Buster Olney runs down the early season schedules for the AL East today, trying to figure out who may get out to a fast start, who may falter early and all of that. Interesting enough, but his premise doesn’t do much for me:
Last year, you could look at the early-season schedules and make a couple of forecasts. First, the Toronto Blue Jays
appeared to have a great chance to get off to a strong start because
they didn’t have to dive into the AL Beast portion of their schedule —
with games against the Yankees and Red Sox and Rays — until May.
second, the schedule appeared to work against Tampa Bay, because of how
top-heavy it was with games against AL powerhouses. Sure enough, the
Blue Jays got off to a great start, and the Rays fell into a hole that
they were never really able to dig out of. This stuff is a big deal, because early-season performance and
perception, in the spring, can help shape attendance in summer. A
strong start will also fuel a team’s market aggressiveness, as
executives decide whether to be buyers.
I think this sort of thing is overstated. Yes, the Jays started well last year on the strength of an easy early schedule, but it didn’t boost attendance. Toronto drew its lowest crowds in six years and among the lowest since the move to Sky Dome. And it didn’t stop the team from assessing where it was on the success cycle, trading Alex Rios and shopping Roy Halladay all summer. And what about Tampa Bay? Sure, they started out tough, but the were treading water pretty well until they took a six game plunge in the standings in August while not facing either Boston or New York.
The beauty of baseball’s
schedule is that over the course of 162 games there really is nowhere
to hide and no way to game the fans into thinking that you’re something
you’re not. Injuries and the lucky convergence of a team getting good pitching, good hitting and good fielding at roughly the same time are schedule-free considerations.
Thanks to Buster for pointing out something interesting, but let’s leave strength of schedule arguments — which invariably lead to whining — to the lesser sports.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP