Good face, bad player: Why track records matter

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It’s a bad sign when you’re hitting .247/.296/.300 for the fifth-worst OPS in the league and the local newspaper is running articles questioning your defense.

Such is the life of Emilio Bonifacio, who got some people way too excited
with a few great games to begin the season and has since predictably
lived up to his minor-league track record by being one of the worst
everyday players in baseball.

Back in mid-April, when Bonifacio was sporting a .500 batting average after a handful of games, Jon Heyman of SI.com wrote about
how “Florida stole an undervalued speed demon ready to contribute” when
they acquired him from Arizona. Here’s more from Heyman’s glowing
piece:

But the Marlins knew better. And now, a week into his Marlins
career, Bonifacio, who moves faster on the diamond than anyone in
baseball, has moved up in everyone else’s eyes. Those outside the
Marlins organization once again view the 23-year-old as an exciting
young player after watching him ignite the Marlins offense with a .500
batting average, exhibit the best baseball speed since Deion Sanders
and lead his club to a 5-1 start.

The Marlins’ scouts seem to know things others do not, so they
figured it might be worthwhile to give Bonifacio, primarily a second
baseman, a look at third base. So far the slap-hitting speed demon has
looked like a star at a position normally reserved for power hitters.
Bonifacio put together multiple-hit efforts in the Marlins’ first five
games of the season and produced enough theatrics to excite even the
minimal crowds they draw down here.

Keep in mind that those words were written about a player who had
produced a .703 OPS over 656 games in the minors and .629 OPS over 60
games the majors coming into this season. And while Heyman was one of
the more vocal Bonifacio bandwagon occupants, he certainly wasn’t alone.

There were all kinds of articles popping up about his supposed
“breakout” and there were all kinds of angry missives in my e-mailbox
about my “unfair” skepticism. Yet for all the talk of how “the Marlins’
scouts seem to know things others do not” and all the hyperbole about
Bonifacio possessing “the best baseball speed since Deion Sanders” at
the end of the day he’s performing exactly like his minor-league track
record predicted.

And since starting the season with 14 hits in 24 at-bats, Bonifacio
has batted .213 with a .272 on-base percentage, .238 slugging
percentage, zero homers, and a 41/14 K/BB ratio while being thrown out
on four of his nine steal attempts in 38 games. I’m sure that his
“theatrics” are still off the charts, though.

Oakland A’s officials taking a tour of a possible waterfront ballpark site

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  A Maersk Line container ship sits docked in a berth  at the Port of Oakland on February 19, 2015 in Oakland, California. International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) longshoremen at the Port of Oakland took the day shift off today to attend a union meeting amidst ongoing contract negotiations between dockworkers and terminal operators at west coast ports. The port closure, the seventh one this month, has left 12 container ships stuck at the dock with no workers to load and unload them. The ILWU members at 29 West Coast ports have been without a contract for 9 months. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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The Oakland Athletics’ ballpark saga has gone on for years now, with false starts in Fremont and San Jose, lawsuits and seemingly interminable talks with the City of Oakland over a new place on the current Coliseum site. That’s all complicated, of course, by the presence of the Raiders, on whose address — be it Oakland, Las Vegas or someplace else — the A’s future is still largely contingent.

The city has tried to get the A’s interested in a waterfront site for several years now. There are a lot of problems with that due mostly to zoning and regulatory matters, as well as proximity to transit and other practical concerns. The artist’s renderings are often pretty, but it takes more than artist’s renderings to make a good ballpark plan.

But no one is giving up on that and, it seems, even the A’s are willing to at least listen to such proposals now:

Oakland A’s co-owner John Fisher is expected to join officials Thursday for a hush-hush tour of the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, a cargo-loading area near Jack London Square that Mayor Libby Schaaf tirelessly promotes as “a fantastic site for a ballpark.”

Guess it ain’t so “hush-hush” anymore. As with all Oakland ballpark stories, however, feel free to continue snoozing until someone gives us a real reason to wake up.

Note: The above photo is from the Port of Oakland. I have no idea what the proximity of the working part of the city’s port is to where they’d build a ballpark, but I used this picture because I love the story about how George Lucas spotted those things from an airplane as he was leaving Oakland or San Francisco or whatever and used them as inspiration for the AT-AT Imperial Walkers in “Empire Strikes Back.” Which may be a totally aprocyphal story, but one I love so much that I told it to my kids when we flew in to Oakland back in June and will choose to believe despite whatever evidence you provide.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.