Has the Royals' new hitting coach fixed what ails their offense?
The Royals have had a roller-coaster season. No team has seemed more alternately doomed and formidable while playing to a near .500 record. Because they came into the season poised for a playoff run, with the Shields/Myers trade looming large, the stakes for the team are high. Yet, depending on the day, the team appears to be either ready to make a deep playoff run on the back of fireballing phenom Yordano Ventura or poised on the precipice of failure and an impending teardown.
Much of the anxiety imparted by the Royals stems from the performance of the so-far anemic offense, which generated higher expectations in the spring. Seemingly skilled hitters like Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas have not met their relatively optimistic projections. Without an obvious explanation (such as injury) for their underperformance, hitting coach Pedro Grifol got the axe in late May, replaced by Dale Sveum, the former Cubs skipper.
Does public criticism of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo help the Cubs?
Robert W. Chambers was one of the more successful authors in what may well have been the heyday of written fiction in America at the turn of the previous century, and he’s an interesting example of how writers were far less constrained to a single genre back then. During his lifetime, Chambers was mostly known (and read) for his romantic fiction, which produced several bestsellers. He also wrote war stories and historical fiction, as well as a handful of illustrated children’s books.
Nowadays, to the extent he’s remembered at all, it’s for his contributions to the field of horror. His best-remembered work is a collection of short stories called “The King In Yellow,” which contains several stories about a play titled (yes) “The King In Yellow.” Chambers only ever quotes from the first act, which characters describe as banal and innocent. The second act, however, is so terrifying and horrible (and so filled with awful truths) that it drives those who read its text or see it performed utterly insane. Chambers never reveals the contents of the second act in full, only hinting at its contents obliquely:
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It's hard to draw conclusions about manager abilities, but Ben looks at how each of five managers hired before the season have performed this year.
Every year, the new edition of the Baseball Prospectus annual contains a comment about every major-league manager. These comments typically run 200-250 words, which means that each one makes up a very small part of a chapter that runs close to 10,000. But the manager comments might be the part of the book most dreaded by BP authors, so much so that some authors have been known to turn in their chapters without a manager comment and disavow all knowledge that manager comments exist or that they were supposed to do one.
There’s a pretty simple reason why manager comments inspire such fear: it’s very difficult to say anything conclusive about people in baseball who don’t play in games. When we write comments, we like to sound smart, or failing that, at least snarky. It’s very difficult to sound either smart or snarky when we say “We don’t know.” If we said “we don’t know” as often in the rest of the book as we do in the manager comments, you might not buy it. We do track some manager statistics, but they’re less helpful than the ones we have about players. They tell us what happened, but not necessarily whether what happened was good, or even how much of it was attributable to the manager as opposed to the team. And they don’t help us at all with what happens off the field, which might be more important anyway.
On teaching patience, a nice old lady and a hilarious inning to a near-gem.
CHICAGO—One-four-four-five-four-one. No, that's not a Tommy Tutone update, it's the game-by-game run totals for the Cubs in their first six outings of the season. They broke out with eight runs off Milwaukee ace Zack Greinke on Thursday, but questions still abound about Chicago's offense.
With Mario Mendoza being the patron saint of bad hitting, who should define replacement level?
Replacement level is something of a slippery concept. Of course, once you’ve gotten a grasp of its meaning and import, it’s not hard to hold on; I suspect that most people reading this article would defend the utility of replacement level to the death, at least until things got violent. Still, one suspects that holdouts might cotton to the concept more quickly if it employed a familiar baseline; the rather abstract nature of the term “replacement level” has been known to provoke a few scoffs from the anti-intellectual set.
Of course, given the elusive nature of “average” in baseball, replacement level better suits the sport for evaluative purposes. As Joe Posnanski wrote recently, “You could pick a really HIGH baseline—you could make your stat read Wins Below Willie Mays (WBWM) or Value Under Albert Pujols (VUAB). But that wouldn’t be much fun to do and would probably tell us more about Willie Mays and Albert Pujols than the players themselves.”
The Red Sox are happy as is with their new, low-key left fielder, plus news and reviews from around the major leagues.
ST. PETERSBURG—The Dodgers' acquisition of Manny Ramirez will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest in-season moves in baseball history. The left fielder played a huge role in the Dodgers winning the National League West and advancing to the National League Championship Series. He hit .396/.489/.743 with 17 home runs in 53 regular-season games after being acquired from the Red Sox as part of a three-team deadline-day trade that also included the Pirates. That was enough for Ramirez to lead all Dodgers’ hitters with 47.6 VORP while also posting a sizzling .404 EqA. Ramirez was 5-for-10 with two home runs and five runs scored in the three-game sweep of the Cubs in the National League Division Series, and has gone 3-for-8 with a homer in the first two games of the NLCS. Nevertheless, the Dodgers trail the Phillies 2-0 in the best-of-seven series that resumes tonight at Dodger Stadium.
A workhorse named CC, Cashman takes responsibility for his own narrative, and off-season calculations from around the major leagues.
Dale Sveum understands the value in the pitching arm of ace CC Sabathia, and how the big left-hander is going to cash in on it this upcoming winter when he becomes eligible for free agency. "He's going to make more money than any pitcher in the history of the game," said the Brewers' interim manager. "It couldn't happen to a better person, either. He's as nice of a guy, for a superstar, that I've ever met in my 27 years in professional baseball. He's a very special person."
The Brewers rise to the occasion, Cashman looks to the Yankee future, and news and notes from around the major leagues.
PHILADELPHIA- When the Brewers' team bus pulled up to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday morning, it hit Dale Sveum all at once. "We were just here a couple of weeks ago and never did I think I would be right back here in the situation I'm in now," the Brewers interim manager said. "It's amazing how things can change in this game." It certainly is.
Will the lefty-mashing Brewers match up well with Philly, or will Phillies firepower and a strong pen make all the difference?
Less than three weeks ago, the Brewers came to Philadelphia holding a four-game lead in the wild-card race and carrying the league's second-best record despite a slump that had seen them lose seven of 10 to open September. By the end of the four-game set, the two teams were tied for the wild card. It was the start of a finishing kick in which the Phillies went 13-3, breezing past the Mets to claim their second division title in a row.
Several teams in the Midwest are still hanging on in the playoff race, plus news and notes from around the major leagues.
Six months ago, on a day in mid-March at spring training, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked about his team's chances for 2008, and how they could possibly compete in what appeared to be a stacked American League Central after trading left-hander Johan Santana and losing center fielder Torii Hunter and right-hander Carlos Silva to free agency the previous winter. "We'll show up for every game and see where we're at in September," Gardenhire said then. Well, it's the middle of September, and the Twins are 2½ games off the White Sox's pace in the AL Central, while the pre-season favorite Tigers and Indians are nowhere to be found in the land of contenders.