Archive for the ‘All-Star Game’ Category

Links of the Week or So

July 15, 2009

I had big plans for today’s post, but paying work gets in the way again. I did sort of try to watch the big non-exhibition exhibition game while I was doing said work. And I’m told it was a good game, but without being invested in it, I kind of missed all the interesting stuff, I think. I came away from it with the feeling that it was terribly boring. I didn’t think at the time that the ball Crawford caught was going to clear the fence, but even if it was, it didn’t strike me as that great a catch. A very nice one to be sure, but Crawford, phenomenal outfielder that he is, makes a better catch than that just about every day of the season. MVP material, really? Maybe that’s why I came away disappointed–no real standout performances. I would’ve loved to see Pujols go all hey-I’m-the-best-right-handed-hitter-you’ve-ever-seen on everybody in his home park. But anyway.

  • Topical and timely! It’s a transcript of what the Sotomayor hearings would be like if they were conducted by the 1977 Royals instead of the SJC. It’s…funny. Not terribly coherent, but funny. I can’t decide if it would help one’s appreciation of it to know more or less about the players involved. And it took me a while to realize he meant “the members of the 1977 Kansas City Royals, but in the present day, armed with their personal experiences of the past 32 years,” not just the team straight out of ’77 from like a time warp or something. Anyway, it’s an experience.
  • Also timely, at least as of yesterday! wezen-ball’s look at best players never to be All-Stars. I’d still say Tim Salmon or Kirk Gibson has to top the list; it depends on where you come down on the whole peak vs. career thing. Shouldn’t we weigh peak even more than usual when you’re considering stuff like this, since if a guy’s had some really big years, it’s that much more of a surprise that he wasn’t an All-Star? That said, though, Tony Phillips was a really solid player too, and I’m sure he deserved at least a couple nods. One of the few utility players who could really play any of the five or six positions you could put him in, and an ideal leadoff hitter (for what I’m looking for, anyway).
  • I might’ve failed in my quest to complete Minerva’s poetry challenge last week, but look! This week’s? Already done, baby! Funny thing is, we didn’t plan that. She was planning to do that type of poem anyway.
  • More interesting stuff from Tango: Jamie Moyer = Jack Morris. Almost exactly, as of today. And yet, one of those guys is kind of a running “old guy” joke while the other will probably end up in the Hall three or four years from now. I was kind of proud of my snarky comment to that post, I have to admit.
  • This Dayton Moore quote has finally convinced me that the Royals are trying to be tragically, snobbily, pathetically hilarious. The haughty ineptitude is too perfectly executed to be real. In other news, I don’t really understand the pleading rules of our court system, and as an attorney, I don’t see why I should have to. Next time I’m asked to file an answer to a complaint, I’m going to scrawl “DINT DO IT” in crayon on the back of an old receipt with my right (non-dominant) hand and mail it to the judge. My bosses would be cool with that, right?

I wish that this were a Royals shirt. Or Dayton Moore himself. But anyway, it’s what I think of whenever people are being both incredibly stupid and incredibly self-aggrandizing or condescending:

How to Make the Derby Watchable

July 13, 2009

Happy second-worst day of the summer, everybody. I don’t think there’s any question that the Wednesday after the All-Star Game, with no baseball of any kind at all, is worse, but the Home Run Derby and the celebrity softball nonsense don’t do a whole lot to save the Monday prior, either.

That said, and despite the title of this post, I will actually watch the Home Run Derby. I’ll watch it live or DVR it and flip through it late tonight. But I won’t really care, and I won’t really pay attention; unless somebody goes all Josh Hamilton on the thing, it’ll just be something to have on in the background.

It still seems like a relatively popular thing, by cable TV standards, so I’m sure ESPN is in no hurry to change anything at all. But here are some things that would make me care about it, anyway, in descending order of importance:

1. Just Make Chris Berman Go Away. I don’t care how this is done or who replaces him, and I really mean that. This is the one night a year where I think I could deal with the brain-exploding inanity of Joe Morgan or Steve Phillips (and by the way, is it in Morgan’s contract that he has to be smugly wrong about every single thing ever? And was Phillips hired only to agree with Morgan’s wrongness in an even more smug way? Watching the Cubs/Cards game last night was like being continuously kicked in the teeth for three hours. The only tolerable part was the two or three minutes where the sound went out).

But that’s the point–anybody could do the HR Derby job, even Phillips. You give little factoids between swings, and you get a little excited when somebody hits it a really long way. Jon Miller would be fantastic. Just–anybody but Berman. I remember thinking his little nicknames and (then-)30 year old rock music references were funny when I was twelve or so, but to hear them now, I’m pretty well convinced that I was a slower-than-normal twelve year old. I caught parts of a few classic HR Derbies over the weekend, and I think they’d be a lot of fun to re-watch if not for Berman’s incessant distracting, unfunny bleating.

2. Get rid of at least one, and preferably two, rounds. The first round is always great fun. Everything worth remembering that has ever happened in the Derby has happened in the first round (may not actually be true, but it seems that way to me). You see all eight guys get to take their swings, and they’re all fresh and trying to kill everything. Then you get to the second and third round, and everything kind of dies…some of which I blame on Berman, but it also just seems to run out of steam all around. And it goes on forever.

Everybody thinks, or at least acts like, Hamilton won the Derby in 2008, and I think even real-winner Morneau probably knows Hamilton should have won. He put on an incredible show that was certainly the most entertaining the Derby has ever been, and then he was punished for that by having to go out for two more rounds when he had nothing left because he’d taken something like twenty more swings than anybody else. I’d keep it an eight-man contest, but give everybody ten outs and get out of there. The Derby is supposed to be about power, not endurance. Seems to me the award should go to the guy who can hit a whole bunch of batting-practice home runs rather than the guy who can continue hitting some batting-practice home runs for the longest time.

3. Bring back the Classic Derby Format. As an alternative to #2, I’d like to see them bring back the old 50’s TV show format for the second (and final) round. The eight guys compete in the first round in the current, ten-out format, and then the top two slug it out for nine innings. I’d like to see it at least tried, anyway. They might get even more tired, but they do get to take breaks while the other guy swings…so I don’t know.

4. Keep sprinkling in “pure hitter” types. I’m very interested to see how Joe Mauer does tonight, and I’m disappointed that Ichiro! reportedly turned their offer down. The most (someone like me might say “only”) interesting thing about the NBA Slam Dunk Contest is when the little guy — Spud Webb, Nate Robinson — gets up there and does something no one his height should be able to think about doing. Wouldn’t it be similarly fascinating to see someone like Ichiro beat the big boys at their own game?

You always hear people say that guys like Cobb, Boggs and Ichiro are/were such great hitters that they could hit for power if they really wanted to, but that they decided to focus on batting average instead. That’s always struck me as ridiculous, and if it is true, Ichiro should be fined or something for intentionally choosing not to do everything he can to help his team. But that’s a little different from saying that, in a batting practice situation where all they have to try to do is hit 60-MPH fastballs out, Mauer or Ichiro could be really good at it. No doubt some of the time, or most of the time, they’d come up with 0 or 1. I’m half-expecting Mauer to turn in a performance like that tonight. But then what if he hits 12 or 15 in the first round and beats out the likes of Howard and Pujols? That would keep me interested, and I think they ought to try to get one guy like that in there just about every year.

Your National League All-Stars?!

July 7, 2009

Oh, boy, what a day. Brutally kicked around (figuratively) in two small towns I’ve never heard of. Let’s talk some baseball!

This doesn’t happen all that often, but I have to disagree with tHeMARksMiTh: Charlie Manuel’s NL pitchers and reserves are at least a little better than Maddon’s AL ones. There’s no Curtis Granderson, Tim Wakefield or Brian Fuentes here. Everyone either (a) is a huge star or (b) is putting up numbers that look like they could be All-Star numbers, in a vacuum, without considering their competition. I hate that Manuel, too, has taken five closers, but at least they’ve all pitched 30 or so really good innings; there’s no Fuentes here.

But still.

All-Star: Jason Marquis, Colorado Rockies: 10-5, 3.87.
Not: Javier Vazquez, Atlanta Braves: 5-7, 3.05.
Marquis is having a really good first half. Probably fluky, but good. Still, he’s probably the second-best pitcher on his own team after Ubaldo Jimenez, and Vazquez dances circles around both of them, but can’t get anybody to score for him. Proving yet again that “All-Star pitcher” correlates more closely with “okay pitcher with great run support” than with any other label you might slap on there.

All-Star: Orlando Hudson, Los Angeles Dodgers: .288/.355/.416.
Not: Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants: .333/.388/.566.
Hudson is okay, and (like Mike Young in the AL) has a reputation for being much better than okay. UZR thinks O-Dawg stopped living up to his defensive reputation years ago and now is a moderate liability (which is still about a 1000% improvement over Jeff Kent). He’s a decent-hitting 2B who can’t really field the position. Sandoval, meanwhile, is absolutely destroying the ball, and is shocking everyone by being at least passable at both first base and third base. The current NL team has two reserve 2B and one reserve 3B; no reason that couldn’t be reversed. And most important of all, Sandoval is really fun to watch. Like a young Guerrero, he swings at everything and usually hits it. The casual non-Giants fan would really like to see this guy play. Hudson, meanwhile, while not nearly the WTF pick Fuentes or Wakefield were, is just another quickly fading 30+ second baseman. That pick just makes no sense at all.

All-Star: Brad Hawpe, Colorado Rockies: .327/.401/.589.
Not: Matt Kemp, Dodgers: .305/.369/.474.
It’s hard to fault a manager for taking a guy hitting like Hawpe is, but Kemp is a centerfielder who is playing the position very well (somewhat uncharacteristically, but still), while Hawpe is a corner outfielder who has been absolutely dreadful, giving away on defense nearly everything he takes on offense. Kemp has also stolen 19 bases in 23 attempts; Hawpe is a stump. Maybe you can’t cut a guy hitting like Hawpe is, but you absolutely have to make room for Kemp on the team. Maybe…we don’t need five closers?

Your American League All-Stars?!

July 6, 2009

Took a whole weekend off, which was a first, and now I’m sitting in an Indiana hotel room on business and needing to go to bed. I’ll make this quick.

From what I’ve seen of him, Joe Maddon is a pretty good manager. Certainly not great, and not nearly the tactical genius that his Professor Frink eyeglasses would suggest, but pretty solid. But give him half of baseball to work with and let him pick a roster out of it? Apparently not such a good idea.

The 2009 AL All-Star pitchers-and-reserves roster is…well, not terrible. But really, it shouldn’t be all that hard to make it better than “not terrible.” And Joe didn’t.

And here’s the amazing thing–the fans actually did a pretty good job this year. I mean, no, there’s no way Josh Hamilton should have been elected even if he had managed to get into more than a handful of games in the first half, and Jason Bay’s glove should’ve played him right out of consideration (and sometimes it’s really hard to see defensive atrociousness, but there were a couple wallbangers in the Mariners-Sox game a couple days ago, and let me tell you–that guy has no idea how to play that Monster). Dustin Pedroia’s play this year certainly doesn’t justify taking him over Hill or Kinsler, but I’m willing to give the 2008 MVP credit for last year’s second half. So all in all, not a bad starting eight.

But then Joe got his hands on it, and, well, have a look:

All-Star: Tim Wakefield, Boston Red Sox. 10-3, 4.30 ERA
Not: Dallas Braden, Oakland A’s. 6-7, 3.13
Tim Wakefield is a fine pitcher having an awfully impressive year for a dude who’ll turn 43 before the season is over. There is nothing a pitcher can do that the seventeen-years-younger Dallas Braden hasn’t done better than Wakefield has this season, except play for a team that scores a bunch of runs.

All-Star: Brian Fuentes, Los Anaheim Angels. 23 Sv, 3.49, 28.1 IP
Not: David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners. 17 Sv, 1.41, 38.1 IP
Fuentes is leading the AL in “saves.” You know how I feel about closers, and every year, there’s at least one more or less average pitcher who gets into the game by racking up a bunch of saves (in 2008, if memory serves, we had a twofer, with George Sherrill in the AL and Brian Wilson in the NL). That’s not entirely fair to Fuentes; his ERA is about average for a reliever, but his FIP is considerably better, at 3.11. Aardsma’s, though, is 2.60, and in 10 more innings. I don’t think 5 relief pitchers is really necessary to begin with (I think Nathan and Rivera would pretty well cover it), but if you’ve got to take a closer, it’s got to be Aardsma. Fuentes is having a very Lee Smith-like year, with nearly as many save chances (26) as innings pitched (28 1/3).
You do have to credit Maddon, though, for picking Andrew Bailey, a very good reliever for Oakland, despite his having only 8 “saves.” But Aardsma would’ve been an even better choice, and Braden would’ve been a better choice as Oakland’s lone rep.

All-Star: Curtis Granderson, Detroit Tigers. .255/.339/.468 (108 OPS+).
Not: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers, .272/.334/.543 (126 OPS+) or Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, .324/.387/.544 (140 OPS+), among many others
This was, in my opinion, easily Maddon’s worst selection. Granderson is having a weird year, hitting for much more home run power and with more patience than ever before but with almost no singles, doubles, or triples, so his overall value is way down. And his defense has slipped a bit, too, to where he’s approximately an average center fielder. You don’t need a Tiger, with Verlander and Jackson both (deservedly) on the staff. Cabrera belongs, but that gives you four 1Bs in a no-DH game. Nelson Cruz has been overlooked somehow, but his power and very good defense make him a much better pick than Granderson. Franklin Gutierrez (who had no chance because all his value is in his defense) would have also been a much better selection, among a few others.

All-Star: Michael Young .314/.370/.497 (126 OPS+)
Not:Brandon Inge, Detroit Tigers, .269/.363/.505 (124 OPS+)
Picking a Tiger over a Ranger in the outfield may have been Maddon’s worst selection, but picking a Ranger over a Tiger at third base was pretty clearly Maddon’s worst omission. Brandon Inge, unlikely as it may be, has been one of the best players in the league this year. He should not have to wait for the silly final vote to get onto this team. And that vote will probably be won by Ian Kinsler anyway (another player more deserving than any of these guys, frankly), considering how Rangers fans seemed to stuff the ballot box in the original voting.
Young, who has always been pretty badly overrated by the batting-average-and-hustle set, is having a nice comeback year with the bat, but he was an atrocious defender at short whose move to third has not made him any less atrocious. I can understand Maddon’s selection of Young in a vacuum, but if you’re only going to take one 3B to backup Longoria, Inge is that guy.

There are other highly questionable calls, too, but those are the ones that jump out at me.

Gotta be honest with you, though — I haven’t even looked at the NL roster yet. I guess I should give Joe a break until I see what Charlie Manuel hath wrought…

Oh, what the holy hell is this

June 23, 2009

Some utter rot from MLB.com:

Frankly, you can’t go wrong with Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies or Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins. And that’s what makes picking a starting shortstop to represent the National League so tough.”

He’s talking about this Hanley Ramirez. And this Jimmy Rollins. The first (and it’s pretty clear any way you want to look at it, but see e.g. this) is quite easily the best shortstop in the National League, and the other, so far in ’09, has been the worst. The first is in the discussion for the distinction of “best player in the National League who is not playing first base for the Cardinals,” while the other has never really been as great as his reputation, and seems to have lost it entirely (as middle infielders sometimes do) at age 30.

I mean, the actual news part of the article is good news — Hanley finally surpassed J-Roll again in the All-Star voting after two weeks of Phillies-Phan-led insanity. But they should really stop pretending that MLB.com isn’t beholden to MLB and its clubs for its editorial content. In fact, they should get rid of individual bylines altogether: a “By the Philadelphia Phillies PR Department” line rather than “By Alden Gonzalez/MLB.com” would’ve made this a little more palatable.

AL All-Star Atrocities

June 3, 2009

It’s hard to believe, but by my count, we’re exactly halfway done with the 2009 All-Star Game balloting process. Today is June 3; balloting began (ridiculously, outfreakingrageously early) on April 22. That was 41 days ago. The game itself is on July 14. That’s 41 days from now.

So I thought it would be a good time to look at the progress of the balloting and some of the oddities/surprises/huge mistakes therein. I’ll probably do the National League tomorrow unless something more interesting comes up, but MLB.com’s latest AL update came out today, and the NL has been getting all the attention anyway, what with the Manny thing and the Brewers thing and the Milledge thing, so we’ll stick with the American League for today. My geekily opaque stat of choice today will be WAR, as seen on FanGraphs, through the games of June 1.

1. Ranger Dominance.
The story of the AL ballot is usually Yankees and Red Sox fans using their numbers to bully everybody else out of the game, but it looks to me like the Rangers might be doing their best Brewers impression and stuffing the box this year (or have just had more home games this month than anybody else; I’m not going to bother to check). “Only” two Rangers would start if the voting ended today–the unquestionably deserving Ian Kinsler (2.5 WAR) and the less-deserving Josh Hamilton (0.9 WAR)–but a Ranger is in the top 5 at every position, including Chris Davis (fabulous first-base D but a .194 AV and .253 OBP; -0.2 WAR), rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus (1.2 WAR thanks mostly to great D) and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (0.5 WAR). And Nelson Cruz (who it should be said as a much stronger claim to a spot than Hamilton) is also among the top 10 outfielders. I expect they’ll slide back in several areas–Michael Young is in a distant second at 3B behind Longoria, for instance, and I’m sure the Right Coasters will make sure Lowell and A-Rod pass him up soon enough–but it’s kind of ludicrous right now.

2. Derek Jeter
I get that the All-Star game is supposed to be about who the fans want to see, and I’m generally for rewarding players for longer-term performance than just the first half of this season. But Jeter (2.0 WAR), who is enjoying a very nice bounceback year from a down-for-him 2008, currently has 2 1/2 times more votes than any other shortstop, including Jason Bartlett (.373/.418/.596, 2.7 WAR) and Marco Scutaro (.305/.408/.457, 2.5 WAR). Both those guys are having a fluky couple of months, and I’d rather see the first-ballot Hall of Famer than the scrubs that happened to get off to hot starts. But I also think that the voting should be closer than 2.5:1. Jeter is a very close second behind Longoria for the most votes in the AL, and it’s hard to argue that he’s earned that.

3. Ken Griffey Jr.
I know I just said I’m all for honoring players for their great careers and everything, but haven’t we already done all that with Junior? He’s just 30,000 votes behind teammate (and currently vastly superior player) Ichiro! for the third starting position among outfielders. At least when he was getting voted onto the team in Cincinnati, he was actually playing in the outfield when he was healthy enough to play. Now he’s a full-time DH, with just 23 innings in the field so far, and he’s hitting .208/.327/.362 (0.0 WAR). Look, Junior knows we love him, and there will be decades (God willing) for ceremonies and such after he retires. Let’s leave him out of this one, though, ‘kay?

4. Ichiro!
Where did all those Japanese voters go? Ichiro is, as I said, in the third and final OF slot, but is much, much closer to 4th through 7th places (Griffey, Carl Crawford, Torii Hunter and Nick Markakis) than he is to 2nd place (Hamilton). Yet, he’s having arguably the best year of his career, and he’s been elected to start the All-Star game in each of his first eight seasons; to be left out of this one would be unfortunate and pretty ironic. His walk rate is down, and so are his steals, but he’s hitting .352, and with more power (5 HR; he’s had 6 total in each of the last two years, and his career high is 15). He’s playing his usual stellar defense, and has a 1.8 WAR, better than both Hamilton and the current leader, Jason Bay (1.5).

5. Adam Jones.
UZR doesn’t like his fielding nearly as much as most human observers do (in fact, they say he’s cost the team nearly five runs, which seems like a blip after being worth 10 runs last year), or else his WAR would be much higher than his current 1.9. His .344/.400/.608 offensive line ought to put him in regardless, however. He’s a distant 10th in the outfield balloting. Another Oriole with a strong case is Nick Markakis, though WAR hates him because UZR says he’s lost them ten fielding runs already (after saving 12 last year…what’s up with the O’s outfield?).

All in all, this is shaping up to be a better voting year than most; I’m not convinced that we’re getting all the starters right, but (as long as Ichiro continues to hold Griffey at bay) there aren’t any that I’d actually call “atrocities,” either. Well, maybe Hamilton too, though at least he was still playing like an All-Star (more or less) in the second half of ’08, if you want to credit him for that.

For the record:

Pos My Vote Leader
C Mauer Mauer
1B Morneau Youkilis
2B Kinsler Kinsler
3B Longoria Longoria
SS Bartlett Jeter
OF1 Hunter Bay
OF2 A.Jones Hamilton
OF3 Ichiro Ichiro

I know, I said I’d rather see Jeter than Bartlett, but I know Jeter’s going to win anyway (and I know Bartlett is on the DL, but he’s just been that good), and I don’t think I could ever actually bring myself to vote for Jeter.

I didn’t even really mention Torii Hunter (2.2 WAR), but he’s been phenomenal for an Angels team that really badly needed a hitter.

The hardest to leave off my ballot were Youkilis and Teixeira (both of whom have been about as valuable as Morneau…so all things equal, of course, I go with the Twin), and Carl Crawford (who has arguably been just a little better than Ichiro, but I have to go with career value there).

Nelson Cruz is actually the best OF in the league according to WAR (2.4), but a lot of that comes from his 7.6 UZR (meaning he’d save 22.9 runs per 150 games at that rate), and that’s no more sustainable than Scutaro’s OBP. He’s good, but not that good.

So that’s my ballot. What’s yours?