Curtis Granderson has had 37 plate appearances this year. Sample size, Olney! And why on the entire earth are you calculating rate stats to any significant digits based on 37 PA of data?
Baseball, I mean. It’s back. And so am I, I suppose. And so is idiotic sportswriting! It’s like the salad days of 2011 all over again. I haven’t done this in a while; I sure hope I can remember how.
Don’t Let Statistics Ruin Baseball
It’s all coming back to me. It’s just like falling off a log! Only it’s probably a whole lot more painful.
Baseball is a language unto itself, a language to be enjoyed and understood by any fan — at least until the talk turns to Babip, FIP and WAR.
You read it in the New York Times, friends: comrade de Blasio will no longer permit you to enjoy that language.
Thanks to "Moneyball" and stats-driven fantasy leagues, advanced statistics have changed how fans think about the game.
One of the surest signs that a crotchety sportswriter is really, really old is that he has no idea what the internet is. That’s where them nekkid pictures are, right? No way that’s had any impact on anybody’s understanding of baseball! The only explanation is a book Michael Lewis wrote twelve years ago.
On the whole that’s a positive trend — but not when the numbers begin to eclipse a more nuanced appreciation of baseball.
Here in the real world, mind you, having a "nuanced appreciation" of something tends to involve appreciating the nuances of it. Apparently this is not true in Angry Baseball Man World, where attempting to learn the intricacies — nuances, you know? They’re synonyms! — of the game sucks all the fun out of everybody else around you.
When it comes to watching a matchup of, say, the Mets pitcher Matt Harvey and Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins, statistical analysis is about as helpful in deepening an appreciation of the human drama unfolding before us as it would be for a Pavarotti aria.
Hog fucking wash. Look! Look! Here are Matt Harvey’s splits! And here are Giancarlo’s! You really think there’s nothing to be gained from information about how these guys perform in specific situations as opposed to just "yo brah harv b straight DEALIN?" I mean, okay.
Being alert to the twists and turns of a game is vital, since it’s the glimpses of character that emerge during these unlikely sequences that give baseball its essential flavor.
And this is at odds with statistical analysis in what way? They can coexist, dude. It’s not like the ghost of Tommy Lasorda hangs out at the turnstile and requires you to choose your path before you can enter the park.
I was on hand in Oakland in October 2001 when the Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter won a game — and, arguably, a playoff series — against the A’s by having the foresight to anticipate an errant throw and make an improvised little flip to home plate to nail a lumbering Jeremy Giambi trying to score.
Oh for fuck’s sake. It is the year 2015, and you people are still using the flip game as your go-to argument? Man, the simple, undeniable fact that the game you’re citing is fourteen years old should indicate to you that your argument needs a bit of assistance.
Statistical analysis had absolutely zero to do with that play.
What does that even mean? When does statistical analysis ever have anything to do with any individual, specific play? By definition, statistical analysis looks at aggregate trends. We learn how, historically, players have performed in various situations. It’s not like Joe Torre pulled out his graphing calculator and punched in
COPY CON JETER.BAS
10 MAKE PLAY
20 GOTO 10
And then sent it to the JeTron-9000 for execution.
Managers agree. "I watch the game," said Bruce Bochy, the manager of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
Bruce Bochy is probably the worst active manager in baseball. I know the Giants just won the World Series; this is because the Giants have great pitching and the manager matters for fuck-all.
"You don’t see me writing down a lot of things or having to look down at stats. They’re important, but there are some things that you can’t see on a spreadsheet."
Name one. Name one, Bruce Bochy, and then demonstrate one single way in which it has any impact on the game of baseball. You are the kind of nitwit who has your team’s best hitter bunt in a high-leverage situation even when he has successfully done so exactly zero times ever. So perhaps we will not listen to you on the subject of knowing anything about anything.
The real problem isn’t in the dugout, though. It’s with the way the game is discussed off the field. I grew up on vivid reporting that teased out details from the day’s action to give us a more flavorful and insightful narrative — not just by accomplished magazine writers like Roger Angell, but by the scores of beat reporters covering the game nationwide.
Yes, yes. Those young people these days have no respect, et cetera, et cetera, get off my lawn. You could consider — and this is just a wild idea I had, mind you — writing some insightful narrative yourself instead of just bitching. But, yes, back in your day…
In any press box, most reporters are texting, tweeting or Googling stats. This doesn’t work.
What, you mean like Juan Uribe has sabotaged the press box to keep reporters from getting accurate information? In what way does this not work?
You can go to the symphony and hear the music even as you’re texting with a client to close a deal. As your thumbs fly and you try not to be distracted by the dirty looks of the guy next to you, you might note the orchestra is playing Mahler’s Ninth. But with your attention so cratered, are you really listening to the music? Are you enjoying it?
Are you like some type of professional orchestra scout who’s trying to sign a hot young violoncello for your orchestra team? Because, if you are, then I expect you do need to be communicating with somebody while this is going on. Otherwise you’re going to get scooped by another, different scout, right? In this case, I gotta be honest with you: whether or not you’re enjoying the performance is neither here nor there. I’m paying you to do a job, not to go have a fun evening. So too with reporters: they’re not there to have themselves a blast, they’re there to do a job. Do you really not know this?
Also, Mahler 9 is like eighty minutes long. It would be the entire concert by itself, and you’d know that’s what’s playing because it’s on the marquee. Weirdo.
The importance of being fully present for a game, shorn of distractions, lies not in sentimentality about the nobility of baseball (even Mr. Angell once groused that "The ‘Field of Dreams’ thing gives me a pain!"), but in continuously deepening one’s understanding of the game.
But not deepening your understanding so much that you actually start to understand it, right? Because that would be bad.
The art of hitting a baseball starts with emptying the mind. As Jonathan Fader, a psychologist who works with Mets players, told me: "Essentially, what we’re trying to do in sports psychology is helping people to not think."
That sounds like the exact lesson the Mets have taken to heart.
Fans and writers need to adopt a similar attitude.
Only the Grey Lady could actually go to print explicitly telling people to stop thinking.
Also, here’s a thing: hitting a baseball needs to become an instinctive process because you have zero time. Is that the case when you’re discussing the game the next day at the office? Is it so urgent that you cannot spare the time to think, and must instead just grunt out "Lucas Duda heap good batter-man ugh?"
An overly analytical approach, centered in the cerebral cortex, is a distancing mechanism that puts a fan at a remove from how the players — and most fans — are experiencing a game.
So, in a nutshell, your point is "I’m a lazy dum-dum and everybody else agrees with me, so shut up?" Because if that says anything else, I can’t find it.
Often the greater rigor that results can be readily understood and applied, to exciting ends. For example, the shift of the game toward flame-throwing, late-game relief pitchers makes it natural that we’d be more focused on a previously obscure statistic: batting average against relievers.
Literally nobody is focused on that statistic, because it is shit.
The trouble is not with the numbers.
There’s some trouble with that last one you cited.
The imposing Babip just means "batting average on balls in play." And FIP stands for "fielding independent pitching," an attempt to offer a broader measure of a pitcher’s performance than the traditional E.R.A. (earned-run average).
I’m about 90% certain Steve just Googled those as he was writing this article. And he still managed to fuck it up! FIP is not "an attempt to offer a broader measure of a pitcher’s performance than the traditional E.R.A.," which does not mean anything anyway. FIP is an attempt to remove the influence of fielding on pitching data. That why it’s called "fielding-independent pitching," Steve. Do you see?
And BABIP should be capitalised. It’s not a word, goofball, as you yourself immediately pointed out. And "E.R.A." never ever ever has periods in it. Have you ever actually read anything about baseball?
There is a risk that numbers become an end in themselves, and arcane stats proliferate.
Steve? Numbers have always been an end in themselves. The entire point of the game of baseball is to score more runs than the other team. Those are numbers, Steve! Contra what you may have heard back when you were a wee nipper in the halcyon days of the American Association, the goal of baseball is not to look as dapper as possible.
A good rule of thumb is that the more a stat relies on abstraction, the less likely it’s going to be consistently useful to a wide audience.
I don’t think you understand what a rule of thumb is. Just as a general guideline for you, if there are more weasel-words than like regular real words, probably it’s not very good. And I guess ERA’s "earned runs" and BA’s "at bats" aren’t sufficiently abstract to disqualify them as "consistently useful." Who decides? Steve’s vote is for Steve.
Even an old stat like WAR, or wins above replacement, continues to have both backers and detractors, since it relies on comparing a given player to the abstraction of some hypothetical median player, the "replacement."
… He says, without offering any potential alternatives. Should all players across all ballparks and in all years be compared to one specific player? We’ll make a new stat, you and me, Steve. We’ll call it "wins above 2004 Neifi Perez, but only the part of the year he spent with the Giants." Since that’s a lot less abstract, I’m sure it’ll be more useful to a wide audience. Right?
Also, I hate to be "that guy," but the dreaded "replacement" is definitely not a median player. He is an absolutely minimal player. That is the whole point, Steve. Perhaps you should learn something about your subject matter before your next deadline, hey?
Baseball is slow, and in that slowness comes the opportunity to let the mind and the imagination wander and move along with the action. Mr. Angell has said that for him, even later in life as a fan, the music is still playing. If we can’t clear our attention span enough to focus on the action, if we don’t tune in to baseball the way we do music, we’re never going to hear the tune.
You’ve clearly mastered the fine art of not thinking, Steve.
Missed a whole year? Hell no I did not.
I’m serious; this guy’s been writing for twenty years and nobody pointed him out to me until today? Like everything he writes is gold. Here’s a piece from yesterday in which he joins in the two-minute hate against A-Rod in the silliest possible fashion.
Giambi Rises as Rodriguez Falls
That’s right, not-making-sense fans: John Pudner is hitching his wagon to the Jason Giambi train. You remember Jason Giambi. He was the most notorious juicer in baseball not called Barry Bonds for years and years. Now, of course, he’s old and broken-down but still clinging to baseball life as a dedicated pinch-hitter, which is cool and all, but "rising?" The man’s OPS+ is 101. He hasn’t had more than 152 PA since 2010. Hasn’t been above replacement level since 2011. "Rising" is: the exact opposite of anything Jason Giambi is doing.
In 2007, Jason Giambi apologized for all of baseball, while Alex Rodriguez was unapologetic while winning his third MVP.
In 2007, Jason Giambi consulted with his lawyers, and they carefully crafted a damage control statement in which he apologised for "stuff" without actually specifying what "stuff" he was apologising for so the Yankees couldn’t void his contract. In 2009, A-Rod went on TV with Peter Gammons and got all weepy and apologised for using steroids, but stressed that that was only before he was on the Yankees so the Yankees couldn’t void his contract. So far, so identical.
Five years later Bud Selig appears set on ensuring Rodriguez never puts on a major league uniform again while Giambi replaced Hank Aaron in the record books Monday.
Just so you know: the record Giambi replaced Hank Aaron for is the completely weird and irrelevant record of "oldest player to hit a walk-off home run." I mean, don’t get me wrong; it’s cool and all, and I love that baseball has all these weirdo cherry-pick records, but you should probably avoid being misled by this guy into believing that Giambi just broke an important record.
Major League Baseball reportedly has more evidence against Rodriguez than they had against Ryan Braun.
I should hope so, since Ryan Braun won his appeal. I know, I know: he’s been suspended now, and hack journos like you have decided that this is proof of anything. And yet, what this actually is is: Braun wins his appeal, then gets harassed non-stop by MLB until he finally agrees to sit out the rest of a lost season in exchange for them getting off his back. It has nothing to do with "evidence" or "guilt" and everything to do with playing politics.
Further, a report Monday indicated that if Rodriguez appeals a ban, Commissioner Bud Selig will play a trump card by banning him from the game.
I am having difficulty forseeing a reality in which this doesn’t lead to massive trouble with the MLBPA. Not that it would surprise me if spitfire Bud — who’s on his way out anyhow — does it.
His name appears set to go down the Barry Bonds, as one of the greatest players of all time who will never be put into the Hall of Fame due to evidence of guilt.
You’d think that, after twenty years as a professional writer, you’d learn to proofread. Or maybe somebody at Breitbart would assign you an editor. Or somebody somewhere would do something to prevent that sentence from seeing print, because: yikes. Look out, A-Rod! Your name is set to go down the Barry Bonds! I’m picturing the Barry Bonds as a completely boss water slide, and there’s a 44.4% chance you get on base once you get to the bottom.
Also: the reason Barry Bonds isn’t in the Hall of Fame is because sportswriters are idiot assholes. By which I mean you, John Pudner, are an idiot asshole.
Meanwhile, with one swing of the bat Monday, Giambi put his name next to Hank Aaron – who most will always accept as the true home run champion after discounting Bonds for cheating.
Actually, most people — including Hank Aaron, dummy — understand that "player who hit the most home runs" is pretty much not a matter to be decided by your feelings. You can go ahead and create a new title called like "player who made me feel really good about myself while also hitting home runs and being nice to reporters like me" if you want, and give it to anybody for all I care. But the "true home run champion?" Bonds. Sorry.
Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but: didn’t Giambi also do steroids? Giambi did steroids, admitted it. Bonds did steroids, admitted it. Bonds can’t break Aaron’s record, because he did steroids. Giambi can break Aaron’s record, even though he did steroids. Your logic has one or two flaws.
Giambi will never approach Aaron’s home run record, or overall status as one of the top few players in the history of the game.
Bold prediction. Giambi’s 42 years old, and only 319 homers behind Aaron! Also only 326 homers behind the real record, which is held by Barry Bonds.
However, it was fitting that a player who admitted his mistakes and apologized for those of so many others would top Aaron for a moment Monday.
If only Bonds had held a press conference in which he said he was sorry for "stuff," then just imagine how legitimate his actual real accomplishments would be in the eyes of idiots!
Of course, he’d still be a guy who was a huge penis to the media. Which is what this sad little grudge is really about.
Giambi’s walk-off home run let him replace Aaron on one small mark – as the oldest player to ever hit a walk-off home run. Giambi came into the game hitting only .187, but his blast was his 7th homer in just 124 at bats this season – one of the top few ratios in the league.
Sample size. Sample size, sample size, sample size. Also: 124 at-bats is not a qualifying number. Because of sample size.
Chris Davis: 38 HR in 384 AB. Is that a topper ratio? I have no idea, so I rammed some alpha wolves, and they made no sense at all, but I’m pretty sure that chart says Chris Davis is better.
He has found a way to contribute and provide leadership and example to a surprisingly strong, but young, Cleveland Indians team. Most important, he is winding down his career as a player who is admired by those to follow despite playing in an era that will not be fondly remembered in baseball history.
And that’s what I did on my summer vacation, by John, age 8.
You know what’s awesome? John is such a screwloose that he spent more time bitching about Barry Bonds than he did about A-Rod in his explicitly-titled A-Rod smear article. Hey John, next time you set out to assassinate somebody’s character, you might try mentioning him once or twice.
I swear I’m not making this up. Over at Breitbart Sports — which is such a hilarious idea I can’t believe I haven’t written about it before — some clown called John Pudner has just written… this. Let’s not beat around the bush here: this man has just revolutionised baseball analysis.
Breitbart Sports Introduces Value Add Baseball
When the name of your metric is incoherent, you know you’re off to a good start. "Value Add Baseball?"
Breitbart Sports today introduces Value Add Baseball (see the top 100 pitchers here), a much more accurate measure than WAR for evaluating the value of starting pitchers by analyzing every start.
Apparently WAR only considers every third start. Who knew? Incidentally, I was very disappointed by the list of the 100 top pitchers; it turns out that this crazy metric doesn’t generate results so balls-out lunatic that I can really laugh at them. I mean, no, Patrick Corbin is not anything resembling the best pitcher in baseball, but he’s at least a good pitcher. I was really hoping it would pick somebody completely weird, like Kevin Correia.
A solid starting pitcher has only a 21 percent chance of getting his team a win if he needs an ERA of 1.00 to 1.99 for the game, but if his team gets him just one more run he has a 63 percent chance of winning.
I — what? I think that’s an incredibly weirdy-beardy way of saying that it’s easier to win a game if you score three runs than if you score two. Which, I mean: thank god we have Value Add Baseball to tell us this, because otherwise, how would we know?
The simple "Runs Support" models simply do not work.
Apparently they only "work" if you rephrase them in some incredibly complex fashion involving target ERAs.
While WAR (Wins Above Replacement), like Value Add Basketball, is an excellent measurement of other players on the field, the pitcher’s position is unique.
Value Add Basketball? Did he just say "Basketball?" Let’s look again.
While WAR (Wins Above Replacement), like Value Add Basketball, is an excellent measurement of other players on the field, the pitcher’s position is unique.
I harbour a deep suspicion that Value Add Basketball is unsuitable for evaluating pitchers. Never mind that. Here’s a brief list — just off the top of my head — of ways in which WAR is not like Value Add Baseketball:
- Not created by a crazy man
- Reflects actual value rather than crazy-man things
- Is a real thing that actually exists and people actually use
I could keep going, but the list sort of peaks there.
The starting pitcher is the one player who has responsibility each game for getting his team the win.
All those position players? God only knows why they’re there. Probably just to keep the starting pitcher from getting lonely. And relief pitchers? Fuck them, I guess. They’re only responsible for getting their team the "save," unless they’re middle relievers, in which case extra-fuck them.
He is the most important player on the field whenever he pitches, and yet he sits out most of the games.
Who cares? I’m happy that you get paid by the column-inch, but get to the point already.
To win, he needs to stay below an "ERA Needed" in each game, which is the total of: His team’s offensive runs that day MINUS unearned runs allowed by his defense MINUS relief runs allowed, DIVIDED BY his innings pitched TIMES nine.
Fuck the hecking heck? That is the most insane thing I have ever heard. All that hopeless bullshit math amounts to absolutely literally nothing. It is an unstoppably weird way of rewriting the following formula:
(runs scored) – (runs allowed)
If it’s positive, you win. If it’s negative, you lose. Baseball! Or, alternatively, we could use this weirdo formula that — for some reason — is attempting to piece together an approximation for runs allowed by adding together a bunch of other stuff.
Of course, this is all notwithstanding the fundamental crazy conceit behind this whole "system," which is: this metric, which is touted as a definitive stat for valuing pitchers, is derived almost entirely from run support. He’s done like the exact opposite of FIP; he’s discarded practically everything the pitcher does control. Unreal.
We ran this formula on 2,157 starts this year by pitchers who were part of their team’s four man rotation, so these numbers do not include the poorest pitchers (No. 5 starters, spot starters, or fill-ins).
Why the hell not? I’m serious. What is the point of leaving out a bunch of data? Did that break your "formula" and you left it out so you wouldn’t look bad? Or are you just lazy?
For reference: WAR totals are available for all those pitchers unworthy of being Value Add Basketballers.
Here are the team’s records based on the ERA Needed they gave their pitcher.
Then there’s this chart that just proves that teams win more games when they score more runs. Which is, and I cannot sufficiently stress how incorrect this is, credited to the pitcher by this crazy person.
A pitcher is credited with a "victory" if he either gets the "Win," or if he pitches at least five innings and his team wins.
We all know how much I love pitcher wins. If I’m reading you correctly, you’re just adding wins and "wins lost," the existence of which goes a long long way toward justifying why I hate wins.
Obviously, a pitcher cannot get his team a win if the team never scores in the game, or the defense or relievers give up more runs than the team scores. Therefore, these pitchers did not win any of these 509 games in which their ERA Needed was 0.00 or less.
This is not so obvious, apparently, that Value Add Baseball doesn’t still consider it a failure of the pitcher. Seriously, if you throw nine perfect innings, allow a baserunner on a dropped third strike, and then that guy scores on three consecutive passed balls because Russell Martin was adjusting his mask and forgot to catch the ball, you’ve had a pretty damn good game. WAR will tally it accordingly. Value Add Bas
ke tball? It says you did a shit job if your offense — you know, all the guys on the team who aren’t you — didn’t score.
In 239 other games, pitchers had to throw shutout ball to get the team the victory, and they were successful 49 of 239 times, with two pitchers accomplishing it three times. Justin Masterson has guided the Indians to three 1-0 wins this year, throwing complete game shutouts when the White Sox visited April 12 and when the Yankees dropped in May 13. When the Rangers came July 27, Masterson needed a little relief help after leaving in the eighth inning of a 1-0 win. Jorge De La Rosa is the only other player to accomplish the feat three times, but those were all games in which his relievers gave up just one less run than the offense scored.
So… okay? I’m lost. What does that meandering mess have to do with anything?
These are the truly hard wins.
Ah. Your presumptive 2013 Cy Youngs: Justin Masterson (150 IP, 7.1 H/9, 0.6 HR/9, 3.3 BB/9, 9.2 K/9, 111 ERA+, 2.7 WAR) and Jorge De La Rosa (126.1 IP, 8.7 H/9, 0.5 HR/9, 3.1 BB/9, 6.1 K/9, 138 ERA+, 3.7 WAR). Why? Because they just win, baby! When it counts!
Presumptive Cy Young runners up: Jack Morris and Jack Morris.
However, when teams get good pitchers just two runs to work with – the winning percentage jumps incredibly to over 60 percent.
What? No! That is the opposite of incredible! That is very, very credible. When you score twice as many runs, you’re considerably more likely to win. I mean, look at games in which teams give their pitchers thirty runs to work with — can you believe it? They win 100% of the time! The funny thing is, according to this crazy system, either those pitchers are awesome, because they won, or they’re shit, because that win was so "easy." No way to tell!
Aside: Wes Littleton earned a save in that game. The Rangers won goddamn 30-3, but Wes Littleton still recorded a save. I’m sure we all stopped caring about fucking saves when that happened, right?
Replacement level pitchers do not fare as well of course, so the right hand column gives the chance a replacement player would have had to get the victory if given the same ERA Needed.
Wait, what level? Replacement level? You mean, the sort of thing you determine as part of WAR? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.
The actual formula used to pinpoint this approximate curve is the square root of the ERA Needed to win up to a 4.99 ERA Needed. From 5.00 to 6.99 the formula is the square root plus one, and from a 7.00 ERA up it is the square root plus two, with a maximum Replacement Chance of 8.00.
Hahahahahahahaha what? That is blindingly arbitrary. I mean, my goodness. I can think of lots of terrible methods of determining replacement level, but that’s very very close to the worst. Why did you even bother?
Also: I call bullshit on a replacement-level pitcher having a 50% chance of winning a game in which his team scores nine runs. I think I probably have about a 50% chance of winning that game.
The flaw in simply using “Runs Support” is that three equal pitchers could all get 20 runs to work with over 10 games. A pitcher who had two runs to work with every game would likely win six games, while a pitcher who got four runs in half the games and none in the other half would likely win three games, and a pitcher who received all 20 runs in one game could only win that one game.
Well, no; the flaw with using run support — aside: has anybody ever seen it written as "Runs Support" before? — is that it has nothing to do with the pitcher at all.
Calculating Value Add
This same pattern has played out – with slight adjustments during the high scoring years – since I introduced it in the New York Post more than 20 years ago, and it continues to measure the one position player that WAR cannot.
You’ve been doing this madness for twenty years? Twenty years? The fact that absolutely fucking nobody has paid attention at all in that entire time is probably a sign, John.
Also: WAR seems to have done a fine job of measuring pitchers. Here are your 2013 WAR pitching leaders: Kershaw, Hernandez, Wainwright, Sale, Harvey. Pretty good. 2012: Verlander, Price, Kershaw, Harrison, Cueto. All-time: Young, Johnson, Clemens, Alexander, Nichols. CANNOT BE MEASURED.
Also also: pitchers are not "position players," you crazyass. Are you really sure you’ve been writing about baseball for twenty years?
To determine each pitcher’s Value Add, he gets credited one Victory for any Win, or when he pitches at least five innings and his team wins. For each game we then subtract the likelihood that a replacement player could have won with the same ERA needed (see table for basic guideline). The result of those two figures is a pitchers Raw Value Add.
Any time a pitcher fails to go five innings he is given a “Blown Game,” and the best score he can receive is a -0.6 in Raw Value.
A player’s Value for that game is then adjusted by one of two figures. First, if his ERA Needed was 0.00 so he had no chance to win, his Raw Value Add is 0.0, but his Adjusted Value Add is +2.0 – a figure that continues to be as accurate as it was when first introduced when running all starts for all pitchers.
In any other case, the pitcher is given the ballpark adjustment for where the game is played. The biggest adjustment by far is a +0.09 a player gets any time he pitches in Colorado
And this is why people complain about stat wonks. Because dipsticks like you invent these bizarro mathematical mazes for no real purpose. I mean, all you’ve done is take wins and exaggerate the effect of run support on it. Actually, you know what you’ve done? You’ve created a metric that’s like a way, way more complicated, fiddly version of "quality starts." QS is a metric I don’t love, but which has some value; a pitcher gets credited with a "quality start" if he pitches at least six innings and allows no more than three runs.
So, in conclusion, I’d just like to reprint the very first comment on the bottom of this article:
This is by far the dumbest thing I have ever read in my life. I am impressed.
Ah, the All-Star Break. The three worst days of the year. The only good thing about it is reading people’s crazy half-season awards, which usually amount to "who has the most SportsCenter highlights this week?" Here’s Jeff Passan to get the crazy rolling:
AL MVP of the Half: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers
The correct choice. Any bets that it’s for all the wrong reasons?
Chris Davis is having an all-time first half. He may well hit 60 home runs. The last person not on steroids to finish the season with a slugging percentage over .700 was Larry Walker in 1999, and Davis’ is .712. It is not easy to put into words how good Davis has been.
Good. Good arguments in favour of Miguel Cabrera. Look at all those team-killing home runs! Some of them were probably three-run homers, which anybody who’s ever seen, read, or heard a piece of sports journalism knows is the worst possible outcome for a hitter. Also: nice baseless assumption that 1999 Larry Walker was not on steroids. Also 2013 Chris Davis, for that matter. I guess it’s awesome for the rest of us that you’ve spoken with God on this subject and have The Truth.
Which is why this is so shocking to say: Cabrera has been better. He more than makes up for whatever slugging deficiency he has with an on-base percentage of .457 to Davis’ .395.
Well… here’s the thing. As of today (Jeff wrote this a few days ago; I’ve just been lazy) Miggy’s OBP is .456 and his SLG is .676. Those are awesome. Awesome numbers. Crash Gordon’s? .389 and .690. So, uh, yeah; Miguel Cabrera’s extra 70 points of OBP do in fact overpower Davis’ 14-point SLG lead. This is why we have analysts: to tell us these unpopular truths.
He plays a far more difficult position – and even if he’s not very good at third, there’s more value in playing there than first base.
Whoa, whoa, whoa there, hoss. This is not true. A good defensive first baseman is vastly more valuable than a butcher at third. You don’t think this might be the case? Otherwise, why not just stack all of our fielders at short and let the other positions lay empty? Just think how much more value we’d get from having all those shortstops!
No, the real reason Miggy’s shit 3B play is more valuable is because Davis is a horrible butcher at 1B, too! He’s showing -7 DRS, which is awful. Granted, Miggy’s at -12, but the positional adjustment just cancels that out, leaving Davis at -1.2 DWAR and Miggy at -1.0. So, actually, it turns out that your 1B has to be as awful as Chris Davis before he’s worth less defensively than Miggy at third!
NL MVP of the Half: Carlos Gonzalez, LF, Colorado Rockies – Were one to rely on Wins Above Replacement, the choice is Carlos Gomez, the dynamic center fielder from Milwaukee. Problem is, WAR weighs so heavily on defensive metrics that aren’t altogether reliable.
So, what, then? We just let sportswriters decide for us based on what their entrails tell them? I mean, don’t we have more than one metric we can consult? Seems to me that if Carlos Gomez looks great according to multiple metrics — just to take a random example, if he’s at 24 DRS, 11 TZ, and 14 UZR — it’s probably safe to conclude that he’s pretty good in the field. What’s so scary about that?
Also: weren’t you just — in your very last entry — comparing the value of Miguel Cabrera’s defense to Chris Davis’? So if you weren’t using defensive metrics, what, you consulted with your shaman and he asked Great Spirit?
Scouts, on the other hand, love Yadier Molina. Love. Him. They love how he handles a pitching staff, how he has made himself into an elite hitter, how he barely strikes out. There is indeed a lot to like about him, too.
Fucking everybody loves Yadier Molina, Jeff. This is no longer 2006, where scouts kept gushing about his "potential" while he busied himself hitting .216 / .274 / .321. Yadier Molina, 2013: .343 / .388 / .485. That is awesome hitting for a catcher. I don’t give two shits about his strikeouts — he’s still striking out half again as often as he walks, which is bad — but he’s a good hitter who catches 45% of baserunners this year, and by all accounts (and framing science is super young) is a terrific pitch framer. So, yeah: Yadier is awesome, and we don’t need crusty old scouts spinning us anecdotes about the fire in his eye to know that.
Each is a worthwhile candidate, which is why the support here thrown behind Gonzalez isn’t as much half-hearted as it is fleeting. His first half for the Rockies has been spectacular. He leads the NL in slugging percentage by 36 points, and his 24 home runs top the league as well.
So that was, what, three paragraphs of disclaimers (one of which I didn’t quote because it was boring) before your utterly conventional pick? There are no guarantees! I could be wrong! Things could change! Don’t listen to this! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
He plays a reasonably good left field and is a superb baserunner, with 15 steals in 16 attempts.
So. Fielding metrics should not be used to evaluate Carlos Gomez and only Carlos Gomez. They are suspect when it comes to Carlos Gomez, but rock-solid for every other player. Got it.
All of this could change this week, of course.
Confident predicting, Jeff.
AL Cy Young of the Half: Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit Tigers – The perfect candidate: He appeals to traditional fans with his 13-0 record and statheads with an absurd strikeout rate.
Is it only statheads who care about strikeouts? I thought that was a fairly mainstream pitching statistic, personally. But what do I know? My entire head is a stat, so I can take my statty head and my made-up "strikeouts" and "walks" and "home runs" and fuck entirely off.
He could induce more groundballs, and he could give up fewer home runs, and there are others – Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish – who could thieve the award were the luster of that zero to turn into a one before the break.
Backpedal, backpedal, don’t commit
For now, it’s Scherzer’s alone, and on a staff with a Cy Young-winning MVP and an $80 million man, that’s even more impressive.
Verlander didn’t win the Cy Young or the MVP this year, man. Greg Maddux won four Cy Youngs, and he’s currently working for the Rangers; so, hey, Yu Darvish can fuck right off, yeah? Come back when you’ve won four Cy Youngs and maybe we’ll consider you, Darvish. You shit.
Also: who cares how much Anibal Sanchez gets paid? Or is this the real reason you picked Carlos Gonzalez as your NL MVP: because Todd Helton makes a lot of money?
NL Cy Young of the Half: Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets – No disrespect intended to Clayton Kershaw (who’s got a better ERA than Harvey), Adam Wainwright (who’s got a better strikeout-to-walk ratio), Cliff Lee (who’s got more victories) and all of them (who have got more innings). Harvey simply has been better.
NL Pitching WAR leaderboard:
Kershaw, LAD (5.3)
Wainwright, STL (4.9)
Lee, PHI (4.4)
Harvey, NYM (4.3)
Huh. Maybe he meant, like, ERA?
Kershaw, LAD (1.89)
Locke, PIT (2.15)
Wainwright, STL (2.30)
Harvey, NYM (2.35)
Oh. Wait, park factor! Dodger Stadium is a huge pitchers’ park. Harvey must be dynamite in ERA+.
Kershaw, LAD (194)
Locke, PIT (169)
Corbin, ARI (162)
Wainwright, STL (160)
Strasburg, WAS (155)
Harvey, NYM (154)
For fuck’s sake. To save us a little time: the only thing Harvey’s leading the league in is strikeouts. So I guess Jeff is just too much of a stathead for me!
More dominant with a 10.3-strikeouts-per-nine rate that leads the NL. Stingy with home runs, his rate fifth lowest in the NL. He is Justin Verlander: a complete monster.
He is about 3/5 as good as Clayton Kershaw. Much like 2013 Justin Verlander!
NL Rookie of the Half:
Shelby Miller, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Much like last year, when Wade Miley won the award with full knowledge he’d cede the actual one to Bryce Harper, Miller is but a placeholder for Puig.
Seriously, what is wrong with this man’s brain? If Miller is just a "placeholder for Puig," then give the damn award to Puig. Is that a challenge to comprehend? It’s not like Puig is still in AAA — he’s been in the majors long enough to accumulate more WAR than Miller, in fact. Especially since you gave your AL Rookie of the Half to Jose Iglesias (in an entry so dull I didn’t make fun of it) who has exactly as much time in the bigs this year as Puig.
AL Manager of the Half: Joe Girardi, New York Yankees
Fuck the heck? Now I get that the manager of the year (or half, or whatever) is a stupid award. But how could you conceivably not give this award to John Farrell? The Red Sox were supposed to finish, like, fifth. They were supposed to be in a massive rebuild. And here they are, leading the division wire-to-wire. Maybe that should be worth more than Joe Girardi’s amazing achievement of "managing in New York."
Seriously, have you seen some of the lineups the New York Yankees have used lately? This is one from 10 days ago: Gardner-Nix-Cano-Wells-Ichiro-Almonte-Stewart-Adams-Gonzalez. Where do you even begin with that? Jayson Nix hitting second? Vernon Wells in the cleanup spot? And at DH? David Adams, career utilityman, playing first base? And Alberto Gonzalez? Who is Alberto Gonzalez?
I agree: those lineups have been awful. Horrible. Horribawful. But remember for me, Jeff, who is it who made those lineups. Why, none other than all-time best manager of the forever, Joe Girardi! It was Joe Girardi who constructed those idiotic lineups. Perhaps you should not mention them in your weirdo Joe Girardi hagiography.
With this team, this lineup, Joe Girardi has the Yankees eight games over .500 and a half-game out of the final wild-card spot. This fauxward was made for managing jobs like that.
Your 2013 New York Yankees:
3.77 team ERA (4th in the AL)
1.255 team WHIP (4th in the AL)
3.12 team K/BB (2nd in the AL)
357 runs allowed (2nd in the AL)
.242 team BA (13th in the AL)
.304 team OBP (13th in the AL)
.378 (!) team SLG (14th in the AL)
87 team OPS+ (13th in the AL)
358 runs scored (11th in the AL)
Probably you could have mentioned pitching somewhere in your screed about how great the Yankees are, Jeff. Also, before you refer to this as a "fauxward," you might consider how much that looks like "fuckwad." Or maybe don’t, because it’s really funny that you went to print with that.
NL Manager of the Half: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates – Enjoy the midseason award. The full-season one won’t be his. Why? Well …
Ooh! Ooh! I know! It’s because Pittsburgh is a tiny city that sportswriters don’t pay any attention to, and they’ll hand this award to Mike Matheny because oh wow the Cardinals are so dreamy did you see Yadier’s eyes I think he’s just the bestest.
The Pirates’ pitching is significantly outperforming its peripherals. It’s got the highest strand rate and the lowest batting average on balls in play. And even if the Pirates’ defensive shifts can account for some of that, their groundball rate is by far the highest in the game, and groundball rate and BABIP are supposed to be inverse. The plain fact: This is not sustainable. Not even close.
Okay, but isn’t that an exact description of the 2012 Baltimore Orioles’ pitching? And didn’t they make the playoffs?
The Pirates’ hitting isn’t very good. Their .310 on-base percentage is in the bottom 10 in baseball. Their slugging percentage is just outside of the bottom 10. Only the Astros and Braves strike out more. They steal a lot of bases, but they also get caught more than a quarter of the time. There are holes, and they’re rather significant.
And we all know the old saying: pitching wins headlines, but hitting wins championships. Isn’t that how it goes?
In all seriousness: why is it that, when the Yankees suck at hitting but are really good at pitching, it’s an amazing management job by Joe Girardi and the Yankees are just the bestest, but when the Pirates do the same thing, they’re a fading mirage? For fuck’s sake, the Pirates are hitting better than the Yankees! Why won’t you give Clint Hurdle the award you jizzed all over Girardi?
The Pirates’ fielding has been excellent. That includes notoriously stone-handed Pedro Alvarez. Dubiousness is warranted.
How would you know? Oh, right — Carlos Gomez plays for the Brewers. It’s safe to evaluate the Pirates’ defense.
Fight of the Half: Dodgers vs. the World – First it was the Padres. Then the Diamondbacks. They’ve got to brawl with the Giants at some point on sheer principle. And if ever they need a reason to rumble with the Rockies, we’ve got three words: Troy Tulowitzki’s mullet.
This part’s boring. I only quoted it so I can let everybody know that mullet jokes are officially way past their expiration date. If you ever find yourself writing a joke, and the only punchline you can come up with is "mullet," you should stop writing that joke.
Defensive Play of the Half: Peter Bourjos, CF, Los Angeles Angels – Before everyone goes crowning Manny Machado’s insane throw Sunday the play of the first half, please remember: It would’ve been merely a great play if he had fielded the ball cleanly in the first place.
Sure. And Bourjos’ play would have been entirely rudimentary if he were thirty feet tall. But since neither of those things happened, maybe we should evaluate the plays based on what actually did happen. Is that novel? Did I blow your mind?
Anyway, Manny Machado did this:
which is impossible. Peter Bourjos did this:
which is really cool, but we see it like eight times a year. Bourjos’ version wasn’t even particularly interesting.
There are no such do-overs on home run-robbing catches. We tend to romanticize them in the annals of great defensive plays, and with good reason: They are the diamonds, the platinum and the gold. They are almost always the domain of the fielding freaks, whereas even the biggest infield butcher can stumble his way into a diving stop and throw a guy out.
You hear that, Manny Machado? Absolutely literally anybody could have barehanded that ball and thrown an absolute laser all the way across the infield, exactly on target, without looking. Booooo-ring.
And while Bourjos’ won’t go down in the all-time annals, it had all the elements of what makes a great fielding play.
It sure won’t, huh. Which is too bad for him, since the Angels — his team — have a habit of monstrously overpaying for center fielders who make that exact play, like, once.
He ran an absurdly long way, nearly 20 steps to the fence.
So it’s okay to penalise Machado for missing his first stab at the ball, but Bourjos gets a pass for playing way way too shallow?
He single-handedly disproved the title of a wonderful ’90s movie.
Go back to mullet jokes, Jeff. This one is worse.
He banged into the fence before the ball arrived, which meant his equilibrium was shaken and his outstretched left arm simply along for the ride.
I’ve watched the video a few times looking for evidence of this, and guess what? It’s not there. He is, in fact, so entirely non-destroyed by that fence that, as soon as he lands, he throws the ball back in.
And he caught the thing. Brought it right back over the fence, almost a year to the day his teammate Mike Trout had done so against the very same batter, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy.
I’ll grant that that’s fun. In fact, it’s probably what you should have opened with, since the synchronicity is the only thing that makes this catch particularly interesting. Without that, it’s Machado all the way, goofball.
Bourjos’ catch barely beats Aaron Hicks’ pair of outfield robberies, the latter of which included a tip of the cap from the hitter, Carlos Gomez, who himself is one of the game’s best center fielders.
No way. His fielding is suspect. I’ve heard there’s a conspiracy of evil number-creating computers to rob Carlos Gonzalez of imaginary awards by tricking people into thinking Gomez is good. As soon as I find it, I’ll link you the article.
Other runners-up: Victor Martinez with a crazy no-look flip, Adrian Gonzalez playing extra smooth on a play at home and Yasiel Puig going all Vlad Guerrero/Dave Parker/Bo Jackson from right field.
"Going all X" is a really lousy construction for your joke. But you know what’s worse? "Going all X or maybe Y or possibly Z." There’s a reason you don’t see many jokes with like choose-your-own-adventure punchlines, Jeff.
Pitching Performance of the Half: Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds – As difficult as it was to look past Shelby Miller’s one-hit, 13-strikeout, 27-straight-outs gem, Bailey wins because he actually threw a no-hitter.
No, Miller wins because he pitched better. As, perversely, you’re about to illustrate.
Their games were equally rare. There have been eight other one-hitters with no walks and at least 13 strikeouts and nine other no-hitters with one walk and at least nine strikeouts – including Bailey’s first.
I’m just not sure that’s what "equally" means. Eight times, nine times, fuck — that’s the same number of times! I can’t actually tell, and the internet was no help at all.
Miller did beat Bailey on Game Score, but the knowledge around the fifth inning or so that Bailey was pitching a perfect game and after the seventh that he still held a no-hitter exacerbated the physical strain of every pitch with mental anxiety.
So, to recap: if Manny Machado makes a play more difficult by not catching a ball cleanly, it’s not considered a good play when he gets the out anyhow. If Homer Bailey makes a whole game more difficult by getting super super stressed out about it — all of which is conjecture, by the way — then it’s considered a better game than it actually was. Makes sense to me!
Here’s another one: if Jeff Passan writes the phrase "exacerbated the physical strain of every pitch with mental anxiety," he still gets paid. Amazing!
The Victor Conte Award: Tony Bosch, Biogenesis founder – Want the greatest proof performance-enhancing drugs aren’t going anywhere? Players worth upward of a billion dollars thought it was OK to use a fake doctor who operated out of a strip mall and kept notes on a criminal conspiracy. Players could walk into any college chemistry lab, find the most brilliant student and offer him a million dollars a year to play Walter White with PEDs, but nooooooo. They’d rather lose their reputations and, in some cases, careers on account of this guy. Shameful in a dozen different ways.
Anybody have any clue what Jeff’s on about here? It sounds like he’s outraged about two different things, and he’s getting them mixed up. He ends up sounding like he’s mostly just outraged that players weren’t cheating the optimal way; like, hey, back in my day those guys played the game the wrong way the right way! By gum.
Good Lord You Strike Out A Lot Award: Chris Carter, DH, Houston Astros – Carter pinch hit Sunday and struck out. One could get nearly 2-to-1 odds that a Carter at-bat would end that way. He has struck out 120 times in 281 at-bats this year. In overall plate appearances, he is at a staggering 36.8 percent, almost 1.5 percent higher than Mark Reynolds in his legendary 223-strikeout season of 2010. It’s not like Carter is a dud; he averages a home run every 9.5 at-bats he doesn’t strike out, and his .784 OPS is second among Astros regulars. He’s just a microcosm of baseball today, where you can strike out an absurd amount of the time and be an All-Star. (Hello, Pedro Alvarez and a 33.9 percent K rate.)
I guess Jeff Passan has only just heard: strikeouts are just another type of out. Chris Carter has struck out a lot, yes, but his OBP is an Andre Dawson-esque .327, which isn’t good, but isn’t unspeakably bad. And he hits the ball pretty hard.
Now, Carter isn’t the best example here, because he’s actually kind of lousy. But the fact is that striking out isn’t materially worse than getting out any other way, and it really really doesn’t matter how you’re making your outs as long as you aren’t making too many of them. Strikeout rate also correlates pretty well with power, which is why players are striking out more. Turns out that striking out more but hitting moon shots is better for your team than striking out less but grounding weakly to short. Who would have guessed?
The Yasiel Puig Award For Complete Awesomeness: Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Completely awesome? Maybe. But definitely not awesome enough to be rookie of the half!
He can do this and look like a model while someone more than 600 home runs ahead of him takes on the creepy air of a mortician.
I kept the links in because they’re funny. Also: way to pick on Sammy for being old, Jeff. Oh, you hit 609 home runs? Good job, grandpa. And I can’t be the only one who expected that second link to be to this.
He can get thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double time after time, and it’s cool because he is cool.
It is decidedly uncool. Puig is way past aggressive on the bases, and all the way to careless and stupid.
Puig is going to make the All-Star Game despite fewer plate appearances than Omar Infante in 2010
He did not. There’s still a chance he’ll get picked by the manager to fill in for an injured player, but other than that: no. And thanks for reminding me that Omar Infante made the All-Star team in 2010, which was: batshit insane. At least Puig is actually good!
I’ve just started this new web site devoted to all the terrible games and game-like and game-related things I make. Check it out if you’re in to that sort of thing! If you’re not, well, eff off. Oh yeah. That just happened.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking "what my team needs is a 41-year-old hitter who can’t play defense, hasn’t hit for a damn since his second failed steroid test, and hasn’t even played in the majors in two years," right? Well, this yahoo has the airtight case!
It’s Time for Manny to Be Manny for the Texas Rangers
If you’re missing the backstory, the Rangers signed Manny Ramirez to a minor-league deal the other day. I doubt the Rangers are stupid enough to think anything will come of this, but it’s almost zero risk, and they’re utterly deadlocked with Oakland, so: why not?
That’s not what this guy thinks.
The Rangers signed outfielder Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract to possibly add some right-handed pop to the lineup. Ramirez was last seen playing in Taiwan earlier this season but walked away from that a couple of weeks ago.
Much like what he did to the last MLB team to give him a chance. This is not a point in his favour.
On the surface, this looks like a bad move. Ramirez is notoriously temperamental and has 2 PED-related suspensions on his ledger. He is an easy guy to dislike if you’re a baseball fan.
What? No, that’s super wrong. Manny is one of the easiest players for baseball fans to like, because he’s super super funny. He does the dumbest, most completely over-the-top things. Do you not remember this? It was 100% amazing. No, Manny is easy for fans to like. He is, however, super, super hard for team owners, managers, and general managers to like. I mean, even when he’s not beating them up.
Examine a little deeper and it looks like a coup for Rangers GM Jon Daniels. For the major league minimum, JD acquired arguably the greatest right-handed hitter of the last 20 years.
Albert Pujols, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Miguel Cabrera on lines 1 – 5 for you, Brian.
With all the accolades he’s received in his long career, Ramirez has nothing left to accomplish on the field.
He’s never been MVP. Not that he has a shot in France at that this season, mind you, but it’s a thing he never accomplished on the field. He’s never won a triple crown. He’s never even been borderline acceptable on defense. These are all things Manny Ramirez never accomplished.
Oh, also: he never demonstrated that he can hit shit when he’s not on the juice. There’s that too.
I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he took a job for the minimum salary and agreed to go to the minor leagues and prove himself all over again because he wants to play the game and he wants to help the Rangers win a pennant.
Yeah, that’s probably right. Cynical sportswriters like to pretend everything’s just about the money, but, honestly, these dudes really really love baseball. I have zero trouble believing that Manny took this deal because he just really wants to play in the Majors one more time.
Ramirez is 41 years old and not the player he once was, but even if he’s 50 percent of what he was in his prime, he’s better than what the Rangers are throwing out there now in the outfield (by that, I mean David Murphy).
Let’s take this literally, because that’ll be hilarious. I say we define Manny Ramirez’s "prime" arbitrarily to be from 1999 through 2008 — from his first season with an OPS over 1 through his last. Let’s see what Manny Ramirez would be good for in a full 162 games at half that level:
.160 / .210 / .305 with 22 HR (hard to do with .305 SLG, but there you are) and 49 BB (hard to do with .210 OBP, but: see above)
Sure, that’s a big damn cheat. Cutting his rates in half is pretty pessimistic. But you’re the dude what said 50%. And so far this season, Murphy’s posted .224 / .282 / .383 with 9 HR and 22 BB — not anything good, but better than 50% Manny. And also better than I’d be willing to bet the Rangers would get out of whatever Manny still is. He’s also been worth 6 Defensive Runs Saved, and Manny’s absolute best mark in his whole career was -5. And that was over a full season, not just a half like Murphy’s had.
And at DH, for that matter, where Lance Berkman has been a bit of a disappointment as far as power numbers.
Oh, are you not done? Berk Man: .263 / .360 / .390, 6 HR, 36 BB. Sure, not exactly driving the ball, but he’s getting on base. Half-a-Manny wouldn’t accomplish that.
He appears to have calmed down quite a bit from the bad boy image he projected in Boston and Los Angeles.
Yeah, probably this goes hand-in-hand with how he’s begging for a job now, rather than daring dudes to fire him.
Rangers manager Ron Washington is not exactly a strict disciplinarian out there, so Ramirez would probably for the most part police himself.
Right. I’m sure that will end well for everybody involved.
After this, he switches gears and describes it as a low-risk move with really long odds of paying dividends. Which is what it is. But holy shit is 41-year-old, presumably-no-longer-juicing Manny Ramirez not a good bet to be better than pretty much anybody. And your idea of putting him in the field is just downright silly.
There’s this outfit called the Mat-su Valley Frontiersman, and it’s a small local paper around here that writes small, local articles about small, local things. So that’s fine. This week there’s an article in the Frontiersman called "Coming Home," and it’s about a local boy who done made it good, and how awesome an achievement this is. But then right underneath the title is the line
Grit and guts paying off for Valley pitcher in ABL
And I just know I’m going to Hell. Because I am about to ridicule — on the internet, no less — an article in the local paper about a local boy and how heartwarming and awesome he is.
Local boy makes good is always a great story. What if the local boy isn’t the biggest, most physically gifted kid? What if he’s more like Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger?
That is the first line of the article! That is the first line of the article. I cannot tell you how excited I am. You know in cartoons when a character’s eyes get really big and like dollar signs appear in them? My eyes literally just did that, only instead of dollar signs they were little tiny Baseball-Reference player pages. No, that’s true.
Known as a grooming ground for top college players and Major League Baseball draft picks, the Alaska Baseball League is loaded with skilled baseball players — big, physical and full of talent. Rarely does a local Alaska player catch on in the ABL, and more rare that he has much success. The odds are long, and fitting in with the players from the nation’s top colleges and programs can be intimidating at best for small-town ballplayers.
Fun fact: the state of Alaska contains 731,449 people. The United States of Baseball contains 316,163,000 people. Do you know what fraction of 316,163,000 731,000 is? That’s right: it is 0/14. I submit that the fact that 0% of the talent pool originates in Alaska is more of a factor than "intimidation" in determining how many of them make the ABL.
Except, nothing intimidates Palmer-grown Kyle Bovy.
Well, fuck me. I guess growing up on the mean streets of Palmer made him that much more Ecksteinian.
Many gunslingers of the Wild West weren’t big, either; just fast, smart and confident.
At 5-feet-10 and 140 pounds, Bovy matches talent, size and pedigree with his grit, guts and savvy. Like Billy the Kid’s six-gun, Bovy’s unique pitch comes off the hip, low slung, released from his shoe-tops.
I don’t care if this is a small-town local paper: that is the single most amazing thing anyone has ever written about a baseball player. It is so perfect that, if I hadn’t seen the actual physical paper myself, I would guess that some sly fox hacked into frontiersman.com and inserted that into the sports section as a joke. Let us document the many ways this is the best:
- Obviously fake athlete "listed height and weight"
- 100% nonsensical simile
- Way way way too wordy
And I know I mentioned it in the list, but I’d like to draw more attention to this: I am 5’5″ tall, and I did at one point weigh 140 pounds. I was positively gaunt. The only universe in which this dude weighs 140 pounds is the same one in which André the Giant was 7’4″ and weighed 640 pounds.
They call it the submarine, a rare pitch in baseball and a total departure from the traditional overhand throwing motion. It’s more like a torpedo, screaming at the target under the surface, catching victims unaware. Thrown underhand with a forward rotation, the sinking ball can be very tough for a batter to track.
You know why it’s rare? Because trick pitches can be really tough on amateur and like rookie-league guys, but once you get out of Class A everybody’s seen it before. And then the fact that you can’t throw it any harder than 80 mph is going to murder you.
Although most pitchers usually throw it around 80 mph, Bovy already hits the mid 80s consistently.
Oh, he already throws it 2 – 4 mph harder than "most pitchers?" Well, shit. I’m sure Miguel Cabrera will have a really hard time hitting your 84-mph meatball.
A few years ago, his coach at the College of Marvin, Conor Bird, wanted to add a submarine pitcher to the rotation.
The College of what, now?
He needed a kid not afraid of a change and a challenge, someone who knew the game inside and out, someone with more heart, hustle and head than physical ability and talent.
He needed somebody expendable, who was going to get goddamn cut unless he picked up a gimmick. Also: your article has now used the words "grit," "guts," "heart," and "hustle." Congratulations: you have written for the cycle.
He turned to the kid he watched growing up around baseball while he was coaching the Mat-Su Miners to great success — Kyle Bovy.
That sentence is a turd. I’m sorry, I know picking on syntax is kind of lame, but, seriously. Your pronouns are all a jumble, and even once I’ve untangled them, there’s no content behind them. You sir should write for ESPN.
And Bovy picked it up quickly, mastered it and has been keeping batters baffled and off balance ever since. Just give him a chance and watch what happens.
The other reason ESPN should hire you is because like every goddamn paragraph you write has some kind of weirdo alliteration in it. Not to mention your switch from preterite indicative to present imperative is really jarring.
Okay, I promise I’ll lay off the syntax for the rest of the article. Maybe.
Watching him warm up in the bullpen, whipping his trademark pitch at Hermon Brothers Field, I listened to a big, confident pitcher with bleach-blond hair and a Division I scholarship loudly exclaim that the submarine pitching style would never get him anywhere.
Now, on the one hand, that’s a super dick move. But on the other hand, this dick pitcher you clearly made up just to set up your ridiculous homily is pretty much right. You know what the best-known trick pitch in baseball is? The knuckleball. You know how many active MLB pitchers throw a knuckler? This guy can tell you.
The kid catching for him tried to stick up for Bovy, bringing up MLB star Tim Lincecum, also a slight-framed overachiever using mechanics over muscle.
I… uh. Here’s the deal, Adam. Tim Lincecum has two Cy Youngs. Do you know what years he won them for? 2008 and 2009. Since then, you know what’s happened? His fastball velocity has dropped. That’s a muscle thing. And he’s now pitching in relief, since he frankly sucks. He’s gone from being worth 7.9 and 7.5 WAR in his Cy young years to 3.7, 4.2, -1.7, and -1.0. He is now a terrible pitcher, and this is almost entirely because he can’t throw hard enough to be successful anymore.
So, the moral of this story is: if you’re going to make up an argument, you can have the dude on your side mention any player you want. And, next time, it would be better if you check your facts and pick a player who doesn’t 100% explode your entire thesis.
The submarine pitch can be effective.
Sure. And you can get people out with an eephus, too. Doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to build your whole career around it.
Ted Abernathy used it for 14 years in the Majors, and Dan Quinsberry rode the submarine style as the best closer in baseball for the Kansas City Royals in the early 1980s.
Ted Abernathy played from 1955 to 1972, making him not the most relevant possible example. Also, perhaps you’re wondering why 1972 minus 1955 utterly fails to equal 14. This is because Ted Abernathy spent big chunks of time in the minors, which is a thing you might want attention drawn away from in your gushing article about a goofball pitch.
Also, Dan Quisenberry — not "Quinsberry," doofus — was indeed the best closer in baseball for the Kansas City Royals in the early 1980s. But you might be suffering from an overabundance of specificity there, and, if we broaden our scope to include non-Royals teams, well, your argument becomes a bit less solid.
According to his mother, Tammy, Bovy’s been hearing this kind of talk from doubters and naysayers his whole life.
"Just put him out there and see what happens," she says. He just keeps proving them all wrong.
Now there’s a neutral observer if ever there was one.
Kyle’s parents tell the story of their son, 5-foot-nothing and 100 pounds soaking wet, trying out for his high school baseball team.
"They said he was too small," Tammy said. "I said, just give him a chance and he’ll show you what he can do."
And they responded "well, we better teach this kid a trick pitch, ’cause he ain’t gonna make it with what he has."
Although local players rarely make an impact in the ABL, this season Kyle is flourishing in his role as a set-up pitcher for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots.
So impactful he’s pitching in middle relief.
Late in a game, after dozens of pitches thrown in a traditional overhand fashion, batters often struggle with a ball suddenly coming from a completely different point with unorthodox movement, speed and placement. Often coming in for just one inning, he keeps opposing batters off-balance and gets them out of rhythm before turning the game over for a closing pitcher to finish out.
The "closing pitcher" — I’m with you; Bill James probably invented the made-up term "closer" the same time he was inventing imaginary fairy concepts like OBP and WHIP — doesn’t face any dudes his setup man faced unless one of them sucks. So: what?
Though he pitches few innings, Kyle’s 0.00 ERA in ABL play so far this year is still impressive, a testament to his baseball background, ability and continually overcoming the odds.
Also a testament to how very, very few innings he’s pitched. Ah, yeah; 4.2 IP. And look at that: he’s up to a 1.92 ERA, since he stank yesterday.
Adam W. Mokelke is principal at Burchell High School and an avid local baseball fan.
Well, now I feel like an asshole. Thanks for that.
There’s an old Pigs in Space that starts with the crew of the Swine Trek staring straight into the camera, until finally Captain Hogthrob breaks the silence by opining "oh, the endless sameness of eternal space." That’s just how I am about E3. At least most years we get Nintendo playing the part of the Swedish Chef and running in seemingly at random to spout a whole lot of nonsense; this year Nintendo decided, wisely for them but sadly for those of us who wanted something mildly amusing to happen, that they weren’t interested in going through the motions anymore, and we were left staring blankly at the dilapidated voodoo skeleton of what used to be E3, hoping uselessly for anything fun to happen.
You gotta figure Sony is hurting bad these days. They’ve been the uncontested market leader for as long as anybody can remember, but after Microsoft’s strong showing at this year’s expo, Sony may find themselves a distant runner-up in the field of hilarious press disasters. Is there one person anywhere in the world who doesn’t think the Xbox One is horribad? The timing was so perfect that I have to wonder if Snowden’s real target wasn’t Microsoft’s console division; it was like, what, a week between the announcement that the Xbone will have always-on cameras and microphones in your living room and a constant internet connection and the big reveal that MS has been deep in bed with the NSA helping them spy on us? Yeah, thanks but no thanks, Microsoft; I’ll pass on the option to pay $500 so you can install your telescreen in my house.
But what about the games? There were lots of new games on show at E3. Were any of those fun? Well, there were brand new entries in the Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Arkham Asylzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Huh? Whoa, sorry about that. Long day, I guess. What was I talking about? Oh, right: I was just going to mention that Saints Row 4 showed at E3 this year, and it looked prezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Hmm? Yeah, sorry. Seriously, there was absolutely nothing fun at E3. Lots of eight-hour movie games that are exactly the same as the eight-hour movie games you paid $60 for last year. Woo-eee. If I were forced to pick a "game of show," I’d have a really hard time not picking Ducktales Remastered, because we’re at the point in the evolution of gaming where a graphical revamp of a 25-year-old NES game based on a Disney cartoon looks way more fun than any of the pablum Ubi and EA are churning out. I mean, Watch Dogs? You guys really think that looks fun? Holy shit. It’s exactly the same as everything you’ve been playing since 2007, but 14% browner and with even longer movies. Oh boy oh boy oh boy yum yum yum yum!
The one thing I actually wanted to see at E3 this year — Monolith’s mysterious upcoming Xenowhatsit — was a complete bust. All they showed was a new trailer that’s even worse than the last trailer. Where the last one had some gameplay footage, this one is mostly footage of a cutscene involving a dude walking really slowly through a warehouse while what I can only assume passes for rap in Japan drones on in the background. I linked to it up there, but, really, don’t bother. It’s like forty seconds long and it sucks.
So all of these articles are required to end with a ridiculous "who won E3" bit where the author gives an imaginary internet award to the company that gave him the most freebies at the show. Did you go to E3? If not, then, congratulations, I say you won. You did something better with your time than attend this absurd sameness festival, even if it was just sitting around and jerking off to the truly bizarre quantity of hentai featuring Mega Man, the Animal Crossing Villager, and the Wii Fit Trainer that was somehow magically produced within 24 hours of the Smash Bros videos actually going live. If anything is faster than the speed of porn, I don’t know what it is.