December 12, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Let’s discuss the THT Annual (7)
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Leverage Index by inning (4)
Nationals make great deal for Fister (2)
Transaction Analysis Lightning Round: Pierzynski, Nathan, Ellsbury, and more (1)
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Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Braves 7, Reds 4: The Braves weren't going to be able to maintain any sort of momentum if the offense was all Justin Upton -- who can't do it alone -- and Evan Gattis -- who is, after all, a rookie. Last night they had help from Andrelton Simmons who hit two bombs and drove in four.
White Sox 2, Royals 1: James Shields was brilliant for eight innings. Ned Yost didn't let him come out for the ninth, though, going with his closer with a 1-0 lead. His closer blew it and eventually the Royals lost the game. Yost's explanation for why he didn't send Shields out to finish his shutout:
"Everybody has their job to do and Shields had done his," Yost said. "He threw eight shutout innings. It was a one-run game. The runs make all the difference. If it was a two-run or a three-run lead, yeah. But in a one-run game, (if) you send him out he's either going to win it or lose it. You let the closer go out and try to do his job."
It'd be one thing to simply sit back and second guess Yost. If it had worked, great. But that explanation would be brain dead even if Greg Holland had struck out the side and gotten the save. Yost is clearly saying here that he's letting bullpen roles dictate his moves. He has a closer, dadgummit, and he's going to let him close. It'd be one thing if Shields was tired. Or if the guys coming up had historic success against Shields and he didn't want to press his luck. But no, Yost's thinking is "you use this guy in the ninth inning and it is the ninth inning, so ..." Which is just enraging.
Cubs 9, Rangers 2: Scott Feldman threw seven scoreless against his old teammates. He came out though due to a cramp in his hand. Not because Ned Yost called Dale Sveum and told him he should go with this eighth inning guy.
Indians 7, Athletics 3: Man, Mark Reynolds hit that one a long, long way. It was his 10th homer. He's now hitting .296/.363/.622.
Diamondbacks 9, Dodgers 2: I wonder if, on a mutual off day, Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia go boat shopping together. Trevor Cahill allowed two runs and six hits in six innings. Also had a two-run triple.
Red Sox 6, Twins 5: Minnesota had a 3-0 lead at one point but the Sox chipped away, scoring one run in every inning between the fourth and the eighth. Then Stephen Drew, who had four hits on the night, hit a walkoff double with two outs in the 11th. Clay Buchholz gave up four runs on seven hits in four innings and his forearm wasn't glistening nearly as much in this game. Hurm.
Padres 5, Marlins 0: I guess the 14 runs the Marlins scored on Sunday were meant to last them for the week. Andrew Cashner shut 'em out into the eighth inning for his longest start of his career.
Blue Jays 8, Rays 7: Toronto was down 7-0 after three and had pulled to within two by the ninth. Then came a two-run, two-out homer from J.P. Arencibia off Fernando Rodney, who was trying for a five-out save. Maybe someone should have called Ned Yost and talked about what the closer's job description was. Colby Rasmus and Mark DeRosa also hit two-run homers.
Phillies 6, Giants 2: Cliff Lee was solid for eight innings, Michael Young had three hits and drove in two and this, dadgummit, is how it was supposed to look for Philly. The Giants' win streak ends at six.
The 2012 Josh Donaldson seems like Billy Beane's offseason hopes coming true: a player the organization had high hopes for helping out during a playoff run. A former first-round pick and catching prospect with the Cubs who came to Oakland in the Rich Harden trade way back in 2008, Donaldson displayed skills that made it understandable why he'd fit into the Bay Area. He walked a good amount, struck out a good amount, hit for decent power, and was defensively strong and versatile. Despite just a .241/.289/.398 slash line (good for a 90 wRC+), Donaldson played a stellar third base (5.5 runs added in just 75 games) and totaled 1.5 WAR, a solid contribution from a low-salary player on the fringes of the 25-man roster.
The 2013 Josh Donaldson is Billy Beane's wildest dreams coming true: a player the organization had high hopes for really figuring it out. At a time when Josh Reddick (.241 wOBA), Chris Young (.289 wOBA), and Eric Sogard (.268 wOBA) are all struggling at the plate, Donaldson is one of a handful of surprising Oakland hitters stepping up in a big way. The right-handed hitter is hitting .303/.387/.487, good for a 143 wRC+. His .380 wOBA is fourth among all third basemen in the major leagues, ahead of the likes of Pablo Sandoval, Adrian Beltre, Will Middlebrooks, and Manny Machado.
His defense isn't as great as it was last year (according to UZR), but he's still in the top third of all third basemen. This from a guy who hit .238 at 24 years old in the immensely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Driving Donaldson's success is his high walk rate, which jumped from 4.8 percent last season to 12.4 thus far this year. It isn't too much a surprise, given he had rates of 18.3 percent in Low-A ball, 14.8 in Double-A, and 12.9 in Triple-A; still, that puts him ahead of Miguel Cabrera among all third basemen (trailing only David Wright). Donaldson is a perfect microcosm of the A's as a whole. No real superstars, but solid hitters up and down the lineup. Their shortstop has a .386 wOBA. Their center fielder is at .402. Both their catchers are above average hitters.
There's a subtle but discernible meme out there that the Athletics have reworked their earlier Moneyball philosophy by focusing on defense, speed, and other supposed market inefficiencies, jettisoning their early 2000s approach of Three True Outcomes in favor of a nimble outfield and a higher batting average. That couldn't be further from the truth.
In fact, the current installment has higher strikeout and walk rates than the 2002 version, as well as just as poor defense (a team total of -12.8 UZR so far this year, the worst in baseball). The A's team walk rate is first in baseball, and the difference between them and the second team (Boston) is the same as the difference between Boston and the ninth overall team (Colorado).
Some people think the Moneyball strategy was idiosyncratic, a formula that would not work today. But homers and walks are still valuable, and there's no indication of their decline. In fact, in lower run scoring environments, they're as important as ever. Josh Donaldson is the new Scott Hatteberg.
Ninety years ago today, Casey Stengel completely lost his composure on the ball field.
Everyone has heard of Stengel, but the popular image of him is entirely that of a manager. That makes sense, as he won ten pennants in 12 seasons helming the Yankees, including the unprecedented trick of five straight world titles from 1949 to 1953.
Besides, he had this great folksy, artfully incoherent manner about him that made him colorful and quotable. When I say “artfully incoherent,” I mean that literally. Sportswriter Leonard Koppett once noted that Stengel’s habit of doubletalk was largely an act. It forced the listener to pay closer attention and could get Stengel out of situations through sheer “huh?”-ness.
For example, when he spoke before the US Senate about baseball’s anti-trust exemption, his thoughts were so impossible to follow that Mickey Mantle brought the house down by following up Stengel’s testimony with the great deadpan one-liner, “My views are about the same as Casey’s on this manner.”
Anyhow, when we think of Stengel, we think of the manager. But, of course, before then he’d been a player. Like many managers, he’d been a feisty son of a gun as a player. That makes sense because, if you’re not going to be passionate about wins and losses when you’re in the game, how can you keep that level of interest up as you age and your blood cools? Similarly, a young Tommy Lasorda was always a fighter, and the lovable persona he developed only came later.
But never was Stengel as ornery or as feisty as he was on May 7, 1923, 90 years ago today. Hell, ornery and feisty are far too mild words. Ballistic is more like it.
Stengel was a 32-year-old outfielder nearing the end of his career playing for John McGraw’s Giants against the typically sad-sack Phillies in Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl.
Early on, it looked like a wonderful day for Stengel and his teammates. In the top of the first, they pulverized starting Phillies pitcher, Lee Meadows. They chased him from the game before he recorded a single out. Six up and six in, including Stengel, who singled in teammate Frankie Frisch and then scored himself moments later on Ross Youngs’ double.
So far, so good.
But a few innings later, Stengel came up again, and things went completely off the rails. By this time a southpaw, Lefty Weinert, was on the mound for Philly. When Stengel came up, Weinert threw one right at him, decking him.
Clearly, Stengel thought it was intentional, because he went after Weinert. Stengel didn’t just go after him, though. First he threw his bat at the pitcher, and then went for the mound. Benches clear and all hell broke loose, but Stengel couldn’t be calmed down. Eventually, two of Philadelphia’s finest came on the field and arrested Stengel, walking him off in handcuffs.
Stengel soon would be released, but he did earn a suspension. My source says it was a 10-game suspension, but he didn’t play until June 2. Then again, maybe McGraw was upset with Stengel. Because even when Stengel returned, he didn’t actually start a game until July 12 after serving for nearly six weeks as a pinch hitter.
Oh, Weinert was thumbed for the fight, as well. There was no suspension for him, though. He played again four days later.
What happened? Was Weinert doing some payback for the first-inning rally? Then why choose Stengel? There were at least three extra-base hits that inning, and Stengel just singled?
Was there some bad blood between them? Stengel had been a teammate of Weinert’s on the Phillies in 1920-21. If this incident tells us anything, it’s that they weren’t best buddies. (Or they were, and Stengel was therefore that much more irate at the beaning).
Looking it up, this was the sixth time that Weinert had pitched against the Giants since Stengel had been traded there from the Phillies. Stengel had appeared in two of those games but never matched up against Weinert. In on case he pinch-hit for a pitcher in the bottom of the sixth, and Weinert pitched in the eighth. The other time, Weinert faced just one batter—the last Giants batter in a 13-inning game—and Stengel should’ve been the man up immediately prior to that.
So this was the first time Weinert ever faced Stengel since they had ceased to be teammates—and he threw a fastball right at him. No, it doesn’t sound like they got along as teammates, and it looks like this was Weinert’s first chance to nail Stengel, and Stengel knew it and went crazy.
That’s as near as I can tell just by looking at the gamelogs. Whatever the rationale behind it, Stengel was as upset as he’s even been on the baseball field, and it was 90 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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