Author Archives: Owen

Vance Worley Will Do Whatever it Takes

It’s no secret that Vance Worley has been struggling this season. After receiving the honors on opening day, Worley has managed just a 4.84 xFip and is striking out a paltry 4.6 batters per nine. Can Worley break out of his funk? Major Leaguers have been known to do some strange things to recapture the spark…

This explains why Worley is, apparently, pitching with a hamster in his pants.

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HOZED!: Installment 1

As I’ve mentioned in the podcast over the last three weeks–three weeks marked with broken promises concerning the date of the introduction of this series–there are certain aspects of a player’s performance that go unnoticed in the post-game stat line. My first choice would have been gratuitous bat flips, but FanGraphs affiliate NotGraphs already has that covered.

I therefore turned to my second choice, the outfield assist. Some of you may raise the objection that this particular feat does, in fact, appear in the post-game stat line. Those of you who raise such an objection would be correct. However, I would argue that an outfield assist is appropriate recognition only for an out resulting from a ~150 foot throw to second base, or for those whimpy-ass left field to third base throws. It is not appropriate recognition for throws that result in non-force-outs in which the ball travels some 250 feet or more.

Therefore, I have decided to enshrine the best such plays in a bi-weekly series aimed to improve recognition of what I call, the Art of Hosiery.

In order to qualify for this series, the throw must travel some 250 feet in the air (roughly, I ain’t got no tape-measure for no computer screen) and result in an out at third base or home plate. The criteria used to judge the throw are as follows:

–The maximum height obtained by the ball during it’s flight to the base (lower throws are better)

–Number of bounces the ball takes on its way to its destiny (under all foreseeable circumstances, this number should be <1).

— Distance between the runner and the player applying the tag (the greater the distance, the better).

— Documented shock or surprise upon the visage of the runner or third base coach. Preferably both.

Finally, it should be noted that for each time period, the players responsible for the hosiery showcased in the videos in this series shall be considered nominees. Therefore, there shall be a winner, which shall be the player earning some combination of the most/highest accolades in the comments section following the article.

Without further adieu (click on images to link to videos):

Marlon Byrd hoses Darwin Barney like a stray cat trying to make a home for itself underneath your porch:

This throw was most excellent because a) Barney is out by ~1 mile; b) the throw remains relatively low for the duration of the flight, but remains above the ground; c) the announcer denigrates the decision-making abilities of the third base coach; d) Darwin Barney (5’10”, 185 lbs.) appears to consider, however briefly, the merits of lowering his shoulder in what would have been a feeble attempt to dislodge the ball from the glove of John Buck (6’2″, 230 lbs.). That he considered this course of action is amusing. It would have been more amusing, we can all agree, had he done anything more than consider it.

Owen’s Rating: 4/5

Michael Bourn hoses Jacoby Ellsbury like the afore-mentioned cat, this time attempting to search your garbage can for any tuna/chicken you may have discarded.

It is possible that Bourn’s throw may not have obtained the required 250 feet. As we know, it is ~127 feet from home plate to second base. Does Bourn’s throw originate from >=123 feet beyond 2nd base? We’ll never know for sure, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Further, Bourn’s throw attains too great a height to command the respect of Marlon Byrd’s hosing of Darwin Barney. That Jacoby Ellsbury was frustrated that he made an out on such a fantastic throw is amusing, but total resignation, combined with shock and awe, is the preferred emotion for the player thrown out on the play.

Owen’s Rating: 2.5/5

Leonys Martin hoses Andy Dirks like a squirrel you’ve just discover pillaging your bird feeder while it thinks no one is watching.

When I envisioned this series I suspected that many of the entries would reference Rick Ankiel, Jeff Francoeur, or Josh Reddick. However, these players also seem to be incapable of striking out less than all of the time (actually, the range is between 23% for Reddick and 45% for Ankiel, so I’m not exaggerating very much), which limits their opportunities in the field. Leonys Martin is currently striking out at just a 17.9% rate and has posted a 107 WRC+ to date. Martin has also shown a propensity for hosiery, adding a notch to his metaphorical shillelagh with this gem just one week prior. Also, this.

If you didn’t notice, in the original video, Martin made this throw quickly on a soft single to his left with a relatively speedy Andy Dirks running. It was also a fucking strike. Catcher didn’t even move.

Owen’s Rating: 4.5/5.

Small Sample Overreactive Fantasy Rant, Installment 1: “Matt Kemp Sucks”

Matt Kemp sucks. He is batting .125 right now because he is bad at baseball. When he swings a bat, you can tell that he feels a little awkward, due to the unfamiliarity of the action. I bet young Matthew always was more of a soccer player growing up but his parents pushed him toward a sport for which he possessed no natural proclivities and at which he never really had any chance to succeed.

The Dodgers should send Matt Kemp back to Double A Single A, rookie ball. Apart from allowing him to work out his issues with the bat, the move will also help to improve his strength, which he clearly hasn’t fully developed yet. Low A is also a great way for a scrappy, but obviously talentless ballplayer like Matt Kemp to see the country and make a living wage for a summer. There will be lots of other players in rookie ball to teach him a thing or two about hitting, which will come in handy when he returns home to work as a “batting cage technician” at the Fun Center his uncle owns over in Tulsa.

Matt Kemp is probably the worst player in the major leagues right now. In the first inning he joined Marlon Byrd as the only person to have been struck out by Clayton Richard this year. Mark Ellis and Josh Beckett would later join this club as well, making it even more clear that Matt Kemp simply wasn’t meant to be a professional baseball player. Kemp was also the only one of the Dodgers top four hitters to fail to get a hit off Clayton Richard in the first inning. That’s because he sucks.

How much does Matt Kemp suck? He sucks so much that when the Dodgers play an American League team in an American League ballpark, they would be better served to utilize Juan Uribe or Justin Sellers as designated hitters, (Kemp can’t play the field anymore because he’s too slow). Matt Kemp sucks so much that the Dodgers wouldn’t be able to trade him to the Yokohama Baystars of the Nippon Baseball League for an unrefrigerated and already open bottle of Sapporo, even if the Dodgers agreed to pay his entire contract. Matt Kemp sucks so much that if he were to inquire about the possibility of playing for France in the World Baseball Classic, reasons Coach Jim Stoeckel would provide for not adding him to the roster would include: 1) You were born in Oklahoma, 2) You don’t have any French relatives, 3) You don’t have French citizenship, and 4) I’m afraid we can’t really make room for you on the roster right now.

I really think it’s unfair that just because a bunch of other people drafted Matt Kemp in the first round, I’m not allowed to drop him in my fantasy league. As far as I’m concerned, whoever wants him can have him, because his career will probably be over by July. I don’t need that kind of player on my fantasy team. I would much rather have John Buck, Mark Reynolds, or Michael Saunders. You know, real ballplayers who hit over .300 and frequently hit home runs or even steal bases.

Matt Kemp sucks.

Owen: 1-0; Raphael and Justin: 0-1

While the ‘Stros-Rangers game has not yet ended, with the ‘Stros up 7-2 in the bottom of the 7th, I am already declaring victory in my bet against Justin and Raphael re: the Astros Winning.

I believe this is commonly referred to as “counting one’s chickens before they hatch” or “hubris.”

I laugh in the face of such cosmic forces.

Anyway, here is a GIF that expresses the outcome of this particular bet.

(Justin and Raphael are the pitcher, and I am the batter. This post is the gratuitous bat-flip and slow trot.)

Owen’s Finalized 2013 MLB Standings Predictions

On last week’s show, Justin and I talked about our predictions for each division, as well as the wildcard, pennant, and World Series victors. Since then, my opinions have changed slightly due to a last-minute free-agent move, and new opinions of some players’ abilities. But mostly, this article is about bold predictions. While it is likely that most of what I predict here will not come to pass, I will point to any events I predict that do come to pass as evidence of my genius. Read on for more…

Here are my finalized predictions for 2013:

AL East:
Blue Jays
Rays
Red Sox
Yankees
Orioles

If you listened to the podcast, you know how much I like the Blue Jays. This year, they lead the league in home runs and runs scored, while also finishing top ten in runs allowed. All starters not named Emilio Bonifacio finish the season with more than twelve home runs apiece. I’ve also changed my opinion on the Rays, elevating them above the Boston Red Sox (who I do think will surprise some people this year). The Rays will be carried by their pitching and by scoring runs at exactly the right time, which amazes everyone but Joe Maddon, who shrugs, holds up a calculator, and says, “I pretty much had this figured out last week.” The Yankees are booed repeatedly at home by their own fans, causing a noticeable uptick in the Global Happiness Index, as the rest of the world celebrates their failure. Vernon Wells hits 30 home runs. The Orioles lose two of their elite relievers to injury and Jim Johnson fails to replicate his 2012, probably because he can’t strike anybody out…ever. Consequently, the O’s finish in the basement yet again, causing a major crime wave in Baltimore as fans unleash their anger. No one notices the crime wave.

AL Central:
Tigers
Royals
White Sox
Indians
Twins

Justin Verlander fails to post a sub-2.00 ERA with 300 strikeouts, but still ends up sub-3.00 with over 225 strikeouts, all while making 33 starts (they skip his last start when they’ve already clinched). Offensive production is hindered as V-mart just can’t stay healthy and everyone not named Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder fails to do anything with the bat. As much as it pains me to do so, I’ve elevated the Royals above my team, the White Sox. Driven by anxiety that he will never be able to live up to the combined performances of Jake Odorizzi and Will Myers, Shields excels, posting an ERA around 3.00 and winning 17 games. Ervin Santana tries to give up home runs, but nothing reaches the fences in Kaufmann stadium, where they’ve gone against the grain and moved the fences back to remove seats in an effort to make the stadium look more full. Hosmer and Gordon enjoy bounce back seasons and help to make the Royals top six second best in the league. The White Sox pitching staff continues to be strong and Chris Sale makes more than 30 starts, defying every self-appointed elbow surgeon, physical therapist, and ESPN analyst under the sun. The Pale Hose just tell John Danks to go home, using Axelrod and Santiago as a 5th starter combination every bit as dominant as that thing in Power Rangers that was just the combination of all of their robotic spirit animals put together that they should have just used at the start of the final battle because that would have made much more sense… Konerko continues to age slowly, Dunn continues to strikeout too much, Rios has a slightly down year and Viciedo isn’t prepared to carry the team offensively. The Indians improve, but no one notices, and the ~9,000 fans they do have don’t even notice that they’ve hired Terry Francona, one of baseball’s best personalities. The Twins have a worse record than the Marlins but a better record than the Astros.  Joe Mauer convinces management to sign his new-born twins to minor-league contracts. Gardenhire’s contract is not renewed and GM Terry Ryan resigns (again) after season’s end. The new GM focuses on building a team that actually fits their ballpark, rather than building a ballpark that doesn’t fit their team.

AL West:
Athletics
Angels
Mariners
Rangers
Astros

The Athletics continue to use platoons at virtually every position to great effect. Their pitching staff continues to be among the best in baseball, with a whole bunch of dudes you’ve never heard of winning games at some point or another. During an early-May game, controversy erupts after a ground-rule double is ruled on a ball that gets lost in Josh Reddick’s beard. George Steinbrenner emerges from his grave and convinces Bud Selig to mandate that Reddick shave daily. The Angels’ offense carries the team, with Mike Trout’s regression to a sub-.300 BA going unnoticed due to his still stealing 50 bases and scoring 130 runs. Jason Vargas, C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson, and an aging, dead-armed Jared Weaver hold the Halos back. The Mariners surprise everybody with a big second half, mostly due to huge home run numbers from Morse, Smoak, Morales, Montero, and (maybe) Saunders. Those who know what weather is like in the Pacific Northwest are not surprised. The Rangers have an extremely disappointing year, deal most of their valuable contracts in August and September to begin rebuilding, call up Jurickson Profar, and, most importantly, fire Ron Washington before the season ends. The Astros surprise everyone by winning 65 games.

NL East:
Nationals
Braves
Phillies
Mets
Marlins

Nationals pitching continues to dominate and Bryce Harper leads a sufficiently powerful offense to lock up the division late in the season over the talented Braves. Harper throws out more than ten baserunners attempting to tag-up on fly-balls hit to the warning track. Announcers repeatedly confuse the Upton brothers, and then just start calling Jason Heyward “Jason Upton,” confusing everyone even more. The Phillies struggle offensively, but get good enough pitching from Hamels and Lee to outpace David Wright and 24 other guys you don’t give a shit about. After an ineffective but occasionally promising first half, it is revealed the Roy Halladay will need yet another surgery on some part of his arm, and he announces his retirement at the end of the 2013 season. The Marlins surprise everyone by winning more than 60 games and Giancarlo Stanton surprises no one by hitting a baseball through the glass at the back of Marlins stadium and then giving Jeffrey Loria the finger.

NL Central:

Reds
Brewers
Cardinals
Pirates
Cubs

The Reds dominate this division again, while the Brewers take everyone by storm. With a good offense and pitching that’s more than just good enough, they eke into second place. The acquisition of Lohse proves smart, as Lohse wins 16 games despite an elevated ERA. The bullpen ultimately costs the Brewers a shot at the playoffs, whether in the regular season or in the first round of wildcard play that we all know isn’t the real playoffs. Adam Wainwright disappoints by not making significant improvement on his 2012 performance while Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn and the rest of the rotation collapse around him like the 2012 staff of in-state rivals, the Royals. The Cardinals lose at least one outfielder to injury, who is promptly replaced by Oscar Taveras, who fails to meet expectations set for mid-season rookie OF call-ups in 2012 (see: Mike Trout, Bryce Harper). Andrew McCutchen continues to carry the Pirates but their pitching absolutely sucks, with A.J. Burnett failing to replicate his 2012 (and frankly not giving a shit, since he’s basically already announced his retirement at the end of 2013), Wandy Rodriguez continues to decline, and second-half-of-2012-James-MacDonald continues to suppress the blossoming flower that was first-half-of-2012-James-MacDonald. The Cubs disappoint all of their fans by failing to win more than 70 games. The fans, none of whom are from Chicago anyway, since they’re just a bunch of Lincoln Park yuppies, respond by saying, “Huh? Where’s the beer guy? I gotta go piss in one of those troughs.” But then they accidentally piss in the dugout and no one stops them. Several drunken yuppies are killed by falling concrete at Wrigley.

NL West:

Dodgers
Giants
Diamondbacks
Padres
Rockies

Tim Lincecum rebounds and the Giants starting rotation continues to post one of the lowest ERAs in baseball. Buster Posey remains healthy, and Brandon Belt steps up, but the poor health of Kung-Fu Panda and the rest of the team’s general suckitude suppress overall offensive output. The Dodgers don’t blow anybody’s mind in the early going, and Carl Crawford just all out blows, but the team picks up the pace when Hanley returns, doing more just enough to eke out the division. Greinke makes 30 starts, Beckett posts a sub-4.00 ERA, and Kershaw continues to send asses to the pine like nuns at a Catholic elementary school. Kenley Jansen takes over the starting job before the end of May (least bold prediction EVER). The D-backs are sorry they traded Upton, and their pitchers continue to not quite live up to expectations. Adam Eaton becomes the new face of the franchise, scaring away any and all potential new fans. The Rockies score a ton of runs, but their pitching staff surprises everyone by still being as bad as they were in 2012. The Padres get marginally better, but still basically suck. Cashner isn’t ready and only Maybin can do anything with a bat, but Street stays healthy enough to earn 30 saves and post a sub-2.00 ERA.

AL Wildcards: Rays, Angels
AL Pennant: Blue Jays

NL Wildcards: Braves, Giants
NL Pennant: Nationals

World Series: Blue Jays.

The Correlation Between Knowing What Science Is and Being Right Is 1.

By Owen McMurtrey

During our most recent podcast, an argument arose between Justin and myself in which I claimed that an expository essay on steroids in baseball was “flat-out wrong” in its claim that anabolic steroids do not improve lower-body strength sufficiently so as to affect the distance that a ‘juiced-up’ batter can hit a baseball. Here at Sports Symphonies, we’re all about bold claims, and so, rather than using ‘hedge language’ as my old history professor George Vrtis would call it (an avid White Sox fan, good man), I just said that this Mr. Eric Walker, the author of the aforementioned expository essay, was full of shit. One benefit of making such bold claims is that it offers the claimant, in this case myself, the opportunity to gloat mercilessly in the face of any and all counter-claimants when able to  demonstrate my supreme rightness (in all other instances, the issue of my being wrong will be quietly and politely ignored).

First, let’s clarify the structure of the argument that we’re dealing with:

1) A batter generates power using primarily the muscles of the legs and torso. Arm, shoulder, and chest muscles are not as important.

2) All other things being equal, stronger leg and torso muscles will allow a batter to hit the baseball farther.

3) Anabolic steroids (and, therefore, HGH, since they work similarly) significantly increase lower-body strength in baseball players.

4) The use of anabolic steroids enabled players who took them to hit more home runs than they otherwise would have and this is evident in the baseball statistics.

I believe we agree on items 1) and 2), but we clearly disagree on item 3), which is what this debate is basically about. We also disagree on item 4), to an extent. I believe that it is impossible to prove item 4), and I also believe that the effects of a few bad apples taking steroids across the whole game was relatively small, but we’ll get to that later.

In the case of item 3), my bold prediction paid off. For I am RIGHT! Behold, Raphael, Justin, and probably no more than four other readers:

Storer et al. (2003) found that testosterone caused a dose-dependent increase in maximal voluntary strength of the leg (i.e., amount of weight lifted in a leg press), as well as in leg power (i.e., the rate of force generation).

Storer

And:

Bhasin et al. (1996) fount that “in the testosterone-plus-exercise group, the increase in muscle strength in the squatting exercise (38 percent) was greater than that in any other group, as was the increase in bench-press strength (22 percent).”

Bahsir

I could stop here and just move on. But no. It is not enough that I am right. I, in my great magnanimity, will explain just exactly how any and all counter-claimants are wrong and why their wrongness is a product of their inadequacies as critical thinkers.

Continue reading

Harvin to Seahawks a win-win?

By Owen

Prospective readers beware: This post was originally intended to be short, like just three paragraphs. But then it got really long somehow. There’s clearly no reason why anyone would want to read an article this long about the Percy Harvin trade, so I don’t know why I made it this way and I apologize if you actually wanted to read a normal article.

News broke yesterday that highly-touted, if oft-infirm, Vikings wide-out Percy Harvin was traded to the Seahawks in exchange for a first round pick in the 2013 draft and a third or fourth round pick in the 2014 draft…Oh, and also a seventh round pick this year.

The Seahawks gained a stud receiver and returner in Harvin, and lost a #1 pick. The Vikings lost the same, but gained a #1 pick. So was this a good deal for the ‘Hawks? For the Vikings?

For the Seahawks…

Pete Carroll clearly wants to give quarterback Russell Wilson a little more free reign this year. Everyone expects the Wilson-led ‘Hawks will come into September running a finely-tuned pistol, read option-heavy offense. But before the trade, they lacked a true deep threat at receiver. While Harvin’s numbers over the past three years suggest that he’s more a piece for the short passing game, no one questions his abilities as a play-maker. He has shown a lot of pent-up potential as a deep threat due to his ability to get open, as well as terrific ball skills. If you listen to Harvin, the only reason he hasn’t put up a Megatron-like highlight reels the past couple of years is quarterback Christian Ponder’s generally uninspiring quarterbacking.

I expect Wilson and Harvin will have a connection in the deep-passing game like that of Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright at Baylor, with Harvin catching some absurd number of TD passes over 40 yards in 2013-14. Of course, Harvin also exceeds the NCAA version of Wright in his ability to play a variety of other roles on offense and special teams. The Seahawks had plenty of cap space to make this deal, so they don’t have to sacrifice any crucial pieces already in place to pay Harvin the $10 million+ that they’ll have to pony up for this trade-and-pay deal.

Had they not signed Harvin, the Seahawks would have had the option to take a receiver in the first round of the draft. Is Percy Harvin worth $9.5 million more than Justin Hunter? Yes. Yes he is.

The one issue is Harvin’s health. Between the mysterious illnesses, the migraines, and the history of leg injuries, no one should be surprised if Harvin fails to suit up for sixteen games for the fourth year of his short career career next year.

Seahawks Verdict: Good Trade. More than anything else, this shows me the amount of confidence that Pete Carrol and Seahawks front office have in Russell Wilson. I’m going to make an insanely early prediction that the Seahawks win the 2014 Super Bowl.

For the Vikings…

The issue is at once simpler and far more complicated. The Vikings need receivers more than the Seahawks, so how can they deal one of the best receivers in the game? Especially since Adrian Peterson does not approve…

I think the answer is fairly straightforward: Percy Harvin would not have played for the Vikings next season. I think the decision to trade Harvin this off-season was made when he was placed on injured reserve near the end of last season, despite evidence that he was on track to recover from his injury before the end of the regular season. Let’s take a look at a timeline of Harvin’s shenanigans:

November 2010: Harvin and then-head coach Brad Childress have to be separated after Childress reportedly questioned Harvin’s effort. Childress probably did that, and he’s a dick, but I think it’s possible that some of Harvin’s the practices and games Harvin missed for migraines and illness were just a way of taking a day off from working for an organization he clearly loathed.

June 2012: Harvin requests a trade. Probably because fewer than 50% of plays called in the huddle refer to Harvin by name.

November 2012: Harvin shrieks shrilly at Leslie Frazier on the sideline after the Vikings fail to execute a on a passing play that clearly shouldn’t have been thrown to anyone but Harvin. (Bullshit high school English lesson: alliteration is good.)

December 2012: As mentioned before, Harvin is placed on injured reserve, because it was really better at that point if he just left.

March 2012: 1) Harvin requests (read: demands) trade version 2.0. 2) Harvin is traded.

So, it’s more complicated in that we can’t really take Harvin’s production into account in evaluating the trade if we accept that Harvin would have flat-out refused to play for the Vikings this season. In this case, isn’t dealing him now better than dealing him later in the year for a pick in the 2014 draft, a la Carson Palmer and the Bengals? The Vikings were able to win without Harvin, and if Peterson’s back can continue to bear the weight of Christian Ponder and the entire rest of the franchise, then the Vikings are a contender right now. Second-year wide-out Jarius Wright coupled with a free agent acquisition (such as Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings), and a first round pick (such as Keenan Allen or Tavon Austin), would make for a better receiving corps than the sorry bunch of rejects the Vikings put on the field after Harvin was injured this year.

Vikings Verdict: Good Trade. And with that extra pick? The Vikings do what they’ve done so many times in the last few years by drafting an underrated Notre Dame prospect. With the Vikings needing to fill a hole at inside linebacker, at least one player comes to mind who fits the bill: Carlo Calabrese.

Oh, I meant with the 4th round pick in the 2014 draft. Who did you think I was talking about?

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