This contest determined by popular vote has totally devolved into a popularity contest!
Flat-out question: If you’re building two teams for the rest of the season and you get two of everything including six outfielders, how many Royals’re you choosing?
You know what? I think Gordon and Cain actually make my team, perhaps even as starters! With Perez backing up Russell Martin. So, yes—with the exception of Escobar, the Royals’ starters are pretty well-deserving. By this standard that I’ve just invented, anyway.
Well done! Good job, Major League Baseball and All-Star voters!
Still, I can’t quite get rid of this nagging little thought in the back of my mind that whatever the results might suggest, THE PROCESS IS ROYALLY FAKAKTA.
What else, after all, are we to make of a system that might have given us seven Kansas City Royals in the starting lineup, including Omar Infante?
What else are we to make of a system suggesting that Justin Smoak is more popular than Albert Pujols?*
* I mean, seriously, folks. This column will be on the site for about six seconds before someone tweets at me, “Don’t you know it’s a popularity contest, idiot!” Yeah, I do. I also know that Albert Pujols is more popular than Justin Smoak, by literally ANY OTHER MEASURE designed by man or beast.
Glenn Fleisig is the research director at the American Sports Medicine Institute, which has long been the leader in understanding sports-related injuries and as such has worked with many major-league teams.
He says that many of those teams openly admit that they put too much emphasis on fastball velocity. Part of it is that pitch speed is so easily quantifiable, where other factors like character and mechanics and work ethic can be vague. He hears over and over again that if two prospects are otherwise comparable, the one with more velocity will be more highly regarded because they figure to have more potential.
Fleisig thinks the teams should be taking the opposite approach.
“I’m trying to tell them that if you have two guys with the same results, with the same makeup, same injury history,” he says, “I would actually rather have the one with less velocity. Because if all those other things are equal, he has less chance of injury.”...
All of it is evidence to reinforce a point Fleisig has made to teams. A few years ago, he ran data to correlate fastball velocity and performance, as measured by ERA. He found the relationship to be non-existent. Zero. Nothing.
Maybe that surprises you. It surprises some scouts. It does not surprise Young, halfway through another season showing that fastball velocity is overrated and overpaid.
So right now –– just to take one example –– Salvador Perez has 11,666,785 votes for catcher. What does that mean? It’s like light years or grains of sand on the beach, just number numbers.
But having fans vote is the way leagues like to run All-Star balloting nowadays, instead of being old-fashioned and letting the choices be made by people who actually know something, people we dare call experts.
You see, when fans vote, it’s interactive. It’s an interactive world now. Baseball’s rationale is that if you voted your thirty-five times for Salvador Perez, interactively, you’ll then be on pins and needles to see if he can win. You’re invested in Salvador Perez.
But actually it’s the reverse, because the irony is that if you want to get fans just plain actively engaged, the fewer decision-makers the better. Half the fun in the selection of All-Stars — or any award winners — is being able to castigate the people who made the choices you disagree with as dimwitted dummies.
And then in 2013 I got the call that, in retrospect, I had spent the previous two decades working to get. The Chicago Cubs contacted me and asked if I would be interested in interviewing for an analytics position in their front office.
Let me rephrase that: The Chicago Cubs wanted me to work for them.
Let me reframe that one more time: The Chicago Cubs, run by Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, who had already won two world championships and ended an 86-year championship drought in Boston together, thought that I could help them in their attempt to accomplish the same in Chicago. More than that, the Cubs contacted me even though they knew I was a dermatologist and wouldn’t be able to work for them full time. Forgive me if I never get tired of bringing that up, because it was the moment that most vindicates the 20-year passion project that has been my baseball writing career. It probably always will be.
In the end, I didn’t get the job, in large part because the Cubs felt they needed someone who would be able to commit to the organization full-time. I completely understood their reasoning, and frankly remain astonished that they would even consider the alternative. Maybe they really didn’t consider the alternative, but simply figured that once an opportunity to work in baseball presented itself to me, I would be willing to walk away from my dermatology career to pursue it.
The key to the success of both teams has been an unusually high usage of relief pitchers, or maybe more accurately, a minimized usage of starting pitchers. However, unlike the trend in recent decades of using starting pitchers less in an attempt to avoid injuries, the Rays and Royals are not limiting the number of pitches being thrown, but rather, they are limiting the number of batters the starting pitchers are facing to in order to increase their effectiveness…..
The starters for the Royals and the Rays both average fewer than 90 pitches per game. That’s a number that would seem absurd to those baseball traditionalists who lament the loss of an era when starting pitchers regularly threw 110+ pitches and 130-140 was not unheard of.
Again, these are not starting pitchers who are being taken out of games early because they are getting shelled. Rather, they are pitching well and are still being taken out early. These are two of the best pitching staffs in the AL on two teams leading their divisions.
So far in 2015, there have been 209 games in which a starting pitcher has completed fewer than 6.0 innings despite giving up two or fewer runs. Of those, 37 (18%) have been by Rays (25) or Royals (12) starters.
When Kansas City stumbled earlier this month, Yost and his players preached patience. Yost considered this a learned skill, something he could not always practice when he first became a manager. The team credited him for loosening the reigns and trusting his roster.
“I just respect the fact that he’s really adapted and changed,” said Jeremy Guthrie, who logged six innings of two-run baseball on Thursday. “Just like every player has to do. Just like a front-office person or a scout. They have to be able to learn, grow in whatever role they do. And Ned has done that in a way that I think is very, very visible for us 25 players in the clubhouse.”
The key to exploiting the system was realizing that—are you ready for this?—there is zero verification surrounding the most important piece of information supplied in the voting process: your email address. The voting page asks you to supply an email address, along with some other information such as a birthdate, a zip code, and a favorite team, but unlike most systems that at least try to implement some form of security, MLB does not require you to validate your email address. There’s no confirmation email sent with a “click here to verify” or “use this five-digit verification code” message, some way of ensuring that the email address you supplied in the voting process is actually yours.
We have yet another in a seemingly infinite loop of All-Star balloting updates, and it appears the Kansas City Royals fans aren’t losing steam. In fact, they are gaining it. Seven of the nine starting spots in balloting currently belong to Royals with Omar Infante real close to Jose Altuve at second base. Not only that, but Alex Rios is fourth in AL outfielders—though it does seem a total longshot to get him past Mike Trout.
Still, it’s something to behold. Check out these Royals.
I have no idea if this is some organized, concerted effort, but I’m entirely amused with the possibility of the complete and utter shitstorm of a collective meltdown that would occur if somehow Royals fans managed to stuff enough ballots to elect all of the AL starters to this year’s All-Star Game.
Los Angeles signed six future All-Stars in 1968 who would combine for 23 All-Star Game appearances, both Draft records. Washburn (Kan.) University outfielder Davey Lopes was a second-rounder in the January secondary phase, while California high school first baseman Bill Buckner (second), University of Houston outfielder/defensive back Tom Paciorek (fifth) and Alabama prep right-hander Doyle Alexander (ninth) were part of the regular June Draft. The cherry on top was a pair of college third basemen in the June secondary phase: Michigan State’s Steve Garvey (first) and Washington State’s Ron Cey (third).
University of Michigan left-hander Geoff Zahn (fifth, January secondary), Connecticut high school outfielder Bobby Valentine (No. 5 overall, June) and University of the Pacific outfielder Joe Ferguson (eighth, June) also enjoyed lengthy careers. The Dodgers inked a total of 11 future big leaguers who combined for a total of 235.6 Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference version), another record.
The Dodgers not only had the best Draft of all time in 1968, but they don’t even have a legitimate challenger for that title. Boston’s 1983 Draft (see below) was the only effort that comes within 50 WAR of the Dodgers’.
Rusty then asked me what was the toughest run to drive in and then told me it was a runner on second with two outs. At that point Mitch Maier — Rusty’s future replacement — walked over and Rusty asked Mitch if Mitch got pitched to differently with a runner on first base than he did when there was a runner on second.
With a runner on first base the run is still two singles away from scoring and pitchers will be much more aggressive, throwing more fastballs in the zone because a ball in play turns into an out most of the time.
With a runner on second base — especially with first open — the hitter will see more off-speed stuff out of the zone. The pitcher is counting on the hitter being more aggressive; he’s got an RBI in scoring position, and lots of hitters will expand their zone and chase those off-speed pitches. Guys who are good at driving in runs will refuse to chase bad pitches and either take their walk or wait for a good pitch to hit and smoke it once they get it.
Once again, this sounds like it takes skill.
I then asked if good RBI guys were also good “situational hitters” — guys who understand what pitch it will take to get the job done. Scoring a runner on third with less than two outs might require a ball in the air to the outfield; the hitter needs to get a pitch up in the zone. Same thing if there’s one down and runners at first and third: a groundball might be an inning-ending double play. But with a runner on third, less than two outs and the infield back, a groundball up the middle will do the trick. Knowing what will get the job done and waiting for the right pitch once again sounds like a skill.
Fans of the Kansas City Royals spent the early part of the season defending their team — either because they weren’t getting enough respect after their 2014 World Series run or because they were being painted as villains after they made the benches clear a few times.
Now, it appears Royals fans have focused their energy on another plight: making sure they dominate All-Star game voting. MLB released the first batch of AL vote tallies Tuesday and the Royals fans proved themselves the king and queen keyboard clackers, as five Royals would be starters if voting ended right now.
Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon and overall vote leader Salvador Perez lead their positions. At the positions where Royals aren’t first, they’re second. Even Alex Rios, who has played just seven games this season is in sixth place for outfielders, ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista and Michael Brantley. Totally warranted, right?
Actual salary: $30.5 million / Translated salary: $35.4 million
Highest-paid player: Miguel Cabrera / $7.5 million
Players over $1 million: four
Best position player: Ramirez / 5.3 WAR / $0.4 million
Best pitcher: Sergio Mitre / 2.3 WAR / $0.38 million
It’s hard to think of a more quintessentially Marlins team. Okay, actually, it’s not—you’ll see a few Marlins teams that are even more Marlin-y down below. This team, though, certainly looked like it had the young core of a perennial contender: Ramirez, Cabrera, Johnson, Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez, all 24-and-under. It’s hard to imagine a core this great getting away from any team other than the doggone Marlins.
Also only 25 at the time, with a ceiling as high as the sky and 16.2 career WAR under his belt before this season started was Dontrelle Willis. Oh Dontrelle, how we miss you. This would be the last season that Willis would throw 100 major league innings — plus he was fifth on the whole team in wRC+.
4. 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays: 66-96
Actual salary: $24.1 million / Translated Salary: $28 million
Highest-paid player: Crawford / $4.12 million
Players over $1 million: six
Best position player: Carlos Pena / 5.5 WAR / $0.8 million
Best Pitcher: Kazmir / 5.1 WAR / $0.42 million
This isn’t the only year this is the case, but in 2007, Florida’s two teams barely combined to create the salary of a single mid-market team. In Tampa, this was the last year that the team was called the Devil Rays and it was also the last time they weren’t the coolest doggone team around, what with their storming into the 2008 World Series the next year.
In case you forget why that 2008 team was so surprising, things were still pretty rowdy with this 2007 version. Breakout contenders do not, for instance, tend to have players like Elijah Dukes taking hundreds of plate appearance. They tend to not have 5.53 staff ERAs. But, doggone it, that’s what happened. By 2008 Opening Day the Rays’ payroll nearly doubled, up to $43.7 million, with the team paying (comparatively) big bucks for Troy Percival and Cliff Floyd in free agency.
Buy me some peanuts and rat feces, I don’t care if I violently get ill….
The number of critical health violations keeps going up at food stands at Kauffman Stadium & Arrowhead Stadium.
Critical violations at Kauffman this season (as of early May) have nearly surpassed the numbers for the entire 2012 season
“That should be a message to the managing company that we’re still doing inspections, we’re still citing violations, and probably they need to change some of their practices,” said Naser Jouhari, manager at the Kansas City Health Department.
“As previously discussed, and the Kansas City Health Department has affirmed, the food at Kauffman Stadium is safe to eat and enjoy. Aramark manages over 70 individually licensed locations at the stadium, which is equivalent to operating 70 different restaurants under one roof during each home game. It’s a highly complex operation with 700 dedicated employees working incredibly hard to serve 38,000 fans a huge amount of food as fast as possible in a small window of time. We take food safety very seriously everywhere we operate and welcome the Health Department’s inspections of our operations, because we want fans to be assured the food they purchase is prepared and served in the safest environment.” - Carl Mittleman, President, Aramark, Sports & Entertainment
Before getting to baseball’s dependence on the health of major cable companies, here is a brief look at some early season numbers. The first month of the season has seen big increases in viewership for national games on Fox Sports 1 and MLB Network, including double the amount of viewers aged 18 to 34 watching game on Fox Sports 1. The Chicago Cubs have doubled their ratings after their increased commitment in the offseason as well as the arrival of Kris Bryant. The Kansas City Royals have done the same coming off their World Series appearance. The Houston Astros have seen an increase in viewership after finally resolving their local disputes, at least as far as getting their games on all the local cable packages. The Arizona Diamondbacks have seen their highest ratings in a decade while the games of the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, and San Diego Padres rank first in their broadcast territories among all shows. A recent article by Maury Brown at Forbes showed that baseball games beat playoff games from the NHL and NBA in many markets across the country.
The ratings so far this season are a great indicator of baseball’s popularity. Not only is baseball beating playoffs in other sports, it is also beating first-run shows on networks.
More broadly, Hosmer is hitting the ball harder and killing worms less often than ever before: His ground ball rate sits at 46.8 percent, and he’s on pace to hit into fewer double plays than in any previous season. Meanwhile, he’s been a line-drive machine, whacking liners at a career-high rate of 26.1 percent.3 Not coincidentally, he’s hitting the ball harder than he has in three years,4 and he’s pulling the ball more than ever before (38.5 percent of the time).
Even though Hosmer is tearing the cover off the ball and pitchers are scared to pitch to him, we still can’t quite assume he’s turned the corner for good and become the perennial All-Star everyone expected when the Royals drafted him seven years ago. For one thing, he’s homered on 23.3 percent of the fly balls he’s hit this year. While a stronger, more experienced, more disciplined hitter would be expected to convert more fly balls into homers, that figure is so far above Hosmer’s career average of 11.8 percent5 that we should probably expect some pullback there.
Still, given all the progress in Hosmer’s skill set, you can start to get at least a little excited.
The coolest, most ingenious, realest reason to believe in the future of an irreplaceable and often endangered crown of Kansas City is a pressed suit, sharp tie and matching pocket square.
It is an idea that started a short time ago with a guy and his roommate, and already is an official Royals promotion with thousands of fans wearing suits and ties and even some red dresses for fun and to pay respect to the Negro Leagues and the baseball museum at 18th and Vine.
They call it Dressed to the Nines, and you can see it and even take part at the Royals game on Sunday, a 1:10 p.m. start against the Yankees. This is the fourth year that Brad Belden and a buddy have done this, the second with official partnership from the Royals, and there is a growing hope that this might go national.
MLB can also look at the National Hockey League, which has a rule that’s always enforced regardless of intent. The NHL gives a player a two-minute delay of game penalty if he shoots the puck over the glass out of his own end. It’s irrelevant if the delay of game occurred because the player was trying to stave off an offensive rush, or if he just ran into some bad luck.
MLB can follow the same process, though it would be far more controversial: automatic ejections of any pitcher who hits a batter above the waist. Doing so removes umpires’ inability to measure intent from the equation. Hit a batter above the waist, hit the showers early, no exceptions. Ask Giancarlo Stanton’s jaw if it mattered that Mike Fiers wasn’t aiming at his head—the injury is the same. An ejection isn’t the same as a suspension—the team would only be without its pitcher for the duration of the game in which the hit-by-pitch occurred. A subsequent suspension would still be under the purview of the league office; it would still determine intent when assessing whether a longer punishment was necessary.
To be sure, this would have a profound impact on the game. Many pitchers rely on pitching inside—sometimes high and inside—to remain effective. Were automatic ejections the rule, offense would increase, as batters would no longer need to fear the inside pitch. Yet that might prove a blessing in disguise, as the new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has stated that he’s looking for ways to increase offense in the sport. Severely penalizing dangerous pitching will improve offense while at the same time mitigating the risk of a gruesome or fatal injury. The sport has survived profound changes to offense over the last two decades; a player’s career may not survive a fastball profoundly changing the structure of his skull.
Kyle Farnsworth is ... listen, there are a lot of descriptions that walk a fine line between libelous and accurate, so let’s just say that he’s different. He could take your nose off with one well-placed karate chop, and then he would probably do something weird with the nose.
So it’s completely bizarre and perfectly logical that 321 days after throwing his last major league pitch, the 39-year-old Farnsworth is leading his Florida Football Alliance team in sacks and tackles.
We’re talking real, minor league, tackle football with with big dudes. Of course Farnsworth is thriving. Of course he is.
The major change for Moustakas has been his approach. He’s been going the other way a lot more this season. It’s tough to see in the the chart but if you look at the hit location for his line drives you should see the pattern. This is one of those things, however, that clearly stand out when you watch him hit.
Detroit Tigers legend and former Michigan State two-sport star Kirk Gibson has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Gibson, in his first year back as an analyst with Fox Sports Detroit, has been absent from the FSD broadcast booth since the Opening Day telecast.
“I have faced many different obstacles in my life, and have always maintained a strong belief that no matter the circumstances, I could overcome those obstacles,” Gibson, 57, said in a released statement. “While this diagnosis poses a new kind of challenge for me, I intend to stay true to my beliefs. With the support of my family and friends, I will meet this challenge with the same determination and unwavering intensity that I have displayed in all of my endeavors in life. I look forward to being back at the ballpark as soon as possible.”
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects one’s movement. Well-known patients include Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox.