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.

Great Moments in Not Understanding The Rules

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Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is a Hall of Fame voter. In the past he has voted for players who used PEDs, but he’s never been totally happy with it, seeing the whole PED mess as a dilemma for voters.

On the one hand he doesn’t like voting for users and doesn’t like harming those who were clean by shifting votes away from them, but on the other hand, he doesn’t want to pretend history didn’t happen and that baseball hasn’t been filled with cheaters forever. What to do?

This year he decided to abstain altogether. A fair and noble act if one is as conflicted as Livingston happens to be. Except . . . he didn’t actually abstain:

Major league baseball will confer bronzed immortality on a few players Wednesday when the results of the national baseball writers’ balloting for the Hall of Fame will be announced.

I had a 2017 ballot. I returned it signed, but blank, with an explanatory note.

A blank ballot, signed and submitted, is not an abstention. It’s counted as a vote for no one. Each “no” vote increases the denominator in the calculation of whether or not a candidate has received 75% of the vote and has gained induction. An abstention, however, would not. So, in effect, Livingston has voted against all of the players on the ballot, both PED-tainted and clean, even though it appears that that was not his intention.

This is the second time in three years a Cleveland writer has had . . . issues with his Hall of Fame ballot. In the 2014-15 voting period, Paul Hoynes simply lost his ballot. Now Livingston misunderstood how to abstain.

I worry quite often that Ohio is gonna mess up a major election. I guess I’m just worrying about the wrong election.

Hall of Fame voters are making news, not exercising democratic rights

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Last month the Baseball Writers Association of America voted to make all Hall of Fame ballots public beginning with next year’s vote for the 2018 induction class. In the past 24 hours or so, as this year’s Hall of Fame voting period comes to a close, a lot of folks have been talking about that. Most notably in Jayson Stark’s piece over at ESPN regarding next year’s brave new public world.

Stark is pro-transparency on the ballots, as are the vast majority of BBWAA members who voted on the public ballot measure (it passed 80-9). Not everyone Stark quotes in his article is on board with it, though:

“I’ve already seen a lot of people change their votes from one year to the next,” said one of the strongest dissenters to this decision, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “People have changed their votes based on public opinion.”

Two other sources in the story, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report and a voter who asked to remain anonymous equated their Hall of Fame vote with democracy and invoked the sanctity of the secret ballot. “The No. 1 reason I was against this rule is that in this country, it’s a democracy, and everyone has a vote on different things. And I hate to see a blanket rule that forces everyone to go in one direction,” Miller said. Here’s what the anonymous guy said:

“To me, a secret ballot is a fundamental of democracy. You should be able to vote your conscience without having to explain your vote. But once it’s public, you’re open to public pressure. And that’s not what we want in a democracy. We’re not elected representatives. We’re chosen to be part of a voting group.”

This is ridiculous of course. Voting for the Hall of Fame is not exercising democratic rights. It is making news and making history. Hall of Fame voters are making decisions which will fundamentally alter baseball history and which matter greatly to a large number of baseball fans. They are not advancing their own or society’s interests at the ballot box the way citizens do on election day. Despite the fact that the form of their action here is, technically speaking, a ballot, they are making news in the same way a GM makes a news with a trade, the commissioner makes news with a rule change or a team makes news by winning a World Series.

Would any of these voters — who are credentialed members of the media, by the way, and like to style themselves as truth-seeking members of the Fourth Estate — accept silence from the people who make the news on the beat they cover? Would they be content if the newsmakers whose acts they chronicle demanded anonymity the way they themselves do now? Of course they wouldn’t. And if they got the same silent treatment they’d prefer to give, they’d write one of those petulant little columns they love about players who “duck the press” after a game.

Suck it up, journalists. Act the way you expect the newsmakers you cover to act and own your decisions. Don’t pretend for a moment that you’re not the subject of, and not the reporter of, the story when Hall of Fame season comes around.