Every time I think that the bulk of baseball fans and commentators has moved on from the dark ages of batting average and RBI meaning everything and into at least the Renaissance period that was the early-“Moneyball Days,” something odd happens to make me realize that, nope, not as many people have moved on as I thought.
This year it’s Joey Votto and the treatment he has received from the media and some fans. And actually, “media” is too broad a term. The treatment has mostly been from Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer, who has taken it upon himself to cut down Votto for his alleged inability to drive in runs. Daugherty has paired this with pumping up Brandon Phillips as the Reds’ MVP due to his high RBI totals (despite his worst offensive season in a while) and by waging war against “stat geeks” making simplistic and overly-broad arguments. Worth noting that the geeks and those arguments are almost certainly an invention of Daugherty’s imagination, as he attributes to them the most straw-like of straw man tendencies. It’s been a hoot, actually.
Obviously most of us don’t need to entertain these arguments seriously. Daugherty either knows or is too dense to know that RBI is a function of opportunity and that Phillips has had way more opportunities to drive in runs than Votto. Mostly because Votto is always on base. Daugherty either knows or is too dense to know that Votto has had an astoundingly good season despite his low RBI totals. We certainly need not engage in a point-by-point rebuttal to Daugherty because he’s either, as I said, too dense for it to be worthwhile or because, in reality, he’s just trying to throw bombs and grandstand to get attention.
Sadly, though, Joey Votto has been reduced to having to defend himself in print. He does so in Hal McCoy’s column at Fox Sports Ohio where he says, really guys, he’s a good player:
“Pitchers can be kind of picky when they face me,” Votto said. “I strike out a lot (106) walk a lot and that leads to a lot of balls not put into play. But I’m hitting for a high average (.316) … I’m in the top five in batting average om the top five in slugging. I just have to be more efficient with it because I get less opportunities, but that’s OK. All I want to do is do what I can.”
You’re doing just fine, Joey. Ignore the ignoramuses. Make as few outs as you can and drive the ball when you have a ball you can drive. That’s your job. That’s the job of every hitter in baseball. If someone is saying differently — if someone is saying that there’s a better measure of a hitter than out-avoidance — they’re failing to understand the game.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.