February 2010 Archives

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Sadly this is one of those rare weekends where I actually need to venture out of my Excel-riddled basement to accomplish things in the real world. This means I don't have anything particularly well thought-out to waste your time and bandwidth this morning, but I will present you with something that has been traveling around the interwebs for the past few days. Oh, would you look at that, it's the Vegas over/under numbers for every MLB team's win total!

Note: Unless we're talking about poker, I am not a good gambler. You should never listen to me in such matters. Ever. Seriously, your house might be at risk. But if pressed to lay some money on a few of these odds, I'd probably go with the following three:

LA Angels - 84. OVER. The Angels outperform every projections system every year, why not the Vegas line too?

Milwaukee- 80.5. OVER. The Cubs and the Brewers are vying for second in the NL Central. Surely the Brew Crew can finish .500!

Florida - 81. UNDER. This is a manly division, and the Mets have to be better than last year, based on lack of injuries alone. The Marlins will probably win 78.

Thoughts? Any of the lines jump out at you as being ridiculous? I didn't mention the Rays one, but that's a tempting bet too. It's also interesting to reconcile these Vegas numbers with the (now revised!) PECOTA projections and the CAIRO numbers, if you so choose.

So yeah, sorry for the lack of content. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves... or to keep Photoshopping Rob into pictures. Have a great weekend.

Title inspired by this guy. Covered in awesome fashion by these guys.

chimp-piggy-back.jpgPersonal commentary among our beloved beat grunts is at an all-time high. Fans received an unprecedented amount of information from the hard-working scribes stationed in the southern reaches of our continent. In between regaling us with epicurial exploits or inundating us with photos of anyone in team-branded merchandise, team-specific writers serve up a daily dose of spring training tropes. While The Best Shape of His Life story is a well-worn and well-documented story shell, the growth of Proclamation of Greatness/Feigned Awards Outrage story is a personal favorite of mine.

Marvel at the bravery of Yankees manager Joe Girardi, as he not only predicts a Gold Glove in Robinson Cano's future, he laments the voters egregious oversight in 2009.

The thing about seeing your players all the time, I had a chance to see what he did on a daily basis and I find it hard to believe that anyone played better than he did

Shocking! The guy you watched every day appeared better in your eyes than the guy you shot sidelong glances at two or three times last year! The delicious irony of Derek Jeter's manager praising anyone's ability to go to their right is too much for me to take.

You might be shocked to learn Tony La Russa was once a lawyer, but it's true! As such, he's accustomed to building strawman arguments and telling absolute fabrications to the faces of loved ones. When asked about the hotly contested Cy Young race of 2009, La Russa couldn't resist using the media filter to prop up his rotation mainstays:

"I was very disappointed," La Russa said. "Lincecum is a great pitcher but in this particular year I don't think he outpitched our two guys. We've already turned the page on that one but it was disappointing."

You hear that, two excellent pitchers at the top of your game? You manager, the venerable field manager is in your corner! Remember that when he's yanking you for a key lefty on lefty matchup in the bottom of the fourth inning during a six run game.

The defense matters gospel continues to sweep its way across the baseball landscape. While some see it as a great way to support and protect a virginal pitching staff; others, like Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd, think defense is reason enough to hoist hotshot shortstop Troy Tulowitzki into the National League MVP discussion. "If they look at the whole picture, yes," said O'Dowd. While Tulo does play a more important position than incumbent Albert Pujols, his numbers will never, ever measure up to the King. WAR and the assorted evaluative metrics include defense and positional adjustments yet Pujols still rises head and shoulders above plucky Tulowitzki.

Matt Kemp's story is a little different. While not being anointed a potential MVP from within his organization, writers the nation over recognize the five-tool greatness of the Dodgers centerfielder. Sage old media handler Joe Torre did what he does best when asked about Kemp's off-field exploits: he referred to Derek Jeter.

I had Derek Jeter and I remember calling him in after his first year about the fact that he was single, the city of New York and all that stuff," Torre said. "He assured me that his priorities were in order and they were."

While Derek Jeter's never been so fortunate to win an MVP, he has won numerous undeserving awards throughout his storied career, so Kemp is in good company. Kemp is also in the company of Troy Tulowitzki and countless other excellent National League stars who'll never sniff an MVP so long as Albert Pujols is around. Something not entirely lost on the coaches and GMs who seek to praise their never-to-be officially recognized charges.

Cito Gaston Shills For Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball on SNES - 1994

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Who else would be better in a commercial for Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball, than Ol' Clarence? Well yeah, Ken Griffey Jr. would have been better but he was probably filming 300 other commercials this day with his hat on backwards. So enter Clarence, still in his back to back World Series Championship heyday. Had he yet morphed into the doddering old father figure that riles Blue Jay fans more and more with each passing second? I DON'T THINK SO.

My favorite part is when they say "could this game get any more REAL" and then they show this hilariously cartoonish clip from the game where the ball swells to the size of a balloon to illustrate a pop fly. Simpler times and naked nostalgia. That's Classic TV Friday for you. Please to enjoy.

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Lots of people have back pain. It's one of the worst but also most common ailments that occurs with age. You probaby have it sometimes, and Lord knows you aren't getting any younger, Grampy. But when you get an ouchie you just swallow a couple Doans P.M. and go lay down on the chaise.

Ballplayers don't have that option (from Feb to Oct, anyway) so they have to have insane procedures that sound both high tech and quaintly barbaric. Like A's pitcher Justin Duchscerer who had the nerve endings in his sacroiliac joint BURNED OFF. It's supposed to mitigate his back pain, but he may have to do it every 6 months. And the drugs have him more whacked out than someone seeing The Disco Biscuits. To wit, via Susan Slusser:

Duchscherer is still out of it. So much so that I asked if he'd driven himself to Phoenix Muni and he said no way, he's not allowed to drive yet; his fiancee had brought him over.

"I don't feel anything," he said, smiling widely. "I feel great right now. More than anything, I'm tired."

That's despite sleeping essentially from 2 p.m. on yesterday. Duchscherer woke up for at an hour at 9 p.m., then went back to sleep until this morning. "I need to clear my head," he said.

The procedure originally was scheduled for Monday but Duchscherer has had a bad reaction in the past to the drug Versed, which was going to be used. So it was re-scheduled for yesterday, and Duchscherer was given Ativan, instead - quite a lot of it because initially it wasn't enough. "And then....I don't remember," Duchscherer said.

If I had a nickel for everytime I've said "I feel great, I don't feel anything" I'd be able to just buy the Miller brewery. But Ativan, (aka Lorazepam) is nothing to sneeze at, what with its "five intrinsic benzodiazepine effects: anxiolytic, amnesic, sedative/hypnotic, anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant." Rad. Hook it up, Justin.

While MLB is kicking around the idea of HGH testing perhaps they oughta check for high Ativan levels. Imagine if Barry Bonds had not only tainted the single season HR record but also the record for most time spent staring at a Gatorade cooler (Mickey Tettleton, 1987).

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It's just an autograph, yes, but it's also much more. Because sometimes you CAN demean boys, too, with funny headlines. Maybe we bloggers should reserve the moral outrage for actual inequities and not waste precious bits and bytes attacking David Brown for doing what he does best: being funny.

Shut down your Facebook account, wipe clean your Twitter follows, and nuke your MyBuzzFriendsterSpaces: the only social networking you'll need to do for the next eight months is following comic genius Ozzie Guillen on Twitter. The White Sox manager made his headfirst dive into the world of 140-character-updates just last night and he's already enlisted the hearts and minds of thousands of followers.

Ozzie doesn't have the official Twitter badge that verifies his identity just yet, but this social media lady, who works with the White Sox and the loquacious Shaquille O'Neal, says it's the real deal. And who am I to doubt a person whose job it is to "develop measurable digital & social media strategies"? Ick, I feel gross just copying and pasting that.

So in the spirit of the laziness that pervades this new Twitter feature at Walkoff Walk, here are some screenshots of Ozzie's twoots presented with as little commentary as possible:




Ozzie followed up this gem by saying "3 day of Spring Training and im already boreddddddd". Really, Oz, you can't be nearly as bored about Spring Training as those of us who follow the inane comments spewing from the beat writers' Twitter feeds. "Player X is here". "Player Y is doing some light jogging". "I just saw Player Z pick up a baseball". Social media, f**k yeah!


Try mini-golf instead, Ozzie. The only tiresome part of that is figuring out where to put the little scorecard when you're going to putt. Why don't miniature golf places have miniature caddies?


Yeah, seriously, why Dye no have job? I heard the Peoria In-N-Out is hiring fry cooks.


BBQ at Ozzie's house! Who's going to bring the errant wieners?


Of course you feel relaxed, Ozzie. Being a baseball manager is probably the easiest top level job in professional sports, save for general manager of the Houston Astros. Step one: sign ex-Phillies Step two: ... Step three: profit!


UPDATE: Apparently, the person pushing the buttons on the Ozzie Guillen Twitter account is his kid, Ozzie Jr. This does not take away from my enjoyment of said account.

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Just a quick hit today since we're busy in the Walkoff Walk office cobbling together our 2010 Division Previews: head over to Baseball Prospectus to find out what ESPN play-by-play guy Jon Sciambi said to Chipper Jones to make ol' Chip shoot him such a laser-eyed death glare (in that picture on the left, chucklehead). Even after you've drank up the delicious Chipper anecdote, Sciambi's guest piece on the possibility of mainstreaming advanced stats is your must-read column for the day.

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Athletes used to release rap albums in order to make some money off the field. Now, it's all about the clothing line, and who better to have his own line of t-shirts than Shane Victorino!

As you can see, the Shane Victorino Signature Collection -- not a clothing line, he tells Todd Zolecki, just a series of t-shirts -- is built for champions. Get one for the champion with horrible taste in t-shirts in your life.

The Fightins has more.

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So when my infinitely more competent weekend predecessor, a card-carrying member of the "Numbers Are Awesome Club" like myself, goes out of his way to show the necessity of tempering one's zeal when it comes to over-emphasizing the numbers... it has my attention. The points Drew made about Phillies sandwich-hawker slugger Ryan Howard are spot on and contain a wisdom that half the blogosphere should be lucky to demonstrate in their offerings on the interwebs. Yes, Ryan Howard is not good against left-handed pitching, but he does a lot of things exceptionally well that more than make up for this difference. Drew pointed out his impressive mashing of righties, and this led me to look at Howard's stats more closely myself to try to gain a better appreciation of the big fella's talent.

I was not disappointed, and what I found further solidifies the fact that "stats" and the "real world" aren't two realms constantly butting heads against each other. If anything, as one brilliant WoWie pointed out in my "work" from days of yore, stats are just a way to gain an appreciation of how truly great some of these players are. This is exactly what I found out in digging into Ryan Howard's numbers.

If you saw some of Howard's dingers from this past season, you know he can absolutely punish a fastball with impunity. This something we learn "from the eyes," by simply watching the game and being fans. But it turns out, the numbers say Howard is one of the most elite fastball hitters in the entire game. How good is he? Fifth overall in runs above average per 100 fastballs faced the last three years. His company? The likes of Pujols and A-Rod. More impressive? That over those same three years, Howard has been offered the lowest percentage of fastballs among all eligible hitters. That's some impressively efficient production, yes? The dude can hit the cheese. The eyes and the numbers say it. And just to put the icing on the cake, look at Howard's HR Tracker for 2009. That, my friends, is power, and power to all fields.

Your mind: sufficiently blown.

I'm speaking for myself here in chorus with Drew, but I would like to hear others' opinions on this reconciliation of the numbers and the "lived experience" of the game itself.

pinkbeard.jpgWhile the beat writers assigned to the 29 other teams in baseball prepare their "Best Shape of His Life!" articles, the Phillies scribes find themselves amidst a crash course in Halladay Lore 101. The stories of the legendary work ethic and dedication to fitness are flying out of Lakeland, sending Phillies fans and bloggers into a tizzy from which they'll never recover. The stories of leadership by example and the positive impact on the rest of the team are the kind of P.R. you just can't buy. Luckily for the good people of Philadelphia, all the stories are true. The man really is larger than life.

This site has strayed from its "pandering to our dedicated Phillies readership" core values for too long, so why not throw the doors wide open? After carefully gauging the early, measured returns on Twitter and around the internet by a typically reserved and pessimistic group of diehards, let's indulge in some baseless speculation. How many Ws might Roy Halladay have beside his name come October? Could it be a significant number like 20 or even 30?

Likely? Not even remotely. Possible? Maybe. Many things work in the favor of Roy Halladay, the Phillies, and people who like round numbers. Coming to an inferior league is certainly one of them. Facing a pitcher or guy not good enough to start at least twice a night doesn't hurt. Exchanging 4-5 starts versus the Yankees for 4-5 starts against the Mets (Halladay versus Francoeur &mdash the first ever 2 pitch strikeout) can only pad the stats and win total. But there are concerns. Pressing concerns about the worsening nature of things in Philadelphia.

How much will the Phillies miss the steady glovework of one Mr. Pedro Feliz at third base? As a ground ball machine, Halladay relies on rangy glovemen (like former Phil Scott Rolen!) sucking up ground balls. As eternal cynic and Pedro Feliz superfan Robert Iracane tells it, incoming third baseman Placido Polanco hasn't played the hot corner in 8 years. Not to mention another year on the Ibanez odometer, the toll of unfortunate fame and bedazzled t-shirts on Shane Victorino.

Throw in a bullpen in minor crisis mode and you certainly don't have a sure thing. There are only two sure things: one is Halladay. Expect the new ace to perform at his usual levels: maybe a baserunner an inning, 4 strikeouts for every walk, a home run allowed every other start. He'll battle, and he'll scowl, and he'll generally make the CBP a better place to be.

The other sure thing is the Phillies in 2010 will win more games than Halladay's former employers usually did. Roy Halladay took a loss or no decision in 2009 while surrendering 3 or fewer runs 8 times. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will do their darnedest to see that improve. Personally, I don't think the impact of changing leagues can be overstated. I really, really think Halladay is going to eat up the National League like Kyle Kendrick consuming Roy's sweatbands. I think his strikeouts will go up while his walks go down. A pitcher that prides himself on efficiency and controlling his pitch count can only benefit from a league with less emphasis on "the big inning."

So what do we think will climb higher? His win total or the adulation of an entire region of the eastern seaboard? Is 25 in play? Would 20 be a disappointment or triumph?

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Hey doodz, weekend writer here. Fantasy baseball season is fast-approaching and Rob was nice enough to expand the terms of my captivity duties to include setting up a new endeavor for the WoW community: an auction fantasy baseball league!

Just to clarify a few things, this is not a replacement for the usual, "standard" Walkoff Walk fantasy baseball endeavor. In fact, I'm told that Rob is still looking for participants for that funfest, so if you want in, you should definitely email him. I'll be there, so if you thrash me in the standings you can reap the added benefit of putting the stat nerd in his place!

This new auction league is just meant to give people yet another option. If you're in the normal league, feel free to join. If you really like auction leagues, sign up! If you're not really familiar with auction leagues but think they might be really fun (you'd be right), then sign up. The benefit of the auction league is it fixes such things as Rob giving himself the first five picks in the draft because anybody is allowed to bid on a player at any time, provided they have the appropriate fake funding. It's fair. It's entertaining. It requires you to demonstrate ingenuity. There will be efforts to drive up prices so that somebody gets stuck with a $21 Yuniesky Betancourt. Profanity will ensue. I don't know what the winner of this shindig will receive, but I'm sure we'll figure something out.

Here's the catch: since it's an auction league, attendance at the draft is nothing short of essential. As a result, this could be a huge pain in the ass to schedule. That's why I'm putting this post up. If you're interested in participating in the auction league, then send me an email. So I hope you're interested, but again, please recognize the necessity of a flexible schedule going in. As soon as I know there's enough interest, I'll throw out some ideas for dates and times within the circle of interested folk. Feel free to ask questions in the comments!

Spring (the season) is still over a month away but spring (the training) has definitely begun! How can I tell? Because the Tweetosphere is already alive with pitchers, catchers, infielders, managers, bloggers, beat writers, peanut vendors, and sausage slingers telling us about their oh-so-exciting trips to Cactus Country and Grapefruit Grove. Here's a small selection of the interesting quips and quotes from the most loquacious players about the most wonderful time of the year.

Like any good Florida native, Denard Span uses his nose to find his way to Twins training camp in Fort Myers. But I've got bad news for you, Denard, that's not pine tar you're smelling; it's Ron Gardenhire's grundle stank:


C.J. Wilson doesn't have quite as strong a sense of smell as Denard but he knows when it's time to take off his silly Olympics hat and hightail it out of Canadia in time to get on his horse back for pitchers 'n' catchers time:


Ryan Rowland-Smith didn't waste his time heading to Vancouver because his Aussies stink at winter sports, so he's already made it to camp. The only trouble he had was getting into his condo. But hey, there's nothing you can't solve with a paper clip, a slice of Wonder Bread, and a laundry bag full of rabid squirrels:


Some of the Marlins players are enjoying Spring Training a bit too much. Take Chris Coghlan. Either he refuses to proofread his tweets before sending them out to his flock, or he and Dan Uggla have invented an entirely new sport that involves swinging golf clubs doused in holy water at heathens in hopes of converting them:


C.J. Nitkowski doesn't really need to get ready for Spring Training since no MLB team will actually "pay" him to "pitch" anymore, but that won't stop the women in his life from asking him to clean up and get in shape:


But be careful nuzzling with your filthy kids, C.J. You don't want to pick up any illnesses from them like Billy Butler did:


Hm, maybe you should stay away from Royals camp for a week or so, Billy. You don't want to spread that stuff around or the next thing you know, Kyle Farnsworth's got the trots, Yuniesky Betancourt's got the squirts, and Trey Hillman is spewing up green stuff and starting a veritable barforama in the clubhouse.

conlin.jpg Internet users have a quite a few fetishes they almost all share, but perhaps the most prevalent is food. There are approximately 45,000,000 websites and blogs that cover food; perhaps this is why America is so fat.

Another group that loves food? Baseball writers! While bloggers are fat shut-ins who live in their mother's basements, baseball writers are fat shut-ins who live in press boxes.1 What else is there to do in press boxes besides watch the game? Eat. And, as Kris Liakos taught us last year, baseball writers love nothing more than to talk about what they ate during spring training (when sometimes there isn't even a game to watch).

Well, Walkoff Walk commenter The Colonel has an awesome contest where you can monetize baseball writers' love of food. Here's how it works:

It's simple math: time * light work load - wife + smorgasboard = pig out. There are a couple ways to deal with this. You could stop following these beat writers, but that's impractical. Most of them do good jobs at keeping us degenerates up-to-date on the health of our teams' stars or the prospects that we lust over. Another way to deal with this phenomenon is to embrace it and that's exactly what I'm going to do, and I want you to join in.

For every tweet by a beat writer (from a newspaper, TV, Radio, or MLB writer. NO BLOGGERS), you can earn points. Starting on February 8 and ending April 3, any food related tweet that your RT will be worth points. The winner will receive a $25 iTunes Gift Card.

Twenty-five dollars? Walkoff Walk hasn't even given me $25.2

Anyway, this contest now has the certified Walkoff Walk seal of approval, as it combines our (or at least my) favorite activities: posting bullshit on Twitter and making fun of baseball writers. There are some excellent rules for the contest, including bonus points for spotting food/porn mashups.

There are more details on the official contest rules site, but I don't think you have a shot at beating Rob in this one. You should try, though!

1 This is perhaps not true, or at the very least a generalization.
2 This is untrue. Rob bought my ticket for last year's Heist, and I think I still owe him $25 for a Palestra ticket, like, three years ago. Plus, all the babes you can hook up with for being a member of the most attractive baseball blog staff in the business.

Red Sox Truck Day 2010: The Walkoff Walk Documentary

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So here in Boston, Truck Day is a thing now. I guess it's been that way for a couple years and the Globe had coverage leading up to it all last week like it was the World Series or something. So on Friday I went along with my good friend Will Fox, both of us Truck Day Newbies. We took lots of footage of the "action." We made fun of people. We edited that footage down into our first Walkoff Walk Documentary.

It's about 25 minutes long and most people won't get it, but most people aren't WoWies. You're also encouraged to chop up, remix, edit or make a trailer for this and all future Walkoff Walk documentaries. Please to enjoy.

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Are you enjoying your nightly dosage of tape-delayed snowy Olympic events? Good, you don't mind watching sports that need to have the rules explained to you by Al Trautwig twenty times an hour. Still, wouldn't you rather be watching some competitive baseball right about now? Ever since the IOC eliminated baseball from the Summer Games, folks have been trying to figure out how to get it back in. But why pigeonhole baseball as a warm-weather sport? Why can't baseball be an event in the Winter Olympics?

The most important argument in favor of this unorthodox plan is the possible inclusion of real live professional baseball players in the Olympics. Part of the reason the IOC kicked baseball to the curb from the Summer Olympics is the mere fact that Herr Selig and the ownership cabal refused to allow their MLB players to participate. And can you blame them? Professional baseball doesn't need a mid-year gimmick that interrupts a perfectly good season and screws up pennant races. This isn't hockey, people.

But in a way, maybe baseball needs to take a cue from hockey, which made a huge splash by switching things up and playing an annual outdoors game (in baseball parks, natch). Baseball is adaptable nowadays. You can play it in a dome. There are indoor stadiums all over the developed world. We don't need sunshine and clear skies to play baseball in modern times. And scientifically smart turf developments have made indoor play a lot safer and closer to outdoor play. Well, not everywhere.

True, the duration of Winter Olympic competition collides directly with the onset of Spring Training, but let that not stop veteran players like Derek Jeter or Ichiro from donning their countries' colors to knock the baseball around for a couple weeks. Infielders and outfielders with experience can strap on their gear and get right in the game with not too much effort.

But what about arm problems for pitchers who have yet to go through spring training? Simply put, there's no reason MLB or the NPB or any professional teams need sacrifice their brightest and youngest and tenderest pitching talent for a quadrennial international exhibition. We've seen already the dangers of allowing them to participate in triennial competition, so why not recruit some of our more recent retirees to get back on the mound for one more go?

Yes, this all seems quite anachronistic and downright silly to play baseball in the cold climes. But c'mon, they already have a winter sport (basketball) in the summer games, why not put a summer sport (baseball) in the winter? Let's not be bogged down by traditional season-sport relationships. Modernity allows us to play any sport at any time of year we wish; after all, folks are skiing and skating in Vancouver and Whistler right now even with the balmy seasonal temperatures.

Besides, it'd be a great opportunity for J.T. Snow.

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Has the Early Bird special at diners across the United States gotten even cheaper over the past week? The behavior of a few big names in baseball would lead me to think so. While some other corners of the Internet are agog over the retirement of Frank Thomas, no doubt you also noticed that another big name, Tom Glavine, decided to hang up his cleats in favor of the greener pastures of yelling at kids to get off his lawn and trying to keep the Braves from ruining Tommy Hanson's golden arm.

Apparently it's my thing to pen retiring lefties who happen to be 300 game winners a "goodbye" post, so let's dive in, shall we? The funny thing is, aside from these aforementioned shared qualities, that's about where the similarity between these two guys stops. And it stops abruptly too. You probably recall how I was amazed at Randy Johnson's statistical dominance, especially in his strikeout numbers. With gaudy totals like that, it's no wonder the Big Unit achieved one of baseball's most impressive milestones.

Glavine though? It's almost the exact opposite. My nerd self is baffled. The guy is among the winningest lefty pitchers in baseball history, and yet his peripheral numbers don't strike fear in the hearts of men the way some of his contemporaries did. He never once struck out 200 batters in a season, and his career K/9 sits at a fairly low 5.32. His career WHIP is good, but not great, and a lot of the time his FIP was significantly higher than his sparkling ERA, a testament to the benefit of having a non-plantain'd Andruw Jones gobbling up fly balls with reckless abandon. Not surprisingly, The Big Unit also dominates his softer-tossing counterpart in WAR (91.8 to 67.0) despite throwing a lot less innings.

This is not to say that Tom Glavine was a bad pitcher... not in the least. He led the league in victories five times while winning two Cy Young awards, but his numbers indicate he did it in a lot less of an glitzy, overpowering manner. How did he do it? Well, from a sheer statistical standpoint, a large part of his success undoubtedly stems from the fact that for his career, Glavine was a very durable pitcher that averaged less than a hit per inning. Somehow, this guy, despite the fact that he was a.) not a strikeout pitcher and b.) not even particularly adroit at inducing grounders like his own teammate Greg Maddux, consistently denied opponents the opportunities to beat him. I'm looking for other statistical reasons to explain his success and there's nothing else jumping out at me. Weird. And it's even weirder when you consider there are pitchers who have far better peripheral numbers, but probably won't even come close to 300 victories when it's time to leave the game.

Well, hasn't this just thrown a mighty big wrench into the typical account of a "dominant" pitcher?

(Image courtesy of 'Duk, a veritable bounty of Coke Zero is headed your way.)

Back in 1977, the average television screen was no bigger than Pete Rose's noggin (which, now that I think of it, was actually pretty big). Along came SegaVision with their 50-inch-screen and the home entertainment business was changed. Forever. Enter Steve Garvey, official SegaVision spokesperson:


Why did Sega choose the Dodgers first baseman to promote their enormous TV? Simple, Garvey needed a screen large enough to enjoy television in a room with all his offspring.

Think baseball players are so focused on their chosen profession that they ignore other sports? Think again! Your favorite MLBers took to the Twittersphere this past weekend to appreciate the NFL's season-ending celebration called the Super Bowl. It was the most watched event in American TV history, so you'd assume that some baseball folk were sitting in front of the boob tube with their chips 'n' guac, just like you, except not quite as fat and lazy.

Still, not all of them knew what was going on. Australian pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith doesn't understand all the hoopla surrounding this game called "American football" and would rather be lassoing a kangaroo or whatever they do down 'under':


Can someone tell me what the word "arvo" means? Is it something like vegemite? And you'd think Ryan has spent enough time in the USA to know a bit more about the NFL. Heck, even Joel Hanrahan's dog knows more about American football than the Aussie RRS. He's familiar enough with the two teams to know that Saints running back Reggie Bush has a predilection for the oopsies:


Surprisingly, Bush made it through an entire game without coughing up the football. On the other hand, catcher John Baker couldn't make it through the entire game without making a bad joke about instant replay:


I think the entire Tweetosphere ground to a half after that bomb. Luckily, professional dater of professional baseballers Alyssa Milano was there to get it up and running. She took some time off from bandwagon-riding to enjoy the hilarious Super Bowl commercials:


Alyssa, Betty White has more talent in her shriveled 88-year-old pinkie finger than you have in your entire body. Even the artificial parts. Especially the artificial parts. Either way, Jose Canseco can't wait that long for Alyssa to grow up, so he went right to the source and took his new girlfriend Betty White to Disneyland instead of watching the Super Bowl:


Jose and Betty are the new Ashton and Demi, except far, far, far more disturbing. Reliever Mike Bacsik probably would have preferred being at Disneyland with a Golden Girl instead of checking out that horrible halftime show. After all, Betty White looks young compared to aging rocker Roger Daltrey. Ew, he looks like my nana! What do you think Bacsik did instead of watching 75-year-old men play CSI theme songs?


Bacsik probably spent the halftime being delusional, like he was after the game ended. Sounds like a poor prediction. When it was all said and done, the baseball tweeter who made the best prediction was Justin Upton:


Now if only Justin could be half as accurate with the bat, he'd be a perennial All-Star.

wow.woodshortage.si.jpg A hypothetical: What if, while you were at a baseball game, someone came up to you and asked if metal bats would replace wooden ones in the major leagues sometime in the next 10 years? You'd probably consider the questioner a seriously disturbed person, respond no, and then quickly walk away.

Well, guess what: In 1989 Peter Gammons wrote just that for Sports Illustrated, in an article about aluminum bats and the coming "severe wood shortage."

Pressed by economic forces, the low minor leagues are likely to begin playing with aluminum bats within two years. By the turn of the century even the majors will probably have put down the lumber and picked up the metal. Like it or not, the crack of the bat is inevitably being replaced by a ping.

Could you imagine a writer at a respected publication penning this prediction today? The writer would be lambasted on every baseball writer's Twitter, every sports blog in existence and probably on ESPN, Fox Sports and Comcast SportsNet as well. Fire Joe Morgan might need to be resurrected in order to make fun of this idea. The idea of metal bats in the major leagues is so preposterous in 2010 I can't even imagine joking about it.

The article's actually pretty good, despite its thesis being proved incorrect. There's an interesting part about how metal bats change the game -- batters who get jammed can still fist1 the ball into the opposite field for a hit, young pitchers have to throw a lot more breaking balls since so many batted balls fall for hits -- and there's a good discussion on how much more expensive wooden bats tend to be in the long run, since they break.

But the question remains: Why, exactly, did Peter Gammons think the major leagues would be using metal bats by the new millennium? The NCAA legalized their use in 1974, and they had crept into most of the lower levels of baseball as well. But the article also touches on the inability to get good bats in the major leagues (?!) and the coming wood shortage.

"We've been told to prepare for a severe wood shortage over the next few years," says Bill Murray, director of operations for Major League Baseball and chairman of the rules committee. "We may have to start thinking about an alternative to the wood bat."

"I certainly see a time in the not-too-distant future when everyone will be using some alternative bat--aluminum, graphite or some composite," says Jack Hillerich, the third-generation president of Hillerich & Bradsby, which, because of its Louisville Sluggers, has been synonymous with baseball bats for more than 100 years. "A wood bat is a financially obsolete deal. If we were selling them for $40 apiece instead of $14 or $16.50 I the company's prices for minor league and major league bats I. then we'd be making a sensible profit. But we aren't. We can't charge that much. The time will come when even the majors will use aluminum or graphite." [...]

All of the bat companies (H & B, Rawlings-Adirondack, Worth and Cooper) have had trouble filling wood-bat orders this season. "I'm having to stop taking orders," says H & B salesman Paul Shaughnessy, who services several major league teams.

"No one even wants the major league business anymore," adds Chuck Schupp, H & B director of professional bat sales. "We do it but partly because of the 100-year relationship we have had with baseball. When we make a bat, we use 40 percent of the wood, at most. If we sell the billets to other industries, nearly 100 percent is used." [...]

The bottom line on the wooden bat is that the bat companies don't want to make them, and the pros are having trouble getting good ones. The alternative is clear. Says Ash of the Blue Jays, "They should use the aluminum bat in a rookie or low A league next season and see what happens." Adds Murray, "It's a subject baseball has to take a long, hard look at in the next year."

No word on whether baseball did take a long, hard look at switching to metal bats. But, if anything, it's gone in the opposite direction since this article was written. New York City high schools now play with wood. Chicago considered a ban on metal bats but shelved it last year because "[i]t has to be done on a state or federal level," Alderman Frank Olivo said.

Metal bat makers oppose any ban on metal bats for the obvious reason that it would hurt sales. They trot out studies that say the game isn't any different with metal bats, but common sense and some random collegiate paper I found via Google say otherwise. Those against, say, making collegiate players use wooden bats say the college game is boring with wooden bats.

Obviously, baseball was "meant" to be played with wooden bats. There's nothing wrong with using metal bats to play it, but who would possibly want aluminum bats in the majors? Could we have another wood shortage leading to metal bats in the majors? How did Peter Gammons possibly get away with this incredibly incorrect prediction? These, and more questions, will be answered never.

1 FISTED!!!!

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Seemingly unsatisfied with statues of mediocre Wisconsinfolk like Robin Yount and Henry Aaron, the Brewers will soon erect a seven-foot-tall statue of Herr Selig in Miller Park Plaza to honor the used car dealer who helped bring baseball back to Milwaukee. Also, they want something that will frighten children besides the tens of thousands of binge-drinkers in the parking lot.

Naturally, they will choose to memorialize Bud with his most famous pose of all time.

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This offseason has certainly been an interesting one if you look at it from the financial perspective. As one would expect, the amount of dollars spent on free agents this offseason is down significantly from just a year ago. Oddly enough, while most teams have been tightening their belts and refraining from signing egotistical players (hi, Johnny Damon!) that have priced themselves out of the market, a few teams have opened the checkbook in a big way to secure their young talent.

Since I'm a huge baseball nerd, I was born with the inherent belief that the "Player A / Player B" device is interesting and worthwhile. I apologize in advance for doing this. All numbers are for careers.

Player A: 3.78 FIP, 0.75 HR/9, 72.3 LOB%, 7.99 K/9, 116 ERA+

Player B: 3.54 FIP, 0.57 HR/9, 74.4 LOB%, 8.06 K/9, 125 ERA+

Player C: 3.78 FIP, 0.82 HR/9, 76.5 LOB%, 7.85 K/9, 128 ERA+

Player A? That's the recently extended Justin Verlander for the tidy sum of $80 million over five years. Player B is none other than the pictured Felix Hernandez, also extended in the new year for five years and $78 million. The final hurler? Oh, that's just Kris' horse in the (in)famous Bon Jovi Golden Pipes Wager, Jon Lester. Let me bring up his contact information here... What's this? 5 years and $30 million?

HOLY SHIT!

Bear in mind that Lester's deal was signed last offseason under different market conditions, but what does this all mean? On the one hand it's strange that the Tigers, who play in the recession-rocked city of Detroit, and who also already traded an affordable, cost-effective player for the purpose of "shedding salary" were apparently able to conjure cash out of the ether to extend Verlander. For two, the deals for King Felix and Verlander likely bode well for Tim Lincecum and his flowing mane of awesomeness. And lastly, why is Theo Epstein so good at his job and even more so in hindsight? Lester is arguably the best of the three, especially when you consider he's getting pennies compared to the other two. At this point, my obvious respect for Theo Epstein is rivaled only by Rob's closeted adoration of HIMYM.

Image of Felix le roi courtesy of flickr user carmenicole

Whilst wading through the knee deep nostalgia of old commercials on YouTube this morning, I found myself torn between presenting one of the two videos. So I'm NOT GONNA choose. You're getting a double dose for your weekend. First up is Johnny Bench shilling for one of the grosser products I've ever seen. It's called Bubble Fudge and should have the tags "german" "scat" and "film." And his nephew is in it. Blech.



Our second commerical is a Spanish language one from the 80's for Kellogg's Corn Flakes. Now, I'm not 100% versed on Mexican culture so if someone could explain to me whether or not the Traditional Cereal Picnic is big down there I'd appreciate it. Here the table is set with a complete outdoor breakfast, the kids come running for some al fresco flakes when Fernando Valenzuela just manifests out of thin air and completely terrifies the little ninos. Look at their faces at 00:12. That's abject horror. Bueno!

Welcome to the second edition of "This Tweet in Baseball", where I scan the baseballtweetosphere for the silly and inane thoughts of people far more talented than I and then make fun of them because I am jealous of their wild success. Won't you join me in the gutter?

Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan, who has chats with God while lolling around in the outfield, likes to proselytize with his Tweets. What else would you expect from a dude whose handle is "cogz4Christ"? (the username "cogz4Donuts" was already taken). Chris and his buddy Jesus were up early this week to fight the good fight against the Dark Lord:



Aussie pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith has an extreme distaste for reality shows that objectify women and make them grovel for rich dudes and their money. The enlightened Ryan prefers more progressive and intellectually stimulating reality programming like "America's Next Top Feminist" and "Who Wants To Be a Suffragist?":



Juicehead gorilla Jose Canseco is getting back in the MMA business, people, but this time he'll be prepared. Dummy thinks he can beat recent MMA champion Herschel Walker, despite the fact that he got walloped by a seven-foot Chinese dude in his first fight, and then he got demolished by former Philadelphia Eagle Vai Sikahema in a boxing match. But hey, this time Jose steps into the Octagon, he'll at least be prepared to fold like a cheap suit:



John Baker recently flew back from a trip to Iraq, and boy, are his arms tired. Wait, John, that's not face wash either!!!!



Nats pitcher Mike Bacsik is recovering from the recent controversy over whether or not he grooved a pitch to Barry Bonds that resulted in a historic tater tot. No matter, Mike's just gonna sit down with his daughter, watch some Nickelodeon, and not give a hoot what you think about him enjoying tween programming:



My second favorite Pirate named McCutchen is a new player in the real estate game and doesn't realize that it's usually smart to keep your cards close to your chest. Dan, some advice for you: find this lady. Don't worry that she's Canadian. Use her, she's a vicious pit bull when it comes to real estate. You're welcome.



Either Jason Grilli hates the CBS sitcom "Big Bang Theory" as much as I do or he is besmirching centuries of scientific fact in favor of the fictional idea of creationism. I hope it's the former, Jason:



Some dame named Kate was watching Nick Swisher guest star on "How I Met Your Mother" in the same room as Nick Swisher. You're through the looking-glass, Kate! Anyway, she captured this grainy photo of the dopey Swisher reacting to seeing himself on the TV box. Thanks for the historical record of that moment:



And what would This Tweet in Baseball be without an appearance from everyone's favorite large, loquacious Lasorda, once again congratulating himself for being famous:



Yes, Tommy, it's always all about you.

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Members of the Yankees have been quite busy since winning the World Series last (sigh) November. But while Nick Swisher got to be on How I Met Your Mother, A.J. Burnett only got to meet the Harlem Globetrotters (above).

As you can see, the members of the Globetrotters are all shrugging their shoulders as if to say, "What? We're on a ten-thousand game winning streak here and the best we could get was A.J. Burnett? He had a postseason ERA of 5.27!" Or something like that.

Photo courtesy of the Harlem Globetrotters



Either Chicago White Sox pitcher Freddy Garcia showed up to SoxFest 2010 with a little flask full of social lubricant or he just does a spot-on impersonation of a typical Cubs fan when he's busy bashing 'em. See, because they like to drink. A lot. Heck, I haven't seen a baseball player this tipsy since the time Miguel Cabrera dove headfirst into a barrel full of Cachaça at MarlinsFest 2006.

(we owe a barrel full of Coke Zero and a pallet of double cheeseburgers to 'Duk)

The Walkoff Walk PNC Heist - Saturday, August 7th, 2010

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Like we weren't gonna pick the game that has both fireworks and GEORGE FRIGGIN THOROGOOD??? Yes kids, I can hardly believe it myself but for the second straight year we're gonna take over an entire section during a Pirates game. We're all gonna drink a bunch of Iron City and watch the Bucs take on the Rockies. Then postgame, George and the Destroyers (nee Delaware Destroyers) are gonna melt our faces off. To a fireworks display. For one epic night, you'll all be Clooney. Not just me.

And what's more, as part of the Walkoff Walk Summer Stimulus Plan tickets to this year's Heist are a mere $20. That's $10 less than last year. If you want IN email Rob (iracane@gmail.com) and tell him how many tickets you want. Everything went as smooth as Billy Dee Williams last year, and he'll make sure it does again this time around.

I mean, seriously. This has the potential to be more than a blog party. This could be a CROSSOVER CULTURAL MOMENT. You must be there.

(Rob here: the Pirates tell me that this is the second most demanded game of the year after Opening Day; let us know by this Friday if you are in so we can finalize the numbers. Thanks!)

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New York Yankees outfielder and brotard extraordinaire Nick Swisher made his sitcom debut last night playing...New York Yankees outfielder and brotard extraordinaire Nick Swisher. He made a cameo on the "hit" "comedy" "How I Met Your Mother" in which he gets in the way of Neil Patrick Harris' character's mission to bed seven broads in a week. Hm, I think they ripped off that plot from the Gil McDougald episode of "Make Room for Daddy".

Below, we present a highlight reel of Nick Swisher's fauxhawk and faux personality. But hey, if you want to watch something funny, though, I recommend hitting up MLB.com's video page and searching for the terms "Nick Swisher" and "baserunning oopsie" or "complete and total inability to catch a simple line drive".

Courtesy of Meech:


Oh, how drôle!

WARts and All

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twoheaded.jpgHold on to something solid, I'm going to blow your mind: Ryan Howard isn't good against left-handed pitching. His numbers are bad against the southpaws; it affects the way teams pitch the slugger and all Phillies around him. In our current Golden Age of life-enriching stats, this is a bad thing. The bounty of metrics can meter out exactly how much this lessens his value to the team, but what is lost in all this how great Ryan Howard still is.

This isn't unique to Howard. It seems to me the newfound appreciation of well-rounded players has an ugly side. Namely: players deficient in one particular area are overly denigrated and diminished by hypercritical fans.

Look, we all wish for a local nine staffed exclusively by five tool Chutelys and Beltrans, with Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria duking it out for ABs at the hot corner, but that simply isn't reality. There just aren't that many studs to go around. If anything, the tragic flaw of your garden-variety neighbourhood superstar makes for a more interesting experience. Take Howard, for instance. His line versus left-handed pitching is awful, as stated above. But consider two things:

  1. His violent treatment of right handed pitching.

  2. The overwhelming confidence associated with Ryan Howard facing right handed pitching.

A guy like Howard hits right handed pitching so hard and so well, when he steps in against a poor, unfortunate righty, Phillies fans can't help but assume something good will come of it. Bad at bats versus LOOGYs come and go, but The Fear lives forever. Just ask Jim Rice!

Don't think I've eschewed the statty way or was the recent victim of violent head trauma; evaluative stats are still key to my appreciation of the game, especially when taking a long look at a player's body of work come Hall of Fame time. Nor am I suggesting absolution for extremely limited players like Bengie Molina. I mere suggest (hope for) a separation of church and state. Evaluate players for their contributions without becoming dogmatic and unfeeling.

So let your Pandas swing freely and your Dunns take their ironclad gloves to the field. Jay Bruce forgot how to hit? You'll always have him unleashing frozen ropes from the right field corner. Concerned B.J. Upton fell asleep on second base? He's probably tracking fly balls that haven't yet been hit. The cold, deadness of winter may lend itself to analysis and big picture thinking, but the thoughts of slick double plays, opposite field home runs and headfirst slides into green-grassed outfields keep my heart warm as Spring Training approaches.