Batting practice is a big waste of time

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Or so says most major leaguers. The New York Times has a great story about that:

But despite its almost sacred place in the game, there is one little secret about batting practice: many players think it is a colossal waste of time, a mind-numbing, flaw-producing, strategically empty exercise. Eric Chavez of the Yankees is a veteran of 15 years of major league batting practice, but he thinks it has helped him about as much as staring at a wall for an hour.

“B.P. is part of baseball tradition,” Chavez said. “It’s fun for the fans; you try to hit a couple of balls in the stands. But in terms of work, what are you working on? It’s a 30-mile-per-hour pitch.”

But such is the nature of baseball.  There is no sport that comes close to baseball in terms of “we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way” thinking. Why do batting practice? Because we’ve always done batting practice. Never mind that it’s kind of useless.

If some manager decided to scrap batting practice and did anything other than win the World Series, he’d be crucified. Doesn’t matter what the reason for the losing was, the “he got rid of batting practice!” argument would carry the day. Just ask any manager who tried to do closer by committee or anything else unorthodox about it. You play the non-conformist in baseball at your peril.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.