Monday, September 30, 2013

Why I Hate the Wild Card Game

I feel like I've railed against the new one-and-done playoff round before, but this year is a perfect example of why I dislike it.

I know people love to say that the Wild Card is the "easy" way in to the playoffs, which is why it's okay for the top two Wild Card teams to fight for the spot. But look at the NL. This year, the 94-win Pirates and Francisco Liriano get one game to "prove" that they're better than Johnny Cueto and the 90-win Reds. How does that make any sense? Why does this one game mean so much more than the previous 162? Or the 19 other games the Reds faced the Pirates this year (of which the Pirates won 11)? One false slip (like, say, this) and that 4-win difference means nothing.

People always come back to that with "well, they should have won their division." That's still awful reasoning to justify an unfair system. Why do the Pirates' 94 wins (in a division with three playoff teams, one of whom had the best record in the NL, no less) count for less than the Dodgers' 92 (and in a division where the second best team went 81-81*)? Why is it the Pirates who have to justify their place in October? Why not have a one-game playoff between the Reds and Dodgers? Is it just because the Dodgers had the foresight to move west fifty-odd years ago?

*Although, strangely enough, the Dodgers actually carried a losing record against their NL West opponents.

This happened last year, too, when the 88-win Tigers (sixth-best record in the AL) snuck in through the weak AL Central while the 90+ win Orioles and Rangers had a one-game playoff (to be fair, since they had the same record, that would have happened in the old system too). But I think this one is an even better example of the ridiculousness of it, given that 1) one Wild Card team surpassed a division-winner; 2) the Wild Card teams play in the same division, so there's no "unbalanced schedule" argument; and 3) the race for top Wild Card wasn't particularly close. The only argument against actually having the two worst playoff teams play each other seems to be the divisions, a completely arbitrary assignment.

I probably shouldn't be as worked up about this. The World Series stopped being about crowning the best team in baseball long ago. But maybe the fact that so many people pretend it is is what annoys me. Or maybe it's just the awful logical reasonings that get thrown around to justify it, as if this is a better, more exciting, or more fair system than what existed before. It very clearly is not.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Appreciating Todd Helton and Andy Pettitte (and the Hall of Fame, of course)

Within the past week, both Andy Pettitte and Todd Helton made their retirements official. And as expected, people have turned to the Hall of Fame and where these two fit into the conversation. And of course, because I look for every excuse possible to write about the Hall, I may as well jump in with my take.

I’ve said this several times, but I err on the side of a larger Hall of Fame. So I see Todd Helton’s 55.8 career fWAR and 61.3 bWAR and see someone who’s nowhere near the worst choice for first basemen. For his career (as of right now, at least), he has 368 home runs (75th all-time) and 591 doubles (16th). His career batting line is .316/.414/.539 (average/OBP/slugging), making him one of twenty-three players in history with a .300/.400/.500 career batting line (over 3000 plate appearances*). His career OPS+ (which is park-adjusted, remember) is 133, right there with Hall of Famers like Al Kaline, Paul Waner, Orlando Cepeda, Al Simmons, Billy Williams, Joe Medwick, and Tony Gwynn. Granted, there are also non-Hall of Famers in that range, but it’s a good start at least.

*Fun fact: I first had the limit set to 1000 games when I searched this. The 1000 game cut-off includes reliever Roberto Hernandez, who appeared in 1010 games and went 1 for 2 with a single and a strike out over seventeen seasons, giving him a .500/.500/.500 line.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Retired Number Spin-Offs: Retired Number Rates Throughout the League, and Thoughts About Them

To celebrate the 300th post at Hot Corner Harbor, I’m taking a look at my favorite topic in a way that I’ve wanted to for a while now. One thing that I began wondering about a lot while working on the Retired Numbers Series was the rate that different teams retired numbers. For example, both the Astros and the Pirates had nine retired numbers, but those nines were not arrived at through similar means at all. So what does each team look like on a rate basis?

Well, that’s a tricky question. First of all, not every retired number is retired equally. Specifically, there are four that are a little different. When writing my series, I covered every retired number, but for the purpose of a study, I threw out a few. First of all, the (rather ridiculous, to be completely honest) 455 retired by the Cleveland Indians is gone. It really has no predictive value, and relatively little historical value (that’s no longer even the sell-out record).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Has Bryce Harper Been a Disappointment This Year?

I feel like I write about Bryce Harper a lot. At least he’s an interesting player to write about. Actually, that’s probably why I write about him so much. Anyway, today’s question: Has Bryce Harper been a disappointment this season?

I haven’t really seen many serious articles on this topic, which is really good (because it’s a dumb question). However, I feel like some fans are starting to have doubts about how good he is after this year. I’ve seen people point out a number of ways that he hasn’t “lived up to the hype” so far, though.

Again, it’s usually more from commenters than writers (I have long speculated I would be a happier person on the whole if I refrained from reading internet comments). But I’ve still seen the gamut of complaints, from people criticizing his selection to the All-Star Game (already his second, mind you) to “only” hitting .273 with 49 RBIs.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Retired Number Spin-Off: Going Where No Retired Numbers Have Gone Before, or Why Do Baseball Players Hate 8?

One cool thing about doing the Retired Number Series was all of the ideas for spin-offs I got. However, I wanted to wait until I finished the main series to work on those. Now that that’s out of the way, though, I can work on these side projects.

One thing that I always thought was interesting was the breadth of numbers worn. I remember seeing this chart from Flip Flop Fly Ball and thinking about teams needing triple digit numbers and all the numbers that would have to be out of use to get to them. And from there, I for some reason thought of how that span would look.

Basically, after doing 30 retired number pieces, you get to notice that some numbers show up more than others. In case you were wondering, 20 showed up more than any others, with nine occurrences.* In total, 51 useable numbers have been retired (this disqualifies Cleveland’s 455). They span from 1 (seven times) to 85 (once, Augie Busch). 72 was the highest one that was actually worn by a player (Carlton Fisk).

*Luis Gonzalez, Monte Irvin, Lou Brock, Pie Traynor, Mike Schmidt, Frank White, Don Sutton, and Frank Robinson twice

Seeing stuff like this made me wonder what the lowest unretired number was. When I began, it was 28. Since then, the Twins have honored Bert Blyleven. Apparently though, players don’t like the 8’s. The now-lowest unretired number is 38.

So what as-of-yet-unhonored numbers may someday join these illustrious ranks? Well, Baseball-Reference has introduced a cool tool (at least, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t around when I started). Clicking on a player’s jersey will take you to a list of all the players to wear a jersey in that team’s history (for example, see the Astros’ page). From there, you can navigate to each individual jersey’s page (again, see 20’s page for reference).

Now with a purpose, I investigated each number without a represented player to see what may eventually become the new lowest not-retired number.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Retired Numbers Series: Toronto Blue Jays

Just over two years ago, I started the Retired Numbers Series with the intent of taking a thorough examination at every team’s history and how their outlook for future ceremonies appeared. This is the culmination of those 26 months of effort; finally, we move north of the border to cover our last team, the only still-existent non-American team, the Toronto Blue Jays. One of the newer teams in the league, the Blue Jays have taken a somewhat unique approach to honoring former players, but have as of recently started to move in a more traditional direction. What does their future hold?