The 2002 Padres and History's Most Populated Bullpen

  • Tuesday, July 17, 2012 6:46 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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The 2002 San Diego Padres were a bad baseball team. At 66-96, they did not underperform their Pythagorean record. They finished last in the National League West, 32 games behind the Diamondbacks, with their .407 winning percentage besting only the Brewers in the NL.

But as I recently discovered, these Padres also were a special baseball team.

I can’t reminder what idle thought prompted me to conduct the Baseball-Reference play index search, but there I was staring at a fact that was difficult to believe. The 2002 Padres used 33 relief pitchers, six – six!— more than any other team in baseball history. Ten different clubs have had 25 pitchers make a relief appearance; three, including last year’s Yankees, sent out 26; the Padres, six years later, deployed 27.

The ’02 Friars are all alone, and they are beautiful in that isolation. It’s an accomplishment that begged for closer examination.

Please follow me into the abyss.

The Future Hall of Famer: To show how long ago 2002 was, the Padres’ best players that year were Ryan Klesko, Ron Gant and Mark Kotsay. And then there was Trevor Hoffman (#1), in his 10th of 16 seasons in San Diego, who steadily produced a 2.73 ERA, converted 38 saves in 41 chances and made the All-Star team.

The Moonlighting Starters: All you probably need to know about the ’02 Pads is that Brett Tomko led them with 32 starts and posted an ERA+ of 84. Only three other pitchers on the team made all of their appearances as starters: Jake Peavy, Kevin Jarvis and Adam Eaton, who combined for 30.

Another quartet of primary starters also filled in out of the bullpen. Brian Lawrence (#2), who led the staff in WAR, made four appearances. Making one apiece were Bobby J. Jones (#3), Brian Tollberg (#4) and a rookie by the name of Oliver Perez (#5), who struck out the side in his lone relief inning and finished the season with 9.4 Ks – and, of course, 4.8 walks – per nine.

The Time-Splitters: Manager Bruce Bochy used seven other pitchers in both the rotation and the ‘pen. There was rookie Dennis Tankersley (#6) and his 8.06 ERA; rookie Ben Howard (#7) and his 9.28 mark; rookie Kevin Pickford (#8), who struck out 18 and walked 20; 1999 first-round pick Mike Bynum (#9), who served up 17 homers in 64 career innings; undrafted free agent Clay Condrey (#10), one of two pitchers named Clay to make the majors out of McNeese State (the other being Buchholz); Jason Middlebrook (#11), sent to the Mets at the trade deadline as part of a deal for Jason Bay and Bobby M. Jones (#12) -- yes, among other oddities, this team employed multiple Bobby Joneses.

The Bright Spots: They did their best, but alas, their best wasn’t enough. Don’t blame Matt DeWitt (#13), Alan Embree (#14), Brandon Villafuerte (#15) or Steve Reed (#16), who all produced ERAs below 2.00 for a unit whose collective mark was 4.33.

The Participation Award-Winners: The ’02 Padres’ leader in pitching appearances was Jeremy Fikac (#17), who posted a 5.35 ERA, a 70 ERA+ and a 1.57 WHIP. Fifth on that list was Mike Holtz (#18), who had marks of 4.71, 81 and 1.86. Six others took the ball at least 10 times with an ERA north of 5.50: Jason Boyd (#19), Tom Davey (#20), Jason Kershner (#21), Rodney Myers (#22), Kevin Walker (#23) and Doug Nickle (#24).

The Anonymous Guy: His name is about as bland as it gets, his 4.11 ERA in 16 games was neither particularly good nor bad, and I don’t really remember the parts of six seasons he spent in the majors. He is Jonathan Johnson (#25). I am sure he is a very nice fellow and apparently he is enshrined in the Florida State University Hall of Fame. That’s all I’ve got.

The One-Timers: Imagine that you accomplish your life-long dream, beating overwhelming odds to make it to the major leagues. Your stay is brief, but you nonetheless are part of an elite fraternity. Oh, but your one taste of The Show came with the 2002 Padres. Sorry. Such is life for Eric Cyr (#26) and J.J. Trujillo (#27).

The ‘Nasty, Brutish and Short’ Club: In the grand scheme of the ’02 Padres’ awfulness, these guys played bit parts, but since this is nothing if not an exercise in thoroughness, they must be acknowledged. Please step forward, Jason Shiell (#28), David Lundquist (#29) and Juan Moreno (#30), who all made between two and four appearances, with respective ERAs of 27.00, 16.88 and 7.50.

The Clean Sheeters: Even amidst ruin, one might discover perfection. In small doses, to be sure, but it’s there. And so it is with our final three Friars, who all managed to take the mound in that fateful year and emerge with an ERA of 0.00, saved by the grace of the small sample size. Jason Pearson (#31) made two appearances. Jose Nunez (#32) made one.

And that brings us to D’Angelo Jimenez (#33). Now 34 years old and a veteran of eight big league seasons with seven organizations, he has spent 2012 in independent ball and the Mexican League. Back in 2001, he was Baseball America’s No. 46 prospect. In 2002, he made his one and only MLB pitching appearance. It was June 30 in Kansas City. Peavy started and got knocked out early. Myers and Fikac didn’t help matters, and so Bochy apparently decided to preserve his bullpen – a futile gesture, if there ever was one – by handing the final 1 1/3 innings over to Jimenez.

He retired all four batters he faced. Baseball is weird.

-- Follow Hitting The Cutoff Man on Twitter at HitTheCutoff

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Edwin Jackson's Wild Journey

  • Monday, February 6, 2012 7:14 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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Baseball America named a 20-year-old Edwin Jackson its top Dodgers prospect for the 2004 season and wrapped up its scouting report with this: “He’s the best homegrown pitching prospect the Dodgers have developed since Pedro Martinez, and they don’t plan on letting this one get away.”

Well, it’s a funny thing about plans …

Edwin Jackson is not a bust, and yet the Dodgers did let him get away, and so did the Rays, and so did the Tigers, and well, you get the point. 2012 will, at age 28, be Jackson’s 10th season – although the first three of those were cups of coffee – and after signing a one-year contact with the Nationals, he will be pitching for his seventh team.

When he tosses his first pitch for Washington, Jackson will join an exclusive list. Through Baseball-Reference’s play index, I found that there have been only six other pitchers in baseball history to play for as many as seven teams in their first 10 seasons while also compiling at least 10 WAR (Jackson has 10.7 through his first nine years). Stranger still is the fact that two of them, Octavio Dotel and Miguel Batista, spent time on the 2011 Cardinals, just like Jackson. Fittingly for a trio of baseball nomads, none of them were in St. Louis for the full season.

Rk Player WAR From To Age G GS IP ERA+
1 Octavio Dotel 7 12.6 1999 2008 25-34 500 34 708.0 122
2 Miguel Batista 7 10.2 1992 2004 21-33 292 152 1100.2 103
3 Omar Olivares 7 14.9 1990 1999 22-31 283 201 1373.2 100
4 Gregg Olson 7 12.7 1988 1997 21-30 456 0 500.1 132
5 Greg Harris 7 12.2 1981 1990 25-34 417 75 975.0 111
6 Ken Brett 7 10.9 1967 1977 18-28 249 174 1321.0 94
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/6/2012.

Jackson has put together an odd career thus far, from beating Randy Johnson in his big league debut on his 20th birthday, to getting traded six times in six years, to throwing 149 pitches and issuing eight walks during a 2010 no-hitter, to finally settling for a one-year deal this offseason when everyone expected a multi-year arrangement. But one year also makes sense for a player shuttling around MLB at a feverish pace. To recap Jackson’s journey, per Baseball-Reference:

Jan. 5, 2001: Drafted by the Dodgers
Jan. 14, 2006: Traded to the Devil Rays
Dec. 10, 2008: Traded to the Tigers
Dec. 8, 2009: Traded to the Diamondbacks
July 30, 2010: Traded to the White Sox
July 27, 2011: Traded to the Blue Jays, then again to the Cardinals
Feb. 2, 2012: Signed as a free agent with the Nationals

Jackson’s career seems forever haunted by the guy who was the No. 1 prospect and outdueled the Big Unit in his debut, looking “like a sure-fire superstar,” in the words of Baseball Prospectus prospect guru Kevin Goldstein.

He’s not that guy, for the reasons Goldstein mentions. But because of what people expected him to be, the guy Edwin Jackson truly is can get lost in the disappointed sighing and head-shaking. Over the past four seasons, he has averaged about 32 starts, 200 innings and 3 WAR. Despite his shortcomings, he’s durable and solid, a valuable pitcher to have on your staff.

So why can’t Jackson keep the same jersey for more than a year? Some of it is circumstance, in that at each of the past two trading deadlines, he has been on a team in a position to deal away players.

But it also seems as though Jackson has landed in that rarified middle ground between results and potential that makes him the perfect trade chip. Some other team always values him more than the one that currently employs him, perhaps thinking it will be the organization that finally turns him into the superstar so many people expected. Jackson is good enough that someone always wants him – but not so good that anyone makes sure to keep him.

So while the Nationals are probably happy to add a quality pitcher to their 2012 rotation, one day soon -- maybe in July, maybe after the season – they will be able to add their name to the growing list of teams that let Edwin Jackson get away.

-- Follow Hitting The Cutoff Man on Twitter at HitTheCutoff

Important Facts, Brought To You By My Old Baseball Cards

  • Monday, January 16, 2012 10:44 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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There was a time when I believed my baseball card collection would be a gold mine. That wasn’t the only reason I had one growing up – there also was the endless fun of organizing, trading and reorganizing – but I also figured my spend-all-of-your-allowance-on-cards financial plan would pay off big time down the road.

Now I probably couldn’t even cover my monthly cable bill with the several binders full of carefully stored cardboard rectangles sitting in the closet of my old room. Oh, well.

But that doesn’t mean there is no value to be found in those binders. There is, of course, the powerful pull of nostalgia. Beyond that, there are lessons. What’s that saying? “Those that fail to learn from history will repeatedly doom it.” Or something like that. I might have been half-asleep in class that day.

In any case, as I went through some of my cards while back home for the holidays, I was reminded of some historical facts I had forgotten. Now I share them with you.


Fact #1: Jeff Suppan hungered for baseballs: “Jeff clowns around during Red Sox photo day 2-24-96,” the caption of this 1997 Upper Deck card explains. Sure, that’s how it started – just “clowning around.” But what started as a joke evolved into something darker, a full-blown obsession. Soon, Suppan was gnawing on baseballs by the boxload. The notoriously stingy Pirates dealt him the Red Sox at the 2003 trading deadline, just months after signing him, largely because they discovered his habit was the reason they were going over-budget on baseballs that year. It wasn’t until Suppan signed with the Cardinals in 2004 that Dave Duncan helped him quit.


Fact #2: Popeye had nothing on Ricky Bottalico: A key to Bottalico’s 12-year career was his ripped-beyond-belief left arm, a very useful weapon for a right-handed pitcher. In fact, Bottalico often did curls with his left hand while throwing bullpen sessions. After his baseball career ended in 2005, he joined the professional arm wrestling tour, placing seventh in the overall standings last year.


Fact #3: Matt Morris became the first active MLB player to give birth: The dramatic event, captured on this 2003 Fleer Ultra card, happened suddenly during Spring Training that year. Doctors still aren’t sure why Morris spawned a giant rubber exercise ball, but the “child,” now in fourth grade, can already throw a pretty decent 12-to-6 curve, just like his old man.


Fact #4: Omar Vizquel is one cool hombre: In his long and distinguished career Vizquel has won 11 Gold Gloves, a yellow sports car and most deservedly, 17 MLB Fashion Icon awards.


Fact #5: Brian Rose was a league-leader: Contrary to your impression upon seeing that expression, Rose was not a serial killer. He was simply a mediocre pitcher who lasted parts of five seasons in the majors. But he made his mark in 1998, the year of this Fleer Tradition card, by leading the AL in a metric known as SWORP, or “smile wattage over replacement player.” Rose’s career WAR was -0.2.


Fact #6: Andruw Jones invented the invisible jetpack: That seems like the best explanation for this 1999 Fleer Ultra card.


-- Follow Hitting The Cutoff Man on Twitter at HitTheCutoff

Old News: Revisiting Some 2010 Headlines

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2011 4:08 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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In Internet time, last year’s headlines might as well be living in a cave, dressed in animal skins and carrying a spear. Time moves quickly, and the recent past is buried under the crushing weight of fresh news.

Out of curiosity, I hopped into my time machine and set out on a dangerous voyage to find those ancient, long-forgotten headlines. My target time: the days surrounding Nov. 16, 2010. My target location: NBC Sports’ HardballTalk, my go-to site for quick takes on the latest news and rumors around Major League Baseball. What follows is the strange bounty of that exploration.

Headline: Royals not willing to “dump” former top prospect Alex Gordon

Result: Kansas City kept Gordon and made him their starting left fielder.

How’d that work out? The Royals, get this, made the right call (cue the marching band and release the balloons!). Gordon broke out, hitting .303/.376/.502 and was worth 5.9 WAR. File this under “sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make.”



Headline: Cardinals expected to aggressively pursue Juan Uribe

Result: Uribe signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Dodgers instead, and the Cardinals traded for Ryan Theriot and signed Nick Punto to bolster their infield.

How’d that work out? Compared with Uribe, Theriot and Punto were Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. Still, Theriot was pretty bad, and Punto was hurt a lot. At one point, St. Louis’ infield was so thin, Albert Pujols actually played third base, but the team eventually got Punto and David Freese back and traded for Rafael Furcal, and the rest was recent history.

Headline: Athletics interested in Lance Berkman as designated hitter

Result: Berkman signed with the Cardinals instead, and the A’s went with Hideki Matsui.

How’d that work out? Berkman defied critics both by being less than a complete disaster in the outfield and by hitting like the old Puma at the plate (.301/.412/.547) on his way to a ring. With Matsui leading the “charge,” Oakland designated “hitters” “hit” .245/.313/.390. Wrong lottery ticket, Billy!


Headline: Shin-Soo Choo is trying to slug his way out of the army

Result: Choo did in fact lead South Korea to a gold medal at the Asian Games, freeing him of his two-year commitment to his country’s armed forces.

How’d that work out? Choo lived happily ever after! Well, actually, this was basically the last good thing that happened to Choo all season. He played only 85 games between multiple DL stints, hit an extremely disappointing .259/.344/.390 and was nabbed for an embarrassing DUI.


Headline: Brad Penny is going to be in the best shape of his life.

Result: “Best shape of his life,” one of the more amusing off-season cliches every year, is sort of subjective, so you can judge for yourself. Here is Brad Penny on April 28, 2011. Sexy!

How’d that work out? Great shape or not, Penny posted probably the worst full season of his career, giving up 11.0 hits per nine innings with a 1.19 K/BB ratio and a 5.02 FIP for the Tigers. Maybe watching TV and eating Doritos is the way to go this offseason.


Headline: The Cardinals will try to lock up Pujols before Christmas

Result: St. Louis signed its franchise player to a relatively team-friendly contract in early December. What’s that? (Puts fingers in ears). Lalalala can’t hear you, lalalala can’t hear you!

How’d that work out? Great!


Headline: Adam Dunn wants at least three years and $40 million

Result: He got it! A couple of weeks later, Dunn signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the White Sox.

How’d that work out? Rather than throwing out a bunch of stats, I will simply lead you to this visual representation.


-- Follow Hitting The Cutoff Man on Twitter at HitTheCutoff

MLB Hot Stove Headlines From An Alternate Universe

  • Friday, November 4, 2011 9:23 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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Somewhere out in the great beyond, there exists an alternate universe with an alternate Major League Baseball. Here are some recent headlines from this league's Hot Stove season.

Yanks’ Sabathia Opts Out of Contract, Eyes Homecoming With A's
By Buster Olney, ESPN.com

The New York Yankees drafted, developed and groomed CC Sabathia, but it appears the chronically cash-strapped organization is going to lose yet another homegrown talent to a team with considerably more payroll power.

Sabathia's agent Brian Peters said Monday that the left-handed former Cy Young winner will opt out of his current deal with the Yankees, with four years remaining, and become a free agent. Speculation among several high-ranking baseball front office personnel indicates that Sabathia wants to sign with his hometown team, the Oakland Athletics, who are looking to significantly increase their payroll thanks to their brand new stadium that will open next season.

Oakland general manager Billy Beane declined comment, but one American League GM said he would set the chances of a Sabathia-to-Oakland deal at “above 80 percent.”

Sabathia signed an extension with the Yankees when he first reached free agency after the 2008 season, but demanded the opt-out clause in case he felt the organization did not come through on its promises to field a competitive team. ...

Three Hospitalized After Camden Yards Stampede
By Baltimore Sun Staff Reports

Seven unidentified men were taken to a Baltimore hospital and three will be held overnight for observation after sustaining injuries in a stampede at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Thursday afternoon.

Details remain scarce about the incident, but witnesses told The Sun the stampede was caused by a large group of candidates for the Orioles’ open general manager position all trying to rush into an interview room at once. Only eight candidates were officially scheduled to interview for the much sought-after job, but at least three times that many people showed up at the ballpark Thursday in an attempt to gain consideration.

“This is the job that everyone wants, and so we all were trying desperately to be first to speak to (Orioles owner Peter Angelos),” said one of the potential GMs, who was released from the hospital with minor injuries and asked not to be identified by name. “We’re talking about a successful, stable organization with the best owner in baseball. Who wouldn’t want to step into that situation?” ...

Padres Said to Be Leading Charge for Fielder
By Ken Rosenthal, FoxSports.com

The San Diego Padres could be close to adding another big bat to their stable of sluggers.

According to multiple baseball sources, the team is currently the favorite to land free agent first baseman Prince Fielder, whose contract with the Milwaukee Brewers expired after this past season.

With chunks of excess cash burning a hole in the pockets of new general manager Josh Byrnes and Fielder said to be keen on playing 81 games a year at the bandbox known at PETCO Park, there is reason for both sides to be optimistic about an agreement.

“Money, as we all know, is no object for the Padres,” said a source with knowledge of the negotiations. “And even though they already led the National League in home runs last season, they have an opening at first base. Plus, Prince feels he could hit 60 homers a year thanks to PETCO’s practically Little League-sized right field.” ...

Red Sox Lock Up Epstein, Francona For Long Term
By Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Just days after finishing off their third World Series Championship in eight years, the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday ensured that two key pieces of their operation will remain with the team for years to come.

Team officials confirmed that general manager Theo Epstein will receive a five-year contract extension that will kick in when his current deal expires after next season; they also confirmed that manager Terry Francona’s 2012 and 2013 options, worth a total of $8.75 million, will be picked up and supplemented with two additional years at a slightly higher rate. Exact terms of the extensions were not disclosed, but a press conference has been scheduled for Wednesday at Fenway Park.

Epstein and Francona presided over a Red Sox club that won 93 games in the regular season, holding off the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League wild card, then breezed through the postseason, beating the Atlanta Braves in five games in the World Series.

Epstein has been lauded for his recent signings of Carl Crawford and John Lackey, key pieces of the team’s 2011 success, while Francona’s relaxed clubhouse -- characterized by in-game sessions of fried chicken, beer and video games -- is said to have been crucial in preventing panic as the Rays made a late-season push. ...

-- Follow Hitting The Cutoff Man on Twitter at HitTheCutoff

Some More Crazy Ideas For The Marlins' New Stadium

  • Friday, October 7, 2011 7:40 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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Next season, the Marlins change their name from Florida to Miami and move into a shiny new ballpark. Getting away from the football stadium that has been their home throughout their existence is undeniably a good thing, but the organization has made some rather strange decisions in the process.

SB Nation presented the latest and most bizarre today, a structure that will sit behind center field and go into action upon every Marlins home run. As I remarked on Twitter it looks like some ridiculous kids toy that chews up batteries and drives the parents insane. Please put on your safety goggles before viewing.

This got me to wondering what other crazy features the Marlins have in mind for their new digs. Here are five ideas I came up with:

The Stanton Home Run Celebration Contraption: Mike Stanton's home runs are not like everyone else's so they shouldn't be celebrated like everyone else's. He needs something special, something that properly honors the majestic nature of his blasts. How about a giant, buff animatronic marlin that appears in the upper deck swinging a bat and breathing fire?

The Homage to Past Glories: The Marlins have won two World Series titles during their relatively brief existence, which is rather mind-boggling. The organization should help a new generation of fans connect with this accomplishment by installing an interactive exhibit somewhere in the concourse. Both championship teams would be recreated out of blocks so that fans could have fun taking them apart and selling off the pieces before starting over with a new set of blocks.

The Guillen-o-phone: The Marlins made quite a splash in hiring Ozzie Guillen to be the first manager of the Miami version of the club. What better way to take advantage of Ozzie's trademark antics then mic'ing him up in the dugout and broadcasting it throughout the stadium? Obviously this would have to be done on a seven-second delay and heavily edited, except for during night games from the seventh inning on, when fans would be treated to "Ozzie Uncensored."

Marlins Beach: The Marlins traditionally have struggled badly with attendance problems. While the new stadium should help, Miami residents still have a lot of other entertainment options, including the beach. Well, what if Marlins fans could get the beach experience WHILE watching baseball? Designate certain sections of seats as beach sections, dump a bunch of sand in there, have Billy the Marlin come over every few innings to spray everyone with saltwater and let loose some seagulls to fly around and steal snacks.

The Mo' LoMoMarlins TweetCast: Thus far the Marlins have not been terribly supportive of young outfielder Logan Morrison's often entertaining tweeting. But, new stadium, new philosophy. LoMo is now encouraged to tweet from the dugout, and these messages will be shown on the video board.

-- Follow Hitting The Cutoff Man on Twitter at HitTheCutoff

Mike Stanton Is Our Home Run Savior

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2011 6:33 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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The Florida Marlins' Mike Stanton did something very mean to a baseball on Monday night in Miami.

If you haven’t seen it, please go ahead and watch it here. I’ll wait.

All caught up? Good. That was the more massive of two massive home runs Stanton thumped against the Braves in that game, giving him 34 this season, in addition to the 22 he slammed in a partial 2010 season. Many of them have been of the outrageous, video game variety.

And that’s the thing. Mike Stanton doesn’t just hit home runs. Sure, he’s already collected more of them through his age 21 season than all but eight other men in history, and could pass Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline and Ken Griffey, Jr. in that category by the end of the season. But that really isn’t the point.

The point is that Stanton’s home runs are not just baseballs that fly over the fence. Already, at this early stage in his career, they are events unto themselves. They are their own category. Someone on Twitter suddenly blurting, “HOLY &^@$, MIKE STANTON,” is the Bat Signal for baseball fans -- drop everything and go find out what violent crime was just committed.

We need Mike Stanton and we need his gravity-defying, shot-from-a-cannon taters.

Stanton, is his younger days.

After the home run binge of the late 90s/early 00s and subsequent PED terror, it almost felt wrong to still dig the long ball. Like it was some sort of perversion you didn’t want to publicize. Any time you saw someone crush a ball out of the park, you almost had to splice your awe with an equal helping of suspicion, or at least emotional detachment. Don’t get too invested, lest you get burned again.

That has eased to some degree in recent years, as MLB mostly has turned the page. We’ve had Jim Thome, Prince Fielder and Adam Dunn (the good version). We’ve had Mark Reynolds, Ryan Howard and others who could send a baseball into orbit. But to varying degrees, probably unfairly, all of those guys are too close to another era.

Jose Bautista for all of his greatness, has seen first-hand how leery people still can get when someone’s power takes a hyperspace leap in a short time. Bautista is a great story. He’s a story I believe in. But he’s too complicated a story for many.

According to HitTrackerOnline.com, Bautista is the only player in baseball this season with more “no doubt” home runs than Stanton. These are defined as homers that “cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and landed at least 50 feet past the fence.” Through Monday, Bautista has 17, Stanton has 15, and Justin Upton is next with 12.

The “no doubt” home runs are just half the equation with Stanton, though. The other half is his “no doubt” power hitter cred.

I suppose these days we should never assume anything, but screw it. I’m going to go ahead and assume that a 21-year-old who is 6 feet, 5 inches and 235 pounds of solid steel is a natural home run hitter. I’m going to assume he stepped out of the womb, grabbed a spare IV stand and swatted the doctor across the room. The guy was born to hit a baseball and born to hit it further than anyone else.

He walloped 89 home runs in 324 minor league games. At least one of them was a legendary moon shot. He’s now hit 56 home runs in his first 242 major league games. Of the 34 he has swatted this season, only 7 have failed to travel 400 feet (according to Hit Tracker), and I can only assume that’s because Stanton used one hand to swing, broke his bat or just decided not to show up the pitcher.

Stanton is power we all can believe in, put on posters, show to our kids. With him, it’s OK to let your guard down and just enjoy the show. The long balls are almost beyond belief, but in an eye-popping way, not a Mitchell Report way. I should stop here and say this isn’t meant to be a back-handed indictment of anyone else. I think most players today are clean. But nobody makes it easier than Stanton to leap unabashedly back into long ball reverence. And nobody makes it funner.

So go ahead, watch this again. Enjoy it. And get ready for many more.

-- Follow Hitting The Cutoff Man on Twitter at HitTheCutoff

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Imagining MLB With The NFL's Season

  • Tuesday, September 13, 2011 4:14 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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The start of the NFL season always lends itself to mass hysteria. When one loss can move you a sixth or an eighth of the way toward playoff elimination in a 16-game season, it's understandable. Every game takes on a tremendous significance, and maybe that's just one reason -- along with the violence, of course -- that football is the most popular sport in the country.

A single baseball game, however, carries little meaning when playoff teams often have 70-plus losses. The day-in, day-out grind takes precedence over the all-consuming hype of once-a-week competition. I appreciate that difference in the two sports and wouldn’t want either to change.

But, as a thought experiment, what would happen if Bud Selig went craaaaaaaaaazy and decided to

adopt an NFL scheduling system of 16 games, played once a week?

The answer, obviously, is quite a lot.

In terms of how teams are run, this would completely destroy the current methods of roster construction. A club could go an entire season using one starting pitcher, unless it wanted two or three in order to play to matchups or hedge against slumps. The resulting demand for aces surely would be ridiculous and drive their salaries through the roof, increasing the pressure to develop a home-grown pitching stud.

With each date on the schedule of crucial importance, managers would be forced to do their jobs differently, particularly in terms of deploying a pitching staff. Where a No. 1 starting pitcher normally might get a long rope with which to work out of trouble or push his way through a tough outing, the 16-game schedule would force a skipper to pull his ace at the first sign of serious danger to prevent a game from getting away. If you think that today’s baseball features too few complete games and too many pitching changes, look out. Sure, a team might have only one starting pitcher, but it also might employ a 10-man bullpen and a manager who walks to the mound twice an inning late in games. Every skipper would be Tony La Russa on speed.

Outside of the playing of individual games, a 16-game schedule would throw the sport into absolute chaos in terms of results. Think about how it often seems like anything can happen in the postseason. Well, now the regular season would be about that length. Under the current system, media and fans frequently get bent out of shape about small sample sizes (A six-game losing streak! He’s 0 for his last 17!) When there are 162 games, that’s silly. If there were 16 games, it would be entirely justified. The vagaries of luck that constantly fiddle with the fortunes of players and teams would be handed the keys to the control panel of the entire season.

Keeping in mind that this all occurred as a small piece of a long season, here are some things that were true after 16 games in 2011:

- The Red Sox were 5-11. The Indians were 12-4. The Royals were 10-6. The Braves were 7-9. The Rockies were 12-4. The Diamondacks were 8-8.

- Of course, it also must be said that the Yankees were 10-6, the Twins were 6-10, the Phillies were 10-6 and the Astros were 5-11. Not everything goes haywire in two weeks.

- Albert Pujols was hitting .239/.288/.433. Matt Kemp was hitting .474/.545/.719. Sam Fuld was hitting .396/.431/.604. Dan Uggla was hitting .177/.203/.371. Great players can look bad for 16 games, and vice versa. In 2006, Chris Shelton hit nine homers in the Tigers’ first 13 games; in other words, strange things can happen.

So a 16-game schedule would take a Prince Fielderesque bite out of baseball’s traditional sense of roster construction and game management. It would turn every regular season into not necessarily a crapshoot, but certainly a much more unpredictable free-for-all. It would detonate current salary norms, the arbitration system and much more of the game’s infrastructure.

It would be pandemonium. And as tempting as it is to imagine New York talk radio after a 2-5 start by the Yankees, I think we can all agree this would be one massive cut our country doesn’t need.

-- Follow Hitting The Cutoff Man on Twitter at HitTheCutoff

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MLB Hitters As Pitchers: Imaginary Scouting

  • Wednesday, August 24, 2011 6:13 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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If you’re like me, you probably find it endlessly entertaining when position players are forced to pitch in blowouts or long extra-inning games. Usually it’s a utility-type guy, like Wilson Valdez earlier this year for the Phillies or Skip Schumaker on Tuesday for the Cardinals.

But it’s also fun to think about how other players would do on the mound. For example, there was talk Sunday that the Dodgers’ James Loney -- a big pitching prospect in high school -- might pitch against the Rockies to help a worn-out bullpen. Alas, he didn’t get the chance.

Luckily there exists an alternate dimension that is very much like ours except guys who became big league position players here instead became pitchers there. To provide a glimpse into this strange world, I am providing scouting reports for some of its pitchers with whom you might be familiar.

JEFF FRANCOEUR
Role: Closer
Best Pitch: Four-seam fastball
Biggest Weakness: Lack of secondary pitches
Key Stat: Average velocity of 102.3 mph
The Scout Says: Francoeur on the mound is like a runaway train: He’s full speed ahead in one direction until something derails him. Best pure velocity I’ve ever seen, but his promise every year to develop a breaking ball has never gone anywhere. He throws hard enough to be pretty effective and usually blows guys away early in innings, but when the manager overextends him, he can blow up big time.

COLBY RASMUS
Role: Mid-rotation starter
Best Pitch: Curveball
Biggest Weakness: Awareness
Key Stat: Career average of 4 2/3 innings per start
The Scout Says: This guy is an ace in the making if he can put it all together, and he shows flashes of brilliance. But he also pouts when things go wrong, shakes off more signs than anyone I’ve ever seen and just stares into space when his pitching coach goes out to talk with him. Plus, once the game gets into about the fifth inning, you can see him just lose interest. He actually keeps a Game Boy on the mound next to the rosin bag and will start playing with it while the infield throws the ball around after strikeouts.

JEFF MATHIS
Role: Back-of-the-rotation starter
Best Pitch: N/A
Biggest Weakness: Pitching
Key Stat: Career ERA of 13.26
The Scout Says: As I understand it, Jeff Mathis is pitching in the major leagues because his manager feels he makes the offense better by forcing them to score so the team doesn’t lose by an embarrassing amount of runs. I once saw an umpire eject him following back-to-back-to-back-back home runs, just to move the game along.

RYAN HOWARD
Role: Ace
Best Pitch: Four-seam fastball
Biggest Weakness: Home runs
Key Stat: Career .764 winning percentage
The Scout Says: Howard’s a solid pitcher, but he has only one plus pitch, can struggle badly against right-handed batters and gives up a lot of fly balls. That leads to a lot of homers. Objectively, he’s about an average starting pitcher, who has a good defense behind him and lots of run support. Of course, he went 21-4 last season, which many held up as an example of him “pitching to the score.”

JOSE BAUTISTA
Role: Ace
Best Pitch: Cutter
Biggest Weakness: Fielding
Key Stat: 1.72 ERA past two seasons
The Scout Says: I saw Bautista pitch a few mop-up innings back in 2008 and was so unimpressed I actually just doodled instead of writing a scouting report. Then I saw him as a starter last season and he had revamped his mechanics and added a plus cutter. The guy was a completely different pitcher, which has led to some vague accusations that he’s messing with the ball, but I haven’t seen any actual evidence of it.

JUAN PIERRE
Role: Left-handed relief specialist
Best Pitch: Eephus
Biggest Weakness: Velocity
Key Stat: Career 1.7 K/9
The Scout Says: Sometimes it seems like Pierre literally cannot get the ball from the mound to home plate. During a recent appearance I clocked his pitches between negative-13 and 6 miles per hour, which allowed the catcher and umpire to play a game of chess between offerings.

JACK CUST
Role: Middle reliever
Best Pitch: Splitter
Biggest Weakness: Pitch counts
Key Stat: Career 16.4 K/9, 8.7 BB/9
The Scout Says: Cust is probably the most difficult man in baseball to make contact against because of his hard, diving splitter. But he also falls in love with it too much and throws it even when behind in the count, which leads to a lot of free passes. He is a bit of an albatross for managers because he can only pitch once every three days or so due to averaging 42 pitches per inning.

HUNTER PENCE
Role: Mid-rotation starter
Best Pitch: Screwball
Biggest Weakness: Control
Key Stat: Has led league in wild pitches in every full season of his career.
The Scout Says: Pence has the worst mechanics I’ve ever seen. The result is a lot of walks, but his delivery, which is all elbows and knees coming at the batter, is deceptive and generates lots of swinging strikes. And that screwball is just so fun!

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Who Is MLB's Most Top-Heavy Team?

  • Friday, August 5, 2011 4:34 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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The Dodgers beat the Padres on Monday in a battle of woeful NL West clubs, and like many LA victories these days, the driving force largely consisted of two players. Clayton Kershaw gave up two runs in a complete game, and Matt Kemp doubled, tripled and drove in a run.

You could sum up the Dodgers’ season by saying that nearly everything has gone wrong, except for Kershaw and Kemp. The former is one of the top few pitchers in the National League; the latter is one of the NL’s best position players. The rest of the team has resembled a black hole.

That brought me to this question: Are the Dodgers baseball’s most top-heavy team? There’s no precise way to answer that since “top-heavy” has no precise definition when it comes to baseball teams.

But I took an entirely unscientific shot anyway. For each team, I added the best two players’ FanGraphs wins above replacement (fWAR) -- through Wednesday's games -- and divided that number by the entire team’s. What I found was that my hunch was almost correct, but just like pitchers around baseball, it was foiled by a certain slugger residing north of the border.

Baseball’s five most top-heavy teams

1. Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Bautista (6.9) + Yunel Escobar (4.2) / 26.4 total = 42.05 %
Comment: Bautista holds a sliver of an edge over Dustin Pedroia as baseball’s most valuable player by fWAR. The guy simply is the best hitter on the planet right now, and it’s not close. Escobar, traded from Atlanta to Toronto last season, is vastly outperforming his Braves replacement, Alex Gonzalez.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Matt Kemp (5.3) + Clayton Kershaw (4.7) / 24.3 total = 41.15 %
Comment: The Dodgers only have five other players with even 1 WAR. Meanwhile, Kershaw ranks sixth among MLB pitchers and Kemp seventh among MLB position players. It’s lonely being good at Chavez Ravine this year.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew McCutchen (5.2) + Neil Walker (2.0) / 17.7 total = 40.68 %
Comment: When you look at this, it is both difficult to see how the Pirates hung around near the top of the NL Central standings so long and easy to see why they have been backsliding of late. The Bucs have been a great story but also one with a single strong main character in McCutchen and not much else that promises sustainability.

4. Seattle Mariners
Felix Hernandez (3.7) + Doug Fister (3.0) / 17.0 total = 39.41 %
Comment: Here is a true fact – The Mariners’ top three position players by fWAR are Brendan Ryan, June callup Dustin Ackley and Adam Kennedy. Yeesh. Fister has now been traded to the Tigers, leaving fellow pitcher Michael Pineda (2.7 fWAR) as the team’s second-best performer.

5. Houston Astros
Michael Bourn (3.4) + Hunter Pence (2.5) / 15 total = 39.33 %
Comment: Yep, the Astros’ two best players this year are no longer Astros. The next two guys in line are Clint Barmes and the shell of Carlos Lee. In other words, feel the excitement of Astros baseball!

And in case you were wondering, for some reason, your least top-heavy (most bottom-heavy?) is …

30. Atlanta Braves
Brian McCann (3.6) + Tim Hudson (2.7) / 29.4 total = 21.43 %
Comment: Despite being solidly in playoff position, the Braves have not had too many real standout performers this year. Of course, Bourn is now in the fold, joining a cast of solid players (plus Scott Proctor).

Conclusion: First of all, it's obviously the case that the results would be somewhat different if we measured by each team's top player only or top three players or top four players.

It does make sense that most bad teams rank higher in this rating than most good teams. After all, even bad teams tend to have one or two good players, and their WAR will be a higher percentage of the team's than someone on a good team. But there are exceptions. Four of the bottom five teams are the playoff-contending Braves, Rangers, Yankees and Cardinals, but the Marlins and A's are mixed in with them. The Phillies and Red Sox, baseball's two best teams, rank in the middle of the pack.

So what do we learn? Well, not much. But hey, at least the Dodgers lead the National League in something other than lawsuits.

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5 Totally Reliable MLB Trade Rumors

  • Monday, July 18, 2011 7:38 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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During trade deadline season, a baseball fan hears and reads more rumors than an Us Weekly reporter. It’s fun, exhausting and even a little scary -- if you’re worried your GM might, say, mortgage your team’s future for a relief pitcher.

What’s more, these rumors actually come to fruition at a much lower rate than Adam Dunn makes contact these days. With that in mind, here are five that are about as likely as any others, courtesy of a trusted baseball source.*

Giants trade minor league OF Gary Brown to Astros for 2B Craig Biggio.
The Giants need some infield help, and GM Brian Sabean loves veterans like Brian Wilson loves attention. Usually Sabean contents himself with long-in-the-tooth players, but look for him to explore a new frontier here: players so long-in-the-tooth, they retired four years ago. Sensing an opportunity, the Astros bring Biggio out of retirement and deal him for Brown, a good outfield prospect who admittedly has 3,060 fewer major league hits than Biggio. Despite the long layoff, Biggio outhits Aubrey Huff the rest of the way.

Brewers trade minor leaguers P Mark Rogers, P Cody Scarpetta, P Wily Peralta, IF Scooter Gennett, OF Kentrail Davis, P Tyler Thornburg, IF Eric Farris, P Jimmy Nelson, P Kyle Heckathorn and P Amaury Rivas to Dodgers for IF Jamey Carroll and P Mike MacDougal.
We’re still about two weeks away from the deadline and already we have been informed 3,000 times that the Brewers are going “all-in” for this year. But if that’s the case, just paying for K-Rod’s services isn’t enough. GM Doug Melvin must trade like there’s no next year, hence this deal, which sends the team’s top 10 prospects (according to Baseball America’s pre-season rankings) to the Dodgers for some infield help and an extra bullpen arm. The Brewers then shut down their farm system.

Athletics trade a player to be named later to the White Sox for IF Mark Teahen; trade OF Coco Crisp, P Brandon McCarthy and P Craig Breslow to the Yankees for OF Nick Swisher.
The Moneyball movie opens Sept. 23. Since, as we all know, A’s GM Billy Beane wrote the book and the screenplay and directed the film, he has every incentive to promote it. He will do so by getting some of the old gang back together, swinging two separate deals for members of the team’s 2002 draft class discussed in the book. Asked why he did not also contact the Giants about Miguel Tejada and Barry Zito, Beane does a spit take onto his spreadsheet and says, “Geez, I’m not THAT desperate.”

Mariners trade P Felix Hernandez, P Brandon League to Phillies for minor leaguers 1B/OF Jonathan Singleton, P Jarred Cosart, P Trevor May, C Sebastian Valle.
Oh, the horror! With Roy Oswalt sidelined indefinitely, the Phillies’ rotation features only three aces. This will not stand. GM Ruben Amaro springs into action and finds a partner in the Mariners, who back in 2009 dealt prospects to Philly for Cliff Lee. This time, the ace heads the other direction along with some relief help. The Phillies take a sigh of relief, knowing they can slide Cole Hamels back into the No. 4 spot in the rotation, where he clearly belongs. Informed that he now will be supported offensively by the likes of Chase Utley and Shane Victorino, King Felix reacts this way

Yankees trade 1B Mark Teixeira and cash to Pirates for 1B Lyle Overbay.
“I just think it’s so cool what the Pirates are doing this year,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. “I know we’re also in a pennant race, but like, we’re in a pennant race every year. Teixeira is great, but he would mean so much more to Pittsburgh than he would to us. Plus, I’m just so tired of everyone calling us the “Evil Empire” and such, so I thought it was time to do a good deed.” Despite solid production from Teixeira, the Pirates still miss the playoffs. Meanwhile, Cashman disappears about five minutes after giving that quote to reporters and is never seen again.

*My baseball source: a baseball I keep on my desk that talks to me. His name is Jasper.

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Choosing MLB's 2011 Division All-Stars

  • Friday, July 8, 2011 6:25 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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Imagine this crazy All-Star scenario: a team for each division, creating a six-team tournament. Will it happen? No. Should it happen? Also, no.

But if it did, theoretically, I decided to see what the teams might look like. It was an exercise in curiosity about division strength, and also boredom.

Here is a glimpse at each team, ranked in ascending order of perceived strength. Note: I only picked an abbreviated roster for each squad, because that felt like plenty under the circumstances. Another note: Selections are based on 2011 performance only.

AL Central
Starting lineup: 1. Denard Span - CF, 2. Alex Gordon - LF, 3. Miguel Cabrera - 1B, 4. Paul Konerko - DH, 5. Brennan Boesch - RF, 6. Jhonny Peralta - SS, 7. Alex Avila - C, 8. Wilson Betemit - 3B, 9. Gordon Beckham - 2B
Bench: Asdrubal Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Carlos Quentin, Travis Hafner.
Starting pitchers: Justin Verlander, Justin Masterson, Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker, Phil Humber.
Relievers: Sergio Santos, Glen Perkins, Al Alburquerque.

Comments: It’s going to be super awkward when Beckham walks into the team clubhouse and Miguel Cabrera is all like, “What are you doing here? You have a .291 wOBA as of July 7.” And then Beckham gets all defensive because he wasn’t the one who picked the team, and besides, it’s not his fault the other options at second were Chris Getz and Alexi Casilla. What, does Miguel want to cover the whole right side of the infield by himself? No? That’s what I thought.

AL West
Starting lineup: 1. Howie Kendrick - 2B, 2. Michael Young - DH, 3. Josh Hamilton - LF, 4. Nelson Cruz - RF, 5. Adrian Beltre - 3B, 6. Justin Smoak - 1B, 7. Mike Napoli - C, 8. Peter Bourjos - CF, 9. Elvis Andrus - SS
Bench:Ian Kinsler, Bobby Abreu, Coco Crisp, Erick Aybar
Starting pitchers: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Felix Hernandez, C.J. Wilson, Michael Pineda.
Relievers: Jordan Walden, Brandon League, Scott Downs.

Comments: This team obviously has the misfortune of drawing from only four organizations. With two of those being the A’s and Mariners, it’s not surprising the offense is a little underwhelming. Luckily, with the Angels not being defending division champs, Mike Scioscia is not this team’s manager, which means he can’t find a way to play Jeff Mathis (even though he’s not on the roster anyways).

NL West
Starting lineup: 1. Carlos Gonzalez - CF, 2. Matt Kemp - LF, 3. Pablo Sandoval - 3B, 4. Troy Tulowitzki - SS, 5. Andre Ethier - DH, 6. Justin Upton - RF, 7. Miguel Montero - C, 8. Todd Helton - 1B, 9. Jamey Carroll - 2B
Bench:Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Cameron Maybin, Chase Headley
Starting pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Daniel Hudson, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner.
Relievers: Heath Bell, Mike Adams, Sergio Romo.

Comments: Frank McCourt is suing this team for using his players without his permission. This has Helton all bent out of shape, but Ethier just looks at him and is like, “Welcome to our world.” Anyways, this lineup has good thump, something the starting pitchers here are confused but excited about. Luckily the clubhouse is stocked with some helpful brochures titled, “Run Support and You: A Guide To Feeling Loved.”

NL Central
Starting lineup: 1. Andrew McCutchen - CF, 2. Rickie Weeks - 2B, 3. Joey Votto - 1B, 4. Matt Holliday - RF, 5. Prince Fielder - DH, 6. Ryan Braun - LF, 7. Aramis Ramirez - 3B, 8. Yadier Molina - C, 9. Starlin Castro - SS
Bench:Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Brandon Phillips, Michael Bourn
Starting pitchers: Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter, Shaun Marcum, Zack Greinke, Matt Garza.
Relievers: Joel Hanrahan, John Axford, Sean Marshall.

Comments: “Look at all these good players!” Castro says to Ramirez. “They’re on OUR team now!” Ramirez sighs deeply and nods. Memories of the old days flood his head and push a single tear down his weathered cheek. It’s hard to think about but impossible not to. “Live in the moment and enjoy it,” he advises Castro. “People in our situation must savor the good times, fleeting as they are.” Castro looks at his older teammate, sees how the years in Chicago have beaten him down. “Sure, Aramis,” he says. “I got ya.” But he doesn’t truly understand -- not yet.

NL East
Starting lineup: 1. Jose Reyes - SS, 2. Shane Victorino - CF, 3. Gaby Sanchez - 1B, 4. Carlos Beltran - LF, 5. Brian McCann - C, 6. Mike Stanton - RF, 7. Mike Morse - DH, 8. Danny Espinosa - 2B, 9. Placido Polanco - 3B
Bench:Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Daniel Murpy, Martin Prado
Starting pitchers: Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Jair Jurrjens, Jordan Zimmermann.
Relievers: Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Ryan Madson.

Comments: The great thing about an all-star team is getting to imagine what it would be like if a bunch of great players got thrown together and could join forces. Like, imagine a one-two punch at the top of a lineup of Jose Reyes and Shane Victorino. What energy! Or, imagine if you could field a starting rotation with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels AND Cliff Lee! Why, that would be insane!

AL East
Starting lineup: 1. Jacoby Ellsbury - CF, 2. Curtis Granderson - LF, 3. Jose Bautista - RF, 4. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B, 5. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, 6. David Ortiz - DH, 7. Ben Zobrist - 2B, 8. Yunel Escobar - SS, 9. Matt Wieters - C
Bench:Mark Teixeira, Dustin Pedroia, Matt Joyce, Brett Gardner
Starting pitchers: CC Sabathia, David Price, James Shields, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester.
Relievers: Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Jonathan Papelbon.

Comments: “Hey Zobrist,” Shields says, “Did you hear the exciting news? ESPN is going to broadcast all of our all-star team’s games! That’s some great exposure!” Zobrist looks down at his shoes, feeling awkward. James is so clearly thrilled, and it would be a shame to bring him down. But it’s just like his grandpa always said: Tell the truth, even if it hurts. He closes his eyes and steels himself for the task ahead. “Yes, I heard,” Zobrist says. “But there’s something you should know. When nobody on the Red Sox or Yankees is either pitching or batting, they are going to cut to a reel of Jeter’s career highlights.”

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Unlucky Hiroki: Dodgers' Kuroda Can't Catch Break

  • Thursday, June 9, 2011 8:20 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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On Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Hiroki Kuroda started on the mound for the Dodgers, matched zeroes with Cole Hamels for five innings, gave up a home run and a double with one out in the sixth and was pulled trailing 1-0.

It was not one of Kuroda’s better outings – he lasted just 5 1/3 innings and walked three – but he still gave up just one run. No matter. He found himself on the wrong end of a dominant performance from Hamels, and Kuroda took the defeat to drop to 5-7 this season.

The situation was nothing new for the Japanese import who now is in his fourth season in the majors, all with the Dodgers.

Caveat time: Pitcher wins are a stupid stat. I would not say they are completely meaningless, but they are close. Much progress has been made in recent years toward minimizing the emphasis on wins and losses for pitchers, but the fact of the matter is they still are prevalent, and a lot of people pay attention to them.

In a world where emphasis remains placed on a pitcher’s W-L record, Hiroki Kuroda cannot catch a break. He now has pitched in 96 MLB games, 95 of them starts, and has a 3.57 ERA, 110 ERA+ (solidly above average) and a 3.52 FIP that shows the ERA is hardly a result of good fortune. For his career, the right-hander has struck out about three batters for every walk.

His career record is 33-37, and that’s not the result of one outlier season. He was 9-10 in ’08, 8-7 in ’09 when he missed time with an injury, 11-13 last year and 5-7 this year. His one winning record came with his highest ERA, 3.76.

But is this unusual? Is performance like this commonly matched with such a poor record?

To answer that question, I went to Baseball Reference’s fantastic Play Index feature and searched for the lowest winning percentages since Kuroda’s debut among starting pitchers with at least 400 innings and a 100, or average, ERA+. The partial results:

Rk Player W-L% ERA+ IP From To Age G GS CG SHO GF W L
1 Jeremy Guthrie .393 106 680.0 2008 2011 29-32 108 107 4 0 1 33 51
2 John Lannan .414 102 605.1 2008 2011 23-26 102 102 2 1 0 29 41
3 Hiroki Kuroda .471 110 580.1 2008 2011 33-36 96 95 2 2 0 33 37
4 Jonathan Sanchez .479 105 589.0 2008 2011 25-28 108 104 1 1 2 34 37
5 Anibal Sanchez .480 111 411.1 2008 2011 24-27 70 70 3 2 0 24 26
6 Johnny Cueto .500 101 570.2 2008 2011 22-25 98 98 2 1 0 34 34
7 Matt Garza .500 108 652.0 2008 2011 24-27 105 104 6 3 1 36 36
8 Max Scherzer .500 112 499.0 2008 2011 23-26 90 81 0 0 2 28 28
9 Jason Marquis .507 100 516.2 2008 2011 29-32 87 86 3 2 0 34 33
10 John Danks .513 120 686.0 2008 2011 23-26 109 109 3 1 0 41 39
11 Matt Cain .519 128 744.1 2008 2011 23-26 113 113 10 3 0 40 37
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/9/2011.


As you can see, Kuroda and Anibal Sanchez are the only two pitchers since 2008 with a sub-.500 record and an ERA+ of at least 110, and Sanchez has thrown roughly 170 fewer innings.

Next I took a look at how many times in the last four years Kuroda has pitched a good game and fallen short of a win. I defined a “good game” as a little better than a quality start, at least six innings pitched and no more than two earned runs allowed.

Kuroda is one of 18 pitchers in the last four years with at least eight losses in such games.

To drive home the point of how Kuroda’s record could look entirely different if he were luckier and/or had better support from his team, I will engage in a classic exercise.

Here are two pitchers’ lines since 2008. They are extremely similar.

Pitcher A: 96 games, 580 1/3 IP, 1.199 WHIP, 3.06 K/BB, 110 ERA+, 3.52 FIP
Pitcher B: 92 games, 590 1/3 IP, 1.243 WHIP, 3.42 K/BB, 111 ERA+, 3.62 FIP

As you undoubtedly can tell, Pitcher A is Kuroda, with his 33-37 record.

Pitcher B is Josh Beckett. His record? 39-24. I guess he just knows how to win.

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Russell Branyan > Albert Pujols: A Useless Study Of Baseball And Wikipedia

  • Friday, June 3, 2011 9:20 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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There is no doubt that baseball's greatest Wiki is former big league catcher Wiki Gonzalez.

Wiki (full name: Wiklenman Vicente Gonzalez) was a serviceable backup backstop for seven seasons, mainly with the Padres. What he is not (at least I'm assuming) is a vast resource of mostly factual information about any topic you could think of. For that, you need another Wiki – Wikipedia.

As you might be aware, Wikipedia is good for more than just lazily researching school papers. For example, baseball player biographies. Let's say I want to know more about Wiki. All I have to do is Wiki him to find out that, “A slow runner, González holds the dubious distinction of having hit into a 5-4-3 triple play, while playing for the Padres in a May 17, 2002, game against the New York Mets, on his birthday.” Pure gold!

So Wikipedia can be fun. Can it useful in actually studying baseball players in a meaningful way? Not really. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take a stab at doing so, just for the hell of it.

My idea was to measure the length of various players’ Wikipedia entries and see if I found anything interesting. Obviously you would expect superstars to have bigger pages than scrubs and veterans to have bigger pages than rookies, but I was curious to see if there were any anomalies.

To that end, I picked 50 current players off the top of my head, leaning more toward notable guys but also going for a nice mix of positions, teams, experience levels, etc. I then copied and pasted their entries (not including table of contents, fact box, captions, charts or reference lists) into Microsoft Word and did a simple word count.* I then listed my findings in the chart below, ordered by word count but also including the players’ MLB service time, career wins above replacement (WAR) according to Baseball Reference and finally, words per WAR**.

* 100 percent accuracy, like with Wikipedia itself, is not guaranteed.
** WAR totals as well as word counts as of June 2.


Some highlights:

Alex Rodriguez had by far the highest word count (8,402) of the 50; rookie Michael Pineda had the lowest (101).

The Legend of Sam Fuld extends to Wikipedia. He had the second-longest entry I counted, higher than Ichiro, Derek Jeter or Albert Pujols. His 6,653 words per WAR was easily the highest, about a thousand more than the Mets’ Justin Turner (5,560).

The lowest words/WAR totals belong to: Scott Linebrink (24), Tim Hudson (28), Luke Scott (31), Arthur Rhodes (32) and Carlos Beltran (33). Once again, Beltran is shamefully underrated.

Other interesting or surprising findings included:
-- Journeyman slugger Russell Branyan outpacing Albert Pujols by about 400 words.
-- Bearded sensation Brian Wilson edging out future Hall of Famer Roy Halladay.
-- Injured phenom Stephen Strasburg in a dead heat with Hudson.
-- Casey Kotchman only about 200 words behind Adrian Gonzalez.
-- Shelley Duncan just behind B.J. Upton.
-- Pineda, who has been blowing away the American League all season, trailing relatively unknown fellow rookies Daniel Moskos and Al Alburquerque, who are both middle relievers.

Full chart:

Player NameWord CountMLB ServiceCareer WARWords/WAR
Alex Rodriguez8,40218103.981
Sam Fuld5,98840.96,653
Ichiro Suzuki5,1201154.594
Derek Jeter5,0011770.671
Russell Branyan4,1831410.5398
Albert Pujols3,7641184.744
Brian Wilson3,59066.4561
Roy Halladay3,525145861
Jamie Moyer3,4432447.373
Josh Hamilton3,113516.8185
Tim Lincecum2,903520.9139
Joe Mauer2,702838.670
Rick Ankiel2,53898.6295
David Ortiz2,3561532.473
Jose Bautista2,001810.9184
Matt Stairs2,0801913.7152
Carlos Beltran1,9041458.533
Mark Teixeira1,838938.148
Jeff Francoeur1,42475.2274
Brett Myers1,3941013.9100
Juan Pierre1,3751213.4103
Stephen Strasburg1,31211.5875
Tim Hudson1,3091346.728
Joey Votto1,308516.480
Corey Patterson1,295127.2180
A.J. Pierzynski1,2321414.486
Adrian Gonzalez1,223820.460
Casey Kotchman1,10284.9225
Kosuke Fukudome1,08448.1134
Casey Blake1,0801323.746
Livan Hernandez1,0651624.244
Henry Blanco1,061143.6295
B.J. Upton1,00571472
Shelley Duncan98951.1899
Ty Wigginton974102.1464
Clayton Kershaw837412.766
Madison Bumgarner82933.5237
Nick Punto785117.2109
Mike Stanton75724.8158
Josh Johnson682718.537
Yuniesky Betancourt58073.5166
Justin Turner55630.15,560
Arthur Rhodes4172013.232
Matt Diaz40795.673
Luke Scott333710.731
Al Alburquerque27310.4683
Scott Linebrink189127.824
Daniel Moskos17710.11,770
Eric Hosmer16910.6282
Michael Pineda10112.540
     
Total91,77545998793
Average1,836920449


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Staring At The Sun: An In-Person Report On Bryce Harper

  • Monday, May 30, 2011 7:41 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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On Sunday I made a pilgrimage, one that will change my life forever.

There I was in Kannapolis, N.C., to see with my own eyes Baseball's Chosen One. Yes, No. 1 pick and No. 1 prospect Bryce Harper was in town with his Hagerstown Suns to take on the Intimidators (changed for this series to the Intimidated). I could not pass up the opportunity to bear witness.

Now that it is over, I know I will never be the same. I learned, I grew, I transformed. And now, I share with you my report.

Surprise No. 1: I was able to procure a ticket to 4,700-seat Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium the morning of the game, paying $9 for a seat in the second row behind home plate. People in the Kannapolis area must not have embraced their new Harperian Overlord just yet. After this current series, I suspect they will come around.

Surprise No. 2: You can see something curious in this photo I took.

Notice how eight other players are listed on the Suns lineup along with Harper. I was under the impression he would fill every spot, with the Suns employing ghost runners if necessary.

First inning: He emerges from the dugout.

The breeze generated by each of Harper's warmup swings smelled like freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

Surprise No. 3: Harper came to bat against someone named Dexter Carter, who somehow resisted the urge to simply curl into the fetal position on the mound.

Harper popped up to left field. I kind of felt like I had seen a supermodel without makeup or driven a Lamborghini that wouldn't go above 20 mph. But I had faith that if I was patient, I would be rewarded.

Third inning: Carter threw four pitches that were not worthy of Harper swings. Harper walked. Later in the inning, the Suns' Brett Newsome nobly and appropriately laid down his life with a sacrifice fly to get Harper home from third. The one thing people will always remember about Brett Newsome is that he knew his place. RIP

When Kannapolis came to plate in the bottom of the inning, Juan Silverio made the mistake of hitting a fly ball into Harper's air space in right field. Let's just say he was the last to do so that day.

Fifth inning: With one out and nobody on base, Kannapolis brings in lefty Wes Whisler to face the left-handed Harper. What Whisler had done to deserve this is uncertain. Ate the last cookie in the clubhouse before the game? Wouldn't stop singing Justin Bieber songs in the bullpen? Whatever it was, it must have been pretty bad. Observe:


Yes, Mighty Harper swung and crushed a massive home run to center field. The video quality isn't good enough to see it, but as the ball began its downward trajectory over the fence, a pair of angels came down and escorted it to its final resting place.

Surprise No. 4: Home plate umpire Aaron Reynolds called Harper out on strikes in the sixth. No sooner had Harper turned around to go back to the dugout than the home plate area opened up, and Reynolds was sucked into the abyss. There was a brief delay as the grounds crew got things re-settled.

Surprise No. 5: With Hagerstown leading 10-2, Suns manager and former big leaguer Brian Daubach put Harper on the bench to start the bottom of the seventh. Kevin Keyes went to right field but feeling the utter hopelessness of replacing Harper, simply sat down in the grass and stared dead-eyed at the ground.

Rest of the game: Some stuff happened, but Harper wasn't there, so what's the point?

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