Craig Calcaterra

Jayson Werth AP

Jayson Werth to serve five days in jail for reckless driving

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Back in early July Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth was charged with reckless driving for going 105 mph in a 55-mph zone. In early December he was sentenced to 10 days in jail. There was some appealing and things, but today Werth went into court and pleaded guilty to the charge. He will spend five days in jail over it.

My guess is that Werth can’t pick which days he spends in jail, but if I were him I’d totally try to make it for the middle of spring training when all the veterans start to get tired of the grind. I mean, how much worse would a Fairfax, County jail cell be than Viera, Florida?

The 12th greatest GM of all time is the real “Moneyball” innovator, not Billy Beane

Sandy Alderson
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Mark Armour and Dan Levitt have written a book: In Pursuit of Pennants, which examines how front offices have historically found innovative ways to build winning teams. In support of that, they are counting down the top-25 GMs of all time over at their blog. Since it’s slow season, I’m going to continue linking to the countdown as it’s great stuff we rarely read about in the normal course.

Billy Beane gets all of the love (or hate, depending on who’s doing the emoting) when it comes to advanced analytics in baseball. He’s the one who is praised or derided for statistical analysis, computer ball and every other silly descriptor that gets tossed out when the subject comes up. He’s the one who people consider an outsider. A maverick. The guy who changed everything.

Really, though, Sandy Alderson deserves the praise for that or, if you insist on being a jerk about it, deserves your scorn. As Mark and Dan point out, it was Alderson who introduced modern analytics into team decision making (though Branch Rickey was doing a lot of that decades earlier, of course), and he was the first guy in the modern era hired to run a major league team’s baseball operations without coming from a baseball background. Beane played the game, for crying out loud and came up through scouting.

Yes, perhaps Alderson is too old to have Brad Pitt play him in a movie, but maybe Kevin Kline could’ve done it? I dunno. Beane has always had the better press agents.

Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list is out

Kris Bryant AP
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So I guess I was a day off on the top farm system list from this morning. That came out yesterday. Today is his top-100 prospects list.

As is the case with the farm system rankings, the prospect list on ESPN’s Insider so, sorry, you gotta pay to see it all. But it’s also one of the annual must-reads in all of baseball, so not linking it would be bloggy malpractice.

The top guy: Kris Bryant of the Cubs. After that, it’s between you and your feelings about paid content.

Rosenthal proposal: make relievers face more than one batter per appearance

Mike Pelfrey
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UPDATE: I was remiss in not noting that this was not, actually, Rosenthal’s idea. He notes that Theo Epstein proposed it first. But hey, history remembers the popularizers more than the innovators!

While we’re talking innovation this morning, let us look at Ken Rosenthal’s latest idea:

Here’s an idea that could both increase offense and improve the pace: Require relievers to face more than one batter per appearance. Make it at least two, or even better three.

Rosenthal sketches it out, and argues that it would cut down on game times, given that pitching changes are a big driver in that department. And that reliever specialization is a big factor in decreased offense. Lefty specialists, 100 m.p.h-throwing shutdown men, etc.

He’s right, I think. I’d have to think about how this would affect roster construction and stuff before I make my mind up about it, but it’s a reasonable idea on its face.

What say you?

Must baseball “change or die?”

dodgers shift
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Pete Beatty of Vice Sports has a thought-provoking column up about how baseball cannot become hidebound and beholden to purists if it wishes to maintain its vitality and relevance into the future.

As a general proposition, I totally agree. While I think changes should be made prudently and deliberately — testing things out at the minor league level first, trying the least obtrusive means of solving a problem first before going with more radical innovations, etc. — I think change in the game can be good and should not be rejected simply because something new or different is being proposed. This applies to baseball and everyday life.

But I do take issue with one of the examples Beatty offers in the service of his argument: the suggestion by Rob Manfred that baseball may consider a rule against defensive shifts, which we have discussed around here a few times already:

While Manfred only indicated a willingness to consider a ban on extreme defensive realignments, baseball traditionalists immediately freaked out. Of course, that baseball superfans don’t care for (even the suggestion of the possibility of future) change is less news than a law of nature—if you revise it, they will complain.

While I agree with Beatty’s notion that innovation should be explored and embraced, the shift thing is not an instance of innovation being shouted down by purists. Quite the opposite, actually. Extreme defensive shifting is innovation. No, it’s not a rule change and yes, it’s been around a long time — Boudreau shifted on Williams back before your daddy was born — but the degree to which it has been employed in recent years is most definitely an innovation. The people who are angry about it are hitters and fans who somehow think it unsporting that the fielders aren’t standing where they have come to expect them to stand over the past 150 years of baseball history.

Indeed, the attitude of those who would seek to ban the shift is far more akin to one of the very examples Beatty holds up as silly, antiquated and quite properly changed in the name of innovation:

In fact, one of the few baseball traditions older than traditionalism is the sport’s track record of reinventing itself. If you think Daisuke Matsuzaka takes too long between pitches, it’s probably for the best that you missed game 3 of the Atlantics versus Excelsiors series in 1860, when the starting pitchers combined for 665 pitches in three innings. In the seminal 1845 rules of baseball, there were no such things as called balls and strikes. Batters were free to lay off as many bad pitches as they wanted.

Unsurprisingly, the golden era of 100-pitch innings didn’t last long, because it made baseball no fun to watch or play.

That old, thankfully abandoned rule was all about hitters demanding that they be given a ball that they can properly drive and the notion that it was unsporting and wrong for a pitcher to attempt to frustrate the batters’ intention. When one thinks about it, that’s not unlike a lumbering lefty’s lamentations about grounding the ball to the far right of second base and, somehow, quite unsportingly, being thrown out on a 6-3 play.