Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Yes. We did.

Um, no. We didn't.

What we said (back in late July, when the craven folks who run the HOF changed their voting procedures) was that me, you and ten-plus million dogs named Boo (the perfect appellation in this instance, n'est-ce pas?) should boycott these mofos until they rescind this rule.

Just as folks today want to send a message to the cloistered world of uber-wealthy white greedocrats that the justice system actually pay lip service to its own procedures (cough-Ferguson-cough), those of us who want to protect the principles of fairness should make sure that we give these holier-than-thou, pompous pariahs a battering at the cash register.

That said, we did not say that we would cease and desist with respect to the results of Hall of Fame balloting--effed up as it now is.

Sorry to dash any hopes out there. (Or, alternatively, sorry to interrupt your sleep...)

We'll keep this brief. We dodged Whisky Jack, at least for now. There is nothing egregious on the ballot in that way, at least not for awhile (we'll let you figure out who the next Whisky Jack might be on your own).

There are too many worthy players to put on a 10-man ballot (wonder if the HOF chimps would be brazen enough to decrease that as well? Don't put anything past these guys...), which forces us (and you, and Boo, and the journalistic demimonde who actually get to vote on all this) to create a tactical ballot.

That means, as noted previously, leaving off Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who will probably have to wait into their late sixties before they finally get the call.

With that doubly reluctant double omission, we get down to the folks that go on the ballot:

New eligibles: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez.

No-brainers here.

The other guys that should go in this year (but only one will): Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell.

That's right: just Biggio, who barely missed (two votes) last year. Clearing the decks here with two worthy guys somehow still caught up in the 'roids rage idiocy--Piazza and Bagwell--would be the way to go, but as Mike O'Hara (Orson Welles) says in The Lady From Shanghai: "It's a bright, guilty world." (Actually, he could have left off the first adjective in that assertion...)

The "movie star...and the rest!" (figure out that reference without Google, and win a free used cigar!): Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling.

Folks will want Alan Trammell here. He's worthy, but no amount of effort will get him elected (14th year, 20% of the vote last time). Sammy Sosa is tainted, Gary Sheffield has a strong enough case of "Dick Allen Disease" that he will struggle to stay on the ballot.

Some folks think John Smoltz will rise up the ballot in short order and join his Atlanta amigos in 2016/17. We would like some of what they are smoking. Smoltz has 95% of the case that Schilling has, but--just like birth order in family dynamics--he's coming on board behind a candidate who is a better (and older, more established) version of what he is. Figure on 15-20% for him at this point, and no real traction until Schilling rises up the ballot (which will take a few more years). He belongs, but given the new reprehensible rule, he (like many others) may have to go in via the side entrance.

Folks will think we are stubborn about Edgar Martinez, and they're half-right. Somewhere, somehow, there has to be leeway for non-numeric considerations in this type of voting. Not that Edgar isn't qualified numerically. He's just the victim of a lot of overthinking by bright folks who should know better. Even in a jammed ballot, room must be made for players who bring an inestimable aesthetic dimension to the baseball diamond. Edgar managed to do that as well or better than anyone despite rarely taking the field. He did so as the most interesting batter of his generation to watch while at the plate (and if you don't think so, you aren't watching enough baseball).

Only a few players make the batting process into something intensely cerebral, and do so in a way that radiates across an entire stadium. Edgar is one of those select few. There will a spot for him on our HOF ballot until the bitter end.

There it is. Nothing more needs to be said until the votes have been counted. Of course, that won't stop anyone, now, will it?

Thursday, November 20, 2014


We wrap up the Zodiac League previews with a stinging proviso--that the Scorpio "A" team is sitting on a starting rotation that is as deadly as the scorpion's tale itself.

Sometime soon--when we are not editing a movie, planning a film festival, or putting the finishing touches on our new office space--we will consolidate all of the info regarding the Zodiac League, and get ready to actually play it. Will our off-the-cuff predictions be worth a pitcher of John Nance Garner joy juice?

(Oddly enough, John Nance Garner--FDR's first vice president--was born on November 22.)

The Scorpio "A's" (that's "A-team," not Athletics, in case you're arriving here for the first time...) aren't sitting especially high in hitting. Here is their projected batting order:

Bid McPhee, 2b; Bill Terry, 1b; Stan Musial, lf; Ken Griffey Jr., cf; Ed Delahanty, rf'; Roy Campanella, c; Pie Traynor, 3b; Rabbit Maranville or Bobby Wallace, ss

Lineup slots 2-6 are pretty solid (Bill Terry is a bit better than most people think, and Campy should drive in a lot of runs), but the edges are a bit fuzzy.

But the pitching--particularly the starting rotation--will give you goose bumps.

Walter Johnson, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Bob Feller, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling

Willie Hernandez, Bob Stanley, Al Holland, Joe Page, Jim Brewer, Mark Eichhorn

In the immortal words of Hughie Jennings (not on this team...): "Ee-yah!"

The "B" team is more "balanced" in that its pitchers are just about as spotty as its projected batting order:

Toby Harrah, 2b; Rick Monday, cf; Gary Sheffield, rf; David Ortiz, 1b; Ralph Kiner, lf; Vern Stephens, ss; Ned Williamson, 3b; Deacon McGuire, c

The "A" team could use Stephens, but the rules are that we go with the Hall of Famer on the "A" team (unless there are none for any particular defensive position). The "B" team, which doesn't have to follow that rule, thus gets a badly needed break.

Here's the pitching:

Jim Bunning, Carl Mays, Dwight Gooden, Jim Kaat, Dave McNally, John Candelaria

Rawly Eastwick, Armando Benitez, Pete Richert, Gene Garber, Jeff Nelson, Joe Hoerner

There is a lot of pitching depth in Scorpio-land, certainly more than any other astrological sign. The "A" team is seriously loaded, and it will be very interesting to see how they do.

All we need do now is set the controls for the heart of the sun...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


The irony of the 2014 World Series? That the two teams slogging it out at the end both had offenses that eschewed (one of our favorite words...) a key aspect of offense--the base on balls--that's been a hallmark of sabermetric theory since its earliest days.

An even bigger irony--that the "midwestern angster" component of sabe discourse is yoked to a team--the Kansas City Royals--who are the leading exponent of "anti-sabermetric" offense. Yes, it is grimly amusing and, like so many things in America, reveals the terminally schizoid nature of the so-called "land of the free."

We'll see all this in the charts below. What they measure is the number of games in which a team (any and all of the thirty franchises from 2000-14) draws zero, one, or two walks (≤ 2 BB).

The first chart (above) is a simple frequency distribution. The average team has had a little under a thousand such games over the past fifteen years (993 to be exact). As the chart shows, the Royals, with 1235 such games, have more than a hundred-game lead over the next highest team (the Baltimore Orioles, with 1122).

By all accounts, Carlos Santana was a free swinger...
Now this is a not inconsiderable handicap to winning, as teams have an overall .391 WPCT when they draw two or fewer walks in a game. Being a free-swinging team, as the Royals have consistently been over the past fifteen years, is one of the major reasons why they have mostly been a losing team.

As the chart shows, the Royals did not change their evil ways (baby...) over the past two years, when they chugged up to semi-respectability and charged their way into the ball as a bull in a china shop disguised as Cinderella. They remained defiantly themselves--and benefitted from the fact that, as offense has tanked over the past 4-5 years, it has retrenched away from the base on balls to such an extent that the impact of free-swinging has been nullified.

You can see that in the overall team average, which has crept upward over the past five years until it is at its highest total since the late 1960s.

We have another way of measuring that change, by taking this data and turning it into league-relative averages. When we do that, and when we identify the teams who've made the post-season over the past fifteen years, we can see the pattern in the data relative to "sabermetric" offenses and team success.

And when we do that, as we have in the above chart, we can see that there is a strong pattern (post-season teams are 10% better at avoiding low-walk games--the lower number is better in this case) that has begun to decay in recent years.

When we look at the data this way, we see that the Royals had the most "anti-sabermetric" offense to reach the World Series (winner in orange, loser in yellow) in the past fifteen years.

The 2014 World Series pitted two teams that had little interest in the base on balls. The Giants and the Royals were the two free-swingingest teams to square off relative to the league in the past fifteen years--and, quite probably, in the history of the World Series. (We'll check on that, one of these days, just to make sure.)

Measuring from the league-relative standpoint, we can see that the most "sabermetric" offenses (using just this one index point...) over the past fifteen years are the Yankees and the Red Sox, with the A's and Phillies right on their heels. (Though the Phils have backslid a good bit in the past few seasons.)

By this measure, the Royals again leap out as the most "anti-sabermetic" offense by a wide margin--twelve percentage points over the next most free-swingingest team (the O's).

Of course, in the current environment, it doesn't seem to matter. 2014 nearly neutralized the base on balls as an indicator of team quality; it remains to be seen if that trend will continue. But one thing is for sure--you can take it to the bank that the Royals will be swinging with abandon, win or lose.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


We were curious, so we went to Forman et fils and found out who has hit the best (and worst) in the post-season for the past ten years.

First, the leaders (by OPS):

We've put boxes around players who appeared in the 2014 World Series. People have been proclaiming Lorenzo Cain as the "breakout star" of the post-season, but the member of the Royals who hit the best (and by a wide margin) in the post-season was Eric Hosmer.

And then there's the Panda...

Next, the players with the statistical lead in all the other counting stats not captured in the leaders list:

You'll not be surprised to notice that leading in a number of these categories is highly correlated with the number of post-season games one gets to play.

Notice, though, that triples (our old and continually endangered pal) are particularly scarce in the post-season.

Finally, the trailers--the guys who, for one reason or another, just can't get it going in the post-season:

So, in the post-season, the difference between Angel Pagan (who missed the 2014 post-season with a back injury) and his caddy Gregor Blanco is minuscule.

And the folks who thought that Salvador Perez (who was actually OK in the World Series, but ice-cold in the balance of the 2014 post-season) should have been hit for in the final at-bat of Game 7 have a little something with which to put their barstools into second gear.

Finally--if your last name is Cabrera, you definitely want to change it before you enter the post-season. [ADD: Unless your first name is Miguel, that is...]

Saturday, November 1, 2014


We used the word "hubris" the other day (actually, in the post immediately preceding this one). That was unwitting (as opposed to half-witting...) prescience on our part, for we could not know at the time that another egregious example of overweening arrogance would crop up so soon after the conclusion of the World Series.

And it's not exactly a surprise that it involves Theo Epstein. Theo, of course, is the Most Overrated Baseball Executive In Baseball History, having been far less responsible for the Greatest Cultural Awakening to occur during the Shrub administration (the "advent" of the Red Sox") than virtually anyone believes.

Theo has a theatrical legacy in his family, so he (along with many other master manipulators) has some heightened skill with fake symbolism, flim-flam, and what's semi-affectionately known in the parallel world of the Beltway Bandits (and don't think baseball insiderism isn't all about that same sh*t...) as "weasel words." (And let's stop for a moment to thank our fabulous sponsor, Fright Quotes R Us, currently in negotiations for a merger with "the whole enchilada" of urban dictionary web sites in order to deliver irreverence directly to your email address for a very nice price...)

Now, "weasel words" and "hubris" are not completely synonymous...though they often keep the same company. The former is usually an outgrowth of the latter, though Theo was probably incredibly precocious when it came to this and was already highly accomplished in the practice prior to secondary school.

So it should not raise any eyebrows that he is currently trying to weasel his way out of the type of grasping behavior that overly-entitled insiders with an overly-practiced, baked-in look of searing intensity employ in order to create the requisite amount of psychological distance from the all-too-willing-to-be-callow media.
Rick (Rich) Renteria wasn't much of a hitter in
his baseball career, but no one could blame him
if he was tempted to take the bat to the noggins
of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer

It's the type of behavior that believes inherently (in a manner parallel with the less fortunate who are endowed with such traits, who are merely sociopaths...) that they should be able to get away with anything and everything they want.

Hence the exceptional shadiness involving Joe Maddon, a late-blooming egotist in search of a legacy, and Rick (Rich) Renteria, a garden-variety, anonymous foot-soldier with a upside managerial profile like Terry Francona. The former has an outsized reputation--though not as outsized as Theo, who always looks as though he was just broken out of his own plaster-saint replica (there's rumored to be just such an artifact in the Cubs' executive washroom...). The latter is just some guy to stand there and get pissed on when the time and occasion call for it, no matter if he might have demonstrated a good bit more affinity for the job than anyone initially suspected.

Theo's "weasel words," of course, as he brazenly attempts to deflect attention from what at the least is breach of faith (and the worst? Don't stop short of the "T" word...), are front and center in his disingenuous obloquy.

We'll take this "Uncle Joe" over
the other one (left): less ego, more
comic timing...
What we suspect is that the outgoing, puddle-headed pooh-bah (aka Budzilla) will soon be knee-deep in what should be called "the Rick Renteria Affair" but will instead have the sh*t (for once...) flow upstream to "Uncle Joe," who might decide that he should have been "movin' kinda slow"--or at least, slower--when it came to giving the middle finger to the Rays.

So, to wind down the wind machine (you may cheer as you see fit...), we won't be surprised to discover that there will have to be some compensation made to the Rays once all the slime boils over. We think that shortstop prospect Addison Russell is just about the right cost for Theo and Jed (and Granny and Jethro, too).

Anything less, in fact, would be--a scandal? In baseball, where insider sh*t is more sanctioned than in the Washington world of lobbyists?? No, just another example of "rugged individualist" hubris trumping ethics--again.

Of course, what would also be a kick in the head would be if the Rays turned around, hired Rick Renteria--and won the World Series in 2015.