Is the ‘Big Three’ effect overplayed?

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With Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels leading the way, it is easy to label the Philadelphia Phillies favorites to reach – and even win — the World Series.

Our viewpoint is particularly colored by having just watched them make the hard-hitting Cincinnati Reds look as helpless as Craig Sager at a postgame celebration.

But do the Phillies really have that big of an advantage over the other three remaining playoff teams? Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing crunched the numbers and the results are interesting.

Here are the records of the four playoff teams this season when their top three starters were on the mound:
Yankees: 59-25 (.702)
Phillies: 50-28 (.641)
Giants: 61-38 (.616)
Rangers: 44-36 (.550)

And here we have the same four teams, ranked in order of runs scored this season. Think the Yankees’ offense will come into play the rest of the way?:

Yankees: 859
Rangers: 787
Phillies: 772
Giants: 697

Writes Sullivan:

The Phillies have an awesome rotation. It’s the best one left. It is not so much better than anyone else’s that they ought to be the clear, undeniable favorites to take this thing home. As obvious as it sounds: we just can’t predict with any kind of certainty what’s going to happen, and all four of the teams remaining have an excellent chance.

Sure, the Yankees and Phillies are favored to meet in a World Series rematch, but I think these two series are going to be a lot closer than people think.

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The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.