Setting the Table in Chicago
Lost in the Cubs’ sixth straight victory Wednesday night was the fact that the top of their lineup against the Dodgers looked like this:
1) Neifi Perez, SS
2) Enrique Wilson, 3B
Normally I would mock such a thing, what with Neifi Perez and Enrique Wilson being two of the worst hitters of this era and all. However, a) the Cubs won, b) Neifi is somehow hitting .315/.342/.475 this season, and c) he and Wilson combined to go 5-for-10 with three RBIs and four runs scored in the game.
And just so you don’t think I was joking around with the whole “two of the worst hitters of this era” thing, here are top 10 “leaders” for worst Offensive Winning Percentage among active players with at least 1,500 career plate appearances heading into this season:
OWP Juan Castro .235 Rey Ordonez .252 Henry Blanco .262 Mike Matheny .280 NEIFI PEREZ .284 ENRIQUE WILSON .284 Abraham Nunez .291 Mike DiFelice .298 Luis Lopez .302 Einar Diaz .310
The funny (sad?) thing is that the Cubs also have third-ranked Henry Blanco on the roster, and had second-ranked Rey Ordonez on the team for a while last season. Of course, I probably shouldn’t laugh — my favorite team is playing top-ranked Juan Castro every day and frequently batting him second in the order.
Two men enter … and after that it’s all gravy
Have you ever heard of a fight where everyone wins? From the Chicago Tribune:
There won’t be any future dinners or tea parties for White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and ESPN analyst and former major-league pitcher Jeff Brantley.
Two days after making comments critical of Guillen’s handling of his pitching staff in the ninth inning of Monday’s game, Brantley patiently waited until Guillen was alone during batting practice before Wednesday night’s game with the Angels.
Brantley approached Guillen behind the batting cage, extended his hand but received a very soft handshake from the Sox’s manager, who then walked away. Both parties confirmed the dialogue went like this:
Brantley: “I wasn’t trying to kill you. I was trying to make a point.”
Guillen: “Good for you.”
As a Twins fan and someone who completely gave up on watching Baseball Tonight recently in part because of Jeff Brantley‘s presence on the show, there are very few feuds I would rather see played out in a steel-cage death match. Or at least in the sports section of Chicago-area newspapers.
Joe Morgan, Stathead (Sort of)
Although my guess is that he might think about changing his stance if someone told him, Joe Morgan recently took up one of the more stathead-friendly causes in his weekly ESPN.com column. In short, Morgan is sick of seeing the way closers are used these days:
Closers are almost always used in the ninth inning, with the lead. But the most critical situation in a game might be in the eighth, when the opponent’s best hitters are up. At that point, you want your best reliever on the mound – and that’s your closer. Or what about a tie game in the ninth with runners in scoring position?
I believe you should use your best reliever – that is, your closer – in the toughest situation, regardless of how that will affect his save statistics. Stats have become far too important. The mind-set of today’s closers is that they don’t want to enter the game unless they can record a save. Sadly, that’s become the culture of the game.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think Morgan might be a fan of Steve Treder‘s ongoing “Whither the Closer?” series here at THT. Of course, not everything Morgan says makes as much sense. Asked by someone for perhaps the millionth time about Moneyball in an ESPN.com chat session last month, Morgan responded (CAPS are his):
Big Bill, since you read a lot of books, you need to read Three Nights In August — by Buzz Bissinger. Tony LaRussa explains BASEBALL, rather than COMPUTERIZED baseball. That book impressed me. My final comment on Moneyball — I didn’t read the book. If you liked Moneyball, then follow that theory. I personally happen to see the game differently.
Now, there’s plenty wrong within just that one little paragraph. Namely, that Morgan is describing what a book he just admitted to never reading “explains” and how he “see[s] the game differently” from what is described in that same book he didn’t read.
But that’s nothing when you consider that Morgan has literally been fielding questions (and giving very strong answers) about Moneyball for years now. I used to make documenting his many Moneyball-related comments a hobby of mine, but eventually got tired of it and gave up. However, through all of that — through Morgan bashing the book, bashing Billy Beane for “writing” the book, and essentially scoffing at anything having to do with the book — I never imagined in my wildest dreams that he never even bothered to actually read the damn thing.
At some point along the way, don’t you think a rational person would respond to one of the hundreds of questions he received about a book he didn’t read by saying, simply, “Sorry, I can’t really comment on it because I haven’t read it”? You know, instead of acting as if you read the thing and had very strong opinions about it over and over and over and over again, seemingly every week for several years?
The Toughest Job in the World
It’s probably a good thing Morgan got all of that Moneyball-hating out of his system already, because ESPN recently announced the hiring of George Solomon as their ombudsman:
Long-time Washington Post sports editor and columnist George Solomon will become ESPN’s first-ever ombudsman beginning July 1. In this newly created position, Solomon will critique decision-making, coverage and presentation for studio and event production, including SportsCenter, ESPN Radio and, occasionally, programming outside the news and information genre.
Sadly, it sounds like Solomon won’t be tackling ESPN.com. I do, however, look forward to what I’m sure will be his honest and forthcoming thoughts on Stuart Scott, John Kruk, and Stephen A. Smith. Booyah!
Book Review: The Baseball Same Game
One of my favorite things to do is think about how great players from baseball history might do in today’s game, and how current stars would fare if they were born a few decades earlier. How many homers would Babe Ruth be good for playing half his games at Coors Field? Just how low could Pedro Martinez‘s ERA get if his peak season came in 1968, instead of 2000? Stephen M. Lombardi dives head first into that very issue in his new book, The Baseball Same Game: Finding Comparable Players From The National Pastime.
By adjusting the career numbers of players to the same baseline — so a hitter for the Rockies in the 1990s doesn’t have an automatic edge over a hitter from the Dodgers in the 1960s — Lombardi comes up with some very interesting and surprising comparisons. For instance, Lombardi finds that when you look beyond their completely dissimilar raw stats, Christy Mathewson and Tom Seaver had nearly matching careers. Or how about that Home Run Baker and Mo Vaughn, despite a 200-homer gap and careers that had nearly 70 years between them, put up almost identical career numbers?
Lombardi makes dozens of “matches” between players of all different sizes, shapes, and eras, and mixes in some history about each duo and plenty of personal anecdotes. There are some things I would have liked to see Lombardi do differently — like taking defense and position into account when trying to come up with his pairs, or not relying so heavily on just a few advanced metrics — but the book is a very enjoyable read and well worth picking up.
For more information on The Baseball Same Game, check out www.BaseballSameGame.com.