Thursday, August 27, 2009

Haha Awesome

The Onion's Little League World Series Highlights isn't all that funny but one entry on the list warrants it receiving it's own post:

"Georgia player Kyle King slides headfirst so as to avoid breaking the crack vials in his back pocket."

Hell yeah, Rock. Even if you never make the Hall you are an immortal.

Baseball Movies

These are the Top Five performances in Baseball Movies.

5. Tom Selleck as Jack Elliot in Mr. Baseball
There are definitely some memorable scenes in this movie although overall it is somewhat lackluster. Selleck does a decent job with mediocre material and certainly gets some mileage out of being a jerk through the first 80% of the movie. It's a fun enough movie to watch though and Selleck had to carry the whole movie. Watching it again I remembered some scenes as being better than they were but it was a fun nostalgia trip and I swear we saw Fukudome in there.

4. Walter Mathau as Morris Buttermaker in The Bad News Bears
There's something about Walter Matthau that shines through in his performances. Although he is playing a crank or a jerk in some of his most memorable roles (including this one) he still manages to be lovable. I never connected with this film the way many did because I liked playing baseball and was supported when I was growing up. I still enjoyed it and some of the kids do great jobs.

3. Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs in The Natural
It took me a while to get The Natural and understand it as more than a baseball movie. I remember watching it when I was a kid and not liking it because it wasn't real enough. Of course it isn't supposed to be and Redford plays the larger than life Hobbs as a fantasy character perfectly. He's less a person than a phenomenon at times and of course the final scene is a fulfillment of every baseball dream ever. He's just lucky he had that enchanted jockstrap.

2. Kevin Costner as Crash Davis in Bull Durham
There are about a million memorable scenes in Bull Durham and to be fair part of that should be credited to the ensemble cast. It's Costner though who creates a memorable character that is grounded and believable. Minor league journeymen are as common as flash in the pan pitching prospects but Tim Robbins character has a few too many quirks and eccentricities for my taste. Costner is able to give the right lines significance and project his character's frustrations and desperation when necessary. For the record the conference on the mound scene would rank somewhere in the top ten of my favorite movie moments of all time.

1. Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own
Quite simply the movie is average at best without Tom Hanks. Hanks plays a former player as a whiskey soaked ballbuster who doesn't really give a crap about anything, which is probably a fairly accurate portrayal. His comedic timing is perfect and he also is able to display emotion subtly when he has to, although he does have to deliver some sappy lines but that is the fault of the script and Hanks does what he can with it. Everyone remembers the "there's no crying in baseball" scene but it's probably around the 15th funniest thing Hanks does in the movie.

For your enjoyment:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Little League World Series is Amazing

Things I have seen from Williamsport, PA that are much more heartening than the Cubs impression of one of those Heimlich maneuver charts:

1.) a 6' 2", 220 lb. player
2.) a 4' 6", 75 lb. player
3.) an inning-ending, bases loaded double play on a layout grab by the pitcher (the ball was popped up midway between third and home, right on the line) followed by a nearly-botched throw to second to double up an overly aggressive baserunner.
4.) a runner getting thrown out at first on a hard line drive to right field
5.) a team from Chula Vista, CA hitting seven home runs in only five innings
6.) a pitcher batting cleanup
7.) a left-handed third baseman
8.) a shortstop who high-fived an opposing player who was trotting around the bases after a monstrous home run
9.) a delayed steal of home in a league that doesn't allow leadoffs
10.) Orestes Destrade's baffling lack of understanding of human anatomy (it is possible to injure something that isn't a knee, good sir)
11.) a ground ball to third base that resulted in three seperate run-downs with two different runners
12.) a mother who, after requesting (and being denied) leave without pay to travel to the United States to watch her son play in the LLWS, quit her job and hopped a plain to PA
13.) a mother who took her two youngest children to the U.S. aboard a C-17 cargo plane that departed Germany at 3:30 in the morning and only took her as far as the Eastern seaboard; she then waited four hours for a rental car to be delivered to the airbase where she'd touched down and drove the rest of the way, tykes in tow
14.) sportsmanship (almost) across the board

And, perhaps my favorite story of the LLWS so far:

15.) a player whose father was redeployed to Germany from Texas and had to leave his league (where he was an All-Star) and try out for a new team in a new country: he made the Ramstein Air Force All-Star team, which won the European tournament and a bid in the LLWS, and was then reunited with his teammates from Texas, who also went all the way to Williamsport (representing the U.S. Southwest).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

All Rooting Interest Team

In an effort to do something softer I have decided to make a team of players that I root for regardless of ability. A common criticism of sabermetricians is that they too often favor numbers over the human element of the game and I think that at times the criticism can be valid, although it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy both.

What follows are my positional picks for players that I support regardless of how good they are. I will include reasoning for why I root for these players. Some of these reasons will be petty or silly but that is part of being a fan. I avoided naming people who play for the Brewers simply because they play for my team and I did not name any players who I root for simply because they are good. Sometimes hoping for someone to do well is as much fun as watching someone do well.

I would encourage my colleagues here to do something similar.

SP - C.C. Sabathia
Reasoning: in a sport so plagued with steroid controversies it is kind of wonderful to watch a 250 lb man; it's nice knowing that there are professional athletes that I can easily outrun; he hit homeruns in each league last year becoming only the third pitcher in history to homer in both leagues in one season, one of those insane, nitpicky records that makes baseball wonderful, his big grin.

RP - David Aardsma
Reasoning: read this if you haven't yet; he is the first player alphabetically in major league history, replacing Hank Aaron and this is funny to me for some reason; his sister is an actress who appeared on CSI. Her character's name? Sexy Mistress.

C - Mike Napoli
Reasoning: was best friends with the man playing in front of him and by all accounts has been really supportive; his entrance song is "I'm On a Boat".

1b - Kevin Youkilis
Reasoning: on his wikipedia page the following phrases are found: "roly-poly", "pudgy", "fat kid"; Terry Francona's response when asked about his nickname (The Greek God of Walks) was "I've seen him in the shower, he isn't Greek God of anything."; holds the major league record for consecutive errorless games at first base, which is the most arbitrary record possible.

2B - Ian Kinsler
Reasoning: he is a small Jewish kid with asthma playing a professional sport; active in community charity work.

3B - Gordon Beckham
Reasoning: Josie's on a vacation far away come around and talk it over so many things I wanna say you know I like my girls a little bit older I just wanna use your love tonight I don't wanna lose your love tonight I ain't got many friends left to talk to nowhere to run when I'm in trouble you know I'd do anything for you stay the night but keep it undercover.

SS - Marco Scutaro
Reasoning: not necessarily stat-based but is supposedly a strong believer in sabermetrics as memorialized here; the entire trivia section of his wikipedia page is awesome but this in particular is incredible: On June 18, 2009, after being issued a walk by Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton, Scutaro immediately took off for second base and slid in safely.

LF - Juan Pierre
Reasoning: as much as he is crapped on my sabermetricians stories of him showing up early to ballparks and throwing balls against the wall to figure out how to play balls are endearing; is named after Juan Marichal; received the Cool Papa Bell award from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Cool Papa Bell is tremendous; robbed Barry Bonds of what would have been career home run number 714 on May 9, 2006.

CF - Curtis Granderson
Reasoning: fellow UIC alumnus; charity work; appeared on TNA Wrestling's Slammiversary PPV but I am deciding not to hold that against him.

RF - Ichiro Suzuki
Reasoning: his swing is awesome and I love imitating it during softball; I wish I was left handed so I could actually use his swing; his arm is astounding; he is probably the best current baseball player named Ichiro; his success makes teams continue signing Japanese players for ungodly sums of money in case they found the next Ichiro; they have not.

DH - Jim Thome
Reasoning: second place finisher in 2007 SI poll asking major league players to name the nicest player in baseball (behind Sean Casey who had 46%!!); put all 10 of his nieces and nephews through college;

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prince Fielder Erases Baseball From History

Sweet merciful crap. With one mighty Princefieldian whallop, the cow whence came that baseball has been violently torn from the fabric of history, sent spinning through the ceaseless void we call Eternity until all skies fall and all light fails.

Watching videos like this one, I find myself wondering what could possibly be going through a pitcher's mind when Prince Fielder lumbers to the plate and starts taking hacks as though he could cleave the world in twain. I suspect most pitchers feel a combination of amusement, confusion, and fear, much like how I feel whenever I watch this. And given Fielder's 2009 season, I suspect that the balance falls nearest to fear.

Fielder isn't just having a good year; if it weren't for some guy named Pujols (who seems to get a lot of press these days), Fielder would be the story in the NL Central (and possibly the NL). He's put up mind-boggling numbers so far: .311/.420/.600 with 31 homers, 27 doubles, 257 TB, and an OPS+ of 166 despite the fact that the Prince Fielder shift (as previously discussed) moves two outfielders into the right field seats. Yesterday's Superlaser blast is simply the latest exclamation mark to a season that has been punctuated like a text message from an overly excited 14-year-old (OMG prince felder iz 2 kewl!!! lolol!!!!!!!).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reality Check

Cubs fans: We're playing against Philadelphia. We're not in Philadelphia. Here's hoping Captain Douchebag has an assault charge waiting for him for this bit of idiocy.

Kudos to Shane Victorino for handling his recent rash of center field insanity as well as he has.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our corner

When we started this blog it was mostly so Dave and I could talk baseball with each other but loud enough so anyone could hear it. Well now it has a new purpose: to officially declare that the NL Central is where first basemen go to crush faces.

This division is absolutely stacked at first base. I wanted to show this so I took a look at the WAR1 for the regular first basemen for each team and sorted them by division. I hate using WAR1 as an all encompassing statistic but it is much better than showing five different graphs and looking at the differences. It also includes defense and I wanted to allow for the possibility of a defense minded first baseman because it could happen even if it is stupid.

There were some platooning issues on some teams. I used the regular first baseman if his games played total was greater than 75% of the team games. Otherwise I used the highest WAR for a player who played 1B for the team. This came up for five teams: Atlanta (minor issue), Arizona, Cleveland, Texas and Oakland. For some of these teams they are lucky I did that because part of the platoon they used had a negative WAR.

The NL Central just destroys all the other divisions. These are sorted from highest to lowest so there is the issue of having one extra team in the division. But get this: even without Albert Pujols the division still has a higher WAR total for first basemen than all but one division: the NL West. However, the NL West includes Arizona for which I used Mark Reynolds for this analysis even though he is not their regular first baseman. I did this for the reason listed above. In actuality the player who has started the most games for them at first is Chad Tracy and his WAR is -1.0.

There was some issue of games lost but this really evened out overall. Most divisions had one or two teams with a regular first basemen who has missed 10 games or so but it didn't affect the overall balance.

In summary our first basemen are awesome. If you don't count the farm-system-for-the-entire-MLB Pirates as an actual team then the worst first basemen in our division is Derrek Lee, and Derrek Lee (WAR 2.5) kicks ass.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

National Pride

While no one was looking except for Jay Wackerly the Nationals have gone on an eight game winning streak, improving their record to 40-72. They are outscoring opponents 57-33 in the stretch. If they can keep this up for an unprecedented 50 more games they can finish 90-72, in the wild card hunt but still missing the playoffs. Get your red on, NatsTown.