Thursday, April 30, 2009

Oh God.

It's happening again.

Marlins 4 Mets 3

J. Santana
7.0 IP 5 H 2R 3BB 7K

I thought this was the year they fixed this problem. Look for Johan Santana to finish the year with a 13-7 record, a 1.05 WHIP, and 9.5 K/9. He will finish 8th in Cy Young voting.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yovani: "I got this guys."

Milwaukee Brewers 1 Pittsburgh Pirates 0

While Yovani Gallardo was busy striking out 11 Pirates and giving up only 2 hits and a walk, his teammates were busy getting shutout by Ian Snell despite getting 4 hits and 4 walks and only 5 strikeouts. So in the bottom of the seventh Yovani decided to do it his damn self and crushed a pitch into the left field stands.

Gallardo is rocking right now. Unfortunatly NL Central Stage favorite R.J. Swindle got sent down to Nashville when the Brewers activated Trevor Hoffman. He only got one appearance with the Brewers while he was up. We wish him the best of luck and hope to see him thoroughly infuriating hitters soon.

St. Louis Cardinals PWMBA: Richard Ankiel

The story of Rick Ankiel was a great one before the HGH thing and now it's just another tale of MLB corruption and greed in a world with no law. The streets run cold and the moon whispers secrets told in dark alleys and private rooms. Rick Ankiel did not ask to protect this city but he must have his revenge. Catch all the action in the new thriller/porno "Skin City."

Rick Ankiel's journey from unpredictable pitcher to power outfielder is an interesting one but it has been told many times and is not the purpose of this post. His numbers since becoming an outfielder are and here we go.

Rick's numbers so far have been very good. A good showing in 2007 (.285/.328/.535 in only 47 games) got him a slot in 2008 where he posted a .264/.337/.506 line, good for an EqA of .287. He has been solid but not outstanding in center field with a rate of 92 in 2008. Ankiel appears to be a good player who will continue to produce for years to come.

The concern, however, seems to lie in his ability to take walks and be selective. Ankiel took 3.83 pitches per plate appearance in 2008, tying him with teammate Albert Pujols. Ankiel walked 9.2% of the time while Pujols walked 16.6% of the time. Ankiel should learn to be more selective at the plate.

Is it unreasonable to compare Ankiel to Pujols? Of course. Pitchers are much less likely to throw hittable pitches to Pujols than Ankiel so Pujols should walk more. 3.83 P/PA is also similar to Ryan Ludwick (3.84) and Paul Konerko (3.82), two hitters I would consider to be more comprable to Ankiel. Ludwick drew a walk 10.3% of the time and Konerko 12.9%. I think it would be reasonable to hope for Ankiel to raise his BB% a little and be more selective but it is not dangerously low.

Ankiel should remain a solid fielder with good power. Most projections predict him to post about a .260/.320/.490. Those are solid numbers but certainly not elite. The reason I included Ankiel as part of this series is because I think this season will be very telling for his future. He has now had a full season to adjust to his position and needs to start developing if he will continue to find success at the major league level. If he can get on base at a higher rate while keeping his power numbers strong, then I believe he will flourish. If not, then I think he will find that as he ages and his power numbers drop his inability to get on base at a greater rate will start to be a greater problem. I would set the bar at a 10% walk rate and a .500 SLG. If Ankiel can meet those numbers that I would say he has a good chance of continued performance above a major league level. If not, he may want to turn himself into a gold glove shortstop or find a different career. Perhaps the film industry would suit him.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

David Eckstein Will Lay Eggs in Your Heart, and They Will Hatch into Padres Wins

Fun statistic of the day: through Monday, April 27th, there is only one position player among the top ten (actually, due to a multi-player tie for 5th, the top twelve) in the National League in sacrifice hits. That player is tied for the league lead with five. And his name?

David Eckstein.

Now, in Eckstein's defense, he is hitting .309/.377/.426. Also in Eckstein's defense, seemingly, is every sportswriter in America (note: may be a gross exaggeration). But there is no way that David Eckstein, a man with as much extra-base power as a kitten with a bat taped to its adorable little paws, is going to sustain even a .426 SLG.

None of this would be all that bad from a bottom-of-the-order glove man, but Eckstein's glove is no great shakes, and the Padres are batting him second. And yes, I know that this is the Padres we're talking about here, but even if we assume for a moment that Eckstein does in fact belong in the two spot for the Friars, what in the holy hell is he doing with five sacrifice hits in only seventeen games? That's either a lot of failed bunts for hits (not a good sign), or five votes of no confidence from manager Bud Black. Traditionalists be damned; if your team isn't doing anything but moving the runner over when the two man takes a swing, it's time to re-evaluate that batting order.

But hey, at this rate, Eckstein will finish the season with 41 SH, the highest total since the start of the Great Depression. So he's got that going for him. Which is nice.

I guess.

Albert Pujols is Good at Baseball

Just to put Pujols' lightning-fast start into perspective, he is currently on pace to score 162 runs, drive in 203, and collect 194 H, 32 2B, 57 HR, 397 TB, and 130 BB against only 49 SO. Hell, he's even stolen 3 bases in the last week and is on pace for 24 assuming he doesn't remember that he's Albert Pujols.

But the craziest thing about Pujols' start is that it's not even all that crazy. Sure, there's no way he'll keep scoring/driving in runs at his current rate, and Albert has never hit 50 HRs in a season (which, importantly, is not the same thing as saying that he is incapable of hitting 50+), but Pujols' .333/.457/.681 line is very similar to his monstrous 2008 numbers (.357/.462/.653).

At this point, if I were a responsible statgeek, I'd start delving into historical BABIP, GB/LD/FB rates, and such. But I'm not a responsible statgeek. I'm a statgeek who figured out that Pujols' season numbers to date, when multiplied by 8.1 (to "project" those numbers out to 162 games), are hilarious.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Big Dick Ankiel

Just prior to the season beginning, on the morning sports-talk radio show I listen to daily, there was much discussion about Rick Ankiel desperately wanting to now be referred to as "Dick" as opposed to Rick. This was enough to make me chuckle. I mean, first off, why? Let's forget the juvenile sexual connotation for a moment and dwell on the fact that since he first came to the big leagues at 20 years old, he's been known as Rick.

I mean, if I randomly started referring to myself and asking those around me to refer to me as "Stevie" from here on out, I'm sure that'd be met with some odd responses. I decided when I was 9 that I was no longer Stephen, I was Steve. I made my bed and I have lain in it. Stevie Wonder was "Little Stevie Wonder" and now he's a 60 year old man who has to go by a little kid's name. Them's the breaks.

But Rick's not that bad of a name, is it? Certainly the best derivative of Richard. Better than Rich, better than Ricky. And definitely better than Dick. Who actually WANTS to be called Dick?

I'll tell you who. A porno star.

A week or so ago Dick Ankiel shaved off his beard and left himself with a primo pornstar mustache. Solid and true. I'm actually a little jealous of it.

Perhaps he wants to start a new trend? Perhaps to get him out of his early season slump? But perhaps, and most likely, in my opinion, it's to set in motion his one true dream - that of porn stardom. Pining to be referred to as sexual slang combined with that awesome piece of facial hair can only lead to that conclusion. He didn't know how to get his foot in the door of the porn industry, and so he became a fearsome young pitcher - his second love, only to that of pussy. When that failed, he set out to become a feared hitter. And now that that is trickling away, and he is a household name, he sees that his time has come (pun intended).

So here's to the current Cardinal centerfielder and a future porn legend. Let's all raise a glass and a salute to Big Dick Ankiel.

But I Want to Graph Patience NOW!

Over the last two years, my gut has been saying "Man, those Cubs hitters sure are seeing a lot more pitches than they used to." Unfortunately, I lacked the expertise to perform much more than a surface analysis of stats like pitches/AB, OBP, and the like.

Fortunately, Harry Pavlidis at Cubs f/x is a lot smarter than I am. Check out his wonderful Cubs Plate Discipline Trends post and prove your intestinal rumblings right! And if you're the sort who bleeds Cubbie blue and lavendar? mother-of-pearl?...the rest of the Cubs f/x site will suck your every free moment into a black hole of statistical bliss.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pittsburgh Pirates PWMBA: Andy LaRoche

If you take the time to research Andy LaRoche you will find a lot of articles with phrases like "failing to live up to the hype" and "lackluster major league career." Also, thanks to me now, there is an article that links "Andy LaRoche" and "punching babies."

LaRoche joined the Pirates late last year as part of the Manny trade. His first year and a half with the Dodgers were unimpressive to say the least (OPS of .671 and .641, EqA of .245 and .231). It is therefore not surprising that the Dodgers were willing to let him go despite good minor league numbers (OPS 2006 AA: .901, 2006 AAA: .950, 2007 AAA: .987). LaRoche was on a fast track to becoming LA's solid third base starter but instead everyone is trying to figure out what went wrong.

The trade to Pittsburgh brought LaRoche to his brother Adam's team, which (as I'm sure the Pirates management thought) in addition to being a good marketing tool might also help Andy relax and work out some of his problems. Initial indications are that this has not happened as in 49 games with the Pirates in 2008 he posted a line of .152/.227/.232. In addition all fielding metrics I have seen indicate that LaRoche has been an average to below average fielder at third base as well.

So what did go wrong? Well for one thing LaRoche was very unlucky in 2008. His cumulative BABIP for the year was 0.177. His LD% was 15.6 so it can be expected that his BABIP will be higher this year. In 2007 his BABIP was .294 and his LD% 18.6, much more in line with expected ratios. The real shock though is his apparent loss of power. In his total minor league career of 495 games LaRoche has posted a .517 SLG, and his lowest total for a complete year (excluding 2003 when he played 6 games as a 19 year-old) was .428 last year in only 45 games. LaRoche's highest SLG year in the majors was .312 in 2007 in 35 games. LaRoche seems to have a good batting eye and takes a good amount of walks (1 in every 8.6 MLB PA).

Hopefully LaRoche was able to work out his problems this past offseason. Most projections seem to think he will bounce back and get his BABIP up around the .265 area. His problem will be getting his power back up, and these same projections all predict him to have what would be his highest MLB SLG year. I see one problem with this: PNC park has been a low HR ballpark for the past several years and although it has in a couple years been favorable to the hitter for hits, the rate was never above 1.118 in the last five years. It is therefore difficult to expect LaRoche to get a boost in power numbers from his home stadium.

LaRoche may continue to develop as a hitter but it would be hard to expect him to post numbers similar to his minor league numbers that made him a hot prospect. It is also reasonable to expect his defense to be average at best. I would expect that LaRoche will continue to be slightly below average and therefore fit in well with the Pirates.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Swindle's Odyssey

With David Riske joining Trevor Hoffman on the DL, the Brewers have called up R.J. Swindle to baffle big league hitters for a week or so before Hoffman is activated and the Brew Crew foolishly options Swindle back to Nashville. Unless, of course, Swindle pitches six scoreless innings during his first week in the big leagues while maintaining a 12K/9 ratio and stealing the souls of his vanquished opponents à la Shang Tsung. Which he will.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Raise of the Glass to The Bird and the Voice of the Phillies

The baseball world lost two icons yesterday: Harry Kalas, the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Mark Fidrych, the eccentric but beloved former Tigers Rookie of the Year.

Kalas had been calling Phillies games since 1971. Those of us who aren't Phillies fans may know him best for his "outta here!" call or his NFL Films voiceover work. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a broadcaster in 2002.

Fidrych burst onto the MLB scene in 1976 when he won 19 games and the American League Rookie of the Year Award for the Detroit Tigers. Although he would never recapture the magic of that first season due to a string of injuries that limited his career to five years and a whole lot of "what ifs," Fidrych remains one of the most beloved sports figures for a generation of Tigers fans who watched "The Bird" and his mound antics in that summer of '76. He was inducted into the Shrine of the Eternals in 2002.

I should say that as much as I (obviously) love debating the statistical merits of players, I'm very glad that the Shrine exists to honor "distinctiveness of play (good or bad); the uniqueness of character and personality; and the imprint that the individual[s have] made on the baseball landscape"; to honor, in other words, those characters who make the game of baseball more than simply a game of numbers, but a game that can captivate its fans enough that they are willing (and eager!) to wade through all of those numbers.

Cheers to you both, gentlemen.

Gabe Kapler Would Hate Me For This

Addendum: Beyond the Box Score posted a series of hilarious graphs of Swisher-as-pitcher. Gameday classified 21 of Swisher's 22 pitches as changeups. is now rife with Swisher-related pitching statistics. It was a hell of a night at the ballpark!

Caleb + Yovani 4eva

Inspired by the brilliance that is xkcd:

Milwaukee Brewers PWMBA: Yovani Gallardo

I'm going to try to remain impartial in writing this and pretend that Yovani Gallardo doesn't make me feel all fuzzy.

Yovani Gallardo is an awesome, handsome dude who rules. It would be supergreat if we hung out and went bowling or something.

Gallardo is the most promising pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers and he is only 23 years old. He has some tremendous minor league stats and a solid half season after being called up in 2007. In 2008 however his season was stopped after only 24 innings when he tore his ACL during a collision with reknowned jerkface Reed Johnson of the Chicago Cubs. As such Gallardo only had 134 Major League IP coming into this season.

Gallardo's minor league numbers indicate he will be a high strikeout pitcher who prevents home runs and that is awesome. His K/9 at various stops in the minors look like this: 11.94, 9.89, 12.75, 10.34. So far in the majors he is at 8.01 (including this season so far). His BB/9 have consistently sat around 3 and his WHIP just about 1.25. All in all he is looking solid.

The only real question mark is how the injury will affect him. He has been effective in spring starts and doesn't appear to be favoring. As he pitches more he will continue to develop his curveball in addition to his changeup and slider, making him a more effective pitcher.

I think a key for him is developing the changeup and slider. His curveball is fantastic but if you look at his pitch types right now he is throwing his fastball 65.8% of the time. At the Major League level that may lead to more home runs given up to better hitters. If he can rely more on his slider and changeup then he may be able to get some tougher outs. As it is right now he is already diverse and effective I'm just looking at what could make him an elite level pitcher.

Various projections however seem to question his ability to stay healthy, with most predicting around 100 IP this year. I have to disagree on this point as he has shown the ability to throw more than that (188 total IP in 2007). His stints on the DL to this point have been related to his legs and not major arm problems that would be more of a reason to sound an alarm. I predict something more in line with his Bill James projection of 196 IP. I do think James prediction of 9.23 K/9 is a little high and expect something closer to 8.5.

I wish there were more to hope for in the Brewers rotation. I really do.

Oh yeah, Gallardo can hit too. He is an amazing man.

Napoli vs. Mathis Graphed

Since I hear tell there's a standardized equation for converting pictures to words (and vice versa):

Click on the graph for a full-sized (see: legible) version.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Milton Bradley Only Injures Himself When it is Strategically Wise to Do So

For those of you who, like me, don't have cable and saw this play on Gameday as "Prince Fielder hits sacrifice fly to RF Reed Johnson. Rickie Weeks scores. Craig Counsell to third."

Not only is that a spectacular catch by Johnson, but it's great baserunning by the Brewers and an incredibly classy reaction by Fielder after being robbed of what would have been his first career grand slam.

Edit: The video I linked to originally has been removed, but the same footage can be found here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mike Napoli vs. Jeff Mathis, or: Why Catchers' RAR Could be Renamed "RAJM"

I've been asking myself why Mike Napoli hasn't locked down the starting catcher gig for Los Angeheim yet for about two years now. Currently, Napoli splits time with Jeff Mathis, a former first-rounder who gets the nod from Scioscia more regularly than Napoli due to Mathis's superior defensive skills. This seems logical absent any sort of real analysis; after all, catcher is a tremendously important defensive position (probably the most important), and if a team starts hemorhagging runs behind the dish, bad things will happen.

The trouble for the Halos is that the numbers that should be driving Scioscia's decision just don't add up.

Last year, Mike Napoli hit .273/.374/.586 with 20 HR and 133 TB in only 78 games. He accounted for 17 RAR (runs above replacement) at the plate as a #2, platoon catcher!

Mathis, meanwhile, barely hit his weight, posting a .194/.275/.318 line with 9 HR and 90 TB in 94 games, all of which was "good" for a batting RAR of -18.0 (yes, that's negative eighteen).

There is no platoon advantage, either. Both Napoli and Mathis hit from the right side, and both had roughly identical splits (they hit lefties better, albeit at roughly a league average rate for righties). So not only is neither a platoon candidate in general, but even if their advantages against lefties were pushed to comically absurd levels, the fact that both are stronger against LHPs would make them poor platoon partners.

So at first glance, the winningest team in the Majors last year trotted out a catcher who couldn't stay above the Mendoza line, costing his team 18 runs versus the average farmhand, in roughly two thirds of their 2008 contests. Now, a lot of people (both Angels organization insiders and writers/bloggers) have been claiming that Mathis has improved his hitting (is it even possible to get worse than that '08 line?), and the early results this year, though beyond insignificant statistically, have got to be encouraging for the Mathis camp: in his first three games, Mathis is 4-for-10 with a double, three runs scored, two RBI, and a walk. Of course, the argument for Mathis over Napoli is that Mathis makes up for his shortcomings at the plate with what he does behind it, so if he is in fact a good enough defender to make up that 33 run defecit (Napoli loses two runs for his baserunning according to CHONE, which is the only reason the defecit isn't 35) then any added offensive production in 2009 would be gravy. But is Mathis's defense good enough to make up such a huge gap in run production through run prevention?

Not even close.

Mathis is a very solid defensive catcher, good for 9 RAR behind the dish. But Napoli isn't terrible on defense; he's on the wrong side of zero, but a -1 RAR looks pretty manageable next to all those extra batting runs. Even taking Mathis's extra playing time into account, his total RAR (hitting, fielding, and the whole nine) comes to just two. Napoli's RAR? 23. Napoli was worth 2.3 wins on the short end of a catching platoon; he's a 4-5 win player waiting to happen. Mathis was worth only 0.2, making him a replacement-level catcher in 2008.

The trouble with Scioscia's logic isn't that defense is unimportant for a catcher. Obviously, it's tremendously important (though most sabermetric analysis still rates defense at about half the importance of offense). The trouble is that Scioscia doesn't seem to be paying attention to how much better Mathis and Napoli are than one another at each aspect of the game. Mathis is clearly the superior defensive catcher, though not by an awful lot when that superiority is translated into baseball currency (runs). Napoli is clearly the superior offensive catcher, and by a hell of a lot. A 33 run advantage with the bat is absolutely monstrous. Mathis couldn't overcome it with his 9 RAR catching last year. Neither could Yadier Molina and his 13 FRAR. Nor could Johnny Bench in any of his 17 seasons (not that he'd have needed to; in his prime, the man could hit). Give Mathis Pudge Rodriguez's (arguably the best defensive catcher of all time) 1996 catching skills (33 RAR) and he just barely pulls even with Mike Napoli.

All this should put things in pretty stark perspective: for a hitter like Jeff Mathis to be worth starting over a hitter like Mike Napoli, Mathis would have to be the best defensive catcher of all time. Or he'd have to be really damned good and learn how to hit a little.

There are, of course, extenuating circumstances. As I've already mentioned, Mathis has reportedly improved his hitting significantly (though as encouraging as Mathis's first three games have been, let's not forget that in Napoli's first two he has gone 4-for-6 with 2 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB, 2 R, and 3 RBI for a hilarious week 1 OPS+ of 584). Napoli has also been injury prone, and had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder last October (though the procedure was described as "a cleanup"). What effects, for better or worse, this surgery will have on Napoli's offensive and defensive numbers remains to be seen, but even assuming that Napoli regresses and Mathis improves, it seems unlikely that last year's 2 RAR player (in 16 more games!) will overtake last year's 23 RAR player.

Mike Napoli may never have the durability of a Jason Kendall or the defensive skillset of a Pudge Rodriguez (or even a Jeff Mathis, for that matter!), but 120 games of Mike Napoli for an AL West team that needs to fight off the new-and-improved Oakland A's would be tremendous. At the very least, Scioscia should start playing his more valuable player more often. And although he certainly shouldn't ignore the benefits of run prevention, he needs to quantify that run prevention rather than using an overly simplistic "defense > offense" equation when deciding who should gear up more often, because right now he's essentially starting Damian Miller over Mike Piazza in two thirds of the Angels' games.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Raise of the Glass to Nick Adenhart

2009: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 5 K, 1.667 WHIP, 0.00 ERA.

Nick Adenhart's career stats.

Godspeed, kid.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Houston Astros PWMBA: Hunter Pence

I meant to have most of these up before the season started but I got distracted battling a cyborg T-Rex using only a length of piano wire. Whether that is true or not I believe I am forgiven.

I mentioned Hunter Pence briefly in my Astros FA FA FA but I really see him as being the biggest question mark for a team that seems to be full of them. Hunter Pence has only two seasons in the majors and they are drastically different.

In his rookie year Hunter Pence posted a line of .322/.360/.539 and was third place in NL Rookie of the Year voting (behind Ryan "King of Awesome" Braun and Troy "Duke of Decent" Tulowitzki). His sophomore year saw his numbers drop across the board to a line of .269/.318/.466 and was third place in nothing.

What happened to cause such a dramatic drop in offensive stats? The biggest issue was that his BABIP in his rookie year was .378 (extraordinarily high) and in his sophomore year it predictably dropped (.303). He also played in more games and had significantly more ABs his second year (158 more) which when combined with such a large drop in BABIP will lead to a significant drop in rates.

So what to expect? It would be easy to say that his BABIP will probably come up a bit from the previous year (.303 is very low and well below league average), however it is almost universally accepted that batters control BABIP and do not regress to league average but instead will remain closer/regress to their individual BABIP. Since Pence only has two years of play it is hard to say what his individual BABIP should be expected to be.

I would expect it to remain very low for one important reason: Pence's GB/FB/LD percentages. In Pence's two years his GB/FB ratio was 1.55 and 1.50. It would be reasonable to expect him to have a similar ratio in 2009. Combine this with his LD percentages of 19.4% and 13.9% for his two years and it becomes all the more apparent that the BABIP of .378 was incredibly flukey but that the BABIP of .303 could have been significantly lower as well. "As a general formula, BABIP equals the percent of batted balls that are line drives (LD%) plus .120."

Is it possible for him to maintain this trend of constantly having a BABIP greater than expected from his LD%? Of course, and he wouldn't be the first person to do it year in and year out. Ichiro, for example, has shown an ability to outperform this expectation. It is important to note though that Ichiro's lowest LD% for a season was 18.4% and that he is maybe the best contact hitter in the league. In short: Hunter Pence is not Ichiro.

I would expect Hunter Pence to have a year on par with or worse than 2008. His BABIP will not continue to be so different from his already low LD%. I have no raw numbers to offer up as a prediction, but I will say that most projections see him doing better than last year. I am going against the grain on this one. He hits a high percentage of ground balls and teams will begin making adjustments making it harder for many of those to squeeze though to the outfield.

Sorry about the lack of graphs. I was making one but got interrupted by a ethereal velociraptor.

Friday, April 3, 2009

R.J. Swindled

One of the more intriguing moves in the NL Central this offseason was the Brewers' signing of LOOGY-waiting-to-happen R.J. Swindle. Not only has Swindle absolutely dominated in the high minors (15.53 K/9, 1.41 BB/9 in his first three years of minor league work), but he throws a 55mph (!) curve that breaks down and away from lefties. Dude. Throws. An. Eephus.

Both Caleb and I love the eephus (and the knuckleball, for that matter). Needless to say, when the Brewers signed Swindle, we were both excited; Caleb because his team had landed a reliever with an eephus-in-everything-but-name and ridiculous minor league splits, and me because I'd get to watch Swindle pitch often in 2009 (although I knew I'd probably be reduced to tears the first time that sweeping, 50's curve came at Kosuke Fukudome).

And yet, despite his Spring Training success (4 G, 7 IP, 1 ER, 1.80 ERA, .167 BAA), and despite the fact that the Brewers' big-ticket reliever, Trevor Hoffman, will begin the season on the DL, and despite the fact that the Brew Crew's bullpen has only one lefty (Mitch Stetter), R.J. Swindle will begin the 2009 season in AAA.

I'll tell you what, Milwaukee: how about you ship Swindle south to Chicago?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Curious Case of April the First

In honor of April Fools Day, here's a blast from the sportswriting past: perhaps the most famous sports hoax of all time, "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch" by George Plimpton of Sports Illustrated. "The Curious Case" is more than just an April 1st gag, though; it's a truly inspired little piece of baseball fiction that any fan should read at least once.

For those of you already familiar with Sidd Finch, check out "The Curious Case of Neftali Perez" for a contemporary version of Plimpton's classic with a Texas Rangers twist.

Now if you'll excuse me, the first is almost over and I only have two-and-a-half more hours to convince Caleb that he died in a car wreck on the way to work and is currently existing in a hellish state of limbo from which even death itself is no longer an escape option.