Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The Roundup

Before games kicked off in the Asian pool of the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Mariners all-world centre fielder Ichiro made some comments about neighbouring countries that seemed vaguely simliar to something one might've heard from a brigadier general in the rampaging Kwantung Army in the late 1930s.

Ichiro vowed of Taiwan, Korea and to a much lesser extent, China, that
"I will make them see that they won't beat Japan for the next 30 years." Eh oh!

Click on the above link for some classic Ichiro quotes. I like this one:

On his personal battles with Dice-K: "I hope he arouses the fire that's dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul. I plan to face him with the zeal of a challenger."

As much as I disagree with tenants of Japanese imperialism and the bushido warrior code, I still grudgingly admit that I've got nothing against laying a savage beating on a weaker opponent on the sporting field. Which brings us to last night's 11-3 Jays victory against the Orioles.

That's what we expected to see against Bal'mer all year long: repeated body blows and the occasional head shot whilst never letting one's guard down.

Uncle Griff takes a break from the usual douchebaggery to reflect on Jackie Robinson Day and issues of race. I've said it before, but I would have no problem with the guy whatsoever if he stuck to the feature pieces on players and baseball themes and left the game reporting to Cathal Kelly and Mark Zwolinski. In fact, I would probably even enjoy his work. Kelly, are you reading this?

If you're a sympathetic liberal interested in race stuff, MacLeod has a few ideas about how baseball can regain it's urban appeal. Chiefly, cut down on the length of games. Frankly, it's a pretty great youth strategy, period.

And then the floodgates open. Highlights from the mailbag:

* One questioner's Scutaro-bashing segues into Inglett-bashing. I understand you like J-Mac--many of us do--but maybe wait until Inglett's average dips under .400 before calling for J-Mac to be playing over him at third, mkay?

* Another dude asks if Griffin has even asked JP/Gibby why they don't use J-Mac as Doc's personal shortstop. They said they didn't want to because they always do the opposite of the "improvements" he suggests in his weekly mailbag column. Burn!

* Quoted verbatim:

Burnett is a career lunkhead as proved by his maxing out at 12 wins in his best season. Burnett is the Jeff George of baseball. This guy should have been chasing 20 wins at least a couple of times, but hasn’t.

So very fucking true on so many levels.

Griff "love[s] their offensive, in-game strategy this year", which means it's high time they stop recklessly attempting to steal bases and bunting like NL cowards or he won't have much to complain about next week. Wilner will go insane if it keeps up much longer.

I tire of this.


* Erik Bedard hits the DL. Again. Sigh.

* I just found this so unusual that it deserves mention. Here's a spirited defense of Jason Bay from Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a journo who gets two thumbs up for actually understanding and using stats to make his case.

Bay is heavily criticized by Bucco fans for being overpaid (!), underproductive (??? 3 HR and a 132 OPS+ so far ???), and aloof (well, wouldn't you be)... Bench him! Trade him!

Smizik preaches:

Let's look at his accomplishments, and to do so we will use the baseball statistic OPS, which is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage. It is widely considered to be the best statistic in evaluating a player's offensive ability...

In 2004, he was the National League Rookie of the Year, the first Pirates player to win the award. He hit 26 home runs, drove in 82 runs, had a .282 batting average and a .550 slugging percentage (anything over .500 is good).

In 2005, he built on that to the extent he could have been called the best offensive outfielder in the National League. His OPS was .961, second in Major League Baseball to Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox. For those who prefer more conventional statistics, his 32 home runs and 101 RBIs tied for fourth and fifth among National League outfielders.

In 2006, his OPS was .928, third best in the National League, behind Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday. Among outfielders, he was fourth in RBIs with 109, fifth in home runs with 35. He did this despite playing half of his games in a stadium not friendly to right-handed hitters.

In additional to those offensive accomplishments, he also showed himself to be an above-average outfielder, albeit with a below-average arm, and an excellent base runner.

Understandably, the Pirates signed him to a long-term contract before the 2007 season.

He regressed quite a bit in '07. His home run total fell to 21, his RBIs to 84 and his OPS dropped to .745. His once-keen batting eye, which had helped him accumulate 95 and 102 walks the previous two seasons, vanished. He walked only 59 times. Worse, his defense declined at an alarming rate.

It was one bad season after three exceptional ones, yet Bay has become a public whipping boy. A common criticism, heard much too often, is that Bay doesn't hit in the clutch.

His lifetime batting average is .281. His lifetime batting average with runners in scoring position is .288. His lifetime slugging percentage is .515. His lifetime slugging percentage with runners in scoring position is .536.

The statistics speak for themselves.

SSSSSSSnap! Take that, few remaining wrong-thinking fans of one the worst franchises in baseball.

-- Johnny Was

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