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Marty Brennaman slags Saberists, Joey Votto’s lack of RBI


It’s not just the walks that make Saberists praise Joey Votto, though. Entering tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks, Votto was hitting .330 with a .441 on-base percentage and .525 slugging percentage. He is one of only five players in baseball to have a .300/.400/.500 or better slash line, along with Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Yadier Molina, and Troy Tulowitzki, all  of them with legitimate early cases for their respective league MVP award. Votto has done the .300/.400/.500 thing in each of the last four seasons. If he does it again in 2013, he would be one of only 35 players in baseball history to have at least five such seasons. Other players to have accomplished the feat five times include Shoeless Joe Jackson, Frank Robinson, Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, Lance Berkman, and Miguel Cabrera.

Votto’s RBI total (37) is often compared, disparagingly, to teammate Brandon Phillips (58). According to FanGraphs, Phillips has hit at exactly the league average with a 100 wRC+ (weighted runs created), a stat that weights each offensive event according to its contribution to run scoring, then adjusts for league and park effects. Votto, comparatively, has a 165 wRC+, meaning he has been about 65 percent more productive than an average hitter. Phillips has more RBI than Votto not because he is a better hitter, but because he has simply had more opportunities, in part because Votto gets on base so often ahead of him.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Phillips has come to bat with 239 runners on base, the third-largest total in baseball. Votto has come to bat with 207 runners. It would be higher if Dusty Baker didn’t insist on batting Zack Cozart (.280 OBP) directly in front of him so often. Phillips also walks ten percent less than Votto does (16% to 6%). While Phillips puts the ball in play more often, allowing him to drive in more runners, this also causes him to hit into more outs. Indeed, Phillips has made the sixth-most outs in the National League with 223 in 311 plate appearances (71.7%). Votto has made 198 outs in 340 plate appearances (58.2%).

Look, you don’t have to care about Sabermetrics to recognize that Votto is one of his generation’s best hitters. Sabermetrics certainly help paint him in the light he deserves to be seen in, but all you really need is his slash line. It is criminal to not appreciate Votto’s 2013 as MVP-worthy and his career as being on a Hall of Fame trajectory.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.