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Crash Bag, Vol. 55: We All Prisoners, Chicky Baby

Posted By Michael Baumann On May 24, 2013 @ 7:00 am In Crabshurn Urly,Crash Bag,MLB,Potpourri,Talking about feelings | 40 Comments

When I got home on Wednesday night, there was a notice taped to the door of my apartment building announcing that the pool would open next week.

I’ve lived here for five months and I had no idea we had a pool. I’m going to have to start working out. I wonder if we have a gym too.

Your questions, starting topically.

@dj_mosfett: “How long will Chase Utley *actually* be on the DL?”

Seems like the requisite 15 days is a decent estimate, maybe a little longer. But you know these oblique injuries–they can go sideways really quickly.

@DangerGuerrero: “do u think dom brown would have a higher ops if he were a giant dragon?”

No, I do not.

Dragons have relatively short arms and large heads, so Dragom Brown would not be able to cover the plate effectively. Furthermore, if he’s got eyes on either side of his head like a dinosaur (I’m thinking scary dragons and not that big flying cat from How to Train Your Dragon), he’d lack the depth perception required to hit.

That said, the power of flight would probably make him a superb defensive outfielder, so it might be worth it anyway.

@stevoc31: “why does Delmon Young exist?”

So Wally Joyner can take him to the Island of Dr. Moreau and turn him into a dragon for experimental purposes. This should happen at once.

@dj_mosfett: “In light of Delmon Young‘s recent batting success, what is the appropriate way to celebrate success for a player you loathe?”

I have two coping mechanisms:

  1. Acknowledge it but insist that it won’t persist for long. This is what I would have done if Wilson Valdez had ever hit over .250 for any stretch of time long enough to notice. That way, you come of as a superior sumbitch while refusing to recognize that someone you don’t like is doing something that benefits your team.
  2. Pretend it isn’t happening. Is Delmon Young hitting well? I really haven’t noticed.

@FelskeFiles: “Is there any player from another team the Phillies could reasonably acquire that would substantially help them? Ethier?”

I was always a big Andre Ethier believer. First of all, he’s just a tremendously handsome man. Look at him. The deep, dark eyes, the flawless olive skin, the rakish stubble, the thick, curly hair–it’s like he stepped off the cover of a romance novel, into the batter’s box and, one hopes, into my bedroom.

But if I just went off my own memory, I’d have rated Ethier as one of the 10 greatest hitters of all time, just because he seemed to kill the Phillies. I have no idea what his career numbers against the Phillies are, but he had, like, six big hits against them from 2008-10 or so, and even if he’d struck out literally every other time he’d faced Phillies pitching, I’d have still remembered him as a Phillie-killer.

So can he help the Phillies? Probably, but only because Delmon Young, Laynce Nix and John Mayberry are so awful. Ethier is a player whose value is bound up entirely in his bat and exaggerated by traditional statistics, who is signed to a contract that would never have been team-friendly if it ran over any term of his career, and which is hilariously rich now considering that he’s declining pretty quickly.

In short, that makes him precisely the kind of player the Phillies would acquire.

@shame_c: “Estimated date of RAJ’s termination?”

When was Judgment Day in the movie…August 29, 1997.

Guys, we’re just going to have to accept that Ruben Amaro‘s not going anywhere for several years. Like I’ve said, he thinks (or at least he says he thinks) that this team can still win a  title as currently constituted, and he can’t start the rebuild to which he is, by the unwritten rules of hiring and firing baseball ops execs, entitled. Not until this team has been so thoroughly scuttled that no amount of wish fulfillment or brazen mendacity can hide the fact that this team is beyond salvation. Then he gets five to seven years to build the team up from scratch. I’d give even odds that my children will remember Ruben Amaro being the Phillies’ GM.

@andymoney69: “gif or jif”

I pronounce it with the hard G, because I can read. But to each his own.

On a related note, I’m a fan of having rules for grammar and pronunciation. I’m kind of a conservative, meat-and-potatoes kind of person, and as such, I don’t like the idea of “they” becoming an acceptable neuter, third-person singular pronoun.  For example. Now, I understand (and frankly enjoy) regional accents and vernacular, and allowing for that keeps alive the geographic and cultural diversity that makes the United States so special. But I am not an anarchist. I am not a fan of throwing away the rules because we’re too lazy to enforce them, and there’s a fine line between linguistic evolution and, when being faced with the kind of intellectual stratification that Huxley foretold in Brave New World, siding with the Epsilons.

I’m engaged to be married to a linguist, and she’s fond of answering my grammar pedantry with pointed arguments about the fluidity of language. Essentially, she says, I’m a dinosaur and my slavish devotion to arcane rules will render me laughably obsolete, and soon. Every time she says this, it becomes more likely that one day I’ll be a widower who’s serving a lengthy prison sentence. I’m all for evolution, but total lawlessness scares me.

@DashTreyhorn: “What baseball team has the best TV broadcast crew?”

I’m just going to get this out of the way. I’m not an enormous Vin Scully fan. Like, I appreciate his place in history and admire the fluid and literary way he calls a game. I love great soccer announcers, because there, perhaps more than in any other sport, do you really get great descriptive quality, and Scully’s the only TV announcer in baseball who does that. But I don’t bat my eyes and kowtow at the mention of his name, nor do I seek out Dodgers home broadcasts just to listen to his voice. There is no baseball announcer I like that much.

In fact, the only broadcast duo that I’d go out of my way to listen to is ESPN’s (now former) Premier League duo of Ian Darke and Steve McManaman. Other broadcast partnerships that I think are active positives–Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit, Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, even the Flyers’ team of Jim Jackson and either Bill Clement or Keith Jones–aren’t appointment viewing for me. And for some reason, baseball announcers add even less to my viewing experience than any other sport’s. This is not to say that I haven’t turned off a baseball game because the announcers were so awful. Well, I’ve turned off a game on Fox because of Mitch Williams, and I refuse to watch the NESN feed of Red Sox games on MLB.tv because of Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo. But apart from that, I just ignore the announcers by and large. When I watch the Phillies, even though everyone seems to think T-Mac and Wheels are awful, I watch the Phillies’ feed because I like to hear familiar voices, and I don’t know that anyone else’s broadcasters are a whole lot better.

That said, I’ll pick out a couple of the best:

  • San Francisco Giants: Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper. This is the one non-Phillies feed I’ve watched so far this season.
  • Chicago Cubs: Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Kasper works in analytics the way I think you ought to–with concepts, not with numbers. Though while I value his skill, I also value not watching the Chicago Cubs.
  • New York Mets: Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez. I’ve never actually heard them, because that would require watching a regular-season Mets game that the Phillies aren’t involved in, and I don’t like baseball enough to do that. But I’ve also never heard anyone say anything bad about these guys, and they came in second to Scully on FanGraphs’ announcer rankings a couple years back, so people who actually care about such things rate them highly.
  • Houston Astros: Bill BrownAlan Ashby and Geoff Blum. The best baseball-watching experience I’m going to have 2013 was Yu Darvish‘s near-perfect game the first week of the season, a game I watched start-to-finish on the CSN Houston feed. And up until the moment where Blum tried to make a joke about Darvish learning to swear in English and being greeted with the humid, deafening silence that comes when people unthinkingly say something xenophobic into a hot microphone, this broadcast was a joy. It’s a relatively new booth–Blum and Ashby are both in their first year in the CSN booth, so I’m excited to see if this team gets better as the season goes on.

@JNisula: “what would be the saber equivalent of the triple crown and who has done it in the past?”

Well the easy answer is the triple-slash line of AVG/OBP/SLG, and while I think that gives you a good offensive profile of a player, I’d like to have some counting stats in there. If you’re taking a holistic view of a batter, I feel like you need to judge quantity as well as quality.

Here’s why the concept of the triple crown doesn’t gibe with sabermetric principles, such as they are. If we’re boiling hitting down to one stat, it’s probably going to try to be holistic–wRC+ or something like that, although I’m sure Colin Wyers uses something so far beyond that that his gorge rises at my mentioning such an imprecise tool–in which case the leader in one is going to be the leader in all of them, and if it isn’t, it won’t be for any reason than statistical noise or methodological differences.

So you’ve got to pick three stats that are

  1. Simple and well-known. I can put a player’s batting average on the bell curve in my mind just by looking at it, to say nothing of being able to calculate it with one arithmetic function.
  2. Measure the range of hitter performance. What I like about the old Triple Crown categories is that they measure different things–quantity of hits, power and overall run production–about as well as could be expected in a time when we thought man would never travel faster than sound and women were the de facto property of their husbands. I like the range of skills that the original Triple Crown was meant to measure, but now that we’re all not worried about dying of polio, we can measure those skills less crudely.
  3. Used to evaluate batting only. So no WAR or anything.

I don’t think we need to get a whole lot more sophisticated mathematically, only philosophically. So I’d go with OBP instead of average, ISO instead of home runs and total bases instead of RBI. I’m not crazy about total bases, but it’s better than runs or RBI and it’s a simple counting stat. If you have more tolerance for adding linear weights to something that’s supposed to be populist, I’m sure you can come up with something better.

I don’t have a clue if anyone’s led the league in all three in one season, and I was going to find out, but I’ve now officially reached the limit of the effort I’m willing to put into answering this question. Sorry, Johnno.

@mdschaeff: “Better career: Bruce Ruffin or Don Carman?”

Ruffin. “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” is much better than the Toreador Song.

@brandonnagy: “why do the Orioles suck so bad”

Do they suck? They’re over .500. They’ve got Mini-Keg, they’ve got Wieters, they’ve got by far the highest density of former Gamecocks of any pro organization. They play baseball in probably one of my top 10 favorite places to be (not stadia, places of any kind). They started Kevin Gausman last night, for God’s sake. Gausman, by the way, looks just as good as advertised–like a demon stork that came from Louisiana with a shotgun, a banjo and a penchant for missing bats. I know he got roughed up a little at the end, but he has noisy stuff.

So even though the Orioles are run by a general manager who ordered his top prospect to stop throwing his best pitch, and have (to my knowledge) the only scouting department to be declared persona non grata by a nation-state, the Orioles do not suck.

When I was about eight years old, my mom was going to Baltimore a lot for work. This was in the height of the Ripken/Mussina/Brady Anderson juggernaut, and the Sun would slip a poster of an Orioles player into every Sunday issue. Anyway, colleague of my mother’s down there, who knew I was a big baseball fan, kept sending these posters to me, and for several of my formative years, I had Mussina, Ripken, Mike Bordick and Eric Davis (or photos of them at least) hanging on my wall. I owned an Orioles hat and given that I was still young enough to be impressionable, I seriously considered converting.

Anyway, they don’t suck. They sucked last year and won 93 games anyway, so just be patient.

@Chongtastic: “Which 1 player from the 2008 team would you send back in time to 1993 to be able to take the WS from Toronto?

This is a fantastic question. I think it’s got to be Cole Hamels, just because there aren’t a whole lot of places to upgrade on that offense. The 1993 team had massive advantages at catcher (remember, 2008 was before Chooch got good), center field and third base. The 2008 Phillies were better at first base, shortstop and the corner outfield spots, but thanks to Kevin Stocker‘s rookie hot streak and some aggressive platooning by Jim Fregosi, none of those positions would have been massive improvements.

Much as I loved Mickey Morandini, plugging in Chase Utley would likely have been a pretty significant improvement. Or, stated another way, you’re replacing Morandini (79 OPS+) and Mariano Duncan (93 OPS+) with someone who could win the second base matchup with Roberto Alomar. So I guess if you said Utley, I wouldn’t argue with you.

But having Hamels, particularly the Hamels of the 2008 playoffs…That Hamels would roll up to your place of business in a robin’s egg blue 1970 Plymouth Superbird with go-faster stripes, blasting the noisier parts of Nirvana’s “You Know You’re Right” and step out of the car to politely inquire about your girlfriend. Then he’d go seek her out, pull down his sunglasses to wink, and invite her to hop in, which she would, and off they’d go, blasting down Interstate 94 to his dude ranch in Montana, where he’d raise rabbits and your girlfriend would cook them for him. And he wouldn’t have to stop for gas. That Hamels was awesome.

Anyway, the 1993 World Series featured some pretty awful starting pitching. Apart from Curt Schilling‘s complete game shutout in Game 5, there wasn’t really a difference-making pitching performance in the whole thing. If Hamels rips off seven innings of one-run ball in Game 3 instead of Danny Jackson getting repeatedly kicked in the cerebellum, Carter’s home run ties the series instead of winning it, and you’re going into Game 7 with Hamels on the mound again.

That 1993 Blue Jays lineup, remember, was more stacked than Otis Redding’s record label: three Hall of Famers, plus John Olerud in his .363/.473/.599 season, plus three more pretty good regulars in Carter, Tony Fernandez and Devon White. It fell off pretty severely from there, but more than anything else, I’d ask for a pitcher to slow down that juggernaut enough to give what was actually a really good Phillies offense a fighting chance.

@dan_camp: “since we’re all sick of brandon mccarthy by now, who’s your favorite player to READ about? interviews, articles, what have you.”

Are we sick of Brandon McCarthy? I could see a little fatigue, since his fame has probably outstripped his accomplishments at this point, but I don’t know that I’m sick of him. I actually went back and looked–I use my Twitter primarily for sports, and I follow 359 people. I went back and counted and only 17 of them are active athletes. And in looking back on that list, I really can’t tell you why I follow most of them. I follow Jackie Bradley and Maurice Edu because I like being reminded about what nice guys they seem to be, and I follow Gabriel Landeskog because I want him to be my boyfriend, but McCarthy’s the only one I find to be consistently interesting. Well, him and Roberto Luongo.

But as much as I appreciate McCarthy embracing Weird Twitter and giving off the impression of being the kind of person I’d like to hang out with, I can see why one might tire of hearing nonstop about a player who is, when you get down to it, a pretty unremarkable starting pitcher.

I just hope you’re not suddenly tired of him because he got into it with Keith Law the other day over whether hot streaks are real or just statistical noise. Because all I’ve got to say on their kerfuffle is that I care very deeply about being right about things, and I do get excited about statistics and game theory and I love a good epistemological debate. But you’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and whether or not hot streaks are random variation or the result of an actual cause…I just can’t make myself care. Particularly when it’s in the context of whether or not you walk Miguel Cabrera intentionally. He’s the best hitter in baseball, but Prince Fielder‘s up next. You don’t walk anyone on purpose if Prince Fielder is up next, not even if he’s as locked in as Michelle Lee at the drive in in that scene from The Love Bug.

But I should probably answer your question at some point.

I might get tired of Jose Fernandez‘s backstory at some point, but I haven’t yet. I referenced it earlier this week in (shameless self-promotion coming up) my latest Grantland post, but Fernandez’s road to the majors involves sharks and prison, and it’s a big reason he’s becoming one of my favorite players in the league. I also enjoy tall tales about prospects, because the low minors and the spring training back fields are still remote enough that we get some mystery and exaggeration about them. You’ll hear stories about Miguel Sano‘s power and Austin Hedges‘ defense that make you think of John Henry beating the steam drill. It’s got a little bit of the old man who’s been there bending your ear at the saloon to it, and I do love me some folklore.

That’s all for this week’s Crash Bag. Come Monday, I’m gonna wear the hell out of some white shoes.


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