Justin Verlander IS NOT single-handedly carrying the Tigers into the playoffs

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Before I say what I’m gonna say, please understand: I do not think an MVP vote for Justin Verlander is silly. It is not an outrage. This is one of those years where there are multiple defensible choices and the arguments for some candidates I wouldn’t personally support are nonetheless totally valid.  Verlander may win the MVP and if he does it will not be a travesty.

That said, this sort of argument in his favor — offered by Mitch Albom in this case — doesn’t do much for me:

Let’s just focus on the word “valuable.” The “V” in MVP. That is what the award is supposed to signify, right? Not biggest bat, niftiest glove or flashiest numbers. Valuable? Is there any question that, if you took Verlander off this Tigers team, it would not be making the playoffs?

The Tigers lead the AL Central by 12.5 games. I don’t care what method of quantifying you prefer, including the old eyeball test: if you took Justin Verlander off this team and replaced him with a regular old starter, it is pretty damn certain that the Tigers make the playoffs.  Sure, they may still be in a mild fight with another team and, no, I wouldn’t give them much of a chance against the Rangers and Yankees of the world, but they’d be in the playoffs.

This isn’t some point of statistical analysis. It’s simply reflective of my anger that everyone wants to pretend that the presence of Alex Avila, Miguel Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, Brennan Boesch, Victor Martinez and Jose Valverde means nothing.  To the contrary, that is a team, performing as it has this year, that fairly easily wins the AL Central.

Verlander is obviously having a fantastic season. And there’s a valid argument to be made that he’s the MVP. But it’s not because he’s single-handedly carrying Detroit into the playoffs. That’s simply not true.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.