Thursday, April 16, 2015

Now I've Got Some Time for Baseball

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game

Image result for mound visit
So um... Listen. My wife is friggin' pissed about the last road trip. I'm in no hurry to get home.

A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 


Taking off an average of 8 minutes and getting under the 3 hour mark is huge.  I have no problem watching a 5 hour slog with multiple pitching changes in an inning, but things like that will always keep baseball a somewhat nichey, regional sport.  As a lifelong hockey fan I've grown weary of not being able to discuss my favorite sport when I travel to certain parts of the US.  I am all for growing the game.  I never got why people become "sports hipsters" about stuff.  Hockey fans love to be insular and act like they've been hiding something from the world, some secret sport.  I'd much rather the NHL be in the public consciousness for more than just fights or extreme injuries, which is about the only time the NHL gets the truly national stage.  Same with baseball. Red Sox v Yankees and similar big market games will always drive ratings, but is Joe Six pack gonna watch a late september game with wild card implications between the Pirates and the Rockies?  Unless said Mr Six pack lives in Colorado or Pittsburgh, probably not.  Meanwhile, people watch the NFL scouting combine just to see 20 year olds do shuttle runs.  

Uncle Bones

There's a couple of things to unpack as they pertain the new, shorter baseball games. One that you definitely hit right on the head was the comparison between the NFL and MLB. The NFL really occupies a strange space right now in American sports landscape. There's a war going on for the sport's soul and one side is winning. 2 years ago you heard an awful lot about how discouraging the vicious hits on defenseless receivers would take "toughness" out of the game. Well, now that veterans football players are turning up dead at a rate only seen in Pro Wrestling and Fantasy Football numbers going through the roof, no one is complaining any more. Despite protests, it made the game a better viewing experience.

You'll some similar protests to baseball's pace of play changes. These arguments that emerge from the idea that "baseball shouldn't have time limit" usually come from grumpy old men and the "sports hipsters". These opinions don't matter much as grumpy old men (always knowledgeable & entertaining) are not the future and "hipsters" of any ilk are fairly transient in their interests and will move on to something newer soon anyway.

Getting games under 3 hours is very important to the long term health of the game. Especially when you consider the amount of TV money currently bolstering incomes. We are more or less conditioned around the idea of a 3 hour sporting events. NFL, NBA, NHL all wrap their games up under 3 hours. Its really all we can spend on a single sporting event. I mean really, how many other things do we 3 solid hours to in our day or even week? Other than work? 3 uninterrupted hours? I can't think of anything, yet we expect fans to tune in night after night after night to a 4 hour baseball game featuring multiple mound conferences, throws over, pitching changes, and batters adjusting their gloves? Not when I've got my tablet here and I can check Twitter for some game commenta... Oh look, 13 ways to lose weig... Wait, the Bills just traded for Phil... Huh, whats that? A shiny new penny?

A short, crisp 3 hour baseball game with a solid rhythm will grow the game nationally. It might not happen right away, but I'll be curious to see how the playoff numbers look. I hear a lot from people about how they only get into playoff hockey, but don't care much for the regular season. Well, what if people started getting into playoff baseball? As it stands now just about every playoff baseball game is a 4 hour commitment that doesn't end until 11:00 or 12:00 at night. That's no way to attract new fans even if that midnight drama is as thick as a hipster's mustache wax.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Its Time to Overreact About the Cubs

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game
A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 

Image result for mound visit cubs
We made the right decision Jon. We did. 


Going back to early season overreacting, are the Cubs sounding the alarms already?

This is just feeding the crowd who wanted Bryant to start with the team. However, the article specifically seems to be highlighting that they have trouble scoring with guys in scoring position. Hitting with RISP tends to even out over a bigger sample size. Remember how the cardinals basically rode a high BA with RISP (specifically by Allen Craig) to a World Series then couldn't recreate it? RISP means guys hit to get on. As Rizzo says in the article keep getting on base and the RBIs will come. 

That's not to say putting a guy who hit over .300 in the minors in your lineup wouldn't help your offense. It would. And he will be there soon enough as has been discussed at length. Doesn't guarantee he'd hit with RISP though or solve that problem. To me, It's not really worth pushing the panic button on April 11th.  However, panic sells, especially in bigger markets with fragile fan bases. Gotta get those early season clicks somehow, he says while winking at the camera.

Uncle Bones

Its important here to note the difference between the Cubs sounding the panic bell and the Cubs/baseball media creating the panic narrative out of thin air. I know that you know the difference and basically pointed it out above, but I think us baseball types (yes, we're baseball types now. It needed to be said) may have assumed something about the Cubs that wasn't necessarily true. So without going into the unreasonable nature of hand wringing over .0185% of the season lets talk about the offense that the Cubs actually hit the ground with to start 2015.

1 Dexter Fowler CF - Career OPB .365 - Serviceable, but not stand-out for a lead off hitter and at age 29 not likely to get much better.
2 Jorge Soler RF - Only 23 years old. I can put his number here, but they don't mean anything. He might be really good, but he's just as likely to need some time to be really good.
3 Anthony Rizzo 1B - In 2014 as a 24 year old posted a 151 OPS+ in 616 PA's. Kid's a stud. We should be annoyed that the Red Sox traded him, but him for... Wade Miley... but eh... I still like the team they have now.
4 Miguel Montero C - Has not posted an OPS+ above 100 since 2012. He's 31 now and still a catcher. He is not who you want in the clean-up spot.
5 Starlin Castro SS - 25 yo, career OPS+ of 99, and if the Cubs were really that high on him they wouldn't have traded for Addison Russel and we wouldn't be hearing rumors about him going to the Padres
6 Chris Coghlan LF - Has a career OPS+ of 100 despite only having 2 season about 100: 2008 & 2014. And he's 30 this season. If the Cubs are lucky he's an average player. If they're lucky...
7 Mike Olt 3B - Other than just keeping 3B warm for Bryant, Olt's other claim to fame is having never hit about .200 in any season in his career. I'm sorry, but he has shown nothing to demonstrate that he is a major league hitter.
8 Pitcher Spot - The numbers say hitting the pitcher 8th is the best way to go. I'm glad Joe Maddon will actually do it day in day out and not just pay lip service to the idea, but for our purposes lets be generous: whoever hits here has a .200 average.
9 Arismendy Alcantara 2B - A fantasy darling this spring, but at 23 has done nothing to prove that he's an everyday hitter. You want more evidence? He hits 9th for the Cubs. I rest my case.

My take away from all this? The Cubs line-up is just plain not that good. Their top 3 is pretty good, but the Cubs could do better than Fowler in the lead-off spot and Soler is no sure thing this season. Miguel Montero is not the 4 hitter on a winning team. From there they go from average to abysmal quick. So it shouldn't be a huge surprise that the Cubs are struggling to score runs. They have one stud, some more or less average veterans and a bunch of youngsters who haven't carried their weight as of yet.

Bryant slotting into the 4th spot and sending Montero, Castro, Coghlan down and Olt to anywhere else will definitely help, but looking at that line-up for what it is, I understand why Theo and crew are OK waiting out those 2 weeks or so. Unless 2 or 3 of those youngsters take a huge step forward, the Cubs are still a "wait till next year" team. 

BTW if you Google "Cubs lineup" this is what you get. Look at Manny's mugshot. WTF???

Inline image 1


Very interesting points.  So clearly the Cubs were so hyped they were actually overvalued.  Seems to happen every year.  What is the cause of this?  Do writers just appreciate a good story?  People WANT to believe in the Cubs, but it seems it was beyond statistical reasoning.

Uncle Bones

Baseball is the American sport of where narratives find their home. From its inception it has come alive in the minds of millions through the written word. When baseball first started the only way to keep abreast of the results was from the daily paper, a then thriving form of media. Next came the radio, which allowed for fans to follow a game without being in attendance, but if you missed a game the write up and the box score were still in featured prominently in the next day's paper. Then TV, internet, podcasts and so forth, but reading and writing about baseball is still a major part of how the sport is understood. It was "America's Pastime", because at a time it was something that you could discuss with any one from your community because it was regularly presented in the media of the time and it was relatively easy to keep on top of whether you were interested or not.

So for fans and media types to latch on to the story of the 2015 Cubs is not all that surprising. The years of failure, plus the organizational stewardship of Theo Epstein, plus the eccentric yet media friendly Joe Madden, plus the promise of youth, plus the addition of an "Ace" had everyone all amped up on the North Sides "Lovable Losers". The angle that fascinates me the most about the Cubs obsession is that how much the White Sox are an all but forgotten Chicago team. Its not like the Yankees & Mets where one team has been around for way longer and has won way more in its history. Its not even really like the situations in Los Angeles or the Bay Area. For whatever reason, the Cubs are the Chicago team that really generates the narrative. Both the Cubs and the White Sox were founded in the 19th century. Both teams won early on in the history and not much sense then. And while the White Sox took home the WS hardware in 2005 you never heard anything about them being cursed even though they managed to go 88 years between titles. 

So the Cubs clearly have a special place in America's consciousness and this always lend itself to a runaway narrative. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sometimes Everybody Plays the Waiver Wire Fool

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game
Image result for mound visit
No pressure, I've already dropped you from my 5x5 Standard Mixed League.
A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 


So trending back to fantasy baseball- let's talk about early season reactionaries.  Every league has a guy who sprints to the waiver wire after a guy like Alejandro De Aza hits 2 bombs on opening day.  In the 2 leagues we're in we've already seen the likes of Jason Grilli, Jared Cosart and Stephen Vogt picked up after one day of games played.  One day. Now, no fantasy sports player can get overly critical of this move. Sometimes everybody players the waiver wire fool, no exception to the rule.  That said, what is, if any, the right approach to early season reactions?  To use a personal example I picked up Chris Davis about 3 days before the 2013 season started simply because he was still there, he then went on to hit 50 bombs. I also was lucky enough to grab Edwin Encarnacion in his breakout season.  However, for every Edwin, there is a Jack Cust.  This is particularly detrimental in leagues that limit transactions. In a fantasy hockey league I gambled on picking up San Jose Sharks goalie Alex Skalock in the first week of the season.  he was eventually relegated to back up duties and late in the season when I had a hunch on Andrew Hammond, affectionately known as "The Hamburgler", I was unable to pick him up as I had hit my transaction limits.  he went on to set an NHL record for consecutive wins for a goalie in his first starts, and vaulted the Ottawa Senators into playoff contention. And the guy who got Hammond?  Won the league.

So a few questions arise- how do you gauge who to pick up and how long do you wait?  Do you go with the "dance with the girl that brung ya" philosophy early on and see how your team takes shape, or do you approach your team as a moldable work in progress than can only be perfected by tinkering? Fantasy baseball and fantasy hockey offer long seasons, generally deep free agent pools and multiple stat categories from which to pull. Fantasy football is more random and determined by the draft.  Ask Fantasy Football owners who lost Tom Brady week 1 of 2008 how that went.  Though of course there are exceptions.  Anyone who grabbed CJ Anderson likely went into the playoffs.  

Uncle Bones

Ah yes, the early season fantasy gold rush. Forever immortalized by the waiver wire movement of one Emilo Bonifacio. In my opinion there are really 3 different types of waiver wire moves:

1. The Hot Name: This is EMILO's!!! wheel house. This a move that happens at 11:00 at night on Opening Day. Now at first blush I get the enthusiasm. Opening Day is great. You've invested months thinking about baseball and weeks pondering the fantasy baseball roster you've built only to have it all come to a head on one single day. Except, that the baseball season is only .006 % over. That's it. One game represents less than one percentage point of the entire season. So just because Alejandro De Aza hits 2 HR's or EMILO!!! hits 2 triples or Kyle Kendrick's lifeless corpse wasn't dumped into Lake Michigan doesn't mean that you fly to the waiver wire for the next big thing. It's a long season, and like you pointed out this approach can quickly burn up your waiver budget. Especially when you consider that most of these players will be back on the waiver wire by the end of April.

2. Just Lucky: I believe that your Chris Davis move falls into this category. Davis was a post hype prospect at that point and no one expected much. He probably went undrafted in most leagues, but you had a spot to fill and he was there. Same for Encarnacion. He was a decent player in Cincy, but nothing like what we think of him now. Must be something in that Canadian water... Speaking of Canada, I had a similar stroke of luck with the Ragin' Canajun Erik Bedard back in 2007. I scooped him up on the waiver wire a week before the season started. He went on to strike out 221 that season and lead that particular league in scoring for pitchers. He was never that good again, but for one fleeting moment, greatness. I also had similar luck with in an in-season grab for Carlos Gonzalez in 2011. In that case I was just looking to upgrade from Torii Hunter and CarGo's floor represented Hunter's ceiling. I rode to the penthouse with Gonzalez that year only to be stuck wallowing in the basement for several years to come as I continued to count on his greatness.

3. Scouting, Patience & Dedication: This is the most difficult route to using the waiver wire. It is so difficult because of the waiver wire moves 1 & 2. You can have a guy on your radar since spring training, keep tabs on him as he gets called up, starts seeing regular AB's, finally seems poised for a break-out and WHAM! Billy's Baseballers read his name on Scott White's Start'em/Sit'em and snatches him up. Not to mention how hard it is to keep tabs on all the fringe players of all 30 teams. I can go into Triple-A and a little Double-A depth for the Red Sox and Triple-A for the Twins, but for everybody else? Bitch, please. There's only so much time in the day. On top of that, you can only follow a name for so long before you get jumped.

There is however one owner in one of our leagues who is a waiver wire master. He doesn't always know which teams are NL or AL and he doesn't know who any of the "hot" prospects are. He's also been routinely criticized for his draft picks, team names, and chat room banter, but he wins more than anybody else. His secret? All he does is look at numbers. He doesn't know the names. I'm not sure he even knows the teams half the time, but he when he uses the waiver wire it works. Can you guess who it is?


Erik Bedard in the mid 00s was like Guns N Roses around Appetite for Destruction.  Heralded, hyped, dangerous, beloved.  Then, it all came crashing down rather spectacularly and quickly.  Maybe he can try to resurrect his career as a Knuckleballer and go for a Chinese Democracy type of thing

Sure, we all know that owner you're describing.  There's something to be said for a cold, by the numbers approach.  It removes emotion from the process.  We all know the owners who reach for guys who are on their favorite teams.  Sammy Watkins went in the 3rd round of a fantasy football draft I was in last year.  Third.  Round.  Mind boggling.  Sticking to the numbers avoids stuff like that.  However, an owner who isn't keeping up on the story beyond the numbers is ultimately damaging himself.  For example, had you taken that approach with Adam Wainwright this year, would you not have spent close to $35 for him in an auction league?  Paying for last years stats while ignoring what other data about aging pitchers tells us?  This same approach sparked the infamous "Jake Arrieta over Cabrera and Stanton pick" that we discussed a few posts back.  The guy wanted pitching so he took it, regardless of what the other numbers about the value of hitters say.  When we talk about "all he does is look at numbers" it's highly dependent on what numbers he or she is looking at.  

Interesting confluence of ideas here- I am going to the Pawtucket Red Sox/Buffalo Bisons game next week.  I am quite excited to see Rusney Castillo and Blake Swihart live, and possibly Henry Owens or Bryan Johnson if the matchups align.  How does one handle in person viewings of prospects, or major league players, and balance them with stats?  How does one keep expectations in line from both a fantasy and real life perspective?  If Castillo hits 3 bombs, am I going to be TOO excited?  We all know about small sample sizes, but we're human beings and emotion factors in. It would be hard to shake watching a 3 HR performance.  As Maya Angelou once said "People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel."  

I'd like to think that's the first time Maya Angelou has been quoted in a fantasy baseball blog. 

Uncle Bones

A more talented writer than you or I may be able to create an entire baseball blog using Maya Angelou quotes and references. I think I would call it "I know why the caged bird is way off base" and it would likely tread such a fine line of racial and cultural appropriateness that mortal men would find too exhausting for recreational work. So instead we can relish in the quote, feel smart for a minute, and then get back to infantile task at hand...

As much as I'd love to get into a "3 Kinds of People You Find At a Minor League Baseball Game" diatribe, I'll focus on the experience more specific to your point. For your situation, understanding the narrative of the organization and the season is crucial to the enjoyment of the experience. With that being said, its very important to understand that you are watching one game of a very long season between players who have a wider variance in talent than you might find at the major league level. In other words anything can and will happen and it probably doesn't mean squat.

One example (and there are many) that best illustrates this point is the 2013 that Chris "Return of the Mack" Colabello spent at Triple-A Rochester. That season Colabello hit .352 with an OPS of 1.066 to go along with 24 HR's and 76 RBI's in 391 PA's. He also took home the hardware for International League MVP. It was a nice story and he helped the Red Wings make the playoffs (coincidentally where I also saw Clay Buchholz pitch on a rehab assignment). Any one who saw that season would have thought that Colabello was on track for big things, except that he was 29 that season and it was his first year at Triple-A after kicking around independent ball for 8 YEARS. He did take down the Emilo Bonifiacio Award for Early Season Excellence in 2014, but has struggled so much that he got a hero's welcome when he returned to Rochester later that same season.

Other things that you might see at a minor league baseball game:

Trevor Bauer giving up 6 runs in 2 IP
Daniel Bard walking 5 straight batters
Phil Humber throwing a 1 hit complete game shut-out
Will Middlebrooks smacking line drives all over the field
Sal Fasano's spectacular mustache
Grady Sizemore going 0-4
A 19 year old Bryce Harper being booed by a Tuesday in April crowd of roughly 1,500
6 pitcher combing for a no-hitter that started on May 8th & ended on July 21st
A player in your starting fantasy baseball roster that you had no idea had been sent to the minors

My advice, separate what you know about baseball from what secret you hope to discover for fantasy baseball. Your understanding of the narrative will greatly enhance your viewing experience  because you will understand who you are watching and why. However, to try and glean a competitive edge in a fantasy baseball league from 4 AB's or 6 IP's against competition of questionable quality? You'll make yourself crazy. You'll trick yourself into seeing things that aren't there. And probably worst of all, you'll miss out on the enjoyment of watching players today that will be all but unaccessible by as soon as even the end of the summer.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Click-Bait Worthy MLB Predictions pt.3

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game
Image result for mound visit
But Coach, I only sent that pic to one girl.
A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 


I think on a very direct player for player, in a vacuum style of evaluation, the Dodgers won this trade.  The 2 big prizes for the Sox in that trade, Webster and De La Rosa, were turned into Wade Miley, a guy expected to be a serviceable #4 and nothing else.  A Gon is in the heart of the Dodgers order and a huge key to their success.  However, things don't exist in a vacuum and the Sox won this trade in the big picture purely for the financial relief it gave them. The Carl Crawford signing was a black eye on the Theo Epstein era, it was as if The Eagles decided to end their career on a salsa covers album.  Despite all the amazing things they accomplished, recency effect is a real thing and people only remember the beginnings and ends of things.  This trade got the team out from under the majority of that contract.  As much as all Sox fans love Josh beckett for 2007, his surly attitude only works when he's pitching well. He had worn out his welcome in Boston.  The biggest benefit of this trade was of course the financial bailout that came with it, the scale of which we haven't seen since the financial crisis. With the Dodgers playing the role of the federal government,the money saved allowed the Sox to go on a unique spending spree, one of value and volume, that lead to the 2013 World Series....and then finishing last place in 2014.  The Ben Cherington era has been all or nothing so far, and this year it appears as if he's going all in on the "all" part again.  

Uncle Bones

In the end it would seem to me that the "Great Dodgers-Red Sox Swap of 2012" was one of those odd baseball trades where every one was a winner, but for different reasons. It shows how much the financial aspects of the game are as much of a factor when it comes to roster building and player movement as the actual talent of the player. Basketball has it to a certain extent, but now have a system in place for bailing out owners and GM's who lose their minds on contracts. I'm sure hockey has something... I mean the shut down the whole sport because ownership thought players were making too much... And the NFL, my God. Those players make peanuts compared to what baseball players make, can be cut at a moments notice AND football the most profitable sport in America.

But none of that in baseball. You sign a contract and that money is guaranteed and you typically stay on a roster until the contract is over (although sometimes a team will each money for a year). Thats one of the things that makes the Red Sox current approach to roster building so fascinating. They clearly have a plan and they are sticking to it.

Without rehashing the Red Sox moves of the last the years I'm gonna hone in on the recently announced Rick Porcello deal. Understanding this whole deal starts with Jon Lester around this time last year when he had turned down what seemed to be a low ball offer from the Sox for something around 4yrs/$70 mil. I believe that Red Sox when they say that this was just a starting number, but I also don't blame Lester's team for tabling the whole thing. He knew he'd make way more money than that and even if he blew his arm out on Opening Day, the Sox would still likely sign him for that.

So on it went, with the Sox falling out of contention and ultimately dealing an age 30 Lester to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes who I also believe that the Red Sox were interested in retaining (at the right price). I also think that they were curious in feeling out Cespedes with the impending bidding wars for other Cuban players like Rusney Castillo, Yosmany Thomas, and Yoan Moncada on the horizon. They had just missed out on sensation Jose Abreu and they didn't want to be left holding the bag again. Then by the offseason w/ Ramirez and Castillo in the fold, Betts on the horizon, and Victorino still kicking about, the Red Sox traded Cespedes for Rick Porcello. Porcello who has great peripheral numbers and who thrives with a great defense behind him. Porcello who will be 26 this season with the kind of easy delivery that typically avoids the DL.

The Red Sox then gave Porcello the same money they wanted to give Lester except now they are paying for all of his years up to age 30 instead of all of the years after 30. And while that seems like a shocking number at first, watch what Jordan Zimmermann (30 in 2016), Johnny Cueto (30 in 2016), Ian Kennedy (31 in 2016), Jeff Samardzija (31 in 2016), David Price (30 in 2016), Mat Latos (28 in 2016) get next off season. The list is huge, I could go on. The Red Sox already have 3 rotation spots locked up for next year (assuming they pick up Buchholz's option and that Joe Kelly isn't starting next year; either way) with atleast 2-3 pitchers at Triple A who could fill the void. Or they could take a short term plunge on any of the starting FA's who miss out next year's on bonanza.

The Yankees have no such options. They are already down one starting pitcher, the 35 year old Chris Capuano, are stuck with a broken CC Sabathia, and a more than likely TJ bound Tanaka. Then again they've got Pineda & Nova, 2 pitchers under 30 who have yet to pitch a whole season. Oh and Nate Evoldi who might want to just sign baseball's before he throws them as they could make great collector's items as they fly over the right field wall at Yankees stadium. They are going to have to sign at least one or two of the marquee pitching FA's if they are serious about contending and they will probably pay sticker only to be left to 2 broken down 35 year old pitchers 5 years from now.


All valid points.  The Yanks have been in "should have rebuilt" mode for a few years, and now are definitely in that mode. That is not a fanbase that is necessarily comfortable in a rebuild.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Why Do We Think We Know Better Than Yankees?

Image result for masahiro tanaka
Ooo... That looks painful

By all accounts the New York Yankees are the model franchise of all North American professional sports. They have won 27 World Series Championships. Next closest in all of the major North American franchises is the Montreal Canadians of the NHL with 24. Followed by the NBA's own Lakers and Celtics with 17 a piece. The next MLB team down the list? The St. Louis Cardinals with 10. That's right, the New York Yankees have 17 more championships than the next closest team in their league. They know how to win baseball games and they've been doing it for a very long time.

So why do we, and by we I mean the fantasy baseball community, baseball chattering class, baseball bloggers, casual fans, people on the street and the random J-Pop stars that I follow in Twitter seem to think that we all know better than the Yankees? Why are we all so convinced the Masahiro Tanaka will not last the entire 2015 season? The Yankees have actually talked to Tanaka. They have seen his medical records, his x-rays, and the size shirts he wears. They know everything there is to know about him and the 27 time World Series Champion New York Yankees believe that letting Tanaka pitch this season is A-O-K. Why?

Before we try and answer that question, lets try to figure out why we think we're so right. Back in July of 2014 after lighting the league on fire, Masahiro Tanaka went down with a partially torn ligament in his throwing elbow. The kind of injury that usually results in Tommy John surgery for the majority of players, pitchers or otherwise. If you've gotten this far into the article and can point an instance of a pitcher who avoided TJ after a partially torn UCL please chime in. I will fix this post and cite you as a source. I know its happened once or twice, but for the most part after teams get that 2nd opinion on the damaged UCL, its surgery. Teams usually figure that its easier to bite that 12-18 months recovery time than to have a 2 month recovery followed a questionable return and then probably a visit from TJ anyway. So please, once again, if you have a case where a pitcher with a torn or partially torn UCL has come back and pitched effectively hit me up. I'd love to hear it.  

The Yankees knew all that. They're not dumb. They have won 27 World Series titles after all. But instead they opted for rest and rehab. Maybe it was because they wanted to get the most use out of their brand new $155 million investment. Maybe it was because they were trying keep the Derek Jeter retirement tour chugging along as if it wasn't a lost season. Or maybe they really just thought that Tanaka could heal his ligament without changing how he threw a baseball.

To be clear, I understand why the Yankees would want as much Masahiro Tanaka as they can get. The first 3 months of the 2014 season he posted a 2.10 ERA with a 0.95 WHIP and 127 K's in 115.2 innings (ESPN). He made hitters look silly and he won 13 games which for only throwing just a hair over 130 innings in pretty good. There's a lot to like there, but once the elbow injury surfaced Tanaka nose-dived in a big way to the point where the Yankees shut him down all together just a 7 innings in to his September return.

So what do the Yankees know that the rest of the baseball world doesn't? I'm afraid nothing. These are not your father's Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, work hard, come through in the clutch Yankees. Nor are these your grandfather's outclass, out-talent, just a million times better than anyone Yankees. Hell, these are not even your older brother's Core4, Mike Mussina, Paul O'Neill and Bernie Williams belong in the Hall of Fame Yankees. This is the mostly 30+/$20 mil a year, mediocre at best farm system, grasping at straws, 27 time World Series Champion Yankees. And while those 27 World Series Championship are a nice thing to hang your hat on (or in most cases throw in every one else's face), they don't do diddly-squat for them this year, next year or any year in the future. 

I think the bottom line reason that Masahiro Tanaka is still pitching for the Yankees and not recovering from a mid-July TJ surgery is because the Yankees have no other options. Its probably true that a slightly above replacement level Tanaka is better than no Tanaka. And he's probably better than anybody else the Yankees could trot out there right now. I don't blame them for not getting deep with Lester or Scherzer this off-season. Especially considering the FA class hitting the market in 2016 and the money they have coming off the books in the next 3 years. Unfortunately, a reduced Tanaka gets them no closer to the playoffs this season than no Tanaka will get them. But then again, these are your grasping at straws, let's see what sticks to the wall, we'll still cash in on merch sales, 27 time World Series Champion Yankees.

Click-Bait Worthy MLB Predictions pt.2

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game
Image result for mound visit
But Coach, I only sent that pic to one girl.
A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 

Uncle Bones

To me, saying that baseball should have LESS playoff teams because you want to see the 2 teams with the best record in the World Series is kinda like arguing that gay marriage should be illegal because being attracted to a person of the same sex might be contagious and that the science is still out on that one because no one has done the research yet. In other words, its absurd. Its also like saying that there are too many billboards at the stadiums as if teams shouldn't be trying to maximize their returns at every opportunity.

Let me remind you and anyone who might read this that the MLB season is 162 games long with each team playing 81 home games. Its not easy work getting butts in those seats and eyes on those games day in day out. Going to a baseball game is not an inexpensive proposition and sitting through 162 3 1/2-4 hour baseball games on TV is no treat either, ESPECIALLY when you are watching a team that is either not competitive or not competitive enough so for a shot at the post season.

This is compounded when you think about how regional of a sport baseball is. Yes, the Yankees, Red Sox, and to an extent the Braves have done a great job at expanding their national appeal, but very few people outside of Houston are Astros fans. Same goes for the Royals, Rays, Rockies, Marlins, etc. The longer into the season fans of these teams are able to stay engaged in their team the better. Not only is it the best thing for business, but its the best things for the fans relationships with those teams.

Our defending American League Champion Kansas City Royals are a prime example of this. Before our time the Royals were often considered the AAAA team for the New York Yankees as so much of their talent wound up in NY before it had a chance to win in Kansas City. Then they held on to players in the '80's (when baseball put in ALCS & NLCS) and won, but then in our lifetime we say the same thing happen again. Carlos Betran, Johnny Damon, Zack Grienke, the list goes on, shipped out of town because the Royals didn't want to spend the money on players when they weren't going to compete. Then what happened in 2014? Bolstered by a trade that brought in Major League talent, the Royals hung in it all the way to end, got hot in the playoffs and the rest his history. If there was not 2 Wild Card spots and maybe only 2 teams from each league made the team then Shields would have been dealt and the Royals would have been rebuilding again.

More playoff spots means more teams in contention, more eyes on the product and more fans maintaining an interest year after year. Seems like a smart strategy for a sport that has an average fan base the sits right around the mid 50's. But here's a question for you. Right now MLB has 5-ish playoff spot per league. Too many to some, but still much less than the NBA or NHL and only 1 less that the NFL. How many playoff teams is too man? Sure long term fan engagement is great, but how excited are most fans when their team locks down the 8-seed in the NBA? I tend to follow a lot of Boston media and some folks are wondering whats up with the Celtics approaching the 8-seed in the East. I know the Celts are rebuilding, but is it that bad that the team might be ahead of its time frame? And does sending half of the conferences' team to the playoffs cheapen the whole experience?


As a lifelong hockey fan, I can say throwing 16 teams in the playoff mix is nothing short of awesome. It differs from the NBA in the sense that low seeds regularly have a chance. Bottom seeds have made it to the cup, and won it. But hockey is different, they've had multiple teams come back from a 3-0 series deficit in the playoffs.  Remember when the Red Sox did that it was a huge story, but it actually has happened in hockey enough to the point where it's a fun story, not a monumental one.  

That said, the length of baseball games doesn't lend itself to more playoff games.  I love a good 5 hour late october slog as much as any baseball stalwart, but that doesnt play to the casual fan. Plus when your team is in the playoffs, it's a different vibe sport to sport.  Overtime hockey is, in my opinion, the only thing that matches the anxiety, dread, and excitement  of late inning playoff baseball. Baseball's "slowness" just lends itself to heightened wonder and anxious pacing in the playoffs.  The "slow" moments are building up to one moment where everything can change (Cue Don Henley's "in a new york munute...oohh we wooo...) If the Red Sox had to play MORE games in October, do you really think you could stomach that?  Probably, but you might have some explaining to do when you walk into work the next day wearing one shoe and 3 day scruff going.  

In regards to your Shields comment, did the pundits who bashed the Royals for that trade ever double back on their words?  Or did they just slink away like the guy who starts a fight and lets his friends finish it?  The whole argument against it was the years of control of Wil Myers.....who the Rays recently traded. That trade proved to me that snap judgments on organizational moves are good for sound bites and tweet headlines in the 24 news cycle, but they take years to play out and truly evaluate.  

Uncle Bones

The fact that baseball has only had 1 team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series says two things. One of which being that there just haven't been nearly the same number of playoff series that hockey and basketball have seen. And two, the difference between good teams and good enough teams is probably pretty wide.

Now imagine if 8 teams from BOTH the National League and the American League made the playoffs in 2014. How excited are you right now thinking about a 5 game series between the Angels and the Yankees and the Nationals and the Mets. That's right, both NY teams would have made the playoffs as 8 cedes and both teams would have gotten snuffed out like a spider in a day care. And if that's not bad enough consider that the 7 & 8 cedes in the NL both would have had a 79-83 record. All that to add another week and a half to a season that already ends in early November. Eck...

I do think its funny that you brought up having a rooting interest in October baseball. I remember in September of 2013 as the Red Sox marched towards the playoffs thinking about how my life was about to change in ways I wasn't prepared for in the next month. Sure enough, there I was arguing with strangers about the proper application of runner interference & texting you to discuss the Sox bullpen situation while at my wife's birthday dinner. October baseball does things to me and not all of them are good.

As far as grading trades go, talking heads gotta make noise (its why they're there), but its impossible to grade a trade when it happens, 24 hours after it happens, a whole year after it happens. Baseball is the ultimate long game. Its one of the reasons why advance stats took hold here first. There are a lot of games and players can spend a lot of time in an organization. So while its tempting, and some times necessary (if its your job) to pass judgement on a single transaction moments after it happens everyone knows you're just talking to be heard.

Now for fun, almost 3 years later tell me who won this trade:

Red Sox acquire Allen Webster, Ruby De La Rosa, Ivan DeJesus Jr., Jerry Sands & James Loney

Dodgers acquire Adrian Gonzales, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett & Nick Punto

Red Sox also sent $12 million. 

Who won? 

Click-Bait Worthy MLB Predictions pt.1

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game
Image result for mound visit
But Coach, I only sent that pic to one girl.
A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 


Do we dare submit our predictions and succumb to the pressures of clickbait, newsworthiness and timeliness?  I say yes!  Who are we to flout the conventions of blogging.  here are my mildly unscientific predictions

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Indians
NL West: Mariners
AL Wildcard game LA Angels over Chicago White Sox
NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Pirates
NL West:  Dodgers
NL Wildcards:  Marlins over Padres
ALCS- Red Sox over Mariners
NLCS- Nationals over Marlins
World Series-  Nationals over Red Sox in 6
AL ROY- Carlos Rodon
NL ROY- Kris Bryant
AL Cy Young-  Felix Hernandez
NL Cy Young- Jordan Zimmermann 
AL MVP:  Mike Trout
NL MVP:  Giancarlo Stanton 

Yes I realize picking against Clayton Kershaw for NL Cy Young is enough to warrant Lucy from the Peanuts "5 cents for Psychiatry" type of help, but he has to slow down sooner or later right? Zimmermann is the Joe Walsh of the Nationals staff, and Strasburg and Scherzer are Don Henley and Glenn Frey.  Sure Fry and Henley were the principals, but you don't have Hotel California without Walsh's solo.  

Uncle Bones

The true function of the internet is not to expose people to new ideas that they didn't know existed, its provide the content that reinforces the beliefs and interests that they already had. Oh and cat videos. Since no one writes any comments, clicks are the only feedback available. And we love feedback.

AL East - Baltimore Orioles
Rotation solid with sufficient young upside and the offense should be good enough to feast on a division of average to poor pitching.

AL Central - Chicago White Sox
Top 3 starters known commodities & will mix and match the rest. O unbalanced, but the top of the lineup will carry that team.

AL West - Seattle Mariners
Its an easy bandwagon to get on when you consider the questions that surround the rest of the division.

AL WC1 - Boston Red Sox
Line-up will mash, but back end of rotation will be in flux all year.

AL WC2 - Cleveland Indians
Only because a one game playoff between Francona and Farrell is what we as baseball fans deserve.

NL East - Washington Nationals
I mean, come on.

NL Central - Pittsburgh Pirates
This team does to many things right to mucking around that Wild Card spot forever.

NL West- LA Dodgers
This team will still get it done despite Don Mattingly.

NL WC1 - St. Louis Cardinals
I can never count them out.

NL WC2 - San Diego Padres
I think the edge the Cubs on Karma. Padres are clearly all in, Cubs are too reliant on young players.

AL WC Game - Red Sox
Not that Farrell deserves it more than Tito, they'll just hit and hit and hit...

NL WC Game - Cardinals
Been there, done that.

ALDS - White Sox v. Orioles
White Sox - Top 3 starters too much in a 5 game series

ALDS - Mariners v. Red Sox
Red Sox - I know pitching wins championships, but after Felix who do you really count on in that rotation? Plus Red Sox will be a wrecking crew by then.

NLDS - Pirates v. Dodgers
Pirates - Mattingly finally does them in.

NLDS - Nationals v. Cardinals
Nationals - Too much pitching. Too much offense.

ALCS - White Sox v. Red Sox
Red Sox - I like the White Sox, but I don't like them that much.

NLCS - Nationals v. Pirates
Nationals - As smart and tough as the Pirates are that Nats are just overwhelming

World Series - Nationals v. Red Sox
This is where the Red Sox starting rotation minus a huge move or 2 will be undone. A healthy Nats team can hang offensively and the pitching is just that much better.

The Washington Nationals as your World Series Champions!

AL ROY: Rusney Castillo (Betts used up his eligibility last season)
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL MVP: Mike Trout

NL ROY: Joc Pedersen
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen

I read your picks this morning and then went about my day so as to intentionally forget what you had written. I was amused to go back and see that we both had the Nats over the Red Sox in the World Series. Its like, "Yep, we're homers, but we're not that big of homers".

One take away that I had from this whole exercise was really thinking long and hard about the AL Central and coming away not liking any of the teams all that much. So much can go wrong for the Tigers and so much has to go right for the Tribe. The White Sox are really unbalanced and we didn't even mention the AL Camp Royals or red headed stepchild Twins. That division will be interesting and I wouldn't be shocked if the team that wins it only does it with 88 wins.

Now all we need is a title about naked celebrities and our attempt at click bate will be complete.


I had a tough time NOT picking the Cardinals for the NL Central.  Somehow they get it together every year, and a big piece in their lineup in Matt Carpenter is probably due for a bounce back, as is Wacha.  I know in September we'll be watching them close a 5 game gap in like 12 games and be sitting here saying "I told you so" as the pundits pontificate about how the Cardinals pump their fists on home runs THE RIGHT WAY and Normal Rockwell makes a painting about it

Can we talk about the random nature of the baseball playoffs for a minute?  After reading our predictions I realized that by the time we actually get to October, someone like the Reds will be on a run that no one saw coming, Felix Hernandez will be out for the year, and the A's will have traded half their roster.  We've seen wild cards win the past few years.  Ultimately the best team during the season isn't really rewarded for anything, and all it takes is a team getting hot at the right time.  I have no personal problem with this as it keeps fan bases engaged longer, but I've heard some lament that they'd rather see the truly best teams in the world series.  I don't know, isn't randomness what makes sports kinda fun?