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Useless fact about May 17th - not only the date of that Giambi walk-off slam, but also of one of the weirdest #weirdbaseball games of all time - the 23-22 circus in Wrigley in 1979 -
While we're at it, how bout yet another May 17th game, from 1996, which featured a walk-off slam even more dramatic than Giambi's (b/c there were two outs) -
Interesting list - I agree with much of it. But I enjoyed Cobb. Robert Wuhl almost ruins the movie, but Tommy Lee Jones is terrific, and it's not at all incoherent (what Shelton was doing with the movie is very cogent and straightforward). But of course I get why you might not like it.
Clearly you've never seen the original Bad News Bears. Or, judging by your comment, Bull Durham.
To be fair, Matthew Kory is contractually obligated to keep his Lineup Card picks strictly Red Sox-related.
You're both right. I just utterly misremembered the play.
That's only true if the rest of the inning proceeded the same way after Peralta's AB. But considering Casilla would have been pitching from the stretch against Adams, most likely choosing different pitches, so on and so forth, I'm not sure we can say for certain that if Peralta reaches there he ends up scoring. But we do know that a run is far more LIKELY if he reaches base - that I agree with.
The deflection play was pretty emblematic of the series. Not saying the Giants didn't deserve to win - they made fewer mistakes than the Cardinals - but, much like the 2005 World Series, it was a short series where nearly every game could have gone the other way were it not for an inch here or an inch there.
Great stuff! This may not be related, but with a couple of these I was thinking about how the Royals have been described by various people lately as an "anti-Moneyball team." Yet Moneyball does not mean gathering a softball team of fat slow guys who take walks and can't field. Moneyball is about exploiting market inefficiencies, and in that sense the Royals exploited a market bias against fast glove men who make a lot of contact but don't do much else. They are in some ways the paragon of a Moneyball team. Arguably, anyway.
Well, just b/c his choices had bad outcomes doesn't mean they were bad choices.
My biggest criticism of Bochy's game was using Javier Lopez to face Carpenter and Jay in the 7th, leaving him with no lefty relievers vs Adams in the 8th. Carpenter and Jay have negligible platoon splits (Jay actually killed lefties this year) and Adams (who's basically Troy Tulowitzki vs. RHP and Eric Young Jr. vs. LHP) should never be allowed to face a right-hander in a tie game late, esp a homer-prone righty like Strickland.
Uh yeah - that op-ed is explicitly referenced in the article. And if a mayor writing dopey civic-booster fluff is evidence of anything it's beyond me.
Totally agree - they will (should) regress - but I think I would mitigate that a tiny bit b/c the Cards arguably underperformed offensively during the regular season (cumulatively far below Pecota percentiles).
*Never fails to astound me...
That Cards fan sounds ridiculous. Never astounds me how many people fail to grasp that athletes don't play ball as a hobby - it's their job. Edmonds is no more a sellout than an insurance salesman who takes a job with a new company after his old company got rid of him.
Not deliberately avoiding it - it seems to me most fans either use that hashtag mockingly or tongue-in-cheek. But I'm sure there are plenty of annoying people who don't.
I've seen that video. Utterly disgusting. I wrote this piece before the video came out, and once I saw it I actually considered pulling the article from publication. Just didn't want to defend those people. Ultimately I figured those yahoos don't represent the overwhelming majority of STL fans, but if you want to use them as a reason not to root for the Cards, that's totally valid too.
I agree with that. I've never heard anyone in STL use that phrase about themselves, but that's not to say there aren't people who say it. My point was that these people aren't remotely representative, as a mere 13 tweets over the course of an entire season might attest.
Just did a Twitter search for "best fans in baseball" - I got up to 5 from Cards fans talking about themselves, 37 from people either mocking Cards fans or talking about themselves (including fans or players from ATL, SEA, MILW, COL, BOS, MIN, NYM). That was taking me back several months so I just stopped there.
So true! Thank you, Russell. People forget that the Cardinals got knocked out of the playoffs by a team with a worse regular-season record in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005. There's really only one reason the Cardinals seem like a blessed franchise imbued with magical postseason pixie dust: because they are a generally well-run franchise that's had several bites at the apple. That's it.
Kemp was right - Scott's strike zone was awful. Fortunately he was an equal-opportunity destroyer, wrongly calling 8 balls strikes for the Dodgers and 8 balls strikes for the Cardinals (according to Brooks Baseball, he had 8 calls that benefitted Ryu, 6 that benefitted Lackey, and 2 that benefitted Rosenthal). Of course it's not as simple as all that. When umps start calling pitches off the plate strikes, it can have all kinds of ripple effects, like players expanding their zone and swinging at bad pitches in anticipation. But on balance it does seem like both teams were affected equally by the enlarged strike zone.
That's incorrect about Wainwright calling Gonzalez's admiration of a HR "Mickey Mouse stuff." Although that's basically what was initially reported, it later came out that Wainwright was referring to an incident from the 4th inning of last NLCS's Game 4, in which Gonzalez was dancing off the base while yelling at Wainwright, "throw it to the backstop!" Gonzalez more or less confirmed this when he said, improbably, he wasn't yelling at Wainwright but rather himself (!), as if to remind himself to head home on a ball in the dirt (!!).
It doesn't change your point about there being bad blood between these teams, but it does cut against the narrative that the Cardinals are anti-showboaters in the Brian McCann mold (and, incidentally, makes Gonzalez seem like a total buffoon).
Sure seems like the Pirates miscalculated by having Cole pitch on Sunday. For them to win the division they would have had to (a) beat Johnny Cueto on the road, (b) hope that Wainwright and the Cardinals lose to the Goldschmidt-less D'backs, then (c) beat the Cardinals on Monday in Busch with Jeff Locke on the mound.
Let's just say there's a 50/50 chance of each of those things happening (which is extremely generous to Hurdle), that still means there's an 88% chance the Cardinals win the division and Hurdle is stuck with Volquez rather than Cole for the winner-take-all play-in game. Just seems like the wrong chess move. (To be fair, Hurdle said he didn't make the decision based on the math, but rather the competitive desire to "go for it.") At least they'll be playing at home for the wild-card game.
Small correction: the Cardinals did not drop the opener against Milwaukee. They won the opener 3-2, lost the next night, and ended up taking 3 of 4.
What's the message? "Don't do something you weren't trying to do"? (If you claim the message was "don't pitch inside," I can assure that message didn't get across. Or if it got across it was ignored. As it should have been.)
True, but to me neither the Holliday HBP nor the Adams HBP was intentional. I just don't believe in retaliation for a lack of execution.
The same thing happened in July when Clayton Kershaw hit Holliday in retaliation for Carlos Martinez plunking Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez congratulated his pitcher in the dugout afterwards and a lot of old-school baseball types tweeted about Kershaw's honorableness, but I thought it was ridiculous then and I thought it was ridiculous yesterday when Shelby Miller threw at McCutchen.
I mean, if Volquez wasn't trying to hit Holliday, what's he supposed to do? Not ever throw inside? Keep everything over the heart of the plate or outside, lest he maybe possibly hit a guy? It was a mistake. And no amount of retaliation is going to discourage that.
Amazing game, but it was from 2011
Great stuff, Doug, thanks. In a couple spots you suggest that Shelby's "fall from grace" occurred sometime between this year and last. But it seems to me that Shelby started trending downward sometime in the middle of last season. I first noticed some mechanical issues with him during a disastrous start against Oakland on 6/28/13. Before that game he had a 3.9:1 KK/BB ratio and walked only 2.4 guys per 9. Over the course of the rest of the season his KK/BB ratio dipped to 1.8:1, with 4.1 BB per 9. That would suggest to me that he went off the rails last summer.
There's another theory too (which has some PITCHf/x evidence to back it up), which says that Shelby ALWAYS had command issues, even in early 2013. The difference is that batters then would chase his four-seamers out of the zone. Once the opposition got 2nd and 3rd looks at him (and had even more tape to go on), they stopped chasing and forced Shelby to throw strikes. By and large he has not been able to.
Great stuff, Ben - thanks.
Bannister makes a good point about it being harder for a pitcher to field bunts and dribblers, but with a longer distance from the mound to the plate it would also be slightly easier to field hard comebackers. And while there would be more of a 'no man's land' in front of the plate to lay down bunts for hits, there would be less of a no-man's land in the Bermuda Triangle between P/2B/1B. On balance it might actually be easier for a pitcher to field his position with the new distance rather than harder.
As a Cardinals fan I was shouting at the screen as they put Reynolds on: "there's no scenario where the O's win without going through Gallardo at the plate! You want him leading off!!!"
Fascinating stuff, Sam. I have a couple quibbles with the 8.3% vs. 12.5% (i.e., Reynolds' odds of an XBH not factored in on the left side, a non-run-scoring XBH by Gallardo on the right side), but overall great work. Thanks.
Awesome article - thanks, Ben. Although considering Chris Carpenter is retired, perhaps he should be moved to the other side of the ledger on the "comps for players who've left the league"?
This is a very fun and thoughtful piece, Zachary. I've made plenty of Shelby Miller jokes myself, and I STILL joke about Dusty's baserunners clogging up the base paths - that's just part of sharing in our fandom.
My only quibble with the Miller jokes (passed around incessantly even by writers I love, like Jonah Keri and Joe Sheehan) was the underlying premise - that Miller was banished to a nunnery for no good reason. The groupthink chatter tended to drown out any serious discussion of why Miller was actually sidelined, which probably would've been far more interesting.
But still - a very fun piece. Thanks for writing it.
I meant the jokes are harmless. And yes, I'd've preferred the Cards used Miller's roster spot more optimally, but I can see how an emergency long reliever might be more valuable than Chambers or Jackson. Either way you're talking about moving the WPA needle fractions of centimeters, so I can't get all that exercised about it.
Didn't think the Shelby Miller MIA meme would persist into November, but there were several quite legit reasons he wasn't given innings in the postseason (a few articles have spelled out the logic behind the Cardinals' thinking). It's all very harmless and of course not a big deal, but I'm not sure why this has been the go-to joke among seamhead types for so long.
The Cards had virtually the same personnel in 2012 and had one of the very BEST teams vs. LHP. Of course, you can't discount an entire season's worth of PA's, but I feel the team's deflated performance against lefties was akin to its inflated performance with RISP. That is to say, a team with Craig, Holliday, and Molina shouldn't have nearly as much trouble against southpaws going forward.
And I'm not sure it's quite fair to say they had no depth at all in hitting, if only b/c Craig was down due to a fluke injury. Normally you'd have expected Adams and Tavares off the bench. In fact, in the regular season Adams was one of the best pinch hitters in all of baseball.
Yeah, a few forgotten managers never played pro ball (John Boles and Carlos Tosca were the last ones, I believe). Joe Maddon and Jack McKeon never got beyond A ball. Maybe the 2 best managers of all time (Joe McCarthy and Earl Weaver) never played in the majors. Neither did Leyland or Showalter.
I agree. Although to be somewhat fair, none of those injuries (apart from Motte's) were bad luck per se - Carpenter, Garcia, and Furcal were known injury risks, so to an extent the Cards were playing with a handicap that they invited upon themselves. But it was amazing how they were able to replace defective parts with fresh, shiny, new spare parts without missing a beat. That's the sign of a very high functioning organization.
Exactly. Many of the PECOTA odds favored the Cards 55/45, essentially a coin flip. When the outcome sides with the 45, do we say the whole system is flawed? I don't know why PECOTA favored the Cards night after night (I'm curious to know), so maybe there actually were bugs in the system. But the outcomes aren't an indicator of that.
As for the comment about chimpanzees throwing darts, I've no earthly clue what you're talking about. I thought Ben's writing was great this postseason.
I think that's a good way of putting it. When your team isn't hitting and the other team is, the last thing you need is your manager working against you too.
"Other than Tazawa and Uehara" is a pretty big thing to brush aside, no? If I'm a Sox fan I'd rather have those guys in - or even Dempster or Workman - to pitch an extra inning with an extra run or two, than have Lester in with less wiggle room. That said, my big problem with Shawn's post is that he called Ben's perfectly logical article bad journalism, which seems to under-appreciate the pros and cons of Farrell's decision.
I'm not sure how this hypothetical supports your point. Couldn't you just as easily say that if Napoli pinch hits with a bases-clearing double then no one is questioning Farrell's decision? I'm not saying that's what would have happened, but I'm not sure why your series of hypotheticals (Napoli striking out, Ellsbury flying out, a reliever coming in and presumably pitching worse than Lester would have) have any weight to them.
Calling this managerial move bad is bad... JOURNALISM?
Either that's way too harsh or you're not using that word properly. You make some fine points in your post, but Ben's argument is perfectly valid (i.e., leaving Lester to pitch one more inning must be weighed against the decision to let him bat in the 7th in an extremely high-leverage situation; what's more, as Mitchel Lichtman has shown, even a mid-level reliever is usually preferable to a good pitcher pitching a good game against the third time through the order). Perhaps you are right that Farrell should have left the charts at home, but it's also the case that you can't solely judge decisions by results.
You are correct about Craig not being automatically awarded the next base.
And from what I understand the umps DO have leeway to factor in flopping (that's where the "very likely" comes into play in the rules - a runner can't himself do something illegal to goad obstruction). But the umps can still blow it. Case in point:
I keep saying the same thing over and over this October: "Was nobody watching the 2011 World Series?" La Russa found a blueprint for the title that is PERFECTLY suited to this Cardinals team, yet somehow Matheny has chosen to throw it away.
Speculating on Shelby Miller's whereabouts is an exercise in Kremlinology, but from what I hear the Cards think he has a dead arm (his numbers in Aug and Sept support this). I'm also guessing that Matheny - who's been having a torrid love affair with small sample sizes - felt burned when he brought in Miller in the NLDS and saw him give up a home run to the first batter he faced. So the Cards don't trust Miller, whether fairly or not. In which case I'm not sure why he's even on the roster.
A large body of research indicates that, yes, familiarity rather than fatigue is what dooms pitchers as the game goes on. (Pitch counts are a greater concern long term - and of course to the extent they are correlated to times through the order.)
"If Cardinals fans (and Lance Lynn) are angry about anything, it’s that Matheny didn’t leave Lynn in longer."
This may be selectively true, but I can tell you that the Cards fans I was emailing with last night started screaming bloody murder when Matheny let Lynn take the mound at the top of the 6th. Some selected emails as the inning starts: "This is suicide," "Matheny is trying to lose this game," "I feel like we've lost already." Then of course when he stayed in to pitch to Ortiz we were all rolling on the floor in agony. For us it was a slow-motion car wreck.
(Btw, more prescience in the 9th. An email from then: "Why not run Kelly instead of Wong? Better to keep Wong on the bench in case the game goes extras and the runner's only job here is to not get picked off.")
This is incorrect. That's why Demuth had to wait for Craig to come home before he called him safe. If Craig was out by a mile Demuth could've called Craig out despite the obstruction. So there is no free pass.
I doubt there is any conspiracy by BP staffers to downvote criticisms, but the more I think about this article the more baffling it gets. MGL did a great job disassembling point #1 (and odd that Sam evidently didn't consult the rule book on this point first), point #2 is not remotely relevant to the discussion, and point #3... well, I don't know where to begin. The argument about umpires considering intent b/c they call balls and strikes based on where the pitcher intended to throw the ball (as if this should at all be the normative standard) may be the single worst piece of reasoning I've ever read on Baseball Prospectus.
I thought Matheny blew that call too. The only excuse I can make for him is that very very few managers would have done it differently. As Joe Sheehan likes to say, major-league managers are, collectively, below replacement level.
This is a hilarious misreading of reality. Or is this parody?
If the fielder is in the base path, it is his responsibility to be out of the way. Not try to be out of the way - to be out of the way. And the next base would not be guaranteed if the runner ran into him - the runner would have to be safe had the obstruction not occurred, which is what happened last night.
Again, another argument based on Middlebrooks' effort, which is irrelevant. The rules are clear - that base path belongs to Craig, even if he takes a step toward second. So I'm not sure how it's a brutal call by Joyce.
Yes, Sam's writing is usu excellent, but this article (if I can infer intent for a moment) seems like an attempt to say something - anything - new about the play that hasn't already been said, and coming up short.
The rule is clear (actually there are several rules that make this same point) - base paths belong to base runners, and it is the fielders' job to clear that path. The rules do not care HOW fielders get in the way of that path (unless runners do something illegal to put them there), only THAT they do.
Once we acknowledge that point, pretty much each of Sam's points crumble (particularly point #2, which is not at all germane to this discussion - as long as Craig is make a legal slide, it does not matter whether this is what upends Middlebrooks). I appreciate Sam's attempts to add nuance to the ruling, but I feel it's too clever by half.
I think he was lifting his legs to provide a path for Craig
I can't imagine one player (unless he's the starting pitcher, or peak Barry Bonds or something) would be worth 9 percentage points in the odds.
It would've been less unreasonable if we actually chose presidents by % of the national vote.
Who gave that a negative rating? I can understand how it would be frustrating to watch the Cards' good fortune, and maphal told the rest of us to enjoy. Nothing wrong with that.
That surprised me too. I would imagine PECOTA likes Wainwright more than any other starter, but beyond that I can't even make a good guess.
Good eye! Looks like it to me but I hadn't noticed that. Great piece, Ben. It's astonishing how MANY things went the Cardinals' way in those 2 big innings - about as elegant a defense of Voros McCracken as any spreadsheet.
I will have to take your word for it (b/c it reads as if supporters of that dopey "Cardinals Way" are the ones ascribing morality, and as such Ben is taking sides against it). But again, if he meant otherwise I'm fine with that.
Ben is clearly using sarcastic language when he refers to the "ever-exciting" Dodgers and the "holier-than-thou" Cardinals, but I took it to mean that he was signing off on that same dichotomy, just talking about it in an exaggerated way. After all, talking about the Cardinals as the paragon of all that is sportsmanlike, defenders against moral decline, is the very language critics are using to trash the Cardinals. So maybe I'm missing something too, but I still find it very fuzzily worded.
How did this narrative arise that the Dodgers are fun and loose and flashy and the Cardinals are stodgy, button-down, and moralizing? There was one extremely mild comment by Carlos Beltran about Yasiel Puig, and that's it (the beef btw Wainwright and Gonzalez had nothing to do with celebrating). But in poking fun at this drummed-up media narrative, respectable guys like Ben Carsley, Ben Lindbergh, and Jonah Keri are perpetuating it. It's all very weird.
Why are so many writers misrepresenting what happened between Adrian Gonzalez and Adam Wainwright? Their beef has nothing to do with how players celebrate, as both players will attest. (It has to do with words Gonzalez was lobbing at Wainwright while on 3rd base in Game 3.) Lots of outlets (Deadspin, Grantland, and now BP) seem to be trumping up a conflict - demonstrative celebrators vs. button-down moralists - that, outside of some very tepid comments by Carlos Beltran, simply does not exist.
Nice job! One very small note: Holliday's blast did not end the Cards' scoreless streak - Matt Carpenter had already ended it with a run-scoring double.
Okay, I'll grant you that Ramirez is probably the most devastating hitter on either team, but you could make a pretty compelling case that the Cards have 4 of the next 5 top hitters on either team. Hence the confusion about the Cards lacking the elite top-end hitting that the Dodgers supposedly have.
Re: "The Cardinals lack the elite top-end the Dodgers have" -
I'm not sure I agree. If you think the past 300 PA's are the best indicator of a player's talent, then sure, Hanley Ramirez is the most elite player on both teams, and Puig and Holliday would finish in a dead heat. But if you think the last 500-1000 PA's are a better indicator of talent, then the Cardinals actually have MORE top-end hitting talent than the Dodgers (with Molina, Holliday, Beltran, and Carpenter trumping Ramirez, Puig, and whomever else you'd like to put up there for the Dodgers).
I know this is small (and maybe obnoxious) consolation right now, but I can tell you as a Cards fan that it was so much sweeter to win it all after we had charged up the mountain and fell short in '00, '01, '02, '04, and '05. The Pirates will be back, and they have enough core talent and enough talent in the pipeline to win it all. When and if it happens, 2013 will just be part of the same epic voyage.
I totally agree. But I do understand the other side.
I think the Baseball Gods are like "hey, we gave you 3 straight infield hits in the 7th inning - what more do you want us to do?"
I'm pro-DH as well, but to play devil's advocate, I think the anti-DH'ers would say that the decision to bat or lift Cole is the very thing they prefer, b/c it adds another dimension of strategy.
The Cardinals are... machines? Please clarify.
What's the problem with bandwagon fans? The price of fandom should not be living and dying with the team every season. Some people just want to be fans when their team is riding high - I have no idea what's dishonorable about that.
Thanks, drawbb - we're all very concerned what you think
Bill James made a very compelling case that Lasorda made the correct call there
Nick, your mention of the "emotional impact" of the Indians loss in the 1997 WS reminded me of this snippet from Roger Angell following Game 7:
Last month, I heard about a retired Cleveland truck driver named John Moskal, who has been an Indian loyalist since boyhood. He had a chance to play professional ball as a young man, but when it fell through he went right on rooting for the Tribe. Now eighty-eight, he was home in bed when the final out of the championship arrived, once again with his team on the wrong end of things. “Oh, dear, the poor old Indians,” he said, clicking off the set. He lay back and died.
Good luck to you, Dave. I'll be rooting for the Cards, but there's not a person in St Louis who doesn't consider your team classy and worthy adversaries, and I'll be rooting for you if you move on.
Great points, Bipolarman. That K/BB ratio vs. the Cards, however, ain't nothing to write home about - the K's are lower than his season rate, and the BB's are higher - so even if the Cards do have a .306 BABIP they may not have too much trouble scoring runs. But the other stats do suggest that we should not write this game off as a Cardinals hit parade.
I see your point, but not totally sure I agree. There's a fair amount of evidence that pitchers do NOT (probably cannot, particularly starters) give max effort on every pitch. So there is some truth to guys "bearing down" in tight situations.
How bout this one: "It's a game of inches." What sport is NOT a game of inches?
True. Technically the runner has to BEAT the force at any base, so a tie (assuming that's even theoretically possible) would actually go to the fielder.
I assume Jason was joking. Or something. The Sam Freeman who pitches for the Cards is not the same one who owns the art gallery in LA.
These gifs should be required watching at umpire training school.
The worst part of the World Series celebration was that jackass behind home plate with the John 3:16 sign. Giants fans will probably see that replay approximately 600,000 times over the next couple years, and their eyes will always be drawn to that neon yellow sign. Yuk.
Lohse's 5 free passes in Game 3 is not only the most he's handed out this year, but his most in a game since May 2008. I like Lohse only marginally more than Pecota, largely b/c of his good control, but I'm not sure this skill is as effective against a team like the Giants, who have a sequence-based lineup that puts the ball in play, has few bombers, but also few (if any) holes.
Yes, they're very flaky - 8 or more runs scored 45 times, 2 or fewer runs another 45 times. That means in over half their games they either go nuts with the bats, or ice cold. This postseason has been no different - they avg 7.7 runs in their wins, 1.0 runs in their losses.
Wow - gratuitous shot at Cards' fans. I think it's probably a truism that a team's most vocal fans are also its most annoying, so not sure it's fair to paint all of us with the same wide brush.
"I don't know if it's legal, but it's a dirty, dirty play."
I think a dirty play is one with malicious intent. I certainly think it was a reckless play, but born more out of clumsiness than anything else. Holliday said he should've slid earlier, that it bothered him all game long, that he asked Scutaro a couple times after the play if he was OK, then called the Giants' clubhouse after he had heard Scutaro was removed from the game to again check on him. Not sure a player would act that way if his intent was malicious.
I think both managers left their starters in too long. By letting Wainwright get roasted for 6 runs (when even the outs were hard hit) clearly Matheny did not learn anything from La Russa's handling of the postseason last year.
I still think Tony Cruz with a fresh count is a better hitter than Kozma down 1-2. What's more, once the bases are loaded Cruz is more likely to get a pitch in the zone, and he has more ways to drive in a run (walk, HBP, etc.). I also think you're playing up Motte's effectiveness - he certainly didn't look like a lights-out fire-breather to me in the 8th inning last night (and he had already thrown 21 max-effort pitches, so perhaps he was wearier than usual). Certainly debatable, but I think Johnson made the right move there.
This is a good point overall, although I question calling Wainwright's curveball "not that good without a little help." His curve is - by both reputation and more sophisticated analytic tools - among the very best in the game.
The pitch tracker on MLB.com said strike 3 to Hanigan caught the black.
Despicable perhaps. Then again last week I heard an announcer refer to Jared Hughes as Jason Grilli (with no apology or owning up to his error), so there might be more variables at play than your example suggests.
What replay did you see that showed that Andres Torres touched first base? Every replay I saw was completely inconclusive.
La Russa has said - and MLB confirmed - that the info he was given listed Greinke as a Sunday starter, and TLR said that's why he was reluctant to take him. Perhaps that's not a good reason to deny the guy a slot, or perhaps it's not even true (and MLB was just covering La Russa's ass), but at the very least we can say this situation is more complicated than Mr. Timber makes it seem.
Makes sense. I still think the last part of that quote weakens your case about Pujols (regardless of whether it was the main takeaway). But yes, I've always understood Foxx's drinking to be a major (if not THE major) contributor to his decline. And in that respect he clearly differs from Pujols, who abstains from alcohol and is fanatically disciplined about his health.
Interesting piece. Thanks, Matt. A number of quibbles, however, starting with this one - "Foxx also frequently played through injuries that would have sidelined other players..." Isn't that EXACTLY what Pujols has done? He's played through an injured oblique, a strained calf muscle, a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament (!), a chronic case of plantar fasciitis, a freshly healed broken forearm, etc., etc. It's too early to say whether those injuries have taken their toll on Pujols the same way they did on Foxx, but I'd be skittish about tossing out the comparison (particularly when you consider that Foxx - another 1B-3B-OF - has been Pujols' most comparable player, statistically speaking, for a number of years now).
Thank you, Steven, for all you wonderful thoughts and stories over the years. Best of luck to you...
I agree. Well aware of that. The tone of the movie makes it very clear Shelton is not after documentary truth.
Robert Wuhl does not work at all in Cobb (although I can see what Shelton was going for). Nevertheless, I still think COBB is one of the finest baseball movies ever made.
Allen Craig was another winner this offseason
One of my all-time favorite bad players was Chuckie Carr, journeyman outfielder, primarily for the Marlins. He was an aerialist in centerfield (although some suspected he'd time his jumps to make his diving catches look harder), a wild man on the basepaths (once led the league in stolen bases and caught stealing), and was the charter member of the Chuckie Carr Fan Club (he was always flexing his biceps even though his career high in homers was 4). Once his manager, Phil Garner, encouraged him to take more pitches on 2-0 and Carr replied, "That ain't Chuckie's game. Chuckie hacks on 2-0." But my favorite Carr quote - when he joined the Cardinals in 1992 he asked to wear uniform #1. Someone pointed out that future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, who was still with the team, wore that number. Carr's reply: "Out with the old, in with the new!"
Actually almost every study has shown that batting the pitcher 8th rather than 9th is either a wash or good for a couple extra runs per season.
He's a very complicated guy. As someone who's followed his entire career, I can give you dozens of stories that illustrate his legendary a-holedom, and dozens more that illustrate his largesse and goodness (to fans, teammates, opponents, etc.). He certainly doesn't seem to be a good loser though. He reminds me of Michael Jordan that way - so sure of himself, so driven to win, that he becomes churlish and unfair when he falls short (witness him pooh-pooh'ing Takashi Saito after Saito got him on a big DP in Game 1 of the NLCS, or Game 1 of the '06 NLCS, when Pujols and Co. were shut out by Tom Glavine and Pujols said, "he wasn't good").
Guess we gotta take away that World Series trophy from the 2004 Red Sox
I agree. And I find John's post very strange. His original point - about re-examining the media narrative of TLR as a genius - is a good one. But then he seems to throw out his own case for complexity by saying of TLR "he just rode a hot streak." I mean, that seems pretty contrary to the point of Steven Goldman's excellent piece. Almost any managerial critique has to start with the premise that there's always much that we just don't know. (And along those lines, Bernie Miklasz - by no means a kneejerk La Russa apologist - has a very insightful article in today's Post-Dispatch about why La Russa might've chosen to yank Motte in last night's game.)
Woops. Very stupid oversight on my part.
Sorry, John, I doubled up on your point!
Laird runs well for a catcher, average for most position players, and has pretty decent speed scores, so not the worst choice. But I'm wondering why TLR didn't use Lohse to pinch run, as he'd done many times during the season. He's a fine runner, and that way you don't burn Molina's bat and glove if the Cards tie. (Lohse is starting Game 3, though, and it was cold out there, so maybe TLR thought it too big an injury risk? Not difficult to picture nasty collisions, strained quads, etc. in that situation.)
I think Pujols IS under the bus right now. I've read and heard many, many criticisms of Pujols, from both the local St. Louis media and nationally, for his shoddy defensive play in the 9th.
Yeah, I was confused as well. Sorta makes the article moot. (Or at least more complicated - I thought Jay Jaffe ably defended the IBB in today's column.)
According to WPA, Jay's double (er, "double") decreased the Brewers' chance of winning by 10%, and Kotsay's homer increased the Brewers' chance of winning by 11%. So it seems he made up for his legs with his bat. At least one those two plays. He also walked twice, which added about 4% to the Brewers' WPA, but also flew out (-2%) and got nabbed off second on Fielder's line out (about -5%), and, as Jay points out, forced Gallardo to throw extra pitches. It seems all in all, then, Kotsay was a net negative for the Brewers last night. We can't know what Morgan or Gomez would've done had they started, but it's reasonable to say that Roenicke erred putting Kotsay in the lineup.
Agree. I'd actually like to see pieces like this for every team, regardless of whether the GM is new or old. But I realize that's probably way to much to ask.
Totally agree. Not to mention the fact that Rickey invented the farm system AND integrated baseball. Unless Theo fundamentally changes both baseball and society at large, there's no way he can catch Rickey.
Looked gone off the bat to me, but I agree, it wasn't exactly a smoking line drive.
Not sure I agree that it's all that impressive. Walking Pujols in the top of the 5th would've been a lousy move, and not just b/c he eventually struck out. If you walk Pujols you lose the platoon advantage, plus Berkman has big-time power and he's one of the few Cardinals who's not a double-play threat, so it would make little sense to put more runners on in that situation.
As for having Betancourt lay down a bunt, I guess the announcers thought it was obvious, but I don't see it. Betancourt had zero sacrifice hits this season, plus the Brewers had the Cards on the ropes in a game where there were already 11 runs through the first 4.5 innings, and a lot of baseball left -- that's not the time to be playing one-run baseball.
I will say that Roenicke had a more impressive inning than La Russa, but I'm not ready to give him much credit for avoiding horrible decisions.
Wouldn't managing the hell out of the game entail pulling Garcia for a reliever in that spot? That's been Joe Sheehan's big criticism of TLR in Games 1 & 3 - he acted very passive, very un-La Russaian, when it came to pulling his starters (and, as Bill notes below, not pinch-hitting for Garcia in the 6th).
Great to see you hear, Will. I frequently wrestle with the same things you write about, but in the end I'm happy to be eating from the tree of knowledge. This video here frames it pretty nicely:
The other day my wife asked me who gets "credit" for bases on balls -- that is, are walks generally the result of pitchers making mistakes, or hitters being patient? I told her that a generation or two ago bases on balls were almost solely blamed on pitchers. But we now know that walk rates for both pitchers AND hitters are fairly stable, suggesting that both parties are contributing to the outcome. Is there a way to determine HOW MUCH each side is contributing? For example, can we say something as definitive as: walks are 55% due to pitchers, 45% due to hitters? Further, can we give percentages to other factors, such as umpires, park effects (visibility, I suppose), even catchers? Or are those things pretty negligible?
I totally buy that.
Thanks for clarifying, thegeneral. I suppose we'll just have to agree to disagree. Kicking with spikes is not "(duh) what happens in a fight" -- I've seen several dozen brawls in my day, and that's only the third time I've seen someone do that (Izzy Alcantara and Chan Ho Park were the others). I mean, I guess I don't feel any vitriol for Cueto, but I find the attempts to exonerate him (not by you, but others on this thread) pretty convoluted.
That said, I totally agree with you about the "career-ending injury" part -- that cannot be blamed on Cueto. There are just too many other extenuating circumstances in La Rue's case (for example, if he really was one concussion away from retiring, he should've stayed on the bench).
That makes sense, dalbano, but there is not a reasonable expectation of getting spiked in the face. That hasn't been an accepted practice in bench-clearing brawls since, what, 1910 or so?
And I agree with you, deberly, I certainly would not take on LaRue's case were he to sue Cueto (which he plans not to do). I'm just curious if the law makes distinctions between striking someone with fists or spikes, given dalbano's assertion that the distinction is irrelevant.
I've never claimed it was criminal. I think the point was actually HOW La Rue was injured, not whether Cueto was successful in injuring him. For example, I'd be no more heartened than if someone hit someone in the head on purpose with a baseball.
They certainly seem different to me -- striking someone with a fist seems far more benign than striking someone with a spiked shoe. But maybe that's just me. Any lawyers out there -- what does the law say?
I appreciate the comment, Gweedoh, but it does not accurately reflect what happened during that fight. Cueto ran behind Chris Carpenter, trying to throw punches at him, then got backed into a brick wall by his own teammates. No one was trying to hurt him, and yet he kicked Carpenter in the back, kicked LaRue multiple times in the face, then grabbed LaRue in the throat after he was supposedly in a helpless position. You say that you think it's more fair to chalk up Cueto's actions to a bizarre situation rather than one man's intent to harm, but unfortunately the video and photographic evidence depict the exact opposite.
Some great points, Rick, but I'm not sure I agree with all of them.
1. I'm not certain Joe was saying that the Reds are better than the Cardinals -- merely that we should consider their records against elite competition when assessing their true talent. (But like you, I agree that if you're going to dock the Reds for underperforming against top teams, you also have to dock the Cards for underperforming against lousy teams. It's a misconception that teams prove their greatness by beating top teams. More often, great teams hold their own against top teams and destroy the bottom feeders, which is exactly what the Reds have done.)
2. I only partly agree with Clonod's point. Yes, TLR has lined up his best pitchers to face the Reds, but those same pitchers are also facing the poor teams. Since the ASB, the Cards' "big 3" (Wainwright, Carpenter, and Garcia) have faced the Astros 3x, the Nats 3x, the Pirates 3x, and the Cubs 5x. Collectively they're 5-9 vs. those teams. So Clonod's description of what ails the Cards isn't entirely accurate.
3. I agree that the playoffs favor top-heavy teams, but I don't think they favor them as much as you'd think. A few years back I did an extensive study that showed that teams with one or more ace pitchers on the roster did no better in the postseason than they did in the regular season. And for all the talk of "Secret Sauce" in the playoffs, analysts are finding it very difficult to find things that reliably work in short series rather than long. In other words, your Reds may well be fine.
Great article, Marc, but one quibble: I think it's a bit flip to say that Rasmus "hasn't been allowed to become the star he is now," and then use as evidence the discrepancy in PA's between him and players like Pujols and Holliday. Yes, La Russa's use of Rasmus has been frustrating and whimsical, and Rasmus should play more than he does. However: the overwhelming majority of Rasmus' missed plate appearances are due to injury, not managerial shenanigans.
Tremendous piece. Everyone has a pet theory to explain the discrepancy between leagues -- this is easily the most convincing that I've encountered.
I can't think of a better guy to write this book. And what great material!
This article is astonishingly good -- in fact, I'd say this series is my favorite thing published at BP in the last couple years. Russell, I look forward to you cracking your ongoing "engineering problem," b/c I think it has exciting possibilities for player evaluation looking backwards and going forward. But in the meantime, congrats.
That's wonderful stuff, Matt. Thank you!
Any chance we could see the entire "no turnover" rosters? That would be fascinating...
I'm not sure I follow. Can't the guy want Sheehan back AND appreciate the other capable writers at BP too? If the criticism is that athletic and Jivas are whiny, then it seems (to me anyway) that Bell and Kneeland are trying to out-whine them.
I agree with you in general, Gibson88 -- McGwire's admission isn't particularly courageous given that he had several self-interested reasons for coming clean (i.e., avoiding a circus atmosphere in his new job, changing the narrative of his HOF candidacy, etc.).
That said, I'm not sure I agree with your reasons, especially point (b) -- McGwire already took the Cards hitting coach job, so I'm confused how his admission today allowed him to take it (unless he made a deal with the Cards that made his hire contingent on fessing up to his so-called misdeeds, which I highly doubt, although it may have been discussed in some form).
Moreover, McGwire is, as far as I know, the only star player other than Canseco to admit to using steroids without getting caught first. While that might not show any kind of supernatural courage, I do find it pretty refreshing.
I think you made a lot of great points, Justice, but your conclusion -- "what we have now is the New York Yankees... and 29 Washington Generals" -- seems like a fairly obscene hyperbole, even if done for effect.
I agree. I'm not a Yanks fan, but it seems to me that if it were so easy to merely 'buy' a championship, then the Yankees would win every year. Sure, the Yanks are competitive every year, which is a luxury most teams can't afford, but championships don't grow on trees, or on checkbooks, and you deserve to celebrate them when they come around.
"I’m standing at second base at Yankee Stadium!!!... I feel light-headed. I should take some grass."
Joe, I can't believe the Yanks won the Series and all you could think about was getting stoned.
Wainwright's comment struck me as neither astonishing nor embarrassing -- just misguided. But I can see if I was a Dodger fan I might feel differently.
I agree with all of that. I just think your response ("Enough already with Wainwright and his stupid whining... He pitched a great game, leave it at that and keep his yap shut") was an overreaction.
Wainwright was merely trying to take some heat off his teammate, and he even made a joke about the towels ("Dodger blue towels -- how bout that?"). I buy that Wainwright probably overreacted to the towels, but let's not compound the issue by overreacting to Wainwright's comment.
There's one other benefit -- beyond the tactical and strategic reasons Joe laid out here -- to teams that move away from the "closer-centric" usage pattern: it saves money! Closers are generally overpaid, and there are probably more dollars wasted on saves than any other statistic (including, I would think, RBI).
LOVE the new expected-return format! The previous format always had me lost.
Soriano has crazy outpitched Franklin, although Gonzalez has not. Their FIP ERA's are almost identical.
I'm no big fan of Franklin's -- I just think it's difficult to argue that Franklin was merely a "saves" pick, ala Brian Wilson in '08, considering he has so many other things going for him beyond saves.
I think that was Dan's clumsy attempt to be "provocative." Yeesh...
I think "it's not right, but it's OK" translates to "it's not ideal, but no big deal." But you hit the nail on the head, cam -- the NL is NOT serious about winning, and neither is the AL. You simply cannot have a system that asks you to routinely substitute players, or that asks you to have a rep from every team, and also say that you're primarily interested in scoring and preventing runs.
I agree, Falco, that Franklin has been lucky, although strand rates are reflected in WXRL, and Franklin is still 4th in the league in that category. I think Bill's point still holds -- Joe can't claim that Franklin's selection to the ASG is merely a matter of piling up saves when, in fact, Franklin does as well by more sophisticated methods.
I totally agree. If my St. Louis Cardinals were in the AL East, they'd be finishing 20 games out of first rather than 4 or 5, in which case our front office would have to adapt to avoid a fan mutiny.
NL supremacists used to say things like that back in the '70s and early '80s, but I haven't heard that old chestnut anytime in the last 20 years.
I agree with Dr. Dave. I vote for players based on the question, "who would you choose if you had to win one game tomorrow?" That is, after all, what the All-Star Game is -- a competition of stars at their current level of talent, not an honorarium to reward first-half stats.