Lose Weight, Vlad Jr.

Posted August 18, 2019 by Burly
Categories: San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays

Vlad Jr. came out of today’s game with left knee “discomfort.”  He’s listed at 6’2″ and 250 lbs at age 20.

Work out harder in the off-season, and eat better, or risk becoming the next Pablo Sandoval.  Pablo has had his moments, but when you have that kind of talent, you have to be thinking of the Hall of Fame.

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Conspiracy Theory

Posted August 18, 2019 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, KBO

The best current KBO hitter not to have gotten a shot at playing in the MLB system is SK Wyverns’ 3B Choi Jeong.  The internet stories I read in 2013 indicated that Choi could play the hot corner on defense; and he certainly hit a ton.

In his ninth season with the Wyverns, he got off to a slow start in 2014.  The Wyverns sent Choi down about a third of the way into the season, even though his OPS was still well above .700.  The KBO was until the 2019 season a hitters’ league.  I’d have let Choi play through his still not unproductive slump.

Maybe the Wyverns wanted to hold onto Choi, and that is part of the reason the Wyverns sent Choi down when they did.  Choi spent about a third of the season in the KBO minor league, and hit like himself upon his return to the majors.  Still, the damage had been done.

Choi played only 82 of the 126 Wyverns’ games that season, and his OPS was “only” .907.  That wasn’t good enough to interest MLB teams in the off-season when Choi was going into his age 28 season.

That was Choi’s MLB opportunity, and he missed it.  Choi also got hurt in 2015.   He was still a tremendous hitter in both 2016 and 2017.  And the Wyverns won the 2018 Korea Series, even though Choi’s OPS was back down to .915 (on a .244 batting average!?!) and he missed 29 of the Wyverns’ 144 games.

Although Choi lost his shot as an MLB star, the Wyverns gave him a six-year roughly $9.4 million contract before the 2019 season coming off a four-year $7.7M deal after the send-down season — so Choi will not be going home hungry any time soon.  And I haven’t even mentioned the endorsement deals Choi no doubt gets in Incheon, a city of now about 3 million people.

Maybe the SK Wyverns and Choi Jeong were meant for each other.

San Francisco Giants Promote Logan Webb

Posted August 17, 2019 by Burly
Categories: Sacramento River Cats, San Francisco Giants

Well, it sure doesn’t seem like an 80-game PED suspension earlier this season did much to slow Logan Webb‘s move up the ladder as a prospect.  He’s being called-up to a start tomorrow’s Giants’ game.  After serving the suspension, Webb pitched well at AA Richmond and looked good in exactly one AAA start.

I think it’s most likely that the 22 year old right-hander will look raw in his first start, but we’ll see.  Webb’s 80-game suspension may punish him most in the short term because of the lost experience.  He’s only pitched 302.1 minor league innings, and if he’d pitched all year and remained healthy, he’d better poised for the jump to the Show.  14 high minors starts sure isn’t many before facing the truly big boys.

In the long term, the 80-game suspension doesn’t look particularly punitive and certainly not punitive enough to prevent Webb from again bending the rules if he believes the ‘roids helped his performance or development.

Will the Bryce Harper Contract Be a Bust?

Posted August 17, 2019 by Burly
Categories: Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies

espn.com is running a piece: “Is Bryce a Bust? …”  His contract won’t be a bust if the Phillies win at least one World Series during the length of the contract.

This year, Bryce is still hitting the way I complained about 13 months ago.  He seems convinced that every hit has to be for extra bases.  Watching the replays of his walk-off grand slam and strikeouts to Yu Darvish, it seems clear that Harper is trying to hit every pitch 450 feet, even though 400 foot home runs count just as much.

Harper’s swing looks violent to me, and it certainly involves a great deal of torque through his core.  He hasn’t had any back problems so far in his career (his injuries have been left knee, shoulder and thumb), which is one of the reasons he got the record-setting contract.

Harper’s a big guy at 6’3″ and 220lbs.  He can swing like that now at age 26, no problem, but if he keeps it up, his back may be barking by the time he’s 30.  If the Phils haven’t won a World Series by then, the contract could turn out to be a real stinkeroo.

One of the Problems with a Small League

Posted August 15, 2019 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, CPBL

I’ve been writing about Taiwan’s CPBL since around November 2013.  During that time, the CPBL has been a tiny four-team circuit.  It was once much bigger, and there was even a second Taiwanese major league for a about six season in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  However, several different gambling scandals hurt the popularity of pro ball in Taiwan deeply.

One of the problems with a four-team league is that it’s easier for one team to get a disproportionate share of the best players and thus totally dominate the league.  Right now, the Lamigo Monkeys have dominated the CPBL for several seasons.

In 2018, the Monkeys set a CPBL record for most wins in a season (73-47), and they have now won five consecutive half-season titles — the CPBL plays a split season with two 60-game halves — and the Monkeys are now back in first place in the second half of the 2019 season.

In 2018, the Monkeys were great on both offense and defense.  This year, the Monkey’s pitching hasn’t been as good, but the Monkeys’ starting line-up is much better than any of the circuit’s other three teams.  The top five qualifiers in terms of batting averages are Monkeys.  The top four qualifiers in terms of on-base percentage are Monkeys, as are the top four qualified slugging leaders.

The Monkeys have won four of the last five Taiwan Series and five of the last seven.   It makes me think of the New York Yankees from 1921-1928 and 1932-1939, although the Yankees played in a then eight-team American League.

It isn’t good for a major league to have one team completely dominate year after year.  Competition keeps the fans of every team engaged.  That said, Taiwan is small enough that fans don’t necessarily have to follow the (most) local team, and CPBL teams often play in multiple cities as their home team during any given season.

The CPBL will be adding a new major team in 2021, the Wei-Chuan Dragons, a team re-established from the CPBL’s more expansive glory days.  Scheduling issues with a five-team league means that a sixth CPBL team is likely by 2023-2025.

For the last several years, I have been of the opinion that Taiwan should be able to support six major league teams.  There are five major metropolitan areas in Taiwan, and greater Taipei should be able to support two teams playing on every day of the baseball calendar — one team home and one away.

Baseball attendance is enhanced by rivalries between communities, and I suspect that six CPBL teams playing in the five largest metro areas should all be able to make a living.  A six team league would also make it about 50% harder for one team, like the Monkeys, to completely dominate the league for a period of years.

The Evolution of Base Stealing

Posted August 10, 2019 by Burly
Categories: Uncategorized

I checked out each major league’s stolen base leaders today, and it was eye-opening.  Major leaguers are stealing bases a whole lot less than they once were, but they are stealing bases with much greater efficiency.

Roughly 115 games into the 2019 season, and only nine players have stolen at least 20 bases across both leagues so far.  No one has stolen more than 31.  Yet, the top nine base stealers are doing so at a combined success rate of just better than 85%!

It is generally believed that the break even point above which stealing bases actually makes sense as an offensive strategy is about 70%.  Much above 70%, base stealing clearly has value; much below 70% and the base runner would be better off keeping still and waiting for the next hitter to push-’em-up.

In today’s home-run-happy, low-batting-average game, where just about every hitter swings for the fences on just about every count, you would expect to see base-stealing way down.  The period from about 1930 to 1950 was an era in which there was a lot of offense and not a lot of base-stealing, until African American and Latin American players brought base-stealing back into the game, in large part because the best of these players could steal bases at a sufficiently high rate to justify the effort.  When MLB enlarged the strike zone in the early 1960’s, there followed a generation of a lot less offense and lot more base-stealing.

With home runs at a record high rate and singles at probably their lowest rate since at least the mid-1980’s, stealing bases doesn’t have as much value.  Add to that modern advanced statistical analysis, which has now worked its way down to most players, and it seems that even players who could be stealing a lot of bases have decided that it isn’t worth trying unless they are nearly certain they will be successful in the attempt.

Stealing bases with an 85% success rate, which is essentially gaining five bases at the cost of one out, clearly has offensive value.  The fact that this year’s base stealing leaders are stealing with such efficiency may be something of an aberration.  However, it also suggests that the best base stealers ought to be running a little more often.

Daniel Nava Sighting

Posted August 9, 2019 by Burly
Categories: Boston Red Sox, Independent-A Leagues, Minor Leagues, Philadelphia Phillies

Boy, I thought Daniel Nava had retired.  I was wrong.

Nava didn’t play in 2018, so imagine my surprise to see that he’s back in the Indy-A Leagues at age 36.  He’s currently slashing .269/.377/.418 as mainly a 1Bman for the Kansas City T-Bones of the American Association.  He’s played in 55 games, and has filled in an emergency in the corner outfield positions, as well as 1B.

I always liked Nava because he was a SF Bay Area guy, and he made his way up to the majors and really amounted to something after playing in an Indy-A League to start his pro career.  That’s really an accomplishment, in terms of the few players who actually do it.  Glad to see him staying true to his roots.

If he’s willing to play in an Indy-A League at age 36, one would have to think he’ll go into coaching as soon as they tell him he can’t play anymore.