Yunel Escobar suspended for three games

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It was just announced that the Blue Jays have suspended Yunel Escobar for three games over his anti-gay eye black. Escobar will also participate in a sensitivity training program “in accordance with the Toronto Blue Jays and Major League Baseball.” The punishment was agreed upon between the Blue Jays, the union and Major League Baseball.

It’s worth noting that Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was suspended for two weeks for making anti-gay remarks to a fan in San Francisco last year.

If there is no other discipline involved here, I’d have to say that Escobar is getting off pretty easily.

There will be a press conference shortly.

UPDATE:  The presser just went down.  Among the highlights:

Escobar made a statement at the outset: via a translator, which made it a little disjointed, here are the highlights of his statement:

“I’m sorry for the actions of the other day … it’s not something I intended to be offensive … it’s just something I put on the sticker on my face … it was nothing intentional directed at anyone in particular.  “I have friends who are gay,” I have nothing against homosexuals … I am sorry what will happen and it will never happen again in my career. It is a lesson I have learned … I didn’t mean for this to be misinterpreted by the gay community. I apologize.”

The first question of the conference was whether anyone in the Blue Jays clubhouse noticed the lettering on the eye black. The answer: nope. He writes things on his eye black a lot, and the lettering was small, so no one noticed it.

The second question: if Escobar didn’t mean for it to be offensive, what did he truly mean?  The answer was not the most satisfying thing ever:  he just didn’t mean it. “It’s a word that is said often among the Latino community,” he said. Which … sure.  But if “people in certain community X say that word often” was a defense, nothing would ever be considered offensive. People in the Klan could say that the N-word was, “well, something that is said often on our community.”

As for that “some of my friends are gay” comment, I must give props to a reporter who followed up and asked him who.  Escobar actually said “the person who decorates my house is gay … the person who does my hair is gay.”  I don’t know if he had any other cliches at the ready, but good for him for his apparently happy life living in a television sitcom.

Oh well. I don’t think three games are going to do anything to change Yunel Escobar as a person.  But that’s not the point. The point, one would hope, is that ballplayers would keep their prejudices to themselves rather than wear them out onto the diamond and in front of TV cameras.

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.