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    Friday, June 29, 2012

    Retired Numbers Series: Colorado Rockies

    Covering newer teams in the Retired Number Series is always interesting-it makes me feel like I’m living through history. Despite the Rockies’ newness, I have no recollection of MLB without them; seeing them retire their first number number feels like it should be something of a milestone, even as someone who is a fan of other teams. And, with several successful runs in their short history, they are not lacking in good candidates.

    Wednesday, June 27, 2012

    CCBL Update: The Harwich Mariners' Murderers' Row (UPDATED)

    The reigning champion Harwich Mariners stand 1 game out of second after Wednesday night’s 4-3 win over the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. Overall, it gives them a 9-2 record. There’s no question that their pitching staff has been great; entering Wednesday, the staff has a combined 3.11 ERA, which ties them for third in the league behind the Orleans Firebirds (2.31) and the Red Sox (3.01). On top of that, they’re second in the league in home runs allowed (4 through ten games), second in strike outs (106, two behind Y-D), and first in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP; 2.59). For as good as their pitching has been, their hitting has been even better.

    Tuesday, June 26, 2012

    Retired Numbers Series: New York Yankees

    Ever since I started writing the Retired Numbers Series, I have simultaneously been looking forward to and dreading covering the Yankees. I’ve been looking forward to them because of their interesting history and their long list of candidates to see their numbers honored. I’ve been dreading it because of the sheer volume of players to cover. Although, even then, there are good things about their volume; a small part of me would like to see them run out of numbers below 100 in my lifetime, just to see a player eventually wearing 100.

    Monday, June 25, 2012

    Not This Again

    Are we really sliding back to using Pitching Wins as an important stat? When I saw it here, I assumed it was a one-of thing, you know, some disgruntled fan who was trying to stir the pot. But then David Schoenfield, who’s normally pretty good at following stats, went and added to it.

    Sunday, June 24, 2012

    Should Roberto Clemente's Number Be Retired League-Wide?

    Well, this is interesting if nothing else: New Jersey’s Senate is trying to pass a request that Bud Selig retire the uniform number 21 for all Major League teams. As someone who has written at length about retired uniform numbers, I may as well speak up about it.

    Saturday, June 23, 2012

    Cape Cod League Interview: Jared King, CF

    The Cape Cod League is now well under way, so it seemed like a good idea to get to know one of the league’s early standout players. Jared King is, as of this writing, second in the CCBL in batting average, as well as first in the Western Division at .464. In addition, The Falmouth Commodores’ center fielder is second in the league in OPS and first in the Western Division with a 1.224 mark. And all the while, he’s been raising his stock in the 2013 draft.

    King just completed his sophomore year at Kansas State, where he finished the year with a .377/.453/.577 slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage), 7 home runs, and 47 RBI through 56 games. That, along with his tools, made him one of ESPN writer Keith Law’s names to know for the 2013 draft.

    The switch-hitting outfielder is originally from Columbus, Ohio; he graduated from Dublin Jerome High School in 2010 and attended Kansas State in part with the hope of playing again with his older brother, Jason.* He went on to have a strong freshman year that saw him hit .307/.365/.534 with 8 home runs and 40 RBI in 50 games. After his strong first year, his coach informed him that he had been invited to play for the Commodores in the Cape League.

    *As a side note, Jason is playing with the Detroit Tigers’ A affiliate after being taken in the fourth round in the 2011 draft. 

    King says he had a great time in his first year in Falmouth, and calls the Commodores’ run to the finals last year one of his favorite memories. He admitted that switching to wood bats for the league can be an issue at first. However, he said he has learned to adjust and accept that they can lead to more failures. Not that that has been the issue this year; the Commodores’ leadoff hitter is reaching base in more than half of his at-bats, with a .545 on-base percentage. And after Thursday’s 2-4 performance that saw him hit his third double and first home run of the season in a 10-4 over the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, King raised his slugging percentage to .679 on the year.

    Despite being talked about as a first round pick for the 2013 draft, King wasn’t drafted out of high school. He says that he doesn’t listen to the draft buzz, though, saying he prefers to focus on the game each night. As an Ohio native, King is a fan of the Indians and Reds, and says he is unable to choose between the two. His favorite player, however, has been fellow center fielder Josh Hamilton, particularly after he read Hamilton’s autobiography Beyond Belief. King also said he has loved his time in Falmouth, and spends much of his down time at his host family’s beach.

    If King can keep it up, he stands a strong chance at helping the Falmouth Commodores to their second consecutive championship appearance and their first league title since 1980, the longest active drought in the league, all while making his case to be the 2013 first overall pick in a draft class still without a consensus top choice. Look for big things out of the center fielder over the next few weeks.

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

    The Roger Clemens Verdict, Steroids, and the Hall of Fame

    Roger Clemens was found not guilty of perjury the other day. I guess it’s big legal news, although I don’t follow the legal news circuit nearly as closely as I follow the baseball news circuit. It’s kind of big baseball news, so I feel like it’s worth mentioning here.

    Really, it’s kind of interesting, for the sake of the Hall, even if I can’t quite determine what it means. Literally, it means there isn’t enough evidence present at the moment to prove Roger Clemens used steroids in a court of law. You can say that about a lot of guys, though; Jeff Bagwell has been Hall worthy since he hit the ballot, yet angry plagerists/voters don’t seem to care other than to use him as the test “we’ll just wait-and-see” case for players.

    I guess you can continue believing Clemens used steroids, too, if you want. I can’t stop you or anything. But I would like to point out:

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

    The Fast Approaching Awkward Trade Deadline

    Well, we’re nearing an especially awkward point of the season. It’s the middle of June, and most teams are just shy of 70 games into the year, with about a month until the trading deadline. After that, teams will be more or less set, roster-wise, for the end of the season and a playoff push (or, alternatively, testing out prospects as they wait for 2012 to finally decide that maybe 100 losses is enough punishment for one team). It’s all exciting stuff (unless you’re a fan of one of those teams already praying for the mercy of 2013).

    But what makes this particular point in the year awkward? Well, you see, a lot of teams that shouldn’t still be winning are winning. No shame there; as an Orioles fan, I can tell you it’s actually pretty fun, in fact.* But it’s also a little confusing.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    Retired Numbers Series: Philadelphia Phillies

    I suppose I wasn’t totally lost when I ran my poll (a forever ago) on what team to cover next in my Retired Number Series. I have a list of possible teams to cover next sitting on my notes, and the Phillies have been towards the top of the list for a while now. So, when they tied at the top of the poll for which team to write about next, I gave this de facto tie breaker to them.

    I don’t really have any specific feelings for the Phillies one way or the other, I guess. I do think that they are similar to the Mariners, though, in that they have many intriguing candidates on the horizon.

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    Opening Day in the Cape Cod Baseball League

    Thursday marked the official first day of Cape League games, so I decided to head to Red Wilson Field in Yarmouth to see the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox face the Falmouth Commodores. I couldn’t have chosen a better game to start the season off with.

    The Red Sox scored a run in the first on a rally that featured a double by designated hitter Sam Travis (Indiana, Class of 2015) and an RBI single by first baseman Jake Schrader (Tampa 2013). From that point, the Sox didn’t look back, going on to win 3 to 1.

    Yarmouth-Dennis’ other two runs came in the sixth and seventh. In the sixth, Travis led off the inning with another double (he went 3 for 4 with two doubles and two runs, by the way). He was moved up when the next batter, clean-up hitter and right fielder Sean Dwyer (Florida Gulf Coast 2014) singled, and both progressed on a wild pitch from Falmouth starter Craig Schlitter. The following inning, shortstop Zak Blair (Mercyhurst 2013) led off with a single, then scored on left fielder Robert Pehl’s (Washington 2015) double.

    Falmouth’s lone run came in between those two runs, during the top of the seventh. Third baseman Brad Fieger (Miami 2014) led off with a single, moved up on a sac bunt, then came around to score on catcher Kaiana Eldredge’s (Kansas 2014) single between shortstop and third. Other than that, though, reliever Brian Gilbert (Seton Hall 2014) was shut down, striking out five of his final six batters faced. All in all, he gave up three hits, no walks, and struck out eight while earning the save for his four innings of work. Losing starter Craig Schiltter (Bryant 2014) even held his own, allowing three earned over six plus innings, good for a quality start.

    However, Y-D starter Aaron Blair (Marshall 2014) was slightly better than both of them, throwing five shut out innings and striking out eight as well. He escaped a bases-loaded situation in the third by striking out two batters, then preceded to strike out four of his final six batters. The other two batters? Weak two-strike ground-outs.

    In what I hope will be an ongoing feature, I got to ask him a few questions after the game to get to know him a little better. The 6’4” righty hails from the land of casinos and baseball phenoms, Las Vegas, Nevada. On that note, the Nationals are his favorite team, followed by the Cubs, while his favorite player is Josh Beckett. Currently a rising junior at Marshall, he was taken in the 21st round of the 2010 draft by the Houston Astros (as someone from Houston, I would say that was a wise choice to wait for them to be less awful). He throws a fastball, curve, and change-up, all of which he was locating particularly well against Falmouth. I must say, I can understand the need to pull him for pitch count purposes, but as a fan, it was thrilling to watch his run at the end against the Commodores, and it would have been fun to see him keep going. And, for a final, more fun/less serious question, he would like to add a cutter to his repertoire.*

    *On a side note, I need to get to work brainstorming more questions in this vein. Any future interview question ideas are welcomed for consideration.

    All in all, it made a solid first impression on me. And with that, the 2012 CCBL season begins!

    Update: Blair was named Pitcher of the Week on the strength of his performance.

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    Summer Happenings

    Summer has finally arrived, and that brings with it something new and exciting here at Hot Corner Harbor.

    For the next eight weeks, I will be interning for the Cape Cod Baseball League as a statistician, scorer and writer. For those of you who do not know, the CCBL is an amateur summer league for college players to hone their skills (located, of course, on Cape Cod, Massacheusetts). It’s notable for several reasons, like its use of wooden bats (very rare among leagues for college players, possibly unique, although I’m not 100% positive), and being older than the American League (no, really-the CCBL dates back to 1885, while the American League didn’t exist until 1901). It consists of two divisions, each with five teams. There’s the Western Division, which contains the Bourne Braves, Cotuit Kettleers, Falmouth Commodores, Hyannis Harbor Hawks, and Wareham Gateman; and the Eastern Division, which holds the Brewster Whitecaps, Chatham Anglers, Harwich Mariners, Orleans Firebirds, and Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox.

    The league does also have a lot of relevancy to MLB; the CCBL magazine I picked up the other day lists 925 current and former Major Leaguers as alums. I also heard the statistic that 1 in 6 Major Leaguers played in the CCBL at some point. Also, the magazine’s cover proudly shows the eight current managers who played in the league once upon a time: John Farrell (Blue Jays), Joe Girardi (Yankees), Mike Matheny (Cardinals), Buck Showalter (Orioles), Jim Tracy (Rockies), Bobby Valentine (Red Sox), Robin Ventura (White Sox), and Eric Wedge (Mariners) four-fifths of the AL East, you may notice).

    To add to the name-dropping, skimming the list of players reveals the likes of Dustin Ackley (HAR 2008), Jeff Bagwell (CHA 1987-8), Jason Bay (CHA 1999), Lance Berkman (WAR 1996), Craig Biggio (Y-D 1986), Mike Bordick (Y-D 1986), Ryan Braun (BRE 2004), Sean Casey (BRE 1994), Will Clark (COT 1983), Jacoby Ellsbury (FAL 2004), Carlton Fisk (ORL 1966), Nomar Garciaparra (ORL 1993), Todd Helton (ORL 1994), Charlie Hough (CHA 1964), Jeff Kent (COT 1988), Jason Kipnis (COT 2008),Tim Lincecum (HAR 2005), Evan Longoria (CHA 2005), Mark Mulder (BOU 1997), Thurman Munson (CHA 1967), Carlos Pena (HAR 1996, WAR 1997), Buster Posey (Y-D 2006-7), Brian Roberts (CHA 1998), Tim Salmon (COT 1998), Nick Swisher (WAR 2000), Mark Teixeira (ORL 1999), Frank Thomas (ORL 1988), Pie Traynor (FAL 1919), Chase Utley (BRE 1998, COT 1999), Matt Wieters (ORL 2006), Kevin Youkilis (BOU 2000), and Barry Zito (WAR 1997-8). And those are just the ones I felt like mentioning, as there are plenty more to choose from.

    So yeah, it’s kind of important. I am absolutely thrilled for the opportunity to help out with this league in any way possible.

    What does this mean for Hot Corner Harbor, though? Well, I’ll still be writing MLB-based stories. I’ll just also be writing about this year’s Cape Cod Baseball League season too. There will probably be some game summaries and some articles about statistics in the league. There may also be some interviews with players or other things. I’ll just see where this goes. It’s definitely something else to look forward to in coming weeks, though.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    The Andre Ethier Extension: Or, Ned Coletti Baffles Me

    Well, another outfielder has signed a rather large extension; this time, it’s Andre Ethier. And, just like I did last time, I figured this was a good time to review it and predict how it would go, because what good is a contract if we don’t know how he’s going to do ahead of time?*

    *Yes, that was a little sarcastic.
    So, first, the details. The contract officially starts next season, and runs through 2017. There’s a vesting option worth $17.5 million and a $2.5 million buyout, meaning that the Dodgers are more or less only going to pay an additional $15 million to drop him if the contract vests.

    Let’s just work with the basic contract though for now. $85 million translates to about 17 wins above replacement over the contract (the current value of 1 WAR on the open market is approximately $5 million), or 3.4 per season. And this is the first curiosity of the contract: going by Fangraphs, Ethier has only once surpassed that mark, back in 2008 when he was 26. Actually, that’s the second curiosity; Ethier was 26 four years ago. This contract runs through his age 31 through 35 seasons, never a great sign. Essentially, Ethier will likely be declining at these ages. Add in his similar players and the age factor looks rather worrisome.

    The similar players aren’t really a deal-killer, for me though. It doesn’t help my view on the contract, but Ethier is his own player. What does give me some pause, though, is the ballplayer that Ethier is currently. As mentioned, he’s only passed 3.4 WAR in a season once (and Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, or bWAR, is even less favorable, only giving Ethier a peak of 2.7). However, Ethier is set to pass that mark again this year. He’s already at 2.1 fWAR and 2.2 bWAR on the year already, and Fangraphs is predicting a 4.3 Win season when 2012 is over. Is this a sign of a new Ethier?

    Well, the usual indicators of luck (Batting Average on Balls in Play and Home Run/Fly Ball rates) are a little high, but nothing too outrageous. He has a slash line this season of .287/.348/.509 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage), compared to his career line of .291/.363/.481. The batting averages are pretty close, but the .015 drop in OBP is a little worrisome. Looking deeper, his walk rate (7.4%) would represent a career low, and his strikeout rate (23.0%) would be a career high, neither of which is a good sign.

    His slugging did jump a little, but it’s nothing too out-of-line with his past seasons (he posted a .367 mark in 2010, and a .370 mark in 2009). So where is all the extra value coming from? It would appear his fielding. From 2008 through 2010, Ethier was a similar hitter to now. However, his fielding those years cost him 8.3, 13.5, and 16.5 runs those seasons (10 runs equal 1 win). This year, Ethier doesn’t have any fielding data (likely due to a lack of data so far). He posted a slight positive last year in the field (+5.3 runs), but fielding data can be inconsistent from year to year; it’s more likely a random jump than a sign that he suddenly became a much better fielder. Even if he did, it’s unlikely it holds up as his body ages. Speaking of a body holding up, Ethier hasn’t played more than 140 games in a season since 2009, and has only played in more than 150 games twice in his career (2007 and 2009). This also does not bode well.

    And really, that’s more or less a summary of the Ethier deal. He can hit at an above average rate and he can’t field well, historically. He’s an above average part on a good team, but not a franchise centerpiece or anything. At his best, this is a slight overpay. However, the Dodgers also paid for his age 31 through 35 season, which are firmly in the “decline” phase for most players, not a good sign for a player already showing signs of decline in less plate discipline. Andre Ethier will probably be useful for the next few years, but it’s not clear he’ll even be worth the contract then. I’m not really seeing whatever inspired the Dodgers to jump at this deal.

    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    Draft Day Predictions: Serious Business

    I’ve been pretty busy the last few days, so this post may be a little shorter than normal. Use the extra time to do something productive, like feng shui, or writing the Great American Novel, or something (or commenting here, if that’s too time-consuming).

    Anyway, as you may have heard the 2012 Draft was earlier this week! Exciting times for everyone involved. I, personally, am looking forward to 2017, when the Orioles (led by Kevin Gausman) and the Cardinals (led by Michael Wacha and Stephen Piscotty) meet in the World Series.

    But wait! Rob Neyer points out that the MLB Network was a little overly-optimistic in their projections of the drafted players.

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    Injuries and the End

    So, a spate of major injuries has hit some of the stars of the 2000s as of late, particularly stars associated with the NL Central. Kerry Wood started by retiring due to his injuries. Scott Rolen and Lance Berkman have since come down with major, career-threatening injuries. This seemed to stir some thoughts and memories in me, so I figured now would be a good time to reflect on them as players.

    First, Wood. As a Cardinals fan, I remember being terrified of him back in 2003 or so. Back then, the Astros, Cubs, and Cardinals always struck me as the big three of the NL Central, which I suppose makes it fitting that I’m covering a representative from each team now. Wood and Prior were their two aces, something it felt like the Cardinals lacked even one of. (I recall Matt Morris being the Cards’ number 1 at the time, but I remember him being an ace-type pitcher for much longer than he was even good.)

    Saturday, June 2, 2012

    Happy Anniversary!

    Yes, it was exactly one year ago, June 2nd, 2011, that I started Hot Corner Harbor. And I would say it’s been a great year. That first day, I asked whether the Cardinals needed to make any trade deadline moves. Since then, I’ve made 121 more posts (counting this one), started a series (becoming obsessed with retired numbers in the process), re-run another series, joined the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, released a whole bunch of Sporcle quizes, voted on a few things, and even been sarcastic on occasion.
    I wanted to write something really profound and moving about how it’s changed me, but I don’t think it has too much. I’m still a huge fan of baseball, I just happen to write about it more often than I used to. And it’s been really fun writing about it, too. I suppose I’m slightly more responsible, in that I actually have to stop what I’m doing (usually procrastinating) and take time to write (granted, the writing itself is sometimes procrastination, but I’ll leave that issue for another time).
    Thank you to everyone who’s been reading over the past twelve months! It means a lot to me, and I hope you all continue to visit. 
    And now, as some additional trivia, the most-read posts of the first year of Hot Corner Harbor:

    Yes, You Can Overrate Someone Who Is a Lock for the Hall of Fame

    I’m watching SportsCenter right now, and they mentioned how Derek Jeter went sixth in his draft. It is kind of impressive, I guess. But not too impressive. Good players go later in the first round all the time. It's just part of the nature of the MLB Draft. Heck, going by WAR, Jeter isn’t even the best #6 overall pick of all time (he’s second, but not really close to the best).

    Then, they went and said how it’s incredible how so many teams passed on “arguably the greatest player of his generation”. Oh boy. They were doing so well there. At least they threw the “arguably” in there, right?

    Friday, June 1, 2012

    Retired Numbers Series: Post-Script 1

    Hardball Talk pointed out something interesting today: J.R. Richard thinks his number should be retired. I found this surprising, not because he's asking for his number retired, but because it isn't already retired. No, seriously; I wrote an entire piece about who the Astros should honor next and went through the whole process apparently thinking they had retired his number. Especially because the Astros have a precedent for cases like this, as seen in the cases of Don Wilson and Jim Umbricht. Richard was incredible in his shortened time with the Astros; why not honor that? Particularly since it wouldn't prove some huge shake-up in their methodology? Richard is being added to the Walk of Fame tonight; it's time they took it all the way.