And That Happened: Sunday's scores and recaps

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Diamondbacks 9, Padres 6:
Whenever you see a game this long — 18 innings in case you missed it
— there are always some fun stat lines that shake out. An 0-6 (Giles);
a 1-8 with five strikeouts (Headley). Then there’s the “so long,
suckers” line, which belongs to David Eckstein. Herr Scrappy
sits on his kiester for nearly nine full innings, then comes in and, on
the very first pitch he sees, hits the pinch hit home run that sends
this thing on to its second nine, during all of which he sat on his
kiester. At some point over the last, oh, three hours of this game you
have to think that there were even some Padres who wished he hadn’t
done that. Especially if he was back in the clubhouse playing Wii or
taking a nap or having a schvitz or something. In other news, sources
say that the Dbacks and Padres were going to petition to have this game
partitioned so that they could simply apply the second half of it to a
future rainout, thus saving everyone time and money. The plan was
scrapped, however, when someone remembered that it doesn’t rain in
Phoenix or San Diego.

Cubs 6, Reds 3:
In yet another long game, Dusty Baker shows that he’s a more
experienced manager than either A.J. Hinch or Bud Black. Knowing that
anything beyond 14 innings could kill his pitching staff for the next
week, Dusty decides to cut his losses and calls Mike Lincoln into the
game to give up the three deciding runs. I mean, I assume that’s what
Dusty was doing anyway, because it’s not like Mike Lincoln has any
other uses.

Braves 8, Brewers 7: My comrade tHeMARksMiTh watched Tommy Hanson’s inauspicious debut and is somewhat less worried about the young man than those of us who only saw the line score are. Take it away, Mark:

I was very impressed. Adrenaline was obviously present at the start.
He hit 97 several times at the beginning but sat around 93-94 for most
of the game . . . he was hitting his spots pretty well, especially with
his breaking pitches . . .

. . . For the troubling part, he threw too many fastballs . . . With
an 0-2 count on Braun and just after Braun chased a slider. Hanson
throws a high fastball that Braun deposits out of the park. Then 1-2 on
Fielder, high fastball laced for a single. Then 0-1 on Cameron after
just getting a fastball fouled back, fastball for a home run . . .
fastballs made no sense in any of those situations, especially because
Hanson had been throwing his breaking balls very well. There may be
games that Hanson needs to go to his fastball, but today was not it.
Not in a game against a bunch of good fastball hitters. Not against a
good lineup. Not against a powerful lineup. If the breaking pitches are
there, you have to use them. He, or [David] Ross, didn’t, and he gave
up some runs.

I’m not particularly worried. For one thing, since everyone’s talking about Tom Glavine lately, let us all remember Tom Glavine’s first big league line
(3.2 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 5 BB, 1K). For another, you can handle a woofer of
an outing like this when Chipper Jones has your back (4-4, 2 HR, 3B, 5
RBI).

Tigers 9, Angels 6: Clete Thomas hits the first grand slam by a man named “Clete” since August 29, 1967. Oh, come on. It’s not like the little stat factoids they run on SportsCenter are any less random.

Yankees 4, Rays 3:
Hideki Matsui beat out a potential double-play grounder, transforming
it into a fielder’s choice for the game-winning run. Based on how he
has hobbled around every time I’ve seen him play this year I can only
assume that the grounder was to deep left field or something.

Blue Jays 4, Royals 0: Roy Halladay shuts out the Royals on 97 pitches. Rany wants Jeff Francoeur to come to Kansas City. Based on the offensive game plan these guys employ , Frenchy would fit in just find with the Royals.

Rangers 6, Red Sox 3: The Rangers win their first series at Fenway since 1997. David Ortiz looked like this
then. I might have given the 1997 David Ortiz the steal sign. I would
not have given the 2009 version the steal sign, and I’m not sure why
Terry Francona did yesterday either, but he did and he was predictably
nailed. Maybe it’s just been so long since Ortiz was on base that no
one knew what the signs were supposed to be.

Mets 7, Nationals 0: Guys with worse ERAs than Livan Hernandez: Jake Peavy, Aaron Harang, Ryan Dempster, and Cole Hamels.

Indians 8, White Sox 4:
Ozzie Guillen after the game “Maybe if I go crazy with the media and
[rip] my team . . . I might wake them up. But it’s wasting my time.”
Wait, if it might wake them up, how would that be a waste of his time?
They’re in slumberland right now. This ain’t the Hum-Baby Giants. It’s
the Ozzie Guillen-led White Sox. If Ozzie’s going to refuse to bring
the crazy during a losing streak, what’s the point of having him
around?

Astros 6, Pirates 4:
Russ Ortiz throws four and a third innings of scoreless relief after
Felipe Paulino hurt his groin slipping on the mound in the second. The
game story then runs with this whole “this strong outing should get
Russ Ortiz out of long-relief land and back into the rotation” angle.
And I guess if Paulino is really hurt it might. But really, didn’t
Ortiz just do what a good long man is supposed to do? Come in, pitch
long, and pitch well? Indeed, he’s pitching better out of the bullpen
then he had for the past several years as a starter. The guy’s probably
finally found his freakin’ niche in life, and here the AP writer and
Ortiz want him to be something he’s not. This is how liberal arts
majors wind up in law school. Why can’t we just let people be who they
are?

A’s 3, Orioles 0:
I’ve got underwear older than most of the A’s starters, but these guys
have won six in a row, and that’s more exciting than anything my
underwear has been involved with recently.

Rockies 7, Cardinals 2:
Albert Pujols is such a badass that he hit a two-run sac fly in the
first inning, no doubt because the outfielders were gripped by fear. I
fully expect Pujols to go 5 for 3 tomorrow night. Apart from Pujols,
though, it was the Ubaldo Jimenez show (8 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 9K).

Mariners 4, Twins 2:
Ichiro’s hitting streak was snapped on Friday night, but he bounced
back to go 5 for 8 on Saturday and Sunday, and is now hitting .356 on
the season. I’ve been predicting that he would crater for a couple of
years now, but I think I should get out of that end of the predictions
business altogether because he’s clearly the kind of guy who’s gonna
hit .300 until he’s about 42 or so. There’s one of those guys every
generation or so, and he’s ours.

Giants 3, Marlins 2:
Tim Lincecum held a shutout into the eighth, though he walked as many
as he struck out (4), so it’s not like he had his best stuff working.

Phillies 7, Dodgers 2:
My first thought was that no one would be paying attention to the
Dodgers given that the Finals are going on, but then I remembered that
Los Angeles is a town that accommodates disparate interests. There are
skinny pretty people crawling all over the city, yet seemingly every
corner has a donut shop or a joint that sells comically large fattening
hamburgers. I suppose they can make room for the Lakers and the Dodgers
at the same time.

Chipper Jones says the Mets are his pick to “go all the way”

Braves Spring baseball
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Chipper Jones may believe some weird things but he’s pretty savvy and clear-eyed when it comes to analyzing baseball.

Remember back in 2013 how he picked the Dodgers to beat the Braves in the NLDS? And how, because of his perceived “disloyalty,” Braves players had an immature little temper tantrum and refused to catch his ceremonial first pitch? Yeah, that was a great look. If I was more inclined to the hokey and irrational, I’d say that created “The Curse of Chipper” and that it condemned the Braves to two straight years of sucking. Hey, people have built careers on curses sillier than that.

Anyway, kudos to Chipper for apparently not giving a crap about that sort of thing and, instead, saying what he thinks about baseball. Stuff like how he thinks the Mets are going to win it all, saying “They’re really setting the bar and they’re my early-season pick to probably go all the way.”

Keeping in mind that anything can happen in baseball, it’s as good a pick as any other I reckon. Even if it means he has to say that the team who was his greatest rival during his playing career — and whom he thoroughly owned during that time — is better than the one that pays his salary now. Or any other one.

Did Tony La Russa screw Jim Edmonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy?

2011 World Series Game 4 -Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals
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Yes, that’s a somewhat provocative question. But it’s still an interesting question, the relevancy of and merits of which we’ll get to in a second. I pose it mostly so I can tell you about some neat research a friend of mine is doing and which should make Hall of Fame discussions and the general discussion of baseball history a lot of fun in the coming years. Bear with me for a moment.

There has long been a war between metrics and narrative. The folks who say that so-and-so was great because of the arc of his story and his career and those who say so-and-so was not so great or whatshisface was way, way better because of the numbers. Those views are often pitted as irreconcilable opposites. But what if they weren’t? What if there was some data which explained why some players become narrative darlings and others don’t? Some explanation for why, say, Jim Rice is in the Hall of Fame while Dwight Evans isn’t despite having better numbers? An explanation, that isn’t about voters being dumb or merely playing favorites all willy-nilly? What if there was some actual quantitative reason why favorites get played in the first place?

That’s the thesis of the work of Brandon Isleib. He has just finished writing a very interesting book. It’s not yet published, but I have had the chance to read it. It sets forth the fascinating proposition that we can quantify narrative. That we can divine actual numerical values which help explain a player’s fame and public profile. Values which aren’t based on some complicated or counterintuitive formula, but which are rooted in the very thing all baseball fans see every day: games. Wins and losses. The daily standings. Values which reveal that, no, Hall of Fame voters who made odd choices in the view of the analytics crowd weren’t necessarily stupid or petty. They were merely reacting to forces and dynamics in the game which pushed them in certain ways and not others.

“But wait!” you interject. “Jim Rice and Dwight Evans played on the same dang team! How does Brandon distinguish that?” I won’t give away all the details of it but it makes sense if you break down how the Red Sox did in certain years and how that corresponded with Rice’s and Evans’ best years. There were competitive narratives in play in 1975, 1978 or 1986 that weren’t in play in 1981 or 1987. From those competitive narratives come player narratives which are pretty understandable. When you weight it all based on how competitive a team was on a day-to-day basis based on how far out of first place they were, etc., a picture starts to come together which explains why “fame” works the way it does.

From this, you start to realize why certain players, no matter how good, never got much Hall of Fame consideration. And why others’ consideration seemed disproportionate compared to their actual performance. All of which, again, is based on numbers, not on the sort of bomb-throwing media criticism in which jerks like me have come to engage.

Like I said, the book won’t be out for a bit — Brandon just finished it — but in the meantime he has a website where he has been and, increasingly will be, talking about his quantification of narrative stuff, writing short articles posing some of the questions his book and his research addresses.

Today’s entry — which is what my headline is based on — isn’t really numbers-based. It’s more talking about the broader phenomenon Brandon’s work gets at in terms of trying to figure out which players are credited for their performance and which are not so credited and why. Specifically, it talks about how Tony La Russa, more than most managers, gets the credit for his success and his players probably get somewhat less than they deserve. In this way La Russa is kind of viewed as a football coach figure and his players are, I dunno, system quarterbacks. It’s something that is unfair, I think, to guys like Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen and will, eventually, likely be unfair to players like Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday.

It’s fascinating stuff which gets to the heart of player reputation and how history comes together. It reminds us that, in the end, the reporters and the analysts who argue about all of these things are secondary players, even if we make the most noise. It’s the figures in the game — the players and the managers — who shape it all. The rest of us are just observers and scribes.

Corey Seager tops Keith Law’s top-100 prospect list

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager warms up before Game 1 of baseball's National League Division Series against the New York Mets, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
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Yesterday it was the top farm systems, today it’s the top-100 prospects from ESPN’s Keith Law.

As Law notes, there’s a HUGE amount of turnover on the list from last year, given how many top prospects were promoted to the bigs in 2015. Kris Bryant seems like a grizzled old veteran now. Carlos Correa too. Eleven of the top 20 from last year’s list have graduated into the bigs. Are we sure it’s only been a year?

So, obviously, there’s a new number one. It’s Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ infielder. Not that everything has changed. Byron Buxton is still number two. This will obviously be his last year on the list. If you want to see and read about the other 98, go check out Keith’s excellent work.

And yes, like yesterday’s farm system rankings, it’s Insider subscription only. There were comments about how much you all hate that and I am sure there will be many more of them today. I get that. No one likes to pay for content. I was somewhat amused, however, by comments that said things like “hey, maybe if we don’t click it, they’ll have to give it to us for free!” Maybe! Or, more likely, the content simply will cease to exist!

It’s good stuff, folks. There aren’t many paid sites I say that about.

Ozzie Guillen to manage again. In Venezuela

Ozzie Guillen Getty
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With Dusty Baker getting back into action with the Nationals and with there being at least some moderate sense that, maybe, inexperienced dudes might not be the best choice to manage big league clubs, I sorta hoped that someone would give Ozzie Guillen another look. Nah. Not happening.

Not that I’m shocked or anything. I can imagine that, under the best of circumstances, a guy like Guillen is hard to have around. He tends to find controversy pretty easily and, unlike some other old hands, Guillen never claimed to be any kind of master tactician. He famously said that he was bored during games until the sixth or seventh inning when he had to start thinking about pitching changes. Refreshing honesty, yes, but maybe not the sort of dude you bring on to, say, be a bench coach or to mentor your younger coaches or to show your hand-picked manager the ropes. Nope, it seemed like Guillen was destined to stay in broadcasting with ESPN Deportes or someone and that his days in uniform were over.

But they’re not over! Guillen was hired yesterday to manage the La Guaira Sharks of the Venezuelan Winter League next offseason. It’s not the bigs, but it is is first on-field gig since he was canned by the Marlins in 2012.

 

Guillen managed the White Sox from 2004-11 and was voted AL Manager of the Year in 2005, when Chicago won the World Series. He may be a bit of a throwback now, but he knows what he’s doing. While I can’t really say that a major league team would be wise to hire the guy — I get it, I really do — a selfish part of me really wants him back in the bigs. He was fun.