If you're worried about Hamels, look past his ERA

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Even with eight shutout innings last night Cole Hamels merely lowered his ERA to a still-mediocre 4.52 to go along with a 7-8 record. That represents quite a decline from last season, when he won 14 games with a 3.09 ERA before taking home the MVP awards for both the NLCS and World Series.
However, a closer look at Hamels’ performance tells a much different story than his win-loss record or ERA:

YEAR     SO%    BB%    HR%     GB%     FB%     LD%    LOB%     MPH
2008    21.4    5.0    3.1    39.5    38.7    21.8    76.0    90.4
2009    20.2    4.8    3.5    42.1    37.4    20.5    73.4    90.2

From left to right, the numbers shown above are strikeout percentage, walk percentage, home run percentage, ground-ball percentage, fly-ball percentage, line-drive percentage, left-on-base percentage, and average fastball velocity. And as you see, every single one of those numbers is essentially the same as last season. There isn’t a meaningful change in the bunch, so how has his ERA ballooned from 3.09 to 4.52? There are a few possible explanations, but the easiest one is batting average on balls in play.
Last season just 27.0 percent of the balls put in play against Hamels went for hits. This season, despite a very similar breakdown of ground balls, fly balls, and line drives, 32.9 percent of the balls put in play against Hamels have gone for hits. Over the course of 25 starts that equals about 30 extra hits falling in, which is worth somewhere around 12-18 runs. And if you remove, say, 15 runs from Hamels’ total this season his ERA drops from 4.52 to 3.59. His career ERA coming into the season? 3.43. Funny how that works.

“La Vida Baseball,” celebrating Latino baseball, launches

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A new website has launched. It’s called “La Vida Baseball,” and it’s all about celebrating the past, present and future of Latino baseball from a Latino perspective.

The site, produced in partnership with the Hall of Fame, has four general areas of focus:

  • Who’s Now: Focusing on current Latino players;
  • Who’s Next: Focusing on top prospects here, in the Caribbean and in Central and South America;
  • Our Life: Off-the-Field stuff, including player’s lives, lifestyles and hobbies; and
  • Our Legends: Focusing on Latino baseball history, Hall of Famers and overlooked players.

As the site has just launched there aren’t yet a ton of stories up there, but there is one about Roberto Clemente, another about Felix Hernandez and some other stuff.

The site is much-needed. Baseball reporters for American outlets are overwhelmingly white, non-Spanish speakers. Reporters, who, generally, gravitate to the players who are the most like they are. Which is understandable on some level. When you’re writing stories about people you need to be able to communicate with them and relate to them on more than a mere perfunctory level. As such, no matter how good the intentions of baseball media, we tend to see the clubhouse and the culture of baseball from a distinctly American perspective. And we tend to paint Latino players with a broad, broad brush.

La Vida Baseball will, hopefully, remedy all of that and will, hopefully, give us a fresh and insightful depiction Latino players and their culture.

 

David Ross to compete on “Dancing with the Stars”

David Ross
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Do you miss David Ross? I miss David Ross. The season hasn’t even started yet and I miss David Ross. There’s something comforting about having a likable graybeard catcher in the game with bonus points for being bald. His loss will be felt.

But while we won’t have David Ross in baseball all this year — at least on the field; he’s a special assistant with the Cubs — we’ll still have David Ross someplace:

Johnny Damon did “Celebrity Apprentice” — Trump fired him, sadly — but we’ve never had a ballplayer on “Dancing With The Stars.” There have been several football players and some Olympians, but no baseball guys. Which makes some amount of sense as, outside of the middle infielders and first basemen, footwork isn’t necessarily the most important tool.

Catchers are particularly plodding for athletes, so good luck, David. Unless you have some moves you haven’t flashed in the past, you’ll probably need it.