December 6, 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)
10th anniversary: the A.J. Pierzynski trade (15)
It’s The Hardball Times Annual 2014 (8)
25th anniversary: Rob Neyer writes a letter (4)
Putting the knock on pitching changes (2)
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Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Dodgers 2, Padres 1: Welcome to the bigs Yasiel Puig. In his first game Puig had two hits and then in the ninth he made a catch at the wall and then a strong throw to first to double off Chris Donorfia to end the game. This guy has the chance to be something special.
Yankees 7, Indians 4: Mark Teixeira is paying dividends already, hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the third. Andy Pettitte made his return from the disabled list too. It wasn't so hot -- he gave up four runs on seven hits and walked three in four and two-thirds -- but four relievers held the Tribe scoreless the rest of the way.
Phillies 7, Marlins 2: May NL Player of the Month Domonic Brown homers again in the course of a 3 for 4 night. Kyle Kendrick tossed a complete game.
Astros 2, Angels 1: The Astros remain hot, winning their sixth straight and completing a sweep of the Angels. Not to take anything away from Houston, but the Angels have no business being talked about as a "disappointment" after this series, for that implies that they're better than they're showing. They have to face facts and realize that they simply stink.
Braves 7, Pirates 2: Brian McCann gets a two-run homer! Jason Heyward gets a two-run homer! Freddie Freeman gets a two-run homer! Everyone is getting two-run homers! [crowd screams]
Reds 3, Rockies 0: For the third time in four games the Reds shut their opponent out. This time it was Bronson Arroyo going eight innings and Aroldis Chapman closing it out. Jay Bruce hit a homer.
Mariners 4, White Sox 2: Raul Ibanez hit a homer in a 13-pitch at bat in the third inning. John Danks' explanation as to what happened? "I just ran out of ideas." Heh. The White Sox are a hot mess, having dropped seven straight.
Athletics 10, Brewers 2: Viva pitchers batting: Tommy Milone went 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Coco Crisp had four hits including a leadoff homer. The A's stay red hot, winners of 15 of 17.
Cardinals 7, Diamondbacks 1: Homers from Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran and seven strong innings from Lance Lynn. I'm going to assume Molina's homer was the answer to his bogus one-game suspension.
25 years ago, a team suffered one of the hardest, roughest and worst losses in an otherwise meaningless regular season game. I guess you could flip it around and say a team won a game in an amazing and tremendous manner, but that wouldn’t be appropriate. This was a game decided not because the winning team made a brilliant play, but because the losing team completely screwed up. That’s why it’s such a horrible loss instead of a wonderful win.
It was June 4, 1988 when the Baltimore Orioles hosted the New York Yankees in Memorial Stadium.
The early going was fairly typical. The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the first, but Baltimore soon fought back to a 3-1 advantage. That’s how it stood for several innings, until the Yankees scored once in the seventh to make it close, and again in the ninth to tie it up, 3-3. Extra innings beckoned.
In the 10th inning, it looked like the Yankees put it away when Jack Clark smacked a solo home run for a 4-3 lead. However, the Orioles fought back with a single, walk and double to score a run and tie it at four even. The game soldiered on.
Both teams had scoring chances, especially the Orioles. While they tied it in the 10th, they left the game-winning run on third. They also left a runner on third in the 11th and 12th, which the Baltimore fans must’ve found maddening.
Eventually, someone was going to break through—and it turned out to be the Yankees in the top of he 14th. They led off the inning with three singles and a walk to give them a commanding 6-4 lead. It could’ve been even more, but infielder Bob Meacham grounded into a double play, ending the inning. Now all the Yankees had to do was prevent the Orioles from scoring at least two runs before they made three outs. That shouldn’t be too difficult, given that the Orioles had scored just one run in their last 30 outs.
But the Yankees would botch things up but good in the bottom of the 14th.
First Rick Schu hit a routine grounder to third. Unfortunately for New York, third baseman Mike Pagliarulo couldn’t wrangle it, and Schu was safe at first on the error. That’s not the way you want to start the inning.
Making it even worse, up next infielder Rene Gonzalez singled, putting the tying runner on. Yankees reliever Hipolito Pena walked Billy Ripken, the potential winning run. None of this was going according to Yankee hopes. But Pena bore down, and with the bases loaded and none out, took just seven pitches to strike out the next two Baltimore players.
Now things looked great for the Yankees. WPA gave them an 83 percent chance to win. There was one downside, though—coming up next was the hitter New York least wanted to see at the plate, star shortstop Cal Ripken.
He worked the count, fouling a few off, and taking others for balls, to make it a full count. Now the runners would be going and a seeing-eye grounder could tie the game by driving in a pair of runs. A hard-hit ball to the gap could clear the bases and win it for Baltimore. There must have been a tension and energy among the remnants of the 36,000 fans who had stuck through the nearly six hours of game.
How disappointed they must’ve felt on the next pitch. Ripken swung and connected—but he hit an easy grounder to Pagliarulo at third. Ohhhh, rats. That should end the game with a Yankees victory.
But this just wasn’t Pagliarulo’s inning. He’d already muffed a grounder, and now he badly blew a throw. Instead of throwing the runner out, he threw it away. Into the outfield the ball went. The first run scored easily, and the second guy came around without any problem. Again, it helps that runners were going with the bases loaded.
But guess what? Since runners were going and the throw was that bad, even Billy Ripken managed to dash all the way home. When Ripken hit it to Pagliarulo, it looked like it would end the game, and sure enough that was the case. But it was a game-ending walk-off three-run error for a 7-6 Orioles win.
A three-run walk-off error is a rare thing. It happens less than once a decade. But it happened here—in the 14th inning no less—25 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
Click for more...
All stats are as of Sunday, June 2
Living in New York, I am often subjected to sports talk radio. As I'm sure most people know, the New York media love controversy. This being said, one thing the talking heads have been discussing more than anything else is Mets first baseman Ike Davis and the possibility of him being demoted to the minors.
Davis, 26, is hitting .168/.245/.272 (.230 wOBA, 44 wRC+) in 177 plate appearances. As a team that is currently in transition and is still trying to figure out its core, the Mets have to be disappointed in Davis so far.
After strong and injury-plagued 2010 and 2011 campaigns, respectively, Davis struggled out of the gate in 2012 (.178/.228/.296 in first 171 PAs) and by the end of May there were talks of him being sent to Triple-A Buffalo. However, he quickly turned it around and from June 1 on, he hit .253/.341/.536 and finished the year with 32 homers. With a very good last four months, it seemed safe to think Davis would continue to hit in 2013.
It seems like deja vu because of what happened last year. However, although the slash lines are similar, there seems to be a little bit more swing and miss in his game. He's striking out in almost one-third of his plate appearances, while swinging and missing on 13.4 percent of the pitches he sees. It's kind of crazy to see a player struggle so mightily to find consistency.
For me, this lack of consistency for Davis comes from tinkering with his swing. Looking back at some video, it appears Davis has tried different stances over the years since making his debut in 2010. Here's a look with some screen caps:
Davis was going well at the time of the first two pictures, but he has two different stances. He seems to be more upright in 2010 while being in more of a crouch and maybe a little wider in 2012. He is seen using these same two basic stances in April and May of this year. He's also tried different toe taps and strides over the years and during the early part of this season.
Not being able to settle down with one stance will clearly take a toll on a player's ability to consistently produce, but it could hurt his mental toughness as well. Let's look at two spray charts, one from when he was consistently putting up solid numbers (2010-2011) and one when he was having trouble doing so (2012-2013):
It's clear that he's become more pull-happy in the last two years, while he was more of an all-fields hitter from 2010-2011. There seem to be more hits to left field and center field and even some more power to center field during the first two years.
The idea of a hitter losing himself isn't new; in fact, we saw it with Dustin Ackley just a couple of weeks ago. The Seattle second baseman was the second pick of the 2009 amateur draft and and made a successful big league debut in 2011 (117 wRC+ in 376 PAs). Since the start of 2012, however, he has hit .221/.288/.312, prompting the team to send him to Triple-A to work on his game. Here's what Mariners manager Eric Wedge had to say about it (via MLB.com):
"It's not his swing anymore," Wedge said. "He's in a pretty good position fundamentally. But I do think it's the mental that leads to the fundamental, the mental that leads to the actual performance. Listen, he's going to be a good hitter. He's going to be a good player. He's done a [heck] of a job at second base. … He gets down the line quicker than anybody, he can steal a bag, he cuts the bases as good as anybody. There's a lot there to like.
I think Wedge brings up a good point here because Ackley has had success at the major league level. Davis is a similar case, but it seems that they have each struggled with the mental side of hitting. The M's sent Ackley down with the hopes that he can work on his approach in a more relaxed setting while getting some confidence back. It might take reset in Las Vegas for Davis to get back to being productive, but after the turnaround he had last year, patience might be the best move.