Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
July 29, 2011
BLOG: Not Quite Dead

Yes, I know it's been reaaaaal quiet around here lately. I'm basically swamped at present at work and with life. I can still be found on Twitter, which of course is a lot less time-consuming than blogging. Hope to be back here soon.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:50 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
July 19, 2011
BLOG: Open Thread 7/19/11


Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (59) | TrackBack (0)
July 14, 2011
BASEBALL/LAW: No Decision For Clemens

My latest at Grantland.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:20 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Law 2009-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Streakers

A great look at the all-time record for reaching base safely in consecutive games - Ted Williams, 84 games in 1949. H/T The article doesn't precisely say who is #2 on the list, but notes that inclusive of his hitting streak, Joe DiMaggio reached safely in 74 straight games in 1941. If he's #2, that puts Williams 13.5% ahead of the number two streak - only half as big as Joe D's margin over the second-longest hitting streak, but far enough ahead to probably rate a slot on my list of baseball's most impressive records.

If you're wondering: in DiMaggio's streak, 74 games from May 14-August 2, 1941, he batted .404/.468/.731, scored 74 runs and drove in 73, with 120 hits, 34 walks and 2 HBP; he struck out just 6 times and hit into only 3 double plays, and the Yankees went 55-17 and buried the competition, building a 12.5 game lead. In Williams' streak, 84 games from July 1 to September 27 in the heat of a ferocious pennant race, he batted .371/.518/.695 with 81 runs, 80 RBI, 112 hits, 92 walks, 0 HBP, struck out 19 times and hit into 12 double plays, and his team went 60-24, pulling from 8 games back of the Yankees before the start of the streak to a tenuous 1-game lead. DiMaggio's BABIP during the 74-game streak was .369; Williams' was .340. DiMaggio, of course, played in a vastly more difficult park.

DiMaggio played 139 games in 1941, and failed to reach base safely in just 6 of those. Williams played 155 games in 1949, and also failed to reach base safely in just 6 of those (5 of them in June, when Williams slumped .300/.442/.582). The difference is that 1941 was a huge year for Joe D - he batted .357/.440/.643, his third-highest career OPS compared to a lifetime mark of .325/.398/.579. For Williams, 1949 was little better than an average year, the 8th best OPS of his career and just below his career batting average - .343/.490/.650 compared to a lifetime mark of .344/.482/.634. (Although Williams did set career highs that year in the counting stats - plate appearances, at bats, hits, runs, RBI, homers, walks and total bases - and won the MVP).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:09 AM | Baseball 2011 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
July 13, 2011

On the whole, I'm OK with the Mets trading K-Rod. I'd like them to make an effort at their reasonable goals for the season - third place, over .500, not wholly out of the Wild Card race before September - but they only lose a little in removing K-Rod and can replace him with Bobby Parnell, who has essentially been rehashing the Heath Bell career path (great fastball, good K/BB ratio, awful BABIP) and like Bell should eventually find his groove as a closer if given enough rope. It's interesting that the Mets included some cash in the deal, but that's just another way of saying the Brewers didn't take on his entire contract.

On the contract-mischief front, Jay Jaffe has some fun at the expense of Scott Boras' hissy fit over K-Rod being dealt to a team that will use him as a setup man.

The tougher question is whether to deal Carlos Beltran, who is having a good year and whose departure really would tank the season. For now, it looks like the Mets are wisely looking to dangle Beltran on the market but only for a premium prospect price.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:44 PM | Baseball 2011 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Very Worst

Interesting essays here and here looking at some of baseball's worst-ever players, or at least players who in one way or another were famously bad. A few of the Deadspin piece's potshots are unmerited (how can you discuss Billy Martin's playing career and ignore its most famous feature, his .333/.371/.566 career postseason batting line?), but it's still entertaining if you don't take it too seriously. I hadn't really known about Tommy Dowd's fielding (he not coincidentally led the 1899 Cleveland Spiders in plate appearances), or Gus Weyhing's HBP record (Weyhing, better known as the last man to play without a glove, hit 79 batters and threw 105 wild pitches in 102 starts his first two seasons, age 20-21. Yet before they moved back the mound when he was 27, Weyhing had a 3.16 career ERA - ERA+ of 119 - and a .588 career winning percentage, having posted an average record of 30-21).


Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:27 PM | Baseball 2011 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
July 12, 2011
BASEBALL: The Economic Case Against The DH

My debut column at Grantland.

PS - Welcome new readers! Stop and look around, there's more than a decade's worth of stuff here; baseball, politics, pop culture, law, etc. Check the sidebar for some of the highlights.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:09 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Columns | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
July 11, 2011
POLITICS: Love It or Leave It

So, a member of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors - Jeff Stone, a Republican - has proposed splitting the state of California, with San Diego and the largely rural, Republican-leaning south east of the state becoming "South California," and LA remaining with the liberal coast and northern part of the state. You can follow the link to the LA Times for the map of what his proposal would look like. Secession proposals of this nature are a hardy perennial on the Left and Right alike, and are almost always bad ideas, although there is at least a fair argument that California as currently constituted is (1) too large any longer to serve the role of responding to local needs unmet from Washington that is a major part of why we have a federal system in the first place (as the LAT notes, "[t]he proposed 51st state would be the fifth largest by population, more populous than Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania"), (2) essentially dysfunctional, and (3) particularly unresponsive to the needs of the 13 million residents of the 13 counties in question.

But what's really interesting here isn't a proposal by one member of the board of one county, but rather the response by a spokesman for Governor Jerry Brown:

"If you want to live in a Republican state with very conservative right-wing laws, then there's a place called Arizona," Brown spokesman Gil Duran said.

Now, I don't know about you, but saying that millions of residents should just leave the state if they don't like California's liberal laws, dysfunctional finances and horrendous business climate doesn't really disprove the point that the Sacramento elite really and truly do not care about the Republican-leaning parts of the state or the people in them. California's unemployment rate is 11.7% compared to 9.1% for the nation as a whole (given California's size, I'd guess without doing the math that means the rest of the country may be as much as a full three points below CA). Even the NY Times says California's budget crisis may be the worst in the nation, with a $26.6 billion budget deficit comprising nearly a third of the state's budget. California owes $2,362 in debt per resident of the state, and pays a 20% premium to borrow money compared to better-run states; its A- credit rating from Standard & Poor's is the worst in the nation. A recent budget deal only barely convinced S&P to avoid an immediate further downgrade, and S&P is still concerned that the deal doesn't solve the state's long-term "backlog of budget obligations accumulated during the past decade."

Gov. Brown's office may think that's a record to get cocky about, but maybe it's time California showed a little humility about the failures of its political culture and business climate, and learned a few things from its more conservative neighbors - and maybe even from some of its own citizens.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 PM | Politics 2011 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: All Hot Streakers

Looking at the All-Star lineups, it's striking how many of these guys - especially in the AL lineup - have been up and down the past few years.

AL Lineup

1: Curtis Granderson: .253/.334/.486 since 2009, including .249/.327/.453 in 2009, .247/.324/.468 in 2010.

2: Asdrubal Cabrera: .294/.346/.425 since 2009, including .276/.326/.346 in 2010.

3: Adrian Gonzalez: .304/.403/.545 since 2009, the one long-term bankable bat in the AL lineup.

4: Jose Bautista: .272 /.393/.580 since 2009, including .235/.349/.408 in 2009. Also .239/.324/.398 from 2004-08.

5: Josh Hamilton: .319/.370/.550 since 2009, including .268/.315/.426 in 2009.

6: Adrian Beltre (first All-Star lineup ever to feature two guys named Adrian?): .291/.333/.483 since 2009, including .265/.304/.379 in 2009.

7: David Ortiz: .265/.359/.512 since 2009, including .238/.332/.462 in 2009.

8: Robinson Cano: .315/.361/.525 since 2009, his breakout year, but followed a .271/.305/.410 season in 2008.

9: Alex Avila: .257/.345/.433 since 2009, including .228/.316/.340 in 2010.

NL Lineup:

1: Rickie Weeks: .272/.358/.478 since 2009; Weeks hit .234/.342/.398 in 2008 and played only 37 games in 2009.

2: Carlos Beltran: .292/.381/.482 since 2009, including .255/.341/.427 in 2010. Beltran hasn't played 100 games in a season since 2008, although he's been healthy again this year.

3: Matt Kemp: .282/.346/.494 since 2009, including .249/.310/.450 in 2010.

4: Prince Fielder: .284/.408/.545 since 2009, had a slight off year at .261/.401/.471 in 2010.

5: Brian McCann: .283/.366/.480 since 2009; has been consistent, had slight off year at .281/.349/.486 in 2009.

6: Lance Berkman: .268/.389/.497 since 2009, including .248/.368/.413 for two teams in 2010.

7: Matt Holliday .315/.396/.532 since 2009.

8: Troy Tulowitzki: .296/.369/.542 since 2009, actually having a modest off-year this season at .268/.337/.488; missed 40 games in 2010.

9: Scott Rolen: .284/.346/.460 since 2009, including .241/.276/.398 in 62 games this season - Rolen has 5 homers and 9 walks.

None of this is to say that these are unworthy All-Stars; some may be, but the larger point is how few really bankable superstars there are at present (to be fair, Miguel Cabrera is one and is stuck behind Gonzalez, and a few of the other superstars of the Pujols/A-Rod variety are hurt). It's just odd to have quite this many guys starting the All-Star Game who were seen as being on the ropes some time within the past three years.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:03 PM | Baseball 2011 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
July 7, 2011
BLOG: Literary Atrocity

I used to like Roger Ebert, back when I was a teenager and he was a prolific, conversational movie reviewer, always challenging the highbrow pretensions of Gene Siskel. In time, I came to see Ebert, like Peter Gammons these days, as a sick, old man whose view of the world was curdled by his illness and his political bile - not just that their political opinions come from people I respected in other fields (I can live with that), not just that they're wrong, but the combination of ignorance and aggressive, often bigoted vitriol coming from people I don't especially care to read for their politics in the first place. I may forgive them some of this as being the sickness talking, but that doesn't make it go down any easier. And in time, in Ebert's case, with the benefit of hindsight I came to realize that he'd never really been that good a judge of movies in the first place.

All that said, I agree wholeheartedly with this column by Ebert about the literary atrocity inherent in rewriting The Great Gatsby. Yes, very old literature like Shakespeare can sometimes be usefully abridged or translated for modern schoolkids, but there is no earthly reason to think that anyone who can't read F. Scott Fitzgerald's 20th century American prose has any business reading any version of the book. As Ebert - who is still a fine writer, after all - puts it:

Any high school student who cannot read The Great Gatsby in the original cannot read. That student has been sold a bill of goods. We know that teachers at the college level complain that many of their students cannot read and write competently. If this is an example of a book they are assigned, can they be blamed?

In a note at the end, Ebert suggests that the dumbed-down version of the book may be targeted to an ESL audience, which makes it less alarming, but still a fairly misguided concept.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:37 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
July 6, 2011

You too can ask President Obama a question on Twitter, using the hashtag #askobama. Of course, the tiny fraction of those tweets to be answered will doubtless be carefully screened, and the answers vetted before posting them. I'd say Saturday Night Live should satirize this, but it already did, the last time something like this was tried as if it was a totally brand-new idea, in March 1977:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:31 AM | Politics 2011 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)