Inception: The National Pastime Is The Scene Of The Crime

  • Tuesday, August 3, 2010 5:31 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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So I finally got around to seeing Inception. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but since this isn't a movie blog, I'll leave an in-depth review to the professionals.

For anyone who doesn't know, the movie's title refers to the act (a critical plot point) of planting an idea deep within a person's subconscious, through dream manipulation. The goal is to have the person then produce that idea in a seemingly natural way, as if it is their own.

If I somehow came into possession of such an ability, like Leonardo DiCaprio's Dom Cobb, I probably would turn it on something closer to my heart than corporate espionage. If you haven't guessed already, that would be baseball. Let's face it -- there are some concepts in baseball that people within the game cannot seem to get through their skulls, no matter how logical. But what if, with your cliched heist team, you could invade the dreams of GMs, managers, writers, etc., and plant the seed that would make them realize (for example) that wins are a terrible way of evaluating pitcher performance? It wouldn't be as cool as, say, fighting a dude in an anti-gravity hotel hallway. But it would still be satisfying.

So everyone sit back, relax and make sure your totems are handy. Here is our dossier with a list of preliminary objectives:

Target: Producers at media outlets, such as MLB Network
Idea: Let's stop giving a pitcher's stats against a specific opposing team as if that's important information.
Background: I watch MLB Network a lot, and I love it. For one thing, there is 100 percent less John Kruk. On the other hand, there is 100 percent more Dan Plesac, but life is full of trade-offs. Anyway, in reference to a game the next day, you often the host say something like, "Freddy Garcia has owned the Tigers in his career, compiling an 18-6 mark against them." While true, this tells us almost nothing about what we can expect from Garcia in this start. This is not difficult to grasp. For one thing, Garcia in 2010 is a different pitcher than in any other year of his career. For another thing, rosters change so much these days that the Tigers as we know them now are wildly different from the Tigers even a few years ago. The Tigers of April 28, 1999, (Garcia's first career start against Detroit) featured no players still with the organization and only one (Brad Ausmus) who is still even an active MLB player. Even if the roster was the same, all of the Detroit players would be totally different than they were in 1999 anyways. So considering that game as part of a group of games through which to evaluate the White Sox' chances against the Tigers on Thursday is insane. And in most cases when people do this, the sample size of innings is small enough to be largely meaningless. Let's save our breath.

Target: Baseball fans
Idea: "The Wave" is dumb.
Background: There are many ways to be entertained, cheer and support your team at a baseball game. The Wave is one of the worst. It has no meaning and only serves to annoy when it comes around just as a pitch is being thrown, leaving you with the choice to either miss the action or take part in a ridiculous ritual just so you can see. Figure out some other way to achieve whatever it is The Wave does for you.

Target: Albert Pujols
Idea: I should remain with the St. Louis Cardinals for the rest of my career, in return for a fair salary that is affordable for the team without preventing its front office from acquiring other talented players.
Background: Pujols' contract expires after this season (St. Louis holds a 2011 team option for $16 million, which even a complete lunatic would exercise). If he does not sign a new deal with the Cards, a certain blogger who occasionally uses popular movies as a gimmick for posts might throw himself off a bridge. He undoubtedly wouldn't be the only one.

There are so many other potential targets for inception out there: Frank and Jamie McCourt, any number of mostly incompetent general managers, people in charge of the music and concessions at stadiums, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who base their MVP voting largely on RBI totals, and announcers who use the term "fisted" to describe a weak hit off the handle of a bat. But an architect can design only so many realistic dreamscapes at a time, so we'll have to pace ourselves.

In the meantime, any other suggestions?

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2010 Preview: Chicago White Sox

  • Wednesday, March 17, 2010 6:29 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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2009: 79-83, 3rd in AL Central. Pythagorean record of 80-82.
Key Additions: 3B Mark Teahen, OFs Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre, RP J.J. Putz
Key Losses: OFs Jermaine Dye and Scott Podsednik, DH Jim Thome, 2B Chris Getz, RP Octavio Dotel
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 79-83, 2nd in AL Central. CHONE – 79-83, 3rd. CAIRO – 81.8-80.2, 2nd

Pitching: 2009 – 4.21 FIP (11th in MLB), 4.35 for starters, 3.92 for relievers
2010 – A full season of Jake Peavy will provide a boost. Freddy Garcia, trying to rebuild his career, apparently is in line to be the fifth starter after posting a 3.35 FIP in nine starts late last season.
Hitting: 2009 – .325 wOBA (18th in MLB)
2010 – Starting Juan Pierre (especially in the leadoff spot) means giving away a lot of outs. Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin have a lot to prove. 23-year-old Gordon Beckham looks like a star.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of -35.6 (27th in MLB)
2010 – Replacing Dye with Pierre will be a huge help, as even though Pierre can't throw at all, at least he can move around out there. Rios will have to man center field, a position he's played much less than right in his career. Beckham, a natural shortstop, is now at second base after playing third all of last year.

Reasons to Watch
1. Ozzie Guillen: Managers are normally pretty boring, but Guillen is the most notable exception. You just never know what the guy might say (or tweet). Of course, he can sometimes step over the line, but in general I think the game is better off for having a few loose cannons around.
2. Quentin and Rios: The Sox are counting on these two to provide some offensive firepower this season after a rough 2009. Rios hit .247/.296/.395 with Toronto and Chicago last season, while Quentin hit .236/.323/.456 while playing only 99 games due to injuries. If they repeat those types of performances, the Sox likely will be on the outside looking in at the playoffs again.
3. J.J. Putz: From year to year, you generally can rely on relief pitchers about as much as you can on Guillen being quiet. Enter Putz, whose FIP has risen three straight seasons, culminating in last year's 4.19 mark (to go with a 5.22 ERA) in 29 appearances in his first season with the Mets. But he figures to play a major role in the Sox pen this year if healthy now that Octavio Dotel is gone.

Paint By Numbers:John Danks' 14.9 percent line drive rate was the lowest of any qualified pitcher last season, helping to explain his .273 BABIP, which was ninth-lowest. Danks' line drive rates the previous two years were 19.4 percent and 21.8 percent. ... Just how much of a drain was Jermaine Dye on Chicago's outfield defense? His -20.0 UZR in right last season was the third-worst mark of any player at any position. UZR can be fickle from year to year, but this was no fluke. It was Dye's fourth straight season with a RF UZR of worse than -19, which is pretty astonishing. ... Something to keep in mind if Juan Pierre is hitting leadoff on a regular basis: The No. 1 goal in baseball is to avoid making outs, and Pierre is an out-making machine. As an every-day leadoff man, he led MLB in outs made in both 2003 and 2006. His 532 outs in '06 with the Cubs is the second-highest mark in the National League in the past 27 years.

Blog Jog: Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs tries to reconcile Alexei Ramirez' very different 2008 and 2009 seasons. ... Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago discusses Jake Peavy's spring debut. ... Anthony Mazzuca of the Futuresox blogprovides the transcript of a conference call with Assistant GM Rick Hahn. ... Jim Margalus of Sox Machine likes the idea of letting Daniel Hudson pitch as a starter in the Minors to begin the season, rather than as a reliever in the big leagues.

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