Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

It’s Friday. Congratulations. You made it through another week of soul suffocating duties and meaningless obligations to make it to this exact moment in time. You’re now mere hours away from the warm embrace of weekend freedom. While your bosses, teachers, partners and everyone else may not appreciate your efforts this week, ol’ Dustin Parkes (in the third person!) knows exactly what you’ve been going through.

And to show my gratitude, here is the latest edition of Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday to get you through the longest couple hours of your week.

John Henry. John Henry. The Red Sox Owning Man.

Earlier today, on CBS radio in Boston, Red Sox owner John Henry sounded off about the Carl Crawford signing (he was against it) and a barage of other admissions, no doubt causing more public relation nightmares than if John F. Kennedy was president in the 21st Century.

We all understand that Theo Epstein is gone, and although it’s in incredibly bad taste to throw a guy under the bus the moment he leaves your organization, it happens. However, you know who’s still in your organization, and will be for the next six years barring a trade in which you most likely pick up a sizeable chunk of his salary?

It’s Carl Crawford. The guy you just admitted to never wanting to sign in the first place is the same guy who theoretically never got comfortable playing for your team in his first season there. Well played.

I don’t know about you, but I think the whole thing could be a prank. I saw John Henry in the Moneyball movie and he sounded nothing like this. Although, I can tell you from experience that a scarf is never a good gift for a woman.

Aside: The dude who played John Henry in Moneyball, played Cowboy in Full Metal Jacket.

The 24 Most Bizarre Injuries In Baseball History

Number 23 is greater than all 23 other injury stories combined. Seriously, though, how did Felix Pie not make this list?

Drafting Young

A lot of praise has been heaped on Rany Jazayerli’s Baseball Prospectus piece which looks at previous drafts to come to the conclusion that young high school hitters offer incredible value based on their age.

I have a bit of a problem with the exhaustive study. The first ten picks of the draft are historically much more valuable than any later selections. Wouldn’t these top picks influence the overall results too much to draw a proper conclusion? I feel even more strongly about this when I stop to consider that within the first round, the best players, those with the highest expected value, are typically taken regardless of age anyway.

Courtesy of Beyond The Box Score.

In other words, because the top picks are so much more valuable than those that get selected after them, their WAR totals are going to weigh too heavily on their age group’s WAR.

Automatic Strikes

Do you think batters should swing more, less or the same at pitches with a three ball and no strike count?

Rico Brogna believes that all batters should get a green light at 3-0. I might not go that far, but the idea isn’t totally crazy. I’ve used the poker metaphor before in baseball. If you bluff or play straight all the time in the card game, you’ll be exploited. It’s similar in baseball, and to a degree, I believe that pitchers often exploit batters in 3-0 count situations.

There are a couple of caveats though. It must be remembered that the pitcher more than likely missed on one or two, if not three of his previous pitches. His control is likely not all there. A batter should also keep in mind that an umpire is more willing to call an pitch outside of the actual strike zone a strike with a count that favours the batter. Finally, you’d also have to consider the situation, and the difference in run expectancy a 3-1 count creates versus a batted ball.

On Joe Posnanski And The Structure Of Playoffs

Something happened to my taste for Joe Posnanski this summer when he wrote his gazillion word feature on Jose Bautista. While incredibly well written, the piece felt really long, repetitive and obvious, and ever since then a lot of his articles have seemed that way to me. I get one paragraph in and realize that everything I’m reading is merely a confirmation of a lot of what I’ve read before from separate sources. It’s nice that so much information and opinion is combined in one place and filtered through the mind of someone who is brilliant at expressing himself, it’s just that aggregates are supposed to save you time, not take up even more.

Having said that, Posnanski recently put together a post on the playoff structures of the various sports leagues in North America. It’s a fantastic comparison that points out what each league emphasizes through it’s structure. Posnanski suggests that the introduction of the Wild Card has shifted baseball’s focus from emphasizing the regular season to the playoffs because the best teams according to the 162 game schedule seldom end up playing each other for the championship anymore.

Tom Tango has pointed out in the past that due to the amount of randomness and luck in baseball, a longer schedule is necessary to get closer to determining the true talent level of teams during a regular season. He suggests that playing 162 baseball games is the equivalent to playing 82 hockey or basketball games. His comment on the Posnanski article is more of a question than a definitive statement, asking if having fewer teams in the MLB playoffs in a seven game series is what gives the regular season more legitimacy than the other leagues.

I emphatically agree, and point to this as one of the best arguments for not expanding the playoffs any further.

Note: Yes, I’m aware of the hypocrisy inherent in criticizing a superior writer for the length of his work while I write my longest piece of the week.

Stats vs. Scouts

There was an interesting twitversation going on between Christina Kahrl, Marc Normandin and Kevin Goldstein this afternoon about Jeff Passan’s hackish troll job piece on Zack Greinke, which moronically calls him out for not “pitching like an ace” and being a “trade-forcing whiner.” All three participants are intelligent enough to avoid thinking of stats and scouts in terms of a dichotomy.

However, the discussion got me thinking about the strange, ugly and wholly unnecessary trenches that get built between these two methods of evaluation. If they’re to first acknowledge each other’s usefulness, then perhaps they could make a little promise to one another. If you think more in terms of statistics, avoid mentioning your observations about mechanics. Likewise, if you think more in terms of observations and mechanics, avoid using and defending outdated statistics, or numbers with the smallest of sample sizes.

I have no problems admitting where my expertise doesn’t lay, why can’t others? But really, can’t we all just get along?

Justin Verlander’s Thursday

The 133rd pitch of Justin Verlander’s appearance yesterday was sent over the fence by the bat of Nelson Cruz. It was travelling 99.9 miles per hour before contact was made. That would be the fastest pitch of the year to be sent yard.

I understand people wanting to make a hero out of Verlander for his performance yesterday, and while there were times that he was brilliant, it was actually a pretty mediocre outing for him in which the manager left him in far too long.

For your information: Steve Carlton threw 159 pitches in a playoff game in 1980.

Playing Injured Does No Favours

There’s something deep within most of us in the Western World that wants to celebrate sacrifice. It’s probably created by a fossilized pseudo Judeo-Christian concept, but it’s there none the less.

Watching Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila collect 34 outs so far this postseason, yesterday’s home run not withstanding, makes me think that as honourable as it might be to play injured, it might be even more beneficial to the team to not.

Playing hurt as an excuse for poor performance shouldn’t exist. It’s a fairly simple equation. If an injury costs a player in terms of performance enough so that his replacement becomes a better option, then play the replacement. I know that sometimes it’s not so cut and dry, but Avila has been so horrible at the plate this postseason that unless Jim Leyland believes his defense or ability to call a game is far superior, any other option would likely be better.

Shameless Self Promotion

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All Too Familiar