Monday, December 31, 2012

Torii Hunter's Sad, Bigoted View

The Detroit Tigers' new right fielder recently told Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times (for an article published Sunday) that an openly gay teammate would be divisive in the locker room. "For me, as a Christian... I will be uncomfortable because in all my teachings and all my learning, biblically, it's not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable." I do not doubt that when (not if, because the day will come, sooner or later), for the first time, an active professional athlete in America comes out publicly, it will be divisive, but Hunter (and others who would side with him) should be taken to task for being on the wrong side of that divide.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Star Wars: What Happens Next?

Last Wednesday I got a text from my girlfriend, which is how I learned Disney has paid $4 billion for Lucasfilm and would begin production on Star Wars: Episode VII with the intention of releasing it in 2015, followed by sequels in 2017 and 2019. My reply text was a combination of shocked excitement and confused nonsense. I spent the rest of the day thinking about it, without ever quite figuring out quite how I felt. I'm still not sure, but I've at least had time to organize my thoughts into (semi) coherence. In Part I I wrote about the place the Star Wars galaxy has held in my life. Now I try to examine what the Disney deal means to me.

Star Wars: My Life Far, Far Away

Last Wednesday I learned about Disney's deal to buy LucasFilm from George Lucas for $4 billion and their announcement of a new trilogy to begin production soon, sending a new Star Wars movie into theaters in 2015. It was huge news for anyone (like me) who has loved the Star Wars galaxy for years. First, I want to share a bit about how Star Wars has fit into my life, ever since before I can even remember. These stories are probably similar to those of many others my age. In Part II I'll try to sort out and make sense of my reactions to the Disney news.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

World Series Game 4: The End

Tonight, for the first time in this World Series, we got some action throughout the game and drama at the end, an extra inning's worth, even. Each league's probable MVP hit a home run, while another star continued to have one of the worst World Series I can remember. San Francisco struck first, as they have all series, but Detroit managed to fight back and take the lead for the first time all series. Of course, they didn't keep it. And with the Giants winning 4-3 in the 10th though, there's now no baseball for months... So many months... Too many months... I guess I'll have plenty of time to brood about that later, for now let's just look back at Game 4 and the 2012 World Series.

World Series Game 3: Futile Resistance

Not all World Series are created equal. In 2011 we were treated to close games, including an all-time classic in Game 6, while the 2012 edition is ready to go down as a clunker. San Francisco's 2-0 win last night leaves them one win away from a sweep, great news for Giants fans, but not so exciting for the rest of us. In the 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox proved that a team CAN come back from down three games to none, but that's the lone example in baseball history. In fact, of the twenty three World Series that have begun 3-0, twenty ended in a sweep and none went farther than a fifth game. The Giants are on the verge of their second championship in three years, and the Tigers don't seem interested in doing much about it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

World Series Game 2: Running to Defeat

I know from dozens of trips to ball games, and from watching on TV with countless people over the years, that the vast majority of baseball viewers want to see a whole lot of scoring. Home runs are preferable, but in their absence, ground rule doubles, bloop singles, or horrific defense will all suffice. Whatever gets someone across home plate. I have a confession... I prefer pitching duels. That isn't to say I don't enjoy a good slug fest, but the games that make me happiest are the ones when both starting pitchers it going and the late innings approach with a sense that the first side to break will be going home empty-handed.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

World Series Game 1: When Pandas Attack

Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols, two of the greatest players in history, each of them hit three home runs in a single World Series game (Ruth did it twice, in fact). Most famously, Reggie Jackson did it too. He got his nickname on account of that accomplishment. Pablo Sandoval got his nickname from a cartoon panda bear. But last night, in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, Sandoval became the fourth member of this exclusive club. It's been said before and it will be said again: You can't predict baseball.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Alex Rodriguez in the Playoffs

I did not expect to find myself in the position of standing up for one of my least favorite players, but that's what it's come to. I'm basking in the glow of the Yankees being swept in a best-of-seven series for the first time since I was born, but the amount of blame being sent Rodriguez' way is far out of proportion and the way his entire career has been downgraded by some in the last few days is ridiculous. Rodriguez is one of the twenty or so best players in MLB history and during his time with the Yankees he's been the best player in the American League. He's had some bad postseason series, but so has just about everyone who's played in more than a handful of them.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Oh, How I Hate the New York Yankees

Born in 1980, I never really had any reason to care about the Yankees as a kid. Of course I knew many of their players, Ron Guidry, Willie Randolph, Dave Righetti, and Dave Winfield were all familiar names to me, but little more than the Blue Jays, Rangers, or Royals I pulled from packs of Topps trading cards back then. When I began high school in 1994, I'd never seen the Yankees in the playoffs. On my 15th birthday my sister's boyfriend gave me a Yankees hat, saying "I figure either you'll love it or hate it." But I honestly had no real reaction at all. A few days later I quietly exchanged it at a local sporting goods store for a new Indians hat, because mine was getting worn out.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Playoff Predictions

It's a fool's errand to try and predict the baseball playoffs, because anything can and will happen during a short series. And hell, before we even get to any short series, there will be two do or die Wildcard Games this evening. You might as well flip a coin at that point. I'd like to think I'm smarter than a nickel though, and I'm nothing if not a fool, so I figure I might as well try my hand at guessing what happens over the next four weeks. I will totally gloat if I'm right about anything, because it will prove just how smart I am, and when I'm not about things, we'll just pretend this never happened.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A New Home: Let's Go Tribe

Last week I applied for a spot at Let's Go Tribe, the biggest and best Indians blog on the internet. I am happy to report that I've been added to the team there and can now expect thousands of Indians fans to read what I have to say (it's true, there are thousands of Indians fans out there. The internet can reach really far, like across oceans and everything). It was only six months ago that I started this blog. I missed having a community of baseball fans I could shoot the breeze with. Many of my friends are baseball fans, but not the way I am. Besides, grown up lives seem to allow less and less time for hanging out and shooting the breeze with friends.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Melky Cabrera: Math is Dead

Earlier this season the San Franciso Giants' Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games after failing a test for an illegal performance enhancing drug (PED), specifically for artificially inflated testosterone levels. The suspension meant he would miss the rest of the 2012 regular season, along with the next five games, either in the playoffs or at the start of next season. Cabrera was having a great season. Most notably, he was carrying a .346 batting average, good for second in the National League at the time. There was clearly a good chance that Andrew McCutchen's, who was ahead of Cabrera, would fall off and Cabrera would finish with the highest average in the league, a distinction which has long been considered the "batting title," making its holder the "batting champion."

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Poor, Poor Pirates

I became a baseball fan in the late 1980s and so fairly early on in my experience with the game, I saw some very good Pittsburgh Pirate teams. In 1990, 1991, and 1992 they won the National League East division crown and played for the right to advance to the World Series. When you're a kid, it doesn't take much to get you to temporarily jump on a bandwagon (or to decide you hate a team with every fiber of your being... Hello, Yankees!) and in the early 90s while I certainly didn't consider myself a fan, I was certainly Pro-Pirates.

I vividly remember watching Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS (my mom thought I was already asleep but I'd turned the TV on and was watching with the volume turned down), Pittsburgh took a lead into the 9th inning, only to blow the lead and lost the game on Francisco Cabrera's single to left field that scored Sid Bream. Following that season, Pittsburgh let Barry Bonds, who'd won two of the last three N.L. MVP awards, leave as a free agent. Things would not be the same.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Thome: a Home Run, Strikeout, and Walk in the Same Game

Earlier this season I made note of the fact that Jim Thome had become the all-time three true outcomes (TTO) king, as he amassed the highest combined career total of home runs, walks, and strikeouts (which are the three true outcomes, the three results of any plate appearance that require no one but the pitch and hitter). It's fun to look at career totals, but I like counting individual games too, so I'm going to look at instances in which a player collected all the TTO in a single game. As with many of my statistical scavenger hunts, this one owes a tip of the hat to Baseball-Reference and its Play Index.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Here We Go Again

On August 8th the Indians defeated Minnesota in the last game of a series, breaking an 11-game losing streak, the second longest in franchise history. They then split a 4-game series with Boston and won the opener against Anaheim, giving them four wins in a six-game stretch. On August 14th, they lost to the Angels, then they lost again on the 15th, and again... You get the idea. As of this moment, the Indians have lost nine games in a row, just two and a half weeks after they ended that 11-game skid. You can do the math and see they're one loss away from a second 10-game losing streak in the same season. Maybe they'll beat the Yankees tonight, bad teams beat good teams in baseball all the time, but if not, just what kind of company will they be joining?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Houston, You Have a Problem (Worst 50-Game Stretches in Baseball)

Yes, that was just about the most obvious headline in history. There simply weren't any other quotes from "Apollo 13" that worked well, and when I woke up this morning, I swore I'd work a quote from a mid-90s Tom Hanks movie into a headline. I thought it might be something from "That Thing You Do," but that's not how things shook out.

The Houston Astros are bad this year, really bad. Entering today, they're 39-86, which is easily the worst record in baseball, and puts them on pace for a 51-111 season. The last team to do that poorly was the 2004 Diamondbacks. Houston has just gotten worse as the year has gone, especially after trading away what little they had to offer other teams at the deadline. Over their last 50 games, the Astros' record stands at 7-43.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Quarter Pole: National League

The season is now 75% of the way over. It seems like a good time to look around and see how things are shaping up for the final 40 games or so. Who's likely to win each division? Who's likely to win the wildcard spots in each league? What might happen once the playoffs arrive? Which players could be headed to an MVP or Cy Young award? All good questions. I don't just want to focus on the good though, I'm interested in the worst teams and players too! So, get caught up on what you may have missed and laugh at me as I try to guess what happens the rest of the way! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Quarter Pole: American League

The season is now 75% of the way over. It seems like a good time to look around and see how things are shaping up for the final 40 games or so. Who's likely to win each division? Who's likely to win the wildcard spots in each league? What might happen once the playoffs arrive? Which players could be headed to an MVP or Cy Young award? All good questions. I don't just want to focus on the good though, I'm interested in the worst teams and players too! So, get caught up on what you may have missed and laugh at me as I try to guess what happens the rest of the way!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Brothers in Baseball

Recently, brothers B.J. and Justin Upton each hit their 100th career home run on the very same night, just an hour apart, which is a pretty cool feat. That made them just the sixth pair of brothers in baseball history with 100+ home runs apiece. Their accomplishment got me thinking about other baseball siblings and wondering where the Uptons might rank among all the brothers who've ever played. I've created just such a list, one man's opinion of the very best siblings in baseball history.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Indians are Going Streaking! (UPDATED)

On July 26th the Indians played the Tigers. Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in baseball, was on the mound for Detroit. Cleveland was down by two going into the bottom of the 7th; Verlander was cruising, he'd given up just 3 hits all night and looked well on his way to another complete game. But Carlos Santana hit the first pitch of the inning into the rightfield seats and Travis Hafner hit the second pitch of the inning into the centerfield seats, suddenly the game was tied. Three more hits led to two more runs, putting the Indians ahead, and they held on from there for a 5-3 win. The victory pushed their record to 50-49, a hair above .500, and left them 3.5 games out of first place in the American League Central. I certainly didn't consider them likely to win the division, but they were in the picture.

Monday, July 23, 2012

From Seattle to New York to Cooperstown?

Late this afternoon, it was announced that the Seattle Mariners have traded away the face of their franchise to the New York Yankees for what amounts to filler; basically, they gave him away. According to Ichiro's statement during the press conference that ended a few minutes ago, after determining that Seattle was no longer a good fit for him, he quietly requested to be traded a few weeks ago. The Mariners would have been in a tough position this off-season; Ichiro will be a free agent, there would have been strong sentiment to re-sign one of the greatest players in franchise history, but his production the during the last year and a half does not really warrant much of a commitment from any team. That scenario is now avoided, Seattle's front office is spared that difficult decision his departure can be spun as allowing him to play for a contender during the twilight of his career.

Friday, July 20, 2012

An Inner Circle for the Hall of Fame

Graham Womack, an internet friend of mine, is a baseball historian and runs a great blog. In June he created a ballot listing every player enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame and invited anyone who wanted to vote for the 50 players they believe were the very best of the bunch and belonged in an "Inner Circle" of the Hall of Fame. I enjoyed choosing my list of 50 players and eagerly anticipated seeing the final results.

The day balloting closed, a few weeks later, I received a message from Graham, inviting me to contribute to the project by writing 200 words or so about one of the "inductees," Negro League legend Josh Gibson. Graham's previous collaborative project included many writers I greatly admire and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of this effort.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Players of the First-Half: National League

With what feels like a never-ending wait for baseball to resume after the All-Star break, I thought I'd make my picks for the best position players in each league so far. I believe in separating a player's performance from that of his team, I don't think we should hold mediocre teammates against great players, which means not only do I largely ignore the standings when making my choices, I also try to avoid statistics that are largely dependent on teammates, such as RBI. I like more modern statistics like WAR and WARP, but also don't believe any one number can perfectly rate a player, it's best to cast a wide net and then sort through what you find. Here are my National League selections

Players of the First-Half: American League

With what feels like a never-ending wait for baseball to resume after the All-Star break, I thought I'd make my picks for the best position players in each league so far. I believe in separating a player's performance from that of his team, I don't think we should hold mediocre teammates against great players, which means not only do I largely ignore the standings when making my choices, I also try to avoid statistics that are largely dependent on teammates, such as RBI. I like more modern statistics like WAR and WARP, but also don't believe any one number can perfectly rate a player, it's best to cast a wide net and then sort through what you find. Here are my American League selections

Old Man Finds New Power

A.J. Pierzynski hasn't been much of a power hitter over his career, topping out at 18 home runs in his best season and averaging more like 10 for the last three years or so. At the All-Star break though, he's already sitting on 16 home runs, putting him on pace for 31. Pierzynski is 35 years old, not an age at which players are usually finding previously untapped power, so Pierzynski could join some pretty select (if also somewhat random) company if he keeps it up, or even maintains half his current pace the rest of the way. Who are the oldest players to hit 30+ HR for the first time? I wondered about that, so I settled in to research an answer.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Jim Thome, Three True Outcomes King

Last night Jim Thome, recently acquired by Baltimore, made history, breaking a record previously held by Barry Bonds. Before that this record belonged to Reggie Jackson, and before that, to Babe Ruth. That is impressive company for any man to keep, yet no one seems to have noticed this momentous occasion. Perhaps that's because it happened after most of the country was in bed, or perhaps (and more likely) it's because no one but me was paying any attention to this particular bit of baseball history. But whether anyone but me knew it or not, Jim Thome became baseball's all-time "three true outcomes" leader.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cliff Lee and a Mountain of Fool's Gold

Ten years ago today, the Indians traded All-Star pitcher Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos (I miss those guys) for Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore (Lee Stevens was also involved in the deal, but mostly to offset some of Colon's salary), each of whom was among Montreal's top prospects. The trade was a disaster for the Expos. They were vaguely in contention at the time (9 games out from the wildcard, so very vaguely), but while Colon pitched well for them for the next three months, it was nowhere near enough to push them into the playoffs. Meanwhile, Lee eventually became one of the best pitchers in baseball, Phillips became one of the best 2B in baseball, and Sizemore was one of the best players in baseball for four years, until injuries took a massive toll on him.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Midwest League All-Star Game

Tuesday evening the Midwest League All-Star Game took place out in whatever distant suburb the Kane County Cougars play in (don't blame me for not knowing which one, once you're outside of Cook County, it's all downstate as far as I'm concerned, even if it's a northern suburb). None of my friends were able to make the trip with me, but I'll be damned if I was going to miss the chance to see the Indians' top prospect, 18-year-old shortstop Francisco Lindor in action, so I made the 40 mile drive out to the country on my own, to see what I could see.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Adam Dunn, Triple Crown Winner???

Adam Dunn had one of the worst seasons in baseball history in 2011, this year he's bounced back in a big way and is currently leading the American League in home runs. He's also on top in walks and strikeouts. Those three categories are together known as the "three true outcomes," they're the possible results of a plate appearance that don't involve any of the other players on the field (well, I guess the catcher is still involved, but you get the idea). Just how often does one player lead the league in all three of those categories?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Matt Cain, Man Amongst Giants

Last night San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain pitched the 22nd perfect game in Major League history, laying waste to the Houston Astros at AT&T Park. Cain recorded 14 strikeouts, tying Sandy Koufax's 1965 gem for the most Ks in a perfect game. The Giants put up 10 runs last night, easily breaking the previous record of 6 runs in a perfect game (done by the Phillies in Jim Bunning's 1964 perfecto and by the Yankees during David Cone's 1999 game). Cain was in on the offense too, becoming the first pitcher since Dennis Martinez in 1991 to get a hit in his perfect game and the first pitcher ever to score a run in his perfect game!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jorge Soler, Cuban Capitalist

Yesterday afternoon, after much speculation over the last few months, Cuban outfielder and highly sought prospect Jorge Soler signed a deal with the Chicago Cubs. The contract specifics have not been officially announced, but reports have it at $30 million over nine years. Nine years is a major commitment in professional baseball, something few players ever receive, but Soler is viewed as a potential All-Star and $30 million is a lot less than it usually takes to acquire such talent in the free agent market. That said, $30 million is also a lot more than it usually takes to acquire a 20-year-old prospect, no matter his talent.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mike Trout, Check Him Out

Bryce Harper is only 19 years old, making what he's accomplishing this season very impressive. After all, not many players make it to the big leagues in their teen years. You don't have to go back very far to find the last teenage Major League player though, because the Angels' Mike Trout did it last year. Trout is 20 now, which by my quick calculations means he is a full decade older than Harper. Maybe that's why no one is talking much about Trout, he's just another twenty-something baseball player and there are hundreds and hundreds of those around the big leagues. He's put together a great season so far though, even better than Harper.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

400 HR With One Team

White Sox 1B Paul Konerko has been on fire the last few weeks, having one of the best stretches of his entire career. He's made himself a viable American League MVP candidate. Sunday afternoon, Konerko connected on the 407th home run of his career, tying him with Duke Snider for 47th on the all-time list. More notably, the home run was also the 400th of Konerko’s career as a member of the White Sox (it is often forgotten that Konerko actually played briefly for both the Dodgers and Reds before joining the White Sox). Hitting 400 home runs with one franchise is a rare feat; Konerko became just the 24 player in history to accomplish it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Great Johnny Damon Experiment

In April, with the offense struggling, the Indians signed Johnny Damon to see if he could help. Damon was sitting at 2,723 career hits, looking to continue his quest to reach 3,000. Damon's fame has tended to somewhat outweigh his performance (largely because of his long hair and shaggy beard, he was a popular member of the 2004 Red Sox team that won Boston's first World Series since 1918) and I don't cotton to the notion of "Johnny Damon, Hall of Famer." That said, Damon has been a very solid player over his career, and consistent, certainly worthy of the "Hall of Very Good." In 2011 Damon was an above average hitter for Tampa, and the signing carried very little financial risk for the Indians, as only $1.07M was guaranteed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Cleveland Faithful Have Their Say

The other night I shared my thoughts on what Chris Perez said over the weekend about being booed by the hometown fans and about the attendance woes in Cleveland over the last couple years. Perez had already taken some grief for comments that were somewhat critical of fans and I expected he would take some more.

This evening the Indians hosted the opener of a three-game series against their biggest rivals, the Detroit Tigers. The Tribe fell behind early, but came back to tie the game and then take the lead. They were up 5-3 heading into the 9th, meaning Perez would enter the game and get his first taste of what his comments had wrought. The bullpen door opened, Perez stepped through it...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chris Perez Goes Off-Script

Saturday, Indians closer Chris Perez expressed frustration at being booed by Cleveland fans during a scoreless outing Thursday night. “Good fans are supposed to help you try to get through the inning,” Perez said. He was also critical of low fan turnout
this season, despite the Indians being in 1st place (the Indians entered the weekend averaging just 15,518 per home game, worst in the majors) and stated his belief that paltry attendance makes it more difficult for the team to add quality free agents, citing Carlos Beltran’s decision to sign with St. Louis as an example, “Nobody wants to play in front of 5,000 fans… You had a choice of playing in St. Louis where you get 40,000, or you can come to Cleveland.” Sunday morning, Perez arranged to speak with the media; many expected him to back off his earlier comments, instead Perez doubled down.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Your 1st Place Cleveland Indians

The season is now ~20% of the way over. We're still in the SSS (small sample size) portion of the season, meaning we shouldn't read too much into any of what's happened so far (Josh Hamilton, on pace for 75 HR and 194 RBI, won't actually reach those totals. Or will he??? ...No, he won't). 20% is enough to start looking at early season trends though. In that spirit, I tried to figure out how it is that the Indians find themselves in 1st place in the A.L. Central. I don't expect it to last (they were 30-15 at one point last year, with a big lead in the division, and wound up finishing 15 games behind the Tigers. There is a LOT of baseball left), but I wanted to see how they've done it so far.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chris Perez: Not So Bad (knock wood)

UPDATE: In his first appearance after I wrote this, Tuesday night Perez came into a tied game and gave quickly up 2 runs, sending the Indians to a loss. Classic jinx on my part.

Indians closer Chris Perez had a terrible outing on Opening Day, he gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks, blowing a lead and losing the game. It was a nightmarish way to begin the season, and even as I knew not to put too much emphasis on any one game (a mistake Opening Day lends itself to), I really felt Perez no longer had any place near an important game. Over the last year, his strikeout rate had crashed, while his flyball and line drive rates were noticeably up. I wanted him removed from his role as closer, until the time when (if) he could establish that he'd regained some of the control and velocity he'd lost during the previous year.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fewest Career Games to a Maddux

Friday night, for the second consecutive day, a Major League pitcher threw a Maddux. Perhaps we are at the dawn of a golden era for the Maddux. It could be that word has gotten out, and now pitchers are trying their damnedest to pull one off and gain membership in the elite club. That's the reach of this blog, the entire game is being changed by it as we speak (or not... probably not... certainly not)! Thursday night it was Philadelphia's Joe Blanton, who used just 88 pitches to mow down the Braves. Last night, it was Toronto's Henderson Alvarez, he shut down the Angels on 97 pitches, one night after his teammate, Brandon Morrow just missed a Maddux of his own with a 102 pitch shutout.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Two Madduxes in One Day

Thursday afternoon in Atlanta, the Phillies' Joe Blanton took advantage of the Braves' apparent hurry to catch their flight, and put them away on just 88 pitches, giving him the second Maddux of 2012. Hat tip to Joe Blanton! Over the last ten years, this is only the 11th Maddux on fewer than 90 pitches. Hours later, in Anaheim, during the last game of the night, the Blue Jays' Brandon Morrow was sitting at just 85 pitches as he headed out for the 9th inning. He had an excellent chance at throwing the second Maddux of the day! Alas, an 8-pitch battle against Erick Aybar all but ended that chance. Morrow wound up using 102 pitches to finish off his shutout. Close, but no cigar.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A.L. Central Players of the Month

Over at Southside Showdown, I took a look at the best (and worst) players in the A.L. Central for the month of April. I intend to do the same thing over here, but for the entire league, sort of a player power poll, the equivalent to a running MVP ballot.

Sadly, as I was finishing the article up, my pick for the worst player of April was starting his May off with his first home run of the season, kicking off what I would consider the worst inning of the Indians season so far. I guess he heard me.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Teenage Mutant Baseball Players

Bryce Harper has been a big mark on the baseball radar since 2009, when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. Later that year, Harper completed his GED a few weeks after his 17th birthday so that he could become eligible for professional baseball at a younger age than other American prospects. He enrolled at a junior college, where he broke the school's home run record and was named the conference player of the year. Harper was the 1st pick of the 2010 MLB Draft, taken by the Washington Nationals. He hit well in the Arizona Fall League that year, then did the same during the 2011 season, first in Class-A ball and then in AA. Many wanted him to start 2012 with the big league team, but not surprisingly he returned to the minors, this time to AAA. He hadn't hit much so far there this season, but today the Nationals announced Harper is being called up in time for tomorrow's game against the Dodgers, in Los Angeles.

Thanks, Craig!

Calcaterra, sporting the best cap in baseball
The article I wrote for Southside Showdown was linked to this morning by NBC Hardball Talk's Craig Calcaterra, who runs one of my absolute favorite blogs on the net. The main reason I started writing again this spring was to try and connect with other baseball lovers, so it's exciting for me to have someone who's writing I think so highly of reading and enjoying my work. Jonah Keri read my Maddux piece, so now I just need to find my way in front of Joe Posnanski's eyes, and I'll have hit my baseball writer Triple Crown.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

After Perfection

Philip Humber takes the mound tonight for the first time since becoming the 21st pitcher in history to throw a perfect game. What will he do for an encore? Heck, I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me if he closes with "Born to Run," the crowd always loves that.

Here's my new article at Southside Showdown, examining how the guys before him did in their next start. Spoiler alert: the results aren't pretty.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A New Opportunity

I was recently invited to contribute a couple articles a week at Southside Showdown, a Chicago White Sox blog on the FanSided sports network. The people in charge over there understand I am not a White Sox fan, that I in fact root for one of their bigger rivals, but this was not seen as a problem. The idea is that as an "outsider" there, I will have unique views on some of what happens with the team. I will also be something of an A.L. Central beat writer, covering happenings throughout the division.

My only condition for accepting the kind offer, was that under no circumstances am I to be put in a position of having to support Hawk Harrelson in any way, be it directly or implied. That man is an abomination to the broadcast booth, and a menace to our fair nation.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Matt Kemp is Pretty... Pretty... Pretty Good

The Dodgers' Matt Kemp is off to a pretty incredible start. Through 15 games Kemp has already gotten 27 hits, including a Dodger record 9 home runs. He has scored 17 runs and driven in 22 more. Kemp is batting .474, his on-base percentage is .523, and his slugging percentage is 1.018. I think Matt Kemp was the best player in all of baseball in 2011 (though Ryan Braun took home the NL MVP award), he seems intent on leaving no doubt about the matter in 2012.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

So THAT Happened

Earlier this week I wrote about the "Maddux," a random baseball statistic I sort of made up years ago, and which I love to keep track of. Cliff Lee and Matt Cain had both come close to throwing one Wednesday night, and I said at the end of my post that I expected it to be someone fairly random, and that the beauty of the thing is that you could never really know when it might happen. Well, this afternoon, the White Sox' Philip Humber pitched the first "Maddux" of the season, but for some reason no one seems to have noticed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Maddux

Greg Maddux is my favorite player ever. I tended to gravitate toward position players as a child, but over time that changed. As I was more and more drawn to pitchers, I was especially drawn to those who succeeded without throwing harder than everyone else. I know the strikeout is the "best" out, but I liked pitchers who got grounders and weak pop flies, or struck guys out by painting the corners. I imagine this is because in my own limited playing career, I was a pretty solid pitcher, despite never throwing hard. By the mid 90s, I was in love with Greg Maddux. One morning the week I graduated from high school in 1998, while eating breakfast at the kitchen table, I noticed in the box scores that Maddux had thrown a shutout while throwing fewer only 99 pitches. I soon began to keep an eye out for similar games, and to think of such a performance as a "Maddux."

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Week That Was: April 9th to 15th

Monday's game started with White Sox CF Alejandro De Aza homering, followed by AJ Pierzynski hitting one out, three batters later. Indians starter Josh Tomlin settled down after that, and pitched reasonably well, striking out seven while walking only one, but the high pitch count from that 1st inning meant his day was over after only five innings. The bats couldn't get anything going, and that early 3-0 deficit proved to be too much. A 9th inning HR by Jose Lopez was the Tribe's only extra-base hit of the game, and the White Sox took the series opener, 4-2.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Beanball Wars

During Spring Training, Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez threw at former teammate Troy Tulowitzki, a move Colorado manager Jim Tracy called "the most gutless act I have seen in 35 years of professional baseball." I think that's a bit strong, and probably hypocritical, as unless Tracy is fairly unique in managerial history, he's almost certainly ordered one of his pitchers to hit someone at some point. Like Tracy though, I didn't like what Jimenez did, and I thought the five-game suspension he received as a result was entirely justified. I also knew it wouldn't be the last time the Indians were involved in that sort of thing, because players being purposely hit with pitches is a long-standing baseball "tradition."