Derek Holland pitched his second straight shutout last night, helping the Rangers to a 5-0 win over the Mariners. In fact, it was his third shutout in his last eight starts. He has more shutouts this season than Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, and Clayton Kershaw.
But the man is not consistent. In between shutout number one and shutout number two he had a stretch of five starts, four of which were pretty bad, one of which was a win, though not a particularly impressive one. Before that first shutout there were a lot of crooked numbers too. On the year he has a 4.32 ERA and has allowed 125 hits and has walked 42 guys in 118 innings.
I’m fascinated when guys go on runs like this. Is he as good as he looks when he’s good? Is he as bad as he looks when he’s bad? Are the recent good performances a sign that something has clicked and we’re about to see a Cliff Lee-style career pivot? Or are we really seeing the games we’ll point to a couple of years from now when we say “look, he always had potential, but …”
Maybe it’s a less-than-deep thought, but I’m sitting here right now, just marveling over the fact that we’ve been playing organized baseball for for close to 150 years and we still really have no idea about how pitching works. Or at least why some guys put it together and some don’t. At least not until after they’ve either succeeded and failed and we give our post-hoc explanations.
What’s Derek Holland gonna do? I have no idea. And I think that’s pretty neat.
The New York Times has a blistering report on the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. The Fund is the charity the Yankees created in 2006 as a means of making up for the negative impact the construction New Yankee Stadium had on the surrounding community, primarily via its taking over 25 acres of parkland.
The idea of the Fund was a good one: to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment, and 600,000 free baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. And it has been distributing funds and tickets. As the Times reports, however, the manner in which it has done so raises some red flags. Such as:
- Charitable donations have, in an amazing coincidence, often gone to other charities which share common board members with the New Yankee Stadium Fund;
- Funds have gone to many wealthy groups in affluent parts of the Bronx far away from the Stadium while the area around the stadium remains one of the most impoverished in the nation. For example, a private school in a wealthy part of the borough and a rec center in a gated community have gotten a lot money that, one would think anyway, could be and should be devoted to organizations closer to the ballpark that are in greater need; and
- There has been almost no transparency or oversight of the Fund. Reports which were supposed to have been submitted have not been. And no one, apart from the Times anyway, seems to care. The Yankees certainly don’t seem to. Indeed, as the article notes, the team has worked hard to keep the Fund’s operations out of its hands. They just got their new ballpark and write the checks and hand out the tickets. Everything else is someone else’s problem.
Cronyism in private philanthropy is not uncommon. As is a lack of oversight. Often it’s the best connected people who receive the benefit of such funds, not the people most in need. This is especially true in charities whose creation was not born of a philanthropic impulse as much as it was born of a need to put a good face on some not-so-good business dealings.
If the Times’ report is correct — and the lack of anyone coming forward to dispute it on the record despite the Times’ requests that they do — it appears as if the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is one of those sorts of charities.
We’re not talking the 100 meters here. We’re talking practical baseball sprinting. That’s defined by the StatCast folks at MLB as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window,” while sprinting for the purposes of, you know, winning a baseball game.
StatCast ranked all players who have at least 10 “max effort” runs this year. I won’t give away who is at the top of this list, but given that baseball’s speedsters tend to get a lot of press you will not be at all surprised. As for the bottom of the list, well, the Angels don’t pay Albert Pujols to run even when he’s not suffering from late career chronic foot problems, so they’ll probably let that one go. I will say, however, that I am amused that the third slowest dude in baseball is named “Jett,” however.
Lately people have noticed some odd things about home run distances on StatCast, suggesting that maybe their metrics are wacko. And, of course, their means of gauging this stuff is proprietary and opaque, so we have no way of knowing if their numbers are off the reservation or not. As such, take all of the StatCast stuff you see with a grain of salt.
That said, even if the feet-per-second stuff is wrong here, knowing that Smith is faster than Jones by a factor of X is still interesting.