Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Attack of the Trout

By The Common Man

Last night, Mike Trout reminded us that he is, indeed, very good at baseball and going to get even better, hitting two homers off of a clearly overmatched Anthony Vasquez. In doing so, he became the 9th youngest person in baseball history to hit two homers in a game. Here’s the list:

Fredi Gonzalez: Saber Genius

By Mark Smith

As Spring Training 2011 approached, Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez headed to the gym to talk about plans for the upcoming season ...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Renaming the Divisions

By Bill

Last week, upon learning that the Twins had worked out a deal to send Jim Thome back to Cleveland, I tweeted this:!/Bill_TPA/status/106913895423295488
The idea being, obviously, that he's been such a prominent feature of that division for so long, and for multiple teams -- he's Cleveland's all-time home run leader, he won a World Series with um, played really well for the White Sox, and he hit his 600th homer with the Twins -- that he's just kind of the face of the division, and it would be kind of cool to go ahead and name the division after him. And "Thome Division" sounds a lot better to me than "Central Division." That's something you can get behind. Might even start seeing some (easily swayed) people take pride in their division, like in college football, if the divisions were named after something other than their relative geographic positioning.
It's fun having smart Twitter friends. In this case, it was Sam Miller of the Orange County Register (and other places) and Matthew Leach of who dove in and helped fill out the rest of the majors. 
So with a ton of help from those guys and a few other folks who joined in, we'll name the player after whom each division should be renamed. The criteria are like this: 
  • To be considered,  a player must have played for at least three teams within the same division.
  • Significant service on each one of at least three teams is the key; so a guy who played five years each as a regular with the Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays is a stronger candidate than a guy who spent twenty years with the Yankees and ten games apiece with the Rays and Jays.
  • This should go without saying, but the guy has to actually be commonly associated with that division. Pedro Martinez played for each of the Mets, Phillies, and Expos, but what division does he belong in, really? Right, the AL East. So he's out.
  • And it has to at least mostly have happened during the three-division era, starting in 1994. Donnie Moore played for the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers...but the Brewers were in the American League at the time, so that kind of defeats the purpose.
OK? So here are your new divisions:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Youth Should Be Served

By The Common Man

The Common Man believes that children are our future. If you teach them well, and let them lead the way, they’ll show you all the beauty they possess in side. At which point, you should totally capture that beauty and use it to better your franchise for the stretch run, which is what the White Sox and the Angels should definitely be doing.

The Sox may be finally getting it. With AJ Pierzynski out, they’ve been forced to turn to 25 year old Tyler Flowers, who has been waiting in Charlotte for three years for this shot. He’s making the most of it, hitting .273/.375/.473 in 64 plate apparances, with 2 homers. He’s also thrown out 26% of basestealers, a better percentage than either Pierzynski or Ramon Castro could muster this season and is even controlling balls in the dirt well. AJ, who has otherwise done a fine job at the plate this year, may find he doesn’t have a job when he gets back from his wrist injury.

Likewise, with Carlos Quentin recovering from a shoulder sprain, Dayan Viciedo has finally debuted for the Sox this year, going 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBI, and helping the Sox sweep the Mariners to take over 2nd place in the AL Central. The Sox have needed a powerful bat to pick up the slack left by Adam Dunn this year. Viciedo would seem to be that guy, and could transition easily into Juan Pierre’s spot in LF next year.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One Trade Deadline Is Enough (or one too many)

By Bill

All the news today (aside from the very sad news about Mike Flanagan) has to do with waivers. Players on waivers, players claimed off of waivers, players staying put because their team can't make a deal with the one team they're allowed to trade with because that team claimed the guy on waivers.

It's a pretty ridiculous process, and the results are boring and almost entirely meaningless. Hill and McDonald for Johnson. Kevin Kouzmanoff for nobody, really. There's a lot of stuff that could happen over the next week or so...but it probably won't.

Not that there haven't been big deals in the past. This page chronicles a lot of them, through 2000 (Bagwell for Anderson and Smoltz for Alexander being the biggest). But mostly, it's garbage. Alex Rios for literally nothing. The Rangers reacquire a used-up Ivan Rodriguez from the Astros, the Twins reacquire a used-up Eddie Guardado from the Rangers. And so on.

My question is: what's the point? What good are these rules doing? TCM covers a bit of the history of the trade deadline here, a history involving Babe Ruth and names like Joe Dugan and Irish Meusel and is recounted in much more detail here. The point of the original trade deadline, writes Brian Cronin -- and for a long time, it was June 15, not July 31 -- was to benefit poorer, less successful teams by preventing your New York Yankees and Giants from attempting to buy a championship, with cash, late in the season.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fix My Team!: The Houston Astros

By The Common Man

On Monday, the Astros were officially eliminated from playoff contention. Twenty-one more teams are going to join them before the season finally winds down, so we thought it would be appropriate to look at the clubs that fell short of the postseason this year, and consider how to fix them for 2012. What should their plans be? What moves should they make? And who should they count on going forward? Since the Astros were kind enough to volunteer to go first, TCM will tackle them today but all three of us will be tackling the also-rans between now and the end of the season.


There is no doubt that the Astros will continue to be bad in 2012. They are on pace to lose 109 games this year, and even with some improvement, a huge regression toward the mean and better luck (their Pythagorean W-L puts them on pace to lose just 100), they are not likely to crack the ninety loss barrier next year, especially after trading two (and potentially all three) of their best players before then.

That won’t win anything, so it’s best for the Astros to continue their slow rebuilding effort, adding young and inexpensive talent to the organization, and avoiding big moves. There is no one available in the offseason that’s worth the Astros breaking the bank over given what will likely be significant payroll restrictions in the near future and the natural desire of most elite free agents to play for a winner. There simply isn’t anyone in the mid-tier of free agents worth over-paying for a team this far out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Other Stuff Ted Leitner Probably Believes

By Bill

So the Padres had a nice ceremony to honor recent retiree Trevor Hoffman on Sunday afternoon, and three-decades-plus Pads radio announcer Ted Leitner said this:

And I know, baseball fans -- baseball broadcasters -- we love to argue. So we argue, who's better? Who's the best? But there is no argument ... This is not a Padre broadcast bias. It's not a Padre fan bias. We know this. The only true measure of a closer is how many saves did you get. So today, without any fear of argument, I tell you that, today, the San Diego Padres retire the number of truly -- by that benchmark, the only benchmark -- the greatest closer in the history of Major League Baseball.

Now. To be fair, this is almost certainly one of two things (or perhaps a little of both): a tongue-in-cheek comment meant to call down upon the guest of honor a warm round of knowing applause from the Padres faithful, or an attempt to get his name in the papers and piss off some Yankees fans (and he succeeded there -- check out where the link above came from). But the fact that he probably wasn't completely serious is no reason for me not to pretend he was. (It's not. Shut up.)

Here are some other only benchmarks Mr. Leitner might subscribe to:

Greatest Hitter: Pete Rose. That's the obvious one. The only true measure of a hitter is how many hits you get. Sure, Babe Ruth had 41 more total bases in almost 5000 fewer plate appearances, but Rose had almost 1400 more hits, so there's really no argument.

Greatest Base-Stealer: Pat Burrell. The key to successful basestealing, when you think about it, is this: not getting caught. And by one measure -- I submit to you the only measure -- Burrell is the best of all time at not getting caught. Among hitters with 5000 plate appearances since 1951 (since both leagues have continuously been keeping track of such things), Burrell has the fewest caught stealings, with just three in ten career attempts. So, it's conclusive. Ramon Hernandez, Paul Konerko and even Big Papi give him a run for his money, but Pat the Bat is the best.

Greatest Pitcher: Livan Hernandez. We can't say this conclusively, because Baseball-Reference only has this stat going back to 2000, but when you think about it, what is pitching all about? Pitch-ing. As in, the number of pitches you throw. We know this. And Livan has thrown the most over the last eleven-plus years, edging out the second-greatest, Javier Vazquez, by about 1600.

Greatest Teammate: Hughie Jennings. There are a lot of ways you might try to measure good-teammateness -- steak dinners or Rolexes purchased, sacrifice bunts, cover stories told to managers and/or wives, and so on. But haven't you ever heard of taking one for the team? Jennings did it an astounding 287 times, and in a short career. Craig Biggio came just two plunkings short of tying the almost-100-year-old record, which would've been a shame, since it took him literally twice as many plate appearances (a bit more, actually) to do it. Nobody was better at creating his own bodily harm than Ee-Yah, who is thus indisputably the greatest teammate in MLB history.

Greatest Defensive First Baseman: Tony Clark. We all know that the key to being a great first baseman is having a great stretch, which means being tall. And at 6'7", Tony the Tiger was as tall as they come, save a few pitchers. Q.E.D.

Greatest Cleanup Hitter: Eddie Murray. Really, there's nothing more quintessentially "cleanup hitter" than the sacrifice fly -- the guys in front of you get a man over to third, and your job is to get that runner home any way you can -- and Murray, since the stat has been tracked full-time (going back to 1954), leads all of baseball in that stat, with 128. Oddly, he's just one ahead of his long-time teammate, Cal Ripken, Jr. The two greatest #4 hitters of all time, on the same team? Seems like a waste.

So by now you've figured it out: this was just a really dumb excuse to play around with the Baseball-Reference Play Index and come up with some oddball leaderboards.

But the kind of interesting/depressing thing is that even if Leitner wasn't exactly speaking from the heart there, there are a lot of people who buy into what he was saying, just as there are still a lot of people who really think that Pete was the greatest hitter (but at least, you know, hits are objectively good things -- lots of saves aren't even that). Flipping through the comments -- and again, that article is on ESPN New York -- you can find a number of people who really do think that as of this moment, Hoffman is the better closer than Mariano Rivera because the former has racked up nine more career saves.

So I guess what I'm saying is: next time you say or do something really dumb, comfort yourself with the knowledge that you're still light years ahead of a lot of baseball fans out there.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Should Gardy Go?

By The Common Man

It’s kind of sad watching a delusional leader, whose life’s work is crumbling around him, deny responsibility for the fiasco, contradict the readily apparent reality, and fight with his own people. It’s the kind of out of touch, reactionary, and petty response one would expect only out of the most narcissistic and desperate leaders clinging to their jobs.

The Common Man is referring, of course, to Ron Gardenhire, who in a very leading Q&A with the St. Paul Pioneer Press and ripped his young players over “what he considers a general misunderstanding of baseball fundamentals on the part of his young players…. ‘We’re doing all this stuff so we don’t have to tell them. We shouldn’t have to. They should learn this in the minor leagues.’” In particular over the past several days, the Twins manager has called out Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Danny Valencia, and Alex Burnett.

It’s certainly easy to pinpoint the mistakes of these youngsters. None of the hitters have an OBP over .300 and Burnett’s ERA is just under 6.00. Their performances have not been good, to say the least. However, Gardenhire goes further, questioning the wisdom of Burnett’s pitch selection to Francisco Cervelli (never mind that the pitch was called by Joe Mauer), Plouffe’s baserunning (which was poor) and his defense (which…come on, he’s been asked to play 6 different positions this year, and was never considered a defensive whiz to begin with), and Valencia’s focus and defense.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Feeling Out of Place

By The Common Man

As most of you know, because of the Twins’ reluctance to put anyone on the Disabled List until at least a week after they injure themselves, their idiotic insistence on carrying 12 pitchers, and Luke Hughes inability to find the correct gate at the airport (seriously dude, they speak English in Australia, right? Just follow the signs), the Twins were left with no bench yesterday and had to put Joe Mauer out in right field against the Yankees. Mauer was allegedly not very pleased with the prospects of having to don an outfielder’s glove, but did so anyway. It’s hard for The Common Man to have a lot of sympathy for Joe, however, given that it’s become increasingly apparent that he should move out from behind the plate, TCM would prefer him in rightfield in 2012, and Joe gets paid a whole lot of money anyway regardless of where the Twins put him on the diamond.

It’s also worth noting that Mauer is hardly the first elite player to play out of position for a game or more. Adrian Gonzalez played right field earlier during Interleague Play to try and keep David Ortiz’s bat in the lineup. Yogi Berra and Carlton Fisk played a lot of outfield in their heydays (although the Fisk experiment was a failure), Johnny Bench played some third base and centerfield. And Gary Carter moved all over the diamond to keep his bat in the lineup. And as Bill pointed out on our weekend gig at Getting Blanked a few weeks ago, there is a long and proud tradition of great players who got stuck playing out of position, sometimes for games at a time. In fact, there are so many, that TCM’s got nine more right here, all of whom were pressed into service for one reason or another:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Twenty Guys Who Should Be Out of the Hall of Fame

By Bill

Yesterday, SweetSpot's David Schoenfield came up with one of those fun posts you usually only see in the dreary baseballless (three L's!) months of December and January: "Ten guys who should be in the Hall of Fame," in which he names the one player at each position, among those with HOF eligibility who aren't in yet, that he believes should be. Some of the choices (Larry Walker, Kevin Brown) are pretty surprising and controversial to a lot of people, but I actually agree with all of them with the exception of Dale Murphy, and given his one-line description, I got the sense that Mr. Schoenfield probably wasn't a big believer in Murphy either. You need a centerfielder, and until Jim Edmonds, Kenny Lofton and Andruw Jones are eligible, there won't really be any huge snubs out there at that position.

Anyway. The most common complaint in the comments to the piece -- other than "put Pete Rose in!!!!" which was brilliant since, you know, Pete isn't actually eligible and so doesn't qualify for consideration -- was that the Hall has become too "watered down" recently, was intended to be for the best of the best, and shouldn't be cheapened by including any of David's picks.

Which is baloney for a number of reasons, chief among them that, as I've written at length before, that's just a misstatement of or ignorance over what the Hall of Fame actually is. It's never been for the best of the best; the Hall was founded in 1936, and it took all the way until the fourth class in 1939 for them to induct Candy Cummings (a mediocre short-career pitcher who definitely didn't invent the curveball) and until the fifth for Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance (who were the subjects of a poem, not actually poets, in much the same way Tommy John doesn't deserve much credit for Tommy John Surgery, and were not great baseball players). The Hall has been "watered down" since at least year four, and has been proceeding at about the same level ever since.

But enough of that. Each of Schoenfield's ten (save Murphy, at least) is a lot closer to the median Hall of Famer at his position than he is to the bottom of the list, so they wouldn't contribute to the watering-down at all. But, there are a lot of guys in the Hall who just don't belong under any reasonable standard. So let's kick twenty of them out, un-dilute the pool a little bit, and then we'll have plenty of room freed up for David's ten. I'll do what Schoenfield did and go by position, except that there aren't even two DHes in the Hall, so I'll add in two extra players at other positions and skip DH. And: just to be different, I won't even use Jim Rice, even though everyone knows (or should know) that he doesn't belong. So here we go:

Why Throwing at Hitters Is Unacceptable. Period.

By Mark Smith

When I was nine years old, I had to have set a record for the most HBPs in one season. In the like 20 games, I must have been hit 12 or 13 times. Miraculously, I never charged the mound or hit a batter on purpose (though, considering my wildness as a pitcher, I might have hit quite a few myself; I tried to block out that whole pitching thing, so I don’t remember) in retaliation. Granted, I was nine, and nine-year olds generally don’t do that stuff. Then last week happened, and the Little Leaguer from New Mexico hit and admired a home run during one of the Little League World Series regional championship games. All of a sudden, people started clamoring for the kid or one of his teammates to get hit. WHAT?!?

I used to understand the sentiment in regard to major-league players. It sent a message and protected teammates, but I was like 12 then and held grudges. I hope we can all agree that having pre-teens throw at each other is a bad idea. Sure, it wasn’t the best thing in the world for him to admire the shot, but don’t you think the coach or a league administrator (if the coach didn’t) could just pull the kid aside and tell him not to do it again?

This is one of those times where I actually think major-leaguers do set a bad example for kids. Retaliation by attempting to throw at or hit a batter is always unacceptable. I said so during the Zambrano fiasco where he tried to hit Chipper, and someone said that I’d be fighting an uphill battle on that. Well, I’m here to fight that battle. Here are the common defenses for throwing at a hitter and why they don’t actually make sense.

It’s an unwritten rule.

First, if it’s an unwritten rule, that means they didn’t write it down somewhere, and if they didn’t write it down and put it in the official rulebook, then it’s not a rule worth keeping. Common law used to be law done by precedents and oral tradition, but eventually, people realized it would be best if those were actually written down. Second, not everyone follows that rule because it’s not written down as an official rule. Some abuse the use of it, and some don’t use it at all. If you don’t see it coming, then we have that whole message mix-up from the next section. Third, it’s machismo. That’s all it is. Some guy was offended because a guy dared throw inside and hit him. He’s offended, and because he has the respect of his teammates, they feel they need to stick up for him or lose his respect/friendship. He wants payback, and because the pitcher doesn’t want everyone to hate him, he throws at a hitter. We teach our kids about not letting pride get the best of them, and we admire a saying like “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. Yet, we, then, advocate this action on a baseball field. Can someone explain that to me?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yet Another Slugger Linked to PEDs...By Random Trolling Columnist With Zero Evidence

By The Common Man

In the wake of Jeff Miller’s reeking post about Jim Thome and his baseless accusation that Thome used steroids (TCM won’t link to the actual article, which is a classic attempt to troll the internet. Instead, read Matthew Pouliot’s takedown on HardballTalk), The Common Man wants to skip his usual rant about the dangers of idiots with media credentials, who seem to think that their journalism degree gives them license to essentially slander another person with the charge of PED use. And he’s skip the lecture about the hypocrisy of the mainstream sports media, who refuse to call out one of their own for such disgusting, unfounded allegations, despite the fact that the mainstream media would (rightfully) pillory an unaffiliated blogger who made similar claims. Instead, The Common Man wants to tell you a story.

Why I've Realized Statistics Are Stupid

By Mark Smith

Because good advertising agencies make commercials thinking, “I think teenagers will like this.”

Because businesses would never advocate spending their money efficiently.

Because the FDA and drug companies put new medicines on the market without considering the consequences.

Because it’s a bad idea to invest when I could just buy happiness now.

Because Frederick Taylor wasted his time trying to make manufacturing quicker and easier.

Because you want your doctor making a “gut call” when it comes to diagnosing your illness.

Because traffic lights and patterns were designed based on what someone thought would work best (maybe I shouldn’t use that one, huh?).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Delightful Departure of Delmon Young

By The Common Man

Around 2:00 yesterday afternoon, The Common Man suddenly felt about 200 lbs. lighter, like a gigantic weight had been lifted off his shoulders. That weight, Delmon Young, was traded by the Twins to the division rival Detroit Tigers for a minor league pitcher and a player to be named later. Who are these mysterious young men? Literally, it doesn’t matter.  As TCM wrote in July, he'd have welcomed a bucket of balls in return for jettisoning Delmon.

Ok, maybe it does a little bit. The one player we know the Twins got, Cole Nelson, is a Minnesota native and, according to Kevin Goldstein, should only be viewed as a reliever going forward, due to his lack of a second plus pitch. He’s probably not anyone to keep a close eye on going forward. (Update: the Twins are reporting that the second player they've acquired is 23 year old reliever Lester Oliveros, who Kevin Goldstein describes as a "Smallish right-hander...[who] has two plus pitches...and some think he could get to Detroit as early as this year if he throws more strikes."  TCM's reaction? Mmm...strikeouts.  This trade keeps looking better.)

But that’s fine. The trade of Delmon Young is the quintissential “Great trade! Who’d we get?” deal, given that Delmon is a bad player who costs his team runs on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Unloading him is addition by subtraction, allowing the Twins to give Ben Revere the playing time he needs, at a position where he can succeed, to develop into a valuable regular for 2012, 2013, and beyond. It also removes the temptation to keep Delmon around this offseason (though he was obviously a non-tender candidate), removing one obstacle to potentially keeping either Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel around. The Twins simply had too many playable outfielders, and moving Young allows them to jettison the worst of them and to not have to pay the remainder of his contract.

On Jimmers and 600 Taters

By Bill

A few thoughts on everyone's favorite half-giant, Jim Thome, while I ponder the fact that since the last time I wrote here (just a little more than two weeks ago, before the big move and starting a new job and so forth), Dan Uggla's OPS has gone up about a hundred points:

  • Thome's been a Hall of Famer for like five years now. He hit his 500th home run way back in 2007. His 70.8 rWAR is fourth among active players (behind A-Rod, Pujols, and Chipper, and ahead of Jeter), and tenth all-time among first basemen (using a 40% cutoff; Thome didn't quite play half of his career games at first). If you hear anyone speak of his 600th home run as though it makes or even just significantly strengthens his Hall of Fame case, you have my permission to slap them.* Hard.* Case made, quite a while ago. Big round numbers are fun, but not necessary.
  • That said, is anyone actually doing or saying those things? I feel like a lot more people are complaining about his being underrated than are actually underrating him at this point. Yeah, over the course of his career, he's been unfairly overlooked. Now, though, I think almost everyone realizes how great he's been (more or less), and I don't get the sense that many more Hall of Fame voters would pick him today than would have yesterday morning (there are a few that wouldn't in either case, but they're morons beyond hope and aren't worth discussing). I could be wrong.

  • Speaking of being overlooked during his time, though, Thome has started just two All-Star Games and made just five All-Star teams. The game wasn't even instituted until Babe Ruth's second-to-last full season, and he started two ASGs. No one else in the top eleven in homers started fewer than five or been named to fewer than seven.
  • Thome was drafted as a shortstop, played 40 games there in the minors, and then played exclusively third base until his age-26 season. As a rookie, he looked like this, then quickly got huge. He hit with modest power in the minors, then averaged just 34 homers per season from age 24 to 29, then 46 per season in his five healthy seasons between ages 30 and 35. I'd never accuse anybody of taking anything -- I have no evidence, and if I did, I wouldn't care -- and least of all Thome, possibly my favorite active player. But it just illustrates to me how insane the whole PED witch hunt is. It seems to me that there's exactly as much evidence of PED use in Thome's career as in Jeff Bagwell's (that is to say, no evidence), but that one is assumed to be "clean" and one "dirty" for no reason I can figure other than that Thome apparently enjoys the hell out of a cheeseburger, fries and a beer every now and again.

  • Or maybe I'm wrong, and maybe people do suspect Thome. Or will come to sometime in the next six or seven years. That's even more ridiculous, so much so that I don't even think I can talk about it.

  • As Craig Calcaterra pointed out on Twitter, Thome hit his first home run when "I Adore Mi Amor" by Color Me Badd was the #1 song in the country. Also worth noting: Thome was drafted in 1989, before Mike Stanton, Jason Heyward, and Starlin Castro were born. When he made his MLB debut a bit over two years later, on September 4, 1991, the youngest player of the 2011 season to date, Mike Trout, turned four weeks old. The pitcher off of whom he hit that first home run, Steve Farr -- and it was a ninth-inning two run homer that turned a 2-1 loss to the Yankees into a 3-2 Cleveland win -- is now 54 years old. Thome went 0-for-4 with a walk and two K's against Nolan Ryan, now 64.
Anyway, a hearty congratulations to Jim Thome on a really tremendous accomplishment. I've never met Thome and I don't really know anything about him as a person, but he sure seems like one of the real, genuine good guys, and is possibly the only player I've ever actively rooted for while he was wearing a White Sox uniform. Last night was just one of those good nights for baseball.

* My permission has no legal effect. Don't slap people.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sign Stealing Allegations Ring False

By The Common Man

Amy K. Nelson and Peter Keating are taking a lot of heat today for their story in ESPN The Magazine about the Toronto Blue Jays allegedly stealing signs. Nelson in particular, has had to deal with a ton of sexist, misogynist crap on Twitter, on her Facebook page, and probably on the ESPN article itself. That’s wrong. It’s freaking wrong. It is 2011, and The Common Man thinks it’s ridiculous that anyone should have to put up with the hateful crap being leveled at Nelson today. If you want to dispute Nelson and Keating’s contentions, do it with evidence, not with vitriol. Do it with numbers and facts, not with personal degrading insults that suggest that women don’t have a place in sports journalism. They do, dammit. If you’re going to criticize Nelson and Keating, do it like this:

STFU LoMo and important links from important people

By The Common Man

The Common Man loves Logan Morrison. You love Logan Morrison. We all love Logan Morrison. But seriously, Logan Morrison should STFU. Yesterday, after the Marlins put Hanley Ramirez on the DL with a strained shoulder, he told reporters,
“What we don’t have is experience and a veteran who is in the lineup every day that can be an anchor for us. We don’t have it…. He’s not there every game. It’s 162 games. It’s not a 100-game season.” (h/t to Aaron Gleeman)

That’s ridiculous. Hanley Ramirez has been incredibly durable until this year. From 2006-2009, he averaged 154 games a year. Last year, he played in 142 games, though he missed 9 of the last 11. Meanwhile, Morrison broke his thumb in 2009 and missed 57 games in the minors. In 2010, his season got off to a late start when a collision in the field left him with shoulder soreness for about 25 days. And this year, Morrison missed 21 games with a foot sprain. Since his (somewhat delayed) debut on July 27 last year, Morrison has played 155 out of a total of 180 possible games. Ramirez has played 138 of those games. While TCM is sure it’s frustrating when Ramirez is not out there, it’s hard to say that he’s been taking much more time off than LoMo.

LoMo would also be smart to remember what happened the last time Ramirez tried to play through an injury. With his back and knees ailing, Ramirez hit just .210/.306/.309 through the first two months of the season. He wasn’t driving the ball, and posted just a .236 BABIP thanks to his weak contact. Since coming off the DL, the much improved shortstop has hit .280/.365/.459. It’s still not quite what we’ve come to expect out of Hanley, but it’s much improved. And the hope is that with additional time to heal this offseason, he’ll come back and be his normal durable self in 2012.

Finally, and this is perhaps the most important part, the Marlins aren’t playing for anything right now. According to Baseball Prospectus, they have a 0.0% chance of making the postseason. They are last in the NL East, 22 games back of the Phillies and 13.5 games back of the Braves for the Wild Card. There is literally no chance they will be playing in October. To risk the long-term health of the team’s best player because Logan Morrison wants to have a veteran player be an “anchor,” would be the height of irresponsiblity. If Logan Morrison wants someone on the team to hit the damn baseball, perhaps he might consider contributing a little, given that he’s hit .233/.307/.430 since coming off the DL on May 13.

(David Gershman, of Marlins Daily, has a similar take on Morrison's knuckleheadedness.)


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You Know You're Done When ...

I used to love watching the History Channel because I love learning about history. It, then, became the Nazi Channel, and it’s now the Reality TV Channel. In between those two stages, it went through an Armageddon phase in which it talked about the end of the world, and it focused quite a few shows on Nostradamus. While Nostradamus is an interesting and notable part of history, I always thought the History Channel gave him way more legitimacy than he deserved, and I definitely didn’t need four different shows telling me it may have been his son that did some of his last predictions. Don’t get me wrong. I like predictions, but I don’t like when people make predictions like they know what’s going to happen, which leads us to this post. We’re going to play a little game. I’m going to give you 19 phrases/sentences telling you what teams I think are out of the playoffs, but you'll have to guess which team the phrase/sentence is referring to. At the end, you’ll know my playoff predictions, but understand that I make these predictions knowing they may well be wrong, though they may have an air of certainty behind them. Feel free to argue my predictions, but please understand that I make them for the sake of fun.

You Know You’re Done When …

1) No one can spell your best player’s name, even though he’s one of the best players in his league.

2) You’re a bird. Baseballs destroy birds. (3 teams)

3) You tell your best pitcher to “pitch to contact”, even though he’s good because he strikes out so many hitters, just to fit within an organizational philosophy.

4) You have the worst run-differential in baseball. That’s probably not useful. Just sayin’.

5) You trade away your ace mid-season. Playoff contenders generally don’t do such things.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

That Doesn't Make Any Sense

By Mark Smith

While I was up in DC, we took several trips around the city that were guided by a professor from American University who had lived in DC all of his life. He was kind of a crazy looking man. His white hair was curled upward in a mad scientist kind of way. He wore a jacket in 90+ degree weather. He wore wool socks and sandals. And he was missing quite a few teeth. Despite his rather odd appearance, he was one of the more intelligent people I’ve ever met, and the man can tell you literally anything you would want to know about Washington, DC.

During one of the trips around some important DC sites for the civil rights movement, he was talking about something (I don’t remember what it was; it was 95+ and humid, and my focus was waning as the tour neared 4 hours), and all of a sudden, he yelled, “It doesn’t make any God DAMN sense.” Usually, the emphasis comes on “God”, but he used it on “damn”, with much more emphasis than any of the other words, and the “damn” comes very immediately after “God” to sound more like “godDAMN sense”.

Anyway, I was watching a game the other day, and I started noticing quite a few phrases that often come up in baseball that don’t make any sense if you think about the literal words used. Language is kind of funny that way. The following phrases are just a small part of the ones that we use, but they all came from somewhere and made/make sense depending on the perspective. For people who have been around the game a while, they generally understand what they meant, but they would probably require quite a bit of explanation to novice baseball fans. I thought it would be a fun exercise to go through a few of them.

Monday, August 8, 2011

5 Reasons to be Optimistic About the Twins in 2012

By The Common Man

The Common Man took in the final game of the Twins’ weekend series against the White Sox yesterday, from the comfort/searing heat of the leftfield corner of Target Field. It turns out that watching the Twins lose 7-0 to their biggest rivals to complete a three-game series sweep is a great way to abandon all hope for the 2011 season, so TCM is ready to move on.

By amazing coincidence (or excellent stalking), TCM discovered that the one and only Mr. Horrorpants, writer of The Cedar Falls Hoose-Cows, an online baseball-related murder-mystery novel, and hilarious Twins fan worthy of your time and effort on Twitter, was seated across the aisle. Over beers, Horrorpants (that’s obviously not his real name, but The Common Man challenges you to demonstrate that it’s not infinitely more awesome than any given name could possibly be) opined 2012 didn’t look to good for the Twins either.

TCM is a sucker, however, and ever-hopeful, and so he immediately began to argue that it’s too early to write off 2012 just yet. Here’s why:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Astronomically Unlikely ERA of Pitchers From New Ulm, Minnesota

By The Common Man

With the last out of last night’s Twins win, our giveaway here at The Platoon Advantage came to an end. As a refresher, in honor of Bill’s move to rural Southwest Minnesota, we asked the question: “What is the combined ERA of every pitcher who was ever born, died, or buried in New Ulm, Minnesota?”

The hard part, undoubtedly, was identifying the pitchers who hailed from this small town. If you go to Baseball, you’ll find a player bio page, that allows you to see every player who was born, died, and buried in each state. After clicking on Minnesota, you can sort the results by city. As it turns out, there is one player buried in New Ulm, though he was a position player. No former MLBers have died there either. Of the six players who were born there (a remarkable number, given the town is just 13,000 people strong today, two of them are pitchers. They are Doc Hamann and Fred Bruckbauer.

In all of baseball history, there are 21 pitchers who were inserted into games and never recorded an out in their entire MLB career. Two of those players are Doc Hamann and Fred Bruckbauer. What are the odds? Probably astronomical.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Great Giveaway For Twins Fans

By The Common Man

How German is New Ulm? There's a
monument to this Germanic dude who
fought the Romans.
Bill’s probably going to be out of the rotation for the rest of this week, since he and his family are moving from bustling Chicago to sleepy hamlet New Ulm, MN today. Bill’s excited for the new start, but will be understandably preoccupied. For a city of just 13,000 people, New Ulm is actually a fairly interesting place. It’s probably the most German city in the world outside of, you know, Germany. And may very well have a higher percentage of Germans living there than even some of Germany’s larger cities at this point. The Bavarian culture is visible everywhere, from the architecture to the menus, which are often written in both English and German. Crazy.

New Ulm is also the birthplace for what seems like a large number of baseball players, given its relative size, although only two have had more than 20 plate appearances. So, to celebrate Bill’s big move, we’re going to run another giveaway here on The Platoon Advantage.

If you’ve been following various Twins blogs over the last week, you may have noticed that A&E Home Video has released the entire 1991 World Series on DVD, complete with both the TV broadcast and the Twins radio broadcast (for those of you, like The Common Man, who could use a good Herb Carneal fix), and a DVD celebrating the Twins' championship season. The Common Man got his own review copy, and the good people at A&E Home Entertainment were kind enough to promise another set to a winner of TCM’s choosing.

The Common Man is making his way through Game 1 as we speak, and it’s still exciting to watch Jack Morris wiggle out of trouble and Greg Gagne hit a big homerun off Charlie Liebrandt. It’s also strange to remember a time when Tim McCarver wasn’t annoying or crazy. And Jack Buck is, of course, the epitome of excellence doing the play-by-play. Relive the thrill of Kirby’s Game 6, Morris’ Game 7, and of Brian Harper’s excellent mustache/mullet combo (available in all 7 games!). It’s well worth your time and your money, and will help get you through the Twins-less postseason this year, since you can just pop in a DVD and pretend.

And wouldn’t you rather watch Greg Gagne and Dan Gladden than Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Delmon Young anyway? Isn’t the baby-faced Chuck Knoblauch better than Matt Tolbert? And isn’t Scott Erickson more fun to watch than Nick Blackburn? You know it’s true. So, please, even if you don’t win these DVDs on TPA, head to A&E home video to purchase them. You can also go to to buy the 1987 World Series on DVD, as well as Twins tickets or other merchandise.

OK, so here’s how the contest is going to work:

Step 1: Answer a trivia question correctly by emailing the answer to The Common Man before the end of the Twins game tomorrow night (Wednesday) at the email address listed on the sidebar to the right.

Step 2: From the correct answers we receive, we will choose a winner at random on Thursday.

Got it? Cool. The question is:

What is the combined ERA of every pitcher who was ever born, died, or buried in New Ulm, Minnesota? Be sure to show your work!

Good luck!

Tuesday Trade Tree: What You Get When You Kiss a Fat Toad Goodbye

By The Common Man

It’s probably fair to say that Hideki Irabu didn’t know what he was getting into when he forced a trade away from the San Diego Padres in May of 1997. Irabu was defiant from the start when the Padres acquired the exclusive rights to negotiate with him, saying he would only play for the Yankees. Hailed as having a 100 mph fastball, and a 90 mph splitter, Irabu was called the Nolan Ryan of Japan and billed as the savior of the Yankees pitching staff when he was acquired earlier that year.

But the pitcher that showed up had trouble reaching the mid-90s with that fastball, displayed a great deal of emotional immaturity, and pitched poorly, and did so in the biggest media fishbowl this side of the Royal Family. Irabu may have wanted New York, but he wasn’t made for New York, at least right away. He might have wanted Steinbrenner, but he wasn’t ready for Steinbrenner, and the way the Boss switched between calling a player as the greatest thing since Cy Young and a “fat toad.”

So when Irabu followed up his nine strikeout debut with three straight stinkers, he was not ready when his owner, the media, and the crowd turned on him. Ultimately, he probably would have benefitted from starting his career in San Diego, where the pressure would have been less crushing.

Yankees fans never forgave Irabu for not living up to their expectations, even though he provided decent production for a backend starter in 1998 and 1999, and the Yankees won consecutive World Series. And perhaps, Irabu never forgave himself, given that his death last week has been ruled a suicide. It’s a sad end for a man who came to New York like Caesar after conquering Pompey. But for as little as Yankees fans liked Irabu, they owe him a debt of gratitude. Because, beginning with the offseason trade to the Expos in 2000, the Yankees have built a foundation of players that has helped them to remain the powerhouse of the American League. Observe:

Monday, August 1, 2011

GMs Are Not Idiots

By Mark Smith

There are these times when I kind of forget that I know things. I had to run some errands the other day--birthday gift for sister-in-law, birthday card to go with gift, and a few random things from Kroger. My sister-in-law wanted the Game of Thrones books for her birthday (I recommend these by the way; I’m one and a half in, and they’re pretty good, not LOTR good but good), so I headed to a nearby Borders. When I arrived there, I realized that it had been closed, so I decided I would go to a Books-A-Million not too far away. Now, I had this all planned before I left--go to Borders, swing back to Kroger to get both the card and other items, and go a back way home to miss traffic--but that had just been wrecked. My new plan was Books-A-Million and a Kroger and Hallmark near there for card and other items.

So I went to the Books-A-Million, and I spent entirely too much time in there. It happens. I like books, and I end up walking around for 45 minutes looking for nothing in particular and already having found what I came for 40 minutes earlier (of course, I walk around with the books in my hand the entire time despite the fact that there were plenty of them, and I could have left them there and come back after I was done wandering). Finally deciding to leave and buy the books, I walk up to the cash register, go through the rigmarole of various advantages I can get by getting this card, tell him no, and buy the books without saving the three dollars. I get in the car, and I realize that going back to the first Kroger would be out of my way. I get kind of frustrated before I realize that there’s this other Kroger on my way home on a different route, and it has a Hallmark next to it to get the card. I feel very clever until I realize that I had figured this out an hour ago. Ugh.

The same thing happens with me and baseball sometimes. I don’t know how many times I have to remind myself that GMs aren’t stupid, and that we don’t know what they do. I figured this out a few years ago, but every trade deadline/off-season, I fall back into the habit of criticizing GMs based off of information I don’t really have. It’s really easy to do. Everyone’s doing it, and we have this habit of evaluating everything immediately even though it can’t really be judged for a few years. But let’s all remind ourselves, considering the time of year we are in, that GMs are not morons, and we don’t have all the information.