Matthew Callan over at Amazin’ Avenue has dug up some great Mike Piazza commercials from YouTube, including the above. Go over there to see the other videos, and then party like it’s 1999.
Beyond the Box Score posted a quiz about MLB players who go by a nickname. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to match these players up with their real names. It’s unbelievable difficult — I only knew B.J. Upton’s real first name. And Chipper Jones’, of course. You should all get that one.
Toby Hyde is reviewing the Mets’ system position by position. Today: second base, which once again is shaping up to be an open competition in Spring Training. There are some interesting-if-flawed names in the minors — Jordany Valdespin, Reese Havens — to go along with the interesting-if-flawed candidates in the majors. But Toby will tell you all about all those dudes over there.
Yu Darvish, a very good and fairly young Japanese pitcher, is looking to pitch for an MLB team in America next season. Eno Sarris, over on the most Amazin’ of Avenues, takes a look at Darvish and asks whether the Mets should be that team. That is, if the Mets should be the team to woo Darvish. (The short answer: “No.”) But if you’d like to know some more about who Darvish, and the longer version of the no answer, click your way over there.
Voting is taking place over at Metstradamus on the 2011 Hall of Hate for Mets fans. The polls are open for Cole Hamels vs. the commercials that play during Mets games, potentially a close matchup, but either one figures to be a long shot against Oliver Perez in the next round. The heavy favorite, it’s hard to imagine Ollie not sweeping through, although you never know with these things.
The Marlins’ new ballpark, opening next season, has . . . some interesting features. It’s like a tacky Disneyland, basically. Or the dying visions of Disco Stu. The logo was curious, but this is somehow worse: Check out their center field home run celebrating thing over at Baseball Nation.
A New York Times article, so be wary if you’re running close to the monthly article limit. But it is Nate Silver writing about baseball, putting into perspective how dramatic the Sox collapse was, so you probably want to click on it anyway.
Chris McShane over at Alderson Avenue took a look today at some potential free-agent/non-closer relievers who might be able to serve as the Mets’ closer next season. There are some interesting names on the list, and I think that is going to be the direction Sandy Alderson goes to find his ninth inning guy.
I wonder sometimes if being a closer is easier than being an set-up reliever. It would seem that on the mental side, closing would be more difficult because if you blow the game, that’s it — there aren’t any more inning for the team to get the lead back. It’s all on you. But if you’re the closer, you’re also pitching the same inning every night, rarely asked to get more than three outs, and often protecting a sizable three-run cushion. When you show up at the ballpark, you know what you’re going to be asked to do every night. And those factors all favor a pitcher, maybe more than we often acknowledge — if you go on Baseball-Reference and look at the most effective pitchers, as measured by ERA+ (500 inning minimum), 11 of the 20 most effective pitchers are closers (or have a lot of saves). Eight of those 11 closers have pitched in the past ten years. We’re talking about every pitcher over the last 111 years who has thrown 500 innings; more than half of the elite, elite ones are closers. The modern closer role has let teams take a pitcher who otherwise wouldn’t be good enough to even start, and turn him into Pedro Martinez for 65 innings a season.
Meanwhile, setup men sometimes pitch multiple innings, often come into games in the middle of an inning with runners on base, never know which inning they’re going to pitch in when they come to the ballpark . . . there isn’t necessarily the stress of the ninth, but there’s still stress, and it’s compounded by an uncertainty. There’s an argument to be made that pitching setup is more difficult.
The Rays took the much-maligned Kyle Farnsworth and turned him into an effective closer this season. I wonder, if someone studied the issue deeply, if relief pitchers are actually more effective working as a closer than as a setup man. Are the best relief pitchers used as closers because they’re the best relievers, or is there something about the usage pattern that makes closers the best relievers? Because the closer role is the only relief role in history that has a regular usage pattern associated with it, and there might be something to that.
I guess the point is that the Mets might be better off signing a non-closer on the cheap, sticking him in the ninth, and then watching him transform into an elite reliever. Maybe it’s just the usage pattern.
Josh Weinstock over at The Hardball Times took a look at pitcher’s repertoires and found that pitchers who throw a lot of changeups tend to give up fewer hits on balls in play. It’s not an enormous difference, something like four or five hits over a full season for starting pitcher. But it looks like there is a real difference, and helps explain why changeup-happy Johan Santana consistently gives up 15-20 fewer hits than expected every season.
The wonderful Amy K. Nelson has a touching piece up today for ESPN about the Marlins’ Logan Morrison, his relationship with his late father and recent conflicts with his team. A great look at what goes into making a baseball player and highly recommended.