Category Archives: baseball

Boy, Some Things Sure Did Happen in Baseball Tonight

First off, the Dodgers managed to hit and run themselves into the first 4-6-3-2 triple play since 1972 (h/t: Rob Neyer):

Jim Thome blasted two homers for the Twins in their 9-5 win over the Tigers. Oh, the second one was his 600th:

And it would be remiss to not mention the one nearest to my heart, Freddie Freeman’s walk-off single to put the Braves over the Giants, 6-5:

On Baseball Realignment

So realignment is suddenly in the news again, as rumors of the possibility have begun to surface.

The article cited above talks about having two 15-team leagues and eliminating divisions. This would be a radical departure for baseball, which has featured divisional play since 1969, and in addition would require a team switching leagues, which has only happened once in modern baseball, when the Brewers moved to the NL in 1998 to accommodate the expansion Rays and Diamondbacks. (Wikipedia actually says baseball at that the considered doing two 15-team leagues then, but ultimately decided not to due to various issues.)

Currently, baseball is organized into two leagues with three divisions each. This setup originates from expansion in 1969, when both leagues expanded from 12 to 14 teams and instituted two divisions of 7 teams each. Those divisions would remain in place until 1994. Since then, other changes have taken place due to further expansion, giving us our current format or 14 teams in the American League and 16 teams in the National League.

You may be wondering why there’s still two separate leagues in the first place, which is another artifact of baseball history. Until 1999, the AL and NL were indeed separate organizations – hence why one league has slightly different rules than the other. That’s why a generic term for the top level of professional baseball is the major leagues – the AL and NL together represent the two top level baseball leagues. This is in contrast to the myriad minor leagues and independent leagues. (As a side note, some consider the post-World War II Pacific Coast League the only modern third major league, but any notion of the PCL being on the same level as the as the AL and NL was squashed when the Giants and Dodgers moved west in 1954.)

So are there any problems with the current setup? Well, yes. One of the issues baseball has struggled with since realignment is the idea of the balanced schedule versus the unbalanced schedule. Currently, teams play an unbalanced schedule, which means that they will generally play teams within their division more than teams without. I know the Braves’ schedule the best, so I’ll use them as an example: they’ll play most of the teams within their division 19 times this year, and most of the teams outside their division 6 times this year. (Remember, most teams play each other in 3 game series.)

There are pros and cons to each style. The nice part about the current format is that it places a strong emphasis on winning your division. There are 4 playoff berths in each league, 3 of which go to the division winners. The downside is that the wild card is then very wild, as a team’s overall record will depend much more on the teams within their division. The balanced schedule fixes that issue, but then the divisions are just arbitrary splits because everyone plays he same schedule.

One way to settle this is at the heart of the current rumor, that is, just eliminate the divisions altogether and award playoff spots to the top four teams. There are problems with this proposal as well, though. To me, this raises the question of “why bother to have playoffs at all?” After all, if everyone plays each other 11+ times, I’d say you have a pretty good idea who the best teams are in each league at the end of the end of the season. (Of course, that doesn’t seem to stop the NBA and NHL, where half of the teams make an entirely too long postseason after a reasonably long regular season.) Also, having divisions gives each team something to play for and “win” – after all, baseball is about the grind moreso than other sports, and home field does not confer nearly as significant an advantage, so what in reality is the difference between the top four seeds in a postseason tournament? Sure, the difference between the first and fourth place teams may be large, but the difference between each seedline is not going to be that great, so what is the incentive to try to build a team that wins the games necessary for first and the game necessary to win fourth? This plan could potentially ruin the regular season.

The other problem is with an odd number of teams in each league, you are also then forced to have an interleague series all year long. I don’t really have an inherent problem with this, and this could be easily solved by not having anyone switch leagues. (Though, if you asked me, I would say the Brewers should switch back to the AL.)

Of course, is there any room for realignment and keeping divisions? Sure. Unfortunately, the ideal solution would be for each league to have 18 teams so each division could have 6 teams, but further expansion is almost certainly not on the table. I have some other ideas, that would probably involve massive league switching, but I think if more than one team switches league that also raises the taboo discussion of the designed hitter. Otherwise, we’re just talking about trivial fixes, like having the Pirates switch to the NL East so they’re in the same division as Phillies.

So what’s going to happen? Well, nothing probably. But baseball fans love to talk about this stuff, and it makes for an interesting discussion as we try to predict what baseball will look like in the future.

Know Your Potential September 1st Callups

On September 1st, two important things happen involving major league rosters:

  1. Players who are not on the 40-man roster at this time cannot be on the postseason roster.
  2. Ballclubs are allowed to use anyone on the 40-man roster, effectively expanding gameday rosters by 15 players.

So, if you’re like me, who are you likely to see suddenly appear on the bench or in the bullpen next week? Let’s start with the pitchers.

  • Tim Hudson (currently on 60-day disabled list) should be activated by the end of the month after a successful rehab start Sunday at AAA Gwinnett (6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K). Since he is not currently on the 40-man roster (due to being on the 60-day DL) someone will have to be designated for assignment to make room for him, and I’m not sure who’s a candidate for that. So it’s possible someone below may not make it up next Tuesday.
  • Buddy Carlyle has been pitching in relief at Gwinnett, where he’s allowed only two earned runs in 13.2 IP and a 21:1 K:BB ratio. While that is inline with his past minor league numbers his major league ratio (189:93) is less encouraging. He was DL’ed in May after being diagnosed with Type I diabetes and started a rehab stint earlier this month, so his return was probably a given anyway, but I can’t say I’ve particularly missed him.
  • Stephen Marek was brought up to AAA for about a month this summer before being sent back down to AA Mississippi, probably because he only pitched 5.2 innings, walked 7 guys (while only striking out 4) and gave up 5 earned runs. He was acquired in the trade for Casey Kotchman and projected to appear in the pen after a promising Arizona Fall stint last year, but even in AA he has struggled with his control (25:28 K:BB in 35 IP). In his last 10 appearance, he has walked and struck out 8 while giving up 11 hits while getting plenty of playing time over the past week or so, which suggests to me that the Braves may be trying to see if he’s got anything or if he will be the casualty when Hudson is reactivated.
  • James Parr has battled injuries all year (apparently, I can’t find any detailed information) and is currently on the minor league disabled list. When he hasn’t been on the DL, he’s been okay, but there’s not really enough data about him to make a definitive judgment.
  • Todd Redmond has been starting for Gwinnett all year, going 9-6 with a 4.02 ERA and decent ratios except for a team-leading 19 HRs, though he also leads the team by far in IP.
  • Jo-Jo Reyes has been doing his usual sort of Jo-Jo Reyes things at AAA Gwinnett, moving back into starting in early August. He’s been decent but not great, basically.
  • Luis Valdez has been Gwinnett’s closer and except for one hiccup back on the 13th, he’s been doing reasonably well, with 66 strikeouts in 65.2 IP and not a lot of walks. Provided he can get major league hitters out with similar frequency, he would let off some pressure on the very overworked back of the bullpen.

Now, the position players:

  • Clint Sammons (C) has been doing his Clint Sammons thing at Gwinnett: catching baseballs, throwing base stealers out about a third of the time, and not hitting at all (.221 BA, 636 OPS). His callup to Atlanta will be useful, though, as it will let the Braves use David Ross more off the bench as pinch hitter in the place of Greg Norton.
  • Barbaro Canizares (1B) saw some action earlier this year when he got to start 5 games at first but didn’t really make the most of it. He’s always been around a .300 hitter in the minors but has seen his power drop off at all leaves above A-ball.
  • Brooks Conrad (2B) is an excellent name for a baseball player and he really made a splash when he was called up last month while the entire infield was on the DL. That’s really about it, though, as his AAA numbers are much more mundane: .269 average, 791 OPS and 12 HRs.
  • Diory Hernandez (SS) was with the big league club throughout most of the summer as a replacement for Omar Infante, where he didn’t hit a whole lot, in stark contrast to his performance at Gwinnett where he sports a 439 OBP and a .364 average. Considering he got 93 plate appearances in the big leagues and only hit .141, we can assume that he’s getting lucky at AAA or really unlucky in the majors.
  • Brian Barton (OF) hasn’t really been doing much of anything at AAA and at 27 years old, may be running out of time. He served as a pinch hitter/4th outfielder extraordinaire for the Cardinals last year and was traded for Blaine Boyer and hasn’t been heard from since.
  • Gregor Blanco (OF) has been playing everyday for Gwinnett but was sent down earlier this year after a disappointing stint in the majors to make room for Greg Norton. Perhaps it was telling that a relative unknown (Reid Gorecki) was called up when Nate McLouth was DL’ed instead of Blanco.
  • Brandon Jones (OF) is still searching for the power production he lost somewhere on the trip from Mississippi to Richmond. Once projected to crack the starting outfield in the majors, he future is in doubt. He had a cup of coffee back in late April/early May and got a handful of hits and not much else.
  • Nate McLouth (CF, 15-day DL) is currently on the disabled list due to an unhappy hamstring. As seemingly the only person on the team who can steal a base, the Braves anxiously await his return.
  • Jordan Schafer (OF) recently had the cast on his left arm removed and plans to resume swinging a bat soon. The Braves hope the guy they originally wanted to start in CF for them will be back at some point. I like to think the long-term plan for the OF involves Schafer in center, with McLouth in right and a platoon in left next year with that spot eventually occupied by Jason Heyward.

Speaking of Mr. Heyward, he was recently invited to the Arizona Fall League along with fellow Braves mega-prospect Freddie Freeman. If the Braves really want to, they could add these guys to the 40-man roster in time for September and let them get a cup of coffee, though they may not for arbitration reasons. Nonetheless, since his promotion to AA, all Heyward has done is hit, with a 1046 OPS in 151 at-bats (though this may be enhanced somewhat by 4 triples). Freeman has been much worse since his promotion to AA in late June, as his average has fallen off 40 points (and his slugging is worse). At their current rates, Heyward is probably a lot closer to the majors than Freeman is.

Update: Jordan Schafer will have surgery on his injured wrist, which I would guess means a trip to the 60-day DL. They may use this as a chance to do a simple swap for Hudson, but it could get more interesting than that. Stay tuned.

Bronson Arroyo and the Very Bad Analogy

I’ve been wanting to write some college football articles and whatnot to get back into the swing of things, but this struck me as so unabashedly unintelligent I had to say something.

USA Today has an article about how Bronson Arroyo takes supplements that aren’t on baseball’s approved list. My opinion? He has hasn’t tested positive yet, so he’s probably fine as long as he’s not taking actual PEDs. However, his particularly poor choice of an analogy at the end of the article, well:

“[Taking the supplements] might be dangerous,” he says, “but so is drinking and driving. And how many of us do it at least once a year? Pretty much everybody.”

Look, I don’t particularly care what you do to yourself. But I would guess”drinking and driving isn’t as common as he thinks, and to say something like that raises some interesting questions about his own driving behavior. At any rate, it’s an unbelievably stupid thing to say, even if there weren’t a slate of high-profile athletes involved in DUI incidents every year.