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.

Rickie’s Last 12 Games

Let’s check out this little “hot streak” that everyone is all worked up about.

Opposing pitcher Handedness Line Notes
Kershaw LHP 0-2, 1 BB, 1 RS
Greinke RHP 0-1 Faced Guerrier, also RHP
Ryu LHP 1-4 Single off League, a RHP
Locke LHP 1-4
Wandy LHP 1-3
Correia RHP 1-1 PH double off Correia
Diamond LHP 1-6 Single off Diamond, who left in 5th.
Deduno RHP 1-3, HBP
Walters RHP 1-4, double Double of Duensing, a LHP
Cloyd RHP 0-1 Weeks faced Bastardo, a LHP.
Lee LHP 1-3, BB Hit off Lee, BB of Bastardo
Milone LHP 2-3, HR, Triple

The Opposite of Fun With Stats

So May was bad. And I spent some of last night and a bit of this morning looking at the various ways that it’s been bad, because really, what better way to start the weekend? This proved to be an exercise in futility because aside from the bullpen (which is missing Jim Henderson, which is, again, bad) they’ve been bad at basically everything. Pitching, offense, TOOTBLANs, ugly yellow uniforms, etc. They haven’t had a lead for what, 59 innings now? They’re even denying us HOPE, which is maybe the worst thing you can say about a team. If you’re going to suck, at least suck in a compelling way.

But this…this may serve to illustrate just how soul-crushingly bad they’ve been in May. I’m going to give you two sets of numbers. There will be five numbers in each set. Take a look. Guess what each set is. Here we go:

Set A:

1. .924

2. .896

3. .895

4. .865

5. .816

Set B

1. 1.000

2. .987

3. .853

4. .841

5. .655

So….

Set A lists the OPSs for Jean Segura, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez, and Nori Aoki, respectively, for the month of May. The first 3 are solid All-Stars and Gomez would be an MVP candidate if the season ended today.

Set B lists the OPSs against Hiram Burgos, Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, Yovani Gallardo, and Marco Estrada, respectively, for the month of May. Basically, the Brewers pitching staff (except Marco) turned every single player they faced into the equivalent of the Brewers best players. For the entire month of May all Brewer opponent lineups were basically:

Ryan Braun

Jean Segura

Ryan Braun 2

Carlos Gomez

Aramis Ramirez

Jean Segura 2

Carlos Gomez 2

Aramis Ramirez 2

Pitcher who probably hits better than the back of the Brewer lineup.

While the Brewers were:

Aoki

Segura

Braun

Ramirez

Gomez

Extended fart noise.

By the way, by OPS, only two Brewers improved from April to May. Marco allowed an .875 OPS in April but only a .655 in May. On offense, Nori posted a .725 in April and an .816 in May. Every other Brewer was worse this month. Yuni suffered the biggest decline on offense, dropping .396 points from .848 to .452. Kyle Lohse held people to .599 in April, but dropped .388 to .987 in May.

June will be better. As my father always say, you can’t fall off the floor.

The Folly That Was Braden Looper

One of the most appalling things about the Jeffrey Hammonds signing – apart from the direct, catastrophic consequences of misjudging his talent – was the revelation that the front office at the time had no idea that elevation affected the flight of a baseball, or how to adjust for it, or were aware of the existence of home/road splits. More troubling still was the existence of the Brewers High-A affiliate, the High Desert Mavericks who played in Adelanto California at an elevation of 2,871 ft.

I mean, “High Desert” is right there in the name.

Anyway, in 2009 Doug Melvin and the Brewers saw fit to sign Braden Looper to fill a spot in a rotation.  Looper was converted into a starter by Dave Duncan’s wizardry in 2007 at the age of 31. He’d spent the previous 8 years as a pretty effective relief pitcher. He was OK for the Cardinals, but just OK (at best). In 2007 he had a 4.94 ERA (4.74 xFIP, so actually pretty horrible) and a 4.16 ERA/4.31 xFIP the following year. The best thing you can say about him is that he ate a ton of innings, approaching 200 each of his last 2 years as a Cardinal. 

There’s something else interesting about Looper. He’s mentioned in Tango/Lichtman/Dolphin’s The Book, as follows:

“Teams tend to spend a good deal of time worrying about the need for left-handed relief specialists (indeed, we have devoted an entire section discussing this topic), but one should also be aware of the usefulness of right-handed relief specialists – Pitchers who are above average (or even quite good) against right-handed hitters, but well below average against lefties. A good example would be Braden Looper, whose wOBA skill against right-handed hitters has been a solid .302 but who gets shelled to the tune of .360 when facing lefties. Pitchers like Looper can be even more useful than their left-handed counterparts, due to the greater likelihood of finding consecutive right-handed hitters in the lineup. As as many Mets fans are aware, Looper should probably not be used as an exclusive closer (i.e., used regardless of the handedness of the batters coming to the plate). Even a poor overall lefty would be more effective than Looper versus a LHB.” (Page 178, if you haven’t read The Book you really should.)

The Brewers put a good offense on the field in 2009 as they scored the 3rd most runs in the NL behind the Phils and Rockies, and let’s face it, the Rockies don’t count. They also allowed more runs than anyone but the Nationals. This should all be sounding a bit familiar. In 2009 only one Brewer starter (Yovani Galardo) had an ERA under 5.00. Two Brewer starters had ERAs over 6.00.* Braden Looper led the staff with 194.2 IP, and there are probably a few morons out there who think he wasn’t that bad on account of his 14-7 W-L record. He was terrible, and part of the reason he was terrible was simply the fact that no one realized his strengths and weaknesses. Looper was ROOGY. Everyone knew this (or should have known this) and there’s some pretty good evidence that the Cardinals at least suspected this as in Looper’s last 2 years as a Cardinal he faced lefties in only 43% of PAs.  In 2009 as a Brewer he faced lefties in 47% of plate appearances.

For his career righties hit .253/.307/.368 off of Looper. He was quite effective. Over a sample of 2204 Pas, lefties hit .297/.359/.477. For reference, Don Mattingly’s career slash line is .307/.358/.471. Basically every lefty was Don Mattingly against Looper for his entire career.

For the Brewers in 2009 righties hit .278/.325/.468 against him, which isn’t great to begin with, but lefties just destroyed the guy to the tune of .302/.365/.544. Ryan Braun’s career slash line is .314/.376/.569. He allowed 39 HRs, which is amazing. 

The Brewers ponied up 5.5 million for him and an additional 6 mill for Trevor Hoffman**.  Together they made up 14% of the Brewers’ payroll that year. Add in Jeff Suppan’s 12.75 mill and the three of them made up 30% of the team’s total salaries.

It’s not a lot of money in a vacuum, but it was such a flawed decision from the start.  Signings like that are the kind of things that bug me. The Suppan signing was a disaster. The Wolf signing was less so, but it’s worth mentioning that Wolf was a free agent the same year as Looper, and was a better pitcher, and was paid just 5 mill by the Dodgers (and gave them 214 IP with a 3.23 ERA). That 2009 pitching staff was a train wreck, and one of the primary reasons it was a train wreck is because Doug Melvin expected to get 200 innings out of a guy who turns every left-handed batter into Don Mattingly.

If there’s one area where the Melvin administration has failed miserably it’s in getting starting pitching. They’ve failed to draft high-ceiling prospects, they’ve failed to develop anyone worth a damn outside of Gallardo, and outside of the “duh” category (Sabathia, Greinke), they are seemingly incapable of finding useful pitchers on the open market, though I suppose Lohse has been OK to this point.

I don’t like it when I outguess the front office. They’re supposed to be smarter than I am. We all knew that Suppan would be terrible. Same deal with Looper. When the fans are better at picking personnel than the GM, that is the single biggest indictment of the GM.  

*2013: Currently only 2 pitchers are under 5.00 (Yo and Lohse) and 2 have ERAs over 6. Yay.

**I include Hoffman because it’s always a waste to pay for “proven closers”, especially old ones with no stuff. 

Was hiring Ken Macha the 9th worst thing Doug Melvin has ever done?

Ryan thinks so. His post is in bold. 

9) Hiring Ken Macha as manager.

One of the hardest things any general manager has to do is to hire a field manager and obviously Melvin hasn’t hit a home run with any of his three managerial hires.

I grant you that I write on a blog where our sole purpose is to nitpick managers, but I think it actually seems really easy, since the baseline for hiring a manager is “terrible”.

Still, at least Ned Yost accomplished the successful “breaking-in” of those 2000-05 draftees

He was a tactical disaster. Did you know that he had Chris Getz and his .250 OBP lead off for the Royals yesterday?  .250 OBP. 

and Ron Roenicke has a career 197-172 record.

RRR career WP% – .534

Macha – .540

The Ken Macha hire was basically a disaster from start to finish. Yes, it’s true he wasn’t given much in the way of a starting rotation to work with,

Since this is a post about Doug Melvin why don’t we take a look at said pitching personnel?

Braden Looper – 5.22 ERA

Yo – 3.73 ERA

Suppan – 5.29, but he was just one pitch away from like 3.4. Or so I’m told.

Parra – 6.36

Bush – 6.38

Villanueva – 5.34.

Ron would have best-buddied Looper into a 4.00 for sure though.

and he was tactically more in line with my thinking than either of the other two,

Hey, we agree!

but his inability to run a functional clubhouse ultimately kept him from being given the chance with a good rotation in 2011.

So…shouldn’t this mistake be “firing Ken Macha?”

What makes the hire worse was that he came to Milwaukee with a reputation for being hard to get along with,

The 2009 BP annual has this to say on the subject:

“Failures in clubhouse communication (some of them involving his once and future catcher, Jason Kendall) dogged Macha during his time in Oakland; Brewers fans will have to hope that his newfound autonomy doesn’t prompt him to unleash a flurry of bunt signs restrained during four years under Billy Beane, on an unsuspecting National League.”

I hate Jason Kendall too.

 but that didn’t seem to matter. At the end of the day, 2009 and 2010 represent tremendously blown opportunities for contention and Ken Macha was at the helm for those two debacles.

Spoken like someone who believes in pitcher wins. 

Cards v. Brewers, Just the Facts

1. The Brewers have played 42 games. 10 of those (23.8%) have been against the 1st place Cardinals.

2. The Cardinals have hit 80 singles in the 10-game match-up. The Brewers have hit 73.

3. The Cardinals have 24 extra-base hits. The Brewers have just 18.

4. The Cardinals have 26 walks. The Brewers have 18.

5. The Cardinals have grounded into 8 double plays. The Brewers have grounded into 14.

6. The Cardinals put runners in scoring position 93 times. The Brewers put runners in scoring position 74 times.

7. The Cardinals got a hit with runners in scoring position 34 times for a BA with RISP of .366.

8. The Brewers got a hit with runners in scoring position 18 times for a BA with RISP of .243.

It may have seemed like the Cards nickel-and-dimed the Brewers to death this season, but they were just better offensively. They were also better pitching-wise but you don’t really need a big breakdown to see that.