Musings


Not certain on what “BUCN” actually entails, but I hope it’s different from what the Pirates have done the past 19 years.

 

 

As if Hanrahan’s breakout 2011 wasn’t enough, he’s apparently decided to take on everyone this season…including those stinging pests!

 

 

This conversation must have been priceless…

McCutchen: “AJ, great to meet you man! Welcome t —”
Burnett: “Yeah, I need number 34 now.”
McCutchen: “Uh, yes sir. No problem, Mr. Burnett.”

The Mets have filed a protest to the league of a scoring decision from Saturday night’s game against the Pirates. Andrew McCutchen‘s liner to third base that hit off David Murphy‘s leg was ruled a double by the official scorer and two RBIs. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to the article that includes video of play under question.

I was sitting behind home plate when this play occurred, and I even tweeted that I was surprised the play was ruled a double. I also did not have the benefit of instant replay at the time. In my opinion, it probably should have been an error. Though I don’t think it’s anywhere near an obvious call.

Now I find this whole situation fascinating. Mainly because I’ve official scored games in the minor leagues and prospect leagues and have dealt with managers and OS’ throughout my career. I know the anger and pressure that can be directed toward official scorers from managers and players making it anything but an easy job.

With all that said, I can’t believe the Mets would challenge this decision to the league. From what it has to go through, where a “group” has to unanimously agree that the play was wrong to be overturned, I just have a hard time seeing this call changing. It’s a judgement call, and it wasn’t blatantly wrong.

Are the Mets that concerned about a couple of earned runs to R.A. Dickey‘s stat line? Really?

It just seems like it’s a waste of time on a play that wasn’t even that obvious to begin with. Not only would it change two runs from earned to unearned, the reversal would take a double and two RBIs away from McCutchen. McCutchen has more to lose in this situation than Dickey. Like all season, here’s hoping this is another situation that the Mets lose.

Holy smokes. Stop the presses. Get ESPN on the line. I actually agree with Jeff Passan for once in my life. His story is here on the whole Buster Posey, home plate collisions rules.

He makes the point that if it had been Giants backup catcher Eli Whiteside to have his ankle get crushed, everyone would say that sucks and move on. Fact fact fact. Just because it’s San Francisco’s golden boy who suffered this difficult injury and is lost for the season, that’s why people are flipping out over it. This is the typical over-reaction from Giants fans and other baseball people. Like this joke of an article by an “attorney and political consultant.”

The rule should not be changed. These plays are few and far between to merit a rule change. It’s a runner and a catcher making split-second decisions at home plate with the game on the line.

People argue that Posey missed the ball and never had it when he went for the tag of Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins. You think Cousins knew that? He’s running in full speed trying to score a run to win the game and sees Posey reach over at the last second for the tag. He is taught to run the catcher over and separate him from the ball to score that run. It’s part of the game, and it’s a clean play the whole way. Injuries are also a part of a game and this one is a tough one, but it should not be changing the competition and the way the game is played.

As Mike Krukow would say during a Giants broadcast: “Grab some pine, meat.”

It’s official. Jose Bautista‘s 54-home run season last year was no fluke. His three home runs Sunday gives him 16 in less than two months, which is good for first in the majors. He’s doing it again. Actually, he’s only on pace to shatter that mark along with the single-season home run total by a cool eight bombs. Rational thinking would suggest that he won’t get there, but at this point I really cannot doubt this guy and the incredible run he’s been on over the past two years. Oh, plus he’s only hitting .368 this season.

Sure, as a lifelong Pirates fan, I could be bitter. Why? Because the Jose Bautista that played for the Pirates for parts of five seasons was nothing special. In 400 games over five seasons with Pittsburgh, Bautista hit just 43 HR with a slash line of .241/.329/.403. After struggling through another season in 2008, he was dealt to the Blue Jays on Aug. 21, 2008 for Robinzon Diaz. Yes, Robinzon with a Z. The change of scenery didn’t seem to help Bautista in the last month with Toronto or in 2009 where he still hit 13 HR with a .235 average…similar numbers to his years in Pittsburgh.

Then something seemed to just click, but it started before the 2010 season. I traced the date back to Sept. 7, 2009 when things all changed for Joey Bats and whatever change he made began paying off. From Sept. 7 to the end of the 2009 season, Bautista hit 10 home runs in 98 at-bats over his last 21 games to close out the season. This was after he only had three home runs on the year prior to Sept. 7.

Since then he has become the man, the myth and the legend in Toronto. He’s gone from the bottom of the order throw in to the premier hitter in the Blue Jays lineup and the guy opposing teams worry about and put a game plan together on how to pitch to him. He’s quickly becoming a household name. Just consider these ridiculous numbers:

Through his career until 2009 he hit 59 home runs total in 1,638 at-bats. A rate of one home run every 27.7 at-bats (nothing special). The past two seasons, he’s belted 70 home runs in 683 at-bats…a rate of just 9.75 at-bats per homer. That’s a dramatic difference. That’s Babe Ruth type home run numbers. Add in those last 21 games of 2009 when things started to click and he has 80 dingers in 781 at-bats or a rate of 9.76. Here’s the breakdown with his slash line added in…

Career until the end of 2009: HR every 27.7 AB w/ .238/.329/.400
WAR (Wins above replacement): -1.7

2010 and 2011 seasons: HR every 9.75 AB w/ .276/.402/.646
WAR: 11.1

What a ridiculous improvement. Teams and players alike fantasize about sluggers suddenly turning into this kind of legit power hitter. Look at the difference in the slash lines. His average went up about 40 points, his OBP skyrocketed 70+ points and his slugging percentage goes up about .250 in production. It’s absolutely remarkable.

Those lines tell me these are two completely different players. So what changed? It wasn’t playing time because he played full seasons in Pittsburgh with even one year of 600 plus plate appearances. It wasn’t a change of scenery because the old Jose Bautista showed up for at least a year in Toronto before he started launching the ball at an unreal rate.

Is it steroids? I’m sure there will always be people who wonder that his sudden power is because of the juice, but he plays in a league that now tests for steroids throughout the year. If he’s never been suspended for testing positive then you can’t use steroids as the easy answer for his turnaround.

I’m no scout, but he obviously made adjustments with new coaches in Toronto, he started pulling the ball more and he started gaining confidence, which can make any hitter dangerous. I honestly don’t think he would have ever been this new player if the Pirates had held onto him. He had his chances and didn’t take advantage of it. Plus, the Pirates just aren’t that lucky ever. Simply put to me, he just looks like a completely different ball player than when he was in Pittsburgh, and the Blue Jays are reaping the benefits.

Who’s this Berkman character?

Who in their right mind thought Lance Berkman would be leading the NL in OPS and SLG through the first 30 games of the season? I honestly thought it was a horrible signing for the Cardinals. I thought the 35-year-old had nothing left after watching him at the plate last year, plus I couldn’t imagine his legs being back in the outfield after a couple of years at first base and DH. Turns out, he’s been the best hitter for the Cards. Heck, for the entire NL and may also just be one of the best free agent signings of the year. I would have never of thought that prior to the season.

Berkman enters Friday’s game hitting .392/.462/.775 slash line with 10 home runs and a league-leading 32 RBIs in just 29 games. To put this into perspective, he hit 14 home runs total in 122 games with the Astros and Yankees combined. Even in the homer-friendly Yankee Stadium, he connected for just one longball in 106 at-bat with the Yanks. Overall in 2010, he hit a homer about every 29 at-bats. But this season, he’s belting one dinger about every 10 at-bats. What a difference a year makes.

Obviously, I think Berkman is just more comfortable in the NL, especially in the NL Central where he knows a lot of the pitchers. Not to mention that hitting in the lineup around Albert Pujols doesn’t hurt matters. His home run total last year was the lowest of his career besides his rookie year and he last blasted 20+ home runs in 2009 (25 with Houston), he’s well on his way to eclipsing that total. Of course if he can stay healthy, which is always the question mark for an aging veteran.

Yankees fast start

The Yankees are tearing the cover off the ball so far this season, propelling them to an early one-game lead in the AL East. The offense easily leads the league in home runs with 46 while ranking fourth in runs scored. That’s all fine and dandy, it’s the Yankees and we have come to expect that from them. But at some point this year (playoffs or before during pennant races), the bats will cool off or run into better pitching and will the Yankees be able to rely on pitching?

They are currently getting by with AJ Burnett, who’s having a bounce back year so far, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. Phil Hughes has been horrendous (13.94 ERA), Nova is posting an ERA above 5.00 and Colon has been a nice story in April, but I don’t see him staying right for the entire season. CC Sabathia has  been solid and he’s their ace no question, but their pitching depth is very thin and they can’t afford a midseason injury or a Hughes type blowup again if they are going to compete in the AL East come September and beyond.

Runs at a premium

I shouldn’t have surprised to find out that two teams are actually scoring fewer runs than the A’s. The A’s are scoring 3.4 runs per game while hitting a slash line of .237/.304/.355. I thought that was bad, but can you name the two teams that are worse? It’s the Twins and the Padres. One playoff team from a year ago and the other a division leader for most of the season before falling behind the Giants yet still winning 90 games.

The Padres are scratching out runs at a 3.34 per game with a .218/.299/.327 slash line, but the Twins take the cake with 3.1 runs per game and a pathetic .230/.292/.323 line. When you are getting on base at a .292 clip, that is awful. With those numbers, it shouldn’t surprise anyone of the Twins 11-18 record and the Padres 12-19 record. The 16-16 A’s are getting by on stellar pitching, something the Padres and Twins (minus Liriano’s no-hitter) lack this season. How bad has it been for the Twins? Liriano’s no-hitter dropped his ERA to a 6.61 mark.

AL CENTRAL STANDINGS (as of May 2nd)

Indians        19-8        —
Royals         15-13     4.0
Tigers          12-15     6.5
White Sox  10-19    9.5
Twins            9-18     9.5

Yes, I know…it’s early. It’s only May 1st, but the Indians winning while the Tigers, White Sox and Twins lose has become a common occurrence in this early season. It’s been so common that the Indians are threatening to run away with a huge division lead. They finished the weekend by sweeping the Tigers right out of Cleveland to move to 19-8.

So do the Indians actually have a legitimate shot at winning the title. YES.

It has just as much to do with this Indians team as it does with the way the rest of the division is playing. Did you know that the Tribe currently leads the American League in offense? Probably not, but they are first with a .272 batting average and first in runs with 141. The lineup had the potential to be solid, but I’m not sure if anyone saw this coming. Young guys like Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Brantley are healthy and producing while Travis Hafner is having a resurgence of a year. Grady Sizemore has also returned and given the Tribe a boost with a .379/.429/.822 slash line.

The surprising part about Cleveland so far this year is its pitching. They are fourth in the AL with a 3.49 ERA. The Tribe’s worst starter to date has been their ace to start the season in Fausto Carmona, who sits with a 5.15 ERA. But they are receiving stellar pitching performances from Josh Tomlin (4-0, 2.45), Mitch Talbot (1-0, 1.46) and Justin Masterson (5-0, 2.18). Masterson was always a high prospect of the Red Sox and showed shades of brilliance last year, but looks like he may be finally putting it all together. The question for this team will be can Tomlin/Talbot put together a full, solid season and can Carmona bounce back from his early struggles.

So there’s the breakdown of why the Indians are winning, but another reason they have a real shot at the AL Central title is because the rest of the division is floundering at the moment. The Tigers are looking like just an ordinary .500 team with not enough offense, starting pitching and a sketchy bullpen. The Twins seem to have run out of some of their magic and the White Sox are in the process of burying themselves early again. When a team is struggling early, you just can’t allow yourself to get buried in April and May, but the White Sox and Twins are already nine games below .500.

Last year, the White Sox started off 24-33 (nine games down as well), they did rebound to end up with 88 wins and a battle for the pennant, but they also went on a ridiculous run where they went 26-5 in a stretch of 30-plus games in June and July. Can you rely on something like that again? I’m not so sure. I think they will eventually turn it around, but I don’t know if they can get back and compete for the division.

That leaves the Royals, who like the Indians are a surprise team so far this season. Along with the Indians, they are the only other team above .500 in the Central though they haven’t been quite as exciting as the Tribe. The Royals have a lot of young talent that will hopefully help turn the corner of baseball in Kansas City, but I just don’t see this team hanging in a division hunt down the stretch.

Coupled with this talented Indians team and how the rest of the division is playing, I think the Tribe have a great shot at challenging the division. Pundits will still go with the “it’s still early” line and think the Twins and White Sox will still battle for this division. They is definitely possible, but at some point you can’t continue to use the early line and need to start stringing together some wins and actually look like a Major League team in the process, which the Twins and White Sox have not looked like so this year.

This may be considered nitpicking and labeled under the “things that don’t

The Brooklyn unis

really matter” category, but was I the only one who thought the Dodgers wearing the old Brooklyn jerseys on Thursday against the Braves was just wrong?

I have no idea how many times this has occurred since they left for the West Coast, but being a huge Ebbets Field and Brooklyn Dodger fan, this just doesn’t sit right with me. Sure the jerseys looked great, but to me it brings back the thought of what if the Dodgers had never left Brooklyn. If you aren’t there anymore, don’t wear the jerseys.

I mean, the Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, who moved the Dodgers to LA after fighting with Brooklyn to get a new stadium, is long gone but it wasn’t a very amicable split. The hurt lasted long in Brooklyn or so I have read. Even when New York was awarded an expansion team for the Mets, true Brooklyn Dodgers fans never forgave the city or the Dodgers for leaving.

Maybe all of this was lost in the current ownership problems now that MLB has assumed control of the team. Maybe enough time has passed where the Dodgers felt it would be a cool thing to do and wear the blue Brooklyn jerseys. I mean that was all the way back in 1957 when they left for LA. Maybe the sting has dissipated from their fans over time or maybe there just aren’t many around in 2011, but seeing the team from Los Angeles wear a jersey with the Brooklyn script across the front didn’t seem right to me at all.

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