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Category:MLB
Posted on: March 6, 2012 7:40 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 8:11 pm
 

Baseball's changing strike zone

By Dayn Perry

Last season, run scoring cratered to its lowest level since 1992. Fans and observers like to spitball all kinds of reasons for this. The implementation of drug testing (although pitchers used PEDs, too, you know), weather patterns, an increasing emphasis on fielding in many organizations, a new "golden age" of pitching, a secret cabal of humidors, and so on. One reason that's not commonly put forward is umpiring. But might our men in blue be playing a crucial role in all those 2-1 games?

The findings of David Golebiewski of BaseballAnalytics.org suggest that umpires are indeed contributing to declining levels of offense. For instance, since 2008 the percentage of pitches  taken by the batter correctly called as strikes has risen from 74.5% to 79.1%. Lest that not sound like much, that amounts to almost 6,000 balls that became strikes. Needless to say, that makes a substantial difference on the scoreboard. 

Golebiewski digs further and finds that umps in the main are calling the zone a bit differently than they were just a few years ago. While the death of the high, at-the-letters strike is still widely lamented, it's the low strike -- the strike at the knees -- that's making a comeback. The pretty pictures linked to above prove it. 

If you're partial to connoisseur's baseball as opposed to the five-hour mutual bludgeoning, then all of this is a good thing.

(Hat tip: Rob Neyer)    

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 6:25 pm
 

Papelbon needs a new entrance song

Jonathan Papelbon

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Jonathan Papelbon will not be shipping up to Boston anytime soon -- as the band the Dropkick Murphys say the new Phillies closer can no longer use their song as his entrance music.

Dropkick Murphys bassist and singer Ken Casey told ESPN the band doesn't want anyone other than a Red Sox closer using the song.
"He can't use 'Shipping Up To Boston,'" Casey said. "That's a Boston song. One of the Philadelphia radio guys suggested 'Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya.'

"And I have to get with the new Sox closer [Andrew Bailey] to let him know he can use 'Shipping Up To Boston,'" Casey adds. "That's not Pap's song. That's the closer's song."
Of course, as Deadspin noted, it's not a song that belongs complete to the Boston band, since the words were written by Oklahoman Woody Guthrie. According to the ever-accurate Wikipedia, it's also used by the Philadelphia Flyers, among other hockey teams, during their games.

It's not unheard of for a band to ask a closer not to use their music. After John Rocker made his infamous comments disparaging immigrants and homosexuals in 1999, Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French asked that the then-Braves closer cease using the song "I Wanna Rock." He didn't and he was never the same. Phillies fans better hope the "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" isn't Papelbon's version of Sampson's hair.

So, what song should Papelbon use? Well, there's "Sailing to Phialdephia" by Mark Knopfler, Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia" and Hall and Oats' "Fall in Philadelphia." But in the end, there's probably only one real choice:



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Posted on: March 6, 2012 5:58 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 6:37 pm
 

Will the National League adopt the DH?

David Ortiz

By Dayn Perry

Might the designated hitter rule, which has led to wars, mass divorces and religious schisms, be making its leisurely way to the National League? Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci quotes a highly placed baseball source who believes just that: "I would be shocked if 10 years from now there's not a DH in both leagues."

As for Bud Selig, he offers up a denial couched in a non-denial: ""At the moment there is no conversation about [the NL adopting the DH] . . . That doesn't mean it won't happen," the Commissioner tells Verducci. "I've always said it would take something of a cataclysmic event to get that done. Geographic realignment would be such a cataclysmic event."

The DH was born on April 6, 1973, when Ron Blomberg of the Yankees stepped in against Boston's Luis Tiant (he walked!), and the rule has been a firebrand ever since. Although the DH is used at most levels of organized baseball, remaking the NL in the AL's image has always been a bridge too far for purists. Some say it's not real baseball, and others, although the evidence doesn't support them, say the NL is at a disadvantage in the World Series and in interleague road games. 

​Under Selig, however, blurring the lines between the leagues has been the norm. In recent years, he's instituted interleague play and brought each league office under the aegis of MLB, thus stripping the NL and AL of much of the autonomy that had defined them for years. 

It's doubtful Selig will still be commissioner by the time there's a serious push to make the DH -- he tells Verducci as much -- but considering how much power he's accrued, it's a near certainty that the next commissioner will largely abide by the Selig Way. The opposite path to uniformity -- getting rid of the DH in the AL -- is an impossibility since the MLBPA would never agree to such a change. Indeed, it may be a simple matter of time before the DH at last barges into the senior circuit.   

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 4:35 pm
 

Kevin Youkilis is a proper gentleman

Kevin Youkilis

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Mr. Kevin Edmund Youkilis is nothing if not proper.

Not only does he own a career .391 career on-base percentage, he also has manners befitting his polite Midwestern upbringing.

From Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, comes this tale of a child asking the esteemed Mr. Youkilis for the favor of a baseball, but doing so in a rather gruff, impersonal and some may say, rude, manner: "Hey, Youk, give me a ball," the youth crassly implored.
Kevin Youkilis looked up and said, "What's the right way to ask?"

Chagrined, the kid said, "Can I please have a ball?"

Youk tossed the kid a ball.

"Don't ever forget that for the rest of your life," he said.
Mr. Youkilis was a finance major at the University of Cincinnati, not an English major, or he would not have accepted that response. The proper why to ask the question would be, "Mr. Youkilis, may I please have a ball?"

Politeness is important, but so too is grammar.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 2:05 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 4:22 pm
 

Johan Santana pitches, lives to tell about it

Johan Santana

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Pitching for the first time since 2010, Mets left-hander Johan Santana threw in a game. It may have only been an exhibition, but for someone with Santana's recent past, it was no doubt a big game.

So how'd he do?

He threw two scoreless innings, allowed a hit and a walk. Of his 29 pitches, 17 were strikes. According to the New York Times, he hit 90 mph on the gun once, while sitting around 87-88.

"Finally I had an opportunity to go out there and finally get the first one out of the way," Santana told reporters (via ESPNNewYork.com). "... I was excited about today. Even as I was preparing myself prior to the game, I was anxious to go out there and do it. But, at the same time, it was all about how I feel. I know it is a game situation and you have to do your job out there, but I was just focused on making sure I do the mechanics the right way and feeling good and not feeling anything in my arm. And that's how I felt today. I felt good."

 And his arm, apparently, remained attached to his body. At this point, that's all that really matters.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:28 pm
 

Carlos Guillen retires

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Former All-Star Carlos Guillen will retire, the Mariners announced on Twitter.

Guillen, 36, signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners in February after eight seasons in Detroit. He started his career in Seattle, but had his best years in Detroit. Guillen made three All-Star teams and finished 10th in MVP voting in 2006.

The infielder finishes his career with a .285/.355/.443 line in parts of 14 seasons in the big leagues, wracking up 1,331 hits.

Guillen hit just 124 homers in the big leagues, but it's his 123rd homer that may have been the most memorable. He hit a homer off of Angels starter Jered Weaver last July 31 and his celebration prompted Weaver to throw at the head of Alex Avila.

Watch the next-to-last homer of Guillen's career (and its aftermath) here:



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Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:07 pm
 

Carlos Silva out of Red Sox fifth starter fight

Carlos SilvaBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Carlos Silva, a longshot anyway, is out of the competition for the Red Sox fifth starter. The 32-year-old right-hander won't be able to make his scheduled Wednesday start because of shoulder inflammation.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine told reporters that Silva will be sidelined long enough to keep him out of running, leaving Vicente Padilla, Aaron Cook, Andrew Miller, Felix Doubront and Alfredo Aceves for the spot.

Boston won't need a fifth starter until the sixth game of the season, in Toronto on April 11.

Valentine said Silva's arm trouble wasn't exactly a surprise.

"We know exactly what it is and we were hoping it wouldn't present itself as qucikly as it did," Valentine told reporters (Providence Journal).

The Cubs released Silva in spring training last season after going 10-6 with a 4.22 ERA in 2010. He signed with the Yankees last April, but was released after seven starts in the minor leagues. He went 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA at Class A, Double-A and Triple-A. He made four starts at Triple-A where he had a 3.52 ERA and struck out 13 in 23 innings, while giving up 21 hits and four walks.

Right-hander Justin Germano will make the start for the Red Sox against the Blue Jays on Wednesday.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 10:28 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 10:31 am
 

What a Cubs World Series title would look like

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Video games have gotten so good that they can make you believe anything can happen --  zombie takeover, intergalactic war, dinosaur hunting and, even more unrealistically, the Cubs winning the World Series.

Check out this new commercial from MLB 12 The Show.


Well done, Sony, well done.

Hat-tip: Getting Blanked

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