John Farrell and Torey Lovullo looked down toward the Twins bullpen. They saw some stirring, as Minnesota lefty reliever Brian Duensing had grabbed a ball and tossed it a few times.
Then Duensing sat down. It was then the Red Sox manager and his bench coach knew they had put the right people in the right places.
“It’s a good feeling,” Lovullo said after the Red Sox’ 12-5 win over the Twins Saturday night, “when all the puzzle pieces fit perfectly.”
The puzzle Lovullo referenced was the Red Sox batting order, a collection of names that was initially crafted five days earlier, and not finalized until 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
As similar as each of Farrell’s lineups may seem, each day and each order has a life of its own. Every single position in the lineup has more of a purpose than most would understand, as is evidenced by meticulous process the manager and his coaches undergo when piecing the names together.
With the score nothing to nothing in the sixth inning, an angry cow temporarily broke up a baseball game between factory employees recently at Altoona, Pa. The cow upset the players’ benches, charged the fielders and then disappeared.
Alex Sanabia is on the Marlins. The odds are at least decent that you’ve never heard of Alex Sanabia before. What’s he all about? Let’s see ... leads the league in losses ... kind of a control pitcher in the minors ... 24 years old ... drafted in the 32nd round, just a round after William Mays ... but pretty nondescript, mostly.
...Spitter. He’s the spit guy. The guy with the spit. Yeah, I remember him. Ol’ Spitface with the spit coming out of his face. Good spitter, that guy. Loves to spit. Wish Alex would spit less, but god love him, he just can’t stop spitting.
Welcome back, JM Catellier…and his “own unique statistical formula”!
The average 20th century Hall of Fame starting pitcher has 258.3 career wins. That number is dragged down by Sandy Koufax’ 165 victories, but he can’t be omitted from this exercise as I consider him the best starting pitcher to ever throw a baseball.
Former Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez retired following the 2009 season with just 219 wins and only two 20-win seasons. Is it possible that he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer?
Looking at recent trends in history, it sure seems like a long shot. If the aforementioned list is narrowed down to the nine Hall of Fame starting pitchers that were active since 1980, the win average jumps to 306.6. Martinez didn’t come close to that number in his career—falling 87 wins short. So why are we even having this discussion?
...Using my own unique statistical formula, I ranked the ten most dominant individual seasons by a pitcher since 1930. Martinez showed up twice on the list. His 2000 season ranked ninth, while his unbelievable 1999 campaign ended up being right up there at the top of the list. That’s almost unimaginable considering the seasons that the pitcher-friendly 1960s produced as well as the fact that Martinez was likely facing a juiced lineup on any given night in his career. Koufax, by the way, finished second (1965) and third (1963) in my top 10.
Though his career totals may lack in comparison to many of the current members of the Hall of Fame, Pedro Martinez’ average output on the mound and dominance during the Steroid Era blows the competition away in many cases. Martinez should be a lock for the Hall of Fame, and he should get in on the first ballot.
But what really left teammates in awe of Sale was his performance on a charter flight to California. In a four-hour masterpiece, Sale packed two ice cream sundaes and, by one teammate’s estimate, around 30 bags of potato chips into one of the skinniest bodies the sport has ever seen.
“I may or may not have done that,” Sale said.
Sale is one of baseball’s most promising young pitchers, a dazzling left-hander coming off an All-Star season in 2012. But in terms of pure metabolism, he may already be one of the game’s all-time greats.
He eats like a man whose gut should protrude far over his belt, yet he looks like a man who could be blown off the mound at any moment by a strong gust of wind. At 6-foot-6 and just 180 pounds, Sale is baseball’s answer to Takeru Kobayashi, the 128-pound hot-dog eating champion.
“He eats more than anybody on Earth,” 285-pound first baseman Adam Dunn said. “I’ll gain 10 pounds just by watching him eat. And he doesn’t gain any weight.”
...Over the weekend, Sale was planning a trip to In-and-Out Burger, which he calls “my kryptonite.” He is also a loyal customer of McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Five Guys.
“I’ll eat pretty much anything I can get my hands on most of the time,” Sale said. “It just depends what kind of mood I’m in. Cheeseburgers. Pizza. Steak. Chicken. Pork chops. I love ribs. Baby back ribs.”
Seems as if The Barry Bonds Family Foundation has welcomed a new member.
“I don’t try to compare me to anybody,’’ Bonds said. “I was the best on the field. I did more things than he did. My game was different than his game. So comparing him, to me, there’s no comparison.
“He doesn’t have my MVPs. He doesn’t have my numbers. Well, not yet, anyways.
“But does he have that ability? Yes, he does.
“Does he have that gift? Yes, he does.’‘
...“Winning a Triple Crown is amazing to me,’’ Bonds said. “I tried to win a Triple Crown, and couldn’t do it. I tried to do it, I really did, but I had guys like Tony Gwynn in the way.
“So it’s amazing to see him do it once. But to see him do it again, wow, that would really throw me off the charts.
“I couldn’t do it once, and then to see him to do it twice, now that would be shocking.
...“You guys can analyze it all you want,’’ Bonds says, “but his hands aren’t quicker than anybody else, or anything else like that. He’s just smarter than anybody else. He knows what he has to do, and can recognize pitches better than anyone.
“People don’t realize he’s the same person he was last year, and the year before that, but he’s got that experience now. It’s hard to explain, but what he does is minimize what a lot of people pile up on themselves. He puts it in a compartment, and utilizes it to the best of ability.
“Without giving you too much information about hitting, that’s what he does.
“It’s no different than Tiger [Woods] on the golf course. Or Michael Jordan on the basketball court. Or Muhammad Ali in the ring. They have that gift too. Ken Griffey Jr. had it better than anybody, but injuries got to him. Same with Alex Rodriguez.
“There are other athletes that have it too, but where they go with it, that’s up to them..
“I wasn’t the best at that part, but I was the best on the field.
“Cabrera is doing it all, as well as anybody I’ve ever seen.’‘
Boz pays homage to the gritty, gutsy, scrappy, first place 2013 underdog Yankees:
Perhaps for the first time in their history, the Yankees now epitomize exactly the kind of team that always used to try to beat them: a group of inspired-by-adversity, too-old-or-too-young, one-last-chance players who band together to prove that baseball is a team game, not just an aggregation of talent and fat contracts.
Put a few all-star seasons, such as Cano’s 31 RBI, Kiroda’s 1.99 ERA and Rivera’s 16 saves and 1.56 ERA, at the center of a truly inspired group effort, and you can get shocking results for quite a long time. But the Yankees’ current 102-win pace, with nine victories in their past 12 games, is simply not possible for a full season. At some point, the real Yankees have to return.
Until then, if it’s novelty you want, root for the Nine Old Men, and all the unknown kids who are helping them. Just once in a lifetime, everybody should be able to say they cheered for the Yankees.
Wonder if Paul Anka can pen another hit after this nosedive…
But the thing that was most striking about Pujols is that he was always exactly as good as he had been the year before. He never had a bad year. He never had anything RESEMBLING a bad year. They called him “The Machine.” If you take the WORST statistical totals he had those first 10 years – that is, the lowest batting average he had over those 10 years, the fewest home runs he hit, etc.—you STILL come up with this season:
Repeat: Those are his WORST numbers in those first 10 years. The guy was a first-ballot Hall of Famer on his worst day.
And he was thrilling to watch hit. He stood at the plate with that wide stance – he looked so sturdy and immovable, like he was magnetically connected with the batters’ box. He was like a marble statue up there.
...But, even assuming he does again find the range, even assuming he has a few more productive years, the truth is that Pujols has entered a different phase of his career. After years of being the best player in baseball, Pujols is now sort of beside the point.
Look: He is 33 years old, just beginning a $240 million contract, and he’s playing for an overpriced and kind of dreadful team that looks like it was built by a rotisserie baseball beginner who ran out at the last minute and bought three fantasy baseball magazines. He looks hurt. He looks tired. He looks out of place. He looks … well, truth is, who is even looking anymore?
There have been 188,593 pitches thrown thus far this Major League season.
When you break that down, it works out to 292 pitches per game, 32.69 per inning, 3.85 per plate appearance.
If you miss one here or there, even while in attendance, you are anything but alone. The sport generally allows us to take our time settling into our seats or casually conversing with our nearby neighbors or strolling the concourse in search of food. The pace and plot of the game are such that, while any pitch can conceivably change the course of a given game, the vast majority of them are cast into the void, and many of us like to assume—even if we’re wrong—that we have a pretty good radar for the “big moments” when the pitches have more prominence. You know, full counts and late innings and such.
Every now and again, however, comes a lesson that hammers home the value of a single pitch at any point. And boy, did we get one such lesson this weekend.
It happened Saturday night in Miami. First pitch of the game, the Marlins’ Tom Koehler throws a 94-mph fastball over the inside part of the plate and a little up in the zone for the D-backs’ Gerardo Parra, who swings and connects, sending the ball hurtling into the Marlins bullpen.
One pitch, 1-0. And that’s the way it would remain for the rest of the 236 total pitches thrown.
Parra would explain later that he heeded the advice of D-backs hitting coach Don Baylor, who had told him, “Just swing first pitch,” increasingly rare advice in a patient era in which hitters are actually taking more first pitches than ever. It’s not that Baylor had noticed specific tendencies in the Koehler videos and scouting reports (this was, after all, only his third Major League start), but he saw value in sending the hot-hitting Parra to the plate with an aggressive mindset.
“The pitcher wants to get ahead and you can make them pay,” Baylor said. “Not all the time, but there are certain times where the guy has to think about it or maybe their scouts have to think about it.”
Think about this: What Parra did was 50 years in the making.
A person’s head collides with an object. Unprepared for the impact, the head jerks in a violent whiplash motion. The person collapses, rolling on the ground and holding his head, before rising slowly and unsteadily. Eyewitnesses testify that the person was confused or disoriented.
“By definition, that’s a concussion,” says Dr. Daniel P. Perl, a professor of pathology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., the American military’s medical school. “A concussion is a transient loss of neurologic function following a blow to the head. Typically it can be confusion, memory loss or loss of consciousness.”
That’s what happened to soccer star Abby Wambach last month when she was hit in the face by a speeding ball, and it’s what happened Monday when Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper ran face-first at full speed into the outfield wall at Dodger Stadium. “Initially, it was like he was confused,” teammate Denard Span said. “I don’t think he realized he was on the ground.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon insisted Monday he was right — and the umpires were wrong — in the interpretation of replay rules on Sunday, saying it was “baseball anarchy” and “sandlot” for crew chief Gerry Davis to “make stuff up on the field.”
But an MLB review found that that Davis did follow guidelines properly in awarding the Rays’ Matt Joyce a home run.
...“Regardless of what they say, that rule is not in the book where you can change a double to a foul ball, as far as I know,” Maddon said.
“That is baseball anarchy when you’re making stuff up on the field just like that. ... That would just be making it up. That’s sandlot — “Listen, if it goes to the right of the orange Roadrunner, whatever, then it’s reviewable.” I totally disagree with their assessment on the field. It had to either be a double or a home run period, in my mind.”
Over the first 12 days of September, Langford went the distance against the Yankees, Orioles and Royals. Langford, who wore No. 22, had thrown 22 consecutive complete games.
Finally, on Sept. 17, in a game at Arlington, Texas, A’s manager Billy Martin marched to the mound after Langford had pitched 8⅔ innings and signaled for lefty reliever Bob Lacey to come on. Lacey induced a groundout from Buddy Bell to save Langford’s 17th victory.
“I remember him standing there like it was yesterday, and he came to get me,” says Langford, 61, now the rehab pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays. “He didn’t ask me this time, ‘How are you?’ or ‘You can do it’ or whatever. His comment was, God bless him, ‘I think it’s time now.’ Those were his words. I said, ‘Yes it is.’
If he said, “What took you so long?” that would have been funnier…
I just linked this in the Cano-Pedroia Time Warp Thread, but I felt like maybe it needed wider exposure. Remember when Gregg Zaun had the greatest website ever? Well, Ben Zobrist (& wife) appears to have gone to the same school.
I was surrounded in the clubhouse the other day, with no escape. Two players wanted—emanded—to know why there was even an MVP debate last year in the American League.
So technically, the great debate from 2012 rages on. Six months after the winner was announces, we are still talking about it.
These two players, like a seeming overwhelming majority of players, couldn’t understand why anyone supported Mike Trout in the apparently ongoing Trout-vs.-Cabrera argument.
“Cabrera won the Triple Crown. What more does he need to do?” fumed one.
“And his team won!” the other noted, emphatically.
I’m not sure why I was called on to provide the answers in the first place. But suddenly, I was slightly embarrassed to have supported Trout right up until the final couple weeks, when I finally made the switch. (Disclaimer: mine was a virtual support for Cabrera, as I had a ballot in the N.L. MVP vote, not the A.L.)
...I can’t be sure about this, but I suspect we are still talking about the 2012 MVP race partly because we figure the ‘13 MVP race won’t be much of a debate. By now, there is one clear leader.
And yes, it’s Cabrera.
Once again, Cabrera trails a bunch of folks in WAR, just like he did last year. Going into his three-homer game Sunday, his 2.0 WAR was matched or bested by the likes of Gerardo Parra, Starling Marte, Norichiko Aoki and Matt Carpenter. All those players are off to nice starts, but they are no Cabrera. And I doubt they’ve matched his play, no matter what their WAR numbers say.
Unless you remain a true believer in WAR, you’ve got to think Cabrera is well in front this time, no?
Baseball teams change at a glacial pace. I’m not talking about how a team does in a given season…that can change quite dramatically…I’m talking about what a team is: the broad scope of a team’s talents, their strengths and weaknesses. A team that’s good at converting a double play generally stays good at turning the double-play, just as a team with a terrible bullpen can’t make that bullpen a strength, at least not quickly. A team that gets lots of production at second base and no production at DH one year will likely have the same results next year.
[Heinie] Zimmerman is said to have been incensed by [Cubs owner Charles] Murphy’s statement…that Zimmerman would be able to play when he could get his hat on with a shoehorn, charging Heinie with having a swelled head.
This afternoon Zimmerman told [Johnny] Evers that he would not play, as he was ill. They then had a redhot argument, in which Zimmerman declared that he was tired of carrying the entire Chicago team on his shoulders…Evers informed Zimmerman that he would either play this afternoon or be suspended without pay.
“I’m angry that you think my ego is out of control! And I’m sick of carrying this team by myself!”
Zimmerman’s ‘illness’ miraculously vanished and he played that day, but he went out of his way to get ejected early in the game.
Gutting the new manager has never been easier, thanks to the ax effect!
The Dodgers were swept over their weekend in Atlanta, getting outscored, 16-8. Their bullpen allowed 12 of the runs. And Mattingly’s postgame quotes were the equivalent of bad body language, the thoughts of a manager who doesn’t know how to snap his team out of it.
Watching Sunday’s meltdown on television, I thought, “Mattingly might be gone tomorrow.” And then I got a text from a rival scout, one who has no particular insight into the Dodgers, but is attuned — like so many in the sport — to the game’s day-to-day rhythms.
“Making the call — Donnie Ballgame will get the axe tomorrow,” the scout said.
When I asked the scout why he thought that, he replied, “Gut feeling. The way they’ve been losing.”
The scout continued, “He’s a laid-back manager with a laid-back veteran club. Great dude, but they need some energy. Some fire. Some change with that payroll. Not his fault, but you can’t fire 25 players.”
At this point, who can disagree?
Yes, things can change quickly, starting Monday night in Milwaukee, the next stop on this trip. The Dodgers will start his three best pitchers — Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu — against the struggling Brewers.
My guess is that Mattingly gets this series, and if things don’t go better, that’s it. The Dodgers are off Thursday, then begin a five-game homestand against the Cardinals and Angels. You can look it up — managerial changes often occur on off-days before a homestand.
Roster of Rubbish? I know some people were down on who joined Armisen on stage…but this is ridiculous!
And Collins’ team isn’t winning. So you should understand why he might be losing it. He turns 64 later this month. He was run out of Houston and Anaheim. There is no next managing job. This is more than his last best chance. It is just plain his last chance to prove he is a good major league manager.
...For if you know whether Collins is a good manager or bad manager based on his Mets time, you are a heck of an evaluator. You want to argue not enough guys have gotten better under his charge, fine, but I would ask if you see many players with high ceilings in his dugout. If you want to insist craftier strategy would have won a few more games, I will disagree, but still wonder if getting to, say, 77 wins would be making anyone happy.
The strongest argument I believe anyone has is that Collins has failed to change the culture — that there still are too many Mets who feel like they have accomplished something when they haven’t, or that the roster still has no collective idea what it takes to put aside individualism and alibis and prioritize winning on a daily basis. But this might be more of a problem from the top of the hierarchy down than someone in middle management, like Collins, could impact.
The best work I ever have seen in this area was by Buck Showalter with the early-1990s Yankees. He was a master fumigator of those who obstructed winning (an aside: Valdespin would have been optioned to Singapore if Showalter managed him). But it also must be said that each season Showalter was Yankees skipper, then-GM Gene Michael fed him better and better players.
If you wondered what Cabrera would do for an encore after winning the Triple Crown, he’s sailing along. His batting average is 83 points higher than it was at this time last season. He also has three home runs and 13 RBIs more than he did after 42 games last season.
...For his part, Cabrera seemed almost embarrassed by the attention. He said he took no joy from doing great things in a loss. He also said that any talk of comparing him to the all-time greats is premature.
“It’s too soon to say that,” Cabrera said. “There are a lot of great players that have played this game. I respect them. Guys have gotten 3,000 hits and had 500 home runs. You have to give respect to guys who’ve already done it. It’s a long way to go to say that about me.”
Still, even Cabrera acknowledged he was in a nice little comfort zone. The Tigers lost three out of four to the Rangers, but Cabrera went 9-for-17 and raised his batting average 18 points from .369.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Cabrera said. “When you’re feeling good, you’ve got to keep going.”
Wonder if this includes yesterday’s gripping Trevor Ploof…
But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Advanced defensive metrics tell us what our eyes have likely suggested all season—that the Twins’ defense, for the most part, has very limited range.
It’s true that Twins fielders, collectively, don’t make many errors on balls hit to their range radius—but that radius is not very large. And it’s impossible for a fielder to make an error on a ball he can’t get to.
Ultimate Zone Rating currently ranks the Twins’ defense dead last due almost entirely to poor range—not surprising with the likes of Josh Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia and Chris Parmelee logging most of the innings in the corner outfield spots, and Trevor Plouffe starting at third base.
Even the speedy Aaron Hicks has referred to a road map on numerous occasions in center field.
Plus/minus metrics haven’t been as pessimistic toward the Twins as UZR, but according to BillJamesOnline.net, Twins fielders rank mid-pack in the American League at -1 run below average.
So, yes, the Twins are catching the ball as Gardenhire says.
Shades of Hairspray!...“It was a time of tradition, a time of values, and a time…to shake things up.”
For a journalist, chance encounters at a restaurant or a hair salon can become a major opportunity for advancing a story and in some instances the journalist is in the right place at the right time because he was with his wife. I had a very chance encounter with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Saturday afternoon in lower Manhattan because my wife happened to have an appointment at a hair salon and the Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor needed a trim. That lead to a nice chat as I said to the Justice Sotomayor, the last time we were together in this neighborhood was in the early spring 1995 not far from the hair salon when she “saved” baseball. And I never did get a chance to talk to you afterwards about your decision.
There was a break the ice laugh and then she said she was going to be part of a reenactment of the Curt Flood Supreme Court case in Washington on Thursday (May 23) and I should go.
...On Thursday, Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor will play a role in the Curt Flood trial reenactment. She isn’t saying who she is playing. The result will not change. Curt Flood will lose, Arthur Goldberg will still present a bad oral argument and that is forever frozen in history. But Judge Sotomayor does plan to remind the participants she is a Yankees fan. She roots for the uniform not necessary the players.
She has a central part in baseball labor history. But she cannot change the Flood decision of 1972. It doesn’t matter much now to today’s players. The game that the 1922 Supreme Court described, which never was as baseball was an interstate business in 1922 despite what the Court ruled, is long gone. But on Thursday, at least for a select number of people, the Flood case will come alive for a brief few moments.
Ho-hum. Another night, another Mitch Moreland home run.
If you’re scoring along at home, that makes Mitch 10, Internet Trolls and Media Infidels 0.
Count me in that latter category, I must confess. I thought the real Mitch Moreland was the one we saw for three years and in the first three weeks of this season — a .264-hitting kind of guy, who couldn’t hit lefties and infrequently drove in an important run.