Oracle of Delphi

2013 Preview: The HardballTalk staff predictions

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Oh, great Oracle. Tell us what the future holds!
source:

Actually, we’re usually way wrong with this stuff. All of us picked the Phillies to win the NL East last year and that didn’t work out too well.  But at least unlike a lot of outfits, we come back to these in October and remind everyone how wrong we were, so the wrongness of it is underscored all the more. If you can’t tell, we don’t take this exercise entirely seriously. No battle plan survives engagement with the enemy and such.

Whatever the case, it’s fun to try to predict the future, darn it, so here we are:


CRAIGsource:

NL East
Nationals
Braves
Phillies
Mets
Marlins

NL Central
Reds
Cardinals
Pirates
Brewers
Cubs

NL West

Giants
Dodgers
Padres
Diamondbacks
Rockies

AL East
Blue Jays
Rays
Yankees
Orioles
Red Sox

AL Central
Tigers
Indians
Royals
White Sox
Twins

AL West
Angels
Rangers
Athletics
Mariners
Astros

NL Wild Card: Braves, Cardinals
NL Pennant Winner: Nationals
AL Wild Card: Indians, Rangers
AL Pennant Winner: Tigers
World Series Champ: Tigers over Nationals

source:  AARON

AL East
Rays
Blue Jays
Yankees
Red Sox
Orioles

AL Central
Tigers
White Sox
Indians
Royals
Twins

AL West
Rangers
Angels
A’s
Mariners
Astros

NL East
Nationals
Braves
Phillies
Mets
Marlins

NL Central
Reds
Cardinals
Brewers
Cubs
Pirates

NL West
Giants
Dodgers
Diamondbacks
Rockies
Padres

AL Wild Cards: Angels, Blue Jays
NL Wild Cards: Braves, Cardinals
AL Pennant Winner: Tigers
NL Pennant Winner: Nationals
Word Series Champ: Nationals over Tigers

source:  JOE (only division winners because I sorta hit Joe up for his picks last minute)

NL East
Nationals

NL Central
Cardinals

NL West
Giants

AL East
Nobody. I’ll say Blue Jays for the fun of it.

AL Central
Tigers

AL West
Rangers

AL Wildcard: Angels and, yes, Royals. Why not?
NL Wildcard: Cardinals, Dodgers.
World Series Champs: Nationals over Rangers.


source:  D.J.

NL East
Nationals
Braves
Phillies
Mets
Marlins

NL Central
Reds
Cardinals
Pirates
Brewers
Cubs

NL West
Giants
Dodgers
Diamondbacks
Padres
Rockies

AL East
Blue Jays
Rays
Yankees
Red Sox
Orioles

AL Central
Tigers
Indians
Royals
White Sox
Twins

AL West
Angels
Rangers
Athletics
Mariners
Astros

NL Wild Cards: Braves, Dodgers
NL Pennant Winner: Nationals
AL Wild Cards: Rays, Rangers
AL Pennant Winner: Tigers
World Series: Nationals over Tigers

source:  DREW

NL East
Nationals
Braves
Phillies
Mets
Marlins

NL Central
Reds
Cardinals
Pirates
Brewers
Cubs

NL West
Dodgers
Giants
Diamondbacks
Rockies
Padres

AL East
Blue Jays
Rays
Red Sox
Yankees
Orioles

AL Central
Tigers
Royals
White Sox
Indians
Twins

AL West
Angels
Rangers
Athletics
Mariners
Astros

NL Wild Card: Braves, Cardinals
NL Pennant Winner: Nationals
AL Wild Card: Rays, Rangers
AL Pennant Winner: Angels
World Series Champ: Angels over Nationals

source:  BILL

NL East
Nationals
Braves
Phillies
Mets
Marlins

NL Central
Reds
Cardinals
Brewers
Pirates
Cubs

NL West
Giants
Dodgers
D-Backs
Padres
Rockies

AL East
Blue Jays
Yankees
Rays
Red Sox
Orioles

AL Central
Tigers
White Sox
Indians
Royals
Twins

AL West
Angels
Rangers
Athletics
Mariners
Astros

NL Wild Card: Braves, Cardinals
NL Pennant winner: Nationals
AL Wild Card: Rangers, Yankees
AL Pennant winner: Blue Jays
World Series champ: Nationals over Blue Jays

source:  MATTHEW

NL East
Nationals
Braves
Phillies
Mets
Marlins

NL Central
Reds
Cardinals
Brewers
Pirates
Cubs

NL West
Giants
Dodgers
Padres
Diamondbacks
Rockies

AL East
Blue Jays
Rays
Yankees
Red Sox
Orioles

AL Central
Tigers
Royals
White Sox
Indians
Twins

AL West
Rangers
Athletics
Angels
Mariners
Astros

NL Wild Cards: Braves, Cardinals
NL Pennant Winner: Braves
AL Wild Cards: Rays, Athletics
AL Pennant Winner: Blue Jays
World Series Champ: Blue Jays over Braves

That’s all, folks! Take ’em to the bank. Or don’t. You’ll do just as well either way.

Wanna work as a baseball broadcaster for free?

Two drake Mallard ducks fly over Lake Erie near the Cleveland shoreline, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Cleveland. Warming temperatures have brought a variety of waterfowl to the area as they stage for the northern migration. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
AP Photo/Mark Duncan
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(Hat tip to @ItsTonyNow on Twitter for pointing this story out.)

The Madison Mallards are a collegiate summer baseball team in Wisconsin. College players join the league to have an opportunity to showcase their talents for scouts. Though they’re not exactly the New York Yankees, the Mallards do relatively well for themselves. In 2013, they had the highest average attendance among amateur teams, per The Capital Times.

That makes one of their latest job postings seem rather curious. The Mallards are looking for someone to handle both play-by-play broadcasting duties as well as media relations, as seen in this post. Only one problem: the position is unpaid. Here’s the full description (emphasis mine):

The Madison Mallards are looking for an enthusiastic and ambitious individual to join the front office as the Radio Broadcaster.

This position will manage all day-to-day media relations duties and act as the traveling secretary on all road trips. This is a seasonal position, beginning in May 2016 and ending in mid-August. This position is unpaid. The candidate will serve as the full-time radio broadcaster, traveling with the team during the season.

Duties and responsibilities include but are not limited to:
* Write press releases promoting team initiatives including post-game recaps for the team website.
* Coordinate all aspects of team travel including notifying restaurants, hotels, and other teams, getting team orders, room assignments, etc.
* Broadcast all 72 Northwoods League games on 1670 The Zone including pre- and post-game shows, during the regular season (and playoffs if necessary).
* Ability to work long hours, including weekends, as business indicates.
* Strong written and verbal communication skills
* Produce radio commercials for the Mallards and business partners
* Work closely with GM and Corporate Service team to include all sponsor and promotional live reads each gameUpdate the Mallards website daily
* Other duties as assigned by GM

The habit of baseball teams looking for free labor isn’t exactly new. The U.S. Department of Labor investigated the Giants and Marlins in 2013 for possible wage law violations. That included the Giants being investigated for “possible improper use of unpaid interns.” The Giants ended up paying $544,715 in back wages. In a memo that year issued by Rob Manfred, he cited the Department of Labor believing that MLB’s habit of taking advantage of unpaid interns was “endemic to our industry.”

According to U.S. law, a for-profit company can hire an unpaid intern by meeting each of six criteria, according to FindLaw:

  • The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment
  • The experience is for the benefit of the intern
  • The intern does not displace regular employees but works under close supervision of existing staff
  • The employer providing the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded
  • There is no guarantee of a job at the conclusion of the internship
  • Both parties understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the internship

It would seem that the third and fourth criteria wouldn’t be met.

The Mallards are almost certainly looking for a college student — not a well-credentialed media veteran — looking to add to his or her resume. They are also very clearly looking to take advantage of that student given the plethora of job responsibilities with no pay. Current college students are part of the millennial generation which has increasingly been taken advantage of through unpaid internships. Steven Greenhouse wrote for the New York Times in 2012:

No one keeps statistics on the number of college graduates taking unpaid internships, but there is widespread agreement that the number has significantly increased, not least because the jobless rate for college graduates age 24 and under has risen to 9.4 percent, the highest level since the government began keeping records in 1985. (Employment experts estimate that undergraduates work in more than one million internships a year, with Intern Bridge, a research firm, finding almost half unpaid.)

In a capitalist society, businesses are always going to search for the cheapest source of labor. Considering how bad the economy is and has been for millennials, they’ve had a pretty good time finding it. It’s hard to fault college students jumping at the opportunity to work in an industry they like in the hopes of one day landing a dream job. But as much as those businesses might loathe admitting it, that labor is worth something whether it’s for an amateur baseball team or a major league team.

Joey Votto: “I’d rather quit and leave all the money on the table than play at a poor level.”

Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto reacts after a swinging strike against Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo
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Reds first baseman Joey Votto went 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI single in Sunday’s 11-inning victory over the Pirates, but his overall stats remain dour. The 2010 NL MVP is batting a meager .230/.330/.310 with a pair of home runs and 12 RBI.

Votto spoke about his struggles in the first month of the 2016 season and he was quite honest. Via C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“It’s not something I’m OK with. I’d rather quit and leave all the money on the table than play at a poor level,” Votto said before Sunday’s game against the Pirates. “I’m here to play and be part of setting a standard. It’s something I’ve always taken pride in. I love to play at a really high level. So far this year, it’s not been that. I will not be a very satisfied, happy person if I don’t perform at the level that I expect.”

Votto added, “I refuse to accept my peak has [passed], I refuse to accept that my best days are in the past. I’m not there yet. I just don’t see that, I don’t feel that.”

Votto, 32, has eight years and $199 million remaining on the 10-year, $225 million contract extension he signed with the Reds in April 2012.

Bryce Harper struck out four times in a game for the first time in nearly four years

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper reacts after he struck out during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Washington. The Phillies won 3-0.(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has not exactly been strikeout-averse over his five-year career, but he has been pretty good about not bunching them up. Entering Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Harper had struck out three or more times in a game only 21 times in 533 games. He had registered two four-strikeout games, the last of which occurred on August 21, 2012 — his rookie season.

On Sunday, Harper struck out three times against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez and once against reliever Seung Hwan Oh for the dreaded golden sombrero. The reigning NL MVP has now equaled his walk and strikeout totals at 17 apiece.

Despite the rough afternoon, Harper still owns a lusty .272/.390/.679 triple-slash line with nine home runs and 24 RBI.

Chase Headley doesn’t think Yankee Stadium is as hitter-friendly as advertised

New York Yankees Chase Headley (12) breaks his bat on a ground out to third during the third inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Monday, April 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
AP Photo/Brandon Wade
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Yankees third baseman Chase Headley finished April without registering an extra-base hit. Across 71 plate appearances, he registered only nine hits for an uninspiring .150/.268/.150 triple-slash line. Speaking to David Laurilia of FanGraphs, Headley said that Yankee Stadium isn’t as hitter-friendly as many people think it is, and added that the shift has helped to limit his offensive success.

“Everybody talks about how good of a ballpark Yankee Stadium is to hit in, but it’s pretty big with the exception of right field,” said Headley. “The rest of it plays as big, or bigger, than most yards. It’s maybe a better fit for guys who hit the ball high down the line than it for guys who hit the ball like I have for a lot of my career.”

[…]

“Because of the shifting that’s going on now, if you hit the ball on the ground, for the most part you’re out,” Headley told me. “I’m trying to get the ball elevated — I want to hit it hard in the air — and if I never hit another ball on the ground, I’ll be happy.”

According to StatCorner.com, Yankee Stadium is indeed better for left-handed hitters, and particularly so when it comes to extra-base hits. It lists park factors for handedness, setting 100 as average. A higher number means it’s more hitter-friendly. Here are the left-right numbers as of today’s writing:

  • Singles: 101 for left-handed hitters, 102 for right-handed hitters
  • Doubles and triples: 101 LH, 82 RH
  • Home runs: 137 LH, 127 RH

Headley’s hypothesis seems to have some merit. But his claim that shifts have been hurting him doesn’t seem to hold up to the numbers.

babip

Headley’s ground ball BABIP (batting average on balls in play) this season is only .022 behind his career average of .239. As he’s only hit 23 ground balls total this season, the difference between .239 and .217 is less than one hit.

Where Headley’s BABIP is notably lower is line drives. His career average line drive BABIP is .698, but it’s only .333 on nine line drives in 2016. This could be simple bad luck or it could mean Headley is making worse contact. FanGraphs’ batted ball data suggests Headley has been pulling significantly fewer balls (36 percent to his 45 percent career average), and he’s making “hard” contact less often (21 percent versus his 31 percent career average). Overall, there’s been very little change in his ground ball rate versus his fly ball rate.

Headley mentioned to Laurila that if he could, he would try to hit fly balls to the pull side more often. “I’m working on that,” he said.