Tag Archives: 2012

Weekend Hijinks: Why Baseball is Great

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE.  I’VE JUST BEEN HANDED A PIECE OF BREAKING NEWS: BASEBALL IS BACK AND IT IS AWESOME.

As I sit here watching the opening weekend of the new baseball season, I cannot help but think about how much I love this sport.  Fantasy baseball has only expanded this love, as now I actually have a reason to care about Willie Bloomquist’s day-to-day game log.  Fantasy baseball comes out somewhere around #115 on the list I have in my head of why baseball is great.  So in honor of the REAL opening day(s) (sorry, Japan), here are a smattering of reasons why baseball is great that are floating in my brain right now.  Enjoy.

#8,536,443,213,991

that’s Chewbacca.  On a pitcher’s mound.

#999,888,777,666 – Laughing at people who don’t get it.

#66 – The Lingo

If the name of our blog wasn’t a clue….

Baseball has a whole dialect, a whole different set of idioms, analogies and traditional phrases that simply don’t make sense.  I made this a general topic so it would include everything from home run calls to dugout talk because it is all great.

2 out hits get you to heaven.

#42 – BASEBALL CARDS!

In his day, he was a handsome man.

They’re going out of style, sort of, but man do I love baseball cards.  Every parent has a story about them.  Seriously, go ask.  They’re the only sports cards that are cool.

Do you know someone, old or young who collected baseball cards?  I’m sure you do.  Do you know anyone who isn’t a complete goof who collected another sports card?  They’re probably weird.  Just sayin’.

#24 – George Kenneth Griffey Jr.

This is meant to be a light and silly post, so I will not spend nearly the appropriate amount of time gushing about one of my favorite players in any sport of all time.  He was a joy to watch, both offensively and especially defensively in his heyday and brought such crazy goofy joy to the sport it was hard not to root for him.  He grinned like a kid every time he made one of his signature up-the-wall catches as if he was surprised by his agility too.  And damn, those catches.  You can see him narrate some of them in a cool MLB.com clip here.  Or MLB.com’s top ten memories here.  Or do a Google search to pull up any of his dozens of jaw-dropping web gems.  He also had one of the greatest baseball games of all time, for N64

classic classic classic

#13 – The Seventh Inning Stretch.

Mr. Caray loved his job

I feel this needs little explanation.  Do other sports take a break and have the whole stadium sing?  I rest my case.

#10 – Peter Gammons

the mustache presented without comment.

Peter Gammons is a national treasure.  I honestly cannot tell you a single negative thing I’ve heard about the guy.  He’s professional, witty, beyond knowledgeable and overall a nice, likable guy.  Oh, and he jams.  He is the baseball reporter reporters strive to be and has been for decades and is a constant in the sport.  So why doesn’t he have a theme song you ask? Oh wait, the fine Youtube user mhouchin created this gem:

Simply splendid.

#9 – Ted Williams (okay, Joe DiMaggio too)

I’m a baseball history junkie and these two players, any and all admitted bias aside, are simply two of the most fascinating men to ever play the game.  If you’ve never read Richard Ben Cramer’s book What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?  I’ve linked to it for you (click) so you can buy it on Amazon.  Just a revelation on what made Ted tick.  He is a truly unique and uniquely quotable man.  As for DiMaggio, it goes without saying you should learn about him.  From the streak to Marilyn Monroe to having this song written about him (and curiously called out by Simon and Garfunkel.  Joe’s response to Ms. Robinson? “I just did a Mr. Coffee commercial, I’m a spokesman for the Bowery Savings Bank and I haven’t gone anywhere!”  Heh.).  Joe DiMaggio lived a life most of us only dream about and both he and Williams were figureheads of the defining era of baseball, in my opinion.

#5 –   The Sandlot. More generally, baseball movies.

Without baseball, we would never have the greatest sports movie of all time.  We also wouldn’t have this one

Or this one

3 of my favorite quotable scenes of all time.  Thank you, baseball.

#2 – The Knuckleball

Other sports copy it.  Millions try to imitate it.  For me, there is something delightful about the pitch so few can throw.  It kind of makes them like Jedi.  It defies gravity and logic.  It also is my way of cheating and tying in Wiffle Ball into the discussion, as despite what history might say, I’m going to assume someone invented the Wiffle Ball in an attempt to recreate a knuckleball on a smaller scale.  That’s just what I’m choosing to believe.

I’ve sat here trying to think of another sports equivalent and am generally coming up empty.  What else is so odd, rare, yet effective as a knuckleball.  Well, this:

But that only matches in oddness.  Anyone can learn to shoot a free throw like that.  I bet you can’t throw a knuckleball.

#1 – The Fans

Awwww.  Will, you’re such a softie!  No, not exactly.  Baseball fans are such an interesting mix to me.  Some of the smartest minds in the world become complete buffoons when talking baseball and some of the biggest buffoons in the world can instantly make you feel small with their impeccable baseball knowledge.  With the emergence of sabermetrics and advanced statistics, the blending has become even more pronounced.  I don’t think other sports have the same diversity in types of players, employees, and fans.  One of my favorite examples is in Texas, where the Rangers spend millions on Latin players, have a GM who looks like he’s 16 who was a nerd at Cornell, and are owned by one of the most firery farmboy flamethrowers of all time.  There are plenty of things you could tell me are wrong with baseball, but the smash-up of cultures and personalities has always been (and hopefully will continue to be) what makes the sport so deeply fascinating to me, beyond even the game itself.

he owns a team, folks. and the guy getting whupped manages one.

There’s my smattering of reasons.  It is by no means a thorough list (The real list goes on and on in my head.).  To any readers and all people accidentally reading this page in the hopes of finding actual ducks on water, why do YOU like baseball so much?  Let us know in the comments or hit us up on Twitter.

Happy season, everyone.

-w

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Filed under About the Blog, Baseball, MLB, Posted, Random Thoughts, video, Weekend Hijinks

MLB Realignment – More is More

This post was originally published on the Emerson College Sports Business Society Website – but it’s genius must be shared

come at me, bro

In many ways, I think of myself as a baseball purist.  I have serious reservations about designated hitters.  I have a firm belief that Nolan Ryan is the only one who understands that regardless of what anyone says, there is nothing magical about that 100th pitch. Just get out there and throw, divas! The most exciting play in the game, for me, is watching a team react to a double-steal bunt.  So with the recent announcement that MLB will be expanding its playoffs, I found myself debating along with millions of other fans whether or not this was a good decision for the sport.

 

On one hand, part of what has made baseball’s playoffs impressive is the level of difficulty it takes to get there.  Unlike football or basketball (hockey doesn’t count because I’m pretty sure they let pee-wee teams into their playoffs until recently), where half of the teams routinely win their division and go to the playoffs, baseball has always been ruthless about who gets in.  They play by far the most games, grinding out victories for months, yet every year there is a team with ninety wins who is left watching from home.

As maddening as it could be for a fan, it’s also pretty cool.  However, this system has always been a double-edged sword, especially in more recent decades, as ballooning payrolls have created a more distinct “class system” among MLB teams.  While we all have every right to moan when a 7-9 team makes the NFL playoffs, the level of parity in football is unmatched in other sports.  The Pittsburgh Pirates, in all likelihood, will not make the playoffs in 2012.  They’re simply not very good.  In most sports, it’s pretty easy to tell which teams will probably be good. In baseball, more so than the other sports, it’s easy to tell, with some certainty, which teams are going to be bad.

Baseball’s playoff structure, while doing a good job of getting the best teams in, has gotten stale.  Nationally, ratings have been in steady decline and there is a general resentment/frustration with the same teams getting in every year (with the occasional oddball like those pesky Rays).  But as I lamented in my MLB Reboot pieces, baseball as an entity is very, very, very painfully stubborn.  And I am too.  I liked the old system and my initial reaction was trepidation.  If they’re not going to go with the widespread change I call for, I’m not one for tinkering.

this was never a good idea.

But that’s why we shouldn’t rush to judgment.  The more I read about and think over this change, the more I like it.  Even as I write this piece, I realize that no, the current Wild Card system is not fair.  The Wild Card is a ‘bonus’ spot.  They did not win a division.  Therefore, common-sensically (a lethal combination of hyphenating and making up words), making the Wild Card teams win an additional game to ‘deserve’ their advancement seems not only reasonable, but also logical.  Of course, the MLB will play up the drama of adding a built-in one-game playoff and there is truth in that notion.  But this decision ripples through baseball on a much broader scale for us as fans.  Maybe the Nationals will make a huge jump this year and sneak into a one-game playoff for the Wild Card.  Perhaps the new rule will jumpstart the Chicago Cubs (laughable).  As a Red Sox fan, though, this new system means only one thing: now we have to worry about those darn Blue Jays too.

 

-w

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Filed under Baseball, Cajones, MLB, Opinion, Random Thoughts

Catcher ADP: Hiding Beauty Like a Pair of Glasses in a Rom-Com

She’s All That (1999), but you already got that reference.

yeah, like we didn't know she was cute. C'MON. the glasses work for me. sigh. I miss the 90's sometimes. but only sometimes.

ADP is a beautiful, terrible thing.  We as humans love to rank things and it can cloud our judgement to see an arbitrary list.  ADP is an incredibly useful tool, as it pools and averages where others are taking players you might be thinking of taking.  You know and I know that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right.  ADP is a barometer, not law.  You know this, I know this… but that doesn’t mean every jabroney in your league knows that.  There’s at least one in every draft.  Someone who takes Chone Figgins in the 4th round.  Who asks if Martin Russell is still available.  Who tries to draft a retired player.  Even the smartest fantasy owners fall victim to ADP (Hand raised.  That sentence makes it sound like a virus).  Between the bimbos and the braniacs drafting with you, you’re all going to at one point rely on ADP as some kind of deciding/tie-breaking factor.  So here are some players not to forget about in 2012, as I’m betting they outperform their average draft positions.  Here’s to hoping ya’ll find your Rachel Leigh Cooks, you Freddie Prinze Jr.’s, you.

As always, much love to Mock Draft Central, where you can get all kinds of ADP reports by signing up.

CATCHER

Catcher is a tough position to read into ADP-wise.  Mock drafts reflect real leagues and they can have multiple catcher positions.  There’s a reason back-up catchers are back-ups- there’s a dropoff in quality in both  fantasy and reality when you get past your starting catcher.  That being said, ADP still reflects how people value a player, so it’s worthwhile to compare.  Buster Posey (59.7ADP) and Joe Mauer (79.9 ADP) might be the ‘names,’ but they’re injury risks, to say the least.  Wait a few rounds and grab Matt Wieters (97.8).  Better yet, wait an additional round and take Alex Avila (108.5).

Avila is a really good hitter.  He has an excellent Line Drive rate (21.7%).  He has a solid K:BB ratio (131:73), especially for a catcher.  And he has good “gap power”/ is a good “doubles hitter” – I’ll let you choose the saying you’re more comfortable with, they both mean the same thing to me.  He’s everything you should look for in a fantasy catcher – be reasonable, folks, don’t ask for more.  He’s also the last catcher I’d draft in the first 15 rounds.  Honestly.  The position is such a mix of uncertainty, over-rated-ness, and mediocrity that my feeling is if I don’t get a select few catchers in the first half of the draft at a value pick (meaning a round I feel comfortable in – I’m not taking Napoli in the 4th round, despite my affection for him).  Knowing that, there are plenty of players to target as you get down to you final picks who could yield  a big return as your starter.  Here’s a few I’d target as the draft(s) dwindle on…

Chris Iannetta (ANA)- ADP 238

having a large head also helps as a catcher

I don’t have any reason to always think on the upside of Ianetta.  Maybe it was those years of the Red Sox pursuing him.  Who knows.  Year after year though, I consider him (quietly) a sleeper.  His power is legitimate.  He’s a pretty good receiver and Mike Scioscia always gets good production from his catcher rotation (what Jeff Mathis? oh, shut up Jeff Mathis you’re bringing us all down.).  Kidding aside, Scioscia does understand the ins and outs of catching.  The question is whether Scioscia or the potential of a great lineup the Angels could trot out helps him more.  He has a good eye, has demonstrated power at every level and has never really had the opportunity to shine.  In the last few rounds, I’m giving him a shot.

Devin Mesoraco (CIN) – ADP 243.4

WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. WHOOOOAAAAAAAAAA. WHOOAAAAAAAAAA. FAAAAACE.

There is a reason he was not part of that Latos deal (and another prospect, Grandal, was)- the Reds think they have the real deal with Mesoraco (so does Keith Law).  He has what scouts like to toss around as an ‘advanced approach’ at the plate.  He has a strong arm.  In 5 minor league seasons he has demonstrated the ability to hit for a good combination of average and power.  Everything in the minors points to him being a starting catcher capable of hitting around .300 with 20 homers.  Toss into that mix that good eye and the ability to run a little bit (leading to doubles, not singles) and Mesoraco should be able to have a .850+ OPS.  In a good lineup, scoring a bunch of runs, that sounds like a very draftable catcher.  If you’d rather take Ryan Doumit (235), by all means do, I’ll be happy to snag Mesoraco as the draft closes and laugh when you are in that wonderful situation where Doumit is playing drop-ably bad and you have no viable alternative.  Just sayin’.

Ryan Lavarnway (BOS) – ADP 344.3  (listed as a DH on MDC)

20 bombs.

You may say I’m being a homer with this one.  You’re only partially right.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia actually showed a lot of promise for the Red Sox last year.  He posted a .215 ISO (measure of power, read about it) and seemed to grow a bit more comfortable as the season progressed.  That being said, he didn’t put up particularly exciting numbers, save for the power.  Lavarnway can match that power by every account.  He showed excellent power throughout the minors and looked powerful in his 43 AB for the Red Sox in 2011.  OK, that was a reach.  Hyperbole aside, Lavarnway seems to project as a similar type of player to Saltalamacchia in the worst case scenario.  Throw in Kelly Shoppach (hah.) and Jason Varitek (double hah.) and the question with the Red Sox becomes a matter of playing time.  If Lavarnway gets 350-400 AB, it is now unreasonable to see him hitting 15-18 homers, conservatively, with a better average than Salty (.235).  He’s worth a flier as a last pick of the draft in my book.

There you are, some ideas for Costco-priced catchers.  I did the thinking for you, all you have to do is remember.  Catchers are like relievers when it comes to drafting in my book – if you don’t get a sure thing early, move on and look for talent elsewhere.  It’s not worth extending yourself out of desperation to fill the catcher position on your roster just because you already have someone at another spot.  So hunt the bargain bin, look like a genius, and remember to tell your friends who told you to draft and start Lavarnway this year.

-w


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Filed under Baseball, catchers, Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Opinion, Posted, Sleepers

Great Piece (Amazingly) Not Written By Me…

 

READ THE ARTICLE HERE

Here’s a fantastic look into the new-look Marlins for 2012.  New stadium, new logo, new start.  Revision turned the Devil Rays into the Rays and goofballs into contenders.  This is a savvy move by the Marlins, let’s see if Florida eats it up.

pretty cool, if you ask me. click the image for a sweet webcam view.

 

Like I said, great piece from my associate over at ECSBS, outlining the changes.

 

Enjoy.

 

 ARTICLE AGAIN.

-w

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Filed under Baseball, MLB, offseason, Posted, Weekend Hijinks

Oakland’s Young Guns- Prospecting on the 2011 season

Jokes, people.

The Oakland A’s are a factory.  A factory of competent, mature pitchers who can hack it at the major league level.  Just look at the track record littered across the league.  Hudson, Zito, and Mulder (R.I.F.P. (fantasy peace)) were just the beginning.  New arms emerge every year so I’m going to take the time to explain why I think the current Oakland staff has the potential to be the next young dominant staff- all of them, 1 through 5, being fantasy relevant.  Did  I just blow your mind?  Probably not.  If you’re reading this site, you probably know a thing or two about major league baseball (I mean this in the sense that how else are you going to end up on our humble site?).  Seriously.  With some help from fangraphs and some prospecting resources (see, multiple meanings), I will show you the thinking behind my belief that the Oakland A’s have the potential to be a dominant fanatsy staff in 2011.

Trevor Cahill

Trevor Cahill has a 1.00 WHIP.  Let me type that again. Trevor Cahill, this goofy looking young’n (he’s 22!  Lawdy!).  OK talking like a prospector while discussing the pitchers was an annoying experiment that lasted the first line…  With a stellar .217 BABIPA (with a Fangraphs article to boot!)and an outstanding ground ball rate (55.9%), some statistical correction will likely occur (read; little- the kid is plain good).  A similar groundball pitcher, by the name of Tim Hudson, had a one year of goodness into next year excellent-ness.  Built differently but blessed with a similar ability to drive the ball to the bad part of hitters’ bats, Cahill is poised to have a heckuva 2011.  The K rate will never wow you (see Hudson, Tim again), but it won’t hurt and the kid has demonstrated the ability to get people out.  Consistently.  Consistency is what makes and breaks young pitching, just ask Clay Buchholz.

Brett Anderson

Let me preface anything I say about Anderson with this:  I love the guy.  I was wowed by his mastery over the Red Sox in ’09 and think he has ace stuff.  When healthy.  If Healthy.  And not too beefy.  He’s got great stuff.  Last season it appeared that Anderson got more comfortable with his stuff posting markedly better splits as the season went on (here), as his walks went down and K’s went up significantly.  He was burned by the Longball quite a bit to start the season (2009 that is) but also corrected that.  If not for injury this year, we would be talking about the emergence of quite the staff in Oakland in 2010.  Instead, I am talking about the potential greatness in 2011 and hoping I turn out to look like a wicked smart dude.  Anderson, like Cahill, has good groundball rates, as well as a high strand rate (which you can say is bad, but shows me that he has poise when he slips up), and has better strikeout potential than Cahill, as he has more whiff-inducing stuff.  I’m already marking him down as a sleeper for 2011 and he is on my fantasy draft board going forward.  Just sayin’.

Gio Gonzalez

Gio Gonzalez has unhittable stuff.  Unfortunately, as is often the case with outstanding Wiffle Ball pitchers and Lefties with nasty stuff, he sometimes has issue with control.  When he first got called up in 2008 he had 34 K’s in 34 innings.  You can’t fudge those type of numbers.  He also, however, had 25 walks.  Not so good.  The next year he did better with the K’s/Walks but had big time issues with the homer.  I mean unless you think you can win a game giving up 1.28 homers per 9 innings (14 with 17 Starts, 20 appearances. Just think about that likelihood).  He has big time stuff, remember, so it’s just a matter of time before things click.  Things are clicking.  Though he has the occasional hiccup, this year has been a major step forward for Gonzalez.  He has been characteristically unhittable (.224 BAA) and strikes out folks in bunches (134 in 161 IP).  He will always walk a bunch and I don’t mean to say his WHIP will suddenly drop.  But if you can live with the walks (you can, I swear) and a 1.25-1.35 WHIP with a bunch of K’s, Gio Gonzalez is a very interesting play for next year as he continues his progression.

Vin Mazzaro

Vinnie is also a young man (hence his inclusion in the post, I suppose) on a learning curve, from Hackensack, NJ (it’s a real place I checked).  The point of this collection of arms is that they are on the Oakland-quick program.  Mazzaro went through some growing pains this season and last but check out his July and August stats this year.  He’s been an excellent pitcher.  He is nothing short of ordinary.  He has good stuff and gets the job done with a good K/9.  Mazzaro’s big issue, for the way he pitches, is walks.  If he can keep his BB/9 closer to 2 than 3, he can keep his WHIP around 1.2-1.3 and be a very serviceable pitcher going forward.  And, let us not forget, he is only 23.  That means everything I say could be moot as he makes the jump when he turns 24.  I’m just being more cautious in his development, banking on another year of up and down before he puts it all together- but if I’m wrong, I’m right, and this post about the future-great A’s looks even better.  Pretty clever on my part, I think.  Mazzaro is a name to remember next year to watch and see if he gets off to a hot start, again, he’s only a young’n.

Tyson Ross/ Fautino De Los Santos

Ross is another guy like Mazzaro- good stuff, hasn’t been special with mediocre K:BB numbers despite good overall numbers.  This is typical of good young pitchers (it is.  just look it up.  better yet, read about Jon Lester’s first few years).  As he matures, Ross figures to move from the bullpen and become another solid starter, I just don’t know if that’ll be in 2011 or 2012.  He’ll be in the mix in 2011 so watch out, though I still say Mazzaro’s Majors experience puts him well ahead this prospect.  Santos is more interesting.  From what I read (and here is an OUTSTANDING article on him), with a few minor tweaks to his delivery after major surgery, Santos has a simply electric fastball/slider/slurve combination.  The question is whether or not he can withstand being a starter after his injury.  I’m guessing they give him a shot at both in 2011 so he could be a name to keep floating around in your brainspace (or write it down if you’re cramped for space or have a small brain).  Both are among the several names I’ve come across as pitching prospects for the 2011 season and I give Ross the upper hand, simply because he is ahead in the timetable.

But what do I know?

There you have it folks, the young guns of the A’s.  Look out for them next year, I’m thinking they make a big step in both pitching and hitting, with Carter and the other Weeks brother on the way.

that’s all, enjoy the black keys:

-w

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