And That Happened: Monday's Scores and Highlights

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Cardinals 8, Phillies 4: Sometimes there are these pitches that seem simply unhittable. That scrape the corners, that paint the blacks, that fall right off the table and leave everyone in the house guessing except for the catcher who called for it and the pitcher who threw it. Kyle Kendrick does not possess any of those pitches (5 IP, 7, H, 7 ER, 3 HR). And Charlie Manuel would have yanked him before he gave up his third home run in the fifth inning, but he was gettin’ some shut-eye, see, and told no one to wake him unless there was an e-mergency, get me?

Marlins 9, Rockies 8: A wild one. The Rockies took leads in the third, the sixth and the eighth, but gave the leads back in the third, the sixth and the ninth. I was gonna look and see if the someone was messing with the humidor, but then I saw that they were playing in Florida, and that’s all humidor, all the time. Oh, and Ubaldo Jimenez got beat up. I imagine we’re one or two mortal performances like this one before we return to not paying much more attention to Ubaldo Jimenez starts than we do anyone else’s.

Rays 8, Orioles 1: Wade Davis gives up one run over eight innings. Davis feasts on the Orioles — he’s 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA in three starts — but then again, who doesn’t feast on the Orioles?

Reds 7, Nationals 2: Nothing better for a team having hard time scoring runs like a visit from the Nats. The damage was done by Miguel Cairo, Jonny Gomes, Drew Stubbs and Johnny Cueto, which is totally how the Reds drew it up.

Brewers 3, Pirates 1: Chris Capuano got his first win since May 13, 2007. That was about a month after I started blogging. Just two days before that win I put up a post about how Major League Baseball was struggling to figure out how to properly commemorate Barry Bonds imminent breaking of Hank Aaron’s home run record because — as some people were vaguely aware at the time — Selig had some shadowy committee headed up by George Mitchell investigating steroids. So much uncertainty! How much time has passed.

Astros 11, Cubs 5: Remember back when we were all marveling at Carlos Silva’s fast start. Yeah, that’s over (1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER).

Royals 5, Blue Jays 4: Kevin Gregg came out for the bottom of the 10th with a one run lead. A triple and a sac fly tied the score, then Gregg got a grounder for out number two. Can Gregg do it! Nope: Single, walk, single ballgame. Second clunker in a row for Gregg, but at least he didn’t lose that last three-walk game in Baltimore.

Giants 5, Dodgers 2: The Dodgers’ tailspin continues and the Giants continue to surge. Into second place as we wake up this morning. Buster Posey has a 13 game hitting streak. If he keeps that up I may soon stop picturing Tony Hale every time I hear his name.

Diamondbacks 13, Mets 2: Mike Pelfrey gets destroyed in what was probably the worst outing of his career. He’s 1-4 with a 9.11 ERA in his last six starts. After the game Jerry Manuel went off about how Pelfrey needs to quit throwing junk and get back to his fastball-sinker routine. For his part Pelfrey agrees and says he feels fine physically and that it’s all a mental thing. At this point I can’t decide if it would be worse for the Mets if there was a physical problem or a mental problem, but it needs to get fixed fast because an effective Pelfrey is absolutely essential to the Mets’ chanced.

White Sox 6, Mariners 1: After a bad weekend, Chicago wins while both Detroit and Minnesota lose. Ozzie Guillen: “One day at a time. That’s our philosophy. No matter
what happens yesterday, today is a new one.”  Anyone else get a little weirded out by Ozzie being philosophical?

Red Sox 2, Athletics 1: Dice-K throws an efficient six and two-thirds innings and the game ended in two hours and forty minutes. Kevin Cash after the game: “That’s Dice’s whole M.O. Getting ahead and throwing strikes.”  Well, it’s totally not his M.O., but it’s nice to see him do it for once.

Indians 10, Twins 4: I’m torn. On the one hand I like to see the Indians playing well like they have lately because, while I don’t root for them, I get more Indians games on my big HD TV than anyone else’s and I’d rather watch a good product than a bad product. On the other hand, if they put together a nice second half with the young talent playing well, they’re going to trick me into thinking they’re a contender again next spring, and I’m pretty tired of being tricked into thinking the Indians are going to do well only to have them face-plant out of the gate.

Rangers 8, Tigers 6: A fourteen inning affair ends after Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer. Well, it didn’t end directly after that because the Tigers still got to bat in the bottom of the inning, but you know what I mean. Rangers’ pitcher Dustin Nippert was hit in the head with a comebacker earlier in the game. Scary, but he appears to be OK.  Oh, and the Tigers should have won this one in the 11th but Cruz deked Johnny Damon — who was on second base — on a single hit to right-center. Damon should have scored, but Cruz played like he was going to catch it, causing Damon to hesitate and subsequently get stranded at third.

Chipper Jones says the Mets are his pick to “go all the way”

Braves Spring baseball
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Chipper Jones may believe some weird things but he’s pretty savvy and clear-eyed when it comes to analyzing baseball.

Remember back in 2013 how he picked the Dodgers to beat the Braves in the NLDS? And how, because of his perceived “disloyalty,” Braves players had an immature little temper tantrum and refused to catch his ceremonial first pitch? Yeah, that was a great look. If I was more inclined to the hokey and irrational, I’d say that created “The Curse of Chipper” and that it condemned the Braves to two straight years of sucking. Hey, people have built careers on curses sillier than that.

Anyway, kudos to Chipper for apparently not giving a crap about that sort of thing and, instead, saying what he thinks about baseball. Stuff like how he thinks the Mets are going to win it all, saying “They’re really setting the bar and they’re my early-season pick to probably go all the way.”

Keeping in mind that anything can happen in baseball, it’s as good a pick as any other I reckon. Even if it means he has to say that the team who was his greatest rival during his playing career — and whom he thoroughly owned during that time — is better than the one that pays his salary now. Or any other one.

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)
Associated Press
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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

Ozzie Guillen Getty
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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.