Results tagged ‘ National League ’

Is It Time To Consider Expansion?

This article was originally published on and republished here with permission.

(Though it certainly helps that I’m the author.)

You can view the original here if you’re so inclined.

St. Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers

I hate seeing injuries befall athletes, especially those competing at the highest level of their sport. These physically gifted gladiators who are putting on a show for our entertainment have earned the opportunity to do so after years and years of training, improvement, and sacrificing. They’ve dedicated their lives to the pursuit of athletic excellence. That any of them should suffer an injury that prevents that excellence is awful.

Recently a pair of ace pitchers suffered injuries while taking their turns in the National League’s batter’s box. Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (jammed thumb) and Adam Wainwright (ruptured Achilles tendon) of the St. Louis Cardinals will both miss time after participating in an activity which some baseball fans see and pointless — and that’s putting it mildly. Granted, Wainwright will miss far more time and there’s a chance he’ll never be the same pitcher again. Scherzer, a former American League Cy Young Award winner, and a man who is on record as appreciating the challenge of hitting, was asked about these injuries and conceded that it may be time for Major League Baseball to adopt the Designated Hitter in the National League. ***UPDATE: Scherzer now claims he was joking when he said these comments.*** Naturally this response sent a wave throughout the circles covering the league. Everybody and their cousin has seemingly weighed in on whether adding the DH to the NL should be numero uno on Rob Manfred’s hit list.

There are plenty of columns out there touting the merits of the DH. Many of them are true. There’s statistical proof that the American League tends to score more runs. There’s statistical proof that pitchers, as a group, are awful at hitting. Someone went so far as to try to show that games with the DH are actually faster on average than those without one.

There are some intelligent pieces written in the last 72 as well debunking some of the go-to arguments of the pro-DH crowd. I am on this side, for the record. I love the strategy and decision-making that goes into the NL game, both in-game and before the game even starts. I would miss it if it were gone and while virtually nobody actually wants to see pitchers flailing wildly at the plate with a less than 15% chance (collectively) of reaching base, I’m willing to deal with those plate appearances to get the other juicy stuff that goes along with them.

But I’m not writing to argue against the DH in the NL — well, not directly anyway. And while I think that the offense in today’s game is actually fine enough, I understand the desire some feel in wanting more. As Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine once epically pointed out after all, “Chicks dig the long ball”. Substitute “fans” as the subject and I think you’ll find the reason that they finally began returning to the game following the players strike that once cost the league a World Series.

Offense sells tickets to many fans. My argument today is that while the DH may have added nominal offense to the American League over time, it is hardly the only way to do so. For your consideration I offer up the idea of expansion.

At its core, expansion increases the number of jobs at the MLB level allowing more players to realize their dream of being big leaguers. When you expand the number of top tier positions what you also accomplish is a diluting of the talent pool. Without as much worthy pitching to go around — and let’s be honest, the last couple of years have more or less been a haven for pitchers — the effectiveness of those doing the job will decrease. It’s been a proven fact throughout MLB history that offense goes up following expansion.

The most recent example, when the Milwaukee Brewers switched leagues as the Tampa Bay (then Devil) Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks came into existence in 1998 saw the resulted in a jump in total league-wide runs scored of nearly 1700 runs. When the Colorado Rockies and (then) Florida Marlins joined in 1993 a similar effect happened but that jump was over 3500 runs (runs total statistics courtesy of League batting average jumped eight points between 1992 and 1993 as another example. League batting averages in both the AL & NL have been declining each year since 2007 as pitchers become more specialized and dominant.

Expansion isn’t the end all, be all silver bullet of offense, but it helps. It’s also not just about the offense either.

One of the arguments in support of adding the DH to the NL is that with as much interleague play as happens in today’s game, there should be one universal set of rules governing all teams. Well, adding two teams would even the leagues back out to even numbers (at 16 apiece) and would allow for the end of Interleague Play nearly every single day of the MLB calendar. It’s fun to see different teams every now and then, but the Leagues in MLB were never intended to behave as conferences do in the NFL or NBA. If you even the leagues back out at 16 there’s no reason to continue the Interleague clutter currently happening. It would allow teams to face more of the team they’re directly competing against for the right to appear in the World Series. There have been examples of egregious disparities over the last couple of year in certain cases to which NL division-mates are facing which AL teams. There also isn’t much cause in having, for instance, San Diego face San Francisco 19 times while only facing Houston 16 times. There should be more schedule equality and putting league membership at even numbers would allow for that to happen far more easily.

Lest I forget, there is an insane amount of money in the game of baseball right now. I know that there was brief talk of contraction not all that long ago, but with how the sport has grown, there’s ample resources available to support two new franchises and all the minor league teams, scouting departments, front office staffs, and even beer vendors that come along with them. MLB is also not lacking for markets who would welcome an MLB team with open arms. Stadium deals can get messy, but the promise of 81 home dates each summer tend to get those things done. (And have I mentioned that Montreal already has a mostly-ready stadium?)

If those that claim MLB is dying because of a lack of national numbers are to be believed (and they’re not), wouldn’t adding to more local markets help from a national average? Plus the added revenue of two more localized, rabid, and supportive fan bases couldn’t be denied.

MLB can handle it. Fans are ready. I think hitters wouldn’t complain. Even the incredibly underpaid minor leaguers would see their opportunities increase, but that’s another argument, as is roster expansion itself.

Look, the bottom line is that the Designated Hitter isn’t coming to the National League anytime soon anyway so we may as well look for other ideas. This has been one of mine.

It’s time.

Why I’m Rooting For the American League

Let’s get this out of the way at the top. Thank you, San Francisco Giants! Thank you, NLCS MVP Madison Bumgarner. Thank you, Hunter Pence. Thank you, Santiago Casilla. Thank you, Pablo Sandoval. Thank you, Yusmeiro Petit. Thank you (and congrats), Tim Hudson. Thank you even to Buster Posey.

Thank you, Michael Morse for tying that one game.

Thank you, Travis Ishikawa for walking the birds off the field.

I wouldn’t be as happy as I am today without the efforts and success of the San Francisco Giants. You can drop the #EvenYear hashtag on social media. You can thank a blossomed ace in Bumgarner. You can shower praise on Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff. It’s all deserved. It’s all warranted. “THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT!”

And as happy as I am today that the senior circuit representative in this year’s Fall Classic plays its home games outside the state of Missouri, my desire for Giant victories ended when that ball left Ishikawa’s bat.

So why am I rooting against them starting tonight? I like the Giants just fine. I like most of their players. Only Angel Pagan really gets my dander up, and he’ll miss this series with injury anyway. So this isn’t about the Giants.

As far as leagues go, I absolutely prefer the National League game to that of its younger brother. The Designated Hitter should be done away with (though I realize it never will be). The strategy and timing of the NL game makes for a beautiful, and sometimes sickening, dance where decisions feel like they loom larger. You can’t always just pitch a guy until he’s done. Maybe you have to lift a pitcher early because of a key offensive spot. Maybe you try to stretch a guy farther because his spot is due up next half inning. Et cetera. There is so much more that goes into it. It’s more interesting and more fun, in my ever so humble opinion.

I’m a stump for the NL way of life. My team plays in the National League, for what that’s worth.

So, again, I ask: Why am I rooting against the Giants?

Well, to be fair it’s about rooting for Kansas City more than it is about rooting against San Francisco.

Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Norichika Aoki. All former Brewers. All good guys who I enjoy watching succeed. But pulling for the Royals is deeper than just that connection. Doug Henry and Dale Sveum. Both former Brewers. Both members of KC’s coaching staff. I like that, and personally like Sveum as a coach, but certainly wouldn’t use that as a reason to cheer for one team over another. Ned? Not even a little bit.

So instead of continuing to tell you why I’m not rooting for them, even though they are fine reasons should you choose to use them, here’s why I am.

I look at the 2014 Kansas City Royals and I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers.

It’s not a perfect 1:1 on the field, of course, but the similarities even at that micro level are interesting. It’s more about how they go about their business on the field, the lights out bullpen, trading away young and controllable talent for a shot at the brass ring, the payoff of a long-term plan. You can take it one step farther and compare to 2008 in Milwaukee where the Brewers faltered down the stretch while trying to hold off other teams for the Wild Card. In 2008 there was only the one Wild Card spot available, but the Brewers held off the Mets to win it by just one game. In 2014, Kansas City got the home game by just one game over Oakland (who held off Seattle by just one game).

Kansas City rode years of awfulness to amass a bunch of young talent in their system. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon (drafted the same year as, and ahead of, Ryan Braun, by the way), Wil Myers, the list goes on. In fact, you could almost mark the 2005 draft which got the Brewers the final “homegrown” piece to their playoff runs in Braun as the start of the Royals turnaround. In that way, they’ve been a few years behind the Brewers’ blueprint. Get a bunch of young, talented guys in the system with a goal to hit the Majors at roughly the same time, supplement with free agents, and when the moment is right, make a big trade (or two) at the big league level by sending out minor leaguers to go for it.

Let’s break that down, in case you aren’t agreeing with me.

Milwaukee: Drafted Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Yovani Gallardo, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun. Traded away Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley (and more)) for CC Sabathia in 2008. Traded away Cain, Escobar, Jake Odorizzi (and more) for Zack Greinke in 2011. Traded Brett Lawrie for Shaun Marcum in 2011. Supplemented with veterans: 2011 -Mark Kotsay, Craig Counsell, Jerry Hairston, Takashi Saito. 2008 – Gabe Kapler, Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall, Ray Durham, (ironically) Counsell.

Kansas City: Drafted Gordon, Hosmer, Moustakas, Billy Butler, Greg Holland. They scouted international amateurs like Salvador Perez, Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura. Traded away Zack Greinke to acquire several young pieces. Flipped Odorizzi with Wil Myers to acquire James Shields and Wade Davis. Supplemented with veterans like Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Josh Willingham, and Jason Frasor.

I think I’ve made my point.

Their offensive games differ, to be sure, as the Brewers hit home runs at a great pace in 2011 and the Royals are more about speed and getting hits that raise the ol’ BABIP. But the rotations were similarly solid from top to bottom, but the real crux of what sent me down this comparison exercise are the late inning relievers.

2011 Brewers:

  • Closer: John Axford (1.95 ERA / 2.41 FIP / 46 saves / 1.140 WHIP / 10.5 K/9)
  • Setup man: Francisco Rodriguez (1.86 ERA / 2.23 FIP / 1.138 WHIP / 10.2 K/9)
  • “7th inning guy”: LaTroy Hawkins / Takashi Saito (Combined: 2.28 ERA / 1.200 WHIP / 6.1 K/9)
    • (the Brewers used two veterans so as to keep them fresh)

2014 Royals:

  • Closer: Greg Holland (1.44 ERA / 1.83 FIP / 46 saves / 0.914 WHIP / 13.0 K/9)
  • Setup man: Wade Davis (1.00 ERA / 1.19 FIP / 0.847 WHIP / 13.6 K/9)
  • “7th inning guy”: Kelvin Herrera (1.41 ERA / 2.69 FIP / 1.143 WHIP / 7.6 K/9)

Six inning games are easier to win than nine inning games. Both of these teams had/have that game-shortening bullpen that general managers are yearning to cobble together each and every off-season.

I won’t lie to you though. The former Brewers being on the Royals certainly helps me root for them. In fact, it led to a series of tweets (@BrewerNation) with commentary how the team with the most former Brewers on it was winning every series (and even every game for a while) in the 2014 Postseason.

Market size, payroll relative to MLB’s elite, a fan base desperate for a winner after more than 25 years of missing the playoffs, that their last pennant was won in the 1980’s — these are all comparisons between the two franchises that help me see them in such a similar light.

But when it comes down to it, when all the dust has settled, at the end of the day, when all the clichés have been dropped…

I’m rooting for the 2014 Kansas City Royals because I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers and what might have been.

The comparisons can stop there, though, because this Kansas City team won the two games which that Milwaukee team didn’t. The Royals won their pennant and now have a chance to win another World Series, while the Brewers still seek their first championship.

But if these Royals can get the job done, it offers renewed hope that my team can one day get back and accomplish the same.

And that’s worth rooting for more than anything.

Brewers Move Up In the Latest All-Star Balloting Update


You’re not seeing things. Aramis Ramirez has taken over the top spot in the  latest National League All-Star balloting update provided by Major League Baseball. Carlos Gomez has also moved back into starting position and Jonathan Lucroy has passed Buster Posey for second place among NL backstops!

Oh, and how about Jean Segura in second among shortstops and Mark Reynolds and Rickie Weeks both getting on the board at their respective positions in 4th place?

Keep on Voting Brewers!!!

In Preparation of “Finalists” Announcements for BBWAA Awards

For the first time in history, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) will be announcing “finalists” for each of their Major League Baseball awards.

Before I go any further, allow me to explain why I put “finalists” in quotes. This is because it is widely believed that the “finalists” will simply be the top X number of vote-getters for each of the awards in question.

For example, each voting member of the BBWAA can fill out a ballot with up to 10 names on it for the Most Valuable Player in the league for which said member can vote. Cy Young has five name ballots, while Managers and Rookies of the Year awards are limited to ballots of three names each.

As for how many “finalists” will be announced, X=5 for MVP, and X=3 for Cy Youngs, Managers, and Rookies.

Okay, moving along to the point of this column.

If you heard my appearance on Brewers Weekly last week Thursday on the Brewers flagship radio station AM 620 WTMJ, you’ll know my feelings about this already. (If you missed it, you can find it here: Regardless, allow me to expound on those feelings a bit further.

There are two voters in each Major League city who vote on these awards. For the National League, this last time, that means that 32 voters can cast a ballot for NL MVP, NL Cy Young, NL Manager of the Year and NL Rookie of the Year.

As stated on the BBWAA’s own website, points are awarded based on votes in the following way:

For all awards, there is a point system that is weighted by the spot on the ballot. For the MVP, a first-place vote is worth 14 points. From second to 10th, the ballot spots are worth 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points, respectively. For the Cy Young, the points are 7-4-3-2-1. For the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year, the points are 5-3-1.

In other words, the highest point total that any player can receive for Most Valuable Player is 448.

I could summarize point totals for a while, but getting on with it…

If the assumptions are correct and the “finalists” for MVP are simply the five players who received the five-highest point totals, I’ll spit nails if Ryan Braun isn’t announced as one of them.

As stated on the BBWAA’s website, here is the criteria to be considered when casting ballots for Most Valuable Player:

Dear Voter:

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1.  Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.

2.  Number of games played.

3.  General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.

4.  Former winners are eligible.

5.  Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.

Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.

As simplistically as I can state the following words, allow me to share with you the following:

There were not five players in the National League more valuable to their 2012 teams in the regular season than Ryan Braun was to the 2012 regular season Milwaukee Brewers.

(I originally hadn’t included “regular season” in either position in the previous, but wanted to do so to remind us all that play in the post-season cannot be included when considering any balloting because ballots must be cast prior to the post-season.)

As I also said during my Brewers Weekly appearance, I can accept (even though disagree with) arguments supporting Buster Posey for MVP. You can even make reasoned arguments for players like Matt Holliday, or Andrew McCutchen for example. You cannot name five players more valuable than Braun, however.

Therefore, should Ryan Braun’s name not be listed among those called out as the five “finalists” for NL MVP this evening, I shall be, as gently as I can relate, put…out.

Furthermore, when full balloting is ultimately revealed we will learn how many votes in each position each player received. This will occur next week Thursday, November 15th when the award winners are revealed. At that time, if I can’t add up Braun’s votes to 32 regardless of where on a ballot he fell, I will be more than a little bit miffed.

Look, I’m not a fool nor am I some naive fanboy blinded by love. I understand that there are likely to be several pompous, arrogant, and oblivious windbags who feel that they are protecting some pristine award from the filth of dirty, dirty cheaters by penalizing Braun for leaked reports of a failed test which was overturned on appeal based on the sample tested being scientifically invalid.

But I would like to be able to believe that penalizing Braun won’t interfere in their own professionalism to their craft and their responsibility to vote results on the field and circumstances that certainly occurred instead of things based on fallible reports from a season ago.

Let’s wait and see together as we learn all about Braun’s fate over the next eight days.

2012 National League All-Star Starting Lineup

*image courtesy Major League Baseball Public Relations


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