Reviewing the best and worst first-half position players on each team.
In the numerical sense, the halfway point of the season arrived about a week ago. However, the All-Star break marks the arbitrary end point of the first half, bringing a few days of festivities and vacations to the forefront. That period of inactivity in games that matter offers a window into the frozen stats for each team, allowing us to see who is leading the charge and who is failing the team so far.
In order to determine who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, I’ll enlist the aid of the Wins Above Replacement metric. Next time, we’ll cover the pitchers, but for today, it’s all about the position players.
It's a series that will feature superb pitching staffs, and one team will come away with a long-awaited title.
In baseball as in literature, archetypes tend to be formulaic, proof that fiction falls short of reality when it comes to the power to describe any one thing in shorthand. The need, indeed one of the great benefits of the human mind is to identify patterns, and to peg things that fall within those patterns, or to re-evaluate the pattern as a whole to create some new rubric, some new way of explaining things. Take our current post-season slate: instead of a much-anticipated rematch between the Evil Empire and the Phillies' a-bornin' senior-circuit dynasty, last week we got the pleasure of witnessing imperial ambitions utterly overthrown in both leagues.
The Rangers and Rays' LDS outcome involves no home wins and a repeated bit of dominance.
Like a proper pint of Ben & Jerry's, history gets made in all sorts of flavors. A Rangers post-season series win is new and exciting, and Cliff Lee's feats as far as LDS strikeout records are indisputable numerical facts. But at the end of Tuesday night's anti-climactic shutdown of the American League's best team by the AL's best pitcher, you got left with some obvious questions: Why 162 games, if it all just gets burned away in a subsequent quintet of contests? Will Andrew Friedman's brand of poopadoodle wind up amounting to that much better than Billy Beane's? Does home-field advantage really just not matter quite so much after all?
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The 2006 class is a tough one to beat among a strong recent group of rookie classes.
Earlier this week, the folks at Beloit College released their annual MindsetList, a document designed to explain the cultural differences between the incoming class of college freshmen and the older faculty hired to teach them. The idea is to highlight the small and large ways the world has changed in the last 20 years by mentioning things that were true during the life span of oldsters that were never true for those under 20, e.g., the existence of things like a telephone cord, a country called Czechoslovakia, and a baseball commissioner not named Bud. For me, a man who fervently hopes Jamie Moyer comes back next spring to ensure I won’t have to face being older than every major-league ballplayer, this is always a time to reflect on youth and age, both in life and in baseball—especially so this year, since the current Mindset List includes a reference to the term Annus Horribilus, which I happened to use in last year’s BP Annual, but which I now know dates me almost as much as saying “23 Skidoo.”
A reminder that, like snowflakes, every injury and rehab is different, along with injury news from around the major leagues.
Rehabbing an elbow is always a difficult balance, but in most situations, doctors will tell you that it's always better to try and rehab through something before having the surgery. A surgery, even something predictable like Tommy John, has a defined period of loss, currently between 10 and 12 months. Using the example of Twins reliever Pat Neshek, the lost time in rehab might look like a loss—Neshek even told BP's Dan Wade that it "was the worst thing I could do" because of perception and the machismo of the locker room—but if Neshek had been able to come back inside the 2008 or 2009 seasons, it would have been a big gain. You can use the same equation I gave you in regards to why the Mets didn't put Jose Reyes on the DL, though the numbers get a lot bigger and the risks are hardly as well known. For situations like Neshek's and the hundreds of others—no, that's not an exaggeration—that face elbow surgery at all levels each year, the "right decision" is a moving target. Is it just to get the player back in the quickest amount of time? That does play into it, but does that mean "rehab might get him back in three months or might extend him out if surgery is needed"?
Action on and off the field, plus rumors of late-August deals, off-season action, and more.
The Rangers are trying to be copycats this season. In this instance, with Ron Washington as their manager, it only seems fitting. Thanks in large part to a vastly improved defense, the Rays went from losing at least 91 games in each of their first 10 seasons of existence to winning the American League pennant last year. That coincided with them improving from last among the 30 major-league teams in Defensive Efficiency in 2007 to first in 2008. The Rangers have made near the same leap this season after finishing last in Defensive Efficiency a year ago; they rank fifth in the majors in that category, and second in the American League behind only Seattle.
Deciding what to do with people who have slumped in the season's middle months.
Last week we looked at players that had performed better than expected the past two months, checking to see if they could keep it up or if they should be sold at their peak value. Today we will take a look at the other end of the spectrum-players that have been slumming it since the second third of the season began-to see if there is anything worth holding onto here. They may be well past the point of having a successful season in some cases, but that does not mean all of them are useless to you from here on out.
News from the recovery rooms as Webb and Volquez literally go under the knife, plus injury issues from around the major leagues.
There's simply no night in baseball like Newberg Night in Arlington. It was slightly cooler (96 vs 107 last year), but the crowd was as big and as passionate as ever-350 people packed in to hear Kevin Goldstein and I be the opening act for Jon Daniels. Daniels was as candid as any general manager can be and didn't dodge any questions, even when fans reminded him of a "not so great" trade from the past. No other GM that I know of takes 90 minutes of questions (though a couple have taken 30 at some of our Pizza Feeds). Interestingly, Daniels was occasionally fiddling with his Blackberry while taking questions; he was actually putting Ian Kinsler on the DL and activating KG's mancrush, Neftali Feliz. It's pretty amazing what you can do with a phone these days. At the end, the applause was thunderous. Jamey Newberg didn't build a web site, he built a community. He didn't do it as a feature on a long list, but found a place where passionate fans found a home. Other writers and organizations, including right here, should take a lesson from Newberg and his readers. Memphis, Pittsburgh, and Indy are upcoming events that I'll be at, but I'd love to do more if someone (or some team) would like. Powered by a great night of baseball, on to the injuries:
The impending return of Carlos Beltran highlights today's injury report.
Carlos Beltran (8/15)
Carlos Beltran is coming back. That was always the plan, but how he's going about it speaks a lot to where he might be in the future. Beltran has decided to accelerate the pace of his rehab, hoping to come back towards mid-August, matching up closely with Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, and Billy Wagner. That's an infusion of talent no team will be able to match with trades, but it might also be too little, too late as the Mets continue to slip. Beltran made the informed decision based on the near certainty that he will need microfracture surgery and could miss much, if not all, of the 2010 season. He'll do everything he can to avoid it, but that's the worst case scenario and he's willing to give it a go. His success will be based on pain tolerance and management, as well as Jerry Manuel's ability to spot him in and out. It's unlikely he can play CF, though no one has said much about where he will actually play. It's a calculated risk that Beltran and the Mets are taking. Given the success - or lack thereof - with microfracture in MLB, it's a big risk and perhaps Beltran's last hurrah.