Trying to bring a little common sense to the game of baseball. But considering many of the people who read baseball blogs, I'm probably just pissing into the wind.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jim Joyce made the right call and it's time for everyone to get over it

Yeah, I said it and I don’t care who agrees or disagrees. It’s the truth, and that’s the way it is. The biggest issue here isn’t even the call. Players, managers, and fans always have, and always will, argue any call that they feel they were wronged on. The problem here is the issue of perfection.

The issue was that the call would have been the last out of a perfect game, and that’s why everyone is upset. If the call had come in the third inning, people would have complained, but it would be a dead issue and over with. If it happened to ruin a no-hitter, there would have been complaints and arguments, but nothing more than normal day-to-day arguing about baseball. If it had ruined a shutout, it would be forgotten about today.

The issue is that it would have been a perfect game, and the call ‘ruined’ that. Because giving a pitcher a perfect game is much more important than actually having an umpire get the call right.

There were many commentaries and comments that the commissioner (I used lower case on purpose there) should have overturned the call, and “given” the perfect game to Galaraga. How’s that? Give it to him? That’s right? I don’t think so, not by a long shot. You don’t give ‘anything’ in baseball just because someone thinks it should be that way. If that’s true, the ’85 Cardinals get to be World Series champs, the ’91 Braves won their Series, and the ’69 Mets have to concede to the Orioles. Roger Maris has to give back his MVP trophy and 61 homeruns because it should have gone to Mantle instead.

Stupid, stupider and stupidest. We live in reality, not in what we want reality to be. There are no do-over’s in baseball, or in life. You get a second chance, but not a do-over. Just doesn’t work. Galaraga doesn’t deserve the perfect game because he didn’t pitch one.

We are, however, dealing with just my opinion right now, and even I don’t believe my opinion alone is strong enough to carry the day. So, as they say, let’s go to the video.

Let’s start with the basics. Jim Joyce was in the perfect position. He was exactly where he was supposed to be. He started the play in perfect position, he moved into the perfect position after the ball was hit, and he was in the perfect position to make the call. He was looking straight on at the bag, the runner, and Galaraga’s glove. No complaints about that one.

Second point everyone seems to forget. That was not a routine play. It was hit into the hole between first and second, and Cabrera had to go a long way to field it, and Galaraga had to get to the bag to make the play. This was not an easy tapper back to the mound or an infield pop-up. This was a difficult play and assuming the out just because it was a groundball is asinine.

Thirdly, Miguel Cabrera, who was one of the most vocal about the call, caused the call as much as anyone else. Cabrera should never have fielded that ball. He’s not a good defensive first baseman to start with, and he proved it. He was moving away from the bag, had to stop his momentum, turn, and try to hit Galaraga on the run. Granted, he made a good play on it, and the runner “could” have been out. Cabrera would have been better off letting the ball go through to the second baseman, who was moving towards the bag and had a better throw to make.

Now, those second and third points are not faults, and did not cause Galaraga to lose the perfect game. They contributed to what happened and different outcomes to either one of those could have definitively decided the issue one way or the other, without leaving us such a close play to call. I’m not blaming Cabrera. He made the play, and it was a good one, but it wasn’t good enough. Because his throw came from a different angle, and the angle of that throw, more than anything, enabled the batter to be safe.

Last point before we get to the heart of the matter. Jim Joyce and his call. Watch the video at the .10 second mark. Look at Joyce’s right hand. It appears to me that he starts to make a fist to call the out, and then immediately goes into the spread to make the safe call. Something happened to make Joyce go from the out call to the safe call immediately, and there was no hesitation. He was in perfect position to make the call, started to make what would have been a right call, and then went with what was the right call. Look again at the .33 second mark, and see what you think.

Now, the reason Joyce went from making a possible out call to a correct safe call? Easy. Galaraga never caught the ball until after the runner passed the bag. The ball hit his glove, but he did not make a clean catch and the runner was safe. Joyce started to call the runner out when he though Galaraga caught the ball, and then called him safe when he saw that he had not caught it cleanly. There is no fault here on Joyce for missing the call, because he didn’t. There is fault here to Galaraga for not making the play.

Start watching the video at the .09 second mark. After it appears that Galaraga has caught the ball, and after the runner has crossed the back, he jerks his left elbow up and bends his wrist into his body. Watch it again. Watch it again starting at the .33 second mark. You’ll see it ever more clearly. If you’ve ever played baseball, you know exactly why he did that.

For the most definitive look, start watching at the 1.26 mark. When his foot is on the bag and it appears he has caught the ball, he hasn’t. You can clearly see the entire ball (well, half of the ball, just like the moon) in the glove. That is not a catch. Just because the ball is hidden by the glove does make a catch. The ball has to be secured in the glove, not hidden from view from everyone but the umpire. That’s the point where Joyce starts to make a fist, because he’s assuming the ball will be secured in the glove.

But it isn’t. You can clearly see the ball loose in the glove, and Galaraga hitches his arm up and turns the glove into his body to snatch the ball and secure it. Again, if you’ve ever played baseball, you know exactly what I’m talking about. By the time he secures the ball, the runner has passed the base and is safe. Which is what Joyce called him, and it was an excellent call. And exactly the right call.

I’m going to make a guess here, and I’ll be honest it’s only that, but it sure looked to me as though Galaraga was doing his best to sell that call, knowing full well he didn’t catch the ball cleanly. Not that I blame him, I would have done the same. What I do blame Galaraga for is knowing he didn’t catch the ball cleanly, yet letting his teammates and manager continue to argue the call after the fact. It was completely unnecessary and uncalled for.

By the way, kudos to Jim Leyland for being a complete dick, as he usually is, after the game, and screaming at the umpires. Hey, Jim, you won the game. Isn’t that the point?

I know that after the game, Jim Joyce came out and said he blew the call. I don’t believe it. Mostly because MLB doesn’t allow it’s umpires to comment on issues like this and any controversy in the games, so the fact that he did it here is somewhat suspicious. I guessing again, but I’m putting it down to the heat of the moment. When you have 30,000 fans and a team screaming for your head, and the call’s been replayed several hundred thousand times, the stress can get to anyone. Most people want to automatically believe he screwed up the call, so that’s what they’ll do. No matter what he said at the time, no one was going to buy it.

Joyce was fighting a lost cause, but I don’t believe for a minute that he thinks he blew the call. He made it immediately and clearly, no hesitation at all. He did everything right. The only problem is that it wasn’t what everyone else wanted.

It would have been great if Galaraga had thrown a perfect game. I’m all for that. The fact is, he didn’t, and he has no one to blame but himself for not catching the ball correctly.

If you really want to be made at someone, be made at the official scorekeeper for giving Jason McDonald a hit on the play. Even though Galaraga and the throw beat the runner to the bag, the fact that he was called safe should have been evidence that it was an error and not a hit. Galaraga doesn’t have, and doesn’t deserve, a perfect game.

But he did lose out on a no-hitter. Don’t blame Jim Joyce for that one.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More things than you ever wanted to know about things you don't know about

Having now completed the last two lists, I thought you didn’t have quite enough information on this subject. So here is more than you ever wanted to know about batters hitting a homerun in their first major league plate appearance.

First, a quiz. Only one pitcher has given a homerun to a batter in their first plate appearance more than once. He was a knuckleballer in the 70’s. Please make your guess and leave it in the comments. The winner will receive nothing but satisfaction from the fact that they probably know more baseball trivia than a sane person should.

Only 2 Hall of Famers have done this, and one was a pitcher. They are Hoyt Wilhelm and Earl Averill. I’m surprised that only one Hall of Fame batter has done this.

Of the 106 players to do this, 18 have been pitchers.

2 of the 4 pitchers to do it since the Kevin Graham Rule was instituted have been American League pitchers.

2 have been inside the park. Luke Stuart in 1921 and Johnnie LeMaster in 1975. One from each league.

25 have hit it on the first pitch they saw

44 have been hit in the American League and 62 in the National League

21 hit their only career homerun in their first at bat

26 have hit it as a pinchhitter

4 have hit a grand slam for their first homerun

10 did in the top of the 1st inning, before they even had a chance to play defense (call this the anti-Moonlight Graham syndrome)

The following clubs have done it the most:
Boston Red Sox – 4
Brooklyn Dodgers – 4
Chicago Cubs – 8 (that’s Wrigley, folks)
Detroit Tigers – 6
Houston Astros – 4
Minnesota Twins – 5 (only 1 in the Metro Dome)
Montreal Expos – 4
New York Giants – 4
Philadelphia Phillies – 5
St Louis Cardinals – 7

The only franchise not to have a player do is the Milwaukee Brewers

1890’s – 2
1900’s – 1
1910’s – none
1920’s – 4
1930’s – 7
1940’s – 10
1950’s – 7
1960’s – 12
1970’s – 10
1980’s – 10
1990’s – 13
2000’s – 31

52 (less than half) hit double figures in career homeruns

16 hit 100 or more homeruns

8 hit over 200 (Earl Averill, Bill White, Will Clark and Tim Wallach in the 200’s)

3 ht over 300 (Jermaine Dye, Carlos Lee, and Garry Gaetti)

Gary Gaetti hit the most with 360

By position:
C - 13
1B – 12
2B – 8
3B – 7
SS – 8
LF – 11
CF – 3
RF – 5
P – 18
Utility – 21

Took 21 years for the American League to do it. Only 20 for the National League.

The first time it was done more than once in a season was 1937, when two players from the Philadelphia Athletics did it.

The National League followed with two the next year, with one of them playing for the Phillies

They did it on the same day.

The American League only had 1 player do it during the war years, the National had 4.

The longest streak for the National League is six years in a row. The American’s streak is 5.

The longest gap for the American League was 11 years. For the National League, it was 13.

Ed Sanicki did on September 14th, 1949. Ted Tappe was the next to do it, exactly a year later.

The American League did it 3 times in 2006 and 2010, the most ever.

Some of the notable names that did it:
Bob Nieman
Gates Brown
Bert Campaneris
Gary Gaetti
Jay Bell
Carlos Lee
Marcus Thames
Miguel Olivo
Mike Napoli
Elijah Dukes
Whitey Lockman
Hoyt Wilhelm
Chuck Tanner
Wally Moon
Bill White
Benny Ayala
Johnny LeMaster
Tim Wallach
Will Clark
Jose Offerman
Jermaine Dye
Kaz Matsui
Jason Heyward
Starlin Castro

3 players, Bob Neiman, J.P. Arencibia, and Bert Campaneris homered twice in their first game. Neiman did it consecutively. Keith McDonald did it consecutively over 2 days.

8 Hall of Famers have given up a first plate appearance homerun:

Walter Johnson
Nolan Ryan
Warren Spahn
Bert Blyleven
Randy Johnson (I’m jumping the gun)
Don Sutton
Grover Cleveland
Catfish Hunter

Other pitchers of note:

Bret Saberhagen
Jim Bouton
Van Lingo Mungo (love the name)
Mickey Lolich
Andy Pettitte
Justin Verlander
Dennis Martinez
Tom Candiotti
Jack Morris
Lindy McDaniel
Diego Segui
Monte Stratton
Jim Katt

Prime-time matchups:

Will Clark vs Nolan Ryan
Bert Campaneris vs Jim Kaat
Jay Bell vs Bert Blyleven
Jason Heyward vs Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Lee vs Tom Candiotti
Marcus Thames vs Randy Johnson
Jose Offerman vs Dennis Martinez
Terry Steinbach vs Greg Swindell
Charlie Hough vs Gary Gaetti
Brad Fulmer vs Bret Saberhagen

Hoyt Wilhelm hit one homerun in his career. He hit off of Dick Hoover, who only gave up one homerun in his career.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Top 10 most likely to hit a homerun in their first plate appearance

Okay, now for the other side of the equation. Just to say up front, I know there are many different ways to do this. I don’t care because this is what I picked. Someone could use Leverage Index or weighted Leverage Index, or some other number to figure this out, but I didn’t. The reason is, this is a list that goes back to the beginning of the game. I don’t like lists that pick arbitrary dates in order to use a specific metric.

I didn’t go back to 1980 to incorporate any sabermetric principles, and I didn’t go back to 1954 because Retrosheet has most of the box scores, and I didn’t go back to 1920 when homeruns replaces deadball. I went all the way back and used numbers that are common to every player who has ever been in the game. If someone wants to do this differently, be my guest. Please send the link, as I would like to see, but this is my list, so I’ll do it my way.

When I say the least likely, or the most likely, I don’t really know. Maybe least probable or most probable is a better way of stating it. I don’t really think any player is likely to do any particular thing in any particular at bat. We know by percentages who has the best chance to do something, but it’s far from likely anything will ever happen, outside of an intentional walk, and Johnny Bench can attest to the fact that that isn’t always true.

The top-10 most likely guys to hit a homerun are listed below:

10 – Mike Jacobs (66.4)                      100 homeruns in 2117 plate appearances over 6 seasons

In light of recent events, I wonder if I should add a 10-point bonus to players suspended for PED’s? This would push him up the list. Hit as a pinchhitter, but he was a semi-regular first baseman who topped at 32 one season, and 20 another. Has the third highest total of homeruns of the top 10. Didn’t show the same power in the minors, but hit more as he got closer.

Hit his homerun off of Esteban Loaiza

9 – Tim Wallach (65.6)                       260 homeruns in 8908 plate appearances in 17 seasons

A third baseman for the Expos and Dodgers, he had mid-range power. Only topped 20 homeruns 5 times, with a high of 28. Didn’t really play in hitters parks, at least I don’t think Olympic Stadium was a hitters park. We know Dodgers Stadium isn’t. Ended his career before the offensive explosion, so I was kind of surprised to see him here, but he does have the 4th highest total of any player to do this, so volume counts. Member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hit his homerun off of Phillip Nastu

8 – Mark Worrell (64.0)                     1 homerun in 4 plate appearances in 2 seasons

The only pitcher in the top-10, so I’ll let him stay. Not really a hitter, he didn’t have a single one in 8 plate appearances in the minors and just one in the majors. The fewer number of plate appearances puts him high on the list, but hey, he still hit one, which one more than I ever did. Pitched in one game before he hit his homerun. If anyone thinks he should be replaced I don’t mind. But Luke Hughes and Esteban Yan, two pitchers, are 11th and 12th on the list. Still active, so his placement could change.

Hit his homerun off of Tim Redding

7 – Dave Matranga (60.1)                  1 homerun in 6 plate appearances in 2 seasons

A second baseman for the Mets and Angels, he only got to the plate 7 times in his career. I realize a low number of plate appearances might skew the numbers somewhat, but I don’t think so. A lower number of plate appearances means fewer chances to hit more homeruns. Follow me, here? Hit it as a pinchhitter. Hit 82 homeruns in the minors. This is also his only major league hit.

Hit his homerun off of Joaquin Benoit 

6 – Jermaine Dye (59.9)                     325 homeruns in 7214 plate appearances in 14 seasons

The most career homeruns of any player in the top-10, and second most among all the players to do it. Topped 20 homeruns 10 times, 30 homeruns four times, and 40 once. The best overall hitter in the top-16, and one the five best overall. Played in two World Series, winning one of them. On April 132009, Dye and Paul Konerko hit their 300th homers in the majors, the first teammates to do so in the same game. They managed the feat in back-to-back at-bats.

Hit his homerun off of Marcus Moore

5 – Jay Gainer (59.7)                           3 homeruns in 45 plate appearances in 1 seasons

A first baseman that couldn’t cut it with the Rockies, he actually hit his in Cincinnati at old Riverfront Stadium, and not in Coors. Of course, Coors wasn’t opened until 2 years later. Hit a lot of homeruns in the minors, topping 30 twice, so he definitely belongs here. One of the original Rockies, he never got much of a shot. Now managing in the minors. Hit his homerun on the first pitch he saw.

Hit his homerun off of Tim Pugh

4 – Josh Fields (59.5)                           34 homeruns in 796 plate appearances in 5 seasons

One of only three players still active, although Fields and Jacobs are in the minors. Has the best chance of making it back to the bigs. Hit 23 in one season, but injuries have kept him from putting together a full season. Good power in the minors, he definitely belongs on the list. Hit his as a pinchhitter. I think eventually he’ll make it back and move down on the list.

Hit his homerun off of Jamie Walker

3 – J.P. Arencibia (49.5)                      6 homeruns in 686 plate appearances in 2 seasons

The only player still in the majors, he probably won’t stay on this list very long. A catcher who isn’t known for his hitting, he had a ton of power in the minors, topping 20 twice and 30 once. He hit two homeruns in this first game. Opening day of 2011, he hit two homeruns and a triple, so debuts are right up his alley.

 Hit his homerun off of James Shields

2 – Mitch Lyden (47.6)                        1 homeruns in 10 plate appearances in 1 seasons

A catcher for the original Marlins, this was his only homerun in the majors. One of only three players in the top-10 to only hit one homerun in their career. Hit over 200 homeruns in the minors. Spent 10 years in the minors before he got a chance at the majors.

Hit his homerun off of Jose Bautista

1 – Charlton Jimerson (46.3)              2 homeruns in 9 plate appearances in 4 seasons

A right fielder for the Mariners and Astros, he hit his first one as a pinchhitter. He did appear in one game as a defensive replacement the previous year without batting, but was able to avoid the Moonlight Graham syndrome. Hit double figures in homeruns for 9 straight years in the m minors, but never got a long look in the majors. Played in the minors last year, but no info about this year. It’s not out of the question that he could come back up and increase his lead, or drop out entirely.

Hit his homerun off of Cole Hamels

So that’s the list of the 10 most likely players to hit a homerun in their first plate appearance. One pitcher, but he counts. Jimerson could legitimately be considered not eligible for the list since he got into a game before he actually hit, but several pitchers did that also, so he stays.

Update:  somehow I missed a player. I didn't realize this until I was going back through, so I want to add him on now, as most people will know him.

4 - Will Clark (49.6)                                    284 homeruns in 8283 plate appearances in 15 seasons

We all know about Will the Thrill, so I’m not going to add on to it.

Hit his homerun off of Nolan Ryan

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The top-10 least likely guys to hit a homerun in their first major league plate appearance

Back in April, I was watching a Pirates games and Josh Rodriguez, a Rule-5 draftee, came to the plate for his first major league plate appearance. This is how slow I am at writing things up at times. Anyhow, I started thinking about first at bats and was thinking it would be great if he hit a homerun, joining a semi-exclusive club. He didn’t hit a homerun in his first plate appearance, but it isn’t that surprising. Of the over 17,000 players to appear in a game, only 106 have done it, leaving it an astronomical .00062 chance of doing it. Failure, at this particular task, is an option.

For some strange reason, because that’s how my mind works, I started thinking about this particular event and just wondering how unlikely it really it is. Then I started thinking about who was the most likely of all the players who have done to homer in their first plate appearance. Along with that, I wondered about who was the least likely to have done it. Then I wondered what happened to my life and why I’m writing about something like this.

So I devised a simple little formula to figure all of this out. It’s so easy it can be done at home. If for some reason you wanted to. Take a player’s total number of plate appearances and divide by the total number of homerun’s he hit. I’m using plate appearance instead of at bats, because a plate appearance can be any unique event, from a homerun to a sacrifice fly, catcher’s interference, reached on error, or a dozen other plays. The higher the number, the less likely the player was to hit a homer. The lower the number, the more likely.

I didn’t leave it at just that, because even those new-fangled statistics show that pitchers are involved in homeruns. Not much else, but at least that. So I looked at all the pitchers who gave the homerun to see how often they give up dingers. Simply take all of their batters faced and divide by total number of homeruns allowed. The higher the number, the less likely to give up a homer; the lower, the more likely.

So add those two numbers together. Add 10 points if the batter was a pitcher. This is my anti-designated hitter bonus. (We'll call this the Kevin Graham rule). Add 10 points if it was on the 1st pitch. Add another 10 points if it was the only homerun that particular batter hit. 10 more points if it was a pinchhit homerun, because it’s hard enough to do it normally. 10 points if it was a “clutch” homerun (you know, late innings, extra innings, gave the team a lead late in the game, put them ahead, something with a little stress to it), 10 points if it was  grand slam, and 10 points if it was hit in the first inning or led of the game. Add all of those points together, and you get the list.

The top-10 least likely guys to hit a homerun are listed below:

10 - Ace Parker  (211.6)                      2 homeruns in 228 plate appearances over 2 seasons

A utility infielder for the Athletics in the late-30’s. He hit only 33 in 11 minor leagues seasons, only hitting double figures the season after he was done in the majors. Spent time in the minors after the homerun, but ended up finishing the season with the big club, and got a full year in the next year. Still alive at the age of 99. Member of the Pro Football and College Football Halls of Fame. Coached football at Duke University.

Hit his homerun off of Wes Ferrell

9 - Buddy Kerr  (219.1)                       31 homeruns in 4056 plate appearances in 9 seasons

A shortstop for the Giants throughout the war years into the early 50’s, where he finished with the Braves. Hit 5 homeruns in over 1700 plate appearances in the minors. Played a then-record 68 consecutive games without an error. Won 2 league championships as a minor league manager.

Hit his homerun off of Bill Lee (no, not that Bill Lee, the other Bill Lee)

8 - Cuno Barragan  (233.4)                 1 homerun in 190 plate appearances in 3 seasons

A catcher for the Cubs in the early 60’s. Hit 25 homeruns in over 1600 plate appearances in the minors. Even playing in a park like Wrigley, he couldn’t get much power. Didn’t get to the bigs until he was 29, so he was never much of a prospect. This was obviously his only homerun.

Hit his homerun off of Dick LeMay

7 – Daniel Nava (2345.7)                    1 homerun in 188 plate appearances in 1 season

A leftfielder. This only happened in 2010, so Nava could have another shot at the majors. Actually showed homerun ability in the minors, but couldn’t duplicate in the majors, which is surprising considering he played his home games in Fenway. Only the 4th player to hit a grand slam for his first homerun.

Hit his homerun off of Joe Blanton

6 - Dustin Hermanson (241.8)                        2 homeruns in 384 plate appearances in 12 seasons

I almost left Hermanson off of the list, but only because he pitched in 40 games before ever coming to the plate. While he is a pitcher and hadn’t swung a bat, he didn’t really have the stress of doing it in his first game. I’ll leave him, however, as it’s still got to be hard to hit a homerun not matter how you go about it, and this is my anti-designated hitter pick. Didn’t hit one in the minors, but he only got to the plates 10 times. Won a World Series with the White Sox in 2005.

Hit his homerun off of Shane Reynolds

5 – Luke Stuart (254.4)                       1 homerun in 3 plate appearances in 1 season

A second baseman who only had 3 plate appearances in the majors, but hit it off of a Hall of Famer who rarely gave up homeruns. The first one to do this in American League history, taking 20 years to get it done. It was obviously his only homerun. Hit quite a few homeruns in the minors, topping out with a high of 20 in 1923. Stuart might not belong on this list to some people, as he could hit homeruns, but he did it off a pitcher who only game up a homerun every 8 games or so, which accounts for his high score.

Hit his homerun off of Walter Johnson

4 – Gordon Slade (261.1)                    8 homeruns in 1504 plate appearances in 6 seasons

A National League infielder for 3 teams in the 30’s, he has the second most homeruns of any player in the bottom 10. Hit homeruns at about twice the rate in the minors, but not too many. Topped out at 4 homeruns in 1934, which was his only season as a full-time starter, when he finished 15th in the MVP voting.

Hit his homerun off of Bob Smith

3 – Bill Duggleby (331.1)                    6 homeruns in 686 plate appearances in 8 seasons

A pitcher who played in the deadball era, he never played any other position. He hit like modern pitchers, not deadball era ones, so he belongs on the list. Just the second player to do this (there is no box score for the first guy, so I don’t know who he hit it off of); he was the first to hit a grand slam in his first plate appearance. To top it off, it was a pinchhit shot. How’s that for a debut. Hit 3 in the minors, but that was after his debut. There is no data for prior to that. Hit if off of a pitcher who would go on to later fame as an outfielder who hit 53 homeruns in his career.

Hit his homerun off of Cy Seymour.

2 – Walter Mueller (332.1)                2 homeruns in 369 plate appearances in 4 seasons

An outfielder and pinchhitter, he was a Missouri boy who hit his on the first pitch he saw, in the top of the first inning. He barely edged out Bill Duggleby for second place on the list. The highest rated non-pitcher on the list, he had absolutely no power at all. Father of Don Mueller, right fielder with the Giants in the ’54 World Series. He didn’t have much power either, but was a better hitter than his father. Played in Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, which probably accounted for his low total.

Hit his homerun off of Pete Alexander.

1 – Hoyt Wilhelm (539.0)                   1 homerun in 493 plate appearances in 21 seasons

If you know anything about baseball, this shouldn’t be a surprise to you. He did pitch in 4 games previously to getting to the plate, but I will count it regardless. The highest Hall of Famer on the list (the entire list), but the only one to make it as a pitcher. Hit it off a pitcher who didn’t give up many homeruns, which just padded his score, as he would have topped the list without it. Went 21 years without another homerun. Earned a Purple Heart during the Battle of the Bulge.

Hit his homerun off of Dick Hoover

So that’s the list of the 10 most unlikely players to hit a homerun in their first plate appearance. Only 3 pitchers on the list, so I was pleased by that. Looks like you needed to be a middle infielder between the war years to have the best shot to make this list. Next up, the 10 most likely to hit a homerun in their first plate appearance.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cherry Picking our Moral Outrage

With the issue of steroid use rampant in MLB right now, a lot of people have left the flatlands and taken the moral high ground. They are outraged at the fact that their game has been defiled by the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Miguel Tejada, to name a few. Fans can’t stand the fact that their childhood heroes, who have had their career and season records eclipsed by these monsters, now have to take a backseat to these demons. Its even worse that they are allowed to hold those same records, and still retain the hardware they won.

The players today have injected, inhaled, and rubbed all manners of immoral, unethical, and devious substances in order to achieve an advantage over their peers. They have artificially enhanced their abilities in an effort to defraud the entire American public, and destroy the very fabric of American life. We haven’t witnessed an assault of this nature since the days of McCarthyism. Actually, I didn’t witness it, but I’m sure the hysteria is the same.

That fact that these evildoers have used illegal substances to increase their stamina, durability, reduce their injury time, and prolong their careers is an affront to every red-blooded American, especially if you’re a sports writer for a main stream sports/news organization. I think it’s wrong, I think it’s a sacrilege and an abomination (just like the DH), and I for one, will gladly ascend the heights to plant my flag on the moral high ground.

So, in an effort to right all past wrongs, and make sure the game is as returned to the purity and saintliness of bygone era’s, we will ascend the moral high ground, look down on those below us, and cast out the wayward souls who have sullied our national past-time.

So, all you steroid users, you’re out. Tejada, Rodriguez, you’re gone. Not just your records and trophies banished, but you also. You’re out the game. That’s the only way we have to ensure the game is never defiled again. Banishment is the only answer. It doesn’t matter that you tested positive when it wasn’t illegal. You did, so you’re gone. Lifetime suspension for any player caught. It’s harsh, I know, but you brought it upon yourselves. You volunteered to take a test that you didn’t have to take, and you came up hot. You’re out. Palmeiro, you too.

But we’re not done. McGwire, Sosa. Bye. No chance at the Hall for you. We ‘know’ you used illegal substances. It doesn’t matter if you never actually came up hot on a test. We know. And since we’re taking the moral high ground and being sanctimonious, we don’t require proof. Just shred you’re Hall speech. You’re not getting in. Oh, by the way, it doesn’t matter that the substances you ‘took’ weren’t actually illegal. Because they weren’t. They were ‘banned’ by MLB, which isn’t the same as illegal. But the moral high ground allows us to declare you guilty.

But we’re not through, oh no, not by a long shot. We’re not going to just inhabit the moral foothills. We climbing all the way to the top and cresting this high ground. We’re judging everyone. So anyone who used anything to artificially increase their career, or help themselves return from injury, you’re out also. Because it might not have been ‘illegal’, but it wasn’t natural, and it gave you an unfair advantage over the clean players. We can’t have that. There isn’t enough room on the peak of the moral high ground for questionable players. So only the truly honest players are allowed up here. So let’s see who else is banished forever.

Did you use cortisone shots? Sorry, you’re out. That’s probably half the players in the expansion era, but it doesn’t matter. Cortisone is an unnatural substance injected into the body to mask pain. It doesn’t actually heal anything; it just hides the pain and lets the player perform at a higher level than he might have otherwise. That sounds familiar, but it doesn’t matter. On the moral high ground, there is no room for compromise. Had a cortisone shot? You’re out.

Had Lazik eye surgery? You’re gone. Denard Span, Tony Pena, Jr. You might as well pack your bags. You’re not allowed to play my game anymore. It’s an unnatural procedure that gives you an unfair advantage over players who haven’t had it. Doesn’t matter if MLB said it was all right, or there was no test for it. We’re on the moral high ground, and you screwed up. Can’t exclude one for a particular reason, and then let another stay. That would be hypocritical, and we can’t have that in American sports.

Knee surgery? Sorry. Bye. I’ve had reconstructive knee surgery, even though I was told I could still have good quality of life without it. But I wanted to play ball, so I had it done. An entirely unnecessary procedure only used to help prolong a playing career. Entirely unnatural. Manny Ramirez, you’re gone. Mickey Mantle, your plaque at the Hall comes down. Don’t like it? Tough. Moral, meet high ground.

Elbow/shoulder surgery? Too bad. Tommy John, John Smotlz, you’ve kissed you’re Hall chances away.
By the way, all you guys above, I want my MVP, CY Young’s, and all other awards returned. I will arbitrarily decide who gets them, from among those players left.

But we can’t just stop there. From the moral high ground, we can see both sides of the mountain. Not only can we see who has done something unnatural to increase their abilities and careers, but we can see the other side of the equation. Since all those players broke an unwritten code of ethics by taking illegal substances (even though they weren’t), we have to look at those with a deviant lifestyle as well. Because here on the moral high ground, we’re not going to cherry pick our outrage, we’re going to being fair and objective. Don’t play by my rules, you’re out.

So did you use those ‘greenies’ back in the 60’s? Yeah, I’m talking to you, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Don’t ever want to see your faces again. You used something illegal. That actually was illegal. Bye.
Used cocaine? Dave Parker, Keith Hernandez. Time to fade away into oblivion. You’re dirty, you’re guilty, and you’re out.

Been arrested for a crime? Bret Myers, Wil Cordero. You’re names will be expunged from the rolls. Doesn’t matter if you were ever convicted or not. Guilt or innocence is not an issue. We’re on the moral high ground.

Been accused of throwing a game? Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Smokey Joe. You’re stats don’t count. Seems as they have other issues. If they weren’t suspended, they’re still out. They were accused, and here on the moral high ground, that’s all we need.

Ever shown up at work with alcohol in your system? It might not be illegal, but we’ve already established we’re not concerned about that. If I were to show up to work with a hangover every day, or drink on the job, my boss would surely send me on my way. And since we are here to preserve American values, we like this one also. So Babe Ruth and Pete Alexander. Nice knowing you, but you’re irrelevant now.

But let’s not just stop there. There are so many more peaks of the morale high ground we can climb. Tony Oliva, you used your brother’s passport. That’s illegal, and you misrepresented yourself. I’m sure we can find others that are just as evil as you are.

As we stand here on the high ground and look down on the others, all we have left is the people who played the game purely. The ones who didn’t cheat or desecrate the game in one of the ways listed above. Anyone want to guess how many there are left? Do you think we could even get in a complete season with 30 teams?  But does it matter? Because we’ve purified the game. We have gotten rid of the interlopers who made a mockery of it. It’s clean and pristine. 

Here on the moral high ground, we’re happy. We’ve cleaned up the game. The only problem is it’s a little crowed. But only because we’re sharing it with our neighbor who abuses his family. But it’s not our problem and we don’t want to get involved. And next to him is the guy down the street, who we just know is selling something (if you know what I mean), but it’s not our problem. He’s not bothering us. And next to him is the relative who cheats on their taxes every year, but hey, it’s family. And other side is our buddy Bob, who cheats on his wife, but I’m okay with it, because it’s his life. And next to him is the guy from work who goes to happy hour every night and then drives home. But it’s not our problem. He doesn’t live far and he always makes it.

None of those things are important, however, because we’re fixing baseball. What happens in real life doesn’t concern us. What happens in baseball? Oh, yeah, we’re all over it. And here on the moral high ground, we actually do get to cherry pick our moral outrage.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

10 reasons I do like sabermetrics

So, in order to be fair, as a companion to yesterday's post, here are my 10 reasons why I like sabermetrics.

1. Putting it all together:

You have to feel they're putting it all together, sort of a Grand Unified Theory, just like in physics. If they keep working on it, someone will hit on that magic formula and we'll finally know all the answers. Who is the greatest player of all time? Who belongs in the Hall of Fame, and who doesn't? Which team is the greatest? Who was a contender, and was a pretender? Who was the Most Valuable Player? The sabermatricians are doing some serious stuff, and you have to think one day someone will hit that magic formula. They're getting closer all the time, and some day they'll make it.

2. It's just another way at looking at the same thing:

Fans have been obsessed with the stats since the beginning of the game, and that's how they've all developed. That's how they developed in all sports. Baseball started tracking the numbers, and so did every other sport once they organized. All states are "created". Yes, the counting stats do happen on the field of play, but they are base for others. Just as someone developed the idea of pitcher Wins and batter RBI's to evaluate how a player was doing, the new stuff does the same thing. It just looks different.

3. The world moves on:

Batting average and earned run average were developed so that we could measure a player's effectiveness. They were new and innovative at the time, and that's what people knew. They reason they were simplistic in approach is because anyone with a pencil, a piece of paper, and a sixth-grade education could sit down and figure them out. Now, with the advent of calculators, home computers, and the Internet, stats are looked at differently. We have the ability to look at them from a different perspective, so we do. Complicated formulas can be derived, spreadsheets can be developed, and new evaluation tools can be used. If they could have done this in 1876, someone would have. Stat heads aren't a new development, they were just technologically delayed.

4. It helps bring in new fans:

Baseball is a game of leisure that takes its time, and takes patience to watch. In today's world of MTV and the X-games, sound bites and strobe lights are what captures most kid’s attention. But because of the technology, and the saber stuff that has developed, more kids are interested than have been in a long time. Kids raised in the computer generation don't play sports, or watch, as much as I did when I was a kid. But because of the saber stuff, kids are paying attention. That's always a good thing. The more kids interested in the game, the better it is for the game.

5. It's interesting:

I tried to be a math major in college, because I was always good at it. About the time I got to Calc III, for the second time, I realized I wasn't quite as good at it as I thought I was. But I am still able to follow (somewhat) the math behind a lot of the stuff. Not all of it, but enough to understand where it's going. As such, I like looking at the saber-stuff and seeing how it develops, and seeing how it relates to the game. It's just a different way at looking at the same thing.

6. Can it help my team?

More and more teams are looking at sabermetrics in an effort to evaluate players, in order to get the best players for the team. If they can help my team get the best players, and make them a better team, I'm all for it. Any tool that can help find us the best players is always a good thing. Sabermetrics provides an in-depth look at what the players can do, from a standardized point of view. And it's not all retroactive, like the counting stats are. They tell you what a player has done, but there is a lot of good work being done with the projection systems, to tell us what players might be able to do.

7. There's something for everyone:

Even if you're a traditionalist, and you don't like all the formulas, or don't understand them, and want your counting stats, there is much more than that. It's not all WARP, VORP, and Win Shares. Sabermetrics is looking at the game through numbers. All numbers. The work being done with park factors is great, and so is a lot of the new defensive stuff, such as UZR, biZ, zone ratings, etc. OPS+ and ERA+ offer a way to compare players across era's. BABIP and OBP obviously tell a better story than the ERA and batting average. There's something for everyone, and you can pick and choose what you want.

8. I don’t want to get left behind:

Sabermetrics is here to stay, and more and more teams are using. Probably every team, in some form. Newspapers and websites are changing the box scores all the time. It’s here, it’s not going away and I want to keep up with it. Discussions about baseball are the only more interesting in this world than the lies we tell about women. There are a lot of smart people out there, and a whole bunch of them younger than me. If I want to be able to discuss the game, I have to know what it is I’m talking about. Talking to my 79-year old father about RBI’s is fine. It doesn’t work with my 20-year old nephew. If I want to be able to talk about baseball 10 years from now, I had better learn what it is we’re all going to be talking about. 

That isn’t really a like, but more of a necessity.

9. How I spend my time:

Instead of spending 2 hours a day surfing through, now I can spend 3, with all the new stuff that has been added.

Actually, I couldn't think of more than 9, but that doesn't matter. I think these 7 sum it up pretty well. There might be more, better, reasons, and I'm willing to listen.

As I said, I'm a mix between traditional and sabermetrics. Why should we limit ourselves to one side of the discussion when we can embrace both?