Jeff Swenson: A complete family history
March 17, 2017
“…The Fergus falls Diamond was in abominable condition. The mud was ankle deep around home plate and on several occasions the ball was lost in the mud….The people of Fergus Falls ought to visit some of their small neighboring towns and they could learn something to their advantage both in baseball and several other things.”
Over one hundred years ago my grandfather played semi-pro baseball. He was born in 1894 and was 42 years old by the time my dad was born. I was five years old when my grandfather died. After my dad passed away in 2006, as my siblings and I were going through his stuff, I came across old newspaper clippings dating as far back as 1914 that speak of my grandfather’s baseball prowess. Over the years our dad told us about grand-dad’s playing career; though he was well past his prime by the time my dad was older. Dad never got to see him play, he only heard the stories his dad told him. Until I stumbled across the articles I had no idea that they existed.
Reading through the articles that date back to 1914 through at least the 1920’s, I was fascinated to read about my Grandfather, but what I found almost as fascinating was how the articles were written, the terminology and descriptions used, and how the action was described back in the day.
My grandfather’s name was Ralph Swenson. I won’t bore you with his career (well, yes, I will). He was a southpaw and was a pitcher most of his career. His nicknames were “Lefty” and “The Terrible Swede” and he was known for his “cross-fires” and “hooks” that baffled opposing batters. Terms and phrases such as, “Pounded the pill unmercifully” and “Vacated the box (referring to removal of the pitcher for a reliever)” are some to terminology used that I found fascinating.
Here are quotes from different articles.
“The game went scoreless for three innings, and in the fourth, with three men on bases, Lefty Swenson poled the pill out for a three-bagger, scoring three.”
“It was the inability of the local boys to swat the pill in the pinches that lost the game for Wendell.”
“It was a brilliant pitchers battle between ‘Lefty’ Swenson and the ex-Milwaukee American Association, Haasbruck, with Swenson having the better of the argument. ‘Lefty’ allowed only five hits and whiffed eighteen. Haasbruck was touched for a total of nine hits and struck out fourteen.”
“Field day visitors were treated to some real baseball Saturday when the home team handed the fast Campbell aggression the usual goose-egg dose…Swenson pitched gilt edged for the locals.”
“The weather was ideal for base ball and the game was very fast, very few errors being made. Berthold offended once and Donnybrook twice.”
“Lefty Swenson the ‘Terrible Swede’ was on the mound for Donnybrook and 18 men fell before his crossfiring and ‘hooks.’”
Here is how you begin an article when your team plays well to start but loses big in the end by the score of 8-1.
“The Wendell ball team met the locals here last Sunday and the game in its initiatory stages was very satisfactory, for the first three innings as the score frame showed nothing but ‘goose eggs’ up to the fourth inning when the Wendell boys commenced solving the enigmatical twists of the local mound artist…” Headline: (circa 1920)
“Ball Player Gets Fifty Days For Stealing Hand Bag" (I just find this one a little humorous, something you might read in the Mayberry Gazette).
Jack Duncan, who played ball with the local team during the last season, and who was last week arrested on the charge of Highway robbery of a handbag from Mrs. Arthur Turner at one of the local hotels, entered a plea of guilty before Judge Leighton at Minot on Thursday of last week after the charge had been reduced to petit(sic) larceny. The woman claimed the bag and its contents to be worth $90, but Duncan was sure it was worth considerably less than $25. There was a question as to the value of the bag and its contents, hence the charge was reduced. Duncan was sentenced by Judge Leighton to serve 30 days in jail and pay a fine of $100, and if the fine is not paid, to serve and additional 20 days. As Duncan had no money he will serve 50 days.”
During his career Lefty played with and against major leaguers of the day. Below are outtakes from some of the newspaper clippings of those occurrences.
During World War I, Lefty served in the U.S. Navy. He served aboard the USS Wisconsin and was also stationed at Camp Dewy at the Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois. At Camp Dewey he pitched on one of the bases baseball teams. In one game, his team played against another Navy team “which is composed of big leaguers” who were also serving at the time. The game recap stated that
“Lefty” Swenson pitched well going nine innings against the big leaguers and had a 3-2 lead heading into the ninth. The Big leaguers rallied in the ninth to pull the game out 5-3. “’Lefty’ is pitching for the second regiment team…is traveling in fast company. Recently he pitched a game against the Station team of Great Lakes which is composed of big leaguers such as Driscoll, Gibson, Freddy Hoffman, Leonard (Washington third sacker), Billy Johnson of the Athletics, J.P. Jones property of the New York Giants, and several other big league stars.”
“In a recent game Swenson went the entire nine inning route while the big boys had to use three of their best big league pitchers to win over him.”
“Until the eighth round the Camp Dewey sailors led 3 to 2 by virtue of polished pitching by Swenson and air tight backing by his inner and outer defense. Swenson, a husky southpaw gave the first club a bit of trouble with his cross fire. He served a fooler that had the…(unfortunately the rest of the article is missing).”
In 1923 or 1928, most likely the latter, Lefty and his local team played against American Leaguers and among his opponents that day was future Hall-of-Famer, Charlie Gehringer. Here is the article and box score from that game with Gehringer batting third for the American League, Swenson batting fourth and playing centerfield for the locals. Here are the lineups from this game:
P. McNulty CF
F Spurgeon LF
C Gehringer 2B
G. Bolton 1B
O. Melillo SS
J Warner 3B
B Bayne RF
C Ashby C
R. Burke P
3 Base hits: Gehringer
2 Base hits: Melillo 2, Bolton 2, Gehringer
C. Gustafson CF
R. Swenson CF
O. Erickson RF
H. Johnson 1B
2 Base hits: Swenson
The final score was 8-1 on a three hitter for the big-leaguers. The article states that in the fifth inning. “Swenson got the first hit for Two Harbors, a sizzling two bagger down the right field foul line…”
Tris Speaker Circa 1914
“Last Sunday the local baseball team journed over to Herman and coupled with a little hard luck met there(sic) third defeat of the season in a raggedly played game by a score of 10 to 4. . .’Speaker from Boston’ in center field did not measure up to his name.” The article ended by saying, “Lefty Swenson for the locals pitched good ball but his support failed him.”
My favorite article – Circa 1914 A CHALLENGE
We read with interest the Farwell items in the recent issue out of the Glenwood papers that Farwell seems to have over-estimated their baseball ability on account of winning the second game of a double-header played here on Sunday, Aug. 2. “Lefty” Swenson did vacate the box in the sixth inning in favor of Peterson but Farwell seems to have forgotten that “Lefty” had just finished a no-hit, no-run game against Elbow Lake on the same afternoon. The Wendell manager made a mistake by sending “Lefty” into the box in the second game. The Wendell baseball team would like to make a proposition to the Farwell team. We will play Farwell for a side bet of $50 to $100 on any ground that is acceptable to the managers of both teams. The teams of course must be identically the same that played at Wendell on Sunday Aug. 2. There is the proposition, Farwell. If you have a few sports in your town put up or shut up. Money talks. Acceptance of this proposition can be addressed to the Manager of the baseball team at Wendell. It will receive prompt attention.
Some Strike-Out Record Circa 1920
During the last five games pitched by “Lefty” Swenson he has secured 77 strikeouts…”Lefty” is delivering the goods this year and his support is excellent. Baseball fans can be assured of some baseball that will be worth seeing.
Herman Defeated Circa 1914
By Swenson who was invincible allowing only five hits and striking out 18…Among the hitting done Boyd bounced a two base hit over the right field ditch and old Fred Pennick who played with Noah met the ball square every time getting two nice hits at just the right times.
Wendell, Minn 3/21/21 Mr. Ralph Swenson Detroit Michigan Friend Ralph: Listen, according to latest development we can make you what we consider a good offer this year. A recent meeting voted that we will be willing to pay you $250.00 and living expenses for a season of about 3 ½ months beginning on or about May 15th. Some of the old players are very anxious to get you here. In fact I believe that they won’t care to play if you are not in the box. We must know at once so drop us a line before April 10th it you are available. The businessmen will finance the team more liberally and (illegible), if you sign up. Your Friend A.R. McManus, Mgr
There you have it, some of my family’s baseball history and why I love the game. Thanks for reading.
Liberace: The New Ides
March 15, 2016
If you’re anything like me, you’re getting swept up in the thrill and excitement of modern-day politics. It got me thinking that it’s not really very different from the heated exchanges and slander that we Groundouts hurl at each other every day, right? So this year, in addition to the forecast that you’ve all come to rely upon, I’m assigning a political figure/statesman/leader that most closely represents each team. Comments are encouraged, because all Groundouts are free Groundouts!
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST: The winner of this division will need to dig deep into their campaign funds to stave off all the challengers.
Pensacola: These junior senators don’t seem to have the experience, but they’ve captured the imagination of many. (Barack Obama)
Rochester: No hanging chads during the regular season, but they can’t seem to ever close the deal in the fall. (Adlai Stevenson)
Santa Catalina: The Cowboys are in the tough AL East congressional district, but this survivor can really slug it out. (Mayor Ed Koch)
Charleston: Price and Sale might be the most formidable 1-2 punch from the left side that we’ll ever witness. (Bill & Hillary Clinton)
Sheboygan: A tortured existence—tough circumstances, constant brooding, but they’ll eventually emerge as a conqueror. (Abe Lincoln)
Homestead: Once so powerful, the Grays desperately seek to stay relevant in a division that may have passed them by. (Mitt Romney)
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST: This division has the feel of a vacated seat—just waiting for a new candidate to emerge and grab it.
Brule: The Steelheads/Coolers have been finishing so far out of the running for so long. It's time for a radical change! (Ralph Nader)
Newark: Another impressive sophomore senator with eyes on a bigger prize. But can they take the next step? (Marco Rubio)
Thunder Bay: These Rats have endured great peaks and valleys, but now appear to be back on a major upswing. (Winston Churchill)
Ladner: A once-promising window appears to be closing too soon, leaving us all to wonder what might have been. (John F. Kennedy)
Branson: This once-powerful leader is now in exile, but there’s no doubt the plan is to re-establish total dominion. (Shah of Iran)
Covington: A relative newcomer to the main stage, the Bambini are destined for a season of slaughter and sacrifice. (Michael Dukakis)
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST: When all the returns are in, this will surely be a hotly-contested election. We might need a re-count!
San Antonio: Can the common class NL East rise up to vanquish the authoritarian NL West? The Padres have a shot. (Lech Walesa)
South Street: Probably not quite as good the second time around the circuit, but still a formidable presence. (George W. Bush)
Gnawbone: Nobody’s worked harder than the Doves to make sure they achieve no more and no less than anyone else. (Bernie Sanders)
Havana: Walsh/Peterson’s Stogies ruthlessly ruled the NL East fiefdom until their empire predictably began eroding. (Fidel & Raul Castro)
Manassas: Known for their occasional bright, shining moments, the ’Skins are currently on the wrong side of history. (Robert E. Lee)
Brooklyn: No real reason for this; but I just want all of you to imagine what Russ might look like in a skirt and heels. (Margaret Thatcher)
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST: The race for global supremacy may reach critical mass in this division. Who will blink first?
Vancouver: Oh sure, Jeremy’s riding high now, but one small shift can wipe that smirk off his little Canadian face. (Justin Trudeau)
Warwick: You’ve been put on notice: no team has been able amass so many arms in such a short period of time. (Kim Jong Un)
Casper: The Giants have been in contention forever, and one thing’s clear: they regret having to share power. (Harry Reid)
Tombstone: It may have taken longer than hoped, but the Shooters are finally emerging from a great depression. (Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Berlin: Never before in the history of mankind has one person worked so cunningly at expanding trade relations. (Richard Nixon)
El Dorado: Chuck is about to discover how long it takes to clean up the previous regime’s big mess in Chicago. (Rahm Emmanuel)
Playoffs: Vancouver becomes our first re-elected champion, beating Pensacola in six games.
Jeff Swenson: What I like about Strat
November 14, 2015
What I, Swen, like about playing Strat-O-Matic baseball in the Polo Grounds Computer Baseball League:
First of all, as has been stated by numerous other managers, I like that we’re just basically a bunch of good guys.
I like that we’re all passionate about baseball but not to the point of being cut-throat.
I like that we do a league podcast even though I have never personally listened to one. Wait! I take that back, I did listen to Groundout Radio # (I don’t remember the number) that Dave and guest host Jeremy did.
I like it better when my team is winning.
I like that we can good-naturedly rib each other.
I like that I’m smarter than some and mayyyybe not as smart as others.
I like that I have won the World Series once.
I don’t like that I’ve lost two. I like that the Meyer brothers are not Da Meyas Brothas, Ya know what ah means?
I like that I can spend as much time or little time per week managing my team (you really need to spend at least 15-20 minutes a week maintaining, though).
Like most, I probably spend too much time.
I like that Jeremy has the best team ever (not really). I like doing mock-drafts.
I like the draft and building my team.
I hate when it doesn’t work out right.
I like trading with other managers to build my team.
I’m not sure I like the Longoria for Bruce trade yet.
I like seeing the league box scores in the morning.
I really liked Albert Pujols in his prime.
I like that I can’t see the 1-19 for a homerun and then rolling a 20!
I like that my hero, Red Green, said, “Cheating only means you really care about winning.”
I like that I don’t have to watch for, and duck, errant flying dice that “launch themselves” across the room.
I (kinda) like trying to figure out Super Hal Bullpen.
I like the GoCons (Groundout conventions, KC, Minneapolis - twice, Milwaukee/Chicago) and connecting with other managers.
I like the Polo Grounds website.
I liked my (Branson) team home page last year, “Hey, Yunel, show us your defensive rating!” Excellent job Webmaster!
I like that Strat is better than fantasy.
I like writing blog posts.
Jeremy Johnson: The most incredible moment of the most incredible inning of the most incredible game of the most incredible series
October 21, 2015
It's tough to say if there has ever been one moment, one decision so loaded in Polo Grounds history. It is important to set the scene. Three years ago, Jeremy Johnson took over a fledgling franchise, renamed them the Vancouver Capilanos and set an aggressive, but patient plan into motion. The club had been a cellar dweller in the NL West long ruled by the seemingly unstoppable Casper Giants and David Meyer. Casper was the model Polo Grounds franchise and winning seemed easy. For the Caps, it was going to be a tough road to climb, but Jeremy's sights were set on becoming a franchise much like Dave's, full of all star players and emerging young talent.
Jeff Swenson: Rating the Draft
August 8, 2015
Over the next few seasons, the Caps wheeled, dealed and drafted their way into contention. In fact, the Caps and Giants began an annual tradition of meeting in the playoffs--a year hasn't passed that they haven't met. And then this year things really came together for the Caps. Vancouver went on to set a Polo Grounds record for wins and run differential, while Casper surprised many pundits, racking up wins and knocking off the powerful South Street Storm in the NLDS. The Giants were built for the playoffs.
This week the two clubs met again in their quickly emerging rivalry, the Caps hot off a sweep. They looked virtually unbeatable, until the first game of the NLCS. A one run victory for the Caps suggested this would be close. In fact, games two, three and four were all one run thrillers, but all went to the Giants pushing their powerful Canadian rival to the brink of a shocking elimination. Game five was no different. The game was tied 4-4 after the fourth and neither team could score. Until the 12...
Then we witnessed one of the most amazing innings in Polo Grounds history. After an easy top half of the inning Casper sent Lorenzo Cain out to lead things off in the bottom half. All Casper needed was a run to knock out the Caps. Cain singled and promptly swiped second. The series winning run was in scoring position with no outs. Aroldis Chapman had been chased from the game an inning earlier, and Walden was tiring as he faced light-hitting Jason Castro, who promptly laced a base hit. The hit wasn't hit deep, but Cain was rounding third with a 55% chance to score and win the series.
The window pops up, "Send runner?" Dave weighs the options. A 55% chance to win the series now really isn't much better than the odds of winning a tie game in extras as the home team. But if he holds the runner he will have 2nd and 3rd with no outs. According to baseballanalysts.com, Casper has an 87% chance of scoring a run in that scenario. Much higher than 55%. Dave goes with the overwhelming odds and holds Cain.
Blevins entered from the bullpen and struck out Crawford. Capps replaced him and Pence grounded out into a fielder's choice at the plate. Buehrle entered and Chirinos grounded out. Three season ending bullets dodged.
The following inning saw Alex Gordon, on after a two base error, nailed at the plate with a 75% chance of scoring the go ahead run. And one inning later, in the top of the 14th, after being no-hit for eight innings, David Ortiz hit a solo HR and the Caps hold on. The series moved back to Vancouver.
Just when you thought that there couldn't possibly be any drama left to use, the Strat gods found some. Game six was scoreless through eight innings when Casper broke the deadlock in the top half of the ninth. Certainly, this was it. The Caps were down to their last three outs. Aaron Sanchez was brought in to close it. He had dominated the Caps all series. Bautista led off with a single and Ortiz followed it with a walk off home run to force the decisive seventh game.
The seventh game was the first game not decided by a single run, as the Caps jumped out to an early lead and held on to complete the most improbable comeback imaginable. In the twelfth inning of game five, the Caps were faced with a 13% chance of escaping defeat, a 50-50 chance of winning that game after escaping the inning, and then the task of winning the remaining two games, while facing elimination once again down by a run in the bottom of the ninth in game six. Casper had three outs to win game five and were three outs from winning game six--either would have been enough.
But this one particular evening the Strat gods decided to shine their favour on the relentless Caps. Either that, or they decided play what was perhaps the cruelest joke of Casper's history. But either way, they blessed us with the most incredible moment of the most incredible inning of the most incredible game of the most incredible series of Polo Grounds baseball. And they reminded us all of why we play.
In previous blog and forum posts some of my fellow Groundouts have mentioned they are somewhat embarrassed by the amount of time they put into planning, strategizing, agonizing over, or otherwise neglecting familial duties over Strat. I guess we’re all one in the same.
If you are familiar with the book, Strengths Finder, you know that at the end of the book is a code you punch in online to take a short questionnaire which gives you your top five strengths (the next 15 you have to pay extra for). One of my strengths is Context. This basically says that you look at the past as a good predictor for the future. And that is why I guess you could call me a student of the draft. Say I have the 62nd overall pick; what types of players have been available at that pick or just after it? Sometimes there is nothing there, sometimes you get lucky and a player drafted later has a solid career, and sometimes you take a flyer on someone and it works and sometimes it doesn’t, or you may be better off trying to trade that pick. Below is a chart of the previous drafts going back to 2004 through our latest 2015, draft. I and my Branson draft brain-trust (ok, maybe the voices I hear in my head) chose eight picks from each year to rate. The pick numbers chosen are 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35.
Hits and Misses
There is no right or wrong way to rate draft picks, each groundout might do it slightly differently. There are always hits and misses; the draft is an imperfect science or just a plain old crap-shoot. If you see a player you drafted who was rated poorly I hope you take no offense. Taylor Teagarden, who I drafted in 2009 with the 30th pick, was going to be my starting catcher for the next eight years or so. He received an F rating. Who among us did not have a man-crush on Jurickson Profar when he was called up? The next stud short stop drafted number five overall in 2013, and still only 25 years old. He has been on the DL for the past two seasons.
The ratings are based on the draft position the player was taken, his overall game (offense & defense), longevity in PGB, injuries* (has the player been able to stay healthy), was the player towards the end his career when drafted, was he drafted for need, has he become a solid back up or bench player, and hind-sight being 20/20. These were the criteria used in judging the picks.
*Quoting the great Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis StarTribune who was quoting Vikings coaching legend, Bud Grant, “They might have all the talent in the world, but can they stay healthy?”
Ratings for the most recent drafts are harder to rate. There has not been enough time to see how their career will play out. Ratings in 2014 and 2015 are based more on potential and hype the player received coming into the drafts. All ratings are subject to change except for those players who are no longer in the league. For the most part, all players (especially in the earlier rounds) have been drafted about where one would expect them to go. There have been a few dog picks but I will let you decide who those players are. As always, positive comments appreciated. Negative comments may be directed to the Office of the Commissioner.
Each player received two ratings. The first rating is a simple A+ to F grade scale. The second rating assesses where the player is currently in his career.
↑ = Player is on the rise. Or is young and has potential to improve.
↓ = Player is on the way down. At one time was a star or solid player but is now older and in the twilight of his career. A young player who never panned out.
↕ = Player could go either way. Has shown potential, but is that all there is? Or we’ve seen his best and could be all down-hill from here.
↔ = Player has been consistent in career and what you see is what you get.
⌂ = Player is now out of baseballObservations
2004 (Pick #) (1) Bill Mueller B- ⌂, (5) Hideki Matsui A- ⌂, (10) Aaron Boone B ⌂, (15) Jose Contreras B+ ⌂, (20) Julio Lugo B ⌂, (25) Lance Nix C+ ⌂, (30) Aquilino Lopez D+ ⌂, (35) Scott Williamson C- ⌂ 2005 (Pick #) (1) Javier Vazquez A ⌂, (5) Joe Nathan A+ ⌂?, (10) Scott Kazmir A+ ↔, (15) Carlos Silva B- ⌂ (20) David Bush B- ⌂, (25) Octavio Dotel B+ ⌂, (30) Pokey Reese C- ⌂, (35) Miguel Batista B- ⌂ 2006 (Pick #) (1) Richie Sexon C+ ⌂, (5) Robinson Cano A+ ↔, (10) Kevin Millwood B ⌂, (15) Chris Shelton D ⌂ (20) Bobby Jenks B- ⌂, (25) Jonathon Paplebon A- ↓, (30) Jay Witasick C- ⌂, (35) Yorvit Torrealba B- ⌂ 2007 (Pick #) (1) Delmon Young D- ⌂, (5) Kenji Johjima C ⌂, (10) Howie Kendrick B+ ↔, (15) Dionner Navaro C+ ↔ (20) Matt Garza B ↔, (25) Adam Loewen F ↓, (30) Ruddy Lugo D- ⌂, (35) Erick Aybar A ↔ 2008 (Pick #) (1) Alex Gordon A- ↔, (5) Phil Hughes B ↔, (10) Joba Chamberlain B ↓, (15) Joakim Soria A ↓ (20) Ian Kennedy A ↔, (25) Travis Buck D ⌂, (30) Brandon Wood F ⌂, (35 )Brendan Harris C+ ⌂ 2009 (Pick #) (1) Evan Longoria A- ↔, (5) David Price A+ ↑, (10) Carlos Quentin B- ⌂, (15) Joey Devine D- ⌂ (20) Denard Span B ↔, (25) Greg Smith D- ⌂, (30) Taylor Teagarden F ↓, (35) Luke Scott B- ↓ 2010 (Pick #) (1) Mark Reynolds B- ↓, (5) Brett Anderson D- ↓, (10) Max Scherzer A+ ↑, (15) Brad Bergesen D- ⌂ (20) Ricky Romero B- ⌂, (25) Casey Mcgehee C+ ↕, (30) Brett Cecil B+ ↕, (35) Trevor Hoffman D+ ⌂ 2011 (Pick #) (1) Troy Tulowitzki A ↔, (5) Justin Smoak B ↔, (10) Dexter Fowler B+ ↔, (15) Jhoulys Chacin B ↕ (20) Desmond Jennings B+ ↔, (25) Joaquin Benoit A ↔, (30) Jonathon Lucroy B+ ↕, (35) Hank Conger C ↔ 2012 (Pick #) (1) Hunter Pence B+ ↔, (5) Michael Pineda C- ↕, (10) Mike Moustakas B+ ↕, (15) Jesus Montero D- ↓ (20) Martin Prado A- ↔, (25) Craig Kimbral A+ ↑, (30) Alejandro DeAza B+ ↔, (35) Lonnie Chisenall C+ ↔ 2013 (Pick #) (1) Bryce Harper A ↑, (5) Jurickson Profar F ↓, (10) Andrelton Simmons A- ↕, (15) Tommy Milone B- ↕ (20) Tyler Colvin D ↓, (25) Ryan Doumit C- ↓, (30) Derek Norris B- ↔, (35) Erasmo Ramirez C ↕ 2014 (Pick #) (1) Joey Votto A ↔, (5) Josh Donaldson A ↕, (10) Anthony Rendon A- ↕, (15) Xander Boegarts B ↕ (20) Tony Cingrani C+ ↕, (25) Scooter Gennett C ↕, (30) Connor Gillaspie B- ↕, (35) Cory Kluber A ↔ 2015 (Pick #) (1) Jose Altuve A ↕, (5) Joc Pederson B ↕, (10) Jeff Samardzija A ↔, (15) JD Martinez A ↕ (20) Marcus Stroman B+ ↕, (25) Maikel Franco B ↕, (30) Aaron Sanchez B ↕, (35) TJ House C ↕
Jeff Swenson: Aaaaaarrrrrgh!!!!
July 23, 2015
Picture this... I am coming to you on my knees, wearing sackcloth with a rope around my head, and waving a white flag. I am begging for mercy! How much longer can this torture last? Please, please, please, please, PLEASE...remove me from the PGB Today front page.
In the ten games prior I was 6-4, six games under, four games out of a playoff spot. In those ten games I scored 50 runs, gave up 27. In the twelve games since I was jinxed, I am 2-10, and now rest fourteen games under and eight games from the playoffs. I have scored 30 runs and given up 49. I have lost 2 straight to Manassas, lost 2 of 3 to both South Street and Homestead, and been swept by Brooklyn. And now I'm being pumeled by Pensacola.
Editor's note: This request has been granted. Let's monitor the results...
Jeff Swenson: My favorite game at Target Field (so far)
July 10, 2015
It was Friday, April 12, 2013. The phone conversation went something like this.
“Hello, this is Jeff.”
“Swen, how ya doing?”
“Davey, what’s up man?”
“What are you doing tonight?”
“Not much, whatya got?”
“Twins, Target Field, seven pm.”
It was less a question and more a statement.
“You know how cold it is out there?”
“Yeah, it’ll be great! I’ve got two tickets, whatya say?”
“Okay, I need to run home first and grab some warm
clothes. I’ll meet you at gate 29 around 6:45.”
After work I went home, grabbed my gloves, put on long-johns, warm socks, and layered up to meet Dave at Target Field. The day time high was only 35 or 36 degrees with snow in the forecast. Temperature at game time was a balmy 34 degrees. The Twins announced earlier in the day the game would be played and there would be free hot chocolate and coffee located around the concourse that evening. How could we pass that up? So Dave and I, along with 23,733 other hardy souls (or tickets sold) that night braved a wind chill right factor around 30 degrees to watch the Mets whoop up on the Twins.
I wasn’t worried about the cold. When my dad had Vikings season tickets I spent a number of freezing cold days bundled up at the old Met Stadium in December and January. With me in my wool cap and Dave in his musher’s hat we blended right in with the rest of the crowd. Before we made our way to our seats which were about 20 rows up from the field between home and third, we gabbed a cup of free hot chocolate. We made it to our seats just as the “Vanimal” Vance Worley, who the Twins signed in the off-season, threw the game’s first pitch.
The Vanimal lasted an inning plus. The Mets lit him up for five runs in the first and another four in the second without recording an out. Pedro Hernandez came in in relief for the Vanimal and got out of the inning, but not before giving up a homerun. After two innings the Mets led 10-2. I said to Dave during the early onslaught, “If this keeps up which Twins non-pitcher do you think we’ll see pitch tonight?” For the next inning or so we went over the Twins roster trying to decide who Gardy might bring in to pitch if the game got farther out of hand and really hoping we would see this. I think we came up with two possibilities: Drew Butera or Pedro Florimon.
The Twins tried to make it interesting by climbing to within five runs after the fifth but the final was Mets 16, Twins 5. Around the fourth inning it did begin to snow lightly. It was not the type of snow that accumulates, however. By the fifth inning the temp had dropped to about 28 degrees but we were still feeling okay. But by the seventh inning stretch, and with the seven mile-an-hour wind, we both were starting to feel chilled. More hot chocolate was calling us. Unfortunately it was all but gone when we got out to the concourse. So begrudgingly I had to BUY some more from the concession stand.
We stayed until the end and even though the Twins lost it was a most memorable night.
The Commish: 26 Years Ago Today...
May 26, 2015
The date was May 26, 1993. It was a nice spring night and I talked my then fiancé, Carol into going to the Indians game against the Texas Rangers at old Municipal Stadium. The Indians won the game 7-6 with Jose Mesa getting the win, and former Twin, Kenny Rogers taking the loss. But, none of that is what made that night memorable. You’ve all seen the video. It’s the baseball blooper of all baseball bloopers. Carlos Martinez, the Indians DH that night, stepped to the plate, leading off the 4th inning. The Rangers were leading at that time by a score of 3-1. That was about to change.
Martinez drove the ball deep to right. The Rangers rightfielder that night was Jose Canseco. Canseco drifted back. Back a little more onto the warning track, and appeared to be under it to make the catch. But, NO! The ball came down right on Canseco’s head and bounced off his head and over the fence for Martinez’ 4th homerun of the season.
It was hard to tell exactly what happened from our vantage point behind first base. But, I remember immediately saying to Carol that it looked like the ball bounced off his head. Now this was back in the days of no instant replay on the Jumbotron. Especially in the old, and as usual, mostly empty ballpark in Cleveland. It wasn’t until we got back home that night that I actually saw what happened. A look at the records shows that the attendance that night was 14,503. So not many people can claim to have witnessed one of the most replayed homeruns of all-time.
A few years before that, 1988 I believe, Municipal Stadium was the site of another memorable moment. Brother Dave and I, along with former Mayflower Leaguer Harry Mihas, took a trip to New York to take in a couple of ballgames. I was living in Chicago at the time and flew to New York to meet up with the others. After attending the Yankees/Mariners doubleheader on a Friday night, we drove overnight to Cleveland for a noon start on Saturday.
The Indians were playing the Royals that afternoon and it was our first visit to the old ballpark affectionately known as “The Mistake by the Lake”. We had some time to kill before gametime, so Harry and I pulled out the dice and cards and played a three game series while waiting for the game to start. Don’t remember the outcome of that series, but Harry’s Cheyenne Drifters usually got the best of my Rollers. Kansas City won 4-2.
That wasn’t the end of the day though. For some reason, Harry had to get back quickly to his home in Baltimore, so we dropped him off at the Cleveland airport. Then the three of us, including Dave’s friend Blake Fisher, headed to Detroit for the Tigers-White Sox that night. in a 24-hour span, we saw four games in three cities. The Tigers won the game 2-1. As if that wasn’t enough for one day, we drove to my place in Chicago right after the game.
Jeremy Johnson: The Case for A-Rod
May 2, 2015
Last off-season I was faced with the question of A-Rod. An old player in decline. A cheater who seemed to only make things worse with each apology and explanation. Yet the decision for me to cut or keep A-Rod and his vacant card was not going to be a moral one. It was going to be based on the numbers. But how could it possibly make sense to keep around a guy that close to the end with so many question marks?
To explain the process, one needs to decide two things: what is the value of the 40th roster spot and is the club in a position to use that spot on a player who will provide no help this year and will likely play no more than one or two seasons? Let's answer these questions. The Capilanos were lucky enough to be covered at all positions before the draft was even held. Also, based on projected lineups, there really wasn't a player available after the first two rounds (Caps didn't have any early picks) who would displace any of the starters. That meant the Caps had virtually no needs heading into the draft and were prepared to take all prospects.
This meant that when evaluating the 40th roster spot on the club, it would be valued at the final player taken at the end of the draft. Brock Holts aside, the likelihood of hitting the jackpot in the 8th or 9th round is slim. How slim? I would project that a player selected that late would be beating the odds if he was a regular bench player who contributed any positive WAR value. The Holts of the draft are clearly the anomaly, and even his upside was probably realized in his 2 win season last year.
To keep A-Rod he would simply have to be worth more than a player with a couple hundred worse than league average at bats. Let's say a total of 2 wins above replacement over the next three seasons. Since A-Rod would be contributing nothing this year, he would have to be worth around 1 win or so each of the next two years to be the better option. (And let's point out that this is being very generous with our 8th rounder projections.)
So what should have been expected of A-Rod after his suspension? In 2012 he was worth 2 wins. In 2013 he was worth .5 wins, but in only 44 games. If he played half a season he would have been worth 1 win. Sure, he's getting older, but let's assume his suspension gets him off the PEDs and he takes the time to recondition (as he stated he would do). Getting back to 120 games would very realistically put him over 1 win of value. Of course, there is risk...but how much? The downside seemed to be he battles injuries and plays less than half a season. Even in that case he doesn't fall too far behind the 8th rounder's expected average value. But what about the upside? A-Rod has always hit and if he stayed relatively healthy, his ceiling would appear to be around 2 wins or so--Brock Holt territory. So A-Rod appears to have a higher floor than the draft pick, a higher probable average outcome and likely at least as high of a ceiling.
Keeping A-Rod was the prudent thing to do.
Now, this article was not written to make a case that I saw this start from A-Rod coming. Far from it. I certainly do not expect him to keep this level of performance up all season. But...it does point to the possibility that we can tend to overvalue the potential of the unknown. It is a lot easier to dream of some prospect we fell in love with who may never see a big league bench than it is to get excited about an aging pariah coming off a season long drug suspension and who seemed miles away from his Hall of Fame seasons. But what A-Rod does or doesn't do the rest of this season doesn't change the fact that with all emotion thrown out the window he was simply a more likely bet to produce than the draft pick. Jerk or not. And just because he was nowhere near as good as he was, he was still likely better than the Polo Grounds' late picks. It's easy to dream, but it's hard to keep A-Rod. Even when it seems to make perfect sense.
Jeff Swenson: Memories of The Met
April 19, 2015
Met Stadium, or The Met, or The Old Met. Those were some of the names we called Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, MN. The Twins played at The Met from 1961 to 1981 before starting play at the Metrodome in 1982.
I saw a lot of games at The Met as a youngster, here are some of my favorite memories of The Old Met.
During summer breaks from school most districts had a summer playground program (I think they were created to keep us from bugging mom all summer). One afternoon day in 1968 the school programs transported school busses full of kids to a Twins game at the Met. Every time Harmon Killebrew* came to bat all us kids in the left field bleachers screamed for Harmon to hit a homerun. Finally, the bleachers erupted when Harmon, in his last at bat, hit a towering drive in to left field where we were sitting. The ball landed about ten feet from where my friends and I were.
* Why did the Twins go to the bar? To see Harmon Kill-a-brew…..AHaHaHaHaHa!
1970 – My dad took me and my two brothers to an early spring game against the Tigers. The previous Christmas, 1969, my brother Bart ran through a glass door and ended up with over 300 stitches in his body, about 150 of them in his left arm alone. The gash he opened on his left forearm was about six inches long and went right down to the bone.
We were at the game early enough to watch the Tigers taking batting practice. The three of us were at the front railing with our arms hanging over the wall in left field when a batted ball hit Bart on his left forearm. Ouch, he went running back to dad wailing in pain. A few minutes later a man approached us with a baseball. One of the Tigers (Gates Brown, don’t ask me how I remember who it was, I just do) had seen what happened and asked the man to give the ball to the kid who got hit. Wow! I wanted to go back down and try to get hit so I could get a ball. Dad said no!
1976/77 – The Minnesota Kicks was Minnesota’s entry in the North American Soccer League. 1976 was the Kicks inaugural season. Needing a win in their last game of the season to clinch a playoff spot, a record 42,065 fans showed up to see the Kicks win the game. As the game ended the PA announcer warned fans that any one coming on to the field could face consequences including arrest. That didn’t stop thousands of fans rushing onto the field as play ended, including yours truly. The sprinklers on the field were also turned on in an effort to discourage the fans, but that had the opposite effect, it riled up the fans even more. As I was running around the field I saw Kicks defender Alan Merrick being mobbed by fans tearing his jersey, shredding it as they tried to lift him on their shoulders. That’s as close to being a soccer hooligan as I have ever been. The next year I went to a game on July 4 with some high school friends. Walking through The Met parking lot after the game felt like a war zone. Bottle rockets were whizzing past our heads and exploding, firecrackers and other fireworks exploding at our feet. The night sky buzzing and popping as Roman candles were lit and exploding in a rainbow of colors all throughout the parking lot.
1977 – Rod Carew was having a monster year. He ended the year batting .388 after flirting with .400 most of the season and was named AL MVP that year. Sunday, July 26, was Rod Carew Day at the Met. The Twins were playing the White Sox and the two teams were in a virtual tie for first. The give-away that day was a number 29 Rod Carew Jersey. I was one of 46,463 who witnessed one of the greatest days in Carew’s baseball career. His batting average coming into the game stood at .396. I was at the game with Paul Johnson (LAD) and a couple of other friends. We were sitting in box seats down the first base line about twelve rows up. The game erupted from the first pitch. The score after three innings: Twins 12 Sox 7. The Twins went on to win the pitcher’s duel 19-12 and take sole possession of first-place. Each time Carew came to bat the Twins O’gram on the scoreboard showed his batting average and the fans cheered wildly. On the day, Carew was 4 for 5, five runs scored, a double, homerun, 6 RBI, and a walk. He finished the day with a staggering .403 batting average. Overlooked because of the day that Carew had was RF Glen Adams, who set a Twins single game record with 8 RBI.
My favorite memory of Met Stadium happened in 1979 or ’80. It was a twilight double-header, back when those were still played. I was at the game with Paul, Johnny Walbert (THU) and one other friend. On our way to the Met it was pouring rain. We almost decided to turn around and go home. But, being young and adventurous, we continued on. We bought cheap tickets and once we were inside the Met we found some box seats just to the right of home plate about eight rows up from the field. We were there fairly early but other fans straggled in late because of the rain. We were flushed from our seats once by ticket holding fans but just moved over a couple of boxes. The game started and through the first two or three innings people all around us were being kicked out of their seats by the fans holding tickets for those seats. By the fourth inning I thought we were finally OK where we were and sat there and enjoyed the rest of the game.
A thirty-minute break between games one and two gave us enough time to hit the head, grab a dog, and roam a bit before heading back to our seats. When we got back to our seats they were occupied. I said to the others, “We’ll have to find seats somewhere else.” Paul said, “Wait” and turning to the people sitting in our seats said, “Excuse me, are these your seats?”
“Oh no, no” they said as they scrambled out of the box seats, “we’re sorry.”
We sat down again in our seats and enjoyed our hot dogs and the second game.
Liberace: The Ides Cometh Early
March 10, 2015
You know, every year it feels like March encroaches upon me faster and faster. I guess when you’ve been dead for almost 30 years, every day feels like a year and every year feels like a day. But I have been monitoring the Forum enough to see that my dear protege, the young and stylish Jeremy Johnson, has began his foray into the rocky waters of prognostication. Tread cautiously, my friend—foreknowledge can be a cruel and fleeting mistress.
Before I reveal this year’s winners and losers, I need to apologize to the departed Chuck Tinkler, for whom I may have wishcast a third-place finish, only to see his Perros explode to 113 wins and the World Series championship. I know you left PGB smitten with thoughts of a repeat, and as such, I sincerely wish you and your little dogs prosperity in your newest venture, and one of our mutual passions: Strat-O-Matic Kennel Club competitions. We’ll miss you.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST: We’ll see five playoff teams emerge from this powerful division.
Charleston: That’s an awfully powerful collection of arms and a solid lineup. 95 wins can scarcely be avoided.
Rochester: Again primed for a long playoff run, but it’s no guarantee they can outlast the field in this tough division.
Pensacola: A victim of geography, but these Crackers will place themselves squarely into the middle of this brawl.
Santa Catalina: An impressive debut—and the revised playoff formatting will help the Cowboys in their playoff quest.
Homestead: Possibly the best 5th-place team in sports history, although Benson downplays his chances. 90 wins?
Sheboygan: This year is irrelevant, but look at the draft war chest that Mihelich is assembling. Look out in 2016!
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST: It won’t be pretty, but it will be competitive!
Ladner: The disappointment ends here and now. Newcomers Cano and Byrd will lead the Alouettes into October.
Brule: Poised to challenge for their 1st trip to the postseason in 12 years. They’re not booing; they’re bruuuling!
Covington: Dogfight for third place, but the Bambini look deeper and better positioned to outlast their foes.
Branson: Is there another run left in the tank? The ‘Knobbers might be re-grouping this year but remain a threat.
Newark: Could easily move up as high as second place, but the foundation is in place for long-term success.
Thunder Bay: The Rats re-tooling continues, but success appears to be quickly approaching. Just not this year.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST: Four teams have a reasonable shot at winning this division.
Gnawbone: Defending champs will maintain their title, but can’t rest too much on past accomplishments.
South Street: Strongest of the newbies, they appear deep and balanced. Could win the division with a few breaks.
Havana: Stogies are re-loading, but there’s plenty of firepower to coax out another run at the playoffs.
San Antonio: Another team on the postseason bubble. Could win or lose 88 games, probably around .500.
Manassas: The plan is starting to take shape, but Kluber isn’t enough to help the “Skins secure a playoff spot.
Brooklyn: Infield is coming together, but a few youngsters need to step up. Another team building for the future.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST: Settled at the top, the rest of the division is up for grabs.
Vancouver: Will threaten the record for most wins, the Caps shouldn’t be satisfied with anything but the trophy.
Casper: Next three are pretty interchangeable, but the Giants have enormous edge due to managerial savvy.
Tombstone: We’ll find out about the big ’15 draft over the next several years, but early results will be promising.
Berlin: The Blue Devils could easily catapult as high as second, especially with a key mid-season blockbuster.
Chicago: Nice expansion draft puts the Mustangs on the right course. Will sport a decent 1st-year record.
Warwick: The Warriors are building for the long-term, so watch out when Harvey and Fernandez bounce back.
POSTSEASON: Five AL East teams will battle it out, with Charleston emerging to take on heavy favorite Vancouver. But the Sox will be no match for the Capilanos, who will go unchallenged on their march to their first World Series crown. VAN 4, CHA 2
Ken Simone: Peter Gammons On the Santa Catalina Offseason
February 19, 2015
Ken Simone sat down with Peter Gammons shortly after the draft to discuss the state of affairs with the STC franchise. We provide an excerpt.
PG: Ken tell us about your first year experience owning a Strat franchise in Polo Grounds Baseball.
KS: 2014 was an interesting season for our team. The year started with new ownership purchasing the ballclub and moving it from Mississippi to the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona. We were then immediately thrust into the draft and scrambled to fill the team’s holes and fully stock our roster with little preparation. We had very modest goals going into our first season and the team surprised us with its level of play and performance. 99 wins is nothing to sneeze at and our guys gave it everything they had but fell short to a superior ballclub in the playoffs.
PG: What were management’s thoughts after your successful first season?
KS: Although we won 99 games last season, heading into the off season we realized we had a lot of work ahead of us due to a number of factors. As we evaluated our roster and core players we acknowledged that we had significant holes in key areas due to a number of reasons such as off years for key players in real life (i.e. Davis, Cozart, Buchholz) as well as the under performance from young players (i.e. Myers, Workman, E. Ramirez) we were counting on to make contributions in 2015. Our challenge became greater when we looked at both our (low) draft position and the draft pool. With that in mind we drew up our draft board and discussed various options such as moving up in the draft, moving down, making moves for established players, etc. As the draft approached we received some very intriguing offers that we thought long and hard about. In the end we didn’t pull the trigger on any deal on the table because it would have been a zero sum game; leaving us with other holes in our roster.
PG: Tell us about the draft
KS: Preparing for the draft we had several players on our board we thought could be available with our first pick that would both help us this season and in the future (i.e. players that would fill one of our big holes). Unfortunately, most slipped away but we were fortunate enough to draft Marcus Stroman with our first pick. We were pleasantly surprised that he slipped to us at #21. We feel he has the potential to be a 1 or 2 in our rotation in the future. As we progressed to subsequent rounds the players we targeted were drafted within a few picks of our draft position so we transitioned to plan B, C, and D to address both our needs this season and to position ourselves with the appropriate number of AB’s and IP to field a Strat team in 2015. We believe we’ve built a solid BP adding Gregerson and Abad in the 2nd and 3rd round respectively which should take some pressure off of our starters with lower IP’d. In a sense we feel we strengthened our rotation by deepening our BP. Drafting RP’s so high in the draft wasn’t our original goal but it made sense looking at the draft board when our picks came up.
PG: You selected some interesting picks mid draft, tell us about that
KS: We drafted Chris Denorfia for his defense and ability to play all 3 OF positions. We also believe he can be a bounce back this season and provide us with depth in 2016. We selected Craig Allen in the 5th round as a low risk high reward type of pick as we’re looking for him to bounce back this season.
PG: And your last few rounds?
KS: In the last two rounds we were looking for players that we felt could contribute in future years if they reached their full potential. Players with talent who could show up this season and break some ground.
PG: Final thoughts about your draft
KS: All in all we felt that our draft accomplished some of our goals but it was frustrating in many ways with near misses on guys we believe have huge upside. With that said we are very pleased and fortunate to have Marcus Stroman in our rotation this season and for many seasons to come.
Sir Ian Alistair Branson: Ranking the Best Baseball Movies
November 25, 2014
What makes a baseball movie great? Answer…the number home plates this scribe assigns as a rating. We all have our favorite movies. Over the years there have been some great baseball movies and some horrendous baseball movies. The movies listed below are rated on a five home plate scale. Zero home plates is a whiff and five home plates is a dinger, knocked out of the ballpark! These ratings are based on the story, the reality of the baseball scenes, and if I happen to be sitting around some Saturday afternoon, would I watch it if it was on TV.
42 ⌂⌂⌂⌂ We are all familiar with the Jackie Robinson story, the first Black player to integrate baseball in 1947. The movie was done well. Based on other readings I have done about Robinson breaking the color barrier, the actual story was probably much darker than what was portrayed in the movie.
61 It is hard to believe, but I have not seen this movie.
Angels in the Outfield ⌂ Danny Glover was good as the Angels manager through the first half of the movie but as the Angels struggled, the movie became dumb.
The Babe ⌂⌂ It seems odd to me that there is not one movie about Babe Ruth that you could call the definitive movie about his life, like Pride of the Yankees which is about Lou Gehrig, with Gary Cooper as Lou. John Goodman as Babe Ruth just doesn’t compare.
Bad News Bears ⌂⌂⌂ It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this movie. When I was a little leaguer I wish I had an arm like Jodie Foster’s.
Bang the Drum Slowly I have seen parts of this movie but never the whole thing.
Bull Durham ⌂⌂ ½ I know, I know, I must be the only person on planet Earth to not think this is the greatest baseball movie ever. Maybe I was sullied by Field of Dreams (see below) and more so by For the Love of the Game (see below).
Damn Yankees (musical) ⌂⌂ What non-New Yorker hasn’t uttered these two words?
Eight Men Out ⌂⌂⌂⌂⌂ One of only two baseball movies I’ve seen that rank 5 home plates worthy. This movie was true to the book of the same title plus, for the most part, the baseball scenes were real. It was a good story really about greed. The movie depicted how Charles Comisky treated his players poorly. Underpaying them compared to other big leaguers of the time, having his manager bench their star pitcher as he approached 30 wins and a $10,000 bonus. So when certain players of the eight who became known as the “Black Sox” were offered thousands of dollars to throw the World Series, they did it more as a way to get back at Comiskey.
Fear Strikes Out ⌂⌂⌂⌂ It’s been awhile since I last watched this movie. It is the true story about Jimmy Piersall and his and his battle with mental illness while he was with the Boston Red Sox. When you compare and contrast it to another baseball movie based on real life events, The Rookie, both movies are about a son’s rise to the major leagues and the role that his father played.
Field of Dreams ⌂⌂⌂⌂⌂ Would rank 4 ½ home plates because of what I consider two major errors for my tastes. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) is portrayed as a right-handed batter. A true baseball fan knows Joe was one of the best lefties to ever play the game. Secondly, at the end of the movie when Ray (Kevin Costner) meets his father, he asks his dad if he wants to “have a catch?” I cringe every time I hear that. It’s “do you want to play catch?” Only James Earl Jones’ role as 60’s icon Terrance Mann lifts the movie to the 5 home plate platitude.
For the Love of the Game ⌂ For those people who say baseball is boring and plodding, this movie confirms their belief. Kevin Costner’s ego was too big in this movie.
Kid from Left Field ½ Kiddie movie
A League of their Own ⌂⌂⌂½ This movie gets better for me each time I watch it.
Little Big League ½ A cameo by former Twins play-by-play announcer, John Gordon as “Twins announcer Wally Holland” made me wonder if this movie really featured the Minnesota Twins because Wally called the game instead of reading commercials during the action.
Major League (no home plates) Too contrived and predictable for my taste. Too many non-athletes playing major roles making the baseball action scenes brutal to watch.
Major League II (no home plates) Worse than above.
Million Dollar Arm ⌂⌂ Okay movie with an interesting story but I kept waiting for more. Alan Arkin as a major league scout was the best part of the movie.
Mr. 3000 ⌂ Interesting premise. Prima Donna baseball player playing for himself thinking everyone loves him when everyone despises him.
Moneyball ⌂⌂⌂ ½ I think in one way or another, the premise of Moneyball and how we use stats, affected each of us. I am not the biggest Brad Pitt fan, but he was very respectable as Billy Beane, the A’s GM.
The Natural ⌂⌂⌂⌂ ½ Wilford Brimsley and Richard Farnsworth as coaches for the New York Knights sitting in the dugout whistling tunes and guessing the song title… And in the end, the guy in the White Hat wins.
Pride of the Yankees ⌂⌂⌂⌂ Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig. The actress playing Lou’s wife was just-a little-over-the-top.
The Rookie ⌂⌂⌂⌂ Who among us hasn’t dreamt of a major league career? Dennis Quad was respectable as Jim Morris. He desperately wants and seeks his dad’s approval from the time he is a child to when he finally makes it to The Show.
The Sandlot ⌂⌂⌂⌂⌂ All we did as kids every summer was play baseball. We walked or rode our bikes two blocks to school, or played in the cul-de-sac we lived in. If there were only a few of us we played hot box, 500, or just played catch. And there was always at least one kid in the neighborhood we had to carry because he sucked (not only) at baseball (but at every sport we played). And as it was with Scotty Smalls, he was usually the one who could get us a baseball.
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings ⌂⌂⌂⌂ Any baseball movie with James Earl Jones is worth a sit down. Set in the 1930’s barnstorming era the movie is loosely based on historical Negro League players and owners. The baseball scenes were contrived but overall a fun movie to watch.
Trouble with the Curve ⌂⌂⌂ Clint Eastwood, need more be said? He was a grizzled, old-time scout hanging on when most of his contemporaries were laughing at him. With sabermetrics such a big part of the game today, I found this movie an interesting comparison with Moneyball in how years of experience works versus stats when rating players.
I am sure there are movies that I missed. Maybe you agree with me or disagree with me but positive comments are appreciated, negative comments discouraged☺ Lets hear your favorites!
Jeremy Johnson: Redbirds' Advantage Flies South
October 15, 2014
Round two produced a couple relatively short series, but it also produced the Rochester/Branson six gamer. Branson pulled it out, but some of the starting pitching performances caught my eye. At first blush, I assumed Rochester would have had the starting pitching advantage, but upon closer examination the advantage wasn't quite as large as I expected. Going by FIP, only one matchup stood out as a clear advantage, while the others were much closer, albeit with Rochester ahead in all.
Mike Walsh: Accelerating Through the Strat-i-verse
September 19, 2014
Both tabletop and computer Strat geeks, of one persuasion or both combined, routinely unrolled the expanding Strat-i-verse while debating the righteousness of Bo Jackson's rookie card or whether Hal did right by Nolan Ryan over his career, and other questions without end - including whether dice luck was better than random number luck. Debate enlivened the Strat-i-verse until a monster crept in and truly shook Strat geeks reality – the Internet.
Hal looked out on the new information highway and said, "Let's surf." The Strat-i-verse expanded once again with online play, chatrooms, draft sites, etc. Instead of the difficulty of getting the league together to play face-to-face, now Strat geeks were confronted by carpal tunnel and spam. Leagues could now operate with members dispersed to the far corners of the globe instead of the neighborhood or the town. Fits of temper, thrown dice, and salty language became less public events (except at tournaments) as many Strat geeks carried on play solitarily with eyes glued to computer screens.
And the Strat-i-verse became saturated with statistics from a Jamesian "Moneyball" mindset. Tools to measure performance exploded into the 21st Century as the zealous clamoring by the Roto Tribe reached a sabremetric crescendo, carrying on about 'small sample size'. Hal and his elves soldiered on; producing The Cards and covering them with the secret sauce, addicting new generations who never have held and may never hold an actual Card in their hand, let alone ever roll The Dice.
But, the older experience-wise Strat geeks always check The Cards. This is why a certain league holds its draft before The Cards for the coming Strat season become available because you just never know where Hal and his elves decided to put that stone glove's home run splits.
not Hal of the Strats lagoon,
hazy murk of stats
Mike Walsh: Strolling Further in the Strat-i-verse
August 26, 2014
The Strat-i-verse unrolls for Strat geeks with The Dice: one 6-sided die; two 6-sided dice, matching, in a different color than the single 6-sided die; and the 20-sided die. The Dice tumble the probabilities and results pop out. The Dice and The Cards through play simulate The Game.
Hal saw The Cards were good, but not great. Hal said, "Let us refine the refined statistical simulation more. We will pass it through the goose several more times; we will advance it and super-advance it." And so, Hal did, creating The Charts.
Some of The Charts came out golden. The rest just passed through the goose. The Golden Charts fine tune the simulation in the Strat-i-verse by allowing further tuning of the game's play. The first Golden Chart is The Basic Explanation; telling the meaning of the ubiquitous GROUNDBALL A or the less common but often just as painful FLYBALL C, whether your steal attempt will be basically successful, and, details the basic conditions of bunts, squeezes, and infield positioning. Memorize it Strat geeks; but get your bunts, squeezes, and hit-and-runs from the Advanced Strategy Chart, the second Golden Chart on the flipside. And get your steals from the 20-sided die.
The third Golden Chart is the Advanced Fielding Chart (known as the X-Chart, or, the E-Chart) which combines both range factor and errors to generate fielding ratings. Players with ranges of 1 get to everything unless you roll their error numbers, pitchers the exception. Did the player make the flashy stuff routinely but boot the routine ball tapped their way. Games can slip away through sloppy gloves.
The rest of the charts: the Ball Park Effect chart and the Weather Effects chart are for historical simulators who want to answer questions such as "Would the 69 Mets have won the World Series if it had rained more?"; and, the Super Advanced Charts (SACs) are for people who have no lives, which you can state as fact to explain to your wife why your league distains SACs.
With the Dice bouncing off The Cards and The Charts, Strat geeks joyously went about unrolling The Strat-i-verse. The secret sauce flowed. Then Hal said, "Let's automate" and The Strat-i-verse trembled. A new world dawned in artificial intelligence. Strat geeks could play the game alone or huddled together around a CRT screen if they wanted; no longer physically rolling The Dice as random number subroutines began unrolling the Strat-i-verse. The important question then became "Does the software come on 5 ½ or 3 ½ floppy disk ?" followed by "Want to have pizza delivered?". And The Strat-i-verse kept unrolling.
Please not baloney
Only pepperoni doughboy
Thrill me with the cheese
Jeff Swenson: Golfing for Glory
August 15, 2014
Confusion reigned. Word on the street was that there were a bunch of old guys in town for a golf tournament. The roads leading to the course were jammed. There was talk of delaying the start time to give the fans more time to get to the course.
Somehow Young, Tingblad, and Mihelich had been confused for Palmer, Nicklaus, and Player. Once it was figured out that the latter three were in town, but at the 3M Championship Senior Tour at the Twin Cities TPC course, the Glorybound scramble tourney started on time at Chomonix Golf Course in Lino Lakes, MN.
On Friday, August 1, 2014, five PGB managers took to the links at Chomonix. The fivesome who golfed included your podcast hosts David Meyer and Jeff Swenson. We were joined by Russ Young, Mike "Boomer" Mihelich, and Tom "Sparky" Tingblad. Chomonix was in good shape unless you were off the main fairway, otherwise the ride was pretty bumpy as Russ and his bladder kept telling me.
A few years back Sparky played in a league, and just as Bubba Watson has developed his own unique golf swing, Spark has done the same, just without the millions won on the PGA tour. At the moment he strikes the ball, both feet are airborne as he twists his body to the left to give the ball an extra oomph. Somehow, despite the oddness of his swing, Sparky makes it work. He saved us numerous times with his long and short iron play.
Of the five of us who golfed, Dave is really the only none golfer (though it would be hard to justify calling any of us "real" golfers). What he is many times is a walking blooper reel. About ten years ago he bought a driver called, The Peace Missile, for $9.95 at the Como Golf Course clubhouse. The Peace Missile was reportedly made from an old Russian nuclear test silo. Anyway, in a previous Glorybound tourney, Dave was teeing off with The Peace Missile. He didn't hit the ball particularly well as it rolled out about thirty yards and stopped. Unfortunately the head of The Peace Missile was airborne for about 75 yards and came to rest at the edge of the fairway almost out-of-bounds. Hilarity rained as Dave stood in the tee box holding the shaft of The Peace Missile. Over the years Dave has made some amazing putts to save us.
Boomer, when he gets a hold of one can send the ball flying. He cut the corner and threaded the needle on his tee shot on our second to last hole with a perfect drive between trees on the left and a pond on the right to land within 90 yards of the green. When he doesn't …. After our tee shot on hole number ten (our group started on the seventh hole), Mike stood with his 3 wood ready to hit the green with our second shot. A picture perfect backswing, he came down through the ball and….he topped it. The ball rolled about five feet. No one said anything. We all know how that feels. After a minute I said (towards Dave) but loud enough so everyone could hear, "I thought we were going to be laughing at you today."
My cart buddy, Russ -- usually we golf together 3-4 times a year, sometimes more. A few years ago Russ graduated to the cheaters putter. You know, the extra-long, can't bend my back putter. The best shot I ever saw Russ hit was - first the set up: My brother is the head groundskeeper at The Refuge Golf Course in Oak Grove, MN. The course opened in 2001. I had played the course a couple of times before Russ and I played it together. The tenth hole runs parallel with the driving range on the left hand side. Russ' tee shot went left, far, far left. When we got to his ball he lined it up towards the flag, set himself, hit a perfect 8 iron and landed his ball just inches from the pin. I knew he was hitting the wrong way but I thought it would be funny. I asked him why he hit his ball there when the 10th green was in the opposite direction. His perfect shot was at the practice green on the driving range.
Swen, on the other hand, is usually not much better than the rest of the worm-burners (golf's name for the groundouts). Many of his shots end up in the "lumber yard" as Ty Webb would say. It may have been the first year the Glorybound tourney was played at Chomonix when Swen decided that the best way to the green was a straight line. On the 17th hole, well off the right side of the fairway, stands a gazebo. Swen crushed his drive to the right, way, way right. The gazebo stood between his ball and the green, kind of. Looking at the shot, Swen thought, "I can do this." It would take a perfect ball strike to zing it past the gazebo and put his ball near, or on the green. It was like hitting the broad-side of a barn….Thwack! Swen's shot took a piece of the gazebo off as his ball ricocheted back behind him. He picked up the piece of gazebo, put it in his hat, and wore it as a trophy the rest of the round.
Russ and I were playing a round at The Refuge three or four years ago. Russ said to me, "Aren't you glad we're old enough now that we don't need to take ourselves seriously anymore."
We have a great time golfing in the Glorybound tournament. Great camaraderie! We don't take ourselves seriously, but it is for a great cause. Glorybound Ministries is an outreach to, and support for, families whose father is in prison.
There was some debate amongst us after the tourney on Friday. We finished the day at minus-8 overall, which we were thinking was our best finish ever. But, some were thinking that one year we finished at minus -10 or 11. The debate rages.
Ken Simone: Whatever Happened to Traditional Trade Deadline Maneuvers?
August 7, 2014
The trade deadline went down last week and there were many surprises. Let's look at the contenders….who would have thought that Detroit would trade their starting CF without having an adequate replacement? How about Oakland trading their cleanup hitter without having a bash brother to take up the slack? Were these teams correct going for pitching at the expense of offense? How about those Cardinals trading for second tier SP, the likes of Masterson and Lackey, while giving up some very good players? LA Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, KC Royals; are you sure your confidence is not misplaced standing pat? Baltimore Orioles, did you really want to trade your # 3 pitching prospect for a knockout LHP reliever who will probably not resign with you (A. Miller)?
Next you have to evaluate the Red Sox strategy to trade for established players rather then prospects. Good decision or desperation? The Sox don't want a rebuild, they want to reload; with all their prospects, is their aim true? ("Allison" and Elvis Costello we need your assistance here.) How bout that Price deal? Could the Rays have gotten more if they waited until the off season or would they have lost value as they claim? So many questions and not so many answers... God I love baseball.
Mike Walsh: A metaphysical walk In The Strat-i-verse
July 29, 2014
In the beginning, are The Cards, the building blocks of the Strat-i-verse. And, The Cards are law, statistically speaking. Hal and his elves whip up The Cards using some secret talent algorithm with a super secret sauce.
In the beginning, The Cards were acquired by showing up in person in Glen Head or by buying the boxed set. (Who has one? Show of hands?). Then came phone and mail - the kind where you walk to the mailbox.
The Cards' very being created two national holidays: Order Day when you can first place your order for the new season, and, Shipping Day when the Strat-o-matic Co. begins delivering product. On Order Day, many a Strat geek grew to detest Ma Bell's busy signal. Happy were those with that flashy redial feature on their touchtone cordless phones and woe to those with rotary dial.
Shipping Day was usually followed several days later by a personal holiday, Arrival. "They're here!!!" Arrival was often followed by "25 homers and they put all his home run splits in the corners?", or, "how could they make that stone glove a 2?" Some mystifying stuff shows up in The Cards. The Cards should never be confused with the cacophony of the Roto Tribe. Rotos take their bases in the hedonistic present consuming their fodder of data raw. The stats are the stats are the stats.
Strat geeks use The Cards to try achieving their stats. The Cards create a statistically refined simulation. The Cards' stats have passed through Hal's goose that lays golden eggs and are remixed with chance, no longer Roto fodder. The Cards were devised to allow hard-core geeks a chance to replay the past season to prove stuff like the 1969 Mets would always win the World Series. Hal put his model to the test before Bill James had a basement.
The super secret sauce is addictive.
Ninja warrior go
to lovely Nippon to learn
to hit off speed stuff.
Jeff Swenson: How I Got My Strat Start
July 21, 2014
I met David Meyer through a mutual friend. This was way back in The Year of Our Lord, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty (maybe it was '79). Dave met my friend Steve at college. A bunch of us used to hang out at the Pizza Hut (or "The Gut" as we affectionately called it) in Maplewood, MN. One day Steve brought Dave along. It must have been through our mutual love of baseball that we connected. I can't think of any other reason.
As a side note, we spent so much time at The Gut that we got to know the waitress' pretty well. After a while, the pizza's we ate were "on the house." One freezing night in January, the manager came to our table and said his car wouldn't start. He told us if we could get it going for him our pizza was free that night. No one said anything, but we were all thinking, that's no incentive to go out in the freezing cold, we already get our pizza for free.
I think it was 1981, Dave joined the softball team that, Steve, Paul Johnson (LAD), Johnny Walbert (THU), Russ Young (BRK), and I played on. A year later, Steve, Paul, and I joined Dave and his friends on their team. The Current commish, Dave's brother Jeff, was on that team. This is the origin of my start in Strat.
* Dave was always the most fashion conscience player on the team. A smooth fielding, singles hitting machine. He played mostly infield, short or third base with an occasional outfield appearance. His fashion niche was cutting a V in the collar of his jersey and not tying his shoes. Flash-forward twenty years, Dave asked me to play on his church team which was in a tournament. Dave at short, I was playing first. A ball was hit to his right and he dove for it but it was just out of his reach. I thought, WOW! We're not spring chickens anymore and Dave dove for a ball. I was impressed at how badly he wanted to win. After that half inning I told Dave on the bench how he impressed by diving for the ball and he told me he tripped over his shoelaces and basically just fell down towards the ball.
During the early softball years Dave told us about this baseball game he played called Strat-O-Matic Baseball. We were intrigued. One of us, I think Russ, bought the cards and we would get together and play some games against each other. It was nothing official, or a league of any kind, we were just rolling the dice and learning the game. We each picked a team, I picked the Oriole's and Russ picked the LA Dodgers, I know…mind boggling that Russ would pick the Dodgers. Who the others picked, I don't remember.
As it went, only Russ and I stayed with the game. For the next few years we played games against each other and picked other teams to play solo against. When you are making decisions for other teams, somehow your team usually came out on top….Hmmm… One time Russ told me his team was 102-10.*
During this time (1982) a strat league called the Cosmic Table Entities formed which included the Brothers Meyer—Jeff and Dave. In 1986, Dave told Russ and me that the CTE was expanding by two teams and we were invited join. We did, I entered as the Estes Park Nationals and Russ as, yes, the Brooklyn Trolleydodgers. As an expansion team I finished 69-93, Russ at a distant 27-135. However, I failed to make the playoffs during my time in the CTE and later, only made one playoff appearance in Mayflower League. Russ on the other hand, rarely missed the playoffs and even won a few championships.
*Surely I jest about Russ telling me this.
It wasn't long after, two years maybe, that the CTE disbanded and/or somewhat morphed into the Mayflower League. Both were face-to-face leagues. After the CTE disbanded, those of us who were left felt like we were adrift at sea and like the pilgrims before us, looking for a new home, thus in 1989, the Mayflower League was born. Managers from the CTE who stayed with the Mayflower league were Jeff and Dave M., Russ, and me. New managers we picked up in the Mayflower League included Tom "Sparky" Tingblad (GNW), Mike Walsh & Jim "General Ripper" Peterson (HAV), Johnny Walbert (THU), and Scott Benson (HOM). Eventually, Matt Benz joined the Mayflower league and has just recently been announced as one of the new expansion managers in PGB. Izzy Perez (STP) was also a very late edition to the Mayflower League (2001?) who was also a charter member of the Polo Grounds Baseball League before resigning two years ago.
I played in the Mayflower League from about 1989 until 1997, when I resigned to go back to school. During my run in the Mayflower League, as I mentioned earlier, I made it to the playoffs one time. That year Curt Schilling went 26-6 for me. I won my first round but was eliminated in round two. After a five-year hiatus Dave called me in 2002 and said he was thinking of putting together a computer league, and would I be interested? The Mayflower league was still going but hanging by a thread. I believe by this time Russ was the only current (PGB) manager who was still playing in the Mayflower League. 2003 was our inaugural season in Polo Grounds Baseball.
That is how I got my start in Strat-o-Matic Baseball. How did you get started in Strat? Oh, by the way, we did get the Pizza Hut manager's car started that frigid January night. And enjoyed our hot, free pizza!
Jeff Swenson: My Favorite Metrodome Memory
July 1, 2014
It was a gray, stormy, rain soaked day. Lightning shot across, and lit up, the night sky. We could see it through the Teflon roof of the dome. The exits were bottle-necked as fans scrambled to get to the concourse. Those of us in the upper portion of the upper-deck moved to the top row. No one knew if the cables holding the swinging lights and large swaying speakers would hold or snap, dropping metal and glass onto the stands and playing field below.
Twice, before the first game was ever played in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the roof collapsed due to the weight of late spring snowstorms. Both times the dome was empty. There was concern amongst sports fans that what if the dome was full of people and the roof collapsed, would they be safe?
Saturday, April 26, 1986, was a typical spring day. I woke up to an overcast sky. It rained overnight and more rain and storms were forecast off and on all day long. I was home all day by myself and bored. After a few last minute phone calls to pals to see if someone wanted join me in taking in the Twins/Angels tilt at the dome, I decided to go by myself rather than sit at home all night. At least for today the weather people got it right, it rained, very hard at times, all day. As I pulled into my parking spot a few blocks from the dome, a deluge of rain dropped from the clouds. I waited a few minutes in my car as the rain let up but I still got plenty wet running from my car to the dome.
Air pressure kept the dome's roof up. Entering the dome for a game you went through revolving doors. After the game, if it was a large crowd the dome ushers opened a few doors beside the revolving doors to let people out. The air pressure rushing out through the doors was strong enough that you had to hold your hat on or it blew off your head.
The starting pitcher for the Angels was future Hall of Famer Don Sutton, going for win number 296. Frankie "Sweet Music" Viola took the box for the Twins. Former Twins manager Gene Mauch was now managing the Angels. The Metrodome was a football stadium that baseball was played in. It was horrible. If your seat was down either baseline you strained your neck looking at home plate. It usually took an hour or two after the game to get your neck and face looking straight ahead again.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when Mark Salas hit a sac fly scoring Roy Smalley from third. Entering the bottom of the sixth, the Twins held a slim 2-1 lead. At different times throughout the night you could hear the rain outside hitting Teflon dome roof and see lightning flashes and hear the roar of thunder. I didn't give it much thought.
In the Twins half of the sixth they scored three times after two were out. After Gary Gaetti struck out and Salas grounded out, second sacker Steve Lombarozzi singled and was followed by a Greg Gagne homerun. Kirby Puckett was next at bat and drilled a homer to deep to right center. Twins 5, Angels 1
The game cruised through the seventh inning and top of the eighth. That's when the fireworks started. Lombardozzi led off the bottom of the eighth with a walk. Gagne followed with a bunt single. Runners on first and second. Next Puckett flied out deep to right field, in front of the baggie.* Lombardozzi, tagging up, moved to third base.
*The Dark blue baggie inside the dome was aptly named because it resembled an overly large trash bag. It covered the folding chair section of seats in right field that were retracted for baseball games and pulled out when the Vikings or Gophers played there. The baggie was 16 feet high, and was placed above the 7 foot outfield wall, and ran from the right field foul pole into right-center field. Shortly after the dome opened, Twins officials, or the Metropolitan Sports Commission, or someone, wanted broadcasters and play-by-play announcers to not use the term "baggie" when describing the right field wall. It sounded bush league. And as we know, "wink, wink," the dome was a first-class ball park.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the term stuck and the right field wall was always known as "the baggie." Twins Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer Herb Carneal: Here's a drive by Hrbek, deep to right field and it's...High off the Baggie! Gladden will score, Puckett will score, and Hrbek is in safely with a two run double off the baggie.
Rain was pelting the Metrodome roof as Mickey Hatcher stepped in the batter's box. Lighting and thunder roared, the wind was picking up. Most eyes were watching the roof as Hatcher hit a sac fly scoring Lombardozzi. With two outs and just as Kent Hrbek stepped into the batter's box, a loud boom rocked the Metrodome. The wind outside really started howling and the roof began rippling like a sheet in the wind, going from the first base line towards left field. After the first two roof collapses, Minnesotans were told that if ever a game was in progress with people in the dome, they would be completely safe because even a fully collapsed roof would hang higher than the seats.
As the howling wind played havoc with the roof, the lights and speakers began to sway back and forth above us. Gene Mauch stepped out of the Angels dugout and looked up at the roof and at that moment he waved his team off the field. As the Angels were running off the field a large hole in the roof ripped open over right-center field and water poured in.
Fans by this time were scrambling for the exits. I was sitting in the upper deck behind home plate watching as people in the lower deck were climbing over seats in an attempt to reach the exits. Those in the upper deck were doing the same. There was a bottle-neck of fans at each exit. Those of us who were sitting in the upper area of the upper deck retreated to the top of the dome. Above the last row of seats was an overhang or eave, if you will. There, we at least felt somewhat safe if debris began falling on us. Even though we were told the dome would be safe in a roof collapse, I didn't remember that anything had been said about the cables that held the swaying speakers and lights not snapping and dropping them on the field and stands below. And that, at the moment, at least for me, was more the concern than the roof deflating.
Twins PA announcer Bob Casey came on and was telling the fans to not panic and to make our way calmly to the exits. In the panicked rush and crush to the exits, Casey again come on and yelling in a panicked tone said, "Ladies and gentlemen, DO NOT PANIC, ladies and gentlemen, (each do not panic rising in volume) DO NOT PANIC, DO NOT PANIC, MAKE YOUR WAY CALMLY TO THE EXITS."
By now another hole had ripped open over the third base seats and as fans were climbing over the seats to get to the exits the rain poured in on top of them. Slowly the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was deflating. The roof was coming down. Bob Casey continued urging fans to not panic. Was I safe where I was? Were others? As nervous and scared as I was, it was pretty surreal—kind of cool to be there watching this. Suddenly, the ribbons that were hanging limp in front of the huge blower fans above me and throughout dome danced to life. The Metrodome was breathing and after a few minutes the roof slowly began to rise. After a short delay the game resumed.
Hrbek back in the batter's box flew out deep to right in front of the baggie.
As bad as the storm was to the dome, the Angels storm coming in the ninth inning was just as bad. With a five run lead and Viola still on the mound to open the ninth, Al Downing Doubled followed by a George Hendrick homerun. It gets worse. Twins manager Ray Miller brought in closer "RD" Ron Davis, who promptly gave up in this order: single, homerun, pop out, walk, strikeout, homerun, strikeout. Angels 7 Twins 6 The Twins ninth went like this: lineout, ground out, lineout—game over.
Below is the description of the Twins eighth inning as found in the game recap taken from retrosheet.org: TWINS 8TH: BRYDEN REPLACED FORSTER (PITCHING); Lombardozzi walked; On a bunt Gagne singled to second (Lombardozzi to second); Puckett flied out to right (Lombardozzi to third); Hatcher hit a sacrifice fly to right (Lombardozzi scored); 15 minute delay because of roof collapse; Hrbek flied out to right; 1 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Angels 7, Twins 6. I know the commish was also at this game. Jeff, it would be interesting to hear your memories.
Jeremy Johnson: It's Time to Forget About Batting Average
June 24, 2014
Let's pretend for a moment that we could erase all baseball from our memories and start with the game fresh. I'm sure many Cubs fans would jump at the chance. But let's wipe the slate clean and imagine sitting in a ballpark and watching our first game. After attending a few more, the sounds of the bat weights clinking in the on deck circle and the baseball snapping into the leather mitts begin to become familiar. Those sounds become the perfect soundtrack to a cool breeze and the arms of pink and golden light stretching across a span originating at scoreboard and terminating at the last row of the upper deck.
Your knowledge of the mechanics of the game grows with time and soon the minutiae of the game begins to strengthen its grip on you. As you sit in a hard plastic seat and watch a batter shorten his swing and punch a flare into right field you notice something. The shortened swing. The patience. Something was going on beneath the surface of the game. You were noticing skill. Quickly you begin to wonder how you could try to measure the skill of the players in an attempt to appreciate the now apparent beauty of this simple game.
You decide to begin with hitting: how to measure the hitting ability of the player standing on first. An obvious place to begin is with that hit. That hit was this player's first in three plate appearances. So you think to yourself, one out of three is thirty three percent. As soon as you assign this value to your subject you hear an astonishing thunder-crack as the next pitch is shot like a canon onto the jet black black batting eye in centre field.
Then it dawns on you. This is the third time this batter has come to the plate and his first hit also. As you begin to do the math it becomes apparent that your metics are already flawed. Both hitters are thirty three percent, but one's skill level far outweighs the other. It's time to refine your statistic. As you gaze thoughtfully at the diamond, you have an epiphany: there are four bases, so theoretically a home run should count for four times the value of a single.
Happy with your progress you leave it at that. At least until you get home. Something just doesn't feel right about your evaluation. It seems as if everything adds up, but a question lingers. Just because a home run is four times as many bases as a single, does that mean it is four times as valuable to the outcome of the game? Is a triple fifty percent more valuable than a double?
Rather than lie awake all night running numbers through your head like useless sheep, you hit the box scores. Luckily for you, your interest in the game has led you to collect the box scores of every game that has been played that season. You crunch the numbers and discover that every event that happens at the plate alters the chances of a run being scored in that inning in different ways. You continue to crunch.
As it turns out, you hunch was right. It seemed convenient to evenly multiply a single to a double, triple and home run, but each event's impact on the likelihood of scoring a run wasn't so simple in reality. Now you're not just happy to include hits, so you add walks and hit-by-pitch as well. Pleased, you realize that you now have a powerful stat. Batting average only told you limited information about the value of each batting event. On base percentage adds more events, but still lacks important value data. Slugging percentage used a flawed system to assign value to events and on base plus slugging percentage merely used two sets of weak data and combined them in an arbitrary manner. But now, now you have a stat that tells you about the actual value of each batting event based on the true likelihood of scoring a run, which is the entire purpose of the at bat. Now you have a metric that can get you closer to the true skill value of each batter that clearly measures his contribution to scoring runs. Now you have wOBA.
The Commish: Ranking the Best in the Booth
June 10, 2014
I don't know how many of you subscribe to MLB Extra Innings, but it allows the opportunity to watch unlimited baseball every night. Obviously, the majority of my viewing time is spent watching Dick and Bert describe the action during Twins games. There are, however, a few broadcast teams that I really enjoy listening to, so I usually watch them instead of the Twins' broadcast. It's always interesting to get a different perspective on the game too. I thought I'd give you my personal thoughts and rank each of the major league team's TV broadcasters. I'll start with the American League.
1. Toronto- I think Buck Martinez is the best right now. He has really good insight, understands the game, and is easy to listen to.
2. Seattle- The Mariner's booth is occupied by a couple of pretty anonymous guys, but Dave Sims and Rick Rizzs put on a pretty good show every night.
3. Oakland- A's play-by-play guy, Kevin Korach is OK, but it's former catcher and Pete Rose crash test dummy, Ray Fosse, that does a really nice job.
4. Baltimore- The O's use several interchangeable guys in their booth. But when Gary Thorne and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer are doing the game it's usually pretty solid.
5. Boston- Don Orsillo and the RemDog do a pretty good impression of Dick and Bert. But I think Remy's actually funny most of the time.
6. Los Angeles- Victor Rojas and former KC Royal Mark Gubicza do a nice job, though they have a tendency to over glorify all things Trout and Pujols.
7. Minnesota- Dick Bremer is a professional. Bert can be funny at times, but needs to come up with new material every once in a while. I'm sure the same can be said about some of the others, but watching him nightly, it's more noticeable.
8. Kansas City- I give Ryan Lefebrve very high marks, but any booth that has Rex Hudler in it can't be ranked any higher than this.
9. Texas- I've reached the point where the next few are interchangeable and I have very little feeling, positive or negative. Former big leaguers Steve Busby and Tom Grieve fill this booth.
10. Tampa Bay- Dwayne Staats is a professional and has been around for a really long time. Probably best known for replacing Harry Caray in the Cub's booth years ago.
11. Houston- I have no idea who their broadcasters are and I'm not going to look it up. With no draft picks next year, I still have no reason to check in on the 'stros.
12. Detroit- Mario Impemba and Rod Allen probably aren't all that bad, but I just don't like listening to them. The Tigers haven't been a force for that long, but you wouldn't know it listening to these guys.
13. Cleveland- Matt Underwood and Rick Manning over-analyze everything to death. Underwood seems to have a man-crush on an abnormally high number of Indians.
14. New York- The Yankees pedigree is what it is, but that doesn't mean that Michael Kay has to be so condescending all the time.
15. Chicago- I don't even know where to begin with my hatred of Hawk Harrelson. He is enjoyable to listen to when things are going bad for the Sox, especially his dead-air when they get walked-off. Steve Stone is OK, he's the only thing that keeps this ranking from being any lower.
Now the National League...
1. Los Angeles- There may be something cliché about going with Vin Scully, but there's nothing better than a late night with nothing to do than to be able to flip on Vin for a couple innings before going to bed. The same cannot be said for Dodger's road games and ESPN alum Charlie Steiner.
I don't really watch very much National League baseball. Other than looking in to see how Miley, Roark, Pollock, Prado, or Giancarlo are doing. So I'm not going to rank them. I'm sure they all fall somewhere between Vin and Charley.
Jeff Swenson: O Lord, It's Hard to be Humble
May 22, 2014
I don't like to brag. . .but sometimes you just have to. Hold that thought!
If you have listened to any of the Peabody Award nominated podcasts, or if we have talked draft strategy in person, it should come as no surprise that I, Swen, hate taking pitching early in the draft. Pitchers are one slider or curveball away from missing substantial time due to arm/shoulder issues. (shuddering) Scary! For every David Price (#6, 2009) there is Dontrelle Willis and Kris Benson (#7, 2007). For every Jared Weaver (#3, 2007) there is Brett Anderson (#6, 2010) and Michael Pineda (#5, 2012). I think you get the idea.
In this year's draft nine of the 20 players taken in the first round were pitchers: Fernandez (3rd overall), Latos (7), Bailey (8), Ryu (12), Cueto (16), Walker (17), Chapman (19), and Cingrani (20). Six weeks into the 2014 season, of these nine pitchers, six of them have already been to the DL or started the year on the DL and have yet to pitch an inning. That's 67%. I know…mind boggling! Below is a list of the nine first round picks and their current status as of May 15.
3. Jose Fernandez: 51.2 innings pitched in 2014. Diagnosed with torn ulnar collateral ligament. TJS out 12-15 months.
7. Matt Latos: Elbow – Has yet to pitch in 2014. Late May early June return.
8. Homer Bailey: Active
12. Hyun-Jin Ryu: On the DL since April 28 with shoulder inflammation.
14. Sonny Gray: Active
16. Johnny Cueto: Active
17. Taijuan Walker: Shoulder – Yet to pitch in 2014. Return…unknown
19. Aroldis Chapman: Broken facial bones. Obviously not arm/shoulder issue. Current status: Active
20. Tony Cingrani: DL on May 1 with shoulder tendonitis.
Aroldis Chapman is the outlier here because his injury was not arm/shoulder related. But he did miss time. It's a shame about Fernandez. It looks like Tommy John surgery is next for this exciting young pitcher, who is worth the price of admission. But at 21, he still has a bright future ahead of him.
Back to braggin'. In October of last year, Jeremy Johnson of those front running Capilanos, posted a question on the Forum page of our website asking, "Upside or sure thing?" who do you like in the draft? Jeremy listed six players who most likely would fall within the top ten picks. He included a short synopsis of each. Those six players and where they were drafted: Puig (2), Votto (1), Fernandez (3), Myers (4), Donaldson (5), and Bruce (9). Notice that Fernandez is the only pitcher listed here.
Here is an excerpt of my response to Jeremy's post:
"As far as Fernandez goes, think back two drafts ago when Michael Pineda was taken 5th overall. His WHIP in 171 innings was 1.09 and after that season he had shoulder surgery and hasn't pitched since (he did make some late season rehab starts this year). Fernandez this year had a WHIP of .096 in 171.2 innings. Just saying..." --Forum Post from October 16, 2013
David Meyer: Mauers-Haters are Reportedly Dumb in the Head
May 15, 2014
Maybe every sports-town has a vocal minority of crackpots, grumblers, and ne'er-do-wells that take a peculiar delight in bashing the local high-achieving star. I've heard of recent Joey Votto stories in Cincinnati, as well as the legendary treatment of Alex Rodriguez in New York, and Ted Williams in Boston. No doubt there are many more versions of the same tale--probably in your own city. Sometimes, the subject of scorn is partially deserving, but I don't understand the wrath being endured by the Casper Giants' Joe Mauer. Comically, I heard earlier this week from an acquaintance who actually believes that Kurt Suzuki is now Minnesota's best player. I can remain silent no longer.
Have you seen or met a real-life Mauer-hater? Often, they appear normal, although occasionally overserved and frequently quoting Joe Morgan. They might look just like you and me. They might be neighbors, church-goers, co-workers, public servants, or maybe even family. But they are sick, and you need to approach them armed with knowlege.
There are many common rallying cries of these uninformed antagonists, but they can be broken down into five basic categories--and if you look closely, you might actually detect a single theme that unites them all. To dispel these concerns, I'm going to introduce a new method of evaluation called "statistics." I strongly believe this new-school method is the best way to gauge any player's performance. One caveat: statistics will NOT be able to overcome the following intoxicating arguments;
1) "I don't like Joe Mauer and his stupid sideburns."
2) "I saw Joe Mauer hit into an inning-ending double-play so he can't be trusted."
These viewpoints are apperantly extremely powerful--like kryptonite to facts, and I have witnessed otherwise normal, healthy people succumb to their seduction. Here are the main strains of Mauer-hate, and some useful information on how to address its victims:
1. You'd think for $23 million he'd try a little harder to match his MVP season in 2009. Yes, this is a real example of how they think. And honestly, who among us really knows if he's trying harder or not? But it goes against any credible observation to think that a world-class competitor that has elevated themselves to the very top of his profession would ever relax and reduce his effort. Who honestly thinks he would became an MVP again if he only tried harder?
2. For someone making $23 million, he should have more RBIs. This is one of my favorites. I know that we Groundouts are bound together by a computer game that places each of us squarely on the Nerd Hall of Fame ballot, but this absurd argument is frequently trumpeted by 7th place Roto-geeks that paid $30 for Mauer. People: RBIs are a turd stat!
Mauer's career situational OPS
0 baserunner .840
1 baserunner .868
2 baserunner .940
3 baserunner .947
Mauer's OPS actually improves significantly during run-scoring opportunities. Except for the longball, accumulating RBI is a by-product of team offense and lineup placement, not a mythical ability to single-handedly produce runs.
3. He's always injured. What a waste of $23 million. How unusual is it for a catcher to miss games? Let's compare him with his peers that have overlapped his career by at least five years, and also w/ current Hall of Famers:
% of Games Played (2004-2013)
1. Pierzynski 82%
2. Wieters 81%
3. McCann 75%
3. Mauer 75%
3. Y.Molina 75%
6. Posey 69%
7. Montero 67%
8. R.Martin 65%
% of Games Played (Hall Of Famers)
1. Bench 82%
2. Berra 80%
3. Carter 79%
4. Campanella 78%
5. Mauer 75%
6. Cochrane 74%
7. Dickey 72%
8. Fisk 70%
Salary Value based on WAR (in millions)
5-year: 21.8 average value
Mauer plays as much as a typical catcher among his contemporaries and by also by Hall of Famer standards. He's also providing a reasonable return based on the crazy economics of modern baseball, based on the FanGraph's Value of Marginal Wins method. In fact, when weighing his entire career value, it would be very easy to conclude that he's been moderately underpaid, although his move to 1B will almost certainly be a drag on future value.
4. You'd think $23 million would make him more of a team leader. What does this even mean? It's sort of like "trying harder" in that it can't be proven, or really even observed accurately. What professional athlete needs a leader? Can we be absolutely certain that Mauer doesn't provide the type of leadership necessary? Have any ex-teammates suggested a lack of leadership? Does any of this even matter? Maybe the answer is yes, maybe it's no. Either way, taking this position is silly.
5. Any $23 million player should be more ready to attack the first pitch. Should Mauer be more aggressive and attack the first pitch, or try and work the count in his favor, where he improves even more? There are a lot of questions surrounding his approach. I think it's important to consider the so-called "game theory" here. Is he a great hitter because he's generally patient, and gets a better read on the pitcher by looking at 4-5 pitches each at bat? Is his first-pitch success based on his flexibility to attack a certain pitch in a certain zone, and thereby increasing his success when offering at it? Of course one of Mauer's strengths is controlling the strike zone, so eliminating any chance of walks or strikeouts reduces one of his core abilities. Look at this:
First pitch: 1.010
Ahead in count: 1.138
Behind in count: .622
Mauer risks a lot by falling behind in the count, so if there's one criticism that I'm inclined to agree with, it would be this one.
Is Joe Mauer a Hall of Famer? An argument against Mauer in a historical context can also be dubious. While I'm not ready to cast his bronze plaque in Cooperstown quite yet, let's compare his first ten seasons with the list below of current HOF catchers. To overcome disparities between generations, I'll use era-neutral stats (OPS+ and WAR).
OPS+ (first 10 full seasons)
1. Mauer 136
2. Dickey 131
3. Berra 130
4. Bench 129
5. Cochrane 128
6. Fisk 125
7. Campanella 123
7. Carter 123
WAR (first 10 full seasons)
1. Carter 55.1
2. Bench 54.4
3. Cochrane 44.7
4. Mauer 44.2
5. Berra 43.1
6. Fisk 41.8
7. Dickey 40.8
8. Campanella 34.2
He's the very best at getting on base, not making outs, and middle of the pack among HOFers in overall value. With the potential enshrinement of Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza, these rankings could be altered, but the point remains that Mauer compares favorably in many ways to the legends of the game.
And finally, a local comparison
Mauer and Rod Carew are a particularly interesting comparison because they both played important defensive positions prior to being moved to 1B in mid-career. In fact, a close inspection of their numbers reveals an amazing similarity in overall production and value. However, it didn't end well for Carew, as his OPS+ and WAR numbers began a steady decline after his 12th season.
OPS+ (first 10 full seasons)
1. Killebrew 150
2. Oliva 137
3. Mauer 136
4. Hrbek 132
4. Carew 132
6. Allison 129
7. Puckett 123
8. Morneau 122
WAR (first 10 full seasons)
1. Carew 49.1
2. Mauer 44.2
2. Puckett 44.2
4. Killebrew 43.8
5. Oliva 42.8
6. Hrbek 34.8
7. Allison 34.1
8. Morneau 24.0
Identifying the greatest Twins player is debatable, but Mauer is clearly at the forefront of the conversation.
These statistics are true and accurate through the end of 2013. Until his recent position switch, Mauer was demonstrably among the top players in baseball, and was on a path to be among the all-time catching greats. He will likely retire among the top performers in team history, so now is a great time to stop letting yourself be pulled by the nosering of spiteful ignorance and recognize Mauer's decade of excellence.
The Commish: Ask Not What Polo Grounds Can Do for You...
May 9, 2014
Polo Grounds Baseball was founded over 11 years ago on the premise that Fantasy Baseball should be about having fun. No monetary rewards were, or have ever been involved. It's just about your love of baseball and being able to compete for a full season WITHOUT a huge time commitment. It's not without its flaws. There are just some things you can't pre-program a computer game to do. You're never going to get the matchups you frequently want like you can when playing the game face to face.
I'd like to think we've taken things a little further with some of extras that are now available to Groundouts to enjoy and even be a part of. I don't know about any of you guys, but I've checked out some other league's websites that I've found on StratFan Forum and at the League Registry from Strat-O-Matic. Believe me, very few compare favorably with the site that Webmaster Dave has put together for us. In recent years we've seen the addition of the Forum, Groundout Radio podcast, a plethora of statistics, crisp new graphics, this columnist's page, and more. Those things added to old standbys like Liberace's page, and we've got some pretty good entertainment.
I guess what I'm getting at here is that I think that there should be better participation league-wide with all these opportunities. Yes, the minimum requirement is, and always has been being available on draft days, keep your CM up to date, play games when required, and respond to trade offers in a timely manner. Dave and Swen have put together a pretty entertaining podcast which I'm sure everyone enjoys. A handful of us have been guests on a few of the shows, but I'm sure they would love to have way more participation. Generally it seems to be the same 6-8 people that post and respond to posts on the forum. Maybe some of you even have ideas for things we haven't tried yet.
I know that the cost and time commitment don't make it possible for everyone to join in on Groundout Conventions when they happen, but I think everyone that's ever been able to attend our past get-togethers in Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee-Chicago last year had a great time. Please try to make future trips if at all possible.
Unfortunately, before the start of this season, a change of managers became necessary with one of our franchises. It appears that another is lurking on the horizon. All of this happening at a time when expansion is being considered. How sad that expansion plans may have to be put on hold because the overall health of the league isn't strong enough. Sad because I think we have identified some very solid and qualified manager/GMs to head these expansion squads.
So, the bottom line is this. I'd really like to see a higher level of involvement in the "extras". What can you do to make Polo Grounds a better league? Heck, what can I do? If anyone has suggestions or criticisms I'd like to hear them. I sure don't want this to come across as a negative. I'm just looking for ways to make this league even more fun and more interactive for everyone.
Thanks for all the things you all already do. Continue to stay current with your CMs, and get ready to start monitoring overuse as we get ready to cruise into the All-Star break at the end of June. The question of the trading deadline came up during the latest edition of Groundout Radio. A reminder that the trading deadline is during the break. This year it will be at midnight on Saturday, June 28.
Chuck Tinkler: If the 2014 Draft Were a Slow-Pitch Softball Game
May 9, 2014
Wouldn't it be great if all 20 Groundouts could make it to the next Groundout Convention? Imagine the trade talks we could have...we'd even have enough guys to play a softball game! Why wait until the Convention? Let's play one now!
Welcome to our first ever Groundout softball game. Pitted against each will be NL and AL, with Dave managing the NL and Jeff the AL. The game will last just 3 innings and have all the rules associated with a normal softball game with one big exception: The "pitches" will be the picks made in the 2013 PGB Draft and their 2013 results. Let's play ball!
Up first for the AL will be Nick Wallace: Single to leftfield! (Bryce Harper)
Next up is Sean Britt: He flies out to centerfield. (Yoenis Cespedes)
With Wallace at first, up steps Gil Smith: Double to centerfield! (Yu Darvish)
Runners on second and third now, Johnny Walbert steps to the plate: Strike three called! (Will Middlebrooks)
Two on, two out, and here comes Paul Johnson: He ropes the ball down the rightfield line for a double! (Aramis Ramirez.) Both runners score easily and Johnson is...wait a second...is he Tebowing out at second base?? Wow, never seen that before. Okay, on we go...
Next up is Scott Benson and he: Swings and misses, that's strike three. (Josh Rutledge)
So 2 runs are scored on Paul Johnson's 2 RBI double and we head to the bottom of the first, AL 2 and the NL coming up.
Leading off for the NL will be Sparky Tingblad: He doubles down the rightfield line! (Steven Strasburg)
Next up for the National Leaguers will be Jeremy Johnson: He lines one up the middle that hits the baserunner, Sparky, who is called out on the play! (Ryan Zimmerman, traded to Sparky for Steven Strasburg) What a freaky play!
Up steps Chuck Tinkler. He pauses, slowly lifts his hand, points out to the bleachers and...pops out to second base. (Jurickson Profar)
Okay, Johnson's calling for a pinch runner so he can come up to bat again. Up to the plate he goes and he: Blasts the ball deep to left...it takes a bounce and goes over the wall for a ground rule double! (Jordan Zimmerman)
Runners on second and third and that brings up Russ Young. Wait a second, looks like a timeout has been called. Jeff Meyer comes out with his lineup card...it seems as though he is questioning Russ' eligibility for the game....the ump doesn't appear too interested in whatever it is Jeff is selling and it looks like Young is going to get to bat.
Okay, here's pitch: Russ belts a deep drive to deep centerfield, that ball is deeeeeeeep....and it's GONE! Homerun for Russ Young! (Manny Machado) Three runs score! A monster shot for Russ Young!
And here comes Jeff Meyer flying out the dugout, waving his arms like a madman! He's jumping up and down, kicking dirt at the umpire's feet, yelling something about picks, saying he had no picks...and now he's thrown out of the game! The players are trying desperately to get him back into the dugout and it looks like they finally will...Wow! How's that for a little excitement!!!
Back to the game we go. Up comes Dave Bruneau and he: Shoots the ball down the first base line for a double! (Ian Desmond)
Runner on second, still two outs, Chuck at the plate: He hits a hard grounder up the middle just off the glove of the diving shortstop, Scott Benson. (Andrelton Simmons) That'll go down as a single.
Pinch runner called for at first and Chuck will get another shot at it here. Here's the pitch: Lined into center for a single, runner scores! (Kris Medlen)
Bases loaded, two outs, and up comes Dave Meyer: Dave hits a high fly ball to left, it's way up there...going, going, gone! Three run shot for Dave Meyer! (Danny Espinosa, traded for Adrian Beltre)
Looks like the wind did most the work on that one but the NL will take it!
Up comes Sparky for another chance here and he: Lines a shot into centerfield for a base hit! (Tommy Milone)
Dave Bruneau now: He singles up the middle! (Wei-Yin Chen)
Sparky up again: He hits a flyball to left that's caught for out number three. (Ross Detwiler)
To the second we go, AL 2 and the NL 6.
Gil Smith up: He slams a ball to left that hits the wall and shoots back onto the field...Gil coasts into third with a stand-up triple! (Chris Johnson)
Sean Britt stands in and he: Hits the ball deep to left and...gone! Homerun! (Hisashi Iwakuma)
Two runs in, Britt up to bat again and he: Hits a dribbler in front of the plate and beats it out for a single. (D.J. LeMahieu)
Paul Johnson up now and he: Pops it up on the infield. (Paul Maholm)
Nick Wallace stands in and he: Whiffs, that's strike three. (Tyler Pastornicky)
Gil Smith up again: Doubles down the third base line! (Sean Doolittle)
Runners on first and third, Scott Benson is up and he: Hits a lazy fly ball to center for out number three. (Ryan Dempster)
Two runs score and to the bottom of the second we go with the NL still in the lead, 6 to 4.
With a chance to pad their lead, up comes Russ Young: He hits a long fly ball, deep to left field....GONE! (Jean Segura) Another homerun for Russ! Wow! What a game for Russ Young! And now something like screaming can be heard from the AL clubhouse...and now that's given way to something sounding like a television being pummeled by a baseball bat...strange...Okay, on we go, NL up now 7 to 4.
General Ripper stands in, cigar hanging from his mouth and he: Flys out to rightfield. (Tyler Colvin)
That brings Jeremy Johnson to the plate: Whiff. (Trevor Bauer) Looks like Jeremy is muttering something about "building for the future" as he makes his way back to the dugout.
Boomer up now: Double to leftfield! (A.J. Griffin)
Boomer, standing on second, acts as though he's holding a cannon and yells "BOOM!!" back to his teammates in the AL dugout!
Tinkler up again and he: Grounds out to short for out number three. (Adam Eaton)
To the top of the third we go, NL up 7 to 4.
With the American League needing three runs to tie, up steps Scott Benson: He hits the ball deep to right, going back, back, back, and GONE! (Brandon Moss) Homerun for Scott Benson!
Sean Britt up and he: Singles into right! (Drew Smyly)
Tying run now comes to the plate in the form of Paul Johnson. Paul steps in and: Swings and misses, strike three. (Michael Fiers) That's a tough K for Johnson right there.
Up comes Scott Benson again with the AL needing two runs to stay alive: He hits a sharp grounder past the diving shortstop for a single! (Leonys Martin)
Gil Smith up now: He hits a groundball to short...they get the runner at second and the throw back to first...not in time! (Steve Lombardozzi)
A huge play at first right there but it looks like the umpire got it right.
With the AL down to their last out, up comes Chad Boysen. Dave Meyer is yelling to the outfielders to back up...Chad steps in...and here's the pitch: He rips one hard down the leftfield line...AND IT'S CAUGHT BY A DIVING PAUL HENDERSON! (Drew Storen) What an unbelievable play!!
Paul Henderson came out of nowhere to get that ball and save the game for the National League! His teammates have swarmed him and are chanting "Hendo! Hendo! Hendo!" What an amazing catch by Paul Henderson to save the game! (I had actually forgotten he was even here until he made that play.)
Chad is staring out into leftfield in what looks like total disbelief...Henderson, a 4 in LF, really should have been pulled but Meyer went with his gut and left him in and boy did it pay off! The NL is going to take this game 7 to 5 on a diving play by Paul Henderson! Wow, what a finish!
Jeff Swenson: What's Wrong with Baseball?
April 25, 2014
Baseball, the game we all love. The only thing that moves slower than Kevin Costner's film, For the Love of the Game, is instant replay. In the classic 1982 book, Real Men Don't Eat Quiche: A Guidebook to All That Is Truly Masculine, the author (rightly) says baseball is a real man's sport, but that real men don't bunt, sacrifice fly, or settle for ground-rule doubles.
"Real men" according to the author, "who watch sports on TV don't need the instant replay." And no doubt, if the author updated his book for today's real man, he would say real men don't rely on instant replay to question umpire calls. The call of the arbiters of this great game stand—right or wrong—and real men live with that decision.
What this scribe does not understand about instant replay is how it is used (in baseball or any sport). Some plays can be looked at or questioned and others cannot. If replay is available, why not use it for every questionable call? Digressing to football for a moment, replay is used one way for 56 minutes and then for four minutes (the last two minutes of each half) replay is used differently with "the booth" making the call to look at a play. I know…mind boggling!
The 2014 baseball season is barely a two weeks old at this writing, and already we have had two manager ejections for arguing replay results that reversed original calls (granted, the rules state that managers cannot argue a replay decision [even when those decisions are blatantly wrong*]), and a number of delayed decisions stretching out past five minutes affecting numerous teams including our, my, your(?) Minnesota Twins.
*That is my point. Even with replay, umpires, referees, and those sitting in New York at national offices (MLB, NHL) looking at replays, still get it wrong! Replay delays games, changes momentum, and basically disrupts the flow of the game.
Former Twin, Cub, Giant, Oriole, Rockie, Yankee, Astro, Brewer, Angel, Met, and again Rockie's pitcher, LaTroy Hawkins**, in the March 31, 2014, Baseball Preview Issue of Sports Illustrated states, "I am not a fan of replay. Human error makes the game so precious, so unique, and what's next—reviews on balls and strikes? We've seen this spring how replay slows everything down, and the pace of the game is already a problem. I think we should accept the decisions of the umps who may make mistakes but are right 95% of the time."
**If you want a good story ask Dave about LaTroy Hawkins and Twinsfest.
Jeremy Johnson: The Hazy Crystal Ball
April 19, 2014
One of the things that I love about baseball is trying to figure out just how good a player is and then how he will preform in the future. Essentially, this is scouting and I find it to be one of the great things about the game. Put into a fantasy context, scouting can often take on a look that is quite different from scouting the real games because of the way the points in fantasy leagues are accumulated. Since joining the Polo Grounds I have enjoyed the fact that the premise of Strat is to attempt to simulate all the facets of a player's skillset and value, which brings scouting for the Polo Grounds a lot closer to the real thing than other fantasy leagues.
Of course, if anyone could devise a system for predicting the future that person would be wealthy beyond imagination. Baseball is full of random chance and a ton of interconnected moving parts. That being said, baseball is unique in that it is the sport, which can measure all of these components best. This propagates the endless statistics baseball fans have held dear through the decades.
But if you're attempting to predict the future there are more tools at your disposal than ever before. None of them are perfect, but these tools are constantly improving how we understand each player's skillset and predict his future contributions. Let's take pitching for example. Long standing measurements such as ERA, Wins and more recently WHIP all attempt to do the same thing: tell us how good a pitcher is from different angles. Of course, all of these statistics are arbitrary and influenced by much more than just the pitcher and so they try to account for these deficiencies in various ways. ERA only looks at runs allowed that weren't influenced by errors and Wins only apply to a starter if he pitches five innings and the lead doesn't change. Of course, this also means that each of these metrics misses certain factors, but the line must be drawn somewhere.
So what about predicting the future? As impossible as it is, the value of these stats doesn't just lie in telling us about something that already happened, but in identifying as accurately as possible the true skill of a player so that we can make a guess about how that player will preform going forward. Let's continue to look at pitchers. There has been all sorts of debate about new stats and their value, but in reality all they are trying to do is the same thing old stats were trying to do: assess value. And through very simple means, one can look at a player's career numbers, compare that to the variation in their seasonal numbers and determine which stats seem to reflect the talent of the player most predictably.
Let's take a look at a statistical advancement that is revolutionizing how pitchers are assessed called DIPS. DIPS stands for "defense independent pitching" and theorizes that to get a more accurate and predictable measure of a pitcher's value all of the outcomes that are controlled by players other than the pitcher or by luck need to be eliminated or accounted for. This theory basically boils down to the three true outcomes that a defense doesn't effect: the strikeout, walk and homerun. Based on this line of reasoning formulas are created to give an assessment of how well a pitcher is pitching and that number is normalized to look like ERA. But there would be little use in a more complicated statistic if didn't improve on a simpler statistic's accuracy or predictability. It turns out that defense independent pitching stats actually do show much higher levels of predictability than a stat such as ERA.
How is this useful for the Polo Grounds manager? It's pretty simple. Being able to most accurately predict how a player will perform in Strat, where defenses and lineups are so different than in MLB is an invaluable tool. Plus, being able to better predict the future career of a player over time is also an invaluable piece of information to have. Of course, no statistic is perfect and no statistic claims to be perfect. It just happens that certain statistics are able to do a better job of telling us what it is that we are trying to figure out. And with that in mind I would suggest that if you are using any statistics in your strategizing and team building then it is imperative to figure out if you are getting the right or at least the best information. Some people have an aversion to newer statistics, but the simple fact remains that all of us are relying on some collection of stats, which are all trying to do the same thing. It's just that some stats may be making the crystal ball a little less hazy.
Mike Walsh: How Banged Up is Your Team?
April 13, 2014
The regular MLB season is not yet three full weeks old and Havanaʼs injury list is entering the stratosphere. Seven pitchers either broke camp at the end of spring training on the various teamsʼ DLs or quickly joined the party. Brandon Maurer and Jonathan Pettibone, both penciled into their teamsʼ rotations at the start of spring, punched their tickets to AAA and the DL by coming down with shoulder pain. Mike Minor exited spring camp on the major league DL with shoulder pain, alledgedly to be back this week or next. (He is better off than his rotation mates, Medlen and Beachy, who are going for their second TJ each; and, are being joined by Cory Gearin. (Is it their pitching mechanics or does Atlanta need a better orthopedic surgeon?) Craig Breslow visited the major league DL at the end of spring. Tyler Chatwood needed a rehab start in AAA. Tim Collins joined KCʼs DL. And; Pat Corbin is out with TJ surgery. The Havana wounded would make an adequate starting rotation and a decent left-handed bullpen complement.
That is not counting the position players. Wilson Ramos for the third time in three years is on the DL, hamate surgery. Oswaldo Arcia has a sore wrist that occurred while he was working in the indoor batting cage, now on the DL. Then Josh Hamilton tore his thumb ligament, surgery required, while attempting the brilliant veteran move of sliding face first into 1st base.
And that brings us to Freddy Galvis who contracted MRSA somewhere during spring training without a hospital visit. Was it on a clubhouse toilet seat, or the drinking fountain, a shared needle……Oh, wait; thatʼs usually hepatitis….maybe an STD? The Phillies promised to disinfect and sanitize the whole clubhouse which was really sweet of them.
I would say it couldnʼt get any worse, but we all know how that works.
Liberace: The Ides (Plus Three)
March 18, 2014
Happy Post-Ides of March and St.Patrick's Day-After. I think we all know what these days mean. The wait is over. Haikus to come...
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST: If this was a Eurasian political skirmish, it would look like this, except with a moderate measure of resistance.
Homestead: The Russians are back and are acting aggressively. Strong and well-positioned, and I don't see anyone stopping them.
Rochester: These optimistic Ukrainian freedom-fighters aremore emboldened then ever, but they're no match for their powerful neighbors.
Charleston: Can you defend yourselves? These Crimeans will remain under siege from all sides. Not enough muscle to thwart aggression.
Santa Catalina: India as the Cowboys? They've assembled formidable firepower, and are a dangerous force, especially in short engagements.
Sheboygan: These sausage-eating Chechnyans are trying to be relevant, but that boom you'll hearing in May is Mihelich imploding.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST: If it were a 1970s musical cabaret, the West is the Village People. Marginal talent, but hard not to watch.
Ladner: They get to play the role of the Village People cop. He'll be the one in a position of authority, marching out front of the rest.
Alabama: The Braves will be the headdress-wearing Native American, of course. Adding a few bats to the lineup will make 'Bama a threat.
Branson: Swen fancies himself as a biker, and he looks good in tight black leather and rope chains. Oh--he rides a bicycle? Never mind.
St. Paul: The Coolers get to be the construction worker. Nick has been re-modeling this team for a few years now. Playoffs? Two weeks…
Thunder Bay: In life and vocation, skipper Johnny has sailed the seven seas and roamed the Far East, but he's in over his head in the West.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST: I'm calling this the NASCAR Division. Like Indy and Daytona, this will be a race to finish 500…
Havana: Do the Stogies have enough left in the tank to make a run at first ? If they can muster 84 wins, the division is all theirs.
Montpelier: Cabrera alone might be enough to capture the division, but the pitching looks awful thin. This is going down to the wire!
Gnawbone: Somehow, Sparky will coax and cajole his way into the thick of things. Winning the division is a possibility, but so is fourth place.
Manassas: They've been digging out of a hole the last few years. They have a lack of star power, but playoffs not out of the question.
Brooklyn: Big improvement, and building blocks are in place for a resurgence, but too soon to expect them to climb out of the cellar.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST DIVISION: Let's pretend that this division is an international figure skating competition. (Scott Hamilton narrates.)
Vancouver: I absolutely adore Votto & Trout. The grace… the passion. So harmonious that I can't tell where Joey stops and Mike begins.
Long Beach: Watching them is simply magical! If they can perform freely and avoid blunders, they can stand atop the podium.
Casper: Age, injuries and heartaches are piling up for these bejeweled vets, but they remain a medal threat whenever they hit the ice.
Berlin: Will they respond to 2013's season-ending disappointment? Even a bronze in this loaded competition will be a tremendous feat.
Tombstone: Although they're not a serious medal contender, the Shooters want to put the world on notice that their day is approaching.
POSTSEASON: And so it comes to this: Vancouver bests Homestead in six games to win its first World Series. Take it to Vegas, boys--I'll be at The Bellagio all week.