Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

For many, Friday represents the end of a long work week that was filled with heavy doses of sludging and drudging. It’s my hope that at the end of every week during 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 opinions to my ten stray thoughts on a Friday.

So, without further ado:

GIFfables

So, the word on the street is that MLB Advanced Media will be attempting to put the kibosh on the lovely animated GIFs that are used on nearly all of the baseball websites that you visit.

As you’re no doubt aware, MLB, far more than any other sports league, diligently protects its copyrighted video. In order to provide visual examples in online writing, animated GIFs have been used as a means of working around the league’s policies.

According to many, this is stupid because by trying to block writers/bloggers from using GIFs, MLB is essentially blocking the promotion of their product. There is something to be said about accessibility. Typically, those visiting the MLB.com website are already baseball fans. Those visiting Deadspin or a similar all sports site probably aren’t going to visit MLB.com as well. Seeing a diving  catch or close play might entice these people as a gateway drug of sorts to get more into baseball.

While MLB likely owes a debt of gratitude to several different forms of social media for free promotion, I can understand why they’d want to protect certain aspects of their property, most obviously the kind of stuff that they would use exclusively on their own website as part of highlight packages.

What I think is unfair is lumping all GIF uses together. Using a clip from a television broadcast to illustrate a point or make a joke is far different than merely putting up a highlight or a great catch. The issue deserves more than a blanket policy, and hopefully whatever restrictions are put into effect include a fair share of nuance.

Aaron Hill

Aaron Hill with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011:

  • 429 plate appearances, 6 home runs, .225 AVG, .270 OBP, .313 SLG, .264 wOBA, 61 wRC+.

Aaron Hill with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011 and so far in 2012:

  • 168 plate appearances, 4 home runs, .291 AVG, .340 OBP, .487 SLG, .356 wOBA, 129 wRC+.

The results in those two GIFs might be different, but the swings look awfully similar, and although it’s a small sample, here are his isolated numbers from this year so far:

  • 26 plate appearances, 2 home runs, .167 AVG, .231 OBP, .458 SLG, .283 wOBA, 76 wRC+.

Enjoy your two years of Aaron Hill for $11 million, Phoenix.

One interesting thing I did notice about Hill since he was traded is that he hasn’t swung at nearly as many fastballs as he did while he was with Toronto. We’ve heard about hitting coach Dwayne Murphy promoting aggressiveness at the plate, but I wouldn’t expect the Diamondbacks, under Kirk Gibson’s stewardship, to be the model of patience either. It’s something to look into.

From Hope To Disappointment

The Defensive Runs Saved metric was mentioned in an article by Ken Fidlin for the Toronto Sun yesterday.

San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval led the majors in a little-known stat called “defensive runs saved.” Sandoval was credited with 22 runs saved in 905 innings at third base.

Great, right? I love how advanced metrics are usable when it supports the point being made by a columnist, but dismissed as nerdy ramblings when it doesn’t.

In just 43 games (380 innings), Lawrie was credited with 14 runs saved, putting him on pace to breeze past Sandoval.

Ugh. To be exact, Lawrie’s pace would be for 33 DRS, or a higher number that any third baseman has ever recorded. I’m going to lean on this being more of a sample size than anything else. By this rational, if we took a look at his numbers this season, and assume he plays 905 innings, his DRS should work out to 55, almost twice as much as the highest ever recorded.

That’s not to say that Lawrie hasn’t been impressive during his short tenure at third base. He’s looked pretty good, if not fluid. However, regression doesn’t only affect batting numbers.

In Praise Of Common Sense

Yes. Yes. A million times, yes.

How many times have you been at a game, witnessed a player being pulled without explanation and had to use up your data plan while searching online via your smart phone, despite sitting in a place that advertises the largest internet service provider in your nation. And you probably spilled your $10 beer when you tried to pull your phone out of your pocket while sitting in a seat that was never designed for a 6’4″ man to sit in.

Okay, that got pretty specific there at the end, and it could be the very definition of a first world problem. However, it’s such an easy problem to solve, and I’m glad that the dump that Luke Scott calls Fenway Park, figured it out.

Laz Diaz’s Strike Zone

Baseball is subjective. As much as we look at numbers and data and try to interpret it in order to predict an outcome, what ends up happening in single samples is often decided by different interpretations of an imaginary box that hovers over home plate.

Just look at the fluctuations in success and failure an average batter enjoys or suffers depending on the balls and strikes count. Not only do we depend on an umpire’s interpretation of a strike zone, but we also depend on the pitcher’s, batter’s, and as we’ve recently discovered, the catcher’s interpretation of that interpretation. In many ways, baseball is a game of Socratic shadows.

And I like that. It’s part of what makes the game beautiful.

However, like most beautiful things, it can go too far. And too far was reached in Wednesday night’s called strike zone by home plate umpire Laz Diaz for the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles game.

Here is the normalized strike zone as called for right handed batters:

There are certainly some questionable calls, but it’s not horrible. At least there’s a level of consistency, and that’s all you can really ask for from an umpire.

Now, here is what the normalized strike zone looked like against left handed batters:

This is, of course, rather atrocious. Sadly for the Baltimore Orioles, those three pitches that were called strikes despite being way, way, way outside were all from Mariano Rivera as he collected the save for the Yankees.

Rivera is widely cited as having the largest strike zone, as called by an umpire, for any pitcher in baseball.

For the record, the solid lines represent the theoretical strike zone as the rules describe it, while the diagonal dashed line is a better representation of what’s actually called a strike.

Brandon Belt? More Like Brandon Bench. Am I Right?

Brandon Belt will start the San Francisco Giants’ home opener on the bench today. He’s collected one hit and two walks in 13 plate appearances, managing to avoid outs a paltry 23% of the time. One of the players being put into today’s game ahead of Belt is Nate Schierholtz. In ten plate appearances, he’s collected two hits and no walks, avoiding outs at a slightly more paltry 20%.

This is from Bruce Bochy:

We’re doing what we want to do. We’re going with the bats that are hot. You’ll see us get settled into a regular lineup here. But we’re going with the guys who look comfortable now.

Even if you want to invoke uncomfortable conversations about small sample sizes and use Bruce Bochy’s flawed logic, he’s wrong about benching Brandon Belt today.

Today In Boston Red Sox Home Opening Promotions

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what unmitigated marketing genius looks like.

Shameless Self Promotion

If you stopped by to visit us this week, you might have noticed our new daily show. The aptly named Getting Blanked Show will be appearing on these fine web pages from Monday to Thursday, and no doubt delighting your baseball senses as we delve into the top news of the day and make jokes about our lack of professionalism.

I think that I can safely speak for all of the Getting Blanked crew when I say that we would definitely appreciate your support for this latest venture. We hear a lot of complaints about the lack of good baseball content available in the mainstream media, but unfortunately the current standard for baseball discussion is unlikely to change unless there’s a demand for it. Hopefully, our little show can do something to prove that such a demand exists.

As always, you can also check out our Facebook page by clicking here, and if you’re into it, try “liking” us to get updates on new videos and funny pictures in your own Facebook news feed, as well as the occasional link back to the blog. Staying on the social media train, you can also follow Getting Blanked on Twitter to get regular links to all of our content and fresh bits of sarcasm.

While we’re on the subject, feel free to subscribe to our iTunes feed as well, which will bring all the audio goodness of our podcasts and live streams and other things featuring our ugly mugs to your computer free of charge, including our new daily show which is set to begin at the start of the season.

One other thing, Andrew Stoeten and I will be speaking at The Little Red Umbrella Variety Spectacular on Thursday, April 19. You should come out and say hello.

The Kelly Shoppach Slide Beached Whale Sighting

Massachusetts officials report that a beached whale has been sighted in Boston, near Yawkey Way. This is not the first time that a whale has beached in this area. It’s believed that this incident was caused by a wave sending the whale too close to shore, where it was upended and landed deep into the beach. Conservation workers are expected to be on site shortly to deal with this incident and hopefully save the whale from death.

Popular Players

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

  1. Derek Jeter
  2. Albert Pujols
  3. Alex Rodriguez
  4. Jamie Moyer
  5. Vladimir Guerrero

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

  1. Tim Lincecum
  2. Kyle Seager
  3. Francisco Liriano
  4. Jeff Samardzija
  5. Justin Verlander