On Wednesday evening, approximately 40 people gathered at Rocco’s Pizzeria in Walnut Creek for a BP Pizza Feed. Unlike most of the NorCal Pizza Feeds, the evening didn’t consist primarily of me, Wolverton, Wilkins, and Cleary answering a bunch of questions and listening to a rather malicious version of Les Nessman’s Death Watch, usually focused on Steve Phillips. We were fortunate enough to be joined by Mark Wolfson, the Director of the Oakland A’s Broadcasts on KICU 36 in the Bay Area. Mark knows more about broadcasting and that side of baseball than anyone really should, and has a facility and feel for the business that most people wish they had about any business. If you missed it, you missed an informative and entertaining evening, and a gathering of a bunch of very nice, very dedicated and jovial baseball fans. I hope you can make the next one. (Houston and Fresno–we haven’t forgotten about you.)
One of the topics that always comes up when conversation turns to baseball broadcasting is the length of games. There’s a common perception among people on the broadcasting side that games are too long. You’re probably familiar with the line of thinking; kids today are used to more stimulation, instant gratification, and the long “slow spells” in baseball make it difficult to sell the game to people, particularly young kids. The powers that be in MLB’s front office have responded to this perceived challenge by forming a task force with the goal of speeding up games. Personally, I like a lot of the simple, quick hits that have been implemented. It makes sense to have a batboy ready with an identical bat in case one breaks. There’s a lot of little things along those lines that make sense for MLB and the fans, and it’s good to see those steps being taken.
Why have Cincinnati’s pitchers done poorly? The ball-strike count plays a big part. In a previous column, I noted that the Reds’ strike rate was tracking with their wins and losses. This is an essay about the importance of strike rates, but let me get the caveat out of the way: Strike rates play a big part, but of course they don’t explain everything. High strike rates don’t necessarily mean success. Brian Anderson rarely gives up walks, but he gets hit hard. That said, strike rates have a big influence on outcomes. Pitchers and batters alter their approach to an at-bat on where they are in the count. Whether or not a pitcher works ahead in the count and can use his whole repertoire matters, and it matters whether a batter has to protect the plate because he’s behind in the count. Strikes reflect how well a pitcher controls a game.
What might surprise a lot of people is that there is no official method of scoring balls and strikes, just as there is no official way to publish a box score. You won’t find anything in chapter 10 of the official rules on box score formats or ball-strike tabulations. There is no official method, but for both box scores and pitch scoring there is a customary, standard way of doing things.
Under the standard, swinging strikes, called strikes, foul balls on full counts, and balls in play are counted as Strikes. All balls, including those thrown for pitchouts and intentional walks, are counted as Balls. As strikes are recorded now, a called third strike is no different than a 500-foot homer. An intentional ball is no different than a wild pitch.
Travis Hafner and Ben Broussard return to first base musical chairs. Adrian Beltre carries the banner of the BP Curse. Jeff Cirillo may still have a pulse. Plus other news and notes on the Indians, Dodgers, and Mariners.
It’s very bad news for the Expos–in fact, it could barely get much worse. Just days after losing Orlando Hernandez, Les Expos took a harder hit when Tony Armas was diagnosed with tears in both his labrum and rotator cuff. Just a week ago, the reports on Armas were glowing, so I’m not sure what changed. No decision has been made on a program, but Armas will likely be making a visit to Jim Andrews, Lewis Yocum, or another leading surgeon in the next few days. I don’t foresee him avoiding surgery, but Jim Andrews has been seemingly reluctant to cut lately, preferring aggressive non-surgical therapy.
From the files of Brad Arnsberg: A good source, Lewis Shaw, wrote in with this assessment of Javier Vazquez:
“I saw Vazquez enough tonight to have serious concerns about his elbow. He strides way too far out from the windup, but more especially from the stretch. He lands with a stiff front leg from the stretch, is violent (as indicated by his head moving all over the place), and shows maximum effort. This was not the case as recently as last season. He constantly drops his elbow below his shoulder at delivery, getting no downhill angle on the baseball. Thus, from the stretch his four-seamer is flat. He torques his elbow in an effort to get life on his four-seamer, and depth on his slider. His velocity has diminished, and he sometimes gives the impression of pushing his flat four-seamer up. As recently as the spring of 2002, his four-seamer was consistently 95 mph; now it is consistently 91-93, touching 94. He appears to have lost arm strength. Thus, given his history in 2002, he might be a candidate for serious elbow injury.”
This is not good news for Expos fans or baseball fans in general. I’m hoping to hear a lot more from Lewis in the near future.
Don’t jump, Jonah.
I’m heading to Phoenix today for an impromptu gathering of BP staffers at Bank One Ballpark. It’ll be my first ballgame there–I did eat dinner at the TGI Friday’s in the park last year–and I’ll be taking it in with Rany Jazayerli, Jonah Keri and Jonah’s lovely wife, Angele. The BOB becomes my first new ballpark since I hit Fenway last June, and I’m fairly excited. I’ll be more excited if Byung-Hyun Kim comes off the DL and throws well, as my roto team needs him to get healthy fast. (ed note: sorry Joe, looks like Miguel Batista or Andrew Good will more likely get the start tonight)
There are cabs to be caught and sheer terror to be had–I’m not a good flier–but before that happens, I wanted to throw out one question:
What the hell is up with Nate Cornejo?