Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

hawk-harrelsonWith some heavy stuff on your plate earlier today, how about some lighter fare from around MLB …

  • Meddling Miami Marlins master (I promise never to do that again) Jeffrey Loria is in some more hot water after reports said that he personally demanded that Ricky Nolasco and Jose Fernandez flip-flop starts in a doubleheader earlier this week, contrary to the wishes of the manager and the players. Apparently messing with lineup/pitching decisions is not a new thing for Loria, who Jeff Passan says tried to make lineup suggestions to Ozzie Guillen. To his credit, Guillen ignored those suggestions.
  • For his part, Loria tells Ken Rosenthal that he had nothing to do with the decision, and that his baseball ops department made the decision and called Loria to inform him. “I don’t make decisions on who to pitch and when, how to go about it — that’s not my role,” Loria told Rosenthal. “Sometimes they call me and tell me what they’re doing. But I don’t call them up and say, ‘This is what is going to happen.’ That’s not true.” Here’s why Loria’s explanation smells bogus: he says he doesn’t make any lineup/pitching decisions … but the baseball ops guys call him to tell him about a rotation flip-flop for a doubleheader? Does manager Mike Redman phone Loria every time he brings in a reliever?

  • For months now, the Yankees have been operating with a pretty clear goal in mind: get payroll under $189 million in 2014, which is under the luxury tax cap, and which would reset their ever-escalating luxury tax obligations. With some odd moves in the last couple months – like taking on a relatively large chunk of salary in 2014 for Vernon Wells of all players (yes, he’s hitting right now … ) – it’s become harder and harder to see the Yankees actually pulling it off, especially if they hoped to re-sign impending free agent Robinson Cano. Jeff Passan reports that Yankees sources now concede that it probably won’t happen, in part because some of the money they expected to get back from the revenue sharing pool (large market teams are going to get revenue sharing money back if they’re under the luxury tax cap, starting this year and escalating through 2016) won’t actually be available to them. The upshot here: don’t expect the Yankees to be sitting on the free agent sidelines anymore.
  • (Side note from the Passan piece: revenue sharing is an important part of the financial discussion for the Cubs. It sounds to me like their revenue sharing bill is going to be going down in the coming years, which should further help their available cash in 2014 and beyond.)
  • Hawk Harrelson was on MLB Network with Brian Kenny and Harold Reynolds discussing sabermetrics (a treat for Kenny, I’m sure), and the result was about what you’d expect:

  • Colin Wyers at BP put Hawk on blast for his arcane thinking, which is kind of like writing a 10,000 word letter to a cat on why he will never “catch” the laser pointer light. Still, there are some interesting thoughts in his piece.
  • Dave Cameron and Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs took a statistical look at the age-old question of “lineup protection.” They do so primarily through the prism of the percentage of pitches in the strike zone over the past five years for each spot in the batting order. Their results are quite interesting, and maybe even counterintuitive. The National League data shows the highest strike percentage for 8 and 9 hitters, which makes sense, because pitchers don’t fear them. From this, the guys conclude that the caliber of the batter at the plate – and not the man on deck – dictates the quality of pitches the batter sees. I get that, and I think that’s a strong conclusion. The AL data, though, shows the highest strike percentage in the 1 through 4 spots, which would strongly support the lineup protection theory. The guys don’t really address that, which was a touch disappointing. I want to know what smart people think those numbers say.
  • MLB Trade Rumors has the projected Super Two cutoff for this year, and it’s right around June 3. That means, for youngsters who come up the first time this year (and stay up) between now-ish and that date are going to qualify for an extra year of arbitration after the 2015 season (and will be arb-eligible in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018). It doesn’t look like there are any Cubs prospects that this will impact, though there are some guys – Brett Jackson, for example – who could come up later, and, together with service time they’ve already accumulated, could end up falling into this category. In that respect, the notable number is “two years and 119 days” – that’s what the cutoff will be. If this is all Greek to you, don’t worry about it. As this comes up for specific players, I’ll surely re-address within that context (and you’ll understand then).
  • The best baseball gif you’ve ever seen. It’s all five of Yu Darvish’s pitches at once (kudos to the creator, Drew Sheppard):

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