Week of August 24, 2018

Bonds getting B.P. while AT&T Park was being built.

HOT TAKE ALERT – Thirsty Managers Need To Stop

Over it.

Lou Piniella throwing the base. Lloyd McClendon taking the base. That minor league manager for the Braves throwing pretend grenades. Hacks! Every last one of them.

I’ve never found it funny, even when they seemed genuine. Now they are these elaborate, unfunny forced performances. If I wanted to see that I’d go to an open mic poetry reading. Boom, roasted. 

The latest is this dumbass with a wiener-themed jersey running the bases like a geriatric. Lame.

Managers: cool it with the ejection performance. Nobody came to the game to see you. You come off like an unfunny version of Drunk Uncle.


Get Off My Lawn


Source: Enraged Baseball Manager Caps Off Excellent Meltdown With A Fake Home Run”, Patrick Redford, Deadspin (8/23/18)

TOB: Phil, now: 

Kidding, bud. I see where you’re coming from, and the over-the-top crazy ones get old for me. But I like this. For me, it’s all in the commitment. If he had just taken a swing, it’s not notable. If he had run around the bases will gesturing demonstratively at the ump, I’d think it was weird and contrived. But, although contrived, the way he sells it really wins for me. As he ran to first I wondered if he was just gonna grab a base. But then suddenly he’s headed toward second, and it’s a real trot. I laughed! The details get me, especially the high five to the third base coach. Baseball is fun, and I like when people keep it fun.

DeGrom and the Cy Young

The fate of the win will be decided this year. For most of baseball’s existence, a win has been one of the central measurements for a pitcher’s success. The point is to win the game, so on the surface measuring a pitcher by how many wins he earned made sense.

The greatest winners of all-time are also considered some of the greatest pitchers of all time:

  • Cy Young (#1, 511 wins)
  • Walter Johnson (#2, 417)
  • Christy Mathewson (#3, 373)
  • Greg Maddux (#8, 355 )
  • Roger Clemens (#9, 354)
  • Randy Johnson (#22, 303)

Sure, there are the exceptions. Bob Gibson  (251), Pedro Martinez (219), and Sandy Koufax (165) were every bit as devastating as the guys at the top of the win list, but 300 wins, like 3,000 hits, remains an magical number for pitchers. In the history of the game, 23 pitchers have won 300 or more games. By comparison, 32 players have collected 3,000 hits.

I remember Uncle Gary quizzing me at The Green Mill one time – he asked what’s the one baseball record that will absolutely never be broken. Cy Young’s 511 wins was his answer. Hard to argue with that, as it’s unlikely we’ll see another 300 game winner in our lifetime. Bartolo Colón sits at 240 wins and appears to finally be done, while Vallejo’s C.C. Sabathia is at 238 with no more than a couple years left playing.

Relief pitching has played an increasingly more important role on teams in the thirty years I’ve been watching the game. Starting pitchers simply don’t stay in a game as long as they used to in the days of Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. Johnson pitched for 21 seasons and averaged 25 complete games per season. The Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, widely considered a modern day “workhorse” pitcher, has 15 complete games in his entire ten year career.

The game done changed. Most of us know this, and it’s fine. But that W/L record is still a stat that a lot of people look to when we get to this time of the season and start thinking about the pitcher most deserving of the Cy Young award.

In 2010, Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young with a 13-12 Won/Loss record. Other than that, only two non-relievers have won the award with less than 16 wins (TIm Linceum with 15 and Fernando Valenzuela with 13).

This year, Jacob deGrom might settle the debate for good. DeGrom currently has a started 25 games, he has a league-leading 1.71 ERA, and an 8-8 win/loss record. At the time of publication, the Mets have 35 games remaining, which means deGrom somewhere between six and eight starts left in the season (I’d bet no more than seven, and only because he’s chasing a Cy Young). Considering how little run support he’s received from the Mets this season, it’s hard to imagine deGrom getting to 12 wins this season. If he won the award, it’s likely deGrom would do so with the lowest non-reliever win total in the history of the award.

Neil Paine digs into the historical context of deGrom’s season, writing, “Among qualified pitchers with a non-winning record, deGrom has the second-best ERA in history. We can all agree, I think, that his record has told us basically nothing about his performance this year.”

Historically speaking, a mediocre W-L record will kill your Cy Young chances, with Felix Hernandez’s 2010 victory (while boasting a 13-12 record) standing out as an extremely rare exception to the award’s overall rule. DeGrom’s candidacy could end up reinforcing that policy, since the Cy tracker’s leader, Max Scherzer, is running second in pitching WAR and has a more traditionally acceptable 15-5 record. The voters could tab him for the award as a (cop-out) way of straddling the line between new- and old-school evaluation methods.

But they could also give it to deGrom as the reward for 2018’s most outstanding pitching performance — which the award’s own language purports to honor. Whether that happens will be another signpost along the mainstream media’s path toward accepting newer statistics and casting aside old relics like wins.

If there was ever a dog days of summer baseball read, this is it, folks. My favorite part of these old school vs new school stories is digging into baseball records for about two hours. Walter Johnson career was insane. 21 years. I had no idea Gibson didn’t win 300 games. Sandy Koufax’s given name was Sanford Braun. These are the fun wormholes. – PAL

Source: Jacob DeGrom Is Breaking The Cy Young Formula”, Neil Paine, fivethirtyeight (8/17/18)

TOB: I actually think it’s already settled. DeGrom’s 8-8 is not any worse than Felix Hernandez’s 13-12. Felix got a few more decisions, which is in many ways out of a pitcher’s control, and that’s about it. Frankly, I don’t even think it should be in the Cy Young discussion. Now, if a guy approached 30 wins, I’d be tuning in (no one has won 30 since Denny McLain’s 31 in 1968; it was Lefty Grove in 1931 with 31 before McLain; Bob Welch’s 27 is the most in my lifetime). That would be exciting.

But generally, wins for a pitcher are flawed because while it’s hard to win a lot of games without being very good, it’s very easy to not win a lot because of things out of your control, as DeGrom is showing. Hell, the year Felix won the Cy Young at 13-12, the league leader in wins was Roy Halladay, with 21. But Halladay had only two fewer losses than Felix – he was 21-10. How’s that possible? While Felix had NINE no decisions, Halladay had only TWO. Without diving into game logs, it’s hard to know what happened: was Felix not getting run support? Was his bullpen blowing leads? Probably a mix of both.

Point being: wins don’t tell you a lot about a pitcher. I haven’t dug into the numbers yet, but if DeGrom is the best pitcher in the league, but he keeps getting Cain’d, then he’s the best. Give him the dang award.

Unfunny Man Does Unfunny Thing

Giants pitcher Derek Holland has been a pleasant surprise in the team’s rotation, helping the team hold a sliver of a postseason hope for much of the summer. He’s currently sporting a 3.75 ERA, the second lowest of his career, and the lowest by far in five years.

But somewhere along the way someone decided Derek Holland was funny, and so baseball media has trotted him out a number of the times over the years to do his tired Harry Caray impression, which is not in fact an impression of Harry Caray, but is actually an impression of Will Ferrell’s Harry Caray impression. In other words, he’s stealing a guy’s bit, but I digress. While cutting to Holland during the 2010 World Series and allowing him to unleash that terrible “impression” during the game annoyed me, people are allowed to be not-funny.

What they shouldn’t be allowed to do, though, is what Holland did this week. In an appearance on MLB Network, along with team’s massage therapist Haro Ogawa, Holland unleashed an offensive “Asian” impression, right up there with Mickey Rooney’s in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. MLB Network’s Chris Rose and Kevin Millar embarrassingly laugh along. This is not a high crime or misdemeanor, but it amazes me that people still think that sort of thing is funny.

Holland apologized, which is fine. We can move on. But my editor pays me by the word, so you had to read this. -TOB

Source: “Giants Pitcher Derek Holland Uses Asian Team Staffer For Stale, Racist Jokes On MLB Network“, Avery Yang, Deadspin (08/23/2018)

Barry Sanders’ 1988 Season Was Bananas

Thirty years ago, in 1988, little known Oklahoma State running back, who had spent a couple years backing up future NFL Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas, burst onto the scene to produce without question the greatest season by a single player in college football history. Barry ran for 2,850 yards and 42 TDs, both still single season records, in just 12 games (the only two guys who have come close to Barry’s 2,850 didn’t even touch 2,600, and did so in 14 games). Check out this crazy chart from the article:

And if you remember Barry from the NFL, you know he wasn’t just hitting huge holes and running to daylight. Barry made daylight. In fact, this article’s best contribution is Barry’s rarely seen high school highlight tape. It’s fantastic.

For my mind, he’s the best running back who ever lived. Fun read, with lots of good quotes from his college teammates and coaches. -TOB

Source: “Behind the Scenes of Barry Sanders’ Untouchable 1988 Season“, Jake Trotter, ESPN (08/22/2018)

Hug Your Loved Ones

Man, this one will get you. Melissa Lockard is a writer for The Athletic. Last week, her husband, Chris Lockard, passed away of a rare form of cancer. The cancer was only discovered in June. Just one day after he died, Melissa published a very touching tribute to Chris. Here’s my favorite part:

When we started dating, the 49ers and Packers had a brief rivalry. Ultimately, it was that rivalry that made me know I wanted to marry him.

In January 1999, the Niners and Packers met in the NFC wild-card game at the ‘Stick. I was supposed to fly back to Evanston for school the day before the game, but there was a huge snowstorm in the Midwest and it pushed my flight back to the day of the game. As it would turn out, my flight was one of the last to land at O’Hare for a week (a flight a few hours later ended up stuck on the tarmac for hours, leading to the airline passenger bill of rights).

This was back in the day before most people had cell phones and Uber was just a word you said before “awesome, dude.” Getting from O’Hare to Evanston in the winter could be a bit of a challenge. The El involved going all the way downtown before coming back out to the suburbs; cab drivers were often reluctant to get you there, preferring to go into the city, and the weather could make it a tough ride. Chris had come down from Green Bay a few days earlier but had caught a bad cold and was laid up for most of that weekend. When I talked to him before the flight, I told him it was OK if I took a cab back rather than him picking me up at the airport. Instead, he made me a deal: “if the Packers win, I’ll pick you up. If the Niners win, you’re on your own.”

The flight, for whatever reason, was filled with Wisconsin football fans returning from the Rose Bowl through SFO. The pilot knew his audience and piped the radio broadcast of the game through one of the channels at each seat. As the game wound down to the final seconds, I was torn between wanting the Niners to win and wanting a ride back to campus. Steve Young dropped back to pass, he stumbled and the signal for the station turned to static. It took me several minutes before I overheard a devastated Badger fan explain what happened after Young’s stumble.

When I got off the plane, I immediately began thinking of how I was going to hail a cab in the snow. I reached the end of the walkway tunnel and there was Chris with a funny grin on his face. “I thought the Niners won,” I said. “They cheated,” he replied, “but either way, I didn’t want to eat dinner without you.” How can you not want to marry a man like that?

Read this, and tell your loved ones you love them. Although this is in the Athletic, they have not put it behind a paywall, so even if you don’t subscribe, you can give it a read.

Source: A Love For All Seasons“, Melissa Lockard, The Athletic (08/16/2018)

Video of the Week: 

Tweet of the Week: 

PAL Song of the Week: The O’Jays – “Now That We Found Love”

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“Dwight, you ignorant slut.”

-M. Scott

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