Monday, October 31, 2011
Happy Halloween, everybody! You know, The Common Man really has to apologize for not being around more over the last couple weeks. The newest addition to The Common Man’s family, a little baby Girl who shall be henceforth known as The Girl, coupled with The Boy’s growing precociousness, has played havoc with TCM’s schedule. Plus, if you didn’t know, TCM writes during the week on Getting Blanked now (his weekly post is up today on that site, comparing the 2011 season to classic horror movies) and is posting twice a week on NotGraphs (his first post, in which you can see his beautiful baby girl is here). So things are busy.
But TCM doesn’t intend to neglect The Platoon Advantage this offseason. He knows where he came from and who he has to thank for all of these recent developments. Plus, with Bill, Jason, and Mark around, our site will be churning out quality stuff all offseason. Anyway, in honor of All Hallow's Eve and our renewed acquaintance in these pages, please enjoy this team of All-time Movie Monsters:
Saturday, October 29, 2011
by Jason Wojciechowski
What a World Series.
|You have won!|
First. Who needs Matt Holliday anyway? Allen Craig did Allen Craig things (opposite-field homer in the bottom of the third to make it 3-2) and also not-really-Allen-Craig things (taking a probable homer away from Nelson Cruz in the top of the sixth) and was rewarded by the baseball gods with an easy fly ball to him to close out the championship.
Mike Napoli is probably still my MVP of the series (I haven't looked at it carefully), but Allen Craig did some tremendous work in this game and Game Six, one of the most memorable contests of all time.
Friday, October 28, 2011
by Jason Wojciechowski
A few quick notes before I get to the actual game. First, a bad: I missed everything that happened from 9:00 pm to 9:20 pm Pacific. What that covers is Elvis Andrus's tenth inning single through the beginning of Lance Berkman's at-bat in the bottom of the tenth. What the play-by-play indicates is that I did not see Josh Hamilton with a big homer to put Texas in a position, again, to take the trophy, nor did I see Darren Oliver allow singles to Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay, of all people, leading off the bottom of the tenth, nor did I see Kyle Lohse laying down a pinch-sacrifice, nor did I see Ryan Theriot hit an RBI groundout, nor did I see Albert Pujols being intentionally walked. If any of those plays involved some sort of major good or bad that is omitted below, now you know why. (Hamilton's homer seems like a very likely Good that I cannot in good faith write about. Sorry, Josh.)
Second, another bad: I have no idea when I'm going to get to watch Game Seven. I'm committed to a housewarming party tomorrow night, and then I have to be in bed early so I can run a 5K (a benefit for Homeboy Enterprises) on Saturday morning. I will do a Three Good, Three Bad about the game, but it'll be quite late, and I'm not sure whether I'll read the score or try to keep myself pure for the delayed watching on Saturday afternoon.
Third, a good: GAME SEVEN!
First. David Freese hits a walk-off homer to keep his team's season alive. The ball looked good off the bat, the outfielders read it as a homer, and the dogpile commenced. For some reason, Freese's teammates felt it would be appropriate to tear his jersey completely from his body in the course of celebrating. I'm not sure what that was about, but hey, you get your kicks where you can. Then again, maybe it was justified because ...
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
It's kind of easy to forget, considering how well they've played through the playoffs, about that whole amazing run that got the Cardinals to where they are right now, two home wins away from winning the World Series. For most of the year, the Cards were just about an average team (and in a pretty bad division), and ended with just 90 wins even after that great final stretch. Should they go on to win the Series, they'll be just the fourth team since the 162-game schedule was put in place in 1961, and the seventh ever (not counting seasons shortened by war or a strike), to have won the championship with as few as ninety wins.
Below is my own completely unscientific and highly subjective ranking of the eight "worst" teams ever to win it all. (I have no idea why it's eight: I guess that's just how many teams there were that I felt like writing about. Or, perhaps, because it's Nick Punto's uniform number. Either way.) Keep in mind that this isn't really intended as a slight, and any championship season is a great championship season: it happens that my favorite single-year team of my lifetime is on this list. Another thing is that, as you might imagine, relatively recent teams dominate the list: it's just a lot easier for a bad team to make it to, and therefore win, the Series if you don't actually need to be the best team in your whole league to qualify.
by Jason Wojciechowski
|Dude. DUDE. BEHIND YOU.|
First. Nick Punto hit a bloopy liner thing to left in the top of the second. I think David Murphy broke the wrong way initially, but then started in the right direction and wound up making a diving catch to end the inning. For some reason, Punto carried the bat with him all the way down to first. Upon seeing the Murphy catch, he Hulked out and smash-- no, I'm sorry, he Bruce Bannered out and tried to break his bat across his knee, only to fail miserably and grump his way back to the dugout.
I would recommend that any other middle infielders out there harboring illusions of being Bo Jackson work those issues out at home / on the couch. Just talk it out, guys, and go do what you do best: scrap.
Monday, October 24, 2011
by Jason Wojciechowski
We're all evened up ...
|Happier times for Lackey|
First ... which is my first favorite of the night. The result of the game means that we're down to a best of three series and an excellent chance of seeing a World Series Game 7 for the first time since the Angels beat the Giants in 2002, winning 4-1 behind a three-run double from Garret Anderson. Since most of you reading this aren't Cardinals or Rangers fans, the best we can hope for is as much baseball as possible. Right now, we're getting that.
By the way, TV announcers for that 2002 World Series? Joe Buck, Tim
MacGy McCarver. The more things change, the more ... I despair that the important things will always stay the same.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
by Jason Wojciechowski
Good gracious was that a lot of baseball.
|Putting together incomprehensible senstences from just |
bits of string and stray memories.
First. Albert Pujols, duh. Three homers, all after the fifth inning, five hits, an uncountable infinity of runs created. My original notes to say something nice about Pujols came in the fifth inning, when he laced a line drive single up the middle. I wanted to talk about what a thing of a beauty his swing is, the controlled force and elegant length of it, how right-handed batters, I think because of the direction their momentum carries them and the way they have to reverse that momentum to start running to first, typically don't have swings that immediately please us the way lefties do (and which also inspired a Tim
MacGyver McCarver ramble late in the game about how teams should have lefty/righty hitting coaches), with Pujols the notable exception. All of this becomes a tad trite when a man hits three homers in a World Series game, though. Of course he has an amazing swing.
Friday, October 21, 2011
After the game, as we learned this morning, Pujols was nowhere to be found in the locker room. Similarly, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman were absent as well. Jeff Passan complained that Pujols’ decision to leave early showed “zero leadership” (which seems unfair, he could have led the other veterans out). Jon Paul Morosi similarly wrote, “The lack of accountability was inexcusable from a man who is frequently described as a good teammate — and will soon want to be paid like the greatest player in the game.”
Thursday, October 20, 2011
by Jason Wojciechowski
Sure, let's make this a running thing. Three favorites and three unfavorites from Game Two of the World Series.
First. Ian Kinsler was on third in the top of the fourth with Adrian Beltre at the plate. Beltre smashed a hard one hop grounder right at Kinsler, standing, as he is supposed to, in foul territory. Kinsler recoiled and ducked his head to ensure that he would survive to get his World Series share for his family, allowing the ball to glance off his shoulder and deflect harmlessly away.
So I like near-death experiences, right? No: after the play, Kinsler, with the director having gone to the isolation shot on him, gave Adrian Beltre a little Jay-Z brush-the-shoulders-off move. Laugh in the face of the Reaper, Ian Kinsler! Well done.
The Platoon Advantage isn't really a game-recaps kind of place, I've noticed, but this is the World Series, right? So you'll have to excuse me as I point out my three favorite and three least favorite plays of the game.
Chris Carpenter goes laying out like a college frisbee player for Albert Pujols's poor throw in the top of the first. Carpenter tags the bag, but his momentum carries more than just his glove across the base, putting his pitching arm and head directly in the math of Elvis Andrus's onrushing boot. Andrus kindly avoids stomping all over Carpenter's face and the Cardinals' dreams, though, and steps on the scant portion of the sack left to him. He's out, but he is a gentleman.
Pujols, by contrast, needs to take a little more care not to put his Game One starter in a position to suffer grievous bodily harm.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Every now and then, as co-proprietors of a blog that a few people sometimes deign to read, we get emails from publishers or publicists (most accurately, publicists for publishers, but there's no non-goofy way to say that) offering advance copies of baseball or other sports books.
Most of them, frankly, aren't that exciting (we're just not that big a deal), but the one pictured to the right -- A Moment in Time: An American Story of Baseball, Heartbreak and Grace, by Ralph Branca and David Ritz -- really caught my eye. I requested and received a copy, and read it (212 easy-reading pages) in a matter of a couple days.
It's a good -- and, again, easy -- read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in immediately-post-War baseball. I've been a Branca fan for at least ten years now, since I met him at a sports card show alongside Bobby Thomson, with whom he of course is forever linked, and got this (for my dad, who was born later in the month in which the event depicted took place):
What I loved about Branca -- apart from a fascination with a very good, three-time-All-Star pitcher who became known almost exclusively for one single (presumably) bad pitch -- was his friendliness and good humor and, especially, the incredible grace, good-sportsmanship, and sheer oddity of touring the country with (and, from all appearances, being friendly with) the guy who was most directly responsible for making him the goat or antihero of the sport's most famous moment. It's just a very cool, unique thing.
So when I was also offered the opportunity to have a little chat with Mr. Branca, I jumped at it. I was a bit afraid, both in talking to him and reading the book, that he'd reveal an undercurrent of bitterness and resentment that ruined that whole picture of him I have, but while the bitterness and anger are certainly there -- understandably so, when you consider he's lived as the goat for sixty years and has known for most of that time that the team that beat him was implementing an elaborate technological system for stealing signs -- there's also a very genuine good nature, and there was a genuine friendship with Thomson.
At 85, Branca is passionate, funny, and has a tremendous memory. It was the first interview I'd done since serving as the sports editor of my college newspaper about twelve years ago, but Branca is good and interesting enough for both of us. He was kind enough to spend about 25 minutes speaking with me about the book, Jackie Robinson, the Shot, the sign-stealing and more. A transcript -- edited only to remove most verbal pauses and a tiny bit of redundancy -- appears below.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Jonathan Mahler has a piece about Moneyball, money, making the playoffs, the death of inefficiencies, and so forth. Mahler makes an interesting argument about the parallels between the A's and the state of capitalism, but his poor analysis about the state of baseball competition undermine his larger point.
Mahler's basic baseball argument is that Billy Beane is wrong when he complains that the rich teams have caught up in the Analysis Wars. Mahler appears to be making the claim that money matters very little for team success in baseball.
The problems, though, start right in the second paragraph, when Mahler uses the four teams remaining in the playoffs to argue that you don't need big money to succeed in baseball anymore. This, of course, eliminates the four teams that made the playoffs but did not advance, including the Yankees and Phillies. It also leaves out the two teams that missed the playoffs by so little as to be utterly meaningless as a matter of team-talent, the Braves and Red Sox. (It also omits the Rays and Diamondbacks, to be fair, teams that aren't exactly big spenders.) More importantly, we can use all the anecdotes about salary and making the league championship series we want, or we can do what Tom Tango did and look at the data. Guess whether, in the aggregate, payroll matters.
Craig made what I thought was a good point yesterday, first on Twitter and then on the blog. Jacoby Ellsbury and Lance Berkman, winners of the 2011 Comeback Player of the Year Awards, both had very good years, both coming off of what, for very different reasons, was a ruined 2010. But on the other hand, Bartolo Colon had a very nice year after not even playing professional baseball in 2010. He hadn't started 20 games or pitched 100 innings in a season since 2005, back when Ellsbury was drafted and Berkman went to the World Series alongside Bagwell and Biggio. I don't really know what a "comeback player" is, but whatever it is, Colon has to have been just about the comebackiest comeback player in history. How does he not win this thing?
I'll admit, coming into yesterday, I'd spent probably a total of ninety seconds in my entire life thinking about the Comeback Player of the Year Award, either the old now-irrelevant Sporting News version or the new-since-2005, officially sanctioned by MLB version. But looking at the list of past winners of the latter, it seems to me that what we've got is a pretty familiar problem with end-of-season awards: the thing the voters are voting on is really poorly defined, so no one really knows what they're voting on.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
I love Theo Epstein, which I'm sure isn't terribly surprising. Always have. I probably wouldn't have given John Lackey either five years or $82.5 million, but otherwise, I think pretty much everything he's done has been great. I also like the Cubs, God save me, and so I'm pretty excited that apparently, my favorite GM and my second- or third-favorite team are about to be joined in holy contractimony.
I do buy, to some extent, Dave Cameron's point that spending tens of millions on any GM is a mistake, given the wealth of brilliant minds out there who would do the job for less. But then, there's a lot more to GMing than knowing which stats are important and how to apply them (and in fact I'd say that's a pretty tiny part of the job, as long as you're smart enough to hire people who do understand those things). There's knowing what to look for in scouts, analysts, etc., there's managing personnel and maintaining good relationships with your manager and coaches, the art of negotiation with other GMs, and so on and so forth. And from everything I can tell (which of course is very much the tip of the iceberg), Epstein has been very good at pretty much all those things. Add on a couple million for the extra season tickets you'll sell (or rather, won't lose) based on excitement about getting THEO, and I think this is a great, great move for the Cubs.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Let's talk about baseball reporters. You're reading this on the internet, so it seems likely that you encounter the work of baseball reporters somewhere, whether on one of the major sports destinations (ESPN, CBS, Yahoo), on Twitter, via your friends sharing their work on Facebook, Google Plus, or a new social network I'm not cool enough to know about. In your run-ins with these writers, you've probably come across them expressing opinions -- on award voting, on the great ethical issues of the (baseball) day, on which team ought to acquire which player, on the social value of the bunt, and so forth. I want to be clear right up front: everything I say below is not about baseball reporters expressing opinions.
So what am I going to complain about? Reporters doing what they do best: reporting. Specifically, why I think they should stop doing it.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
The Platoon Advantage is a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and this post doubles as our site's ballot for their parallel awards: the Stan Musial Award (for the top player in each league), the Walter Johnson Award (for the top pitcher), the Willie Mays Award (top rookie) and the Connie Mack Award (top manager). Accordingly, the "ballots" below represent an aggregate ballot formed from combining all our picks; each first place vote got a number of points equal to the number of slots on the ballot (10 for MVP, 5 for Cy Young, 3 for the others), and each one-step-lower vote got one point less, such that the last slot on the ballot was good for one point. For a spreadsheet showing each of our individual ballots, click here.
We've got a tie for the AL MVP, which is fine, but then I flipped a coin to determine the AL Stan Musial Award winner. I also flipped a coin to determine the last spot on our AL Connie Mack Award ballot. Our comments were submitted in different ways; sorry for the inconsistencies. If it helps, it kind of bugs me too.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Monday, October 3, 2011
|Joe Mother-effing West|
At mid-season, The Common Man reported that Joe was tied for second (with crew-mate Angel Campos) for most ejections in the Majors, and his crew was lapping the field in terms of the number of players, coaches, fans, and mascots they ejected. Since the regular season is done, and West and Hernandez could play a large role in October’s action, here are the updated and final ejection standings for 2011:
by Jason Wojciechowski
As I'm sure you recall, I've proposed that different people have different theories of value. Some of us (myself included) would prefer to strip as much team context as we can out of a player's performance when arguing for individual awards like the MVP and Cy Young. (I called this theory of value WINS+.) Others, though, think that the entire point of the regular season is to help your team get to the playoffs. You see this in arguments that only players on contending teams should be eligible for the MVP.
This, I argued in that post, is an entirely rational position. (I called this theory of value PLAYOFFS+.) The problem is that it's usually applied in an ad hoc fashion, providing excuses for a voter to ignore a better performance because that voter thinks, for whatever unarticulated reason, that the lesser player provided more value by pushing his team near or into the playoffs. I've previously put together a naive but consistent way to implement PLAYOFFS+ -- only players whose teams make the playoffs by a margin slimmer than that individual's WAR total are eligible, and the player, of that group, with the most WAR wins. That approach was rife with problems, some of which I've attempted to address here.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Welcome to Poetry Saturday. The blogfathers have, for some reason, given me editing privileges here on The Platoon Advantage. I have managed to restrain myself for a time, but here, I take advantage.
Courtesy of the eMule.com Poetry Archives's "Random Poem" button:
by Robert Frost
It is blue-butterfly day here in spring,
And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry
There is more unmixed color on the wing
Than flowers will show for days unless they hurry.
But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:
And now from having ridden out desire
They lie closed over in the wind and cling
Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.
You might think that eMule chose this in a fit of irony -- this is fall, not spring. The days are growing shorter and colder. We're arguing over playoff rosters, not who the last man on the 40-man should be and whether that Rule 5 pick should sit out in the bullpen.
But the Rangers and Rays are on TV as I write this, and while the stands in Arlington aren't unmixed -- there appears to be red, white, and blue in approximately equal proportions -- for sheer quantity, surely no flower (or regular-season baseball game) could compete. The more melancholy second stanza reflects the eventual fate of all but the luckiest of fans -- they will fly and sing and display their colors as long as they can, but eventually they'll go home unhappy as their teams are eliminated.