Link-O-Rama: Pirates have mastered losing in Milwaukee

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* Yesterday the Pirates lost in Milwaukee for the 21st straight time, which as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes is the the fifth-longest streak in baseball history for one team losing in a road city.
As manager John Russell put it: “I don’t have an answer for that. It’s a lot of games.” The amazing thing is that the Brewers are 21-0 against the Pirates at Miller Park, but just 216-217 in all other games since 2007.
* Written off by the Cubs after struggling in limited playing time through the age of 23, Felix Pie is now showing that his strong minor-league track record is no fluke by hitting .272/.335/.457 with very good defense for the Orioles. Yet another reason why the future is looking pretty bright in Baltimore finally.
* Baseball-Reference.com passes along an interesting stat: Of the 20 active players who have the most career plate appearances without a homer, 19 of them are pitchers and one is … Angels outfielder Reggie Willits. In fact, Willits sits atop the list with 785 homerless trips to the plate, although he has managed to post a strong .365 on-base percentage while swiping 37 bases. You need some serious plate discipline to draw 103 walks without homering even once.
* Like me, Phil Mushnick of the New York Post can’t help but watch the Dodgers whenever the legendary Vin Scully is announcing the game. How often is an 81-year-old still at the very top of his profession?
* Not only are the Royals extending general manager Dayton Moore’s contract, they’re extending it through 2014. Good luck with that. And as a fan of one of the other AL Central teams, thanks.

How Yu Darvish tipped his pitches during the World Series

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You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.

Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.

Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.

Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.