Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Seventh Inning

The bottom of the seventh inning was a disaster for the Mets last night. First of all, I seriously question why Noah Syndergaard started the inning in the first place. He had already thrown 101 pitches, it was the 7th inning, and Terry Collins had pretty much his entire bullpen at his disposal, having used only Clippard and Familia on Friday and with an off-day today. Granted, Syndergaard did strike out Yasmani Grandal, but Collins should have yanked him after the walk to Kike Hernandez. Instead, he let him face Utley, and that's where all the trouble started.

Despite Syndergaard's efforts to keep him on first base, Hernandez ended up stealing second base, and the now distracted and tired pitcher gave up a single to Utley. At which point Collins had no choice but to go to the bullpen. For the life of me, however, I can not understand why he went to Bartolo Colon. In a 1-run game, with runners on first and third and 1 out, what the Mets really needed was a strikeout. I don't care that Howie Kendrick was 2-for-22 against Colon; you don't put in a guy with 6.3 SO/9 who'd only made two relief appearances all year.

So no one should be surprised that Kendrick made contact. Daniel Murphy flipped the ball to Ruben Tejada at second base, at which point the game lost all sense of logic. While the run comes in to score, Utley barrels into Tejada as he is turning around to throw to first base. Utley is called out, and Tejada finds himself on the ground unable to get up.

As the delay continues for several minutes, Don Mattingly eventually comes out of the dugout to challenge the out-call at second base. (I seriously question whether the Dodgers would have challenged without this delay.) After review, Utley is called safe. (Which by the way wasn't really that clear of an overturn in my opinion.) This is inexplicable for several reasons. First, and most obviously, he never touched second base. The MLB's rationale that the umpire can award him the base because the call was wrong is total BS. Utley didn't miss second base because the umpire called him out; he never even made an attempt to touch second base because he knew he would be called out. That play at second base by Tejada, even if it wasn't technically a "neighborhood play", has pretty much always been called an out through baseball history. If Utley actually thought he had a chance to be safe he would have, you know, slid into second base. But he didn't. Plain and simple. Instead, Utley is essentially rewarded for taking out Tejada (note that Tejada never had an opportunity to attempt to tag Utley even if he didn't touch second base, while Utley went straight to the dugout even though he had ample opportunity to touch the bag.)

At the very least, Utley should have been called out, the game would have been tied, and the inning would have ended when Addison Reed got the next batter to fly out to left. But the inning continued, and the Dodgers ended up scoring three more runs (including one by Utley) to take a 5-2 lead. A completely deflated Mets team, who then learned that Ruben Tejada had broken his leg, had no chance after that.

And now, this morning, I see this rule:

"Rule 6.05 reads:
A batter is out when --
(m) A preceding runner shall, in the umpire's judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play:
Rule 6.05(m) Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire's judgment play."
and this one:
"Rule 7.09:
It is interference by a batter or a runner when --
(e) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner."
Rules like these are designed to protect players from things like, I don't know, HAVING THEIR LEG BROKEN when someone leaves the baseline to break up a double play. Which is exactly what Utley did. He knew he was out at second, so he never even tried to reach second base. He "slid" (which is probably a generous term anyways) exceptionally late, when he was already parallel to the bag.

Clearly both of these rules should have applied. Take your pick. So, in reality, Utley should have been called out, Kendrick should have been called out, Hernandez should never have scored, and the game should have gone to the eighth inning with the Mets up 2-1.

And still, none of that would have changed the fact that Chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada's leg. Honestly, the worst part of this whole thing is that Utley didn't even have to do what he did. If he had just slid into second base, Kendrick almost certainly would have been safe anyway. Tejada would have had to make an essentially impossible throw to get him out at first base. And while Utley would have initially been called out, the Dodgers might still have challenged and gotten the call legitimately overturned. So the outcome would have been the same.
Except Ruben Tejada would not have a broken leg. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Greinke and Kershaw: An Historic Duo

The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the NL West last night, behind a one-hit shutout by Clayton Kershaw. This caps what has been a simply incredible season for the Dodgers pitching duo of Kershaw and Zack Greinke. These two pitchers are the first pair of qualifying starters to post a 170 ERA+ for the same team since Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte on the 2005 Houston Astros, and just the eighth to do so since 1893 (including the 1907 Chicago Cubs, who had three pitchers accomplish this feat). They are also the first pair with 7+ WAR apiece since Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee for the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies, and the 18th since 1920. The last pair of Dodgers starters to do this was Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax in 1964. Even more impressively, they are the only pair in the modern era to ever post WHIPs of less than 0.900 (Henry Boyle and Charlie Sweeney of the 1884 St. Louis Maroons are the only others to pull this trick). 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Baseball Notes (9/28/2015)

  • The Arizona Diamondbacks have an historically good defense this season. They currently have four players with 15+ defensive runs saved: Ender Inciarte, Nick Ahmed, Paul Goldschmidt, and A.J. Pollock. Only three other teams have ever had four players with 15+ WAR Runs Fielding: the 2012 Atlanta Braves, 1989 St. Louis Cardinals, and 1973 Baltimore Orioles. The team is ranked first in Major League Baseball in fielding runs this year.
  • Jeff Francouer is not a very good baseball player. In fact, since the beginning of 2012 he has the worst Wins Above Replacement of any player in the Major Leagues at -5.0 (the next worst is Yuniesky Betancourt at -3.2). Frenchy's OPS+ is just 75 over that span, one of the worst among players with 1000+ plate appearances. Perhaps most surprisingly, he is ranked as one of the five worst defensive right fielders over the last four seasons. Apparently his vaunted arm cannot overcome his other liabilities as an outfielder. I would suggest that he take up pitching to help prolong his career, but his one attempt at that earlier this year did not go so well: he gave up three walks, a home run, and hit a batter while allowing two earned runs in two innings of work on June 16.
  • Jake Arrieta must really want to win the Cy Young Award. Since the beginning of August he is 10-0 with a 0.44 ERA in 11 starts. His ERA+ is now up to 215, joining Zack Greinke (228) with 200+ this season. The last time two pitchers in the same league had a 200 ERA+ was 1907, when Jack Pfiester and Carl Lundgren did so - as teammates on the Chicago Cubs. Greinke himself is set to become just the sixth pitcher ever to have two seasons with a 200 ERA+, joining the elite group of Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, and Roger Clemens.
  • Meanwhile, the AL Cy Young race is also down to just two contenders. Dallas Keuchel made a strong bid to solidify his position last night, allowing just one run over seven innings to pick up the win. It is remarkable just how similar Keuchel's numbers are to those of David Price, at least on the surface. Keuchel is 19-8 with 213 SO and a 2.47 ERA, while Price is 18-5 with 229 SO and a 2.45 ERA. However, Keuchel leads Price in WAR by a 7.3 to 6.0 margin. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Some Random Baseball Thoughts (9/23/2015)

  • Robinson Cano is going to be a Hall of Famer. His next hit will be his 2000th, becoming just the 25th second baseman to reach that plateau. He should be able to quickly move up both the lists for hits and RBI (he's closing in on 1000) among second basemen over the next few seasons. He's already 9th all time in home runs at the position, as well as 7th in OPS (3000+ PA). Lastly, his 55.2 career WAR already puts him in the company of other Hall of Fame second basemen, and I would expect he still has some good years left in him to add to that total.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reggie Smith: A Hall of Fame Case

Reggie Smith is one of the most underrated players in baseball history. A seven-time all-star, Smith received just three votes when he appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1988. An analysis of his career reveals that he deserved far more than that. Head below the fold to find out why.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

2002 AL Cy Young: Pedro Martinez vs. Derek Lowe

The 2002 American League Cy Young Award proved to be one of the most controversial votes in recent memory, as Oakland A's starting pitcher Barry Zito (23-5, 2.75 ERA) beat out Pedro Martinez (20-4, 2.26 ERA). However, the player who should have won the award may not be Pedro, but rather his teammate Derek Lowe. Head below the fold to find out why.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

2015 MLB Standings Projections

American League EastAmerican League CentralAmerican League West
Toronto Blue Jays89-73--Kansas City Royals94-68--Seattle Mariners94-68--
Baltimore Orioles84-785Cleveland Indians91-713Los Angeles Angels88-746
New York Yankees75-8714Detroit Tigers88-746Houston Astros88-746
Boston Red Sox74-8815Chicago White Sox88-746Oakland Athletics75-8719
Tampa Bay Rays74-8815Minnesota Twins75-8719Texas Rangers73-8921
National League EastNational League CentralNational League West
Miami Marlins86-76--St. Louis Cardinals91-71--Los Angeles Dodgers99-63--
Washington Nationals85-771Pittsburgh Pirates83-798Colorado Rockies76-8623
New York Mets77-859Milwaukee Brewers79-8312San Francisco Giants76-8623
Philadelphia Phillies70-9216Chicago Cubs79-8312San Diego Padres72-9027
Atlanta Braves62-10024Cincinnati Reds78-8413Arizona Diamondbacks66-9633