Comparing Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes makes little sense

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There’s this thing people have done historically with player comps in which, accidentally or otherwise, white guys are compared to other white guys, black guys with other black guys, Latinos with other Latinos and Asian players with other Asian players. The “he reminds me of a slightly faster ____” or “he’s like ____ but with less power” kind of conversations baseball people engage in almost always break down along racial lines.

It’s not necessarily born of some bad impulse, of course. It’s part of how comps and the human mind works. You’re trying to put some idea in someone’s head and, honestly, you have less heavy lifting to do if you use a similar-looking player. Ultimately, however, most good scouts and player development people will tell you that comps are of extremely limited utility and can actually be misleading, so the better practice is to not use comps for much if anything at all. You can read old scouting reports with lots of them, but comps are far less relied on today.

At least among scouting professionals. They’re still used in the media and among fans way too much. Often pretty spuriously. Take this column from Kevin Kernan of the New York Post:

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To call this column, which tracks the headline pretty accurately, a “comp” in the scouting sense is a major stretch. It’s basically “Cespedes is a big star kicking butt right now, Puig is a disappointment” set over 800 words. The putative justification for the comp is that the Mets are playing the Dodgers at the moment, and I get that, but otherwise a Puig-Cespedes comparison here is kind of pointless. One is much older. Cespedes wasn’t even in MLB when he was Puig’s age. They have different skills and strengths. They’re on very different contracts. The common denominator is that they’re both Cuban and both pretty famous. It’s like comparing Todd Frazier and Mike Trout because they’re both from New Jersey.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think Kernan’s column is somehow racially problematic or anything like that. But I do think that it’s using the most superficial of basis to make a fundamentally pointless comparison, likely for the means of saying nice things about one guy by slamming the other under the pretense of some sort of legitimate comp which is anything but legitimate.

And it makes me ask: is it not possible to tell a story about how good one player is doing without slamming another? Or to be critical of one player for legitimate reasons rather than by simply saying “you’re not as good as the other guy?”

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.