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Friday, February 28, 2014

Catchers, stand up for yourselves.

Thirteen Hall of Famers since 1903 played at least half their games at catcher:


Rk Player PA From To Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
1 Carlton Fisk 9853 1969 1993 21-45 2499 8756 1276 2356 421 47 376 1330 849 105 1386 143 26 79 204 128 58 .269 .341 .457 .797 *2DH/735 BOS-CHW
2 Gary Carter 9019 1974 1992 20-38 2295 7971 1025 2092 371 31 324 1225 848 106 997 68 33 99 180 39 42 .262 .335 .439 .773 *2H9/375 MON-NYM-SFG-LAD
3 Johnny Bench 8674 1967 1983 19-35 2158 7658 1091 2048 381 24 389 1376 891 135 1278 19 11 90 201 68 43 .267 .342 .476 .817 *253H/798 CIN
4 Yogi Berra 8359 1946 1965 21-40 2120 7555 1175 2150 321 49 358 1430 704 49 414 52 9 44 146 30 26 .285 .348 .482 .830 *2H79/35 NYY-NYM
5 Gabby Hartnett 7297 1922 1941 21-40 1991 6432 867 1912 396 64 236 1179 703 697 35 127 93 28 7 .297 .370 .489 .858 *2H/3 CHC-NYG
6 Rick Ferrell 7077 1929 1947 23-41 1884 6028 687 1692 324 45 28 734 931 277 10 103 55 29 35 .281 .378 .363 .741 *2/H SLB-BOS-TOT-WSH
7 Bill Dickey 7064 1928 1946 21-39 1789 6300 930 1969 343 72 202 1209 678 289 31 51 49 36 32 .313 .382 .486 .868 *2/H NYY
8 Ernie Lombardi 6351 1931 1947 23-39 1853 5855 601 1792 277 27 190 990 430 262 46 18 261 8 .306 .358 .460 .818 *2H BRO-CIN-BSN-NYG
9 Ray Schalk 6232 1912 1929 19-36 1762 5306 579 1345 199 49 11 594 638 358 59 214 177 69 .253 .340 .316 .656 *2/H CHW-NYG
10 Mickey Cochrane 6207 1925 1937 22-34 1482 5169 1041 1652 333 64 119 832 857 217 29 151 64 45 .320 .419 .478 .897 *2/H7 PHA-DET
11 Roger Bresnahan 5355 1901 1915 22-36 1438 4463 681 1246 218 71 26 527 713 401 67 112 212 4 .279 .386 .377 .764 *28/5934761 BLA-TOT-NYG-STL-CHC
12 Roy Campanella 4815 1948 1957 26-35 1215 4205 627 1161 178 18 242 856 533 30 501 30 30 18 143 25 15 .276 .360 .500 .860 *2/H BRO
13 Jim O'Rourke 4 1904 1904 53-53 1 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 /*2 NYG
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/28/2014.

The one with the most plate appearances was Carlton Fisk who in the 1980s legitimized the swipe tag for catchers.  What happened to that?  When and why did violent collisions become so prevalent that the Major Baseball League (MBL) finally made small changes in the rules to protect the catchers?  I do not recall violent crashes involving Yogi Berra or Elston Howard, first Yankee catchers I watched.

About the new home plate collision rules: the conventional wisdom seems to be that the base runner should always slide.  Say what?  Even those dopes who slide into first base are not dumb enough to slide head and hands first into shin guards at home.  Maybe that's where the collisions came from: better to crash than slide head first.  Now they may resort to the sliding roll block and crash into the catcher from the pop up slide.  That's the slide that was supposed to have been ended with Hal McRae barreling into Willie Randolph.

It's got to be swipe tag or nothing.  That's the safest.

  
Deacon McGuire 1887-90, Bill Salkeld 1948
via Wikimedia Commons



Protect Joe Mauer from himself: eliminate the catching position.  Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In that final game against the Mets Joe Mauer was hit in the head twice by foul balls.  Mauer sustained a concussion.
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As long as the MBL insists on retaining the position of catcher, those players need protection.  I cruised through the rules and listed some excepts below.  I'm still not sure that a team is required to take the field with some poor soul in the catcher's box.  But if there is, I don't see anything that requires the catcher to squat.  Stand up.  If that blocks the view of the plate umpire, too bad.  Actually, good.  It protects the umpire also from foul balls crashing into his head.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2011/Official_Baseball_Rules.pdf

1.16 A Professional League shall adopt the following rule pertaining to the use of 
helmets: 
  
(d) All catchers shall wear a catcher’s protective helmet, while fielding their position.

Rule 2.00 

13 ...
The BATTERY is the pitcher and catcher

The CATCHER is the fielder who takes his position back of the home base. 

The CATCHER’S BOX is that area within which the catcher shall stand until the pitcher delivers the ball. 

Rule 3.01(e) Comment: ... the umpire shall not deliver a new ball to the pitcher or the catcher until the batter hitting the home run has crossed the plate.

4.03 When the ball is put in play at the start of, or during a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be on fair territory. 

(a) The catcher shall station himself directly back of the plate. He may leave his position at any time to catch a pitch or make a play except that when the batter is being given an intentional base on balls, the catcher must stand with both feet within the lines of the catcher’s box until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. 

Rule 7.06(b) Comment: ...

NOTE: The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand. 

9.04 (a) The umpire-in-chief shall stand behind the catcher.
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Tell Brian McCann about Rule 3.01(e).

Brian McCann is an asshole and Yanks should not sign him.  Monday, November 25, 2013

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shorten the game to six innings but from the front.

Cincinnati bullpen September 16, 2004
by Rick Dikeman via Wikimedia Commons
This is yet another attempt to promote one of my original ideas, to use the one inning pitchers at the start of the game, then bring in the "starter".

The metaphor often used for the modern setup and closer roles is that they contribute to shortening the game from nine innings to six or seven, that after those innings the game is essentially over.

My point is that a team can gain a much bigger competitive advantage by using its one inning pitchers in the first three innings.  That would discombobulate the other team, which would either not use pinch hitters or use them and possibly weaken its lineup for the finisher, the "starter" who would pitch innings four through nine.  If he cannot finish, then you take your chances with the lesser relief pitchers.

I don't really see any downside.  Players would not even be changing their roles, just changing when those roles are performed.  And, of course, there is the obvious upside that the best one inning pitcher available that day can pitch to the top of the batting order in first inning of every game.  Generally, the best available one inning pitcher would pitch the first inning, then the next best available would pitch the second inning, then number three.  Of course, the first pitcher can also pitch the beginning of the second if his pitch count allows.  Using him in the ninth precludes his retiring more than three batters.

They could also be scheduled to pitch their single innings in regular rotation and not randomly as is done now.

An additional benefit, which might happen in some games, would be playing lefty/righty with situational relief pitchers in those first three innings.

So, what do you think?  Any team want to try?  It can't hurt.  You can always switch back.  It only seems radical because baseball thinking has become so unimaginative, even in this age of analytics.

Resistance is further proof that another of my ideas must be implemented: stop using former players as field managers.  NONE of them really buys into the new ideas, mine or others.  Basketball and especially football have long since moved in that direction.  Find people like New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who never even played big time college football much less in the NFL.

Brian Kenny, good job.

Congratulations to Brian Kenny on completion of another season of his MLB (Selig) Network Clubhouse Confidential program.  Brian occasionally even slips toward radical thought.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What would Jackie Robinson do about Robinson Cano?

The simple answer is that Jackie Robinson would impose his 1940s attitudes and experiences on Robinson Cano.  "Old school", "tough love", blah, blah, blah.

Circa 1951
By Fawcett Publications
via Wikimedia Commons
Jackie would be appalled at any athlete dogging it, especially a black athlete, especially a black athlete as talented as Robinson Cano, who, to make matters worse, was named after Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color line in 1947 and became the first black major league player in modern times.

Jackie would be appalled at the overall behavior of athletes today.  Football and basketball players seem worse than baseball players.  Jack was an educated gentleman who conducted himself with dignity.

But that's mixing someone from more than 60 years ago with current players.

How would it work if we used a time machine?

Option one: send Robinson Cano back to 1950:

It's Jackie's fourth year with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  In 1947 Jackie was National League (NL) Rookie of the Year and the Dodgers almost won the World Series, losing to the Yankees in seven games.  In 1949 Jackie was NL MVP; Dodgers lost WS to Yanks in five.

Jackie had been managed by Burt Shotton in 1947, then Leo Durocher starting 1948 for the first 72 games (35-37), then back to Burt Shotton to finish 1948 (48-33).  Shotton managed the Dodgers through 1950 when Jackie is long past his first year commitment to general manager Branch Rickey that he would not fight back.  Jackie is aggressive with opponents and teammates alike.  He is fiercely competitive.  In 1950 the Dodgers would finish second (89-65), two games behind Philadelphia.  By 1950 28 year old Roy Campanella was the starting catcher, 24 year old Don Newcombe was the number one starting pitcher and 31 year old Jackie Robinson is the reigning MVP and starting second baseman.  Enter rookie Robinson Cano.

It's difficult to imagine that Cano would enter that environment with his bad habit of dogging it to first base as he did frequently with the Yankees 2005-2013.  If he somehow did manage to reach spring training and exhibited such behavior Jackie would have come down on him like a ton of bricks.  Cano would be messing with their World Series shares, which comprised a large portion of their total compensation.  Cano would have been the apprentice and treated as such.

Option two: send Jackie Robinson to 2014:

New Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is already doing back flips to accommodate his new $240 million man.  First McClendon was fiercely defending Cano against statements of dogging it by Cano's former Yankee hitting coach, Kevin Long.  Then McClendon was equivocating and making excuses for anticipated bad behavior by Cano.

So what would Jackie be like in 2014?

As a player Jackie would be much more assertive than Yankee captain Derek Jeter.  Jeter was named team captain June 3, 2003, 23 days before his 29th birthday, by late owner George Steinbrenner who promoted Jeter in an attempt to inspire his team, which had only a one game lead.  Over the many years that Jeter has held that title he's done little with it.  Yankee coach Kevin Long suggested that he thought Jeter had spoken to Cano about Cano dogging it but it is still unclear what, if anything, Jeter did other than lead by example and always hustle.  If Jeter did little with Cano, then when did he exert his captaincy?

If Jackie were Mariners team captain or a leader of the Mariners, he would probably launch a preemptive strike against Cano because of Cano's reputation and set him straight.  The first time Cano dogged it, I'd expect a confrontation with Jackie. Some things transcend generations.

Suppose that Jackie was the Mariners manager and here comes Mr. Moneybags with the dog rep.  I'm guessing that Jackie would be somewhat more tempered than he would have been back in his day.  That's what's conflicting McClendon.  He'd probably like to lay down the law and exert his authority but the ten year deal that his bosses have just given Cano makes any such position untenable.  The Mariners cannot fire Cano even if they eventually want to.

Probably Jackie Robinson would not be dealing with Robinson Cano at all.  Jackie would be doing something more substantive than managing a baseball team.  But I'm guessing that Jackie would probably like Cano, who other than the occasional dog act, conducts himself well and has an engaging personality.  See recent related posts:

Robinson Cano: should he be suspended for not hustling? Isn't that cheating?  Saturday, February 22, 2014

What's in a name: Robinson, Willie, Rosey, Mickey?  Monday, February 24, 2014