By In Stuff

How inside-the-park homers can save us all

As you probably know, we here at the JPT have little use for some of the ancient ways of baseball scorekeeping. We do not believe that pitchers single-handedly win games. We do not think a batting average that simply pretends walks do not happen is as rigorous as it might be. We do not consider a player who protects a three-run lead in the ninth to be a savior, do not agree with the masses that a batter who drives in a run has done significantly more good than the runner he drives in, do not think a stolen base should be taken away from the runner simply because the defense was indifferent.

But perhaps our biggest beef with the way baseball has been scored involves that concept known as “errors.”


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By In Stuff

Bye Bye Balboni

Well, the time is upon us. Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas has 35 home runs which means he is on the verge of finally, finally, finally, finally breaking the most absurd record in baseball today.

He — God willing — will soon break the Kansas City’s home run record of 36 … held by Steve Balboni for 32 years.

Yeah, that’s 36 homers for a WHOLE SEASON.

I went looking into the archives to find out how long I’ve been writing about this ludicrous record. It turns out I have been writing about it for twenty years.

Here’s a column I wrote in 1998 begging Dean Palmer — DEAN PALMER — to please just break this record already.

(It should be said that Palmer did hit 34 home runs that year, coming just about as close as anyone. The most home runs for the Royals since  Balboni was actually Gary Gaetti in a shortened 1995 season. Gaetti, given the full season, undoubtedly would have broken the record. Then, if the Royals home run record was, say, 39, held by Gary Gaetti, I’m not sure that would be a significant improvement.


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By In Stuff

Something new at the ballpark

Numerous people through the years have said some version of the following: “Every time you go to the ballpark, you will see something you’ve never seen before.” It’s a pretty trite thing to say, and it isn’t EXACTLY true … there are plenty of times you go to the ballpark and don’t see anything especially new. But I like the thought anyway because it’s a good reminder to keep your eyes open. The coolest things can slip by unnoticed otherwise.

Wednesday night, I saw THREE things I have never seen before. Two of the three were pretty easy to miss if you were looking in the wrong direction.


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By In Stuff

What is wOBA missing?

Michael Schur and I did another PosCast, have a listen if you like, but the point here is that we began by discussing whether Twitter is, in total, a net positive or a net negative. There are many wonderful things about Twitter and the immediacy of it. And there’s a lot of lousy stuff too. I suppose that says more about us as human beings than it does about the Twitter format itself.

In any case, there was a wonderful exchange on Twitter between two good friends — teammate and StatCast guru Mike Petriello and the one and only Bill James.

Ah, there is so much there to unpack — Mike bringing up the fascinating point that even though nobody is talking about Kris Bryant this year (he didn’t even make the All-Star Team), he is by wOBA — weighted on-base average — having more or less the same season that he did last year when he was the MVP and the talk of baseball and all the rest of it.


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By In Stuff


MIAMI, FL – MAY 06: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins hits an RBI double during the first inning of the game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on May 06, 2014 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

People forget this, but there was a two-year or so period after Tiger Woods launched himself into golf’s stratosphere when he didn’t play legendary golf. This happened after he won the 1997 Masters by 77 shots or whatever it was, and everyone expected him to thoroughly and repeatedly obliterate the field.

Oh, sure, he was still very good for the next two years, still won four tournaments, still made a ton of money, still had some Top 10s in the major championships. But the singular greatness of that display at the Masters, the promise that it evoked, well, it didn’t repeat. We know now that Woods, in one of the boldest moves in sports history, rebuilt his swing during that time. He was great, sure, but he didn’t want to be great. He wanted to be the best who ever lived, and so he tore down his swing and put it back together. We know now that the new swing came together in the second half of 1999, and in 2000 he had what is probably the greatest season in the history of golf.

But in 1998, he won just one golf tournament, the Bell South Classic, a one-shot victory over Jay Don Blake. And it was a strange time … even though Tiger was still absurdly young then and it was entirely unfair for us to rush him, we wanted to rush him. We were saying: “OK, we’re ready now for you to blow up golf, Tiger. Come on. Let’s go. Let’s do this.”

This has been the hunger that has surrounded Giancarlo Stanton the last two years.


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By In Stuff

The Gift of Ichiro


We have not shared many baseball memories. It’s no big deal. Elizabeth and I, we’ve had plenty of those father-daughter moments like when we went to see Hamilton, or when we watched the Godfather movies, or the countless times that we mumble Milton lines at each other from “Office Space.”

“Thats’s not, no, not, notinmyjobdescription …”

Baseball … well, Elizabeth likes baseball fine. Well, she likes the aesthetics of baseball, you know, the greenness of the field, she loves ballpark food (it’s really her best chance to eat cotton candy), she appreciates the atmosphere. She has been bringing books to baseball games since she was 4 or 5, and I would say that ballparks might be her favorite place to read. She has read everything from the classics to Hunger Games at ballparks across this great land.


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By In Stuff

Gordon and Zimmerman


In June of 2005 — with the Kansas City Royals in the midst of yet another doomed and hopeless season — Royals general manager Allard Baird had a heavy decision to make. The Royals had the second pick in the draft. It was pretty clear to everybody that Arizona was going to take high school phenom Justin Upton with the first pick.

That left Baird with what he (and, perhaps, he alone) saw as a difficult call:

He could take Alex Gordon, the clearcut choice, the college baseball player of the year, from nearby Nebraska. Gordon was widely considered the best prospect in college baseball and, in addition, he had a swing that looked like Kansas City great George Brett’s. This was no accident. Gordon’s father was such a big fan that he had named Alex’s brother Brett AFTER George Brett.


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By In Stuff

Dusty Roads


Bruce Bochy will be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager someday. I think just about everyone would agree with that.

Dusty Baker will not be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager. I think just about everyone would agree with that too.

In this ranking of managers, Baker was ranked 13th … Bochy third.

In this one (from last year), Baker was 11th, Bochy 2nd.


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By In Stuff

A Ring for Bartman


One hundred and eight years of not winning a World Series leaves behind a lot of errands to run, and it seems like the Chicago Cubs have spent the entire season running them. Every other day, it feels ike, they’re raising a pennant, visiting the White House again, giving out another World Series ring, celebrating anew.

You can’t blame them, of course. We all know how many emails pile up when we’re on vacation for just a week, so 108 years … yes, there are things to do. Still, time does move on, and even the best parties end, and the Cubs themselves are trying to recapture the magic in a year when the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros seem to have all stolen of their good mojo.

So, yes, it did seem a bit wearying that on the day of the trade deadline — a day when the Dodgers got even better — that the Cubs were busy announcing that they had given out another World Series ring.

But this one was different. This one was for Steve Bartman.


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By In Baseball, Stuff

Managing A Food Store

Buttermaker: “You’re putting the tying run on first base, you imbecile!”
Turner: “Couldn’t even manage a food store, he’s managing a baseball team.”
— The Bad News Bears

* * *

If you have spend much time here at the Ol’ JoeBlogs, you might know that we’re not too crazy about the intentional walk. There are two reasons for this. One is an overriding distaste for it. The intentional walk is anti-competitive. It drains the excitement and tension out of a game that, by its very nature, builds very deliberately toward excitement and tension. When Bryce Harper or Paul Goldschmidt or Mike Trout or Jose Altuve come up with two runners on in a tie game, we would like to actually SEE Joey Votto or Aaron Judge or or Carlos Correa or Andrew McCutchen hit.

The intentional walk is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney World. You wait in a six-hour line for Mr. Toad, your kids are screaming and pleading, the ice cream cone you got them at the start is long gone (and they are wearing most of it on their shirts), and then you finally get to the front, finally get on the ride … and it’s VVVVVVVPPPPPP, OK, ride’s over, thanks for coming.

And you think — as the great philosophers and Peggy Lee have thought — “Is that all there is?”

In truth, though, my overall beef with the intentional walk has lost some of its steam because over the last five or six seasons it has all but disappeared. The IBB has ticked up ever so slightly this year, but we’re talking about the difference of .19 IBBs per game to .20 IBBs, which is nothing. Teams issue intentional walks once every five games or so, and most of those are walks to get to the pitcher. So while, yes, every intentional walk is an abomination upon the earth, well, it’s hard to build up much righteous anger for rare birds.

The second reason we here loathe the intentional walk, though, is strategic. The intentional walk is often a preposterously stupid strategy.

And so we take you to Los Angeles, California.

The Dodgers are ridiculously good. I mean RIDICULOUSLY good. I spent a couple of hours with GM Farhan Zaidi back in March — always a joy, by the way — and we went over the team piece and by piece and at some point I said, “Your team is ridiculously good, isn’t it?” That was before I knew that Cody Bellinger would unload or that Alex Wood would decide to be Clayton Kershaw, but anyway the team is really good. I saw Dodgers president Stan Kasten at the Hall of Fame ceremony on Sunday, and let’s just say he seemed pretty happy.

So the Dodgers and Giants played on Sunday at Dodger Stadium, rivals having very different seasons, and the Giants led 1-0 going into the bottom of the ninth. If you have followed the Giants the last couple of years you know, leading 1-0 going into the bottom of the ninth is not their favorite place to be … to be honest, I suspect Giants fans were pleased that the Dodgers only scored one run to send the game into extra innings. The run, by the way, was scored by Chase Utley who led off with an infield single, stole second and scored on Yasiel Puig’s single. This is noteworthy because Chase Utley is 483 years old.

Anyway, into the 10th … into the 11th … and the Giants scored a run when Joe Panik’s ground ball single scored Kelby Tomlinson. Then came the bottom of the 11th — Giants in their favorite position, up one run going into the last — and with one out Corey Seager smashed a double because that’s what Corey Seager does.

Up came Justin Turner. Now if you are an astute baseball fan, as I know you are, you realize that the Giants pitcher Alberto Suarez had created something of a pickle for himself. The tying run is on second base, in what many call “scoring position.” And Justin Turner is one whiz-bang of a hitter; he currently has the highest batting average in the National League.

A pickle, indeed!

So what is there for Suarez and manager Bruce Bochy to do? Well, on the one hand they could try to get Turner out — as good as he is, most pitchers DO get him out. Or, well, sure, first base is open so he could intentionally walk Turner.

Intentionally walking Turner, though, puts the winning run on base.

You never put the winning run on base.


Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever …

No, wait a minute, stop (hammer time), there is one situation when you should purposely put the winning run on base. That situation is: If you are facing Roy Hobbs and Glenn Close wearing white stands up in the stands. Then it’s OK. Otherwise, um, no.

Glenn Close did not stand up. Justin Turner is not Roy Hobbs. The Giants intentionally walked Turner anyway because the guy on deck was someone named Kyle Farmer, and he had come to the plate exactly zero times in his Major League career. Yes, this was his Major League debut and Bochy decided that “facing a rookie in his first at-bat” was as good a reason to intentionally walk the winning run as “Glenn Close standing up.”

It is not. It most decidedly is not.

Kyle Farmer promptly doubled to win the game because the intentional walk has no honor … and the baseball Gods were watching.

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