Major League Baseball allowed Virginia Tech tribute hats in 2007

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I’m still shocked at Major League Baseball’s refusal to allow the Mets to wear NYPD and FDNY caps in last night’s game against the Cubs.  I’m still curious to hear some rationale from Joe Torre apart from some regurgitation of baseball’s rule against allowing teams to wear unofficial caps.  And there needs to be another reason because sometimes baseball does allow unofficial caps.

As Marc Carig reminded us this morning, four years ago the Nationals were given formal approval to wear Virginia Tech caps following the shooting rampage that occurred on Virginia Tech’s campus, leaving 32 people dead and 25 injured. As Carig himself reported at the time, those caps were obtained, just hours before the game, from sporting goods stores in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. But their use was officially approved by Major League Baseball.

If that was OK, why not the Mets’ request? My cynical side looks at Joe Torre’s reference to the fact that all teams wore caps with little flags on them and wonders if there are less-innocuous reason than “it’s a unanimity thing” for baseball’s refusal. Like, for example, the fact that one of baseball’s merchandising partners is selling caps with the little flags on them. Did some vendor object to there being something that takes away from the 9/11 cap?

I hope that’s not the case. I hope that this is all really Major League Baseball being myopic and tone deaf. Because if this was really all about making sure that the Mets didn’t take away a marketing opportunity for one of its business partners during last night’s telecast, it would be pretty sad indeed.

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.