Thursday, June 30, 2011

DHs and Cookies

By Mark Smith

This is going to sound a little familiar, but humor me again. What’s your favorite cookie because we all know that the hierarchy of desserts goes cookies, pie, lemon bars, cake, ice cream, and the odd hybridization of cake and ice cream? If you said M&M cookies, you’re Albert Pujols (downright excellent). If you said chocolate chips, you’re Chase Utley (fantastic but not quite the best). If you said snickerdoodles, you’re Brian McCann (wildly underrated but really good). If you said macadamia nut, you’re Ryan Braun (underrated though not terribly but marvelous). If you said peanut butter, you’re  Lyle Overbay (not that good). If you said oatmeal raisin, you’re David Eckstein (gritty). And if you like no-bake cookies, you’re Yadier Molina (I can’t figure out why everyone likes you so much). Okay, that wasn’t exactly scientific, but I have a point. Cookies, like DHs, are largely left up to taste.

Pro-Pitchers Hitting

Baseball is a fairly tradition-rich game, and because pitchers have hit since the beginning, it seems fitting that a significant part of the game’s strategy should remain in some form. It’s not like using RBIs as a major point of player analysis. You don’t lose out by not having a DH. It’s not a handicap. You could argue that it hurts come Interleague Play and World Series time, but A) the difference in DHs over 7 games (at most) isn’t that large and B) all NL teams are hurt by not having a DH during Interleague play. Considering NL teams are judged against each other to get into the playoffs, the DH isn’t really an important aspect.

Not having a DH also makes strategy more important. DHs allow the AL manager to set his lineup, keep his starting pitcher in as long as he wants, and use few bench players. NL managers have to worry about the pitcher’s spot in the lineup, the value in keeping in a good pitcher versus getting a key run, double switches, and using relievers with pinch-hitters coming into the game. It makes the game a little more interesting for fans as they try to figure out what will happen next, and it allows them to put themselves into the manager’s shoes more often.

The DH rule also makes baseball unique. All the other major sports have blanket rules, and the MLB is the only one with a major rule difference between leagues. It makes baseball standout. And as a rule that doesn’t really hurt competition, it just makes the game more interesting.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Your 2012 Portland Webfoots

By Bill

(Note: this post continues yesterday's series, looking at what would happen if the MLB expanded this offseason to 32 teams.  Our introductory post is here, so that you can get a better sense of the overall project, and our Round 1 picks are here. TCM's post on his Brooklyn roster is here.)

So here we are, the morning after the big expansion draft, and your Portland Webfoots (named after my favorite iteration of the same basic name given to several different turn-of-the-last-century minor league teams in the area) have more or less taken shape, with thirty-five players on the roster. But of course that's not nearly enough, when you've got the big-league team plus like seven minor league rosters to fill.

In real life, the teams both would have had a full slate of draft picks, at the end of each round, in 2010, 2011, and 2012, which would certainly help fill out the low minors. And when I look back at the teams a year from now, I think I'll have to do this, to a certain extent, maybe just the first ten rounds or so -- just assign what would have been the last two picks in each round (so picks 1.31 and 1.32, 3.1 and 3.2, 4.1 and 4.2 and so on) to the teams to see what we'd have.

That's a bit much for right now, though. Today, I'm just concerned with the big club, and what it will look like in 2012-2014. The expansion teams are free to sign free agents beginning in the 2011-12 offseason, just like anybody else, and to make trades. So what do we need? Let's start by taking a look at the way the current group breaks down, as I see it:

Your 2012 Brooklyn Hipsters

By The Common Man

(Note: this post continues yesterday's series, looking at what would happen if the MLB expanded this offseason to 32 teams.  Our introductory post is here, so that you can get a better sense of the overall project, and our Round 1 picks are here. Bill's post on the Portland roster is here.)

First of all, The Common Man agrees with Keith Law's assessment that Bill did a better job in stocking his team with young players with upside. Keith seems to think that TCM's options for trading players like Upton, Correia, Nunez, Lilly, and Karstens are limited. And he may be right. But in a world where Matt Capps can net Wilson Ramos and Tim Collins can be acquired for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth, TCM will live in hope.

In all, he's pretty pleased with his roster (which you can see in full here). Here's what the starting lineup (as it's currently constructed) probably would look like, though that would be subject to change based on who TCM can reasonably deal:

SweetSpot Roundup 6/29

Who can figure out the pattern? (Hint: it’s not that hard)

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Great 2011 Expansion Draft

By The Common Man and Bill

For the last couple weeks, the good people of the Internets have been bandying about some radical realignment scenarios, in the wake of the news that MLB was considering tinkering with its current alignment. In particular, the league seems keen on moving the Astros into the AL West and creating two 15 team leagues. While that's interesting, and incredibly flawed, we at The Platoon Advantage wonder if it's finally time to expand the league again.

New markets have become viable and old markets can be co-opted in the interest of competitive balance. The player pool continues to grow, as teams scour South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia for young talent. It would balance both leagues, and no one would have to switch from the NL to the AL. It would accentuate some preexisting rivalries, while creating new, geographically centered ones. And finally, it would be a way to inject some offense back into a league that has seen scoring drop precipitously. And, as Keith Law pointed out in a recent podcast, it would be an excellent way for baseball to raise some quick cash (to help bail out the Dodgers, for instance).

So that’s what we’re doing, with the help of 30 of our baseball-blogging friends and even the great Keith Law himself. As a thought exercise, to demonstrate the difficulties involved in building a team from the ground up, The Common Man and Bill are each taking control of a franchise, one in the New York City area (to mitigate some of the financial advantage enjoyed by the NYC teams) and Portland, Oregon, that will join the Major Leagues in 2012. TCM will control the New York franchise, and Bill controlling Portland. The leagues will maintain their integrity, with no clubs switching sides, and each league will be split into four four-team divisions. Here’s what the realignment that we propose looks like:

2011 Expansion Draft: Round 1 Picks

Welcome to the 2011 MLB Expansion Draft with the Brooklyn Hipsters and Portland Webfoots. If you need to remind yourself of who has been protected, please click here, and if you have any questions about the draft rules, go here. And you certainly shouldn't leave before you read what Keith Law had to say about all this.

But here, right here, is where it all begins. A coin flip. This will decide who gets to draft first. Bill called tails, and the quarter came up heads, so TCM gets the first pick for his Brooklyn Hipsters. After that, Bill will get the next two selections for the Portland Webfoots, and after that we will go in alternating fashion.

2011 Expansion Draft: Round 2 and 3 Picks

We continue alternating picks in Rounds 2 and 3, but each MLB team gets to pull back three additional players at the start of each round.  The full protected lists are up here.  Bill's Portland Webfoots get the first pick in each round, alternating with The Common Man's Brooklyn Hipsters..  If you need to be reminded of who we picked previously, please click here.  And if you need a reminder about who is eligible, click here. Or jump straight to where ESPN's Keith Law evaluates our picks (and the protected lists), over here.

Keith Law Breaks Down the Expansion Draft

The kind and generous Keith Law is the ESPN draft and prospect wizard, whose wonderful work on The WWL can be found here.  Keith is also an integral part of ESPN's Baseball Today podcast, usually with Eric Karabell.  And, of course, he is a chat superstar and king of all snark.  If your KLaw needs are not met by the incredible volume of baseball writing he does, you can also enjoy his personal blog, The Dish, where he writes about food, board games, books, film, and probably other things that we're missing.  Finally, you can enjoy his snark in bite-sized chunks on Twitter.

Keith enthusiastically agreed to donate some time to help us figure out exactly how we did in this expansion draft, picking a "winner" and explaining where and how we could have done better.  As a bonus, he also offered some comments regarding the "protected lists" submitted by our friends and colleagues at the SweetSpot Network.  Take it away, Klaw:

SweetSpot Roundup 6/27

This time, in reverse alphabetical order! Stuff just got real.

Friday, June 24, 2011

This Week in 2001 (Weeks 9-12)

By Bill

The "This Week in 2001" series, and my "10 years ago today" tweets, have fallen on hard times. Unfortunately, my life doesn't easily lend itself to observing regular routines right now. But I'll see what I can do about picking it up on a regular schedule again next week.

For now, instead of running through each of the last four weeks day by day (which you don't want to read, and I certainly don't want to write), here's a look at two or three highlights from each of the four weeks:

SweetSpot Roundup 6/24

This Roundup is full of disappointment and bat-lathing. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jim Riggleman Is Unemployed? Now What?

By The Common Man

The baseball world is still shocked (SHOCKED!) by the resignation of Jim Riggleman earlier today. It's not surprising. After all, most managers don't up and quit in the middle of a season. Many announce their intention to resign at the end of the year, like Jim Leyland did in 1999 or Al Lopez in 1965. Some are asked to resign (or about to be asked to resign), like Edwin Rodriguez this year.  Some were forced to retire for health reasons, like John McGraw in 1932.

But very, very few managers simply up and quit in the middle of the season. Because MLB manager jobs are scarce, and there are lots of candidates.  Riggleman's move seems well timed, as it allows him to appear that he left the Nats in good shape, while distancing himself from their probable decline later this summer.  It frees him up from accepting just a one-year commitment when he might be a candidate for a three-year contract elsewhere.  But is that scenario likely to play out? 

It's difficult to tell.  It's simply a move without much precendent. But there is SOME precedent. So, what can we learn from the past? Can it tells us what the future holds for James David Riggleman? Here are the managers that The Common Man could find who just walked away from their clubs in the middle of the season of their own accord. This list is probably not complete, as its a terribly difficult to identify all the managers who resigned, and then to filter them by those who retired in-season. And then to filter those by who announced their retirement in-season, but finished out the year. We're working with incomplete data. Still, what can we learn?

We the [Insert Team Here]

By Mark Smith
In order to pay for graduate school, I went, as many students do, in search of funding, and I was lucky to receive a fellowship from the federal government (loosely) to study the Constitution and the history behind it. As part of the program, they pay for a summer program that brings the fellows to Georgetown University, and while here, we stay in dorms with a “suite mate” (I don’t know why they call it a “suite”; It has no living or common room, and it’s just two rooms with two beds each that are adjoined by a common bathroom). Because the deity of the world thinks it’s funny to mess with me, they placed me with a Phillies fan (me being a Braves fan). Fortunately for me, he’s an unusual Phillies fan, in that he’s sane, and we actually get along fairly well. We’ve discussed baseball and our rival teams, and one of the things that I’ve noticed (why now I have no idea; this isn’t new, but I happened to notice) is the use of the word “we” when referencing the team.

It’s kind of a weird situation (no, not the situation with my roommate, though that is an interesting one; the one with the word "we''). The use of “we” implies that we, the fans, are members of the team, which we aren’t (my use of “we” in the post will be in reference to the fans). We don’t play. We don’t coach. We don’t manage. We don’t draft. We don’t make roster decisions. We don’t make medical decisions for the team. We don’t even cut the grass or rake the infield. We are not part of the team. We are separated from the team by the different parking lots, the stands, and different in apparel. We, the fans, are not literally part of the team.

However, there are many that say fans are, at least, metaphorically on the team. We pay the bills. We cheer for the team. We get emotionally invested in the team. While we may not travel with the team or play alongside them, we are involved fairly heavily in the operation and success/failure of the club, and we are heavily connected with the team. To take us away would mean the end of the ballclub (please, no Marlins jokes … oops).

So the question becomes if the use of “we” in reference to our favorite team is appropriate and, if it is, when it is appropriate to use the term. Looking at the two arguments above, both lines of reasoning have their virtues. On one hand, we are not playing the game and cannot significantly influence the outcome of the game with our actions (yes, cheering can help, but on the list of reasons why teams win, we are pretty far down on the list), and there are key differences between fans and players. On the other hand, we are not wholly separate from the team, either, and if we are not wholly separate from the team, it seems that there should be instances in which the use of “we” in reference to the team is appropriate.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Will Not Respect David Tyree's Convictions

By Bill

This is not a baseball post. If legal and political issues tangentially connected to sports are not your thing, feel free to move along right now.

Jemele Hill is a columnist for, with which we are, of course, affiliated. From everything I’ve seen (which isn’t a ton, I have to admit, not really being a fan of any of the lesser, non-baseball sports), she does a fine job. None of what follows is meant as a personal attack on Hill (or a professional one, apart from the one piece that is the subject of this post), or a criticism of ESPN itself.

She posted a column today, though -- well, yesterday, but the date on it is June 22 for some reason, so I’ll pretend it was today to make this seem more current -- that discussed former NFL wide receiver David Tyree and his controversial public stance against gay marriage. And putting aside how you feel about that subject (though I suspect a lot of my feelings will come through here), the whole premise and virtually every word of the piece struck me as deeply, deeply flawed, and I feel I have to say something about it.

SweetSpot Roundup 6/22

Today's roundup has had enough of all this bickering about which league is better and all that (though come on, it's the AL and it's not even close). So in the spirit of togetherness, I'll be presenting the entire roster in alphabetical order, not dividing by league. Which is exactly what Mark has been doing on Mondays, but it's a first for me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Power Rankings Comments, Bonus Links and Snark

By The Common Man

First of all, a belated happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads out there. The Common Man didn’t mean to, but he celebrated much of his Fathers’ Day by being an absentee parent, allowing his own father to take The Boy and be a grandpa for much of the afternoon. Meanwhile, TCM was writing, watching the Twins, and cleaning up after an un-birthday party the day before. He was also working on his power rankings comments for ESPN, upon which he expounds every week in this space. So please, enjoy this special message on the Angels and the White Sox. Plus, there will be some bonus links at the end.

Happy Birthday...

Billy Werber!

Primarily a third baseman (and a good one), Werber put up a .271/.362/.394 line (97 OPS+) in the 1930s and early 1940s, and amassed a very respectable 25.6 WAR, comparable to the careers of more familiar names like Mo Vaughn, Tino Martinez and Marquis Grissom.

But there are things about Werber that are a lot more interesting than that stuff. Rather than give you a biography (I can't tell you anything Wikipedia or Baseball-Reference's bullpen can't, and there's this 2001 book by him and C. Paul Rogers III that I'll have to check out sometime soon), here's a more or less chronological list of those interesting things:

SweetSpot Roundup 6/20

Austin’s Astros 290 Blog: Problems Abound, Plenty of Blame to Share
Oh, you mean besides Drayton McLane and Ed Wade? That’s cool, too.

Baseballin’ on a Budget (A’s): Howard Bryant: Nowhere Men
“For all the parties to say ‘there are no options’ is bull-bleep.” Yep.

Ghostrunner on First (Blue Jays): Adam Lind Is Moderately Unstoppable
What can I say? I’m a sucker for titles with weird disclaimers.

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): The Importance of Pitching Depth
“Obviously you don’t always have to plan on having a starter as good as Randall Delgado as the 8th option, but Frank Wren knows what he’s doing when he refuses to trade away pitching depth. Eventually, surpluses turn into deficits and the depth is needed.”

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Rickie Weeks Appreciation Day
I knew Rickie Weeks was doing great and would be my choice for the All-Star start, but I didn’t realize just how good he’s been, which is really, really good.

Friday, June 17, 2011

TCM's All Star Teams

By The Common Man

Try as he might, The Common Man just can’t quit the All Star Game. He wishes he could. It’s been twisted and exists to serve cross purposes, both as a fun exhibition for fans to watch, a way to honor great players, and a way to decide who gets an extra World Series game. One of these is antithetical to the other two, and TCM is pretty sure you can figure out what it is.

Still, the ASG has produced some of the greatest baseball moments of the past 25 years, with the on-field celebration of Baseball’s 100 greatest players that featured Ted Williams, Cal Ripken Jr’s homerun in his final national showcase, and John Kruk’s at bat against Randy Johnson (which remains, to this day, the only amusing thing John Kruk has ever done). And it’s inherently fun, TCM thinks, to see so many great players on the field at once.

So TCM doesn’t mind that it’s turned into All Star week here at TPA, with Mark and Bill each laying out their criteria for an All Star, and Bill actually choosing starters based on his. Mark seems to want to select a passion fruit to start, or something.  TCM's not real sure he got that.  Anyway, figuring we might as well go for the trifecta, The Common Man is going to try and construct entire All Star Rosters, using the rules we’ve got (35 players, at least one per team), because he has the constant need to one-up Bill.

First, the criteria. TCM believes that, above all, the All Star Game is an exhibition for the fans. So fans should get to see the guys they want to see. That said, the current voting system is, and always has been, broken. This has been apparent since 1957, when Reds fans stuffed the ballot boxes and elected seven Reds to the NL Starting Lineup. So instead of going with the fan vote totals, TCM is taking control, suspending the democractic process, and giving fans who they should want to see. The most excellent and entertaining players. These are players who will generate the most excitement both by their presence and by their play. In most cases, this will be the best player at each position. However, TCM is sentimental, and will allow some players (cough…Jeter…cough) to be grandfathered in.  Ok, on to the picks:

Good heavens, but the Moneyball movie looks like garbage

By Bill

I think this is the first time I've ever embedded a video on this blog. Here's the just-released, two-and-a-half minute trailer for the forthcoming film version of Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman and written by the excellent Aaron Sorkin:

Go ahead, soak it in. You've read the book, you remember the book, and if you're of a certain age or came to the sabermetricians' party at a certain time, the book probably changed your baseball-watching life. Watch that a couple times and see if that looks like the book to you. Or like a movie that you'd ever want to watch.

I've been...not excited, necessarily, but very interested in this movie for a while now. So when I saw that the trailer was made available yesterday, I was pretty stoked. And then when I watched it and saw that the movie looks like a steaming pile of fabricated crap, I was...a bit disappointed.

SweetSpot Roundup 6/17

Lots of talk about All-Stars and prospects in today's Roundup. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My All-Star Ballot

By Bill

One of the benefits (and the only real responsibility) of being a member of the Baseball Bloggers' Alliance, as we are, is that you occasionally get to submit votes in the BBA's various awards and such. Which is fun, because it makes you feel important -- almost like a real baseball writer -- and because it leads to a really, really easy post to write.

So what follows are my own votes. I have not consulted TCM or Mark on this, because I'm our POC for the BBA, and because I'm an evil little power-mad badger.

In light of Mark's excellent piece from yesterday on All-Star voting standards, here are mine:
  • Generally, pick the player who's having a great half-season. (Usually just the best, but not always, for the reasons below.)
  • As between two (or more) players who are having similar seasons to date, take the one with the longer track record of success, or just the more famous player. It's an exhibition game (or should be) for the fans, after all. In fact, I think there are some situations -- very rare ones -- in which a player is just so universally beloved that this factor should override the first. Cal Ripken, for example, had earned the right to keep starting the All-Star Game for as long as he remained an active big-league regular.
  • As between two (or more) players who are having similar seasons to date, if there's no established superstar among them, take the one who's having the best full season, from last All-Star break to this one. I'd prefer this to replace the first criterion -- those second-half games count, too, just as much as the first-half ones do -- but there's just no easy way to find it, so until some genius (probably Sean Forman at Baseball-Reference) starts tracking All-Star-break-to-All-Star-break stats, it's just not very practical. 
It's a pretty loose set of requirements, as you can tell. And I think it has to be. The only thing that makes me angry about All-Star selections -- and I hate to admit it, but I do get angry -- is when, whatever criteria people are applying, they just do it incorrectly. Manager Charlie Manuel selecting his guy Ryan Howard over Joey Votto last year, for instance; there's just no possible justification for that. Votto had been a better player since the moment he stepped into the league, and Howard is certainly popular, but isn't nearly that kind of transcendent player that justifies an annual selection, and their performances weren't nearly close enough to each other to justify simply giving the nod to the more popular player. The only reason to pick Howard there is the belief that Howard is, and has been, a much better player than he actually is. That sort of thing drives me nuts. 

So here are my (and, as far as the BBA is concerned, TPA's) selections:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

All-Stars and Fruits

By Mark Smith
Humor me for a moment. What is the best fruit? Apples? Oranges? Peaches? Bananas? Or are you one of those people who think big melons that taste like ever-so-sweet water with seeds that intend to get caught in your epiglottis are the best fruit? If you like America, you like apples. If you like potassium, you probably favor bananas. If you think the best fruit has the most seeds, then you might like strawberries.  If you like choking toward a slow, lonely death, you like watermelons. And if you like the obscure, you might take kumquats. What the hell does fruit have to do with baseball? All-Star voting.

Okay, so that still probably doesn’t make as much sense as it should. The point trying to be made above is that when you ask such a general question, you might want to be more specific. Baseball is notorious for being bad at this. What is a Hall of Famer? Is it just the best players on the field, or does it include off-the-field stuff? And how do you define best? What about MVPs? How do you define “valuable”? And are pitchers involved, or do we just let them have the Cy Young? I could go on and on, but I think you get the point, but this is especially bad when it comes to the All-Star Game.

What makes an All-Star? I would say that most people think that the people having the best first halves of the season should get in. Others say that the word “All-Star” means the best players in the game, even if it means eschewing a guy having a great first half in favor of a guy who has been better longer but not having such a great first half. Others say that the All-Star Game should be for the most popular players no matter how they’re doing because they are the players the fans would want to see. Others say that fans should vote for players on their favorite team. Still others have a weird amalgamation of a few of these plus other rationales. First, let’s look at the major processes when it comes to selecting All-Stars, and then we’ll ask more important questions.

SweetSpot Roundup 6/15

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Astros fire Arnsberg
Hard to tell if Austin thinks this was justified, but he thinks it's just the first domino to fall.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Following Up on Wolf's Slider
"Wolf’s return to his old form has been an excellent sign for the Brewers, even if it hasn’t been turning into wins due to low run support....  He’s no Cole Hamels, but right now not too many teams can boast a better fourth starting pitcher than Randy Wolf."

View From the Bleachers (Cubs): So You Want To Be Sellers
The team is going nowhere fast, so Joe looks at the Cubs players who might be on the move.

Snakes on Jefferson (Diamondbacks): MLB realignment rumor-Diamondbacks to the American League
Tyler breaks down what a change of leagues would mean to D-backs.

Dodger Thoughts: Yet another thing about Matt Kemp-He hits righties
Matt Kemp may just be the best player in the National League in 2011.  Here's one reason why.

Bay City Ball (Giants): Brandon Crawford's skills
On the Jints new defensive wizard: "There’s a good chance that Crawford isn’t a major league caliber hitter. The Giants’ current set of problems gives the team an opportunity to evaluate Crawford’s hitting at the highest level. That’s valuable data to collect, and it sure beats the Tejada alternative."

Marlins Daily: Hanley is Back!
"Given the fact that offense has been downright terrible in June, it’s not certain that Hanley’s presence back in the lineup will change things for the Fish unless the team starts pulling it together. By pulling it together, I mean walking more, being more selective at the plate, and playing better on the defensive end.

Mets Today: The Reyes Dilemma
Guest writer mike Steffanos on the delicate situation with Jose Reyes, and whether he should be dealt.

Nationals Baseball: Mar-quis to Winning
Harper thinks Jason Marquis should be on the move.

Ducksnorts (Padres): So, Yeah...Poreda
"The Padres DFA’d Aaron Poreda, who was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Jake Peavy to the White Sox in July 2009. It has been a long time since I’ve thought of Poreda in those terms, but other people have reminded me, so I guess we might as well acknowledge it."

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Josh Willingham, Proceed With Caution
The Phils are in the market for an outfielder, and the A's might have what they need.

Redleg Nation: Father's Day Giveaway, Part 2
Chad's got a cool contest going on.  Go.  Enter.

Blake Street Bulletin (Rockies): Dead Weight
Logan debunks the idea that the Rockies are a strong defensive team.

Ghostrunner on First (Blue Jays): Drabek Down, Stewart Up
"Is it okay if I officially have doubts about Kyle Drabek now?"  No, no it's not.

It's Pronounced Laj-away (Indians): I Guess a Shutout Is Better Than Being No Hit
"I’ve been like a broken record lately, “put together better at-bats, bench underperformers, etc.” so I don’t think I need to repeat the same tired criticisms.  They lost first place tonight; a position they’ve held since April.  If they don’t turn this around soon, Chicago will pass them by as well."

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): Are the Mariners Seriously Playing Figgins Over Ackley?
"There’s simply no other reason for keeping Ackley in Tacoma. Keeping him there does nothing to further stave off the arbitration years and only delays him inevitably taking over second base and forcing the M’s to find a spot in the lineup for Adam Kennedy, who’s been one of their most consistent hitters this season."

Camden Depot (Orioles): Revisiting MLB Realignment and Expansion: Part 1
Why should O's fans be into all the realignment talk?

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): What's on Joey's Mind?
Is Texas sensation Alexi Ogando going to suffer a fatigue-related regression?

The Ray Area: It was a little pitchy, dog
Mark, with a really scary and irresponsible suggestion: "There is simply no reason for Justin Ruggiano – a 5th outfielder... – to avoid contact in a one-run game.... There is no excuse for that avoidance slide (when the catcher clearly had the path to the back corner blocked) and second-chance karate kick at the plate.... I might just call him out for being soft."

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): With Offense on Fire, Drew Is Ice Cold
Charlie Saponara investigates JD Drew's decline.

Royals Authority: Alex Gordon-Has He Really Improved?
Is Gordon's resurgence due to his new swing or luck?

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): Progress Report on Jacob Turner
Turner looks like a great addition to a staff headlined by Justin Verlander.

Nick's Twins Blog: Too Many Strikes
Nick digs into the struggles of Minnesota closer Matt Capps.

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Appealing to Authority
Brien is starting to lose the faith in the Yankee brass.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Captain Jetes, Honus Wagner, and Great Moments in Ignorance

By The Common Man

This Sporting News article, and writer Stan McNeal, purports that Derek Jeter may just be the best shortstop of all time (h/t to Craig Calcaterra).  He also suggests that "Wagner never was regarded as a great defensive player," which is like saying that Lou Gehrig wasn't ever regarded as tough, Ty Cob never seemed cranky, and Stan NcNeal is not a sycophant.  In other words, it's blatantly and demonstrably untrue. 

Perhaps, then, today is a good day to just link to TCM's Top 40 Shortstops in baseball history, and let you read up.  Spoiler alert!  Captain Jetes is not #1.  Enjoy.

Power Rankings Comments Explained: National League

By The Common Man

The new Power Rankings are here!  The new Power Rankings are here!  But, as usual, there more to say that TCM can't fit into two short sentences, so he's expanded on his thoughts here.  Today, TCM talks about how truly awesome Andrew McCutchen has become, and how none of you seem to be noticing, and how dire the situation is in South Florida.  So, without further ado, bonus coverage of the Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates!

"Productive" Outs

By Mark Smith

My nephews came over on Saturday, and being about 18 months old, they aren’t really cognizant of anything. Well, they know where Grandma’s cookie jar is, that blowing bubbles outside is the bees’ knees, and that it’s fun to throw things at Uncle Mark’s head. But they don’t really understand what’s going on around them, and it’s fun to watch what grabs their attention. While my dad (their grandpa) and I were babysitting Midget and Widget, I was watching the Florida-Mississippi State game on ESPN, and those kids would sit there and watch the game and react to the ping of the bats. I’d rather them be awed by the crack of a bat, but at this point, I’ll take what I can get. The little balls of energy finally went to take a nap, and I got to watch more of the game. Unfortunately, I heard one of my pet peeves. With no outs and a runner on second, the announcer said, “He’s looking to make a productive out here.”

I guess I understand the sentiment. American culture is really weird. On one hand, few other cultures push the idea of “rugged individualism” more than that of the United States, but on the other hand, there’s still a fair amount of admiration for self-sacrifice. The two are not mutually exclusive (you don’t have to believe one or the other), but they are opposing ideas. Individualism is you putting yourself first, and self-sacrifice is putting something else first. While America promotes individualism, self-sacrifice has played key roles in American history, especially in times of war.

Baseball also intertwines the two. Individuals are celebrated. Each prospect works his way up the ladder. There are end-of-season awards for individual performance. At every stage where the team is crowned, an individual also gets an award, with the slight exception of winning a division series. Yet, the idea of team is essential. Baseball, after all, is a team sport. While each player is pushed to excel, he is supposed to excel so that the team wins (that is unless you’re RBI-whore Carlos Beltran).

SweetSpot Roundup 6/13

Baseballin’ on a Budget (Athletics): What’s Bob Melvin’s wOBA?
If I were to write a piece on the firing of Bob Geren, mine would look a lot like this one. Also, bonus points to the person who can find the sentence in this post that perfectly describes why I hate Fredi Gonzalez.

Ghostrunner on First (Blue Jays): John Farrell’s New High-Leverage Toy
I almost forgot Casey Janssen existed, but I’m glad to see a guy who was demoted earlier in the season doing well.

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Jonny Freakin’ Venters
I have nothing else to add.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Carlos Gomez’s Fantastic Defense
Carlos Gomez has never really hit, but it’s plays like this that show why he needs to be on a major-league roster in some capacity.

Snakes on Jefferson (D-Backs): MLB Draft Results and Grade
Coming into the season, I thought the one thing the Diamondbacks really needed was pitching, and the Diamondbacks did an awesome job of getting some in the 2011 Draft.

“How does this happen?” If someone could answer that question, they would make a lot of money.

Friday, June 10, 2011

TPA Hits Fangraphs Audio Square In the Breadbox.

Miss the sound of our voices?  Of course you do.  So get your fill at Fangraphs Audio, where Bill and The Common Man sat for a friendly interview with friendly hipster Carson Cistulli.  Listen over and over to replenish your ears with our sonorous tones.  Also, enjoy:

Carson insulting the denizens of the Upper Midwest within the first 5 minutes.

The series of interlocking rectangles that make up TCM's body.

Bill's giant head.

The Minnesota Twins, and being a fan in good times and bad.

The secret origins of The Platoon Advantage and the TCM/Bill partnership.

Police sirens.

Carson asking Bill about pseudonymity, yet somehow not talking to The Common Man about his pseudonymity.

Scott Stahoviak and Matt Walbeck.

Why the Metrodome wasn't so bad if you were 8 years old.

What The Common Man and Mr. T have in common.

And much, much more.

Arbitrary MLB records by country of birth

By Bill

This morning at Hall of Very Good (and it may well have appeared in dozens of other places as well, but I happened to notice it on HOVG's Twitter feed), it was noted that by holding the Reds to a run on three hits in the Cubs' 4-1 win on Wednesday night, Ryan Dempster took over sole possession of second place on the all-time wins list among pitchers born in Canada, with 107. (Fergie Jenkins, of course, has a firm hold on first, at 284; Dempster surpassed the surprisingly-similar-to-him Kirk McCaskill.)

While that's just not a terribly impressive number (even if you care about pitcher "wins," as I do not) no matter how many your countrymen have managed, there's something pretty interesting about that. Canada is actually the fourth most prolific non-US country at producing baseball players, with 233 -- one more than Puerto Rico, 27 fewer than Venezuela, nearly three hundred fewer than the Dominican Republic. (By contrast, California has had 1,985.) It's just interesting that of all those Canadians, more than half (119) of whom have made pitching appearances in the bigs, (a) Dempster is your #2 in a big mainstream stat like wins, and (b) that number is as low as 107.

Anyway, I want to do justice to some of the many other countries that have produced MLB players, but considerably fewer of them than Canada has. Here are some statistical leaders for players born in some other countries (* = min. 1000 IP or PA; click on the country name to see Baseball-Reference's full list from that country):

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Re-Post: When You Change Horses

By The Common Man

Note: Today’s firing of Bob Geren, the first managerial change of 2011, gives The Common Man an excuse to update and re-present his data regarding the benefit of changing managers in the middle of the season, which he originally rolled out in just over a year ago. As he points out in the article below, however, all situations are unique. While TCM’s ultimate conclusions are that changing the manager tends not to actually help all that much, despite what talking heads on baseball broadcasts might tell you, those changes are clearly warranted in many cases. For instance, in this case, it sounds like Bob Geren has effectively lost the A’s clubhouse. In that case, to prevent a further poisoning of the environment around a team, making a move is actually the smartest move you can make. But for the most part, changing managers doesn’t do anything to change the actual performance of a team on the field, at least during the season in question. See below. (Note, all figures have been adjusted to reflect the six in-season managerial changes last year).


Is it a good idea, in general, to fire the manager during the season? Since the Royals shuffled Trey Hillman out for Ned Yost last year, The Common Man has wondered whether changing horses in midstream is generally a good idea. So he went back and looked at every team that switched managers midseason from 1901 until today, to see what kind of differences a new manager might make.

The Twins Collapse: in which I sort of defend Bill Smith, who is a terrible GM

By Bill

Over at Baseball Prospectus yesterday, my friend Jay Jaffe (maybe I should put "friend" in quotes, as in, Facebook "friends," but anyway, we have actually met, and I like him) put up a piece on how the Twins went from division contenders to one of the worst teams in baseball. It's a very good piece, and certainly does a good job of identifying most of the major issues, including this depressing gem:
[T]he Twins have gotten just a .150/.186/.224 line from Drew Butera, who has started 31 of the team's games; his .157 True Average is the majors' lowest among players with at least 100 plate appearances. Throw in Rene Rivera, Steve Holm, and the minimal production from a weakened Mauer, and Twins catchers have combined to hit .178/.229/.252—far inferior to Livan Hernandez's career mark (.221/.231/.297)—while stinking at a level roughly one win below replacement level.
Yikes. Anyway, Jay's premise is that in addition to a lot of bad luck, Bill Smith and the Twins basically made five mistakes that helped turn a team that was 34-24 a year ago this morning into the 23-38 one you see today:

  • They mishandled Joe Mauer and had no backup plan in place. As indicated in the quote above, it's bad enough that Mauer has been able to play just nine games so far this season (and with no success to speak of), but even worse that they're stuck with the worst hitter in the major leagues in Butera and a couple backups who aren't really any better.
  • They messed up the middle infield. They traded J.J. Hardy for nothing and let Orlando Hudson walk, trusting in Alexi Casilla and bringing in Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Nishioka was forced to play second rather than his more comfortable short, which led to a devastating injury that's kept him out since game seven and forced them to play replacement players like Matt Tolbert and Luke Hughes in his place.
  • They resigned Carl Pavano to a two-year deal and counted on him to anchor the rotation.
  • They have all sorts of other rotation problems.
  • They put together an offense with a serious lack of big bats.
I encourage you (as always) to RTFA, but there's a summary of the issues for you.

And I do think that Jay has identified most of the major issues with the team. Those five things and the bullpen (which he mentions toward the end) are pretty much the six things that have plagued the Twins most this year. (You could also argue that those six things pretty much encapsulate all that there is to baseball, but that's just how bad the Twins have been.)

But (and I can't believe I'm about to defend Billy Smith here) I don't think the front office is to blame for nearly as much of their struggles as Jay seems to think they are. A healthy portion, no doubt -- I think Smith, with a lot of urging from Gardenhire, took this team from a good one to a mediocre one -- but not as much as all this. Here's how I see the Twins' collapse breaking down, first the mostly-mistakes and then the mostly-luck factors, in order of importance within each category:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Retweet Is the New Autograph

By Mark Smith

I’ll admit it. I love being retweeted. There are times when I have a quip or an observation, and I’ll actually be disappointed when it doesn’t get retweeted. How can this tweet pass without one person thinking it was as awesome as I did when I typed it? You know what I’m talking about. You don’t have to hide. We’re an open community here, and we don’t judge. Well, Bill judges, but the Twins suck so we don’t care about his opinion. Anyway, back toward something that resembles the title of this post. Retweets give everyone a sense of accomplishment. And this sense of accomplishment has led to the phenomenon of trying to get players to retweet you.

When I first saw this, I thought it was entirely pathetic. What exactly are you gaining? “Hi, I’m your biggest fan, and it’s my birthday. Retweet me!” First of all, you aren’t their biggest fan. Second, Happy Arbitrary Day of the Year When People Sort of Acknowledge Your Existence in a Special Way. Third, you realize the actual thinking and emotion that goes into the athlete reading the 59 characters (yes, I checked) not including his/her handle and clicking twice to retweet is like a mouse running on a wheel in a cage, right? Obviously, that’s a little harsh, but I’m not a sentimental guy. It made no sense until last week.

My roommates and I headed to the Cincinnati Reds-Milwaukee Brewers game in what Dave Gershman called Happy Greinke Day. Before the game, we were walking around the stadium, and per usual, there were people standing around the dugouts, hoping for autographs. Autographs have never made any sense to me. All it proves is that a celebrity of some sort signed an arbitrary object for you. It proves that, for one moment, you and this person were in close proximity, and due to the buying/selling and inheritance of these objects, that isn’t even necessarily the case. You and the person aren’t friends. You probably said no more than 6.73 words (the point 0.73 is the stuttered utterance or involuntary gag when you realized it was actually that person you were next to) to each other. What exactly do you gain?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Quick Hits and Links

By The Common Man

The Common Man is tired after he stayed up late last night, putting together a Trade Tree that you should really check out.  It starts with the first amateur draft in 1965, runs through two division titles 20 years later, and three Hall of Famers.  TCM is also working on a big project with Bill today that should start rolling out later this week (we hope), so here are a bunch of links that are heartily endorsed by The Common Man:

Good news for Twins fans, as ESPN prospect and draft guru Keith Law really likes the team's first three picks (sorry, Insider only) after the first day.  The Twins got the best-looking college middle infielder, Levi Michael, with their first pick.  A big bat in Travis Harrison, a 3B who may need to move to 1B.  And Hudson Boyd, a big high-school kid who already looks like a right-handed Bobo Newsom, who throws hard.

Dayn Perry reminds us that there are other ways to take out the catcher than Scott Cousins body-block.  For instance, Ty Cobb preferred the flying kung-fu jumpkick to the groin.  Which might be effective.  We should see more of this.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tuesday Trade Tree: Draft Day Edition

By The Common Man

Last night was the 1st round of the Amateur Draft, which is where teams chart their courses and pin their destinies on talented young men from states like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, and California. Indeed, teams can truly alter the course of their destinies in the first round of the Amateur Draft, for good or for ill, as a wasted pick can really set a franchise back (especially given that teams often have to wait until picks in the 60-90 range to get their second player). This is the story of one team that did hit in the very first Major League Draft, held in 1965, and that benefited from one of its first pick for more than thirty years. Ironically, this team is perhaps the most star-crossed franchise of all time, the Chicago Cubs.

ESPN Power Rankings Comments Explained

By The Common Man

Rankings are powerful things, which is why ESPN does not entrust us with a vote in theirs, since The Common Man would probably end up putting the Twins 42nd and the Giants in “whiniest” place. But they do let us provide the comments. And every week, TCM expands on his thoughts in the power rankings for those teams that aren’t represented in the SweetSpot Network. So without further ado, here’s bonus coverage of the White Sox, Angels, Marlins, and Pirates:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Steve Berthiaume Loses a Game for the Wins Crowd

By The Common Man

The Common Man actually likes Steve Berthiaume, who he has mocked mercilessly for his decision to pick the Astros to win the NL Central. Which, by the way, is still hilarious.

That said, Bert has a good sense of humor about himself, is from Wisconsin, and has gone out of his way to embrace SweetSpot Network bloggers like The Common Man. Which is why TCM is so sad that he has to say this: Steve, you are so terribly, horribly wrong about this that it is…God, just painful.

Berthiaume lays out the argument today that we should respect Kevin Correia’s win total for the Pittsburgh Pirates, saying “let's not do a sabermetric sidestep around one simple fact: There is still only ONE stat that counts in the division standings and that's wins. And no major league pitcher has more wins than Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia.” Which, while true, ignores the fact that pitcher wins and team wins are not the same thing. In fact they are completely different definitions. All Correia has to do to get a “win” is escape the 5th inning with a lead that his bullpen doesn’t relinquish. Teams have to be ahead at the end of 9 innings. So while Correia’s team has won in 8 of his 12 starts, Roy Halladay has started 9 games that his team has won, even though he’s only credited with 7 “wins.” Ditto with Cole Hamels. Isn’t that more impressive?

But that’s not even the real point.

Brian Sabean: Unprofessional Hypocrisy

By The Common Man

Last week, baseball fans were understandably devastated that Baby Buster Posey, the cute little backstop that everyone loves, got hurt in this collision at home plate with Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins:

Posey ended up with a broken leg and torn ligaments and is out for the season. From what The Common Man has seen, Cousins definitely initiated the contact, and did not make any effort to avoid Posey, who was not blocking his path to the plate. That said, Cousins’ play was not illegal, was not dirty, and is in keeping with what he had been taught as a runner. As Keith Law pointed out the other day, the play was not dirty, but nor was it necessary. But it is the end result of generations of baseball players and fans who have tolerated violent collisions at the plate. Cousins may not have done what was right, but he did what he understandably thought he was expected to do.

Yesterday, however, Giants GM Brian Sabean disagreed, telling a local radio station,
“If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we’ll all be happy. He chose to be a hero in my mind, and if that’s his flash of fame, that’s as good as it’s going to get, pal. We’ll have a long memory. Believe me, we’ve talked to (Mike) Matheny about how this game works. You can’t be that out-and-out overly aggressive. I’ll put it as politically as I can state it: There’s no love lost and there shouldn’t be.” (h/t to Hardball Talk)

But Sabean is not only wrong here, he's also a complete hypocrite, who doesn't mind home plate collisions when his guys don't get hurt.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The All-Star Game: Three Simple Fixes

By Bill

I actually like the All-Star Game, still, kind of. I take an interest in who gets named to the team and who doesn't. I watch the game, though I pay a lot less attention to it than I used to, and I generally take in at least some of the Home Run Derby and other festivities. It's three days in the middle of summer when everyone can just celebrate baseball, without worrying about where your team is in the standings or what new and exciting way the Twins will find to lose today. There's really no reason it shouldn't just be a blast.

But while I do like it, it's really just not what it should be. Here are some things that I think they could do that would bring it a little closer to being that thing that I wish it was:

1. Stop treating outfield positions as interchangeable. When the NL's initial voting returns were announced on Tuesday, the outfield leaders were Matt Holliday, Ryan Braun and Lance Berkman: three players who play exclusively the corner outfield positions, and two of which are generally considered to be kind of awful at it (Holliday doesn't have a great reputation either, but he generally grades out pretty well). In 2010, the senior circuit's outfield was Braun, Andre Ethier and Corey Hart, which left Ethier, who is legitimately one of the worst defensive players in baseball, to man center.

If you're going to select three "outfielders" without recognizing that center field is just a much different, much harder position than the other two, you might as well also do away with the second base and shortstop positions and pick two middle infielders. It makes no sense. Any left fielder can play right, any right fielder can play left, any center fielder can play right or left...but almost no right or left fielder can play center.

So make the fans vote for one center fielder and two corner outfielders. Or, make them vote for between one and three center fielders, and then enough corner outfielders to make the total number three. An All-Star team with a tree stump trying to cover the largest field area kind of goes against the whole idea of what the All-Star team is supposed to be (that is, a team that plays particularly good baseball). Ethier in center needs very badly to never happen again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

SweetSpot Roundup 6/1

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): Erik Bedard and His Changeup
Erik Bedard is making up for his lack of velocity by becoming crafty.

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): We Need a Rooster
Prashanth Francis looks at how to cure the curse that's on Derrick Holland.

The Ray Area: A Day at the Trop
Mark wonders why in the world, on a day when everyone's off work, the Rays aren't playing during the day.

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Right Now, David Ortiz Is a Near Perfect Hitter
"Ortiz, at least for the time being, is a near perfect hitter. He’s showing good plate discipline, not striking out much, hitting for AVG and hitting for power. The question is: Can he keep this up?"

Royals Authority: Aaron Crow is the new closer, but the problem is having a closer at all
"The Royals persist in following the leader in a game that’s stacked against them. They say that if you’re at a poker table and you can’t identify the sucker, then it’s you. My guess is the Royals look around baseball and think “'huh, not a sucker to be seen.'”

Nick's Twins Blog: Morneau's Early Struggles
"The good news is that Morneau has been able to play. He's started all but seven of the Twins' games over the first two months, and is on pace to make over 600 plate appearances.  Sadly, the good news pretty much stops there."

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Should Elite Hitters Catch?
In the wake of the injuries to Mauer and Posey, Brien asks an interesting question that relates to uber-prospect Jesus Montero.

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Lyles is here, now what?
"The long-awaited day has finally arrived. Jordan Lyles is making his major league debut today against division foe Chicago, which is just four games up on the worst team in the National League. So, now that he’s here, what can we expect?"

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Numbers Indicate Improved Brewers Defense
The Brewers' defense was supposed to be terrible, but it hasn't been, and Jack has some theories as to why.

Fungoes (Cardinals): The daring Pujols steals third with two outs -- again
The best player in the world has some interesting ideas about when and how often to try to move up a base, and Pip has a look at how well he's done at stealing third.

The View from the Bleachers (Cubs): Interview with top 3B prospect -- Josh Vitters
A real-live, audio interview with the Cubs prospect, and some news from around the system.

Bay City Ball (Giants): Brandon Belt: a quote and a graph
Chris has a little passive-aggressive commentary on the wisdom of using Belt off the bench on a terrible offensive team.

Mets Today: What Was Fred Wilpon's Endgame?
"What exactly was Fred Wilpon attempting to accomplish through these two stories? It’s crystal-clear that the two articles — published almost simultaneously — were the result of an orchestrated publicity project. Feature stories in The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated don’t “just happen” — especially not when the main subject is a multimillionaire owner of a New York-based Major League sports franchise that is already in the public spotlight, and is in dire need of a cash infusion."

Nationals Baseball: Tuesday's Quickie
"How long could the Nats last without Zimmerman? Can they make one last push to stay relevant until he gets back? About 20 games and no. Those are the answers we have now. "

Ducksnorts (Padres): Thoughts from Tucson, Part 2
Geoff Young with one of those posts he writes that I can't really summarize in any kind of meaningful way. Just read it and be glad you did.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Cole Hamels Is Phillies' Best Starter
"While Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee have received the lion’s share of media attention, Hamels has quietly become one of the best pitchers in baseball. In fact, an argument could be made that he has been the best in baseball thus far this season."

Redleg Nation: Down on the Farm
Recaps of the Reds' minor league action.