November 17, 2017

AL MVP: Betts and Sale Finish in Top 10

Jose Altuve is the 2017 American League Most Valuable Player. He received 27 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Mookie Betts finished sixth. He was listed as #4 on two ballots: Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times and Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star.

Chris Sale finished ninth. His highest placement was #5, by Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). (The Globe's Nick Cafardo listed Corey Kluber #3 on his MVP ballot, the only writer to list the Cleveland higher than #5.)

Sale finished second to Kluber in the AL Cy Young voting. Kluber received 28 first-place votes, with Sale receiving the other two (Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald and Bruce Levine of Sale was named #2 on the other 28 ballots. Craig Kimbrel finished sixth, by being named #3 on six ballots.

Andrew Benintendi received 23 second-place votes and 6 third-place votes for AL Rookie of the Year. One writer did not feel Benintendi was one of the top three rookies in the AL. That writer was old friend La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And when I say "old friend" I mean "asshole", because it was Neal - along with George A. King III of the New York Post - who screwed over Pedro Martinez for the AL MVP award in 1999. Neither writer had Pedro's name on his ballot at all. (And it's so perfect that both of these fatuous clowns now use their middle initials and "III" in their by-lines.)

When King was asked about his ballot, he said he did not believe pitchers should be eligible for the MVP (which is in violation of the BBWAA's rules and should have led to the revocation of his voting rights). Then it was revealed that King had included pitchers David Wells and Rick Helling on his ballot the year before. His snubbing of Pedro was obviously deliberate.

The 2017 breakdowns (individual ballots can be seen at the BBWAA link above):

November 14, 2017

The Worst Ball And Strike Calls Of The Season

Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs shares the worst ball and strike calls of the 2017 season:

The Worst Called Strike of the Season
The worst called strike of this season was thrown in the eighth inning of a game between the Astros and the Tigers on the second-to-last day of July. I measure these things by the distance between the location of the pitch and the nearest part of the rule-book strike zone, and, here, we have a called strike on a pitch that missed the zone by 9.8 inches.
Umpire: Ramon De Jesus

The Worst Called Ball of the Season
The worst called ball of the whole season was thrown on August 20.
Umpire: Dan Bellino

November 13, 2017

Mookie Bowls First 300 Game in PBA Event

Mookie Betts bowled what he believes is his 10th career 300 game on Sunday night, but it was his first perfect game in a Professional Bowlers Association event. Betts was competing in the final qualifying round of the World Series of Bowling in Reno, Nevada.

Photo from here.

November 10, 2017

Red Sox Obviously Doomed As Long As Judge Wears Pinstripes

Jesus. It's been only a few short years since the retirement of The Most Awesome Derek Jeter, but the sports media apparently cannot exist unless it has a Yankees player to constantly hold up as a shining example of how amazing and humble and wonderful and gifted and humble a single human being can be.

I can only hope Aaron Judge - who is quite a bit taller than the average player, did you know that? - falls flat on his ugly mug and flames out in a historic blaze of strikeouts or maybe somehow ends up playing for another team somewhere no one cares about (Milwaukee?), because, otherwise, it's gonna be a seriously long fucking slog for the many years he will play for our main rival.

ESPN frames the Red Sox's entire winter as a struggle to do what they can to counter The Judge Effect. (Because we know from history that Judge will only get better and better. He cannot possibly regress.) From two ESPN reports (Scott Lauber on the Red Sox and Andrew Marchand on the Yankees):
Boston Red Sox: Will they turn the power back on?

Home runs are en vogue again, but the Red Sox missed the memo. In the first year of their post-David Ortiz era, they hit only 168 homers, fewest in the American League. Of the 74 players who hit at least 25 homers, none were part of the Red Sox's lineup. Deposed manager John Farrell used seven different players in the cleanup spot, a testament to the fact that the team lacked a true middle-of-the-order power threat. As a result, the Sox scored 785 runs, a drop-off of 103 runs from 2016.

It's little wonder, then, that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already made several public declarations that he'll be shopping for offense this winter. Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez are the top names on the free-agent market, and they would fit into the Red Sox's lineup as either a first baseman or designated hitter, respectively. And then there's the really big fish: Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who is potentially available via a trade now that Derek Jeter is running things in South Florida. As the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry heats up once again, it would be hard for Boston to find a more suitable counter to Aaron Judge.
Hey, look! We even got a Jeter reference in there!
New York Yankees: Will it really be a quiet offseason?

This winter is one that might be looked upon as a quiet one for the Yankees, except for the fact they will add a new manager, could add the "Babe Ruth of Japan" and may make a trade or two. Yankees GM Brian Cashman is looking for an "A.J. Hinch-type" to connect with the team's young players better than Joe Girardi could. Shohei Otani, the 23-year-old pitcher/outfielder, wants to come to the United States. As it stands now, if he does, he will not receive a huge contract because of the new collective bargaining agreement rules. That means the Yankees could have as good a chance as anyone to land him. Otani could be a sixth starter for the Yankees, while DHing and playing some outfield.

The Yankees will look to re-sign CC Sabathia, but for far less than the $25 million that the big lefty made in 2017. They will talk with Todd Frazier's representatives, but with Chase Headley already signed for 2018 it is unclear how much they will offer Frazier to play third. The Yankees could look to trade Headley, Starlin Castro and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Yes, there are likely many teams lining up for the privilege of grabbing Ellsbury, who has posted OPS+s of 87, 88, and 97 over the last three seasons and is due to be paid $63.3 million through 2020. Check out his total bases over the last two seasons as compared to 2011, the season that made the Yankees so excited to sign him as a free agent.
              GMS     PA    TB
2011          158    732   364
2016-17       260   1035   349
Sign me up!

November 9, 2017

You've Heard "Kars4Kids" Mentioned During Red Sox Games. What Is It?

If you listen to radio broadcasts of Red Sox games, you have likely heard about Kars4Kids. Listeners are encouraged to make a cash donation or donate their used car to help "kids in need".

Have you ever wondered who are these kids - and how are used cars helping them?

My partner Laura Kaminker did. What she discovered is here.

November 5, 2017

The Start Of The Off-Season

The Red Sox will officially announce that Alex Cora is the team's new manager tomorrow. And since the end of the World Series, Cora has assisted in assembling his coaches:
Bench Coach: Ron Roenicke
1B Coach: Tom Goodwin
3B Coach: Carlos Febles
Hitting Coach: Tim Hyers
Assistant Hitting Coach: Andy Barkett
Dana LeVangie returns as the bullpen coach. The team has yet to hire a pitching coach.

Roenicke managed the San Antonio Missions (AA) to the Texas League Championship in 1997; Cora, then 21, was a shortstop and the second-youngest player on the team. The 2011 Brewers, with Roenicke in his first season as a major league manager, won a franchise-best 96 games. The Providence Journal states that, during his time with Milwaukee, Roenicke was known "for his analytical bend, including aggressive shifting on the infield".

Febles, after a six-year career with the Royals, worked as a hitting coach for three Red Sox minor league teams from 2007-10. He then managed the Lowell Spinners (2011), Greenville Drive (2012-13), Salem Red Sox (2014-15), and Portland Sea Dogs (2016-17). During those years, Febles had plenty of experience working with and overseeing the maturation of several of the Red Sox's young players, including Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, and Rafael Devers.

For Hyers, this job represents a return to the Red Sox. He was an area scout from 2009-12, then served as the team's minor league hitting coordinator from 2013-15. (He also filled in as interim hitting coach during 2014 after Greg Colbrunn suffered a brain hemorrhage.) For the past two seasons, he was the Dodgers' assistant hitting coach.

Barkett has managed in the minors and worked as an assistant hitting coordinator for both the Pirates and Marlins.

Also: Tony LaRussa has joined the Red Sox front office as a vice president and special assistant to the president of baseball operations, a position newly created by Dave Dombrowski, who worked with LaRussa with the White Sox. This report states LaRussa "will assist with player development and serve as a consultant to the major and minor league coaching staffs, including rookie manager Alex Cora".
Peter Gammons wrote (without offering any examples or evidence):
In many ways, [hiring Alex Cora] is a seismic shift for the Red Sox, who now must deal with the reality that the Yankees have become the Theo Epstein Red Sox and may be a major power for the next few years as Boston faces tough, critical decisions between now and 2019 to avoid the American League East resembling what it was from 1996-2001.
Gammons does not employ an editor at his website, so we get both run-on and partial sentences, like this: "But the wires that bound this franchise from 2004-2013 are frayed, requiring."

Also, when will people stop writing things like: "[T]hese are not your Mike Higgins Red Sox." ... For the record, Higgins last sat in a Red Sox dugout 55 years ago, when Gammons was still a teenager. A few things have happened since then.

Old Hickory is not the only writer touting the Yankees as the team to beat in 2018.

In mid-October, John Harper of the Daily News wrote that the simple act of Boston firing John Farrell meant the Yankees had overtaken the Red Sox as the AL East favourite. That made little sense, of course - and now that the Yankees will also have a new manager for 2018, it makes zero sense. From Harper's article:
"It's hard to win without power, and the Yankees have it while the Red Sox are a little short," was the way a major-league scout put it on Wednesday. "Boston has some good pieces but they do need a thumper to replace Ortiz. I'd rather have the Yankees' kids. They're going to put up some big home-run numbers in the coming years. And they have better young pitching." ...

[T]he Sox are short on pitching depth ... and the Sox don't have any phenoms immediately on the horizon.

Remember, they traded two blue-chip prospects, infielder Yoan Moncada and pitcher Michael Kopech, in the deal with the White Sox last winter, and while [Chris] Sale certainly lived up to expectations, it was a win-now trade that didn't produce a championship, while significantly weakening the Red Sox farm system. ...

As the scout said, young power-hitting is the area where the Yankees are separating themselves. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird ... form the most formidable age 25-or-younger offensive trio in baseball. ...

All of which is a way of saying that, on the matter of young stars, things have changed more quickly between the Yankees and Red Sox than anyone would have anticipated.

A new manager in Boston isn't going to change the fact that it feels like the Sox, though two games better this season, are already trailing the Yankees going into 2018.
A little later in October, the Post's Joel Sherman offered "a peek at Yankees' potentially devastating 2018 rotation" and advised how the Yankees can finish 2018 in "The Canyon Of Heroes":
The 2017 Yankees came faster and went further than expected, reaching Game 7 of the ALCS. Their roster and farm system and future payroll are lined up to produce even better teams. But the step from promise to a parade is perilous. ...

[U]nlike 2017 next spring training is going to begin with the Yanks in their historically familiar position as the hunted, as a team with the overbearing expectations. ...

Joe Girardi talked about "mental growth" after his Yankees were eliminated by the Astros. ... What earmarked the dynastic Yankees that Girardi was part of as a player was that even as fame and fortune and pressure mounted for that group, hunger to win and unity to do so together never wavered. Their mental toughness and physical durability was special.
Most of ESPN's Dan Szymborski's article on early ZiPS projections for 2018 is behind a paywall, but the AL East is visible: