Ron Washington may have ordered the worst intentional walk ever yesterday

23 Comments

So, to catch you up quickly, I put up my Intentional Walk Rage System up the other day in response to a particularly awful walk ordered by Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost. The system has six parts to it and has a maximum of 25 points — that being the perfectly awful intentional walk. Yost’s ordered walk of Robinson Cano almost tilted the system but not quite. It turned out to be a 23-point walk on the rage system, meaning it was bad enough to make me want to hit my head with a wok again and again but not quite bad enough to make me want to make me want to have a piano land on my head

Sunday, Texas manager Ron Washington tried desperately to top him, tried desperately for the coveted 25-point walk. He didn’t quite do it. As you will see,  though, his walk was SO BAD it did force me to add another element to the system. Bonus points.

Let’s go through the Washington walk step by step. Sunday, Texas against Boston, the Red Sox leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia began the game with a double. Red Sox manager John Farrell then had Shane Victorino sacrifice bunt …  if there was rage system for terrible sacrifice bunts THAT ONE would rank very high. I haven’t come up with the features of that system yet but bunting in the first inning, in Texas, with a good hitter and with the double play not even in order would certainly score very high.

But we’re not talking bunts, we’re talking walks, so Pedroia moved to third. Up came David Ortiz. The Rangers had lefty Robbie Ross Jr. on the mound so the Red Sox had the lefty-lefty matchup. Washington ordered the intentional walk anyway.

Let’s put it into the system and see what we get:

Q1: What inning was it? 

First inning, so that gets the maximum number of points of rage.

Result: 9 points.

Q2: Did the walk bring up the opposing pitcher or a particularly weak hitter?

No. No. No. No. No. No. The walk brought up Mike Napoli, who is a terrific hitter. He has a a lifetime 127 OPS+.

Result: 3 points

Total: 12 points

Q3: Did the walk give your team the platoon advantage or force the opposing manager to go to his bench?

No. It gave the exact opposite of the platoon advantage. More on this in a minute.

Result: 3 points.

Total: 15 points

Q4: Does the baserunner matter?

Absolutely. First inning, the baserunner matters a lot.

Result: 3 points

Total: 18 points

Q5: Are you setting up the double play to get out of an inning?

Well … yes. There was only one out in the inning so part of the strategy was to get out of the inning. This does reduce the outrageousness slightly.

Result: 0 points

Total: 18 points.

Q6: Are you intentionally walking someone SOLELY to avoid a great hitter?

No. Not solely. I’d say it was 75% to avoid Ortiz, though. The maximum you can give here is four points. I’ll give three points.

Result: 3 points

Final total: 21 points.

So, by the math, this walk was not quite as bad as the Royals walk of Cano. But there is another factor I had not considered the first time around … mainly because I just didn’t think any manager would be odd enough to force this question.

Q7: Is the player you are walking to face CLEARLY BETTER than the the batter you walk?

This takes the question to a whole other level. As much as I despised all those Barry Bonds intentional walks, as much as I despise all those cowardly decisions not to trust pitchers to get out good hitters, as much as all that drives me nuts … I will generally concede that, hey, managers are ordering these walks to lesser hitters.

But in this case? No. I don’t think so. Well, certainly, David Ortiz is an overall better hitter than Mike Napoli. But we are not talking about an general situation here. We are talking about a situation where the pitcher on the mound is left-handed.

Mike Napoli is a MUCH better hitter against lefties than righties.

David Ortiz is a MUCH worse hitter against lefties than righties.

You might argue that this is already covered in the platoon advantage question, but I’m asking making a slightly different point here. In this case, Mike Napoli is also a better hitter than David Ortiz. One way to test this is to ask the question in reverse. Let’s say you have a lefty on the mound and there’s a man on third base. You want to intentionally walk someone to set up the double play. Which intentional walk would make MORE sense?

1. Walk Ortiz to face Napoli?

2. Walk Napoli to face Ortiz?

David Ortiz, in his career, hits .268/.341/.480 against lefties. Last year he hit .260/.315/.418.

Mike Napoli, in his career, hits .275/.385/.521 against lefties. Last year he hit .284/.376/.523.

I’m not sure how to score walking one hitter to face a better hitter on the scale because it’s so ridiculous that I’m not sure it comes up often enough. For now, it’s enough to give this Washington walk a three-point bonus, making it a 24-point intentional walk … just about enough to peak my general rage and disgust. It goes without saying that Napoli promptly doubled, in the end all three runs scores, and the Rangers lost by three. I’ve made the point before that the rage system is unconcerned with the result of the walk — sometimes stupid intentional walks get good results just like sometimes terrible poker players win money. But in this case, the result is fulfilling. A walk that bad deserves to blow up.

Remember how Andy Griffith on the old Andy Griffith Show would only give Barney Fife one bullet, in case of emergencies? The Rangers might want to consider doing something like that for Ron Washington, for his own good.

Former outfielder Anthony Gose is throwing 99 m.p.h. fastballs in the minors

Getty Images
2 Comments

Anthony Gose played for five seasons as an outfielder in the big leagues. He never hit well enough to be a regular, and a series of altercations with his minor league managers and coaches didn’t do too much for his future either.

His fastball, however, may eventually make up for all of that.

Toward the end of spring training it was reported that Gose would begin work as a pitcher. Given that he was a highly regarded high school pitching prospect with a plus fastball, it wasn’t a crazy notion. When Tigers camp broke, Gose stayed in Lakeland in extended spring training, throwing bullpen sessions and stuff.

Now he’s seeing game action. As the Detroit Free Press reports, Gose threw an inning for the Class-A Lakeland Flying Tigers against the Palm Beach Cardinals last night. He allowed one run on one hit with one strikeout and one walk, lighting up the radar gun at 99 m.p.h. This is the tweet from Lakeland’s assistant general manager:

The Free Press says that the Tigers’ vice president of player development, Dave Littlefield, is “very optimistic” about Gose’s progress.

Given that he’s still only 26 and he’s a lefty it wouldn’t shock me at all if he makes his way back to the bigs someday soon.

There is no need to lament the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie”

30 Comments

Today in the New York Times Jay Caspian Kang writes about what he calls the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie.” About how there are few if any big baseball movies anymore. Movies which traffic in baseball-as-metaphor-for-America with Jimmy Stewart (or Kevin Costner)-types playing characters which seem to transcend time, elevate our emotions and rack up the dollars at the box office.

It’s a bit of meandering column, with just as much time spent on Kang’s seeming dissatisfaction with modern baseball and baseball telecasts as his dissatisfaction with baseball cinema, but he winds it up with this, which sums his argument up well enough:

Baseball’s cinematic vision of Middle America no longer means what it once did. The failing family enterprise and the old, forbearing white — or Negro Leagues — ballplayer now remind us of an extinct vision of the country and the growing distance between Middle America and the coasts. The attempts to update the archival, sun-kissed, Midwestern vision — whether on last year’s “Pitch,” the Fox TV show about a woman pitching in the majors, or “Million Dollar Arm,” the 2014 Disney movie in which Jon Hamm goes to India to convert cricket bowlers into pitchers — are canceled or bomb at the box office.

You won’t be surprised that I take a great deal of issue with all of this.

Mostly because it only talks about one specific kind of baseball movie being AWOL from cinemas: the broad works which appeal to the masses and which speak to both the past, present and future, often with a hazy nostalgia in which love of baseball and love of America are portrayed as one and the same.

It’s worth noting, though, that such films are extraordinarily rare. There was a brief time when such things existed and did well at the box office — the 1980s had “The Natural,” “Field of Dreams,” “Bull Durham” and “Major League” in a relatively short period of time — but that’s the exception, not the rule.

Baseball movies are almost always niche flicks. Biopics made of recently deceased stars like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Weird slices of life like “The Bad News Bears” or “The Sandlot.” Quirky comedies that are baseball offshoots of larger cinematic trends like “Little Big League,” which was just the latest in a series of “kids doing adult things” movies popular at the time. Or “Rookie of the Year” which is essentially baseball’s version of one of those body-switch movies that come and go. Or “Mr. Baseball” which was just a fish-out-of-water comedy like any other.

We still get those kinds of smaller baseball movies fairly often. They’re still pretty decent and still do pretty decently at the box office, even if they’re no one’s idea of a blockbuster.

“Moneyball” was done well and did well, not as a mass appeal movie, but as one of many business/Silicon Valley flicks that have popped over the past few years. “Sugar” was a great movie, but a small movie, exploring a culture about which most people aren’t aware and basically serving as a character study. “42” is just an updated (and much better) version of those old biopics of baseball stars. “Everybody Wants Some” may be the quintessential niche baseball movie in that it’s a story about characters which just happen to have a lot of baseball in their lives. “Bull Durham” was like that too, but it just came along at the right time to become a massive hit. As many have noted, baseball was more background than plot in that movie, even if the background was amazingly well done. I’d argue that most good baseball movies use baseball like that rather than put it squarely in the foreground.

There will likely always be baseball movies, but they will almost always be smaller ones, not large blockbusters or Oscar bait with an epic sweep. Most baseball movies are like baseball itself in that they lack a grand consensus. Baseball is not The National Pastime anymore — it’s just one of many forms of sports and entertainment available to the masses — so it follows that the movies which deal with it will likewise not have that massive cross-market appeal.

I think that’s a good thing. Smaller baseball movies more accurately reflect the sport’s place in the culture. To portray baseball as something larger than what it actually is opens the door to a lot of artistic and cultural dishonesty and runs the risk of creating some really bad art.

I mean, have you seen “Field of Dreams?” Bleech.