Daily Box Score 8/3: It Was Unwritten

I know you're dying for some Daily Box Score, and I apologize we couldn't bring it to you yesterday (picnic, lightning). So we won't muck it up but rather get right to it.

In baseball, most could tell you that there are unwritten rules. But if they're unwritten, how do we know what they are? Presumably, by wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stan Hochman remembers when Chico Ruiz broke the rules against Gene Mauch's star-crossed 1964 Philadelphia Phillies:

"They didn't anticipate Ruiz stealing with Robinson up, that's the problem. Why didn't the manager or the coaching staff, holler, 'Watch out, he might be stealing?' "

Why didn't Gene Mauch walk Robinson and have Mahaffey pitch from the stretch, which might have discouraged Ruiz? Why didn't Mauch start Mahaffey for 8 days before that game? Why didn't Mahaffey throw a strike? It's 45 years later and there's still a clutter of questions. It's what makes baseball the wonderful game it is.

He argues that the rules change and the blame ought to be placed on the managers.

One manager who might agree that the unwritten rules change (or rather, have already changed) is Jim Riggleman:

"I've been accused of being a little soft on the issue. I'll tell you, ... I don't think we can afford to have Zimmerman or Dunn get one off the wrist if we hit somebody. ...

"The solution is to throw better pitches. You pitch better, you don't get into the situation. As my mentor George Kissell said, '[Hitting a batter] went out with World War II.' ... It doesn't operate that way anymore." 

Maybe Riggleman should tell that to Matt Garza, who last week hit Mark Teixeira in retaliation for a perceived brushback of Evan Longoria by Joba Chamberlain. He later admitted to throwing at Teixeira intentionally:

"I hate to be that guy, but someone had to take a stand and say, 'You know, we're tired of it,'" Garza told reporters. "'You can go after our best guy. We'll make some noise, too.' And that's what happened."

The idea of retaliating is entirely idiotic in the American League, where the "punishment" is meted out to a pitcher's teammate (who is almost always entirely blameless in the original altercation). Riggleman is right that hitting batters has gone out of fashion, but I would argue that is especially true in the DH-era American League. 

At Dugout Central, Jimmy Scott proposes a new set of rules. My favorite:

Never punch any wall with your pitching hand. The same goes for water coolers with your pitching elbow. It’s best to just not punch anything.

Are you listening, Carlos Zambrano? Be especially careful of phones, Julian Tavarez.

Sometimes, it's not just players or managers who let their emotions get the best of them. Even baseball writers can get heated, and all we can ask from them when they do is that they take responsibility for their actions. That's exactly what Maury Brown has done in the wake of calling for the 104 names on the 2003 steroid list to be made public. From his statement:

So, Maury, you blew it. You saw Pandora’s Box open and impossibly wanted it to all go away. You let frustration get in the way of objectivity. You swung at one in the dirt. Time to hit the showers, look past the bad game, and get ready for a new one tomorrow. Just make sure it never happens again.

The original article struck me as uncharacteristic of Maury, and this is a class move to take ownership of the mistake. He also lists the particular reasons he now considers his earlier position to be mistaken. 

In an unrelated note, Matt Swartz argues that

all of our standard measures of run-scoring are overweighting the contribution of OBP towards winning and underestimating the contribution of SLG towards winning.

He bases his argument on the fact that it is not only important how many runs a team scores but its likelihood of scoring at least one run in any given inning. Teams with identical linear weights but profiles tilted more toward SLG than OBP, he argues, are not in fact equally likely to win.

What this means is that power hitters are even more valuable than their VORP suggests. Power hitters not only change the scoreboard, but they change the scoreboard when it matters. The next time somebody tells you that a team is falling short because they rely too much on the long ball, you can reply that they may not rely on it enough.

Count one for the Joe Carters of the world.

Justin Upton has proven himself to have good SLG and has also increased his OBP each season he has been in the major leagues. It can be easy to forget that he's still just 21. In fact, AZ Snakepit notes he is on pace for a .300/30/100 season, which has only been done by seven players his age or younger. Here's the chart:

Player Year HR BA RBI Age Team Honors
Albert Pujols 2001 37 .329 130 21 STL 8-time All-Star, 2 MVP
Alex Rodriguez 1996 36 .358 123 20 SEA 12-time All-Star, 3 MVP
Eddie Mathews 1953 47 .302 135 21 MLN 9-time All-Star, HOF
Ted Williams 1939 31 .327 145 20 BOS 17-time All-Star, 3 MVP, HOF
Hal Trosky 1934 35 .330 142 21 CLE
Mel Ott 1929 42 .328 151 20 NYG 11-time All-Star, HOF
Jimmie Foxx 1929 33 .354 118 21 PHA 9-time All-Star, 3 MVP, HOF

The only non-HOFer (you'll spot me Pujols and ARod as mulligans, won't you?) is Hal Trosky, who accomplished the feat in the go-go 1930s and had his career cut short by WWII. Keep it up(ton), and he might make the Hall himself.

Speaking of making it to the Hall of Fame, how will Ichiro fare? Sean Smith says he's going to make it:

What I see here is the lack of a clearly defined aging pattern. Ichiro’s skills, and the magnitude of his play, appear to be the same at age 20 as they were at age 27, and remain so at age 35. He is the timeless warrior. He has up years and down years. With a constant ability of a .335 hitter, some years he’ll hit .310 and some years he’ll hit .360. Some years he gets on a good power streak and swats 12-15 homers. Other years his hits stay on the ground and he only hits six. Those seasons also appear randomly interspersed through the years, with no detectable aging trend.

Perhaps Ichiro should ask his dog Ikkyu, whether he will make the Hall of Fame. 

Finally, we'll end with a little baseball trivia, courtesy SABR 39 and the Bats Blog. It's a 12 question quiz (when you're done you can find the answers here). I especially liked this one:

10. Who took the cut-off throw from Willie Mays after "The Catch" in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series?

You can try to cheat by Googling that, but I bet it wouldn't work.

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