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Pitchers are still hitting and the DH is still stupid

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Michael Lorenzen isn’t the only reason the DH is stupid, you know.

Milwaukee Brewers v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Last week, the Tampa Bay Rays were responsible for all sorts of baseball silliness. There was a pitcher playing first base. There was an unwritten rules kerfuffle. Someone hit a tape-measure home run at Tropicana Field that was caught by the shortstop. Relievers started, cats and dogs lived together, and it was just another week in Tampa baseball.

It’s possible to make this entire column out of Rays-related tidbits. It’s also possible to ignore the Rays completely. A week of baseball is the same as a month of any other sport, and it’s impossible to keep up with it all.

Luckily, there are people on the internet who are dumb enough to try, and I’m smart enough to steal their work. There was an awful lot of baseball this week, and it’s our job to sort through it, just like we do every week.

For example, did you know that this week, finally, there was proof that ...

Baseball is good, actually

If you’re on Apple News or Google AMP or Verizon Scorn or Monsanto Felt, you can watch the video here. It’s a good baseball video. It features pitcher Michael Lorenzen hitting a grand slam as a pinch-hitter, and it’s a reminder of why baseball is good.

Baseball is good because it’s the best sport when it comes you appreciating awful teams. Take the Reds, who are somehow over .500 since changing managers and still pretty bad. I’m the guy who described the Reds as “better than you think” before the season started, and they’re winning right now, but they’re still not very good, probably. When the 2018 season is finished, there isn’t a Reds fan alive who will think, “I’m certainly glad that I watched every inning of that season.”

But they’ll remember this grand slam, most likely. A manager had his choice of pinch-hitters on the bench, and he chose a pitcher. This is a masterpiece of thousands and thousands of fans thinking, “It sure would be awesome if this pitcher hit a grand slam,” right before the pitcher hit a grand slam. The anticipation that’s built into baseball allows for this sort of magic. This isn’t just Manute Bol hitting threes. It’s a coach looking at his bench, pointing to Bol in a key spot, and asking him to hit a half-court shot with the game stopped and everyone watching.

Also, note that Lorenzen has 59 at-bats in the majors and 14 runs batted in. That’s more RBI than Barry Zito, who spent seven years in the National League, and it’s more than Edwin Jackson, who has pitched for eight different NL teams. He also has five home runs in 59 at-bats, which is as many as John Smoltz or Greg Maddux, two pitchers who were noted for handling the bat. Only 155 pitchers in the history of baseball have hit more dingers than Lorenzen has hit in 59 at-bats. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer have combined for 900 at-bats and two home runs, but Lorenzen has as many in his last two at-bats.

He’s a pinch-hit homer away from Hank Aaron, you know.

Here, read my pamphlet:

Just because I’m leaving them at bus stops all over the county doesn’t mean the point isn’t valid.

Also, let this be a reminder that the American League is a sham of a league. and if I’m elected, I would fold all 15 teams immediately.


Baseball is horrible, actually

This is also the entry for “Let us study this baseball thing,” but this headline is more accurate. If Arkansas catches this pop-up, they win the College World Series. They did not catch the pop up. They did not win the College World Series.

I’ll keep this brief because this has cost me sleep, even though I don’t care about the teams involved, and I’m only tangentially interested in the College World Series. This is the worst baseball thing I’ve seen in years, if not decades. I’m not going to look up the names of the players involved because they’re a couple years removed from their senior prom. I get to google my name without being reminded of the many, many ways I screwed up in college. They should have that chance, too.

Think of the cylindrical shape of a baseball bat and how it whips through the strike zone for a split second, trying to make contact with a sphere that’s going through the strike zone for a split second. Think of all the different places on that bat where the ball would have gone anywhere else. A quarter of a millimeter this way, and it’s back in the seats. An eighth of a millimeter that way, and it’s comfortably in the right fielder’s glove. An inch that way, and it’s over the fence, which is a much easier collapse to accept. And don’t forget the batter had to swing at that exact moment and not a nanosecond before. Any other start to that swing, and the play is different; any other swing path, and the play is different.

Instead, the timing and location of everything had to be perfectly wrong, and it’s ruined every night for dozens of kids since it happened. That’s baseball, I guess. It’s also a way to describe traffic.

It’s a cruel, dumb world, so I shouldn’t be surprised that it produced a cruel, dumb sport.

Gonna be in the tub if you need me.


Baseball players should run around like little leaguers more often

Because it works. Here’s Ozzie Albies taking off when a catcher lightly flips the baseball back to his pitcher, which the catcher has done tens of thousands of times in his life without incident.

Here’s Yasiel Puig remaining the Yasiel Puigiest:

There is nobody better than Puig at goading the other team into doing something, mostly because he doesn’t care if other people know that he has bees in his pants. Baseball needs more goading, really.

When the DJ starts playing a slow song, but you’re still ready to dance on the ceiling.

And here’s Keon Broxton scrambling home after Cayden throws it to Brayden, who can’t get it back to Aiden quickly enough. It’s not their fault that they’re nine years old and unfamiliar with all the nuances.

Here, let’s stare at a run-expectancy table for a bit:

So in that first example, Albies took off when he was at first with one out, a situation that nets .518 runs, on average. He increased the Braves’ expected runs that inning by .137 runs. If he got caught he would have decreased the Braves’ expected runs by .418 runs. So in order to make this a viable strategy, he would have to be successful [mumbles something incoherent] percent of the time. It’s just math, people.

Can Albies make that play more than three-quarters of the time? Maybe for another game or so. But once he gets a reputation as someone who will take off on the return throw, other teams will prepare for it, and it will be as easy as a 6-3 grounder.

The other ones, though, are harder to prepare for. But it’s my belief that teams* should experiment with goofy baserunning more often, getting into rundowns on purpose, forcing the other team into split-second decisions, and never ever taking any throw for granted, even if it’s back to the pitcher. Sometimes it works.

Most times it works? There are three examples pulled at random, which is a 100-percent success rate. I guess there could be dozens of examples of TOOTBLAN from last week that I just didn’t come across, but, really, what are the odds of that?

More little league baserunning, please. It’s wildly entertaining.

* Except the Giants. Screw that.


What Shohei did

He took batting practice! He’s coming back!

Soooooon. Soon enough to participate in the Home Run Derby?

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Whoa. Slow down, partner. But we’ve gone from “the most exciting player in baseball is out for the season” to “the most exciting player in baseball has been downgraded to a very exciting rookie hitter,” and I’ll take it.

Soon.


Shameless plug for an article from two years ago

First, watch this video:

Second, read my words on the Giancarlo Stanton batting practice experience. I don’t like everything that I write — kinda want to crawl under my bed and play FIFA through choking sobs right now, if we’re being honest — but I really enjoyed writing that feature. When I’m 80, I’d like to think that I’ll be able to tell a grandchild that I spent several days at AT&T Park for no other reason than to watch Stanton take batting practice.

He hits baseballs far, see. There are a lot of players who can do that, but none who can do it with the élan and majesty of Giancarlo Stanton, over and over again.


The DH is an unholy abomination, #372

We’ve already talked about Michael Lorenzen’s dingers, but there’s something just as important to consider. Take Rick Porcello’s three-run double off Max Scherzer in an 0-2 count:

There is nothing better than a pitcher standing on second base, trying not to smile. His teammates are like ...

And he’s like ...

dontsmiledontsmiledontsmiledontsmile

The opposing pitcher is like ...

And he’s like ...

dontsmiledontsmiledontsmiledontsmile

Finally, as you can tell from the thumbnail up there, he breaks down, probably because someone is mooning him from the dugout. It’s the best dance in baseball, where a pitcher has to pretend that it’s not a big deal that he just roped a bases-clearing dugout into the gap against the best pitcher alive.

It’s incredibly precious, and you want to take it from us to watch Billy Butler or Billy Butler-adjacent players.

Shame on you.

Please ignore the 99.99999 percent of the time when Rick Porcello doesn’t hit a double off Max Scherzer. Thank you.


I want this hat

If you guys like these you may be real happy soon

A post shared by Johnny Cueto (@johnnycueto47) on

It just keeps goin’, man. It’s the best modern example that we have of this:

Getty Images

Where a simple hat can become a hall of mirrors. Except the Orioles chickened out in this respect. First, they never made it explicitly clear that a bird was wearing a hat with a bird wearing a hat of a bird wearing a hat. It was always ambiguous on the hat. And now they don’t even bother with the illusion, just going with a simple script “O’s.” They could absolutely have a bird with a hat with a bird with a hat, but they choose not to.

I call this the “Aesthetic Bird Hat Curse,” and the Orioles won’t win again until they switch logos. It’s not as catchy as “Curse of the Bambino,” but it is very real. They need to make it clear that the bird on their hat is wearing a hat with a bird on it. That or switch back to Tripp N. Balls, their old mascot.

Either way will break the curse.

What I’m trying to say is that I want one of those Johnny Cueto hats with the Johnny Cueto wearing a hat with Johnny Cueto wearing a hat.


Rate these retro uniforms (and future uniforms???)

Kansas City Royals v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

B+. It needs more trident, but ...

Wait, this isn’t a retro uniform? This is just a regular ol’ alternate uniform? These are far, far superior to the other alternate uniforms.

Kansas City Royals v Seattle Mariners Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

What are those colors, even? It’s making it hard for me to appreciate Ichiro doing some sort of victory taunt, even though I don’t think it’s technically legal for him to be on the field in a uniform. Those are straight D+, and the other alternate uniforms are right there.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Fine enough, I guess. C+ or so, maybe a B- if you catch me in a good mood. But those alternates are sharp, and it’s a crime that they aren’t used more often.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Still an F-, y’all. I know it’s funny to remember the Turn The Clock Ahead uniforms with nostalgia (which might be a paradox), but these were designed by someone who thought, “You know what the uniforms will look like in the future? They’ll look different,” and then designed the uniforms with only that in mind. The names? Ha ha ha, they’ll go UNDER the numbers. Isn’t that wild? The logos? They’ll be huge! Ha ha ha, that future, man, it’ll get you.

Players of the future will wear a material that hasn’t been discovered yet, and it will change colors based on how well they’re performing. This is canon.

These uniforms were bad in 1998. They’re bad now. And they’ll be bad in 2058, when they’re officially adopted. Please, let us hear no more about them until then.


Baseball picture of the week

Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

How do you explain the wonder that is Kevin Pillar to the uninitiated? You don’t use UZR, nerd. You show them this picture. Human beings should not be that far above the ground, and they should not run face first into walls. Pillar spits on your “rules.”

The actual video of the catch is great, of course.

But I’ll take that picture as the definitive account of that catch. There’s so much left to the imagination, and guess what? Your imagination is mostly right. That catch was that absurd.

Here’s a normie trying to catch a ball going over the fence.

Colorado Rockies v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

This is because gravity is a cruel headmaster, and we are bound to his rules.

Usually. If you’re not Kevin Pillar.


Spoonerism of the week

When I was in high school, I started calling another kid “Fatbox.” It wasn’t a mean name — he was a gymnast who could probably have thrown me 30 feet — but I liked the sound of it. Fatbox Malone sounded like it should be a name, even though it didn’t mean anything.

Hey, look, it’s Fatbox Malone. How’s the world treating you, Fatbox?

If video cameras were something you could carry in your pocket when I was in high school, and not the size of a viola, I would have been the original Damn Daniel. Missed my chance, and now I’m here talking about baseball or some crap.

Anyway, the point is that Thickie Don sounds like a nickname that should exist. It’s the Twitter handle for Astros County, so it’s not as if I’m discovering this spoonerism. I just want to know someone named Thickie Don.

Hey, look, it’s Thickie Don. How’s the world treating you, Thickie?

There should be a Thickie Don in this world. If you know someone named “Don,” you have an obligation today. Make sure they know it’s not a dig at their personal appearance. It just sounds neat.

Also, it’s important to note that there’s a spoonerism that improves on the first name “Dickie.” We’re not complete children, here.


This week in McGwire/Sosa

McGwire
15 AB this week
268 AB for the season

1 HR this week
37 HR for the season

.267/.560/.533 this week
.310/.483/.769 for the season

Sosa
19 AB this week
333 AB for the season

1 HR this week
33 HR for the season

.263/.333/.579 this week
.324/.384/.667 for the season

This is where it all comes crashing down. This is why neither one of them will break the record. There have to be weeks with just a single home run, and those weeks are going to keep Roger Maris safe. A home run every week is roughly 33 home runs over a full season, so there’s no shame in it. It’s just not going to get someone to 62 home runs.

Sosa is on a 65-homer pace at this point, and McGwire is on a 75-homer pace, but you know that’s not going to happen, right? It takes a dinger consistency that is impossible to keep up.

Rest in peace, home run chase. It almost saved baseball.