thanks for the memories, and rejoice, big fella. You don't have to hurt any more, from that or from your terminal disease, and for eternity, you get to play in a league where they don't throw sliders.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Interesting that for a draft generally considered to be quite strong, the cons tend to at least equal the pros for most everybody, and raise serious warning flags for many. Kevin, how sure are you that this is really going to be a strong draft?

May 17, 2011 8:16 AM on Who's No. 1?
 
BillJohnson
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Alas, Oscar Taveras re-injured a hamstring while getting his average up to .500, according to reports from Iowa, and will be out again for a while.

 
BillJohnson
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With Jordan Swagerty, it's not a matter of him "remaining" a starter, it's a matter of him _becoming_ one. He was the closer at Arizona State in 2010 and was drafted with the most probable outcome being that he would be a reliever. The stint at low-A (you're right, he should be one level up) is only partially to try to develop pitches; mainly, it's to see whether he has the durability to make the unusual reliever-to-starter switch. It's fair to say that signs thus far are encouraging.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -3

Lost in all this entertainment is any analysis of exactly what happened in that game, and I think that's unfortunate, Emma. There was stuff going on there on the field (or at least in the dugouts and bullpens) that was worth a more searching analysis than you gave it. For starters: One thing that I have not seen mentioned by any writers is that there was a fundamental difference between the guy that TLR was going to run out there after the rain and the one that Baker got snookered out of using (to his discredit, IMO, but that's a different story). Kyle McClellan had been a reliever his whole career until this year, and presumably had developed warm-up habits consistent with being brought in on short notice. Edinson Volquez, a career-long starter, presumably was accustomed to taking half the day to get ready to start if he needed to. The resulting tactical advantage in a rain-delay situation that TLR had seems clear to me, and if I can see it, it should be glaringly obvious to a life-long baseball man. So did Dusty just miss it, or what? I'd be much more interested in a thoughtful exploration of the "just what was going on there?" question than obsessing over which manager is more likable.

Apr 28, 2011 6:23 AM on Spy vs. Spy
 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

In fact, Pujols did pinch-hit on Tuesday, drawing an intentional walk and staying in the game.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Amusing, the concept that the Cubs scoring ten runs in that Lilly start amounted to bailing him out; he's now a Dodger, and was pitching against them, not for them, after all. :-)

Apr 26, 2011 9:51 AM on Of Phils and Fish
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 8

Count me among the "make the season too long" voices. Two reasons. First, baseball played at the major-league level is hard on the body, and not just for pitchers. There are already problems with players breaking down at the end of the season, or having Verducci-Effect consequences the following year. Extending the season for four teams will make that worse. Second, watching baseball should be _fun_. Watching it in 29-degree temperatures with a light freezing rain falling, as I did at a White Sox game a couple of years ago, is not fun -- most utterly miserable experience I've had at a ballpark in 50 years of fandom. That game was in April. There will be many more like it in March or November.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 0

Good article, but I take the liberty of claiming that if the Cardinals continue to get a .303/.356/.349 line out of Ryan Theriot, they'll be very happy to have picked him up. A leadoff hitter can get by without power if he gets on base. A .356 OBP ranks him as a distinctly better-than-average leadoff hitter in that regard compared to last year's field. The Cardinals will take it if he continues to do that. Problem is, he won't.

Apr 21, 2011 9:16 AM on When Is .300 Not .300?
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -1

That line for Ryan Jackson looks downright scary, Kevin. What are the scouts saying about him? Obviously, he's not going to stay on that pace, but has he really figured something out, or is this purely a SSS fluke? I'd love to see a more in-depth look at this guy.

 
BillJohnson
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Comment rating: 2

I think it's a bit misleading to lump LaRue in with the other concussion victims in this analysis. Remember, he didn't sustain his career-ending injury playing the game; he sustained it under conditions that, had they occurred anywhere but in a sports arena, would have led to criminal charges. Protective headgear wouldn't have done a thing to stop that. This isn't to say that cumulative damage from wearing the tools of ignorance didn't contribute to making that injury a career-ending one, of course, and your point remains valid. I'm also not really raising this exception to rag on the guy that concussed him, but rather to make the observation that one must consider the well-being of athletes in totality rather than applying band-aids to the owie of the week. That doesn't keep this particular band-aid from being highly appropriate. It does mean that a systematic look at why concussions are happening, followed by some rules and/or cultural changes, may be an appropriate followup to the band-aid.

 
BillJohnson
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Agreed. The statement "Professional baseball players are skilled in “turning the double play” so that they touch the base, and then clear themselves from the sliding runner in order to avoid injury" may be accurate enough, but trying to pretend that it explains away the "neighborhood play" is disingenuous.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Many thanks to Charlie Reliford for this. It's interesting that he picked these particular calls to address. One, the infield fly rule, is completely inscrutable to many fans, but I somehow suspect that the readership of BP is quite a bit more savvy about such things than most; certainly what he says simply confirms what I already knew (or thought I knew) about infield flies. The other is something that most fans think they "know," but as he demonstrates, a great deal of what you think you know ain't so. I didn't realize that the definition of a "swing" was so amorphous as to leave the definition of "check swing" completely wide open. That's interesting. Which brings up a point. I'm an advocate for automating the calling of balls and strikes, but the check-swing call is a perfect example of why there'll still have to be a human in the loop. Either that, or make a significant tweak to the rules so that a check swing is DEFINED -- which may be more of a tweak than is really wise. Yielding on this point is likely going to be essential to ever getting buy-in on automated strike-zone calls, and I think it's a good idea.

 
BillJohnson
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When a guy runs up a pitch count like that in college, is he throwing at 100% all the time? There are plenty of batters on college teams that a major-league prospect doesn't have to extend himself fully to retire. Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning that usage, but I am trying to understand just how much risk he's really being exposed to.

Apr 11, 2011 9:35 AM on Monday Morning 10 Pack
 
BillJohnson
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You don't think Matt Holliday's rapid recovery could actually have spurred Dunn to "beat" him in that regard whether it's a good idea or not, do you? Baseball players are highly competitive critters, and I can easily imagine a scenario where Dunn says, "Nine days? I'll show that wimp..."

Apr 11, 2011 6:32 AM on More on the Core
 
BillJohnson
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The logos are extremely valuable as pathfinders, and indeed, setting it up so that a single transaction shows both logos, and therefore sums up the affected parties in a concise and elegant way, will contribute value that even CK didn't have. It'll be a pain the first few times you do it, but once the routine is generated, the effort should be reduced.

 
BillJohnson
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The news today that Matt Holliday is undergoing an appendectomy (no, this is not an April Fools joke) gets me thinking about a possible addition to these summaries: is there any way to show which guys have injuries that are not baseball-related, or otherwise, not anything that a training staff could have prevented or mitigated? The difference between a strained hammy from inadequate stretching, and an appendectomy or mononucleosis (sympathies, Bronson Arroyo, been there...), is the difference between something a team might try to address, and something that's plain old bad luck.

Apr 01, 2011 1:01 PM on Los Angeles Dodgers
 
BillJohnson
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Very interesting to go back and look at these. I think the sabermetric community has made significant progress on #1, #15 and #17, and there has certainly been progress on #11 as well, from the increasing number of people who are knowledgeable about biomechanics. I also think, based on conversations with a certain BP alum, that there are others (e.g. #18) where the baseball "industry" has made significant progress that however is of a proprietary nature and isn't usually seen by us smelly fans. Question for discussion: if we could pick one of these to work on that we thought had the greatest potential for doing good things for the game, and at the same time, also had the best chances for a successful R&D program, which would it be? I'd be inclined to try for #10 or #14; get either of those reliably, reproducibly -- and unequivocally -- right, and any number of major-league teams will beat a path to your door. I'm not sure they're doable, though.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

A tad unfair to Colby Rasmus, methinks. A 2010 line of .276/.361/.498 doesn't suggest to me that he's ready to step up and have a breakthrough; it suggests he already has had one. The Cardinal who needs to "step up" must surely be Ryan Theriot. Unfortunately, it's unlikely. And for the Mets, wouldn't it be fairer not to pick on Bay, and just say "everybody"?

Mar 30, 2011 5:47 AM on No Excuses
 
BillJohnson
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Fair enough, but just the fact that there is a methodology doesn't necessarily protect against bias. Suppose, for example, that team #1 always looks better on defensive metric A than on defensive metric B, while team #2 is the other way around. There is a risk that a fan of team #1 may (generally unintentionally) introduce bias into rankings by preferring to use metric A, which makes his/her team look good, rather than metric B, which doesn't. (Not saying that that has been done in these rankings, or in anything else BP does; just an example of how it might happen, rather than an assertion that it has happened.) Stamping out bias in any ranking system is a difficult proposition, even when a "consistent methodology" is used.

Mar 29, 2011 10:31 AM on AL Pre-Season Hit List
 
BillJohnson
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"#6!" is a meme that has developed following a certain other site's gross overestimation of the Mariners' prospects last year -- a site where one or two of the main authors just happen to be rabid Mariners fans, as illustrated by their connections to blogs like USS Mariner. The meme is used to needle that site for what looks like homerism. (To their credit, their revised method of doing organizational rankings this year contains a view of Seattle that is also ... revised.) Has BP demonstrated homerism toward Oakland? Sometimes it feels like it, and the fact that on a continuing basis, the Hit List overpredicts the Oakland season might be evidence in that direction. On the other hand, the difference between predicted and actual records, on a running basis, isn't large for Oakland in a root-mean-square sense. The rms miss distance for Oakland predictions over the last four seasons is about 4 games, which isn't large -- the misses for Seattle, White Sox, and Colorado, to name three, are 15, 6 and 12.5 games, respectively (still doing this for other teams). The discrepancy between predicted and actual records for Oakland is notable only because over that time frame, it always predicts that Oakland will do better than they actually do. Is this evidence for actual homerism? I don't really think so. For one thing, the demographics of BP authors has changed over the years to the point that they're _not_ Oakland fans. (This wasn't always true.) And the effect, as shown in the previous paragraph, is not large. My original comment was intended to be mainly poking fun at that other site, yet at the same time, are there any other teams that the Hit List chronically overpredicts? I haven't found any yet, but am still going through the records.

Mar 29, 2011 7:12 AM on AL Pre-Season Hit List
 
BillJohnson
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I was going to make some comment on this bit of snarkage, but in fact, it isn't snark. Compare the way the pre-season hit lists have predicted the A's won-lost records for the impending year to the way they actually performed: 2010: Predicted: 83-79; actual: 81-81 2009: Predicted: 84-78; actual: 75-87 2008: Predicted: 81-82; actual: 75-86 2007: Predicted: 80-82; actual: 76-86 Another site I won't name (#6!) has been widely (and IMO, justifiably) mocked (#6!) for their preposterously rosy-eyed (#6!) ranking of the Mariners (#6!) on their "organizational rankings" list (#6!) last year. Does Baseball Prospectus do something similar for Oakland?

Mar 28, 2011 2:02 PM on AL Pre-Season Hit List
 
BillJohnson
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Enjoyed this, David; thanks. Colby Rasmus does not always come off as the most articulate of ballplayers, but this mini-interview makes it clear that there's more going on there than meets the eye.

 
BillJohnson
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I have a two-word rebuttal to the same-game argument. Designated. Hitter. However, broadly, you're right. With that (IMHO, unfortunate) exception, the game is still very recognizable, and furthermore, so is the obsession with stats. Furthermore, the notion that one can always do better with stats and interpreting them to help play/manage/trade better is in no way new. People tend to forget that even "basic" stats like slugging average were once "advanced metrics" in their own right. You don't enjoy the pop of a ball in a glove any less because you think about f/x and VORP than our fathers (and mothers and grandparents) did, when they were adapting to this new-fangled thing where you sum the number of bases on hits and divide by at bats, rather than good old batting average.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 2

Looks like that got fixed, but "Schumaker" is an interesting misspelling of "Rasmus," too.

Mar 18, 2011 6:29 AM on Defensive Doldrums
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

Aargh. Cuellar's "name," not "game." Sorry. BP Webmaster, isn't there ANY way to make it possible for commenters to edit their own contributions?

Mar 08, 2011 1:43 PM on What's In A Name?
 
BillJohnson
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What Harry did to Mike Cuellar's game would have been enough to get him made _persona non grata_ in Cuellar's home country of Cuba, too.

Mar 08, 2011 1:41 PM on What's In A Name?
 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: 1

I've never understood how Bob Walk, Homer Bailey, Elmer Singleton and Jerry Wild could become pitchers. On the other hand, why didn't 1960s Cardinals farmhand Harry Fanok have more success than he did?

Mar 08, 2011 8:20 AM on What's In A Name?
 
BillJohnson
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While we're talking about the 50s, I hope the late, lamented Walt Dropo makes this list.

 
BillJohnson
(2635)
Comment rating: -2

How quickly we forget. I'd say Shawn Abner, Brien Taylor (90s), David Clyde (70s), Ken Griffey Jr. (just because you're ridiculously hyped doesn't mean you can't turn out to live up to the hype and be really good...), Alex Rodriguez (same comment as Junior), etc., were hyped at least as vigorously as Bryce Harper and company are today. The hype for at least Komminsk and Walker wasn't in that class, and I really don't remember McDowell being hyped at that level either.

 
BillJohnson
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This is a fantastic idea. Having had some of the injuries, and surgeries, that some of these guys are getting (albeit on a considerably less ... athletic ... body), I find the verbal descriptions absolutely fascinating, but I could relate to them even better with a picture. Diana, am I correct in assuming you're looking for "generic" diagrams/photos/MRIs rather than anything specific to the player? Surely it should be possible to do that without getting unacceptably intrusive, and it would add tremendous value.

Mar 04, 2011 8:45 AM on Missing the Meniscus
 
BillJohnson
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Disappointment, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, but I don't remember Komminsk, McDowell and Walker being hyped to quite the same level as Maybin. (Couldn't say about Cohen, obviously.) Besides, a perusal of #8 draft choices shows Walker's 9.9 career WAR as above average, and McDowell's 9.2 WAR as similarly above average at #12. Yes, Komminsk (1.4) should have been better at #4, but there are plenty of other #4 guys who also disappointed. To me this particular part of the list is saying more about hype than about the players.

 
BillJohnson
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In two thousand twelve Double Dactyls instead, please Still, the haikus rock!

 
BillJohnson
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Right. I think there were a couple of others as well. How could I forget Big Z? Of course, he wasn't very effective as a PH last year ... but you have to give him credit for trying.

 
BillJohnson
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The RHP/LHP ratio intrigues me. As far as I can tell, lefties make up not much more than a quarter of ML pitchers, and probably throw less than a quarter of all innings, LOOGYs being what they are. However, they're a third of all pitching prospects on this list. A statistics-of-small-numbers effect? Influx of talented lefties compared to previous years? Overrating the impact that a bunch of guys realistically destined for LOOGYdom might have? Something else?

 
BillJohnson
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Nice catch. How many other major-league pitchers were used as pinch hitters in 2010 in situations not calling for an automatic sacrifice bunt? It isn't a long list. I can think of Mike Leake and Micah Owings; are there others?

 
BillJohnson
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I don't think I've ever seen a Q&A before with so much A and so little Q. :-) Most enjoyable to get what amounted to a Crisp stream of consciousness on this one. Did you actually ask him questions that don't appear here, David, or was this incredible torrent the result of a single inquiry that opened the floodgates? Crisp seems like the kind of guy who'd be willing to just let it go. (Truthfully, I'd sorta like to meet him.)

Feb 25, 2011 9:47 AM on Coco Crisp
 
BillJohnson
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Can't forget the posting fee, though. Matsuzaka may not have seen a dime of it, but it was still expense that the team had to bear to sign him.

Feb 23, 2011 3:19 PM on Wainwright Go Bye?
 
BillJohnson
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A little surprised that Colby Rasmus doesn't rank higher here.

Feb 23, 2011 8:29 AM on Center Fielder Rankings
 
BillJohnson
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Interestingly, a team's average WARP out of rookies seems to have essentially no correlation with how the team has performed over the last five years (measured by W-L %, which isn't a perfect metric, but it'll do for something quick). There is a positive correlation between high WARP for rookies and winning, but the correlation constant is only about 0.12, which is very small and quite likely not significantly different from zero. Furthermore, there is scatter all over the place, with very good and very bad teams at both ends of the WARP continuum and in the middle. The message seems to be that good teams will be good and bad teams will be bad, regardless of how good their rookies/early-career guys are.

Feb 22, 2011 12:53 PM on Promoting Prospects
 
BillJohnson
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Right. At the moment, the list of "better CFs than Edmonds" just has those five names on it in the Hall, with Griffey to join it. Center fielders as a whole are underrepresented in Cooperstown, at least CFs elected by BBWAA votes. Fewer center fielders have been voted in by the BBWAA (as opposed to Veterans' Committees or Negro League voters) than any other position except third base.

 
BillJohnson
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The Baines analogy is quite illuminating, in that it reveals both the highs and lows of Edmonds' record. Jed didn't get nearly as many hits as Baines, despite a fairly long career, but he did everything else better, with a higher OBP, SLG, OPS, the whole nine yards -- and he played center field (very well). It's interesting that almost none of Edmonds' comparables were center fielders. He had the bat to look comparable to many guys who never had any business running down flies in the middle pasture. He isn't just "better than a few Hall of Famers," he's better than *most* center fielders in the Hall. Hall of Fame center fielders are, by and large, not a memorable group. Remove Mantle, Mays, DiMaggio, Speaker and Cobb, and Edmonds looks just fine compared to Hack Wilson, Kirby Puckett, Richie Ashburn, Lloyd Waner, etc. I'd vote for him.

 
BillJohnson
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How does he fare on the Keltner Questions? Seems like the kind of player for whom the questions may provide insight.

 
BillJohnson
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To me, this all looks right in broad outline. Three-way traffic jam at the top, with St. Louis still a nose ahead of the others (I think the Reds will see more reversion to the mean than PECOTA does, but it's arguable); Cubs in limbo; Pirates improving but still bad; Houston, well, screwed. I do think, however, that the summed division W-L percentage may be a bit better than these rankings imply. The gains to the division (Greinke, Marcum, etc.) count for more there than the losses do.

 
BillJohnson
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I'm rather surprised not to see the name of Dick Allen in this article.

 
BillJohnson
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Wouldn't it be more appropriate for the Astros' entry on the "Why They Might Win" column to read something like "The planes carrying the other five teams' major-league squads might crash, forcing them to play callups from AAA"? Really, that looks like the best shot this team has this year.

 
BillJohnson
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Right, that's a better analogy. However, the plate is there precisely for the purpose of defining the strike zone (side to side, anyway), just as the goal posts are there to define a field goal/PAT. The only difference is that it's far harder for an official to screw it up with goal posts, and consequently, an attempt by an official to redefine the "good" zone is vastly easier to detect. I submit, however, that that doesn't make the official's doing so any more egregious a violation of the role of the official than when an ump decides the strike zone isn't really what the rules say it is; it just makes the action more obvious, and harder to overlook.

Feb 16, 2011 9:54 AM on The Real Strike Zone
 
BillJohnson
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Well, here's a scenario. Last minute of the Super Bowl. The heavily favored New York Megaroids lead the Arizona Andro-Apes by two (2) points, but the Apes have the ball on the New York 35-yard line. Their rookie kicker comes in to attempt a field goal that, if successful, will produce the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. If he fails ... well, his name is Billy Goetz, so guess how history will remember him. Mr. Goetz has the advantage of perfect field position, so he lines it up to go right down the middle. The snap is good, the hold clean, the blockers do their job. Goetz gets plenty of leg into it, but just VERY slightly hooks it. The ball grazes the left upright as it passes by ... on the inside. The officials huddle as the crowd goes, well, ape. Someone has noted that the ball didn't go as straight and as true as it was supposed to. The kid missed his aim point, after all, by five feet, not just three inches! And the official stationed under the goalposts to make sure the kick went through had to move out of position. And above all, he's a rookie. After thinking about it, only one decision is possible. The referee waves his arms across his knees ...

Feb 16, 2011 8:43 AM on The Real Strike Zone
 
BillJohnson
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With a family history like that, Max Kepler has suddenly been promoted almost to the very top of the list of "improbable prospects that I'd like to see make it to the Show."

 
BillJohnson
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Glah ... I can't type ... "there is two thing" should obviously be "there is one thing". Thought I'd fixed that!

Feb 16, 2011 6:18 AM on The Real Strike Zone
 
BillJohnson
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"Stunned"? Not the adjective I'd use. "Feeling vindicated," maybe. I thoroughly endorse Tom's "fantastic," and would take it a step further, to "long overdue." But you don't have to watch a lot of baseball to rapidly develop an intuitive sense that something like this has been going on. The question has been exactly what that "something" is, and this excellent study moves us closer to an answer. I would also say, however, that if the results do stand up to scrutiny, they support the sense of outrage that I have come to feel about home-plate umpiring in the last decade. "Umpires appear to call a zone that is very dependent on the location of a pitch relative to the catcher’s target." Now where is THAT in the rule book? As Mike points out, there is two thing, and one thing only, that theoretically should affect the zone: the location of the space defined by home plate (which is fixed, after all) and the batter's shoulders and knees (which is variable). For it to be affected by a catcher's lunging, or other theatrics, moves baseball one step closer to pro wrestling.

Feb 16, 2011 6:17 AM on The Real Strike Zone
 
BillJohnson
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How could anyone other than Albert Pujols be "Mr. Incredible"? Unbelievable strong man, and a devoted husband and family man in the bargain. And while we're at it, can we throw in a few arch-villains? I certainly think of Don Denkinger as "Mxyzptlk" -- alterer of reality, much for the worse...

Feb 14, 2011 12:20 PM on Baseball's Superheroes
 
BillJohnson
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I'm not Tom, but you don't have to go any farther than Buzz Bissinger's book "Three Nights in August" (anti-sabermetrics though it may be) for entirely conclusive commentary on AP's arm. His "arm strength" really doesn't matter. What matters is that the team won't LET him throw hard, as evidenced by the gyrations, described in the book, that TLR has gone through to protect that arm. A tool isn't any good if you can't use it.

Feb 10, 2011 8:36 AM on Tooling Around
 
BillJohnson
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As awesome a player as Pujols is, he's lacking one tool: arm strength. When he first came up, he had the arm to play at third, but an elbow injury (and fear of losing him for an extended period for TJ surgery to fix it) took care of that. FRAA, as Ben points out, makes some attempt to capture both defense components at once, and by that metric, Pujols is as brilliant as he is at everything else. To look specifically at arm strength, however, something else should be found.

Feb 10, 2011 7:28 AM on Tooling Around
 
BillJohnson
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