Saturday, July 26, 2014

Herald! The New Era of Defensive Baseball!

After watching a defensive juggernaut last night between the Jays at Yankees that included lots of successful shifts by the Yankees and that included 6 straight innings of scoreless ball; and inspired by a conversation between Rogers Sportnet's play-by-play man Buck Martinez with colour commentator Pat Tabler on the subject of the shift; I decided to write this short historical, 'What time is it?' piece.

Yankee Stadium, New York, New York, July 25, 2014 - 7:05 PM ET
INNING                     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9   R H  E
Toronto Blue Jays(54-50)   3  0  1  0  0  0  0  0  0   4 10 0
New York Yankees (54-48)   0  2  4  0  0  0  0  0  -   6 11 0

Nobody talks about the history of the 'juicing' of the ball a various moments in major league baseball, but the times in the history of the game where the windings of the official ball were tightened or loosened are document-able and marked great turning points in the way the game was played. In 1920 major league baseball introduced the jack-rabbit ball into the game. In the great era of pitching of the 1960's did major league baseball loosen the windings? Or did the league finally adjust to the jackrabbit ball? - a combination of the slow spread of Branch Rickey's codified farm system and a rise in the gene pool of the population of the country as a whole - resulting in a more physically fit generations one after the other coming to the ranks of the majors?

The answer is not certain.

After the revenue distribution troubles of the 1990's Major league baseball again it appears, juiced the ball once again. This was obfuscated by the introduction of performance enhancing drugs into the cultre of sport gererally and gradually into game of baseball as well. Players and coaches interviewed in the early 2000's phrased it this way - they said the ball came off the bat faster than before. They called it the "Nuclear" Baseball.

That Nuclear Ball is still in play today - now with-out the steroids that mess up any statistical analysis of the era.

Are we seeing today the culture of the game's response to the Nuclear Baseball?

In the early 2000's Joe Maddon took over as manager of the Tampa Bat Devil Rays - and he began to work with the general manager to craft a small-market-team-economic-metric that could win it all though drafting athletes rather than by drafting players by the position they played before they were drafted - and along side that, instituting a farm training system that stressed baseball fundamentals.

The idea was that the nuclear baseball got through the infield quicker, go to the gaps quicker - and also that as such, the run was less worth less than it was in the game as it existed before the nuclear ball - and conversely defense was worth more. Games we saw a lot of in the 1960's that were 3-2 affairs were now 7-5 tilts. Line drive home runs were a new thing. Line drive doubles to the wall were way more prevalent - and as such they plated more runs because there were more runners on more often when they happened.

So a double or a triple held to single was worth much more than the same defensive play made in the jack-rabbit ball era of the 1920's-1980's.

A successful team in the field in the nuclear ball era was a team that had three centre fielders, in left centre and right; as well, a winning team on the infield couldn't afford the slugger with suspect defense at 3rd - or in left. Concurrently the centre defense had to have incredible range - a centre defense on the infield erased line drive base hits, they erased ground ball base hits - and turned then into outs.

Add the digital revolution and the science of recording that new data in baseball, Sabre metrics - to add mathematical probability to defense in the form of pitching to shifts - and all of a sudden the 5-pitch pitcher with command and control becomes something a winning team must have in order to play the shift.

And there you have it a small market team Oakland and the the Rays in their turn have revolutionized the game - with the help of the cotton mill's ability to add tightness to a flying thread of cotton.

Michael Holloway
July 25, 2014

Game Box Score via ESPN Box Score:


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Jays lose Encarnacion; and a 'swing-moment' Appeal in the 8th

The Toronto Blue Jays meet an Ace pitcher with his A game; but the 1-5 score doesn't reflect the nature of this game. Many bloops fell in for the Elephants, and key bloops for the first place Athletics, found their way into gloves.

One Ace meet another tonight - and the vagaries of chance spelled another loss in this series for the Jays.

Lind's three dropped balls - one in fair territory and 2 in foul ground - made a massive difference in this game as close as it was. But for Encarnacion's quad pull in the first, Lind would not have even been playing the field tonight.

Most notably in the order of bloop plays made/not-made - Oakland's third baseman Josh Donaldson risked his career slamming head-long into the rolled up tarp on the west side of the field for a pop-up out on Munenori Kawasaki`s lead-off at-bat in the eighth with a 1-1 count.

It's worth noting that a review of the play at the plate resulted in a run erased in a 2-run game in the eighth, and the end of the inning - all with-in a millisecond of a moment after a long wait on New York's decision.

All video reply the public saw indicated the sweep tag never touched the runner - with some compelling angles of the play.

How much did the signing ace Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija (who toured the dugout in the 4th inning) have in the demeanor of this game? Quite a lot I think - as the retort was - as it turned out - the Jays' announcement before the game of their usurpation of OF Cole Gillespie off waivers from Seattle.

Weeks ago I stated that the Jays' batting order was not the problem, that the bats were fine as long as they didn't face great pitching. But as we all know - in the the play-offs it's all about .300 hitting - great pitching destroys power hitting.

The only way a power hitting line-up can win in September - can win in October - is with light's out pitching. Oakland proved that today - and with all the issues facing the Jays line-up and plus Encarnacion going down tonight - this line-up under pressure - struggles.

Yes another 1 or 2 pitcher is essential; but so too is another .300 hitter.

Kawasaki should been seen as an essential part of that solution - but his defense lacks the consistency for it - off the bench in a platoon situation is probably his path to a winning season. As a nine-hitter tonight he turned over the line-up twice.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Game Scorecard - June 27th: White Sox at Jays - Gm 2

Scored the game:
Internet Baseball Scorecard | June 27th: White Sox at Jays - Gm 2 |

Watch me pull a win outta my hat

Lots of notes in the at-bat boxes about batter approaches, pitching  strategies, and shifts - how they were pitched and how the batter dealt with them.

Jays floated a line-up designed to hit a lefty - very weak at the bottom I thought.  With Lind hot as a hot potato, I don't see the reason to create this weak right-lefty line-up unless Lind needed the day off as his injury continues to heal.

Jays almost pulled a win out of their hat* with some adroit PH-ing in the ninth - and a lot of mistakes on the field by the Sox - and one I thought, in the dugout by Chicago Manger Robin Ventura in the 8th (see Chicago 8th, batter #4).

With slugger phenom  Jose Abreu coming up next the Chicagos hit and run - which leads to a stike out and a stolen base - the Jays immediately signal 4 balls for the slugger. Could have blown the game wide open if it hadn't gone down that way.

Don't know if it was a play from the dugout or not.

* Watch me pull a win outta my hat:


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Game Scorecard - June 25th: Yankees at Jays - Gm 3

Scored the game:
Internet Baseball Scorecard | June 25th: Yankees at Jays - Gm 3 |

Game Notes


Yankees prevent a sweep with great pitching - and fine management of their pitching in the middle to late innings - plus a 5-out Save from Yankees' closer, David Robertson - who's pitches were more perfect than I have ever seen. Rivera incarnate.

Notes from within the at-bat boxes:

E Encarnacion at-bat in the 8th against Adam Warren:
Yankees are sifted left with Jeter behind 3B in shallow left (deepest short) - pitching away - the hit ball was a slider in - sharply hit ground ball right at Jeter - long throw beats Encarnacion

M Kawasaki in the ninth against David Robertson:
Kawasaki is talking to himself, zoning in on pitches that are strikes, he seems to be saying to himself (after the ball 1 waste pitch - that was in the dirt), don't swing at that one - don't swing at that one - in the zone in - the zone...
Out pitch is a 6-12 slider that drops off the dish with Kawasaki swinging over it.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Game Scorecard - June 23rd: Yankees at Jays - Gm 1

Scored the game.

Internet Baseball Scorecard | June 23rd: Yankees at Jays - Gm 1 |

Game Notes

Jays bat-around in the 2nd - Marcus Stroman has scintillating night - shuts down the Yankee order for 8 Innings on 114 pitches.

Despite losing Bautista and Lawrie this line-up is HOT ... for now. Cabrera remains Hot; Lind remains Hot. "Double E" has been Hot for a week; D Navarro is Hot right now. (Rasmus was hot in his first games back. Tonight: 0 for 4 with a walk.)

In this observers opinion, more good pitching is key to this order's long term success.

Toronto Blue Jays
Pitchers                  IP   H  R  ER  BB  SO  HR  PC-ST   ERA
Marcus Stroman (W, 4-2)   8.0  3  1  1   1   7   1   114-73  4.25

I like Gibbons' managing with the parts he has this year.

With Lawrie on the DL and Bautista out of the line-up indefinitely (for now) with a right hamstring issue, the Jays sent down Erik Kratz (C) and brought up Kevin Pillar (LF, RF, CF) and Anthony Gose (RF, CF, LF). Steve Tolleson (2B, 3B, RF, CF, SS, P) remains on the team's active roster off the bench.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Game Scorecard - June 22nd: Jays at Reds - Gm 3

Internet Baseball Scorecard |  June 22nd: Jays at Reds - Gm 3 |

Jays lose Lawrie and Bautista.

Jays lose another series - back home against NYY Monday.

Game Notes

Reds are wearing desert camouflage tops, and a group of volunteers was initiated into the US army in a ritual ceremony before the game.

Baseball is like war; but war is nothing like baseball - except in the paying public's mind after this game today perhaps.

Is it patriotic to the Republic to celebrate signing up volunteers for the Imperial Army?

I think not.

When folks say getting rid of the DH would make the game boring, I've always taken a negative approach in my retorts ... like,

'HR's are boring! Besides that, their fascist.' *

But today while watching this National League game I think I've come up with a better retort than that: ...

"The game is interesting enough without it." (actually much more interesting)

The DH only remains because American League fans don't know that, because they never see it. Could inter league play change that?

To DH or not to DH is the question. A resolution is coming - one way of the other. MLB will become all one thing; or all the other thing. The two games cannot stand in one house for very long.

* Crash Davis - 'Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist." - Bull Durham (1988)

Bottom 6th Inning:
Announced that Lawrie has a broken index finger - on the 15 day DL (for now).
Baustista has right hamstring tightness - will evaluate back in Toronto.


Sunday, June 15, 2014