Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

64 Comments

Tigers 7, Athletics 6: Torii Hunter walks off the Tigers who came back from a 6-1 deficit. A 6-3 deficit in the ninth. All while losing Miguel Cabrera mid-game. Now, starting pitching, please stop requiring Tigers bats to bail you out all the time.

Orioles 3, Red Sox 2: Baltimore avoids the sweep and pulls to within three and a half of the wild card. Chris Tillman with his 15th win. Out of context quote from Buck Showalter after the game: “September’s an eternity.” Going down to the art house tonight to see some experimental French film in which people struggle with the meaninglessness of existence and the knowledge of their own mortality. It features Buck Showalter uttering that line at the end of scene breaks. He’s in black and white. Everyone else is in color. He’s also wearing sad clown makeup. You have to see the whole thing to understand.

Mariners 3, Astros 2: Talk about struggling with the meaninglessness of existence. That’s the very essence of an August 29th Mariners-Astros game, yes? Maybe there’s hope for Seattle in this existential struggle now that their six-game skid is over. Franklin Guitierrez had three hits including a two-run homer. Afterward Eric Wedge wondered what might have been had Gutierrez been around all year. This is the story of Gutierrez’s entire career, of course. Which means that Wedge here is essentially — and futilely — bargaining with the very idea of inevitability. I think that one opens tomorrow, though, so I have to go to the theater again rather than catch it as a twin bill with Showalter’s thing.

Braves 3, Indians 1: The sweep. Kris Medlen tossed seven shutout innings. I feel like every good pitching performance for the past week has been “seven shutout innings for ____.” Which, fine, I like good pitching. I just need someone to mix in an eight shutout innings or a three-inning, eight run meltdown complete with a manager having an outburst to the press afterward. Brian McCann hit a three-run homer. Justin Upton left the game after being hit on the hand. Good thing his brother plays on the same team and can provide a compatible donor hand if necessary.

Brewers 4, Pirates 0: Yovani Gallardo had [all together now] seven shutout innings. Seven shutout innings is the new black.

Angels 2, Rays 0: Oh, look: Jason Vargas had seven shutout innings. See what I mean? Tampa Bay has lost four of five, and the Angels have won five of six. Problem is the team losing these games is in the wild card race.

Mets 11, Phillies 3: Carlos Torres takes Matt Harvey’s slot in the rotation and does just fine. Ethan Matin takes his usual slot and gets hammered. Daniel Murphy had four hits. Anthony Recker hit a two-run homer.

Nationals 9, Marlins 0: Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond each had three-run homers and Gio Gonzalez tossed seven shutout innings. Eight of nine wins for the Nats, who are now six and a half back of the second wild card. It’s still a tough task — even if the Reds go .500 the rest of the way and the Dbacks fall off the map Washington has to go 22-7 — but this is a nice little surge.

Royals 3, Twins 1: Five in a row for the Royals who have been so very hot and cold this season. That puts them six back of the A’s. Problem is, there are three teams ahead of the Royals who are also chasing Oakland.

Did Tony La Russa screw Jim Edmonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy?

2011 World Series Game 4 -Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Yes, that’s a somewhat provocative question. But it’s still an interesting question, the relevancy of and merits of which we’ll get to in a second. I pose it mostly so I can tell you about some neat research a friend of mine is doing and which should make Hall of Fame discussions and the general discussion of baseball history a lot of fun in the coming years. Bear with me for a moment.

There has long been a war between metrics and narrative. The folks who say that so-and-so was great because of the arc of his story and his career and those who say so-and-so was not so great or whatshisface was way, way better because of the numbers. Those views are often pitted as irreconcilable opposites. But what if they weren’t? What if there was some data which explained why some players become narrative darlings and others don’t? Some explanation for why, say, Jim Rice is in the Hall of Fame while Dwight Evans isn’t despite having better numbers? An explanation, that isn’t about voters being dumb or merely playing favorites all willy-nilly? What if there was some actual quantitative reason why favorites get played in the first place?

That’s the thesis of the work of Brandon Isleib. He has just finished writing a very interesting book. It’s not yet published, but I have had the chance to read it. It sets forth the fascinating proposition that we can quantify narrative. That we can divine actual numerical values which help explain a player’s fame and public profile. Values which aren’t based on some complicated or counterintuitive formula, but which are rooted in the very thing all baseball fans see every day: games. Wins and losses. The daily standings. Values which reveal that, no, Hall of Fame voters who made odd choices in the view of the analytics crowd weren’t necessarily stupid or petty. They were merely reacting to forces and dynamics in the game which pushed them in certain ways and not others.

“But wait!” you interject. “Jim Rice and Dwight Evans played on the same dang team! How does Brandon distinguish that?” I won’t give away all the details of it but it makes sense if you break down how the Red Sox did in certain years and how that corresponded with Rice’s and Evans’ best years. There were competitive narratives in play in 1975, 1978 or 1986 that weren’t in play in 1981 or 1987. From those competitive narratives come player narratives which are pretty understandable. When you weight it all based on how competitive a team was on a day-to-day basis based on how far out of first place they were, etc., a picture starts to come together which explains why “fame” works the way it does.

From this, you start to realize why certain players, no matter how good, never got much Hall of Fame consideration. And why others’ consideration seemed disproportionate compared to their actual performance. All of which, again, is based on numbers, not on the sort of bomb-throwing media criticism in which jerks like me have come to engage.

Like I said, the book won’t be out for a bit — Brandon just finished it — but in the meantime he has a website where he has been and, increasingly will be, talking about his quantification of narrative stuff, writing short articles posing some of the questions his book and his research addresses.

Today’s entry — which is what my headline is based on — isn’t really numbers-based. It’s more talking about the broader phenomenon Brandon’s work gets at in terms of trying to figure out which players are credited for their performance and which are not so credited and why. Specifically, it talks about how Tony La Russa, more than most managers, gets the credit for his success and his players probably get somewhat less than they deserve. In this way La Russa is kind of viewed as a football coach figure and his players are, I dunno, system quarterbacks. It’s something that is unfair, I think, to guys like Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen and will, eventually, likely be unfair to players like Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday.

It’s fascinating stuff which gets to the heart of player reputation and how history comes together. It reminds us that, in the end, the reporters and the analysts who argue about all of these things are secondary players, even if we make the most noise. It’s the figures in the game — the players and the managers — who shape it all. The rest of us are just observers and scribes.

Corey Seager tops Keith Law’s top-100 prospect list

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager warms up before Game 1 of baseball's National League Division Series against the New York Mets, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Associated Press
2 Comments

Yesterday it was the top farm systems, today it’s the top-100 prospects from ESPN’s Keith Law.

As Law notes, there’s a HUGE amount of turnover on the list from last year, given how many top prospects were promoted to the bigs in 2015. Kris Bryant seems like a grizzled old veteran now. Carlos Correa too. Eleven of the top 20 from last year’s list have graduated into the bigs. Are we sure it’s only been a year?

So, obviously, there’s a new number one. It’s Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ infielder. Not that everything has changed. Byron Buxton is still number two. This will obviously be his last year on the list. If you want to see and read about the other 98, go check out Keith’s excellent work.

And yes, like yesterday’s farm system rankings, it’s Insider subscription only. There were comments about how much you all hate that and I am sure there will be many more of them today. I get that. No one likes to pay for content. I was somewhat amused, however, by comments that said things like “hey, maybe if we don’t click it, they’ll have to give it to us for free!” Maybe! Or, more likely, the content simply will cease to exist!

It’s good stuff, folks. There aren’t many paid sites I say that about.

Ozzie Guillen to manage again. In Venezuela

Ozzie Guillen Getty
5 Comments

With Dusty Baker getting back into action with the Nationals and with there being at least some moderate sense that, maybe, inexperienced dudes might not be the best choice to manage big league clubs, I sorta hoped that someone would give Ozzie Guillen another look. Nah. Not happening.

Not that I’m shocked or anything. I can imagine that, under the best of circumstances, a guy like Guillen is hard to have around. He tends to find controversy pretty easily and, unlike some other old hands, Guillen never claimed to be any kind of master tactician. He famously said that he was bored during games until the sixth or seventh inning when he had to start thinking about pitching changes. Refreshing honesty, yes, but maybe not the sort of dude you bring on to, say, be a bench coach or to mentor your younger coaches or to show your hand-picked manager the ropes. Nope, it seemed like Guillen was destined to stay in broadcasting with ESPN Deportes or someone and that his days in uniform were over.

But they’re not over! Guillen was hired yesterday to manage the La Guaira Sharks of the Venezuelan Winter League next offseason. It’s not the bigs, but it is is first on-field gig since he was canned by the Marlins in 2012.

 

Guillen managed the White Sox from 2004-11 and was voted AL Manager of the Year in 2005, when Chicago won the World Series. He may be a bit of a throwback now, but he knows what he’s doing. While I can’t really say that a major league team would be wise to hire the guy — I get it, I really do — a selfish part of me really wants him back in the bigs. He was fun.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

Screenshot 2016-02-10 at 7.43.02 PM
Rich Pilling/Getty Images North America
Leave a comment

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.