If it weren’t for that pesky First Amendment I’d campaign for a law that forbids partisans of any baseball team from suggesting personnel moves until a good ten days after the World Series ends, because almost anything that comes out in that vein is reactionary and fairly stupid. As soon as the Yankees were eliminated there were people talking about trading Nick Swisher, which makes no sense. Lately a certain brand of Phillies people are trying to pass off this kind of baloney:
Chase Utley has been haunted by one injury after the next. His defense at second base has gone from acceptable to poor. His offensive production is deteriorating at troubling speed.
So exactly what was so outrageous again about the notion of moving Utley to the outfield earlier in his career?
While far less than a populist view, the Utley-to-the-outfield initiative was advanced by the enlightened. Loosely based on the Alfonso Soriano-Robin Yount model, the idea was to provide full protection of Utley as a power hitter by minimizing his inning-to-inning physical stress. Naturally, it was shouted down. The best thoughts usually are.
Utley made a couple of bad plays at second in the playoffs and now people are trying to argue that he’s no good at second anymore. Meanwhile back in the world of the reality-based, he’s still pretty obviously the best second baseman in the National League. Sure he got hurt this year, but by just about every measure he was just as good defensively in 2010 as he’s ever been.
Perhaps there will come a time when moving him to the outfield makes sense. That day, however, is not today.
Great moments in scouting. MLB.com’s Richard Justice spoke to an unnamed scout about the Astros, currently holding the American League’s best record at 76-47. The scout said that the Astros strike out too much and it will catch up with them. Justice pointed out that the Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball. The scout responded, “I don’t believe that.”
Justice, of course, is correct. The average major league team has struck out 1,006 times entering Sunday’s action. The Astros have by far the lowest total at 827, followed by the Indians at 881 and the Pirates at 882.
This scout doesn’t represent all scouts, but this is one of the major problems that advocates of statistics were trying to highlight before Sabermetrics became popular a decade ago. It’s a pattern. Person believes thing. Person either cherry-picks evidence to defend belief or is shown evidence that belief is not factually true and ignores it. Person refuses to change belief, using one of many excuses.
The other problem this highlights is the fallacy of “the eye test,” which is shorthand for treating a scout’s observations as sacrosanct due to his or her experience and knowledge of the game. In this case, the scout ignored easily accessed information, went with his gut, and turned out to be completely wrong. Furthermore, if “the eye test” were legit, the scout would’ve known that, for example, Yulieski Gurriel and Jose Altuve hardly ever strike out (11.1 and 12.4 percent strikeout rates, respectively). In fact, no one on the Astros’ roster (min. 230 PA) has a strikeout rate above 21 percent; the league average is 21.5 percent.
This isn’t to impugn the practice of scouting as a whole. There are a lot of things scouts can tell you about a player that data cannot and that has value. But for easily-researched claims like “the Astros strike out too much,” there’s no reason to trust a scout over the stats.
The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.
Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.
The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.