Craig Calcaterra

Aroldis Chapman
Associated Press

Someone claimed that Aroldis Chapman the best athlete in the majors


I will grant that every single major league baseball player is a better athlete than me and most of the rest of us. From Bryce Harper on down to Billy Butler and Bartolo Colon, they’re all stronger and faster and more agile and more skilled than we are, even if we forget that sometimes. Ballplayers may look a lot more like “real people” than, say, basketball or football players, but they’re world class athletes in ways we simply don’t and can’t appreciate.

Still, there are some claims about a ballplayers’ physical abilities of which I am skeptical. Claims like these about Aroldis Chapman in George King’s story in the New York Post:

According to a person familiar with the situation, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Chapman would beat the 6-foot, 160-pound Hamilton, who stole 57 bases in 114 games last season, in a 100-yard dash. The person said Chapman might be the best athlete in the majors.

And it’s more than flat-out speed. Word is other Reds players wouldn’t go into the weight room when Chapman was working out because they didn’t want to be embarrassed by his strength.

On some days I may spend a lot of time asking why someone making that claim demand anonymity from a reporter, but let’s let that go for a second.

Have you seen Billy Hamilton run? It’s hard to compare across eras, but I bet he’s one of the fastest players in the history of the game. I’m less certain about Chapman’s weightlifting abilities. I mean, who can say? But I’m just sort of skeptical. Maybe because I remember that profile on Chapman from a year or two ago that talked about how he smoked Marlboro reds and, in the offseason, slept until like 3pm and stuff.

It doesn’t matter, obviously. The dude throws 102 m.p.h. on the regular and, as I noted above, he’s a world class athlete even if he’s burnin’ 20 butts a day, Jim Leyland-style. I’m just somewhat skeptical and feel like, maybe, someone is having some fun with George King.

Does baseball need a set number of time outs?

Texas coach Charlie Strong calls for a timeout during the first half of an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Associated Press

Betteridge’s law of headlines is an adage which states that “any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered in the negative.” I think I’ve broken that one once or twice, but this one is straight up Betteridgeville, baby. And I ask it here because someone else posited it there.

Where? Here, in Joel Sherman’s story in the New York Post today. He says that a good way to speed up the pace of play in baseball is to limit the number of time outs. Time outs referring to mound visits, pitching coach visits, batters walking down closer to the third base coach and the like. Which no one counts now but which Sherman thinks should be limited to five. The column speaks for itself, but mostly speaks to a litany of complaints about slow pace of play, how catchers and pitchers should have their signs worked out ahead of time and about how managers and coaches should time their calls to the bullpen better and the like.

I appreciate the desire to see a faster pace of play. Mound meetings are boring. But the last thing baseball needs is yet another hard and fast rule designed to address a question of judgment. A rule, like every other rule, which would lead to unexpected effects and the imposition of gamesmanship and a level of strategizing heretofore unknown in the game. You think watching coaches manage timeouts in football is a drag, just wait until you see baseball managers doing it. And wait until some analytics department figures out a way to use them to their advantage and another layer of, well, stuff is slathered over a game.

Baseball can get slow sometimes. But it doesn’t have a clock. Let’s keep it that way. Let’s maybe, for a few short moments, actually enjoy the game we have, warts and all, rather than spend all spring trying to fix small problems with big, obtrusive solutions.


Why in the heck is Lazarito Armenteros gonna get $20 million?

cuba hat

This post is not meant to assess Lazarito Armenteros. I am not qualified to do that. Go read Ben Badler at Baseball America if you want a breakdown on the 16-year-old Cuban prospect. Ben knows his stuff when it comes to that.

No, I pose that question because I want to link an excellent article that seeks to answer it and, in turn, tells us so much about the relationship between the rules MLB sets for international signings, how international players are paid and what it all means for competitive balance in general.

It comes from the folks behind NEIFI, a baseball performance and analytics company which provides projections and all manner of other analytics for its clients. This article is a bit out of their usual bailiwick, but it’s nonetheless enlightening and speaks directly to the question posed in the headline and, more significantly, to the problems and inefficiencies of player development, both on the international stage and in the draft.

The short summary: based on talent and scouting reports alone, there is no reason for Lazarito Armenteros to get the $15-20 million he’s likely to get when he signs with a club soon. He’s getting it because there is a “Cuban Premium” out there on the market, which inspires teams to spend more for Cuban prospects than for equally-talented Dominican or Venezuelan players. The premium is a function of some rather high-priced Cuban signings in the past which, in turn, were based on some weird and arbitrary rules and deadlines MLB set with respect to Cuban free agents, not because there was some sense that they were better.

That expands to a conversation about anchoring effects (i.e. if you say, in the first instance, something is worth $X, someone will tend to believe you and not think too hard about it) and black pearls (i.e. they were considered worthless until someone said they were valuable). It more significantly expands into a discussion of how international bonus pools and luxury taxes and things impact team behavior and how, given the current setup, they lead to things like the Dodgers having an outsized advantage in international signings.

The final bit: a proposal of the best way to set up rules regarding the draft, international signings and total player development outlay in such a way to even the field.

To be clear, the authors do not think they have some perfect insight. They note, quite correctly, that any new set of rules, their own proposed rules included, have a much larger impact on the competitive landscape than the rulemakers usually anticipate and that the name of the game is managing a team’s incentives, not its payroll or budget directly. Give a team a number and they’ll unleash their army of analysts on it in order to exploit their limitation. Give them a set of incentives and disincentives, however, and you can more finely manage their behavior.

It’s heady stuff which gets down to the issues we’ve been talking a lot about lately with respect to tanking, slotting and the like. Give it a read.