Getty Images

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

15 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Orioles 7, Yankees 4: Comebacks, excitement, etc. I don’t care about that. I’m mostly fascinated by Yankees reliever Bryan Mitchell pitching an inning, moving to first base for an inning and then coming back to pitch another inning. Or, as we in the business call it, “Pulling a Grover Cleveland.” This is not to be confused with “Pulling a William Henry Harrison,” which is when a pitcher gets the Opening Day start and then dies of pneumonia 31 days later. The Mets have had, like, four guys do that I think.

Blue Jays 3, Rays 1: A three-run rally in the eighth salvages what started out as a crappy day for Toronto, thanks to starter Aaron Sanchez leaving early due to a split fingernail. Six Jays relievers combined to allow Tampa Bay to score only one run in eight innings, however, as Toronto puts together it’s first two-game winning streak all season. Which is quite the damn thing, ain’t it?

Indians 12, Mariners 4: Michael Brantley singled and hit a two-run homer. Francisco Lindor hit a two-run double. That’d be a great day, but both of those dudes did that in the third inning alone, so yeah, the Indians rolled. Lindor also hit a solo homer earlier in the game. Catcher Roberto Perez drove in three.

Tigers 7, White Sox 3: Detroit snaps a four-game losing streak. Starter Jordan Zimmermann wasn’t great — he allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings — but the Tigers bullpen put up four scoreless innings, which is not something you see every day.

Marlins 10, Pirates 3: Justin Bour knocked in six runs in this rout. That’s not very common. Indeed, normally if someone knocks in six runs in a game they will have knocked in more runs than anyone in baseball on that day. You could safely bet a lot of money on such a feat, in fact, comfortable that you have won the individual RBI pool of the day, if such a thing existed. Unfortunately, if you put your money on Bour in such a pool yesterday, you lost. Why? Because . . .

Nationals 23, Mets 5:

Anthony Rendon went 6-for-6 with three home runs along with the 10 RBIMatt Wieters hit two bombs and drove in four. Bryce Harper and Adam Lind hit one dinger each. Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Taylor, and Lind knocked in two each. The Nationals have now scored double-digit runs in four out of their last six games. The Mets are a disaster. The Nats should start resting starters for the playoffs.

Brewers 4, Braves 3: I feel sort of ripped off for having missed most of the Braves four-game winning streak due to me doing other things this weekend, but at least I didn’t see it end. “Hello! My name is Domingo Santana. You killed my father. Prepare for me to hit two homers and drive in four!”

Astros 7, Athletics 2: Dallas Keuchel tossed seven and two-thirds of one-run ball, finishing the month of April with a 5-0 record and a 1.21 ERA. Today or tomorrow the Pitcher of the Month Award will be announced. Unless Anthony Rendon somehow gets entered into the running, I’d bet the mortgage on Keuchel getting the honors. Keuchel becomes the second Astros starter to win five games in the month of April. The first: Roger Clemens. Keuchel still trails Clemens in indictments, however.

Twins 7, Royals 5: Miguel Sano homered and drove in five. Or, as we in the business call it, “pulling a half-a-Rendon.” Sano is hitting .316/.443/.684 and is on a 50-homer, 143-RBI pace.

Reds 5, Cardinals 4: Adam Duvall hit three doubles and a single. Joey Votto hit a tiebreaking, bases-loaded single in the eighth. In other news, the other things I did this weekend, in case it wasn’t obvious from the photo linked above, was the Rolex Three Day Event in Lexington, Kentucky. Horsey stuff. They do the jumping in Rolex Stadium, which as I sat in it, I could only think would make a really cool old-timey baseball stadium if they wanted it to. The field is roughly cut out for a ballpark to be laid out in it:

The beam kind of sucks, but I grew up going to Tiger Stadium, so it was easy to get used to. The Reds should play an exhibition down there. It’d be fun as hell.

Angels 5, Rangers 2Jefry Marte homered and hit a tiebreaking, two-run single. JC Ramirez got his first win as a starter after 111 relief appearances over four-plus seasons. Bud Norris, who has 185 career starts, got the save. We’re living in the Upside Down.

Padres 5, Giants 2: Wil Myers hit a three-run homer in the 12th to give the Padres the win. They got to extras thanks to former Giant Hector Sanchez hitting a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the ninth. Even the Tigers are looking at the Giants pen and saying “damn.”

Dodgers 5, Phillies 3: Andrew Toles hit a three-run homer and Hyun-Jin Ryu tossed three-hit ball into the sixth inning as the Dodgers sweep the Phillies. It was Ryu’s first win since August 2014.

Diamondbacks 2, Rockies 0: Four hours of scoreless ball ended when Daniel Descalso hit a two-run homer into the Chase Field swimming pool in the 13th inning to give the Dbacks the walkoff win. Seven Arizona pitchers, led by Patrick Corbin‘s six and a third scoreless innings, combined to shut out the Rockies on only five hits.

Red Sox 6, Cubs 2: I’m glad I was traveling last night because I imagine ESPN narrative’d and storyline’d the Sox-Cubs to death. I bet multiple innings passed without the broadcast crew actually talking about the game in front of them, choosing instead talking about franchise histories and player personalities and all of that jazz. The Sox rode a four-run eighth inning to victory. During which, I presume, you learned about players’ dads, historical coincidences and heard all kinds of crap about the “futility” of two franchises which are extraordinarily successful and popular in large part because of that perceived futility.

Astros exemplify the player-unfriendly bent of analytics

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
2 Comments

Even as recently as a decade ago, Sabermetrics was a niche interest among baseball fans. As various concepts began to gain acceptance in the mainstream, players slowly began to accept them as well. Players like Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke were hailed as examples of a new breed of player — one who marries his athleticism with the utilization of analytics. This year, much was made of certain players’ data-driven adjustments, including Daniel Murphy and J.D. Martinez. Both had great seasons as a result of focusing more on hitting more fly balls instead of ground balls and line drives.

Statistics can clearly benefit players. They can also be used against them, and not just by opposing players. The Astros, who are in the World Series for the first time since 2005, are a great example of this. The Astros spent a few years rebuilding after a complete overhaul of the front office, which included bringing in analytically-fluent Jeff Luhnow as GM after the 2011 season. That overhaul instilled so much confidence that, in 2014, Sports Illustrated writer Ben Reiter predicted that the Astros would win the 2017 World Series. He’s only four Astros wins away from being proven correct.

The Astros’ front office, though, took advantage of its players at various times throughout the process. Their success is owed, in part, to exploiting its players. On Twitter, user @chicken__puppet chained a few tweets together exemplifying this:

At its core, analytics is about optimization: getting the most bang for your buck. If you read Moneyball, you know this. Wins Above Replacement (WAR) quickly became synonymous with the field and $/WAR was a natural next step. Sabermetrics defaulted to ownership’s perspective, so highly-paid players who performed poorly were scorned. Cheap players who performed well were lauded.

It is no mere coincidence that once most front offices installed analytics departments, teams stopped handing out so many outrageous contracts to free agent first baseman/DH types. Instead, teams focused on signing their young players to long-term contract extensions to buy out their arbitration years ahead of time, ostensibly saving ownership and the team boatloads of money. Teams began to pay close attention to service time as well. Service time determines when a player becomes eligible for arbitration and free agency, so teams that are able to finagle their players’ service time can potentially delay that player’s free agency by a year. The Cubs tried to do this with third baseman Kris Bryant in 2015, as Craig wrote about.

There is a very real ethical component to covering and being a fan of Major League Baseball, despite the common plea to separate sports from politics. The Astros and Cubs aren’t the only ones exploiting their players; the Angels, for example, made some odd personnel choices earlier this season that happened to allow them to avoid paying some players incentive bonuses. Every front office, in one way or another, games the system because the system is set up to benefit ownership first and players second. And if the likes of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa can be taken advantage of so freely and openly, what hope does anyone else have?

Fans have been conditioned to group players and owners together as one group of rich people. In reality, the player earning $30 million has more in common with the office worker making $35,000 a year than with team owners. When fans hear about Correa making $507,500 instead of $550,000, or about free agent who wants a nine-figure contract, they wonder why he had the nerve to ask for so much money in the first place. We praise players, like Cliff Lee, who “leave money on the table.” Both the player and that fan, by virtue of existing and participating in this system, are locked in an eternal battle with those who cut their paychecks. Regardless of salary differences, the player deserves to benefit from the fruits of his labor as much as the office worker. Part of being a baseball fan should also include rooting for the players’ financial success and not just the owners’.

Praising the Astros for being smart and savvy will only create more incentive for other front offices to mimic these unethical behaviors. The whole theme of the World Series shouldn’t be about smart, analytically-inclined teams reaching the summit; it should in part be about teams getting ahead with a multitude of exploitative practices against their players.