The greatest change in baseball thought over the past 20 years has been the shift of focus from one offensive statistic (number of hits / number of times to plate that did not result in a walk) to a better one (number of times reached base / number of times at the plate). Granted, I realize that I’m omitting sacrifice flies and catcher interferences there, but that’s the essence of batting average and on-base percentage. If you only knew on-base percentage, you’d do pretty well comparing players.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to do this with fielding statistics–a fact that results in a disagreement between our eyes, instincts, and what we read. I’ve been trying to educate myself on fielding statistics for the last couple years, and I want to admit up front that I have not been able to reconcile them with my own evaluation. When I see Mike Cameron rated as a slightly above-average center fielder last year, I roll my eyes, because I have in my head a mental image of how far he can go to get a ball–a massive expanse few visiting outfielders can cover. The issue, though, is that it’s not an accurate picture or particularly useful in evaluation.
The second most frequent question I get after “What the [bleep] is wrong with Nick Johnson?” is “How do you do what you do?” My friend Robert Herzog called me on my radio show last year and really grilled me. He’s a friend now, but it was really an annoying question. At the time, my answer was “lots of phone calls and a lot of perseverance.” True, yes, but not really the key to it.
Becoming a baseball injury analyst was something of a wonderful accident of luck and timing. Under The Knife started as my answer to another injury analyst who gave incorrect information and answered a question with, “What do you expect for a hundred bucks?” I’d had just enough coffee in me that day to think that I could do better.
“Don’t call it a comeback. I been here for years.”
–LL Cool J
I was on the phone with Rany Jazayerli last week, discussing the launch of
Baseball Prospectus Premium.
He asked me what I planned to write for my
first column back, and I told him I hadn’t given it much thought. With so many
people getting the newsletter as part of their BP Premium sign-up, not to
mention the fact that it’s been just eight months or so since I last wrote for
BP, I didn’t think it would be necessary to do what the cinema folks call an
“establishing shot.” Rany made good points, however, so to the shock of no one
who knows me, I’ll talk a little about myself.
The Devil Rays look to take a page from the World Champion Angels’ playbook. Lou Piniella and Art Howe like their new shortstops. Barry Bonds, on how walking is harder than hitting.
There are a couple things that jump out from the Astros roster. First, despite being an older team, the Astros lineup is a reasonably healthy one. Only one player has a light, and that’s a freak incident that we don’t yet have a handle on. Second, the pitching staff looks worse than it is, but could do well. Finally, despite making one of the bigger signings of the off-season and trading away a highly touted prospect, the team isn’t appreciably better.
Greetings and welcome to Under The Knife, baseball’s best source of injury information. Thanks to all of you for joining BP Premium. I’ll be with you every weekday during the season, keeping up with all the injury news and trying to break it down into understandable terms without insulting your intelligence. Hopefully, I’ll be able to help you anticipate problems, scout the competition, keep your team healthy, educate you about sports medicine, and hopefully have some fun along the way.
It was classic McLain: charming, cocky, arrogant, reckless. A rebel or a punk, take your pick, and your choice likely depended on your age and your politics. Just 24 years old, McLain had played by his own rules his whole life, and as the first 30-game winner in baseball in 34 years, he could get away with just about anything.
The phrase “a walk is as good as a hit” has echoed through our noggins since Little League. Though not exactly true, the ability to reach base without putting the ball in play is a valuable offensive weapon; advances in sabermetrics have enabled us to quantify the value of a walk and hit-by-pitch quite precisely.
I’ll miss Bobby Valentine, if only because Tony LaRussa isn’t as easy to pick on. LaRussa has a respect for the game and for his players, and while I often disagree with his tactics, I can respect his accomplishments and ability.
The question going into this season is, does removing a Bobby V-shaped tumor from the Mets, and plugging in Howe’s soothing salve fix things? Does adding two big signings–both with some questions–push the big-money Mets back into contention? A team with the cash the Mets have should never have an organizational depth problem if they do the necessary due diligence. At the very least, they should fill Norfolk with Quadruple-A players while they’re developing young prospects. Yet somehow, the Mets have found ways to spend money without making themselves appreciably better.
On September 19, 1968 at Tiger Stadium, Detroit right-hander Denny McLain was cruising along in the top of the eighth with a 6-1 lead over the New York Yankees. He had won his 30th game five days earlier, and the Tigers had already clinched the American League pennant. When Yankee first baseman Mickey Mantle came to bat with one out and nobody on, McLain let Mantle know that he would give him whatever pitch Mickey wanted. Mantle signaled for a fastball letter high, McLain delivered it, and Mantle hit it into the right field seats for his 535th career home run. Although McLain was coy after the game in the locker room, everyone knew what had happened.
It was classic McLain: charming, cocky, arrogant, reckless. A rebel or a punk, take your pick, and your choice likely depended on your age and your politics. Just 24 years old, McLain had played by his own rules his whole life, and as the first 30-game winner in baseball in 34 years, he could get away with just about anything. He knew it. He had a prickly relationship with his teammates, managers, and the fans, all of whom he was apt to criticize in the press. Bill Freehan, his catcher, once wrote, “The rules for Denny just don’t seem to be the same as for the rest of us.”
The phrase “a walk is as good as a hit” has echoed through our noggins since Little League. Though not exactly true, the ability to reach base without putting the ball in play is a valuable offensive weapon; advances in sabermetrics have enabled us to quantify the value of a walk and hit-by-pitch quite precisely. And while the results have elevated the awareness of their importance in putting runs on the scoreboard, there has always been a fundamental understanding of their value. Baseball’s record books are littered with players who wouldn’t have made the majors except for their ability to draw walks and get hit with errant pitches.
Here are some of the storylines you are bound to read during spring training.
This will probably be the first article–and perhaps the only one all year–where the location of the Expos means next to nothing. As far as team health goes, there’s very little in the way of park effect. I’ll assume that the MLBPA will watch closely to make sure that there are adequate facilities in San Juan, and honestly, it’s not like San Juan is some third world country like most articles make it sound.
If nothing else, Steve Phillips is always busy. I’m sort of surprised at myself, but of the two signings, I’m a lot more positive about Tony Clark. Is he done? Sure, he might be, but he was also useful as recently as 2001. But more importantly, if Mo Vaughn wallows around in noisy mediocrity or worse, gets hurt, the Mets don’t really have another internal alternative, and this is a division where 85 wins will contend.