Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Ron Washington may have ordered the worst intentional walk ever yesterday

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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.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the excaption because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.