Buster Olney

Buster Olney doesn’t make a lot of sense


From Buster Olney’s ESPN Insider column today comes this little snide remark directed at stats people:

One of the oft-repeated lines about hitting with runners in scoring position is that it’s not really a repeatable skill. This is kind of silly because a lot of hitters work on situational hitting every single day in batting practice.

Olney is trying to make the point that maybe it’s not just luck that Allen Craig and the Cardinals as a whole are hitting so well in the “clutch.”  Craig is currently batting .489 in 90 AB with RISP, compared to .274 in 190 AB with none on. He had the same kind of split, if not quite as pronounced last year, hitting .400 with RISP and .289 with none on.

And the Cardinals as a whole have been outstanding with RISP, hitting .337 with an .876 OPS. No other NL team has better than a .744 OPS with RISP. On the other hand, the Cardinals are just 13th in the NL in OPS with none on, coming in at .673. Their .244 average ranks ninth.

For the Cardinals as a whole, though, it’s not something carried over from 2012. Last year, the Cardinals ranked third in the NL in OPS with the bases empty (.741) and with RISP (.775). The NL average OPS with RISP was 26 points better than with none on, so that’s just the kind of split one would expect.

But this isn’t really about the Cardinals. This is about Olney trying to come up with some sort of bizarre reason why a team would hit better with RISP without simply repeating “clutch” over and over. Which is good, in the abstract, but… situational hitting in batting practice? Really?

When you think of situational hitting with RISP, what do you think of?

1. Trying to hit the ball in the air in order to collect a sac fly
2. Trying to advance the runner from second to third with a grounder to the right side or a bunt
3. A squeeze or suicide squeeze bunt with a runner on third

That’s pretty much it, right? And if you pull off one of those three outcomes, you’ll get your high fives as you head back to the dugout. But what you won’t get is any help with your batting average.

Allen Craig doesn’t have great numbers with RISP because he’s hitting situationally. He has them because he’s ripping the ball all over the place. We shouldn’t expect those odd splits from the last year and a half to continue because, let’s face it, hitting with RISP isn’t really a repeatable skill. But we can probably expect Craig to keep hitting well with RISP because, in general, he’s a darn good hitter.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.