Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

The Evolution of Base Stealing

August 10, 2019

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.

Cracker Jack

March 19, 2019

My five year old daughter likes Cracker Jack.  What’s not to love — sugar-coated popcorn (she typically does not like peanuts) and a free prize.  I like it because it’s cheap.  Everybody wins!  Still loving Cracker Jack all these years later.

I still love Bazooka Joe too.  It gives your jaw a workout.

What’s Become of Tim Lincecum?

May 4, 2017

Is Tim Lincecum‘s baseball career over?  Probably, but who knows?

I was wondering what Timmy has been up to today, but I can’t find any information since a February 23 mlbtraderumors.com post saying that he was planning a show case for scouts.  After that, nothing.  I don’t even know if the showcase happened, but I’d guess not.

Tim turns 33 in June, so he’s certainly at an age where retirement seems likely if his body isn’t healthy and pain free.  He’s made plenty of money playing baseball, which may mean that he has no incentive to play in the minors again, unless he’s really burning to keep playing baseball simply because he enjoys it.

Tim wanted to continue being a starter, and his options there are few, although an Indy-A Atlantic League team would have snapped him up in a New York second and put him into the starting rotation if he were willing to play at this level.

If he was willing to pitch out of the bullpen, then I’d have to think at least one MLB organization would have signed him, if he were healthy enough to pitch.

It’s still early May, so we can’t completely write off Tim taking another stab at professional baseball.  However, the silence is deafening and surely is not a good sign.

Last Place Blues

May 4, 2017

As of this moment, every team in the San Francisco Giants’ organization is in last place in its respective division in its respective league.  The major league club is 11-18; the AAA Sacramento River Cats are 9-17; the AA Richmond Flying Squirrels are 9-14; the A+ San Jose Giants are 12-15; and the Class A Augusta GreenJackets are 10-16.  Yeesh!

If the major league team doesn’t start to turn things around right quick, it would behoove the organization to be trade deadline sellers this year.  Years as contenders and buyers has left the organization with what appears to be a major talent deficit.  A new infusion of talent looks sorely needed.

San Francisco Giants Promote Christian Arroyo

April 25, 2017

I was wrong about the Giants giving Christian Arroyo at least another 15 games before promoting him to the Show.  The Giants gave Arroyo two more games in which he went 5-for-9, and they wasted no time in calling him up.

Given the recent news out of San Francisco, promoting Arroyo this soon contains a whiff of desperation, as the team tries to shake things up a bit, and gives its first hint that the team already sees 2017 as a rebuilding year.

Current word is that Arroyo will be giving a chance to start at 3B, with Eduardo Nunez presumably moving to LF.  I’m still a bit concerned with how little Arroyo walks, and if it had been up to me, I’d have left him at AAA Sacramento for that 15 or 16 games I’d previously written about.

Still, Arroyo is hot and can clearly hit, and we’ll see how long it takes before National League pitchers can figure out how to make him hit their pitch, since he isn’t yet disposed to take walks.  NL pitchers might not figure that out until 2018.

Baltimore Orioles Shuffle Pitchers on their 40-man Roster

April 15, 2017

The Baltimore Orioles made a flurry of moves today, mostly involving minor league pitchers and international draft slots.  It seems clear that the Orioles are making a calculated gamble that the best 16 and 17 year old Latin American players aren’t worth the risk.

The O’s obtained Damien Magnifico from the Brewers and Paul Fry from the Mariners for respectively, the 15th overall international draft slot (worth $885,000) and the 105th international draft slot worth $198,000.  Meanwhile, Baltimore designated Jason Garcia and Parker Bridwell for assignment and traded Oliver Drake to the Brewers for cash or the infamous player to be named later.  Phew, that’s a busy day!

I suspect that, while the Magnifico and Drake deals were announced separatedly one day apart, they are closely connected.

Ben Badler criticized the Orioles yesterday for not spending more money on international players the last few years.  The O’s have spent only $260,000 on five prospects in the 2016-2017 signing period, one of whom received $150,000.  According to Badler, the most expensive Orioles international signing of the last three years is the mere $350,000 given to 3Bman Jomar Reyes, who at least looks like a good return on that money so far.

I have to agree with Badler: it might have made sense not to take a high risk, high reward strategy in recent years when signing bonuses were high for the best players, as at least five or six teams flouted the rules each signing period and elected to sign as many good players for as much money as it took in exchange for losing big money signings for the next year or two.  But now that there is effectively a draft with capped bonus pools, it seems crazy to me not to participate fully.

The Orioles have obviously decided they are still going to go with players closer to the majors than tender-aged international prospects, as they have now traded away what would be their 1st and 4th round international picks in the first international draft.

Looking at what the Orioles netted today, it seems highly likely that they’d have been better off with the two international slots.  Magnifico and Fry are obvious improvements over the two pitchers designated for assignment to make space on the 40-man roster.  Both look to have major league stuff as bullpen pitchers, are still looking for their command, and are young enough they may yet find it.

However, Oliver Drakes, although already 30, has even better stuff than Magnifico or Fry, and has the same command issues.  Drake may yet be as effective a major league reliever as either Magnifico or Fry going forward, despite a a poor start (in only three AAA relief appearances) this year.

This doesn’t look like a worthy trade for 1st and 4th round international slots, unless the aforementioned player to be named later turns out to be great.

Why Can’t Joe Mauer Hit for Power?

April 4, 2017

One of the reasons the Twins have been terrible in recent years is Joe Mauer‘s move from catcher to 1B/DH.  He went from being one of the best catchers in baseball to an aging 1Bman who no longer hits .300 and hits for no power.  He hasn’t had a .400 slugging percentage since 2013, and that just kills you from 1B/DH position, even if Mauer still gets on base like a starting IB/DH.

The Twins’ demise (and I well remember when the Twinkies were the-small-market-team-that-could) is hardly entirely Joe’s fault.  He was still performing at a Hall of Fame caliber in 2012 when the team lost 96 games anyway.

Most players of Mauer’s talents add power as they age.  Even if you see the 28 HRs Joe hit in his best season (2009) as a fluke, since he’s never hit more than 13 in any other major league season, Mauer had more than 50 extra base hits in two other seasons during his prime.  Usually, a lot of those doubles and triples turn into home runs as the number of lines on the back of the baseball card gets longer.

For years I advocated that playing a guy of Mauer’s size (6’5″ and 225 lbs) who could hit like a young Joe Mauer at catcher for years and years was going to ruin a perfectly good Hall of Fame career.  I turned out to be right, but not for the reasons (injuries) I expected.

Traditionally, big catchers who hit so well that they play too much burn out right quick, usually because of leg and back problems. However, Mauer still runs surprisingly well for a man his size who has played more than 900 MLB games at catcher.

Mauer’s hit eight triples and stolen seven bases in eight attempts over the last three seasons.  He isn’t going to win any team footraces, but he’s certainly not among ten, or probably even 20, slowest IB/DH types in MLB.  I initially thought that perhaps all that catching had ruined his legs, but it doesn’t match with the speed stats above, or the fact that he still plays pretty regularly for a player with knee and back problems.

Instead, Mauer’s ruin seems to have been the concussion he suffered in August 2013, as the result of foul balls off his mask, something no catcher can avoid. (espn.com’s recap doesn’t even mention it, since Mauer probably toughed it out and finished the game.)  Here’s a source who almost certainly knows more about the Twins than I do from mid-season 2015, which attribute the drop in batting average, and, inferencially, his failure to add power, to his 2013 brain injury.  That off season, Mauer admitted to vision problems as a result of the concussion which lingered through the 2015 season.

I still think that Mauer may yet be an 18-20 HR a year player, at least for one season.  He isn’t that old for a player of his proven ability, he still runs well, and he may eventually get over the concussion that occurred more than three and a half years ago, particularly since he’s never played catcher again.  It’s hard for me to believe that a player of Mauer’s proven offensive ability can’t show a little pop and potentially have one last great offensive season (or at least an OPS over .850) in the two years before his contract expires.

As for Joe Mauer’s long-term contract, what are you gonna do?  The Twins had to sign Mauer to the long-term enormous deal because he was the local boy who made good.  Mauer had earned that contract, because how could the fan base not love him?  It’s just an unfortunate, even if somewhat predictable, bummer, because how could a team not overplay a big catcher of Mauer’s ability?