Well, here we are again. Another Friday morning without a game from last night to be snarky about. And, folks, that is a good thing. Not that there was no game last night. Nope, what is the good thing is that we live in an age of Angels baseball when snark is yet one more reasonable response to the happenings on the field of play. I have said this in past seasons and I will say it again: our highs and lows, our joy and anger, our adoration and condemnation, are all the consequence of rooting for a team that has the potential to contend. Nobody ever wasted their time blathering about the poor tactical judgement of Del Rice. Nobody ever throw glasses full of beer at the wall out of frustration over Dave Chalk grounding into some untimely double play.
We vent because many times our personnel fail to live up to our expectations. It's baseball, where failure the majority of the time is the statistical inevitability. But our expectations are high only because extreme success is currently possible. And that possibility is a fleeting thing that we should all cherish while it's here. Because the alternative truly does suck. Trust me. It. Really. Does. Suck.
So, deep down in the dark recesses of your own private Id, as you vent and blast and demand heads served up on platters, don't forget to thank your lucky stars that your are participating in an age-old tradition of fandom - from the point of view of a winner.
- Kumbaya: Nothings percolates the cliches of brotherhood quite as well as a tough win. And, as the Angels head into Detroit, we are hearing it all now. "We've really come together," said new Angels reliever Joe Smith, who pitched a scoreless inning to get the win a night after being pummeled for four runs without getting an out. "I don't know what it was like last year, but this year it's been great."..."There was a different feeling in the clubhouse," [Scioscia] said. "Coming back [against] a team that's playing well, has a good bullpen, gives us a great sense of confidence." Like I said, Kumbaya already.
- Albert Pujols, Modern Crankshaft: As Pujols hangs just shy of 500 home runs, which he will hit in an Angels uniform, just exactly as Reggie Jackson once did, retrospective articles are popping up all over the place. Alden Gonzalez does one, quoting Tony LaRussa. "He plays like the old days. You know, when your values were simple. You played as hard as you could for your team, you took pride in what the team did and then you got fame and fortune. Guys are so distracted now. Albert has never been distracted and has been tempted to many, many times, because he's had a great, great career." Yeah, Mike Trout, you young whippersnapper, learn to play hard and don't be so distracted.
Mike Trout: Speaking of Trout, you know that slump he has been in? Well, now, aren't our expectations just darling? It turns out that, even before last Wednesday night, "Through the first two weeks of the season, Mike Trout leads the A.L. in home runs (5 –tied), total bases (39) and ranks second in slugging (.650)…" Fangraphs has Trout in second place among all players in baseball to date, at 1.4 fWAR behind only Chase Utley at 1.5. The mind boggles. Oh, and let me be the one to advise you all of those hidden gems I use for source stats, the Official Game Notes. They can always be found on the official LAA web site, under the News menu. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
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This Date In Baseball History: 1923 - The original Yankee Stadium, the first ballpark with three decks of seating, officially opens. Babe Ruth clobbers the first home run, against Boston...........at the same time, a collegiate youngster is pitching across town and strikes out 17 opposing batters, but loses his game 5-1. it's because he is way too wild, and will convert to a position player down the line. that position player will later join the Yankees, and become a Hall Of Famer. His name is Lou Gehrig...........1925 - Dodgers owner Charlie Ebbets dies just before his team hosts their home opener on his namesake field............1942 - PCL teams are asked to limit attendance to at night games to no more than last season's averages, due to fears of Japanese bombing attacks. Eventually, night games within 15 miles of the coast will be prohibited altogether..........1946 - On deck hitter George "Shotgun" Shuba congratulates Jackie Robinson as he crosses home plate after his first career home run, creating the very first time a white player publicly acknowledges something done by a black teammate..........1950 - The first Opening Day game played at night occurs when the Cardinals defeat the Pirates at home..........1952 - On Opening Day, Willie Mays crashes into the wall chasing a fly ball with the bases loaded, and is knocked unconscious. everybody rounds the bases, but fail to score when Mays is revived and returns to the dugout, still clutching the baseball that he manged to catch and ending the inning with the third out..........1958 - Major League Baseball comes to Southern California as the Dodger open in the LA Coliseum...........1959 - Branch Rickey becomes president of The Continental league, which never comes to reality. But the threat of a third pro league is so powerful that is forces MLB to expand, thus ending up creating the LA Angels..........1972 - Tying together a couple of historical points already noted for this date, the Yankees play their first-ever Opening Night Game in Yankee Stadium............2000 - Adam Kennedy drives in 8 runs in a 16-10 victory over Toronto............Also in this game, the Toronto cheerleaders decide to launch hot dogs into the stands using their new-fangled "Hot Dog Blaster". The hot dogs don't survive the launch and splatter all over the fans.
Great Moments in Baseball Statistical History
The vast majority of tales have been about those outside the official world of professional baseball who, either by passion or intellect (or both!) brought forth some important and permanent mark on the course of historical story of the sport through the use of statistical data. Well, what happens when somebody of that intellect and that passion is so naturally talented that they make their mark inside the world of baseball first, but as a player? Such is the tale of Davey Johnson.
Johnson came onto the scene with the Baltimore Orioles taking over at second base for the established Jerry Adair. It was not intended to be a permanent displacement, but Adair whined about the whole thing so poorly that he was traded away, and Johnson now had the spot. This was 1966, and Johnson's more than credible rookie campaign culminated in the becoming the final batter to ever get a hit off of Sandy Koufax, in Game 3 of the 1966 World Series where the Orioles swept the Dodgers. So Davey Johnson was a fine baseball player, who would have a fine career, both as player and as manager.
But early on, things with Johnson were different. In 1969 Johnson was taking classes at Trinity College in San Antonio, where he would earn a degree in mathematics., it was here that he wrote his own computer program to determine most effective batting orders. By the 1970's he was writing programs in FORTRAN and COBOL and encoding data and instructions on IBM computer punch cards and running his simulations through a very modern (for the time) IBM System/360 (the location of this particular institution of higher learning was a local brewery business). Based on his calculations, he determined that he should be batting second in the lineup, and he took these results to Earl Weaver. Weaver, being a man of information himself, was not impressed.
Later, after his playing days, Johnson became a manager, working his way up through minor league assignments. it was at this time that he started writing BASIC programs to do strategic analysis and helping him plan game decisions. By the time he reached the Majors, and was managing the Mets in 1984, Johnson was commissioning dBASE II applications to track opposing player stats.
Johnson was far ahead of his time, but intimately familiar with resistance. Note in this post all the familiar totems coming from Gary Carter, his Mets catcher. From Carter's book "The Gamer":
"Davey Johnson had come up to manage the Mets from their Triple-A team in Tidewater after the ’83 season," Carter wrote in his book, ‘The Gamer.’ "Davey managed by the numbers…literally. He was a computer whiz who could pull up more baseball statistics on his screen than most of us knew existed. I liked Davey, but I didn’t care much for his computer.
"Not that there’s anything wrong with having all the latest stats available, but it’s tough to quantify qualities such as ‘heart,’ ‘desire,’ and ‘intestinal fortitude.’ Moreover, Davey’s computer might dutifully report that a player went hitless in four at-bats but totally miss the fact that all four outs were hard-hit balls or long fly balls just inches away from being home runs."
There is an infamous anecdote from early in Johnson's playing career, wherein he went to the mound to advise Dave McNally, who was struggling to throw strikes on this particular day. Johnson consulted McNally on the notion of "unfavorable chance deviation". From Johnson's mathematical training, he proposed that McNally stop aiming at the corners, and start aiming at he middle of the plate, thus enabling him to randomly hit the corners appropriately based on his control that day. McNally laughed him off the mound. From then on, Davey Johnson carried a nick-name on that Orioles team: "dum-dum".
- No Big Deal...Right? Right??: You probably all tracked the pine tar incident in New York earlier this week. Oh wait, no, it was just dirt. Yeah, right. Well, here was a followup story over at Deadspin authored by a former Major League pitcher, who describes how common it is that pitchers use foreign substances. In fact, it's so common that even when batters notice it, they won't say anything about it because they don't want to be the bum in their own clubhouse who is outing tricks their own pitchers use themselves. "When someone like Pineda cheats so obviously that it has to be acknowledged, it's discussed in terms of a ludicrously weak explanation that all players seem to accept: Loading the ball is not about cheating; it's about getting a grip." Yet one more reason that the concept of "cheating" in baseball just cracks me up.
- A Sacred Trust: Here is a cool tale about those fellow fans of the sport of Major League Baseball who happen to reside in the city of Detroit, and refuse to forget their old stadium. It should serve to remind everyone that the social contract between the public and the owner runs far deeper than just the economics involved. " "People are into Hollywood," he shrugged. "A couple people had the idea, ‘Oh, you should plant some corn out there, like in Field of Dreams.’ We don’t need corn out there, because we have a real field of dreams. Joe Jackson never played in Dyersville, Iowa, but he did play at Michigan and Trumbull. He scored the first run in the very first game at Navin Field in 1912. The integrity of the field needs to be preserved." "
- Nerd Training Alert: So you want to learn some cool and deep Sabre stat, huh? Well, why not wOBA, which happens to also be damned accurate? "Anyway, that’s the hard linear weights way to calculate the difference. Here’s the wOBA way:...Multiply the difference in singles times the wOBA multiplier, or (6-3) times 0.78, or 2.34....That’s it; one simple step. wOBA shows that Al contributed 2.34 runs more than the average player, the same outcome as the linear weights."
Video Of The Week
(I don't care who does it, triple plays are cool. Especially the long way around.)
(Having troubling viewing the video? Click here.)
Minnesota Twins, giving new meaning to the phrase "freezing your balls off"..........Everybody is talking about it. Sure, replays are slowing games down, but the solution lies with the players..........These "fans" need to be jackwagoned off the island. Really? An M-80 into a crowd? Shouldn't these two franchises do a thing or two to tone down the absurd level of venom fostered over the years? Tinnitus is permanent, people...........This guy must know his fellow Giants and Dodgers fans very, very well............Minor League Baseball uniforms are wandering off into all sorts of realms concerning statement making..........So this is how a smart baseball manager reacts?..........Sometimes a GM spins the wheel of fortune and misses the winner in building a bullpen, and sometimes they nail it. Note who their shut-down closer happens to be..........Oh, and on the other end (you know, where LAA dwells a lot), know that we have some fine company.............Chalk man fail in Miami. Can't make a straight batter's box...........Yeah Keith. I, too, am quite impressed.
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...
Saturday: Linden Street Brewery in Oakland hosts 2nd Annual Spring Fling Cornhole Tournament & Food Drive..........Original Gravitas Public House in San Jose is home to Lagunitas Daytime/Nighttime Extravaganza.
Sunday: Crazy Harry's Bar in Winnetka shows off Lagunitas Waldo's Special Ale keg tapping.
BEER BONUS #1: Top Craft Breweries (biased towards overall volume, it appears)
BEER BONUS #2: Top Beers you have never heard of.
BEER BONUS #3: Spring Beers, Ranked.
Stay safe, everyone!