There is more than one way to skin a cat, a famous sadist once told me. There is more than one way in which an also-ran ballclub can change its fortunes. Rarely does it happen overnight and if anybody knows a good shortcut, I’m sure 25 or so professional baseball teams would love to hear it.
In order to turn around a middling baseball club, it takes more just cashing a winning lottery ticket during the June amateur draft. Major League Baseball is not the NBA, where smaller rosters and the ability to funnel big moments to the best talent permit one player to remake a franchise overnight.
When the Tampa Bay Rays reversed their fortunes and reached the World Series in 2008, they were derided as a team that simply drafted high in the first round year after year, even though they owed their success to more than just high picks. (Reminder that Tampa Bay squandered a great many of their top picks aside from Evan Longoria.)
The Astros choice to strip their big league club to the wood and gun for the first pick in the draft four years in a row is unique only represents a small part of their total farm rebuild. Depth is the key and the Astros, for all their faults, have a clear plan in place. They will build their club from the inside out.
The Mariners and Rockies aren’t quite as enterprising. The Mariners struggles are well documented, becoming the first team in baseball history to lose 100 games with a $100MM payroll in 2008. After a promising 2009, the M’s promptly lost 100 games once again in 2010. All the while, Chuck Armstrong served as the team’s president, until now. On January 31st, Armstrong retires from his duties with the Mariners.
Now is the time for the Mariners to reshuffle the deck. Perhaps they can take a page from the Colorado Rockies book, as the Rox begin a new development system in which they throw out everything they ever knew about producing big league players.
Todd Helton reached a milestone in the 7th inning Sunday in Colorado, when he slapped the hustlest of hustle doubles into left field for his 2500th career hit. I tend not to think these milestones have any cosmic significance — even relative to other baseball events — but you can’t watch the scene in Denver and not acknowledge something bigger than a simple hit in a 7-2 September ballgame happened here.
Every Friday, the Getting Blanked crew makes a prop bet of sorts with one another having something to do with baseball games over the weekend. Of the four competitors, whoever wins the prop bet is able to dole out a punishment on the colleague of their choice – UNLESS ELVIS ANDRUS AND SOME DOPE’S WEDDING TOSS A MONKEYWRENCH IN THE WHOLE ARRANGEMENT. This week’s punishment was watching and recapping Tuesday night’s San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies game in Denver. Because of #PropHate, I watched this game on purpose.
Webster’s defines “déjà vu” as…”a feeling that one has seen or heard something before”. Webster’s also defines “hacky lede” as “using the Webster’s defines device.” But last night’s Rockies/Padres matchup was déjà vu for Prop Hate/I Watched This On Purpose.
The most recent entry before this one also featured the Rockies and Padres. In fact, we were one day away from witnessing the very same pitching matchup two IWTOP in row (Jorge De La Rosa and Andrew Cashner start today’s Rockies/Padres tilt). You could accuse the Getting Blanked crew of East Coast bias or you could face facts: these two teams are awful.
This narrative (these two teams stink) is, well, it’s pretty much true. The Rox and Pods sit side by side in the NL West standings, comfortably below .500 and comfortably free of any lingering stakes or meaning in their respective seasons.
Despite similar lots in life, these two teams are striking in their contrast. The Rockies have one star (Troy Tulowitzki), two really good players (Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez, currently out injured) and a whole lot of God-fearing bros of various levels of replacement. As they are the Rockies, they have no pitching of which to speak. None. No, no, he doesn’t count. Nope, neither does he.
This may be hard to believe, but I am sometimes wrong. Not just occasionally, but pretty often. It comes with the territory of being, uh, whatever I am. Really, though, anyone who reads baseball blogs shouldn’t be surprised by this. One need not descend to the banality of “can’t predict ball” sloganeering to understand the situation. The name of this column was inspired by Bill James‘ phrase “measuring the fog,” which he coined in the context of discussing the task of sabermetrics. That is, the job of sabermetrics (“the search for objective knowledge about baseball”) is not just to figure out what we know about baseball, but to delineate what we do not know: “the fog.”
So I am accustomed to being wrong, even if admitting it is not necessarily fun. I pay a lot of attention to projections (and make no apologies for doing so) while keeping in mind that they are more reliable than personal intuition as a whole, on an individual level they will still miss a fair bit. Those who produce respected projections understand this, and those who use them should, too. If a player does much better or worse than he is projected to do, whether by a respected projection or by my own projection or analysis, it is not big deal. Win some, lose some. Sometimes, I go out of my way to praise or mock a player, and he does pretty much the opposite. Sometimes it is predictable, sometimes it is not. But some of them just sting.
If I wrote a post for everything I was wrong about prior to the season, I would never post anything else. For today, I will just take three cases in which things went very differently than I thought they would, three players that I (somewhat publicly, in two cases) singled out prior to the season as likely to be very good or bad, and have gone the other way, making me look, well, just like any other fallible human being. Or an idiot, depending on hour perspective.
Every Friday, the Getting Blanked crew makes a prop bet of sorts with one another having something to do with baseball games over the weekend. Of the four competitors, whoever wins the prop bet is able to dole out a punishment on the colleague of their choice. This week’s punishment was watching and recapping Wednesday night’s Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres game. We call this #PropHate.
Three of the five teams that comprise the National League West division are notable. The defending champion San Francisco Giants are staggering through their schedule, losing to teams like the Mets while fielding a roster of Quad-A players filling in for injuries and watching their previously dominant starting rotation crumble before their eyes. The Los Angeles Dodgers have bought every free agent and acquired every regretful contract that ever existed over the last ten months, and they still struggled mightily in the early going before the promotion of Yasiel Puig and resurrection of Hanley Ramirez brought them back to life. The Arizona Diamondbacks lead the division, thanks to the holy triumvirate of above average pitching, great team defense and America’s First Baseman, Paul Goldschmidt.
Then there are the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres.
Here are the best things you can say about these two teams:
Padres: Their stadium sure looks nice, and I hear that the climate in San Diego is wonderful.
Rockies: They haven’t lost as many games as I would’ve thought they’d have lost.
For the purposes of deciding postseason baseball and eventually a champion of the 2013 season, Colorado and San Diego might as well not play baseball against each other. It’s a meaningless tilt. But the system of baseball’s regular season schedule is built in such a manner that even the least important games of the summer, which will have no real bearing when things matter in September and October, must be played out.
Hitting in Colorado is no good for a player’s perception. Some fans feel Colorado is such a hitter’s paradise that any big leaguer worth his salt must put up huge, crooked numbers there. Doesn’t matter the talent of the player, the thin air does all the work.
As such, players like Matt Holliday are unfairly maligned as home park mirages…right up until the moment that they move into more hitter-neutral environments and resume putting up the same numbers as they did in the Mile High City.
Carlos Gonzalez was once traded for Matt Holliday, and now occupies the same space in the minds of many fans – CarGo is good but he’s only “Coors Field good”. Take him away and the strikeouts would climb as the other offensive numbers suffers, seems to be the knock. It isn’t fair to penalize Gonzalez for his home park, though it absolutely influences his performance at the plate.
More than just thin air is working in the Rockies outfielder’s favor in 2013 – he’s off to the best start of his career, leading the National League in home runs with 21 while walking at a career high rate. Getting Blanked spoke with Gonzalez about learning from the best, getting better with age and managing mom’s expectations.
The languid pace of these slightly bizarre Rockies marketing videos is almost refreshing. Though, without any actual game footage to lean on, what else was the ad company going to use to sell the team? Ummm, rocks! And height! And the height of rocks! It’s all deadly, really.
Just think about creating a similar piece now. It would be all smash cuts and WUBWUBWUB dubstep beats and that infernal dinosaur making children cry and haunting the dreams of young and old alike.
For fun, hit the jump for a more EXTREME video of extreme sports in action. Rockies baseball, just like base jumping (except significantly more religious.)