Monday, March 10, 2014
So why has baseball been so slow to adapt in that area?
“(Laughs) Baseball’s been kind of slow to adapt to a lot of things, huh? It’s a very traditional game. If you ever read the book, ‘Men at Work,’ by George Will, the polycracy involved for years in professional baseball, as opposed to democracy or meritocracy, he called it. It was ruling by old friends. Slow to change! There’s no question about it. And don’t get me wrong, we have (an analytics) group here, Sam Mondry-Cohen and the guys that do the (advanced metrics) stuff that are tremendous. I’m not wired along those lines. Now, I will take that information, because you’d be foolish not to. But I still think you watch the game, like Tony LaRussa told me one time - purposeful watching. You watch for a reason.
“And also, what I know in (my head) is not just a gut instinct or an educated guess, it’s years of experience and seeing the players and having 18 years of an advance database. I’ve seen more baseball than most people ever would in three lifetimes. So you work it hand-in-hand. So we’re going to use some spray charts, try to adapt that, actually, and devise one of our own in-house along with some of the outside sources that provide spray charts.”
So you’re making your own spray chart?
“Yeah, I gave it to (advance scouting coordinator Erick) Dalton and Rosie (advance scouting assistant Christopher Rosenbaum). Because really, what pitchers want, I found this out the hard way with Kevin Brown and the Dodgers, he said, ‘Everything you’re giving me is what the league does in general against what you’re seeing. But I want to see where the ball’s going when they’re hit off of me.’ So the only way to do that is to be at the game when your man’s pitching. Well, it does make a lot of sense to specify it, if you do have a general spray chart and then devise one that’s specific for your individual pitcher, it’s got to give you some tendencies, right? That along with percentages of where a ball’s hit.”
We’ve all heard of the phrase “paralysis by analysis”. Are you worried about some players feeling like they have too much information kicking around in their heads during a game?
“I don’t worry about it, I just recognize who those people are so you don’t overload them. Some people, like in anything, one of the worst terms we have in baseball is instinct. Human beings aren’t born with an instinct to run the bases or catch a ground ball. My Labrador retrievers are born with an instinct to retrieve and swim in the water with webbed paws. You learn to play this game, you’re taught to play this game. The difference being some people have better powers of observation, more aptitude, better listeners, better watchers, purposeful watching. Better aptitude. If there are certain individuals who are not geared towards (it), if their makeup isn’t geared towards taking a lot of this data, we won’t give them a lot of it. But the ones that would like to have it, it will be there for them.”
Thanks to Ed.
Posted: March 10, 2014 at 09:24 AM | 2 comment(s)
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
“There are so many different stats out there nowadays I honestly don’t even know half the time,” reliever Tyler Clippard said. “I read articles, and I don’t even know what these guys are talking. fWAR-plus or ERA+, I don’t even know what those things mean. And I don’t really care to because I’m kind of like old-school-type mind-set where I just go out there and do well, and all that other weird statistical stuff will fall into place.”
...Mentioning some advanced statistics to pitching coach Steve McCatty results in obscenities. He has a number of preferred statistics: the percentage of strikes thrown, hits per nine innings, walks per nine innings, and strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also likes looking at first-pitch strike percentage and strikeout rates, but would rather see fewer base runners than more strikeouts.
“I like to see guys, but I like to keep the walks down because it’s just like giving up a hit,” he said. “If they’re going to beat you, make them earn it. If you can keep your walks down, and average 3-to-1 strikeouts, you don’t have to be a strikeout guy. That’s not always important, but that’s a good number.”
...A player’s batting average with runners in scoring position, known in shorthand as average with RISP, is a telling statistic for Desmond.
“I’m a character-type guy so if you have a guy with really high average but terrible with runners in scoring position, it kinda gives you a little reading on the person.”
Hitting coach Rick Schu shows hitters the tendencies of opposing pitchers: whether they nibble on the edges of the strike zone or fire high 90s fastballs — but he prefers to avoid the advanced offensive statistics.
“I don’t even know what all that stuff means,” he said. “I kinda just have a baseball edumacation. Just have some quality at-bats, barrel it up and do some damage. . . . I think all those numbers are more for the front-office guys. I’m more of a gruntster: Score some runs, have some good ABs, make some loud noises.”
Posted: March 04, 2014 at 07:47 PM | 11 comment(s)
Friday, February 28, 2014
What the hell are you complaining about Werth?!
Jayson Werth said good morning and then asked me over to his locker.
“Take a look at this,” Werth said, taking a baseball card from a stack on a shelf.
It appeared to be Werth’s Topps card for 2014. Except…
“Whose card do you think that is?” he asked.
It’s a picture that includes Werth pointing to something in the stands at Nationals Park — he’s not sure what anymore. It’s kind of neat, actually. But ... it could be anybody’s card.
“Thank you,” Werth said.
Ian Desmond on the left, Anthony Rendon in the middle and Werth on the right. Even the Washington Nationals’ assistant trainer, Steve Gober, can be seen clearly. The only reason you’d know for sure it was Werth’s card is because you know what Werth looks like. (Like Animal on “The Muppets.”) The card happens to be captioned with Werth’s name and position under his part of the picture, but that seems like happenstance.
It’s just so ...
“Vague?” Werth said.
Desmond likes the card so much, he keeps it taped by the nameplate in his locker as if it were his.
“I actually saw this picture on a computer and didn’t realize it was a baseball card,” Desmond said. “I put it in my locker the other day. We got ourselves a team baseball card.”
Posted: February 28, 2014 at 04:26 PM | 22 comment(s)
Monday, February 17, 2014
This team philosophy was originally started by Gene Gene Mauch.
“I always ask the infielders if they can dance or not,” Williams said yesterday during his session with the media, causing a couple reporters to shoot glances at each other, trying to figure out if the new Nats manager was being serious or not. “If they can dance, then they can play infield. If they can’t dance, we need to get them lessons, then they’ll be able to play infield. So that’s all it really is. You play through the baseball and create rhythm and all that stuff. You become more accurate, all those things.
“They always play music during batting practice, right?” added Williams, a four-time Gold Glove award winner as a third baseman. “And I would always try to get my ground balls according to the music. I developed that type of rhythm according to what’s playing on the scoreboard. With the beat.”
Williams “couldn’t dance a lick” during his playing days, he said with a chuckle. He also once bashed 43 home runs during a season and was a top-notch defender, so he was still able to get by. But while he might not be the most accomplished guy on the dance floor himself, Williams does believe that being able to feel the beat can help players in a number of ways.
“Dusty (Baker) taught me early on as a hitter, ‘We always have music in the cage,’ ” Williams said. “So if we went to work in the cage, there was always music. And we would hit along with that rhythm, that rhythm to the music.
...Williams initially refused to choose a walk-up song in his playing days when that concept was brand new, saying that he didn’t need one. Eventually, when team staffers persisted, Williams let teammate David Dellucci to pick his song for him - “Tom Sawyer,” by Rush.
“I enjoy something that’s got a good beat to it, that I can hear the bass of it,” Williams said. “Especially on the field, because ... classical, it’s hard to get that rhythm. I don’t know about hardcore rap, but something that’s got the constant (beat), so that we can time things on the field.”
Posted: February 17, 2014 at 09:54 AM | 50 comment(s)
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Jonah Keri’s “Big-ass feature on the Orioles, the Nationals, the TV deal that’s bringing the 2 teams to blows…”
In 2013, the O’s spent just a few million more on payroll than the Milwaukee Brewers, who play in the league’s smallest geographic market, and just $10 million more than the Kansas City Royals, who ranked second to last in total revenue last year. It’s no great surprise that a franchise that ranked in the middle of the pack in payroll last season and 23rd as recently as five years ago didn’t suddenly drop $400 million on two players.
On the other hand, it’s hard to understand why the Orioles aren’t spending at all. After winning 178 games the past two seasons, the O’s appear to be at a place on the win curve where minor upgrades could make a big difference — and where a major move could provide massive returns in both the win column and team bank account. Yet Peter Angelos’s team has failed to act, with $72 million currently committed to 15 players and a few low-impact arbitration rulings to come. Barring any impending signings, Baltimore seems to have settled for a roster that figures to be one of the cheapest in all of baseball despite boasting revenue streams to support more.
More than almost any other team, the Orioles are in a state of limbo. To figure out why, and to diagnose where they should go from here, we need to consider a dizzying array of factors, including an honest evaluation of team talent and AL East competition, the incredibly opaque realm of team finances and TV deals, and the riches-to-rags-to-riches recent history that’s affected both the team’s record and bottom line.
Posted: February 05, 2014 at 01:52 PM | 26 comment(s)
Friday, January 31, 2014
This is not going to start well.
When Matt Williams was recently asked about MLB’s use of instant replay for the 2014 season, a smile immediately flashed across his face.
As a first-time manager for the Washington Nationals, Williams will at least be on even ground when it comes to that new component of the game.
“I’m not the rookie, anymore,” Williams said, referring to how all managers will be dealing with the new rule for the first time. “Everybody is now in my boat. So, it’s going to be interesting to understand at what point do we want to do it, how it impacts our team and our game at that point. It’s going to be interesting.”
...Williams said teams had to be careful with how they request a replay because of the restrictions. He offered at least one scenario in which he would take advantage of the new rule.
“It could be a [Stephen] Strasburg-[Clay] Kershaw matchup where there may be very few [runs] scored,” Williams said. “And, we have a scoring opportunity with a man on third base and a have a ground ball to the infield, which we think [the runner] potentially beat to score us a run. That’s a scenario. But there’s a million of those.”
Williams said another issue would be if managers tried to stall while other team officials monitored the play to determine whether the play was worthy of instant replay. The rules say a manager must react in a timely manner, meaning before the pitcher and catcher are set to face the next batter, if he wants to officially review a call.
“There’s some cagey managers in this game,” Williams said with a sheepish grin.
Posted: January 31, 2014 at 10:19 AM | 11 comment(s)
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Seen the Lights Go Out on Michael Broadway…
The Washington Nationals, in partnership with Live Nation, announced on Thursday in a press conference at Nats Park that Grammy-winner Billy Joel will perform at the stadium on July 26. After headlining the first ever concert at the venue in 2009, Joel is back for another summer stop.
The event was announced just 24 hours prior and featured Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, as well as D.C.’s deputy mayor Victor Hoskins. The Billy Joel part was kept as a surprise for a full day before Hoskins revealed the news.
Rizzo was in attendance to represent the team, but also as a fan of Joel. He made a brief speech on stage after Hoskins spoke.
Here is what he said:
I’m just so excited to have Billy Joel back at Nationals Park. Not only is he a Hall of Fame-caliber entertainer, I just like the fact that he’s a very attractive bald man with a goatee. We gotta stick together.
Posted: January 23, 2014 at 04:05 PM | 284 comment(s)
Monday, January 20, 2014
Harper’s unforgotten realms…
2014 outlook: Harper’s 2013 hardly was a disaster — he did post the 9th-highest OPS by a 20-year-old in MLB history — but it was a disappointment, mostly because he was plagued by injuries throughout. After knee surgery in October, the Nationals expect Harper to report to spring training 100 percent healthy. Now it’s up to him to keep himself healthy all season. Harper may have to alter his game a bit to avoid major collisions, but more importantly, he’ll need to know when to take a day or two off with a nagging ailment and not risk it becoming worse.
...Best-case scenario: How high are we willing to aim here? Might as well go all the way. If Harper keeps his body close to 100 percent, there’s no reason to think he can’t be everything he — and we — expect him to be. So, let’s say … 40 homers, 120 RBI, a .300 batting average and National League MVP.
Worst-case scenario: It would probably involve injury, which is always a concern with Harper. He also would get frustrated at the plate and start pressing, trying to do too much. He ends up hitting .260 with 15 homers, 60 RBI, 125 strikeouts … and plays in only 110 games.
Most-likely scenario: If he’s on the field, Harper is going to be productive. There’s really no reason to believe otherwise. He’ll probably have to deal with some minor injury along the way — like most players do — but he still ends up playing in 140 games, hitting .285 with 30 homers and 90 RBI and finishing in the Top 10 in MVP voting.
Posted: January 20, 2014 at 09:26 PM | 7 comment(s)
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
World gone wrong.
By Zimmerman’s comprehension of the Nationals’ plan, he could spell Adam LaRoche in the starting lineup against tough, left-handed starting pitchers roughly 10 to 15 games. He will also be an option to move across the diamond if a double-switch removes LaRoche from the game. In the Nationals’ current plan, he’s a third baseman who will happen to play some first.
“If that’s best for the team, I’m willing to play over there,” Zimmerman said in a phone conversation. “I don’t want to play 60 games over there. The way I played at the end of last season and the way my arm felt, I think third base is my best position and it gives our team the best chance to win. I feel like I’m the best third baseman that we have.
“I think it’s more something like, ‘Have you ever played over there? Would you be willing to play there just in case?’ You know me. If I can help our team by playing over there, I’ll do it.”
...Williams said Zimmerman has the athletic ability to play any infield position – “he could play shortstop if he wanted to,” Williams said. Still, Zimmerman views learning first base as a significant challenge. He readily admits he has no earthly idea how to play first base. He has appeared in 1,110 major league games in the field: one at shortstop, 1,109 at third base.
“I don’t even know which foot stretch at first base,” Zimmerman said. “As much as I’m going to be playing over there, I don’t think I’m going to need a crash course. I’d like to think other guys will have confidence in me, that if they can get it close, I’ll be able to catch it.”
Posted: December 11, 2013 at 04:37 AM | 22 comment(s)
Monday, November 04, 2013
Okay, start at the left and tell me what letters you see GOBBLEDYGOOP.
In his introductory press conference Friday, Williams sure sounded the part of a 21st-century major league manager, as forward-thinking and embracing of the advanced metrics now frequently used to dissect baseball as he was respectful of the game he loves and true to his deep, traditional roots.
On his philosophy on analytics:
“It’s interesting how all of this is part of the game now. It used to be we’d go out and throw balls against the little soft-toss net behind the cage, take some swings, take some grounders, get ready for the game. Spring training was, ‘Hey, let’s run through these three bunt plays and we’ll call it a day. Let’s go whack some balls and make sure that you’re ready for tomorrow.’ It’s gotten a little more complicated these days. I want to use all of it, but I want to use all of it in the right way. I want to get an example of what somebody is going to throw Ian (Desmond) on 2-0. Not necessarily how many sliders he throws, but what is he going to throw him 2-0? What is going to throw him 3-1? So he’s got an idea of what he’s going to throw when he gets ahead in the count. Or what’s he going to go to if he’s trying to get him out behind in the count. We can have paralysis by analysis sometimes, so it’s our job as coaches to take all that information in, filter it, give the guys what they need as opposed to trying to bog them down with information. I want to use all of it, but I want to present them the right information on an everyday basis to make them as good as they can be.”
Posted: November 04, 2013 at 05:18 AM | 3 comment(s)
Saturday, November 02, 2013
Where the hell is Matt…on Sabermetrics?
But it won’t be difficult to pinpoint one facet of the Williams era that will quickly distinguish the former third base coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks from his immediate predecessor, Davey Johnson. Asked to describe himself in a word, the 47-year-old Williams didn’t skip a beat.
“I think it’s aggressive - in every aspect,” William said. “We’re going to try to take advantage of the situation that presents itself to us. We’re going to try to ... If a guy’s slow to the plate, we’re going to run. We want to put guys in motion and hit-and-run. We want to do some things that are maybe outside the box in getting a guy in from third base. Certainly, that’s a process. But that’s what I think. You can’t score unless you touch the plate, so we got to go. And we got to defend that plate with everything we’ve got as well.”
...Williams, while decidedly old school in some regards, has also embraced the notion that advanced metrics mesh with the eye test to create a fuller view of the game on the field. In that respect, he’s like Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, an early convert to sabermetrics who still appreciates the impact of what he can see, hear and feel on the diamond.
It’s not such a fine line, balancing between old school and being sabermetrically friendly, Williams said, even though they’re opposite extremes to some observers.
“It’s only extreme if you let it be extreme,” Williams said. “Old school is old school, and that’s great. But if you don’t get along with the times, bro, you better just step aside because this just is not going to work. You can’t be so one way or the other that you’re just blind to the other side because there’s advantages to looking at the other side. So I try to take a little bit of all of it. Old school in how we go about it? Yeah. Respect your opponent, go hard, do the things you need to do to be a good teammate - all of those things. That’s old school. ... But there’s also some analytics that can apply, too, and we have to look into all of it and use all of it if we want to compete for a championship.”
Posted: November 02, 2013 at 07:12 AM | 6 comment(s)
Friday, November 01, 2013
Pearlman: The Carson Crusher crusher.
Now, I understand the argument that ballplayers who cheated shouldn’t be tarred for a lifetime. And I understand the argument that players have cheated forever and ever—dating back to the first corked bat and doctored ball. But name another profession (Doctors? Lawyers? CPAs? Truck drivers? Electricians? Journalists?) that allows people who broke its rules and the law to not only return, but return to one of its highest positions? I’ve made this argument 1,001 times, and I’ve never understood the rejection of it: Matt Williams said he cheated in 2002 to stay healthy. He played 60 games that season. Perhaps, had he not cheated, he would have been forced to miss the entire campaign; maybe even retire. That same year, the Tucson Sidewinders, Arizona’s Triple A affiliate, had a 28-year-old infielder named Brian Dallimore bat .294—but never receive a call-up. Dallimore wound up appearing in a grand total of 27 Major League games—all with the Giants in 2004 and 2005. Also that same year, Double A El Paso (also a Diamondbacks affiliate) had a third baseman named Tim Olson hit .273 with 10 homers in 433 at-bats. Olson, too, was never called up—and appeared in 51 total big league games before retiring five years later.
...That’s why this matters. That’s why I refuse to fully move on. And that’s why I wonder—truly wonder—whether people understand the harm men like Matt Williams were/are responsible for. It’s not merely that they boosted their statistical lines and ruined the record books. It’s that, in doing so, some clean fringe player was demoted to Triple A after surrendering a Williams’ homer; some aspiring third baseman never stepped inside a Major League clubhouse because Williams was injecting Chemical X through his veins. Integrity is supposed to matter. I know it often doesn’t—but it’s supposed to. And when we say, “Meh—forgive and forget …” what we’re really saying is, “Yeah, these guys cheated the game, broke the law, ruined dreams …” but—hey. Whatever.
Believe it or not, despite the past eight paragraphs, I’m still torn on Williams as a manager. Perhaps we do need to move on. Perhaps enough is enough. What shocked me, though, was today’s press conference, and not … one … member of the Washington, D.C. sports press corps even asking Williams about PED. There are things to wonder, including, “What do you say to people who think cheaters shouldn’t be given second chances in baseball?” and “Did you learn anything from your ordeal?” and “Should we at all question your integrity and truthfulness?” In the same way Wally Backman once lost the Arizona managerial gig because, it turned out, he had several past legal issues, Williams should have (I believe) at least addressed the elephant in the room.
Or, perhaps, there is no elephant to speak of.
Maybe I’m just hallucinating.
Posted: November 01, 2013 at 10:28 PM | 33 comment(s)
Friday, October 11, 2013
Zimmerman: The wicked messenger.
Jayson Werth publicly threw his support behind Cal Ripken Jr. for the role of the Nats next manager. In a call with Holden and Danny on 106.7 The Fan, Ryan Zimmerman had some nice things to say about Ripken but admitted that the baseball legend wouldn’t be his first choice.
“I’ve met him a few times,” Zimmerman said of Ripken. “I think, obviously growing up he was mine and probably millions of other people’s favorite player, and I respect what he did, how he played the game. I haven’t talked to him at all about being a manager for us, or just being a manager at all. But I think his temperament and the way he played the game, I don’t think he would be a bad manager. I think it’s tough to be out of the game and never managed before and then to come right into it and be a manager in the big leagues. But if anyone could do it, I think he would be one of those guys that would be on the short list of people who could.”
Randy Knorr, the Nats’ bench coach, is getting Zimmerman’s hypothetical vote for the job.
“Obviously he’s a good guy and he knows baseball, and a bunch of us think he could be a good manager,” said Zimmerman. “But I think we kinda see him as [someone who] went through everything players have to go through to become a manager. He started as low A, worked his way up Double-A, Triple-A, he’s been here for a couple of years now. Sort of the backup catcher kind of role that so many of these young managers that have had success kind of were in the big leagues. It helps he knows that game, how to handle a pitching staff, things like that.
Posted: October 11, 2013 at 11:12 AM | 1 comment(s)
Sunday, October 06, 2013
Filmanthropy…when you just can’t scrub it off.
Anyhow, he gave at least two more on Thursday, and in both he made a similar point: that the Nats — who he still rates as the top team in baseball — can serve as a lesson that you should never take making the playoffs for granted.
Of course, a cynic would argue that 16 out of 30 NHL teams make the playoffs, and only 10 out of 30 MLB teams make the playoffs, so a playoff appearance in baseball is a slightly more significant accomplishment. But the point stands.
Here’s Leonsis, on ESPN 980.
“Our young guns, they’re now in the prime of their careers,” he said. “Their careers are going by, and they’ve made the playoffs six years in a row, and they shouldn’t take that for granted. This year, one of the things that I’ve been preaching to everybody – and I did use the Nationals as an example – I love the Washington Nationals. I love what the Lerners have done with that team. I’m a season-ticket holder. And last year was an unbelievable experience and thrill.
“And I thought this team is and was the best team in baseball,” Leonsis continued. “And they had injuries and some things didn’t work right, and they didn’t make the payoffs. And that stunned me. Because I just took [that] for granted, and I’m sure that team next year’s gonna make the playoffs. But they didn’t make the playoffs. And that’s got to be front and center, that nothing is given to you. That team has made the investments and has all of the talent, and for a variety of reasons it didn’t win. We’ve been taking for granted that we’re going to make the playoffs with the Capitals. We shouldn’t do that. And we need to look at that as a gift.”
Posted: October 06, 2013 at 04:33 AM | 10 comment(s)
Thursday, September 19, 2013
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Doctor Wiemi ?
“So, I don’t know what is going on,” Strasburg said. “But it I think it works better for the club, instead of drop there and have it potentially have it happen to me in a game, give it a couple of days, have Gio and Jordan go ahead and get it done and get after it on Saturday.”
Strasburg described how the soreness in his muscle tissue felt and how he would not want it to happen while he is in the middle of a start. He also doesn’t understand why he can’t get loose in these workouts enough to pitch in a game.
“Like I said, I don’t really know why it is happening,” Strasburg said. “But when it happens, it happens. It is like a really strong cramp. I think it would put us in a bind if I went out there and felt it. Definitely be down some pitchers.”
He does not believe that the cramps will cause him to be shut down for the season.
“I wouldn’t say I am too concerned,” Strasburg said. “Because when I get nice and loose, it feels 100 percent. The tough thing is getting loose.
“They did all the tests. Doctor Wiemi (Douoguih) looked it over, everything was structurally sound. I think it is just part of it being September, and that is pretty much it.
Posted: September 19, 2013 at 04:00 AM | 13 comment(s)
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