A GOOD DAY TO BE A DETROIT TIGERS FAN
Good morning from the Bloggy Carnival of Towerness. By the time I finished writing this one, it was no longer morning.
It's Wednesday the last day of July 2013, and it's a good day to be a Detroit Tigers fan.
I was actually watching last night, and I was actually hoping with the power of my mind and heart for the very outcome that occurred as Alex Avila clubbed a two-out, grand slam in the sixth off one of the best pitchers in Baseball, the Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg. It was Avila's first career GRAND SALAMI.
Usually, if I send a Twitter message during a game, crowing about something that happens in the game, I jinx the outcome, and the Tigers lose. Last night, I sent the message, and the Tigers still won, by a score of 5-1.
In other Tigers news, a big trade went down last night that will bring Boston shortstop Julio Iglesias to the Tigers as a backup in case regular and All-Star shortstop Jhonny Peralta is suspended by the MLB on the bogus Biongenesis scandal. The Tigers gave up OF Avisail Garcia and RHP Brayan Villarreal in the deal.
Stories. I love Baseball's stories and I love its statistics. History and numbers. The history of numbers. The human interest of stories. The numbered story of history. The personalities and the oddities. Today, I am going to feature a little bit of all that delightful big country buffet in one roundup blog post.
DISLOYAL BARBECUE SAUCE
I have been disloyal.
I bought barbecue sauce featuring a Kansas City Royals player named Billy Butler or as he's known by the nickname: "Country Breakfast."
And this was not an impulse buy in the store. I sent away to Kansas City for this sauce and paid extra fees in Federal Express shipping.
In my defense, proceeds from the sale of the sauce benefit a Kansas City food pantry and community kitchen charity called the Bishop Sullivan Center.
Also, hey, I kind of like the Royals. There, I said it.
The Kansas City Royals would not be on my list of "most hated" Baseball teams. I kind of like the current crop of young players who are making a run in the AL Central. And I have always liked the franchise, going back to the days of George Brett. If a team is going to duke it out with the Tigers down the stretch, I would rather see the Royals in the fight than the Indians and Twins (whom I do hate) or even the Chicago White Sox (about whom I am on the fence).
Plus, I like Billy "Country Breakfast" Butler. He was a pick up on my main fantasy Baseball team a few years back (is anyone surprised that I play FANTASY BASEBALL? I thought not.), and he has "hit a ton" for me ever since.
Plus, in these days of summer, I am keen to try specialty BBQ sauce. And Kansas City intrigues me as a great place to visit.
And though the Royals have produced "Fear the Sauce" T-shirts, I do not expect to purchase and wear one of those shirts. Sauce for another team I will try; T-shirts for another team, a RIVAL team? No way.
If you are interested, here's some LINKS:
HIT-A-TON ROLLS OUT "FEAR THE SAUCE" SHIRTS
BIG LEAGUE STEW: BILLY GETS SAUCED
SALES BOOM FOR BILLY SAUCE!
BISHOP SULLIVAN CENTER - HIT-A-TON SAUCE
Is it any surprise that I play Fantasy Baseball? I thought not. I have played for many years and in many leagues. For the last ten years or so, I have run my own league: The Tiger Towne Baseball League. Our league eschews team stats like RBIs and runs and focuses on more individual stats like OBP and Total Bases.
In 2013, I chose to play in six leagues. I know this sounds like a lot, but it really isn't that difficult once the drafting is done at the beginning of the season. I am not in first place in any of these leagues. But I won each of my main two within the last few years, and I always place highly.
Every morning, I record the Tigers and Cubs scores on my own special log sheets. I read recaps just for those two games (three yesterday as the Cubs played a double-header), and then I study the box scores. After devoting some times and attention (while playing SportsCenter on the TV), I look at each box score from the day's games and watch for what a lot of my fantasy players are doing. After all of that, I set my fantasy lineups. I used to set the week in advance, but I have gotten away from that in an effort to save time on Sunday. This ritual may sound time consuming, but it only takes 30-60 minutes depending on how many non-sports Yahoo stories catch my eye, how tired I am, and if my fantasy teams need new players.
So that's patience, but one of my league mates could not be patient. He dropped Toronto 1B/3B Edwin Encarnación on April 15th just two weeks into the season (before Edwin even qualified at two positions) when Edwin got off to a lousy start at .184/.247/.386 with two homers. I snatched him off the waiver wire immediately. Edwin has gone on to hit 27 homers since April 15th. In July, he has hit .321/.432/.641 for an OPS of 1.073. Not patient enough. In fact, I just noticed that in this league I had not drafted VMart to start but grabbed him off waivers in the same player dump by my friend and his team the Fastball Flakes.
Now, not to say that I will hold on to a player past all reason. In some cases, I will give up on a player. I gambled that Encarnación had more upside than Adam LaRoche, and so I gave up on the Nationals' first baseman when I grabbed Encarnación. How did I fare? LaRoche has 14 homers, and Encarnación has 29. After a decent May and June, LaRoche is batting .167/.237/.298 in July with two homers.
I do switch out relievers a lot. I will rotate these guys based on who is hot and who is not, and who is accumulating HOLDS, which is the most overlooked stat in fantasy, while maintaining high strikeout numbers, low walks, and low ERAs.
It's also key to draft well and spot players who are not on anyone's radar but who are going to out perform top ranked players by miles and miles. Sometimes, I will not even draft these little known players or I will wait and draft them last. Some picks this year include Arizona's SP Patrick Corbin and Seattle's SP Hisashi Iwakuma. The main measure I like best for starting pitchers is the QUALITY START stat, which a pitcher earns if he throws at least six innings while giving up three runs or fewer. Without looking at other important pitching stats, Corbin's 18 Quality Starts puts him in first place in the majors along with Bartolo Colon, Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw, and Travis Wood (many of whom were not the highly touted pitchers by fantasy "experts"). Iwakuma's 15 Quality Starts ranks him 21st on the list, still higher than so-called studs like Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, and CC Sabathia.
For more on Quality Starts and meaningful pitching stats, check out:
FACT OR FICTION: QUALITY STARTS A MISLEADING STAT
I may not be winning that league (I am in third and I am playing 4th place Fastball Flakes this week), but I am holding my own. I will make the playoffs if my team does not have an epic collapse. Still, as much as I banked on these pitchers, I am not leading the league in Quality Starts. I am 5th. However, I am leading this league in pitcher strikeouts, holds, saves, wins, and WHIP. I am second in ERA. I am not leading in any offensive category, but I am holding my own with decent numbers.
Patience but not too much patience.
THE PITTSBURGH PIRATES AND WHY PITCHING AND DEFENSE MATTER
More on statistics. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, old school Baseball minds evaluated players on "gut" and not so much on numbers. When the old school Baseball scouts, managers, and coaches looked at stats, they looked at things like wins for pitchers and batting average for hitters as key factors. As it turns out, neither statistic is very useful for evaluating performance. As I already mentioned, Quality Starts is a much more revealing statistic for pitching performance than Wins totals. A case for this and other related measures can be made by looking at the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in first place in the NL Central after taking three games of a five game set (a four game series with a double header for a make up rained out game) from the previously NL Central leading St. Louis Cardinals.
How are they doing it? Not with offense. Their offense is anemic, ranking 20th in Total Bases, 22nd in Runs, and 20th in OPS in the Majors.
The story for the Pirates is pitching and defense and how these work together.
First, some stats history and then back to the Pirates and how this all relates. Bill James began publishing statistical analysis of Baseball in the late 1980s. By the mid-1990s, this stuff was immensely popular among Baseball geeks, like myself. However, most actual MLB teams were not making decisions based on these new statistical innovations (such as runs created, range factor, and win shares) until the coming of Billy Beane to the Oakland Athletics, a transformation immortalized by Micheal Lewis in the 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. In the book, two key measures helped Beane to make player decisions: drafting or acquiring players for whom a strong set of data existed (relying on high school stats or a scout's "gut" alone was not a good predictor), and the belief that offense is twice as important as defense. In other words, a team could absorb some losses and some of a player's mistakes to benefit from his increased On-Base Percentage and/or Runs Created numbers that translate to WINS and placement in the division.
However, since Moneyball, statistically-minded analysts have discovered that defense does matter, and how defense functions with pitching can make up for an anemic offense depending on divisional competition.
Though the Pittsburgh Pirates have the best ERA in the majors, they are 21st in Quality Starts, 6th in walks allowed, and 10th in strikeouts. So how are the Pirates then second in the MLB in wins by the pitching staff? It's a combination of pitching and defense.
The Pirates get more swinging strikes on bad balls than any team in the NL. When the opposing batters do make contact, the results are batted balls that are easy for the defense to gobble up. Between how well the pitchers fool batters and how easy the results are for the defense to handle, the Pirates may continue to win and stay atop the NL central, breaking a trend of 20 consecutive losing seasons, a record in North American team sports (not just Baseball).
I love this kind of statistical analysis to explain what we see in the standings. For the full explanation, see the following article.
PIRATES MAKING FIRST PLACE PITCH
It's difficult to have a favorite Detroit Tigers player. For a while, I was a Brandon Inge fan, and then an Alex Avila fan. But how could I not love Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera? And what about Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, Doug Fister, and Joaquin Benoit?
They are all favorites. They are all special because they are on my favorite team. Even when the Tigers acquire someone I did not like previously, such as Jose Valverde, I have to come to like the player because he is now a Detroit Tigers player.
I already liked Max Scherzer before reading the Sports Weekly article from July 18th, which is mostly cribbed from these articles by Jeff Seidel of the FREEP:
There's also a good blog post here:
What I read in these articles makes me love Max Scherzer all the more. He was an under-valued, smart pick up from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and he's having a career year following a very good year to prove it.
I learned how competitive he is, how much he studies the game, that he loves scuba diving, that he is a kid at heart, and most importantly that he's a life long learner, learning and reading all the time, getting into what he calls "Google Freefalls."
I also learned that his nickname on the team is "Mad Max."
Go Mad Max.
BASEBALL TEAMS - LOVED, LIKED, HATED
Because no one demanded it, but you are all wanting to see it, today's list of loved, liked, and hated MLB teams.
LOVED: The Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs!!
LIKED: In the AL: The Oakland Athletics, The Kansas City Royals, and the Tampa Bay Rays.
In the NL: The Washington Nationals, The Pittsburgh Pirates, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies.
HATED: In the AL: The Minnesota Twins, The Cleveland Indians, The New York Yankees.
In the NL: The St. Louis Cardinals, and The Atlanta Braves.
I am luke warm or on the fence about all the others.
As I conclude today's blog entry, the Tigers are about to start a day game against the Washington Nationals, whom they beat last night on Avila's Granny.
It's a good day to be a Detroit Tigers fan.
And just because I am not yet done with it, another photo of pages from the ticket book. There are more Tigers tickets in it than any other single thing.
- chris tower - 1307.31 - 13:01