It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on some of the more interesting stories from around baseball, so
- Albert Pujols chased the money. I certainly don’t blame him for it, but he left behind the people of St. Louis, where he’d been the kind of heralded legend they’d not seen since Stan Musial, in favor of a touch more money in Anaheim. Hey, what’s $20 million between friends, right? It has not been a successful move so far for the 33-year-old, whose 2012 season was unrecognizable by Pujols standards, and whose 2013 season is downright bad (.241/.314/.418). Joe Posnanski writes that the story is much worse than the struggles. The story is the decline into irrelevance. Who talks about Pujols anymore? Who cares when he steps up to the plate? Isn’t it crazy to be able to say those things about Albert Pujols? I am trained to hate Pujols by virtue of the Cardinals thing, but even I find his swift descent into obscurity really sad.
- Also kind of sad: Josh Hamilton is hitting .216/.271/.351 in his first year with the Angels, who are expensive and flailing. They have become only the latest example of why buying up a bunch of free agents – even the best of the best available – can fail spectacularly. And the real problem is, when that approach fails, as it sometimes does, your organization will feel the pain for a long, long time.
- Barry Bonds says that Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball (duh), but he’s no Barry Bonds (also duh, but … who says that kind of thing? Answer: Barry Bonds). My favorite paragraph in that Bob Nightengale piece is this one, which comes after Bonds says that Cabrera doesn’t have Bonds’ numbers: “Cabrera broke into the big leagues in 2003 when Bonds was winning his sixth MVP award. He’s still just 30 years old. He leads Bonds in every Triple Crown category at the same age, hitting .320 with 332 homers and 1,170 RBI. Bonds had a career .285 batting average with 259 homers and 760 RBI at the same age.” Right … but I have a suspicion that Cabrera won’t match the 1.262 OPS that Bonds somehow managed to put up from age 36 to 42.
- Rob Neyer digs into the ever-changing landscape of pitch counts. The predicate for his piece is Ron Washington’s recent decision to allow Yu Darvish to throw 130 pitches – a plateau almost never reached anymore – in a game against the Tigers that the Rangers were winning comfortably. I know that the science of pitch counts remains very much “science” rather than science, but I fall very, very far on the conservative spectrum when it comes to pitcher usage. Perhaps the 2000s era Cubs have burned me for good, that being a formative stage in my baseball-reading-and-covering development. There are times, and pitchers, where I would sanction letting a guy go well over 100 pitches. But when your team has a big lead, to me, there’s just no excuse. Is the incremental difference between that starter and the bullpen really worth any additional risk at all, however small?
- MLB hopes to have expanded instant replay in 2014 – which could include just about everything short of balls and strikes – but it’s a slow process of approvals and implementation. I feel like a bad baseball fan for not having a stronger opinion on instant replay, since it seems to really get some folks riled up. But I just don’t have it in me. When football expanded instant replay, I was totally in favor of it. Get the call right. Why can’t I summon that same feeling with respect to baseball? Even when the Cubs get screwed, I just accept that as part of the game. Maybe it’s the 162-game season? Maybe I feel like it’s more likely to even out in baseball than in football? Yeah, that’s probably it. Doesn’t mean I’m right, obviously.
- A fascinating article on the rapid increase of pronounced defensive shifts in baseball. There is some data to suggest that the decline in offense we’ve seen over the past half decade could be thanks in part to increased shifting. Check out the numbers on the right side of the article, and note the consistently decreasing average BABIP from year to year. If that’s not due to shifting, I don’t know how else to explain it. (h/t to BN’er Josh, whose email to me about this article was aptly titled “Shifting My Pants”).
- If you’ve been watching the Dodgers disintegrate from a distance, you’ll appreciate manager Don Mattingly’s comments today, collected by Bill Plunkett. The gist? The Dodgers have poorly constructed roster that was designed around BUY-ALL-THE-PLAYERS, and they are seriously lacking in “grit.”
- More than you ever wanted to know about pitch-framing.
- If you’re going to celebrate a game-tying or winning home run immediately and all the way up the base line, make sure it’s a home run, and not a harmless fly ball that barely reaches the warning track.
- The New York Times with an awesome infographic on players on the disabled list, and the cost to their respective teams.
- This FanGraphs article is worth reading and all, but, really, I just can’t stop looking at another one of the greatest gifs of all-time: