Shifting

The shift is nothing new in baseball.  Ted Williams was crushing it seventy years ago when he was hitting over .400,  but it does seem to be enjoying a new era of popularity.  Tampa bay has been torturing teams in the Al with it all year, the Yankees being a particular hapless victim.

A defensive shift is exactly what it implies, the normal pattern of defensive position is altered, or shifted if you will, to better position themelves for a particular hitter’s tendencies.  A helpful photo:

Prince Fielder, the subject of the above diagram, is a tremendous power hitter who tends to pull the ball, hence the removal of the third basemen from third base, plugging up the hole on the right field side of the infield instead.  What shocks me about this is not that managers attempt to limit the effectiveness of power/pull hitters, but that power/pull hitters allow the shift to defeat them so easily.  When properly approached, the shift can only lead to failure for the defense.
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St. Louis – May 18th

STOP BATTING DEE GORDON LEADOFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gordon went 0-5 against the Cardinals on Friday night and he didn’t get a ball out of the infield. His batting average is .200, his on-base percentage is .239. and his OPS is .494. Only seven players in all of major league baseball get on base less often than Gordon. Only five have a lower OPS.

This cannot continue, as much as Dodger management is clearly hell bent on playing Gordon, his production simply isn’t up to major league standards. It’s not even close to major league standards. You could put a below-average player, not even an average one mind you, into his slot and they would dwarf his production. The kid needs to be dropped from the leadoff spot immediately, and the more likely scenario at this point is to send him to the minor leagues for a while. There is absolutely no legitimate justification for continuing to give one of the worst hitters in all of baseball the most at-bats on your team. It’s beyond idiotic.
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Happy Retirement Kerry Wood

It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball watching Kerry Wood pitch.  Limitless talent, high character, endless injuries, Chicago Cub and all the agony that entails.

I went to Wrigley Field to watch Kerry Wood pitch in his rookie year of 1998, went back in 2000 to see his first start after the arm injury that kept him out for all of 1999.  A year and a half on the shelf, and he defeated the Astros in that first appearance back, giving up only one run in six innings, hitting a home run just for good measure.  I watched every pitch of his absolute domination of the Braves in the 2003 NL division series, I skipped work on opening day one year to eat pizza and watch Wood defeat the Reds despite giving up four runs.  I watched him come back from injury after injury, his transition to a closer, his brief stint with the Indians and Yankees, and his return to the Cubs, where he functioned as a very solid reliever.
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Arizona – May 15th

There’s a strange phenomenon that occurs at Dodger stadium, and at most ballparks for that matter, where the hometown fans boo the opposition’s decision to issue an intentional walk.  Intentional walks are almost always a bad idea, because they put additional runners on base and this opens up the possibility of scoring more runs.  Why in baseball’s name do fans boo something that is advantageous for their team?
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Colorado – May 11th

Back when Mattingly was good at his job.

Don Mattingly was a great player.  Injuries might have limited his place amongst Yankee greats, but this is a player who put up spectacular numbers during his peak years.  From 1984-1989, Mattingly averaged 27 home runs, 43 doubles and 203 hits.  From ’84-’87, his worst OPS was .918, and for his career, he walked 588 times, which is nothing to write home about, but he only struck out 444 times in 7722 plate appearances.  Exceptional performance.

He’s not a very good manager, though.  Continue reading

San Francisco – May 7th

Frank McCourt is an evil genius.  Wait, check that.  Frank McCourt’s legal representation and negotiating team are the geniuses.  McCourt is simply evil.  The man took ownership of the Dodgers in 2004 and every season since has been worse for Dodger fans.  It’s not all his fault, of course, but that doesn’t make him exempt from blame.
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An Oriole is a Type of Bird.

I have a Baltimore Orioles jacket, which my parents bought for me during our visit to Camden Yards back in 1992, and this is meaningful in many ways but certainly in part because I have very little baseball paraphernalia of any sort, my favorite being the Cubs Christmas stocking that I hang with care in the hopes that winning seasons will soon be here.
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Albert Pujols Has Left The Building

I wanted to get a photo of Pujols swimming in a pool filled with hundred dollar bills, but I couldn’t find one.

Albert Pujols has been the best player in baseball since his rookie year of 2001, and hardly anyone, position player or pitcher, is even remotely close.  Pujols had an OPS of .9o6 in 2011 and to give you an idea of how incredibly good this is, there are only 58 players in the history of major league baseball who have finished their career with a mark better than this and it was Pujols’ worst effort in his 11 year career.  Only 5 players have a better career OPS mark than Pujols – Jimmie Foxx, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth.  Pujols is a surefire, first-ballot hall of famer even if he never plays another inning.
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Seven out of Ten

An earlier incarnation of the team since I couldn't find a good photo of the 2012 Texas Rangers.

The Dodgers have the second best record in MLB at the end of April.  This is especially impressive in that little was expected of the Dodgers, but really shouldn’t be all that surprising given the small sample size.  The best record in baseball belongs to the Texas Rangers over in the American League, and unlike the Dodgers, I seriously doubt anyone is surrpised about their quick jump out of the gate.

The Rangers have outscored their opponents by 56 runs so far, an outstanding pace, in their sprint to a .739 winning percentage and first place in the American League West by 6.5 games (and 9 games over the underachieving Angels).  Continue reading