Casey McGehee

Casey McGehee, Hector Luna tearing up the Japanese Leagues

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A month into NPB play, the leading hitters in both the Central and Pacific Leagues are former major leaguers playing in Japan for the first time. Here are some early numbers:

Central League – Hitting

Hector Luna: .402/.462/.624, 3 HR in 117 AB
Matt Murton: .362/.400/.474, 2 HR in 116 AB
Tony Blanco: .346/.423/.841, 16 HR in 107 AB
Jose Lopez: .324/.348/.595, 7 HR in 111 AB
Wladimir Balentien: .317/.447/ 783, 8 HR in 60 AB
Tsuyoshi Nishioka: .298/.367/.368, 0 HR in 114 AB
John Bowker: .296/.351/.662, 6 HR in 71 AB
Lastings Milledge: .246/.320/.368, 2 HR in 114 AB
Brooks Conrad: .180/.328/.280, 0 HR in 50 AB
Kosuke Fukudome: .162/.250/.288, 4 HR in 111 AB
Nyjer Morgan: .132/.250/.132, 0 HR in 38 AB

Luna, Murton and Blanco are the Central League’s top three hitters by average. Murton, who set a Central League record for hits in his NPB debut in 2010, seems to be on the way back up this year after a very disappointing 2012. … Milledge, on the other hand, is struggling after ranking among the league leaders with a .300/.379/.485 line and 21 homers in his debut for Yakult last year. … Fukudome ranks last among qualifiers in batting average in his return to Japan.

Central League – Pitching

Daniel Cabrera: 3-1, 1.09 ERA, 25/10 K/BB in 33 IP
Bryan Bullington: 2-1, 2.22 ERA, 27/6 K/BB in 44 2/3 IP
Brad Bergesen: 1-1, 4.43 ERA, 9/9 K/BB in 22 1/3 IP
Kam Mickolio: 1.35 ERA, 5 Sv, 7/5 K/BB in 13 1/3 IP
Scott Mathieson: 2.38 ERA, 7 Hd, 13/5 K/BB in 11 1/3 IP

Bullington, an MLB bust after being drafted first overall by the Pirates in 2002, made headlines for all of the wrong reasons the other day, intentionally plunking a hitter who had asked for time.

Pacific League – Hitting

Casey McGehee: .396/.476/.637, 5 HR in 91 AB
Esteban German: .367/.473/.411, 0 HR in 90 AB
Tadahito Iguchi: .318/.434/.466, 1 HR in 88 AB
Bryan LaHair: .314/.375/.598, 7 HR in 102 AB
Michel Abreu: .298/.359/.606, 9 HR in 94 AB
Andruw Jones: .247/.398/.416, 4 HR in 89 AB
Kaz Matsui: .244/.284/.400, 2 HR in 90 AB
Wily Mo Pena: .208/.279/.260, 0 HR in 77 AB
Ryan Spilborghs: .197/.271/.279, 1 HR in 61 AB

It can’t be great for baseball pride that no Japanese player is in the top three in hitting in either circuit right now. Sandwiched in between McGehee and German atop the Pacific League list is Korean superstar Dae-Ho Lee. … Wily Mo is sporting an incredibly unusual line in 77 at-bats, suggesting that he’s battling some sort of injury. He hit .280 with 21 homers for Softbank last year.

Pacific League – Pitching

Brandon Dickson: 3-1, 2.18 ERA, 20/8 K/BB in 33 IP
Brandon Duckworth: 1-3, 4.71 ERA, 16/10 K/BB in 28 2/3 IP
Brian Falkenborg: 0.75 ERA, 6 Sv, 12/1 K/BB in 12 IP
Dennis Sarfate: 0.00 ERA, 2 Hd, 6/6 K/BB in 9 1/3 IP
Vicente Padilla: 5.40 ERA, 2/4 K/BB in 5 IP

Padilla, after Andruw Jones probably Japan’s most notable import over the winter, has been dealing with forearm soreness, but he’s back pitching for Softbank now.

Murray Chass rightfully nails Major League Baseball on minority hiring

Rob Manfred
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When Murray Chass lays off his vendettas against the people he feels have wronged him, he’s still capable of making some sharp points. Particularly when he’s working in his old bailiwick of the business of baseball.

On Sunday he wrote a blog post about minority hiring in baseball. As in, the nearly complete lack of it, at least in front offices:

Manfred has talked a better job on minority hiring than he has performed. He has created a pipeline program through which members of minorities are supposed to be able to advance into major league front office positions. However, no role models seem to exist as inspiration for younger employees.

In Manfred’s 20 months as commissioner, clubs have hired or promoted 19 high-ranking executives. Eighteen of the 19 are white males. The lone minority is Al Avila, the Tigers’ general manager.

Chass reports that Rob Manfred and, in the past, Bud Selig have leaned on clubs to hire friends or trusted lieutenants but claim they have no power to tell clubs who to hire when it comes to minorities. It’s pretty dang good point.

Moving beyond Chass’ points, it’s worth observing that one way baseball could better populate the executive ranks would be to hire more minorities in entry-level positions. What a better way to become a friend and crony than to have, you know, been there a long time? The game has had a horrible track record in doing this, however, for one simple reason: it pays crap wages for all but the highest of executive positions, pushing away candidates for whom money is, in fact, an object to pursuing a dream in baseball which, by demographic necessity, favors the rich and thus favors whites. Earlier this year MLB launched a pipeline program aimed at getting more minority candidates into entry level MLB jobs. That’s a good start to addressing the problem, but it’s going to take years for that to bear fruit, assuming it ever does.

Back in June Kate Morrison and Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus wrote a four-part series regarding this very issue, and it’s well worth your time. Among the points made is one that, given his vendettas, Chass surprisingly didn’t make himself: sabermetrics is partially to blame! Go read Kate and Russell’s work on that, but the short version: front offices want MBA/STEM types now, not people with athletic backgrounds. People with those degrees have expensive educations and, in turn, cannot afford to take pennies to work in baseball when they can make far more in other industries, thereby continuing to favor the rich and the white.

I don’t think Rob Manfred or Bud Selig before him or the people who run major league baseball teams are bigots. I don’t think that baseball, as a whole, wants to keep minorities out of top jobs. Chass doesn’t make such a claim either and he, like I, noted the pipeline program.

But baseball is a business rife with cronyism and nepotism which leads those in power to hire friends and relatives, thereby keeping the executive class overwhelmingly male and white. Baseball has shown that, when it wants to, it can lean on teams to make certain hiring choices. Will it do the same to push for greater minority representation in management ranks? Or will it continue to throw up its hands up and say “hey, that’s on the clubs?”

Tim Tebow hits a homer in his first instructional league at bat

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets hits a home run at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Because of course he did.

It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt.  The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.

Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.