Monthly archives: May 2008
Run Amok, Pt 2—Screwing Up SQL at 1 AM
OK, I screwed up the query the other day when I listed the most runs scored by the Phils in three consecutive days. It wasn't as rare as I previously reported. Here are the real numbers:
The have only scored forty-two or more against the same opponent in three straight games ten times:
With another six runs against Colorado Wednesday, their four-game total of 48 runs represents just the fifth time the franchise has scored at least that many runs in four straight since 1900:
Though it is nowhere near their highest:
The Phils won again tonight, 7-4, for their third win in a row against the Rockies, but they missed the opportunity to make some history.
After going up 7-0 after two innings, they seemed a lock to score runs in the double digits for the third straight game. Five more runs in the last six innings (assuming no bottom of the ninth) and the Phils would have tied their team record for most runs in three straight games, 47. But after the offense dried up as the field got wetter, history alluded them.
It is the first time in 108 years that the team scored as many as 42 in three straight games, however. They also have never scored more runs against the same opponent in three straight games. Here are the most for the Phils in three straight games prior to tonight:
Myers is Number 1 But Is Pitching Like Number 2
The Phils misguidedly penciled Brett Myers in as the opening day starter just as spring training was starting as some sort of sop to the mercurial pitcher for relinquishing the closer role.
Clearly, anyone who has seen a Phillies game in the past few seasons would know that Cole Hamels is their best pitcher and the only pitcher on the roster with any sort of qualifications for the #1 starter role. Then again, given Charlie "I Need a Friggin'" Manuel's in-game decisions, I cannot confirm that he actually has watched a Phils game in the past few years.
Myers is now 2-5 with a 5.7 ERA and projects to 7-18. He has allowed 15 home runs in 59 innings, and projects to 53 on the season, which would be three more than the single-season record (Bert Blyleven allowed 50 in 1986). Opponents are batting .307 against him. Things are so bad for Myers that when he gets beaten 4-zip by the worst team in the division, as he was Monday night, the local media see it as a step in the right direction since he picked up an all-important Quality Start.
So how bad is Myers? Could he be the worst opening-day starter in baseball history
I looked at the opening day pitchers who had an ERA of 5.76 or worse, lost at least 15 games and won fewer than ten. Myers is not the worst, but he makes it into the bottom 15:
Cowboy Joe and the Frisk
While I begin my annual attempt to ignore interleague play, there was a minor but extremely odd incident in the Wednesday Milwaukee-LA game upon which I will choose to dwell.
With the Brewers leading 4-3 at the top of the ninth and the Dodgers [reparing to bat, newly anointed Brewer closer Guillermo Mota had just entered the game. As he was completing his warm-up tosses, third base ump Joe West called for the ball. Mota obligingly tossed the ball to third with a rather non-plussed expression and awaited its return post-inspection.
West, however, did not inspect the ball but rather Bogarted it like the Courtship of Eddie's Father kid at the end of the original Bad News Bears. And play just seemed to freeze for a minute or two. This brought a rather perplexed and TO'ed Ned Yost out of the dugout. His reliever was trying to get ready to save the game and didn't need any unnecessary delays. As a heated confab ensued on the field, the announcers (at least the ones provided by MLB.TV's broadcast) were trying to fathom what was happening on the field.
Finally, Bill Hall gave Mota a ball, perhaps the one West had had which the Brewers had somehow purloined, and the inning proper could begin. The Dodgers went on to score three runs in the ninth, all off the reeling reliever, and won the game.
While questions swirled as to why the Brewers could not have lost just as easily with their other, original beleaguered closer, Eric Gagne, the West story, though reduced to a footnote, came into shape. According to Mota, West stopped him after five warm-up pitches: "Joe West asked me for the ball and threw it to second base," said Mota. "I only threw five pitches. I said, 'I get eight.' He said I threw extra pitches in the bullpen."
I checked the footage from the broadcast, but it's inconclusive. We only get to see the final warm-up pitch and then Mota being fleeced of the ball. But a quick check of the rules supports Mota:
8.03 When a pitcher takes his position at the beginning of each inning, or when he relieves another pitcher, he shall be permitted to pitch not to exceed eight preparatory pitches to his catcher during which play shall be suspended. A league by its own action may limit the number of preparatory pitches to less than eight preparatory pitches. Such preparatory pitches shall not consume more than one minute of time. If a sudden emergency causes a pitcher to be summoned into the game without any opportunity to warm up, the umpire-in-chief shall allow him as many pitches as the umpire deems necessary.
The National League really doesn't exist as an organizing body any longer, which makes it highly improbable that it switched suddenly to five warm-ups just for this inning. So unless Mota took over a minute to throw five times, West was basically making up his own rules. Maybe he had a gig to get to:
What's odd about West's move is that the rule was set up to shorten the game whereas West's grandstanding actually delayed it. Joe does always like to be bigger than the game, however, so it's all good.
I took a look at Rich Marazzi's "The Rules and Lore of Baseball" to see if West's move had a precedent. Apparently, an umpire had changed the number of warm-up pitches, but in that case, he extending them:
An amusing story relates to 8.03 involving Jimmy Dykes when he managed the White Sox. In this particular game the opposition brought in a relief pitcher. After the pitcher threw seven warm-up pitches, Dykes shouted, "Next one is the last and let's get going." Umpire George Moriarty wasn't about to let Dykes tell him how to run a game. He allowed the pitcher to take about 15 or 16 warm-ups.
Sound like anyone you know?
Estes Be My Lucky Day
Tom Glavine beat the Phils tonight for his first win in a Braves uniform since 2002. This comes one night after Shawn Estes won his first game since 2005. Instead of dwelling on the mediocrity that has engulfed the Phils since the beginning of May, I took a look at the longest wait between wins for a player for a given team.
The "record" goes to Al Leiter who in 2005 won his first game in a Yankee uniform in 16 years. 121 other pitchers had a wait of at least 6 years. Here are the pitchers who had a gap of at least ten years between wins for a given club:
Costas…Then: Sports Media as Class Struggle
The most serious threat to our institutions comes from those who refuse to face the need for change.
I finally watched Bob Costas's recorded live HBO special on the state of sports today as part of his semi-regular "Costas Now" sports talk series. The ninety-minute special consisted of five segments on different topics each with a Costas-intoned intro and a three-person panel interviewed by the host. Of the five topics, I found the one on the Internet mist intriguing.
Coincidentally, I finished Cormac McCarthy's latest master opus, The Road, this weekend as well. One was about two individuals trying to subsist in a world that had long since died, and the other was a novel by Cormac McCarthy.
Costas impaneled DeadSpin founder Will Leitch, Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger, and Browns receiver Braylon Edwards for the discussion on the Internet. The topic was poorly framed from the get-go and quickly devolved into Costas and Bissinger tag-teaming Leitch while Costas from time to time extended a hand to the reticent Edwards to get his licks in.
The printing press was at first mistaken for an engine of immortality by everybody except Shakespeare.
Costas introduced the special with the words, "It used to be that this was how we followed sports," accompanied with a shot of Dandy Don Meredith on an outmoded TV and a few old covers of SI from its glory days. "Today, for many sports fans, this is how you do it," Costas continued as a disembodied laboriously typed "www.espn.com". As if the often openly inebriated Meredith and the monopolistic pre-Sport SI are the ideal exemplars of sports journalism, and as if anyone who typically uses the web would waste their time typing in a URL they frequent instead of just selecting a favorite. It is a minor point but it gets to the level of experience the people framing the piece actually have with the Internet.
Next, they cut to Michael Wilbon who asks, "Bloggers? What are their credentials? Where do their opinions come from, just sitting on the couch?" This is from one of the blowhards that host the execrable Pardon the Interruption, a near self parody of sports talk with two hosts attempting to shout the other down while spewing highly inaccurate, knee-jerk reactions to topics: sports talk reduced to entertaining pap for the masses.
They leave it to two usually controversial athletes to be the voice of reason: Curt Schilling ("There's a huge disconnect between the reporter and the player they are covering.") and Sir Charles Barkley ("It's become like gotchathey want confrontation."). Disembodied Costas ends the intro with, "It is for better or for worse an entirely different sports media landscape," by which, the viewer soon finds out, he means worse.
After a segment on sports talk in which the person with the pro position, Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, states without any real challenge, "Do I go crazy on the negative? I'm not stupid. I go crazy on the negative sometimes," Disembodied Costas turns to what he calls, "The wild west of the internet, the Blogosphere."
Leitch accurately states, "If you are really waiting to read the game story in the newspaper to find out what happened in the Cardinals game last night, you're probably over fifty," even though this delineation is used continually against him in the panel segment. Mike Scherr of Fire Joe Morgan finishes the segment intro ideally with, "The more transparent the world is, the better off we are. It's the basis of like democracy." Costas then smarms, "And who's gonna take a position against democracy, right?" We learn quickly that he will.
Costas goes quickly to the offensive, "Sure, it's 100% right when you say you don't need credentials in journalism to say the Indians should pull Carmona in the eighth [actually, Scherr said it but to Costas they and everything they represent is part and parcel the same]. But these are not the reasonable criticisms of the worst of the sports Blogosphere. The reasonable criticism is of the tone of the gratuitous potshots and mean spirited abuse. That's the reasonable criticism." Costas gets ready to rumble.
While Leitch is responding with a reasonable comment on how people differ online as opposed to face-to-face, but before he can continue, Bissinger figuratively tags Costas and begins his pummeling, "I have to interject because I feel very strongly about this. I think you are full of [beep] Because I think blogs are dedicated to cruelty. They are dedicated to journalistic dishonesty. They are dedicated to speed. I am over fifty." After some disjointed challenge/allusion to legendary sports writer W.C. Heinz, Bissinger pulls out a file and reads some comments from one of the DeadSpin writers, "I can't tell if this guy's name is Balls Deep or Big Daddy Drew Balls." After he is told it is Big Daddy, Bissinger continues seemingly forgetting he is a man well over fifty who refers to himself as Buzz, "Big Daddy. OK, so Balls Deep. I will read a bit. Here's, here's, here's, here's insight in blogging because it really p*sses the S out of me Seriously, because it is the complete dumbing down of our society, the complete dumbing down."
After reading some inane comment about notoriously overweight pitcher Rich Garces and his breasts, which Bissinger peppers with exclamatory and often blue commentary, he demands, "How can you be proud of that stuff?" This is followed up Costas (virtual tag again) reading reader comments on Leitch's blog and demanding an explanation as to their base content. This is not that dissimilar to asking an author to defend comments written on his work in an annotated edition or, even more to the point, on notes scribbled in the margin in a library edition.
Costas then riles Bissinger up again by quoting the dire fate of newspapers. Bissinger bites: "Yeah, of course, and maybe that's why I am so heated and angry because this guy [gesticulating toward Leitch], whether we like it or not, is the future. I'm not the future. [And the future] is going yo be glib. It is going, generally, to be profane [this from the man with the four-letter intro]. It is going to be quick. It's often going to be inaccurate."
Tag back to Costas: "That is a generalization. It has a lot of truth to it [which is?], but it is not all."
Bissinger, tag again, "It is a generalization and there are some good blogs out there [a statement repeated often throughout but never backed up with actual names], but I think they are very few and far between [also, not backed up]. I think the quality of the writing generally in blogs is despicable and, I say this as a writer who has spent forty years of my life trying to perfect my craft."
Finally, during the summation, Bissinger takes one last potshot, which is quick (by which I assume he means facile), glib, and profane, all the things he accuses blogging, and I quote it with all its excesses here: "You are sort of a Jimmy Olsen on Percocet. I mean, you are sort of. It's sort of strikes me that you say you don't want to be in the press box because the press box will get in the way. Actually, the reason there is a press box is because you have a certain vantage point of the game. And what it seems to me you are saying is, 'I don't want facts to. I don't want facts to inhibit me, facts to get in my way. So I am going to sit in my little room, and I'm, I, I, I, I'm gonna give this nebulous fan's voice', and I just don't know where you are coming from [so true]. I think you are perpetuating the future, and I think the future is in the hands of guys like you is really going to dumb us down to a degree that I don't know if we can recover from."
Aside from improper uses of "perpetuating" and "really", ending on a dangling participle, and generally speaking like he claims a blogger writesI guess they give Pulitzers to anybody nowadays, Bissinger gets to the core of the issue. The established media do not understand how a point of view that is not gleaned from the same privileged point of view as theirs could have merit. How can it not be better to be in the press box? How can it not be better to be in close contact with the players? He needs a validation of his worldview, a worldview that is rapidly disappearing from the landscape of sports reporting.
They are disappearing so rapidly that most of the major sports publications have long since recognized this and feature blogs via their online doppelgangers, even the New York Times, the bastion of journalistic integrity that the interviewees were repeatedly championing. The doom-and-gloom future to which Bissinger incessantly refers is not just here, it has been here for some time, and the world seems to be surviving.
The seasons change their manners, as the year Had found some months asleep and leapt them over. William "Author" Shakespeare, Henry IV
It all reminds my of my old Sociology professor and the man who coined the term WASP (and champion of the excellent though now-defunct Pennsylvania Book Center), E. Digby Baltzell, who foresaw how an aristocratic caste can hold down the elite in his seminal analysis, "The Protestant Establishment". Baltzell was speaking of politics but it still holds true in culture of sports media.
Baltzell's central thesis is that no state (or here, industry) "can long endure without both the liberal democratic and the authoritative aristocratic processes." By democracy, Batltzell means the "process which assures that men of ability and ambition, regardless of background, are allowed to rise into the elite." By aristocracy, he refers to an upper-class community who "are born to positions of high prestige and assured dignity because their ancestors [or antecedents] have been leaders" and that they "are carriers of a set of traditional values which command authority because they represent the aspirations of the elite and the rest of the population."
The aristocracy in sports journalism is clearly the print media, mainly the newspapers. They seem themselves as the representing the traditional journalistic ideals. If sports media purport to be democratic in Baltzell's sense, then the best writers from each disciplineprint, broadcasting, internet, etc.would be allowed to rise into the sports media elite.
Baltzell goes on to say that the leaders will form an establishment, which is ideally "traditional and authoritative and not (italics his) coercive and authoritarian," that the establishment "must be constantly rejuvenated by new members of the elite" or it will instead become an impermeable caste. A caste for Baltzell "protects is privileges and prestige but does not continue (1) to contribute leadership or (2) to assimilate new elite members, primarily because of their origins." That is, they now longer "stoop to conquer". Once the establishment becomes a caste, "the traditional authority of an establishment is in grave danger of disintegrating."
If this does not describe the current state of sports media, I will eat John Wetteland's salt-encrusted hat. The print media have now become the upper class caste that look down on other media types and refuse to allow them entrance into their inner circles, to the Hall of Fame and award voting, and to their executive washrooms (though did you notice Bill Conlin's personal hygiene? Eek!).
Today's journalism is obsessed with the kinds of things that tend to preoccupy thirteen-year-old boys: sports, sex, crime, and narcissism.... Moreover, if today's journalism has a driving principle, that principle centers on an obsession with hypocrisy [R]eporters frame their stories by saying implicitly, "These people aren't what they say they are. Look, they lied to you." Although there is a cultural role for balloon deflators, journalism has brought this characteristic attitude of the early adolescent to the adult world and elevated it to the status of cultural religion.
Baltzell sees the Great Depression as the result of the aristocratic caste being out of touch with the needs of the country. "It is no wonder that a majority of American intellectuals felt that perhaps some kind of eternal justice had been done when the unquestioned rule of the country club-business establishment came to an end as of the stock market crash of 1929 wrote Edmund Wilson, 'One couldn't help being exhilarated at the sudden unexpected collapse of that stupid gigantic fraud. It gave us a new sense of freedom; and it gave us a new sense of power.'"
Repeatedly, Costas and the rest turned to the golden age of sports reporting, an era in which reporters created the visions of many a fan, who was not lucky enough to be at the ballpark. Those were halcyon days, but they ended with the advent of sports on TV. By the early Nineties, sports reporting was an intractable morass of traditional game reporting and rudimental analysis conducted largely as it had been for decades. Meanwhile more substantive analysis was being done by a new sabermetrically-minded generation of analysts led by Bill James. At the same time, the mania that is fantasybaseball, football, etc.was just taking root.
Fans were looking for new ways to analyze the game, and the traditional outlets were not supplying them. Their greatest concession was perhaps the full page of baseball coverage in the Sunday paper, something that Peter Gammons helped to popularize, that and maybe displaying a fuller list of league leaders in Sunday editions. Until fairly recently newspapers failed to include more than basic game stats in box scores, no season averages or cumulatives.
So while the print sports media were still the standard-bearers from a great tradition, they failed to incorporate new ideas and new ways of reporting to meet fans' needs. They were ready to be toppled just as the internet took hold.
Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction. Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers another.
Baltzell concludes, "What is honored in a land is usually cultivated there. The traditional standards are in danger of losing authority largely because the American upper class, whose members may still be deferred to and envied because of their privileged status, is no longer honored in the land. For its standards of admission have gradually come to demand the dishonorable treatment of far too many distinguished Americans for it to continue, as a class, to fill its traditional function as moral leadership."
The more that the old-school newspaper journalists try to point to their past and their traditions, the less impact they will have. And while their inner circle may still sneer at the internet, their publishers have embraced it.
Though I cannot locate the quote, Baltzell would often advise that one can see that the establishment is losing its power when it had to exert it. A class in power has the luxury of not typically having to use its power. What can be said of Costas and Bissinger's bullying of Leitch other than it was the last dying spasms of the traditional sports media exerting its power over an upstart. The last bit of power they can muster is as a moral high road based on its past to bring the youngsters to heel.
As their numbers dwindle so shall their power. They remind me of those stories of Japanese soldiers who disconnected from their units supposedly continued to fight World War II.
Baltzell ends by saying that this struggle cannot end unless "a minority of established leaders, with the authority to fill the moral vacuum that now engulfs us all, steps forward above the conforming crowd and, like Moses in ancient Egypt, shows us the way." This could be done by letting experienced bloggers into the inner sanctum of the journalistic elite, i.e., the Hall of Fame and award voting. Whatever happens, I take it that Costas and Bissinger will not be leading that charge.
Strange But True D-Backs Stories
Those wacky young Diamondbacks, they have the best record in baseball (20-8), won their division last year, and yet no one seems to know who they are. Sure, there's Brandon Webb, who with six wins is the early NL Cy Young leader. But they have a potential MVP candidate in Conor Jackson who still gets carded this side of Tempe, and he is one of their veterans.
Last season, this team started transitioning to their seemingly endless supply of youth, and they still able to call up an unusual talent or two at will. They are like t he Montreal Expos of old except that they actually win with the talent.
The might have the next Babe Ruthor at least the next Brooks Kieschnickon their hands. They send Micah Owings to the mound tonight with a 4-0 record. His last appearance in a game was not as a pitcher but as a pinch-hitter, for the fourth time this season actually. He hit a game-tying home run Wednesday en route to an 8-7 Arizona win. He was pinch-hitting for the pitcher at the time.
Owings now has five career home runs in 84 plate appearances. That's about the same HR to plate appearance ratio as home run king Barry Bonds enjoyed in his apparently completed career (.060). However, it's not the best career HR/PA ratio for a pitcher. That honor falls to Frank O'Connor, who had one homer in his two career plate appearances in his one-year (1893) career.
If you look at just those pitchers who hit at least five career home runs, Owings still comes in second:
Note that three active "pitchers" make the list with notorious slugging pitcher Carlos Zambrano and converted pitcher Rick Ankiel, who still has more career games as a pitcher than at another pitcher, joining Owings. Also of note, Kieschnick is right behind Owings, and two legendary hard-hitting pitchers, Bob Lemon and Wes Ferrell, round out the list.
Meanwhile, prospect Max Scherzer makes his first career major-league start against the Phils Monday. It will just his second game in the majors. In his first, he relieved Edgar Gonzalez (the man he will replace in the rotation) trailing 6-2 and pitched 4.1 perfect innings while striking out 7. In his four and one-half year minor-league career, he averaged about 1.2 strikeouts per innings pitched (401 K in 336 innings).
Looking at pitchers with at three career innings pitched, he now ranks fourth in strikeouts to innings pitched:
You may notice that a fair number of these players are currently active. Ross Ohlendorf also made the list until I added in this year's stats. And that's the problem. As pitchers gather more innings pitched, their ratios tend to drop.
Given that Scherzer had a slightly lower K/IP ratio, I wouldn't be surprised if he trailed off a bit. Then again, who could keep pitching perfect innings forever? However, he still is a good bet to record at least as many strikeouts as inning pitched in his career, which is extremely rare this side of Brad Lidge and Billy Wagner.
Given the way Phils strike out and their tendency to be dominated by young pitchers the first time they face them, Monday could be a long night for Phils and a big one for Scherzer.
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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