A few weeks ago, the annual Mariner commercials came out. If you haven’t seen them yet, I would highly recommend you take a look here. As usual, they were quite funny, and they taught us some things like where Tom Wilhelmsen gets his cookies and where Kyle Seager finds his inner peace. However, there may be a few more important observations we can take away from the advertisements.
One thing we can look at is who was not featured in a commercial. The team doesn’t want to use players that they think will leave the team during the season, because otherwise they will have to stop running a commercial in July after the player in it is traded. A couple significant players were not used in this year’s batch of ads. The most notable were Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak, Franklin Gutierrez, and Hisashi Iwakuma.
Kendrys Morales is on the last year of his contract with the Mariners, so the lack of his presence in a commercial seems to indicate that he may be put on the trading block before the trade deadline. Taking him out of the lineup would provide a plethora of possibilities for other guys like Liddi, Thames, Wells, Bay, Peguero, or even prospects like Zunino or Franklin.
Perhaps if Smoak has a good first half, the Mariners will see Morales as an unnecessary piece for the Mariners and try to swap him for some value at a different position.
That transitions us to our next player who got left out of the advertisements: Justin Smoak. Although Smoak has been named the starter at first base, the fact that he wasn’t used in an ad seems to say that his long term place on this team is not secure. As I wrote a while back, I believe the Mariners are giving Smoak his final chance, and that they won’t be afraid to part ways with him if he doesn’t produce. The commercials this year seem to support that assertion.
Another notable player who failed to make an appearance in the commercials this year is Franklin Gutierrez. This is the last guaranteed year on his contract, but he has a club option for next year. Because of this, we may see Guti traded to a contending team before the trade deadline. His skill sets could make him very valuable to a club like the Yankees, Orioles, Cardinals, or Rangers that have plenty of offense but could use a gold glove caliber center fielder to help their outfield. There is also a chance that the Mariners left him out due to injury concerns, since he seems to be unable to go a month without some type of setback.
Hisashi Iwakuma is the final key player that failed to be featured in a 2013 advertisement. It is quite possible that the language barrier prevented him from participating in a commercial. It doesn’t seem like he would be a likely guy to go on the trade block since he inked a two year contract with the club last year, but he probably will have some trade value; more so than any other Mariner starter besides Felix, at least. Perhaps if some combination of the big four is knocking on the door of the big leagues, Seattle will feel comfortable moving Iwakuma at the deadline.
Probable third starter, Joe Saunders, also didn’t appear in an ad, but this is not surprising since he has essentially no name recognition or marketability in Seattle and is only on a one year contract.
Before putting too much stock in who did and didn’t appear in a 2013 commercial, remember that other factors could have caused players not to participate. Perhaps they don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera, didn’t have the time, or maybe the marketing department just didn’t have an ad that they would fit in to. Regardless, these are just a few things from the commercials to keep in mind as we look towards the season.
A few weeks ago, I gave my predictions for the American League West division. This week, I will finish my projections for the rest of the American League.
First Place: Detroit Tigers
After going to the World Series last year, the Tigers brought back almost everyone from their team. On the offensive side, their only real loss was Delmon Young which is pretty inconsequential considering his -0.7 WAR last year. Young was replaced by Torii Hunter; a significant upgrade. Victor Martinez, who missed all of 2012 with an injury, will be back for the 2013 season. On the pitching side, Detroit is bringing back every pitcher that threw at least 20 innings in 2012 with the lone exception of Jose Valverde. The bullpen may still be in trouble considering that their projected closer has never thrown a pitch in the major leagues, but the Tigers should win a lot of games anyways.
Second Place: Cleveland Indians
The Indian’s offense is pretty intriguing to me. They have some speed, some power, some on-base ability, and some depth in the batting order. Their real problem will be the pitching staff. None of their projected starters posted a FIP of below 4.00 last season. In reality, even if Cleveland did have a competitive pitching staff, their offense wouldn’t be able to compete with Detroit’s anyways. The success of this team will hinge on their rotation, but if Cleveland can get a decent year out of some of their starters, they could accumulate around 85 wins; still not enough to break the monopoly Detroit has on the division.
Third Place: Chicago White Sox
This could have gone to either Chicago or Kansas City, but Chicago pulled it out in the end. I really don’t feel convinced by either team. The Sox’ run production depends on some aging and unreliable players. Paul Konerko is 37, Adam Dunn will display light tower power but will also strikeout 200 times this year, Dayan Viciedo has only played one full season in the MLB and also has lots of questions surrounding him, and Alex Rios hasn’t strung two good years together since 2007 and 2008. On the other hand, I like their pitching staff. In my opinion, Chris Sale is one of the most underrated players in baseball. His numbers have been comparable to, and oftentimes better than, great southpaws like C.C. Sabathia, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, and Gio Gonzalez. It will be close, but I expect the White Sox to squeak into third in the division.
Fourth Place: Kansas City Royals
Before researching these teams, I expected to place the Royals in third or even second place in the division, but the more I saw of them, the more disappointed I was. The Royals acquired James Shields this offseason, but the two through five spots in the rotation are disasters. Wade Davis, their projected fourth starter, has been a good reliever, but has never had much success as a starter. Their other three starters posted FIPs of 5.10, 5.63, and 4.73 in 2012. Only one of those pitchers even had a WAR above 1.0. It could be an ugly year for the Royals’ rotation. Assuming that guys like Eric Hosmer, Jeff Francoeur, and Mike Moustakas have rebound years at the plate, the offense will score a fair amount of runs, but certainly not enough to support the abysmal pitching staff.
Fifth Place: Minnesota Twins
Not much to say here. The offense has a bit of pop, but not enough to compete with the rest of the division. To make matters worse, the pitching staff may be even worse than Kansas City’s. The Twins have plenty of help on the way in guys like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Alex Myer, and Brandon Gibson, but until they arrive in Minneapolis, the Twins won’t be winning many games.
First Place: Toronto Blue Jays
The east will be an extremely competitive division. I almost never buy into teams that get really good really fast like the Blue Jays did this past offseason. I didn’t think that either the Angels or Marlins would have much success last season, but for some reason, this Toronto team is different. The biggest difference is that this is a very multi-dimensional team; they do everything well. This team has guys who can hit for average, guys who can hit for power, and guys with good speed. They have the pieces to both play small ball and hit the ball out of the ballpark. The pitching staff has great depth. In addition, the roster has a nice combination of youth and leadership. This is a very well constructed roster, and I think they will win a very good AL East.
Second Place: Boston Red Sox
I think that the Bosox have been overlooked a bit in east. The three players they added to the lineup this offseason, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, and Mike Napoli, each have wRC+ of 109 or better over the last three seasons. These names are added to an already solid offense with guys like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz. And don’t forget Will Middlebrooks, who emerged as an offensive threat last year by posting a .835 OPS in 75 games last year. If they stay healthy, the Sox will score a lot of runs this year. Add that to a solid pitching staff, and the Red Sox could contend in the East.
Third Place: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. The reigning Cy Young winner, David Price, is followed by Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann. Both their fourth and fifth starters posted a FIP below 3.70 last year. The offense is highlighted by Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and rising star Desmond Jennings. The offense won’t be great, but their pitching staff should be able to pull them to 85 wins.
Fourth Place: New York Yankees
The 2012 Yankee offense that scored the second most runs in baseball last year has been torn apart by injuries and free agency this offseason. Nick Swisher signed with Cleveland, Russell Martin signed with the Pirates, Raul Ibanez
signed with Seattle, Eric Chavez signed with Arizona, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira will be out until May, Alex Rodriguez will miss most of the season, and Derek Jeter, although likely to be healthy for opening day, may not be the same player he was due to age and injury. On the pitching side of things, C.C. Sabathia could be slowed by an injury of his own, and Michael Pineda will likely miss a large portion of the season. A healthy Yankee team would be good enough to win the division, but the skeleton of the 2012 team being thrown on the field will not make the cut. Expect a relatively disappointing year from the Bronx Bombers in 2012.
Fifth Place: Baltimore Orioles
The last place team in the East could easily go .500 this year. The Orioles are a bit of a mystery team to me, mainly due to their pitching staff. Their current rotation is made up of Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, and Brian Matusz. Like the Athletics, there isn’t much experience there, and of the experience they do have, none of those names have ever strung together two good seasons in a row. Even last year, only one of those pitchers exceeded 120 innings pitched. Every pitcher in this rotation is the equivalent of a typical 3-5 starter in the MLB. My main concern for the Baltimore offense is their ability to get on base. They were 23rd in baseball in OBP last year, and that was before losing Mark Reynolds who led the team in BB% and was second in OBP. The offensive output will greatly depend on Adam Jones and Chris Davis. Jones has only had one season with a WAR above 4.0 in his career and Davis has only had one 2.0 WAR. For me, there are too many question marks in Baltimore for them to compete for the AL East crown.
Tags: 2013 Season, American League, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball General, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, featured, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Popular, Previews, Random Thoughts, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays
After months of misery, football season officially came to an end last weekend, and baseball season has taken its place. This got me thinking about all the reasons baseball is a better sport than football. I could provide hundreds of reasons that baseball is better, but in the interest of my time and your sanity, I decided to condense it down to 15 reasons that baseball is better than football. Enjoy, and happy baseball season.
1. The History
Baseball has more reverence for history than any other sport, including football. If you asked an average football fan for some of the best football players of the 1920’s, they probably wouldn’t have many names to give you. On the other hand, if you asked a typical baseball fan the same questions, they would have little trouble giving names like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Walter Johnson, and Grover Cleveland Alexander.
The legacies of hall of fame players are well kept in baseball. Decades after their retirements and even death, the names of great ballplayers are known and loved.
In addition, baseball has a greater appreciation for defining moments in history. Events like, Babe Ruth’s called shot, Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard Around the World, “The Catch” by Willie Mays, Carlton Fisk waving the homerun fair, Kirk Gibson’s walk off homerun in the world series, and Bill Buckner’s muffed ground ball live in the minds of every baseball fan.
2. The Absence of Time
Football, like nearly all sports, is governed by time restrictions. The game changes as a result of the clock, and towards the end of the game, the winning team can simply take a knee and prevent their opponents from even getting an opportunity. You can’t take a knee in baseball. No matter what, the losing team will get its nine at-bats. As the great Earl Weaver once said, “In baseball, you can’t kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why this is the greatest game.”
3. The Action Within Inaction
I often hear people say things like, “Baseball moves too slow,” or “Baseball is a boring sport to watch.” Honestly, I feel bad for those people, because I know that they don’t truly understand the game. They have this beautiful thing in front of them, yet they are completely blind to its wondrousness. Between every pitch, when a non-fan thinks nothing is happening, an incredible amount of thinking is being done. The pitcher and catcher are considering the batter, his scouting report and tendencies, his last at bat, and the pitches he has seen so far in the current at bat; they are considering the man on deck and the man after him; they are considering the base runners, their speed, their tendencies, the tendencies of the coaches, the pitcher’s ability to hold runners on, and the strength of the catcher’s arm. Every other person on the field has their own thought process and are making little adjustments that the average fan doesn’t notice. An incomparable amount of data is processed by the mind of a baseball player every second. Even when the play stops, the action continues underneath the surface. Baseball is a chess match, a physiological duel, and a thinking man’s game. That’s part of what makes it so amazing.
4. The Ballpark
Ballparks have character, something football stadiums lack. Each baseball stadium is unique and different. They almost have personalities. Every field has its own dimensions that affect the game in different ways. Safeco Field doesn’t play like Fenway Park. The Ballpark in Arlington won’t play the same way as Marlins Ballpark. There is nothing unique about a 120 yard football field; every field is identical, bland, and faceless. The difference goes beyond the field itself. Most football stadiums are imposing concrete monstrosities. On the other hand, there is something homely, something intimate, and something poetic, about a baseball stadium. They often have brick facades and warm, welcoming entrances. Going to a ballpark provides a better experience than going to a football stadium.
5. A Continuous Game
In football, the play stops for an extended period three times every game. It just stops. Football also has timeouts and challenges which stop the game for a time. During these breaks, fans are forced to sit through halftime shows, marching bands, dance routines, and a plethora of other distractions that do not add anything to the game. On the other hand, baseball does not have these unnecessary pauses. Sure, it has breaks between innings, but even those are filled with action. Pitchers are warming up, infielders are taking ground balls, and outfielders are playing long toss. At least something of relevance is happening during these quick game breaks. The other thing about the lack of breaks in baseball is that it forces players to make adjustments on the go. They don’t get 20 minutes in the middle of the game to sit in front of a chalk board and discuss changes they will make in their strategy. Baseball players have to make those adjustments minute to minute intuitively.
6. The Art
Aspects of baseball have artistic qualities that football lacks. Take, for instance, playing shortstop. In terms of artistic value, football has nothing that can compare with Omar Vizquel playing shortstop. It is beautiful, it is refined, it is graceful, and it is masterful. It is so difficult, yet it is done with such fluidity. Ken GriffeyJr. was unlike any other player during his era, because watching him play was so magnificent. He had the sweetest swing in baseball history, in my opinion, and he played outfield with incredible smoothness. Running into a wall is a pretty rough action, but somehow he made it look easy. Griffey was Picasso. The bat and glove were his brushes and the field was his easel. The artistry and grace of baseball make it much more aesthetically pleasing than spastic flow of football.
7. The Necessary Refinement
One reason I love baseball is because it doesn’t rely on physical ability or makeup like other sports, including football. In football, most positions require you to be extremely fast, large, or strong. Unless you are a kicker or sometimes a quarterback, you aren’t going to have much success without at least one of those three attributes. On the other hand, baseball doesn’t require these physical qualities. Instead, it requires refinement.
Don’t believe me? Take a few of these things into consideration. The all-time leader in hits was 5’11” and weighed 200 pounds and lacked speed. The previous title holder weighed just 175 pounds. The greatest homerun hitter ever to not use steroids was just 6’0, 180. The greatest pure hitter of the 21st century thus far weighed just 170 pounds, and perhaps the most dominant pitcher of the last twenty years, Pedro Martinez, was 5’11” and 195 pounds. These ball players didn’t need to be large, strong, and imposing to succeed in baseball. The game of baseball is filled with normal men who have honed their skills, not guys who look like they have been inflated with bicycle pumps.
All this is not to say that football players do not refine their skills, because they often do. However, the most refined offensive lineman in the world wouldn’t play in the NFL if he weighed 220 pounds. A man can read offenses better than anyone else, but if he is 5’7”, he won’t be playing much middle linebacker in the NFL. You could have the best hands in the world, but without the speed necessary to separate from a cornerback, you will be worthless as a wide receiver.
Baseball is special because it doesn’t keep people out of the game because of their physical attributes.
8. Spring Training
Spring Training is far better to its football counterpart of training camp. To begin with, spring training is held in Arizona and Florida, so you know that it is going to be warm and sunny. This is especially nice for those of us who are from cold weather areas. Next, there are more spring training games than NFL preseason games. There are several games going every day during spring training while there are just a couple per week in the NFL preseason. Finally, the games have a lighter atmosphere in spring training. Instead of packing a big football stadium on a cold night, you can buy cheap ticket to a spring training game and go lay in the grass behind the outfield, grab a hotdog, soak up the sun, and watch the greatest game ever made.
9. The Season
If you are a baseball fan, you will get to watch your team play 162 games every year. If you are a football fan, you get to watch your team play just 16 times. Last time I checked, 162 is better than 16. If your baseball team has a rough game, no problem; they will get another chance tomorrow. If your football team has a bad day, you will have to sit and wait for a week until they get a chance to see them redeem themselves. There is a certain comfort you feel knowing that there is a baseball game nearly every night. As you go throughout the day, you get to constantly look forward to night when you get to put your feet up on the couch and watch baseball. You don’t have that assurance in football. You have to wait an entire week for fulfillment.
The fact that baseball season takes place in the spring and summer also separates itself from football’s fall and winter schedule. To go to a baseball game, you can throw on a t-shirt and hat and head out to sit in the warmth and watch a ballgame as the summer sun sets. Unless you live in a warm climate like Arizona, attending a football game generally includes freezing temperatures and precipitation; not as pleasant of an atmosphere as baseball provides.
10. The Minor Leagues
I love the minor leagues because they give you more baseball. They also give you the chance to observe young players and dream about their potential. In professional football, players who aren’t ready for the NFL level get tucked away on a practice squad where no one gets to see them play. On the other hand, baseball players who aren’t ready for the show get to play in front of fans and prove their worth at six different levels of competition.
11. Its Consistency
Baseball has survived for over 150 years and it has changed little in that span. The game and its rules are basically the same, and there hasn’t been a major alteration in the sport since the 1960’s when the strike zone was changed. The baseball played in Civil War camps is remarkably similar to the game played in major league stadiums all around the country today. In football, the recent rule changes regarding things such as defenseless receivers have caused constant controversy. There are no such problems in baseball.
12. Its Unpredictability
In football, there aren’t a whole lot of upsets. If the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Broncos, it is very unlikely that the Chiefs will win that game. On the other hand, if the Astros play the Tigers, the Astros, despite being the worst team in baseball, will probably win one game in a three game series and may realistically even win two of three games. Even the worst baseball team will always have a real chance of winning any game, while the worst football team is often out of the game before it even starts.
13. The All-Star Game
The MLB all-star game is a wonderful event. The best players in the game unite to play a great baseball game. On the other hand, the NFL pro bowl is on the verge of being canceled due to the overall lack of effort exhibited in the game. The festivities surrounding the mid-summer classic are superior as well. The homerun derby, the futures game, the fan fest, the celebrity softball game, and the mere fact that there is a sellout crowd in an actual baseball stadium all separate it from the pro bowl.
14. It’s International Growth
Baseball is both played and loved around the world. Hotbeds of talent have arisen throughout Latin America and the Caribbean while Asian countries and even Europe have developed talent as well. Prior to the 2012 season, almost 30 percent of MLB players were born outside the United States. Compare this to the less than 5 percent of foreign born NFL players. Every few years, the World Baseball Classic takes place in which 32 countries around the world compete against each other. The United States, which was the inventor of the game of baseball, probably won’t even win this competition this year. Although this may be seen as embarrassing, I view it as a testament to the global success of this wonderful game. If football attempted to create a World Football Classic, it would essentially be the USA obliterating Canada and perhaps a few European nations. Baseball’s spread around the World proves its superiority.
15. It’s the National Pastime
Despite its globalization, baseball remains our national pastime. Since the days before the Civil War, baseball has been played in fields, streets, and stadiums in America by children and grown men alike. History has told us that America needs baseball. Cheating, gambling, lying, selfishness, and fighting have all failed to dismantle our game. The people love it too much. Baseball has stood firm. Even during World War II, when all the players were in battle, our country improvised and embraced Women’s baseball. The United States needs baseball more than any other sport, and that’s what makes our game so great.
So rejoice, America. Baseball is back.
This game was such one-sided disaster for the Cardinals there’s just not a lot of analysis necessary. So, I thought I’d list some of my random thoughts from the game and it’s aftermath.
- I wonder if the Cardinals would trade Larry Fitzgerald for Matt Flynn and a draft pick… They really need a QB. Larry caught one pass today.
- Cardinal’s fans and management shouldn’t blame Ken Whisenhunt. He didn’t fumble a single ball or throw a single interception. And who didn’t draft a high round QB last year?
- I know what Russell Wilson means about blowouts not being as much fun as a close game. This game was not fun to watch. By the middle of the third quarter I was rooting for the Cardinals to show some life, something, anything…
- This game may do more harm than good for the Seahawks collective ego. They caught a team at the bottom of their fall from respectability. That’s not going to happen again for a long time. The Hawks should not let this game convince them they have suddenly gotten that much better.
- Russell Wilson didn’t help himself to win Rookie of the Year. Not that he didn’t look good, but the Hawks would have won this game with Stan Gelbaugh under center.
- 10 penalties for 97 yds… Some bad habits returned for Sherman and Giacomini.
- Wish list for next draft: Get someone to replace Giacomini and his mindless penalties.
- I should have gone fishing rather than watch this game. Not that it wasn’t good that they won, but this game didn’t really prove anything.
- It’s good the second and third team guys got to play some. If the Seahawks make the playoffs it will help that they had this experience.
- Where was this when the Hawks played Miami, Detroit, and St. Louis? Let’s hope they saved something for Buffalo. The Buffalo game scares me.
- Matt Flynn looked worse than Russell Wilson ever has. He overthrew receivers by a LOT and almost got Sydney Rice killed on that pass over the middle. You don’t throw that ball to your #1 receiver when you’re up by 50.
- Richard Sherman is a great player, he needs to act like he’s been there before when he does something great.
Well, that’s about it from my perspective. Fair? Unfair? Have some of your own?
Happy belated Thanksgiving to all of you! To honor the wonderful day (that passed a few days ago), I would like to metaphorically raise my glass to five wonderful events from this last year of Mariner baseball.
The Parting of “Friends”
Note that “friends” is in quotation marks. I did not shed a single tear between the release of Chone Figgins or the trades of Ichiro and Brandon League. Figgins was an absolute disaster with the Mariners, and I feel relieved to know that I will never have to look at him wear a Seattle Mariner uniform again.
Ichiro did a lot of good things for the Mariner organization and the city of Seattle during his stint here, but it was time for him to go. He was no longer contributing to the team’s success and he seemed to cast a negative spell over the locker room. Following Ichiro’s departure, the team excelled which proved that parting with him was the right decision.
Although his stats were not terrible, Brandon League gave every Mariner fan a heart attack every time he stepped on the mound. There was no such thing as a save without suspense for League, and most were glad to see him sent to Los Angeles were he can no longer scare us. The fact that we got a few decent prospects in return was just the icing on the cake.
I am very thankful that each of those players are no longer Seattle Mariners.
The Making of History
On August fifteenth, King Felix threw the 23rd perfect game in baseball history. All of us got to witness history and one of the finest moments in Mariner history. His performance that afternoon was absolutely masterful and the fan reaction was very exciting as well. For Felix’ following start, Safeco Field filled with fans, and the King’s court was spread throughout the whole stadium. I hadn’t seen that much energy in Safeco in almost a decade. The fan base needed the boost that the perfect game gave, and I’m sure all of us are thankful that Felix achieved perfection that day.
The Coming of New Players
This year’s MLB Draft was very productive for the Mariners. The third overall pick, Mike Zunino, had a phenomenal first year in the minor leagues. His .538 wOBA and 234 wRC+ in short season Everett confirmed his status as a prospect and he is now ranked the 44th best prospect in baseball and 3rd best catching prospect. There were several other good selections made in the draft. Names like Joe DeCarlo, Tyler Pike, Patrick Kivlehan, Chris Taylor, and Timothy Lopes have already started to gain attention just months after being drafted by Seattle.
The Stadium Alterations
The fences are moving in! This has been an idea tossed around by Mariner fans for years. While there are pros and cons to the change, the Seattle offense which has been at the bottom of the league for years, will certainly get some help from the shorter fences, but the pitching staff will struggle more. However, considering the strong future of the pitching staff, I feel confident that we will continue to have a solid staff and still get more run production from the batters. The smaller field also allows Seattle to pursue and attract top free agent bats. This was a very good all-around move for the organization.
Tired of being in the division cellar? At least for now, the Marines will no longer be the worst team in the AL West with the Astros around. Having the 107-loss Astros in the west will also mean that Seattle will have more games against the poor Houston team and far less against the three good teams in the division.
Overall, there has been a lot to be thankful for over the past year, and I hope that we will have many more things to express our gratefulness for in a year from now.
With a win last night in game four, the Giants forced a deciding fifth game this afternoon morning! in their NL Division Series against the Reds. But it was an event in game three that got me thinking. Hanging out in the American League, we Mariner fans sometimes miss out on baseball action concerning pitchers with bats, so lets take a look at a situation unique to the National League.
In game three Tuesday night, Bruce Bochy went with his guns in the bottom of the ninth, bringing in Sergio Romo to preserve the 1-1 tie. Even with a few other relievers available—including Tim Lincecum who has been demoted to the ‘pen for this series—I think preserving the tie was more important than saving Romo for the possibility of a closing situation. As they say, better to preserve the tie now than to save Romo for potentially nothing. They don’t actually say that. I said that. Anyway…
The more controversial decision in my eyes came when Bochy allowed Romo to hit in the top of the 10th with two outs and runners on first and second. The Giants had already scored the go-ahead run, but a 2-1 lead is far from safe, even with Romo on the mound for the bottom of the tenth. The question becomes, is Romo’s pitching ability enough better than some combination of Lincecum, Jose Mijares and Guillermo Mota to justify the massive gap between Romo’s hitting ability and that of a pinch hitter?
Over here in the AL, we don’t have to think much about pitchers using bats; the decision facing Bochy in the top of the 10th is foreign to our league. What follows is no definitive answer to the question above, but rather an exploratory exercise into the complexity of the situation.
It turns out the Giants did have one pinch hitter left, Hector Sanchez. While that name may not strike fear in any pitcher’s heart, Sanchez is much better than Romo at hitting baseballs. I mean, a blind chimp is better than Romo at hitting baseballs.
So, first off, let’s look at what theoretical advantage would be gained by pinch hitting Sanchez. As one would expect, Romo has limited batting experience. In fact, he has only stepped up to the plate four times in his life, the most recent time coming in 2010. He struck out in three of those opportunities, and grounded out in the other. It’s probably fair to assume that Romo was not likely to hit anything fair, or anything at all.
Sanchez, on the other hand, does occasionally bat in real life situations—227 times this season, it turns out. His .280 batting average was probably ballooned by a .349 BABIP, but expecting a hit was hardly beyond the realm of possibility. Here it should be noted that the man standing on second, Hunter Pence, was hobbling around and probably needed an extra base hit to score. Sanchez hit precisely 15 doubles and three homeruns in those 227 plate appearances, indicating that he and the Giants would have had some chance of adding on runs during Sanchez’s hypothetical at bat. The additional probability of adding on runs after Sanchez’s at bat, assuming he reached base safely, leads to a conservative estimate that the Giants had about a 10-15% chance to add at least one run, and thus improve their chances of winning.
On the flip side, let’s look at what theoretical advantage, if any, was gained from sending Romo out for another inning. Romo doesn’t pitch a second inning all that often, but that probably didn’t matter much. While Romo recorded more than three outs only seven times this season, he was so efficient Tuesday night that he only needed fifteen pitches to get six outs. He had already surpassed the 20-pitch count six times during the season. Freshness was probably not a major concern going into the 10th.
Romo was due to face a smattering of righties, and Romo is spectacular against righties. Both this season, and for his career, he has struck out well above 30% of the righties he’s faced, while walking less than 5%. His season and career FIPs against fellow right-handers both sit just above 2.00. Even with the lefty Xavier Paul ready to pinch hit for the pitcher, the matchup favored Romo. Bochy’s alternative if he wanted to use his last pinch hitter in the top of the 10th was probably to go with Tim Lincecum against Scott Rolen, Ryan Hanigan and Drew Stubbs, and then swap Mijares in to face Paul if that need arose.
Timmy’s bullpen history is short. His previous number of innings pitched out of the ‘pen could be counted on one hand. He also hasn’t been very good this season, and his success against righties doesn’t come anywhere close to Romo’s. Just as there was a massive rift between Romo and Sanchez on the batting side, there exists an equally large rift between Timmy and Romo on the pitching side.
Considering that Sanchez was Bochy’s only remaining position player, and that Pence was hobbling around, it makes more sense to me now that he would allow Romo to hit in the top of the 10th. But this exercise wasn’t necessarily meant to just analyze this one decision. I wanted to shed light on the complexity of bullpen decisions because we are likely to see more controversial ones in the National League before these playoffs have ended.
The closest any Mariner is going to come to the AL MVP this season is that he plays in the same league as the man who will soon be awarded the American League Most Valuable Player…Award. Stupid word choice.
So let’s break down the candidates. We have an Angel in the outfield and a Tiger in Detroit, though he’s not much of a Fielder. Stupid pun.
But seriously, the media is not talking nearly enough about a man who really should be Revered. Okay, I’ll stop.
Here are three statistics we can all wrap our minds around, which is good because I didn’t want to do much thinking or math anyway. They are stolen bases, strikeouts and errors. A stolen base is valuable to the ballclub, and the lack of errors and strikeouts could be deemed equally valuable. Glad we’re on the same page, because Minnesota’s Ben Revere is dangerously close to a very rare triple crown. That would be the SB/K%/Fielding% triple crown. Revere leads all qualified AL batsmen with a 9.1% strikeout rate; he leads all qualified AL fieldsmen with a 1.000 fielding percentage; and he is second only to Rainbow Mike Trout among all qualified AL runningmen in stolen bases. Though it’s difficult to gauge the rarity of this accomplishment, it is the estimation of this author that perhaps the triple crown of thievery, contact and errorless play has never been achieved. Ever.
Thus, based on the rarity of an arbitrary collection of three statistics—of which everyone would argue are valuable to a ballclub—my vote for AL MVP goes to Ben Revere.
Wait, you’re not satisfied? In the words of Disney’s Emperor of China, that doesn’t come along every dynasty!
It turns out another player, one that plays not too far from Minneapolis’ Target Field, is dangerously close to a different triple crown. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera—one of the few Miguels that has not graced a Mariners roster (unfortunately)—is having a fantastic baseball season by just about any measurement. He hits for average, he hits for power, he walks more often than the league average, he has a really cute smile (even in the face of DUI charges), etc. Cabrera could also become the first triple crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and the sixteenth overall.
The primary argument for Cabera’s MVP candidacy rests on his pursuit of the sixteenth triple crown season in baseball history. Just as we might say Ben Revere is one of the best baserunners, best contact hitters and best fielders according to one set of statistics, we can say Miguel Cabrera is one of the best hitters, best power hitters, and best run producers based on this other set of statistics (average, homeruns, and RBI).
But when we strip down average, homeruns and RBI, I don’t think I have to explain where they fall short in player valuation. We know they fall short, and there are better metrics to use. Just as we know that, while stolen bases, strikeout rates and fielding percentages are not worthless, there are better metrics than those for measuring value as well. So while I’m going to celebrate the rarity of Miguel Cabrera’s potential triple crown and Ben Revere’s quest for a triple crown* (that is about to fall short by only a few steals), I am also going to realize that those are just some arbitrary stats that only partially measure a player’s value to his team.
Miguel Cabrera can hit. He does it year after year, and no one doubts his hitting ability. Here are some things Miguel Cabrera can’t do: field any position well, or run the bases effectively, or, well, run at all. Mike Trout—the elephant in the room here—not only fields one of the most difficult positions on the diamond well, but he also produces runs with his legs. Baseball Reference estimates that once Trout gets on base, he scores 45% of the time. Cabrera? Just 29%. Of course, this could have everything to do the players that bat behind them. So let’s break it down further.
When a single was hit, and one of these two gentlemen was on first, Trout advanced to third 63.4% of the time and was never thrown out. Cabrera advanced to third 31.0% of the time and was thrown out twice.
When a single was hit, and one of these two gentlemen was on second, Trout scored 67.9% of the time and was never thrown out. Cabrera scored a respectable 63.6% of time and was also never thrown out. (Though who knows how many of these were “Prince Fielder Singles.”)
When a double was hit, and one of these two gentlemen was on first, Trout scored 63.6% of the time and was never thrown out. Cabrera scored a surprising 75% (6/8) of the time, but was also thrown out once.
Overall, then, it’s not hard to believe Baseball Reference’s estimation that Trout took extra bases 65% of the time to Cabrera’s 46%. It is also not hard to believe in Fangraphs’ estimation that Trout created 6 additional runs on the basepaths, while Cabrera lost his team 3.
Baserunning stats are not the make-or-break statistics for winning the AL MVP, but I hope they articulate key pieces of value that are lost in batting average, homeruns, and RBI. Yes, I think it’s cool that Cabrera could win the triple crown. But finishing at the top of the list in three arbitrary statistics that only partially correlate to baseball value just isn’t enough to guarantee an MVP award. Trout produced runs this season with his bat, his feet, and his glove, and when you add them all up, the MVP race is no contest.
This season, the Mariners started slowly, but all of the sudden, they have fought their way back into the playoff picture. Seattle has erupted since the Ichiro trade, and Felix threw his perfect game which invigorated the Seattle fanbase. Hernandez’ historical outing was just the second of eight consecutive wins for the Mariners; a streak that continues currently.
All of the sudden, Mariner fans have reason to hope. They are 12 games out of the division lead, 7 back in the wild card race, and are the hottest team in baseball. Despite the reason for excitement, Mariner fans, myself included, seem to be pessimistic. Like most Mariner fans, I have dreaded putting my confidence in a team. For eleven years we have constantly been disappointed by the Mariners. Few things have gone right for us, and the last decade of frustration has turned us all into pessimists. This year I have been content with not being last, with winning a few games, with seeing a few guys improve a little, with being average.
However, something changed for me yesterday. It was a tied game in the eighth inning and Kyle Seager was at the plate with one out. Seager hit a ground ball into right-center that would have normally been a base hit, but instead, he hustled out of the box and dove into second head first to avoid a tag for a hustle double. A few batters later John Jaso walked. With a runner on first and second with two outs, Eric Thames doubled down the line and Jaso, who is not a very swift guy and had caught several games during the week, hustled all the way around from first to score and to give Seattle the two run lead. Wilhelmson came in for the save and delivered the eighth straight victory.
When I saw Seager go all-out to get into scoring position and then Jaso hustle all the way from first, it occurred to me that these guys aren’t trying to “not be last.” Trayvon Robinson hasn’t put his body on the line to make phenomenal catches in the pursuit of “being average.” These guys haven’t strung together late inning rallies hoping to “improve a little.” This team isn’t playing hard for another mediocre season, they are playing for a playoff spot.
As the fans, it’s our job to believe in these guys. This team has played great baseball since the Ichiro trade, taken series from playoff caliber teams, won fifteen out of the last sixteen home games, and won eight straight games; they deserve our support.
I’ll admit that the playoffs are a long shot. In all honesty, this is not a great baseball team. We don’t have any real run
producers, much of the batting order has seen time in AAA this year, and the back-end of the pitching staff has had rough patches, but somehow they have won. Somehow we took two of three on the road against the Angels, somehow we threw the team’s first perfect game against a playoff caliber team, somehow we won eight straight, somehow we have come through in the clutch night after night, and somehow we actually got 40,000 fans into Safeco Field on a Tuesday night in August.
There is magic in the air. I have tried to ignore it, but I can’t anymore. I’m telling you that this team has a legitimate chance at the playoffs. We are 12 games out of the division lead right now, and we were 11.5 back at this time in 1995. This team isn’t anything remotely similar to the 1995 team, but it’s just another reason to believe.
The schedule is going to get pretty rough down the stretch however. We have quite a few games against the Rangers, A’s. The pessimistic me looked at that schedule and said, “There is no way we will survive those games,” but the newfound optimism inside of me says, “That schedule will give us a chance to pick up ground in the wild card race even faster.” It’s true, we have a challenging schedule, but if this team stays hot, they will have the chance to pass the A’s and Angels if they can win a couple of series.
Who knows, this could be a lucky winning streak, and we could get swept by the White Sox this week and be out of the race again, or we could fade down the stretch and end up ninth in wild card standings. Maybe this playoff run isn’t in the stars. If that is the case, then what’s the worst that can happen? We will simply be disappointed for the twelfth straight year. If we survived the Bavasi era, we can survive a disappointing finish to 2012, right?
Regardless of whether we have a miracle comeback, take the wild card, and go to the playoffs or whether we go back to playing unimpressive baseball, I urge all of you pessimistic Mariner fans to have some fun and believe in these guys! Don’t dread yet another letdown; enjoy this run for however long it lasts! Believe Bigger!!!
As I’m sure most of you know, Felix Hernandez’ post-perfect game celebration has inspired a new trend: Felixing. It’s like Tebowing, only way cooler.
Here is my attempt. I got a little backwards, but otherwise I’m pretty proud of my effort.
I would love to see all of you (the readers) try out felixing. If you do, tweet a picture of you felixing to me @JCondreay. I would love to see them.
If you are a Mariner fan, and I’m guessing that you are since you are reading a Seattle Mariner blog, this is my plea to you to attend the Mariner game tonight.
For those of you who don’t know, the Mariners are honoring Felix’ accomplishment tonight by expand the King’s Court
into the entire stadium. The first 34,000 thousand fans, which is about 75% of total capacity, will receive yellow Felix shirts. Between the sea of yellow in the stands, the six game winning streak the Mariners are currently riding, and the electricity of any Felix start, tonight’s game should have an atmosphere that Safeco Field has not seen in over a decade.
For tonight, Seattle will be a baseball town once again, and it is important for each and every Mariner fan to be a part of it.
The next reason that all of us should go to the game tonight is to thank King Felix. Our king brought the city of Seattle a thrill and an experience unlike anything we have witnessed in a long time. Our city, community, and fanbase really needed this jump-start, and Felix delivered. Hernandez has also stated several times how happy he was that he could throw his perfect game at home in front of the crowd. Our city means a lot to Felix, and he means a lot to us. This is our chance to demonstrate the magnitude of what Felix has done for Seattle and for the fans.
Just in case you needed another reason to attend the game tonight, tickets are ridiculously cheap. Upper deck tickets have dipped from $18 down to $10, and lower bowl seats have dropped from up to $80 to just $30. This really is a great deal. If you have been avoiding going to games because of the cost, now is your night to finally see the Mariners play.
I already have my tickets behind home plate on the 300 level, but there aren’t too many left, so I encourage you to grab your tickets quickly from Mariners.com. Get off work, grab your wife/husband/son/daughter/girlfriend/boyfriend/friend/enemy/neighbor/ roommate/etc., head out to the game, get a shirt, cheer on Felix, and take part in something really special to the city. This opportunity and this atmosphere probably will never take place again.
I’m not going to lie there isn’t going to be much of a post here.
How unlucky does a guy have to be to defeat IBS, a pectoral tear, and plantar fasciitis just to go down with an errant pick off throw to the face? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like this. I think Mike Sweeney got one in the back, but I’ve never seen it in the head.
Baseball has unveiled some strange, strange things over the years, and believe you me, this is strange. But can baseball’s strange events please not occur at the expense of Franklin Gutierrez? I don’t know how much more his body can take.
I have been hearing people hoping for the call up of Tacoma shortstop Carlos Triunfel recently, and I think it is ridiculous. Triunfel was once a top prospect, but his status as the future shortstop of the Mariners has slipped away. Nevertheless, … [visit site to read more]
The ninth innings last night was pretty exciting! The Mariners had a lot of heroes in that inning: Montero for the double, Jaso for the sac fly, or even Kawasaki for the speed to score. However, I think that the true hero in that inning was Kyle … [visit site to read more]
I’m not going to waste too much of your time on this subject, but I have been feeling the urge to comment on this topicvisit site to read more]
This postseason has been more than exciting. Dare I say historic? Wildcard Wednesday quickly crept through the whispers of baseball lovers and into the vernacular of game. That was one of the best night’s of baseball I’ve ever experienced, capped by the collapse the Boston Red Sox. That wonderful, wonderful collapse. I don’t remember cheering as loud as I did with that Orioles walk off. I never have. I have never cheered that loud for a team across the country. Imagine if that was Baltimore’s clinching game! The possibilities.
Yesterday, the Detroit Tigers clinched entrance to the American League Championship Series. Great news for Doug Fister fans. Great news for people who just love to watch the Evil Empire crumble. It’s was a great moment for the Tigers ballclub, and now the Yankees will spend more money to correct the “problem” of not winning a World Series. Great. Just, great.
Today is the biggest day of the year for two National League teams. Two team’s seasons end today. If Philadelphia tops St. Louis, it’ll be the fourth straight year of the Phillies making it to or past the Championship Series. The Phillies have a team you dream about drafting in your MLB fantasy leagues, except that Ruben Amaro actually did it. When filling your fantasy starting rotation draft-board, you would dream about Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt playing together, but in actuality you can really only draft one of those players, plus Derek Lowe and Phil Coke. The Phillies really have four aces. In real life. Good golly.
If the Milwaukee Brewers win against the Diamondbacks tonight, it will be the furthest they’ve been since their 1982 World Series loss.
The 2011 Brewers are essentially a Jack Zduriencik team.