The Commish Online                                                                                
BLOG ARCHIVE:  06/01/10 - 06/30/10
Denard "Spans" 9 bases
Last night Minnesota outfielder Denard Span hit 3 triples in the same game, the first time it has been done since Rafael Furcal in 2002.  How rare is the feat?  The stats are a little incomplete, but hitting 3 triples in a game is an event roughly 6 times rarer than a no-hitter!

Consider this: Span his three 3-baggers in a few hours; meanwhile, the Angels and Orioles each have 5 TOTAL triples for the entire season!  For comparison's sake, 3 home runs in a game is rare enough, and over the past two season, about 5 times as many home runs are hit in MLB compared to triples.

If you were assessing the Florida Marlins roster over the past half decade with the knowledge that star players often leave before they peak (and get more expensive), you would likely suggest that they would play around .500 ball, on the basis that young talent (Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, etc.) helps win a few games, but the lack of depth thanks to a small payroll adds to some losses.  In all, it has been a team full of glaring needs but with spots of fine young talent.  Joe Girardi managed this team to a 78-84 record and was fired after one year so that management could put the guy they wanted in his place.

That guy, Fredi Gonzalez, struggled out of the gate with a 71-91 record but then had mildly successful seasons of 84-77 and 87-75.  This year, sitting on a 34-36 record, Gonzalez was suddenly fired, accumulating a 276-279 record with the Marlins as owner Jeff Loria said "We believe we can do better and be better." Loria is replacing Gonzalez with the Marlins' Triple-A manager, Edwin Rodriguez.

This is the stuff about baseball I don't get.  Girardi was a coveted manager but personality conflicts with management forced him out.  Management gets their guy (Gonzalez), and after a tough first season, their guy goes 205-188 (.522) in a division with the free spending Mets and the uber-talented Phillies.  Then they fire him with no apparent managerial plan for the near future.  If Arsenio Hall were still relevant, this would be a thing that would make him go "hmmm..."

I understand the need for change occasionally, but when a plan doesn't appear to be in place and the current manager is doing a reputable job (and keeping egos in check to the appreciation of most of his players based on media reports), I don't see the need for the firing.

Not many things have gone right for the Pittsburgh Pirates since Jim Leyland and Barry Bonds departed, and what happened on Wednesday night shows fans that the Bucs are still a long way from competitive.  Rather than go through every detail, let me just display Pittsburgh line score against the White Sox that night: 2-5-6.  Yes, that's 6 as in 6 errors!  Well, at least the Steelers are competitive.

Two decent seasons with varying results:
Pitcher A:12 GS, 2.89 ERA, 1.085 WHIP, 3.79 K/BB, 9 QS (75%)
Pitcher B:14 GS, 3.94 ERA, 1.225 WHIP, 4.33 K/BB, 9 QS (64%)

Make no mistake, Pitcher A is having the better year, but Pitcher B pitches in the American League so the elevated ERA is expected.  Pitcher A? Carlos Silva, sitting on an 8-1 record with the Cubs.  Pitcher B? Zack Greinke, currently just 2-8 despite being less than good enough just 5 times.  The point is that W/L records don't tell the whole story (particularly in small sample sizes), but often the record can be explained by other underlying stats.

Over the long term, good pitchers will have good records and vice versa, but in the short term, limiting the baserunners (WHIP) is one of the best indicators of how well someone is pitching.  Greinke's 2-8 record may seem like hard luck based on a 3.94 ERA, but Zack himself will tell you that he is simply allowing a lot more baserunners than last year during his 16-8 season (1.073 WHIP). 

Silva's current WHIP ratio is severely below his career average of 1.389, so no matter what stat you prefer for which to gauge performance, when something is out of the norm, a judgment call needs to be made on future performance.  For Silva, the WHIP and W/L record are compatible, but neither are the norm for him.  Will the WHIP rise to normal levels and therefore a more pedestrian record will follow, or has Silva discovered something that makes his current WHIP sustainable and therefore, a good record sustainable?  Because his track record of high WHIP ratios is long, I'm banking on the former, but for the sake of Chicago fans, I hope I'm wrong.

A reader questioned whether Jake Peavy's slow start with the White Sox already puts him on top of the "biggest bust in Chicago" list.  Slow down, reader, slow down.  Read The Commish's answer in the latest Hot Corner.

Well, the touted MLB debuts didn't disappoint.  Mike Stanton looked comfortable at the plate going 3 for 5 and Strasburg?  Oh yes, the Strasburg kid mastered the Pirates to the tune of 14 strikeouts over 7 innings, logging just 94 pitches.  There are many more options for kids these days when it comes to sports and hobbies, but in the near future, it doesn't look like baseball is suffering in the talent pool.  Teams still lack depth but only because there are too many teams.  There are as many superstars in the game today as ever; they are just spread around from Milwaukee to Washington to Florida and so on, until they all eventually land in New York.

Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) and Mike Stanton (Marlins) are making their MLB debuts this week, causing plenty of buzz in the media, but one player who deserves a mention and has already been dominating for two months this year is Cincinnati pitcher Mike Leake.  Less heralded than the two mentioned above, Leake has helped the Reds stay neck and neck with the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central, amassing a 5-0 record with a miniscule 2.22 ERA.  More importantly, Leake has pitching at least 6 innings in all 11 outings so far and has only given up more than 3 ER in a game once (a game the Reds won). 

That means Leake has given the Reds a chance to win each time he's taken the mound, which is all you can ask for from a starting pitcher, let a alone a rookie.  If Strasburg can do what Leake has already done, it should be considered a success, regardless of K-rate, win-loss record, etc.  It will be manager Jim Riggleman's job to hammer that home and take the pressure off of Strasburg.  Credit Dusty Baker for handling Leake well so far.

Last night's incident between Armando Galarraga and umpire Jim Joyce may make you wish for more instant replay or curse all that is wrong with baseball, but it SHOULD make you proud to be a baseball fan.  At a time when many athletes are making headlines for all the wrong reasons, Galarraga was smack dab in the middle of one of the biggest injustices on a baseball field in some time and he handled it... with a smile.  Similarly, when Joyce realized he blew the call at first base, he admitted it (gasp! an official admitting a mistake?!) and later apologized to the team and everyone involved.

Player and umpire both took responsibility for the real life actions like men, yet there are still rumblings about potentially overturning the call.  Please.  A lesson was learned on the field last night that far outweighs some historical statistic.  It was a boy's game played by men.  Men acted like men - with respect and dignity.  It was a moment you could share with your son, a moment to be proud, and a moment that makes writing about the sport worth it.

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