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:
My All-MLB Lineup
If I could select a batting order from any players on any Major League Baseball roster based on their 2012 offensive numbers, it would look like this:
- Andrew McCutchen, RHB, RF
- Mike Trout, RHB, CF
- Prince Fielder, LHB, DH
- Miguel Cabrera, RHB, 1B
- Adrian Beltre, RHB, 3B
- Robinson Cano, LHB, 2B
- Ryan Braun, RHB, LF
- Buster Posey, RHB, C
- Ben Zobrist, SH, SS
The Yankees Are More Offensive Than Their Fans
By the time a player has reached Major League Baseball, he’s likely to have not only received some form of media training, but he’s also been asked the same questions on multiple occasions in every level at which he’s competed. This results in a lot of stock answers to inquiries that have little use other than filling out game summary templates for beat writers.
Emma Span, writing for Baseball Prospectus at the time, compiled a selection of these comments from over a two week period during the 2011 season. They read as though they could be plunked in the middle of any game story that’s been written in the last decade. It’s rare that we might gain any level of insight from these type of post game quotes, but in the world of baseball coverage, it seems that change is often feared.
That’s what makes the comments collected by Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog following the New York Yankees getting swept in the American League Championship Series, so very refreshing. The Yankees players and management were frank, honest and exhibiting a far better sense of perspective than almost anyone else following the team.
First baseman Mark Teixeira:
We have a lot of things to be proud of this year, but the last four games weren’t among them. We just didn’t play well. We didn’t’ play Yankee baseball, and it showed.
General Manager Brian Cashman:
Our team is built around power and plate discipline, and obviously what comes in between are the walks and the singles and the doubles. We’ve had the success. I’ve lived it. You know what, we got here for a reason too. Despite how our offense performed here, this team is here for a reason. We feel that we did not utilize to the best of our abilities our strengths and be able to put that step forward in this particular series. Is that something that will all of a sudden define what they really are or what this offense really is? No, it’s not going to.
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez:
I’ve got to tell you, the last two weeks were very difficult for everyone. It wasn’t just one guy struggling. It was a collective group and it was a very unique situation. Since I’ve been here in my nine years I don’t think there was a period where everyone struggled at the same time.
Manager Joe Girardi:
There are a lot of good hitters in that room, and to be able to shut a lot of them down is very surprising to me. And some of the guys that replaced other guys are good big league players that have had a lot of success in their career. Collectively we weren’t able to get it done.
The New York Yankees will be active this off season, but that’s not because they need to blow anything up following the disappointing results of the ALCS. It’s because Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Ichiro Suzuki, Hiroki Kuroda, Freddy Garcia, and quite likely, Rafael Soriano, will all be eligible for free agency. The team – yes, the one that lost four straight games to the Detroit Tigers – remains very, very, very good, because …. baseball.
I use “baseball” as an explanation because it’s a sport that depends so much on randomization to determine outcomes, and that randomization sometimes means that even the very best hitters in the league will all simultaneously struggle to get hits. This is the reason that Major League Baseball’s regular season schedule is so long – so that a truly talented team might emerge once the randomization is evened out over a lot of samples.
Over a long period of time this season, the New York Yankees proved that their offense, as a whole, has nothing wrong with it whatsoever. Here are a list of categories for which the team’s offense was ranked number one over all other teams in baseball:
- Home runs;
- Isolated power;
- Weighted on base average;
- Weighted runs created plus; and
- Batting runs above average.
They also finished second overall in runs scored, runs batted in and on base percentage (avoiding outs); and third overall in walk rate.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Yankees offense despite not showing up over the span of four games. Over the span of 162, it was the very best in baseball.
Comeback Players Of The Year
If you think voting for the Most Valuable Player or Cy Young Award is subjective, I’d be afraid to ask what you think of the Comeback Player Of The Year award. Both the American and National League versions of the award were handed out on Friday to Fernando Rodney and Buster Posey, respectively. While I would’ve been fine with either Posey or Stephen Strasburg receiving the honor in the NL, the term comeback has a connotation that the player returned to a positive level at which they were previously playing.
According to Fangraphs, Fernando Rodney provided his team with more than three times the value this season than he ever has before in a single year. A more appropriate award for the Tampa Bay Rays closer would have been the prized You’re Not Actually Shit award. If this award was a thing, my nominee for the NL would’ve been Ryan Ludwick.
The St. Louis Developers
With every win that the St. Louis Cardinals attain en route to what they hope is another World Series championship, I’m growing more and more impressed with not only the current roster, but the entire organization. While I might heap praise on smaller market franchises who look to be on the rise because they’ve quite smartly managed to build a competitive, or at least soon-to-be competitive, team through drafting and developing, the Cardinals are competing at the highest level already with the same sort of strategy. St. Louis has six position players that have come up through the organization and are all pre-arbitration players all making an impact in the NLCS: Jon Jay, Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, David Freese, Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma.
In addition, the team has three rookie pitchers that are currently being used out of the bullpen, that could all end up as starters with their repertoires that include 95 miles per hour fastballs as a minimum: Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly. Oh, and Friday night’s starter, Lance Lynn, is only 25 years old, and emerged as one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball this year. iMaking matters even more frightening is the fact that the team’s best prospects, in outfielder Oscar Tavares and right-handed pitcher Carlos Martinez, haven’t even been called up to the Majors yet.
The Cincinnati Reds can have their massive contract extensions for their superstars, the Cardinals have talent growing on trees throughout their organization. It’s absolutely no wonder at all why Jeff Luhnow, the former VP of Player Development in St. Louis, was hired to direct the rebuild in Houston.
There’s little doubt in my mind that the language and practice of Major League Baseball’s newly (this season) drawn up dress code for media members is sexist against women. I think our friend Wendy Thurm, formerly of Baseball Nation, expressed this best back in December:
Women reporters have been told to eschew tank tops, skirts and dresses more than three inches above the knee, and sheer and see-through clothing. Oh, there are guidelines for male reporters. No ripped jeans. No team logos. Actually, women have to avoid ripped jeans and logos, too.
I’ve never been in an MLB clubhouse as a member of the press, but I’ve worked for twenty years in professional office environments. I understand that there’s an appropriate way to dress, depending on the situation. But when women are subjected to catcalls and other sexually-suggestive behavior, telling them to “cover up” doesn’t really solve the problem. It simply reminds the women that they are seen, at least partly, as sex objects and that they need to keep “it” in check, lest the libidinous men be tempted.
The issue was recently brought up again in a column for ESPNW that took aim at the hypocrisy behind concerns over clothing that women wear in a workplace where clothing is often optional for the male athletes being interviewed. The story opens with an anonymous female reporter offering this comparison:
It reminded me of Middle Eastern dress requirements, because you can wear sleeveless shirts in the workplace [but you can't at a baseball game].
Even if the inherent sexism in the MLB dress code and the “Middle Eastern” culture that represses women at every turn both originate in the same fear of female sexuality, comparing the two on equal footing in this fashion is both a massive generalization in equating all of the Middle East together and also condescending in diminishing the millions of women in the Middle East who struggle against a culture that permeates actual physical violence against them. I understand that the comparison was made in terms of clothing, but there’s a rather large connotation of a much bigger issue when a reference to women in the Middle East is dropped like that.
I’m all for the larger point of the ESPNW column, but this mind set comes across as horribly narrow minded to me, and I fear that it might diminish the overall argument that’s well described by the author of the story, Jane McManus.
Rather than asking teams to be professional with all members of the media, baseball has put the onus on conscientious young women who cover their sport.
But the potential existence of scantily clad women and the imminent threat they pose to the sanctity of the locker room, to overstate it a bit, has had a real effect on women who just want to do their job without being singled out. They have been asked to hold the line of decency by taking rulers to their shorts.
Yesterday’s five most popular player profiles at Baseball Reference were:
- Alex Rodriguez
- Timmy Tim Tim Lincecum
- Derek Jeter
- Miguel Cabrera
- Justin Verlander
Over at FanGraphs, the last 24 hours have seen these player profiles visited the most:
- Alex Rodriguez
- Ryan Howard
- Kevin Youkilis
- Johnny Damon
- Timmy Tim Tim Lincecum
Shameless Self Promotion
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The Real Thing Is A Concern
Phil Coke has emerged as the Detroit Tigers de facto closer, with the realization that Jose Valverde is a fairly ordinary relief pitcher with a lot of bravado. Coke, as we’ve previously discussed in directing criticism at Joe Girardi for not pinch-hitting Alex Rodriguez or Nick Swisher in place of the left-handed Raul Ibanez, is really good at getting left-handed bats out, but not so great at getting right-handed bats out. Over the course of his career, left-handed batters have compiled a .276 wOBA against Coke, while right-handed batters have compiled a .347 wOBA.
If the St. Louis Cardinals make it to the World Series, their right-handed heavy lineup is going to tear the left-handed reliever apart. As a team, the Cardinals had the third highest weight on base average against southpaws in the league, coming in with a .340 wOBA.
This experiment is not going to be pretty.
Your Postseason Viewing Tip
I don’t like listening to the commentators on baseball broadcasts at the best of times (Jon Miller, Vin Scully, Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper are all exceptions), but during the playoffs I find the commentary especially infuriating, mainly because those speaking are not aware of what they’re talking about. If you’ve connected a stereo system to your television, commentary can be easily avoided by merely unplugging the center speaker.
However, I still like to hear voices talking about the game, and so I often try to sync up the local radio coverage from my computer to match the images on the screen. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn’t. Last night, it worked really well, and so I was able to listen to the rotating voices of Miller, Krukow, Kuiper and Dave Fleming. It was excellent.
Here’s the order of my personal preference of commentators for playoff games:
- Local radio affiliates;
- ESPN radio;
- TBS crew;
- FOX; and
- MLB International.
Preemptive Warning Against Slippery Slopes
It’s quite likely that the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are going to work out a deal that allows manager John Farrell to take charge of the Red Sox in exchange for some sort of compensation coming to Toronto. When this deal is announced, likely after they figure out how much of the current staff that Farrell is going to bring with him, there will be a plethora of column inches dedicating to making more out of this agreement than what is accurate. So, let’s get ahead of the ball, here, before all of Toronto’s bored hockey writers begin churning out absolute nonsense.
The Toronto Blue Jays are not a feeder organization. There is no greater meaning to be gleaned by letting their manager go back to Boston. This will not translate into the franchise disbanding or moving to the United States.
It is a baseball decision, plain and simple. The compensation coming Toronto’s way will be judged by the organization to be of more value than what Farrell could have offered as manager. That ‘s all there is to it. There isn’t any symbolism in the move, and any attempt to make one will end up being yet another example of a false narrative round peg being jammed into the reality of the situation’s square hole.