San Diego Padres v St. Louis Cardinals

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 4, Padres 0: Tough break for San Diego to have Adam Wainwright figure it out and throw a four-hit shutout while they were in town, but I really do need them to go on a bad skid right now. I’m taking my kids to their first major league game when we go to San Diego next month — Rangers-Padres on June 18! —  and it would be really useful for me if the secondary market was flooded with cheap, unwanted tickets.

Nationals 5, Phillies 2: A lot of folks in the Bryce Harper/Philly threads of the past few days have said stuff about how, for all of the talk, this isn’t truly a rivalry. I tend to agree. For it to be a real rivalry, one team can’t dominate the matchups so thoroughly. The Nats take the fourth of five meetings so far this year, and have beaten Philly six straight times in Citizens Bank Park. Harper singled, tripled and drove in two.

Reds 4, Braves 3: Brandon Phillips hit two homers and Brandon Beachy backs up his best start of the season with his worst (7 IP, 6 H, 4 ER). Not that it was horrible. You can get a win with a line like that, but Mat Latos was better (7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 8K). Michael Bourn had two home runs in a losing cause. In case you haven’t noticed it, Bourn — a Boras clients — is making himself some serious bank in his walk year (.323/.376/.439, 13 SB and the usual solid D).

Mets 3, Pirates 2: R.A. Dickey struck out 11 in seven innings, which was a career high. Which means that in the space of five days the Pirates were dominated by one of the the hardest throwing starters in baseball in Justin Verlander and one of the softest throwing in Dickey. The Pirates offense is like some weird scientific control group or something. A time trial. They’re setting the bogey for every pitcher in baseball, and there’s something damn noble about that.

Twins 9, White Sox 2: Twins fans aren’t quite sure what to make of a starting pitcher who goes deep into games and strikes out a lot of batters, but they’ll accept what they got from P.J. Walters last night (CG, 5 H, 2 ER, 8K).

Marlins 7, Rockies 6: Nolasco vs. Nicasio! With special referee Tom Nieto!  On hand were Chris Nabholz, Russ Nagelson and Cholly NaranjoTsuyoshi Nishioka sends his regrets from Rochester.

Astros 2, Cubs 1: The Astros gotta be the most respectable team everyone thought would lose 100+ games in history, right? Jose Altuve with a homer, Brett “trade for me because I’m a proven closer, I swear” Myers got his 11th save.

Rays 8, Blue Jays 5: Carlos Pena was moved to the leadoff spot and had two hits, including a homer. Dude: you’re a table setter. Make things happen. Home runs kill rallies. Hasn’t anyone ever told you that?

Yankees 3, Royals 2: New York is lucky they won this one. Because I have it on good authority that all of those hacks who write “If the Boss was alive …” columns when the Yankees struggle are in the process of actually reanimating Steinbrenner’s corpse and unleashing him on the populace. He’ll have a hunger for brains. And calzones. But mostly brains.

Indians 5, Tigers 3: Cleveland ends a ten-game losing streak to the Tigers. Andy Dirks had two hits in the two-hole and Miguel Cabrera was walked three times batting third. Prince Fielder was 0 for 5, however.

Orioles 4, Red Sox 1; Brian Matusz struck out nine in six and a third as the Red Sox managed only two hits all damn night. I think it would be hilarious now if Josh Beckett called a closed-door meeting in which the pitchers yelled at the Red Sox hitters, after which Beckett came out and told the press that he’s totally a leader. And if he had the whole press conference while wearing Payne Stewart-style golf pants.

Giants 6, Brewers 4: Giancarlo Stanton, nothin’: Buster Posey homered off the Miller Park scoreboard. He also hit a double and blocked the plate to prevent a run, which is something he was told not to do, but hey, heat of battle, yo.  The Giants have won eight of eleven.

Dodgers 8, Diamondbacks 7: Down one in the ninth inning and down to their last out, the Dodgers Ivan De Jesus hit a two-run double, completing the comeback after being down 6-1 in the sixth inning. It was the Dodgers’ sixth straight win. The Dbacks’ bullpen work was reminiscent of 2010.

Rangers 3, Mariners 1:  Elvis Andrus tripled home two runs in the third, but it was one of only four hits for the Rangers who won this one with pitching and defense. Matt Harrison tied up the M’s (7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER) and Josh Hamilton made two pretty spectacular plays in the outfield, robbing Seattle of hits.

Angels 5, Athletics 1: C.J. Wilson probably figured before the game “heck, our offense stinks, but if the other guys can’t score, they can’t win.”  So he shut out the A’s on one hit over eight innings. A homer and a sacrifice fly for Pujols.

Did Tony La Russa screw Jim Edmonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy?

2011 World Series Game 4 -Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals
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Yes, that’s a somewhat provocative question. But it’s still an interesting question, the relevancy of and merits of which we’ll get to in a second. I pose it mostly so I can tell you about some neat research a friend of mine is doing and which should make Hall of Fame discussions and the general discussion of baseball history a lot of fun in the coming years. Bear with me for a moment.

There has long been a war between metrics and narrative. The folks who say that so-and-so was great because of the arc of his story and his career and those who say so-and-so was not so great or whatshisface was way, way better because of the numbers. Those views are often pitted as irreconcilable opposites. But what if they weren’t? What if there was some data which explained why some players become narrative darlings and others don’t? Some explanation for why, say, Jim Rice is in the Hall of Fame while Dwight Evans isn’t despite having better numbers? An explanation, that isn’t about voters being dumb or merely playing favorites all willy-nilly? What if there was some actual quantitative reason why favorites get played in the first place?

That’s the thesis of the work of Brandon Isleib. He has just finished writing a very interesting book. It’s not yet published, but I have had the chance to read it. It sets forth the fascinating proposition that we can quantify narrative. That we can divine actual numerical values which help explain a player’s fame and public profile. Values which aren’t based on some complicated or counterintuitive formula, but which are rooted in the very thing all baseball fans see every day: games. Wins and losses. The daily standings. Values which reveal that, no, Hall of Fame voters who made odd choices in the view of the analytics crowd weren’t necessarily stupid or petty. They were merely reacting to forces and dynamics in the game which pushed them in certain ways and not others.

“But wait!” you interject. “Jim Rice and Dwight Evans played on the same dang team! How does Brandon distinguish that?” I won’t give away all the details of it but it makes sense if you break down how the Red Sox did in certain years and how that corresponded with Rice’s and Evans’ best years. There were competitive narratives in play in 1975, 1978 or 1986 that weren’t in play in 1981 or 1987. From those competitive narratives come player narratives which are pretty understandable. When you weight it all based on how competitive a team was on a day-to-day basis based on how far out of first place they were, etc., a picture starts to come together which explains why “fame” works the way it does.

From this, you start to realize why certain players, no matter how good, never got much Hall of Fame consideration. And why others’ consideration seemed disproportionate compared to their actual performance. All of which, again, is based on numbers, not on the sort of bomb-throwing media criticism in which jerks like me have come to engage.

Like I said, the book won’t be out for a bit — Brandon just finished it — but in the meantime he has a website where he has been and, increasingly will be, talking about his quantification of narrative stuff, writing short articles posing some of the questions his book and his research addresses.

Today’s entry — which is what my headline is based on — isn’t really numbers-based. It’s more talking about the broader phenomenon Brandon’s work gets at in terms of trying to figure out which players are credited for their performance and which are not so credited and why. Specifically, it talks about how Tony La Russa, more than most managers, gets the credit for his success and his players probably get somewhat less than they deserve. In this way La Russa is kind of viewed as a football coach figure and his players are, I dunno, system quarterbacks. It’s something that is unfair, I think, to guys like Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen and will, eventually, likely be unfair to players like Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday.

It’s fascinating stuff which gets to the heart of player reputation and how history comes together. It reminds us that, in the end, the reporters and the analysts who argue about all of these things are secondary players, even if we make the most noise. It’s the figures in the game — the players and the managers — who shape it all. The rest of us are just observers and scribes.

Corey Seager tops Keith Law’s top-100 prospect list

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager warms up before Game 1 of baseball's National League Division Series against the New York Mets, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
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Yesterday it was the top farm systems, today it’s the top-100 prospects from ESPN’s Keith Law.

As Law notes, there’s a HUGE amount of turnover on the list from last year, given how many top prospects were promoted to the bigs in 2015. Kris Bryant seems like a grizzled old veteran now. Carlos Correa too. Eleven of the top 20 from last year’s list have graduated into the bigs. Are we sure it’s only been a year?

So, obviously, there’s a new number one. It’s Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ infielder. Not that everything has changed. Byron Buxton is still number two. This will obviously be his last year on the list. If you want to see and read about the other 98, go check out Keith’s excellent work.

And yes, like yesterday’s farm system rankings, it’s Insider subscription only. There were comments about how much you all hate that and I am sure there will be many more of them today. I get that. No one likes to pay for content. I was somewhat amused, however, by comments that said things like “hey, maybe if we don’t click it, they’ll have to give it to us for free!” Maybe! Or, more likely, the content simply will cease to exist!

It’s good stuff, folks. There aren’t many paid sites I say that about.

Ozzie Guillen to manage again. In Venezuela

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With Dusty Baker getting back into action with the Nationals and with there being at least some moderate sense that, maybe, inexperienced dudes might not be the best choice to manage big league clubs, I sorta hoped that someone would give Ozzie Guillen another look. Nah. Not happening.

Not that I’m shocked or anything. I can imagine that, under the best of circumstances, a guy like Guillen is hard to have around. He tends to find controversy pretty easily and, unlike some other old hands, Guillen never claimed to be any kind of master tactician. He famously said that he was bored during games until the sixth or seventh inning when he had to start thinking about pitching changes. Refreshing honesty, yes, but maybe not the sort of dude you bring on to, say, be a bench coach or to mentor your younger coaches or to show your hand-picked manager the ropes. Nope, it seemed like Guillen was destined to stay in broadcasting with ESPN Deportes or someone and that his days in uniform were over.

But they’re not over! Guillen was hired yesterday to manage the La Guaira Sharks of the Venezuelan Winter League next offseason. It’s not the bigs, but it is is first on-field gig since he was canned by the Marlins in 2012.

 

Guillen managed the White Sox from 2004-11 and was voted AL Manager of the Year in 2005, when Chicago won the World Series. He may be a bit of a throwback now, but he knows what he’s doing. While I can’t really say that a major league team would be wise to hire the guy — I get it, I really do — a selfish part of me really wants him back in the bigs. He was fun.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.