<span class="vcard">Craig Calcaterra</span>

Chris Tillman

The rainout could mean Chris Tillman and James Shields come back for Game 4

7 Comments

The rainout pushes Game 3 to Tuesday and Game 4 to Wednesday, which means we could see Game 1 starters James Shields and Chris Tillman in Game 4 on regular rest. No word from Ned Yost on that, but Buck Showalter has already said that Tillman is a possibility for the O’s on Wednesday.

Tillman would’ve originally gone again in Game 5, with Miguel Gonzalez going in Game 4, but now Showalter could flip-flop them, with the thinking being that if you have a must-win game you’d rather have your ace going. Of course, that ace gave up five runs in four and a third innings on Friday, so it’s not like he’s a sure thing. Shields, for his part, gave up four runs on ten hits in five innings. Maybe if the Royals are up 2-1 or 3-0 by Wednesday, however, it won’t be such a . . . big game.

Fox’s alternative, sabermetric-oriented broadcast of the NLCS gets mixed reviews

old TV
42 Comments

Over the weekend, Fox offered an alternate broadcast of Game 1 of the NLCS featuring its Just a Bit Outside crew, including Rob Neyer, Gabe Kapler, C.J. Nitkowski and Kevin Burkhardt, all of whom were joined by Padres manager Bud Black. The idea was to provide an analytical/sabermetric experiment in calling a game.

I didn’t see it for various reasons, but I’ve read a couple of reviews of it all from sources who one would assume are sympathetic to the exercise: one from Baseball Prospectus and one from Beyond the Box Score. UPDATE: Here’s another good review from The Big Lead. The verdict: mixed.

Both reviews laud the effort and note times of interesting and novel insight. Both, however, noted that there may have been too many voices involved, the commentary didn’t track the game so well early, focusing on broader concepts and that the split-screen approach (the game on one side, the commentators and various graphics on the other) further served to disconnect the commentary and the viewer from the game. As the game went on, however, adjustments were made, more full-screen action was featured and the analysis tracked the game action more closely.

On a more big picture scale — again, with the caveat that I didn’t see this broadcast and that I’m going off the reviews here — my sense is that networks would do better to integrate more advanced analysis and fresher voices into existing broadcast paradigms rather than silo it off in its own sabermetric world. Just as baseball teams have integrated old and new school methods into team construction, broadcasts would do well not to overload on one approach but, rather, to take the best aspects of conventional and unconventional broadcasting techniques to make something that is smart enough to appeal to those who want more from their broadcast but accessible enough for the majority of people who are content with someone giving you a more in-the-moment play-by-play.

All of that said, I think you have to give Fox credit for trying something new, and the hope that this is merely the first stab at an ongoing experiment to rethink how games are broadcast and not a one-off. That network has the rights and lots of games to broadcast, so there is no reason it can’t play around with the format a great deal and see if they can’t find a fresh approach.

Alex Avila is not considering retirement despite suffering another concussion

Alex Avila AP
8 Comments

Tigers catcher Alex Avila has taken a tremendous beating behind home plate over the years. He seems to catch more foul tips, bats-on-the-backswing and just about every other thing catchers suffer back there. Avila suffered another concussion in the Tigers’ ALDS Game 3 loss to the Orioles, but he says that he’s going to be fine for the start of spring training and has given no thought to retirement:

“No,” he said. “I’ve had three mild concussions in my career. I had a CT scan and an MRI checking my brain and my neck and the arteries leading to it, and everything checks out normal and healthy. And talking with the neurologist that examined everything, I shouldn’t have any concern.

“It’s like any injury — you have to let it heal 100 percent.”

That phrase — “mild concussions” — is considered by many to be a misleading term, as brain injuries are brain injuries and all of them are serious. Of course, if Avila is given a green light and feels healthy to play, he’s obviously going to play.

It sure would be nice, though, if he could catch a break back there once in a while instead of oh-so-many blows to the head.

Brad Ausmus talks about his bullpen decisions. Short version: he wouldn’t change a thing.

Brad Ausmus
18 Comments

Brad Ausmus has given his first full-length interview since the Tigers bowed out of the playoffs last week amid two bullpen meltdowns in three games.

Lynn Henning of the Detroit News asked him about his bullpen decisions. Specifically, only using a very effective Anibal Sanchez for two innings and 30 pitches in Game 2 and by not using Al Alburquerque at all in a series where Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria melted down in the eighth inning on two occasions.

As for Sanchez, Ausmus cites the fact that he had only pitched a single inning since coming back from an extended stay on the DL prior to the end of the season and that the plan was always to limit him to two innings at a time. Ausmus says that he’d make the decision if he had to do it again. As for Alburquerque, he was never an option to help in those eighth inning disasters. Why?

“No, for me, Albie, who had a great year, his best place is in the sixth or seventh inning,” Ausmus said. “There’s really only one time we might have used him, in Game 2, and we had Sanchie.”

I’m not sure what’s more grating: that Anibal Sanchez’s nickname is “Sanchie” or that Ausmus is so locked in on set roles for his relievers that he’d not consider using one of his more effective ones to stop an implosion because it just happens to not be the inning which, God apparently, has deemed it to be his.

The Cardinals will try to limit Adam Wainwright’s workload next season

Adam Wainwright
3 Comments

Adam Wainwright was brilliant at times this year but he also battled fatigue and soreness, and his last couple of playoff outings have been rough, possibly as a result of all of that. He’s been one of the hardest worked pitchers in baseball throughout his career, but going forward the Cardinals are going to try to limit his mileage, reports Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch:

Wainwright already had a reduced schedule this past spring, and a further reduction is possible. The Cardinals also could prescribe rest periods for Wainwright next season, as they have done in two-week increments for the younger pitchers. Wainwright has defined himself by a pursuit to lead the league in innings, but the club will at least discuss a way to reduce his regular-season work so he isn’t spent by October.

There aren’t many tougher pitchers in baseball than Wainwright. He is one of the few guys who excelled after rehabbing a partially torn UCL, and then when he finally did need Tommy John surgery, he excelled after that as well.

But the innings and pitches do take a toll, so the Cards will try — after this postseason ends — to find a way to pace their ace.