Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

h2h Corner ~ How to Win a League without Really Trying

Since a lot of us are semi-evolved from the Brits, let’s think about how one wins a league with a laissez-faire attitude.

First, I want to address a stigma that it takes a considerable amount of time per day to monitor your fantasy team. It simply doesn’t. Continue reading

h2h Corner ~ Why I want Mark Buehrle to throw out his arm (not really)

If you don’t know me personally, you probably don’t know that I’m big into philosophy and morality – not that I’m into imposing my own on people, just that I find different approaches to what is right/wrong fascinating. I typically find my phislophy somewhere in the combination of Nietzsche, Mill and a little Schopenhauer.

So, the aspect of the Mark Buehrle story that I find fascinating is more of a morality thing. While I’m also interested in censorship and communications and PR and spin, that part of the story (mostly summed up by Jim Margalus) has been done to death.

As it goes, during an interview, Buehrle said:

“Even if you are not a dog lover, how can you sit there and make two dogs fight and one is going to die?” he said. “How could you do that if you are somewhat sane?

“He had a great year and a great comeback, but there were times where we watched the game and I know it’s bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt. Everything you’ve done to these dogs, something bad needs to happen to these guys.”

Now, I’m a dog lover (I have a puppy) and not an overly violent person – I don’t love boxing or MMA or whatnot, but who cares? Typically, I found what Vick did to be somewhat revolting – yet I thought his sentence was somewhat crazy given his crime.

And this is where I have problems with people like Buehrle. If you want to cry foul about what Vick did, you better be a vegetarian. We have made so many advances in today’s world (and given studies on humanity’s diet and evolution) there is simply no need to really eat meat at all. So, in reality, people who eat meat are doing so because it is enjoyable. There’s nothing wrong with that…I like to eat meat and don’t mind the sacrifices animals have to make for me to do so.

However, think about this. The veal or hamburger you eat was raised for the sole purpose of your enjoyable consumption. Sometimes, although not all, the animal that died for your veal parmigiana was raised under pretty harsh circumstances, injected with all kinds of antibiotics, etc.

So, to get the meat you don’t really need you tacitly are supporting this kind of lifestyle for a cow. Why is it okay for a cow to be used simply for enjoyment, while not a dog?

In doing a search before this I tried to find out whether Buehrle was a vegetarian or not. While I couldn’t find anything conclusive, I did find a story from MLB Fanhouse in which Mark Buehrle talks about hunting and ultimately killing a bear. I doubt very much Buehrle ate the bear, but that doesn’t really matter. What is the difference between hunting a bear and ultimately killing it and having two dogs fight one another?

You might say the bear had a chance – but that doesn’t really matter, Buehrle killed an animal to have fun same as Vick. While he didn’t do it as much or as heinously, if Vick’s multiple actions are immoral so is Buehrle’s one action.

Quite simply, don’t call yourself an animal lover if you kill and eat them.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Jimmy Piersall/Jesse Orosco

oroscoback oroscofrontAs I’m wont to do, I (shockingly) complained about the 1986 set and lack of usable info on the back of cards. Well, with Schoolboy Rowe in tow, I guess it wasn’t all bad, especially with this little nugget from Jesse Orosco’s card (his flip side, here).

Piersall was a slick fielder by all accounts. From 1953-1961 he finished no worse than 10th in Defensive WAR, and the 10th place finish was the only time he placed outside the top five. Defense was clearly where Piersall provided value, as a .272/.332/.386 slash line is nothing overly special.

In addition, he didn’t hit for power (just 104 HRs, however his 100th HR was incredibly memorable) or run particularly well (115 steals in 172 attempts).

But, boy, could he field. I mean, heck, he posted a .990 fielding percentage (tied for 13th all time with the likes of Robin Yount, Bernie Williams, and others). He didn’t post such a good fielding percentage by having poor range either. Quite simply, in 1956, he got to more balls than most players do in a career. In that magnificent year, he recorded 455 put outs. That ties him with Gorman Thomas for the 41st most in a season all time. That would be his finest year at the plate as well (.293/.350/.449) and he lead the league in doubles. He earned his second and final all-star appearances and finished 14th in MVP voting.

Unfortunately, I thought this Flip Side would be more light-hearted than it turned out to be. After researching Piersall, it turns out that circling the bases backwards was not an attempt at clowning but an example of his bi-polar disorder – one that was highly publicized in the book/movie Fear Strikes Out. In my research, I also found that he circled the bases running backwards – but in the correct order – to celebrate his 100th home run – a homer he hit off Phillies pitcher Dallas Green.

Perhaps it is fitting, given Piersall’s condition, that I started this Flip Side off looking to be jovial and have ended it on a relatively sad note.

Or, conversely, in the man’s own words (and during one at bat he did wear a Beatles wig and play air guitar), “Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was going nuts. Who ever heard of Jimmy Piersall, until that happened?”

Had he never circled the bases backwards, I certainly wouldn’t have learned much about him. But at least he went nuts in a funny way…

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Scott Servais

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I know you can’t assume a level of intelligence in your audience. However, what is the likelihood that people would think that Scott Servais and Scott Service are related, merely because their last names are pronounced the same?

It’d be like me explaining that Tom Green and Graham Greene, although they arent related, pronounce their surnames the same. No crap – there’s an e on the end of one! (Also in Greene’s homeland they pronounce it HER-b, because there’s a fucking ‘H’ in it!). See more Izzard here!

Service didn’t have much of a playing career (although it did span 11 seasons). He finished with a .245/.306/.375 line in 2,778 plate appearances. He showed promise in 1993 as a 26 year-old, smacking 11 HRs and posting a .244/.313/.415 line (it was before steroids were invented, so that’s legitimate power) in just 291 PAs. The following strike-shortened season saw him, mostly, replicate those power numbers (nine HRs) in 251 PAs.

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After the strike, he’d hit 13 HRs in 304 PAs, but wouldn’t get full-time playing duties until he was shipped (along with Luis Gonzalez) to the Chicago Cubs for Rick Wilkins in 1995. He’d be in Chicago for parts of four years — and over his three full seasons with the club he averaged 428 PAs, eight HRs, and a .251/.311/.364.

Clearly, the highlight of his playing career was on May 25, 1992, when he singled and scored a run off his nemesis Scott Service. For his career, Servais would be 2/6 against Service with a walk, two Ks, and a sacrifice. It’s quite the Professor X.-Magneto battle.

But in reality, Servais’ sweeping success would come later. He is the director of player development for the Texas Rangers…who have seen a great farm system allow the major league squad superior flexibility (Neftali Feliz as a closer instead of starter, Justin Smoak got them Cliff Lee, Mitch Moreland stepped in, Nelson Cruz became good, Ian Kinsler developed, etc.).

As for Service, well, he’d finish with a 4.99 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 8.9 K/9 rate and a 3.9 BB/9 rate. He was also once purchased by the Chunichi Dragons from the Montreal Expos and part of a trade involving Neon Deion Sanders. Outside of that, his best year would be 1998 (oddly enough, or not, the year he pitched the most innings). He threw 82.2 innings and recorded 95 Ks.

Other than the Japanese experience, his biggest baseball moment was probably being in the bullpen for the first game in Colorado Rockies history. Ahhhh, who am I kidding, it was clearly the 10 times he faced the diabolical Scott Servais.

Swear to god, I just realized, their forenames are pronounced the same, but, I just checked, and they’re not related!

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Rance Mulliniks

mullinkis backmullinkis frI feel like I am incredibly qualified to comment on the back of this card. See, my full name is Albert Leroy Lang III.

The name Albert stands out…and not in a good way like the name Dylan (stupid 90210) does. Furthermore, with a middle name like Leroy (even if it means ‘the King’ – and I do nominate we call LeBron LeBroy) there isn’t much to fall back on. So, for most of my life, I kinda sorta didn’t like my name.

But that began to change as I began to age and standing out of a crowd was much better than fitting cozily inside a fence. My name, while unoriginal, is original. But, more importantly, it represents the history of my family on my father’s side. Plus my initials spell a word – take that haters/younger me!

The original ALL was a hilarious and generous man who never graduated high school. He was a decorated member of the Baltimore City fire department and started his own plumbing business. He was a fierce Baltimore Colts fan and could pick a crab cleaner than Ozzie Smith could a ground ball.

The sequel would be my father, who went to local Loyola College, became a mathematician and NSA employee, got some MBAs, grew to understand the wave of the future (computers) and met my mom! Not bad…he was also a devoted Baltimore Colts fan…who has grown into a reasonable Washington Redskins fan.

I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. The one thing all three iterations have in common – outside of our name – is a love of the Baltimore Orioles. I & II are the reasons I can recite the great Balmore teams of the Robinsons, Paul Blair, Boog Powell, Len Sakata, Apparicio, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and the immortal Earl Weaver.

So, when I first checked out the back of Mulliniks card, my initial reaction was why would your ever name you kid Rance? But just like with Bert Blyleven, initial reactions betray us; the card quickly lead me to thoughts of my own lineage. Thoughts I’m incredibly proud of.

Hopefully Rance II is as proud of his father’s accomplishments – he should be. Mulliniks would see his first major league action in 1977 as a 21 year old with the California Angels. However, he’d be used sparingly (appearing in just 150 games over three years with the major league club).

In 1979, he’d be traded with Willie Aikens to the Kansas City Royals for Al Cowens, Todd Cruz and Craig Eaton. Unfortunately, it’d be the same ole same ole for Mulliniks, as he’d see action in just 60 games over the next two seasons.

Then, at age 26, he’d be traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Phil Huffman. Primarily a shortstop/utility man for the Angels and Royals, the Blue Jays would make Mulliniks a third basemen and he’d take off (sound familiar, Jose Bautista – well sort of).

In his first season, he received 353 plate appearances, and would post a decent slash line (.244/.326/.363) – this was 1982 after all. Then, in what should be called his second full season, Mulliniks would go .275/.373/.467. He clearly understood the point of the game was to avoid making outs. From 1983-1988 (his 26 through 32 birthdays), Mulliniks averaged a .374 OBP and only once had an OBP lower than .371.

He’d be out of the majors three years later, but not much could beat that prime of his – of course except for the opportunity to pass along one’s namesake.

When it was all said and done, Mulliniks posted the 16th highest batting average as a pinch hitter (min. 150 ABs) in MLB history.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Ray Lankford

lnakbackI came across the 2002 Topps card first and had forgotten that Lankford switched teams late in his career. I remember Lankford as a Cardinal with a ton of promise who never quite reached his true potential. However, after looking at the card and realizing he had the third most HRs in Cardinals history, I wanted to write about how good Lankford was, even though he was perceived as never reaching his true potential.

lankfbTPThen I was home looking through old cards and stumbled upon the Donruss Triple Play card and found out Lankford was the first Cardinal since the great Rogers Hornsby to reach 15 triples. Kind of an odd stat, but still (somewhat) impressive.

Adding the two cards together, I really thought my memory of a lackadaisical Lankford was wrong. Perhaps, I had the next underrated guy on my hands. Umm…no. While Lankford was a useful and good player, he was never really underrated.

In fact, in MLB history, Lankford struck out every 3.71 ABs – the 15th worst rate among players who played 1,000 games or more. Not surprisingly, he struck out 1,550 times in his career – tied for the 27th most with Willie McCovey. Among lefties, Lankford struck out the 6th most times – trailing only Lou Brock, Fred McGriff, Jim Thome, Willie Stargell and Reggie Jackson.

Still, even with all that swinging and missing, he finished with a .272/.364/.477 line and a .840 OPS (just behind Cap Anson and ahead of Cliff Floyd on the all time list). It is actually better than hall of famers Eddie Murray, Enos Slaughter, Roberto Clemente, Yogi Berra, Ernie Banks, etc. Of course his career WAR (38.4) is nowhere near those guys.

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That said, Lankford did have some amazing years, and a real good stretch from 1995-1998. During that time, he averaged 27 HRs, a .285/.382/.530 slash line and 26/34 SB rate. Not bad at all.

Was he Musial or Hornsby, clearly not. Heck he wasn’t even Ken Boyer (.287/.349/.462 as a third baseman/centerfielder from 1955-1969).

However he was a good Cardinal. According to Wikipedia, Lankford finished his career among the Cardinals Top 10 in home runs (third), stolen bases (fifth), runs scored (eighth), runs batted in (eighth), and bases on balls (fourth).

Oh and he is the only Cardinal to post more than one 20/20 season.

The perception of Lankford reminds me a lot of one of my favorite players, Adam Dunn, in that walks weren’t perceived to have the value they do and strike-outs were supposedly worse than pop outs.

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Lankford simply played in an era during which strike-outs were viewed as a cardinal sin and preventing outs (i.e., taking a free pass) wasn’t recognized as a very important thing. Odd but true, let’s give Lankford his due.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Arthur Rhodes

rhodesbackrhodesfrontTalk about same ole same ole…

Rhodes posted a 1.72 ERA in 2001 (the best mark out of the pen in the AL that season). In 2010, Rhodes posted a 2.53 ERA out of the pen. That’s nine years apart. Oh, and Rhodes career began in 1991 as a starter with the Baltimore orioles (he’d allow 47 hits and 23 walks in just 36 IPs in his initial season).

To date, Rhodes has a career that spans 20 years…but it sure didn’t look like he’d stick around that long. As a kid I sat in the bleachers of Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. I hated Arthur Rhodes and Sidney Ponson and Alan Mills (unless he was choking Daryl Strawberry) and Jose Mesa and Armando Benitez (A Buster Olney column!) and Ben McDonald. They all sucked and they were all chokers – I was an unforgiving pre-teen.

Rhodes especially let me down because I had such high hopes for him. In 1992, when he was just 22, Rhodes started 15 games for the Orioles and posted a 3.63 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. He also managed to limit his walks (3.6 per nine) and increase his k/9-rate (7.3). In short, to an untrained eye, Rhodes looked like the real deal. What I know now is that Rhodes would never, as a starter, be that frugal with free passes and he’d never be the type to post a 0.6 HR/9 rate – it was simply unsustainable. So, the idea that he was a 2.03 K:BB pitcher was pure poppycock.

Sure enough, over the next two years as a starter, he saw HR/9 rate around 1.5, BB/9 rate around 5.0 and K:BB walk between 1 and 1.5 – not so good. In 1995, Rhodes would start nine games and post a 7.16 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. Toward the end of the year, the Orioles tried him as a reliever. In 10 appearances (hardly much of a sample size), he posted a 4.88 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Not great, but surely better than Rhodes the starter. What’s more interesting is that he allowed a .202/.316/.412 line to opposing hitters.

In 1996, Rhodes would start the last two games of his career and make 26 relief appearances. His era was 4.02 and his WHIP was 1.34 – not shocking, eh? Then, in 1997, he made 53 relief appearances with a 3.02 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Clearly, the Orioles found what Rhodes was made to do (i.e. become my generation’s Jesse Orosco).

There would be some bumps along the way (1999, 2000, 2004 and 2006), but some brilliance, especially as a LOOGY. For his career he has limited lefty opponents to a .216/.282/.319 line.

But, as the back of the card reflects, there wasn’t much finer than his 2001. In addition to his amazing ERA, Rhodes went 8-0. Only 13 people in the history of the game have gone 8-0 or better in a season. In addition, as of this writing, he is second all-time in holds, with 217.

While the Orioles of the mid-/late-90s never quite got there, their success corresponded with the organization figuring out how best to use some of its assets. Clearly Rhodes was a helpful piece and is someone who continues to build a semi-historic baseball career.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Bob Tewksbury

tewks backtewksfI love the back of this card. It reminds me of Bob Ross immediately. It’s eloquent, succinct and simple: Tewks paints both canvas and the outside corner.

And it’s really true! Tewks has two of the 16 best seasons in terms of walking the fewest batters per 9 innings. In 1992 he posted the 8th best ever (tied with Greg Maddux): 0.77. This effort was behind Cy Young, Christy Mathewson (twice) and Carlos Silva (who had the best at 0.43). Tewks also owns the 16th best season tied with Cy Young at 0.84. When he finished up his career, he had a 1.5 BB/9 rate – that is 22nd all time and slightly better than Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Old Hoss Radbourn (follow his ghost on Twitter!), and Greg Maddux. Amazing.

It’s kind of remarkable that, given his ability to control the zone, Tewks wasn’t a more productive pitcher. He got his first taste of the majors at 25 in 1986. He threw 130.1 innings for the New York Yankees that year and posted a 3.31 ERA and 1.34 WHIP — good enough for 2.2 WAR – not bad.

However he and his promise would be traded the next year in a deal for Steve Trout. The Cubs wouldn’t benefit much from the deal, as Tewks pitched just 21.1 innings for them before becoming a free agent.

The St. Louis Cardinals astutely snapped him up. While he pitched only 30 innings for the Cards his first season (1989), from 1990-1994, he averaged a 3.49 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 188 IPs, a 1.1 BB/9 rate and a 3.41 K/BB rate. He was worth 10.6 wins above a replacement player during that time.

His worst year was his walk year for the Cards. It was the beginning of his decline, as Tewks was 34. He pitched poorly for the Rangers and Padres in 1995 and 1996 respectively. He had a minor bounce back from 1997-1998 for the Minnesota Twins, averaging a 4.49 ERA, 158 IPs, a 1.34 WHIP and 1.4 BB/9 rate.

However that would end his career. His last five seasons saw BB/9 rates above 1.2 which made him an ordinary pitcher compared to his back-to-back .8 BB/9 seasons.

Well, he wasn’t exactly ordinary – clearly he was as adroit with the plate as he was with a pallet…I mean his (art)work was featured in Sports Illustrated and you know what they do with paint!

Oh and he was a fielding artist as well – he owns the 21st best fielding percentage by a pitcher (min. 1,500 IPs): .980. He is tied with Tom Glavine and Scott McGregor.

Pretty interesting, if for the Bob Ross links alone.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Jim Traber

traberbacktraberfWhile Raul Mondesi comes to the plate with his music blaring, I believe Jim Traber has one-upped him. On the night of his Major League Debut (9/21/84), Traber sung the national anthem at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. That’s pretty cool.

I loved Memorial Stadium – sort of. I grew up going to games there. The seats were cheap, it was always hot, and the Orioles always lost. There was a two-year stretch where I didn’t see a win in 30+ games. But my favorite memory is being at the last game at Memorial Stadium.

Given that it was such a hot ticket, my seat was directly behind a massive support column, so I sat on my parent’s lap during the game.

Mike Flanagan got the last out and no one left. They moved home plate to Camden Yards and players filled the field. Eventually they would start throwing balls into the stands. When this started, I hoped up on my chair, but was dwarfed by standing grown-ups. Anyway, at one point I saw a ball flying toward me…I was never more prepared for a pop-up in my life. Alas, the guy in front of me reached up and snagged the ball out of the air. That is the closest I have ever come to getting a game-used ball. It was also the only time I’ve stayed at a sporting event long after it was over. The atmosphere was electric. Unfortunately, the other chance this might have happened was ruined by Armando Benitez (Tony Freaking Fernandez!?!?).

It’s unlikely I was at the Traber national anthem game (I was 2 1/2) and I don’t really remember him at all. He is simply one of the myriad of Orioles I’ve forgotten in my lifetime.

Traber showed real promise (albeit mostly in low A ball) from 1982-1984. He routinely posted OBPs in the .380-.400 range and slugged over .500 three times. He only got 24 major league plate appearances in ’84 and didn’t do much (.238/.292/.238). He wouldn’t return to the majors until two years later and didn’t have much success either (.255/.321/.472).

He was then sent back to the minors for the duration of 1987 and part of 1988. He hit decently (.285 AVE and .479) before returning to the majors for his longest stint: 376 PAs in 103 games in 1988. Traber returned to his no slugging ways (.222/.261/.324) and was out of professional baseball one year later.

Still, you can’t take away the glorious afternoon of September 21, 1982. Traber went 1/4 as the starting DH as Oil Can Boyd (FLIP SIDE HERE) pitched a complete game shut-out.

Regardless Traber is both an accomplished professional singer and ballplayer – not many people can say that!

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Mark Gubicza 2.0

gubiczabackThe more I read about Mark Gubicza, the more I like him/his career. And he became the first two time Flip Sider (first appearance: here).

In this Donruss Triple Play card, we learn about another hobby of Gubicza’s (if you remember, his hobby in 1986 was “being music”). While I was confused by the phraseology in the past card, I wholeheartedly support players who approach the game like a fan (see also: Richard, Chris).

It is super cool to me that, even though Gubicza had played nine season in the majors at this point, he collects sports memorabilia and autographed baseball cards. I imagine he was able to get some really cool autos — maybe even a few George Brett’s?

Anyway, my second look at Gubicza has me investigating his career a bit more. The two-time All-star led AL pitchers in WAR in 1988. That year, he won 20 games with a 2.70 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He added 183 Ks and a 2.20 K:BB rate. Unfortunately, he’d get little Cy Young recognition, finishing behind Frank Viola and Dennis Eckersley in voting. The next year he’d lead the league in starts (36) and do it again in 1995 (with 33 starts).

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Given his durability, it isn’t surprising that he owns a few dubious Royals records, most notably: walks allowed (783) and hit batsmen (58). But you gotta be good to be able to hit that many guys. Let’s hope he parted amicably with the guys he hit and maybe even got their John Hancock on a baseball card.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

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