Monday, September 30, 2013

Excerpt: "Streaking Into the Postseason"

"This improvement wasn't evenly distributed. The Indians didn't just sneak up on the the field because of a soft September slate, but because they improved during the season. At the All-Star break, their starters had a 4.42 ERA. After, it was 3.21. That's a mix of talent and good fortune; the Indians went from the highest HR/FB in AL in the first half (12.9%) to the second-lowest in the second (7.4%). (Thanks, Fangraphs.) Ubaldo Jimenez gave up three homers in the second half while allowing 118 fly balls, and those numbers are "1" and "107" over his final 12 starts. That, as much as the velocity change and his strikeout rate, is why he kept runs off the board -- and as those team-level splits show, controlling the rate of home runs on fly balls isn't a skill most pitchers have. The Indians' pitching staff is improved, but its second-half performance may overrate that improvement, and that is why they may be a little overrated heading into the playoffs."

Friday, September 27, 2013

Excerpt: "Farewell, Mo"

"Mariano Rivera saved Andy Pettitte countless times over the last 19 years, but on this night, it was Pettitte who saved Rivera, providing a place for Rivera to unload the emotions of the moment, the night, the week. Two middle-aged men who would be walking away from the only life they've known, huddled together in a space they'd each made their own, a patch of dirt from which they'd done wonderful things, historic things. Just five years old, the latest iteration of Yankee Stadium has housed a championship team, has been the playground of Hall of Famers, has hosted football games and futbol matches, been filled with the music of Paul McCartney and the raps of Jay-Z. Nothing in the new Stadium's short life has been as pure as that 30 seconds, one friend crying in the arms of another as his career ends. Perhaps nothing ever will be."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Excerpt: "One Step"

"It happens that quickly. Mickey Mantle defers to the great DiMaggio on a fly ball in his rookie season, trips on a drainage pipe and spends the rest of his life trying to get back to the player he was before that last step. Cliff Floyd, 22 years old and playing first base despite being the best prospect in baseball as an outfielder, breaks his left wrist chasing an errant throw. He'll be 25 before he gets back to the career he was supposed to have. Justin Morneau, on his way to a career year, the best player in his league, takes a knee to the head while trying to break up a double play and is never the same, never close to the same."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Excerpt: "It's Incredibly Hard"

"Last night's aLI? 5.35. Ron Washington took a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery, who had been handled as a rehab case from the time he joined the team three weeks prior, and inserted him into a bases-loaded, two-out situation on the road in a game that the Rangers needed to win to hold onto their lead in the wild-card race.

"That's setting up a player to fail."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Excerpt: "Thinking Inside the Box"

"Thinking. That's what this article, all the stuff on Twitter, all of the debate dating back to Bill James' days with a flashlight in a pork'n'beans warehouse is about. Don't just do things because this is the way they're done. Think about what you want to accomplish and what the best way to get there is. There's no thought in pinch-bunting so that an overmatched left-handed-hitting rookie can face Mariano Rivera, or in a bunt that will lead you to Stephen Drew against a tough lefty, or in a bunt against a pitcher who's nine-for-nine missing the plate. All of that bunting is mindless repetition that leads a team nowhere, reflexive regression to a dusty to-do list scratched out with a quill pen on parchment."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Excerpt: "Clever A's Header Here"

"What the A's have done, though, is used the talent at their disposal to execute a baseball plan. Their park has a big outfield? Get pitchers who throw fly balls. Their pitchers throw fly balls? Get outfielders who can chase them down. The park kills batting average? Don't worry about strikeouts for hitters. The park is fair for home runs? Get batters who will hit the long ball. The farm system has gone a bit dry? Build an entire roster on the trade market. Just 1.3% of the A's plate appearances this year are by players they drafted, and most of those are by guys who were reacquired in trade (Kurt Suzuki) or have been dealt away (Grant Green). The A's are winning because the secondary prospects in deals -- Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris, Eric Sogard -- have panned out -- and because they've free-talented their way to Bartolo Colon and Brandon Moss and Nate Freiman and Grant Balfour. Moss is the evolutionary Geronimo Berroa."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Excerpt: "Ranger Danger"

"If the Rangers have a pitching problem right now, it's in who gets to go to the mound. Ron Washington's unimaginative use of his relievers has allowed some games to get away during this stretch. Joe Nathan, with a 1.46 ERA, hasn't pitched since September 8 -- eight days ago! Yesterday, Washington had Nathan available and warming and could have used him to preserved a 3-1 deficit in the ninth. That's not particularly high-leverage, but with Nathan having had the week off and Rangers Ballpark being a bloop-and-a-blast type of yard, preserving the two-run gap had some value. Washington chose Joakim Soria, who allowed two runs. Last Thursday, Washington used Joe Ortiz and Jason Frasor in the seventh down 4-2; the Pirates got two runs and eventually won 7-5. Holding the game to two runs might have made the next three the Rangers scored more relevant. Neal Cotts and Tanner Scheppers, Washington's next-best hurlers, are getting into games but perhaps not enough. It's a small thing, perhaps, and the Rangers are not managed by someone who gets the small things right."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

50 Ways To Dump Lane Kiffin

(With deepest apologies to the great Paul Simon.)

"50 Ways to Dump Lane Kiffin"

"The problem is right there on the field," she said to me.
The answer is easy if you look at Marquise Lee
I'd like to help you in your struggle to go deep
There must be 50 ways to dump Lane Kiffin

She said it's really not my habit to intrude
But I can't watch this team go down again behind this dude.
So I'll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude
There must be 50 ways to dump Lane Kiffin

You just buy off the deal, Neal
Raise a little cash, Flash
Maybe skimp on the snacks, Max
Just get the team free
Throw him under the bus, Gus
You don't need to discuss much
Just tell him to scat, Pat
And get yourself free

She said it grieves me so to see Lee in such pain
I wish there was something I could do to make him score again
I said I appreciate that
And would you please explain about the 50 ways

She said why don't we both just blog on it tonight
And I believe in the morning you'll begin to see the light
Then she said "Fight On", and I realized she probably was right
There must be 50 ways to dump Lane Kiffin
50 ways to dump Lane Kiffin

You just buy off the deal, Neal
Raise a little cash, Flash
Maybe skimp on the snacks, Max
Just get the team free
Throw him under the bus, Gus
You don't need to discuss much
Just tell him to scat, Pat
And get yourself free

Friday, September 13, 2013

Excerpt: "The Greatest Young Player Ever"

"In thinking about Mike Trout, picture him going over the wall to rob a homer or driving a fastball into the left-field grandstand. See him going first to third, first to home. Heck, think about these numbers I've presented, and the names in this article, the greatest players in baseball history.

"Think about any of that, but don't think of three letters that have consumed far too much of the conversation during Trout's career. They don't matter. Mike Trout's greatness is about baseball, not ballots."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Excerpt: "Ned Yost and Chip Kelly"

"So we end up with Ned Yost making decisions he is, on a very basic level, not qualified to make for a business worth hundreds of millions of dollars. MLB picks its managers based almost entirely on soft factors: how they handle the media, how they relate to the people around them, how they build the confidence of the players in their charge. It's convenient, because there's no good way to measure whether managers actually do that. We end up with a version of Nichols' Law of Catcher Defense for managers, assuming that someone poor at the baseball stuff must be quite a leader of men because why else would he have the job? We end up with managers whose ability to pick the right batter with second and third and one out in the ninth inning of a must-win game never came up in the interview."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Post Excerpt: "Tom Seaver is Wrong"

"'Take a look at all of them, Marichal, Jenkins, Spahn, what do you think made them successful?' asked Seaver. 'They conditioned their arms by pitching more, not less, starting from when they signed their first contract.' Oddly, that didn't work for Wally Bunker. Bunker made his pro debut in 1963 with Stockton in the Cal League. He threw 99 innings in 14 starts, and while we don't have strikeout totals, we do know he walked 53 men, indicating he wasn't breezing through those starts. At 19, Bunker threw 214 innings, with 12 complete games, for the Orioles. By 22, he was back in the minors; by 26, his MLB career was over. Larry Dierker was in the majors at 17; he threw more than 300 innings in the majors as a teenager. He threw 39 1/3 as a thirtysomething. How about Joe Coleman? Joe Coleman was a horse, throwing 223 innings at 21 and at least 200 in eight straight seasons through age 28, peaking at 285 a year from 24 though 27. He was done at 32. He conditioned his arm by pitching more, no?"

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Excerpt: "Win #81"

"Two players who played at least seven positions for the 1988 Rangers, Jeff Kunkel and Cecil Espy, played in this game. Denny Neagle, who would eventually win a World Series ring, sign a disastrous free-agent contract and be forced from the game after a solicitation bust, played in this game. Jim Leyland managed the Pirates; he's won a World Series, quit on at least one team and smoked 237,195 cigarettes since this game. He looks, however, exactly the same."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Excerpt: "Rays Raise Questions"

"The dearth of effective right-handed relief, largely due to Rodney's waking up and the absence of Davis, has cost the team late in games. The 2012 Rays lost just three games they led after seven innings. They've lost eight already this year. Last year's team lost just two games they led after eight innings; this year, it's already five. That's the difference between pushing for a division title and holding on to the wild-card slot."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Excerpt: "Cesar Cedeno"

"There's no sense quantifying any of these trades, because the tools we use to evaluate transactions break down in guesstimating the impact of any player over four weeks. I'll use Morneau to illustrate. The former Twins' first baseman, in his third season removed from the nasty concussion that ended his 2010 campaign, is batting .259/.315/.426 for a 102 OPS+ -- basically a league-average hitter. In August, Morneau batted .250/.293/.543 with nine homers, a stretch that probably helped generate interest in him. In July, Morneau -- the same guy -- hit .175/.266/.330. In June, he hit .298/.344/.476. Based on that, we can say that in any one month, Morneau could be productive or a black hole. Helpful. The Dodgers' new pinch-hitter? Much the same -- Young's OPS figures, by month: 829, 567, 839, 776, 629. Predicting what any player is going to hit next month is virtually impossible. Any player good enough to play in the big leagues is capable of going nuts for 30 days, but they're also capable of tanking for that same period of time. Variance swamps everything, especially when we're talking about the great middle of the baseball talent bell curve."