Archive for the ‘Narratives’ Category

The MVP “Debate”

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Atlanta Braves

It turns out there was no real MVP debate: Miguel Cabrera wins the American League’s Most Valuable Player, nabbing 23 of 30 first place votes. Andrew McCutchen earns the National League honor, picking up 28 of a possible 30 votes. Those are not really debates, those are landslides.

Which would be shocking if you looked only at the candidates. Looking across the baseball landscape, free from baggage, you have two very good fields of players vying for the right to be called the best or most valuable player in each league.

In the AL, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout stood head and shoulders above the competition. In the National League, a strong case can be made for as many as five players as the best in the league. But the voting failed to reflect this diversity. Instead the memories of bitter, entrenched battles fought over the same silly ballots as one year ago changes the discussion to a black/white, right/wrong dichotomy that cheats all baseball fans out of the finest barstool arguments.

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Aren't you tired of this by now?

Aren’t you tired of this by now?

It is easy, in the aftermath of a 9-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Cardinals juggernaut, to point fingers inside the Dodgers clubhouse. To blame the series loss Yasiel Puig‘s outfield adventures or Clayton Kershaw for picking Game Six of the NLCS to have his worst game of the year. It isn’t much more complicated that. The Cardinals won Game Six handily and won the series, having beaten Clayton Kershaw twice. Once, they didn’t beat him as much as outlasted the Cy Young shoo-in. Last night he was bad and the Cardinals pounced.

The lame storylines grafted on top of this series only succeed in distracting from the immutable truth – the Cardinals were the better team over the last week. The Cardinals triumph should be recognized for what it is: nothing short of a player development miracle.

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Collision Course

When not weighing in on the Dodgers/Cardinals moral battle for the future of America, home plate collisions seem to be the topic du jour among baseball writers and fans. Game Five of the ALCS brought this discussion to a head, as concussion-suffering catcher David Ross trucked Tigers catcher (and fellow concussion sufferer) Alex Avila at home plate. Ross went home on the contact play and was out by a significant margin. He buried his shoulder into Avila but was still out, as you can see above.

It wasn’t the only time two objects collided at home plate last night. Miguel Cabrera moseyed his way around third on a second inning single but Jonny Gomes threw him out by…a lot. Cabrera didn’t quite run through Ross, the Red Sox backstop, but he did deliver a solid shot in the process of getting tagged out.

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San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Romo and catcher Posey celebrate after the Giants defeated the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 to win the MLB World Series baseball championship in Detroit

Baseball is a game of process. The season is long and the variables many so good process is a must. Process means different things to different people, and “processes” differ from club to club – as do expectations.

When the kind of people who watch baseball in bulk observe regular season games, they tend to key on certain things. Harbingers of goodness to come, let’s say. Swinging strikes for pitchers, batters turning in good at bats. They are hints are future success, the building blocks for fans to dream on. The difference between “tools” and “skills” for developing players.

In the playoffs, there is no time for future success. There is no room for predictive stats. There is no regression and no space for the application of value-based stats. Wins Above Replacement works on a macro scale. The playoffs are the most minute of the micro. They are the here and the now. The playoffs are about results. The tired old Al Davis quote “Just win, baby” applies. Just win.

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MLB: San Francisco Giants at New York Yankees

Wishing ill on the New York Yankees might be good for the soul but it is, ultimately, pointless. There are only so many creative insults one can lob toward the Bronx that won’t be instantly silenced by a cold, dispassionate utterance of the unofficial Yankees mantra: count the rings.

Worse yet: counting the rings can and does stop any good natured ribbing dead in its tracks. No team can argue more success, both in the last twenty years or the long history of the American League, than the New York Yankees. Few teams can claim a better nucleus of homegrown players than the authors of the last 18+ years of Yankees, all best known for their work in pinstripes.

Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, and Jorge Posada up the middle. Andy Pettitte on the hill in October, Mariano Rivera taking over late, baseball’s all-time leader in playoff games pitched. Since 1995, these are autumnal constants for baseball fans.

The Yankees have weathered the departure of most of their “golden generation”, the core of stars and near-stars that back-boned the Yankees to World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009, not to mention claiming the AL pennant in 2001 and 2003. All told, the Yankees only missed the postseason once in the Wild Card era – 2008. While the Yankees spent big on free agents and took on more and more salary to keep that machine running, the Yankees always featured that collection of well-known names.

The Yankees are, barring a miracle, poised to add a second playoff-less season to their unbelievable ledger of regular season triumphs. Not officially dead yet but, as they prepare to battle the Rays in Tampa Bay, the Yankees wildcard hopes are riding off into the sunset, following two more of their most recognizable stars.

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The latest from Craig Robinson takes a good look at the MVP and Cy Young races – how often does WAR predict the winners? Enjoy!

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Matt Holliday, the left fielder for the St. Liouis Cardinals, has his height and weight listed as being 6’4″ and 235 lbs. That seems about right. Marco Scutaro, the second baseman for the San Francisco Giants, has his height and weight listed at 5’10″ and 185 lbs. That seems generous.

This is Scutaro. He looks like a fairly typical human being. He’s the type of physical creature that might populate your office, with whom you’d have an awkward exchange with in the elevator, wanting to seem courteous, but not over-stepping the boundaries of unfamiliarity.

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