Saturday, October 15, 2011

Does Zack Greinke Win the John Lackey Award?

There was a whole lot of things not to like about last night's NLCS contest between the Cardinals and Brewers if you were a Brewers' fan. Much, of course, has been made of the four errors committed by the Brewers that led to three unearned runs. Much also has been made of Tony LaRussa's brilliant gamesmanship as manager during the game (eyeroll). And of course, there was the fantastic performance of the Cardinal bullpen that recorded the last and conversely, the Brewers lack of getting to those relief pitchers. In the middle of it all was Zack Greinke.

Greinke simply wasn't effective yesterday and really hasn't been for much of the last month. This writer will never know if the game plan was for Greinke to pitch to contact. But pitch to contact he did. Greinke struck out no one and in fact only induced only two swing and misses all night in 89 pitches. Errors or no errors, if Greinke had missed a few bats, the results might have been different.

But what earns Greinke his John Lackey Award is his reaction to the Jerry Hairston play that resulted in two runs. In fairness to Greinke, it's unknown if he was mad at himself, Hairston or life in general. But as you can see in the linked video, Greinke slammed the ball down after the two runs scored from the error. It was a bush league move and perfectly in line for the award he's being given here.

There were so many things that were wrong on that play. Yes, Hairston blew it. Yes, he then interfered with Yadier Molina (who is looking more and more like his brothers now) that allowed Molina an interference call. But what if Hairston didn't interfere with Molina? What the heck was Greinke doing in front of the plate? His taking that throw from the outfield is reminiscent of the Manny Ramirez famous cut off play. Excuse the Fan, Zack, but you were supposed to be behind the plate not in front of it.

Some could say that he knew it was interference and knew it didn't matter. If so, then why did he try to swipe tag Molina? It was after missing on the swipe tag attempt that Greinke fired the ball into the dirt in frustration.

Zack Greinke famously said negative things about Chris Carpenter before the series started. But perhaps, instead of cranking on the Cardinals' ace, he should take some lessons.

Official BBA Goose Gossage Award General Chapter Ballot

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance is an organization of baseball writers from around the country and around the world. Every October each of the BBA's chapters vote on the various BBA post season awards. The General Chapter is made up of writers not focused on a single team in their writing. This Fan is proud to be the president of the General Chapter, not because the title means anything in the grand scheme of things, but there is great pleasure being a part of so many talented people.

Part of those presidential duties is to compile the chapters votes and then cast a block vote based on those votes. The block vote then gets combined with votes from the BBA's other chapters to lead to the winner of this year's award. Today's award ballot is for the Goose Gossage Award considering the best relief pitchers in the American and National Leagues. The award is not limited to closers.

What follows is the results of the chapter votes compiled and thus our official ballot The point system is five points for first place votes, three points for a second and one point for a third:

The following General Chapter sites voted:

Flagrant Fan 
Cheap Seats Please 

Game Picks - Saturday: October 15, 2011

Yesterday in this space, a nice piece was written about Jerry Hairston. Naturally, his costly error then helped lead the Brewers to a big loss last night in Game Five of the National League Championship Series. Isn't that just the way it goes? But Hairston wasn't alone. The Brewers made four errors last night and their starting pitcher, supposedly an ace, Zack Greinke, induced only two swings and misses the entire game. As @Bill_TPA of The Platoon Advantage said on Twitter last night, you can't just blame the defense. Greinke has to get some outs on his own and didn't. Not a single strikeout.

The series now moves to Milwaukee with the Cardinals holding a 3-2 game advantage. The Brewers are in deep trouble as Shaun Marcum is their Game Six starter and he hasn't been good in the post season at all. Home field advantage or not, the Brewers are on the edge of a cliff at the moment.

Speaking of cliffs, the Tigers avoided falling off theirs with their win in Game Five on Thursday. The series now moves to Texas where the Rangers are comfortable and cozy. One more win takes the series for the Rangers. But again, that's why they play the games. Anything can happen. So what's the pick then?

  • The Rangers over the Tigers: The odds are long against the Tigers. On paper, it's a good match up between Max Scherzer and Derek Holland. But Holland can be spectacular at home. But if he isn't, the day off gives the Rangers the full array of their mighty bullpen.  Anything can happen in these games of course. But this picker would be darned surprised if the Rangers don't put this one away tonight.

Yesterday: 0-1
Week: 4-5
Month: 16-12
Season: 1379-1077

Friday, October 14, 2011

Jerry-Meander Hairston

If you look up the definition of, "journeyman," there might well be a picture of Jerry Hairston, Jr. next to the entry. He's played fourteen seasons for eight different teams. He's never been spectacular. He's only been a starter once (for the Orioles way back in 2001). At times he's been less than valuable. But most of the time, he offers a little bit of value to his team, but not much more than that. He has played seven different positions during his career with more than eighty games logged in six of them. He's a utility guy. No more. No less. But in the wonders of playoff sample size, he's become one of the heroes of the Brewers' post season.

Hairston, of course, is a member of the semi-famous Hairston baseball family. He is the brother of Scott Hairston, who has also had a long and unspectacular career. He is the son of Jerry Hairston, Sr., who also had a long and unspectacular career. And he is the grandson of Sam Hairston, who had all of four games of glory as a major league player back in 1951. The symmetry between the two Jerry Hairston's is pretty freaky. Junior has played fourteen seasons. Senior played fourteen seasons. Junior has a .258 lifetime batting average. Senior had a .258 lifetime batting average. Junior has a .371 lifetime slugging percentage. Senior had a .371 lifetime slugging percentage. But really, the similarities end there. Senior played his entire career with the White Sox except for one season elsewhere. Senior was mostly an outfielder who didn't come close to the playing time his son has seen. Senior also had a better on base percentage. But the bottom line is that both father and son played a long time and were good enough to be on major league rosters, but were never good enough to play every day.

Fast forward now to 2011 and Junior. He started the season with the Washington Nationals. He played a surprising number of games for them plying five different positions. He hit pretty well for a Hairston and had a 100 OPS+ in 75 games. On the last day of the trade deadline, the Nationals traded Hairston to the Brewers for a minor league player named Erik Kamatsu, who seems destined to stay in Double A for a while. He got into 45 games for the Brewers after the trade and was his solid, if unspectacular self while patrolling five different positions. Utility guy. A good guy to have around. He won't embarrass you wherever he plays and he's handy.

But heading into the post season, the Brewers had a problem. They had completely lost faith in their regular third baseman, Casey McGehee. McGehee looked lost at the plate most of the season and finished with a slash line in 600 plate appearances of: .223/.280/.346. McGehee, never really known for his patience at the plate, had a good season in the field, but offered nothing at the plate as his power dried up and he couldn't get on base. So the Brewers turned to Jerry Hairston, Jr. who has played the entire post season at third for the Brewers and with that decision came another dose of post season serendipity.

In the Division Series against the Diamondbacks, Hairston started all five games and hit .375 with an OPS of .900. He drove in three runs with two doubles and scored two runs. He's now played all four of the Championship Series against the Cardinals and has the same .375 average and has improved his OPS to .974 with three doubles, an RBI and four runs scored. He's been in the middle of everything for the Brewers and made a spectacular slide at home plate to tie the game up on Thursday night.

It's simply one of those fluky things that happens in the post season. The Brewers have to be ecstatic while the Cardinals (and Diamondbacks before them) are probably saying, "Jerry Bleeping Hairston." It's been quite fun to see the reactions from the stats guys on Twitter as Hairston continues to operate at inhuman levels. Jerry-Meander Hairston is having fun in his own sandbox and all we can do is smile and shake our heads.

Game Picks - Friday: October 14, 2011

Randy Wolf sure made this picker look stupid, didn't he? What an amazing effort and surprise. Of course, for the Brewers, Wolf's big game couldn't have come at a better time as the Brewers would have been in a heap of trouble if they had let the series get to 3-1. Instead the thing is knotted up at 2-2 and no matter what happens, the series will end in Milwaukee and that's good news for the Brewers.

Over in the ALCS, Justin Verlander gave a determined and gritty performance doing what the Tigers needed him to do to keep the Tigers alive for another day. He gave up four runs in eight and a third and pitched 133 pitches. It wasn't real pretty but it was better than C.J. Wilson. Talk what you will about that baseball hitting the third base bag as being bad luck for the pitcher, but there were plenty of other base runners to go along with that one. Wilson came up empty in two ALCS starts which isn't going to help his free agency cause any.

As with any post season, there have been some surprise performers. What Nelson Cruz is doing is understandable considering his amazing power. But Delmon Young? Ask any Twins' fans what they think of Delmon Young and you'll get an earful. But here he is with four post season homers. And Jerry Hairston, Jr.!? Perhaps more on him later in the day.

The wins by the Brewers and the Tigers guarantee that both series will go at least six games, and you can't ask more if you want playoff drama. It's simply too bad the ALCS has to suffer along with the broadcast team of Buck and McCarver. Buck has become a drone with little inflection in his offering and McCarver is simply a guy that baseball has passed by.

The Tigers and Rangers head for Arlington and have the day off. But the Cardinals and Brewers will square off again today in St. Louis. The series has become a best of three series that favors the Brewers as two of those games will be in Milwaukee. Here's how today will go:

  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: Zack Greinke has been sort of a non-entity in this post season. He hasn't hung around very long and though he has a couple of wins to his name, he hasn't really pitched well. The thing is, he is capable of shutting down any team at any time and that's what this picker thinks will happen tonight. Jaime Garcia has also become a four or five inning pitcher in the post season. Other than being left-handed, his stuff looks flat and he's run into bad innings in almost every outing. And face it, the Cardinal bullpen has to be on fumes at this point. Randy Wolf gave the Brewers' bullpen a rest so K-Rod and Axford only had to pitch an inning a piece. Advantage, Brewers. Game, Brewers.

Yesterday: 1-1
Week: 4-4
Month: 16-11
Season: 1374-1076

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Confused by the Comeback Player of the Year Award

Award presentations get wackier every year. In the entertainment business, there are so many award shows that any day now we could soon get the "Entertainer of the Year on Shows That Nobody Watches on Cable" awards. In college football, there are so many bowls every year that soon we might get the Rent-A-Wreck Bowl. Fortunately, baseball has kept the awards to somewhat of a minimum. But among those awards, the Comeback Player of the Year Award might be in that Rent-A-Wreck category. What does it mean exactly?

According to some of the sites scanned today, the award is given to a player who has re-emerged with his play this year. What does "re-emerge" mean? Does it mean that a player had to emerge in the first place to be eligible? Does that leave out players like Ryan Vogelsong who never had a good season in his life before this one? If so, should it? Did you have to be somewhat of a star before to get the honor when you are sort of a star again?

It's difficult to argue with the choices presented by this year's award.  Lance Berkman had a great year for the Cardinals (at least offensively) after so-so years the last two due to injuries and probably a lack of inspiration and conditioning. His WAR matched his last two years combined. But it also fell a bit short of his great years of the past (mostly on his poorly rated defense). Jacoby Ellsbury had a fantastic year and is an MVP candidate after missing virtually all year last year after hurting himself in a collision with a teammate. But there are some inherent issues with both picks.

First, Jacoby Ellsbury did come back from injury to have a superb season and that appears on some level to be a "re-emergence." But the fact is that Ellsbury was never this good before. Wouldn't his season be more of an emergence than a re-emergence? What if 2011 turns out to be a career year or an outlier for Ellsbury? Remember when Wade Boggs hit 26 homers? Remember when Joe Mauer hit more than five? If so, shouldn't Ellsbury's season qualify more for the Outlier Award or the Budding Superstar award? He so blew away anything in the past that it's hard to call what he did a re-emergence. Ellsbury's previous high fWAR was 4.3 but he blew the doors off of that and more than doubled it this season. It was more of a butterfly coming out of a cocoon than a re-emergence.

This writer really loves Lance Berkman. In fact, this writer called Berkman's great season back in February of 2011. So it's a bit gratifying to see the season he's had and to see him playing in the post season. But it's also this writer's belief that Berkman became disinterested in Houston and got himself out of shape. There were several stories in the preseason that he went on a fitness kick to prove that he was still a good player this season. Having to sign a substandard contract (for him) will do that for you. So should his 2011 season be rewarded when he kind of got himself into his own mess to begin with? The Yankees, who had Berkman last year, were shocked at how well Berkman played for the Cardinals.

In case you get the wrong impression, this writer is not against Berkman and Ellsbury getting these awards. Both players are well liked in this space. Let's just say this Fan doesn't understand the spirit of this award. Is it the "I got hurt and now can play again" award? Or should it be someone who overcame heavy obstacles to succeed. Ryan Vogelsong seems to more fit the spirit of what the award should be. The guy never stopped working and after missing five seasons in the majors, put together an unbelievable story. The same could hold true for Brandon McCarthy and others who battled from obscurity to grab some positive value as major league players. Was there any better comeback than James Shields?

Of course, we could go into a whole other post about this award's tie in with a sponsor like Viagra, but we'll let that rest for now. Though if this award stays in your mind for more than four hours, you should probably call your doctor.

BBA Link Fest - Generally Speaking

October is a busy time in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Between voting on the BBA's various awards, keeping our sites busy, watching playoff baseball and the soap opera that has become the Boston Red Sox, our folks are busy. They are also busy writing great posts. Every Thursday, this site posts a rundown of links of the week's best from our general chapter. Enjoy.

For a great start, check out Eugene Tierney's take on the Cubs getting Theo Eptein over at 85% Sports.

Through the Fence Baseball has a great article by Dan Kirby on the Legend of Tony Plush. Great read.

But Kenn Olson of Going Yard thinks that Tony Plush Should Hush.

Sooze over at Babes Love Baseball riffs on a Bud Norris take on Brian Wilson's commercials career.

Thrilled by the Brewers win in Game One of their series with the Cardinals, Daniel waited for the other shoe to drop. It has. Check out his post on Ball Caps Blog.

Sully is like the Emperor of new groove fame saying, "Bring it on," to the possibility of the Yankees getting David Ortiz as a DH. Sully Baseball is a fun place. And check out Sully's new video here.

It's not baseball related, but The Sports Banter has a feature called The Monday Mullet that is hilarious.

Baseball Franchise Rankings ponders 100-game winners after watching the Phillies exit the playoffs.

Ken Marcum over at The Baseball Hall of Shame talks about an open letter to baseball general managers.

FH waxes fine prose on the beauty of baseball over at Baseballism.

Replacement Level Baseball Blog had two terrific championship series previews. It's fun to see how things are working out compared to the great previews. You can read one of them here.

This writer is in awe of J-Doug over at Rational Pastime. Look at those charts and you'll see why.

Jason Wojciechowski takes on baseball reporting (to great effect) over at The Platoon Advantage. And congrats to The Common Man who added an uncommon baby to their household.

The Fan absolutely loves Robbie Clark's reporting of John and Suzyn on Twitter and on her Baseblawg site. Hysterical.

Aaron Somers writes the best post-season awards posts. Check out this one on the best pitchers of the year over at Blogging From the Bleachers.

The Arizona Fall League is a darn cool yearly occurrence that few of us hear about since it happens during the playoffs. It's a good thing then that Blaine Blontz keeps us up to date over at Call to the Pen.

Che Palle is one of our overseas sites in Italy and MSalvini is excited about an upcoming visit to Parma by Prince Fielder. Your browser will need to translate the site.

Matt Whitener over at Cheap.Seats.Please. does a great job of sizing up the rookie class of 2011. Excellent.

In a wonderful post, Taylor over at Crack of the Bat shows us how Terry Francona should have handled September.

How can you not like a site called, Old Time Family Baseball? Here is their take on the Cardinals winning Game Three of the NLCS.

MTD is such a hoot. This Fan would read his "nonsense" any day of the week. Check out his rookie picks over at Off Base Percentage.

MLB Reports has a great article on Adam Dunn and Alex Rios this week. A great read.

Jonathan Mitchell wonders if Brandon Phillips just had a "career year" in this great post over at MLB Dirt.

If you're sitting at home or work and wonder what time the ALCS or NLCS game is each day, look no further than this handy post over at Michael Holloway's Baseball Blogs.

Major League A-holes' Peter Verniere asks some great questions regarding how Theo Epstein will change the Chicago Cubs.

A super post over at Left Field thinks about why we root for the teams we root for.

If you a fan of trivia, you just have to check out Theo's post over at Hot Corner Harbor with post season trivia questions! Yay!

The Fan's wife fell in love with Yankee fans doing the "roll call" out in the right field bleachers. She will be greatly sad to know that the leader of that daily event has called it a career. The Hall of Very Good has the sad details.

One of the newest members of the Alliance is Grubby Glove and this Fan has to tell you, this site features awesome writing. Check out this post called "What's Wrong With This Card."

Ah, The Golden Sombrero. You caused this writer bloody fingertips this week. But it was so worth it. What started it all? This post.

Alex Rodriguez is always a fascinating topic. The Baseball Index has the latest on A-Rod's new life coach.

Did you miss the For Baseball Junkies' sum up of the Cardinals - Phillies NLDS? Then you missed some really good stuff.

Our German site, Dugout 24, gives us the three greatest moments in World Series history.

Game Picks - Thursday: October 13, 2011

Wednesday was another thrilling championship series day of baseball. Unsung hero, Scott Feldman pitched another scoreless inning and got a win. Nelson Cruz gunned Miguel Cabrera out at the plate and then hit a three-run homer off of Jose Valverde and Mike Napoli was a hero at the plate and behind it. The Tigers are now down three games to one but have their best pitcher on the mound for Game Five.

Meanwhile, in the NLCS, the Cardinals struck early on Yovani Gallardo for four runs in the first inning. Gallardo did not give up another run after that. The Cardinals made those four runs stand up though as Chris Carpenter held the Brewers to three runs and then a suddenly stingy Cardinal bullpen put the game away with out after out all the way to the house. The Cardinals now lead the Brewers in the series, two games to one and the Brewers are in serious trouble as the next two games are in St. Louis. Tony LaRussa hasn't made a bad move this entire series.

Both the ALCS and the NLCS have games today. How cool is that? The picks for today are:

  • The Tigers over the Rangers: Justin Verlander will be a force of nature. The guy is the guts and glory guy for the Tigers and he gets the ball in his home ballpark. The win will force the series back to Texas and forestall a series victory by the Rangers for at least another day. C.J. Wilson goes for the Rangers but will not be as effective as Verlander.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Not a good situation for the Brewers. Randy Wolf has been abysmal (Chris Narveson should have been the fourth starter) and the Brewers get to face Kyle Lohse at home. You have to like Lohse over Wolf on pretty much any occasion. The only hope the Brewers have is to get to Lohse early and often. It could happen but the odds are against it. To be sure, the Cards better get a decently long outing from Lohse as they can't keep expecting the bullpen to get that many outs each game.

Yesterday: 1-1
Week: 3-3
Month: 15-10
Season: 1378-1075

Worst Batting Games - Joe Torre Addendum

In the middle of the night last night, an overloaded post was finished here about the worst batting performances in a single game in history. Thank goodness there was no need to get up in the morning because that thing took hours to research. But there was a flaw in the post and good friend, Bob Netherton, of On the Outside Corner fame picked it up. Bob (@throatwarbler) is one of the finest baseball historians and writers not currently getting paid to do what he does so well. Anyway, Bob wondered why the post didn't include the game that Joe Torre, then playing for the New York Mets, had on July 21, 1975. Good question. The simple answer was that at two in the morning, a flawed searched missed the event.

What did Joe Torre do? In that game against the Houston Astros, Torre came to the plate four times and grounded into four double plays. This writer stated that three was the record. It is of sorts...for second place. But Joe Torre holds the record and it may never be broken. Four at bats and eight outs. Ouch.

Joe Torre was a great player and had a borderline Hall of Fame career. That career spanned one of the toughest hitting eras of the game as he played from 1960 to 1977. Torre had five seasons batting over .300 and it wasn't until his sixteenth season (the same 1975) that his OPS+ fell below 100. His career OPS+ was 128 and he amassed 55.5 career rWAR. He was a very good player. But he did have one Achilles Heel. He hit into a lot of double plays. He led the league in that category three times and six times finished with more than twenty for the season. Albert Pujols can relate.

1975 wasn't any different for Torre in the double play department. He hit into 21 double plays that season. That had to be a difficult season to be a player for the Mets. Yogi Berra started the season as the manager and was dismissed after 109 games. The team was 56-53 under Berra but fared worse under interim manager, Roy McMillan. The Mets finished that season two games over .500 and in third place.

Looking at the Mets that season, they had great pitching with Seaver, Koosman and Jon Matlack. But the offense was poorly constructed with a bunch of older sluggers who couldn't really slug in the spacious Shea Stadium. Joe Torre was just another square peg on a team that needed rounder holes. That team attempted only 68 stolen bases all season and were thrown out on 26 of those attempts. Yeah, that was a slow and cumbersome team.

So you had a slow and cumbersome team playing against the Astros at Shea facing Ken Forsch who was a pretty good pitcher in the middle of his productive career. Forsch only pitched 109 innings that season (he was only a spot starter) and yet induced twelve ground ball double plays. Slow runners, good ground ball pitcher. All the stars lined up for Joe Torre to make history.

It didn't take long for Torre to get started. He batted third in the Mets' line up that day and in the bottom of the first, after Felix Millan hit a single, Torre rapped a ball back to Forsch who threw to Larry Milbourne who then threw to Bob Watson for the first double play.

Torre again came to the plate in the third following singles by Del Unser and Felix Millan. Torre hit a grounder to short where Metzger threw to Milbourne who then completed the double play by throwing to Watson. Two at bats, two double-plays.

By the time that Joe Torre came to the plate again in the sixth inning, the Mets were already down to Forsch and the Astros, 6-1, and Forsch was cruising (and on his way to a complete game win). In the bottom of the sixth, Felix Millan again singled to lead things off. Torre hit a grounder to second (at least he was using the whole field). It was Milbourne to Metzger to Watson and Torre had hit into his third double-play in three at bats.

Torre had one last at bat in the bottom of the eighth. The score was then 6-2. Unser led off with a bunt single to third. Millan got his fourth single of the game and Unser moved to second. That would bring up Torre who was already tied for the most GIDPs in history with three. And yes, Torre set the record by grounding into a short to second to first double play.

Several keys led to the record. First, Millan went four for four in the game, all singles. Without Millan's good day at the plate, none of this happens. Second, Forsch had one of those "scattered eleven hits" performances that bent but didn't break his team. He gave up enough hits to allow Torre to do what he did. Lastly, the Mets played station to station baseball. There were no stolen base attempts. None of their base runners took an extra base on multiple hit innings and again, they were a slow team, with few slower that Joe Torre.

That game had to be one of the most remarkable things to watch. You have to wonder if Mets fans in the seats that day and those watching on Channel 9 Television knew they had just witnessed history. Joe Torre did something nobody had ever done before and haven't since. 

While Joe Torre's spectacular feat should have been mentioned in the original post, the game would have put Torre nowhere close to the top five in negative RE24 or in WPA. The Mets were never really in the game and Torre's at bats all resulted in fairly low leverage situations (1.24 overall). His final RE24 for the game was -3.101 and his game WPA was -0.242. The Mets probably would have lost the game anyway. But none of that really matters. What matters is that Joe Torre, thanks to Felix Millan, Ken Forsch and solid infield play for the Astros, made history. Four at bats, eight outs.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Theo Epstein is Not a Quitter or a Traitor. Sheesh

The vitriol Theo Epstein is getting by some in the Red Sox Nation is unfair. Golly, the man had a hand in bringing Boston two world championships after a drought spanning back to 1918. And perhaps this post is premature since the Eptein to the Cubs story is only a report and has not yet been confirmed. But the din and hue out on Twitter and in blogs is seriously irking.

Let's debunk a few of the arguments. One is that Epstein broke the Red Sox and he should stay and fix it. Really? Perhaps some of his moves in retrospect didn't go very well, but that happens when your team is in the new reality of competing year in and year out with the Yankees' budget. How do we know that all the moves were solely his? And let's turn this argument back to you if you are saying such things. Would you turn down a plum new job offer if you stayed up too late the night before and sort of mailed in your last day of work at your present location? Hardly. Let's keep it real, okay?

Another of the arguments is that Epstein is a traitor for leaving for the Cubs. Again, are you a traitor if you take a new job offer and leave your present company? Again, let's be realistic here. What Theo Epstein might be doing has been done by millions of Americans for decades: leaving one company to go to work for another that presents new exciting challenges. Perhaps it would be cause for traitor calls if Epstein had signed to go with the Yankees or Bay Rays. But even so, such calls would be questionable.

Many others are reconstructing history and pouring jibes at the job Theo Epstein has done as the GM of the Red Sox. Look, this writer has lived in New England since 1975. During that time, there were several dismal seasons for the Red Sox as a team. Since Epstein signed on in 2002, the Red Sox have been consistently competitive and even won the whole shebang two times. The same guy who was at the helm for the miracle of 2004 was the same guy who watched September of 2011 go down in flames. It happens. And blame and credit can go both ways and to many places.

Theo Epstein was one of the players in breaking an 80+ year drought in a city that needed a World Championship. There is perfect symmetry for Epstein to want to be a part of doing the same thing for a team that has had an even longer drought. We don't know what kind of dysfunction (if any) occurred behind the scenes between Epstein and those above him on the Red Sox. We don't know anything about anything. All we know is that a talented man should have the right to make the best career move for himself just like the rest of us should.

If Theo Epstein is indeed gone from the Boston Red Sox, then wish him well and thank him for the job he did for the team during his tenure.

Game Picks - Wednesday: October 12, 2011

What was this bonehead picker thinking picking against Doug Fister at home? What an idiot, right? And nice falling for the Colby Lewis playoff mystique thing. Yeah, right. Doug Fister was simply amazing last night. He consistently ran his sinker into the Rangers' right-handed batters and just ask Adrian Beltre as he hobbles by you just how effective that was. And Fister never hurts himself by walking people. Love the guy...absolutely love the way he pitches. The Yankees should give Ivan Nova and A.J. Burnett a video package of Fister for Christmas. Now that's how you get it done.

And so the Tigers have new life in the series. Victor Martinez is a question mark as he hurt himself on that home run swing. Adrian Beltre may have a bad bruise, but the V-Mart injury is more troublesome to the Tigers since it involves V-Marts musculature. The ALCS and the NLCS could be very exciting indeed.

Let's look at Wednesday's contests:

  • The Rangers over the Tigers: After a day of rest, the Rangers will again have Alexi Ogando and Mike Adams ready in the bullpen if Matt Harrison falters. Rick Porcello can be very good but you have to like the Rangers' chances of getting some runs in this game. And again, there is questions about V-Mart's health. If he can't go, the Rangers simply walk Cabrera every time up.

  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: Obviously, Chris Carpenter came up huge against the Phillies to end that series. But the Phillies offense turned out to be seriously flawed. The Brewers' line up from one to five can run circles around the Phillies line up. Yovani Gallardo will need a couple of runs early to quiet the crowd so he can pitch his own game. This picker loves the way he's been throwing this post season and he could be tougher on the Cardinals than Carpenter can be on the Brewers. Tough game to call with the Cardinals at home, but the pick is the Brewers with big innings early off Carpenter.

Yesterday: 0-1
Week: 2-2
Month: 14-9
Season: 1377-1074

The Worst Batting Games In History

This post hasn't even started yet and already the writer is feeling pressured by that heady post title. And of course, in situations like this, it's favorable to blame somebody else. That somebody is Mike Rosenbaum over at one of this writer's favorite sites: The Golden Sombrero. Mike's site, as you can probably guess, features a summary of batters who strike out four or more times in a game. Mike's site does a lot of other great things like his famous Look-A-Likes feature. But the name of the site says it all. In Mike's latest post, he features players who have the most golden sombreros in a career (four strike out games if you haven't been following along). That got this Fan thinking and wondering if those games were the worst batting performances in a game ever. It turns out that such a question is a bit mind-boggling.

Striking out four times in a game is a pretty pathetic performance. There's no doubt about that. But there is so much more that has to be accounted for to just take those examples at face value. Information such as when those strikeouts occurred, the game situation at the time of the strikeouts, etc. And is a strikeout a batter's worst possible outcome? Is a strikeout better than grounding into a double play? Possibly. Is it still worse (the double play) if a runner scores and a strikeout doesn't score anyone? Yikes! What has this writer gotten himself into?

The game situation mentioned above can be accounted for in a stat called leverage. Another way of looking at a player's batting game is to look at WPA (win probability added) which totals each at bat for a batter in a game and how it affected his team's chance of winning the game. Obviously, grounding into a double play to end an inning with the bases loaded in a tie game is going to be an ouchie of a WPA for that at bat. There is another stat called RE24 with is short for Base-outs Runs Added. describes that statistic this way: "Given the bases occupied/out situation, how much did the batter or baserunner (sic) add in the resulting play." RE24 is similar to leverage without considering what else is going on in the game (the inning or score). In RE24 you want a positive number. Negative numbers are not good here. In fact, negative numbers are bad for WPA too.

And so it seems that we have to look beyond simply how many times a player strikes out in a game but also look at these other stats to try to come up with really bad batting games. First, let's make some lists. We'll start with the five worst RE24 game scores since 1919:

Five Worst RE24 game scores since 1919:

  1. -4.999 - Tommy Agee for the New York Mets on August 5, 1971 against the Braves. This was a seventeen inning game. Tommy Agee had eight plate appearances and made out each time. He struck out once and grounded into two double-plays
  2. -4.806 - Kirby Puckett for the Minnesota Twins on September 20, 1995 against the Royals. Puckett even got a hit in this game but went one for six in a thirteen inning game. His outs ended three innings when the Twins had men on base. Two of those times were double-plays, though it's hard to blame him for one of them as a runner was thrown out at the plate on a potential sacrifice fly.
  3. -4.681 - Omar Vizquel for the Cleveland Indians on June 11, 2000 against the Reds. All of these top five games were extra inning games. Vizquel had seven plate appearances and went oh for seven with a strike out and a double play.
  4. -4.532 - Kevin Kouzmanoff for the San Diego Padres on May 30, 2008 against the Giants. Kouzmanoff had six plate appearances and came up empty each time. He hit into two double plays.
  5. -4.504 - Juan Rivera for the New York Yankees on June 1, 2003 against the Tigers. Rivera had seven plate appearances, walked once and had no hits and hit into three double plays (tied among many for the most in a game).

Five Worst WPA game scores for a batter since 1919:

  1. -0.820 - Juan Rivera - See #5 above
  2. -0.781 - Tommy Agee - See #1 above
  3. -0.769 - Kevin Kouzmanoff - See #4 above
  4. -0.758 - Rico Rossy for the Seattle Mariners on July 30, 1998 against the Indians. This was a seventeen inning game but Rossy didn't get into the game until the eighth inning. He replaced Russ Davis who struck out three times in three at bats (he also had a sac fly). Rossy went oh for five with two strikeouts. He grounded out to first for the last out ending one bases loaded rally, struck out with men on second and third and struck out to end the game (in a loss) again with the bases loaded. Ouch. Between them, Davis and Rossy went oh for eight with five strikeouts.
  5. -0.756 - Bill Schroeder for the Milwaukee Brewers on May 8, 1987 against the Mariners in an extra inning loss. Schroeder had six plate appearances with no hits and two strikeouts. Most of his outs came at very inopportune times.

Other notable bad batting games:

  • Alex Gonzalez for the Toronto Blue Jays on September 9, 1998 against the Cleveland Indians. In that extra inning game, Gonzalez had six plate appearances and struck out all six times. Now that's a bad night.
  • Geoff Jenkins for the Milwaukee Brewers on June 8, 2004 against the Angels. Jenkins had seven plate appearances in the game and collected no hits and no walks and struck out six times.
  • Cecil Cooper (Red Sox - 1974), Billy Cowan (Angels - 1971) and Rick Reichardt (Angels - 1966) all had games where they went hitless in eight at bats with six strikeouts. That will hurt your batting average.
  • (side note - the most plate appearances in a game without a hit was Dwight Evans for the Red Sox with ten plate appearances. He hit into two double plays but he walked four times)
  • Robin Yount for the Milwaukee Brewers on May 8, 1984 against the White Sox. Yount set a record of sorts in this game. Yount did go three for ten with a walk in eleven plate appearances in this game. But he also hit into three double plays. If you add two outs for each double play and the other four outs he hit into in other unsuccessful at bats, then Yount accounted for thirteen outs in this game. The most ever.
  • A.J. Pierzynski, Darnell Coles, Billy Williams, Alex Trevino, Yogi Berra and Eddie Robinson all had games where they had four plate appearances, grounded into double plays on three of them and struck out on the fourth one.

Special mention has to go to eight special players who packed the worst batting games into the fewest at bats. The following players managed to tie a record by hitting into three double plays in the same game. That record has been tied 108 times. But these eight guys did so in only three plate appearances. In other words, they hit into a double play in every at bat. They are: Kevin Kouzmanoff (different game than the one listed above), Jeff Baker, Pete Incaviglia, Julio Franco, Dave Conception, Jose Morales, Ted Martinez and Joe Adcock.

With all the information this writer has now provided you, how would you rank the worst batting games in history? Here are the rankings for this writer. Agree? Disagree? What would your criteria be? Have at it. But here's the Fan's list:

  1. Tommy Agee - Worst game ever in RE24 was also second worst in WPA
  2. Juan Rivera - Worst WPA ever and fifth worst RE24 ever.
  3. Kevin Kouzmanoff - Fourth worst RE24 ever in the same game that compiled the third worst WPA
  4. Alex Gonzalez - It's hard to match six plate appearances resulting in six strikeouts.
  5. Rico Rossy - That was one ugly game. 
  6. Those guys tied with oh for eights with six strikeouts.

How did Adam Dunn not make this list?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

BBA General Chapter Official Willie Mays Award Ballot

Your favorite Fan seems like an unlikely choice to be the president of such a fine group of writers who make up the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. But so it is and as such, it is a pleasure to announce our chapter's official ballot for the Willie Mays Award. The Willie Mays Award is awarded each year by the Alliance to the American League and National League's best rookies.

This year saw an amazing array of new talent as a new emphasis on young players. That wide array seemed to manifest itself in an extremely tight voting race from the General Chapter for the American League. No less than four rookies in the American League garnered multiple first place votes among the chapter.

The National League--on the other hand--was a complete runaway with one pitcher running away with the vote.

Here is the General Chapter's official results:

As you can see, Craig Kimbrel appeared on 25 ballots and Eric Hosmer appeared on 21. This president appreciates all the time and effort General Chapter members made in voting. Few of us get paid for this and their time is appreciated. Please appreciate them too. Participating sites are listed below.

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance will announce its official award announcement in a couple of days. Our general chapter's ballot will be cast as one block vote.

Flagrant Fan 

On the last ballot post (The Connie Mack Awards), the votes tallied included Through the Fence Baseball. Their site was omitted from the list of participating sites. Huge apologies. Hopefully no one was forgotten this time.

Texas Rangers Bullpen - Story of the Playoffs

As far back as this writer can remember, the Texas Rangers could hit the seams off of a baseball. Going back to the Teixeira/A-Rod/I-Rod/Palmiero days, producing runs has never been a problem for them. And the same holds true today. But in the past, if you thought about the Texas Rangers, the two thoughts that always came to mind were: great offense - lousy pitching. And yes, Nelson Cruz deserves all the headlines for his historic (first time ever) walk off grand slam. But pitching is their bread and butter. It all seems so strange.

When the 2011 season started, people wondered if the Rangers would have enough pitching after Cliff Lee spurned them to sign with the Phillies. And the Rangers didn't run away with the division like this writer thought they would. So when the trading deadline came around, this writer figured the Rangers would go after another Cliff Lee-like deal. Surprisingly, they didn't. Instead, they stocked up on relief pitchers. What an insanely clever plan that turned out to be. Mike Gonzalez and Mike Adams have been invaluable against the Tigers, but what has also been very clever has been the playoff use of two in-house solutions. One is the forgotten man, Scott Feldman, 2010's opening day starter and last man out ever since. The other is Alexi Ogando.

Let's start with Alexi Ogando. It was a minor surprise that Ogando did not figure into the Ranger's rotation plans during the playoffs. A case can be stated that Ogando was the Rangers' third best starting pitcher this season behind C.J. Wilson and Matt Harrison. He had a far better season that Colby Lewis. But Ogando faded a bit in the second half and Colby Lewis had a big post season last year. You can't fault Ron Washington's thinking there. 

The net result though was giving the Rangers another dynamic option in the bullpen and boy has that worked out. Ogando has pitched in five of the Rangers six post season games covering 6.1 innings pitched. He's given up two hits and one walk.

Every post season seems to have some sort of unsung hero. This writer's pick so far has been Scott Feldman. The Fan follows a couple of writers from the Rangers and Feldman is not loved by them at all. Perhaps they are right in that Feldman made nearly four and a half million this year and was worth (mostly due to injury) about $1.1 million. Rangers writers believe Feldman's contract (2012 - $6.5 million, 2013 - $9.25 million on a team option) is a sunk cost. If this Fan was Jon Daniels, that cost seems to be worth every penny from the way Feldman has pitched this post season.

Sure, Feldman has only made two appearances. But those two appearances have been lifesavers. Feldman covered seven and a third innings relieving a struggling starter both times. He's covered 7.1 innings in those two appearances that more vital relievers might have had to cover otherwise. In those 7.1 innings, he's given up three hits and no walks while striking out eight! There is no way the Rangers win Game Two against the Tigers without the effort he put up.

Nelson Cruz deserves every headline he has garnered. He sure came up big when he needed to. But the bullpen is what won the Rangers that game. And the bullpen is their edge over the Tigers. The Tigers can match two or three of those relievers. But not the full array the Rangers can throw at them.

Game Picks - Tuesday: October 11, 2011

Yesterday's two playoff games couldn't have been more different. The first was a nail biter that went into extra frames and the second was a no-doubter and the only drama was how many extra base hits Albert Pujols was going to compile. Speaking of Albert Pujols, after last night's one-man freak show, Pujols has thirty extra base hits in just 63 post season games. His post season slugging for his career is 1.030. His regular season OPS lifetime? 1.037. Yeah, the guy is pretty good.

@TaoofStieb said last night on Twitter that Nelson Cruz has the easiest tape measure power swing in baseball. He may be right. But it was the bullpen that won that game for the Rangers. If they don't throw up all those zeroes against the Tigers, Cruz wouldn't be the hero he is today because the Tigers' bullpen was just as good until the eleventh inning. Cruz made history with that walk-off grand slam to end the game and deserved the pie face. But Scott Feldman and company deserve one too.

Due to the postponement of the game in Texas the other day, the Rangers and the Tigers get to play another day after flying last night to Detroit with no off days. With the bullpens pitching so many innings yesterday, that could be an issue today. If one of the teams' starters can't go deep, that team will be in trouble. That's why the pick is:

  • The Rangers over the Tigers: The Rangers certainly have old momentum going for them, but Doug Fister has a better chance of going deep into the game than Colby Lewis. Then again, Lewis has pitched big in the post season over the last two seasons. In fact, Lewis has never lost a post season game. Plus, Comerica Park will help him in his proclivity to give up homers. The Tigers have dug themselves a deep hole and if they lose again tonight, not even Justin Verlander can save them.

Yesterday: 1-1
Week: 2-1
Month: 14-8
Season: 1377-1073

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Brewers' "In Your Face" Style

Watching the highlights over at of yesterday's bushwhacking of the St. Louis Cardinals by the Milwaukee Brewers, two thoughts came to mind. The first is that Bob Uecker is a national treasure. The second thought is that this observer has never seen a team celebrate in such an "In your face" style. Look at the highlight (that's okay, this Fan will wait). Okay, did you see the celebration after Prince Fielder's homer and after Yuniesky Betancourt's? After seeing these football types of celebrations, this writer had to write this all down in a stream of consciousness type of way to get a handle on how this "feels" to a baseball purist of sorts.

There is no doubt how Milwaukee Brewers fans feel about the...umm...emotional expression shown by their beloved team. They eat it up like candy. To be sure, St. Louis Cardinal fans, a fan base that you would think is more traditional considering the age of the franchise, must hate the celebrations and must gnash their teeth at the way the Brewers express themselves. Tony LaRussa, about as conservative a baseball manager as you can get, must be seething. Don't be surprised if at some point, Tony directs one of his pitchers to get retribution of some sort with a well-placed rib shot (not that this writer is advocating such action as it's a dangerous ploy).

Since Jason Wojciechowski coined the Tasker Integrity Position (or TIP for short) in a recent post, this Tasker--for whom the moniker was named--has a moral obligation to give an opinion on such things. Surprisingly, the TIP status of the Brewers' celebratory emulations is not negative. This writer likes the celebrations in the NFL and chafes that the NFL tries to regulate against it. The NFL, like many of the conservative ilk in MLB think that there should be some professional protocol in how the players conduct themselves. No team--in their minds--should ever try to show up the other team. No doubt there is some small measure of concern for fights that might occur because of such in your face actions, but the larger reason seems to be an old-fashioned sense of chivalry.

And there is a fine line between hot-dogging, self-indulgent actions and expressions of joy that come from doing something spectacular in an dramatic fashion when it really matters. While this writers is somewhat offended by Nyger Morgan's language, there is joy in his actions that is hard not to cheer. It seems the Brewers' situation also has to be considered. This may be Prince Fielder's last season in Milwaukee. The team went all in to compete this season knowing that reality. For him to share a love-fest with his home crowd doesn't seem out of line under those circumstances.

And this isn't the first time that this debate has been encountered. When Joba Chamberlain first came up, his antics on the mound were criticized and seemed in stark contrast to the way Mariano Rivera goes about his work with professional aplomb. Jose Valverde's antics have caused the same kind of debates. Personally, this writer thinks that Valverde's antics are fun to watch. And that's the bottom line. Sports is a form of entertainment. And yet we try to think of it as a modern day expression of the chivalrous days of jousting. The  truth is that jousting was a product of its times just as such non-chivalrous displays of celebration are a product of our times. This writer lived through the 1960s and a part of that movement was young people deciding that the staid ways of their parents weren't for them. We live in the overflow of that era and into the era of rap and other forms of more "in your face" type of entertainment.

So how should the Cardinals react? Well, if you want the antics to stop, you have to beat the Brewers. If you beat them, you win. If you don't, then what can you say? If a Cardinal reliever strikes out a Brewers' batter in a big spot, then he should run to the dugout with his arms extended in celebration. That's only fair, right? Complaining about those antics without winning the series will not do the Cardinals any good. The games are played to be won and if you lose, you lose. How the winning team reacts is not your problem. Losing is.

After carefully examining inwardly on this issue, this writer has no issues with what he has seen from the way the Brewers are celebrating their successes. There is a joy in their expression and a satisfaction in performing in ways they've dreamed about their whole lives. What's wrong with that? Does it show up the Cardinals? Only if the Cardinals let themselves be shown up. How do the Cardinals avoid being shown up? Win.

Game Picks - Monday: October 10, 2011

Today is Columbus Day, about as polarizing a holiday as there is in America. A hero to some and a pariah to others, the feelings about the day seem to echo thoughts about the way the Brewers play. More on that in the next post. But you can anticipate that post with the little poll question to the right of your screen. The bottom line is that the Brewers took Game One of their best of seven NLCS in dramatic and powerful fashion. Like so many other of Jaime Garcia's starts, he looked in control early only to get tattooed in the middle innings. Zack Greinke wasn't exactly lights out in his start but he gave up less runs than the Brewers scored and got the win anyway. He'll take it, right?

Meanwhile, over in the ALCS, in what Buster Olney called the driest rain out in history, rain during the day caused MLB to postpone the start of that series for a day. That will benefit the Tigers as they will get Justin Verlander earlier in the series. But the injury bug has found the Tigers in a big way and they are missing many of the players now that helped beat the Yankees. They will have to rely on their secondary players to get the job done. We'll either see unsung and surprising heroes or the Tigers will simply melt into the night.

With all those thoughts, here are today's picks:

  • The Rangers over the Tigers: Same pitching match ups we were supposed to get yesterday: Max Scherzer versus Derek Holland. How the starters fare will be a big part of who wins this game. Holland either throws a nine-inning shutout or blows chunks. Scherzer can be great and he can be not so great. The earlier start time could mess with Josh Hamilton's vision, but the Rangers are so potent and the Tigers so beat up that the Rangers have to be big time favorites in this game.
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: Shaun Marcum has to be better than he has been in his last five starts for this prediction to work out. The Cardinals could get a good start from Edwin Jackson as he is capable of a big stop. But between those home crowds and the way the Brewers feed off of those crowds, the Cardinals will be in big trouble and in an 0-2 hole after this one.

Yesterday: 1-0
Week: 1-0
Month: 13-7
Season: 1376-1072