Injury forces should-be Hall of Famer Jim Edmonds to retire

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Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Jim Edmonds has decided to retire rather than attempt a comeback with the Cardinals because the Achilles’ tendon injury he suffered late last season “has not come around.”

It’s a shame too, because Edmonds remained a very productive player last season even after sitting out all of 2009. He hit .276 with a .342 on-base percentage and .504 slugging percentage in 272 plate appearances for the Brewers and Reds, and was set to compete for a bench spot with the Cardinals after signing a minor-league contract last month.

My sense is that Edmonds has little chance to actually convince the voters that he’s deserving of a place in Cooperstown, but to me he’s a pretty clear Hall of Famer. He finishes as a career .286/.376/.526 hitter with 393 homers and his relatively modest total of 1,949 hits is due in part to his outstanding total of 998 walks. Those numbers are impressive in any context–he has a higher OPS and more homers than recent Hall of Fame inductee Jim Rice, for instance–but they really stand out among fellow center fielders.

Edmonds is one of just seven center fielders in baseball history with more than 350 homers and the others are Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Andruw Jones, Duke Snider, and Joe DiMaggio. He also ranks among the top 10 center fielders of all time in RBIs, walks, slugging percentage, OPS, and extra-base hits. Oh, and he’s an eight-time Gold Glove winner (for whatever that’s worth).

Add it all up and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) on Baseball-Reference.com pegs Edmonds as 68.3 wins better than a replacement-level center fielder for his career, which is the seventh-highest total of all time sandwiched in between Griffey (78.5 WAR) and Snider (67.5). If you think the Hall of Fame should probably include the 10 best center fielders in baseball history, then Edmonds belongs.

Yoenis Cespedes should be ready for Tuesday’s game

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The Mets are off today, and that day off may be just enough to get outfielder Yoenis Cespedes ready to start their next game, on Tuesday, against the Braves. At least that’s what he’s telling Mets manager Terry Collins.

Cespedes did not play in the weekend series against the Nationals, but was available as a pinch hitter yesterday. He was even on the on-deck circle at the end of last night’s game.

Cespedes, who tweaked his hammy running to second base on Thursday, is hitting .255/.364/.636 with six homers and 10 RBI in 15 games on the young season.

Marcus Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch for some reason

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A “quick pitch” is an illegal action in which the pitcher pitches the ball before the batter is prepared. What makes a quick pitch a quick pitch? According to Rule 6.02(a)(5), it’s this:

 . . . Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

There are a couple of reasons why you don’t want quick pitches in baseball. In one respect, it’s about safety, as mentioned specifically in the rule. You don’t want a pitcher throwing a 90 m.p.h. fastball in the batter’s general direction if he’s not ready for it, because if it goes off course the batter will have no ability to defend himself and bail. But there’s also a spirit-of-the-game reason for it. The essence of baseball is the face-off between batter and pitcher. While everyone wants the game to move along promptly, the game isn’t really the game if the batter isn’t ready.

There is more art than science to all of this, of course, as all batters and pitchers have different pre-pitch routines, but when you watch a game, there’s a rhythm to all of that. You know the batter is gonna take a couple of practice swings and settle in. The pitcher tends to respect that. The quick pitch rule is rarely invoked for this reason.

It was used in yesterday’s Angels-Blue Jays game, however. And used badly in my view. Watch Marcus Stroman pitch to Kole Calhoun. The ump is Ramon DeJesus. The count was 3-1, so the automatic ball resulted in Calhoun being awarded first base:

Calhoun was obviously upset about something, calling time after Stroman is into his motion (which is not allowed) throwing his hands up and stuff after the pitch. But tell me, in what way was he not “reasonably ready” for that pitch, to use the language of the rule? He’s facing Stroman, looking at him. He’s done with his warmup swings, his bat is up and cocked and he’s standing in hitting position. I understand that it’s a judgment call by the umpire, but it seems to me like the umpire just called time too late because Calhoun didn’t feel ideally comfortable or something.

Either way, it set off Stroman and manager John Gibbons. Gibbons was ejected arguing the call. Stroman, who was otherwise excellent yesterday, was rattled for a bit, giving up a couple of hits and a run afterward. It was Calhoun who scored, natch.

It didn’t affect the outcome, but it certainly seemed like a bad call. And possibly a bad precedent, as batters may now try to lobby harder for quick pitch calls, given its success yesterday. Or, if umpires tend to think that was a bad call too, maybe they’ll overcompensate for it and be less likely to call quick pitches? You never know how this stuff will play out.

Whatever happens, I’ve been against Major League Baseball’s habit of increasingly taking judgment calls away from umpires, trying to make the subjective objective and making a flawed instant replay system the Supreme Court of Baseball Calls. But jeez, it’s hard to argue for allowing umps to hold on to judgment calls when they blow ’em like this.