May 21, 2013
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Friday, July 27, 2012
We are now pretty deep into the 2012 baseball season, and while there's been plenty of action on and off the field, there is one fairly common event that we have not yet seen. To date, not one major-league manager has been fired. Judging subjectively by the flow of reportage and rumor, there aren't even any managers on the "hot seat" right now, wondering if they'll make their team's next road trip.
How often does the full complement of managers last this deep into a season? Not too often. We're currently at just about 100 games for the season. This table shows how many managers were fired (or resigned) in the first 100 games of each season of the new millennium. (Note: I'm one of those math geeks who still insists the 21st century began in 2001, not 2000.)
Year '11 '10 '09 '08 '07 '06 '05 '04 '03 '02 '01 Firings by 100 3 4 3 3 3 0 2 2 1 7 4
(Three of the seven 2002 departures came within 22 games. Impatience was at a premium that year.)
Not only did 2006 have no firings by the 100-game mark, it had no midseason firings at all. For the years that did, here are the earliest firings each season. Numbers in parentheses are how many games the team played before the firing.
2011: Bob Geren, A's (63)
2010: Trey Hillman, Royals (35)
2009: Bob Melvin, D-Backs (29)
2008: Willie Randolph, Mets (69)
2007: Sam Perlozzo, Orioles (69)
2005: Dave Miley, Reds (70) [Royals manager Tony Pena resigned after only 33 games.]
2004: Bob Brenly, D-Backs (79)
2003: Jeff Torborg, Marlins, (38)
2002: Phil Garner, Tigers (6) [Ouch.]
2001: Larry Rothschild, Devil Rays (14)
In case you're wondering, both 2000 and 1999 had no firings by this point in the season. 2000 matched 2006 in having no midseason house-cleanings at all, while 1999 saw three in the final two months.
Will 2012 be one of those periodic seasons where all the managers get a full 162 games? With the added wild cards in the mix, we currently have very few teams that both are seriously under-performing expectations and are out of the playoff race. Obvious scapegoats are not too common, and there aren't any notable groundswells for axing a particular manager. If you made me bet one way or the other, I'd say we're going to make it to October with the 30 we had in March.
And now that I'm committed, I just know Ozzie Guillen is going to say something outrageous in the next week ...
Matt Harvey made his much-anticipated debut Thursday on the road against Arizona. The Mets spotted him with two runs in the top of the first and Harvey had no intention of letting the D-backs back in. He struck out Gerardo Parra with a slider, down and in, to begin his major league career. Aaron Hill then followed with a fly out to center. Harvey conceded an infield single to Jason Kubel before getting Paul Goldschmidt looking on a fastball on the outside black to end the frame.
Harvey got two more D-backs swinging in the second and followed that up with three punch-outs in the third for a total of seven. After another three strikeouts in the fourth and fifth innings, Harvey took the mound for the sixth. He went walk, strikeout, walk and Terry Collins emerged from the dugout to remove Harvey from the game in favor of Josh Edgin, who quickly got the final two outs to keep Harvey’s shutout intact.
In total, Harvey struck out 11 batters, conceded three walks, allowing a double and two singles—one of which was an infield hit—in 5.1 innings. His 11 strikeouts were the most by a pitcher in a major league debut since Stephen Strasburg struck out 14 against Pittsburgh in 2010. He even added two hits of his own at the plate. Perhaps the only knock on his performance was that his pitch total of 106 was far from economical.
Harvey relied heavily on his four-seam fastball, throwing it 72 times. The pitch averaged 94.9 mph, touching 98, and garnered 13 swinging strikes. He used a slider as his primary off-speed pitch, riding it to another five swings and misses. He also mixed in a change-up and curveball sparsely, but on this night he was mostly a two-pitch man.
Harvey's four-seam fastball PITCHf/x plot
He lived up in the zone and above the zone with his fastball, throwing 24 fastballs out of the strike zone high, according to PITCHf/x, while throwing just four below the strike zone, all barely missing low. Hitters couldn’t lay off those high mid-to-high 90s heaters, as Harvey used the pitch to complete eight of his 11 strikeouts, six of which were swinging, and five of which were at or above the batter’s belt.
And his sliders...
The slider was used on his other three punch-outs. He primarily used the pitch against lefties, throwing it 15 times (27.8 percent) against them, versus eight (15.4 percent) against righties, recording two of those strikeouts against lefty Gerardo Parra and one against Justin Upton. The location of the pitch was similar to both righties and lefties—down and away to righties and down and in to lefties.
At six and a half games out of the final Wild Card spot, the Mets aren’t likely to make a push for the playoffs this season. But, what Matt Harvey did last night should give Mets fans, and baseball fans in general, a reason to keep watching. His fastball was explosive; only three pitchers, Stephen Strasburg, David Price and Jeff Samardzija are averaging a higher velocity than what Harvey sat at on Thursday night. His slider was very good as well, and his overall performance was pretty special.
He won’t be this good every start, but he has the talent to put starts like this together from time to time. And for that reason, Harvey could become one of the game's must-watch starting pitchers.
Blue Jays 10, Athletics 4: Backatcha, Athletics. A night after the A's slammed the Jays, Edwin Encarnacion hit a three-run homer to lead the charge for Toronto, ending the A's seven game winning streak. This came after the A's took a 3-0 lead, so nice moxie by the Blue Jays there.
Mets 3, Diamondbacks 1: Matt Harvey's debut went swimmingly: 5 1/3 scoreless innings and 11 strikeouts for the Mets' 2010 first round pick. He also had a double and a single.
Indians 5, Tigers 3: Justin Verlander was cruising along nicely until he hit the seventh inning and the Indians hit him. Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner homered off the reigning MVPYOUNG Award winner to lead of the seventh and the Tribe posted four runs in that inning to put 'em over.
Cardinals 7, Dodgers 4: The Cardinals rattled off 18 hits, three each coming from David Freese and Matt Carpenter. It would be rather delicious if the Dodgers' trade for Hanley Ramirez coincided with them skidding out of the race.
Orioles 6, Rays 2: Anyone who knows what happened to James Shields this year, please contact the Tampa Bay Rays. Shields struck out ten in six innings -- that's good! -- but he also allowed five runs on six hits while walking five -- that's bad! Chris Davis homered and drove in four. That's good! But the hot dogs at Camden Yards contained contain potassium benzoate ......... That's bad.
Pirates 5, Astros 3: A.J. Burnett just keeps on humming along. He allowed two runs in seven and a third and won his 12th game of the year. Of course, this coming against the Astros, I suppose the curve they're graded on means that those two runs should count as five or six.
Nationals 8, Brewers 2: Edwin Jackson scattered eight hits over seven seven shutout innings and the Brewers' woes continue. But hey, bright side: no blown save last night.
Mariners 4, Royals 1: Jason Vargas has been a bright spot for Seattle this year. He notched his 11th win while allowing only one run on one hit over eight.
5,000 days ago, a rather one-sided trade took place. Admittedly, both sides got a good player in it, but one guy’s value was more than a little bit higher than what the other guy brought to the table.
It was Nov. 18, 1998, and the Indians landed Pittsburgh reliever Ricardo Rincon for up-and-coming slugger Brian Giles.
Now, Ricardo Rincon was a quality pitcher in the bullpen. After he spent seven years in Mexico, the Pirates picked him up and got a pair good seasons of middle relief from him. And he had a number of good seasons in front of him.
Though Rincon could pitch, he couldn’t pitch much. A LOOGY, Rincon threw 443.2 innings in 565 career appearances with five teams over 11 years. He typically threw 40 innings per season. And with that little quantity, you didn’t trade away quality like Brian Giles.
In his first year in Pittsburgh, 28-year-old Brian Giles came into his own, hitting 39 homers with 115 RBIs while batting .315. Oh, he also drew 95 walks. That set the tone for Giles in Pittsburgh. In four full seasons and part of a fifth, Giles batted .308 with 165 home runs. Giles received MVP support in each of his four full seasons there.
While the trade didn’t work out for Cleveland, you can understand the Indians' logic. Giles was a late bloomer whose 10th big league at-bat came when he was 25 years old. In 1997-98, Giles got serious playing time, and while he was good he wasn’t great. At ages 26 and 27 he hit a little under .270 with about 20 homers. He was nice, but that was it.
And the team already had guys who could hit. Manny Ramirez. Jim Thome. Yeah, they could hit a little. David Justice. Kenny Lofton. They had their advantages, too. Heck, even Travis Fryman had a good track record. Plus they had another kid coming up named Richie Sexson.
But they could use some help in the bullpen. Their only left-handed reliever of note was Paul Assenmacher. He was very good for a great many years, but he was going to be 39 in 1999. He couldn’t last forever—and in fact he fell apart completely in 1999. And Rincon was a legitimately good LOOGY.
So Cleveland dealt a strength to address a weakness. That’s just sound baseball logic right there. But it came off looking like a terrible trade when Giles suddenly metamorphasized from a good hitter to an MVP candidate.
Thus the trade is one Cleveland would probably like to have back. But it’s too late—5,000 days too late, to be precise.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their “day-versary” or anniversary. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through things.
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