Sporcle of the Week: Name any MLB Player

Name any batting title-eligible player on every MLB team in the last ten years. Example: Derek Jeter bangs out the whole Yankees part of the quiz. I should have done much better on this one. I got a meager 192 for 300.

Post your score on my Facebook page if you wish to rub it in my face.

If you lie about your score, your aunt and uncle will forget their WiFi password when you go there for Thanksgiving next week and you’ll have to rely solely on your data plan.

SPORCLE OF THE WEEK: NAME ANY PLAYER

A-Rod for Alfonso Soriano version 2013: The Perfect Trade

Alex Rodriguez is a burden to the Yankees. His off-the-field attention plus on-the-field mediocrity has failed him in New York.

Yesterday the Mets made a bold (but smart) decision to remove Jason Bay despite the $21 million left on his contract. They decided it was time.

I think it’s A-Rod’s time.

But to lessen the financial blow, the Yankees could make a move that brings in a separate terrible contract.

Could the Yankees retrade A-Rod for Alfonso Soriano?

In 2004, the Yankees sent Soriano, cash, and a player to be named later (eventually Joaquin Arias who just won a World Series ring) for Rodriguez. It was the blockbuster trade that guaranteed the Yankees World Series titles for the next five years.

Today, it would be the blockbuster trade that ends A-Rod’s underachieving, borderline embarrassing run in the Big Apple.

Yes, the Yankees don’t need Soriano, or even want him, but a designated hitter, late-game pinch hitter, and occasional corner outfielder (Nick Swisher has played his last game in New York) would be of value.

Soriano’s team hasn’t won a playoff series since 2003. I’m sure he’ll trade a demotion for a real chance at a championship. Ichiro Suzuki did.

In what may be sports’ most immovable contract, Rodriguez is slated to make $114 million over the next five years – five more years of this.

No team will take him unless given a going-out-of-business discount. Plus, Rodriguez is a 10-5 player (ten years in the league, the latest five for the same team) so he can veto any trade.

With his home and heart in Florida, how about Rodriguez to the Rays, Soriano back to the Yankees, and Tampa prospects to the Chicago Cubs?

The poor, loveable loser Cubs have the equally inconvenient piece to rid. Soriano is owed $36 million over the next two years. If the Yankees pick up Soriano’s full contract, Chicago would gladly pay $36 million of Rodriguez’s contract to gain essentially “free” prospects and open up room on the roster. They might pay up to $40 million if the prospects are right.

The Yankees’ former second baseman strikes out way too much and is unequivocally overpaid – fits right in with the Yankees already. Chicago would jump to lower their salary, and I believe Soriano would return to New York (also a 10-5 player) where he was a fan favorite in the early 2000s.

The Yankees can rid themselves of the cancer into which Rodriguez has manifested and pay a smaller portion of his salary.

$114 million – $40 million = The Yankees eat $74 million.

The city of Miami wants Alex Rodriguez and vice versa. With A-Rod’s abysmal production since his fantastic 2009, the Yankees can probably get Miami to pay him $25 million over his last five years (including the prospect[s] they send to Chicago).

$74 million – $25 million ≈ $50 million

Proposed Trade:

Chicago Cubs
Get: Tampa prospects
Give away: 40 million to pad Rodriguez’s salary
Give away: Alfonso Soriano to Yankees

New York Yankees
Get: Alfonso Soriano
Give Away: Alex Rodriguez to Miami
Lose: The remaining $50 or-so million on Rodriguez’s contract

Miami Marlins
Get: Alex Rodriguez ($25 million over five years)
Give Away: A prospect or two to Chicago

When all is said and done, why cant this work?

Brian Cashman and the Yankees have declared publicly they are trying to get below the $180 million mark for luxury tax relief, and with Soriano they would only owe $18 million per year over the next two, versus  about $23 million per year over the next five.

The best trades are the ones where all parties improve. At this point in Rodriguez’s career, the Yankees will benefit from a divorce, the Cubs can win some prospects, and Miami gets street value for a fun, back-page player who wants to be there.

Do you think Derek Jeter could talk Scott Brosius out of retirement?

 

There is a 0% chance the Yankees win tonight… which is why they will

They don’t hit, they don’t move runners over, their captain and best player right now is out for the year, their closer is not with them, and they still have to win four of their next five games, three of which would be in Detroit, two of which are against the league’s best starting pitcher.

Aside for a freak four-run ninth inning in game one, the Bronx Bombers have not scored in their last 21 other innings.

And they’re an hour away from Justin Verlander – the league leader in innings pitched and holder of the 100 mph eighth-inning fastball.

If the Yankees don’t defeat the reigning MVP and Cy Young award winner, they’ll have to win four games in a row, something they won’t do.

No one expects the Yankees to win tonight. I don’t. What life have they shown? Every inning, every at-bat, every pitch plays like a broken record – home run or strikeout.

No one expects you to win – it’s Detroit’s game to lose. Alex Rodriguez is 3-23 this postseason. He has recorded five hits over the last two postseasons, the same amount as Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter.

Nick Swisher is a mind-boggling 1-35 in his postseason career with runners in scoring position. At least he shows the decency to hit consistently.

Unlike Robinson Cano. His sexy 24-39 (.615) run to end the season foreshadowed his corpselike 2-32 and record-breaking 0-26 this postseason.

You can’t predict baseball. That’s why I predict the Yankees will win tonight.

There’s no pressure. To put in perspective how bad the Yankees are, analyze that. In a must win game, New York’s lack of everything has rendered them at the doorstep of death, but ultimate peace.

No stress, no expectation of victory.

“I don’t set goals, because if you never set goals, you’ll never be disappointed”
– Vince Vaughn from Dodgeball. I’m paraphrasing.

Common sense suggests postseason pressure has tangibly affected the Yankees, but statistics will prove it.

Curtis Granderson’s lifetime batting average is .262 with a standard deviation of .062 over nine years. If you’re unfamiliar with stats, a value outside two “standard deviations” of the mean is officially labeled “unusual.”

Granderson’s 2-26 this postseason (.115) is less than two standard deviations (less than .138) away from his lifetime average (.262 – .062 – .062 = .138) meaning there is something different about his 2-26.

But Corey you’re looking at an almost nominal sample size compared to a whole career. That’s unfair.

Fair argument, but look at Robinson Cano – lifetime .308 hitter, standard deviation .061 over eight years.

His 2-32 (.063) this postseason is over four standard deviations away from his lifetime average. There is just under a one in 15,787 chance that this stretch is strictly coincidental.

Again, small sample size, but when Swisher, Rodriguez, Granderson, and Cano are all hitting “unusually,” there is a significant contributing factor.

Baseball is too weird. There’s too much going for Detroit. Everything points to a Tigers victory.

It’s why the Yankees will win tonight.

Playing games 1 and 2 on the road is an advantage

I have a friend that works in New York City, and two days a week he has to deal with this one higher-up who he can’t stand. It makes his day miserable and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Put yourself in this situation – perhaps it’s very easy, would you rather deal with that person on Monday and Tuesday, or Wednesday and Thursday?

Abstractly, that’s the question you can pose to the remaining eight teams in the MLB postseason.

Because MLB adopted an additional wild card game after the 2012 schedule had been released, headquarters was forced to squish an extra day of baseball into a month-long period originally designed for one less game.

To make room, the team with home-field advantage in the division series will play games three, four, and five at home instead of the conventional sandwich setup of games one, two, and five at home. This takes out the second potential off-day of travel.

The first three years of the division series (1995-97) originally featured this “2-3” setup, but switched to “2-2-1” in 1998 to give the team with the better record a better chance to jump ahead in the series, arguing, “Give the best team the best chance to win.”

But I believe starting on the road is more advantageous for the “better” team. Team “Home-Field Advantage,” (referred to as “team HFA” for the rest of this post) can relax knowing one road win is the goal.

And if they lose both, you’re still coming back home for the rest of the series.

This happened in 1995. Don Mattingly and the Yankees faced Randy Johnson and the Seattle Mariners in the best of five, ’95 ALDS. With that original 2-3 format, the Yankees won games one and two at home before Seattle rallied for three straight wins Northwest. So losses in games one and two is not suicide.

Imagine this scenario:

In the 2-2-1 format, say the Yankees sneak into the playoffs with an 87-75 record and play the 103-59 Texas Rangers in the ALDS. With games one and two on the road, New York’s goal is to win just one of those two games, maybe get lucky, and hope to clinch at home.

On the flip side, Texas, by default, needs to win both home games to maintain home-field advantage. In baseball,  momentum changes with the next day’s starting pitcher – winning two straight can be a daunting task.

Probability coupled with a general guesstimation will tell you the better team will win both games only about 30-35% of the time, meaning the “wrong” team will have home-field advantage by game three 65-70% of the time.

So is it an advantage?

This year’s 2-3 setup takes loads of pressure off team HFA. Take the example a few paragraphs up, but now imagine the 2-3. Texas’ goal is to win just one game in New York, forcing the Yankees to win a best-of-three in the Lone Star State.

Essentially, the 2-2-1 setup puts an inordinate amount of pressure on the team with the best record.

If you disagree, here’s an article that argues why I’m completely wrong.

The argument above is if team HFA loses the first two games on the road, then the “wrong” team has stolen momentum and is in a prime position to advance.

“Well, then you should have won one of those first two games on the road. Maybe you’re not the better team,” is my answer to that.

With the 2-3, you take out one less day of travel. One less day of expensive flights and travel coordination. In a potential New York/Oakland matchup, you have a chance to adjust to the time difference and don’t get thrust back on a plane after a single night in a California hotel.

With today’s substantial emphasis on finance, you can use that money elsewhere.

Every time I’ve had a team with home-field advantage in the playoffs, “I” feel forced to win both those games, but with the HFA-Yankees going to Baltimore for the first two, I was more relaxed knowing one win out of the next two is the goal.

If the fans feel that way, then so does the organization.

Mr. Selig, I like this playoff setup. Tell the guy who wrote the article above he’s wrong, and punish him by returning to the format you originally drew up.

MLB 2012 – The Year of the Perennial Losers

I can smell the fresh cut grass. I can hear the familiar pop of a crisply throw baseball into a worn-in mitt. I envision the players picking grounders, lackadaisically stretching in the outfield, and taking soft toss batting practice while the hot sun beams down on the field. Few things generate the given euphoria I feel every year when I hear those words.

Baseball is back.

But 2012 is set up to be a strange season. Usually, by the Winter Meetings you have a general idea of what teams will be there come August/September – Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, etc.

Not as much this year.

2012 is capable of housing a severe shake-up in the standings. Perennial losers have worked up their farm systems to achieve at least share of preseason credibility, and some big market teams have a realistic chance to have a down year. Here are some surprise teams to look out for in 2012:

Miami Marlins
New manager, New players, New fan base, New image, New attitude

The “loser” mentality is gone. The new ballpark in Miami will attract more fans and the young players will thrive off the energy of a home crowd – something they could only dream of in Sun Life Stadium.

The Ozzie Guillen move was perfect. His no-BS attitude will halt any ingrained pessimism inherited from playing in front of consistent 8,000 fan crowds. He’ll manage his young players correctly (they’ll hate him, but Guillen will make them winners) and bring some media attention to the team – therefore pulling in the casual fan.

Jose Reyes was a steal. He comes back to a warm-weather climate comparable to his home in the Dominican Republic, his home crowd won’t hate him, and – let’s just face it, he’s not on the Mets. He won’t bat .337 again, but he won’t be a cancer either.

(On a side note, Reyes’ flawed attitude was showcased after his self-dismissal last year to secure the batting title. I would not want him on my team. This deal may be real bad in three years, but this year he’ll be a stud.)

Emilio Bonafacio had a breakout year in 2011. He batted .296, was third on the team in doubles, and can play anywhere on the field. If he can limit his strikeouts (129 in 152 games in 2011) he’ll be a key player.

Mike Stanton is a baller. He’ll be fine this year.

Final Record: 83-79, 3rd in the NL East.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Young talent, Easy division, Unexpected leader

On July 19th, the Pirates were 51-44 and sat atop the NL Central. They have the talent to be good – and they will be. Inexperience is usually the diagnosis of a young team’s late season failures, as was the case in 2011. But what veteran has the possibility to lead the Pirates in 2012?…

A.J. Burnett.

I’ve said it since 2010. The first year out of New York will be a rejuvenation season for Burnett. Didn’t matter what team he played on. He couldn’t handle New York (yes, he did during Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, and it’s the sole reason he leaves NYC on good terms), but in Pittsburgh, there’s no pressure. He’s going to be more relaxed, content, and effective. Look for Burnett to go 15-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 2012.

Andrew McCutchen had a different season in 2011. His home runs were up but his batting average was down. If he can level out yet continue to work those walks, he can set the pace for an offense that struggled mightily last season. They were 14th in the NL in runs scored in 2011.

The top two teams in the NL Central in 2011 will take severe steps back in 2012. The NL Central champion Brewers lost their best player Ryan Braun for 50 games and their second best player Prince Fielder for life. When Braun comes back, who knows what kind of player he’ll be.

*2/24 UPDATE: The Brewers will get off to a better fifty game start now that Braun’s suspension has been reversed. The Pirates will have to overcome Braun’s presence which will be a daunting task.

The World Series Champion Cardinals lost Albert Pujols and their eventual Hall of Fame Manager. Do I think that’s enough to catapult the Pirates past the Cardinals in the standings? Honestly… no, but there’s a chance.

Will this be the season the Pirates finally have a winning season? They haven’t had one in 19 years, a record in the four major sports.

Yes; 83-79 at season’s end.

Kansas City Royals
If Not Now, When?

I have to throw the Royals in here because they will be good. I just don’t know whether this year or in four. The Royals have had the strongest farm system in baseball for some time. The players have had a long time to grow into the game and are now expected to make a splash in the standings.

If Eric Hosmer can be as good as people think he may be, he can set the pace for this young team. Don’t be surprised if the Royals start the season 15-5. Of course they won’t keep that pace up, but they’ll be fun to watch in 2012.

Final Record: 80-82, nine game improvement from 2011 (71-91).

Washington Nationals
Stephen Strasberg, Winning Atmosphere

The Nationals are going to be real good this season. They have some scary talent and a juicy blend of young and seasoned players. Plus, they’ve shown they are committed to winning when they signed Jayson Werth last season.

Strasberg is off Tommy John Surgery, which means he may be throwing even harder than before his injury. Mike Morse will look to work off his stellar 2011 and Jordan Zimmermann is capable of winning 15 games. Zimmermann was 8-11 last season, but with a 3.10 ERA.

Brad Lidge is back to give the Nationals confidence in the ninth, and everyone will go crazy with support for Bryce Harper if he makes his Major League debut in 2012.

If they can score runs and Strasberg has a big campaign, why can’t this team finish 85-77? The NL East is not entirely brutal this season.

I still don’t know if what they have puts them over the hump, so I say their final record is 82-80, but don’t look them over just because they’re the Nationals.

Looking at the opposite end of the Major League spectrum, the Yankees will be good this season, but who knows how the Red Sox will respond after their epic collapse last September? The Phillies proved shutouts don’t mean anything if the offense can’t score, plus they lost Roy Oswalt.

Fantasy owners are going to go crazy in the first two weeks of the season – there’s a lot of unknown talent in this year’s bunch. Many divisions are up for grabs, as well. Either way, baseball is here and never too soon. I have my calendar ready for Opening Night and my mitt literally right next to me.

Play Ball – because baseball is back.