all-star game

Justin Turner Is Further Proof That Don Mattingly Is The Worst

at Turner Field on July 21, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.

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All-Star rosters were released today, and I’ve seen some mention Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner on lists of notable snubs.  That Turner could even be considered as a potential All-Star is remarkable, since he began the season as a part-time player and only became the primary third baseman for the Dodgers in the final days of May.   The relatively unknown Turner is now hitting 3rd most nights in a Dodger lineup full of superstars and multi-millionaires.

Now, if Turner really is for real and the rightful centerpiece of the Dodgers lineup moving forward, the question then is, what the hell took Dodger manager Don Mattingly so long to figure that out?  Over the last year or so (excluding July 2014 when Turner was hurt and only had 14 at bats), Turner’s monthly OPS numbers have been 1.013, .969, 1.192, .749, .991 and .999.  For whatever reason, Donnie Baseball just didn’t think that Turner looked like a real baseball player until he had been mashing for an entire year.

So fine, whatever, Mattingly was slow on the uptake.  So what?  Well, if you recall, the Dodgers lost in the first round of the playoffs last year to the Cardinals, losing three games by a combined four runs.  Turner’s predecessor, Juan Uribe, started all four games and slashed a miserable .118/.118/.118.  Meanwhile, Turner, coming off a .388/.459/.566 second half, received a grand total of two at bats in the series.  You don’t think the difference between a red-hot Turner and a clearly ineffective Uribe could have been worth a run or two over four games?

This oversight may have been lost to most at the time, likely overshadowed by the endless supply of Mattingly’s other confounding decisions.  But in hindsight, Mattingly’s failure to recognize much sooner that Justin Turner is an everyday player, if not a star, may have been his biggest bungle yet.

2014 All-Star Rosters: Addition By Subtraction

mlb-kansas-city-royals-minnesota-twins

Imagine that it’s the late innings of the 2014 All-Star Game, baseball’s summertime showcase where all of the best and brightest stars across MLB are on the field together.  The score is close, and the outcome of the game hinges on each pitch.  In from the bullpen comes…Tony Watson????….to face….Kurt Suzuki????

Let me say it simply: the All-Star Game sucks.  It SHOULD be much better.  But it’s been watered-down and dumbed-down to the point where the game itself is a complete farce.  And that starts with the roster selections.  Now, in the past, I’ve advocated for broad, wholesale changes to the game format.  But apparently no one is listening.  So let me take a moment to plead for one simple change: reduce the roster sizes from 34 to 25.

The huge current roster size is one of the reasons why the All-Star Game itself is such a clowncar shitshow.  It also dilutes the value to the player of receiving an All-Star Game invitation: is it really such an honor for a closer to be named an All-Star when 25% of all closers are named to the team every year?  No wonder many players would rather go on vacation than show up.  And yes, while contracting rosters might lead to more deserving players being snubbed, well, a lot of those players are being excluded anyways (e.g. Chris Sale, Ian Kinsler, Stephen Strasburg).

So let’s take this year’s rosters and trim the fat a little bit:

American League 

CUT:  C Derek Norris and C Kurt Suzuki
There’s already a rule that allows a player to re-enter the game to replace an injured or ejected catcher.  So why do we need THREE catchers on a roster, as is the case this year with both the AL and the NL?  Suzuki is still nothing more than a journeyman and Norris has only recently emerged from strict platoon player status.  Let Victor Martinez be the backup catcher for the AL; he can handle it.

CUT:  RP Dellin Betances
While I don’t think it should be impossible for a middle reliever to make an All-Star Game if they are having a mind-blowing season, the bar should be very high.  Generally, middle relievers aren’t even the best relievers on their own teams, so why are they getting All-Star nods?  Betances has been really really good for the Yankees and has thrown a ton of innings for them (over 50), but he has no past track record of this kind of success.  And yeah, he’s racked up a lot of strikeouts, but his strikeout rate of 13.95 per nine innings is only second best on his team, behind closer David Robertson (16.43).

CUT:  RP Sean Doolittle
Even after cutting Betances, there are still three relievers on this team, which is one too many.  I’m going to keep Glen Perkins, since Minnesota (where the ASG is being played) should have at least one representative.  I’d probably take Koji Uehara instead of either Greg Holland or Doolittle, but since I’m just cutting and not adding, I’ll remove Doolittle, who’s only had the closer job for a month and a half.

CUT:  1B Brandon Moss and 3B Kyle Seager
No doubt, both Moss and Seager are having great years.  But there simply isn’t room for Moss with two more deserving first basemen (Miguel Cabrera and Jose Abreu) already on the roster.  Same thing for Seager, who’s behind Josh Donaldson (he’s been slumping, but I’m honoring the fan vote for now) and Adrian Beltre (longer track record, more star power).

CUT:  OF Yoenis Cespedes
You don’t need three extra outfielders, so I’m cutting one.  To me, Michael Brantley is clearly deserving, so it comes down to Cespedes and Alex Gordon.  Advanced stats love Gordon’s defense, ranking him third overall in FanGraphs WAR largely due to his glove and arm, and I have a hard time stomaching Cespedes’ mediocre .316 OBP.  (The A’s ended up with an insane seven All-Stars (if you count newly acquired Jeff Samardzija) and I’m cutting four of them here.  The thing is, if I were adding players, I’d probably cut Scott Kazmir for Chris Sale or Corey Kluber or Garrett Richards.  And as mentioned above, I’d consider cutting Donaldson as well if he weren’t already voted in as a starter.  And Samardzija’s not going to pitch in the game.  So yeah, the A’s are probably the best team in the majors right now, but they are doing it without any true superstars; they could just as easily have ended up with zero All-Stars.)

CUT:  SS Alexei Ramirez
There are those who are complaining about Derek Jeter’s inclusion in this year’s game, but there simply aren’t any really worthy candidates at shortstop who are being shortchanged here.  It’s picking the best of a mediocre lot.  We don’t even need a backup here; just let Jetes play the whole game.

Trimmed AL Roster

C Salvador Perez
1B Miguel Cabrera
2B Robinson Cano
3B Josh Donaldson
SS Derek Jeter
OF Jose Bautista
OF Mike Trout
OF Adam Jones
DH Nelson Cruz

SP Mark Buehrle
SP Yu Darvish
SP Felix Hernandez
SP Scott Kazmir
SP Jon Lester
SP Max Scherzer
SP David Price
SP Masahiro Tanaka
RP Greg Holland
RP Glen Perkins

1B Jose Abreu
2B Jose Altuve
3B Adrian Beltre
OF Michael Brantley
OF Alex Gordon
DH Victor Martinez

National League

CUT:  RP Pat Neshek and RP Tony Watson
Again, middle relievers, and neither of these guys have even been as good as Betances.

CUT:  C Devin Mesoraco
Having a good year, but again, don’t need three catchers.

CUT:  3B Matt Carpenter and 2B Daniel Murphy
As above, the team doesn’t need a third 3B or 2B.  Murphy’s having a nice half year for the Mets, but I’d like to see a little more before granting him All-Star status.  (Elimination of Murphy would mean there are no Mets on the NL team.  A necessary result of the reduction of roster size would be the elimination of the one-player-per-team rule, which would be a great thing.)

CUT:  SP Tyson Ross
Ross is the token Padre, but he’s actually been pretty good this year.  Still…not quite good enough and everyone from the Padres has the stink of their awfulness.

CUT:  OF Charlie Blackmon
Blackmon is a result of player and fan balloting starting WAY too early in the season.  After a scorching April, Blackmon has proven he’s nothing special in May and June.

CUT:  OF Josh Harrison
WAAAAAAHAHAHAHA.  Seriously?  Get outta here.

Trimmed NL Roster

C Yadier Molina
1B Paul Goldschmidt
2B Chase Utley
3B Aramis Ramirez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
OF Andrew McCutchen
OF Carlos Gomez
OF Yasiel Puig

SP Madison Bumgarner
SP Johnny Cueto
SP Zack Greinke
SP Clayton Kershaw
SP Julio Teheran
SP Adam Wainwright
SP Jordan Zimmermann
RP Aroldis Chapman
RP Craig Kimbrel
RP Francisco Rodriguez

C Jonathan Lucroy
SS Starlin Castro
3B Todd Frazier
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dee Gordon
OF Hunter Pence
OF Giancarlo Stanton

Now isn’t that much better?  We were even able to preserve the one-player-per-team standard for the American League.  We can talk about snubs another time; but as you can see, simply cutting down the roster size greatly improves the overall quality of these rosters and would result in a much more interesting game as well.  Unfortunately, I have little to no hope that this will ever change.  So, whatever.  Stay tuned for another rant about All-Star selections next year.

I Don’t Want To Talk…

– I don’t want to talk about the All-Star Game. Every year I talk about how bad the selections are, how there are too many relief pitchers selected, how there is too much emphasis on small-sample-size-first-half performances, how the one-player-per-team minimum sucks and how the rosters are too big. Whatever. It’s like the Bush administration; you complain and complain but then eight years go by and nothing has changed.

– I don’t want to talk about worthless records. Zach Greinke becomes the first pitcher in 95 years to start three consecutive games (thanks to an ejection and the all-star break)…and pitches poorly in all three games. And he is now missing his next start due to “fatigue”. So what the hell was the point of starting him in three straight games? Morons.

– I don’t want to talk about umpires. I may have been on the fence before about the use of replay in baseball, but the cornucopia of terrible calls this year from umpires proves that these men are way too human and should be replaced entirely with machines. Two examples:

This was a ridiculous and completely emotional ejection by the umpire. He threw out the Brewers’ best starting pitcher after FOUR pitches and completely changed the entire game. A machine would never do this because a machine does not feel emotion. (Note that I am talking about non-sentient machines. A Transformer like Ironhide is notoriously hot-headed and would probably not be a good umpire. Starscream would also be a terrible umpire. But of course this is a moot point, because both of these individuals died during the 1985 animated movie, and Michael Bay is dead to me.)

This one the umpire eventually got right. But he sure looked stupid. And with two outs and two strikes in the 9th inning, he looks even stupider. But as stupid as he looks (and that’s pretty stupid), this was an honest mistake and one he immediately rectified. In my opinion, the bad call in the Brewers-Astros game was much worse, and the umpire that threw out Greinke should have faced severe sanctions for his abuse of power and loss of temper. What do you think?

– I don’t want to talk about R.A. Dickey. It has become apparent to me over his last few starts that he is not the second coming. I am disappointed.

Inge-sane!…but not an All-Star

Over his last six games, Brandong Inge unbelievably has four separate 4-RBI games, including two grand slams. This has sparked something in the Bay Area called “Ingesanity”. All this for a guy still hitting .188 on the season. One of the radio hosts I was listening to this morning labeled Inge the single most important player on the A’s roster and was actually half-serious. Oakland A’s fans make me sad. (In 2009, Inge posted a .186 average in the second half with a .541 OPS, 19 walks and 85 strikeouts. That is the same season that he was “selected” to the All-Star team, becoming the worst position player All-Star in the history of the sport (other than players selected to satisfy the one player from each team rule), and the same season that he became the first person in history to post an 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts during the Home Run Derby.)

All-Star Game Thoughts, Part 2

Some final All-Star Game thoughts (yes I know I have wasted enough breath on this already but this will be the last of it…until next year):

– I kind of like the “This One Counts” idea (where the league that wins the All-Star game gets homefield advantage for the World Series). However, if MLB wants to truly sell this idea and for the fans to buy into it, they have got to go all-in with the idea. If you were really trying to win a game, would you ever pull Cano for Kendrick? With a roster full of stars, do you really want Michael Cuddyer having a key at bat at the end of a game? I see a couple of ways to help resolve this:

1. Allow starters to re-enter the game. It’s fine to get everyone into the game at some point, but if your supposedly best players have left the game and cannot re-enter, you are forced with a choice of either relying on a marginal all-star at the end of the game in a key at bat or letting a starter play a full game at the expense of giving everyone an opportunity to play. If the AL is trying to make a comeback in the bottom of the 9th, wouldn’t it be exciting to see Jose Bautista come back and pinch-hit? This seems like a relevantly simple and elegant solution.

2. Reduce the size of All-Star rosters. With all of the players that were injured or unavailable, more than 80 players were named “All-Stars” in the past week. 80!!! Depending on how you count relievers, there are only about 450 to 500 “regular” players in the major leagues. If you name 1 out of every 6 players to the All-Star team, doesn’t that water down the accomplishment? If you are a player that is good enough to play in the major leagues for 10+ years, even if you are a league average player, odds are that eventually you will have a first-half that is randomly good enough to make an All-Star team. I don’t think that should be good enough. Cut down the rosters, and (a) you will increase the quality of play in the game as there will be less pressure for managers to cycle through players during the game at such a frenetic, farcical pace and (b) you will increase the prestige of the All-Star achievement, making players that are elected (like Jeter) more likely to take it seriously. Included in this reduction would be the elimination of the one-player-per-team requirement. Who the hell is Aaron Crow?

3. Double-down on the DH. I noticed that both teams used the DH this year even though the game was in an NL park, presumably to get more hitters into the game. I agree with this; there’s no point in having pitchers hit in an all-star game, regardless of where the game is played. But why not go even further and have each team have TWO DH’s? This would create a 10-man lineup, but so what? This way, you can let more of the starters play all or most of the game (which they should, because they are presumably the best players) while you can cycle hitters through the DH slots to make sure that even all the bench players get an at bat. The more I think about this, the more I think that this is the best idea I have ever had. Even better than my cellphone / electric razor idea. Even better than my idea for a gym where the kinetic energy from people working out is harnessed and converted into electricity. Best. Idea. Ever.

All-Star Game Thoughts – Part 1

Ah….All-Star selections. In recent years, I haven’t had too much beef with the selections, but man, do I have a lot to say about this one:

– First of all, many of you may not agree with this, but I believe that the All-Star game should exactly be that: a game of STARS. I have no problem with superstars that are having off-years or declining surefire hall-of-famers being included in the game over mediocre journeymen having small-sample-size-skewed randomly good first halves. So, I have no problem with including Jeter and Chipper on the rosters, especially when there aren’t really great alternatives available. Even though I’m a Tigers fan, do I want to see Jhonny Peralta over Jeter in an All-Star game? HELLLLLLL NO.

– Along those lines, because the sample size of just the first half of a season is so small, past achievements should be considered, especially performance from the second half of the previous season. Obviously, current season first half performance should be the primary criterion, but if a player has an awesome second half the previous year and ended up winning the MVP award (or getting close), that’s fresh enough in people’s minds that they should want to see that player in the all-star game. So I have no problem with putting a defending MVP like Josh Hamilton in the game, even though he has been injured this year.

– On the other hand, I don’t believe that you can reward players based simply on a team’s performance from the previous year. Let’s all admit it now; the Giants got lucky last year. Does that mean they should get undeserving players into the All-Star game because their manager has a hand in selection? That’s stupid. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are borderline but acceptable selections due to their track records, but Ryan Vogelsong is not an All-Star and neither is Brian Wilson.

– Let me say that again, BRIAN WILSON IS NOT AN ALL-STAR. The guy is like the 2nd ranked reliever in fantasy but he has a 1.42 WHIP and, trust me, every Giants fan in the Bay Area is having a heart attack every time he is on the mound. Moreover, he is a relief pitcher. More on that later.

– How bad is the National League? The NL starters include Rickie Weeks at second base and Placido Polanco at third base, and those selections are actually defensible. That’s sad. The Polanco selection is particularly bad. This is a guy who has no power and no speed, whose only asset is hitting for average….and he’s hitting .274. Aramis Ramirez would be a better choice, but it’s not like there’s a huge difference between those players. Whatever.

– RANT FOR ETERNITY: For the millionth time, there are WAY TOO MANY RELIEVERS IN THE ALL-STAR GAME. Think about it this way: in the American League, there are five starting pitchers per team, so about 70 starting pitchers total. There are only 14 closers; one per team. All-Star selections should conform to those ratios; there should be five starters on the roster for every closer. The ratio this year is two to one. That doesn’t even factor in the fact that starting pitchers have thrown well over 100 innings by the break, while relievers are more at like, what, 30? And, since most selections are made off of current season performance and not historical performance, how do you put a reliever in an All-Star game after a measly 30 innings pitched? That’s like putting a starter into an All-Star game after four or five good starts. It’s immensely stupid. Again, I love the Tigers, but Jose Valverde does not belong in the All-Star game, and Brandon League and Chris Perez DEFINITELY do not. In general, the AL All-Star pitching staff should annually be made up up of 10 starters, Mariano Rivera, and then MAYBE one other closer if they are having a great year (none of this year’s selections qualify). And don’t even get me started on including MIDDLE RELIEVERS. Craig Kimbrel beat out Johnny Venters for the closer job in Atlanta, and is having a fantastic season, tied for the major league lead with 25 saves with good ERA and WHIP numbers and is the #1 fantasy reliever this year….and VENTERS is the All-Star and not KIMBREL? I don’t care how good Venters’ numbers are. He’s a middle reliever. The only way a middle reliever should be in an All-Star game is if he has 50+ IP, 75+ Ks, zero losses, an ERA under 1.00 and the ability to fly. Tyler Clippard is having a great season but he’s not quite there.

2009 All-Star Selections

Regarding the All-Star Game, I have, as does everyone else, a real problem with the selection process. Personally, I despise the one-player-per-team rule for representation. As a Tigers fan in the 90’s, getting a player selected to the team because that was the rule didn’t make me want to watch the game more. It felt terrible, it felt like CHARITY. The All-Star game should be a showcase for the game, and it should have the BEST players there, not just guys who are having a fluky three month start to the season (cough cough…Joaquin Phoenix…cough…I mean…Jason Marquis…cough cough). Anyways, Keith Law has an article up on ESPN and I agree with almost everything he says, so I won’t harp about it, just read that.

That being said, other than the omission of Ian Kinsler (which was egregious), this wasn’t the worst year ever for All-Star selections. At least the teams somewhat limited the number of relievers they took (although it’s STILL way too many. No more than two or three closers per team please…). Mark Buehrle was an okay pick since there are no other deserving White Sox and the Tim Wakefield pick is fine I guess from a purely sentimental perspective but the Marquis pick is simply indefensible. Kinsler being relegated to the last-chance ballot is one of the biggest snubs in All-Star game history, but other than than, the only other glaring omission on offense was leaving Johnny Damon off the team, who is currently a top five outfielder. But here’s the really good news…NO A-ROD IN THE ALL-STAR GAME!!! WOOHOOO!!!