10/22/11

Baseball: - Craig Kimbrel, Tony LaRussa, Chewing Tobacco, Ron Washington, Drafting Younger Players

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Craig Kimbrel: - With very limited innings in consideration, it is always difficult to choose them all. However, the month clearly belongs to Atlanta Braves’ pitcher, Craig Kimbrel, who completely outshined the others with some impressive results. Kimbrel struck-out 23 batters and he was hit for only six times in 12.2 innings. Conceding only one run through August, he completely dominated the batters with his strong pitching abilities. Leading the Major League with 41 saves, he also registered 9 saves to give his side a very crucial Wild Card lead. With more than 100 strike-outs in 65.2 innings, he has become the only pitcher to strike-out 100 batters in “less than 100” innings. http://blogs.bettor.com/Top-five-pitchers-in-Major-League-Baseball-for-the-month-of-August-2011-a104911

Tony LaRussa has become one of the more polarizing figures in Baseball. He is the man credited for creating the modern bullpen. His work in Oakland during the late 1980′s and early 1990′s influenced a generation of baseball. One could argue that someone like Mariano Rivera doesn’t get the opportunity to do what he has done if not for LaRussa’s bold move to the one inning closer who is flanked by a group of relief specialists who each have a defined role. Yet, he is much maligned for his volume of pitching changes and adherence to the match ups throughout a game. His current bullpen did lack a bona fide closer at the season’s onset. Ryan Franklin was quickly jettisoned; Fernando Salas eventually seized the role. LaRussa took more criticism than usual for his bullpen juggling. His bullpen maneuvers have always been criticized, but when the team is losing, criticism generally becomes louder. It has this season. With the gift of hindsight, it is now evident to see that LaRussa was really trying to put the pieces to his bullpen puzzle in place. Jason Motte, a pitcher who many thought would be the closer years ago, finally took hold of the role. That allowed Salas to be used in other high leverage situations, even in long relief duty. With his bullpen set with a couple of left handers and enough role pitchers, LaRussa has been able to mask one of the worst rotations he’s ever managed. http://fcpbaseballreport.com/2011/10/19/larussa-foresight-look-to-be-cardinals-advantage

Once again, the U.S. Congress has reached beyond its hallowed halls to insert itself into baseball's business, and thank goodness it has. Major League Baseball, particularly its balky, uncooperative union, definitely needs the nudge. It was back in March 2005 when Congress gave baseball consumers their most illuminating look at the fraudulent state of affairs in the product they happily and naively supported for years: the infamous hearing on performance-enhancing drugs that rightly led to the ruination of the once-great reputations of Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa. This time, Congress is following the lead of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, who wants to ban smokeless tobacco in the majors. Chewing tobacco is such a part of the game's lore and legend that we don't often think about it, but we should because, among other things, it's deadly. It can cause various cancers, including oral, stomach, esophageal and pancreatic, as well as gum disease, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. It's already banned in minor league baseball and the NCAA, although some players are so hooked on doing damage to their bodies that they go ahead and use it anyway. - http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/brennan/story/2011-10-19/mlb-tobacco-ban/50831090/1

When Ron Washington became the Texas Rangers manager in 2007 his baseball pedigree had already taught him there were no shortcuts to success. "I came up through the Kansas City Royals organization and the (Los Angeles) Dodgers organization," said the 59-year-old former big-league infielder. "They've always been organizations that believed in completeness, and that's doing everything that the game says you have to do, play defense, pitch, run the bases, try to look for opportunities to take advantage of. "When an opportunity presented itself to me to be the manager of a ballclub, I had to put my stamp on it. And my stamp is what I learned through all my years in the game."  http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/20/us-baseball-series-washington-idUSTRE79J0G620111020

As you can see, there is an almost shockingly smooth progression in the data. Very Young players, as a whole, return 25 percent more value than expected by their draft slots. Young and Average players also return positive value, whereas Old and Very Old players return substantially less value than expected. The gap between the youngest and oldest groups of players isn’t quite as large by this method as what I measured in Part 1 yesterday—the youngest group returns about 86 percent more value than the oldest group as opposed to 117 percent. It’s still an enormous difference. - http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15306

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