After the debacle of 2013, we have our meme for 2014: Redemption. Weaver demands it. Hamilton needs it desperately. Pujols is waiting to be crowned anew with it. Scioscia must feel entitled to it. Dipoto is praying for it. We are The Los Angeles Angels of Redemption.
- Pujols & Hamilton: Three days ago MLB.com ran an Alden Gonzalez article focusing in Weaver and the pitching staff "bent on redemption". Satisfied with the theme, Alden comes firing back with a focus on Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton and their shared road to...wait for it...redemption. (One week into ST and we are already out of ideas?) "Josh Hamilton shut it down for a month, and Albert Pujols swung a bat earlier than ever. Hamilton added 28 pounds to provide more power, and Pujols shed seven and expects to be quicker. Hamilton takes solace in talking about his current challenge, and Pujols scoffs at the notion there even is one." But it does raise an interesting discussion question: which of these two players makes it further back in 2014?
- Mike Trout Amazement: BBR tweets a stunning observation about Trout and his ability to get on base thus far in his career. Just stunning. It's what makes a Mike Trout at-bat Must-See-TV. Dude gets on base A LOT.
- Velociraptor Update: Back in June of 2012, I made the observation that Trout was an intelligent alpha predator, who was learning from at-bat to at-bat as he went deeper into the game against the same pitcher. Mike becomes phenomenally more effective as he sees more pitches. Well, that was back in 2012. Finishing 2012 and now including all of 2013, here is the updated data taken right out of BBR. Trout is still kicking ass.
BA OBP SLG OPS vs. Starting Pitcher, 1st at-bat .279 .351 .524 .874 vs. Starting Pitcher, 2nd at-bat .345 .412 .605 1.017 vs. Starting Pitcher, 3rd at-bat .365 .437 .623 1.060 vs. Starting Pitcher, 4th at-bat .371 .418 .710 1.128
How does this compare? Doesn't everybody do this? Every elite hitter? Well, I don't know. I didn't do that work. But I did look at Miguel Cabrera, considered by many to be today's most elite hitter. Across the same three seasons (although Trout's 2011 was highly abbreviated and not too impressive it is included here), Cabrera's numbers do not look the same.
BA OBP SLG OPS vs. Starting Pitcher, 1st at-bat .365 .448 .615 1.063 vs. Starting Pitcher, 2nd at-bat .343 .426 .598 1.025 vs. Starting Pitcher, 3rd at-bat .356 .437 .692 1.129 vs. Starting Pitcher, 4th at-bat .347 .458 .571 1.029
Still on Trout: Jim linked to this same story yesterday, but I wish to direct your attention to a specific quote from Jerry Dipoto that I found to be noteworthy (mostly because of what is coming Monday morning here in this space). "Probably the [plays] that make me shake my head the most are little toppers he hits, a tweener, that no one ever has a chance to make a play on," Dipoto said. "He's going to beat it out to first base. For a guy who is going to hit 30 home runs, that's a remarkable trait, to be able to hit a 20-hopper in the infield and they can't throw you out." Miek Trout circa 2014 = Power + Speed. Remember that.
Final Trout: I just love the odd angle behind stories such as this. Why? Because I have a habit of trying to reduce everything to an idea that becomes ironic. Call it a yet another character flaw. Here: Trout tweets that he is flying to Phoenix...Fans erupt in response to the publicity...Trout comments that it was a mistake to have alerted the public...Then Trout leaves camp right away...To do a photo-shoot...For Nike...(Which is why he came to camp early in the first place)...For publicity. Ok, yeah, I'm torturing things.
Back to Albert Pujols: Do you recall all those news bits this Winter about how well Pujols was training and how his off-season was perfectly normal and he was completely in track for ST as usual? Yeah, well, not so much. "Albert Pujols had a normal offseason and has pronounced himself completely healthy, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia will not be playing him at first base on an everyday basis once Cactus League games start." Now, I know what you are thinking. 'Hey, so what? Let's not rush things and break the old man." Well, I was thinking about last ST, when I didn't see the regular lineup playing much together on the same squad until the very end. And the team didn't exactly come out of the gate firing on all cylinders. So if we are following that same script this year with Pujols then, well, what would Sosh do with those empty ST playing slots? 'Raul Ibanez...will get plenty of reps this spring at first base -- a position he has not spent much time at since 2005. "We'll see," Scioscia said..."We're not talking about on an everyday basis, but we'll see what his proficiency is, his comfort level, and hopefully we'll be able to tap into that." Oh joy.
Spring Training TV: Fox Sports has announced that they will be broadcasting 26 games during Spring Training. And for that I am stoked!
Buy Stuff - Crazy-ass
BaseballStuff On the Internet:
Imagine, for a moment, that you hit the Lotto. Nouveau riche that you are, you are suddenly in need of the more proper and sophisticated way to dunk your Oreo cookies.
This Date In Baseball History: 1931 - Night time Major League Baseball is born! Not very well known, or covered, the White Sox and Giants play an exhibition game in Houston under the lights and mark the true first night game in the history of pro baseball that is MLB today. Not 1935, not 1938..........At the same time, the Brooklyn Dodgers land in Cuba for a series of exhibition games..........1945 - Due to wartime travel restrictions, MLB decides to cancel this year's All-Star Game. This will mark the only year ever that the ASG is not played since its inception..........1966 - Emmett Ashford (one of my favorite all-time baseball characters) becomes the first black MLB umpire..........1968 - Salary Escalator Chapter 1: The very first ever CBA is signed by the players and owners. Minimum wage is set at $10,000..........1974 - Salary Escalator Chapter 2: Tom Seaver signs a contract to become the highest paid pitcher in baseball history: $172,000 per season.........1989 - Pete Rose meets with MLB to explain the allegations concerning his gambling habits. This will not end well for Rose..........2008 - Salary Escalator Chapter 3: Ryan Howard wins his salary Arbitration case, going from $900,00 per season to $10 million per season.
Great Moments in Baseball Statistical History
(My primary source for this series is the excellent book The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics, Alan Schwarz author, Thomas Dunne Books Publisher.)
And now we get to the first of the "modern" giants. I know you have heard about Elias. You probably have not heard of the rest of the guys to date. But if you have not heard of Alan Roth, spend some hours this weekend living out of Google. These paragraphs are not going to do him justice.
Alan Roth was the first full-time statistician ever hired into a professional baseball team. Employed by Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Roth was the first to dive deep into the level of statistics that we tend to think of today as splits. Still doing this all by hand and hand-cranked adding machines, Roth was full of tables and diagrams. It was Roth who invented the spray chart. Every single pitch of every single game was collated, filtered, torn apart, and re-assembled in numerous ways...hour and interminable hour.
The insights that popped up out of all that worked armed Rickey was an amazing competitive edge. As Schwarz relates(1), Rickey was able to unload Dixie Walker, whose stock was high after batting .306, because Roth's data showed that Walker was no longer able to pull the ball, a sing of aging. Sure enough, Walker was out of baseball two years later. And Rickey was able to move Jackie Robinson, batting .296 with little power, into the cleanup spot because Roth's data showed that Robinson was a prodigious batter with runners on base. And Rickey was able to bench Roy Campanella, then hitting .325, against the Reds because Roth's data showed that Campanella had historically batted only .065 against the upcoming pitcher.
The use of numerical studies to influence the outcomes of baseball games was born in Brooklyn. Before 1950. And it was birthed by a man who knew enough to despise the RBI.
Under the fertilizer that was the brilliance of Branch Rickey, who veered baseball off onto new tracks of success not built on the eyeball test, Roth would go on to formulate working stats involving what we know to day as OPB and SLG. And Roth gave baseball the daily pre-game stats sheet seen in press handouts everywhere. When rickey left Brooklyn for Pittsburgh, Roth was ejected out of statistical authority by the old guard. he landed in the press box, where he became the behind-the-scenes stats man for a young Vin Scully.
(1) The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics, Alan Schwarz (2004) Thomas Dunne Books, pp 54, 55.
- The Stolen Base: Ignoring the notion that Mike Trout is 86 out of 98 stolen base attempts in his career (thus far)...Beyond the Boxscore goes further into the value of stolen bases and re-affirms the mathematical reality: "With a runner on first, stealing second increases the odds of scoring a run by 19.6%. If he's thrown out, the odds of scoring a run decrease by 26.9%. This is entirely logical--a person can't steal a base when he's not on base, and more outs make it more difficult to score. Leaving aside all the factors that go into stealing a base...it's a very clear distinction--the cost of being caught stealing exceeds the benefit of stealing." But take heart, ye Fans of the Base Stolen, the author does temper any instinct to banish such aggressive base running altogether. A fun read.
- Chavez Ravine: I don’t know what’s more upsetting to me, the idyllic view of Chavez Ravine before Walter O’Malley bulldozed it all away, or the view of private businessman O’Malley being afforded time in a taxpayer-owned police chopper, while being photographed from a parallel taxpayer-owned police chopper, to get his personal bird’s eye view of impending conquest.
- League Switching: In honor of the Astros one-year anniversary over here in the AL West, Hardball Times takes a look into the impact and results of teams switching leagues through history. Kind of interesting, except for the part where Bud Selig jumped in front of Houston's new ownership and held the Astros' sale up for ransom. That stench has already drifted off to other parts of the room.
- Name That Player: FanGraphs published a Winter rankings article, and coming in as #2 was..."multiple years of team control over an underrated player who is a better offensive player than he’s given credit for, who is one of baseball’s truly elite fly catchers, and who probably won’t be properly compensated by the arbitration process."
- Baseball Biz: The Dodgers will get their money for now, as long as Comcast-TWC doesn't find a way to fold that current deal because it id driving the new conglomerate under water. But the basic news is that Dodger-TV is not selling.
Video Of The Week
(Let's make a baseball cap themed cake for our Opening Day party, shall we?)
(Having troubling viewing the video? Click here.)
Grant Balfour owns all roads...........What does "everybody" keep saying about Weave that he needs to (or, in the case of velocity, CAN) disprove??..........How has the game of baseball, at least in terms of foul balls, "changed"?...........There is a fun little bit of player personalization now going on in St. Louis...........We did well in this exchange, certainly, but methinks after seeing this that it’s still going to find a way to smart, somehow. Day 1 at camp and Mark Trumbo is already heavy into one-on-one sessions with his hitting coach...........$5 million just doesn't go as far as it used to go. According to BBR, Tim Byrdak has earned at least $5MM in his career, and is having some fun tweeting to get a job this season..........
And now, being the full service weekend linkage institution that we are, here is the obligatory moment we take out of each Friday...for beer...
Friday: If you read this section diligently, you are probably not going to believe this, but Beachwood is STILL carrying on with their Pliny Charity thing.
Saturday: Barrelhouse Brewing in Paso Robles is open for their 1st Year Anniversary...........Hangar 24 is conducting a Beer & Food event "Open That Barrel Night" out in Redlands..........Stone Brewing reaches out beyond their San Diego stronghold and does a Tap Takeover at Draughts Restaurant & Bar in Thousand Oaks. (By the way, you can always seek out the hyper-acive Stone Brewing calendar yourself by bookmarking here.).........Speaking of San Diego, the San Diego Winter Beer Festival is to be found at the San Diego Hall of Champions..........Love SDSU Basketball, hit up BeerNerdz Blind Tasting & SDSU Basketball Watch at Fifty Seven Degrees in SD..........And there is that Beachwood Pliny Charity thing.
Sunday: Avery Brewing of Mountain View is open for a Sunday Beer Tasting. The event takes place at the Artisan Wine Depot in Los Gatos.
Stay safe, everyone!