Tuesday, April 30, 2013


A double dose of irony, even if it proves fleeting, is too delicious not to savor, even if it may lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight.

And so we trot out our dear friend and occasional (very occasional...) boon companion--more on that later--Mr. Vernon Wells, who has...temporarily at least...gone from being the scourge of Anaheim to the toast of New York. (Different kind of toast, kiddies, the one with the bubbles as opposed to the one festooned with tell-tale traces of carbon.)

The double irony? Vernon, who brought his enormous salary to Anaheim and promptly turned into a pumpkin, was sent East prior to the start of the 2013 season when the Yankees suddenly discovered that virtually their entire roster was turning into the same substance that Lot's Wife became when she ignored the admonitions of Ye Olde Lord (and Bob Dylan, for that matter).

Into the scorched valley of death Wells loped, with the Yankees--normally the team with the groaning ledger sheet--making sure that Arte Moreno's boys would be picking up two-thirds of Vernon's egregious overpay.

So now, as April 2013 rides off into the sunset, Wells has had a fine month for the Bronx Bombers, with six homers and a .900+ OPS. The Yankees--at least for now--have a bargain on their hands.

Of course, it may not last...so many things are ephemeral these days. The last time Vernon had a .900+ OPS over the course of a month was in September 2010, when he was still with the Blue Jays.

We'd like to think that our brief encounter with Wells, last September in Oakland, when he happened to be loitering near the team bus after a game in which he'd hit what proved to be his second-to-last HR as a member of the Angels, was a galvanizing moment. Vernon was happy, of course; when we suggested that things might be looking up, he offered a couple of brief dance steps, spun around on his heels, and pointed his finger accusingly.

"Don't you be jinxing me, hear?" he said. He was smiling, but the glint in his eyes was intense enough that we quickly agreed not to do so.

Until, possibly, right now.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Quickly, because we are swamped with the impending arrival of a huge collection of what eBay has so kindly taken to calling "entertainment memorabilia," we revisit our recent point of ideological urgency: the ratio between the number of games where players hit two or more doubles, and the number of games in which they hit two or more triples.

Last night (4/25) Domonic Brown had a couple of doubles for the Phils in a game they lost to the Pirates, 6-4. That made the 76th instance of 2+ 2B in a game this year, which is working out to just about three a day. That pace would result in around 540-550 such games over the season. (There were 557 such games in 2012).

Elvis has left the building...and is headed toward third.
As for triples, we had a second 2-3B game on April 1st (Elvis Andrus), but we haven't had one since.

So that ratio, while not 80:1 (something that apparently unfolds over what the philosophes like to call "the ripeness of time"), it's about 38:1 at the moment.

Remember that we had 7 such 2-3B games in 2012. That's about one a month, as opposed to three a day.

We need to do something about that ratio. As we told you, back in 1920 it was 4:1. We looked at the Play Index (thanks, as always, to Forman et fil for that marvelous tool...) and found that there are fourteen instances so far this year where players had at least one double and one triple in a game. If half of those games were somehow able add a second 3B, the ratio would drop to about 5:1.

The 190-foot line and the inning of the imposed shift would also affect this ratio, though it's hard to say how many more two-triple games it would create.

Remember: watching guys run the bases is a lot more exciting than watching them trot around the bases.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Of course it's only OPS, and it's just from July 21st of last year until yesterday, but here are the top thirty hitters in baseball over that time span:

Some surprising names on this list, don't you think?? Did anyone know that Aramis Ramirez had been playing that well? Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera have hit the most HRs in the time span (rouughly half a season). Coco Crisp with 13 HRs over half a season??

Looks like Justin Upton has hit as many homers in the first 3+ weeks of April as he did over the last portion of 2012. And Carlos Santana may at last be rounding into form in what is now his age-27 season (though he can really hit into those DPs, can't he?).

Note the presence of both Bryce Harper and Mike Trout on this list. Highest BA: Torii Hunter (.366). Lowest BA: Mark Reynolds (.244).

Data courtesy of David Pinto's terrific Day-by-Day Database.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


She can't bear to look...but she
can't turn away, either.
We alluded to the situation in Miami a little while back...something about owner/sadist Jeffrey Loria possibly needing to stay hidden from view during the course of the 2013 season. We've now got a ninth of the season in the books (can you imagine?), and while that's still too early to call, we must dutifully report that we may well be in for a world-historical level of dreckitude.

It might be best to avert your eyes from both the field and the fish tank at ever-controversial Marlin Park, where all relevant life forms are facing holocaust-like conditions.

Tell the truth and get "asked to leave": this
fan did not get to stay and see the Fish
flop in their 2013 home opener...
Tonight at Marlins Park, the troublingly toothsome televangelist Joel Osteen (no relation to our old friend Claude) will bring his "Ministry of Hope" to what will without doubt be the only sellout crowd at the stadium in 2013. Osteen, who dipped his toe onto the pitching rubber in DC last year before cozying up to another baffling pseudo-religious figure (Mitt Romney), will be hard-pressed to bring a credible message of "hope and encouragement" to any Marlins fans who may be in attendance.

For the Fish, as we've always liked to call them, just lost a hard-fought 3-2 game to the Cincinnati Reds. They are now 4-14 on the season. Teams have had worse starts, to be sure. But what makes this situation so ominous is that the Fishies have lost thirteen of these games while scoring two runs or less.

Here's a stat that might give you pause. When teams allow three or fewer runs in a game, they tend to win a sizable number of those contents. In MLB so far in 2013, for example, teams that allow three runs or less in a game have a .763 winning percentage (167-52).

The Fish are now 2-7 in those games.

Bogie and Liz in the appropriately entitled
"Dead Reckoning"...location shooting,
alas, was in Tampa, not Miami.
Over the first ninth of the season, they've averaged 2.05 runs per game. The record low for runs scored/game in baseball history is 2.42, which was set by the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals.

Last year's fire sale looks as though it has set up a long season of death by drowning.

Why is this man smiling?? $2.75m for
playing on what might be the worst team
since the '03 Tigers: hey, life's a beach!
Now, to be fair, Miami has been playing without its best hitter (Giancarlo Stanton) for about half of the season. But even "Mike" (his former name, and with this team he might want to take on yet another new identity--we'll stick to our dark film noir roots and suggest that he go for a good ol' classic like "Dusty," which just happens to be the one Bogie pinned on Lizabeth Scott when he thought she was a conniving vixen) can only do so much when he has Placido Polanco, a 37-year old banjo-hitting third baseman, hitting behind him.

Sticking with the Lichtenstein theme--
manager Mike Redmond, alum of the
'03 WS champs, will ask to trade places
with N'awlins manager Ron Hassey...
The frightening part is that the Fish just don't have anything resembling offensive help in their farm system. Wisecracking veteran Nick Green, profiled in these pages awhile back, has escaped from New Orleans again and is now starting at SS while the kid with the ungainly name--Adeiny Hecheverria--recovers from a fractured fetlock or something (OK, OK, he's got a bruised arm...24 years young and he goes on the DL for a bruised arm??). We love Nick, but he's not going to turn around a jalopy of a franchise that's had its brakes cut. The guys they have on the DL--Logan Morrison and (Mighty) Casey Kotchman--aren't going to make much difference in the scheme of things when they come back (if there's anything to come back to, that is).

The Fish have hit just five homers thus far. They've not gotten many men on base (.266 OBP), and when they do, they manage to hit into DPs (second highest in the NL, behind the Giants).

We call this one the "Race to Retchedness"...
The possibilities for world-historical badness are right here, right now. The Fish have a little bit of pitching, enough to keep them in games against some teams, but it's hard to see how they will get to three runs a game, even with a healthy, homer-hitting Stanton.

As always, we provide a little historical (or is that hysterical?) context in the chart at right.

Stay tuned (where have you heard that before??) for more adventures below the replacement level...this could be fun, in a supremely morbid kind of way.

[UPDATE: Fish hit a home run! Fish score six runs! Fish...lose anyway. Something about an eight-run seventh for the Reds. The other 26 teams that have started the year 4-15 have combined for a year-end WPCT of .380...only three of these teams have finished the season at .500 or better.]

Friday, April 19, 2013


The poor Photoshop work notwithstanding, 'tis a
classic...a kind of "Your Bimbo Here" moment.
Today brings two pieces of news that just might force us into faux-Joe P. mode, slapping phonemes around in that odd back-and-forth, ox-bow style of his, fixated as he is on the abjection of joy and the commodification of loss, a genial variant of manic depression with a surfeit of dependent clauses.

Joe (and a small army of others) will be of two minds about our first piece of news: Derek Jeter won't be playing until at least the All-Star Break. (We--being "we," of course--have a sneaking suspicion that this might well turn into a completely lost season for the King of the Gift Basket.)

Either way, this will be mind-splitting for many, who are used to having Jeter in their gun sites, and whose lives (if not some actual portion of their livelihood) are dependent on having such a overweening symbol of scorn (obviously not a problem around THESE parts, of course...) available on a daily basis. In a world so saturated by negativity that its spirit is of necessity twisted inside out to become some sphinx-like symptom of affirmation, the sudden absence of a hate-object can lead to bizarre behavior (the sudden obsession with the number 2, for example, or--ripped straight from the pages of the Law&Order playbook--the construction of a weird, totemic shrine to the former lightning rod of derision).

Silence, while golden, is hardly ever an option at a time like this, but we can hope that our little rumination, with a little of that Joe P. maundering meander built into its chassis, will function as a kind of literary angioplasty for those who find themselves fibrillating at the idea of being without The Man They Love To Hate. (Or, as Joe would say: "Don't Just Hate--Jeterate!")

Rest assured that we will be monitoring the sales of Teddy Bears, which we expect will be spiking over the next several weeks as the ramifications of this news item become fully evident.

Item two is, as is our wont, a good bit more obscure--but it actually has more resonance than the absence of one overhyped, over-talked about ballplayer. Today, April 19th, 2013, is the first day of this baseball season where there will not be a single game of baseball played during the day. All of the games on today's schedule will be night games.

That fact always produces a slight pang of regret, a twinge of remorse, a stab of pain, and possibly a crock-pot of overwrought nostalgia-mongering. It seems that the further away from an old, outmoded, but still somehow attractive social practice we get, the greater the yearning for it becomes. So even though we all know that the economics of the game has long since dictated the decline of day baseball and the near-extinction of the doubleheader, even though our heads accept this idea, somehow our hearts are not quite able to comply, and we long for what is no longer there. Sounds like a time to cue up William Bell, don't it? And why the hell not??

Here's what our "compromise" would be for the BGOB (Business Gods of Baseball). Have all the night games you gotta have, but with one provision that tips its cap to the GOD (Good Old Days). On every day of the season, schedule at least one day game somewhere. Keep that connection to the past alive by making it an ongoing--and unwavering--feature of the baseball schedule on a daily basis.

Hell, you can do this by starting a game at three or four in the afternoon...we don't have to be slavish about it. If starting a little later in the afternoon on a Friday or a Monday (the days of the week that are almost always 100% night games) will mollify the players, then do it. (The players will probably like it: it gives them another evening in their lives, most of which wind up being spent at the ballpark.)

Lord, no...you don't have to...heck, even
John preferred May Pang...
(Day baseball is quirkier than its nocturnal counterpart. We'd challenge our research-minded colleagues at Retrosheet to determine if there are more fly balls that drop in for hits during the day...we're figuring that it's at least a 3:1 ratio. Does anyone out there have the data??)

It's a very little thing, to be sure...not something to get manic-depressive about (either for real, or via some variant of a passive-aggressive literary style). Most people aren't going to notice, fewer may care: but for those who connect with the qualitative differences between the two types of baseball, this tiny piece of symbolism has a higher meaning that's worth fighting for.

All we are saying is...at least one day game every day. (And, no, you don't have to get into bed with Yoko Ono to be part of this "protest movement". Today, we have T-shirts. You know, someone could clean up with a "Don't Just Hate... Jeterate!" T-shirt...but don't hesitate, all you entrepreneurs out there, otherwise that balky ankle might just make it too late. Operators are waiting for your calls, right NOW!!)

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Department of "bad taste is timeless" opening sentences: Yes, that's right, when the fertilizer plant blows up in Texas, it's time for QMAX.

(Seriously, we express our sincere condolences to those whose family members were hurt or killed in the Waco blast.)

Now, back to QMAX (short for the Quality Matrix). We'll take a quick look at the best hit prevention performances thus far in 2013, which fall into the top row of the QMAX matrix diagram (as shown at right). The "1S" row is the elite row for low-hit games, where the number of hits allowed must be at least four fewer than the number of innings pitched.

There are 57 such games thus far in 2013; that's up eight over the same time last year. (This is not meant to be predictive of anything; it's too early to tell if there's any trend. 1S games have, however, increased by 36% since 2007.)

To verify just how elite this elite row is, consider that the aggregate ERA for the pitchers' performances in this set of games is 0.44. The won-loss record for the pitchers in these games is 40-2. (Overall, teams are 45-12 in these games: we calculate the QMAX WPCT, which we impishly abbreviate as QWP, from the average of those two records, which right now places it at around .870, not very far off the historical average.)

We do have already one of those rara avis QMAX performances, a "1,7" game, where the walks allowed is greater than the number of innings pitched. That belongs to Matt Moore of the Rays, who pulled it off on April 10th.

Our tabular display here shows the distribution of "1S" games by teams as of 4/17. Note that the Mets' Matt Harvey has three consecutive "1S" performances in his new role as starting pitcher; he'll go for a fourth in the next couple of days.

Also note that there are a few teams who've yet to have a "1S" game (four, to be exact.) One of these are the currently high-flying Oakland A's, which might make some skeptics (and you know who you are...) wonder if any of this breakout actually means anything. Here we must invoke the small sample size caveat, and remind you that we are looking at about one-thirteenth of a season's worth of data (that's about 7%).

The A's have five "2S" performances thus far ("2S" is the region just below the one we are focusing on that produces wins at about a 72% clip), which is in the top five for that category. And they've gone 6-2 in games where their starters have allowed more hits than innings pitched, which is a little more than three games better than the average team performance. This is another indication that their current 12-4 record is a bit inflated.

Likewise, the Mariners are getting wonderful top-level performances from King Felix and the apparently unsinkable Hisashi Iwakuma, but that's not translating into overall success. Some parks prevent hits just as much as they prevent runs, or they prevent particular types of hits; Safeco has always been one of these...this year, however, the fences were brought in, so we'll have to see how this affects the "1S" home/road splits, which have historically been among the most tilted toward the home park in all of baseball (upwards of 3:1). So far this year, it's 1.5:1 (3 at home, 2 away).

We were expecting the flailing Fish (Marlins, in case you're coming to these pages for the first time) to be the team that had been "1-Sed" by opposing starters the most thus far, but it's actually the Phillies who have that dubious honor. (You can see that data in the far right column, the one marked "Opp.")

We'll look at all this again later on...stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Actually, this isn't a "whither" reference at all: we know where Brian LaHair is--he's in Japan, playing for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. (How you pronounce "Fukuoka," however, may influence your response to what follows.)

Nancy Reagan would have approved, but
she'd have been wrong...
The question is why did 29 other major league teams not take a flyer on a guy who hit 16 HRs and posted a 111 OPS+ last season for the Cubs. None of our usual Theo-thrashing applies here: it's clear that Anthony Rizzo was their first baseman of the future.

Now, don't get us wrong. LaHair is not the second coming of anything, even LaCock (that's Pete LaCock, for those of you who think we're suddenly going pornadelic on you). Brian is 30, he's big and slow, he can't hit lefties (as a matter of fact, he might not be able to hit them if they threw to him underhanded).

But he can hit righties, and even as he limped home in 2012 after a fast start made him the two-minute darling of those who have that eggy shape identifying them as likely basement dwellers, he demonstrated some proficiency as a pinch-hitter. As a platoon DH somewhere (Houston, what's your problem?) he still has some semblance of value in the majors.

A team like the Brewers, for example, could have taken a flyer on him. Their first baseman, Corey Hart, is on the 60-day DL and they are currently playing Yuniesky Betancourt (yes, you are reading that correctly) at first. Betancourt was picked up on the rebound when he was released in spring training.

The current production for the Brewers first baseman: .191 BA, .531 OPS. (That includes Betancourt's grand slam yesterday against the Giants. We don't recommend holding your breath for that to happen again anytime soon.)

Maybe if he'd had hair that
lived up to his name...
[EDIT: No, Yuniesky, you devil, you just hit another homer against the Giants... At this rate, you'll be leading the league by the end of the month.]

In that context, Brian LaHair looks pretty darned good, even if lefties do turn him into a turd in the punchbowl. [EDIT: And even if Yuniesky is bound and determined to do the same to us...]

He hit well against NL Central rivals in 2012, including the Brewers. Surely somebody noted that he was better in higher leverage situations, better against contenders--you know, subtle signals that he might be a useful bench player?

Ahh, no. So: Fukuoka, Brian. But cheer up: you may be the only player in MLB history released in the same season you made the All-Star team.

(Yes, yes, we know: anomalies r us.)

The randomness of decision-making when it comes to the 24th and 25th players on a baseball roster is kind of fascinating; someone with enough time on their hands should study it, even if the results proved to be, well, random.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


As we noted earlier, interleague play is on a "slow drip" in 2013; it's as if we aren't really supposed to know much about it anymore. Of course, those of you who frequent Forman et fil will always be able to see what the running tally is (it's displayed in a semi-prominent place on their main page), but a search of the Internet failed to turn up any place where the interleague schedule was broken out.

So, naturally, we are here to fill that information gap. The chart at right is simultaneously your schedule and results table for interleague play. Just in case you're wondering, AL wins are marked in orange, NL wins are marked in light blue. (Rainouts are shown in gray.)

What surprised us when we compiled it, however, was a fact that never surfaced in any of the coverage referencing the deployment of interleague play in 2013. Namely, that there would be days like today (April 16) where there are multiple interleague games.

For the next three days, we'll have more than one game--three today and tomorrow, and two on Thursday the 18th. Who knew?

We don't know how often this will happen in 2013 because we haven't compiled the full interleague schedule yet--but we'll be back with that info for May, and (unless one of our highly motivated readers wants to leap in with the answer...) we'll all find out then. Our understanding is that there are a couple of weekends in May and June where interleague play will take over in the kudzu-like way it used to; that will make our chart more lopsided, of course.

But as you already know, we live for lopsided...also anything "upside your head," sideswiped, semi-permeable, and simultaneously sacred and profane. Interleague play sure seems to fit (somehow) into each and every one of those odd mental categories, so there you go. And here we go...

Sunday, April 14, 2013


The second Sunday of the season is now past, giving us our usual "magic 11 games" worth of data that we've been known to breakout (actually, for most teams, Sunday makes it an even dozen, but who's counting?). So let's just examine a few interesting (and for the very most part, not very meaningful) developments.


The Yanks seem to have gotten this Vernon Wells
instead of the one we know...
The Yankees, despite missing A-Rod, Granderson and Teixeira, are still hitting HRs at a better clip than just about anyone in the AL. (OK, yes, they're missing Jeter, too, but let's face it, it's not the long ball that makes chicks dig Derek--it's the gift baskets.) Only the A's have more HRs than the Yanks, what with Lazarus seemingly having an in-body intervention with Vernon Wells. Even Ichiro! has one (!!).

The Red Sox are getting great pitching thus far, with only the Rangers outperforming them. Their hit prevention has been stellar, just a tad better than the Royals.

Slow starts from Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout have hampered the Angels, but it's the Halos' starting staff that has really put the team behind the eight-ball thus far. Jered Weaver's absence isn't going to help things much...only the Mariners have given up more HRs thus far in the AL.

Are we ready to get on Marwyn Gonzalez's bandwagon? No, not really, especially seeing how his first name is an unfortunate collision of the names "Marvell" and "Wynne," which is a most unwelcome mnemonic. The Astros will need another SS to help get them out of what's likely to be a deep hole in the AL West.

The makeovers for the Blue Jays, Rays and Mariners haven't jelled. It's Masterson and Santana in Cleveland, and little else so far.

What starts for Chris Davis and Prince Fielder.

We are happy to see that Lance Berkman took our advice, didn't retire, signed with the Rangers, and is doing just fine thus far. Stay healthy, LB, and crank out a great age-37 season to contradict those folks who've decided that anyone over the age of 32 is ready to be put out to pasture.


Good Lord but the Braves are getting some outrageous pitching thus far. It'll never last, of course...

The only finger in this picture (of the man who will not be running for
Mayor of Mia[s]mi) that counts is the one located above his glasses...
And forget about what Dodger fans might have done to Carlos Quentin had he played in Los Angeles this coming week...what about what Miami fans might yet do to their owner, Jeffrey Loria, whose embattled team has now scored 20 runs in 12 games, a pace that would produce 270 runs scored for the season.

The Pirates are thankful for the floundering Fish, because they've once again stumbled out of the gate with hitters just about as cold as it's possible to get. They did have quite a closing kick today, however, scoring ten runs in their final two times at bat to upset the Reds, but they still have three hitters (Russell Martin, Gaby Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez) hitting under .100.

The Mets leading the league in RS/G? Take a snapshot of that for posteriority, please. 

Good bullpens thus far: ATL 1.35; PIT 2.15; ARZ 2.34. Bad bullpens thus far: WSN 6.06; MIA 5.79; STL 5.52.

It would be fun to stop the season now to see John Buck and Dexter Fowler near the top in HR. Both have hit six...

Who will have a better career--the Nationals' Bryce Harper or the Angels' Mike Trout

From "phour aces" in 2011 to "phour flushers" in 2013: the Phillies' starters have a combined ERA of 4.91 (and that's after three games with the Fish!).

Slow starts for the Cardinals' hitters but their starting pitching has been wonderful...their bullpen blew another one for them on Sunday.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


...but the National League is more than holding its own in the new, expanded and "improved" version of interleague play.

The New York Mets' 16-5 drubbing of the Minnesota Twins yesterday was the seventh win in ten interleague contests for what used to be called the Senior Circuit. (Anyone who calls it that now is clearly some kind of "Senior" in his or her own right.)

Now, of course, it's very early, so we won't get all warm and gooey as a chocolate chip cookie left out on a Savannah street corner...but it's worth at least getting the fact out there, because you might simply forget about it otherwise now that interleague play has been transformed into something resembling a slow drip.

In a way, this daily dose is preferable: it's more of a manageable condition that one lives with as opposed to a siege of incapacitating illness as the old "regime" had been. No one seems to be keeping track, no one seems to be highlighting the fact that we now have this "daily drip" (a search of the Internet does not reveal a list of the games broken out unto themselves), it's all very....how shall we say...."clinical."

Yes, that's exactly the right word. And is that, by any chance, a blurred image of Bud Selig standing back there in hospital gear? Interestingly enough, an internet search combining Bud's name with "intravenous drip" returned an article discussing the best delivery method for a lethal injection. Coinkidink? We think not.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Letting the high-priced boys duke it out on the field doesn't work, and we've just witnessed another example of that fact with last night's Carlos Quentin-Zack Greinke fiasco.

There are enough injuries in baseball already. A deliberate act of violence against another player while on the playing field can simply no longer be condoned.

And that is what charging the mound after being hit by a pitch is--a deliberate act of violence. It should not be punished with a slap on the wrist.

Most (if not all) batters who charge the mound after being hit by a pitch have not been injured by the ball that struck them. If they had been--and getting hit by a pitch is an unavoidable risk that cannot in any way be compared to willfully running from the batters' box to the pitcher's mound--they would most likely be writhing in pain.

That was clearly not the case last night. Carlos Quentin was unharmed by the ball that hit him. His actions, however, led to Zack Greinke's broken collarbone--and put two teams' worth of personnel at risk for injury.

What's needed in this instance is a Biblical approach to how justice is meted out. Quentin is responsible for Greinke's injury, which will keep the Dodger righty from pitching for awhile (at this point the estimate is 6-8 weeks).

Therefore Quentin should not be allowed to play until Greinke can.

Nothing less--and nothing else--is fair. And, as others have pointed out, anything less will only lead to further ugliness between the two teams, which could result in additional injury.

Bud Selig needs to put his money-counting machine aside and grow a spine on this issue. Yeah, yeah: we know. But we can hope, can't we?

Anyone charging the mound (even with a legitimate beef) should draw an automatic 10-game suspension. But if anyone on either team is injured as a result of such an action, the instigator should sit for as long as those players cannot play. (And, in fact, that should be the case if the only player or players injured are on his own team. Teams will howl at this, but they have to reinforce the idea that charging the mound is absolutely verboten.)

It is long since past time that MLB put a stop to this shit. Needless to say, we are not holding our breath--and neither should you.

[UPDATE: Quentin received an eight-game suspension...which he is appealing. That "thhpppttt" noise you're hearing is the sound of Bud's money-counting machine, pushed up one speed setting.]

[[SON OF UPDATE: Quentin has, wisely in this case, we think, dropped his appeal and will reportedly stay away from Los Angeles while he is serving his suspension. While certain born-again neanderthal types like Thomas Boswell, who penned a ludicrous defense of Quentin's actions, will be disappointed and likely brand him as a born-again coward, we can only be thankful that some set of cooler heads prevailed and guided Quentin to what is unquestionably a prudent decision. Let us recall that a Giants fan was shot in the Dodgers' bleachers not so long ago, without anything like the specific inciting incident that is in play right now.]]

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


OK, we warned you that this was coming, so if you're inclined to pull a "Hello, I must be going" kinda thing, your opportunity to do so should be taken now...

The big honking table that you see at your left (for a copy that might actually be readable, click on it...) captures two pieces of vital information for anyone interested in having a version of baseball that transcends the TTO travesty that we've been enduring in one form or another for the past half-century (amplified by the imprudent acolytes of "run scoring theory" who've pushed their brand of bull-in-a-china-shop science at us ever since Bill James sat on his wand).

It displays every player who has either:

--Had two or more games with two (or more) triples in a game during a single season, from 1916 to the present day;
--Had three triples in a game during that same time span.

Triples are the rarest of all offensive events wherein a batter makes contact with the baseball using his bat. As you all know, this wasn't always the case, but the game has evolved to such a state, and it's been that way for so long that few see this as something other than "just the way it is." It's more than that, of course, but prophets are also not without honor save in their own country, and one man's prophet is a crackpot to the mobocracy.

And so we have one of the great dilemmas of civilization and polity summed up in this scenario: there is often a disconnection between recognizing scarcity and preserving or reversing it, which often leads to either limbo or extinction. (The fact that scientists now have the capability to re-create extinct species adds an intriguingly macabre twist to the discussion: once we start doing that, we lay ourselves open to all sort of religious/philosophical objections--some of which, in their own strange way, apply to rule-tinkering in baseball.)

But let's only digress long enough to get us past the bottom of that big honking table. Based on the data we have handy from Forman et fil, we have 1635 instances where a player has hit two or more triples in a game. Over the course of 97 seasons, that would average out to about 17 per year.

Just for the sake of comparison, the number of times where a player has hit two or more doubles in a game is 35,489. That's about 22 times more often than is the case for two or more triples in a game. Back in 1920, when the number of 2+ triples games peaked (we'll deal with the nineteenth century some other time...), the ratio between these two events was more like 5 to 1 (261 2+ 2B games vs. 49 2+ 3B games). In 2012, that ratio has ballooned to nearly 80 to 1 (556 2+ 2B games vs. just seven--yes, 7--2+ 3B games).

That's mirrored in the chart at right, which shows the decline of 2+ 3B games as measured by the number of such games per team over the course of the data sample (1916 to 2012). Every once in a while there is a blip in the system--a player or two will come along and defy the extinction pattern, but--as the big honking table demonstrates in the big gaps between incidences of three-triple games. (It should also be noted that the identity of those players who hit three triples in a game used to include Hall of Famers who hit for power as well as speed; that stopped being the case nearly fifty years ago.)

We know that the triple will never become completely extinct, but its potential for blending speed and power has been permanently crippled by various factors that have brought us an increasingly two-dimensional game (and this has been in place for quite some time, in fact, as the chart shows: for the game to have the optimum balance in terms of speed vs. power in hitting, one would need to at least get this ratio back to 1:1, and optimally back to around 1.5:1).

And so we continue to proselytize, even while some of our friends can be seen edging their way nervously toward the door with a furtive expression on their faces, for a rule change that will, if adopted, certainly create chaos and mayhem on the playing field--but will produce about five times as many triples as is currently the case. It will happen without the big moguls having to restructure their stadia and de-optimizing their profit models. It will happen without disrupting any of the other trends that seem to be so wildly popular even as the game gets more two-dimensional.

Quixote: not a fan of those
who would bypass third base...
If you've been reading here already, you'll know what that "modest proposal" is. If not, you are invited to puzzle it out for yourselves before you go searching for it in the prior posts here at this little ol' island of hokum in a sea of fatuity. Getting more triples back into baseball doesn't solve the strikeout problem or the structural/aesthetic flaws that have been in place for some time but are now magnified by the emphasis on power--power hitting, power pitching: things that are clearly going to be with us in one form or another but are now unbalanced--but more triples, by hook or crook, is one way that we can live with the unshakable tendency for science to destroy anomalies rather than preserve them, thus permitting (and often even encouraging) genus to swamp species.

Jeremiah: not a bullfrog, but a
 man who knew how to make
woo with woe.
No one who lived through the offensive surge in the 1920s would have expected the triple to become such an endangered element; but improvements on defense, incremental increases in size and strength, and slavish uniformity in ballpark design, ushered in during the 60s and tilted further in the 90s have brought about a state of semi-extinction. And it has been done in a way that nothing other than the type of rule change we are advocating (simultaneously in the spirit of Don Quixote and the prophet Jeremiah...) can now possibly address the problem.

On a merely topographical level, the 20s provide us with the kind of event-driven interest that can only add to the enjoyment and pleasure involved in following the game on a daily basis. Consider that in 1920, there were two days--August 3rd and September 17th--where three players each hit two triples in a game. (This seems to have happened for the last time on August 9th, 1930.) On that same September 17th, two of the players who hit two triples did for the same team in the same game. The closest thing to that type of rarified excitement for us in the post-modern "chicks dig the long ball" age is when Carl Crawford had a couple of two-triple games within five days of each other in June 2004.

Now you are free to scoff at all this, but those who have never seen or who haven't bothered to envision the type of game where the triple had more significance shouldn't be so hasty to judge that the aesthetics of baseball is not suffering mightily from its absence. The names of the players who have the most 2+ 3B games in their careers (in the chart at left above) include a boatload of Hall of Famers, but the last one of those was George Brett--and he's likely to be the last one for all time, since the direction that the game has traveled since he retired is making it impossible for the type of hitter who makes the Hall of Fame to wind up on a list like this one. (While there are four active players on this list, none of them is likely to receive a plaque in Cooperstown.)

For goodness' sakes, kiddies, let's face facts: the game is getting two-dimensional, and something needs to be done about it. Hell, when there's an issue where we are actually in agreement with Rob Neyer, you know that this signals a planetary alignment of superhuman proportions...

Enjoy the baseball season, but keep this quixotic jeremaid in the tilted windmill region of your frontal lobe as the year progresses and try to imagine how much more than double the pleasure would be the case if we could at least double the number of triples in each and every game.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Lindsay: one too many "designated hits"....
The propaganda peddlers are suddenly out in force, nattering dia-nabobically about the DH rule and how it needs to be unilaterally imposed upon a public whose level of discourse on the subject is now more wedgie than wedge issue...while we were brewing up another dreamscape-rant about triples to send your minds into a reverse spin cycle, the sudden proliferation of this piffle reached critical mass and just cannot be ignored--and so we are here to take it on, take it down, and take it away.

The DH is a blight upon the original conception of the game, but it's been in play for forty years and there are too many forces in place supporting it for it to disappear. However, that doesn't mean that other solutions aren't available to counteract this suddenly pressing criticism that seems to fuel this hyper-urgent surge of "here's my big dick of a DH rule and you, ignorant slut, are going to have it crammed down your throat and you vill like it!!" meta-Nazification (and fear not, we won't be "illustrating" that last image, primarily because Lindsay Lohan blew us off for the little variation of the Carls Jr. commercial she was going to shoot for us).

Anyway, there is middle ground in all this muddle. The powers that wannabe who clamor for fewer at-bats from pitchers can be held off with pitchforks via a couple of simple changes in the substitution rules that will apply to the NL only. (The AL can keep the stinkin' DH, but it will be able to use these new substitution rules when they play interleague games in NL ballparks.)

Ready? Here goes:

A starting pitcher can be batted for on one occasion without forcing his removal from the game. One, and only one time, at the manager's discretion.

That hitter will be allowed to be used a second time in the game as a pinch-hitter, but he can't bat for the same pitcher twice.

Got it? The use of pinch-hitters will be made more tactical than before, because managers will have to decide how to get their best hitter who's not in the starting lineup up to the plate as many times as possible, and how to get that hitter up in spots where it can do his team the most good.

There would need to be some fine print to keep the Joe Maddons of the world from trying to bend the rules. A situation where a pinch-hitter is announced but batted for as a result of a pitching change that addresses the platoon advantage will still apply as if the first announced pinch-hitter actually batted.

So if you sandbagged by trying to put a somewhat weaker hitter up in the first place, anticipating a pitching change where you could then bat a stronger hitter against the new relief pitcher, you wouldn't be able to keep the second pinch-hitter in the game. Sorry, Joe: we're not going to let you be any slicker than you already are.

THERE you go--a substitution rule that adds some intriguing wrinkles to the game without forcing the NL to adopt the DH, that promotes strategy/tactics and that will give AL managers some additional leeway in deploying their bench hitters in the absence of the DH during interleague games in NL ballparks.

Best of all, it preserves some aspect of baseball tradition, which deserves to be honored, instead of discarded, trampled, folded, spindled, etc.

We suggest that the NL adopt this rule as an "experiment," just the way the DH was adopted in 1973. Let's test it out, and see how we like it.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Speaking of "trampling out the vintage"...
Now these sprightly-but-soon-to-be-soused young'uns don't seem all that interested in high-tailing it off Bourbon St., but some of these yokel locals who are practicing the art of mental liquidation will sometime soon take a left turn to Metairie, where the New Orleans Zephyrs (AAA franchise for the Miami Marlins) play their games. It's a pleasant place, filled with music and--most significantly, perhaps--a right-field beer pavilion.

For some folk, however, escaping Nawlins is part of a professional code. Three veteran players ripped it up for the Zephyrs in 2012--outfielder-third baseman Mike Cervenak (now 36); second baseman-shortstop Nick Green (now 34), and shortstop-second baseman Gil Velazquez (now 33).

Nick Green: possibly a favorite at the Little Gem Saloon...
Of the three, Green has had the most major-league exposure, with a bit more than a thousand plate appearances for eight teams in part of seven seasons. Even though he pummeled PCL pitching last year (.340, .996 OPS in 63 games), Nick is a marginal hitter at best against big leaguers.

Mike Cervenak: not quite the second coming of
Steve Ontiveros...
We'll never know what Cervenak might have done, for he spent the best part of his youth not in New Orleans but in Norwich, CT, where he didn't develop fast enough to be a serious prospect. By the time he made it to AAA with the Giants, he was 28 and even the bedraggled 2005 team, without Barry Bonds for most of the year, was unable to find room enough to give him a cup of coffee. That didn't happen until he'd bounced from the Giants to the Phillies via the Orioles (insert your favorite billiards shot description here).

Bereft of enough HR pop and just not as physically imposing as someone like David Freese--and always just shaky enough at third to cause some concern among baseball fundamentalists--Mike just couldn't get over the hump. He did some nice humpin' in Nawlins last year (344, 912 OPS) but the problem is that he's pretty much a first baseman now. He was let go, and didn't hook on with anyone.

Velazquez: New Orleans Miami...unreal.

Velazquez, big and rangy, was drafted higher (14th round) than either Green (32nd) or Cervenak (43rd). Drafted out of high school, he simply didn't hit a lick for the Mets, who gave up on him in 2004. He became another guy who was freely available in the minor league free agent pool. It wasn't till he got to Salt Lake City, a hitter's park, in 2011 that his bat showed any real signs of life--but the Angels weren't impressed, and cut him loose. He hit well at Nawlins (.312, but still no power), and the Fish brought him up in September, but he didn't impress with the bat and was released over the off-season.

All of these guys will be back in AAA, and probably all of them will have "escaped" New Orleans, despite having played extremely well there in 2012. (Green might be back: he was cut by the Fish but the engaging infielder, who does a passable Brandon McCarthy imitation now and again on his Twitter account, hasn't yet let it be known what he's going to do.) For most of us, such a Darwinian swirl could push us toward an assignation with Bourbon St., but these guys have just kept at it, fighting the odds, trying to turn back a ticking clock that is working inexorably against them. All you teenage tipplers still stumbling around down in the French Quarter (where spring break is almost as long as the baseball season...) should tip your glasses to these three, who deserve a toast for their tenacity.