Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

We’re back. With real fake baseball games on MLB.tv this weekend, the Getting Blanked powers that be recommended (read: threatened to ensure a bunting drill “mishap” if I didn’t) that I bring back Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday, or TSTOAF if you prefer, for another season. Never one to rock the boat, I quite heartily agreed.

By now, you should know the drill. For many, this day represents the end of a long work week filled with sludging and drudging. It’s my hope that every Friday of the baseball season during that point of the day on a Friday afternoon when it’s too far away from closing time to leave work early, but too late in the day to start anything new, you’ll join us here to check out some random observations and contribute your own opinion to my ten stray thoughts on a Friday.

So, without further ado:

New Playoff Format

It’s been expected for a couple of days now, and MLB didn’t disappoint when it officially announced its new playoff format involving a one game playoff between the top two teams in each league that didn’t win a division. It wasn’t known exactly how scheduling for this one game would affect the remainder of the playoffs, but by limiting the number of potential travel days in the division series round of the playoffs, MLB hopes that the World Series doesn’t drag on into November.

In order to accomodate this, the division winners with the best records will be visitors for the first two games of the division series, and then have home field advantage for the final three. In other words, the Wild Card team and the weakest of the division winners get two guaranteed home games, and only one guaranteed home game goes to the strongest division winners.

That hardly seems fair, but it’s not without precedent. In 1997, the 2-3 format was used instead of the 2-2-1. It, along with aligning teams with a predetermined seed that wasn’t tied to playing record, were both discontinued.

Perhaps more interesting than the possible disadvantage that better teams face under the new format this year is that teams from the same division can now theoretically meet in the division series. If, over the next three years, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees meet in an ALDS at least two times, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that MLB will be expanding the series from a best of five to best of seven.

Emo Ian Kinsler

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Ian Kinsler was the best player on the Texas Rangers last season by an entire two wins above replacement according to FanGraphs.

The Surprising Thing About Nick Johnson

If you were to press me to come up with a surprising thing about Nick Johnson, I’d probably say something about him not being injured (which he isn’t at the time of writing). I’d then laugh and say I was just kidding, and then I’d say that the most surprising thing about Nick Johnson is that he might actually make the active roster of the Baltimore Orioles (health permitting). You would then tell me that’s not surprising at all because the Orioles are terrible. You might even refer to them as the OriLOLes, and we’d laugh about it.

Then, the next day, I’d think about our conversation and how funny it was, and perhaps in an attempt to hang on to the memories that we created, I’d look up Nick Johnson on Baseball Reference and discover that the surprising thing about Nick Johnson is that he has a career on base percentage above .400. Then I’d use the website’s play index feature to find out that the even more surprising thing about Nick Johnson is that he is one of only ten active batters with at least 2,500 career plate appearances that have an on-base percentage above .400. The others: Lance Berkman, Jason Giambi, Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and Joey Votto.

Opposites

From Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro:

We do utilize some of the information [from advanced metrics], but, frankly, I have a great deal of confidence in the people that we have hired to help us make some of the scouting and personnel decisions. I err on that side probably because I believe in our people.

From Houston Astros GM  Jeff Luhnow:

Why do I get the feeling that the Phillies might not continue to enjoy the same type of trade agreement with the Astros that they did under the previous Ed Wade regime?

Soft As Fontenot

Is it just me or does Mike Fontenot kind of look like the dude who hangs out on your buddy’s sofa and never involves himself in any conversation unless its about drugs or jacking a car? I am slightly terrified of this man.

Wendy Thurm’s article on the right side of the Giants’ infield for FanGraphs makes him even more terrifying.

Maple Bats

Speaking of Thurm, she had another great piece over at Baseball Nation this week on the grandfathering out of maple bats from Major League Baseball. Starting this season, players without a previous big league plate appearance will not be allowed to use a maple bat. While those who continue to use bats from a maple tree must now adhere to new specifications that will supposedly reduce shattering.

I can’t help but wonder how something as important to performance as a baseball bat would have certain types banned from use for some but allowed for others. Has anything like this ever happened before in any sport? Rookies in this case are at a distinct disadvantage.

If these types of bats are popular, but unsafe, ban them completely. Grandfathering out a bat composition in this manner is nothing but unfair.

Predictions

For the purposes of future mockery at the hands of readers:

  • AL East: Boston, New York, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Baltimore.
  • AL Central: Detroit, Kansas City, Chicago, Cleveland, Minnesota.
  • AL West: Texas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Oakland.
  • NL East: Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Washington, New York.
  • NL Central: Cincinnati, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Houston.
  • NL West: San Francisco, Arizona, Colorado, San Diego, Los Angeles.

As far as new managers go, Bobby Valentine will be unfairly praised and Mike Matheny will be unfairly judged.

Baseball Video Gaming

We got a great response to our question on what is the best baseball video game of all time. It seems that MVP 2005 was the gamer’s choice, but RBI Baseball received a lot of nostalgic attention from the rest of us. As I mentioned, I bought a copy of MLB 11: The Show and gave it a whirl in Franchise mode. It was fun, but I could see how certain things would get on the nerves of someone who played the game a lot and wanted the most realistic approach possible to managing a baseball team.

The Show’s main competitor is Y2K’s annual edition. This week I learned that Y2K will be offering a demo ahead of its release while The Show will not. I’m not really familiar with video game reviews, but perhaps a fellow Getting Blankard could help me out. Is this at all akin to a terrible movie not screening for critics ahead of its release?

Is there a general consensus on which of the two games is better?

Update: The Y2K version has promised to have the new playoff format as part of the game.

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Popular Players

Yesterday’s five most popular player profiles at Baseball Reference were:

  1. Ryan Zimmerman
  2. Jason Varitek
  3. Ryan Braun
  4. Alex Rodriguez
  5. Babe Ruth

Over at FanGraphs, the last 24 hours has seen these player profiles visited the most:

  1. Matt Kemp
  2. Yadier Molina
  3. Barry Bonds
  4. Shane Victorino
  5. Alex Rodriguez