Scenes from Spring Training: No, Marty Brennaman is not Bob Uecker

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This morning’s fears of severe cloudiness notwithstanding, it ended up being a very nice day at the ballpark. A bit cool, but not too bad. And a ton of sun, so take that weatherman.

The game: OK. Not great, but OK, which is as good as we can hope this time of the year.  Early on there was some nice defense, particularly by the Indians, but then things got out of control. The early crispness was helped by the fact that both teams ran out what — apart from the absence of Shin-Soo Choo and the Reds’ use of the DH — could be Opening Day lineups.  Things turned into a hot mess by the seventh, but I was occupied with more important matters by then.  Random notes:

Before the game started there were no less than three scouts hanging out near me in the press box: one — Jim Fregosi’s son, Jim Jr. — is a Phillies scout. There were also scouts from the Rays and the Braves. Fregosi and the Braves guy seemed like old friends and talked about hotels and the way the game has changed and the kind of stuff that old friends might discuss.  As a human being I was quite happy to hear all of this niceness. As a Braves fan I was utterly disgusted at the fraternization.  When they left for lunch I stole Fregosi’s notebook and put it in the Braves scout’s bag. (Note: may have only happened in my mind).

Speaking of lunch, the media spread at Goodyear Ballpark was easily the best I’ve had covering this beat. Hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecue chicken. I think they realize here that, if the writers are gonna bail on the media spread, it will be in order to go get a hot dog down on the concourse. By serving hot dogs, they cut off the competition.  Also: when you’re trying to feed a lot of people, keep it simple, OK? None of this flaming scrambled eggs on a skewer crap.

I noticed a distinct deemphasis on Chief Wahoo around here.  The Indians have the block C on the scoreboard and the script I is used a lot as well.  I don’t think this is an accident. In fact, I suspect it’s part of the Indians’ long, long-term phasing out of Wahoo. Do it slowly and subtly like this and you never have to announce anything and you thereby cut off an ugly fight. Smart play, Cleveland.

In honor of the deemphasis of Wahoo, I purchased a navy block C Indians cap in the team store. Well, partially in honor of that. Partially because I really like that cap and have wanted one for a while.

There’s a microphone hung on the screen behind home plate and the sound of the game is piped in through the speakers here in the press box.  The crack of the bat and the crowd noise makes working in this box approximately 400% better than other press boxes that sometimes serve as sensory deprivation chambers.

When Austin Kearns came to bat a lone man in the stand booed him, and did so lustily.  How can anyone work up enough hate to boo Austin freakin’ Kearns? Oh, and Darryl Thompson got the win today, so I consider that to officially close the book on the highly controversial Kearns-Felipe Lopez trade. Well, highly-controversial, like four years ago, and only by weirdos like me who defended it from the Reds’ perspective.

In the middle of the game I took a stroll around the concourse. When I stopped for a minute a middle-aged man in a Dodgers cap started talking to me. After a while he noticed my press pass, after which the following conversation ensued:

Guy: [gesturing to the press box] You been up there?

Me: Yep.

Guy: See the guy in the 1 … 2 … 3… third window over?

Me: Yep.

Guy: Isn’t that the guy from the movie “Major League?”  The “Juuuust a bit outside” guy?

Me: No. That’s Marty Brennaman.

Guy: Huh. When did they change announcers?

Me: What? Brennaman has been the Reds’ announcer for over 30 years. He’s an institution.

Guy: So they used a Reds announcer to be the Indians announcer in that movie?

Me: … Hey, nice talkin’ to ya. Gotta go upstairs.

As I type this there are two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Reds and Indians have decided to do the “everyone gets to play” game.  What is happening on the field right now is damn nigh a crime against humanity.

As I hit “post” and await for the game to end before I beat my retreat, I cast a glance over to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Jordan Bastain of MLB.com who have to actually write up a story out of all of this nonsense.  Poor sods.

Talk to you from HoHoKam Stadium tomorrow!

A scout thinks the Astros strike out too much. The Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball.

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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.

Mets acquire Jacob Rhame from Dodgers

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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.