Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

Via Ottawa Horror.

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, at that moment that only occurs 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 ten stray thoughts on a Friday.

So, without further ado:

Magic Moment

My favorite moment of the playoffs so far might have occurred during Thursday night’s ALCS Game Five between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics. There was a lot of criticism throughout the game for the supposedly large strike zone that home plate umpire Wally Bell was giving Justin Verlander, but if we look at the Pitch f/x charts, Oakland pitchers probably got the benefit of more close calls than the Tigers ace:

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Verlander faced Oakland catcher Derek Norris. With the count an even two and two, the pitcher dropped an 81 miles per hour curve ball in the top part of the strike zone. It was called a ball by Bell, evoking this response from Verlander:

In fact, he had started walking to the dugout before the umpire even called it a ball. So, with the count now 3-2, he goes back to the mound, and in the most perfunctory manner possible, does this with a 98 miles per hour fastball:

Amazing.

Here’s how his pitches looked according to Pitch f/x:

Michael Young: Future Member Of The Toronto Blue Jays?

This:

[Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex] Anthopoulos believes he has made some adjustments as he has learned things he did not know about himself and his job. He has learned to value veteran talent going forward more than he has in the past and to realize that maybe he can’t keep all of the inventory he has in the minor leagues, as much as he would like to.

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This:

But, since [Michael Young] has only one year left on his contract, there could be interest from other teams this winter, especially a team in need of veteran leadership, as well as somebody who can play second base.

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This isn’t a total troll job, Blue Jays fans. Think about it for a second. The Rangers would presumably be willing to pick up a chunk of Michael Young’s salary, just to further fool-proof their roster for Ron Washington to mismanage. Toronto, meanwhile, would benefit from a guy who can still hits left-handed pitching well, play second base, first base, or act as a designated hitter and add the likely hokum elements that Anthopoulos suggests he’s seeking this off-season. Young could be everything that Omar Vizquel was not.

Today In Pranks

Freezing a bro out is a time honored tradition. However, that tradition has gotten a little bit stale in baseball, with every rookie getting completely ignored by his teammates when he comes back to the dugout after hitting his first career home run. Ignoring the National League’s Most Valuable Player after he hit a grand slam to complete a miraculous comeback and send you and the rest of your team to the National League Championship Series is quite a different matter.

GIF courtesy of Old Time Family Baseball, via the excellent MLB GIFs.

Benching The Best

The New York Yankees starting lineup tonight will be without Alex Rodriguez.

Hopefully, we can agree that a manager is doing a disservice to his team if he doesn’t put a lineup together that has the largest possibility of finding success. You can justify not putting such a lineup together for the sake of ensuring better performances in the future. For example if a player is fatigued or if something is off in his mechanics that needs work in the batting cages rather than in a game situation. However, for the most part, this doesn’t apply during the playoffs and a manager’s job is simply to ensure that his team has the best chance of winning each game in which they play.

My thinking is that in order to do this, a manager should rely on overall capability, and not recent success when constructing a lineup. Baseball may be the only sport where the question “What have you done for me lately?” shouldn’t be asked. There are far to many samples and examples at a manager’s finger tips for him to only look at what happened most recently. When it comes to batting, failure is the norm. I will always take the player with a proven history of failing less than another player with a proven history of failing more.

However, there are exceptions to this way of thinking. Sometimes a player with incredible capabilities is physcally not able to perform anywhere close to their optimal level, and when this is the case, he shouldn’t play. This makes me think of Shaun Marcum during the 2011 playoffs for the Milwaukee Brewers. Yes, he was the owner of better capabilities than most of the other options on his team, but he was in no shape physically to meet those standards.

Many people have suggested that Rodriguez’s bat speed has decreased to such an awful level that it would be foolish to continue to drag him out there. If this is the consensus from the Yankees, as well, then the move makes sense. While I do wonder if there aren’t more deserving candidates to be benched from among members of the team’s starting lineup (ahem, Curtis Granderson, ahem), Joe Girardi et al. are hopefully depending on A-Rod’s current physical limitations rather than his statistical disappointments to inform their decision.

Fangraphs Changes

Fangraphs has decided to remove stolen base and caught stealing elements from its weighted on base average metric, along with wRAA, wRC and wRC+.

I like that it was taken out of wOBA for the purely selfish reason that I tend to think of this in terms of batting only. However, I like it to be included in weighted runs created plus, because I tend to think of this number as a bigger picture number measuring total offense. It’s completely personal preference.

I do think Fangraphs does deserve some praise though for their lack of pigheadedness when it comes to changes and accepting feedback. Good on them, in this case, for tinkering, and trying to improve what’s already an excellent source for finding metrics.

The At-Bat

Jayson Werth’s plate appearance to end Game Four of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals was probably the greatest at-bat I’ve ever seen, and I think it’s a crime that highlight packages were showing it hours after it had happened as only the finale, without reference to the twelve pitches that came before the outcome.

Werth’s at-bat looked like this:

  1. Taken strike;
  2. Taken strike;
  3. Ball;
  4. Ball;
  5. Foul;
  6. Foul;
  7. Foul;
  8. Foul;
  9. Foul;
  10. Foul;
  11. Ball;
  12. Foul;
  13. Home run.

He started down 0-2, and worked the count to being full with seven foul balls before delivering this on the thirteenth pitch he saw from Lance Lynn:

Today In Memes

This is pretty awesome:

But this, this is the awesomer:

And this, from Miranda McGuire, is awesomest:

Here’s a black hole’s worth of more photoshops involving Werth’s celebration.

Popular Players

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

  1. Raul Ibanez
  2. Alex Rodriguez
  3. Derek Jeter
  4. Jayson Werth
  5. Justin Verlander

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

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. Alex Rodriguez
  3. Miguel Gonzalez
  4. Jason Hammel
  5. Timmy Tim Tim Lincecum

Shameless Self Promotion

Check out the Getting Blanked 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 daily podcasts throughout the playoffs to your computer free of charge, including our daily show.

Starting Rotations

Taking into account their last starts, here are my best guesses for the rotations of the teams remaining in the playoffs, beginning in the next round (assuming that some teams make it).

Detroit Tigers: Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez.

San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong.

Washington Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Ross Detwiler, Gio Gonzalez.

St. Louis Cardinals: Shelby Miller, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Adam Wainwright.

New York Yankees: Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes.

Baltimore Orioles: Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Joe Saunders, Jason Hammel.

Scheduling is going to offer a huge advantage for the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers who by sheer coincidence were allowed to complete their respective division series a day earlier than the ones that will finish tonight.