310ToJoba: March 2010 Archives

Welp, with only a few more days left in Spring Training (and nothing else to write about with the exception of ZOMG Tim Lincecum's finger!) I figure we can beat the dead equine one last time and make some minor improvements to otherwise ordinary Spring Training photos. Without further ado.

Apparently Matt Holliday is still upset about trying to catch that fly ball in the playoffs with his taint.

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This picture is almost too good to be true.

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Pablo Sandoval has a request.

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A new take on a classic.

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Lou Pinella is not happy.

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Did Johnny Damon have Chipotle before the game?

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He had to have learned it from someone...

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Originals courtesy of Daylife. Yours in the comments.

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As a nation waited on the edge of its seat, something finally happened. No, I'm not talking about the health care reform. I'm talking about Joe Mauer, silly. On the day when most people actually are awaiting the results of the health-care bill, another drawn-out, long-running story (this one from Major League Baseball) finally came to a close. Dude just got paid. Damn alliteration made it take longer for me to get this post out.

AL MVP Joe Mauer has agreed to an eight-year, $184 million contract extension to stay with the Minnesota Twins.

The deal announced Sunday covers the 2011-2018 seasons and includes a full no-trade clause. It's the culmination of a monthslong negotiation between the Twins and their hometown star.

It's hard, nay impossible to say Mauer doesn't deserve that money (8.0 WAR last season as a catcher), so don't even try. Good for baseball too since this means the rich (Yankees and Red Sox) won't be getting significantly richer anytime soon by acquiring Mauer's services in the free agent market. With Mauer, Morneau, and Denard Span under contract for the long term, the "small-market" Twins have a tremendous core and a nice new stadium to show it off in.

Update: Sorry, forgot this. My wholphin virginity is no more.

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I constantly perpetuate my image as a nerd who loves using stats to better look into the game I adore. But there is one set of statistics I simply cannot tolerate. A part of me dies every time someone refers to Spring Training numbers as if they actually meant something. Allow me to explain...

On Thursday evening, the Yankees and Rays engaged in a Spring Training game. Carlos Pena had one hit, wherein he festooned a ball over the fence in the Rays' losing effort. That hit was Carlos Pena's first hit of Spring Training. Going into play yesterday he was a grand 1-for-24 before adding a second hit and an RBI in another contest with the Yankees last night. Yeesh. No doubt there were Rays fans (five of the eight of them that actually exist, zing!) wringing their hands and breathing sighs of relief that Carlos Pena was finally out of his funk. If he gets off to a slow start, they'll probably gesticulate wildly at his preseason performance. Several Yankees fans were thinking the same thing aloud on Twitter with CC Sabathia's documented struggles. This is me unfollowing.

Look, you can take your Jason Heyward bombs and your Dominic Brown rocket arms and your Strasboners, I'll be waiting not-so-patiently for the games that actually matter. Why? Because to believe that someone like Carlos Pena would actually be an unproductive hitter based on his success facing opponents in Spring Training would be nothing short of absurd. We're talking about a guy who has never had a wRC+ below 100 in his career, and who boasts the highest FB rate in baseball the last three seasons. He's going to put the ball in the air, he's going to hit HR, and he's going to get on the other side of the karmic boomerang after posting an abysmal .250 BABIP last season (expected BABIP was .296). One of the lords of the three true outcomes knows no other way to exist, folks.

It's not that seeing Heyward hit balls into outer space isn't fun. Just the opposite. But I don't burn my fandom bridges for a player like CC just because of the month of March for the same reason I don't try to fellate a power drill.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Keith Allison. Righteous indignation courtesy of me!

As you're well aware, Spring Training is still here and in full swing. This is especially true if you're a Braves fan as Jason Heyward has now probably hit your vehicle with a ball regardless of where you are in the state relative to him. A veritable flood of photos are starting to hit the wires as teams countdown towards opening day. I've undertaken this endeavor before on my other site, but my longing for real baseball that actually means something still abounds so I figured it's time to do it again with you fine folks to help pass the time.

Mike Scioscia seems concerned.

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Should Tony LaRussa be worried too?

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Word on the street is Timmy got ahold of some good stuff this past weekend.

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The Phillies teach their players proper classroom etiquette.

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He's not that easy to get rid of, Hanley.

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Because it had to have been an inside job. Really inside.

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How to make it in the Royals organization, a story in two parts...

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Meanwhile...

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Original images courtesy of Daylife. Make them yourself.

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When we were last talking about baseball video games on this here site, the general tone of several worthwhile comments demonstrated malaise with a hint of ambivalence towards the current offerings available to folks who adore America's pastime. A few weeks ago, I couldn't have agreed more. The last baseball video game I bought was MLB 2K7, due to the wholly underwhelming reviews that dominated the subsequent releases in the 2K franchise and the fact that I didn't own a PS3, and thus, couldn't play The Show. After jettisoning my 360 onto a willing friend, I found myself owning a PS3 and wanting to get back into the baseball video game market. Of course, I gravitated towards the series that I had never played before, and bought the game featured in the title of this post. I have not been disappointed in my brief experiences over the course of four days. This game is nothing short of amazing.

Others have spoken about the ridiculous graphics that this game offers, so I won't try to elaborate on their musings, save to remark that they are absolutely right; the game, from the menus to the actual gameplay itself, is visually impeccable. If you need further confirmation, just got check out some of the videos of gameplay on Youtube. Rather, I'd like to deal with what I feel really, truly sets this game apart.

Immersion Is Your Friend (But Also A Very Cruel Mistress)

To put it plainly: this game is hard, folks, and that's what makes it awesome. Based on a very limited first impression, I'm fairly certain you can toss out the undefeated-with-a-guy-who-hits-95-HR-season that you often get in other video games. This game has no qualms about treating you like an unruly spouse at times, but if you can get past the frustration, you'll find the successes in the game that much more rewarding. Huh, that's almost strangely like real-life baseball! Spooky.

This is the game's strong point: it's unbridled ability to have you, the player, wholly invested in what's going on in the virtual game via a remarkable attention to detail that can be traced all the way back to the game's development. The pitching meter, pictured below via my hilariously inadequate attempt to attain a screengrab by taking a snapshot of the TV with my cellphone, is no small potatoes. Like a real pitcher's delivery, it is incredibly sensitive to timing. Miss the ideal yellow sliver (not pictured, but trust me, it's tiny, check out the videos above) and you'll miss your target. Sometimes you'll get away with this, other times you'll throw a ball... or your opponent will punish your mistake without remorse. The emphasis on timing is equally true for hitting, although the game does constantly offer feedback on your swings to tell you what you're doing wrong. I was flat out terrible at hitting in my first few games. What'd I do? I went to take BP off virtual Roy Halladay until I got better, of course. "Art" mimicking life? Just a tad.

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Mastering the pitching meter doesn't guarantee success. No sir. Not when the umpires decide to constrict the strike zone, which they seem to do with reckless abandon. Why the virtual umps feel the need to be such cruel mistresses is like my right hand on a Friday night, it beats the fuck out of me. But you will know what it's like to be a major league pitcher getting squeezed by an umpire. Guess what! It's totally frustrating! And damnit all if the game is making me care! I've leaped out of my chair slinging profanities at an AI ump that doesn't even know who I am... and that's when I realized that this game has accomplished something, and it's done so in a fun, challenging way. Well played, Sony.

Update! My Photoshop started functioning properly again. Thus, I was able to add the Walkoff Walk Seal (and some other friends) so you know it's official!

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Park factors. We all have a general idea of what they are and why they're important. For Padres' fans it explains why their team sees almost no offensive production via the long ball. For Mariners' fans it's an occasion to celebrate the acquisition of Cliff Lee and his minuscule HR/FB ratio. For Mets fans, always looking to blame something, it's the reason why David Wright only hit 10 HRs. But for a lot of people, this is where the analysis stops, and park factors simply become this weird, intangible force that exists without a greater understanding. Worst of all, they can be used as a quick and dirty way to write off legitimate performance on the part of some players: "Oh, Ryan Howard only hits a lot of taters because he gets to play in that bandbox in Philly." False.

As the baseball world embraces more advanced measures of ability, statements like these should raise a few more eyebrows than in years past. Yes, Citizens' Bank Park is tiny, and yes, it does undoubtedly allow a few more HR because of this fact, but to denigrate performance simply based on this general set of circumstances is more of a jumping to a conclusion than an actual substantive claim. Well, fear not, because the advent of hit tracking may be taking a lot of the uncertainty out of statements like these. And we're all going to be better off for it. Come with me after the jump to see a great example.