Monday, June 27, 2011

Interleague Part II

Earlier, I noted about American League managers and their fascination with double switches. This year, I watched mostly National League games for the first few months. Over the past week, I have watched several games with NL announcers calling a game in an American League park. They kept obsessing over that "9th hitter" in the lineup. There are a handful of tough yet positionless DH's in the AL. Generally, it seems to me that many teams just look at their eight best hitters and DH the worst fielder among them. If it were an NL team, he'd be in the field. In the AL, that extra half of a player is actually in the field. And he probably hits below .250 with little power. Heck, some of them probably hit closer to .200. At this point, there are only two differences between AL and NL baseball. The AL has a slightly better defense on the field. Whereas, in the NL the worthless hitter at the bottom of the lineup has productive at-bats, drives in key runs, and gets the bunt down. This is really just my perception, but I'd be interested to compare it to reality. But if I took the time to fact check everything, then I wouldn't ever post anything.

Personally, I love having a DH in exactly one league. The DH brings a different kind of purity to the game. You have a real pitcher, eight real fielders behind him, and 9 real batters in the lineup. As the game has specialized, it's just not possible to have 9 all-around players out there. That's, of course, the purity of the NL. The rules of the game force everybody to do everything. The players, coaches, and managers have to decide the perfect balance of skills.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


On Friday night, I knew the Marlins were playing a late game, so I took my chance to watch the early Pirates game. The Pirates finished their win over Boston at about 9:15 and I flipped over to the Marlins game. They were showing the Marlins batting lineup and oddly it included the pitcher. Then I noticed the Marlins were wearing the home white pants and it was the bottom of the first. The field looked suspiciously like Safeco. Of course, the announcers explained the whole story in the top of the first which I had missed. Sure, I could just look it up, but I hoped that at some point they'd mention it. Apparently, there was a U2 concert in Miami. At first, it seemed silly that a concert would bump the ballgame. Then I realized that they're lucky to get 10,000 fans at a Marlins game. For a 3 game series, that might be 30,000. I'm fairly certain that u2 could fill more seats than that.

Also, watch out for catcher Carlton Tanabe of the Clinton Lumberkings. He may only be the backup catcher for the Mariners Single-A affiliate, but he's a real good catch-and-throw guy. He calls a good game. Handles the young staff very well. Forget having a pitching coach out there on the field. He's like having another manager on the field. Or maybe he's just a backup catcher in the minor leagues. I suppose it's guys like this who hang around until they're 30 and find a job somewhere in the majors.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Davenport Iowa

Hey, at least I post more often than the Marlins win.

This weekend, I finally took my Eastern Iowa Minor League Baseball road trip. I've been stewing on the idea for a few years when I saw reports that one of the nicer parks in the minors is in Davenport, Iowa. There are also minor league teams in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Clinton, and Burlington. Just about any weekend should feature a decent amount of baseball. This year, the scheduling worked to go to Clinton on Thursday night and then to Davenport on Friday and Saturday.

Naturally, we had to stop at the Field of Dreams near Dyersville. There are few if any signs directing passing motorists on US-20. You have to know to exit in Dyersville. Then you drive past a Pamida and a Hardees. I'm not sure I knew that either of those existed. In our case, we had to navigate a detour of the main street, too. Otherwise, you just have to know where to go. It's only a mile or two out of town. It looks just like the movie, though the corn isn't too high yet. Having grown up playing baseball on fields with pine trees for an outfield, it seems rather ordinary. I think that's the point and I'm glad that I saw it.

Modern Woodmen Park- as it's called these days- in Davenport exceeded expectations. If you enjoy baseball, you need to attend a game in this stadium. The whole experience feels like you've stepped into one of those old black and white photos you see of baseball from the 30's. We even had to wait for a train to roll through before stopping at the box office. This is just a great place for baseball. Pictures and descriptions don't do it justice. As they said on Reading Rainbow, you don't have to take my word for it. Go and find out for yourself.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Interleague Play

Among other things, I've been busy moving over the past month. Interleague play seems like an appropriate occasion to return to blogging.

I have mostly been watching Marlins games. Occasionally, by the time I retire to the sofa, the Western Division games are just beginning. Either way, I tend to favor watching NL games. During Interleague games, the AL announcers love to tell us about the National League brand of baseball. They do complicated double switches such as putting the pitcher in to bat third and bringing in a reserve outfielder to bat 9th. Wheels are turning in the dugouts. In reality, the majority of managers making moves like this are AL managers playing in NL ballparks. In a regular NL game, a real double-switch involves pinch-hitting a light-hitting middle infielder for the pitcher and replacing the #8 hitting second baseman with the new pitcher. That's it. Meanwhile, the pitchers usually hit well enough that I don't even notice that it's the pitcher hitting.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Royals

Yesterday afternoon, I watched the Royals play the Tigers. I have followed baseball for long enough to know better than to draw conclusions from a small sample. I have also seen that often, the team of the future turns out to be the team of the present. Both SI and ESPN the Magazine lauded the Royals farm system and proclaimed them to be the team to beat a few years from now. The experts discredited this group and instead focused on the big-spending White Sox, Twins, and Tigers.

This current Royals group has nothing to lose, and in yesterday's game they played like it. In the early innings, the Royals had runners on first and second with one out. The batter hits a medium line drive into left field. The third base coach waves Billy Butler around to score. The leftfielder struggles to get the ball from his glove. Finally, he throws it home. Even after the bobble, the ball arrives just in time, but it was high and wide. Butler scores to take a 1-0 lead. If Detroit executes here, there is no chance Butler scores. I suspect the coaches know this and don't care. Instead, they want to force division rivals to prove that they can make the play.

Later, the Royals are clinging to a 2-0 lead. The Tigers have a runner on first. The batter rips a double down the left-field line and into the corner. Alex Gordon chases it down and fires a strike to the cut-off man. Then he fires a one-hop throw that hits the catcher directly in his mitt exactly as the runner arrives. The catcher had positioned himself perfectly to block to plate. The runner actually puts himself out by touching the catchers mitt in an attempt to dislodge the ball. Although it could be argued that the catcher did not have control of the ball, I think the umpire agrees with my "a tie goes to the runner except when the defense just made a perfect play" interpretation. A runner should score from first on a double to the corner. There was absolutely no margin for error. Gordon has to hustle and make a strong and accurate throw to the cutoff man. The cutoff man has to quickly and accurately relay the ball to the plate. The catcher has to block the plate, handle the throw, and apply the tag. They did all of these things.

Baseball is a game of execution. Both of these plays could easily have gone the other way, but they didn't. None of these factors show up in the box score. Perhaps some new-fangled stats account for them, but otherwise, they don't really show up on the league leader boards. But they win ballgames. Maybe yesterday was just KC's day and a bad day for Detroit. If Kansas City continues to execute like this and the other teams rely on the payroll and star status, then the Royals will win the division.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

First Week

Last Sunday, I missed the top of the first of the Marlins game because I was still cleaning up the kitchen after lunch. I discovered the Marlins trailing 3-0 and facing R.A. Dickey. Soon, it was 5, 6, or maybe even 7-0- not that it mattered. The whole game was startlingly familiar and by the fifth or so, I had switched to watching the Cubs and Pirates. On Thursday evening, I watched the entire game. It was a fairly "normal" game. The Marlins starter lasted into the 6th, several relievers pitched, and I think eventually the Nationals won in extra innings. On Friday, I picked up the game in the bottom of the 8th. In the top of the inning, the Marlins had rallied to take a 3-2 lead. The Astros leadoff man reached, they bunted him to second, and he stole third. At this point, I realized that the starter was still pitching. The next batter fouled off several pitches until finally chasing a 3-2 slider for strike three. Carlos Lee popped up on a few pitches to end the inning. It was pretty exciting. In other words, the starter:
1. Pitched effectively into the 8th inning
2. Pitched himself out of trouble
3. Pitched himself out of trouble in the 8th inning
4. Pitched effectively after his team had rallied to give him a lead
5. Struck out a tough batter who kept fouling off pitches

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Marlins?!?!?!?

After one game, I like these Marlins. I watched a game, and I didn't know quite what to expect. When they loaded the bases in the middle innings of a scoreless game for the veteran John Buck, I was actually a little nervous. He could strike out. He could GIDP. He could hit a sacrifice fly. He could hit an RBI single. In fact, he fought of several tough pitches before hitting an opposite field grand slam. I guess that stadium in Florida has a good batting eye or something. Some guy named Johnson took a no-hitter into the seventh. Apparently, he hit 3 HR's and drove in 19 runs last season.

On the flip side, the Mets are awful. I knew they were bad, but I didn't realize just how depressing it is. Perhaps comparing the Twins to the Mets was a bit of a stretch.

Now, I have the Angels/Royals game on. An Angels hitter just failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt because he tried to bunt for a base hit. Now, he's swinging away.

At any rate, I love baseball.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Search

I have yet to officially choose a team, but the season rapidly approaches. I realize that with college basketball playoffs looming, I may forget to choose a team. I want to force myself to choose the team before the season starts. As such, I will choose a provisional team. If I do not choose another team before a pitch is thrown in the regular season, this choice will become permanent. Realistically, I will be too lazy and or distracted the change my mind so this will probably be final.

I began my search considering all factors as legitimate reasons to choose a team. The talk of the Twins supposed surplus of starting pitching had me wanting to pick a team which actually good pitching. I researched a few candidates. The Braves still have several quality arms. The A's have assembled a solid staff. The Padres ranked pretty high in the ERA category and I remembered reading an ESPN the Magazine feature on their bullpen. As I investigated, I realized what I really want. I want a team about whom I know absolutely nothing. I don't want to spend the off-season reading blog posts analyzing the VORP or WHIP of the player the team just signed to a minor league deal. I want to learn about the team- for better or worse- by watching the games. The less prior knowledge I have about the team at the start of the season, the more I can enjoy it.

I'm not sure I could even name a single player on this team's roster. I don't know who their manager is. In skimming over baseball headlines this winter, I have not heard anything about them. I know just enough about them to know that I have no idea what to expect. Perhaps most importantly, they have shared very few players with the Twins. At this point, the Houston Astros are second on my list followed by the Colorado Rockies. That leaves the Florida "Who the hell are the" Marlins in first. Technically, Houston is probably a better fit in the total ignorance category, but I already have a Marlins hat and Back to the Future II is my latest Netflix disc. I can think of no better way to spend the baseball season than answering Harry Caray's question: "The Marlins!?!?!? Who the hell are the Marlins?!?!?!?"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Comment of the Day

Today's Star Tribune comment of the day comes from martyu:

Start printing the Minnesota Twins 2011 World Champion's gonna be an awesome summer!!!

He's half right. When hasn't it been an awesome summer for the Twins? It's those pesky other seasons like fall that get them into trouble.

Friday, January 21, 2011

St. Louis

Should I preemptively pick the Cardinals for when they trade Delmon Young for Nick Punto? Actually, that won't happen unless Gardy incapacitates Bill Smith and convinces the powers-that-be to name him interim general manager. But if that happens for even five minutes that trade happens.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Perhaps I need to reconsider the Yankees as a contender. A team with a billionaire owner and brand-new stadium essentially outbid them for a solid pitcher. Keep in mind that they buy their division series victories. Honestly, if they had let Jeter walk they'd be a strong contender. Actually, I'm not sure there's anything any team could do to trump giving him the finger and tell him not to let the door hit him.

On another note, I saw that Gil Meche retired. He's still under contract, so naturally the Royals are going to pocket his $12 million salary.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I have been intrigued by fans reactions to the Twins off-season moves. To me, it seems Billy Smith is doing a pretty good job to Gardy-proof the roster. Everybody is up-in-arms at the departures of Hardy, Guerrier, Rauch, and Crain. My addition by subtraction theory is well-documented. Theoretically, of course, Punto is gone. Harris was traded, but as I mentioned earlier, I forgot he was still in the system. Of those six, the Twins would be lucky if one of them managed to not do more harm than good. Meanwhile, everybody is infuriated that they signed Capps. I didn't see him pitch much, but with relievers I will always take the fresh face. Everybody wonders how they could let Hardy go. Punto is to blame for the irrational love of Hardy. Who else could make an injury-prone shortstop with a mediocre bat look irreplaceable? Who here has heard of Starlin Castro or Ronny Cedeno? I readily admit I had not until tonight. Castro hit about .300 with 3 HR and 41 in 125 games playing shortstop for the Cubs last year. Cedeno hit .256 with 8 HR and 41 RBI in about 140 games for the Pirates last year.

What does this have to do with football? Why am I analyzing the Twins off-season when I claim to be switching teams? I would wager that typical baseball fans- myself included- hardly ever watch a contest that does not include their team. Whereas, with football, there are two games Sunday afternoon, one in the evening, and a game on Monday night. I think it would be fair to assume that the typical football fan watches his team's game and at least on other on average. Over the course of the season, at least half and up to three fourths of his time watching football are a team other than his favorite. Certainly this tunnel-vision in baseball affects a fan's perception of a team. Baseball fan's are like prisoners in a cave watching the shadows on the wall. This is why I am "trying" a different team next year. I want the contrast.