Tracking the odds that Ichiro and ARod will hit important milestones, one day at a time.
Of the dozens of baseball statistics out there, Win Percentage Added might be my favorite. It’s a lovably useless stat: entirely beholden to timing and fortune, it ignores ill-timed greatness and throws favor on the man at the right place at the right time. It has almost no predictive value, and carries a faint whiff of the hero worship of days past, the old men talking of clutch performance. It’s the sophisticated remake of the Game-Winning RBI, a hack writer’s game recap in decimal form. As game stat, WPA isn’t particularly fair; in that sense, it’s the stat most like real life, when we’re measured by moments not of our choosing.
The Astros strike out a slew to set one record, Fernandez whiffs a bunch to tie a franchise mark, and Jackie Bradley is back to being a regular guy.
The Thursday Takeaway
With the power-packed but whiff-happy Astros and Orioles squaring off this week, strikeouts were sure to be a-plenty at Minute Maid. Suffice it to say that the Astros’ arms held up their end of the bargain.
After Houston struck out 19 Baltimore batters in the opener and 18 more in the middle match, Lance McCullers took it upon himself to bring his team into record territory. The right-hander was effectively wild Thursday,
Outstanding arms from week three, including Strasburg, Jose Fernandez and Drew Smyly.
We're now three weeks into the baseball season, such that the relative quality of opponents is beginning to wash out as pitchers continue to tour the league, while emerging trends start to become more reality and less fluke. Let's take a look at a trio of starters who had multiple starts last week, and whose performances left an impression.
HACKING MASS, as you surely know, is fantasy baseball flipped on its head. The goal, unlike conventional fantasy, is to pick the worst players in the league and the catch is that the players can’t just be bad—they have to be both bad and in the major leagues, accumulating playing time. The rules make assembling a winning roster a balancing act between finding glove-first guys, aging veterans with big contracts, and long-leashed youngsters on bad teams.
If you know one thing about the Marlins, you probably know Giancarlo Stanton. He has huge biceps, an incredible contract, and unlimited power. You’ve seen both the towering homers and the line drives that appear to still be rising as they leave the game’s most spacious parks. If you know two things about the Marlins, you probably know Jose Fernandez, the absolute phenom with a fastball that sizzles and a curve that should be illegal. Since integration, he’s the starting pitcher with the lowest ERA, ERA-, and FIP (minimum 250 innings) for a career. And if you know three things about the Marlins, it’s that Jeffrey Loria is one of the game’s most reviled owners, vacillating between saving and spending when it suits him, bilking taxpayers out of stadium cash, and alienating his franchise-defining players every few months. (The fourth thing you may or may not know about this team is that they’ve hired Barry Bonds to be the hitting coach. Don’t worry too much about this one, it should only last about a month or two.)
Eleven short stories: Comedies, tragedies, sagas, and more.
They say the triple is the most exciting play in baseball, which is an odd adage to have in a world where inside-the-park home runs exist. There’s a lot to like about the triple—the geometry is cool, with the batter-runner having different starting and ending points, and while inside-the-park home runs are almost always the result of misplays in the outfield, you can get a triple without anyone making a mistake.
But let’s be real—we only say the triple is the most exciting play in baseball because inside-the-park home runs are so rare: Only 11 of the 4,909 regular-season home runs in 2015 failed to leave the park. And since it’s March and nothing’s really going on, let’s rank those regular season (because including Alcides Escobar’s World Series homer would just be unfair) inside-the-parkers.
Many of us clamor for players to express themselves, and for clubs to let them. But woe to the expressive player who displeases us.
Last week, after careful consideration of their organizational dysfunction, the Miami Marlins got to the root of the issue and banned facial hair. A new season and media training session brought Yankees players an uncomfortable comparison between Russell Wilson and Cam Newton. And months after his notorious scuffle with Bryce Harper, Jonathan Papelbon traipsed through the Nationals Spring Training facility in an “Obama Can’t Ban These Guns” t-shirt. All three incidents stirred the baseball world’s collective ire, with the Marlins, Yankees, and Papelbon facing derision. Papelbon is ready made for a black hat; the Yankees and Marlins are ironically ready to twirl mustaches. But the backlash seemed to me a failed test of our self-professed commitment to player expression.
Saying goodbye to one of the good guys around the game.
I celebrated my three-year anniversary the other day, and it occurs to me that I might never have gotten to this point if not for a very good friend. Of course, none of us is where we are now without the support of very good friends. I lost one such friend this week. Juan C. Rodriguez, who had been a Marlins beat writer since 2002, passed away after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. I don’t want to get bogged down in Juan’s passing. It’s too fresh for everyone, and far too painful. Instead, I want to share some memories of my good friend.