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Humor is a tricky vehicle. Used too bluntly it's misanthropy disguised as witty banter, too broadly and it isn't taken seriously. When used properly, it pokes fun in a friendly manner that shows just how much we care. You know the old saw--when you step on a rake and it hits you, it's a tragedy. When it happens to your neighbor, it's comedy.
I've been aware of Baseball Prospectus (BP) for about five years now, with their WARP calculations my first education into a stat I've come to know, understand, and love. I must confess, this was the first year I purchased one of their annuals, and it was Twitter peer pressure that caused me to do it. So many people posted pics of their newly-arrived guides as they bid a fond farewell to spouses, jobs, and hygiene for as long as it would take to read it I had to buy one of my own and join the party. I immediately was impressed by the humor--not just the "heh heh, yeah, good one" type of reaction but the "Busch Light just squirted out my nose!" type of reaction that caused me to read it to my wife, who promptly shook her head in disgust. That's when I knew it was funny.
The rest will be the words of the BP writers themselves. Be sure to read to the end where you'll get the chance to vote for your favorite, or at least your favorite of my four favorites. Thanks to BP Editor Ben Lindbergh, BP 2014 Editors Sam Miller, and Jason Wojciechowski, and big props to Beyond the Box Score editors Bryan Grosnick and Neil Weinberg and fellow contributor and current BP research assistant Dan Rozenson for their assistance.
And now, without further ado...
Cesar Izturis, Cincinnati SS:
Since 2005, Izturis is hitting .250 when it comes to finishing a season with a positive WARP.
Dustin Pedroia, Boston 2B:
When asked about the money he left on the table, Pedroia said, "I want to make sure the team I’m on wins more games than the other team’s second baseman." (He probably meant "than the other second baseman’s team," but dammit, Jim, he’s a ballplayer, not an English professor.)
Jamey Carroll, Kansas City 2B:
As the Royals found themselves on the periphery of the race post-All Star break, they looked under every rock they could to find a competent second baseman. They even called the Twins, which is where they found Carroll.
Matt Kemp, LA Dodgers CF:
Injuries didn’t strike Kemp immediately after he signed his eight-year, $160 million deal following the 2011 season, but it was close enough for a primitive culture to conclude that all those zeroes infuriated some god somewhere.
Yuniesky Betancourt, Milwaukee 3B:
Betancourt’s major-league career is unkillable. That is the only answer after the Cuban Rasputin yet again remained on a roster for the entire season.
Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox 2B:
After losing most of April and May to a broken hamate bone, Beckham returned with a different stance and a different approach, and wound up producing different results. Alas, "different" and "better" are not synonyms.
Mark Reynolds, NY Yankees 1B:
If Franklin Pierce Adams had lived to see last August’s Rodriguez to Reynolds to Overbay double play, he might have revised his stance on the saddest of possible words.
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia 1B:
We told you so. [note from Scott—this is the entire entry]
Justin Verlander, Detroit P:
Consider the bookends: Verlander had a 1.83 ERA in April and a 2.27 in September. Try to ignore the books: a 4.26 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in the middle four months.
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs SS:
If you listen carefully when Baez swings from his heels and makes solid contact, you’ll hear both a thunderclap and a choir of angels singing hosannas to the fastest bat in the minors.
Eric Stults, San Diego P:
You know the cliché: Lefty out of Indiana gets drafted in the 15th round, spends a decade in the minors, pitches in Japan for a year, lands in San Diego after a few more stops and finally stays in the big leagues for an entire season, leading the Padres in starts, innings and strikeouts at age 33 despite working with a high-80s fastball. So overdone.
Jeremy Affeldt, San Francisco P:
You may remember Jeremy Affeldt from such DL stints as "Laceration from Attempted Separation of Ground Beef Patty" or "Gravity-induced Collision With Dugout Steps in Avoidance of Foul Ball." This year he starred in "Sneezing Fit With Near Tragic Consequences for Oblique," and "Injured Left Groin II," a sequel to his 2005 vehicle.
Barry Zito, San Francisco P:
The Barry Zito Era ended not with a whimper, but a long, long series of whimpers, seven seasons of whimpers…The Giants are still paying Zito a $7 million buyout on his 2014 option, which can buy quite a few…well, quite a few of anything Barry might want, except for another chance.
Pete Kozma, St. Louis SS:
St. Louis raised some eyebrows by signing Jhonny Peralta for four years early in the offseason; they might have raised Branch Rickey from the dead if they’d given Kozma another 448 plate appearances.
Danny Espinosa, Washington 2B:
It turns out playing with a broken wrist negatively affects one’s play. Small sample size warnings apply, of course, but it does stand to reason.
Conor Gillaspie, Chicago White Sox 3B:
Gillaspie came to Chicago last spring in a minor trade and turned into one of the happiest stories of the White Sox’ season, which is somewhat akin to being the most upbeat episode of The Walking Dead.
Jose Molina, Tampa Bay C:
Arguably the best carpenter in the business because of his noted framework (*rimshot* *crickets*)…
Aaron Hill, Arizona 2B:
Hill fit right in with the 2013 Diamondbacks team motto ("Ow, That Hurts!") when an April pitch fractured his hand…
Paul Janish, Atlanta SS:
A lack of opportunity is the only thing keeping Janish from a run at Mario Mendoza’s career numbers. A talented defender and miserable hitter, he’s the kind of player you can afford only with a firm resolve to avoid playing him.
Alexi Casilla, Baltimore 2B:
There is always room somewhere for a utility infielder, but for Casilla, "somewhere" might be the International or Pacific Coast League.
And now, my four favorites--Beyond the Box Score has made arrangements for the extra bandwidth necessary to process the tens of votes expected, so be sure to take advantage of your Constitutional privilege. Voting will remain open through Thursday, February 20th.
Dustin Ackley, Seattle CF:
Ackley’s struggles got him bounced back to the minor leagues for a month mid-season, and manager Eric Wedge placed some of the blame on "sabermetrics." That’s absurd—sabermetrics might be to blame for making many of us unpopular, a drag to talk to at cocktail parties and "not exactly husband material," but worse hitters? Not likely.
Chad Billingsley, Dodgers P:
The Dodgers entered the spring with a perceived overabundance of starting pitchers, and nearly every sportswriter with a keyboard ordered the team to deal from this excess to fill weaknesses elsewhere. Then the staff proceeded to demonstrate why teams can never have too much pitching, or too few sportswriters.
Jose Iglesias, Detroit SS:
Never let a good crisis go to waste, Winston Churchill might or might not have said, and the Tigers didn’t. When shortstop Jhonny Peralta accepted a 50-game PED suspension in the middle of August, it left a gaping hole at shortstop…They scooped up the defensively dazzling Iglesias…As Winston Churchill famously said, "his glove alone will make him a net positive, even with the more realistic slash line he produced after the trade."
Josh Satin, NY Mets 1B:
Satin reignited possibly the most common phrase in the Mets’ clubhouse: "Ahhh, we’ll stick him at first." (Close second: "Hey, anyone here throw left-handed?")
I hope you enjoyed this, and if you did, vote with your wallet and buy BP 2014 and tweet them at @baseballpro--they're very good at responding. Feel free to comment with any of your favorites from BP 2014 or any other year--I don't claim a monopoly on identifying humor. Thanks again to all for the willingness to let me run with this.
Scott Lindholm is a web columnist at 670 The Score in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @ScottLindholm.