Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Last One 4/1/21

 Hey baseball fans!

No, this is not an April fools joke. Baseball with Matt is coming to an end today after existing for nine years to the day. I started this blog on April 2, 2012 with the intention of only doing it for a couple of years. Now, almost a decade in, I'm so happy about everything I've accomplished while blogging. 

It's been a wild ride, to say the least. I've talked with so many wonderful baseball personalities, got to go to some of the best baseball events in the United States, but most of all, I got to talk about my favorite topic within my favorite sport: the history of baseball. Being able to share my love of baseball history with you over the years as been an absolute joy. Being able to grow that love with you has been just as much a joy. I mean, that's what this has all been about, right? I started the blog because I knew a lot about baseball and wanted to share and expand that love with a dedicated audience. After 600+ posts, I can safely say that this mission has been accomplished. 

I want to thank everyone who has read my blog posts, whether you stopped after the first one or read all of them. All of you mean so much to me for keeping up with my blogging journey. I want to thank everyone who bought/has read my book. Writing AA to ZZ was incredible and I'm so happy to have donated as much as I did to charitable causes. I want to thank my family and friends for all of their love and support, from showing up to book signings to quizzing me on random baseball questions, sharpening my knowledge daily. I want to thank my mom and my sister for always having my back when it came to all of my BwM projects, even though they're not big baseball fans. And lastly, I want to thank my dad, my manager, agent, and editor, who has been by my side for every single decision, and has been my biggest inspiration through all of this. All I can say to everyone who has joined me through the trials of Baseball with Matt is thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

So, what's next? Well, for the time being, not much. I'm currently finishing my final year at Binghamton University, studying for my Certified Public Accountant exams, and will be starting at PricewaterhouseCoopers in October full-time. I have a baseball podcast with my friends up at Bing called Baseball for Breakfast, which you can find on any podcast-providing platform, but that's pretty much it. Don't worry, though; I'll come back to baseball journalism at some point in the future. It might be in a year or it might be in five, but you'll hear from me soon. 

So, for the final time, thanks for reading Baseball with Matt. I hope you enjoyed it and that you'll never stop learning about "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Friday, March 19, 2021

Baseball History's Impact on Interpreting Today's Game 3/19/21

 Hey baseball fans!

One of the reasons I enjoy baseball history so much is that it puts modern baseball into perspective. I always preach that understanding the precedence or background of a current subject is paramount if you want to be an expert in it. I don't consider myself an aficionado when it comes to talking about all 30 rosters of the MLB, but I do know how to judge teams, players, managers, and championships because of what I've learned about baseball's past. So, I figured that for this post, I would share some of the guiding principles I've picked up that will help you understand modern baseball a little better. 

I'll start with my calling card, the saying that I repeat on most episodes of the podcast I do with some of my friends, Baseball for Breakfast: Batting average wins MVPs. Mathematically speaking, it clearly doesn't. OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) or OPS+ (a scaled version of OPS which puts the average OPS of the league at 100) are more indicative of Most Valuable Player winners than any other stat in modern baseball, and I'm including WAR in that grouping. But as history has shown, if a player has a high/higher than career-average batting average in a given season and is in the MVP conversation, chances are that they'll win it. This isn't a proven science, but it just goes to show how tough it is to hit a baseball, especially in a modern age when batting averages are going down and homers and strikeouts are on the rise. There are productive ways to get on base besides getting a hit, yes, and any hitter can get screwed over by a spectacular fielding play, yes, but batting average is the best raw stat that answers the question of whether or not the guy who's up can hit off the guy on the mound. It's that primitive, but it's also that simple. Onto the next topic!

I don't like the GOAT debate across any sport. I think it's useless and doesn't provide any knowledge to a given sports fan, other than the knowledge of when the analysts that are having the debate grew up. But in baseball, the GOAT debate is different because the GOATs in conversation all have "what-if" factors. For example, what if Babe Ruth didn't start off as a pitcher? What if Ted Williams didn't serve in the army? What if Barry Bonds never took steroids? Because these "what-if" factors exist perpetually, you can't play the what-if game in baseball. It's unfair, no matter which hypotheticals you look at and which ones you choose to ignore. And this mantra isn't just for the GOAT debate. It works for a lot of topics. Look at the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. There were a lot of stars that had down years. Is it justifiable to use the 60-game season as an excuse for their slumps? No, because although it's fair to say that they could've rebounded had they played 162 games, we'll never know, so there's no point in bringing up the suggestion. 

And finally, winning isn't everything. I definitely sound like an entitled Yankees fan with just that sentence, but hear me out. At the end of the day, the small moments of a season have a lot more magnitude and fondness attached to them than the climactic finishes because only one team gets the ultimate finish. The same thing goes for the players, the announcers, the ballpark dimensions, and even the dumb songs stadiums play for certain outcomes. Championships feel great, but I'm certainly not a baseball fan because the Yankees have 27 rings (sorry, I had to). That would be petty and disingenuous of me as a fan to say. I love baseball because I get to find my heroes through it, I get to learn from it, and I get to make connections with it. It's a distractor from the real world, sure, but I like to think that all pastimes have some subliminal messaging, and to me, reading between the foul lines indicates a lot more about baseball's impact on any generation than watching your squad lift the Commissioner's Trophy does. 

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Friday, March 5, 2021

5 Bold Predictions for the 2021 MLB Regular Season 3/5/21

 Hey baseball fans!

We are officially in Spring Training, which means the 2021 regular season is less than a month away! Because of this, as is customary on Baseball with Matt, it's time for some of my bold predictions for the upcoming campaign, five of them to be exact. 

Although they have catchy-sounding nicknames, Belli and Yelli will not escape their season-long slumps at the plate from last year. Yes, Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich have won two of the last three NL MVPs, but they both had really terrible seasons last year. I'm here to tell you that these bad seasons are here to stay, at least for 2021. Bellinger's golf-like baseball bat swing has always been fluky to me and Yelich's eruption of power since he arrived at Milwaukee was never going to stick around; he was a contact hitter with the Marlins and only exhibited enough power and potential to barely crack 20 homers a season. I'm not saying these slumps will end forever, but let's just say that I wasn't surprised to see them both struggle in the shortened 2020 season. 

Now, while these two sluggers will not rebound, Luke Voit will lead the league in homers again. I feel like the baseball media didn't talk enough about Voit's crazy season as much as they should've and still forget to mention that he led the league in dingers. Ever since he got traded to the Yankees from St. Louis, he's shown immense gravitas with the bat, sending balls flying at an impressive pace. I guess the main reason he gets buried in the Yankee talk is because of the stars in the rest of the lineup, but you heard it here first: Nuke Voit will be back and better than ever. 

I'm just going to come out and say this: if Aaron Nola wins the Cy Young, the Phillies win the NL East. Although this is not the most competitive division in baseball, the National League East is a bit of a toss-up. The Braves will probably win it, in my opinion, but the Mets, Nationals, and Marlins have solid rosters, too. And then there are the Phillies, one of the most underachieving teams in baseball that had a historically bad bullpen in 2020. However, they do have a bona fide ace in Aaron Nola, and if he can prove all the doubters wrong, Philadelphia's pitching will catch up to its hitting, propelling the Phils to the top of the East for the first time since 2011. 

Let's stick in the NL and talk about batting average, one of my favorite statistics in baseball. Who will win the NL batting title? Donovan Solano, of course! Solano is a veteran second baseman on the Giants who sneakily batted .326 last year and .330 in 2019. Sure, he's 33, and sure, those impressive marks might be as fluky as Bellinger and Yelich, but this is a real shot in the dark, and if it sticks, I'll be over the moon. 

And finally, the World Series. I end up being close with this pick every year, but in the sense that the matchup usually ends up in the playoffs. This year, I'm hoping for a different outcome, but we'll have to see. Anyway, without further delay, my 2021 World Series picks are the Padres and White Sox. Why? They are the two youngest and most exciting teams in baseball with great rosters and even greater swagger. They were Wild Card teams this past year, but with their amazing players, they could easily meet up in late October for a chance at the Commissioner's Trophy. 

Do you agree with my bold predictions? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Case for Alan Trammell 2/21/21

 Hey baseball fans!

It's my birthday, which means it's time to talk about my Hall of Fame birthday buddy, Alan Trammell! I've done a post about Trammell pretty much every February 21st since I started my blog in 2012, so this birthday will be no different! Today, rather than just go over his career for the 1,000th time, let's take a deep dive into why he deserves to be a Hall of Famer based on the three categories I use to judge Hall of Fame candidacy: longevity, consistency, and intangibles. 

Trammell did play for a while, I'll give him that. But that's not what longevity actually means in this case. How close was Trammell to the Hall of Fame benchmarks we have come to know and love? Well, the short answer is not at all, at least in the offensive department. 2,365 career hits isn't close to the 3,000-hit threshold, especially considering he played 20 years. The cumulative stat that he has actually met is defensive wins above replacement. dWAR is a newer stat in the Hall of Fame conversation, considering fielding gurus like Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen only just made the ballot, but it's an important stat nonetheless. You don't have to be good at everything to be a Hall of Famer, so even though Trammell's cumulative hits aren't there, his 22.7 career dWAR (which is 33rd on the all-time list) at a premier position like shortstop certainly puts him in the conversation, not to mention his 70.7 career total WAR is in the ballpark of that of Derek Jeter. 

The consistency category marginally helps Trammell more than the longevity category, even though it's less important. A .285 lifetime batting average and 152 hits a season during his prime years from 1980-1990 make it known that Trammell was a consistent hitter. But other than those stats, why is Trammell a Hall of Famer? We can talk about his six All Star Games, three Silver Sluggers, or four Gold Gloves, but that's not enough. Again, I ask the question: why is this guy a Hall of Famer? The answer lies in the piece I've left out of this post so far on purpose: he's a legend in the Detroit Tigers organization. Sure, he's one of their worst managers ever, but the lifelong Tiger meant more to the city of Detroit than a lot of baseball fans realize. You can't tell the history of the Detroit Tigers without mentioning the 1984 World Series MVP. Although the intangibles category is the least important criteria for me for Hall of Fame candidates, it matters the most in Trammell's case. 

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

A Preview of the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot 2/9/21

 Hey baseball fans!

The 2021 Hall of Fame inductees have been released and, to be honest, I'm not surprised that no one got in. Schilling's stock fell a lot after the Capitol riots and I expected the steroid-users not to move up that much. There were a couple of big risers, but again, it makes sense that the 2021 Hall of Fame induction ceremony will only feature the 2020 inductees. But who's on the ballot next year?

There are several very interesting first-timers on next year's ballot, namely Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. Both have steroid scandals associated with their careers, but Ortiz's has been called into question by reliable sources, a la Commissioner Manfred, and Rodriguez has seen a personal resurgence post-retirement, mostly from television appearances. It will be interesting to see how the voters view these two mega-stars, especially compared to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who will be on the BBWAA ballot for the last time in 2022. 

Other notable first-timers who I think could see some significant voting percentages include Jimmy Rollins, Mark Teixeira, A.J. Pierzynski, Ryan Howard, Joe Nathan, Prince Fielder, and Jonathan Papelbon. Out of this group, I'm really rooting for the relievers, Nathan and Papelbon. As we move deeper into the Age of the Bullpen, relievers of all kinds will start getting the recognition they deserve. I was a massive advocate for Trevor Hoffman's induction and just talked about Billy Wagner, so to say that I "like bullpens a little" would be a gross understatement. I think that A.J. Pierzynski actually has the best shot out of the hitters that I just named because he was a catcher, so his numbers should be taken with more than just one grain of salt. 2,000+ hits and a .280 batting average as a catcher are impressive stats. I'm not sure if he has the recognition to get into the Hall via the BBWAA, but we'll have to wait and see. 

And then, besides the first-timers who won't see more than 10%, we have the guys who have been on the ballot for a while. Todd Helton and Scott Rolen saw huge jumps during the 2021 voting, Omar Vizquel's number went down because of his ongoing domestic abuse scandal, and Jeff Kent only rose a little. It seems that Helton and Rolen have the momentum to make it in before their times on the ballot are up and both of them have plenty of time to do so, but it won't be next year. What I am excited for, however, is to see how far their numbers do jump. 

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

If I Had A Hall of Fame Ballot 2021 1/26/21

 Hey baseball fans!

The 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees will be released later TODAY! So, as is customary on Baseball with Matt, here's my *unofficial* ballot. 

I've already discussed why I think Todd Helton and Jeff Kent deserve to be in the Hall (click on their names to see my posts about them), so naturally, they're on my ballot this year. But, as a quick summary, Helton's seasonal averages and synonymy with the Colorado Rockies organization and Kent's unique second baseman power are the reasons why they should have permanent residencies in Cooperstown. According to ballots that have already been released, both Helton and Kent aren't polling well, but even if this was a post about predicting who will eventually be in the Hall out of the players on the ballot this year, I would still include Helton and Kent in that conversation. A lot of my Hall of Fame criteria is based on precedence, so naturally, the topics of who I think should be a Hall of Famer and who I think will be a Hall of Famer are quite similar. 

This is actually my shortest ballot to date because I only have one other guy on it, and that's Billy Wagner. The longtime closer with a better WHIP than Mariano Rivera (0.998 compared to 1.000) has never gotten the love he deserves, nor have most closers besides Mo. But the bottom line is that closers are a necessary part of the game, so although they don't provide a lot of value, a good closer is a good closer. Period. And Wagner was a great closer. He's sixth on the all-time saves list with 422 and his 2.31 ERA is tops among anyone with over 300 career saves besides The Sandman and Craig Kimbrel and the ERA+ of Wagner and Kimbrel are only 1 point apart (187 for Billy and 188 for Craig). I just think closers are grossly underrated, especially in the Age of the Bullpen. Although Wagner was no Trevor Hoffman, his numbers speak for themselves. He deserves induction. 

I don't usually do this, but I want to talk a little about the guys who I'm not voting for. I had Curt Schilling on my ballot for a long time and you can go through my previous editions of the "If I Had A Hall of Fame Ballot" series to verify that information. He's a Hall of Famer on paper, for sure, but his politics tell a different story. The character clause that Hall of Fame voters are supposed to abide by is vague on purpose and I don't think there should be explicit statistical hurdles that keep a player out of the Hall. But Schilling won't shut up. It would be one thing if he was just annoying on social media, but the stuff that he says is unfiltered and careless. I don't care if he has political beliefs that aren't liked; Mariano is a known Trump supporter. It's about wielding the power as a celebrity that can mess up your chances in my book. Yes, half of the personalities in the Hall of Fame were extremely bigoted, but they didn't have social media. Schilling does and he's using it like an idiot. We'll see if he can curtail this behavior for next year's voting, which I think he'll be a part of, but as of now, Curt Schilling is not on my ballot. 

And finally (because you know how I feel about steroid-users), we have the fielders. Scott Rolen, Omar Vizquel, and Andruw Jones are all eligible this year and would all be Hall of Famers because of their gloves. All three do, in fact, have considerable cases when looking at their advanced defensive metrics, but the Hall of Fame isn't convinced that defense matters. This is because offensive WAR generally outweighs defensive WAR for all players, even for Rolen, Vizquel, and Jones. So why even look at their defense, right? Well, if Hall of Fame legitimacy was solely measured on value, then Mariano Rivera wouldn't be a Hall of Famer. That's why I don't love WAR so much when it comes to talking about the Hall. Besides Joe Morgan, you can make the case for every Hall of Famer without using it. On top of that, skill is just as important for the Hall as value is, maybe even more. My only problem with the trifecta of fielders I'm talking about in this paragraph is that I'm just not as familiar with defensive statistics as I am with offensive ones. So, for that reason, I don't feel comfortable putting them on my ballot. And especially with Omar Vizquel's ongoing domestic violence issues, I'm glad he's not on my ballot anyway.

Who do you think should be in the Hall of Fame in 2021? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this episode and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Case for Jeff Kent 1/13/21

 Hey baseball fans!

It's my first post of 2021 and it's a doozy! Because we are officially in the month when we find out the 2021 Hall of Fame class, it's time to ramp up the Hall of Fame content on Baseball with Matt. With that being said, let's talk about Jeff Kent, who is appearing on the ballot for the eighth time this year. Given his voting percentage of roughly 27% last year, his Cooperstown chances are slim, but he is certainly a Hall of Famer. Here's why:

Jeff Kent has a weird career. Usually, players slow down as they age. Their first decade in baseball is, by and large, much better than their second. That's not the case with Jeff Kent. Much like Paul O'Neill, Kent had a couple of alright seasons in his 20s, but his career really took off in his 30s, specifically as the starting second baseman for the Giants, Astros, and Dodgers. The sheer fact that his career numbers look flipped, with better seasons occurring in the latter half of his career, is probably a huge bias for Hall of Fame voters. But, as I've stated, the accumulation of statistics is what's more important than individual seasons when it comes to Hall of Fame legitimacy, no matter when the bulk of that accumulation took place.

Kent's numbers are more impressive when you consider the fact that he was a second baseman. For a lot of positions, mainly corner infielders and the outfield, defensive positioning isn't that important when considering offensive statistics. But second baseman aren't usually signed to be amazing hitters. Elite defense is required at the position, but elite offense is a competitive advantage that Kent definitely has. For starters, Kent is the all-time leader among second baseman when it comes to homers (377) and third in RBIs (1,518, behind Hall of Fame legends Rogers Hornsby and Nap Lajoie), while his 2,461 career hits rank above Hall of Fame second basemen such as Ryne Sandberg and Bobby Doerr. Then, there are the seasonal averages: a .290 batting average, with 22 homers and 89 RBIs over 17 years, not to mention his .500 career slugging percentage, which only ranks under Hornsby for the category among non-active second basemen. 

And then there are the intangibles. He won the MVP in 2000 and was a pivotal part of the 2002 pennant-winning Giants and the 2004 almost-pennant-winning Astros. I could mention the four All Star Games and four Silver Sluggers, but I don't need awards to determine how good of a second baseman Jeff Kent really was. If I were to sum up Jeff Kent's Hall of Fame candidacy in one sentence (and you really only need one), he was, by far, one of the most powerful second basemen baseball has ever seen, and, for that reason, deserves to be talked about by future generations of baseball fans who use the Hall as a lesson plan. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."