Monthly Archives: October 2011

Some Things I Read Today

This may or may not become a nightly post — two or three things I read and enjoyed during the day, most of them sports related, but not all of them sports-related. Here we go:

But La Russa did something few managers have done in this game: He changed how it was played. He inserted himself so forcefully into running a game that his impact was known as if he were a star player. His greatest tool to apply that force — to try to control the conditions of a game as much as he could — was his bullpen usage.

-Tom Verducci, “Tony La Russa Changed the Game and Now He Leaves It on Top”
Sports Illustrated

Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.

1) Jacob Turner, RHP, Grade A-: I think he could use some additional Triple-A exposure, but the Tigers may have different ideas. I don’t see him as a number one Verlander-like ace, but more like a durable workhorse number two.

- John Sickels, “Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects for 2012″
Minor League Ball

For whatever reasons, the more I learn about baseball, the more I enjoy reading about prospects.

Only recently have scientists accorded chimpanzees, so closely related to humans we can share blood transfusions, the dignity of having a mind. But now, increasingly, researchers who study octopuses are convinced that these boneless, alien animals—creatures whose ancestors diverged from the lineage that would lead to ours roughly 500 to 700 million years ago—have developed intelligence, emotions, and individual personalities. Their findings are challenging our understanding of consciousness itself.

- Sy Montgomery, “Deep Intellect.”
Orion Magazine

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On Pujols and Time Machines

I’m reasonably certain that if Ruth somehow time-traveled from 1927 to 2011 and replaced Berkman in right field for the Cardinals, he’d prove a well inferior hitter to Pujols. Probably worse than Berkman too, especially if the time-travel mechanism is at all taxing or traumatic.

- Ted Berg

Whenever a friend of mine is squeezed for time, I usually (and, might I add, helpfully) suggest that they drop whatever it is that they’re doing and instead start working on a time machine. Because, if you have time to think about it, attempting to build a time machine is the most efficient way anyone could spend their time. If you somehow succeeded, you would now have an infinite amount of time with which to do other things. And it doesn’t matter how low the chances of successfully building a time machine are, because a 1% chance of success times infinity is infinity, and a 0.0000000001% chance of success times infinity is still equal to infinity, and so on. The expected payout of a time machine is always an infinite amount of time. It doesn’t matter what else you could be doing with that time, because in all other cases your time would ultimately be finite. So instead of studying for a test or worrying about a project, just try to build a time machine. Clearly it’s the most efficient way anyone could ever spend their time.

Maybe don’t think about that one too much. It might be a waste of time — time better spent attempting to build a time machine.

But if anyone should ever succeed in building a time machine, they could answer this question for us — first raised by Lance Berkman, written about by Ted Berg and then discussed on Twitter, in the comments section over that-a-ways and in the Mostly Mets Podcast: If you brought Babe Ruth to 2011 via time travel and stuck him on a major league team, would he or would he not outhit Albert Pujols?

I’m inclined to say, based on the evidence, that he would not. Babe Ruth, yanked from a time machine and stuck in the present-day majors – and, for whatever reason, Ruth is totally cool with all this and gets right into playing baseball — would be an average-to-above average hitter. But he would not be better than Albert Pujols. We’re not talking about cloned Babe Ruth. This is Babe Ruth, pulled directly from his day and put into ours. Albert Pujols would outhit him. Here’s why I think this is true. Continue reading

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Mostly Mets Podcast, McHugh Edition

In this edition, we talk about the World Series; Toby and I talk with Mets minor league pitcher Collin McHugh, currently pitching in Arizona in the Fall League; and then Babe Ruth vs. Albert Pujols, who’s the best hitter in a time machine scenario (more on that in a bit).

The quick rundown:
01:00 – World Series/What actually happened in Game 5?/Why is La Russa lying?
12:00 – Collin McHugh from the Arizona Fall League
41:15 – Albert Pujols vs. Babe Ruth

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From the Department of Things I Did Not Realize

I was glancing at Fangraphs’ leaderboards last night — I had no idea Nick Evans had, by some accounts, the best defensive season of any first baseman in the majors last year. Evans played only 337.2 innings at first base this year, but tied for the major league lead in defensive runs saved as a first baseman anyway:

And he led the majors in UZR per 150 games:

As you might have noticed, Daniel Murphy also makes both lists. And UZR and defensive runs saved also love Ike Davis’ defense at first base, for whatever it’s worth. So maybe something weird is going on with these numbers and how much they love the Mets’ first basemen. But Nick Evans’ high rating passes the first sniff test, in that he looked by my eyes to make all the routine plays and then a good number of the difficult plays. The numbers seem to agree with the subjective consensus. On the other hand, defensive metrics are often flukey in small samples and this is just 300 innings — not a great statistical predictor for future fielding success or even an accurate measurement of what he did this season. With that said, it’s probably better to rate extremely well in a small sample than rate extremely poorly, and Evans’ defense at first rated extremely well this season. Color me surprised. (Is that a saying? That might not be a saying. Maybe I should write it with a British accent.) Colour me surprised.

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This Says It All


If the Cardinals lose this series, does this image of Tony La Russa become the iconic moment? In ten years, will we be talking about “that World Series when the Cardinals lost because they couldn’t get the right guy up in the bullpen”? Needless to say, this series has been a theatre of the amazing and the absurd so far; I picked the Rangers in six, so I’ll be pulling for them tomorrow night.

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Same Game, Different Ball

Although Japan’s new ball is not meant to replicate the American major league ball, a conscious effort was made to make it much more similar than before. That is a crucial point in Japan, where performance in international competitions like the quadrennial World Baseball Classic, which uses the American ball, weighs on the national conscience. Kato, the commissioner, said as much at a news conference when he unveiled the new ball before the season.

“Certainly, an impetus for the uniform ball was seeing with my own eyes the difficulties Japanese pitchers had with the different ball at the W.B.C.,” he said of the 2009 tournament, which Japan won. “By unifying our approach to the domestic game, we can lessen such discomforts that arise for our players on the international stage.”

- New York Times

Surprisingly interesting article, via Hardball Talk, about the different baseballs used in the Japanese leagues. Until just a moment ago, I was under the impression that the baseballs used in Japan were slightly smaller and slicker than their American counterparts. As it turns out, there wasn’t even a single standard ball used by all teams until this year. Teams would even change the ball they used depending on the series. And, apparently, a good deal of teams were using juiced balls before, as home runs dropped precipitously in Japan these season with the standardized ball. Anyway, check it out here.

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Jose Reyes’ Hits at Citi Field

Graphics master Justin Bopp, over at Beyond the Box Score, charted Jose Reyes’ singles, double, triples and home runs hit at Citi Field this season onto this cool looking graphic. Might I recommend heading over there to see the full image, along with a handful of others from the series.

The World Series has been great so far, but we’re running slow on Mets news. Might be a slow week around here, though maybe we should enjoy it. Jose Reyes rumor hysteria is about a week away. I’m sure we’ll all be sick of it soon enough.

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The Free Agent Outfielder Contracts

Earlier this week, we took a look at multi-year contracts given to free agent starting pitchers (henceforth known as “bad investments”), and then extensions given to starting pitchers that bought out free agent years (good investments). As a comparison group of sorts, I had also looked up multi-year contracts given out to free agent outfielders, as a quick way to see if all multi-year deals given out to free agents are bad contracts, or just the ones given out to free agent pitchers. As it turns out, it costs about $12.2 million dollars to buy a win via a free agent starting pitcher on a multi-year deal, and “only” about $6 million dollars to buy a win via an outfielder on a multi-year deal. So it certainly appears as though free agent outfielders are better investments than pitchers.

Since I’ve already looked all this stuff up, and the unshared info is burning a hole in my computer — dark smoke is literally billowing out of the vents right now — here’s a list of the best and worst multi-year deals given to free agent outfielders, from the winter after the 2004 season to today: Continue reading

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Mostly Mets Podcast, Episode 19

If the player isn’t working yet, you can listen and download here until it does.

Plenty of pitching talk this time around, from the rotations of the World Series teams to the Mets. The show rundown:

World Series talk:
1:00 – Was the Cardinals offense underrated?/Building a World Series Rotation
8:40 – Rangers Alexi Ogando is more interesting than you know
14:18 – Cardinals and The Cardinal Way of building a staff
23:00 – Moths are Dangerous/More miscellaneous pitchers
– Fat is better?
– Is velocity going up?
38:00 Juan Lagares in the Arizona Fall League
45:00 Revised World Series Predictions

Rate/subscribe via iTunes, if you wish. Let us know what you think, and send listener questions to “MostlyMetsPodcast” at gmail

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Surprisingly Fun Way to Waste Time

This is a map of Jason Bay’s home runs, triples, doubles and fly outs hit in Citi Field this year, imposed onto an outline of Shea Stadium. (Home runs are dark blue, triples are blue, double are light blue, and fly outs are orange.) I made it on this website here — this is the link — which takes MLB Gameday info and lets you map it onto different ballparks. You can take any hitter’s balls put in play in one park, and map them onto another park, or take any pitcher’s balls in play against in one park, and map them onto another. I don’t know how accurate the mapping is, but it’s sure fun to mess around with.

I guess the bad news from the above map is that none of Jason Bay’s fly outs and triples from this season would have left Shea Stadium, so his struggles are probably not explained by the park as much as his swing. (Though the park could be influencing his swing. Park effects and maps such as this one don’t account for things like that . . . so there’s still hope?) The slightly better but still depressing news is that looking at David Wright’s seasons at Citi Field, you can spot a few triples and flyouts that might have left Shea. But not that many.

That’s depressing though, and there are plenty of ways to have fun with this gadget that don’t involve the Mets’ struggling sluggers. Like, for example, mapping the Yankees’ home runs in Yankee Stadium onto Petco Park:

Take that, Granderson and Cano.

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