Crash Bag, Vol. 46: Radioactive Porcine Hemoglobin

Last week, Paul did the Crash Bag, to near-universal acclaim. One commenter remarked that he preferred Paul’s more level-headed tone to my “sour” and “bitter” outlook, and while I appreciate lemons as much as the next guy, that remark got me thinking: I do find myself in a default state of bitter, florid, impotent rage. It’s not that surprising, considering my hobbies:

  1. Watching/thinking about/reading about/writing about the Phillies.
  2. Watching/thinking about/reading about/writing about the Sixers.
  3. Watching/thinking about/reading about other teams I follow: Arsenal, the Flyers, the Eagles, the South Carolina Gamecocks.
  4. Consuming narrative fiction that’s heavy, dark and extremely cynical, like House of Cards and the novels of Richard Ford.
  5. Consuming music that is heavy and wallows in human weakness and suffering.
  6. Contemplating the pitiable futility and smallness of the existence of mankind in general and myself in particular.

Not a lot to get excited about there, particularly when you’re as pessimistic a person as I am anyway.

So I had a conversation with myself that would mirror the famous exchange between Powers Boothe and C. Thomas Howell in Red Dawn and decided that this week’s Crash Bag will be a positive, happy experience. If I can pull it off. We shall see.

@mdubz11: “predict ryan howard’s season.”

Ah, they test my optimism right off the bat. Very well (dons turban and places crystal ball on the table) mmmmmmm….ooogly moogly….

Actually, before we get to Ryan Howard, I’d like to say something about the Phillie Phanatic. I’m not somebody who goes to a ton of games, because it’s expensive and being around lots of people for long periods of time makes me wonder if I’m an introvert or an agoraphobe. But seeing the Phanatic stand on the dugout and wiggle his fingers at the opposing pitcher, trying to hex him, is far and away the best thing about going to Phillies games. I can barely look at that furry green bastard, as a friend of mine likes to call him, without drifting into hysterical peals of laughter. So good on ya, Phanatic.

Anyway, I went and looked at the ZiPS projections for Ryan Howard, and Dan Szymborski’s giant floating brain-in-a-jar has Howard going for .242/.328/.463 in 112 games, which is roughly what I’d have predicted off the top of my head. Maybe a little lower average and a little more power, but somewhere in that neighborhood for sure.

Here’s the thing with Howard–he’s 33 years old, and big sluggers tend not to age all that well. It’s not a bulletproof thing, but Howard peaking at age 26, turning in his last star-level season at 29 and going downhill from there is pretty much in line with what you’d expect. Howard still has big-time power and good enough plate discipline (which are counteracted by an oppressive pull tendency and so-so pitch recognition, respectively), but the weaknesses in his game–speed, defense and slowing bat speed–aren’t going to get better with time. I don’t mean to sound like a downer, but that’s just how it is, though I suspect I’m not saying anything y’all don’t know already.

But since I’m being optimistic, I will say that Howard will be better than he was last year. I don’t know that someone as big and old as he is, with his recent history of lower-body injuries, will play 155 games, but another season removed from Achilles tendon surgery will do him good, and he stands to be better than he was last year. If only because it’s very difficult indeed to be as bad as he was last year. I’d call an OPS in the high .700s likely and an OPS over .800 very possible.

@Fantusta: “How is Robinson Cano, a Yankee, one of the most underrated players in baseball still?”

He’s got Chase Utley‘s Disease. He’s the best player on a team that gets an inordinate amount of media attention and still doesn’t get no respect.

By the way, I don’t know that I entirely buy the “most underrated” premise, but Cano is certainly a much better player than he gets credit for. I have a couple theories:

  1. He’s the best infielder on the Yankees, but he’s somewhere between the third-most and fifth-most famous infielder on the Yankees, depending on how you feel about Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira. There’s only so much limelight to go around with Jeter and A-Rod hogging it all.
  2. We don’t think of second basemen as superstars, for whatever reason. I mean, that reason might be that it’s not often that you get a second baseman who actually is a superstar, but for all the credit Utley, Cano and Dustin Pedroia get, it’s been since, like, Ryne Sandberg that a team’s really built a contender around a second baseman. Maybe Roberto Alomar. I dunno, this theory could be complete bunk, but it seems that way.
  3. Much of Cano’s value is tied up in his durability. Sure, it’s great to have a second baseman who hits .300/.350/.500 every year, but it’s even better when he’s missed 12 games in the past six seasons. That’s not an average of 12 games a year, that’s 12 games total. And durability is an underrated trait.
  4. Cano’s career has really taken off in the past couple seasons, in his late 20s, after his public image had already ossified into that of a good, but not MVP-caliber infielder. With such a clear image of what Cano was, it’s hard to envision him as anything other than Derek Jeter‘s sidekick.

But in case you hadn’t checked Robbie Cano’s stats recently, he’s pretty darned good.

@fotodave: “[Earlier this week] Darin Ruf got an assist on a Freddy Freeman HR. Whats your top 5 worst or boneheaded plays in the outfield?”

In no particular order: 

  • Aaron Rowand decides a first-inning fly ball in May is worth taking his bat out of the lineup for 2 1/2 weeks. Though Shane Victorino replaced him, setting the stage for this, some five years later:
  • Shane Victorino’s bout with…well, I’m not sure what this was:
    SHANF Falldowngoboom
  • Jose Canseco takes a fly ball off the noggin for a home run.
  • Nyjer Morgan loses his damn mind, part 5,153. Which reminds me. The other day, I found myself driving behind a vehicle with a Milwaukee Brewers special Wisconsin plate, with the license number: TPLU5H. I very seriously considered following that guy home and making him my best friend.
  • This is just a general vote for anytime a fielder loses a ball in the lights. It’s such a great moment to see a dude settle under a ball, then start to do the potty dance, then throw his hands up and shrug as the ball lands 30 feet behind him. We’ve all been there, dude.

@pivnert: “why isn’t yuni betancourt a St. Louis cardinal yet?”

I do not know, though I would not object to such a development. Smart money is on the Cardinals having talked themselves into Pete Kozma as an everyday shortstop, which is quite a funny thing to consider.

@joperasinger: “has Kyle Kendrick become… good?”

I tell you what (since we’re being optimistic today), it’s not out of the realm of possibility. I remember the moment I started to dislike Kyle Kendrick. I watched maybe five regular-season Phillies games in 2007, because I spent the entire season in South Carolina, without the channel that carried the Braves, and for a couple months, without television of any kind. So all I knew about Kendrick the rookie was that he had come up from AA and pitched competently for a team that was reeling from losing Brett Myers to injury and Adam Eaton to being an incompetent nincompoop.

So the first time I saw Kendrick pitch was actually Game 2 of the NLDS that year. I remember this moment vividly–I got home and called Paul while the game was about to start, and they flashed Kendrick’s numbers on the screen: 49 strikeouts in 121 innings. Thinking back to a Bill James article I’d read that linked pitcher longevity to strikeout rate, I immediately said to Paul: “If Kendrick doesn’t start striking more guys out, he’s going to be out of baseball in five years.” He probably doesn’t remember this conversation, but I promise you it actually happened.

And yet here we are.

I’ve never bought any of the various Kyle Kendrick resurrection myths that have been bandied about since he came crashing back to Earth in 2008 like command deck of the NSEA Protector at the end of GalaxyQuest. But last year, with the caveat that he pitched out of the bullpen 12 times and could reach back for a little extra gas in those outings, he struck out 17.2 percent of the batters he faced, up from 12.3 percent in 2011 and 10.9 percent in 2010. That’s not Verlander territory, but 17.2 percent will get the job done. Kendrick has always seemed to outperform his peripherals, so if that trend holds in 2013, he could be a decent No. 4 starter, and even if he gets his comeuppance, he could put in an ERA in the low 4’s in 160 innings.

We’ve got a long way to go before I’ll believe in “Good” for Kyle Kendrick, but all cheekiness aside, the second half of Kendrick’s 2012 is at least encouraging.

@tholzerman: “What USC baseball player do you most want to see on the Phils with the rider that they can draft no other Gamecocks?”

Current USC player? Honestly, there’s probably not a major-league regular on the Gamecocks right now. I met Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs in person a couple weeks ago, and when the conversation turned to college baseball, he said USC was the only good SEC team he didn’t know anything about because they never produce any prospects.

That’s not strictly true, but it’s generally true. Since I arrived at USC, the Gamecocks have produced three first-round picks: Justin Smoak and Reese Havens in 2008 and Jackie Bradley in 2011. But they haven’t made the College World Series finals each of the past three years and won twice by having a team full of top prospects–they’re not Florida or Arizona State. They won all those games by having a bunch of good players whose skills won’t translate to major-league success. Because while Bradley is the only member of those back-to-back title teams to reach “prospect” status, most of the other starters were good enough to get drafted, but just under the “major-league regular” threshold.

And that’s not an exaggeration. Since 2010, USC has sent Sam Dyson, Whit Merrifield, Scott Wingo, Christian Walker, Matt Price, Evan Marzilli and Michael Roth to rounds three through 11 of the draft. Dyson’s the only one who’s made the majors, and as of right now he’s in Miami Marlins purgatory with a career ERA of 40.50 and an arm that’s already suffered a torn labrum and Tommy John surgery. I doubt any of the others, except maybe Walker, players a major-league game.

Which is how it’s always been. USC has a pretty good baseball tradition, but its biggest major-league contribution came via Brian Roberts, and you don’t get too far down the list of career WAR leaders from South Carolina before you get to Jonathan Coutlangus. Sure, the Gamecocks have had a Golden Spikes winner, but he was drafted in the 13th round and never threw a pitch in the majors.

So when I tell you that the best prospect on USC’s roster right now might actually be Joey Pankake, I don’t want you to take that as a ringing endorsement of Pankake’s potential major-league quality. He’s a good hitter who’s going through something of a power explosion as a sophomore, but he is, despite being possessed of a cannon for an arm, one of the worst defensive shortstops I’ve ever seen.

Now, I remember going to a game my freshman year and watching James Darnell boot almost literally every ball that came to him, and he’s currently playing major-league ball, so Pankake could move to another position and thrive, but he’s nowhere near the prospect Bradley is and Smoak was. Sophomore catcher Grayson Greiner has serious power, but he might not stick at catcher because of his size (6-foot-5) and his…well, there’s no easy way to put this, but he gets the yips about throwing the ball back to the pitcher. Yes, like Rube Baker in Major League 2.

I’d probably go with sophomore pitcher Evan Beal, who went in the eighth round of the 2011 draft to the Royals, and is pitching very well with Friday night starter Jordan Montgomery out with an injury. Again, Beal isn’t a great prospect at the moment, but Taylor Guerrieri and Corey Seager both took pro contracts instead of going to college, so the cupboard is somewhat bare.

LB Dantzler’s still slugging over .700, by the way. Hold me closer.

@ETDWN: “Do you prefer to answer baseball questions or weird questions on the Crashbag?”

Well, I like getting enough baseball questions to maintain the tenuous relationship with the Phillies necessary for Bill to let me post this. I will say that there’s a sweet spot–too baseball and it gets boring, but too weird and I just bash my forehead against the keyboard and move on.

@traderyanhoward: “If you could hire the spies from Archer’s ISIS to improve the Phils chance of winning the division, what hilarity would ensue?”

See, this is what I’m talking about. I’ve stared at this question for several days, wishing I could do it justice. I’m pretty sure Krieger’s the only doctor who could keep Chase Utley on the field all season, which would be great until Major League Baseball threw a 50-game suspension at Utley for having one of the Boys from Brazil give him daily doses of radioactive porcine hemoglobin.

And that’s as far as I got. There’s a joke in there about Pam having sex with Charlie Manuel to keep him from starting John Lannan in a must-win game in September, but I’m having trouble getting it out.

@petzrawr: “Of all of the popular conspiracy theories out there, which is the most likely? Was the mob involved in Kennedy’s death? Area 51?”

This is an appropriately weird question.

I’m the wrong person to ask about conspiracy theories, because, well, I tend not to believe in them. I’m a big fan of Occam’s Razor, so if you go on about false flag operations and 9/11 being an inside job, I’m either going to stop listening and leave you to yelling at the walls or fold you up in a cardboard box with a pair of sneakers and a toucan and UPS you to Bujumbura so you won’t bother me anymore.

So I think Oswald acted alone, insofar as it matters anymore, and according to Wikipedia, at least, Area 51 does officially exist, even if nobody will talk about what goes on there. But that’s not a conspiracy as much as it’s just your garden variety military secrecy.

I was trying to think of a conspiracy theory I buy, but I literally couldn’t think of any. So I went, again, to Wikipedia. And I found two that I like:

  • That Big Oil sandbagged the electric car. It would surprise me not in the least if it came to light that we could have had cheap, reliable, clean energy all along, but we don’t because it would force a bunch of multimillionaires to diversify their investment portfolios. I don’t know if causing the lower and middle classes to suffer so the oligarchy can benefit counts as a conspiracy theory, though. I just kind of consider it to be business as usual.
  • There’s a part of me that finds the circumstances of Elliott Smith’s and Kurt Cobain’s suicides fishy. Smith because he supposedly misspelled his own name on his suicide note and Cobain because…well, because nobody likes Courtney Love.

@JakePavorsky: “I know it’ll never happen, but could a relegation system ever work in baseball? And wouldn’t it make it more entertaining?”

No and no. All promotion and relegation does is concentrate money and players among very few teams. The English Premier League has played 20 full seasons and been contested by 45 teams, of which only five have won a title. Of those 20 titles, 18 have been won by Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea, and of those, 12 (soon to be 13) have gone to Man U.

When a team gets relegated, revenue goes into the toilet, so it has to sell off all its good players to keep from going under. And the teams that take its place are usually poorer in terms of fans and resources, so they usually struggle to stay up, much less contend for titles. Only Manchester City has been relegated from the Premier League, then gone on to win it later, and that took an investment of billions of dollars by outside investors. Relegation is not the kind of thing from which a club recovers within a generation, if ever. And that’s not even taking into account that instituting promotion and relegation would kill the farm system as a baseball institution, necessitating the abolition of the draft and putting the best young players in the hands of the teams with the most money.

Baseball’s more volatile than soccer, but if you want to guarantee that the Yankees win two out of every three World Series, institute promotion and relegation.

@liamporter_: “what is your opinion on carrot cake?”

I’m a big supporter of carrot cake, particularly if it comes with good cream cheese frosting. I like almost all cakes, but bad frosting or too much frosting can ruin an otherwise good dessert. Don’t be a nimrod and overdo the frosting.

@fotodave: “Why aren’t there more American ballplayers that seem to care about international tournaments?”

I think that’s a little harsh. The simple truth is that the World Baseball Classic may (and I think probably will) become something that baseball players and fans hold in the same esteem that basketball and hockey players and fans hold the Olympics. I’d hope for the level of the FIFA World Cup, but that might be a bit much. But it’s not there yet, nor will it be there for a while.

The most frustrating vein of WBC “analysis” for me is that because it’s not a blockbuster event in the United States right the hell now, we should start screwing around with it or scrap it altogether. It took the World Cup at least 20 years to be more than a provincial affair (the inaugural event was so primitive the United States placed third). So let’s be patient, and every four years a few more people will catch on that there’s fun baseball being played for two weeks in the spring, we’ll draw a few more viewers in Europe, Brazil and Australia, and maybe by the time 2023 or 2027 comes around, the Honkbal Hoofdklasse, ABL and IBL will be full-time major leagues and the WBC will draw every fan across the globe. But we’ve got to be patient and let it grow on its own.

@Doc_Ruiz2012: “What podcasts do you listen to?”

I griped that nobody had ever asked that question of me, yet each of the two guest Crash Bags had featured a podcast question. Apparently @Framed_Ace did ask me a couple weeks back and I just didn’t see it, so I apologize.

I listen to about a billion podcasts. Essentially, whenever I’m not doing something that requires me to be 1) actively listening to something or 2) actively forming words myself, I’ve got a podcast on. So here’s my list:

Podcasts that I subscribe to and listen to every episode religiously:

  • Marek vs. Wyshynski: If you’re a hockey fan and you’re not listening to this, you’re cheating yourself. Probably the best sports podcast going.
  • Slate’s Hang Up and Listen: Discusses sports in a cultural/historical context that goes beyond what you’ll get in basic sports coverage. That it’s Slate and NPR positions it for people who like to tell other people how smart they are, which is why I like it so much.
  • Effectively Wild: Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus. It’s 20 minutes long and comes out every day, so it’s a good fit for a commute.
  • Behind the Dish with Keith Law: So far only two episodes in, but I used to listen to Baseball Today religiously before it got canceled.
  • Getting Blanked: Three mostly-angry Canadian guys talk about baseball. Probably the funniest baseball podcast I listen to.
  • Gleeman and the Geek: I have no idea why I listen to an hour-and-a-half Minnesota Twins-centered podcast every week, but that I do should say something about its worth.
  • The Solid Verbal: College football with SB Nation’s Dan Rubenstein and former Crash Bag guest Ty Hildenbrandt. The source of “Nick Foles in a Losing Effort.” Always informative, usually funny, often uncomfortable.
  • The Football Ramble: Four boozy English guys talking soccer. It’s tough to listen to this in public if you don’t like people staring at you for laughing like a moron.
  • How Did This Get Made?: Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas watch a terrible movie and talk about it with somebody from the comedy world. Also tends to make me laugh like a moron.

Podcasts that I subscribe to listen to most episodes of, depending on the guest and topic:

  • The B.S. Report: I know it’s not cool to like Bill Simmons anymore, but I still listen. Sue me.
  • The Grantland Network: Mostly the Hollywood Prospectus episodes, because I appear to have the exact same taste in movies as Chris Ryan.
  • FanGraphs Audio: I don’t know that there’s a baseball podcast like it. That’s all I’ll say.
  • Baseball America: I just started subscribing to this, because I don’t know of any better place to find college baseball talk.

Wow, that’s a lot of podcasts.

@DashTreyhorn: “What is your favorite pun of all time?”

When I was in high school, a friend of mine claimed to have called the customer service number on a Gatorade bottle and informed the representative that while he enjoyed the drink, he was a Florida State fan and was kind of uneasy about drinking a beverage named after the University of Florida. So in the future, would they mind producing another line of sports drinks called “Seminole Fluid”?

Maybe not my favorite pun of all time, but that’s probably the one that got me to look at every situation as an opportunity to tell a long story for a questionable payoff. I hope one day to perfect this art form.

That’ll be all for this week. Thank you for your continued patronage, and enjoy whatever sports you choose to consume this weekend.

Leave a Reply



  1. JM

    March 22, 2013 08:18 AM

    I am a big fan of the “U”. I would LOVE to see FSU drinking Seminole Fluid at every event. People in my office are now staring at me as I chuckle gleefully every 30 seconds or so….

  2. Jesse

    March 22, 2013 09:20 AM

    Re Robinson Cano:
    I, and presumably millions of others, simply do not trust players who hit a quite decent number of triples but all but never steal bases.
    The anti-Ricky Henderson if you will.

  3. Jonny5

    March 22, 2013 09:36 AM

    I refuse to accept that Cano is Jeets sidekick. Actually I’d be more comfortable with him being his man meat on the side to be honest. Also everyone knows that Kennedy was killed by the United states Hatters union. Kennedy set a precedent as the first US president to go without a mens hat in public. He was such a charismatic president too, that they never fully recovered and the men’s dress hat went out with button top shoes.

  4. Scott G

    March 22, 2013 10:29 AM

    Howard’s (3B/AB): .42%
    Cano’s (3B/AB): .59%

    Cano doesn’t really hit many triples. I still really like the term “anti-Ricky Henderson” and the search for these players.

  5. Jesse

    March 22, 2013 10:41 AM

    Yeah, he doesn’t hit a lot, but he’s on the AL leaderboard fairly often. And there’s usually a pretty strong convergence between SB and 3B leaderboards. And he’s one of those speedy-looking guys who you’d think would have more than three stolen bases. I dunno… just not trustworthy, to, uh… not steal.

  6. LTG

    March 22, 2013 10:45 AM

    Didn’t Rickey hit triples at the same rate as Cano, at least earlier in his career? Or by ‘anti’ did you not mean that Rickey stole a lot of bases without hitting triples? In other words, did you mean the contrary or the contradictory?

  7. Scott G

    March 22, 2013 10:55 AM

    So, I searched for the most anti-Ricky Henderson (which is very suitable named) players I could find from 1983-2012:

    Wade Boggs (60 triples 23 stolen bases)
    Stephen Drew (52 triples 34 stolen bases)
    Bobby Bonilla (61 triples 45 stolen bases)

    Ricky Henderson had 1087 stolen bases and only 45 triples. That’s insane.

  8. LTG

    March 22, 2013 11:22 AM

    Henderson’s 3B/AB: 0.60%

    He had 66 career 3B, not 45. He also had 1406 SBs, not 1087.

    As far as I can tell, he hit triples as well as Cano, in so far as that is a thing one can do well.

    There is just no relationship between SB totals and 3B totals. 3Bs are overwhelmingly determined by where the ball is hit, not the speed of the runner. It is no surprise that a guy who is really good at stealing bases would not be able to dramatically increase his 3Bs compared to others.

  9. LTG

    March 22, 2013 11:25 AM

    What’s up with Bonilla? Was Three Rivers Stadium a triple-friendly park?

  10. Scott G

    March 22, 2013 11:36 AM

    I literally only took the stats from between those years regardless of if the players played before 1983. I guess I could have refined it after finding some players to examine.

  11. Jesse

    March 22, 2013 11:51 AM

    3Bs are overwhelmingly influenced by speed. Or is “speediness” of a player not something you can quantify like “clutchness”. Yes, it’s where the ball is hit, and yes, power hitters do hit triples, but they often stop at 2nd, where on an identical ball a smaller/lighter/faster/better-on-the-basepaths/more-head’s-up/nose-to-the-grindstone player gets to third.
    Didn’t Mark McGwire or Jim Thome (or someone like that. Definitely a big white slugger from the 90s who wore red at least some of the time. I forget and am lazy) go like 11 years without a triple? And how many hundreds of HRs or 2Bs were hit in that span of games without 3Bs. To say it has nothing to do with speed and just “where the ball goes” is silly.
    Similarly with stolen bases. Obviously speed is not the only factor, as it’s not sufficient on its own, but it’s damn near necessary. To do so reliably, I mean, not just get one steal off with a great jump, solid coaching and signaling and all the luck of the English (who, come on, throughout history HAD to have had so much more luck than the Irish).
    Again, I’m lazy, but a top ten leaderboard of these two categories (anecdotal evidence of course) would routinely have a 60% overlap.
    Thus, a player who exhibits adeptness in one facet of the speed game (3Bs or SBs) would be expected to show some in the other. Rickey caught his flack because everyone assumed he was stopping on second so he could steal third. Which was probably true. But the thing is everyone noticed, how could a dude that fast have so few triples?
    I mean, I agree there is no actual causal relationship between the two, but it’s rare when they don’t go hand-in-hand, and, IMO, just wrong to say 3Bs are only power and not speed.

  12. LTG

    March 22, 2013 12:35 PM

    I didn’t say power. I said placement. Whether a batter happens to hit a ball into a corner, into a deep gap, or off a strangely angled wall have a lot more to do with the batter getting a 3B than the speediness of the player.

    Of course, there is going to be a likelihood that speedy guys will hit more 3Bs. But there won’t be much of relationship between numbers of SBs and 3Bs because a) fast guys can be bad at stealing bases, b) being good stealing bases is not only governed by speed, c) guys with just average speed can have a tendency to hit the ball into odd places, and d) there are just so many more opportunities for SBs than for 3Bs.

    We could think of it this way. There is probably a threshold for speed that allows a batter to rack up triples. But above that threshold the production of triples is not primarily determined by the speed of the player but by the somewhat random place he hits the ball.

    Looking up some numbers on this I discovered that in 1979 George Brett hit 20 3Bs. 20! He also hit a lot of 3Bs early in his career and was a better base stealer than I remembered.

  13. Jesse

    March 22, 2013 12:49 PM

    Looking back you didn’t say “power”, but the triple-places are all pretty deep. “[A] corner, into a deep gap, or off a strangely angled wall” all kind of assume a modicum of power so I converged the two.

    I think you’re also making a lot of weird arguments and few of them have bearing on my original comment. Especially (d) – I never said anything about the raw numbers of 3Bs or SBs and how they stacked up just a rough assessment of them on their own (e.g. 7 is a lot for triples and a few for SBs) and how they compared, a lot plus a lot = normal speedy guy. Medium plus a medium = generic player. A few plus a few = probably a slower, hulking slugger type. A lot plus a few!!! Aberration. Rickey Henderson or Robbie Cano.
    Also, saying there’s more opportunities to get a steal (because you’re measuring the number of times a runner is on base as a means of counting opportunities) than a triple (because you’re only counting the number of instances in which a ball is hit into a kooky corner and the guy is fast enough as an opportunity) is putting the cart before the horse a bit, isn’t every single pitch seen an opportunity to hit a triple?

  14. LTG

    March 22, 2013 01:14 PM

    On power:
    If by modicum you mean the amount of power possessed by Willie Wilson, yes. But line drives into gaps, even ground balls that sneak into an outfield gap, can turn into triples. In fact, balls that are in the air for a shorter period can be harder for outfielders to read and play quickly.

    On my target:
    My second comment, after the question, was really a response to ScottG not you. You seemed to be defending him with your next comment; so, I elaborated my response to Scott G.

    On opportunities:
    Given that hitters have little fine-grained control over where the ball goes, the opportunities to hit a triple rather than a double are largely out of their control. Every pitch is an opportunity to hit the ball hard and in play (only in a very abstract sense), but not every pitch is an opportunity to hit a particular kind of hit. When a base-stealer is on first or second, every pitch is an opportunity to steal (in that same very abstract sense) because a base stealer has a lot of control over choosing well when to steal.

    My initial thought here was very simple. Cano is basically as good a triples hitter as Henderson (again, if that’s a thing). So, it was confusing to pick him out as the anti-Henderson, if by ‘anti’ you mean ‘contrary’. Cano is certainly no Bobby-Bo.

  15. LTG

    March 22, 2013 01:15 PM

    Also, are we going to have to hear stories about McDowell’s hot-foot-with-fuse whenever we play the Braves?

  16. Scott G

    March 22, 2013 02:02 PM


    Maybe I’m not understand your argument fully, but I would expect a rather large correlation between triples and stolen bases.

    If asked to name players that I would guess triple the most, players like Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes come to mind. Maybe that’s just me, but it seems like Jesse also falls into this category.

    I agree with him that Ricky Henderson is an aberration in teams of 3B and SB.

    For the 1290 players that fangraphs gave me when I selected 1983-2012, the r-squared value was .5881

    The graph is also pretty clearly linear with Ricky Henderson being an extreme outlier.

    The most notable outlier that accumulated more triples than the previous players mentioned 3B heavy side)is Cristian Guzman (89 triples and 125 stolen bases)

  17. LTG

    March 22, 2013 02:36 PM

    Well, then, I’m surprised, especially that the relationship is linear. I would have thought it would be a fractional exponent, if anything. The .59 r^2 is consistent with the threshold claim but the linear relationship isn’t.

    So, the lesson–besides that I’m wrong again–is that the somewhat random distribution of triple type hits evens out pretty quickly (possibly over a season?).

  18. Scott G

    March 22, 2013 03:03 PM

    I went back and chose an exponential trendline, and it gave me:

    y = 0.0055x^2 + 3.5447x – 5.523
    r-squared = 0.5894

  19. Phillie697

    March 22, 2013 03:18 PM

    Speed matters for triples, LTG. That’s just a fact. 3B is more about placement, but the faster runner is going to have more of a chance to get triples than a slower runner WHEN the ball is put in the right spots. I don’t think there is a particular measurable skill about how some players are able to put the ball in “3B friendly” spots more often, so all things equal, the stat is going to tilt toward faster guys.

    Plus, for faster players, those “spots” are probably larger than slower players. Doesn’t surprise me it ends up being a pretty strong correlation.

  20. Phillie697

    March 22, 2013 03:22 PM

    btw, @MB…

    STOP LISTEN TO THAT DOUCHBAG OF AN IDIOT ABOUT HOW YOU’RE FULL OF NEGATIVE AND HATE!!! It’s why we read you in the first place. It’s so negative it’s hilarious, and it doesn’t bother me one bit that if you force me to give an honest opinion, I’d have to say it’s 50/50 whether I think you are actually serious each time. The important thing is that they’re so far over the top that *I* don’t take them seriously, and that’s why I love them.

    And for those of you who dislike it because they think it’s too negative… I’m sorry, what does that say about you people? That a hilariously over-the-top cynicism gets YOU to think and feel negatively? I think you’re the ones who should examine yourselves in the mirror, not come here and tell MB to change.

  21. Phillie697

    March 22, 2013 03:23 PM

    Oh. Yeah. I’m back 😀

  22. LTG

    March 22, 2013 03:43 PM


    I never said speed doesn’t matter. I claimed that after a certain threshold speed is not going to explain the differences in 3B production. I take ScottG to have shown that I was wrong, again not simply because the correlation is high but because the relationship is linear more or less. But I’m not going to admit to having said something crazy like Ryan Howard is just as likely to hit a 3B as Jimmy Rollins.

  23. LTG

    March 22, 2013 03:45 PM

    that should read: Ryan Howard is just as likely to hit a 3B *on any given ball in play* as Jimmy Rollins.

  24. LTG

    March 22, 2013 03:49 PM

    A question that I started wondering about while thinking about Henderson:

    Was he making optimal decisions when he did not try to stretch doubles into triples? Was he so good at stealing third that he was justified in not taking that risk?

    My initial thought was that players rarely get thrown out trying to stretch doubles into triples. So, if he is doing it less than others on comparable balls in play, he is probably doing something sub-optimal. But this depends on his success rate stealing third and, in concrete cases, the battery he is facing.

  25. Jesse

    March 23, 2013 12:14 PM

    From what I recall about contemporary analysis/criticism of Rickey not taking 3rd on well-hit balls and settling for a stand-up double and then stealing the base it wasn’t a question of how good he was at doing it successfully, or risking the out at 3rd, or his likelihood of success off that particular catcher or/and pitcher, but a general stat-padding argument.

    Maybe it was only on the radio and not in print as a quick look didn’t come up with any solid sources.

    But I did find this from Rob Neyer in 2003 discussing this phenomemnon. There are a lot more theories herein than I ever considered. There’s also a quote from his memoirs (published in 1992!!!) that Rickey was very good at and confident in stealing 3rd, so maybe it was baseball-optimal. But I’d be inclinced to agree it was optimal post-facto as I always really had the impression he just liked stealing bases.

  26. Cheesecrop

    March 23, 2013 02:02 PM

    It’s not entirely possible that Ryan Howard can’t keep up his game over time. Johnny Mize was a slugger who stayed close to the top of his game for a while in the past, as a for example.

  27. LTG

    March 23, 2013 02:19 PM

    “It’s not entirely possible that Ryan Howard can’t keep up his game over time.”

    says something much different than this:

    “It not entirely impossible that Ryan Howard can keep up his game over time.”

    Which did you mean?

    In any case, the first is obviously false and the second is trivial, granting a limited scope of time.

  28. Cheesecrop

    March 23, 2013 02:40 PM

    What I mean is quite simple – there is no crystal ball that can look into the future & truly tell us that Howard will not continue to hit 30 Home runs & drive in over 100 for the next few yrs. Mike Schmidt hit 37 Homers & drove in 100+ in 1986, when he was 37 (I believe).

    Unless you possess clairvoyant powers, you’ve no knowledge of Howard’s future. The man may continue to hit 30+ Home Runs when he’s 37 or 38 yrs. old (& if so, let’s hope it’s for us).

  29. LTG

    March 23, 2013 04:23 PM

    “Unless you possess clairvoyant powers, you’ve no knowledge of Howard’s future.”

    Again, no one thinks this is false, at least if we are conflating knowledge with certainty. So, one of two things is going on in the discourse. We are using knowledge to mean justified true belief, where justification can fall short of ruling out all other possibilities. Or we are not staking a claim to knowledge but merely to most justified belief. Given the available evidence the weight of reasons can lie on one side of a question even though the reasons are insufficient to bestow knowledge because, for example, reasonable people can disagree with how we weighed the reasons. In either case, pointing out that we don’t have clairvoyant powers and citing one or two counter-examples are not sufficient to engage with the arguments regarding Howard’s decline.

    FWIW, if all you want to say is that it is possible for Howard to hit 30 HR and 100 RBI this year, then the optimistic projections agree with you. But, again, no one is denying this here. We probably disagree over how valuable a 30 HR year with middling to low OBP, no speed, and no defense is. But we don’t disagree that Howard 2013 can look like Howard 2010-11.

  30. hampton

    March 23, 2013 10:04 PM

    1. Howard has been healthy most of his career, and play almost every game when so. Predicting he plays 112 games reeks of a flawed averaging statistic of some sort. The over/under for games played for him is probably in the high 140s.

    2. Conspiracy theories don’t require belief. They’re explanatory hypothesis, like every other kind of political explanation. When evidence of conspiracy presents itself, then one is compelled to conclude a conspiracy has occurred.

    There have been many, many conspiracies in which US intelligence has been involved. Iran/Contra, the October Surprise, MK-Ultra and the other Cold War testing programs. The list is long and ugly.

  31. Cheesecrop

    March 24, 2013 03:41 AM

    But, again, no one is denying this here. We probably disagree over how valuable a 30 HR year with middling to low OBP, no speed, and no defense is. But we don’t disagree that Howard 2013 can look like Howard 2010-11.

    LTG – Howard’s defense was avg. during 2006-2010, & he had little speed as well, yet I don’t think the results will be argued by anyone on the site.

    As for the rest of that long-winded piece above… well…

    “So, one of two things is going on in the discourse. We are using knowledge to mean justified true belief, where justification can fall short of ruling out all other possibilities.”

    “The First Baseman’s Name”
    “The guy on first”
    “The Guy on first”

    “Or we are not staking a claim to knowledge but merely to most justified belief.”

    “I wanna know, what’s the guy’s name on first…”
    “Oh, no, What’s on second”
    “I’m not asking you who’s on second”
    “Who’s on first”
    “I Don’t Know”
    “He’s on Third”

    “Given the available evidence the weight of reasons can lie on one side of a question even though the reasons are insufficient to bestow knowledge because, for example, reasonable people can disagree with how we weighed the reasons.”

    “When you pay the guy, who get’s the money…
    “Every Dollar of it! Every dollar of it”!
    “Who get’s the money”?
    “He does…”
    “Sometimes his wife comes down & collects it”
    “Who’s wife”?

  32. Scott G

    March 24, 2013 06:39 PM

    John Kruk had 34 triples in 10 seasons.
    Rickey Henderson had 66 triples in 25 seasons.

  33. LTG

    March 24, 2013 07:27 PM

    John Kruk > Rickey Henderson

  34. Pete

    March 25, 2013 01:26 AM

    I don’t agree with it, but I understand why Aaron Rowand leads your list of bonehead plays in the outfield. But let’s hope no one asks you to make a list of the top bonehead plays at the plate because Chase Utley would sweep numbers 1 through 100 for getting hit by pitches unnecessarily. (His other 51 HBPs probably were unavoidable.)

  35. Phillie697

    March 25, 2013 10:27 AM


    It’s not entirely impossible that I win the Powerball next week either, but I’m pretty sure if I go around hoping and living my life in any way but assuming that I am NOT going to win, I would be called stupid by 99% of the people on this planet. That is what it’s like to live life thinking Howard has a big enough of a chance to relive 2006 again that you’d entertain the thought.

  36. Phillie697

    March 25, 2013 10:32 AM

    Oh yeah, BTW,

    Ryan Howard, UZR 2006-2010, -19.3. BsR, -19.4. No, he wasn’t “average” in 2006-2010. There, I just made the argument. The point is, he was hitting so well that he made up for those deficiencies. Well not 2010, but 2006-2009 sure. Now? Not so much.

  37. Cheesecrop

    March 25, 2013 05:38 PM

    To Phillies 697:

    Dear Sir:

    Not once did I suggest that Howard would go back to his 2006 form. I highly doubt there’s anyone in baseball who can have that sort of season right now, due to the shift towards pitching that started to really kick in around 2010.

    What I am suggesting is that, if Howard continues to hit 30-35 home runs, drive in 100+, & keep his slugging avg. in general up, then he will be of some value to this club for the next few yrs. They don’t pay this man to be a world class speedster, nor has anyone ever mistaken him for Keith Hernandez at first.

    BTW – I ask that you please quit flashing numbers at me & pretending you’ve made an argument. Until it is proven that decimal points can mirror human movement, I will continue to question things like Ultimate Zone Rating.

  38. Phillie697

    March 26, 2013 10:23 AM

    Going to quote LTG here for the sake of brevity… “There’s no arguing with crazy.”

  39. Cheesecrop

    March 26, 2013 07:26 PM

    That’s o.k., I’m sure nobody really thinks your crazy. 🙂

  40. Hog

    March 27, 2013 11:09 PM

    The ABL will have a hard time going fulltime. Speaking as a Sydney fan the stadium is in the middle of no where, engaging with anyone outside the “Baseball Community” has been poor to say the least and within the baseball community there are effectively two factions that hate each other so a whole heap don’t go to any games anyway. So there are two major issues to sort out and frankly I have no idea how to address them. I know the staff do their very best but I just don’t know how things can continue as they are.

    The positives are, I can watch baseball and it’s not stupid o’clock, we do get to see players that eventually get the odd at bat in the majors and overall it’s a fun night out with mates. I go at least one game a series and always tell people how much I enjoy it.

Next Article2013 Bold Prediction: Bill Baer