Who are the weakest humans in Major League Baseball? If we can't figure that out, we don't deserve to be here.
For lots of obvious and good reasons, we don't spend a lot of time talking about weak hitters. I don't mean bad hitters, because we actually do spend a lot of time talking about them ("Who's the worst everyday player in baseball?" is a common question, for instance). I mean weak hitters—guys who have an ability to put the bat on the ball but are completely incapable (or unwilling?) of doing so with any force, of causing the ball to travel at extreme velocities, of making a crowd, even a very inexperienced crowd, rise to its feet as it perceives the possibility of a home run.
Before we get deep into it, I want to give full credit to my sources, so I'll tell you about the genesis of this topic: this weekend, I listened to Sam Miller and Riley Breckenridge discuss how well they thought Sam would hit in adult-league baseball against low-80s heat and guys with no breaking stuff, which led to the question of how well reasonably athletic but really not terribly talented adults would do in the major leagues (one hit in 20? 30? 100?), which itself led to the question of which players in baseball have the least upper-body strength. I was along for the ride, as my brain tends to operate on a glacial scale, making me something less than a scintillating conversationalist, but then I got to thinking about weakness.
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Do you appreciate what Omar Vizquel has done? That is to say, do you really, really appreciate it?
Last Saturday, the Blue Jays were in the middle of scoring six runs in the ninth inning against an imploding Marlins bullpen, to break a 1-1 tie and roll to a 7-1 win. With one out in the inning, one run already in, and runners on second and third, the Jays called on a little-used utility infielder, then hitting .228/.267/.228, to pinch-hit for pitcher Darren Oliver (whose career batting line is actually a tick better than that, but being an American League middle reliever, he hasn’t swung a bat since 2006). The pinch-hitter grounded into a fielder’s choice, with the runner on third gunned down at home, but would later come around to score on Colby Rasmus’ three-run homer.
That unsuccessful pinch-hit appearance isn’t the kind of thing that would generally kick off a Baseball Prospectus piece (especially four days later), and I can’t think of a single reason why it ever should, except that the pinch-hitter in this case was Omar Vizquel. And Omar Vizquel is 45 years old, and still (occasionally) playing in a major-league middle infield. On Tuesday, Vizquel announced that he planstoretire after this season.
If you're unlucky enough to have a player injured, why should the pain by compounded by inflexible rosters?
Fair warning: this article is motivated entirely by self-pity. Lucky for you, I’ve decided to keep the crying to a minimum and try to provide as much useful perspective as possible. In the FSIC NL-only expert league that I’m partnered with Michael Street for this year, our team has taken quite the beating from the ol’ injury stick. At present, our roster contains seven players on the disabled list: Jayson Werth, Pablo Sandoval, Chipper Jones, Geovany Soto, Ted Lilly, Marco Estrada, and Jorge de la Rosa. The problem? The league calls for zero DL-specific spots and just five bench spots. One… two… Put your fingers down, you counted right the first time. Yes, we’re presently forced to play two injured players in active roster spots.
This begs the question of how to best structure the rosters in a fantasy league. Should a league have spots reserved for players on the DL and, if so, how many? There’s no standard in the fantasy community and not nearly as much agreement even over the principle of DL spots as you might expect. The default in Yahoo! leagues is two DL spots. LABR and Tout Wars allow unlimited DL spots. Others, like the FSIC, don’t call for any.
Looking ahead to baseball's most significant personal achievements.
Something peculiar happened during the most recent National Football League season: four quarterbacks threw for more than 4,900 yards. An unprecedented event given that two quarterbacks had accomplished the feat in 30 years theretofore. The increased reliance on, and perfection of, the forward pass has led to an assault on the record books, akin to the earlier offensive explosion in baseball. There are no rumblings of wrongdoing in football—at least, around these new levels of performance—but then again, there weren’t during the early phases of baseball’s offensive breakout, either. Even heading forward, don’t expect a congressional hearing, or columnists pontificating about lost innocence while urging a nation to grieve and revolt. Because, as one intrepid—and sadly, unremembered—soul put it: nobody cares about football stats.
The inverse is true of baseball statistics. Anyone reading Prospectus is no stranger to numbers, or to the countless reasons why people are attracted to baseball’s numbers. At some point the large, round numbers became in-built measuring sticks. If a player hit 500 home runs over his career he must have been one of the best sluggers in history. A player with 3,000 hits or 300 wins demonstrated the perfect equilibrium between longevity and quality throughout his career. Exceptions existed before science entered the picture, but these rules were simple—and simple sells.
Revisiting historical HBP rates in the wake of Alex Avila's plunking by Jered Weaver's hand.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
As Jered Weaver prepares to serve his six-game suspension, take in some trends in HBP rates over time, which originally ran as a "Schrodinger's Bat" column on May 4, 2006.
An artist on and off the field discusses the creative life, Gold Gloves, and defensive metrics.
On the field, Omar Vizquel is a work of art. Off the field, he creates it. Widely regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops ever to play the game, Vizquel has captured 11 Gold Gloves over a career that has seen him play more games at the position than anyone else. Still silky smooth and creative in the middle of the diamond at the age of 42, Vizquel ranks first all-time in fielding percentage among shortstops with at least 1,000 games played. Currently in his 21st big-league season and his first with the Rangers, the former Mariners, Indians, and Giants standout is poised to pass Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio as the all-time hits leader among Venezuelan-born players. Equally talented out of uniform, Vizquel is a multi-media visual artist whose work has been displayed in galleries across the country.
The spirit may be willing, but the reflexes and range are often lacking, providing an object lesson for the Pinstriped Empire.
Both here at BP (and in the annual) and at my other home, I've been waging a desultory war about Derek Jeter's future. His contract is up after the 2010 season, and though he'll be knocking on the door of 3,000 hits, I have argued that the Yankees should say goodbye. Jeter's defense is already a problem at short and is unlikely to have improved as he enters his age-37 season. With his bat sliding and his speed seemingly ebbing, a transfer to another position seems unlikely to bear fruit. As I said in my most recent chat, "I don't know that Jeter is a viable major leaguer in three years. My standard line—his glove will no longer play in the middle infield, his bat won't play anywhere else."
What tales could we tell in the annual if space wasn't at a premium?
Our work on the Baseball Prospectus 2008 annual wraps up today-please, hurry up, Kotsay-Devine and Glaus-Rolen! Our typesetters are standing by with fresh PECOTAs! As we joyfully toil through the midnight shift in the mine, any number of observations are inspired by the book, things one might like to expand on if only space permitted. Unfortunately for my urges, towards loquaciousness, with roughly 2000 players in the book space is very tightly rationed-as I was forcibly reminded when my 250-word opus on Andy Phillips got chopped down a bit. You'd think that being one of the book's veteran co-editors would earn you a little indulgence, but alas, Phillips' entry is as truncated as his career prospects.
Greg Maddux throws a gem as Derek watches the Giants and Dodgers duel.
Taking the Dodgers first, they've hit the top of the division after residing in the cellar just a little over two weeks ago, going on an 11 game streak which was broken on Wednesday in Colorado, followed by a three game winning streak coming into today's matchup. Let's take a look at how a few Dodgers have performed during this stretch (courtesy of Dave Pinto's Day by Day Database):