Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Logic of the Trade Deadline 7/31/19

Hey baseball fans!

The MLB Trade Deadline is here, making it the final couple of hours that teams can conduct trades for the rest of the season! It's also the last moments of the season that we'll really get to see how teams value their players and prospects for the future, so let's talk about that.

Baseball is all about the future. Unlike other sports, once you get drafted onto an MLB team, you do not automatically go straight to the MLB; you have to go to the minors first. Yes, I'm aware of the G-League in basketball and minor league hockey, but most greats in those sports go straight to the highest leagues, while even Derek Jeter spent time in the minors.

Most teams aspire to have a great minor league system, otherwise known as a farm system. There is, however, the free agency approach, but not every team has the money to keep on buying replacements for their departing free agents. Teams with a young championship team and a promising farm system have the most trade leverage out of any team. Take the Braves and Astros, for example. Both teams are leading their divisions, with plenty of star power in their minor league affiliates. They're set for a long time.

Every year, at the deadline, certain teams designate themselves as buyers or sellers. Buyers are generally teams that are on the edge of playoff contention and are looking for one final piece to propel themselves into October. Sellers, on the other hand, are underperforming teams with a couple of All Stars that have no chance of competing for the rest of the season. Sellers trade their All Stars for prospects in order to improve their long-term future.

At the writing of this post, the only major trade of the 2019 Trade Deadline that has happened is the Trevor Bauer trade, so let's break it down a little bit. Trevor Bauer got traded from the Indians to the Reds, Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes went to Cleveland from Cincinnati and San Diego, respectively, and Taylor Trammell went from the Reds' Double-A affiliate to the Padres organization. Cleveland was looking to add some power to their lineup and Bauer is a free agent at the end of the season who was rumored to be traded ever since the beginning of 2019. Hypothetically, if Cleveland really wanted to, they could sign Bauer during free agency. Cincinnati's pitching is one of the best in baseball, making one of their strongest areas stronger, and, because Puig's behavior is so erratic, he was expendable. In addition, the Padres have a LOADED farm system, so Franmil Reyes was also expendable, especially for one of the top prospects in baseball in Trammell.

I will admit that the Trevor Bauer trade is a complicated example of buyers, sellers, and trade value, but it's most definitely topical. Who knows what Puig and Reyes will do on the other side of Ohio, especially considering the Indians' aspirations to catch the Twins in the AL Central. All we know, as baseball fans who understand trade value, is that, in the minds of the GMs of the Indians, Reds, and Padres, this trade was fair. It might not be objectively fair (there's usually a winner and a loser in all trades), but it was fair to the teams involved, which is what made the trade happen.

What trades do you think should be made? Who should be buyers and who should be sellers? Leave your thoughts 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."

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Meikyukai: A Baseball Hall of Fame Benchmarker's Dream 7/28/19

Hey baseball fans!

I'm all for Hall of Fame benchmarks when it comes to baseball. The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown isn't always so, but the Golden Players Club in Japan is. What's the Golden Players Club, you ask? Let me tell you about it!

Created by Japanese Hall of Fame pitcher Masaichi Kaneda in 1978, along with several others, the Meikyukai (or the Golden Players Club, which is how I will refer to it) is not the same as the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. While the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame inducts players for a multitude of reasons, much like the National Baseball Hall of Fame does, the Golden Players Club has a couple of restrictions for its inductees. Each club member has to have been born during the reign of Emperor Hirohito, which was from 1926-1988. Additionally, they have to achieve one of these three career statistics: 2,000 hits, 200 wins, or 250 saves.

The Golden Players Club is exactly that: a club. Members of this club participate in offseason events, like charity golf tournaments and volunteering for the Red Cross. However, some former Japanese players have declined membership, like Hiromitsu Ochiai, who didn't want to be part of the organization because Kaneda and other founders criticized him throughout his career. That being said, it is still an honor to become a member, much like it is to be a member of the MLB's 500 home runs or 300 wins clubs.

Should the MLB have something like this? If so, what would be your benchmarks? Would guys with the initials BB, SS, MM, or RC be welcomed into your club with open arms? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Congrats to all of the 2019 Hall of Fame inductees, by the way, and check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The History of the Shift 7/20/19

Hey baseball fans!

I've recently talked a lot about the Rays' analytical intelligence and implementation, so I thought that it would be a good time to discuss how their baseball savvy really got started: the infield shift.

Most hitters pull the ball, meaning that they hit the ball to the same side of the field towards which they swing. Righties hit the ball to the left side of the field, while lefties hit the ball to the right side. Some hitters, like Derek Jeter, are known for their ability to hit the ball across the field, but these hitters are few and far between. That's why implementing a fielding shift might be advantageous depending on the hitter, which is exactly what former Rays manager Joe Maddon thought in 2006.

The then-named Devil Rays were about to go up against David Ortiz and the Red Sox. Ortiz was a dead pull hitter who batted lefty and was coincidentally the most powerful hitter in the Red Sox lineup at the time. Maddon noticed Ortiz's pulling tendencies and told his fielders to shift to the right side of the field when Ortiz was batting. Other teams took notice of this tactic and Ortiz's batting average slowly descended through the rest of the '06 season. The Rays continued to implement the shift for other dead pull hitters and the rest of the league soon followed Tampa's ways. Nowadays, shifting has become such a popular style of play that many baseball fans have complained that it should be made illegal.

But this wasn't actually the first time a team shifted its fielders in a specific direction in order to limit a batter's potential damage. Player-manager and Hall of Fame shortstop Lou Boudreau (pictured below) tried to shift his Cleveland Indians infield in July of 1946 against Hall of Famer and lefty pull hitter, Ted Williams. Boudreau later stated that the shift was meant to be more psychological than tactical, but the results were similar to Maddon shifting against Ortiz. The Boudreau shift was later used by the Cardinals in the 1946 World Series against Williams, again as a psychological ploy, and Williams batted just .200 in the Series, helping the Cardinals win the championship. But again, this wasn't actually the first implementation of a shift. Another lefty outfielder named "Williams," Cy Williams, was shifted against in the 1920s. Cy Williams was one of the first real power hitters of the National League and is second only to Babe Ruth in home runs from 1923-1928.

Should baseball ban the shift? 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."

Friday, July 12, 2019

Relocation: Saving Franchises that Can't Bring in Fans 7/12/19

Hey baseball fans!

I've talked about potential MLB expansion before on Baseball with Matt and I just discussed the Rays playing in Montreal, but let's talk about relocation in general.

It's no secret that Major League Baseball has an attendance problem. Commissioner Manfred, MLB Network, ESPN, and baseball fanatics everywhere are aware of this problem wholeheartedly. But digging deeper into the problem, you may find the following: 18 teams bring in an average of 25,000 fans per game in 2019. The teams on the lower end of that range are problematic, but 25,000 fans for 81 games trumps the amount of fans any NBA, NFL, or NHL team might attract in a season by a long shot, no matter how you look at it. Yes, I'm aware that MLB attendance is declining and that this decline is a bigger problem than just generally bad attendance, but stay with me.

The twelve teams that don't top 25,000 fans daily are a mix of bad teams, bad markets, and, sometimes consequently, bad franchises. There's no one way to fix this problem because each individual team's attendance woes vary greatly from the next, but there is a proven way to fix this problem that hasn't happened in baseball in a while: relocation. The Expos moved to Washington DC in 2005 and their attendance, slowly but surely, soared. In this day and age, at least in my opinion, all a city needs is a franchise to love and as long as that franchise gets good within the decade, fans will flock to the stadium. I am of course aware of the expenses of relocation, but new cities are getting ready for baseball teams anyway, so let's talk about some hypothetical team relocations.

Tampa Bay to Montreal
I won't get too much into this because I just talked about it, but Montreal deserves a good franchise. The Expos just never caught fire, so the fans didn't show up, so the team had no money, so the best players didn't re-sign when their contracts were up, and the cycle continued until their move to DC. With Tampa's quality management and talented roster, a permanent move to Montreal should work. Ok, now onto some other franchises!

Oakland to Las Vegas
The Raiders are already moving to Nevada in 2020, so why not move the silver and black's stadium-mates with them? The success of the Golden Knights in the NHL has opened up a whole new sports scene in the Betting Capital of the World, so I can see the A's having success here, thanks to a larger and more supportive fan base. And let's be real: a 34,000-seat stadium, which is in the A's future plans, will never work. That's smaller than Fenway.

Seattle to Portland or Vancouver
The Cascadia feeling won't leave the franchise, but I think it's time we all realized that Seattle and baseball don't mix. The franchise has threatened to leave before and was only saved by a wild 1995 run at the AL pennant. Now, with the team rebuilding, it seems as if the Mariners are in big trouble. However, Portland has wanted a baseball team for years and has investors already lined up for an expansion franchise. Regarding a potential move to Vancouver, why not?

Miami to Charlotte
I will never understand how professional baseball in Florida has never worked, but that's the fact of the matter. The Marlins have struggled with attendance and mismanagement since their inception in 1993 and it doesn't look to be getting better. Charlotte has brought in superb minor league attendance for years and the area is fueled by sports. Just ask college students at UNC and Duke if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Any team to San Antonio
Texas may be a football state, but it's a very populous state in general. The Astros have skyrocketed in the attendance rankings ever since they got good in 2015, so taking a team like the Reds or Indians, teams with talent in poor markets, and moving them to one of the most underrated metropolitan areas in the United States, would surely prove profitable in the long run. Yes, those two Ohio examples have been staples ever since Major League Baseball was formed, but it's no shock to anyone to see each of those two teams in the bottom half of the MLB attendance rankings.

Which other teams would be reinvigorated by a move to a different city? Leave your thoughts 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."

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Case for Mark Grace 7/8/19

Hey baseball fans!

Two weeks ago, arguably the best contact hitter of the 1990s celebrated his birthday. No, this wasn't Craig Biggio, Tony Gwynn, Roberto Alomar, or Ken Griffey Jr. Those Hall of Fame hitters might be high on the list of hitters with the most hits of the last decade of the second millennium, but no one had more hits in the '90s than Mark Grace.

Who's Mark Grace, you ask? Well, he was a longtime first baseman for the Cubs and Diamondbacks who happened to have been good at baseball. Grace played from 1988-2003, averaging 153 hits per season over that 16-year span. The three-time All Star batted .303 lifetime, winning three Gold Gloves on the right side of the diamond. And yes, as I mentioned before, Grace led all major league hitters in the 1990s with 1,754 hits, seven more hits than the hitter in second place, Rafael Palmeiro.

When Grace became eligible for Hall of Fame induction in 2009, he received 4.1% of the vote, eliminating him from future ballots (you have to get at least 5% to stay on). Now, I don't believe that Mark Grace should've been a Hall of Famer on his first try, but 4.1% for the 1990s hits king seems a bit low.

Here's the thing: generally, when a hitter doesn't get to 3,000 hits and plays less than 20 years, the hitter has to be well on his way to 3,000 by the time he retires. Vlad Guerrero is a good example, purely just based on his hits numbers. But Grace, as mentioned before, only averaged 153 hits in 16 seasons, while Vlad averaged 162 hits over 16 years.

Nonetheless, I still think that Mark Grace is a Hall of Famer. In a time when everyone was pounding balls over the fence, Grace found an alternative way to drive in runs, 1,146 runs to be exact. I'm not saying that he's a better hitter than Biggio, Gwynn, Alomar, or Griffey, but Mark Grace is the 1990s hits king and they aren't.

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