December 10, 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!
And here's the full roster.
THT's latest e-bookThird Base: The Crossroads is THT's new e-book, available for $3.99 from the Kindle store. The good news is that anyone can read a Kindle book, even on a PC. So enjoy the best from THT in a new format.
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Leverage Index by inning (2)
Nationals make great deal for Fister (2)
Transaction Analysis Lightning Round: Pierzynski, Nathan, Ellsbury, and more (1)
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Yankees 4, Rangers 3: Walkoff homer for Ichiro? Well shut my mouth. Wait, what? Well jeez, Brian, it's just an expression. You don't have to agree so emphatically and profanely.
Angels 14, Tigers 8: Well that fifth inning got out of a hand in a hurry. Rick Porcello was beaten around for seven runs on ten hits and his relief Darin Downs didn't fare much better. J.B. Shuck drove in four. Even Josh Hamilton had a good game, going 3 for 5.
Orioles 6, Indians 3: The O's snapped a four-game losing streak. Chris Davis hit his 28th homer, which tied it up in the seventh and Alexi Casilla's three-run homer put Baltimore ahead in the eighth.
Nationals 7, Diamondbacks 5: The Nats jumped out to a 6-0 lead by the fifth inning and then held on, giving Gio Gonzalez his first win since May 5. From the AP gamer:
[Gonzalez] said pitching with the big lead for a change didn't alter his approach.
Jack Morris just shakes his head.
Marlins 4, Twins 2: The Fish have won four of five. Jose Fernandez allowed one run and four hits in five innings and Marcell Ozuna drove in a pair. It sometimes seems like there's no future in Miami, but those two are part of one.
Brewers 9, Cubs 3: Two homers for Rickie Weeks, who has a nine-game hitting streak in which he's 14-for-32 with four homers and seven RBI. Milwuakee has beat the Cubs nine straight times at Miller Park and 19 of 21 times overall.
Dodgers 6, Giants 5: Matt Kemp comes back from the DL. While he only went 1 for 4 at the plate he ended the game with a running, sliding, over the shoulder catch that, one hopes, put to rest any concern about his hamstring. If the Dodgers are going to climb back in the race a healthy and productive Kemp has to be a part of that.
Red Sox 11, Rockies 4: It was 7-1 after the third inning so this one wasn't exactly suspenseful. Dustin Pedroia drove in four runs on three hits and the Sox tallied 20 safeties in all. BTW: people used to say "safeties" more often as a synonym for hits, but no one does it anymore. I don't want it to come back because I find it annoying, but I did feel like it was worth pointing this out.
Phillies 6, Padres 2: A homer -- his 20th -- and four RBI for Domonic Brown. Jason Marquis loses his first game since April 22nd. But he does lead the league in walks and he walked five Phillies in four and a third.
Rays 5, Blue Jays 1: Matt Moore wins his tenth after striking out 11 in six innings. Walked six too, but worked around it. Wil Myers drove in a run. He has eight RBI in nine games since being called up.
White Sox 5, Mets 4: Chris Sale struck out 13 in eight innings and left with a lead but didn't get the win because he didn't want it bad enough or something. Or maybe because Addison Reed -- who vultured the win -- blew the save with help from a Gordon Beckham error. Alexei Ramirez mooted it all with a walkoff single.
Braves 4, Royals 3: Jason Heyward's seventh inning homer broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Braves the win. Earlier he hit a two-run double. Even though, in recent years, a lot of Braves have found their way to the Royals, it was the Braves' first ever trip to Kansas City.
Cardinals 13, Astros 5: Mike Matheny jumbled up the lineup and the Cardinals offense woke up. Correlation? Yes. Causation? I dunno. But Allen Craig went 4 for 5 with a homer and three RBI and Matt Carpenter drove in three of his own after clearing the bases with a triple.
Athletics 7, Reds 3: The fact that I looked at this score and first thought "1972 World Series rematch" instead of "1990 World Series rematch" makes me wonder how my brain works. Though admittedly I have the worst memory of the 1990 World Series than any World Series of my teenage years. I was busy during the week of that Series rehearsing some play I was in in which I got to kiss the amazingly attractive girl who played the female lead and, wouldn't you know it, I kept needing to rehearse that scene a lot because I couldn't get it right. Or at least that was my story and I'm sticking to it. Anyway, the A's pounded Bronson Arroyo.
Pirates 9, Mariners 4: Five homers for the Buccos. Starling Marte had two of them plus a triple. When people ask me, as the have an awful lot lately, if the Pirates are going to collapse like they did the past couple of years I've been saying no. Why? For the simple reason that I often write other offensive contributors' names in the Pirates recaps besides Andrew McCutchen. It's a team this year. Not one star and a lot of smoke and mirrors.
Jonny Venters, Jason Motte, and now Dylan Bundy are those who have had major setbacks after receiving platelet-rich plasma injections in their elbow, combined with a rehab program intended to avoid replacing the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL, Tommy John surgery).
Bundy had discomfort in his pitching forearm/elbow on Monday after his rehab for 2013 had been progressing reasonably well, and so he will go see the dreaded Dr. James Andrews to further evaluate his rehabilitation plan for the remainder of the year.
Many have a dismal view on trying to rehab the elbow instead of just having surgery. Keith Law had this to say about Gavin Floyd:
Jeff Sullivan (formerly of Lookout Landing fame) and I had this conversation via Twitter:
My thoughts were mostly summed up in the exchange Jeff and I had. It's really easy to point fingers and say "rehab doesn't work, just go under the knife already," but this ignores the fact that TJS doesn't exactly have a 100 percent success rate.
For every Tommy John or Stephen Strasburg, there is a professional pitcher who has a story similar to this: Drafted in the first round, throwing 94-97 mph, and was cut because his TJS rehab didn't go well. He now throws 86-90 mph and is struggling to figure out where it all went wrong. (An actual person and client of mine.)
Assuming that a conservative plan for elbow rehabilitation takes six weeks (unlike the long plan of Dylan Bundy, which is way more rare) and TJS recovery takes 14 months, it's not hard to see that from a classic risk-reward analysis, elbow rehab doesn't have to succeed very often at all to be worth it.
There is also the very ugly side of arm injuries: pitchers who have had arm injuries (especially at the lower levels of the minors) are seen as damaged goods. You can find any number of anecdotal stories of players being released because they think an organization is trying to reduce the number of arm injuries in its system, because as Russell Carleton pointed out, the best predictor of future injury is a past injury.
So, I find tweets like Keith Law's to be very insensitive. While a long-term research project is needed to test the efficacy of rehabilitation methods like PRP, simply dismissing it out of hand and saying "get cut open" isn't the answer.
Fifty years ago today, arguably the greatest one-game performance by any Mets batter in history took place.
Now, that’s a mighty tall statement. The Mets have been around a little over 50 years, playing over 8,000 games, which means they’ve trotted out over 60,000 batters in their starting lineups, so it’s quite an accomplishment to say one guy’s performance was No. 1.
But there’s a reason to give this one top billing—actually, a statistic that puts him on top: Win Probability Added (WPA). As many THT readers know, WPA is the “story stat” that gauges how each at-bat in a game affects a club’s likelihood of winning. The game starts with the assumption that each team has a 50-50 chance of winning and ends at 100-0. WPA notes every little change in fortune along the way. It’s not a perfect stat by any stretch, but it does a great job describing how the game feels while watching it.
And no Met batter ever shined in WPA like obscure Mets infielder Tim Harkness did 50 years ago today.
On June 26, 1963, Harkness manned his typical post at first base for the Mets as they hosted the visiting Chicago Cubs in the Polo Grounds. Batting sixth, his day got off to a slow start. He singled in the second with no one on, popped up to lead off the fifth, and flew out to lead off the seventh.
That’s okay, though. WPA, by its very nature, typically awards the big points for late action, not early efforts. (That’s a big reason why it’s a controversial stat, but that’s a whole other topic.)
Harkness had his first chance to be a hero in the ninth. For the third time today, he led off the inning, and now the score was tied, 4-4. If he homered, he’d send the Mets home as winners. He didn’t. Instead he flew out. So far on the day, he was 1-for-4 with just an empty single. His WPA was actually in negative territory.
But the Mets didn’t score in the bottom of the ninth. The game went into extra innings, and overtime heroics cause a player’s WPA score to skyrocket like nothing else. The game would go on long enough to give Harkness plenty of extra-inning opportunities for glory.
Harkness came up next to lead off the 11th. (This marked five straight plate appearances for him leading off an inning.) This one he made count. A line drive rang off his bat and sailed into right for a double. By WPA, the Mets' chances of winning jumped from 62 percent to 80 percent, an impressive showing to say the least. The Mets never did advance Harkness, and the game went on ... and so did Harkness’s chances for glory.
He came up again in the 13th with the game still deadlocked, 4-4. This time he didn’t lead off but strode to the plate with a runner on first and one out. He flicked his bat, and the ball dribbled into right field for a single, one that advanced the lead runner all the way to third. Now the Mets' chance of winning leaped from 62 to 82 percent.
That was two straight great clutch moments. Frustratingly for the club, though, they made two outs before they could push that lead runner the last 90 feet. The game went on. And with it, chances for Harkness to be the day’s great Clutch God.
In the top of the 14th, the Cubs staged a seeming breakthrough, when star left fielder Billy Williams raced around the bases for a two-run inside-the-park home run. Now it was 6-4 Cubs. Things looked bleak for the Mets indeed.
The Mets would not go down gently, though, and staged a nice rally. Between two singles and two walks, they loaded the bases (one player made an out on the base paths). With two outs and the bases loaded, you know who came to the plate.
At that moment, WPA gave the Mets just a 16 percent chance to win. Sure, they had the bases loaded, but they were down to their last out and trailing by a pair. But that was irrelevant. What mattered was that Harkness had his turn to bat.
You can figure out how this ended, right? Yup, home run. Harkness ended the day and crushed Chicago’s hopes with a walk-off grand slam that sent everyone from the peanut vendors to manager Casey Stengel into delirium. What was left of the crowd of 8,000 must’ve shouted themselves hoarse with joy.
Tim Harkness had a slow start, but he came through in each of his three extra-inning at-bats, especially the walk-off slam. His WPA on the day: 1.107, which is worth more than one win all by itself. It was a great performance, and it was 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something happening X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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