Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
The Royals really are the closest baseball thing to a Coen Brothers movie. With two outs, the Royals tried some sort of double-steal with Billy Butler at first and Eric Hosmer at third. If I got the play right, and can write this without breaking down in convulsions, Butler was supposed to get hung up between first and second, distracting the A’s long enough to allow Hosmer to steal home. This, of course, ended in humiliation, with Hosmer being thrown out at the plate by 800 million steps, but as is often the case the spectacular ineptitude of the play was doubled or trebled by the Ned Yost explanation, where he explained that Butler left early and Hosmer left late and, otherwise, the Royals would have score a run.
Any comedian will tell you that you can’t explain comedy, and every effort to do so will just dig you deeper into anti-comedy, and maybe that’s why the straight-laced Yost always comes across so absurdly in these situations. Eric Hosmer is a generally lumbering first baseman, and Billy Butler might be the slowest player in baseball, and any complicated running play with these two is destined to become a Will Ferrell movie. It would have made me feel so much better if Yost had not given a considered answer on how that madcap scheme might have worked but instead said, “Yeah, that was crazy, right? Woo hop! Brain cramp! Hey, it’s the first postseason for me too!”
An absolute must-read from Jeff Sullivan, with illustrative .GIFs showing exactly how Jarrod Dyson, a veteran basestealer, marked his man in Sean Doolittle, learned his “tell,” and took advantage. There’s more explanatory insight into the in-game situational awareness required to be a great basestealer than anything else I’ve ever read.
I want to talk about the biggest steal of the game. Maybe the biggest steal of the season? When Jarrod Dyson stole third base in the bottom of the ninth, it was worth .133 WPA to the Royals. When Josh Willingham opened the frame with a single, it was worth .133 WPA. When Aoki brought Dyson home, it was worth .133 WPA. Stolen bases are usually incremental factors, but Dyson got himself to third with one out in a one-run game, and the numbers tell you how important that was. Now let’s look at how Dyson stole the base off Doolittle, leaving Norris almost helpless.
Dyson led the American League this year in swipes of third, with ten. He was topped in the majors only by Billy Hamilton, and Hamilton was caught one more time than Dyson was. Dyson was rather famously picked off at second by Joe Nathan just a few weeks ago, but that wasn’t representative of his skills. Also, Dyson had just been inserted into the game, for a rather obvious purpose. Also, it happened before Dyson could get a good read. When Dyson was caught stealing this year, it was within the first one or two pitches. When he moved up to third, it was always after observing multiple pitches, sometimes several of them. Dyson got to see a lot of Doolittle before he finally took off.
Again: read, read, read.
Worth clicking on for nothing more than the video of a thoroughly endearing clubhouse interview with Cristian Colon and basestealing hero Jarrod Dyson:
Players and former players texted me that Yost should be fired after he pulled right-hander “Big Game” James Shields in favor of rookie righty Yordano Ventura in the sixth inning. Yost chose Ventura, a starting pitcher, over a bullpen full of accomplished relievers. Moss hit a three-run homer, his second of the game, triggering a five-run rally.
At that point, I started writing a column comparing Yost to former Red Sox manager Grady Little, who was fired after sticking too long with Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series.
Red Sox fans, who at that point were still waiting for the “Curse of the Bambino” to end, would not have tolerated Little’s return. And I’m not sure Royals fans would have tolerated Yost’s return if the night had ended in bitter defeat.
But it did not.
Friday, July 04, 2014
FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal says the deal is done and that the A’s will get both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, giving up top shortstop prospect Addison Russell in return. He adds that other players and teams may be involved.
Posted: July 04, 2014 at 10:56 PM | 186 comment(s)
Thursday, July 03, 2014
As director of professional scouting and baseball development for the Oakland Athletics, Dan Feinstein scouts amateur players, evaluates the organization’s talent, is involved in contract negotiations and arbitration cases, ponders trades and analyzes potential free agent signees.
His varied portfolio is news to at least one of the team’s players.
“I don’t doubt that he does a lot, and has done a lot, for the organization, but I don’t know to what extent,” catcher Derek Norris said of Feinstein during a recent A’s visit here.
For the past three years, Feinstein, 42, has been one of the prominent executives powering the Oakland approach to diamond success known as Moneyball under its guru, general manager Billy Beane.
There’s been plenty of success this season for the American League West-leading Athletics, who boast one of the best records in baseball and stand near the top of the league in team pitching and hitting. And they’ve been doing it with an assortment of players excelling in both the traditional and Moneyball statistical categories.
Beane employed the Moneyball strategy to enable his low-revenue Athletics to compete against richer clubs. Popularized by the Michael Lewis book “Moneyball” in 2003 and the 2011 film of the same name starring Brad Pitt, the plan has spread throughout the major leagues.
Moneyball aims to identify and acquire undervalued players by placing a premium on what were then newly minted statistics such as OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage), as well as walks, caught stealing, pitches taken and other measures.
...In 1995, he jumped at Beane’s offer to add videotaping to his chores. The following season it became his full-time job.
“I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been in the right place at the right time,” Feinstein said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in baseball who would tell you they look at their job as a job.”
Like anyone employed in a baseball team’s front office, Feinstein said, he aspires to “bigger and better things” professionally, including being a general manager. He added, however, “I’m extremely comfortable and thankful in the role I currently have.”
A key aspect of that role is the Major League Baseball draft, which was held last month. Eighteen of Oakland’s 40 selections were pitchers.
“That was by design,” Feinstein explained. “The only way that we’re going to have success at the major-league level is if we have pitching, and you can never have enough of it. It’s the single biggest asset we need to compete.”
Thanks to DW.
Posted: July 03, 2014 at 05:31 PM | 6 comment(s)
Duff reaction: Carbon copy.
Brad Ausmus is an Ivy Leaguer.
In other words, he’s known guys with pocket protectors. He’s seen number crunchers up close in action.
And yet when you ask him about Moneyball, he’ll tell you it doesn’t add up.
“There is value in numbers,” admitted Ausmus, the Dartmouth product who manages the Detroit Tigers. “I think the important thing is you don’t want to inundate players with numbers.”
Ausmus doesn’t completely discredit Moneyball, sabermetrics, or fancy stats, whatever you might want to call it.
Nor should he.
Nor should anyone.
What he does point out – and again, he’s correct in this assessment – is that taken alone, it’s simply not a formula for winning baseball.
The Athletics are living proof of that.
...Ausmus is also a believer in sabermetrics, just not on a daily basis.
“There’s value in it, but on a day-to-day lineup basis, you wouldn’t use that,” Ausmus said.
“If you’re a general manager projecting what a guy’s going to do over the next 2-3 years, whether to give him a multi-year deal, what his age is, how that plays out in terms of success, from an analytical sense, there’s probably more value in that for a general manager than a manager.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t use some numbers in our decision-making process, whether it’s in making out the lineup or defensive positioning.
“I see the value in it, but I certainly don’t live and die by it.”
The A’s continue to live and die by Moneyball.
Living large in the regular season. Dying off quickly in the playoffs.
Posted: July 03, 2014 at 08:14 AM | 45 comment(s)
Sunday, June 29, 2014
But, but…Harold Reynolds said “the A’s aren’t going to win because they make too many errors.”
Except: The A’s didn’t actually end up trumping anybody. Moneyball the movie and the book are the rare inspirational sports stories that end with a big game … that the little guys lose. And, all told, after Moneyball came out, the A’s went through an eight-year stretch where they made the playoffs only once. This led to some mockery inside the baseball industry, particularly among those scouts so maligned by the book (a book Beane has had to repeatedly point out that he did not, in fact, write). “So much for the genius,” sneered one scout to ESPN in June of the A’s 2009 season, in which the team won only 75 games and finished last in the American League West. “He doesn’t look so smart anymore, does he?”
The strange thing was that Beane’s comeuppance was in fact a result of his success: As with any insurgent, once his tactics became known, they were co-opted by the powerful. Nowadays, every front office in baseball has a stat-head crunching some sort of numbers, many of them in the GM’s office. On-base percentage has gone from an underpriced asset to an overhyped one; even the guys in the broadcast booth are familiar with it now. The Yankees and the Red Sox (at least briefly) became the A’s with money—Beane’s worst nightmare. Which has all landed the A’s right back where they started: as a decrepit franchise with a cheap owner, low revenues, and the worst stadium situation in the game (with the threat of relocation ever hanging above them).
And that is why it’s so deeply satisfying to see, of all teams, those Oakland A’s dominating the baseball world again this year. Beane’s A’s are comfortably atop the American League West—the division they’ve won the past two seasons—and have the best record in Major League Baseball. They’re still in the same stadium, with the same uncertainty, with the same owner. They have the sixth-lowest opening-day payroll in the game. Everyone knows their old tricks. And yet here they are: on top of the baseball world again.
Posted: June 29, 2014 at 06:44 AM | 15 comment(s)
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Them boys in their high stirrups. Ah, Sandy, their uniforms are so white…and green…and gold.
Sandy’s Mets were supposed to be Billy’s A’s.
They were supposed to become low-budget wonders of the baseball world.
The A’s, under Billy Beane, are just that, again, posting the best record in the majors at 47-29. They have scored the most runs (389) while surrendering the fewest (254).
The Mets were 21st in the majors with 294 runs scored, three below the Yankees, going into Monday night’s action.
The A’s, who visit Citi Field Tuesday and Wednesday, were leading the majors with a 3.02 ERA. The Mets were 11th in runs allowed at 296 and 10th in ERA at 3.54.
...More than anything, Alderson’s credibility is on the line now. His teams have not turned the corner. He was the one who threw out the challenge of 90 victories to this Mets squad that is six games under .500 in a season of baseball mediocrity.
If the Nationals or Braves had played up to expectations, the Mets would be buried. They are fortunate to be in a division where the top team is only four games above .500.
In his fourth season in charge, Alderson’s Mets look a lot like the Padres, which was Alderson’s previous team destination from 2005-09 as CEO.
The Padres were dead last in runs scored with 225 and 13 ¹/₂ back in the NL West.
The Padres fired GM Josh Byrnes on Sunday.
Sandy’s Mets need to turn it around and start playing a bit more like Billy’s A’s.
Posted: June 24, 2014 at 10:05 AM | 40 comment(s)
Sunday, June 08, 2014
Let’s just say that Orioles third baseman Manny Machado hasn’t covered himself in glory this weekend. What happened Sunday traces back at least to Friday night, when Machado—for reasons sufficient unto himself—took robust exception to what looked like a fairly routine tag from Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson. In the interim, both Donaldson and Machado have been buzzed a couple of times (which, let it be said, is also stupid given how silly the initial casus belli was).
So during Sunday’s game (OAK 11, BAL 1) Machado did this moments after being pitched far inside—albeit below the waist—by Fernando Abad ...
That was almost certainly intentional, and, as such, it’s pretty damnable. The Orioles broadcasters surmised that Machado was trying to helicopter his bat toward the mound, based on his lingering glare. Yet he missed. He could’ve hit an umpire or Alberto Callaspo at third, whirled the bat into the dugout or even into the stands. You can’t do that. You can’t do that because it’s stupid and dangerous. It would seem that this needs to be explained to Mr. Machado.
Thanks to Butch.
Posted: June 08, 2014 at 06:00 PM | 197 comment(s)
for his generous support.
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