Crash Bag, Vol. 97: Jelly is Great

Tonight, on the Crash Bag: The Phillies fail to score, a man asks a record-breaking question, and I distribute breakup advice.

@asigal22: “Will the Phils be as bad in the regular season as they have been in Spring Training. I know Spring Training is stupid.”

Relax.

I mean, yes, the Phillies are going to be bad, but relax. We’ve gotten so used to the Phillies winning, or expecting to win, that we’ve lost the ability to be relaxed about them losing. The lost 89 games last year, they’ll probably lose about that many this year, and we’ll give up this ridiculous delusion of being able to compete with the Braves and Nationals by Flag Day. So what are they going to do about it? Continue reading…

The Phillies Pulled Off a Rare Feat on Wednesday

Author’s Note: This website is home to a lot of in-depth baseball analysis. This piece is no such thing. In the words below, you will find little else but pure, useless trivia.

Today’s game is the halfway point in the Phillies’ spring training schedule and Opening Day can’t come soon enough. Spring training is an awful tease that tricks me each year into rejoicing that “Baseball is back!” before realizing that the only baseball things that actually happen in March are utterly meaningless games, depressing reports of catastrophic injuries, and needlessly alarming reports of ultimately non-catastrophic injuries. In desperate need of relief from a bad case of the March baseball doldrums, I was thrilled when a statistical oddity in Wednesday’s exhibition game gave me an excuse dive head first into a baseball-reference dot com binge.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 95: American Virtue

@jimmyfricke: “Should Phillies fans be upset about Cruz being signed for 1 year 8 mil while we’re stuck with Byrd for 2 years 16 mil”

Absolutely not. Cruz is a 33-year-old power-before-hit corner outfielder who produces no value on the bases or in the field. Those guys tend to have a couple things in common: they’re overrated in their primes, because they produce homers and RBI, which are flashy, but nothing else. The other thing is that when the bat starts to slip even a little, the whole package falls apart. Look for Nelson Cruz comps and you’ll find names like Juan Gonzalez and Henry Rodriguez, and when those guys started to slip, things got ugly fast. Byrd is older, and didn’t have Cruz’s prime with the bat, but he was, at one point in the past, a good athlete, and I’m not convinced Byrd won’t be better than Cruz in 2014.

The other thing is Cruz costs a draft pick, and for a guy who makes you a 79-win team when John Mayberry makes you a 76-win team, that’s not even worth a second-rounder. The Orioles were in need of a DH and have a better shot at contending than the Phillies do, so this signing makes more sense for them–and even then, I’m not in love with it–but signing Nelson Cruz for a battle for third place is exactly the kind of pothole-in-front-of-the-rebuild move Ruben Amaro deserves credit for not making. The past two offseasons.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 94: Ben Wetzler Lightning Round

NBA trade deadline, labor strife, Little Big League…we’ve got it all this week.

@truelladelphia: “How great is Sam Hinkie?”

Pretty great. Early in the season, I had an expectation of getting at least one first-round pick (either this year or next) for Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, but that stopped being realistic a while ago, thanks to the quality of this year’s draft and the NBA’s inscrutable player movement rules, which gridlocked the draft pick market to a certain extent. Hawes and Turner were both going to walk as free agents this summer anyway, so getting literally anything for them was a win. I would’ve liked to see Hawes go to either Oklahoma City or the Clippers, where I think he could’ve played a significant role on a title contender as a rotation big, but Hinkie got a return on Hawes and Turner while not panic trading Thaddeus Young for 50 cents on the dollar. Second-round NBA draft picks are one of the most useless commodities in sports, but this is where the Astros comparison I’ve been harping on all year comes in–if you take over a team without serious assets, you bide your time by placing a bunch of long-shot bets until you can get some assets. Anyway, Hinkie got rid of three veterans (including Lavoy Allen) for which he had no use and took on a net of either five or six (almost certainly six) second-round draft picks. A smart team can get one rotation player out of six second-round picks, or trade them for something else. This is the guy trading the red paper clip for the house.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 90: Naming Your Baby

Greetings. Let’s talk about how great it is that Bobby Abreu is on the Phillies again.

@Wzeiders: “how great is it that Bobby Abreu is a Phillie again, even if it’s just a fleeting dream I’m scared to wake from?”

It’s pretty great, I tell ya. It’s pretty great. I try not to swear above the break in these posts, but my official position on Bobby Abreu is that if you don’t love him, or at least recognize what a great player he was, you can fuck off and die.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 88: Paul Bunyan Lager

I know y’all are probably sick of hearing about the Hall of Fame, but I’ve got one last parting shot: I don’t think taking the vote away from the writers is the answer, because if you assign it to a special committee, it will concentrate power in a smaller, less empirically inclined, more reactionary group than ever. Just look at the NHL, or even baseball’s Hall of Fame itself–most of the most embarrassing members of the Hall of Fame are Veterans Committee candidates who made the grade based on cronyism and old grudges. If the Hall of Fame does commission a special panel, I bet Jay Jaffe isn’t on it, despite his having come closer than anyone else to quantifying the Hall of Fame case and writing more extensively on the debate than any other writer. Maybe you get John Thorn. Maybe you get Bill James as a form of analytical tokenism. But I guarantee you that panel produces worse results than an electorate of sportswriters.

If I had unlimited time and this month to do over again, I’d try to craft an alternative electoral system to try to get around the issues posed by the 75 percent threshold and 10-vote maximum. But I only remembered that I owned a copy of Arend Lijphart’s Patterns of Democracyso that wasn’t in the cards. Though if you’re at all interested in comparative electoral systems, it’s worth the cent a used copy will run you on Amazon.

Anyway, Crash Bag 88. Lindros. Let’s go. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 84: The Burrito Emporia of Queens

Good set of questions this week, so I’ll dive right in. First from the boys at Cespedes Family Barbecue. In my Roy Halladay tribute piece on Grantland earlier this week, I called Zoo With Roy the weirdest, most passionate blog…excuse me, “bolg”…in the history of sports, but Cespedes Family Barbecue is about 94 percent as weird as ZWR. Anyway, they sent a barrage of questions, starting with this one:

@CespedesBBQ: “if you were Domonic Brown, what team would you want to be traded to? you can’t choose the Expos”

So I’m going to interpret this question as involving the following parameters: putting my personality and tastes in Dom Brown’s body. So I’m the same person, but instead of being a married 26-year-old writer who looks like Jonathan Frakes’ slobbish nephew, I’d be a single 26-year-old baseball player who looks like an underwear model and whose salary is like mine, but with significant multiplication involved.

And because this is me being Dom Brown, and not Dom Brown being Dom Brown, this list would look different than you’d expect.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 83: I Am Easily Shamed

Let’s start things off with a furious bout of wishful thinking.

@asigal22: “Is there a record this season that gets Amaro fired? If so, can he get the Phillies there?”

I don’t think so. Well, let me rephrase–there is such a record, but it’s like 36-126 or something ridiculous and bad as I think the Phillies are going to be, they won’t be record-settingly bad. I’m pretty sure the Phillies’ win total this season is going to start with a 7, and if it doesn’t it’ll be because Cliff Lee falls off a cliff, not because of anything Ruben Amaro‘s done recently. This has been inevitable since 2010, and that we’re just now feeling the effects of the decisions that killed the Phillies’ chances at contention doesn’t mean that they’re fixable in the short term. A few weeks ago I set an over-under date of something like December 9, 2015, more or less out of the blue, and asked around whether people thought Amaro would be gone before or after that date. I’d take the over, just because I can’t imagine what would change between now and then to change the mind of ownership. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 81: Semi-Serious Baseball Questions

I got a new laptop since the last time I wrote the Crash Bag, and it has a touchscreen. It’s so cool–I could never go back to a non-touchscreen computer now. This week I tried to scroll on my wife’s Macbook by touching the screen and nothing happened and my first thought was: “What a piece of junk.”

The only thing I need now is some kind of program to make my desktop and all my applications look like the LCARS system from Star Trek. You know, like this:

And I know there are apps that let you play around and press the buttons and stuff, but I’m talking about the whole shebang. I had a Winamp skin that did this a while back, but never anything for the whole computer. Let’s get on this.

And let’s get to your questions.

@dschoenfield: “Don’t you think somebody should do a study on when MLB players peak? Could perhaps be helpful for RAJ.”

Yeah, that’d be nice. Someone ought to get on that and show it to Ruben Amaro before he signs another player who’s old enough to be my dad. Well, Marlon Byrd isn’t literally old enough to be my dad, but you get the point.

I’ll say this–there’s something to be said for swimming against the current. To a certain extent, you’re not going to find low-risk, high-upside bargains in the free agent market, because that’s not where the value is anymore. But shouldn’t you be able to finagle the occasional bargain by taking a stab at a player most teams think is too old? For instance: the Mariners got 29 home runs last year out of Raul Ibanez, a 41-year-old they paid less than $3 million. And he would’ve been a steal at that price if they’d DH’d him full-time instead of giving him 97 starts in left field, which is something an insane team would do. As a little more than a half-time left fielder, he gave back about two and a half wins (NOT RUNS, WINS) with his defense alone. Ibanez got 97 starts in left and his glove alone was about as great a detriment to the Mariners as Domonic Brown, an All-Star, was a net positive for the Phillies. You can’t let that happen. Civilized people don’t let that happen.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 78: Ted Williams Shift

The other night, when I was watching a Cardinal (I believe Carlos Beltran), hit a screaming line drive straight into the Ted Williams Shift for an out, I remarked that if I were dictator of baseball, I’d outlaw the shift, which generated this response:

@SamMillerBP: “Why?”

Fair question.

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