Pouliot's thoughts: Polanco wasn't the best phit for Phils

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polanco phillies.jpgPhillies sign infielder Placido Polanco to a three-year, $18 million contract with a mutual option for 2013.
Polanco has already had a pretty unusual career, but the Phillies are showing way too much faith that he’ll continue to defy the aging curve. Second baseman have a nasty habit of falling off a cliff in their low-30s, yet Polanco has gotten more durable with age and his defense has held up remarkably well.
On offense, it’s easy to point to his OPS slipping from 846 to 768 to 727 the last three years and say that it’s a steep decline. However, his game hasn’t changed at all. He’s finished with 31-36 doubles, 8-10 homers and 35-37 walks in each of those seasons. Because of his limited power and poor walk rate, his offense is entirely batting average driven, and he’s going to hit .290 some years and .320 others. The Phillies should be content if he matches that 768 mark from 2008, and it’s entirely possible that he’ll have a couple of more years at that level.
The third year is what really hurts the deal. Philadelphia was likely Polanco’s preferred destination. The team is a World Series favorite, and he’s played there before. I don’t see GM Ruben Amaro Jr. felt the need to best every other potential offer, particularly when Mark DeRosa and the superior Adrian Beltre were available. Polanco should be above average defensively and average offensively at third. He’s an upgrade from Pedro Feliz. But I think the Phillies could have done better.
Beltre, in particular, was the best fit for their lineup. Polanco’s addition would work better for the Phillies if the team were willing to drop Jimmy Rollins down to the seventh spot and go with Shane Victorino first and Polanco second. However, they’ll almost certainly start the year with Victorino hitting seventh.
Victorino had a .358 OBP last season. His worst mark in four seasons as a regular is .346. Polanco finished at .331 last season, though he was at .388 and .350 in the two years prior. Rollins, on the other hand, came in at .296 last season and has never topped .350 in a year. Rollins isn’t necessarily a bad leadoff hitter — he did lead the NL in runs scored with 139 in 2007 — but except for when he’s at his best, he’d be more useful hitting in the bottom half of the order.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: