Friday, April 29, 2011

Captain Clutch

A quick post - some food for thought. Especially for someone who took Jeter in our fantasy pool:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gambling on Health

We are one month into the fantasy baseball season. My team has climbed slowly from second-last place to seventh (I know that is no glory but it’s a start). However, I am beginning to suspect that I am cursed. My boys are dropping like flies! Injuries in baseball are inevitable, I know, but why must the luck dragons shit on me so hard!? Going into the draft, my scope on injuries was as follows: don’t pick Derrek Lee. He is injury prone (ironically he remains in good health). I have discovered that the art of gambling on the health of players requires a lot of learned knowledge, achieved through experience and a good dose of luck.

From week one, I was already at a disadvantage. I had drafted Johnny Cueto and Brian Matusz. I put Cueto on the DL (we only get one DL spot — THANKS A LOT JAY!!) and resigned myself to having Matusz waste space on my roster. I still am unsure about what I need to do about this situation. I have already waited a month for at least one of them to get back into the game. When should I set the drop-dead date? I want to believe that Cueto will be back after a few more AAA starts. Matusz is so far away from returning. How do I calculate the cost of him sitting on my bench vs. his projected value?

Then there was my gamble on little Tsuyoshi Nikioshia (I suffer from the Japanese baseball player bias). I knew Tsuyoshi was a risk as it was his first year in the MLB but I was willing to give him a chance. I had delusions of grandeur of owning this stealth little RBI-earning, stealing machine. I watched him play against the Jays for opening weekend and was amused — but definitely not impressed — with his performance. As much as I enjoyed his antics, I knew I needed to let him go. On the day that I dropped him, Nick Swisher broke his motherfucking leg!! Although I preemptively dumped him, I still feel that this is relevant to my Curse.

My next big hit was Josh Hamilton. Why didn’t anyone warn me about his substance abuse issues?!? Why did he have to dive for third!? He was one of my few power hitters. He was my stud. Now he rots on my bench with Matusz. I have been told that Hamilton was out for six weeks last season but still managed to amass 95 runs, 186 hits and 100 RBIs. I have considered trying to leverage his solid track record in a trade for something that will help me in the now, but at the end of the day, I think I will keep him.

In the last week, I have had a series of mediocre player injuries. The first to go was Aaron Hill. I like Aaron Hill a lot but he has definitely not been having a great season. Next was Josh Willingham (my replacement Tsuyoshi) followed by Chris Coghlan. The latter two are only on day-to-day but when I have no players to put in the game, and three under-performers sitting on my bench, I really begin to question what I am doing with my team. Are they really worth waiting for?

In total, I have six players out of 24 injured. I know it is time for me step it up as GM and make some decisions. Do I have faith in the law of averages? Will my super team ever come into fruition? This is what keeps me up late at night.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

2011 Pitching Rankings

In the coming days I'll be taking a look at each of the teams in baseball and their current (as of the day of the post) pitching rotations. Why? Because I found myself wondering "if I was a Pirates fan, should I be excited"? Since you have to be an ESPN Insider to see Keith Law's rankings of MiLB systems, I've decided to use AOL's Frankie Piliere's rankings.

I will tackle one division at a time over the next week or so.

Today we look at the American League East.

Baltimore Orioles (Currently 8-12, 5th in AL East)
1. Jeremy Guthrie
2. Chris Tillman
3. Zach Britton
4. Jake Arrieta
5. Brad Bergesen
(Currently on the disabled list - Brian Matusz)

The Orioles sport the second youngest starting 5 (25.6) in the division and a collective ERA of 4.56 and a WHIP of 1.27. With a minor league system ranked 25th overall it would appear that these pitchers are the foundation of their rotation for quite awhile. Barring major injury or blockbuster trades we can expect to see these guys for awhile at Camden Yards. Jeremy Guthrie is the elder statesman of the bunch at the ripe old age of 32. In 2010 the Orioles farm system was ranked 6th in baseball, so this year's ranking may be indicative that the kids have moved from the farm system to the big show.

Boston Red Sox (currently 10-11, 3rd in the AL East)
1. Jon Lester
2. John Lackey
3. Clay Buchholz
4. Josh Beckett
5. Daisuke Matsuzaka

The Red Sox have the second oldest rotation (29) within the division and a collective ERA of 4.05 and a 1.26 WHIP. Not unlike the O's, the Sox have recently cleaned out the high end prospects in their system (Lester, Buchholz) and have most of their players in their most productive years (in terms of age). Seeing a modest fall from 11 to 14 in the AOL Rankings shows the impact of the Adrian Gonzalez deal. Anthony Ranaudo is their next "ace in the making", albeit at least 2 seasons away, the 21 year old has averaged 10.22 K/9 at LSU. He's currently playing for the A level Greenville Drive.

New York Yankees (currently 12-7, 1st in the AL East)
1. C.C. Sabathia
2. A.J. Burnett
3. Bartolo Colon
4. Ivan Nova
5. Freddie Garcia
(currently on the DL - Phil Hughes)

New York was hit hard in the past couple years with prospect problems. Joba Chamberlain was supposed to become Roger Clemens lite - he didn't. Phil Hughes was an 18 game winner in 2010 - and now has a dead arm. The Yankees currently sport the oldest starting 5 in the division (31.8) with a collective ERA of 3.78 (but if you include Hughes starts that goes to 5.47) and a WHIP of 1.27 (going to 1.44 with Hughes). What you've got here is a fragile rotation that has been moderately effective in so far. Sabathia is a work horse, but to expect consistency from Burnett, or Freddie Garcia to continue to post a 0.69 ERA/0.69 WHIP is simply asinine. What they do have is a system that sports a fine collection of young arms and made a jump from 15th to 4th in the offseason. Names to watch out for: Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman.

Tampa Bay Rays (currently 11-11, 2nd in the AL East)
1. David Price
2. James Shields
3. Wade Davis
4. Jeff Neimann
5. Jeremy Hellickson

By now everyone knows that Tampa is insanely talented. They're young, fearless and potentially androids from another planet. With the third youngest rotation in the division (26.2) they're posting absolutely obscene numbers. Collectively an ERA of 3.93 and a WHIP of 1.24, both of which were escalated by a poor first week. This rotation is good...really good. They're also really young. Stud in the making, Jeremy Hellickson, has 4 pitches that he can use to get batters out and pinpoint control. The scary thing about this team is that they're only going to get better. They dropped from the #1 system to #3 in 2011, but have a new influx of impact arms that they gathered in the Matt Garza trade. Names to look out for: Chris Archer, Matt Moore and Alex Colome.

Toronto Blue Jays (Currently 9-12, 4th in the AL East)
1. Ricky Romero
2. Kyle Drabek
3. Brandon Morrow
4. Jo-Jo Reyes
5. Jesse Listch
(recently demoted - Brett Cecil)

The Blue Jays currently sport the youngest rotation in the division (25.4) with a collective ERA of 4.31 and a WHIP of 1.32. Those first three names will be the top of this list for quite some time. This rotation is another product of the highly ranked minor league system. Romero and Listch are both draft picks, and Drabek came to Toronto in the Roy Halladay trade with Philadelphia. Morrow, a reclamation project from Seattle, has turned into what A.J. Burnett would have been if he had control (also, without the history of injury). In 2010, AOL ranked the Jays system 26th, where in 2011 they jump all the way up to 5th. The 2010 draft class was particularly strong for the Jays (no longer adhering to the slotting system) and it's a matter of when not if, that Zach Stewart will be called up for his shot.

Top 5 Pitchers NOW
1. C.C. Sabathia
2. Jon Lester
3. David Price
4. Brandon Morrow
4. Ricky Romero

Top 5 Pitchers FUTURE
1. Jeremy Hellickson
2. Kyle Drabek
3. Brian Matusz
4. Wade Davis
5. Jake Arrieta

RtH Ass-Clown Rankings, POATW Edition

Tough times have fallen here in Ass-clown land. Due to some extremely underpants gnome-like administrating, I am without a job. And while it's hard to not put my former employers in this week's AC Ranks, these rankings are for baseball, not real-life. And I promise that my real-life problems will only make me all the more snarky for this week's version of the Relay to Home Ass-Clown Rankings, The Pissed Off at the World Edition And awaaayy we go!

5. Jim Tressell, HC, Ohio State. Last week, NR. What? This isn't allowed? Bite me! I had a rough week, I hate OSU and these are my rankings. So, nyahh! I work hard to make sure that I do my job right, yet still lose my job. This tool ignores a major component of his job, compliance, yet he'll probably keep his gig. The fine he'll pay for his buffoonery would have helped in keeping my former employer from declaring bankruptcy.

4. Frank McCourt, Owner, LAD. Last week, NR. For starters, he's an owner, which makes him an automatic dink. Now he can't seem to get divorced without turning into a drama filled soap-opera. Dude, you're a frickin' gajillionaire! Give the broad what she wants and move on and maybe let your team operate without all these distractions. The cash he's gonna give up to his ex would have more than helped keep my job from disappearing.

3. Manny Ramirez, ex-OF, kicked out retired. Last week, 2nd. I checked, yup, he's still an Ass-Clown. Million dollar bat...ten cent head. He'd be an automatic administrator with my former employer.

2. Josh Hamilton, OF, TEX. Last week, 1st. He didn't give me any reason to remove him from the rankings yet, but like my former employer, he blamed his own incompetence on someone else.

1. Mike Leake, SP, CIN. Last week, NR. Must. Resist. Urge. To. Kill. The amount of money this douchebag makes in one year would have also been enough to keep my former employer from folding. Yet he feels he doesn't have to pay for $50 worth of t-shirts? Um, don't you get crap-loads of free shit already for being a major- league ballplayer? INCLUDING T-SHIRTS!?!? Tell you what. Pay me 1/8 of your salary and I'll serve as your personal t-shirt buyer. Stop the damn world, I wanna get off.

See you next week, dammit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tales from the Box Office: Episode 1 - How to buy tickets at the Box Office

I have been working in ticketing/box office for quite awhile now. Having read numerous fan accounts of box office experiences and heard first hand the outrage over certain aspects I thought I would use my new blog as a way to express a few token points. Points on how to make your experience better and faster at the window.

When you come to the window there are two basic things you need to know (one will suffice, but both are preferred)
  • Know where you want to sit
  • Know how much you want to spend
This allows us to quickly find your seats. Saying things like "what's available?" or "can my group of 15 adults, 2 kids and my great grandmother get seats in a row" gets in the way of quickly assessing the basic need to define where you want to sit.

After that - Payment.
The biggest thing to remember is that one payment is faster and easier than fourteen. Planning ahead allows for you and your group to give everyone money, or convince your friend who's been drinking since 11am to use his credit card. But if you must use multiple transactions, a few tips:
  • Multiple payments are easiest with cash. Go the ATM and make this happen.
  • This takes time, patience is key.
  • When I hand you a debit/credit receipt - that isn't your ticket. The tickets print at the end (no matter where you are) and we'll give them to you when the account is paid off.
If you bought your tickets online, or from a sales person over the phone make sure to bring your ID and the credit card you used. This is especially relevant if you're picking up pre-paid tickets.

Any venue spends tens of thousands of dollars on signage. It's best to think of signs as your FAQ at the game. Read them.

Some other random points:
  • Don't get pissed when you have to stand in line. The only person that cares who you are is your grandmother.
  • There's service charges on EVERYTHING...accept this.
  • No, if you show up in the 5th inning the tickets aren't half price.
  • If there are no In and Out privileges that doesn't mean "leave for a smoke and harass the staff to let you back in". Your failure to read isn't our problem.
  • Remember that there are somewhere between 35 and 50 windows open selling tickets. If you don't make up your mind fast enough someone else will get the tickets you want. Man up and make a decision.
When push comes to shove, just be nice. If you made the mistake of leaving your tickets on the counter at home getting angry at us doesn't help. If we screwed happens. Yes, even box office staff aren't perfect. Sometimes we don't know how to ask the computer to do what we need it to. Sometimes we run out of ticket stock, change or patience. But knowing that we want you out of our window and in the seat should be enough to calm you down and reassure you that everything is going to be ok.

I work in a box office for an MLB team. I'm sure if you've read this blog you know which one, or can easily figure it out. For the sake of keeping my job, the team name will never appear in a TFTBO post.

Tim Lincecum on Playoff Expansion

Courtesy of Cam Inman of the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Personally I think it's kind of funky, just because the game has been this way for so long. Why mess it up, other than for monetary purposes, and that's probably what (Selig) is looking at. That's like, 'OK, don't worry about us as human beings or players.'

"It doesn't seem very fair, and personally I don't know where his head is at. It doesn't seem right to me."

"Nobody wants to have to worry, 'Oh (expletive), now I've got another (expletive) team in the (expletive) mix. Now we have to worry about what that takes and what they're going to do. What if the (second) wild-card team is not deserving of getting in?"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Luck Dragons

We've been writing about the Blue Jays a lot lately. This is a trend that Liz and I are working on fixing.

That said, tonight we went to the Jays/Rays game and saw something that you could have 1000 guesses at and never get right.

1. Who got the hit in the 11th inning with 1 out to break an 0-14 streak?
A. Juan Rivera
2. Who was the pinch runner?
A. Chris Woodward
3. Who hit the walk-off home run in the 11th inning?
A. John Mc'freakin'Donald.

Yeah, this week I wrote a post waxing poetic about the lack of an ability to make a decision in the 9th against Mariano Rivera. With Aaron Hill hurt, McDonald was the only option and he executed a safety squeeze bunt to tie the game. A beloved Blue Jay, by all accounts a fantastic human being, and a true "gamer" according to twitter...I wasn't a fan of the move. More specifically, I called into question the 9 man bullpen leaving no options on the bench.

Sitting with Liz, who has defended JMac after my post, and Dr. J and Genna (two of our most favourite commenters) they all took the opportunity to mock me when the ball went out of the yard. It didn't help that I had just decreed that "the numbers tell the story...and the pinch runner will be neutralized by the impending pop out to 3rd". The very next pitch made a liar out of me.

I'll probably gloat publicly when I'm this time I'll admit that the luck dragons were on the right side of the diamond tonight. The Baseball Gods are a fickle bunch of cynical jerks though - so I worry for the debut of Brandon "Why So Serious" Morrow tomorrow afternoon.

Good night!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Coming soon to a city near you...the Playoffs!

On this wonderful day off from work (yes, religious context...I didn't have to work today and for that I'm thankful) I've finally been able to spend some time with my Google Reader and I see that our dear friend Bud Selig is talking about expanded playoffs. Yesterday in a press release Selig said claimed that there's been substantial talks about introducing an extra wild card qualifier from each league.

That would mean 10 of the 30 teams make the playoffs and we routinely see baseball into November. Details from Selig's statement can be read here.

  • Over at Fangraphs they look at the pros and cons of the expanded playoffs and then have their own proposal.

Whether you think about the MLB adding extra teams to the playoffs, or the NFL expanding the season to 18 games it all comes down to one factor. Cash in the owners pockets. Baseball teams (read:owners) make truckloads of cash whether their team gets swept or runs any given series to it's full length the teams pull in huge amounts of revenue. At The Biz of Baseball Maury Brown takes a look at how the Minnesota Twins playoff appearance (read: chokejob) added millions of dollars to their season. To be absolutely clear - the 2010 Twins played 3 games. They got swept by the Yankees in the Division Series.

While actual playoff figures aren't publicly released, based on the '08 Rays and '09 Angels runs each home game is worth somewhere in the realm of $2 million. According to the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal:

60 percent of total gate receipts from non-deciding games — the first three games of the Division Series and the first four games of both the Championship Series and the World Series — go into a pool for postseason players, with the other 40 percent going to the home team. The home team receives 100 percent of the revenue for any additional non- deciding games played within a series.

The player pool is distributed as follows: 36 percent to the World Series winner, 24 percent to the World Series loser, 12 percent to the two Championship Series losers, 3 percent to each of the four Division Series losers and 1 percent to each of the four second-place teams that did not make the playoffs as a wild card

In other words more playoffs means more money. More tickets sold, more concessions and in the end more season tickets for the following year.

Teams on the verge of the playoffs will see this their chance to compete. But with 10 different teams in the League Championship Series in the last 6 seasons does adding more teams to the mix emphasize more parity or more money to the perennial playoff teams owners?

If we do end up seeing lots of playoff baseball in November, you can be promised many more videos like this. Nobody needs that.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Braving the Upper Deck

With my trusty Star pass, I have gone to 6 out of 8 home games. That works out to about $71 [($11x3) + ($14x2) + ($2 service fees x 5)] in ‘spending’ versus the $114 total cost of the pass (this includes taxes and service fees; the home opener was excluded from the pass). Therefore, I am only 38% or about 3.5 games away from the break-even point and its only April. (Win!) Note: Stay tuned for my post-season analysis of Jays wins vs. losses, with the added variable of whether or not I attended.

Although I love a good deal (my natural response to a compliment is to tell the person what a great deal I got), I am finding it a little challenging to acclimatize to the 500 level savagery. Some observations and thoughts:

1) I am a busy lady and sometimes can’t get to the game for first pitch. I have always abided by the rule that you respect the batter and the other patrons by waiting between batters to walk to your seats. I can safely say without generalizing that the majority of people in the 500 level do not respect this rule. I would also argue that they are not aware of this courtesy. Does the rule not apply to the 500s? This annoys me both when I am seated (Would you please sit the fuck down so I can watch the game?) and when I am patiently waiting at the entrance as groups and groups of people push by me to get to their seats. They look at me like I am in the way and I look back at them with disdain. Also in this category, excess trips to the lobby. Please can we just watch some baseball?

2) I know quite a few people who have passes and sometimes I will venture over to another section to watch an inning or two. This week, I visited an old friend from grade school and his posse. It was a close game that the Jays ended-up winning (albeit the luck dragon was in the house. Also here and here). I think they really needed our support, especially against those assface Yankees. The boys I visited with actually booed and heckled the Jays! I was astounded especially since they were supposed Jays’ fans.’ They really hated on Johnny Mac which is a definite sore spot (more to come on that another day). After they moved on to Hill, I gracefully made my escape. I also thanked my lucky stars that that sacrifice bunt worked out for John McDonald.

A similar incident happened last night. I brought some ladies from work with me and my beloved work spouse also heckled the Jays! I will give her credit in that she quickly picked up on her own that Colon was fat and that she should yell that. I also feel she was egging me on to an extent. She was not being very supportive of Jays pitchers (at one point she yelled at Casey Jansesen “You only have thrown 6 pitches and already have two on base, you suck!”) I, in total seriousness, told her I was never going to another game with her again. Her response was to cheer for Jeter and tell me that she is going to get me a Jeter jersey for my upcoming birthday. Not even funny. (Note: I love my work spouse and am clearly not petty enough to let this experience permanently affect our relationship.) I think that, with regard to baseball company, I have been really spoiled by my two awesome baseball mentors and my neighbor; I’ve come to expect a certain level of poise and intelligence from fellow fans (well except for the days that we all get wicked drunk). It’s either that or the boys have groomed me into some sort of baseball snob.

3) Please don’t try to continually start the wave. If it doesn’t catch on after 3 tries (that is me being charitable), just give up. You suck.

4) Why are the floors so disgustingly sticky up there? Where is the beer guy?

5) To all the gentlemen out there who want to come scope out some good cleavage and tons of ‘I Heart BJs’ shirts, the 500 level has no shortage.

6) I saw a guy get kicked out a couple of weeks ago. He was a 500 crowd favourite. I was happy that I could see but not hear him. Upon being escorted out, he got a standing ovation from his neighbouring sections. This was mildly entertaining for about 2 seconds but then he hulk –style ripped off his t-shirt. It was amazing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

9am Quick Hits

Options limiting your options?

For those who missed it, the Blue Jays optioned Jesse Litsch to AAA in favour of Jo-Jo Reyes yesterday. This makes no sense statistically, but since Reyes is out of options on his contract, sending him to the minors would expose him to a waivers claim. Manager John Farrell said “We can’t afford to give away pitching at this point in the year”. Apparently they can afford to give the ball to a guy with a 14.9 H/9 and a 4.7 BB/9 every fifth day. I’ll be clear, neither Jo-Jo or Jesse are going to be impact players, so while this move reeks of vanilla, this move allows them another 2 starts (at least) out of Jo-Jo before deciding to cut bait or move him to the bullpen.

4/19 at the Dome

Last night the Blue Jays did the “impossible”…they beat Mariano Rivera. He came into the game with the Yankees ahead 5-3 and blew the save on a John MacDonald suicide squeeze play. Because of an Aaron Hill injury earlier in the game and the Blue Jays desire to have a 9 man bullpen, there were no better options than John MacDonald. (Let me clarify, I like JMac…just not in a situation like this). The play happened, it was a great success and eventually the Jays won in the 10th on a walkoff double by Travis Snider. But seriously?!?!? You want to leave the offensive game in the hands of John MacDonald? I had an exchange with two of my followers on Twitter about this and they both seemed to think that because the play was a success that justified it.

A bunt is possibly the most overrated play in baseball because even if executed perfectly it has a negative impact on your leverage index (according to Fangraphs). In this one instance, it worked. My mother taught me that the ends do not justify the means…and therefore, just because the play was a success doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Baseball is a game of luck…Escobar’s leadoff double, Snider moving the runner over, Bautista working a walk and Escobar scoring on a wild pitch – that’s good baseball. John MacDonald executing a suicide squeeze for the tie – that’s luck my friends. PURE LUCK!

Final thoughts

I’ve been to two Jays games so far this year. I’ve seen Yunel Escobar hit a walkoff homerun to beat the Athletics and last night’s showcase against the Yankees. For all the bad that was the 10 game, 11 day roadtrip, this team reminds me of the Tampa Bay Rays when they started to put it all together. Relying on role players (Escobar, Jayson Nix, sigh…John MacDonald) to fill specific needs. They’re running wild over the league, stealing bases like they’re in short supply and have been in every game they’ve played (outside of Boston). They might lose more then they win this year, but one big change from a year ago…they’re a younger, more exciting team to watch.

Monday, April 18, 2011

RtH Ass-Clown Rankings, Inaugural Edition, 2011

Um, hi. My name is John. And I’m a Milwaukee Brewers fan.

That’s all you need to know about my baseball history. I’ve watched MANY awful baseball players through the years as a Milwaukee fan, and slowly began to realize that, year after year, I always had a list of “most hated” players by the end of the season. A couple of seasons ago I started posting these rankings on my Facebook page, under the title of The Brewers Ass-Clown Rankings. Jeff Suppan was the first and only #1 on the list for 2 years until his contract finally came off the Brewers’ books this spring.

When Jay asked me if I wanted to contribute a weekly (ha!) MLB Ass –Clown Ranking for Relay to Home, it was a no brainer. Heck, yeah! There are plenty of the other Ass-Clown players and fans out there that I can make fun of! This’ll be a hoot!

I admit, this won’t be very scientific and is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. My hope is that this part of RtH will be the witty and lighted-hearted side to the serious and more in-depth analysis that you will find on this blog. Some weeks may be totally devoted to my team, others to the entire MLB or even other teams (I think the Cubs might a regular target of mine).

So, without further delay, here is the Inaugural Ass-Clown Rankings for April 16, 2011:

5) Yovanni Gallardo, P, Milwaukee Brewers. Yeah, it’s a homer pick. So what of it? C’mon, Yo. Giving up homers to Danny Espinosa and Ivan Rodriguez? 7 runs in 5.1 IP with an ineffiecient 105 pitches? Not the stuff of a staff ace there, my friend.

4) Chone Figgins, IF, Seattle Mariners. Chone, you’re here for making be believe in Spring Training that you might actually have a good year and subsequently drafting you in my Fantasy League. I will now commence pronouncing your first name how it is actually spelled, Cho-nee.

3) Carl Crawford, OF, Boston Red Sox. He’s been placed here mostly at the request of my Red Sox-fan friends (cough, girlfriend), but admittedly, he has really stunk of the joint so far this season. Dude, relax, you're a great player on a great team. Don't let those idiot fans in Bahston freak you out so wicked hahd!

2) Manny Ramirez, OF, Tampa Bay Rays. Most think that Manny should be #1, but that would be too easy. Still, Manny, step away from the powdered supplements!

Drum Roll, please! And this weeks No. 1 Ass-Clown is…………………..

Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers. No, he’s not here because he broke his arm. That was a just unlucky. He’s here because he threw his third-base coach under bus and blamed him for the fact he broke his arm. Good grief! Really? It’s amazing what millions of dollars does to your perception of the world around you. You stay classy, Josh! Enjoy your stay on the DL and, more importantly, atop the MLB AC Ranking!

The Snider Stache

Last September, after a bit of heartache, I was feeling down in the dumps (I suppose in retrospect I was also mourning the end of my best baseball season ever.) As I laid on the couch, likely in my pajamas eating chips, I turned on the TV. It was Cito’s last game as manager and the last home game of the season. My spirits were immediately lifted by the following image:

Yes, I took a picture of my tv. That is not the point! This beautiful display of comradery appealed directly to my big heart and discerning sense of humour. The stache looked as good on Snider as that HR he hit in the bottom of the first. It was really touching of them to honour Cito in such a thoughtful manner. In the midst of my stachegasm, my friend Jenna, stopped by to say hi/console me. The next morning, I arrived at work to find this beautiful spread in my inbox.

The Frenchman

The Cito

The Overstache

The Fu Manchu

The Plumber

The Mutton Chops

The Lumber Jack

The Kitty

The Adolph

Jenna totally gets me. I was a little disappointed last week when Snides shaved off his mustache for the Mariners series (thankfully he kept the luscious locks). I suspect he was just following the code. Like Lyle Overbay and his overstache last season, poor performance will always take the novelty out of an ironic mustache.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Best 1-2 Punch?

Last week on several ESPN podcasts and blog posts the question which team in the game today has the best 1-2 punch offensively? If you navigate your way over to the Sweet Spot blog, Steve Berthiaume comes to the mathematical and logical conclusion that the Colorado Rockies combination of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitski forms the best punch in the game.

He uses WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as a prime tool in establishing this conclusion (as well as some 2011 adjustments). On the same post he compares that tandem to others like Josh Hamilton/Nelson Cruz in Texas, Albert Pujols/Matt Holliday in St. Louis, Prince Fielder/Ryan Braun in Milwaukee and Joey Votto/Jay Bruce in Cincinnati.

Below are the combined WAR of each of those tandems:

Pujols (7.3)/Holliday (6.9) -- 14.2
Hamilton (8.0)/Cruz (5.1) -- 13.1
Votto (7.4)/Bruce (5.3) -- 12.7
Tulowitski (6.4)/Gonzalez (6.0) -- 12.4
Fielder (4.1)/Braun (4.2) -- 8.3
(Source: ESPN Sweet Spot Blog)

To provide some perspective, Texas, Colorado, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Cincinnati have ALL gone to the playoffs (or won championships) in the last decade. As a Jays fan, I was a little surprised to not see any names on any lists. Do I simply look through blue-tinted glasses in awe of Jose Bautista's ability to draw walks and hit home-runs (not to mention his great beard). So I looked back through the past couple years...hoping to see a 1-2 punch that would compare (using WAR as a basis for comparison).

2010 - Jose Bautista (5.6)/Vernon Wells (4.0) = (9.6 WAR)
2009 - Marco Scutaro (5.5)/Aaron Hill (5.4) = (10.9 WAR)
2008 - Scott Rolen (3.8)/Marco Scutaro (4.1) = (7.9 WAR)
2007 - Aaron Hill (5.2)/Alex Rios (4.5) = (9.7 WAR)
2006 - Troy Glaus (4.6)/Reed Johnson (3.6) = (8.2 WAR)

Of the best 5 tandems in the game today, the Toronto Blue Jays best two players have only matched one of them...the 8.3 Combined WAR of the Milwaukee Brewers Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. In 2010 Fielder failed to match his career average numbers in AVG., HR, RBI, OPS and doubles, yet did set a career high for walks. Braun, similarly missed his career average in AVG. HR, RBI, Slugging % and OPS (On Base % + Slugging).

What does all that mean? It means that while Blue Jays fans might love their current team and think that the pieces needed for a playoff run are on the current roster (or in the high minors)...we haven't had the 1/2 punch that any of the perennial playoff contenders have on their own current rosters.

**as an interesting point of reference, the 1992 World Champion Toronto Blue Jays 1/2 punch would have been Roberto Alomar and Devon White with a combined 11.7 WAR.

***just another point of note, the 1993 World Champion Toronto Blue Jays 1/2 punch would have been Roberto Alomar and John Olerud with a combined 14.3 WAR. That line-up also had 4 players with an above 5.2 WAR and only one everyday player with a negative WAR. In other words...they were REALLY REALLY GOOD!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Checking in on PED's

So it took less than 1 week for the topic of Performance Enhancing Drugs to come up here at Relay to Home. I’m sure that doesn’t set any records, but it’s something that I see as a statement on the game that we love.

My baseball fandom, while born in the late 80’s, took real flight in the 90’s. I remember watching the 1991 World Series because I thought Kirby Puckett was awesome. I remember laying down a $5 bet with my own grandmother that the 1992 Blue Jays would win the AL Pennant, and sprinting up the stairs to claim my prize when they did. Back-to-Back Championships for my favourite team, coupled with the ongoing mediocrity of the Toronto Maple Leafs, quickly aligned me with the sport of baseball through my formative years.

I remember watching the ’92 NLCS with intrigue and wondering “who will be tougher for the Jays to beat?” At the time, I was convinced it was the powerful Pittsburgh Pirates (that feels so weird to type). That was the first time I’d seen how great Barry Bonds was. Fast forward a couple of years and we’ve come out of a work stoppage and Major League Baseball has decided to appeal to the lowest common denominator…the Home Run. Guys like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were celebrated in their local markets for their dominance on the mound, but MLB put three guys on their brand as icons of the sport, Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

Appearances on talk shows, in Nike commercials and even a spot on The Simpsons just took “the long ball” to new levels. All the while, players were growing to cartoonish sizes and hitting home runs that looked like they belonged in “Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball” and not on the actual field of play.

This continued for an entire decade from 1997 to 2007 until MLB commissioner Bud Selig (the same man who enjoyed the rejuvenation of his game through all this) appointed US Congressman George Mitchell to investigate steroid and HGH use in MLB. From that point on, players named in that report, or anyone else suspected of, confessing to or caught using “illegal performance enhancing drugs” has come under amounts of scrutiny that border on shocking.

Through this decade (of unparalleled financial gain for the game itself) the use of performance enhancing drugs was not against the rules. Players were free to police themselves, and expected not to cheat. When Barry Bonds blew up to the size of the Michelin Man, no one asked questions. When Mark McGwire looked more like a linebacker than a first baseman, no one asked questions. But Selig decided to define his legacy on the game as the commissioner that “cracked down on drug use in the game”.

Now let me state that I loved every second of it. I ran inside from the ball park to watch McGwire break the record. I got commemorative plates that I proudly hang on my walls even today to celebrate how many home runs he hit. And I think it’s absolutely ludicrous that the Baseball Writers of America now exclude players that brought the game out of the gutter (post strike) from their Hall of Fame votes.

The Steroid Era happened. If Major League Baseball is prepared to honour Barry Bonds HR record, Raphael Palmeiro’s career number of hits or Andy Pettite’s post-season dominance then all of these players deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lesson One: Why Jeter should never be your 6th round pick

Before you judge me too hard, let me begin my first post with I MADE A MISTAKE.

I caught baseball fever sometime last July. Having moved to Toronto four years ago, I was excited that I could go sit in the sun, drink beer and watch an affordable game that allowed time for me to be able to day dream and chat without missing too much of the action. One of my biggest baseball buddies, CJ was patient and quite supportive in answering all of my baseball related questions. I knew next to nothing (I admit I was that kid in little league that picked dandelions in the outfield) but increasingly I began to notice and appreciate the subtleties of baseball.

Fast forward to last season, CJ was still successfully grooming me to be a civilized Jays fan (We covered many topics from strategy and unspoken codes to Blue Jays history and of course, the meat and potatoes of the game, stats). I was loving it, attending more games than ever before, following blogs and feeling the contempt on facebook from non-baseball lovers over my obsessive status changes. The tipping point I believe was when I befriended a co-worker (Jason , creator of Relay to Home) . Now that I had TWO baseball mentors to nerd out with (especially one that I can’t escape 40 hours/week), it was game over.

When baseball ended last fall, I felt a noticeable void in my life. I really missed baseball. Unbeknownst to me at the time, there is a lot of interesting stuff that goes on offseason. After reading Moneyball and attending the first Getting Booked meeting, my mind was blown. Prior to this event, I didn’t even know what the draft was, let alone how a competitive baseball team is put together. It also helped that all the dudes at the book club were so enthusiastic and so knowledgeable on all things baseball. It got me excited in many ways. My initial introduction to sabermetrics /Jason’s persistence inspired me to join a fantasy baseball league. I was ready to release my inner Billy Beane.

This brings me to Lesson One: Why Jeter should never be your 6th round pick.

I was nervous about the draft. I had never paid much attention to other team’s players in previous seasons. It took a lot to get noticed by me if you weren’t sporting the Jays uniform. CJ gave me a copy of the 2011 Baseball Prospectus and I felt my stomach knot. How would I ever be able to make the right decisions for my team given the abundance of information and opinions floating around out there (and the lack thereof in my head)? I did exactly two mock drafts and was terrified by the 60 second time allowance. It seems like a lot of time but when it comes down to those middle rounds, I would get so lost as to who I need to get now and who will be there later.

Jason coached me; he told me to relax and focus on my position players first. No need to rush pitching. No need to worry too much about closers as they are only good for 1/12 stats. And over and over, he stressed that shortstop is shallow; if I can’t get the top two, don’t worry about it.

It’s the night of the draft. I am lying anxiously in bed. I have my prospectus out, a list of injured players ready to scan and a google window locked and loaded to quickly news search my boys for the latest headlines. Things are going pretty well until the 6th round… at the last second, everyone on my waiting list disappeared. I had to source out a new player in 60 seconds. I didn’t recognize anyone’s names at the top of the rankings. It was also convoluted with pitchers. This is where I committed the unthinkable. I fell victim to all the bullshit hype around Derek Jeter and thought “Well he will play every day and I need a SS….he couldn’t possibly be that bad! “I discounted all the negativity surrounding him as nothing more than Yankees hate. The final countdown sounded. I was stressed. I didn’t want to waste this pick. I made a wild last second dash at Jeter. The phone rings. It is Jason, calling to berate me and dump me as his protégée. This was followed by great harassment in the chat room. I defended my choice, like the noble, ever diplomatic GM that I aspire to be, saying “Oh he will get the job done. … It’s not THAT horrible of a pick.” Sigh, hindsight is 20-20.

Day 14 of the season. …I have already learned so much. I have a greater appreciation for what a crap shoot the draft is and what my decisions that night meant for my season. Has Jeter been fine? His 2011 stats thus far:

0.206 AVG, 4 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB

The guy plays almost every day and that is all he can offer me! I USED A 6TH ROUND PICK ON THIS AGING PIECE OF CRAP!!! Plus not a day goes by where someone in the league doesn’t razz me about it. I have gone through the 5 stages of grief: Denial (he will be fine), Anger (I fucking hate you, Jeter), Bargaining (I tried to trade him to a supposed Yankees lover but even he wasn’t foolish enough to want this assnut.), Depression (I am the second worst team in the league) and now finally Acceptance. I have been told that fantasy baseball is all about patience. I am trying to move on from my mistake. I am taking Orlando Cabrera for a spin, while Jeter rides wood on my bench where he belongs. Lesson one, has been a painful one. I look forward to some therapeutic jeering on April 19th when I have to see his stupid face in the flesh.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ESPN's Season Predictions Contest

Not too long ago, I received an email from an ESPN employee that I'd been chatting with on twitter (@MSimonESPN). Each year, the stats and information team puts together a chart of predictions for the baseball season that includes over/under on wins, personal picks for rookies of the year, managers of the year and World Series winners.

They weight the responses with points based on how boldly you predict (i.e. Picking the Pittsburgh Pirates to go to the playoffs nets you more points than picking the Phillies or Red Sox).

If you click HERE you can access the spreadsheet through Google Docs, take a look and even make your own picks.
If you want to fill them out on the actual document, just put your twitter feed at the top of the column and I'll be sure to do a follow up post around the All-Star break to see how everyone is doing.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Baseball Books

One of my favorite summer traditions is to start working my way through the great books about or involving baseball. This was of course aided by the efforts of Dustin Parkes over at Getting Blanked. The Toronto baseball scene has benefitted from an overwhelming amount of intelligent baseball writing online and in the spirit of that, Dustin started the Getting Booked Baseball Book Club and has started to organize movie nights at one of the city's historic cinemas.

Through this I've finally sat down and read the Michael Lewis classic Moneyball, Jonah Keri's new bestseller The Extra 2% and Dirk Hayhurst's book The Bullpen Gospels.

I continued on my own though and read John Helyar's Lords of the Realm and I'm about halfway through The Yankee Years by Tom Verducci and Joe Torre. The Yankee Years is an interesting read for me as I've found that my "Yankee-hate" has been lessening in recent years. Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira are just too damn good to not enjoy watching play. This book though is the first that I've read with such a distinct Yankee bias. Getting through the obscene amount of time dedicated to why NY loves Derek Jeter made me actually understand how good he is. I mean, I get it...he's a great ball player (with declining skills) and one hell of a leader. I have my reasons for not liking Derek Jeter, and I'll make them a little more known when the Yankees come to town next week.

That said, I'd recommend The Yankee Years to any baseball fan. The chapters dedicated to steroid use in the post-strike era made me realize how truly dirty the game was (is?) and also made me understand just how ridiculously good Roger Clemens was when he was in Toronto. With the Toronto media needing to ask the question about Jose Bautista's year last year, it seems that no one wanted to ask the question about Roger's back-to-back Cy Young seasons in Toronto.


Welcome to Relay to Home.

As an amateur baseball player, avid baseball fan and fantasy baseball addict, I have recently found myself waxing poetic about the game I love with my friends.

Many of the great memories I have to this point in my life are times at the ball park. Whether it was my own triumphs (or lack thereof) on the diamond, or my times in the stands watching my beloved Blue Jays play, I cannot deny that baseball has had, and continues to have a profound impact on my life. What do I want to provide here? Baseball talk for the every fan. Now that doesn't mean that I want to be a fanboy and jump on every wrong move that is made or declare that my favorite teams are going to win championships. I want to continue with the stream of rational, intelligent baseball chatter that I find all over the internet.

I've engaged several of my colleagues as well to contribute posts. A transplanted Brewers fan living in Albuquerque, NM. A fellow Blue Jays fan working for a Canadian football team. A new fantasy baseball player who is blown away by her run of bad luck through the first 10 games of the year. And myself...a box office working, softball playing, hopefully rational fan that can contribute something to the blogosphere about the game I love.

So thank you for stopping by! I'm really excited to start my stream of conscious thought about the greatest game in the world.