Craig Calcaterra

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Remember the good old days of high-quality baseball blogging?

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Reading The Onion this afternoon, I came across this story about a defunct four-year-old sports blog continuing to exist. I laughed because I have a defunct seven-year-old sports blog floating like a ghost ship out there myself. It’s Shysterball, the blog where I got my start. Some of you used to even read it. It’s still hanging around.

I don’t get too nostalgic about much in life, but I did spend a lot of time reading old posts today. Mostly because I wanted to see if they were any good. You see, as time goes on I get more and more of my old readers saying “man, I miss Shysterball.” They tell me that they miss the kind of stuff I used to write there with the clear implication that it was better or more thought-provoking. There is this sense that 2007-09 was the good old days, and man, too bad we can’t have that kind of content back again.

I get that. But looking back at the content doesn’t really support the premise. I wrote all kinds of dumb stuff back then. Indeed, the signal to noise ratio wasn’t really any better than than it is now. It may have been worse. Just a small sampling:

There’s real content there too — a lot of it good — but there’s an awful lot of fluffy silliness. Which I still love, by the way. But it certainly puts lie to the notion that I used to write better or more weighty things. A lot of this stuff has always been about killing time and making jokes while waiting for a ballgame to start. In some ways, it’s like how people talk about “classic” movies or music from the 60s or 70s. We all like to pretend it was all “Casablanca,” the Beatles and the Stones, but for every one of them there were ten crappy melodramas and 100 Tony Orlando and Dawns.

Oh well. I still miss Shysterball sometimes. Maybe the less I read it, the more I’ll miss it. Heh.

The vanishing pitchout

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 24:  Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees looks on as catcher John Buck #14 of the Kansas City Royals calls for a pitchout during the third inning of the game on July 24, 2007 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Associated Press
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A good article from Ben Lindbergh at Fivethirtyeight about how the pitchout is quickly becoming an endangered species in baseball:

MLBAM’s records claim that the 2015 Boston Red Sox were the first team to play a full season without a single pitchout. Red Sox manager John Farrell disputed that stat, saying that the Sox threw three, according to the team’s internal numbers. But he acknowledged that Boston downplays the pitchout, although the coaching staff’s philosophy wasn’t dictated by a front-office study. “We try to put it in the hands of the pitcher and the catcher,” Farrell said. “So, varying our hold times, making sure that we school guys enough to have unloading times where they’re controlling the running game and minimizing that without artificially doing it through a pitchout.” In 2015, Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price and then-Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon pitched out 30 and 28 times, respectively, making them by far the most anachronistic skippers in their respective leagues.

And don’t blame this on the statheads and their spreadsheets, necessarily. Lindbergh talks to John Baker, former MLB catcher, who talks about how he and other catchers hated pitchouts.  They’re all called by the manager. The players prefer to control the running game without wasting pitches.

My guess is that sabermetric observations take a lot of time to become integrated into the game generally speaking, but if the sabermetric observations correspond with player desires — bam! — change can happen almost overnight. It’s not always an adversarial process.

Oh, and yes: I realize that pic is really an intentional walk and not a pitchout, but I couldn’t find one of an actual pitchout. They happen kind of fast, you know.

Al Alburquerque signs with the Angels

Al Alburquerque
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Jon Heyman reports that the Angels have agreed to terms with reliever Al Alburquerque on a major league contract, pending a physical.

Alburquerque was non-tended by the Tigers in December. He has been an effective reliever in the past and has a career 11.0 K/9 rate, although last season was a rough one for him. His K/9 fell to a career-low 8.4 and his ERA was 4.21. The Tigers likely would’ve kept him if he weren’t arbitration eligible as he’s still useful, they just didn’t think he was worth the likely $2 million+ he would’ve made in arbitration.

The change of scenery may do him well.