And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Phillies 12, Cubs 5: Pedro Martinez wasn’t spectacular in his
2009 debut, but he was effective enough and showed that he still
belonged on a Major League mound (5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 5K). I was most
impressed by his first inning strikeout of Jake Fox where, after
consistently hitting 88 on the gun with his fastball to start off the
game, he ratcheted it up to 92 on strike three. That’s useful. One
wonders if it wouldn’t be more useful in the pen, but that’s something
we’ll figure out over the next couple of weeks. Jeff Samardzija made
his first start and it wasn’t pretty, as he gave up seven runs on eight
hits in 3.1 innings. Oh, and some dumb rich kid showered Shane
Victorino with beer as he caught a fly ball. No word on whether
Victorino picked up a rock and made a nice-sized dent in the fan’s
life-sized Hot Wheels car after the game. So what else do you want to
hear, I’m out of stories.

Braves 6, Nationals 2: It’s a lot of fun for me to watch the Braves win like this. Now if only Philly and Colorado will cooperate by losing a bit.

Rockies 8, Pirates 0: That’s not what I mean when I ask for cooperation. Ubaldo Jimenez makes short work of the Pirates (8IP, 3 H, 0 ER).

Twins 7, Royals 1: Brian Bannister gets shelled (6 IP, 9 H, 7
ER) and Francisco Liriano had his best start in, like, forever (7 IP, 3
H, 1 ER, 8K). Most of the damage against Bannister came in the first,
when the Twins hit four straight singles off of him, followed by a home
run. Bannister tried to explain to the Twins that all but the homer was
the result of an unusual run of BABIP luck, but they insisted on
celebrating anyway. Ignoramuses.

Giants 4, Dodgers 2: Juan Uribe wins it on a walkoff homer in
the 10th, though if it wasn’t for a bad call at first base that led to
a Dodger run, it would have ended in the ninth. There was some pushing
and shoving early in this one, but no Youkilis-Porcello moments. Which
is sad, because the inside pitch that caused the ire was to Pablo
Sandoval, and I would have liked to see his kung-fu in action.

Mets 6, Diamondbacks 4: Jon Rauch got pissed at the ump over
what he felt to be a shrinking strike zone in the eighth and charged in
to argue with him. Manager A.J. Hinch came out to protect his pitcher
and Rauch shoved him aside. “He really didn’t hold me back too much,
and I went and apologized for manhandling him.” You just can’t buy that
kind of respect from your subordinates. It has to be earned.

Red Sox 8, Tigers 2: Despite a fairly big series against the
Rangers this weekend, Youkilis began serving his suspension, and thus
sat this one out. Probably a good idea, though, because (a) the Sox
have approximately 347 guys who play first or third; and (b) who’s to
say the Tigers wouldn’t have thrown at him again? Josh Beckett goes
seven innings giving up two runs and notching his 14th win. I’m getting
this funny feeling that they’re going to give him the Cy Young award
this year despite the fact that there are several starting pitchers
more deserving. It just feels like a “look at the wins!” kind of year.

Rangers 5, Indians 0: Strike that — reverse it. Tommy Hunter
continues to impress (7.2 IP, 6 H. 0 ER 5K) and Josh Hamilton goes 3-4
with a couple of doubles as the Rangers replicate the Indians 5-0 win
from the previous night.



Cardinals 5, Reds 2: Chris Carpenter (7 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 10K)
shuts down the Reds. A line drive off of Homer Bailey’s foot shuts down
Homer Bailey after throwing only 12 pitches. Pujols hit his 38th homer.
Matt Holliday goes 3 for 4.

Angels 10, Rays 5: Not a lot of pitching to be found here, as
the teams combine for 24 hits. From the Angels side it had to do with
the fact that Trevor Bell was making his major league debut. Rob wasn’t as impressed as the Angels’ announcers.
Bell wasn’t all that impressed with the majesty of the Major Leagues:
“But just talking to the veteran guys, they said the game is no
different up here. Just more people and better speakers.”

Athletics 6, Orioles 3: The A’s finish up their
28-games-in-28-days stretch with a victory, resulting in a 14-14
record. In August 1990 I worked 28 straight days at the radio station
without a day off. All 11pm-6am shifts. I was pretty whipped by the end
of that stretch, and it was all I could do to read the station ID at
the top of the hour without slurring my speech or falling asleep. I
guess what I’m saying is that the A’s can declare victory with that
14-14.

Astros 14, Marlins 6: Hunter Pence had two homers — both of
them three-run jobs — and Ricky Nolasco continues to make people
wonder why he was such a hot fantasy property back in March (3.1 IP, 8
H, 10 ER).

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3: A costly victory for the Yankees as
Jeter, Rodriguez and Posada all got beaten up by hit or pitched balls,
and Mariano Rivera didn’t even hang around for the game due to a
“cranky arm,” whatever the hell that means. They got a bit of a cushion
now, though, so they can give some guys a day off here or there.

Mariners 1, White Sox 0: Ken Griffey Jr. has had a rather poor
(presumably) final year in the majors, but he get a nice near-the-end
highlight here, singling home the game’s only run in the bottom of the
14th. I mentioned Josh Beckett’s Cy Young chances before. Among the
guys with better cases but who likely won’t get near the support are
Felix Hernandez, who threw seven shutout innings with ten strikeouts to
lower his ERA to 2.72. Mark Buehrle had a good game too — his first
since the perfecto — shutting Seattle out over eight.

Padres 6, Brewers 5: The new-look Brewers lose to a Padres team
that has won 5 of 6. After the game, Doug Melvin demoted Prince
Fielder, released Ryan Braun, fired Ken Macha and had three of every
five stadium vendors killed. Dude doesn’t mess around.

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

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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.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.