Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Jon on Thursday, April 08, 2004

Flat Top

Hats are all the rage here at Talking Baseball. We wear them, we rate them, and we love them! And so do the ballplayers.

Most of them wear their hats like this:

The hat rests effortlessly upon his head. Nice slight curve to the bill, Manny. Thanks for posing!

Last season, Dontrelle Willis, illegitimate 2003 National League Rookie of the Year winner, introduced a new style:

Cap a bit askew, eh Mr. Willis? The bill is also less curved, but I buy it. It actually looks pretty decent, and it gives a little flair to the D-Train. Cock your hat to the side and see how you look. I'm amazed he can pull it off.

But not everybody can pull off a style of their own. Try to look at this one. I know it's difficult to sustain eye-contact, but don't be afraid:

That's the newest Brewer, Jeff Bennett, a Rule 5 pickup from the Pirate oraganization. And yes, he is wearing his hat flat. The MLB.com story reports that he keeps his hat "perfectly straight so he can check runners on base." Not only is it flatter than the hat my father wears to baseball games, but it's also pulled down to right above eye-level. How can he even see the plate? Personally, I hope he continues to have trouble holding runners on. If his hat style becomes a trend, the aura around baseball players will quickly fade, especially among young fans. I do hope that Bennett, who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in his Major League debut, continues to contribute to the Brewers. I can see him becoming a dominant reliever and possibly a closer based on looks alone. Can anybody say Gagne? How about Eckersley?

A Little Sidebar

Now that I have your attention, it's time to get down to business. It's late, and us four here at Talking Baseball are college students with college classes with loads of work and extracurricular activities. Tonight Ben was slated to post but understandably, he's swamped with work. So in his absence, I wanted to get something up here. In addition, you get my ranting thoughts from the evening.

First, I'd like to direct you to the developing additions to our sidebar, just to the left of this text. That gray box, near the bottom, now includes little sections for each writer, in which each of us - Dave, Ben, Mike, and I (Jon) - are free, on a daily basis, to keep tabs on anything we find interesting througout the season. I've added my section in which I'll be tracking Griffey's health, Dusty Baker's overused starters, and the lovable Matt Stairs' season. In addition, Jimy Williams' sanity is being put to the test. Just check out the side bar section marked "Jon's Corner." Dave is following his own comparison of two "aces" in his corner. Note: although they're marked as corners, they can be found in vertical sequence on the sidebar. Tricky, eh! Check it out.

The Only Game I Could See...

A few days ago I ordered MLB.TV for a month to test it out and see if it would be worth having for the entire season. A few notes. Firstly, I am prohibited from watching Boston or New York games because I live in Connecticut where these games are available on cable, automatically eliminating six teams' worth of action on any given day of baseball. Not only this, but I am also prohibited from seeing any Braves game (they're on TBS), and all games on ESPN and ESPN2. Today, of the fifteen games played, I was allowed access to four: Chicago at Kansas City, Texas at Oakland, Anaheim at Seattle, and San Diego at Los Angeles. Three games weren't carried by MLB.TV and eight were blacked out because they were presumably available on television in my region. In fact this was not true, as not all of the blacked out games were on cable in my area. So out of the 30 teams playing today, I could watch 8 of them, or about a quarter of the total games played. I ask you, MLB: where are my games?! And don't ask me why I don't have cable...

One of the games I had access to, San Diego at Los Angeles, actually turned into a nice contest, with a 1-1 tie going into extra innings. Notes from the game:

· The two starting pitchers looked good -- Eaton was better than Weaver in Jeff's LA debut, but Jeff Weaver in LA looked much better (more focused and comfortable) than Jeff Weaver in NY. He looks like a different person, with all of the confidence in the world.

· The Dodgers have now scored nine runs in three games. With an average of 3.00 runs scored per game, they are already undercutting their major league worst 3.54 runs scored per game last season. But all those who were hoping and waiting for the Dodgers' bats to come alive have to be a bit hopeful. If Shawn Green can return to form, Milton Bradley appears to be the perfect man to hit before him, reaching base seven times in his first 14 plate appearances of the season. It's early, but what the Dodgers needed most last season were base runners.

Dave Roberts is no great leadoff man, but what I really cringe thinking about is Cesar Izturis and his career .272 OBP hitting second and before Milton and Shawn. Jim Tracy's a smart guy, right? Cesar should be nowhere near the front of the lineup. Shouldn't Paul DePodesta be showing Jim what's besta? Follow Shawn with Paul Lo Duca and you have pretty decent 3-4-5 hitters, at least for the first half of the season, in which Lo Duca is a regular on the base paths before dropping off substantially post All-Star break. Last season is a perfect example: .374 OBP in 86 games before the break, and .282 after. Check out his career splits:

Before All-Star Game: .315 .374 .475
After All-Star Game: .255 .308 .375
After the All-Star Break, Lo Duca turns into a second Izturis. One Cesar's bad enough for the lineup, but no team can take two, especially when one is protecting the team's best hitter. Sadly, this is the best Opening Day lineup the Dodgers have had since Gary Sheffield called Chavez Ravine home. But maybe they should be trying to insert somebody else into the 2-spot. Perhaps Adrian Beltre? At least he's shown on-base potential (OBP's of .352 and .360 as a regular in 1999 and 2000).

· The Dodgers are now 2-1, winning their second game in a row, both by only one run. Yesterday they won 5-4; today's score was 2-1. Last season, over 30% of their games were decided by one run and they ended with a 26-23 record in those games. But with worse pitching in 2004, they'd better watch out. One run games can easily begin going the other way.

· The Dodgers opened the season against the Padres. For two days in a row I've heard two different TV announcers on two different TV broadcasts describe San Diego's Brian Giles as "an aggressive hitter" only to follow by describing him as "nonetheless patient." Ummm, guys...is that possible?

Sterling Narration

But those guys aren't alone. Back on morning of the first Opening Day (way back in March, and way back in Tokyo), I couldn't ignore baseball even at 5AM EST, so I turned on the radio to hear the beginning of the game. John Sterling, Yankee radio announcer (must he repeat that annoying game ending taunt?) described (I believe) Victor Zambrano, eventual winning Tampa Bay pitcher, saying that he allowed far fewer hits than innings pitched, which is always a good sign. He followed this comment by saying that this was a fact even those following "sabermatrix" would smile upon. A mathematical matrix of sabres? John, John, John...If you're going to be involved so closely with baseball, can you please learn the term used to describe this whacky objective revolution? It's spelled "sabermetrics" and is pronounced as "sabre-metrics." Sterling Loses, Jooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohn Sterling Loses!

Sorry, I've been waiting to get back at him for years...

The Proof is in the Pudding

If you didn't read Dave's post yesterday, you missed out on one of the best uses of mathematical proof I've ever seen. Written after Michael Lamb started at third base instead of Morgan Ensberg yesterday (see the sidebar), and reprinted with permission, here it is again:
1. Given: Morgan Ensberg did not play.
2. Given: Mike Lamb played.
3. Near-Given: Morgan Ensberg is much better than Mike Lamb.
4. Given: Jimy Williams is the manager of the Houston Astros, and the manager of Ensberg and Lamb.
5. Given: Managers are responsible for playing the best players at all times.
6. Corollary: Managers that do not play their best players are flagrant idiots.
7. If (2&3) ---> 6, by modus ponens. That is, IF Mike Lamb played AND Morgan Ensberg is much better than Mike Lamb, THEN the manager of those players is a flagrant idiot.
8. Since the manager of Ensberg and Lamb is a flagrant idiot, the conclusion follows:
9. Jimy Williams is a flagrant idiot.
I guess my ranting evolved into a pretty decent-sized post. Don't forget to keep checking the sidebar. You'll love it!

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