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."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Carlos Santana Extension

April has been a good month for commitment in Cleveland, as Carlos Santana has joined Asdrubal Cabrera in signing an extension with the Indians, guaranteeing him at least $21 million. Who else wants to be a part of the fun? Jason Kipnis, I'm looking at you. Come on in, the water's fine!

Free Speech, Hypocrisy, and the Cost of Unawareness

New Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen stepped on a serious public relations landmine over the weekend when he was quoted in Time Magazine, saying "I love Fidel Castro," later adding, "I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that son of a bitch is still here." The large Cuban-American population (along with many others) in Miami has not taken kindly to those words, with many calling for Guillen's job. Major League Baseball announced they would investigate the issue, and today, the Marlins announced they are suspending Guillen for five games.

Are Guillen's First Amendment rights being violated? Does MLB have any business getting involved? Does Guillen give any thought to how his words will be viewed when they reach the public? All good questions.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Week That Was: Opening Day to April 8th

Well, it wasn't a full week of action, with only three games, but we're counting these things in the standings now, so let's get down to brass tacks with last week's action.

I already covered the Opening Day debacle, when a three-run Indians 9th inning lead was vaporized before the game went 16 innings (an Opening Day record) and the Tribe was finally put out of its misery. That game ended with me calling for the head of Chris Perez, who I'm not sure is fit for important innings right now. The always fantastic Jonah Keri wrote a really strong piece on Friday for Grantland, discussing how the save --"baseball's most dangerous stat"-- is causing teams to mismanage their assets. It is well worth reading and I wish Cleveland would be the organization that says "to hell with the save."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Opening Day

It was a cool but clear day at Progressive Field, close to ideal conditions for the start of another season. The Indians got off to a great start, taking a 4-0 lead over Toronto in the 2nd inning, largely on the strength of a three-run home run by Jack Hannahan. The Cleveland bats went cold after that inning, failing to collect even a single hit again until the 8th, but starter Justin Masterson did more than enough to make it stand up.

Masterson was an absolute ace on the mound, striking out the side in the 1st inning on his way to 10 Ks for the day (his highest total since 2009), giving up just two hits and one walk along the way. A 4th inning home run to demigod Jose Bautista was the only real blemish on his slate and the Tribe was still up 4-1 when Masterson gave way to closer Chris Perez for the 9th.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Asdrubal Cabrera Extension

The Indians have signed shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to a two year, $16.5M extension, covering 2013 and 2014, buying out Cabrera's final year of arbitration and one year of free agency. Cabrera, already signed at $4.55M for 2012, will now make $6.5M in 2013 and $10M in 2014. There are those scoffing at the extension, pointing out that Cabrera is highly unlikely to repeat the 25 home runs he hit last season. I agree that he will almost certainly fall short of that total, perhaps hitting less than half that many, but I disagree with the notion that failing to hit as many home runs means will necessarily make him much less valuable.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 Predictions

Nothing is more fun than making a bunch of predictions so that you can prove to everyone what a smartypants you are when the season ends (or so that others can look back on what a fool you were, whichever the case may be). Trying to guess at what will happen in the playoffs is an even greater fool's errand, because the best team only wins the World Series what, maybe 25% of the time? The risk of being found a fool is not deterrent to me though, so here comes my take on the 2012 MLB season!