Tag Archive | "Wild Card"

The Purity Of The Pastime

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The Purity Of The Pastime

Posted on 01 March 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

The game of baseball is something that is near and dear to me. It has been passed down from family members and played since a young age. The game, along with the eventual bride to be, is two things that I am absolutely crazy about with the hopes of making baseball a career some day. Growing up, if the uniform was not dirty, everything was not left out on the field. Playing the game hard and the right way were core values given to me by some great coaches. The beauty of baseball can also be turned into life lessons as well.

RetroBaseball

Steroids are a delicate subject currently in baseball. It is a line in the dirt that has affected the game for the wrong reasons. However, it has not ruined the game entirely. Despite all of the reports, congressional hearings, PED’s, HGH, and any other abbreviations there is still much to be celebrated.

This past offseason, the latest report naming players that allegedly took substances was released with more high profile names included such as Ryan Braun again and Gio Gonzalez. The latest report appears to have a common factor of ties to the Miami area and university. The university has already had its fair share of troubles and this is seemingly being added to the list of dark clouds.

Since the mid 90’s, the game as been viewed as the “steroid era” and the image and commissioner have both taken a hit for that facing the questions of just how clean is the game? While the commissioner has implemented great things that have improved the game such as the Wild Card and instant replay, many believe the stance on drug use was turned the other way.

Some may even forget that these talks and questions really began to take shape in 2005 and 2006 when Jose Canseco released the book Juiced. The information published in that book caused a serious stir around the game. Denials of any and all claims mentioned became the thing to do and Canseco became an outcast. Fast forward nearly a decade and now many of the things written have been discovered as truths rather than fiction.

In baseball, much like the other sports has some bad that comes with the good. For someone that loves the true meaning of sports that is hard to accept. The beauty of sports should be that for those two or three hours that the game is being played nothing else should matter. The game should be the story, the heart, and hustle. There should be no back drop of steroids, or criminal allegations to clutter things. It is sad when the games fans love are taken advantage of, because who would not give anything to trade places with a professional athlete? We should take notice of the clubs and players doing things the right way as opposed to the select few that do not.

Inner circles use the terms like dirt bags or grinders. Guys that seemingly give every ounce they have for their team and leave it all on the field. Guys like Dustin Pedroia, Chipper Jones, and Derek Jeter often have uniforms where dirt is the primary color and earn that respect from their peers. Steroids are never brought up about guys like this. Rather, the effort and hustle are praised. They are just a few players that do not take the game for granted.

This year, for the first time in a long time no players were elected into the Hall of Fame. The question is what does that mean for future players? Will a few bad apples ruin it for the rest? I do not believe so. During the era, some players still did it the right way and will be honored. Upcoming Hall of Fame eligible players include Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, and Ken Griffey Jr. who should all be first ballot inductees.

No question, my favorite player is The Kid. Along with the on field talent, he brought that energy, that purity, and that smile to the game. He was a human highlight show and role model with the purest swing in the game. For the saber metrics, Griffey’s 1997 MVP season reads as a .304 batting average, 56 home runs, 147 RBI’s, and the most important number, 0. Zero being the number of steroid reports, PED’s, and accusations leaked.

The use of steroids should never be condoned, however the era should never be completely ignored or have an asterisk next to it either. It should be treated and accepted as apart of the game and just another chapter as good still emerged during the same period as well. The same time frame brought us stories such as the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks and Cal Ripken becoming the new iron man. History does not discount the dead ball era and in today’s game this should be no different. No asterisks are found on pitchers stats such as the great Bob Gibson prior to 1969 when the pitching mound was different and clean players today should not be discredited with accomplishments either.

The purpose of the Baseball Hall of Fame committee is to vote and elect the best players from the sport and enshrine them in Cooperstown. They are to be impartial and select only the few worthy players. As the game hopefully moves away from the PED’s and gets cleaned up, those players will still rise above the rest and become enshrined.

As Opening Day approaches, here is to the steroid cloud hopefully fading away. The game still has and will always have many things to cherish about it. The core is still pure. To borrow a line from a movie, “The game does not stink, it is a great game.”

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Pittsburgh Pirates Working on 20th Year of Futility

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Pittsburgh Pirates Working on 20th Year of Futility

Posted on 25 September 2012 by Dennis Lawson

WC Standings (from ESPN)

The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates finished with a record above .500 Barry Bonds was skinny, George H. W. Bush was the President of the United States, and Miley Cyrus had not yet been spawned.  Jim Leyland was the manager, and the team had reached the NLCS 3 consecutive times without winning a trip to the World Series.  From 1990-92 the Pirates went 289-197 during the regular season and had all the makings of a perennial contender.  Then Barry Bonds hit free agency and ended up taking his toys to play in the San Francisco sandbox.

Since that time, the Pirates have posted 19 straight losing seasons, and they are in danger of making it an even 20.  Unfortunately for the Pirates (and their fans), this year was really supposed to be different from the previous 19.  The team made a serious effort to at least make this season a turning point for the franchise.  Just over 1 month ago, the Pirates looked really, really good.  The team stood 67-54, and it was not a smoke-and-mirrors act, either.  The team had a run differential of +21, and they were in serious contention for a wild card spot.

Then the bottom fell out….or the wheels fell off….or they found themselves stuck in a certain creek without means of propulsion.  Regardless of how it happened or how one chooses to describe the precipitous fall – it happened.  In spite of an opening day payroll of $52M (team’s largest since 2003), the Pirates simply could not handle prosperity.  The team went from 13 games above .500 to 2 games below that mark.  It took an 8-23 stretch, but they managed it.  Now the Pirates need to finish at least 6-4 to avoid the 20th consecutive season with a losing record.

They may need some assistance to reach that record.  The team has 4 games against the Mets starting today in NYC.  After that, the Pirates host the Reds and then the Braves for consecutive  3-game sets to finish the season.  Given that the team does not have a winning record against any of the 3 aforementioned opponents, 6-4 might be a tall order.  As a longtime fan of the Cardinals, I must admit to having some bias where the Pirates are concerned.  Old rivalries fade away slowly.  As a baseball fan, I’m quietly rooting for them to go 7-3 to secure a winning record for the first time in 2 decades.

Despite having what appears to be a significant talent deficit on paper, the Pirates always seem to play really well against the Cardinals and happen to own a 8-7 season series victory this year.  That earns them a certain measure of respect.  Playing hard to be a “spoiler” near the end of the season also warrants some respect.  Finally, the ability to persevere through almost 20 years of futility should give each hardcore fan some kind of “I watched 19 really bad seasons of baseball in Pittsburgh and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” badge on Foursquare.

Instead, the Pittsburgh faithful may be stuck with yet another losing season and exclusion from the MLB postseason yet again.  If nothing else, at least they can look forward to next year when the payroll projection may push the Pirates over the $70M mark.  Of course, the fans have already learned that spending more money does not come with a guarantee of team success.  On the other hand, it usually doesn’t hurt, either.

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Field Of Streams: Fantasy Baseball Pitching Options

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Field Of Streams: Fantasy Baseball Pitching Options

Posted on 23 September 2012 by Will Emerson

Welcome to the season finale of Field of Streams! One final  in depth look at some viable, and some not so viable, fantasy streaming options for the upcoming fantasy week. The major league, and thus fantasy, baseball season is winding down so there will be no need to stream pitchers, unless you are in some fantasy baseball league for the major league playoffs, after this week. I know, I’m sad as well folks, but I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. And this is by no means good-bye! Oh no, I will continue to give you something to read on Sundays, so you’ll still have that! Now, as I get into this week’s pitching options, I just want to say this this was one of the most difficult weeks for this. Not a lot of great options jumped out at me and if you are streaming this week, you are most likely in your fantasy championships, so good streaming is important now, more than ever. That’s quite a bit of pressure! Nevertheless, I will press on and without further ado, on with the show! Here comes your look at your fantasy streaming options, owned in less than 50% in ESPN and Yahoo! leagues, for the week of 9/24-9/30 (all stats and information are prior to Saturday’s games):

Jake Odorizzi (KC)- One of the many talents in the Royals system, Odorizzi is getting his call up and will make his first start Sunday. So as a streaming option next weekend he is a bit of a wild card. One, because I have no major league appearance to evaluate and two, because you never know exactly who the Tribe will have in their lineup as the season winds down and neither team has much to play for ‘cept maybe their pride. Odorizzi has torn up the minors, most recently at triple-A where he had a 2.93 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Now while I would like to have a look at his first start before getting into what to expect from him against Cleveland, I do like him as a wild card starter. His K/9 went down about four when he made the jump from double to triple -A and his triple-A FIP is over four, so there will be a struggle or two in the majors. However I like him alright enough starting against Cleveland. I feel like he may benefit from not a lot of Indians batters having faced him. Now I cannot give him full fledged stream endorsement, based on the no stats at the major league level, but watch his Sunday start closely and see what you think. He could be the wild card that helps you close the door on that fantasy title. (.2% owned in ESPN and 1% in Yahoo!)

Alex Cobb (TB)- Okay, so Cobber has been up and  down lately, lasting only 4.2 innings against the Os, but then baffling the Red Sox batters over six innings in his next start. To be fair though, his xFIP in that Os start was below two and he did only allow two earned runs in each  of those starts. The fact that he is keeping the ball on the ground, with a rate above 60% in both starts, is good and bad. Good, because those worm burners do not often end up as home runs, but bad because it does put more pressure on your defense and seeing eye singles can hurt him at any time. But he has a good defense behind him, so generally he is in good shape and I am sticking with him this week against the White Sox. (14% owned in ESPN and 22% in Yahoo!)

Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris (HOU)- If you’ve had a heaping helping of Field of Streams in your diet, it should be not be new knowledge that both Budrick and Lucas  have been studs at home this season. Well, if it is new info, then, hey, welcome to the party! These two fellas have been greatastic at home. Yes, they have been so good at home, that I went ahead and created an adjective to describe this goodness. Well both pitchers start the week with a home start, so go ahead and pounce if they are available in your league. Now Norris is only scheduled for the one start, but young Lucas has a second start on the docket, on the road, at Milwaukee (which means land of the good). But what many have not noticed is Harrell is actually pitching fairly decently outside of the Juice Box as well. In his last three road starts he has thrown 18. 2 innings and allowed seven earned runs. Not too shabby, right? And two of those starts were at St.Louis and Cincy. Two good hitting teams. While I would say the second start against the Brew Crew is still not a huge lock, it will be the end of your week and season and with his 19 strikeouts over those 18.2 road innings, he may me nice stream option to finish off your season. (Norris is 24.4% owned in ESPN and 30% in Yahoo! Harrell is 2.8% in ESPN and 11% in Yahoo!)

Marco Estrada (MIL)- The ownership numbers for Ponch are rising, so I am not riding this bandwagon alone, but he is still widely available in ESPN and Yahoo! He did not end up with a two start week last week as expected, so he looks to have two starts on the docket this week. The first start on the road against the Nationals could be bit tougher than other starts, but it could all depend on when the Nats will start resting folks for their playoff run too. I still recommend him and his lovely K/9 over nine in this matchup and for his second start? Well that will be at home against the Disastros, who admittedly are winning at a very high pace (for them anyways) in September, but still…a good matchup for Ponch. (25.6% owned in ESPN and 30% in Yahoo!)

Ross Detwiler (WSH)- Detwiler continues to be more than solid for the Nationals down the stretch. In his last outing against the Dodgers, he tossed six innings and allowed only one measly run. He also struck out five, which is not spectacular, but for Ross Detwiler, he of the 5.68 K/9, this is a good number. In fact he has a rate of 7.5 K/9 over his last two starts, so that is promising, especially if you combine that with his ground ball rate over 50! Now I’m not saying he’s working his way towards a future strikeout crown or anything, but this definitely makes him more appealing as a fantasy option. He faces Tyler Cloyd and the Phils this week, which is not a great matchup, but Mr. Detwiler has been pitching well enough that I would not expect him to get knocked around too much and hurt your pitching numbers by any means. (37.1% owned in ESPN and 39% in Yahoo!)

So there you have it, another season of Field Of Streams in the books! So what did we learn this season, children? 1) Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris have been must starts at home  B) Ks/9 are  the bomb diggity 4) “Ponch” Estrada is more solid than you know and plenty of spots on his bandwagon are still available and F) Alex Cobb and his sexy ground ball rate can be a good get for your fantasy squads. Good day and godspeed!

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Show Me Your “O” Face

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Show Me Your “O” Face

Posted on 13 September 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Office Space FTW!

Your mission (should you choose to accept it) consists of explaining how in the world the Baltimore Orioles reached mid-September with a statistically plausible chance at making the playoffs.  How exactly does a team that ranks 16th in runs scored, 21st in batting average, 23rd in OBP, and 12th in slugging hang with the big bad wolves of the AL East?  More importantly, how can someone explain with a straight face that the same team that sits 18th in ERA, 25th in quality starts, 20th in WHIP, and 16th in batting average against also has a tenuous grip on either the 2nd wild card spot or the division lead?

Without a crack team of researchers (or maybe a team researching crack), one might think such a thing impossible.  Below average pitching combined with sub-par hitting somehow results in a playoff contender.  If a Baseball Urban Dictionary exists somewhere on the interwebs, the Orioles’ team photo must be pictured under the section on “logical incongruity”.  Explain the anomalous nature of this Baltimore beast, or be relegated to watching Golden Girls reruns.

The Orioles have exactly 3 players who have accumulated more than 2.0 oWAR – Adam Jones (4.8 oWAR) and Nick Markakis (2.4 oWAR), and Matt Wieters (2.1 oWAR).  Moreover, Markakis just went down for the season with a broken left thumb.  Of all the players who qualify for MLB’s statistical leader boards, Markakis was the batting average leader for the team at .298.  Total number of qualifying players hitting .300+?  Zero.  After Markakis at .363, the next highest OBP belongs to Adam Jones at .351.  Jones happens to have the highest OPS at .848.  For perspective, the Rangers have 3 players above that OPS mark.

The Orioles have exactly 1 starting pitcher with 10 wins or more, and that happens to be Wei-Yin Chin at 12-9.  The Cardinals have 4 starters at 13 or more wins, and they are struggling to lock down the 2nd wild card position in the NL.  So, exactly how can the O’s success be explained?  Please rationalize how a team can play 11 games ahead of Pythagorean W/L pace.

  • Opportunistic offense:  The team has hit .251/.324/.436/.760 with runners in scoring position which translates to 407 runs scored in 994 opportunities.  By comparison, the Yankees have hit .253/.350/.424/.775 with runners in scoring position, but the Bombers have only pushed across 452 runs despite having 135 more opportunities than the Orioles.
  • Doing just enough:  The Orioles lead the majors in winning percentage in games decided by 1 run with a 25-7 record.
  • Playing a hard 9….10….11:  The Orioles are currently tied with the Nationals for the most wins in extra innings in baseball (12).  The Nationals have gone into bonus baseball 19 times and lost 7.  The Orioles have gone extras just 14 times and lost only twice.  2.  The deuce.  That’s 12-2 when the number of innings hits double digits.
  • Relief work:  Combined ERA for all Baltimore pitchers in relief – 3.15.  That group has accounted for 58 “holds” and 46 saves.  By comparison, the Rangers have the best record in the AL, and their relievers have combined for a 3.29 ERA, 54 holds, and 37 saves.  The difference?  The Orioles have relied on the bullpen for 468.0 innings this season.  The Rangers have used relievers for just 388.1 innings.

Maybe the Orioles can keep it going by getting just enough offense at the right time.  After all, the team has made it 141 games using this not-so-secret formula.  Perhaps maintaining a negative run differential while staying 17 games above .500 will prove unsustainable.  Just don’t let the Orioles know that.  It would be a shame for them to realize how much of an uphill battle they are fighting (and winning).

NOTE: This was written before last night’s walk-off win that pushed the Orioles to 26-7 in games decided by 1 run.

 

 

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3 Up and 3 Down – August 26

Posted on 26 August 2012 by Gary Marchese

It is that time again for the weekly three up and three down look around baseball.  It was an interesting week and made it easy for a couple of downs for me.  The steroid era is over, well we thought it was, but that dreaded word is at it again.  As always you can reach me through my email gmarchesej@aol.com, twitter @gmarchesej, facebook and of course comment under this article.  Thanks as always for supporting me and this site in general and we look forward to the continued support.

Up - Adrian Beltre 

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Adrian Beltre -He just had a three homerun game and then he hits for the cycle. Beltre is batting 310 with 23 homeruns and 74 RBI on the season.  He is having a very good year and really coming on lately also.

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