Crash Bag, Vol. 8: The Hairy Walk of Time

Baseball is back! The college baseball season started last week and, just yesterday, players wearing Phillies uniforms played a baseball game in Clearwater, Florida. Those players mostly weren’t guys we’ll see much of in 2017, but they were Phillies. Today, marks the beginning of Grapefruit League play, so we’ll see even more Phillies.

Baseball is back!

@Phrozen_: is the IBB change a) the absolute worst idea ever or b) only the second worst idea ever after the DH?

Not to be pedantic, but we’ve had a lot worse ideas than the IBB change in the history of human civilization. Slavery, genocide, non-24-hour diners to name a few. The IBB change is small bones on a wider scale.

More to the point, I was sort of with you when this rule change was floated out as a possibility last week. I immediately thought of instances where runners advance on an IBB wild pitch or a pitcher gives up a hit when the intentional ball drifts back over the plate or a runner on third steals home on an overly nonchalant lob. Those instances will be sorely missed, to be sure. But they are so rare that we get, what, one of these events every three to five years?

Obviously the rarity of these fun, IBB-associated events isn’t a knockdown argument for the rule change. The fact that I can specifically recall nearly all of these such events that I’ve witnessed indicates that they’re high-impact, valuable memories. Is saving two minutes every couple games worth that loss? I don’t know, but it’s not an obvious enough answer to me that I’m willing to call this the absolute worst idea ever.

I think the DH is a similar sort of situation. It’s rare that a pitcher does something valuable at the plate. They are close to an automatic out. However, the DH is a bad idea because the instances of pitchers doing something valuable or entertaining at the plate is much more frequent than something fun happens in an IBB. Somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the time, a pitcher at bat ends in a positive outcome for his team. Every time Bartolo Colon steps up to the plate, fans are entertained. Pitcher home runs alone are far more frequent than anything remotely interesting happening on an intentional walk. The DH, then, is a far worse idea than this IBB change.

The biggest problem with the IBB rule is that it reflects Manfred’s myopic obsession with making the games shorter as if that is the only issue at play. It’s been cited elsewhere, but, look at football: their TV windows are just as long as baseball’s and feature a full 40 seconds between each play. Their pace of play is far slower than baseball, but they’re doing just fine. The key is that, when there is action, the average person finds football far more entertaining. I don’t know the solution to that, but I think rule changes that would impact the style of play–lowering the mound, shrinking the strike zone, limiting pickoff attempts–would be a better way to proceed. Fans don’t have a problem with frequent and lengthy breaks in play; they have a problem with play that isn’t compelling. Manfred is shooting at the wrong target.

What is the worst idea ever (in baseball)? Honestly, most of them have been solved: binding a player to a team for his entire career, barring African-American players from the game, etc. I’d throw my hat in on the draft as the worst idea ever. Here’s a list of who likes the draft: Owners. Here’s a list of who doesn’t: players, scouts. The draft allows teams to get talented players cheaper than that talent is worth. For the players, they lose most choice in where to spend the first decade of their professional careers and have artificial caps placed on how much they can earn. Old-school scouts hate it because it takes away their ability to find players, develop relationships with them, and sign them. The draft limits their role and value.

When the only group of people in favor of an idea are the very richest class in the game, you can be sure it’s not a good one.

@Phixated: What item would you most like the Phanatic to shoot at Rob Manfred via his hot dog launcher?

Manfred really isn’t that bad as far as commissioners go. Remember that he’s paid to represent the interest of the owners. Many of his initiatives around pace of play come from good motivations: he sees declining numbers among young viewers and a generally non-diverse fan base. He’s not fixing that the right way, in my opinion, but he’s not wrong-headed to try.

Still, as a representative of the owners, he’s on the wrong side of the ledger, so he deserves some mockery. I’d load up the hot dog launcher with either soft plastic or gummy watches–we don’t want to injury the man–as a statement of his obsession with pace of play and length of games.

@DustinGouker: Will Howard Eskin ever learn how to spell Clay Buchholz‘ name?

It’s monkeys and Shakespeare, so it depends on how long Buchholz remains a Phillie and how many chances Eskin gets to type his name out on Twitter. In the spirit of the question, here are two Eskin misspellings for your pleasure:

@KeithWinder: who hits more career HR in MLB? Quinn or Cozens?

This is similar to a question my former The Good Phight colleague John Stolnis asked on Twitter yesterday: who will have more career WAR: Roman Quinn or Nick Williams. In both cases, I’m going to answer with Quinn.

At their core, these are questions of valuation between upside and current ability. If Cozens and Williams both reach their peaks, they will far outstrip Quinn in home runs and WAR, respectively. However, Quinn is already there. Sure, he might not be starting the 2017 season on the major league roster, but, as we saw in September, his combination of speed, defense and contact is enough to make him a playable major league player. As long as his career isn’t derailed by injuries, he’ll be in the league through his 30th birthday at least as a fourth or fifth outfielder who is a defensive replacement and steals bases. His absolute floor is probably to produce 5 career WAR and hit 10 career HR.

With Cozens and Williams, we still don’t really know whether they can make consistent contact against major league pitching. If they can’t do that, they’re not major league players; neither does enough in the field or on the bases to compensate for an inability to hit.

Regarding your Cozens question then, it has to be said that he is probably a year away from real consideration for the major leagues. He struck out in over 30 percent of his plate appearances at Reading last year. That’s not ideal, but it works when you’re hitting 40 home runs. His ability to translate his skill set from the minor leagues to the major leagues is a major question.

It should be noted that Darin Ruf has 35 career home runs to his name and was never close to the same quality of prospect Cozens is. Cozens exists in a different environment than Ruf came up in. For one, the current front office is smarter than the old front office and is probably less likely to get wide eyed at a high home run total. Second, the corner outfield and first base spots are relatively deep in the organization. If Cozens can’t hack it in the outfield corner, Williams, Quinn, Altherr, or Moniak will get the chance. IF he can’t hack it at first base, Hoskins or Joseph is there. He won’t get years to figure it out with all the options available.

In short, we know that Quinn has the skills that make him a playable major leaguer, so he will get at bats in the pros as long as he’s healthy and fast. We don’t know that with Cozens. You need at bats to get home runs, and Quinn has a huge advantage on that front.

@cubsncards: best hair in Philly history. Two categories facial and the doo

We are not in a golden age for hair in baseball or sports in general. I’m open to the idea that I feel that way because the current trends are, well, current and, thus, normal. I’m sure the glorious mustaches that defined baseball players through the first 100 years of the game’s history felt boring at the time. Now, we look back and say, “that was some great facial hair!”

So, I’m going to forget about current players with the acknowledgement that a decade or two of historical perspective could very well make me look foolish.

Facial Hair: 

That, as you surely know, is Sal Fasano. Era-independent, he might not get this award, but the picture is from 2006: 11 years and one day ago. No one in the game dared rock the handlebar in 2000-freaking-six, excepting Sal Fasano. It’s a great mustache and would be in the conversation for this honor even if he wore it in the 80s when Goose Gossage was doing the same. But, to do it in 2006 takes confidence.

Top-of-head hair: 

There’s nothing overly special or unique about Maddox’s afro. Plenty of basketball players have had this hairstyle and you don’t see them getting all-time best hair honors. But there is something special about the way a baseball cap interacts with the afro. If this card wasn’t manufactured before the technology existed, I would tell you this hat was photoshopped onto his head. It’s way too big for his actual head size and has to be the size of a batting helmet to contain the ‘fro. It sits like a dad hat, but isn’t a dad hat because it’s not that Maddox doesn’t know how to wear that hat; it’s that his hair doesn’t allow him to.

@DustinGouker: Which prospect are we most excited to see play this regular season, non-JP Crawford division?

I can’t speak for you, Dustin; I can only speak for myself. The prospect I’m most excited to watch play in the major leagues–I assume that’s what you intended–this season is Jorge Alfaro. If all goes reasonably well at AAA, we’ll see Alfaro around the All-Star break (I think I wrote this about J.P. Crawford 12 months ago). They say prospects will break your heart, and the gap between Alfaro’s tools and floor makes him a potential heartbreaker. No one has ever questioned Alfaro’s tools: Eric Longenhagen wrote, “Alfaro is arguably the most physically gifted catching prospect of this century.” If he can fix his contact issues a bit, he can tap into his 70-grade power and become one of the best offensive catchers in the game.

Honorable Mention: Thomas Eshelman. At Cal State Fullerton, Eshelman walked 0.4 batters per nine innings. That’s not a typo; I’ve checked it multiple times. His stuff is, according to Longenhagen, fringy. Even so, his command is so good that even with three average (or slightly below) pitches, he could be a back-end major league starter for a long time simply because he is unlikely to ever get himself in trouble.

That’s it for this edition of the Crash Bag. Thank you for your support. As always, if you have a question, reach out to me on Twitter (CF_Larue), email (eric[dot]chesterton[at]gmail[dot]com), or in the comments of this post. 

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