When Clint Coulter was sent to Helena, did it spark Jorge Lopez’s breakout?

I want to start off by saying a few things about this little experiment with a few disclaimers, and an explanation, because (spoilers!) my theory turns out to be at best un-provable and at worst (and most likely) junk*.  But sometimes it’s good to look at the things that don’t work out, and anyway, someone might actually be able to make use of this data at some point.

I got the idea for this post when AK and I went to see the Rattlers play a few weeks ago. At that game Jorge Lopez threw an absolute gem and, I thought, 3rd string catcher Brent Dean caught a great game. He frequently brought low balls back up into the strike zone and controlled the running game when guys did get on.

If you follow prospects you probably know of Clint Coulter. Coulter is believed to have some of the highest upside in the organization, and the Brewers hope to turn Coulter into a catcher in order to make the most of that upside. Coulter started the year in Appleton but has since been sent back to Helena for some more seasoning.

Jorge Lopez is a decent prospect in his own right and is considered to be having a breakout season. Since I saw Dean basically make Lopez better, I thought it might be worth looking into whether Coulter made him worse. If Lopez is having a mid-season breakout, perhaps it coincides with better guidance behind the plate.

FIP by Catcher:

Parker Berberet – 4.356

Brent Dean – 6.5

Clint Coulter – 3.857

I’m using FIP just because minor league defense is such garbage I figured we’d stick to what he has some control over.  If you just look at FIP Coulter looks to have been Lopez’s best friend, but it’s not quite so simple. Lopez has appeared in 14 games this year. In his first two starts on April 7th and April 16th, he was absolutely destroyed. This is Lopez’s first year above Rookie ball, and it’s not really surprising that this would happen, and while I’m loathe to simply discount stats I don’t like understand that:

  1. Dean and Berberet caught those first 2 starts.
  2. Lopez has allowed 6 HRs on the season. 4 came in those first two games (3-Dean, 1-Berberet).
  3. That in his 2nd start against the Cedar Rapids Kernels (52-33), Lopez recorded only 1 out while the Byron Buxton led Kernels batted around.  Lopez’s FIP for that game was 223.2. Which is bad.
  4. Lopez struggled in his first turn with Coulter behind the plate as well, though not to such a disastrous extent. He made it through 5.1, but allowed a HR and walked 2 (and drilled a guy) while only striking out 2.

If we eliminate the month of April, things look better for everyone involved.

Berberet – 3.610

Dean – 2.2

Coulter – 3.138

So again, things look good for Coulter. Dean jumps a ton only because he only caught Lopez twice and this eliminates a game. At this point I’m just including him for the sake of completeness. The funny thing about this is Berberet has caught every recent game – Lopez’s “breakout” – but you can make a decent argument not only that Coulter was better behind the plate, but that Lopez’s breakout happened as early as May 5th.

Now, there are a few other things worth mentioning. In May, Lopez alternated starts and relief appearances. If we remove relief and just look at starts:

Berberet – 3.917

Coulter – 4.819

Coulter looks much better due to two Lopez relief appearances. On May 5th Lopez worked 4 innings of relief, walking 1 and striking out 3 for a FIP of 2.45. On May 17th he worked 3.1 innings of relief walking 2, but striking out 6 for a FIP of 1.265. Coulter caught both games, and while Lopez did throw significant innings, relief is often easier for a number of reasons (working against the bench, able to throw your best stuff more frequently, etc.).  With Coulter behind the plate Lopez has K’d 22 batters in 22 innings, but relief appearances contributed greatly to that. With Berberet it was only 20 Ks in 29 and two thirds.

The bottom line is as follows. From April 29th to May 23rd, (early) Coulter caught Lopez. In starts he had FIPs of 6.14, 5.53, and 3.36 (in chronological order).   Lopez had his only two instances of 5+ walks in two of those starts but he also had his only 7 K performance.

From May 28th through July 3rd, (recently) Berberet and Dean caught Lopez. In his starts he had FIPs of 4.033, 2.87, 2.2, 3.93, 2.7, and 2.6 (in chronological order).

And at this point I will simply declare that you can’t tell anything about the catcher’s influence on anything. It would make as much sense to say that he was simply bad/adjusting early and got progressively better. Sure he wasn’t as good in 3 starts with Coulter but that hardly seems fair, and he did get progressively better with him over time. The fact that this progress continues as time goes on is merely an indicator of a pitcher continuing to get better. I was looking for a drastic jump and for Lopez to be consistently bad under Coulter but there’s certainly not enough data to say that, and even looking at what we have, Berberet and Coulter are too close to draw any firm conclusions without resorting to statistical gymnastics.  Cutting out all relief appearances is hardly fair when they’re 3+ innings, and it involves not only cutting out some of Coulter’s best appearances, but also one of Berberet’s worst, a one batter relief appearance in which Lopez allowed a HR.

Just to cover my bases a bit I took a look at the two pitchers who have thrown more innings for the Rattlers than Lopez**: Tyler Wagner (3.63 ERA, 89.1 IP) and Eric Semmelhack (4.68 ERA, 75 IP).

Tyler Wagner, FIP by catcher:

Berberet – 2.40

Coulter – 4.15

Dean – 6.18

Tyler Roberts – 5.577

Looks good for Berberet, but…

Eric Semmelhack, FIP by catcher,

Berberet – 5.323

Coulter – 5.033

Dean – 4.19

Roberts – 8.1

So in answer to the title, probably not.

Breaking Down the Haudricourt Chat

(I’m filling in for AK since he’s busy doing something else.)

Welcome back Mr. Haudricourt! Now this is a sight for sore eyes.

Let’s take a look at some winners and losers. Of course with Tom back, we’re all winners.

Loser

  • Q: Larry Ervin, Brookield. WI - Hey Tom How are you? I’m doing ok.Hey are the brewers really considering getting rid of Gallardo? Thet would be kid of silly if you ask me?What does it look like on Corey Hart contract status? Hope not.I see Weeks is starting to come around now since Scooter is here now? To late now Rickie.I think has Rickie’s job.I think they waiting til all-star to tell Weeks that he lost his job.Thats too bad.How is Braun doing ok?Well lets do somehin or do something soon.They will bring up Scooter and get rid of our clohes.Ok take care. Larry E.

 

Larry says he’s doing OK, but I beg to differ. I’d like to keep my clohes on, but I will take care.

Winner, and still Undefeated and Undisputed Champion

  • Q: Derek, Superior - Hi Tom. Are there any players either in the Brewers minor league system or otherwise available as a free agent who are actually better players than Yuni B? I know he is an excellent defender and an extremely patient hitter with massive power potential. But it seems he is going through a bit of a slump. On the other hand, I would hate to quit on the guy too early and have him turn it around for the Royals later this year. After all, he has produced above replacement level as recently as 2008. I guess these are the hard choices GMs have to make.

 

Derek and Tom together again! The sarcasm, it drips off the page.  It cuts like a knife. We love Yuni-bashing, especially subtle Yuni-bashing, and for that reason Derek will also be a winner in our hearts, because Derek gets it.

Loser

  • Q: Matt - Why is Morris regarded as the heir apparent at first and Gamel not in the conversation? Gamel seems more advanced as a hitter and not any worse a fielder. Is his knee so bad he’s on the scrapheap? Is it his attitude which at times seems to have been questioned?

 

Oh, sure. “Matt.” Clever alias with the two Ts. We know who you are.

Winner

  • Q: Ball Girl, Madison - Hi Tom, I’ve read your comments regarding MLB adding a 5th umpire and I totally agree with your thinking. My question is do you think MLB is giving this serious consideration? Thanks.

 

  • Q: Ball Girl, Madison - Hi Tom, Do the Brewers have any legitimate prospects at 3rd base or is there anyone you think could be moved to the position. This seems like a weak area organization wide. Thanks.

 

  • Q: G-Man, Reeseville WI - Tom, Players on the bottom of the roster who might go back and forth to the minors many times, are they paid differently each time they are moved? I would think there would be a big difference in salary, right?

 

Solid questions Ball Girl. Short, focused, to the point.  Nicely done.  G-Man also shows genuine curiosity, keeping it short and sweet. We all learned something from these people. And learning is for winners. 

Loser

  • Q: Lee Harrington, Ludington, michigan - Hello Tom, While I am not advocating this I have to ask…..with the PED episode surrounding Ryan Braun and with the mediocre condition the starting pitching staff is in might this be time to trade Braun for some starting pitching or a great group of prospects. With Gomez, Lucroy, and Segura as our future core maybe it’s time to add pieces to the team. Any thoughts? Nice to have you back. Lee

 

Everybody, they’re not trading Ryan Braun. It’s not happening. Knock it off.

Finally, our two biggest Winners.

  • Q: Derek, Superior, WI - Is Cesar Izturis avaialble to play 1B for the Brewers. I think he has the skill set the organization looks for in this position. Former SS, check. No prior experience playing 1B, check. Terrible hitter, check. Has played for the Brewers in the past, check. Seems like an obvious fit. Maybe Bill Hall? Jose Hernandez? So many options.

 

Double the Derek is double the fun! Cesar was so excited at the thought of being mentioned by Derek that he went 3-4 with a double yesterday for the Reds. I’d like to kick the tires on Billy Spiers, myself.

  • Q: Andy , Chicago - Glad to have you back Tom! In a recent mailbag Adam McCalvy told the story of how you had sprinted from the airport gate to buy a hat before you got on the plane, was wondering what your side of the story was, and if you have any good Adam McCalvy stories you’d like to share in response?

 

And Tom did! That’s some nice work from “Andy from Chicago,” whoever you are. We’ll probably never know. 

What’s wrong with this stupid quote?

“With Frankie getting the 300, it makes it easier for me — now we just pitch the guys who I think are pitching the best” – RRR

Let’s break it down:

  1. Ron is admitting that he would have/did stick with K-Rod for non-performance based reasons.
  2. Ron is admitting that he cares about a stupid statistic and will manage accordingly.
  3. Ron is admitting that he cares about a big round number in front of that stupid statistic and will manage accordingly.
  4. Ron is admitting THAT HE KNOWS BETTER, and now that big round milestone number has been achieved he can play his best players in the proper situation again.
  5. You may be doing this, but DON’T SAY IT. He was pitching well, that’s enough.  It can be a happy accident that he got to 300.

Twitter defenses and why they are wrong:

  1. But they’re losing anyway! Well la-di freaking da. Let’s have everyone swing as hard as they can every AB then, try and set all HR records. NO SINGLES ALLOWED.
  2. But Ken Macha did the same thing with Trevor Hoffman! That team finished 77-85, and Hoffman was a big contributor to that. It was dumb then, it’s dumb now.
  3. But K-Rod WAS the best guy for the job! Maybe he was, but his stated process was idiotic.

Dealer: Player showing 19…

RRR: Hit me.

Dealer: Are you sure? Dealer shows a 5 and…

RRR: You heard me. I’ve successfully hit 34 times in a row.

Dealer: Very well sir.

RRR: Damn right.

Dealer: A two, player has 21.

RRR: See, 35 times! Now I can go back to hitting at the appropriate moments!

Cougars-Rattlers: Your RRSMB Farm Report

AK and I attended the Kane County Cougars-Wisconsin Timber Rattlers game on Friday to do some “scouting” and because there was some guy named Rock Shoulders playing*. The Rattlers dominated the contest behind a strong performance by Jorge Lopez with an assist by gigantic 5th/3rd Bank Ballpark, which has high fences and is 335 down each line.  Here’s a brief report on the major contributors:

Brent Dean:

Brent Dean is 26 year old catcher playing in Single-A ball, and I suspect is only seeing action right now due to an injury to Clint Coulter (Note: Just found out that Coulter was demoted back to rookie ball). Being a 26-year-old in A-ball says a lot about your potential future as a major leaguer (you don’t have one), but guys like Dean stick around for a reason. On Friday starting pitcher Jorge Lopez was masterful, and a good chunk of the credit for his performance should go to Dean, whose work behind the plate was one of the only things in the game that stuck out as major-league caliber.  Lopez was able to work consistently low in the zone and Dean brought a ton of balls back up for called strikes. He set an excellent target, didn’t flinch or reach for balls, and made great use of Lopez’s ability to locate. He also gunned down Alfredo Almora attempting to steal second, showing a plus arm and quick release.

Dean was not just a defensive superstar either.  He crushed an RBI double off of Cougars’ starter Mike Heesch in the 6th which was probably the hardest hit ball of the night by anyone not named Vogelbach.  Dean then proceeded to steal third. He might not ever play above A-ball going forward, but on Friday Brent Dean showed why he gets paid to play baseball.

Alfredo Rodriguez:

The Rattler lead-off hitter and 2nd baseman went 2-5 with a double and 2 RBI.  At this point I would like to mention that with the exception of Victor Roache, Mike Heesch, Rock Shoulders, and Dan Vogelbach, every player in this game looked to be about 12 years old and 145 pounds. Alfredo was no exception even though he’s 23 and listed at 6 feet tall. He made solid contact several times and to my untrained eye, was competent at 2nd. He’s played SS in the past but has been moved over (I assume) for Orlando Arcia.

Orlando Arcia:

Orlando had a rough game at the plate, going 0-5. He didn’t strike out, which was a positive I suppose. He did have some nice elevation to his swing and got the ball in the air with some power a few times, and I can see why scouts are optimistic. He acquitted himself well on defense though no one on the infield was really tested much. He was quick, moved laterally well for the opportunities he was given.

Tyrone Taylor:

Taylor had one of the least impressive 4/5 nights in history.  He reached on a bunt in the first and was caught stealing.   He hit a nice line drive single in the 4th but was stranded.  In the 6th he led off with an infield single and eventually came around to score on a sac fly, but it was a minor league infield single.  Finally, in the 9th he singled on a fly ball, but was subsequently picked off by Shawn Camp. You can see Taylor’s athleticism as he runs very well, but he was reckless on the base paths and his defense in CF can charitably be described as a work in progress as his speed bailed him out of bad reads on several occasions.

Victor Roache:

Roache stood out as one of the men among boys in this game. He’s only 21 but already looks powerful. The knock on Roache from what I read is his ability to make contact. That wasn’t a problem on Friday as he hit the ball hard several times, going 1-3 with an HBP.

Jorge Lopez:

Lopez was outstanding allowing only 2 hits and one walk over 6 innings while striking out 6. He missed bats, induced a bunch of weak contact, and kept the Cougars off balance all night. According to the stadium radar gun he mostly sat high 80s occasionally touching the low 90s.  He kept his breaking stuff down and excelled at locating his fastball. If he can add a few ticks to that fastball they might have something here.

Some Cougars

Albert Almora:

Almora is one of the top prospects in the Cub organization, and quite possibly their top prospect.  He’s only 19 and has been destroying Low-A to this point. This was not the greatest game to display his talents as he reached on a single in the first but was caught stealing, and was quiet for the rest of the game. He seemed to cover a lot of ground in CF, I will say that. 19-year-olds will have the occasional unremarkable game.

Rock Shoulders:

The man with the best name baseball had one of the Cougars five hits on the night, a harmless infield single in the 9th. Other than that, Shoulders mostly looked intimidating while grounding out.  He looks to have outstanding power potential and hit one out on Saturday, but Lopez had his way with him on Friday.

Dan Vogelbach:

Dan Vogelbach will not be selling any blue jeans. Vogelbach is generously listed at 6’0” and his build is distinctly Fielderian.  I hear he’s actually cut a lot of weight and if he can keep himself in shape he may have a bright future. BP lists him as having 80 raw power and in a smaller park he would have had at least one home run on Friday. You’ve probably already guessed that he’s limited to first base.   He went 1-4 with a harmless ninth inning bloop single to left (beating the shift), and was gunned down trying to stretch it into a double, but had a few loud outs to go with it.

Best play of the night:

1-unassisted.  I have to confess in my memory the 3rd baseman made this play unassisted, but according to the box score it was instead gigantic lefty starter Michael Heesch. With Orlando Arcia on 1st, Tyrone Taylor laid down a bunt and 3rd baseman Jeimer Candelario tried to barehand the ball but overran it. Since there was no one covering 3rd Arcia just kept running. Heesch picked up the ball, sprinted over to 3rd, dove, and tagged Arcia just before he got in. Taylor was subsequently caught stealing for a truly TOOTBLAN-y single-A inning.

Overall experience: AK and I sat 3 rows back just on the home base side of the rattlers dugout for 12 bucks each. They have an excellent beer selection and a nice fireworks display after the game which allowed us to beat traffic as we don’t really care about fireworks. The food was solid and the between-inning Jimmy Buffett music was just fine. Also, due to a lack of between-inning commercials and some efficient pitching, the game only lasted two hours and twenty-five minutes. Not too shabby. A great baseball experience if you don’t mind going all the way out to Geneva, IL.

*And it was Jimmy Buffett night, which mainly just increased the quality of the music between innings.

Things that are worse than PEDs in baseball

I have always found it odd that we mandate people wear seat-belts while simultaneously allowing people to ride motorcycles. And not just ride motorcycles, but often ride them without helmets. Those are pretty much the same activity, but one is several orders of magnitude more dangerous and we have chosen to regulate the safer one. There are many reasons for this, but I’d say the primary one is that the government loves to look like it’s doing something, especially for the children. Bikers are a lobby so they’re able to escape such things, and biking is more of a lifestyle. Not wearing a seat-belt is not a lifestyle, inspires no lobbying, and thus is subject to regulation even though this makes no sense when lumped in with motorcycles.

People have this strange ability to compartmentalize certain activities while completely losing the broader context.  What I’ve described above is basically insane, but it’s also common.  This human tendency is the foundation of basically all stand-up comedy. Baseball has it in spades. Here’s a list.

Baseline: PEDs result in a 50-game suspension.

Reason for penalty: Player protection. PEDs are not allowed in theory because they’re dangerous, and like any drug, if they’re abused they are. Moreover, if some players are allowed to take possibly dangerous PEDs, it puts pressure on other players to take them to keep up. Player safety is the reason for the 50-game suspension the first time you are caught.  Now, on to things that are punished less severely, or actively encouraged.

  1. Beanballs. Last night Ian Kennedy hit Zack Greinke in the head with a baseball on purpose, and then participated in a big brawl. For this, he will probably be suspended 5 or 10 games (1 or 2 starts). He could have killed or severely hurt an All-Star caliber pitcher. In my humble view, actions that can kill people immediately should be punished more harshly than PED use, but that’s just me. Like, if Matt Kemp tried to run over Martin Prado with the bullpen car* I’d like to think he’d be suspended more than 50 games. It’s really not that different than head-hunting.
  2. Brawls. Earlier this year Greinke had his collarbone snapped by an angry Carlos Quentin upon plunking him (almost certainly not on purpose). Bean balls are quite dangerous, and physically assaulting someone with your fists is also pretty damn dangerous.  You know, it’s illegal in normal society and can get you thrown in prison and stuff. MLB basically allows this to happen.  Quentin got 8 games. I suppose if you’re on steroids and decide to beat the snot out of everyone you should get a little more. Mark McGwire was basically Bane yesterday.
  3. Equipment. Pitchers are not required to wear helmets. Last year Brandon McCarthy took a line drive to the head. He was seriously injured and, even 10 months later is still experiencing occasional seizures. Batters have to wear helmets and many choose to wear armor. This makes sense because they have a 90 mph ball heading towards them. Pitchers, on the other hand, are the exact same distance from hitters as hitters are from pitchers, and there is often a 120 mph ball headed back at them.  Moreover, they are often not in a position to defend themselves and due to their follow-through, actually closer. Jon Olerud played the field with a helmet, it can be done. Plus it looked awesome.
  4. Dr. Wily Style Traps. The wall in Wrigley field is made out of brick. The Astros stadium has a hill in center field with a pole in the middle of it. Bryce Harper is lucky he wasn’t in Wrigley when he inexplicably ran into that (still too hard) wall the other day. He’d be a dead man. As it stands, Wrigley has done a number on plenty of outfielders.  For years the “turf” in Montreal destroyed the knees of promising players and basically ruined Andre Dawson.  We’re lucky that Fenway never had traditional lava pits or thwomps because they would still be embraced today due to tradition.
  5. The MLB schedule. It used to have more off-days due to more frequent double-headers. There were more day games. There was more time for players to rest. Lost revenue has ended the era of the regular double header, and TV schedules (and box office too) limits the number of day games. This creates an atmosphere where players are on bizarre sleep schedules and have less time to recover. If MLB actually cared that much about PEDs they’d make life easier on their players again. But that would cost money.
  6. Catcher Collisions. These are technically against the rules but they’re allowed because of old-school machismo and stupid nonsense. Sure it cost baseball a year of Buster Posey, but how else are you supposed to stop someone from getting to a base except for the same way as with all the other bases. Destroying a catcher usually gets you no suspension. Neither does stupidly blocking the plate.
  7. Drinking. MLB doesn’t suspend players for DUI. MLB also has no trouble with people getting loaded at games. I enjoy a beer or two or three at a game as much as the next person and I’m not calling for a ban or anything, but I’d wager that morons being over-served has done far more damage than PEDs. Yovani Gallardo blew a .22 earlier this year. Nothing happened.

I’m pretty sure that, at most, Ian Kennedy will get 10 games and I’ll be pretty shocked if it’s more than 5.  And the reason that PEDS will get a 50 game suspension is exactly the same reason that seat belts get regulated. Well, not the same reason. It’s actually worse.

The MLB Owners want to appear concerned about player safety, and this is one way to do it, however it has the added benefit of making their bargaining opponents look like criminals. For Joe Sportsfan it puts the owners on the moral high ground and allows him to look down on the millionaire drug-using player.  The fact is that there are a lot of other ways to care about player safety, but this is the one that ESPN truly cares about.** The important thing to remember about baseball owners is that they spend much of their time trying to think of ways to give less money to all of those damn players. Basically everything they do should be viewed through that prism. PED regulations are one of their crowning successes. But really, who cares if Ian Kennedy cripples Zack Greinke?

*I miss bullpen cars. BRING BACK BULLPEN CARS!

**Probably why they hire steroid experts like Golic.

Classic Begel

Someone on Twitter asked me about FJMing Begel the other day, and at this point I think I’ve decided that he’s in that rare spot beyond parody, and that we should mostly just sit back and take in the glorious gift that is a Begel sports column. That said, I did FJM him once at an old retired sports blog, and since there isn’t a game tonight and you may need something to read, I present it to you here in full. From December 13th of 2011:

Should “women” play “sports?”

 
What’s that? A Women’s NBA? The Kaiser didn’t take my leg so I could see strumpets in hoops skirts tossing the old leatherball into perfectly good peach baskets, no sir! In my day women toiled 23 hours a day pausing only momentarily for sleeping, eating, the “lower” tasks, and perhaps 15 minutes of Bridge, which is, if you ask me, the only thing that should be played by women.

And with this new-fangled “Liberal Media” good luck finding someone to agree with someone like me. Fortunately you can still find sense on this glowy-technobox that my great granddaughter installed at the end of my death-cot last year in the form of Dave Begel of OnMilwaukee.com.

“With a nod to Julie Andrews and “The Sound of Music,” here are two of my favorite things:”

Julie named “a few” of her favorite things which, in many parts of this great country is considered to be more than two, but I think we should cut Mr. Begel some slack since Julie is pretty needy in that song. 

“Women.”

Who else would fix my oatmeal and clean my bedpan?

“Basketball.”

The boys and I did enjoy a fine game of “horse” when killing time between slaughtering Turks. 

“And then there is women playing basketball, which doesn’t even make the top 1,000 on the list of my favorite things. And please note that getting hit by a car but luckily only suffering a broken ankle does make my list.”

Indeed. My favorite things list stretches over 100,000 entries, and well over half includes me suffering some sort of affliction less severe than that which could reasonably be expected. Then again I’m a bit of a masochist. And a sociopath.

“The only reason I’m thinking about this is that I heard a pretty good rumor that two guys in Milwaukee are looking into the idea of having a WNBA team. They have already made preliminary forays into seeing what kind of dates and rent could be had at the Milwaukee Arena, which is now called something else but I forget what.”

A sentence about a “pretty good rumor” in which two men are “looking at the idea of having a WNBA team*” would have gotten one dishonorably discharged in my unit; however we should offer our charity to this scribe. He clearly has not experienced the same level of modern technology as I. If I can get the operator to ring this Begel I will offer to send my great granddaughter to his house to show him the Google on his glowy-technobox and we can finally unearth the name of this theater. 

“When I was doing my usual amount of thorough research for this column, I had to go online to find out when the Women’s National Basketball Association (known colloquially as the WNBA) played.”

Oh. 

Perhaps his version of Google does not look up theater names. Good people of Milwaukee, someday this feature will arrive, I promise!

“I wasn’t sure if they played in the dead of winter or the heat of summer or somewhere in between. I think summer is the answer with a slight overlap into early fall.”

Perhaps he was foiled after all, and really why provide solid facts when we can use conjecture and guessing?

“I’ve thought a great deal about the differences between the men’s game and the women’s game, and why the women’s game puts me to sleep.”

It is undoubtedly the lack of mobility created by the bustle, the lack of appropriate footwear, the general female temperament, and, of course, the necessity of placing feinting couches every 20 feet in case of exhaustion or mania.

“Men play like they have jets attached to their shoes, women play like they have cement shoes.”

Ha! I’m sure we call got a good chuckle out of his juxtaposition of futuristic speed shoes with mafia execution devices. I know I did. 

“Men play in the air, soaring above the fray, women play like a rugby scrum, unable to slide a piece of paper between their shoes and the floor.”**

Back in Europe we would occasionally take on the Brits in the vulgar version of Canadian football know as Rugby, and without question the most difficult portion of every game was obtaining a piece of paper to ensure everyone adhered to the “no lifting your feet while playing like a rugby scrum” rule. It was always an odd game made more striking by their inability to use proper English despite being English. That said I’ll never forget our stirring war cry, “Play like a rugby scrum today!”

“Men slap five when they make a good play, women clap furiously.”***

Just yesterday I was watching the Rams play on my black-and-white (color is vulgar and stunts the imagination) and went to high-five my nurse on a particularly tough Stephen Jackson run. Her subsequent furious clapping gave me such a start that I had to be sedated!

“Men push and shove and hit each other and dive into the stands, women say “ouch” and kind of wave at balls headed out of bounds.”****

It’s true. I just threw a Basket Ball at my nurse’s head and she just said “ouch” and waved. 

“Just so people know that I am not strictly opposed to women playing basketball, I want to make it clear that I’m only opposed to and bored by them trying to play men’s basketball.”*****

It was hard enough to get them to change the Women’s Men’s National Basketball Association to just the Women’s National Basketball Association.

“I love softball and women’s tennis and skiing and golf and the lingerie football league (Let’s get one of these teams, because these girls can really play) and even women’s hockey. It’s just basketball.”******

Don’t forget Foxy Boxing!

“And living up to my life goal of always trying to be nice and help people, let me offer an alternative. An alternative with lots of historic precedent as well.
Women should return to the way they used to play the game. The good old days.”

Let me just use the google on the thing…. Ah! The old 3-3 game. How I’ve missed you! Why, I’d almost forgotten…

“There are six players to a team. Three forwards and three guards. The forwards play on one side of the floor and the guards on the other. The forwards are the offense and the guards are the defense. A foul is called if a player steps over the half-court line.”

…during the inevitable slow-down that came from playing like rugby scrums the unoccupied side of the court would fix tea and crumpets for the male attendees. Occasionally we would engage in courtly dances, and I still remember old Johnson who courted, married, and witnessed the birth of his first child during a fe-male basket ball match.

“I am also in favor of making a few other rule changes, all of which have some historical precedent.”

You’ve made so much sense so far I look forward to hearing your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

“Women would be allowed only two dribbles. They would then have to pass or shoot.”

This rule is unnecessary as no woman is coordinated enough to dribble more than twice, however I also see no harm in it and one day some woman could conceivably master the third dribble. I’m in favor.

“A foul would be called if both feet of a player were off the floor at the same time.”

And the woman in question would have to immediately clean the scuff marks! 

“If you touch an opposing player, it’s a foul. If you touch an opposing player more than once, it’s an automatic ejection.”

If it happens a third time we will keep an ignited stake courtside. 

“And finally, I would add a mercy rule. If the game, which has only one period of 30 minutes, finds one team up by 20 points or more, the game is called and we all go home.”

And the ladies make us dinner. It is good to see that the wisdom of the early 1900s still has a champion in this day and age. 

*Presumably by impregnating an NBA team?

**I must break misogynistic old dinosaur character to point out just how terrible this sentence is, and just how remarkable it is that someone was apparently paid to write it. None of these clauses go together. The tortured metaphor about the piece of paper refers back to the cement shoes from the sentence before when it should be referring to the rugby scrum comment. It doesn’t really matter because the rugby scrum comment doesn’t make any sense anyway. Rugby is an exciting, constantly moving game and it is in no way insulting to compare any form of basketball to any part of rugby. I suspect he’s never seen rugby. I’ve read this sentence like 25 times now and my brain hurts, so let’s move on.

***One of the reasons I wrote this as a senile 130-year-old war veteran is that doing a straight FJM on this is almost impossible because it’s almost too dumb for words. Seriously, men high five and women clap? Women clapping is a stereotype? Is it like how all Polish people where Rugby shirts.

****It was at this point in the article that I realized he may be going for a George Carlin “Baseball/Football” thing, and I’m still not 100% sure. I am 100% sure that George Carlin would claim that he is not. 

*****Yeah, I didn’t know where he was going with this either.

******I just wanted to point out that he puts the qualifier “women’s” on tennis but not on softball or skiing or golf. Or lingerie football. Presumably he thinks men should never play these things?

Some Legal Language You May Find Helpful

Especially if you’re Melky Cabrera, and possibly Ryan Braun as well. This is verbatim from MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program Agreement which you can read completely here.

Aside from all of the garbage surrounding MLB’s payments to Bosch to basically buy his testimony, the fact that Cabrera and Braun have lready been accused and suspended or secured a victory in binding arbitration (respectively) in what may well be related events, has implications for MLBs ability to suspend them again. First, section 3H:

3. H. Multiple Disciplines for the Same Use

Players shall not be subjected to multiple disciplines as a result of the same use of a Prohibited Substance. Whenever a Player alleges that a positive test result under the Program is the result of the same use of a Prohibited Substance that produced a prior positive test result (under either this Program or Major League Baseball’s Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program), the IPA shall refer the matter to the Medical Testing Officer for a determination as to whether, in the Medical Testing Officer’s opinion, the subsequent positive test result was from the same use. The Medical Testing Officer should treat the subsequent positive test as resulting from a separate use of a Prohibited Substance only if she concludes with reasonable certainty that it was not from the same use of that substance that caused the initial positive test. (See Section 8.C.1 (b))

And 8.C.1 (b):

8.C.1.(b )If a Player wishes to invoke Section 3.H above (“Multiple Discipline for The Same Use”), he shall make application to the IPA within three (3) business days of being notified of the positive test result. The IPA shall then refer the matter to the Medical Testing Officer consistent with Sections 1.E and 3.H.The Medical Testing Officer shall forward his or her opinion to the IPA. The IPA shall forward such opinion to the Parties as part of the litigation.

It is less clear with Braun since he did not suffer discipline, but I do think this still precludes MLB from taking a 2nd bite at the apple whenever they want to.  Something to keep in mind.

Baseball – Math = Negative Fun!

That’s what Max Engel thinks in a column in the Star-Telegram that is currently being torn apart by literally dozens of Ken Tremendous wannabes.  Why not join the fun?!

Mathematics is not a friend of baseball

It’s already good.

The counting craze that once was cute and chic is now all but ruining America’s second favorite past-time.

Yeah, did you hear that baseball! Second favorite. That’s all because your fans all know stuff about their sport now unlike football where we still concentrate primarily on the body language of the head coach.

Scores of math whizzes, nerds and live-in-their-parent’s-basement

Classic. Living in your parents’ basement is better than living under a bridge, amirite?

geeks are threatening to turn Royals at Rangers into a Bobby Fisher vs. Boris Spassky chess match, minus the intellect.

Your intelligent analysis is boring, and also not intelligent, and also boring.

This absurd baseball math obsession is now spilling over into basketball, hockey and football; in a few months, this trend will turn your child’s dodgeball game into a series of where is the best place to put little Jimmy so as to ensure his greatest chances of being able to dip, dive, duck and dodge.

Dude….C’mon. Look, it’s one thing to appeal to the lowest common denominator, or as we refer to them here, JScommenters, but if you’re going to do that, you have to get your Dodgeball quotes right. Patches O’Houlihan teaches you the FIVE D’s of dodgeball. FIVE. I understand that you hate math, but I think you can get all the way to five. They are, of course, dodge, dip, duck, dive, and…dodge.

Baseball was never intended to be math homework, but now baseball fans are watching pitch counts more closely than we do wins/losses, strikeouts or ERAs.

This is my favorite part of this column. It’s one thing to rip on WAR which uses a somewhat opaque formula, and has multiple versions and takes some actual effort to understand. It’s another thing entirely to rip on pitch counts because…math? All of these things are counting. The only difference (in terms of math) with pitch counts is that you have to count higher. Which, given Max’s Dodgeball issues may be the problem.

Kids, don’t listen to your parents or teachers. In this case, math is not your friend.

Kids, if understanding concepts about something makes it less fun, the best thing to do is simply not to learn the concept in the first place. Now let’s go look at the Ark exhibit and ride the dinosaur.

Math has made us all paranoid that our favorite player is going to get hurt the moment he reaches a certain figure, or be reduced to trash if he goes a little too far.

Math doesn’t make people afraid. Math allows you to understand the situation so you can deal with it like a mature, reasonable person. That’s it.

There is no better example of this than Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, who threw 99 pitches against the Royals on Sunday.

So that’s terrible because he only threw 99, and he was “gassed,” according to his manager.

I actually don’t like pitch counts. I’d actually like to rely on a manager’s judgment regarding the fatigue level of his pitcher. I’m not sure I want to rely on Ron Washington’s judgment specifically, but this sounds like a good situation where numbers weren’t really used. I mean, around 100 pitches most pitchers will get fatigued, at which point the manager should be looking for signs of exactly that. This is stupid. Also, Ron Washington is so very much not a numbers guy.

A few weeks ago, Rangers manager Ron Washington was the second coming of noted arm destroyer Dusty Baker, when he had the audacity to allow Yu to throw 130 pitches against the Detroit Tigers.

We’re about to have one of those moments where we have to mention that maybe the author should have checked Baseball Reference a little more closely.

Let the man pitch the baseball on the baseball field.

BREAKING: Yu Darvish has been forced by Ron Washington to pitch on ice rinks.

Let them play baseball and quit being a prisoner to all of these bleepin’ numbers.

As alluded to earlier, there is an awesome website called baseball-reference.com that allows you to look up “statistics” which ARE numbers, but don’t be scared! You’re probably already used to erasing your browser history so no one will ever know.

Anyway, if you go and look up “Yu Darvish” and look at “Gamelog” you can see that Darvish has thrown 100 or more pitches in 10 of 12 starts this season, and that doing so is the rule, not the exception. Moreover, you might notice that in Darvish’s start following his 130-pitch outing he was effective, but only got through 6 innings despite throwing 101 pitches. You’ll also notice some warning signs. He walked 3 people which is high for Darvish. He drilled some poor guy. And he allowed a HR. It was a solo shot, but still, not ideal. There were some signs that he wasn’t as sharp as he normally is.

You will also notice that in his next start he threw 116 pitches. In that game he struck out 14 and didn’t walk anyone. And you may notice that Washington let him go quite a while, and perhaps regretted leaving him in quite as long as he did as he surrendered a game-tying 2-run HR to Did Gregorious in the 8th inning on his 111th pitch. Whoops.

Throwing a baseball is an unnatural and demanding activity for the human arm. The shoulder and elbow were not intended to throw a little object at a high velocity over and over and over again.

The activity alone begs for injury.

I FJM stuff fairly frequently and I’m always shocked by the frequency with which poor writers list off points that clearly cut against whatever it is they’re trying to prove. Baseball people use pitch counts not to be namby-pamby weenies, but to try and get the most out of their fairly fragile assets. Pitching is hard, that’s why they study this stuff. But your “let’em go til they die” strategy; that’s probably good too.

The same goes for the recreational runner who suffers shin splints, plantar fasciitis or a turned ankle.

The Rangers owe Yu Darvish $50.5 million through 2017. No one owes a recreational runner diddly-squat.

We weren’t designed to run 26.2 miles, and we are not supposed to throw a ball 100 mph.

Tramps like us…*

We do these things because we can and, often as a result, we are probably going to get hurt at some point.

For most of us who participate in physical activity, it is simply a matter of time before something goes wrong.

Yeah, sure, but getting hurt is not all randomness. If a player is already hurt he may suffer a cascade injury. If a players doesn’t let a concussion heal long enough he’s more likely to be concussed again. But again, your play them til they die policy is intriguing.

I spoke with former big-league pitcher and ex-Texas Rangers pitching coach Orel Hershiser about what he says has become part of baseball’s culture.

His take on this goes back to the ’80s when the media (they ruin everything!) started to ask about pitch counts, and then it became a cover-their-butts move by managers and coaches.

A little counting clicker has completely changed what is expected of the starting pitcher and, in the process, made managers, GMs and fans all scared to death of the ramifications of throwing “too many pitches.”

“Not every pitch is as strenuous as the last pitch or the next pitch,” Hershiser said. “There are some times 130 pitches can be easier than 60. If you throw one or two pitches with bad mechanics and tweak your back, the wear and tear on your next 30 pitches isn’t even close.

I just thought I’d break in to point out that Hershiser led the NL in IP In 1987-1989, (1987 as part of a 4-man rotation) and promptly tore his rotator cuff at the beginning of the 1990 season, missed the rest of the year, and only threw 112 innings in 1991. Also, he was never as effective again, though he was never bad.

“You said, ‘If someone is going to get hurt, they are going to get hurt’ — there is some validity to that. The weather, the inning, the ballpark, the lineup he is facing, mechanics, all of these things have validity, but none of them are the reason.”

We are panicking for no reason and obsessing over Yu’s pitch count is fruitless.

Says the guy who doesn’t have to pay him $50 mil. Other than Orel Hershiser basically invoking destiny, Max hasn’t provided a shred of evidence that pitch counts are counterproductive. And by the way, there is a ton of research that AGREES with Max on that point.

A few weeks ago it was a big deal that he threw 130 pitches.

Today, it’s a big deal he threw only 99.

All of this number-watching obviously does work or sports teams would not be spending millions and creating new departments to research tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, etc.

Oh, good, so you can go ahead and delete the whole beginning part of your article then instead of publishing it in a newspaper.

But it is still sport, and nothing will ever be able to trump the inherent unpredictability of baseball.

Construction work is unpredictable, so why where helmets? Or have forklift training? After all, if someone is going to get hurt…

After all, the stats say Nelson Cruz makes that catch in Game 6 in the 2011 World Series. But he didn’t, so where is your math there?

Cruz is, by all accounts a good defensive player, and he probably does make that play more often than not. Also, .333 hitters don’t go 1/3 every night.

That is why we watch, for the precise reason that it is not a math assignment.

Math is never wrong.

Baseball very much is, which is why I love it.

I also love baseball, but I also understand baseball. I’m offended that someone would think love increases as ignorance increases.

Hershiser is right when he says all of this math is based on the past.

Unless you are Marty McFly or The Doctor, everything is based on the past.

And if we knew exactly how it all was all going to turn out, why would we watch?

Cool, strawmen can time travel now. I will now use my time-traveling strawman to set this article on fire.

*It’s possible that this book is bullshit. I’ve read a few things that argue against some of his basic premises, but it’s an interesting read.