Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • Contact Quality: Excessive Ground-Ball Pullers, 2014 NL (FanGraphs) – This one from Tony Blengino is a little old, but Matt Kemp shows up on the list, which probably helps explain why Kemp, Yangervis Solarte, and Cory Spangenberg all have nearly identical batting lines. Speaking of Blengino, he recently discussed the “most authoritative hitters” of all-time. One such hitter, not surprisingly, is San Diego’s own Ted Williams.
  • The Ironic Jersey Omnibus Lives (Hardball Times) – Patrick Dubuque’s long-running NotGraphs series has found a new home. This installment includes the Padres (yay!) and Giants (boo!). Dubuque was kind enough to ask for my input, which I gladly provided. Nate Colbert makes an appearance, as do Enzo Hernandez and eight other players. Fun stuff.
  • Anatomy of a Murder: The Federal League and the Courts (Our Game) – In the department of super-long reads, this is the first part of an article written by Gary Hailey in the mid-’80s for SABR and reproduced now by John Thorn. To blatantly name drop, Hailey and I played in a Scoresheet league together for many years. He’s an interesting guy and an excellent writer, and you should read this. See also Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
  • On Derek Norris’ Surprising Strength (Padres Public) – Dustin observes that the Padres catcher is much harder to run on than he used to be. Note that this does not hold true when the Tyson Ross Track Meet™ is in effect.
  • Inside a Beanball War: How One Play Turned into Three Days of Royals, A’s Rage (Bleacher Report) – Scott Miller does some nice investigative reporting on a series of brawls that took place earlier this season. Miller digs into the psychology behind such incidents and highlights some famous wars of the past, including the Carlos Quentin/Zack Greinke affair of 2013 and the Padres/Braves ugliness of 1984.

Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • Bud Black was fired this week, replaced by Pat Murphy on an interim basis, as A.J. Preller continues to overhaul the organization he rebuilt over the winter with the promise of a brighter future that has yet to materialize. Among those with thoughts on Black’s firing are Jeff Sullivan (FanGraphs), Wonko and jbox (Gaslamp Ball), Dustin (Padres Public), Jon Heyman (CBS), and Tim Brown (Yahoo!). And Dennis Lin tells us a little about Murphy, who had been the manager at Triple-A El Paso.
  • Gwynn Jr. reflective on anniversary of father’s death (Padres.com) – Overshadowed by the current regime’s ongoing drama was the anniversary of Tony Gwynn’s death. Barry Bloom checked in with son Anthony: “For me, living in San Diego, there are constant reminders of him. I don’t know if I’ve had a full chance to grieve, but I’ve had time. It gets easier every day. But you’re still going to go through your first year with him gone. The anniversary of him passing, birthdays will always be popping up.”
  • Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 Chicago White Sox (SABR) – Here’s another book I haven’t read that sounds fascinating: “We now have access to crucial information that changes what we thought we knew about ‘baseball’s darkest hour’ — including rare film footage from that fateful fall classic, legal documents from the criminal and civil court proceedings, and accurate salary information for major-league players and teams.” This one is edited by former North County Times staffer and all-around good guy Jacob Pomrenke. The e-book is free to SABR members. Shifting to the other side of the Windy City, Mark Kram wrote in 1977 about why Hack Wilson isn’t in the Hall of Fame. [h/t Jay Jaffe for Kram on Wilson]
  • For a Catcher Who Had a Pitcher’s Surgery, Recovery From a Different Angle (New York Times) – Baltimore’s Matt Wieters shares his theory on the current Tommy John epidemic: “Pitchers are now throwing with 100 percent effort almost every pitch they throw out there. I think back in the day, one, they didn’t have all the M.R.I.s and things to find it, but also those guys would save their 100 percent effort for when they needed it.” Speaking of catchers, former Padres backstop John Baker (FOX Sports) pens a pensive piece on “playing the right way.” [h/t VocalMinoritySD for the Baker bit]
  • The Physics of Calling Pitches from Your Sofa (Hardball Times) – David Kagan discusses the difficulty of judging balls and strikes on television thanks to the various camera angles employed in different ballparks, aka parallax error. From the comments, this collection of center-field camera angle screen shots is also worth reviewing.

Since I watch a fair number of A’s games, I thought I’d share some observations with you in advance of tonight’s first pitch. Do with these what you will.

Offense

The A’s are solid from top to bottom. The weak links are Eric Sogard and Billy Butler. In Sogard’s case, he has never hit much, while Butler is just struggling. Plus he makes Yonder Alonso look like Billy Hamilton and can be thrown out from almost anywhere on the field.

Stephen Vogt and Josh Reddick, both left-handed hitters, have been Oakland’s biggest threats for most of the year. Vogt is having a rough June, but when he’s on, he works counts and drives the ball hard. Right now he is expanding his zone and not making contact.

Unlike Vogt, whose platoon splits exist but are fairly mild, Reddick can be beaten by good southpaws. And if the Padres had any, that might help, since he mashes right-handed pitching: .369/.438/.631 in 176 plate appearances through June 14.

Billy Burns has been a catalyst at the top of the order since his May recall. He is a pest who fouls pitches off, makes good contact, and can drive the ball harder than you might expect from a guy listed at 5’9”, 180. He also runs well and is one of the A’s few threats to steal.

The other guy worth mentioning is Brett Lawrie, who hacks at everything and occasionally hits one real far. He’s also a bit intense. Lawrie has been known to scream while rounding the bases after a home run and launch epic F-bombs after striking out. Whatever the case, it’s nothing personal. That’s just what he does, like those crazy people on Broadway.

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Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • Removing the Fangs From Ty Cobb’s Notoriety (New York Times) – There’s a new book out about Cobb, and what author Charles Leerhsen discovered after four years of researching his subject surprised even him: “I thought I’d find new examples of monstrous monstrosity. Instead, I found a very different person than the myth. I was a little disappointed at first. He’s more normal than I thought.” Sounds like a great read, as is Cobb’s SABR biography.
  • The Braves are Salvaging a Salary Dump (FanGraphs) – As Jeff Sullivan notes, former Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin has stopped hitting so many groundballs in Atlanta. That and health are turning him into the player folks once envisioned him becoming. For now, anyway. [h/t reader Didi]
  • Attendance Update and the Angels’ Latest PR Mess (FanGraphs) – Through June 4, the Padres ranked 12th out of 30, just ahead of the Rangers and behind last year’s American League champion Royals. The Pads also have had the third largest gain from 2014, behind those same Royals and the hated Mariners (go figure). On the downside, literally, the Pads’ attendance slipped from April to May more than all but three teams. Hosting teams outside the division is a little different from hosting the Giants and Dodgers, who knew? That the Padres haven’t lived up to preseason hype probably doesn’t help either. Hey, at least they aren’t the Phillies.
  • Padres Pics #1 (The 5.5 Hole) – This new blog promises to be fun. Anything that starts with Kurt Bevacqua dressed as Dick Williams being harassed by umpires has to be good, right? Speaking of Padres from the ’80s, Wax Pack is a book due out in 2017 (plan ahead!) that author Brad Balukjian calls “the story of a single pack of 1986 Topps baseball cards and the attempt to track down each of the players inside nearly 30 years after they were bundled together with a stick of chalky bubblegum.” Balukjian will be interviewing the players in this single pack, including Garry Templeton. Pretty cool. Others in the pack with Padres ties are Gary Pettis, Randy Ready, and Rick Sutcliffe.
  • Padres draft RHP Austin Smith at No. 51 (San Diego Union-Tribune) – A.J. Preller likes his team’s first pick in the 2015 draft: “It’s a big body, good frame, big, strong and durable. Clean arm action, good delivery, and he shows three pitches.” MLB.com adds: “He works at 90-92 mph and tops out at 96 while looking like he’s just playing catch. He could sit in the mid-90s once he fills out his 6-foot-4 frame and gets more consistent.” Learn more about the Padres draft class (including third rounder Jacob Nix, who has an interesting backstory) at Draft Tracker 2015 and from our own Dustin.

Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • Home Run Trajectories and Pitchers (Beyond the Box Score) – John Choiniere wonders whether a pitcher could, in theory, snare a line drive that otherwise would end up a home run. This might be the most fun you’ll ever have with physics. [h/t Baseball Prospectus]
  • In Iowa, good luck trying to watch the Twins (or five other MLB teams) (Star Tribune) – Michael Rand points out, as others have before, the stupidity of MLB’s blackout rules. I am prevented from legally watching the Padres without cable TV despite living fewer than 10 miles from Petco Park. Annoying? Sure, but folks in Iowa are kept from watching six different teams (and their opponents) despite being nowhere near a big-league ballpark. That is probably not the best way to engender fan loyalty. [h/t SABR]
  • Sunday Notes: Featherston, Bass, Knucklers & Eddy R (FanGraphs) – David Laurila’s column is one of my weekly must-reads, a reminder that good questions beget good answers. This installment includes thoughts from former Padres right-hander Anthony Bass, who discusses adjustments he’s made in his delivery over the years to improve command. Now with the Rangers, Bass is filling the role that Tim Stauffer once filled in San Diego. Good to see him doing well. Alas, the same cannot be said of Stauffer in Minnesota.
  • Conner: First draft a ‘fun challenge’ (San Diego Union-Tribune) – Is there a draft in here, or is that just Padres Scouting Director Mark Conner talking about the future? [h/t madfriars] San Diego doesn’t pick until 51st overall, but draftniks might like to know what various sources see in their crystal balls. And MLB’s Draft Central is the place to be on June 8 (yes, that’s Monday).
  • The Future of Baseball Technology, Part One: The Internet of Things (Hardball Times) – The opener of Jesse Wolfersberger’s two-part series examines swing trackers (think radar guns for bat speed) and “sleeves” that track a pitcher’s motion and “provide data which can be used to help improve the pitcher’s delivery, measure fatigue, prevent injuries, and rehab after injuries.” Part two delves further into wearables, as well as future possible uses of virtual reality, augmented reality, brain measurement, and improved health technology to advance the game. Who knows how much of this stuff will actually come to pass, but it’s fascinating to consider.

Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • On Their Game: Randy Johnson and Geddy Lee (MLB.com) – Yeah, Johnson pitched for the enemy, but I’m a huge Rush dork. Alex Lifeson is the reason I picked up a guitar 30 years ago, and Rush’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2013 is one of only two Hall of Fame inductions I’ve ever attended (Tony Gwynn’s was the other). Rush frontman Geddy Lee is obsessed with baseball: “Being a nerd that I am, I couldn’t avoid the love of stats. I learned how to score the games and basically became a nut for the game.” Although Lee’s favorite team is the Blue Jays, he also appreciates the sport’s rich history, having donated more than 200 autographed balls to the Negro Leagues Museum back in 2008.
  • Military tributes at baseball games: True honors or hollow gestures? (Washington Post) – As Adam Kilgore reminds us, the Padres started the “God Bless America” tradition that continues to infest MLB ballparks. Also, millions of taxpayer dollars are reportedly being used to pay teams to stage military tributes. Perhaps there are better ways to pay tribute, e.g., by pausing to remember those who have served. Or, as former Army Ranger Rory Fanning suggests: “The way you support our soldiers is by asking them questions about what happened when they’re overseas and to talk to them about what they did. I don’t think sporting events is a proper place for that. There’s very little critical discussion.” [h/t Gaslamp Ball]
  • Player’s View: Kill the Win? (FanGraphs) – Former Padres pitchers Craig Breslow, Mark Langston, and Mike Maddux are among those David Laurila asked about one of the game’s older and less useful statistics. Breslow nails it: “I don’t think you can make a good argument for killing a statistic for not telling the whole story. You just to have to explain it doesn’t give a comprehensive evaluation of the performance of a pitcher.” Speaking of which, Joe Posnanski demonstrates why it is one of the game’s less useful statistics. [h/t reader Didi]
  • Re-Examining WAR’s Defensive Spectrum (Hardball Times) – Jeff Zimmerman wonders whether certain assumptions we’re making about defense based on old data still hold true. Verdict: not exactly. This is well worth reading, as is our own Dustin’s latest examination of Derek Norris’ skills behind the dish. And hey, Ben Lindbergh uses many words to remind us that the Padres outfield is still terrible.
  • How Bud Selig Almost Ruined Baseball (Daily Beast) – Reader Keith points us to William O’Connor’s review of Jon Pessah’s new book, The Game, which focuses on how Selig, George Steinbrenner, and Donald Fehr shaped baseball during what we now know as the “Steroid Era.” As O’Connor notes, “Pessah shines a harsh and unforgiving light on the contentious tenure of Selig, and at various points comes just shy of calling him outright corrupt.” I haven’t read this book yet, but it’s on my short list. One that I have read and can heartily recommend is Conscience of the Game, by Larry Moffi (reviews here and here), which discusses how the role of commissioner has changed since its inception and includes interviews with several former commissioners, including Selig.

As I write this, the Padres have just been dominated by a no-name pitcher and seen their record slip to a barely believable 20-24. Fans were promised a better team, and yet there’s this:

Year W L RS RA
2013 21 23 180 190
2014 21 23 133 154
2015 20 24 182 203

On the other hand, because of that promise, there’s also this:

G 2014 Att/G 2015 Att/G Diff
23 26,674 31,758 +5,084

(Data courtesy of Baseball-Reference.)

Only the Royals and Mariners have seen a greater increase in attendance. The Royals are coming off their first World Series appearance in three decades, and the Mariners are, uh, in Seattle.

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Here’s some stuff I read this week (actually, no, I’m a little behind) that you might enjoy:

Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • Notes from the Field (Baseball Prospectus) – Chris King tells the story of Colt Daninos, a high school pitcher who has faced some adversity, to put it mildly: “Colt was born with a rare disease known as DiGeorge Syndrome. It is caused by a missing chromosome in his body and has many symptoms, including neuromuscular problems, learning disabilities, congenital heart disease, and many others. It has required Colt to undergo surgery 14 times; it required his entire spine to be fused together. It keeps him reading at a third-grade level and will likely prevent him from attending college.” This article is so full of awesome. You might need tissues. And heck, as long as we’re all having a good cry, go ahead and read this bit about the guy who proposed at a Tampa Bay Rays game.
  • James Shields on his Changeup, Longevity, and Age (FanGraphs) – Eno Sarris examines Shields’ signature pitch, mixing good research with good quotes. As for Shields, dude gets it: “The game evolves. Everyone around the league knows I have a changeup. Sometimes, if you see the guys are sitting on it, you’re going to throw other pitches.” Seems like common sense, but not everyone applies it. In other pitching news, Craig Kimbrel recently blew a save, which was unexpected enough that Jeff Sullivan had to dissect it. More pitching? David Kagan talks radar guns, which sort of qualifies and is interesting in any event. And speaking of radar guns, Ben Lindbergh wrote something cool [h/t Craig Elsten] that mentions Randy Jones.
  • Tate, Padres Haven’t Given Up On Career (Baseball America) – Bill Mitchell reminds us that Donavan Tate remains in the organization. The third pick overall in the 2009 draft, now 24, is at High-A Lake Elsinore (whose Diamond somehow didn’t make Baseball America’s list of best ballparks in the minors). Tate still believes in himself: “I can play at a high level. I can compete with anybody, so I think this is going to be a good year.” While his optimism is admirable, he is way behind the proverbial curve. Big-league success is probably unattainable at this point, but life success remains within his grasp. Here’s hoping. [h/t Mike Couzens]
  • The Mental ABCs of Postmodern Baseball: Searching for Every Possible Edge (Bleacher Report) – Scott Miller notes the growing trend among organizations to have a dedicated specialist that helps players with the mental side of baseball: making sure they get enough sleep (which Russell Carleton has discussed ($) in the past), improving their concentration skills, etc. Former Padres pitcher Bob Tewksbury has worked with the Boston Red Sox for much of the last decade in such capacity. And we’ve talked with San Diego resident Geoff Miller about his work with several big-league teams. It’s good to see decision-makers taking this area of expertise seriously. [h/t Corey Brock]
  • For ex-Dodgers star Matt Kemp, Padres offer chance at fresh start (SI.com) – Ben Reiter chats with Kemp about injuries, aging, and more. Money quote: “I can still run, but I can’t run like I used to run. I got to do a lot more maintenance, making sure my body is right. When I was younger, I could just get out of bed, go play a game and be good. I’ve got to warm up, get those muscles loose to get ready for a game. It’s a process now.” [h/t Brady Phelps]

 

 

Ready for some hot #VedderCup action? Oh yeah, bring it.

Since I watch a fair number of Mariners games, I thought I’d share some observations with you in advance of tonight’s first pitch. Do with these what you will.

Offense

Nelson Cruz. Everything revolves around Cruz. He will swing through a lot of pitches, but he has good plate coverage and can hit the ball a very long way. Cruz is in constant attack mode. He also gets down the line quickly for a guy listed at 6’2”, 230 lbs. Good athlete.

After a miserable start (.149/.197/.194 in 71 PA), Logan Morrison has given the Mariners a second legitimate weapon. He uses all fields and, like Cruz, can hit the ball out of any park.

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