Sunday, December 15, 2013

On the issue of home plate collisions being banned


MLB said that the idea first arose during the General Managers Meetings in November.

Actually... the idea was in an annual Baseball Abstract by Bill James in the 1980s.  He pointed out that the rules are the same on any base, yet only enforced on three of them-- that being that the fielder can't block the runner if he doesn't already have the ball.  The tradition of the catcher positioning himself in front of the plate while awaiting the throw has ALWAYS been illegal.  It just hasn't been enforced by umpires for some reason.

Matt and I saw a game this year between the Bucs and the Fish, where a catcher received the throw, then took the collision and held onto the ball.  It was actually awesome because his technique was perfect.  Instead of trying to stand his ground against the hit, he initiated the roll backwards himself and flipped the runner over him.  It was much like the Judo principle of transferring your opponents momentum instead of absorbing it.  Looked beautiful and fairly safe.  However, I don't trust that enough guys would learn that technique or execute it, and instead you'd have plays that just don't need to happen. 

BUT FRANCO!!!  The plays at the plate are so exciting!!

Shut up, yes they are.  But they'll still be pretty good, even if they aren't violent.  The thing about baseball is that it's like 98% not violent.  So changing this little thing doesn't really undermine the fundamental appeal of the sport. 

Good work, Baseball.  You have managed to do something pretty sensible!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Winter Meetings notes

1. Charlie Morton sticking around
I love this. At $7 million a year for three years, you're getting a reliable, middle-of-the-rotation ground-ball pitcher who we know still has swing-and-miss stuff. Guys who pitch like Charlie did this year tend to go for way more on the open market, so I'd even be tempted to say the Pirates are getting something of a bargain here. I'll take everyone's word for it when they say it couldn't happen to a better guy, but what really excites me about this is that it should put to rest all of the lingering bullshit animosity toward the 2009 trade of Nate McLouth. Nathan Adcock is bouncing around people's bullpens and Gorkys Hernandez has established himself as certifiable baseball garbage. Charlie Morton is a big-league starting pitcher whose abilities play right into the Pirates' philosophy of getting ground balls and playing solid defense. Charlie will no doubt celebrate his new contract by road-tripping with his wife and dog to wherever in the Western hemisphere Jason Mraz is playing between now and February.

2. One more year of Barmes
At $2 million for one year, he's worth it to this team for his defense. The Pirates would love to have a regular shortstop, but Jordy Mercer's defense doesn't touch Clint's, and infield defense was one of the things that made the 2013 Bucs so good. It's one year, it's a pay cut, and he'll be playing part-time all next season, barring injuries. Sure, he's as hopeless at the plate as Francisco Liriano, but this dude saved 14.2 runs over 804.1 innings at shortstop last year. If you're using him in the right situations and compensating with increased offense at other positions ::coughRIGHTFIELDcough:: he's worth keeping around. Yes, once in a while he's going to end up popping up the first pitch he sees to end a one-run ballgame, but don't lose sight of the fact that this guy plays a role and does it extremely well.

3. Edinson Volquez
One year at $5 million? Looks like another reclamation project, and nowhere near the level of the gambit we thought Liriano was going to be. Volquez has always had the ability and the repertoire, but his control just isn't there, and he leaves pitches out over the plate. But for having an okay fastball that runs around 93-94, Volquez relies a lot on his curveball. Over his last three seasons, the curve has accounted for more than 20 percent of his pitches thrown, including over 24 percent each of the last two years. In his best seasons, 2008 and 2009, he was using it between 9 and 10 percent. He also has a pretty good changeup, but seldom has a chance to use it as an out-pitch because he struggles so much to throw strikes. Look for the curveball to more or less disappear from Volquez's arsenal this year. If he buys into the Huntington-Searage method, you're going to see a lot of fastballs, two-seamers and changeups. This is a low-risk, medium-reward deal that could buy the Pirates a season's worth of good starts. If he pitches well under the Pirates' model, he's probably excellent trade bait come July. If he doesn't buy into the system at all and insists on continuing to lob curveballs at guys, he'll be DL'd or DFA'd by June.

4. What's next? 
Get Eric Chavez and platoon him with Gaby Sanchez at first. If you can't do that, go try to get Ike Davis. See if you can lure Burnett back -- the longer this goes on, the more skeptical I am that it's going to happen. Apparently, the Marlins are interested in Josh Harrison. Give him to them for free. Bring in Mark Mulder on a minor-league, tryout contract. There's talk of teams being interested in Justin Wilson, who isn't arbitration eligible for two more years. I'd hold onto him for another year before spinning him off in the winter. He's got a lot of years of control left, but I still don't think he's at peak value. If he can do next year what he did last year, he could effectively double his value. Sign Mark Melancon to a deal that negates all three of his arbitration years and possibly his first year of free agency. This is the kind of guy you can keep in your bullpen longer than most. He can pitch in any situation, and even when he's bad, he' still pretty good because he just doesn't walk guys. He's not quite as efficient as a guy like Edward Mujica, but he's not far off.

5. What the D'Backs did to get Mark Trumbo?
That's totally insane. Don't do that.