He's no Josh Hamilton, but Rangers outfielder Craig Gentry might be better than you think he is.
“I’ve got a chance to be a solid everyday player. In years past, I’ve had to scratch and fight just to try and make the team.”—Craig Gentry, February 14, 2012
“That’s what Gentry’s job is, to be a defensive replacement and to play against left-handers. I want to allow him to do his job. … I want him to know what his role is and when that situation [presents] itself, he’s ready to do that.”—Ron Washington, April 29, 2012
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Which teams that were on the verge of contention last year could use a "level up" option around the diamond?
Complacency in the face of adversity is the potential undoing of every manager and general manager. For reasons rooted in issues beyond a player's recent performance—contract size, longer-term track record, clubhouse chemistry—skippers and GMs all too often fail to make the moves that could help their teams, allowing subpar production to fester until it kills a club's post-season hopes. In 2007, I compiled a historical all-star squad of ignominy for our pennant race book, It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over, identifying players at each position whose performances had dragged their teams down in tight races: the Replacement-Level Killers. The concept has become a semiannual tradition for me to revisit, first in the weeks leading up to the tradedeadline, and again as the opening of spring training approaches, with an eye toward what teams can do, or have done, to solve such potentially fatal problems.
Bernie Williams burned it up with the Yankees during his career, but did the Puerto Rican do enough to blaze a trail to the Hall?
Before Derek Jeter, there was Bernie Williams. As the Yankees emerged from a barren stretch of 13 seasons without a trip to the playoffs from 1982-1994, and a particularly abysmal stretch of four straight losing seasons from 1989-1992, their young switch-hitting center fielder stood as a symbol for the franchise's resurgence. For too long, the Yankees had drafted poorly, traded away what homegrown talent they produced for veterans, and signed pricey free agents to fill the gaps as part of George Steinbrenner's eternal win-now directive. But with Steinbrennerbanned by commissioner Fay Vincent and the Yankees' day-to-day baseball operations in the hands of Gene Michael, promising youngsters were allowed to develop unimpeded.
Redefining the JAWS equation sets a new standard for Hall of Fame induction.
This time of year is a busy stretch if you're a Hall of Fame buff, or at least this particular Hall of Fame buff. The 2012 BBWAA ballot was released on Wednesday, adding 13 new candidates to the 14 holdovers from last year's ballot. I'll start digging into the details of those candidacies starting at some point late next week. Meanwhile, the vote on the Golden Era candidates will take place at the Winter Meetings in Dallas this coming Monday, December 5; alas, I think I’m actually going to be in the air when the results are announced, but I’ll weigh in upon arrival. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to discuss some of the Golden Era candidates on television as part of my debut appearance on MLB Network's new show, “Clubhouse Confidential.” It wasn't my first time on TV, but I believe it was my first time discussing JAWS in that medium. Explaining the system concisely AND discussing the merits of a handful of candidates in a four-minute span was certainly a challenge, but host Brian Kenny and his producers seemed quite pleased with the segment, and there’s reason to believe that it won't be the last time I appear on the show.
A rare breed of player can stay at an up-the-middle position, and many of these center fielders have loaded toolboxes.
The minor leagues are stacked with quality center-field prospects, and some might even end up being quality center fielders at the major-league level. But the truth is most minor-league center fielders lack the necessary skill set to play the position in the majors, making the value of said skill set even more, um, valuable.
This was a difficult list to compile, as I use a mixture of industry opinion and my own eyes to sketch the report, and opinions were extremely varied. I’m incredibly fortunate to have a national platform that encourages industry correspondence and reciprocation [read: people actually return my e-mail] more than discourages it, and I’m thankful because most industry types aren’t influenced by my 70-grade smile. For this article, I polled 10 people employed by major-league teams; some were scouting directors, some were scouts, some were even higher on the food chain. I asked them a simple question: Who are the top 10 center-field prospects currently in the minor leagues?
When looking for an infielder or outfielder, what do scouts look for in terms of body, skills, and glove work?
It’s not easy to evaluate defensive tools, especially at the amateur ranks or the lower levels of professional baseball. Good defense is a product of sound fundamentals established through instruction [read: proper instruction], raw physical ability, and refinement through repetition. It takes time to put the total defensive package together, assuming a competent package is even possible. This is what I want to do: I want to look at each position, break down the specific physical attributes that are necessary to excel at each position, and look at the process of projecting those attributes. In part two (you knew that was coming), I want focus on catchers and game-calling, something that I think is one of the most misunderstood and undervalued aspects of the game.
First Base: First base is, first and foremost, an offensive position. The modern game suggests if the bat is above average, the value provided by the glove is gravy. While I agree with the offensive weight attached to the position, I’m of the belief that good defense at first base is more than just gravy, and trust me, I love gravy.
One left fielder on this year's Hall of Fame ballot clearly deserves induction.
Among the 19 holdovers on the Baseball Writers Association of America's 2011 Hall of Fame ballot, no player clears the JAWS standard at his position by a higher margin than Tim Raines—not Bert Blyleven, not Barry Larkin, and not Roberto Alomar, all of whom the system shows as being more than worthy of election. During his 23-year major league career, Raines combined the virtues of a keen batting eye, dazzling speed and all-around athleticism with a cerebral approach that made him an electrifying performer and a dangerous offensive weapon.
I have seen the future, and its name is FIELDf/x. OK, so we kind of knew that. But today, FIELDf/x started to seem a lot more real, and even more exciting than I’d imagined. You may have noticed that BP had a man on the scene at Sportvision’s PITCHf/x summit whose liveblog was actually live. So why am I doing this, when Colin already did? Well, for one thing, Colin arrived fashionably late, and I was all over those first 14 minutes that he missed. For another, his computer died before a lot of the fun started. And for still another (this is a third reason, now), I thought it might be fun to do a Simmons-style quasi-liveblog (written live, published later) that would free me from worries about frequent updates, and allow me to write at length. Most likely that length turned out to be a good deal longer than anyone has any interest in reading, but if you’re determined to catch up on the day’s intriguing events without sitting through eight hours of archived video, you’re welcome to peruse what lies below. If you’d like to follow along, here’s an agenda, and here’s where you should be able to find downloadable presentations in the near future.
Here we are in sunny California, home of the cutest girls in the world, if the Beach Boys are to be believed (I gather there’s also a more recent chart-topper that expresses a similar view). Okay, so by “we,” I mean the attendees at the 3rd (annual?) Sportvision PITCHf/x summit, held at the Westin San Francisco in—you guessed it—San Francisco. I, on the other hand, am watching from the other end of the continent, via a webcast that dubiously claims to be “hi-res,” despite being blurry enough to make deciphering text an adventure (I guess “hi-res” is relative, in the sense that there are even lower resolutions at which it could’ve been streamed). And sure, maybe the Beach Boys weren’t thinking of this particular gathering when they extolled the virtues of California’s beach bunnies. But never mind that—it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon here in New York, and how better to spend it than to watch a video of some fellow nerds talk about baseball in a dark room some 3,000 miles away? Well, to describe the experience at the same time, of course. Let’s get this quasi-liveblog started.