This is Going to be Insane!

We’re finally getting some baseball! Hooray!

And it’s not going to look like anything we’ve ever seen before

The divisions are being mixed up. Everyone is using the DH. Extra innings will start with a runner on second. And that’s on top of the new rules for pitching substitutions.

The biggest change can be summed up in a single number:

2.7

With the season being reduced to just sixty games, every individual game will be worth 2.7 “regular” games (of a 162 game schedule). Every game will mean more in the standings, even with the expanded playoffs. With all the new rules in place, in-game strategy is going to be vital! And with rosters being much larger than usual, expect even more pitching changes than normal.

Then there’s the effect on “counting” stats. Adjust them accordingly, and 20 home runs for a hitter or 75 strikeouts for a pitcher will be phenomenal. With pitchers getting only twelve starts, do NOT expect anyone to get double digits in wins. “Rate” stats could be even more bizarre. If a player has a hot streak, it is within the realm of possibility for someone to hit .400 or have an ERA under 1.00….

And if there happens to be a localized outbreak of COVID-19, things could get even more wacky. Even this close to the start of the season, the Blue Jays don’t have a place to call “home”….

Given the abbreviated schedule, expect there to be ties in the final standings – with the resulting chaos for the playoffs.

The best thing for a fan is to not get caught up in the standings and pennant races, but to just sit back and be glad there are some actual meaningful games being played. It’s a heck of a lot better than following the season simulation at Strat-O-Matic…..

Rookies of the Year

A while back, I noted that the Mets and Astros were both going to wind up with the Cy Young Award winners and the Rookies of the Year in their respective leagues. This led to a nice (in my opinion) essay on how often that happened in the past. While doing the research for that essay, I naturally had to go over the list of Rookies of the Year. I kept seeing all-time greats, solid players whose names made me go “oh, yeah, that guy!”, and players where I went “Huh?”

I started musing. Whatever happened to the Rookies of the Year?

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Sign Stealing

It just won’t go away. In 2017, the Houston Astros came up with a scheme to tip their batters off as to what sort of pitch was on the way. Major League Baseball found out about it, and then everything went bonkers.

The team was heavily fined, people lost their jobs, other teams are implicated in similar schemes, no one knows what or who to believe. Commissioner Manfred fumbled the PR response; so did the Astros. Fans are outraged; some even calling for the team to have its World Series win that year vacated (whether the Dodgers get to be called World Champions is not mentioned). Many players are openly expressing their anger. There’s been talk of some sort of on-field retribution against certain suspect players.

But there’s one big question that very few people are asking.

Just how much does it help you to know what type of pitch is coming?

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Unanimous

There isn’t as much blather about Mariano Rivera being the first player unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as I honestly expected. Partly because, I suppose, that it’s been expected for a few years that he’d at least be a “first ballot” nominee, and partly because, I hope, that there’s also been a growing realization that it’s not that big of a deal.

There’s always been some griping about the Hall’s voting procedures; and the Hall has tweaked them seemingly every five years or so. Not just recently, but throughout its history (the Hall’s own website covers the many changes in the voting rules for the BBWAA, and there’s a GREAT article on the various veterans committees here). In recent years, as the Hall has become more open in its election process, attention has been drawn to the fact that no one has ever been chosen unanimously in the standard ballot process. It’s been rightly believed that given all the popular pressure in the media that someone would eventually get the Magic 100%. The only question was who.

Now that it’s happened, Mariano Rivera will become the answer to another trivia question. Because it makes no difference how you get in to the Hall of Fame.

Rivera is just as much a Hall of Famer as Ralph Kiner (made it in by two votes in his last year of regular eligibility) and Ron Santo (selected by one of the Veteran’s Committees) and Roberto Clemente (special election) and Harold Baines (wtf?). There’s nothing on the plaques that indicates the player’s voting percentage; no special alcove for the “first ballot” selections. I suppose Rivera could add a little “100%” thing to the “HoF” that he now gets to put on his signature, but no one should care. It doesn’t make him any better or greater a player than any other Hall of Famer.

And we shouldn’t forget that three other players were chosen alongside him. Edgar Martinez, whose Double saved baseball in Seattle, Mike Mussina, whose excellence often went unacknowledged until we got to see the totality of his career; and Roy Halladay who threw a perfect game in 2010, and then no-hit the Reds in the NLDS that year on his way to his second Cy Young Award.

Rivera is still responsible for the Biggest Blown Save of All Time, though.

Book Review: The Year of the Pitcher

The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age
by Sridhar Pappu
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
(c) 2017 by the author

1.12 and 31.

The two numbers that essentially defined the 1968 baseball season.

The former is Bob Gibson’s earned run average for the season (basically, he only gave up one run for every eight innings he pitched); the latter is the number of games won by Denny McLain – the most in over thirty years. These stats epitomize the low-scoring environment of baseball in the 1960s. But rather than focus on the actual games of that season, Pappu takes a much broader look.

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Baseball by the Month

With April over, we are well into the baseball season. Things should start settling out now, as “small sample sizes” are a thing of the past. Trevor Story has got to cool off, the Phillies can’t really be as good as they’ve been, and the Astros can’t be as bad.

But it’s not just April that’s a special part of the baseball season. Every month all the way through to October has its own characteristic, its own “feel”.

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Baseball is Coming!

In just a few days, the 2016 baseball season will begin. So all the sports magazines and websites will soon be publishing their predictions (if they haven’t already) on what the final standings will look like. I cannot add anything to what they’re saying (most of what I could say will just be a rehash anyway), but I can still muse on what we might see in the upcoming months.

Can the Royals and Mets repeat?

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As the 2015 Season Winds Down

“Oh the days dwindle down
To a precious few….”

There’s just a few more days left in the 2015 baseball season – and what a ride it’s been. The Astros, Royals, and Cubs surprising everyone. The Nationals turning from odds-on favorites into a train wreck and then a dumpster fire. Wilmer Flores and the Trade That Almost Happened. Kershaw and Grienke making people think of Koufax and Drysdale. Shelby Miller unable to get run support. Bartolo at the Bat….

While the awards are announced after the end of the World Series, it’s worth noting that all ballots must be submitted before the playoffs start. So now is the time for all voters and baseball fans to make their selections.

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Into the Home Stretch

We’re into the last month of the baseball season, and the pennant races are heating up. With the first team (Cincinnati) having just been eliminated, it’s a good time to take a look at who’s in first and who’s likely to make the playoffs.

Things are clearest in the National League. Every team in first has a six game lead (at least, as of this writing), and the teams in second place don’t look strong enough to overtake them. Sure, it’s possible the Mets could collapse like they’ve done before, but even given that they’ll be carefully watching the work loads of their ace starters, there’s practically no chance that the near dumpster fire of the Nationals will get their act together in time to take any advantage of that. Look for the Mets to clinch before that final Mets-Nats series in Citi Field.

It must hurt to be the Pirates. In four of the other five divisions, they’d be in first place. But they have to play in the same division as the Cardinals, who seem a lock to win 100 games this year. And the Cubs have two teams to look up at in envy. At least the two of them get to play in that “wild card play-in” game…

The only thing really left to be decided in the NL is who will get home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs – the Dodgers or the Mets. The way things are likely to wind up, they’ll be facing each other. And given the results of their games against each other (the Mets have won 4 of the 7 games, outscoring the Dodgers by a total of 33-19), home field could be key. It’s “Kershaw and Grienke, then grab a hankie” vs. the Harvey-deGrom-Syndegaard Triumvirate. Should be fun!

There’s more to be decided in the American League. Only the Royals have run away with their division (who saw that coming?). The Blue Jays and Yankees are fighting it out in the AL East, and the Rangers are making the Astros look nervously over their shoulders. Right now, the wild card spots are still up for grabs, too. In addition to the second place teams in the East and West, the Twins, Angels, and Rays all have a good shot at sneaking in. I wonder what the tiebreaker scenarios look like…

Even if your team isn’t in the race, there are still things to be decided. Can Josh Donaldson keep up his torrid pace, and take the MVP from Mike Trout? Will the utter mess of the Nationals hurt Bryce Harper’s MVP chances? Will there be another no-hitter, triple play, inside-the-park home run, or steal of home? Will St. Louis Cardinals fans become even more insufferable? Why does Donald Trump get more popular the more offensive he gets? Who was that lady I saw you with last night?