And 2014 closes up shop. More on that later today.
- Jayson Stark’s “Strange But True in 2014” piece is well worth your time. There are just so many bits to highlight, but I think this is my favorite: “The Tigers dropped a seven-run inning on the Twins on April 25 – and all three outs came off the bat of Miguel Cabrera.” Did you have a favorite? The Devin Mesoraco one is tough to ignore …
- Stark also wrote a companion postseason one, which includes this bit, which I knew because I followed the playoff race more closely this year than in any in recent memory (can’t imagine why I was so tuned in for August and September … ): “Over their final 99 regular-season games, they had a worse record (46-53 – seven games under .500) – than the Mets, Cubs or Padres.” Forget the “worse than the Cubs” part, because the Cubs probably had a better record than a lot of teams for that stretch. What’s more amazing is the reminder that the playoffs are a crapshoot, even including the “who is hottest coming into the playoffs” hooey. Just. Get. In.
- My favorite strange baseball moment of 2014, though? Don’t offer Jesus Montero an ice cream sandwich.
- We’ve actually discussed this before, but you simply can’t get enough of it: Pedro Strop’s slider was the best slider in baseball this year by whiff rate. Eno Sarris wrote about that, among many other excellent pitches, and you can watch them here.
- This is awesome for at least two reasons:
Prospect Handbook is off to the printers. Huge, huge thanks to the hundreds of scouts and execs who make it possible pic.twitter.com/4YB6IE2I6H
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) December 31, 2014
- When wondering yesterday about what Vine Line’s top two moments from the Cubs season would be, given that Jake Arrieta’s ovation at Fenway Park was just number three, I forgot about the possibility that a separate Arrieta start – he had several memorable ones – would be in the top two. So it is with his dominant mid-September start against the Reds, which is number two on the list. Somehow I’d forgotten that Arrieta pitched one of the best Cubs outings in decades.
- The AP’s Male Athlete of the Year is Madison Bumgarner, which, yay baseball. Clayton Kershaw was number two, and Derek Jeter was tied for number three, so, again, yay baseball. I know it’s not what they were doing, but my gut is screaming at me right now about how Kershaw was clearly the better pitcher, and Jeter was, I mean, come on.
VERY META: Over the past few days, I’ve been working on a number of site changes aimed at improving overall performance of the server and the load of the site, itself. Among the things you may notice: (1) as discussed, the often-broken Recent Comments widget is gone, as is the entire tab unit onto which it was placed; (2) that means the Recent Posts widget is also gone (it may come back at some point, but it was also a fairly heavy resource-user, and I’m not sure the trade off is worth it when you can pretty easily click back to the home page to see the full list of recent posts); (3) I removed one of the ad units that I believe was one of the major culprits of site slow-down (hopefully that proves to be the case – ask any publisher: we don’t remove ads lightly!); (4) other ad tweaks, including relocating some ads and theoretically blocking some of the worst ads (though, be warned: January and February are often a low point for ads for reasons I won’t get into – lotta junk gets into the mix, and I do the best I can); (5) tweaks to the way the site is cached (so if you notice anything strange, like new posts not showing up on the home page right away, please let me know); and (6) Disqus implemented some changes on their own, including a big new ad unit (their product is free, so they want to make money somehow). On that last one, although Disqus made that change on its own, I do have a little bit of control over it (and it is supposed to generate some revenue for the site), so I’ll be monitoring how it impacts site performance. It appears to be the kind of static thing that will not be a performance problem, however.