Pitching and defense carried the Angels last season and will aid them again in 2012, though a couple new bats might make the difference in the division.
The most famous play of Peter Bourjos’s major-league career to date comes in the bottom of the fourth inning in the Bronx on August 10, 2011, with the Yankees already out to a 5-0 lead. Bourjos is set up in center and just a few steps towards right when New York infielder Eduardo Nuñez is late on a 3-2 fastball and lines it into the right field gap. Both Bourjos and Hunter break for the ball; it’s closer to Hunter, and he dives…inches short. Less than inches short. He’s so close to catching it that it almost looks like he tips it with his glove, but the ball continues on its course untouched.
Good thing, too, because as Hunter extends in mid-air to make a highlight-reel-worthy play on the ball, Bourjos comes streaking out of nowhere behind him and gloves the ball knee-high on the run, stops, plants, and delivers the ball back towards second, where the Angels almost double up a disbelieving Russell Martin. In the three, maybe four seconds between Nuñez making contact with the outside fastball and Bourjos retiring him, the Angels center fielder crossed from medium-deep center to make a play in front of the scoreboard in right and remained on his feet while doing so, allowing him to try for the double play. The putout makes highlight reels across the country; after all, it has a spectacular dive, an out, and a near-collision in the outfield. It’s not really important which of the outfielders was responsible for what.
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As teams and players settle in arbitration or avoid it entirely, refresh your memory on how the process works.
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.
Tim Raines has his case re-examined, and the remainder of the Hall ballot gets a look.
We all have our pet projects. With the graduations of Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo to the Hall of Fame, mine is now Tim Raines. 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. Yet in four years on the ballot, he's reached just 37.5 percent of the vote, exactly half of what he needs to reach Cooperstown.
Jay Jaffe and JAWS examine the starting pitchers on this year's Hall of Fame BBWAA ballot, starting with the inevitable Jack Morris.
After delivering the JAWS piece on first basemen earlier this week, I had planned to tackle the outfielders—Tim Raines, Bernie Williams et al—next. The sad news of Greg Spira'suntimely passingon Wednesday presented me with a reason to change course, however. In the service of working on a chapter on Jack Morris’s Hall of Fame case for Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbersin November, I had called upon the Internet Wayback Machine to unearth Greg's seminal research piece questioning whether Morris "pitched to the score." a piece that was published in Baseball Prospectus 1997, predating Morris’s arrival on the BBWAA ballot by a three years and Joe Sheehan's own outstanding Morris research by five years. I suggested to Dave Pease that we republish it on our site to run alongside yesterday’s article in tribute to our fallen colleague and friend, a fine example of his intellectual curiosity and dogged research efforts, particularly as the work dated to a time when Retrosheet was in its infancy and the relevant data not easily compiled. This piece is dedicated to his memory.
How well do the players on the Golden Era ballot stack up to Hall of Fame standards?
The Hall of Fame's Golden Era ballot has been out since November 3, offering 10 familiar names from the 1947-1972 era for Cooperstown consideration. This isn't the Veterans Committee anymore; when last year's reforms were announced, the words "Veterans Committee" were conspicuously omitted from all press releases. Rather, it's the second of three Era Committees to get its turn at bat, following last year's Expansion Era Committee, which voted on players from the 1973-1989 period and managers, umpires, and executives from 1973 to the present. Theoretically, next year’s panel will consider candidates from the Pre-Integration period (1871-1946), but the Hall has changed the rules so often lately that all bets are off.
With word that Jed Hoyer will be joining Theo Epstein in Chicago, the Padres have a familiar face sliding into the GM chair.
With Padres GM Jed Hoyer headed to the Cubs in the same capacity under former boss Theo Epstein, another Epstein protégé, Josh Byrnes, takes over in San Diego. Although Hoyer's tenure didn't last as long as anyone expected, he made a few key moves that will help shape the course of the franchise.
One of BP's co-founders returns to reveal an important amateur draft inefficiency.
Everyone missed on Mike Trout. Don’t get me wrong: Trout was a well-regarded player headed into the 2009 draft, a certain first-round talent. But he wasn’t—yet—a phenom. Everyone liked Trout; it’s just that no one loved him. Baseball America ranked him as the 22nd-best player in the draft. No one doubted his athleticism or his work ethic; a lot of people doubted the level of competition he faced as a high school player from rural New Jersey. The Angels drafted him with the 25th pick overall, and they’ll tell you today that they knew he was destined to be a special player. What they won’t tell you is that they had back-to-back picks at #24 and #25, and they announced Randal Grichuk’s name first.
An MVP award suggests that the Rays' Russ Canzler was the class of the International League, but as one Durham Bulls beat writer explains, Triple-A threats aren't always destined for major-league greatness.
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Adam Sobsey has been the Durham Bulls beat writer for the Independent Weekly since 2009. He has also won numerous awards as a playwright, and his work has been staged in New York, California, Austin and North Carolina. His most recent play, WESTERN MEN, or OPPOSITE TO HUMANITY, was a comparative intertextual weaving of Shakespeare's TIMON OF ATHENS with the lifelong friendship between the poet Ezra Pound and the painter/author Wyndham Lewis, commissioned and premiered by Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern at the Nasher Museum of Art in October 2010. As a journalist, he has won the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Award for Arts Criticism, and two North Carolina Press Association Awards. In 2012, Adam will collaborate with writer Sam Stephenson, creator of the Jazz Loft Project, on a season-long documentary project about the Durham Bulls.
The Cardinals, who simultaneously put a bad situation out of its misery and increased their postseason chances, lead the parade of trade deadline winners.
In over a decade of writing professionally about baseball, I have never stooped so low as to write a “trade deadline winners and losers” piece. Normally, I run from a cliché like the Wehrmacht withdrew from a battle, attacking even as I back away. This is probably why I have never been invited to many parties. Normally, the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline is such a violent anticlimax that there isn’t much to say, making it acceptable to dismiss it as if it were a guest-star on Downton Abbey, issuing no more than a single word, a hostile glance, and a pregnant pause. The 2011 trading deadline was so active it demands a more thorough going-over. Today winners, tomorrow losers, and Wednesday I will be invited to the King’s Charity Ball (but no one will tell me it isn't a costume party).
Winners Atlanta Braves Between injuries and disappointing performances, the Braves were being strangled by their outfield. The unit as a whole has done less hitting than that of any team in the league except the Padres. Center field was a particularly sore point, as it has been for a number of years—in 2008, Braves center fielders ranked eighth in the NL in True Average, then dropped to 13th in 2009, 15th last year and again this year. Bourn isn’t Ty Cobb, but should represent a serious upgrade for the Braves in the center-field line, as he ranks fourth among all NL center fielders in TAv (250 PA and up department). Braves leadoff hitters have also been among the worst in the league, having hit .254/.306/.365 overall. Weird stat alert: In 57 plate appearances at Turner Field, Bourn has never drawn a walk. Having hit only .218/.289/.348 against southpaws to date, the Braves needed a right-handed bat and didn’t get one, but Bourn’s value should hardly be dismissed in light of that. They gave up two solid pitching prospects, a third that should be rated a throw-in, as well as an outfielder that has proved he can’t play in the majors, at least for them. That’s not a bad deal for a part they needed so badly and who also remains under contract. Baltimore Orioles
Unlike some rebuilders who pretended they had no need to sell (hellooooo, Cubs!), the Orioles got something, moving the underrated Koji Uehera and the superannuated Derrek Lee in separate deals. The returns aren’t particularly special. Chris Davis will give the lineup the left-handed power it has been missing all year, but potentially nothing else—he’s arbitration-eligible after the season and has a strike zone wider than a rhino’s buttocks. Tommy Hunter pitches to contact and thus will be undermined by the league’s worst defense. Aaron Baker is a 23-year-old first baseman in High-A ball, which likely means we will never hear his name again. Nevertheless, a roll of the dice is better than standing pat with decayed assets.
Boston Red Sox
Theo Epstein got off to a shaky start, giving up future Generic Second Baseman Yamico Navarro and a Standard Model Reliever for Mike Aviles, which seems like a high price to pay for a 30-year-old defense-second infielder who has hit .222/.261/.395 this year. Given Jed Lowrie’s shoulder injury, Kevin Youkilis’ frequent day-to-dayness, and Marco Scutaro being, well, Marco Scutaro, it’s understandable that they felt they needed more depth, having already been forced to resort to Drew Sutton and an ahead-of-schedule Jose Iglesias. Still, Aviles is a sneeze away from being out of the league altogether, whereas Navarro has some long-term value.