Friday, July 29, 2011

The Five Greatest Trade Deadlines in Baseball History

By The Common Man

The trade deadline looms on Sunday, and we’ve already seen some rather large deals. Beltran’s gone, Rasmus has been chained to a chair and put on a train out of Springfield…er, St. Louis, and can you believe somebody actually wanted Kosuke Fukudome? Most of the action has been late this year, with so many teams seeing that they have shots at the postseason and with what seems like relatively few truly valuable commodities readily available. It’s made TCM wonder how this deadline compares to deadlines of the past.

The trade deadline, as we know it, is actually not terribly old. Brian Cronin, of The Fabulous Forum, traces the origin of the trade deadline to the 1920s, when owners banded together to stop Harry Frazee from trading players to the Yankees in the middle of a pennant race. They set the trade deadline at June 15, which would be early enough, conceivably, that most teams would still have theoretical shots at the postseason, and actual contenders might still not have given up on some of their weakest players turning it around. As such, deadline activity was relatively light for much of the 20th century.

The June 15 deadline stayed in place until 1985, when baseball’s labor agreement was set to expire yet again, and players were threatening the second mid-season strike of the decade. In August, the owners and players came to an agreement (which then, of course, the owners proceeded to ignore and collude against the players). As part of that peace accord, owners and players agreed to move the trade deadline to July 31, while setting a separate deadline, contingent on players passing through waivers, on August 31. There was almost no coverage or analysis of this provision in the media at that time.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Six Things I Know About Replay

By Bill

Instant replay in baseball -- specifically, the obvious need for as much of it as possible, as quickly as possible -- was sort of my pet cause over at my old blog, and I continue to rail about it regularly on Twitter (where my personal favorite hashtag is #robotsnow, which I realize could be read as "Robot Snow," but is not), but I haven't had much of a chance to talk about it here. So I'll try to hit all the main points fairly quickly:

1. Julio Lugo was out at the plate. Some really smart people, like Rob Neyer and Jonah Keri, gamely attempted to tell us yesterday that Jerry Meals' safe call ending the 19-inning Braves-Pirates marathon on Tuesday night might have been correct. Which is something that really smart people love to do -- convince people that something they think they know is wrong. It's good sport, for those smart people.

But here, they're wrong. Really, obviously wrong.

It's there. You can watch it over and over again, and each time, from each angle, you'll see catcher Mike McKenry's glove brush Lugo's leg well before the latter comes near the plate. Lugo's own body language after the tag is made confirms it, too (and there's nothing wrong with using body language when what it conveys is against the conveyor's interests; it's not like Lugo was only acting disappointed). It's not a good tag, and it's not a lot of contact, but it's definitely there. Hard to see doesn't mean impossible to see, and we can assume that a trained major league umpire sitting in a booth in front of an HDTV could have made this call in seconds.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What I've Decided Is that Everyone Needs to Chillax

By Mark Smith

During my recent trip to DC, I was there for a fellowship with a bunch of high school teachers, but this time, they were the students. For a few of them, they weren’t far removed from taking college courses, but a few of them hadn’t taken a class since Ronald Reagan asked Mikhail Gorbachev to knock down a wall in his house to actualize his dream of an open floor plan … or something like that. Over the course of the month, we had to write two seven-page papers. Seven pages is nothing for me, but I realize that I was still in the groove of writing academic papers. Those other teachers, however, weren’t. And boy did they freak out. The first was due on a Friday, but people began writing it the weekend before and weren’t done until Thursday. They worked those papers down to nubs as they fine-tuned, redacted, and expanded in the fear that the teachers were going to flunk them. They were all so collectively manic-depressive that I considered throwing a few of them from Key Bridge and saving them the trouble. Where’s the sense of perspective?

Listen, no one wants to fail. I get that. But A) it’s a fellowship program and no one was getting flunked unless they put forth zero effort and B) they were all smart people who could do just fine. It did not require freaking out. Then came Twitter last night. After Tommy Hanson gave up three runs in two innings to the Pirates, people on my timeline started freaking out about the Braves pitching staff. Now, the staff hasn’t pitched well in July. I get that. But A) they’ve pitched in Philadelphia, Colorado, and Cincinnati for half of the games and B) every pitching staff, defense, and offense has bad moments.

So here’s where we need perspective. No, we don’t want the team to lose. Yes, we should cheer them to win, and the players need to play to win every game. But when they lose or lose a few games in a row, you need to look at it in context. Does this happen a lot? If not, then it might be just one of those blips that happens to every team. Is there a direct reason? Is there a key player not playing? Is their velocity down? Is their bat speed slower? Most of the time, stats don’t even out over the course of a full season, so if a guy or staff is in a slump for a week or month, relax. I didn’t say, “Be happy about it.” No, you can still be a bit miffed and upset that your team lost because that’s what a fan is all about, but at the end of the day, you need to be able to sit back and realize that today is just one day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Twins Need to Regroup and Reload For 2012

It took 20 runs on 27 hits, with three errors on defense and four walks allowed to beat into The Common Man that it’s time for the Twins to write off 2011. This is a Twins team that has a core of players that could, potentially, go on a run and become a factor in a very poor AL Central. But the fact remains that the Twins are seven games back and looking up at three teams, at least two of which are probably actually better than they are in terms of true talent.

It’s nice to get Jason Kubel back. And Denard Span will be a nice addition to the lineup when he’s fully recovered from his concussion. And even Justin Morneau might be able to come back before the year is done. But the fact remains that none of them are going to be able to pitch out of the bullpen and none of them are going to be able to stabilize a starting rotation that has proven to be a huge disappointment. Baseball Prospectus gives Minnesota a 3.2% chance to make the postseason, while CoolStandings gives them just a 1.1% shot. It’s time to face the fact that this Twins team probably is not good enough, as it’s currently constructed, to come back this year.

In light of that sad reality, it’s important for the Twins to maximize the value they can still get out of this season by engaging in a limited firesale. Not everybody has to go, but the following players absolutely should.

Must Go:

Michael Cuddyer

Cuddy is the Twins most tradable asset at this point. He’s at .296/.371/.466 for the year with 14 homers. He’s a gen-u-ine, certified All Star. He also at least appears to be flexible enough on defense to make him a possibility for a number of teams. He’s also a free agent at the end of 2011, making him an ideal rental player for teams with long-term payroll concerns. With the glut of outfielders the Twins currently have on their roster and coming up through the minors, Cuddyer is very expendable. He also might be the second best bat available on the market, behind Carlos Beltran. The trouble, of course, is that the Twins have publically said they’re not interested in dealing him, and that they actually would like to re-sign him this offseason (undoubtedly to a huge contract that Cuddyer won’t be worth). Trading him now might interfere with those plans (yes, please).

The Giants have shown a lot of interest, though they could be using that as leverage to drop the price on Carlos Beltran. The Phillies or the Pirates may also want an outfield bat who they can use for their stretch runs. Or, and here’s a crazy thought, perhaps the Brewers might want to use him at 3B.

Friday, July 22, 2011

9 Things I Learned Today: American League Edition

By The Common Man

It’s not easy being a blogger who’s not affiliated with a particular team. There’s a lot of stuff happening around the league, and you feel like you need to be on top of all of it. Inevitably, of course, some things fall through the cracks. And in that spirit, The Common Man is going to circle back around and highlight nine things he feels like he really should have known were happening around each league. Yesterday, TCM tackled the National League. Today, the AL is in the spotlight:

1) Russell Martin should not have been an All Star.

Remember that hot start that Martin got off to, hitting .293/.376/.587 with 6 homers through the end of April? Yeah, he stopped doing that. Since then, he’s hit .187/.300/.280 with 4 homers. His overall OPS+ is 88, which is exactly in line with his performance in 2009 and 2010. Russell Martin continues to not be a very good baseball player. But he’s a 2011 All Star.

2) Jarrod Saltalamacchia probably should have been.

Saltalamacchia got into a big hole because he was the central piece of the Braves as part of the Mark Teixeira trade and he was mediocre. Between the noteworthy name and the possibility of him being a transcendent switch-hitting catcher who could hit the ball a mile, his 82 OPS+ across 899 plate appearances from 2007-2010. But in Boston, Salty has found some of the power that was expected of him, and is hitting .249/.320/.452 to establish himself as a long-term possibility for the Sox going forward. rWAR dings him for the wild pitches and passed balls, which seem a bit out of control. But Saltalamacchia has caught every one of Tim Wakefield’s starts except one, in which he’s allowed 9 of his 12 PBs and 7 of his 22 WPs allowed. Either him or Carlos Santana would have been a better choice than Martin.

Baseball Teams' Blind Spots and Burned Bridges

By Bill

On Twitter on Wednesday, a tweet (this one) from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien indicated that the Braves "could be close to making a deal for a [right-handed] bat," which started a ton of speculation about who it could be. And one thing quickly became very, very clear, if you didn't realize it already:

Braves fans (and bloggersreally, really hate Jeff Francoeur. Really.

On paper or in a video game, if you're the Braves and are looking for a right-handed outfielder (which the "bat" in question is assumed to be), you could do worse than Jeff Francoeur. He's not a good baseball player, but he can certainly be a useful one, with a .300/.344/.495 career line against lefties, .315/.357/.640 in 2011, and at least decent defense. It's not an exciting add, but considering the only righty outfielder on the team's roster right now is transplanted second baseman Martin Prado, who hits pretty well for a second baseman and has a .383 2011 slugging percentage against lefties, he'd be an improvement.

In the real world, though, the Braves would be risking an overwhelming fan backlash. Francoeur was the homegrown golden boy who went bad and left town and who really, really can't go home again.

And it occurred to me that for every team, there has to be one guy the fanbase just can't possibly be rational about -- whether it's irrational love, or irrational hate, or (in more cases than you'd think) healthy measures of both. No matter how much sense Francoeur might make for the Braves, it would never not cause a riot, and that's not just a Braves thing. I raised this on Twitter, and I got more responses than I'd ever gotten for anything, everyone chiming in with their pick for their own team. So, with a lot of subjectivity and heavily informed by my Twitter friends, here's your list:

NL Central
Cubs: Milton Bradley.
Alfonzo Soriano, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano are each irrationally loved and/or hated enough to lead the way on most teams, but the Bradley experience in the North Side is a whole 'nother thing. The whole comment thread here gives you a taste.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

9 Things I Learned Today: National League Edition

It’s not easy being a blogger who’s not affiliated with a particular team. There’s a lot of stuff happening around the league, and you feel like you need to be on top of all of it. Inevitably, of course, some things fall through the cracks. And in that spirit, The Common Man is going to circle back around and highlight nine things he feels like he really should have known were happening around each league. Today, the NL:

1) Dan Murphy has become a damn good player.

Murphy is kind of a classic tweener. He doesn’t hit well enough to play 1B regularly. Nor does he probably field well enough to stick at 2B or 3B. But in 2011, he’s been a boon to the Mets, who have suffered injuries at the infield corners, and have a big hole at the keystone. Through it all, Murphy’s hit .308/.349/.444, a 121 OPS+, across all three positions. This isn’t out of line with the rest of his career, and it’s not bad for a guy who missed almost all of 2010 with injuries. If Murphy can maintain this level of play, he could be a part of the next good Mets team.

2) Vance Worley has been light’s out.

When last TCM heard of Worley, he was asking Keith Law whether he should draft the young Phillie in a DMB keeper league (TCM made the right choice, btw). We’re hearing a lot about Worley today, however, especially since he might be available in a deal for an outfield bat. On the surface, Worley looks like a great pitcher, with a 6-1 record and a 2.02 ERA. However, if you dig deeper, you see a flyball pitcher who has been pretty lucky not to give up more homers in 2011, and whose walk rate is a little too high, given that he’s not a strikeout guy. The Phillies are looking to sell high on Worley’s hot streak, and very well could end up with a steal. After all, Ed Wade still has a job.

3) Zack Greinke has not been.

Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, and a Tangential Connection to Baseball

By Mark Smith

Let’s be honest. While women deserve the same praise, adulation, and money for playing sports, that’s not the world we live in. I mean that in the best way, but I don’t see the point in beating around the bush. It’s unfortunate, and even with actions such as Title IX, women’s sports aren’t treated as equal to men’s sports. UK women’s basketball doesn’t get the same treatment as the men’s team. All the professional sports that get major air time are men’s sports even though the MLB, NBA, and MLS (at least, though my lack of knowledge might be another piece of evidence) all have corollary women’s leagues. Even when it comes to international sports, women’s sports often don’t receive the same attention.

All of that brings me to this past weekend and the Women’s World Cup. When the men’s team plays, ESPN gives nonstop coverage to almost every game in the tournament, and even though the men’s team may never near a World Cup final in my lifetime, the US gets just as excited or more than when the women’s team, who almost always plays in the finals (it seems anyway), plays. The worst part, from a gender equality standpoint, is that the general watching of women’s sports usually devolves into analyzing which one is the hottest, and in regard to the women’s soccer team, that discussion immediately goes to Alex Morgan and Hope Solo.

I went through all of that to make sure that I initiate the following with the best of intentions, and I promise that it will come to a better conclusion than which is hotter, though we may need a scientific poll for that. Anyway, Chip Buck and I have started having these food debates which began with cake and pie, went to fries and tots, and might end up with one or both of us spilling each other’s blood. Tweep A and I (I won’t name the others involved in the discussion to protect their identity) began talking about who we thought was more beautiful, Hope Solo or Alex Morgan, and when Tweep A declared that a debate between the two would not be close, I opened the floor. Soon after, I received several confirmations that Alex Morgan was, indeed, the better looking of the two. When I noted my astonishment (for the record, I also favor Morgan, but Solo is an oh-so-close second), Tweep B argued, “super scientific answer: Morgan on pure looks, Solo if hopping in the sack is involved … Solo looks like she would be a tiger vs. the more vanilla Morgan.” Tweep C immediately interjected, “I'm just not ready to speculate like that. We only have tools to grade here, not skills.” Obviously, this is objectifying women and pretty much wholly inappropriate, but I’m sure that, on a very base level, 98% of you are cracking up. It's not meant to be serious, and it's only because none of us will even get the chance to meet these wonderful women, who we would immediately begin stumbling around in awe in their presence. Regardless, Tweep B (I think; I’ve lost track of who’s who) then mentioned, “this could evolve into one of the better scouts vs. stats arguments ever,” and after thinking about it, it just might.

All-Star Game Giveaway Winners

Many apologies for the delay in getting back to the All-Star Game Giveaway; we had to wait on confirmation from the folks running the show for Holiday Inn.

After sorting through a bunch of great entries, we had well over 100 votes for the winner out of the top ten, which is a lot of fun, and we're grateful to everyone for taking the time.

Our runner-up, and the recipient of some sweet All-Star Game gear yet to be determined, was John Semiz, for this fun commentary on the steroid speculation silliness:

It is a witch hunt.
Stay within the bell curve please

Jose Bautista 

And receiving the most votes, winner of a $75 gift card for Dick's Sporting Goods, was David Kaleida, who wins the contest for writing a poem that makes fun of the contest (and us):

A haiku contest?
Thanks for mailing it in, guys
What a lame idea.

So, thanks for the submissions and votes, and congrats to the winners!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Real Beltway Battle: Camden Yards vs. Nationals Park

By Mark Smith
All you can prove is that I was here, not that I illegally sat here for 6 innings.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been to too many ballparks in my life. Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky is a fairly inconvenient place for such things as Cincinnati’s close but not attractive, St. Louis is farther away and would necessitate an actual trip, and everything else is at least 9 hours away. Add to that my mother’s desire to go to the beach for vacation, and you can see why I haven’t been to many parks. I, however, was in Washington, DC for the past month, and while I was there, I took in 4 games, splitting them between Nationals Park and Camden Yards.

Location: Neither place is in a great part of the city. Camden’s existence has improved the surrounding community, but if you go too far, you’re not in the best parts of town. I went with Chip Buck from Firebrand and IIATMS the first time, and after crossing the bridge right next to the stadium, he said, “Uh oh, I think we’ve gone too far,” and after I asked if I should hide, he replied, “I’ll let you know.” Not exactly reassuring. Nationals Park, however, isn’t much different, but it’s in an earlier stage of development than Camden. Located in Southwest DC, the park is in a bad part of town, but it does have some character with the Navy Yard nearby. After a few years, I expect it will improve in the way Baltimore did.

Tickets: I didn’t go big on the spending department here. We spent $9 the first night at Nationals Park with our Student IDs for a very upper-level seat, and we spent $18 on an upper-deck seat out in right field the next. At Camden, we spent around $20 the first time for an upper-deck seat behind third base and $10 for a seat close to the top the next time (though we may or may not have snuck down behind home plate after the third inning). Neither place was a huge bargain, but Camden might have been a bit cheaper.

Entrance: Camden has a clear advantage here. It’s a nice walk-up to the stadium and through the gates, especially with the prevalence of bricks for character. The warehouse is a pretty awesome sight, and the added plaques that denote home runs hit over the right field fence and into the area is a really nice detail. Nationals Stadium, on the other hand, is rather blah. The walk-up has a few vendors and a construction site look that shouldn’t be there several years after opening. Once you walk in, there’s a vanilla concrete entrance with a couple statues and some Geico and President whatchamacallits (they’re not statues; I guess over-sized bobblehead dolls is the best way to describe it) off to the left. They’re actually pretty cool, but they’re so far back in the corner in a picnic area that I almost missed them entirely.

A Birthday Repost: When Happy Foreman Met George Bernard Shaw

By The Common Man

Today is The Common Man's birthday, which is a joyous occasion for all involved.  The Uncommon Wife has promised an as yet unspecified special dinner, after which she has threatened to take TCM and The Boy to see Transformers 3.  The Common Man is unsure what he did to upset her so.  Oh well, as long as TCM's blessed bourbon arrives in time, it shouldn't matter, as he will undoubtedly remember nothing and suffer none of the potentially devastating effects of watching his childhood once again ruined by Michael Bay.  The good news is that this birthday allows TCM the chance to re-run one of his favorite posts from the last couple years, since its principle character, a young man named Happy Foreman, shares TCM's birthday:

Foreman, was a left-handed pitcher who threw 11.1 innings in the 1920s for the White and Red Sox. Foreman’s brief career spanned 49 batters, and he posted a 3.18 ERA in 6 games, good for a 137 ERA+. Despite his success, Foreman barely got a chance to play in the Bigs, and seems to have been washed out of the minors after 1927. Yet, Foreman still had a remarkable experience in the Major Leagues.

In 1924, Foreman pitched just four innings in three September games for the last place White Sox (who may have been the first team ever managed by three separate Hall of Famers in the same season: Johnny Evers, Ed Walsh, and Eddie Collins). Nevertheless, he was invited along when the Sox traveled to Europe to play a series of exhibitions against the NL Champion New York Giants. Ralph Perry, of the Miami Daily News, writes in late 1924, “Happy is in Miami these days as one of the nine important members of the new Miami professional baseball team, doing its bit in the Sunshine League. The White Sox pitcher…was a member of the…team which toured Continental Europe last winter and among things showed the Britishers how the great American game of baseball was played.“

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Trade Tree: The Pirates' Treasures

By The Common Man

We woke up this morning to a brave new world that has the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have finished below .500 for the past 18 seasons, alone at the top of the National League Central. It’s tempting to conclude that these Pirates are being driven by high draft picks such as Andrew McCutchen (the official non-Twin of The Platoon Advantage), Paul Maholm, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez. And while those players (excepting Alvarez, who has been a huge disappointment) have indeed been instrumental to the club’s unexpected success, the Pirates actually owe another large portion of their success in 2011 to three long-forgotten Buccos who the club acquired in the very early days of their descent, and were mere afterthoughts even when they were initially acquired by oft-maligned general managers Larry Doughty and Cam Bonifay.

Syd Thrift was apparently an amazing judge of talent in Pittsburgh. While Barry Bonds was already part of the organization, Thrift was responsible for drafting Bobby Bonilla from the White Sox in the Rule 5 draft, then trading for him again after the team returned him. He got Moises Alou in the January draft. He swindled the Yankees for Doug Drabek. Traded Tony Pena for Mike LaValliere and Andy Van Slyke. He got Gary Redus for nothing. And he hired Jim Leyland to run the team. He built the Pirates into contenders, but by the end of 1988, he was forced out by ownership. The core of players he put together would win 289 games from 1990-1992, and garner three straight AL East titles.

His successor, Doughty, did not have the same impact. He did acquire Jay Bell from the Indians for Felix Fermin. He got Don Slaught from the Yankees. And he lucked into acquiring Neal Heaton for his one All Star season. But more often, he was overmatched. With his team in the playoff chase in 1990, he dealt Willie Greene, Scott Ruskin and a player to be named to Montreal for Zane Smith. That player, who Dougherty mistakenly named in his press conference, was Moises Alou. Later that month, he put prospects Wes Chamberlain (Baseball America’s #25 ranked prospect) and Julio Peguero on what he thought was revocable waivers. They turned out to be irrevocable waivers and the Phillies claimed both of them. After the 1991 season, Doughty was fired “because of my gross errors far outweighed my successes,” he told reporters. Before he left, however, he signed an undrafted amateur, Jason Christiansen, to a minor league contract in June. Christiansen would rise through the Pirates system and become a trusted lefty reliever by the mid 1990s.

After Doughty’s replacement, Ted Simmons, suffered a heart attack in 1992, Cam Bonifay was elevated to the General Manager’s job. His tenure, of course, was an utter disaster. The team lost 675 games across the next eight seasons, with a .451 winning percentage. And he was fired in June of 2011, with the team in the middle of a 100 loss seasons, and the club struggling with a 19-41 record. Bonifay garnered a reputation for handing out big contracts to mediocre players, including Kevin Young, Pat Meares, and Derek Bell. In the middle of sinking the Pirates to the depths of the National League, Bonifay made two minor pickups, drafting the immortal Rob Mackowiak in the 53rd round of the 1996 draft, and purchasing Ricardo Rincon from the Mexican League in 1997.

And from these three humble beginnings, the 2011 Pirates were born. Observe:

Monday, July 18, 2011

No Honor Among Thieves

By The Common Man

It’s no secret that Joe Mauer has struggled mightily in 2011. After hitting just .235/.289/.265 through his first nine games, Mauer went on the DL with mysterious leg and knee problems, which lasted until mid-June. He’s improved in the month that he’s been back, .270/.356/.315, but has been nowhere near himself. His GB/FB ratio is through the room at 1.78, and his extra-base hit percentage is down to 3.6% (his career numbers, respectively are 1.03 and 8.2%). Joe has, indeed, been a singles hitter in the first year of his eight-year contract extension.

Twins fans are (somewhat understandably) frustrated by their native son’s performance, and have begun booing Joe on occasion. Their frustration was given stupid, stupid voice through the following article, which TCM found via Baseball Think Factory, that suggests that Drew Butera has actually been more valuable to the Twins in 2011:

“No matter how you slice it, though, Mauer has hit one home run at Target Field as a $23 million a year player, and Drew Butera, one of the worst hitters in the major leagues, just tied him for home runs hit in the home park.

I anxiously embrace the great qualities we have with Mauer as a Twin, but no way, absolutely no way, should he make as much money as he does and not be able to hit the ball out of the park on a somewhat regular basis. The Boy Wonder's health issues have taken precedent over the highest-paid single hitter's lack of pop, but it remains a somewhat troubling part of the equation for the Twins. The guy gets home run money and he doesn't hit home runs. When the Twins gave him a contract that will keep him with the franchise, they did the right thing. But that doesn't mean he's not stealing money.”

Friday, July 15, 2011

SweetSpot Roundup 7/15

Today's Roundup is all about the future: trade deadline questions, second half previews, strength of schedule analysis, and more.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gift Ideas for 2011

By The Common Man

Today, as Aaron Gleeman points out, is friend of the blog Craig Calcaterra’s eleventy-millionth birthday. So a big congratulations to Craig. As an important reminder, The Common Man wants to remind you that you have just six shopping days left until his very own birthday. And, of course, you’ll be wanting to show TCM just how much you appreciate all the writing he’s done for you over the past 365 days. As he did last year, The Common Man is happy to provide you with gift ideas, based on what is available on Ebay. As always, how much you spend on The Common Man will be interpreted to be a direct reflection on how much you love him.

1888 Jack Glasscock baseball card, $60,000.00

Pebbly Jack Glasscock, of the Wheeling Glasscocks, was one of the best players in 19th century baseball. In his prime, he was a terrific hitter for Indianapolis and New York in the early National League, an excellent fielder. TCM rated him the 16th best shortstop of all time back in November. Dude also had a killer mustache.

Look, TCM gets this is an expensive item, but can’t you just appreciate how wonderful it would be to display a Glasscock card? This would be the focal point of any room.

19997 Twins Mariners Lineup Card, $63.99

OK, so that’s pretty expensive. It might be out of your price range. What about these official lineup cards from September 4, 1997 (not 1999, as the seller maintains) from the Twins’ loss to the Mariners? It’s a reminder for TCM in this disappointing Twins season, of how bad things used to be for the Twins and that things could always be worse. LaTroy Hawkins started and lost this contest, giving up 3 homers and 6 runs in five innings to drop his record to 5-10 and raise his ERA to 5.98. Ken Griffey homered twice in this one, raising his season total to 48, and Paul Molitor hit one for the Twins. Also prominently featured in the lineup is the immortal Brent Brede, who batted second and had four hits in the losing effort, Scott Stahoviak, who went 0-for-3 with a walk, and Rich Becker, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Ron Coomer, of course, batted cleanup. The price has already been reduced once, so snap it up before some other enterprising Dan Serafini fan gets it.

Obligatory Mid-Season Awards Post

By Bill

Because not everything has to be groundbreaking or something, dammit. These are just kind of fun.

Here's who I'd vote for for the big awards if the season ended today. I'm flying solo again; TCM and/or Mark can jump in with their own picks if they want to, but I'm just not feeling like a team player.

I'll also throw in who I expect to deserve it by year's end. Not who I think will win, of course -- I've long given up trying to figure that sort of thing out -- but who I think I'd vote for a few months from now.

Today: Jose Bautista (.334/.468/.702, 6.6 fWAR, 6.6 bWAR)
Easiest one first. Bautista leads the majors by a healthy margin in homers, OBP, SLG, and WAR. To get to Bautista's 6.6 fWAR from the AL runners-up's WAR (4.8 by Boston's Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury), you would have to add in one whole Mark Trumbo or Jeff Francoeur. It's not close.
End of the Season: Bautista. He's too far ahead, and with 7 homers and a .395 batting average in his first ten games of July, he's showing no sign of slowing down.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Some Regression This Way Comes

By The Common Man

Now that we’re at the “half-way” point of 2011 (although most teams have actually played around 90 games), it’s reasonable to look at players having unexpectedly strong seasons and wonder if they may be on to something. Indeed, it’s especially tempting of players whose success has driven their clubs into unexpected contention, and whose performance has been seemingly validated by an All Star berth, and announce that they have arrived, and are on the cusp of stardom. In many cases, that’s absolutely correct. But if you know anything by now, you know The Common Man prefers defeatism whenever possible. As such, here are 11 players who are going to regress in the second half:

Catcher: Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers

Avila has seemingly come out of nowhere to be the best hitting catcher in the American League. He’s hitting .286/.370/.506 with 10 homers and a 145 OPS+. He certainly flew through the minors, and has shown the potential to be a very strong hitting catcher in the past. But he’s not likely to maintain a .349 BABIP as the season wears on, and he’s going to start bumping up against his highest number of innings caught in a season as a professional sometime in August.

SweetSpot Roundup 7/13

Today's Roundup is made up almost entirely of two things: the All-Star Game and mid-season reviews. But they're really interesting things.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Too Many All Stars? Maybe Not Enough

By The Common Man and Bill

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about the sheer number of players who are considered All Stars this year. There were 84 at last count according to Hardball Talk. And, indeed, that number is staggering. Thanks to injuries, players who cannot attend for personal reasons, and pitchers who were used yesterday (and are therefore ineligible to play), it’s the most players who have ever been named All Stars in any given season. So we at The Platoon Advantage sympathize with Matthew Pouliot, who yesterday opined that “By the time the day ends, you and I might be All-Stars,” especially after he had to write update after update yesterday as the rosters changed. And we understand the concern of a shocked Morgan Ensberg, who asked, “Is my math wrong or is 10% of the league an All Star?”

Indeed, Ensberg isn’t wrong. According to our calculations, 12.3% of the Major Leaguers who have tallied more than 100 plate appearances or pitched more than 20 innings are All Stars this year. That does, indeed, seem like a lot.

However, the truth is that that’s not out of line with where the All Star Game has been in the past. After all, there are almost twice as many teams playing today as there were in 1933, when the All Star Game debuted. Rosters are larger, and the changing nature of the bullpen means that more pitchers have been deemed worthy All Stars. We looked on Baseball into every All Star Game from 1933-2010, to see exactly how much the term “all star” gets devalued when 84 players are so honored in 2011.  If you want to see the data as it was crunched, please click here.

All-Star Game Giveaway: Pick a Winning Haiku

On Friday, we offered you the chance to win a $75 gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods courtesy of Holiday Inn, the Official Partner of MLB Road Trips, who is doing a pair of contests related to next week's Home Run Derby and All-Star Game.  We asked you to submit your best 2011 MLB related haikus, and sat back and watched a bunch of them roll in.  The ranged from droll, to sentimental, to painful.  Here are the 10 best of the many excellent entries we received. Please, stick around and help us choose the winner.
(Please note: because some entrants sent us many, many entries, we picked a maximum of one from each finalist. Also, if you wrote one of these, don't have a link on your name, and want one, let us know and we'll update.)

SweetSpot Roundup 7/11

Ghostrunner on First (Blue Jays): Covetous Eyes
No, you can’t have Peter Bourjos. The Braves want him. Well, at least I want him for the Braves.

A nice piece on Greinke, who’s having one of the weirdest seasons in my recent memory.

That’s a very specific title.

View from the Bleachers (Cubs): The Case Against Jim Hendry Part B - Free-Agents
“And if Soriano’s deal ended this season, I’d say it was defensible.  But looking ahead at three more seasons of Soriano’s unmovable albatross of a contract, I think it’s clear the damage Hendry has done outweighs any value he brought back to the team.”

Dodger Thoughts: Crowd Control
"I just want to keep drawing more attention at this," Arietta said. "Frank comes out and says, 'I just keep doing this for the best interests for the community.' Does he not see what's going on?"

Friday, July 8, 2011

All-Star Game Giveaway

We're trying something new today. You know that normally, your reward for visiting this site is getting to read the brilliant stuff we have to say about baseball. Today, though, we'd actually like to reward you in a more material sense with a cool giveaway, where you'll receive actual stuff, not just intellectual stimulation. Holiday Inn, the Official Partner of MLB Road Trips, is doing a pair of contests related to next week's Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, and to spread the word, they're providing us with a $75 gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods to give away, along with some All-Star Game-related merchandise.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Joe West's Crew, Part 3: The Quickest Thumbs In the MLB

By The Common Man

Yesterday, we had fun recounting the myriad of men, women, children, and small pets that Joe West and his small band of enforcers have run out of Major League games over the course of 2011. And while that’s fun, it’s also decontextualized. It doesn’t tell us whether 17 ejections over the first half of the season is actually a lot, although it seems like a lot of ejections. It doesn’t tell us where West and company rank in the pantheon of modern ejectors.

So, to clear up ambiguities, The Common Man went through every box score from the 2011 season to date and threw all the ejections into a spreadsheet with relevant data. You can see the entire spreadsheet here, but here is a breakdown of the results:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Joe West's Crew, Part 2

By The Common Man

In early May, TCM wrote that it looked like Joe West and his crew were on pace to set some kind of new record for ejections in a season, given that they had tossed eight players, managers, and coaches in the first 30-35 games. As The Common Man wrote in the comments section of that post,

“The problem stems from the difference between this umpiring crew and every single other umpiring crew working today. This crew is less competent … and more reactionary (the sheer number of ejections is astounding) than any other crew working today.”

The umpires on West’s crew are confrontational, hold grudges, and are not held publically accountable for the atmosphere they help create where explosions are possible. Yes, the players and managers who get tossed may deserve it for their behavior, but these umpires are responsible for allowing games to get out of control. And it is happening a lot, and undermining the integrity of the baseball games that this crew has been working. Here is an updated list of everyone that Joe West and his crew have ejected in 2011:

SweetSpot Roundup 7/6

I was out in the humid DC weather all day yesterday, so we’re keeping this brief to get me some rest.

IIATMS (Yankees): The Beast
It is a little weird when it feels like CC Sabathia is being underrated.

Nick’s Twins Blog: Pulling Out All the Stops
Your 2011 2nd Half Guide to Success for the Twinkies.

I keep forgetting how good Gordon has been this season.

“It’s a sell high kind of situation.  If some desperate GM is willing to fork over a top notch prospect or two for Street, then I say do it.”

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): The Rangers’ July 2nd Haul
The Rangers continue to spend and build the farm system. Daniels may have made some mistakes early on, but he’s looking good as of late.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What's With All the Relievers?

By The Common Man

Bill briefly raised a great point in his post earlier today about the Red Sox and Yankees and their worthy inclusion in the All Star Game, and it’s something The Common Man has been thinking about since Tweeting about it on Sunday. Why in God’s name are so many relievers on the All Star teams?

Relief Pitcher isn’t really a position, it’s a role. It’s the same basic concept as a defensive replacement or a pinch hitter, and we don’t have All Star spots for them. In fact, it would be ridiculous to offer valuable All Star spots to Brooks Conrad or Ryan Sweeney, in spite of their valuable contributions off the bench.

And the vast majority of relief pitchers are just regular pitchers who were not good enough to start. Here are the relievers that have been selected to the All Star Game:

Are Yankees and Red Sox Disproportionately Represented in the All-Star Game?

By Bill

The All-Star rosters were announced yesterday, and were met as always with plenty of ire from all corners. Fans on pretty much every team think their team got the shaft, to the point that a pretty innocuous David Schoenfield post over on the SweetSpot blog has gotten thousands upon thousands of comments, almost all of them angry about something or other. A lot of complaints are justified, and maybe that’s a separate post (mostly, way too many relief pitchers and manager favoritism).

The most common complaints, though, revolve around the Yankees and Red Sox having too many representatives. Six of the nine fan-elected starters for the AL play for one of those two teams, and the player vote and Ron Washington added four more, meaning that 10 of the 33 players on the AL roster play for one of those two teams, about twice as many as you’d expect given even distribution (30% of the roster plays for teams comprising 15% of the league).

In the past, I've tended to have the same complaint, at least about the fan voting. The Yankees and Red Sox have a huge and obvious advantage, and in the past we’ve seen atrocities like Jason Varitek being voted in in 2005, or Mark Loretta in 2006. It can be really, really maddening.

This year, though? Of all the nits to be picked with both rosters, this one just falls flat. The sad truth (sad for those like me who despise both teams, that is) is that the Yankees and Red Sox, at least at the top end, are just that good. They’ve got 10 All-Stars between them, and I think that you could argue that in a pure meritocracy, they could make a case to have 14 or 15. Let’s consider them in turn:

Monday, July 4, 2011

This Week in 2001 (Week 13)

By Bill

By July 1 in 2001, we're about as close as possible to the exact halfway point of the season, as most teams have played either 80 or 81 games (about 3-4 games behind where we were on 7/1/11). Barry Bonds already has 39 home runs, Luis Gonzalez 32. Rookie Ichiro Suzuki is batting .345 with six triples and 27 steals; rookie Albert Pujols is batting .344/.411/.632 with 21 homers. The Rockies' big free agent signing of last winter, Mike Hampton, is 9-4 with a brilliant-for-2001-Coors 3.76 ERA, and Randy Johnson's just eleven shy of 200 strikeouts.

Here's one interesting thing from each day in the last week of the first half:

SweetSpot Roundup 7/4

Happy 4th! I'm not going to say you're not allowed to sit here and read this on a holiday (assuming it is indeed a holiday where you are), but if you do, it had better be the only baseball reading you do today. Get out of your mom's basement and take in a real ballgame, or your family or something...

Friday, July 1, 2011

SweetSpot Roundup 7/1

On today's roundup, teams start looking toward the trade deadline and other upcoming roster moves.