June 30, 2015


The Cardinals were the first team to 50 wins.

How did St. Louis reach that milestone so quickly?

Team stats:

Batting average: .265
OPS: .330
Slugging: .404
OPS: .705
HR: 61
RBI: 296
SB: 31
Walks: 232

ERA: 2.61 (1st in MLB)
WHIP: 1.202
Saves: 31 (1st in NL)

Fielding %: .985 (6th in NL)

Hitting WAR: 12.7
Pitching WAR: 14.0

Team WAR: 26.7

Clearly, team pitching has been great so far this season, even with the season ending injury to ace Adam Wainwright. However, Fangraphs ranks the Cards the 3rd best in major league pitching so far this season. Fangraphs also ranks the Cards 5th in MLB in hitting.

June 29, 2015


We knew the Mets were loaded with young starting pitching.

Well, the best of the bunch made his debut Sunday. In record fashion.

Steven Matz limited the Reds to two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six in 7⅔ innings in his major league debut. 

Yet manager Terry Collins was more thrilled with the offense Matz provided. The southpaw drove in four runs, the most ever by a pitcher in a debut in major league history. It also was the most RBIs by a Met -- pitcher or position player -- in a major league debut in franchise history.

"I love hitting, so it's pretty cool to have that record," Matz said.

A good hitting pitcher is as rare as a perfect game.

While Matz stroked his way into the record books, more Cub fans begin to grumble at Joe Maddon's line up card where the pitcher is hitting eighth in critical situations. The losing streak does not help, and Maddon has been consistent with his explanation that batting a pitcher in the 8th spot gives Addison Russell better pitches therefore, better for his development. In essence, Maddon is sacrificing scoring opportunities to develop a young player. This shows that the Cubs were not planning to be a contender this season.

Starters BA for the Cubs:

Hammel .216
Wood     .120
Hendricks .074
Arrieta   .034
Lester .000

Maybe the Cubs should concentrate more on developing contact hitting pitchers.

June 28, 2015


Baseball has been steeped in history. It is that the game has fundamentally NOT changed is why the game continues to survive.

Nothing is more true than with the layout of the diamond dimensions. Nothing is as true as the shape and construction of a baseball, its seams and its skin. And the baseball bat, a simple rounded stick of wood.

Until now.

Jeff Passon of Yahoo Sports reports that the simple bat handle is about change.

The man who may help create the change is Red Sox infielder Dustin Pedroia. He is the only major leaguer currently using a bat that has an axe handle. Pedroia has spent a month using it as his lone bat, and the results are promising: Over the 28 games since he switched, he is hitting .353/.386/.504. His 42 hits over the past month are tied for the fourth most in baseball.

Now, unless you were a boy scout or a mountain logger, most kids today have no idea what an axe is or what is its purpose. The flattened wood frame is put through a heavy metal cutting tool to create a powerful yet top heavy tree cutter and wood splitter. This long used axe shape seems to have developed to maximize the power of the arm through the hands (palm).
"I think it's only a matter of time before the axe-shaped handle is the standard," said Hugh Tompkins, the director of research and development for Baden Sports, a Seattle-area company that created the Axe Bat, which this year received permission from Major League Baseball for in-game use. "The round-handled bat will be like a rotary telephone."

The Axe Bat replaces the knob with an oval-shaped handle that tapers into a curved, angled bottom. The Axe bat that grew out of a simple question: Why does the knob – the one piece of the bat known to hurt players, particularly those who grip it on the lower edge of the palm and put their hamate bones in danger – still exist when it imperils those it's supposed to help?

The current shape of most bats with the knob at the bottom is to keep the lower hand on the bat during the swing motion. If the knob was not at the bottom, the bat could be fly out of the players' hands. Even the Axe bat has a contoured bottom to keep the hand from slipping off.

Can a flatter hand surface help create more power and stability of a batter than a round bat?  There is not enough statistical evidence to draw any conclusion. But it is an interesting innovation.

June 27, 2015


Joe Maddon, the optimist, is not shy on telling the press (and the fans) where he stands on his club. He is a field general who has gotten his young, raw squad marching forward into battle well ahead of expectations.

He  believes Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer will deliver more weapons to him before the July 31 trade deadline.

“I am confident that Theo and Jed and the boys – as long as we’re pertinent – (will) do whatever they can to augment what we’re doing,” Maddon said before Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. “I totally believe that.

“So if it’s a pitcher, it’s going to be a pitcher. Whatever we need, I believe that they will attempt to make it happen.”

So the bandwagoneers are screaming that the Cubs make a big splash, a big trade, because "this is the year."  On paper and in words, this was not supposed to be The Year. It was supposed to be a transition year where Theo's "plan" would start to come together with the next wave of core players being called up to the major league roster. It would still take several seasons for the team to gel. This was the season to find out whether Kris Bryant could play a respectable third base (or have to be moved to the outfield), whether Jorge Soler could adjust to major league pitching, and whether Addison Russell could adapt to a new position.

So what do the Cubs need? More than people realize because this is still not The Year.

In the second game of the Dodger series, the Cubs played a Class AAA outfield (Coghlan, Szczur, Baxter).Yoshi Wada has arm cramps and that puts the team in a rotation hole. The bullpen has not been as good as last season. There is a consistent creep of injuries. There is a lack of bench depth.

But the press and fans want the Cubs to "go for it," because this seems like a great chance to get into the playoffs (then anything could happen). They are stuck on the Back to the Future reference that the Cubs win the World Series in 2015. Fiction.

The reality is that a "win it now" trade could badly backfire. The Cubs should know that well since they were the beneficiary of such a move last season, when the A's sold off the farm to try to win it all.

On July 5, 2014, Samardzija, along with Jason Hammel went to Oakland in exchange for the A's top prospect, Addison Russell, a AAAA pitcher in Dan Straily, and very good outfield prospect in Billy McKinney and cash considerations. 

The A's with the Shark and Hammel could not make a playoff run. In the off season, the A's lost Hammel to free agency and moved Samardzija to the White Sox.  On December 9, 2014 the Athletics traded Samardzija along with another player for shortstop Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Rangel Ravelo and catcher Josh Phegley.  Clearly, the A's did not get the same return for Samardzija that the Cubs did from Oakland.

To get a big fish like Cole Hamels, the Cubs would have to mortgage their farm system with probably three or four players going to Philadelphia. But does Hamels make the Cubs a contender? Not this season. Maybe not next season. One can keep their best prospects and wait for the next free agent period and upgrade the rotation with a David Price.

So it would not be surprising that the Cubs do nothing by the trade deadline.

June 26, 2015


During the Twins series, the Sun Times discussed the plight of the White Sox with a veteran baseball scout who said:

‘‘The White Sox, they should be ashamed of themselves the way they’re playing,’’ a veteran scout who has seen the Sox play about a dozen times in person this season.

 ‘‘They had two good games against the Rangers [victories Saturday and Sunday], played good baseball, and then they come out and play a game like [a 13-2 loss Monday to the Twins]. It’s unacceptable. It’s shameful.’’

‘‘Errors, bad throws, mental errors,’’ the scout said. ‘‘Defense and guys not hitting in the clutch. For players, it’s not OK. This is the major leagues.’’

‘‘Ramirez is going backwards on both sides,’’ the scout said of the 33-year-old shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who had an All-Star last season but who is on pace to have his worst season ‘‘He was one of the best in the game last year. Now he’s one of the worst.’’

‘‘I’m sure Robin (Ventura) is doing his best,’’ the scout said. ‘‘Maybe one time he should fake it and throw something against the wall. This is unacceptable, and Robin has to know it. Maybe he has handled it. I don’t know what is done behind the scenes.’’

‘‘The fans see it; they aren’t dummies on the South Side,’’ the scout said. ‘‘All they want is to see the game played the right way.’’

The White Sox skipper may be resigned to his fate. ‘‘There’s plenty [blame] to go around for everybody,’’ Ventura said. 


Many believe the Cubs should not have the luxury of starting every five games  a .180 hitting, old catcher.

But the value comes in other forms.

David Ross may have saved two careers yesterday.

Ross is Jon Lester's personal catcher. They were teammates in Boston. The Cubs front office put in their banked savings on signing Lester to a $155 million contract to be the staff ace. Well, so far, the results have been underwhelming as Lester is (4-6) is now 0-4 with a 4.43 ERA since beating Pittsburgh on May 16.

In the Dodger series finale, Lester was again bad in the opening innings. He allowed four runs, four hits and four walks, while striking out five. His frustration showed in the second inning after he walked A.J. Ellis.  Lester said he turned around with his head down and yelled something to himself, but apparently home plate umpire Andy Fletcher thought it was aimed at him. So, in a rare and unprofessional move, Fletcher started to go to the mound to confront Lester. However, quick thinking Ross blocked Fletcher from getting closer to his pitcher. In fact, Fletcher began to bump Ross out of the way, who had to raise his arms up by his sides like during a police stop. 

That gave Joe Maddon enough time to come out to interject himself between Fletcher and Ross.

"Rossie did a great job of going out there and got between him, and I was able to talk to Andy and I think it settled down after that," Maddon said.

If Fletcher had gotten to the mound and contact with Lester happened, it would have been ugly. Fletcher, as instigator, could have been fired for cause since umpires are supposed to maintain their composure, objectivity and cool since they are the policemen on the diamond. Lester has shown this season to be very moody, surly and angry on the mound. If he would have retaliated or hit Fletcher, he would have been suspended for a long time. This was the classic bar fight preamble that Ross defused very quickly.

Ross' role on the Cubs is that of back up catcher and on-field coach. Considering how volatile his battery mate can be, Ross has his hands full. Ross has to keep runners close to first because Lester has a phobia about throwing to the bases. So Ross has to fire pick offs to Rizzo to keep runners honest. Ross has to call a different game to try to throw out runners stealing second; more fastballs away to get a lane to throw. Ross has to be the buffer between a hot-headed pitcher and umpires who hate being shown up. Yesterday, Ross earned his paycheck.

June 25, 2015


Why some teams handcuff themselves by giving players "trade blocks" in their contracts is one of those annoying realities of baseball. It is a player perk that agents have been pushing for, even in the richest of contract deals. In normal business, an employee has some say in where he or she works if there is a company consolidation, merger or relocation. Employees can leave their companies and find new jobs to their liking in any city they choose. So in that sense, star baseball players with no trade clauses are similar to other parts of the American employment landscape.

If it is not the money, then it should be about winning. But some players have home life quality of life issues to think about, too. That may be the hidden driving force on why more and more players are demanding trade blocks.

Phillies ace pitcher Cole Hamels is adamant about one thing: he will not be suiting up for the Houston Astros. According to KHOU, the left-hander's contract accords him up to 20 teams that he can refuse to be traded to, and the Astros are at the top of the list despite leading their division and boasting an outstanding pitching staff.

Hamels has turned out a decent season for the Phillies so far, sitting on a 5-5 record with a 3.55 FIP and 103 strikeouts through 94 1/3 innings. His 2.96 ERA is the 11th best among National League starters, and though his efforts have yielded a team-best 1.7 fWAR, the Phillies can better utilize him as a trade chip during the weeks leading up to the trade deadline.

Hamels may not have an adversity to the State of Texas, because it is reported that talks with the Rangers have been made about a trade. The Rangers and the Yankees are in the mix because both of whom could use an upgrade to their pitching staffs as they approach the All-Star break. Hamels is set to earn $70.5 million between 2016 and 2018, and while his price tag isn't holding big money teams like the Rangers or Yankees from swinging a deal, the cost in return players and prospects may be the key.

But it hurts a GM that he can leverage a star player on the market if the player's contract effectively eliminates two-thirds of the potential trade partners. The Yanks and Rangers know this, too. If the Phillies are looking for a big haul (like a team's #1 and #2 prospects, a major league ready pitcher and some additional bullpen help) the Astros have a deeper farm system than the Yankees.

There will be soon daily speculation stories about Hamels. In the end, he may not even be moved by the Phils.

June 24, 2015


While Cubs fans have been gassing up the huge playoff bandwagon, the team itself is slowly getting stuck in the mud by the weight of anticipation.

Jake Arrieta has been good, Jason Hammel has been okay and Jon Lester has been really good or meh. With Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood demoted to the bullpen, the Cubs actually now have a shortage of starters now that Ysuyoshi Wada turned up lame.

The Cubs at 38-30, in third place 6.5 games behind the Cardinals, are still in the hunt. Pursuing an  serviceable starting pitcher certainly seems a reasonable strategy, but every team has that same strategy. Wood may get the call by default, since Jacob Turner is still on the DL and he is working his way back to health and could soon be available, but he has much to prove at this stage of his career.

There may be better arms at Iowa.  Don Roach is 7-1, 2.29 ERA in 14 games started. Carlos Pimentel is 5-4, 3.45 ERA in 12 GS. Dallas Beeler is 1-5, 7.35 in 11 GS. And Eric Jokisch is 3-3, 4.40 ERA in 9 GS. There is a problem with Roach and Pimentel: they are not on the active 40 man roster. Someone current would have to go, and probably another when Neil Ramirez is ready to return to the bullpen.

It may come down to moving up another reliever to the pen, and have Jackson and Wood do a spring training split game (3 innings each) as a short term solution.

June 22, 2015


CBSSports reports that the Diamondbacks dealt right-handed starter Bronson Arroyo and Touki Toussaint   (their No. 5 prospect) to the Braves in a three-player deal on Saturday. In exchange, the Braves will be sending infielder Phil Gosselin to the Diamondbacks.

The oddity of this transaction is that the core players in the deal are on the disabled list with serious injuries.
Arroyo made 14 starts for Arizona in 2014 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He has yet to pitch this year, and is not expected back until at least August. Arroyo's contract is for  $9.5 million for this year, and a $4.5 million buyout on a $13 million option for 2016, per FoxSports.com.

Meanwhile, Gosselin underwent surgery to repair a fractured thumb in May. He is currently on the disabled list and holds a .325 batting average in 40 at-bats this year.

Toussaint was a first-round draft pick (16th overall) by the Diamondbacks in 2014. The right-hander has been pitching with Class A Kane County this year, posting a 3.69 ERA through seven starts.

The Diamondbacks like their current pitching depth to trade Toussaint in the deal.

"We are getting some good pitching from our young rotation and that's the direction we are going to go," D-Backs general manager Dave Stewart said.

June 20, 2015

3000 HITS

Alex Rodriguez became the 29th player in major league history to make it to 3,000 hits.

He hit a home run in his first at bat.

It is semi-ironic since A-Rod is going to be remembered throughout history as one of those who used performance enhancing drugs to power his way through the record books.

Many believe that it does not matter. Baseball history is filled with stories of players trying to get an edge, from scuffing the ball to taking uppers. Steroid use will only be a footnote in the Cooperstown history book.

The discussion usually centers upon how hard is it to get 3,000 hits.

From the standpoint of a full time starter, and qualification for a batting title (502 at bats), that means a career .300 hitter would get 150 hits per season. The simple calculation is that a player needs 150 hits per season for 20 years.

Is it harder to get 300 wins?

A starter will have 32 chances each season. Even if he wins half his games (16), he would need 18.75 seasons to get to 300. But pitchers rarely make all 32 starts, or average 16 wins a season for an entire career. Greg Maddux had 15 or more wins in 18 of his 23 seasons as a major league pitcher to total 355 career wins. There are only 24 players with 300 wins.

But now with pitch counts and specialty relievers in the bullpen, starters may not get the chance to gain wins if they are only required to pitch 5 or 6 innings per contest even in tied or close games.

The consensus is that it is harder to get 300 wins than 3,000 hits.

June 18, 2015


The White Sox are mired in another long losing streak.

The underperforming team has lost six in a row. In the last 10 games, the team is 3-7 despite several quality starts. The Sox are currently in last place in the AL Central with a 28-36 record (.438), 10 games behind.

The vast majority of people believed that the White Sox had a very good off-season, acquiring good talent to fill major holes including DH, LF and the bullpen.

But nothing seems to be going right. The White Sox have a negative 68 run differential which shows that the team cannot generate any offense. They lost last night to the Pirates, 3 to 2.

The hue and cry is what can be done to right this sinking ship.

Who do you fire to fire up the team?

Probably no one.

Manager Robin Ventura is an obvious choice. In his four years, the team has never really contended to a divisional title. His laid back attitude (even though he got thrown out in last night's game) does not seem to generate passion on the field. It is not to say that a firebrand like Ozzie Guillen could get more production from this roster.

You could fire the hitting coach but no one knows his name or cares.

You could fire the general manager for over-rating the talent he acquired, but Rick Hahn has only been on the job for a short time. Some media members question whether Hahn actually has full authority to run the show, with former GM Kenny Williams lurking in the background. As has been pointed out, except for pitchers, Williams tenure as GM was a failure in drafting and developing position players. The Sox have been in a trade for and sign free agent mode to fill holes for almost a decade.

So by firing Ventura, would that make any difference since you still have the same ball players on the roster?  If the players liked Ventura, they would play harder for him. But it is not like the team has quit on Ventura or the season. There is a malaise factor that at times the team is going through the motions, perhaps because they cannot sustain an inning like the young Cubs seem to do on a regular basis (especially last night with several batting through the order innings in a 17-0 blowout of the Indians.)

The White Sox dug themselves a rut that has grown into a sink hole. Firing anyone at this point does not seem to fix the fundamental problems on this team: offense and defense.

June 16, 2015


Computers are supposed to be productivity tools to help humans manage information.

So two stories about computers and MLB twist that purpose.

First, the Royals and their fan base is accused of trying to stuff the ballot to get at least 7 Royals in the All-Star game. Since it is fan voting and a simple log in, with an email, the un(der)employed KC metro area seems to pulling all-nighters to beef up their Royals votes.  It has gotten so silly that .200 hitting Omar Infante is the leading in votes for starting second baseman.

It would not matter if the All Star game remained an exhibition contest. But since MLB instituted interleague play, fans across the country can now see on a regular basis other league's best players. It used to be confined to one All Star a year plus the World Series. But the real cause of concern is that stupid Bud Selig salvage attempt of making the winner of the All Star game the home team for the World Series.  Selig's folly let the air out of the former value of winning actual regular season games (since the best record always had home field advantage).

Second, the Cardinals alleged cyberhack scandal has more serious ramifications to baseball. It involves several federal crimes, felonies, which have potential jail sentences of 1 to 5 years. It involves corporate spying allegations on another team's proprietary team information (statistical analysis, scouting reports and trade emails). If the information was used by the organization or front office (and not as spun by some in the media as a rogue IT employee seeking revenge or a prank against a former boss), then a conspiracy charge could take out much of management and/or its credibility.  The new commissioner is then put under the hot seat. How does the unprecedented criminal theft of team information fit under the "best interests of baseball" clause? If gambling on baseball is still the death sentence offense in the baseball charter (see, Pete Rose), then what could the penalties be to the Cardinals if they were found guilty of spying?

The NFL came down hard on the Patriots for the seemingly mild cheat of deflating footballs. But the NFL was mad that the Patriots were flaunting the rules, authority and integrity of the game on multiple occasions. The real concern is whether the FBI investigation, with subpoena power and computer expertise to track computer files and transmissions, will lead to a scandal bigger than the original intrusion in the Astros computer servers.

It is really a lack of common sense. Every MLB team has their own computer data base programs. There are plenty of public resources like Fangraphs that are spitting out Moneyball statistics and analysis. Why the Cardinals or its employees would benefit from an Astro hack is the great unknown folly in this story.


The Cubs will call up catcher Kyle Schwarber to play DH during the next week in AL ball parks.

Schwarber, 22, has been playing in Class AA Tennessee. In 58 games, he has hit 13 HR, 39 RBI and had a .320 BA.

In comparison, in 2014 Kris Bryant was also 22 in AA ball. In 68 games, he hit 22 HR, 58 RBI and had a .355 BA.

The plan is clear. The idea is to get Schwarber some major league experience then put him back in AAA Iowa to finish his quick development.  A few scouts believe Schwarber has the best bat skills in the organization. He was drafted as a catcher, but he readily admits that he was never fully taught how to catch games. In the Cub system, he has played mostly catcher, but also some left field and DH (17 games in Tennessee this year).  The Cubs anticipated calling him up some time this season with those DH at-bats (which is sometimes difficult for position players to adjust to, i.e. Adam LaRoche with the White Sox.)

By calling up Schwarber, it  starts his major league service time earlier than many people expected since the Cubs are all about long term control of their prospects. But it does acclimate Schwarber to the intense Chicago media in a non-pressure situation.

With Miguel Montero beginning to slump, and David Ross never considered an offensive force (currently batting .167), the idea of having Schwarber in a September run is a possibility since Joe Maddon liked the idea of having three catchers on his roster. Schwarber gives him the flexibility to have a real bench person who has played multiple positions.

Many thought that the Cubs would force Bryant to LF. But Bryant is clearly more comfortable playing third base. He has played well enough to stay there. The same could be true for Schwarber if he sticks at catcher, it would give the Cubs a major jolt in offensive production from that position.

The Cubs are currently in third place with a 34-27 record, 7 games behind the Cardinals. However, the Cubs have only a +6 run differential. With the second place Pirates playing much better, the Cubs need to find more consistent offense in order to stay within reach of the playoffs. The Schwarber move is part of that plan.


Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the Tampa Bay Rays are going to start using a new technology as a tool to study the mechanics (and injury) of pitchers.

The Rays already have had a comprehensive shoulder-strengthening program. As a small market team, the Rays are keen on keeping controllable pitchers healthy.

The Rays will be the first team to install Kinatrax, a markerless motion-capture system, in their stadium, sources told Yahoo Sports. An announcement touting the move is expected Monday.
Kinatrax uses ultra-high-speed cameras and aims to capture the sort of biomechanical data that previously necessitated the placement of reflective markers on different body parts. Should Kinatrax do what it purports to, it would revolutionize baseball by offering looks at pitchers’ in-game biomechanics instead of those revealed in laboratory settings.

Motion capture itself is not a new technology. Motion picture studios have been using it for a long time for CGI and animated films. In those applications, an actor is placed in front of the blue screen with various dots on a body suit. The cameras pick up the dots (which are aligned to body parts like legs, arms, joints, etc.). Those dots are then imported into a computer which creates realistic bone skeleton motion in which CFI layers can be applied to create characters.
By installing Kinatrax at Tropicana Field, Passan writes, not only do the Rays get to analyze their own pitchers, they can also track opponents’ biomechanics. The collection of data could provide patterns that show typical biomechanical traits of pitchers who get hurt vs. those who stay healthy. 

While Kinatrax’s current version measures the angles and velocities of bones and joints, future versions hope to calculate stress and strain on tendons and ligaments – a potential landmark leap that theoretically would show signs of pitchers whose ulnar collateral ligaments are in peril.

Live in-game data from Kinatrax will not immediately be available. Each pitch is 1.3 gigabytes per camera, and with eight cameras, there are upwards of two terabytes of data per game. Kinatrax will upload data from a game into cloud storage, and it will be ready for the Rays to analyze the next day.
After years of healthy starting rotations helped propel them into the playoffs, the Rays in the last year-plus have seen a rash of starters go down. First was Matt Moore, who is close to returning from Tommy John surgery. Ace Alex Cobb underwent Tommy John early this season, and fellow starter Drew Smyly has been sidelined with a shoulder injury for a majority of the season.

Nevertheless, the Rays are tied for first place in the American League East at 35-29 with the New York Yankees, whose opening day payroll was three times the size of Tampa Bay’s $76 million.

June 15, 2015


Every loss is bad.  But some losses are harder to take.

When the Rays swept the White Sox this weekend, the Sox stopper, Chris Sale, was his usual self. A dominating performance but dinged by one costly mistake, a 2 run HR. The Sox lost 2-1.

ESPN stated that Sale is just the third pitcher since records were first available in 1914 to have four straight 12 or more strikeout starts. Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez did it three times and Randy Johnson once. Sale has a franchise-best 24 double-digit strikeout games in his career. It was the first time that a White Sox pitcher had 12 or more strikeouts, allowed three hits or fewer and lost.

The White Sox offense has been offensive. Bad. Non-existent. Underperforming would be an understatement.

You would think that Sale's teammates would be motivated to help out their ace who is giving it his all (127 pitches yesterday). The contrast is that the Cubs dugout is much looser in close games than the White Sox. Starlin Castro just had his third walk off hit last night against the Reds. With the DH, one would think the Sox could rally easier than the Cubs.

Sale, 6-3, 3.01 ERA, 1.004 WHIP and 2.1 WAR deserves better support.

June 14, 2015


A pitcher who throws a no hitter at the major league level is praised for his excellent performance, his command of his pitchers, and possibly stellar defense for his cause. However, there is no incident in MLB history which throws the norms out the window.

On June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis was unprepared to pitch against the San Diego Padres for one simple reason. He thought it was still June 11.

Ellis played in for five different clubs from 1968 through 1979. In his MLB career, he had a 138–119 record  a 3.46 ERA and 1,136 strike outs.

But on June 12, 1970, Ellis claimed that he threw a no-hitter while under the influence of the drug, LSD.  Reporters at the game said they do not believe his claim.

Ellis no hit the Padres 2-0 on Friday, June 12, 1970 in the first game of doubleheader.  The Pirates flew to San Diego on Thursday, June 11 for a series against the Padres. Ellis reported that he visited a friend in Los Angeles and used LSD "two or three times." Thinking it was still Thursday, he took a hit of LSD on Friday at noon, and his friend's girlfriend reminded him at 2:00 PM that he was scheduled to pitch that night. Ellis flew from Los Angeles to San Diego at 3:00 PM and arrived at San Diego Stadium at 4:30 PM; the game started at 6:05 PM.

Ellis said he threw the no-hitter despite being unable to feel the ball or see the batter or catcher very well. "I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the [catcher's] glove, but I didn't hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters, and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn't. Sometimes, I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder." Ellis said his catcher Jerry May wore reflective tape on his fingers which helped him to see May's signals. Ellis walked eight batters and struck out six Padres.
The game might have seemed like hours, or seconds: Ellis would later say he lost all concept of time. But when it ended, the Padres hadn't been able to touch him. He had pitched a no-hitter on acid.
At first, Ellis was gleeful about the incident. He related the story to author Donald Hall, who was co-writing his autobiography, Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball, but was talked out of publishing it for fear it would blemish the League. (Instead, when the book was published said he pitched the game while hungover.)

The lore of baseball has been scattered with stories of hard driving, hard driving, womanizing and crazy men playing a child's game. Perhaps in 20 years, there will be former players who will confess in their autobiographies to their drug induced baseball careers.

June 13, 2015


You can never tell what will happen in a baseball game. Giants 27 year old rookie pitcher Chris Heston took the mound this week in a fill-in role. He just happened to throw  the 2015 season's first no-hitter on Tuesday, and he made it look easy. With only 12 major league starts, Heston   needed just 110 pitches to no-hit the New York Mets.

Heston's no-hitter was the majors' first since Jordan Zimmerman of Washington on Sept. 28, 2014, the final day of the regular season. Since then, there have been two near-misses that were broken up in the ninth inning.

This was the 17th no-hitter in Giants history, and the fourth in as many seasons. Matt Cain threw a perfect game against the Astros in 2012, while Tim Lincecum no-hit the Padres in both 2013 and '14.

Heston struck out 11 and didn't walk anyone, though he did hit three batters, more than any other pitcher to throw a no-hitter since 1914.  He didn’t allow a single well-hit ball all night. Only two of his 27 outs came via fly balls to the outfield. The rest came via 13 ground balls.

Si.com had a chart of Heston's performance:

Command and control was the key to Heston's no hitter. He did not overpower the Mets, but he out pitched the Mets line up.  The variation in location where the outs happened shows that the Mets batters could not lock in to one batting zone.

June 12, 2015


Image credit: WikiCommons

On June 12, 1880, Lee Richmond of the Worcester Ruby Legs twirled baseball's first-ever perfect game—allowing no hits, walks or hit batsmen to give the Ruby Legs a 1-0 win over the Cleveland Blues. Let's look back at some of this now-legendary game.

The Worcester Evening Gazette wrote it was "a wonderful shut out" and "the best baseball game on record" but the first use of the term "perfect game" did not appear until a 1909 Washington Post article.

 Richmond was a star baseball and football player at Brown University. In fact, he started his pro career while still captaining Brown's team. In his first ever pro start—an exhibition game for which he was paid $10 on June 2, 1879—Richmond threw a no-hitter. He would throw a second no-hitter that same season for Worcester, all while still competing on the collegiate level.

The perfect game came in the midst of a 42-inning scoreless streak pitched by Richmond. That's almost 5 complete games.

Five days after Richmond made baseball history, John Ward tossed the second perfect game ever. But this hardly became the trend. Although the first two perfect games were thrown within a week of one another, the third perfect game in the National League—then the sole Major League—wouldn't occur for another 84 years.

June 10, 2015


There is a clear trend developing in Chicago prospect baseball.

Both the White Sox and the Cubs have focused this year on drafting college pitchers.

It is probably a safer bet but with less ceiling than drafting raw high school pitchers.

College pitchers have a longer track record. College pitchers have had better competition. College pitchers usually have better video to dissect by scouts. College pitchers have been involved in more road trips, being away from home, and being part of a long term team process than high schoolers.

College pitchers should also develop faster than high school starters.

It is a signal that both the Cubs and White Sox are looking for arm help sooner than later, especially in their mid Top 10 selections.

The Cubs top draft selections:

1 (9) -- Ian Happ OF/2B, Cincinnati
2 (47) -- Donnie Dewees, OF, University of North Florida
3 (82) --  Bryan Hudson, LHP, Alton (Ill.) High School
4 (113) -- Darryl Wilson, OF, Canton (Ohio) South High School
5 (143) -- Ryan Kellogg, LHP, Arizona State
6 (173) -- Dave Berg, RHP, UCLA
7 (203) -- Craig Brooks, RHP, Catawba College
8 (233) -- Preston Morrison, RHP, TCU
9 (263) -- Tyler Peitzmeier, LHP, Cal State Fullerton
10 (293) -- Vimael Machin, SS, VCU

The White Sox selections:

1 (8) -- Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt
4 (112) -- Zack Erwin, LHP, Clemson
5 (142) -- Jordan Stephens, RHP, Rice
6 (172) --  Corey Zangari, RHP, Carl Albert High School (Midwest City, Okla.)
7 (202) --Blake Hickman, RHP, Iowa
8 (232) -- Casey Schroeder, C, Coastal Carolina
9 (262) -- Ryan Hinchley, LHP, University of Illinois at Chicago
10 (292) -- Jackson Glines, CF, University of Michigan

Some scout and draft experts believe the White Sox got the best MLB ready pitcher in Fulmer. The Sox are not coy in moving quality college pitchers quickly to the majors (Sale, Rodon). Six of the 8 Sox selections were pitchers with 5 of the 6 college players.

The Cubs selected 6 pitchers out of their 10 selections, with 5 of 6 being college players. The Cubs have been true to form in drafting the best hitter in Round 1 of the draft then load up on pitchers in the middle of the first two draft days.

Pitching is a premium need on both clubs. It shows in their draft strategy.

June 9, 2015


The MLB draft did not have the attention or excitement of the past few seasons. It could be that the Sox and Cubs were drafting lower down in the Top 10. Or that the Blackhawks were playing Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. Or that the Cubs rebuild seems to be almost done.

Let others decide how well each team did, like Jim Callis of MLB.com

Round 1
1. Arizona Diamondbacks: SS Dansby Swanson, Vanderbilt
Jim Callis: I like this pick. There was some talk that the D-backs might try to get a deep discount here and get cute in later rounds, but you've got to take who you think is the best player available, and they did that. Swanson has the tools to be an All-Star.
2. Houston Astros (compensation for not signing 2014 No. 1 pick Brady Aiken): SS Alex Bregman, LSU
Callis: Two SEC shortstops with the first two picks. They were teammates on Team USA last summer and get compared a lot. Swanson is the better athlete, but Bregman might have a little more impact at the plate. Bregman gets compared to Dustin Pedroia and some say he might have to move second base, but the scouts I've talked to give him a better chance to stick at shortstop than in the past.
3. Colorado Rockies: SS Brendan Rodgers, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS
Callis: He's the No. 1 player on MLB Pipeline's Draft board and has the highest ceiling in the Draft. Rodgers has a chance to stay at shortstop and has unusual power for the position. He can give you five solid tools across the board and he has to be considered the heir apparent to Troy Tulowitzki.
4. Texas Rangers: RHP Dillon Tate, UC Santa Barbara
Callis: I was curious to see who would be first pitcher taken. Clubs had Tate, Carson Fulmer and Tyler Jay in different orders, but Tate was the front-runner earlier in the season when he had two well-above average pitches in his fastball and slider. He faded a bit down the stretch, but that's expected in his first full season as a college starter.
5. Houston Astros: OF Kyle Tucker, H.B. Plant HS (Tampa, Fla.)
Callis: He's one of the best pure hitters in this Draft and also the first "bloodlines" player taken, which makes for a neat story with his brother Preston already in the big leagues with Houston. Kyle is a more well-rounded player, who has a chance to be average or better across the board.
6. Minnesota Twins: LHP Tyler Jay, Illinois
Callis: He's not the biggest guy in the world and has made just two college starts, but he can be a big league starter because everything else is there. The Twins could try to expedite Jay to the big leagues since they're contending -- maybe he's this year's Brandon Finnegan -- and then they could turn him into a starter next year.
7. Boston Red Sox: OF Andrew Benintendi, Arkansas
Callis: He might have the best all-around tools among the college players in this Draft. The Red Sox targeted Benintendi early and there was a chance he could have gone a bit higher, so I'm sure they're thrilled they got him.
8. Chicago White Sox: RHP Carson Fulmer, Vanderbilt
Callis: The White Sox have to be thrilled to get the best pitcher in the Draft, according to the MLB Pipeline board, and they were really hoping to get him, Tate or Jay. You wish Fulmer was a little bigger and threw more strikes, but you have to give him credit that he's brought quality stuff ever since he became a starter in the middle of last season.
9. Chicago Cubs: OF Ian Happ, Cincinnati
Callis: Teams are always looking for college position players, and he was next on most boards behind Swanson, Bregman and Benentendi. I don't know if the Cubs are going to try Happ at second base -- he fits better at a corner outfield spot -- but he's been one of the best performers in college baseball and the Cape Cod League the past two years.
10. Philadelphia Phillies: SS Cornelius Randolph, Griffin (Ga.) HS
Callis: It would be easy to think the Phils would take someone who can help them quickly because the franchise hasn't done as well in recent years, but they took the best player on the board. Randolph might take a little longer to develop than a college player, but you could argue that he's the best all-around high school hitter in the Draft.
11. Cincinnati Reds: C Tyler Stephenson, Kennesaw Mountain HS (Kennesaw, Ga.)
Callis: It's not a deep Draft for catchers, and the Reds got the best one by far. Long arms equal a long swing, so Stephenson is going to have to prove that he can hit advanced pitching, but he has the tools to be an All-Star.

I added Stephenson at #11 to Cincinnati since I thought the Cubs may have taken him to shore up their long term catching needs.

The White Sox continue with their strength: drafting and developing quality starting pitchers. It seems that is all the club can do, as seen by Chris Sale becoming the first White Sox pitcher in history to record ten strikeouts or more in four consecutive starts.  If Fulmer, from a quality Vandy program, is the best pitcher in this draft, I expect the right hander to be put on a quick development path like the Sox did for Carlos Rodon.

The Cubs selection of Happ was a little surprise since the Cubs already have a long jam of infield talent that will have to be moved to the outfield at some point in time (Baez, Schwarber, Vogelbach). The idea of converting a corner outfielder into a second baseman seems like reverse logic. But the one thing the Cubs do well under Theo has been drafting pure hitters and apparently Happ is one of those type of prospects. 

June 7, 2015

2015 DRAFT

Baseball America Top 10 draft projections gives us the best insight on the draft.

Industry sources indicate Arizona whittled its list down to three players in the last week: Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, Illinois lefthander Tyler Jay and Georgia prep catcher Tyler Stephenson. After his SEC tournament performance, Swanson has separated himself from the college-hitter pack and is the safest bet of the group, but I continue to hear persistent talk the D-backs prefer a college starter. If that holds, they’ll take Jay, but right now the talk is stronger that they’ll take Swanson.

The Astros continue to be connected to college bats with this pick, but if Swanson is gone, that leaves his friendly rival and former USA Baseball teammate, shortstop Alex Bregman of Louisiana State.

The Rockies have been focused heavily on Jay, whom they like as a future starter, and believe they will take Lake Mary (Fla.) High shortstop Brendan Rodgers. The Rockies passed on Evan Longoria in 2006 to take a pitcher (Stanford’s Greg Reynolds), and the organization may not want to make the same mistake. Some believe Rodgers has that kind of offensive upside, and he has a similar setup with his hands. But the bottom line is the Rockies need pitching and they can’t acquire arms like Jay’s on the free-agent market so Jay is picked here.

The Rangers may take Jon Harris of Missouri State here, and he’s still in play. But if Rodgers falls here, it’s a moot point. Selection: Brendan Rodgers, ss, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS

BA thinks prep outfielders will start going off the board with a domino effect. While scouts aren’t 100 percent sure of Daz Cameron as a hitter, he has the best chance of this year’s prep class to stay in center field. The Astros start the movement with Daz Cameron, of, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, McDonough, Ga.

Minnesota continues to give the college arms (such as UCLA’s James Karpielian) a look but industry sources still tie the organization to prep outfielders. They’re working out Kyle Tucker this week as it looks increasingly likely that Cameron, their chosen target, will be unavailable. The choice may be Kyle Tucker, of, Plant HS, Tampa

Boston is believed to be mulling three to four candidates, including Bregman and Cameron (both gone in this mock) as well as Vanderbilt ace Carson Fulmer and Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi. Neither performed well in the Southeastern Conference tournament, and neither has a great big league analogue. Fulmer’s high floor and track record are the separating factors. Fulmer seems to be the safe choice here.

The White Sox have struggled with their first round picks (non-pitchers) They’re interested in Fulmer, as they remain in strong consideration for college arms, but the best bets here will wind up being a choice between UC Santa Barbara’s Dillon Tate and Harris. Tate’s stock has tumbled some in recent weeks as his velocity and location on his fastball have backed up, but he has better present stuff than Harris, who is a safer bet to start but has a lower ceiling. BA thinks Tate is the call here.

The Cubs have scouted Benintendi and Kaprielian. BA thinks that Kaprielian may offer the best bet among the college starters, but that his at times pedestrian velocity holds him back for some clubs, as does his perceived price tag. Kaprielian wasn’t as good against Oregon as he had been in recent weeks. His fastball had maintained 92 mph deep into starts in recent weeks (including the no-hitter), but in his last outing his fastball dipped to 88-90 by the fifth inning, but he has a track record of performance and a strong feel for using his above-average secondary stuff. He seems to be the Cubs choice.

With the 10th pick, The Phillies could take Kaprielian if he’s there but are said not to favor Harris, who lacks present physicality. Instead they’re tied more to upside prep bats such as the outfield class and  Tyler Stephenson. c, Kennesaw Mountain (Ga.) HS

I would not be surprised if the Cubs took Stephenson, the high school catcher, at #9 if the plan really is to move Kyle Schwarber to the outfield.

I do believe the White Sox are in need of right handed starting pitching, and a college starter from a major program is what the organization needs to balance the rotation.

June 6, 2015


For whatever reason, there have been more horrible fan injuries this year at MLB games.

Last night, a young woman in Boston was impaled in her forehead by a broken bat. She sustained life threatening injuries according to the Boston Globe report:

A woman sitting down the third baseline at Fenway Park Friday night had to be carted out of the stadium after she was hit by a broken bat, and her injuries appeared to be “life-threatening” that night, Boston police spokeswoman Rachel McGuire told Boston.com.

In the second inning, Oakland Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie shattered his bat on a pitch from Red Sox hurler Wade Miley; a piece of the bat flew into the stands, striking the woman in the head.
Boston Globe reporter reported that there was “lots of blood” and called it an “awful scene.”

The woman, who was sitting near the field with an unidentified man and her son, was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, McGuire said. The game was delayed while she was treated and removed from the stadium.

Other reports indicated that fans offered paramedics their  t-shirts to help stop the bleeding as it was described as being more blood than anyone had ever seen. Fans in the section were in shock and silence when the grounds crew had to come to the area to clean up the blood. The umpires and players on the field who saw the incident huddled on the field during the delay, obviously shaken up by the event.

Fan safety was an issue when Wrigley Field opened up without any real sanitation. A woman was hit in the back of her head by a foul ball behind the plate as it stretched the netting causing the impact. More and more parks have little to no foul ground so as the owners can add more premium seats. But this adds an additional level of risk for screaming foul balls at 100 plus miles per hour hitting a patron, or as last night, a sharp projectile flying into the stands.

There is some precedent for ball park owner liability in these matters.

It may have come down to what hockey had to do - - - install nets all around the lower level of the arena. With current manufacturing technologies, one can assume that netting can be made clear and transparent as to not hinder the view of the fans in the box seats.


There are talent evaluators, developers and buyers.

Steve Stone was on the radio and he cringed when sports teams announce they have taken "the best available athlete."  No, Stone argues, you should be taking the best baseball player in the draft. A six letter high school athlete may have to learn baseball in six years, while actual baseball prospects are already in the majors.

So what is more important, scouting for talent or developing players?  Stone argued both are important. But teams need to scout themselves in order to provide a consistent level of major league talent.

Stone means that every team hits and misses in their drafts. The White Sox took OF Jared Mitchell a few spots ahead of OF Mike Trout. Ouch. So Stone says good organizations evaluate their own scouts to see which ones recommended players and why to see if they got it right or got it wrong. The same is true with player development coaches. Good prospects should develop quickly in the minors. If there are issues with prospects that rated highly in draft preparation consistently fail to make a major league impact, the farm system needs re-evaluation.

There is also a need for an organization to have a developmental blue print on how farm players are supposed to act, play and learn the game. Many teams allow their minor league managers and coaches free discretion to teach the fundamentals and baseball IQ. But this approach gives an inconsistent product as players move up and down the farm system.

Stone thinks an organization needs a balance between good scouting and good development. He admits that the White Sox have been very deficient in developing field position players.

There are some who say the best talent will rise to the surface no matter who is training them. We are not so sure about that.  If pure talent wins out there would be more college studs skipping the minors to a spot immediately on a MLB roster. There are probably more Round 20 players that were marginal prospects who have developed into competent players than highly touted first round bonus baby busts.

Then there are teams that just like to buy other teams developed players. Usually confined to big market clubs, these buyers out more emphasis on winning at the major league level over having a consistent or sound minor league system that can supply one or two players every year. Buyers like to have major league experience players because it takes out the risk of scouting "potential" out of the equation because veterans have actual experience.

There is another factor key to developing talent: the player's own sacrificial drive to succeed at every level of competition. If you look at a preview magazine in any sport that lists the rosters and hometowns for all the players, how many do you find from your hometown? From your county? From your state? Very few if any. And that is the point. The best player on your high school team moves up to college or rookie ball playing against the "best" players at his level or above. It is how that prospect reacts to stiffer competition is the gateway for whether he meets the challenge or hits a wall.

There is a mental aspect that elite professionals have that the average player does not: drive. Michael Jordan could by example will his team to victory. Jonathan Toews can put his team into a different skill level during games. Some players are born with this innate ability. Others have to struggle to find an equivalent desire to be better than one's natural skill set. That is where a player with better Baseball IQ is a better prospect than a pure athlete who can play the game.

June 5, 2015


Many sports talkers are saying that the White Sox season is over. Despite having the best off-season in memory, Chicago's slow start and inconsistency has doomed the season.

The White Sox sit in last place in the AL Central after 52 games (32% of the season).

The Sox record is 24-28 (.462) , 7.5 games behind the surprising first place Twins.
The Sox are 6.5 GB the Royals, 2.5 GB the Tigers and 1.5 GB the Indians.

The doom slayers may think the season is over, but clearly it is not.

In 1914, the Boston Braves were on July 6th  15 games out of first place but they came back to win the pennant. The most dramatic comeback in history was the 1951 New York Giants who trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers by 13.5 games on August 11th.  The Giants made up all of that ground in just 45 games.

The Yankees greatest comeback to date was the 14 games they made up in 1978. They trailed by 14 on July 20th of that year, went into Fenway Park and destroyed the Red Sox, sweeping a 4 game series known now as "The Boston Massacre." That turnaround came to a conclusion with the one game playoff, which was the Bucky Dent dagger home run. 

The 1995 Seattle Mariners also had a good comeback. They trailed the Angels by 13 games on August 3rd. They came back to win the division, but that one is more widely attributed to a California collapse. They simply stopped winning down the stretch. 

 The AL Central seems to be the most competitive division in baseball. That could work to the White Sox advantage, as each division team beats up on the others - - - giving the Sox a chance to make up ground with a long win streak or two. Chris Sale is a stopper. Jeff Samardzija has been terrible (giving up 16 runs in the first inning in his starts). He should have a better second half. And the Sox hitting should pick up to at least the averages on the backs of their baseball cards.

June 4, 2015


Coaches often tell their players "act like you have been there before."  It is a core principle of sportsmanship and maturity.

Junior Lake's show boating a home run when his team is down 6-2 was selfish bush league.  It angered the Marlins players to the point that both benches cleared to vent.

Coaches cringe when a wide receiver catches a touchdown pass with 17 seconds to play, then does a victory dance in the end zone - - - when his team is still down by 28 points. Garbage points don't get celebrations.

The NFL ("No Fun League") has penalized excessive celebrations on the field because, frankly, it was getting extremely stupid and demeaning to the image of the sport. You can give off the swagger of a champion by catching your touchdown pass, and handing the ball to the back judge while you are walking off the field. What is a more powerful message to your opponent after scoring than "that's was no big deal."

Lake is getting an opportunity to play more with Jorge Soler's ankle injury. But Joe Maddon needs to keep his young players in check. Hot dogging, show boating and being unprofessional are elements that lead to bad habits in the clubhouse. A disciplinarian coach would have sat Lake for the rest of the game to send a clear message.

In hockey, Coach Q does that all the time. If one of his Blackhawk players screws up on the ice or does something stupid (like a bad penalty), he will sit the player for long stretches. That hurts the club because it means the other members of the team have to make up someone else's dumb mistakes. In the locker room, team leaders like Toews, can then police the roster and get everyone back on the same page. That is the maturity level that teams strive for when they want to win championships. The Blackhawks are a team solely focused on winning another Stanley Cup.

The Cubs are looking for maturity through leaders like Anthony Rizzo. But he seems to be a mild manner, quiet guy. But quiet guys, including Jon Lester, can lead by example. Maybe later on someone else, like Kris Bryant, will take the reigns and become the captain of the team.

June 1, 2015

ZZZZZZ . . . .

Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun Times reports:
While the Cubs keep their eye on the pitching market as they mull a buyer’s approach for the trade deadline, one of their biggest targets heading into June is play-anywhere hitter Ben Zobrist of the Oakland Athletics, according to multiple sources.
We start the trade rumor game in earnest.

Zobrist has a connection with Maddon. Check.
The Cubs have traded with Oakland recently. Check.
Zobrist can play multiple positions. Double check.

Zobrist was the best player no one heard of prior to this season. He had a career 36.7 WAR for the Rays. The A's traded for Zobrist thinking he would be consistent. Zobrist, 33, hit .272/.354/.395 (116 OPS+) with 34 doubles, 10 home runs, 10 stolen bases and nearly as many walks (75) as strikeouts (84) in 2014. He played both second base and shortstop as well as all three outfield positions. Zobrist is both very versatile and very good defensively wherever he plays.

But this year, with only 20 GP, he is hitting .243, 1 HR 10 RBI and a negative 0.4 WAR.

Zobrist is owed $7.5 million for 2015, the last year in his current deal. He is then classified as a rental player. As such, the Mets are also rumored to like Zobrist as a bench player.

The Cubs could be sniffing around to get a veteran bench player on the cheap. But there is something odd about Zobrist's sudden decline in production that warrants a second look. And obtaining Zobrist at what cost? A couple of AAA players (when the Cubs high level prospects are now thin)? Addison Russell? (Just kidding - - - but Billy Beane is still smarting over the last deal he made with the Cubs.)

At this point, Zobrist appears not to add much to the Cubs roster, which continues to be pitching staff heavy due to bullpen issues.