Archive for the ‘Play of the Week’ Category

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Angels

Albert Pujols is throwing it all the way back to the late 2000s. The Angels’ first baseman leads the major leagues with six home runs and is hitting .280/.349/.587 in his first 18 games of 2014. His current 167 OPS+ is his best mark since the 2010 season, the last time the 34-year-old reached the All-Star game.

Whenever a hitter of Pujols’s former stature manages an elite stretch like this one, particularly early in a season, it’s worth taking note. It’s especially worth noting when the player in question is healthy for the first time in years. Pujols missed roughly the final third of the 2013 season in order to finally undergo surgery on his right knee as well as rest the plantar fasciitis that has chronically bothered his left heel.

Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus documented Pujols’s issues last season in a column aptly titled “The Week In Albert Pujols Playing Through Pain.” Pujols was never a burner, but he ran in an extremely pained manner in 2013. The issues were particularly apparent on this play, a groundout on April 13. Watch the instability in his front leg in particular:

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MLB: Texas Rangers at Boston Red Sox

At this point, it is clear that Major League Baseball’s new replay system leaves something to be desired. This weekend’s Yankees-Red Sox series saw an odd play in which Yankees shortstop Dean Anna was obviously tagged out at second base per the replays played on the Fox Sports 1 broadcast. However, MLB replay headquarters either didn’t have the same angles as the broadcast or they flat-out missed the call, as the play was upheld after replay.

The next night, the Red Sox were on the losing of end of a rightly-overturned call at first base. Farrell came out to argue the overturned call and was promptly tossed from the game — arguing a replay occupies the same space as arguing balls and strikes, and Farrell must have known he was cruising towards a tossing.

The imperfections in the replay system are worth noting, and must be fixed before it can be considered a success. But it was striking, as I watched Farrell scream his lungs out at the umpiring crew: I hadn’t seen a manager lose his mind at the umpires yet this year, two weeks into the season.

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MLB: Cleveland Indians at Oakland Athletics

Plenty of words and pixels have been devoted to Major League Baseball’s new instant replay system. Whether you think of it as the game’s savior or as merely another stepping stone to a dull, anti-septic, technocratic future, it is here to stay, and debating its worthiness is pretty played out already one week into the season.

Instead, let’s talk about an overlooked and perhaps even unexpected aspect of the replay system: the strategic knowledge of managers will be tested in a big way.

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MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Toronto Blue Jays

When I decided to buy a ticket to this past weekend’s exhibition games at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, I wasn’t expecting to get much out of the actual baseball. Spring training baseball is never about the baseball, and I expected that to be the same in Quebec as it is in Arizona.

But everybody, even the foreigners like myself, could tell as we filed into the stadium and the sections deep into the outfield and deep into the top deck filled up that this was a little more than an exhibition game. By the middle of the first inning most of the 45,000 fans in attendance were parked in their seats. If you didn’t know better, you’d think this game counted.

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MLB: Texas Rangers-Press Conference

“For 150 years, ‘clubhouse chemistry’ has been impossible to quantify,” the article Chemistry 162 in the latest ESPN The Magazine begins. If you’ve read anything on sports analytics, you know what this means: the impossible to quantify has finally been quantified, and you, the reader, are one of the lucky people to receive this wisdom from on high.

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MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks-Workout

Kevin Towers is telling his pitchers to hit batters. This is simple, this is obvious, and Major League Baseball is doing nothing about it.

On March 14th, the Diamondbacks faced the Rockies in a Spring Training game. Rockies minor leaguer Tommy Kahnle, a 23-year-old with no experience above Double-A who has never appeared on a top prospects list and who has next to zero chance at making the Rockies club out of camp, hit Mark Trumbo in the back with a fastball. These things happen.

In response, Wade Miley threw at Troy Tulowitzki. Miley hit Tulowitzki in the calf, and the Rockies’ star shortstop will miss a few spring games as a result. There was concern, thankfully unrealized, that Tulowitzki had suffered a hairline fracture in his tibia.

The Rockies, according to Denver Post writer Troy Renck, were “privately convinced that Miley’s pitch was on purpose.” I wonder where they could have gotten that idea…

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MLB: Spring Training-Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants

Barry Bonds is back in baseball today, coaching up the San Francisco Giants at spring training. Before attending to his duties — seven days of coaching with his former club before he heads back to his home in San Francisco — Bonds addressed the media for the first time as an official baseball man since his retirement.

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