A bit of a shorter box score today, as I'm headed to a wedding this afternoon. Of course, if you think I've missed anything, post it in the comments and discuss away!
Table of Contents
One of the caricatures of sabermetrics is that it always advocates leaving the bat on the shoulder rather than swinging away. And while getting on base is certainly valuable, there's more than one way to skin a cowhide. Take a look at these leaderboards from Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing. He took FanGraphs' swing percentages and converted them to (Swings at Strikes)/(Total Swings). The hitters who swung at the fewest pitches outside the zone were: Iwamura, Scutaro, Giles, Ianetta, Castillo. The hitters who swung at pitches outside the zone most often were: E Alfonzo, Sandoval, Guerrero, B Molina, E Aybar.
It's interesting how all the free swingers came from two teams (Giants and Angels). Which group do you think is better? At the link you can also find leaderboards for starters and relievers.
Of course, one hitter who isn't afraid to take the bat off his shoulder is Ichiro. In the Wall Street Journal, Ben Austen dusts off Palmer & Gillette's batting runs to argue that, although Ichiro leads the league in hits, he isn't as valuable as his batting average suggests:
We're not saying it's Ichiro's fault that the Mariners have lost more than 90 games in three of the last five full seasons. But maybe the wizard of the one-bagger isn't quite as valuable as he seems.
Of course we know this is true when it comes to evaluating Ichiro's hitting, but does that mean he isn't as valuable as he seems? He's already been worth 3.8 wins above replacement this season, with the extra value almost all tied up in his fielding ability. The article strikes me as yet another example of newspaper writers underestimating player defense.
You may have heard that the state of Delaware is attempting to legalize sports betting, which is currently legal only in that state and Nevada. However, the four major sports plus the NCAA have been trying to block Delaware's attempts, and they have recently won a small victory in that effort. By law, Delaware is one of only four states where it would be possible to legalize sports betting (along with Nevada, Oregon, and Montana). However, the the leagues' lawsuit argues that sports betting would violate the Delaware constitution, which allows state-run gambling only on games of chance. Sports betting is set to begin in the First State on September 1st, and ruling is expected in a Federal Appeals court before that date.
A recent article in the New York Times looks at the disappearance of the left-handed catcher. No southpaw has donned the tools of ignorance in twenty years. Alan Schwarz spoke with Benny Distefano, the last lefty behind the dish, who offers two possible explanations:
Bunts toward third base, he said, cause problems for left-handed catchers. In scampering to grab the ball, transferring it to their left hand and throwing to either first or second base, their bodies get closed and clumsy. Throws for right-handers are far more open and natural.
But the primary problem Distefano encountered was with plays at home. Because his glove was on his right hand, every accurate throw to the runner’s side of the plate would have to be reached for backhanded, impeding a quick tag. And on outfielder throws up the first-base line, reaching out with his right hand would leave his throwing shoulder wide open to the runner.
I've always subscribed to a different explanation. Catchers need to be able to throw pretty hard, and any lefty who can throw in the high 80s is converted into a pitcher, because hard-throwing lefties don't spontaneously appear on rosters.
Over at Seamheads, Shelly Riley brings up a topic dear to my heart. She wonders what the big deal with baseball on the radio is:
Baseball on the radio was always something I resorted to when I didn’t have a TV accessible to me or the game was not on TV. It was just another way to get my daily fix. I like baseball on the radio, but at times I find it hard to listen to the game without doing something. Then my attention is drawn elsewhere and not on the game. I lose track of the batting order, I forget counts, and last at bats become a blur. I can’t help but think about the sink of dirty dishes I should be doing or the laundry that still needs to be folded. Baseball on the radio is highly unproductive for me.
I have made my opinion on the subject known previously:
I hope that the radios--the ones on workbenches and in cars, the ones stowed away in school lockers and backpacks, the ones perched on radiators in bathrooms and high up on the shelf at gas stations--I hope they don't disappear. Because to listen to baseball on the radio is to imagine the game, to imagine yourself there, to imagine the men in the booth. If it dies, I fear we will lose that imagination as well.
But my hope was buoyed the recent news that Vin Scully may not actually retire after the 2010 season, as was previously reported.
I'm curious what other explanations there might be for why there haven't been more left-handed catchers? Are there possibilities that haven't been mentioned?