St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak did what he does best on Monday. By acquiring right fielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden from the Atlanta Braves for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins, Mozeliak directly filled one dire need while indirectly addressing several others at the same time. The trade may have cost the Cardinals some young pitching talent, but it will likely result in the team making fewer moves and taking on fewer risks to build a championship-caliber team for 2015.
Detroit Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski stated earlier in the week that bringing designated hitter Victor Martinez back to Detroit was his “top priority.”
Martinez inked a four-year, $68 million deal on Wednesday, securing the team’s best hitter from 2014 and providing Miguel Cabrera with the lineup protection that he needs. The Martinez deal means that the middle of the Tigers lineup should remain strong through the 2018 season — even with Martinez at age 39 and Cabrera at age 35 at the conclusion of 2018.
With two aging stars, though, the major concerns obviously lie with their ability to maintain the skill level that earned them their large contracts. Major League Baseball players typically reach their peak in their late twenties, and see substantial decline by their late thirties.
Dear Major League Baseball baserunners,
I admire your athletic ability, your grit, and the skills it takes to face (and occasionally succeed against) the best pitchers the sport has to offer. I can only dream of being able to hit a 95 mile per hour fastball out of the infield let alone out of the park. In short, I’m impressed.
However, there’s one thing that bothers me more than just about anything when watching an MLB game, and it involves baserunning. Yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more hustle running out grounders, and maybe some more stolen bases, but that’s not what this is about. I’ll put it loud and clear, so there’s no beating around the bush:
STOP SLIDING HEADFIRST INTO FIRST BASE!
I say this for two reasons, one logical and one scientific. I’ll start with my favorite: the logical. You slide into second and third base for the specific reason that you can’t overrun those bases like you can first base and home plate. Sliding into those bases gets you to the base quicker while also giving you more contact points to the base as your body slides over the bag.
Compare that to having to slow down and come to a complete stop at second or third base without sliding. Which would you rather do? Slide, of course.
But imagine you could run through those bases. All it would take is a dead sprint at the base – beat the fielder there and you’re safe, simple as that. Still want to slide?
That’s exactly what first base is. You beat the ball/fielder to the bag and you’re safe. So why would you slide?
Let’s move on to the scientific side of this, and to help, I’ll enlist the ESPN Sport Science experts to demonstrate. Take a look:
As you can see just from the screenshot ESPN decided to use, running through the bag gets you to first base quicker than sliding headfirst. The 50 percent deceleration you see occurs when the runner leaves his feet and loses the propulsion from his feet. By running through the base, you get one more step – one more opportunity – to push off your feet and make one more lunge toward first.
So take it, please.
You have likely heard about the most recent inspiration for this: Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer slid into first base in an attempt to beat out a double play in the fourth inning of Game 7 against the San Francisco. After originally being ruled safe, the call was later reversed and Hosmer was doubled up.
The play was so close that it begged the question: would Hosmer have been safe running through the bag? Obviously we’ll never know, but take into account the 10 milliseconds difference (on average – Hosmer looked like he hit the dirt a little too far in front of first, which theoretically would have slowed him down more) that Hosmer lost by sliding, and the Royals’ fourth inning could have been completely different. Who knows, maybe Kansas City would be planning a World Series parade for Friday instead of San Francisco.
In closing, please never forget how much I love your sport, and that now that the World Series is over, we as fans must now wait four excruciatingly long months for the glorious day that competitive baseball returns. But when it does, please, please make it a point to rid yourself of this bad habit. It’ll make me, as well as countless other baseball fans across the world, much happier.
It’s easy to say that St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s usage of his bullpen was the main reason that the his team lost in just five games to the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series.
In many ways, it’s a fair argument – Matheny made several questionable decisions when it came to his bullpen, and he saw the immediate results when his relievers either lost the lead or lost the game in four of the five games against the Giants. Matheny’s misuse of his bullpen was capped off by the series-winning three-run home run that Travis Ishikawa launched into the right field stands off of Michael Wacha, who entered the ninth inning of the a must-win game for the Cardinals having not pitched in over three weeks. Standing in the Cardinal bullpen just beyond first base ready to go were lefty Randy Choate (who could have faced lefties Ishikawa and shortstop Brandon Crawford) as well as righty Seth Maness (whose uncanny ability to induce double plays has been invaluable to the Cardinals the last two years). Instead, Matheny chose to stick with Wacha, who ultimately gave up the series-clinching home run.
Throw in a couple of other poor choices – leaving Choate in after walking Crawford in the tenth inning of Game 3, and Matheny’s quick hook of both Maness and All-Star Pat Neshek, and there’s no doubt that the bullpen played a large part of the untimely demise of the Cards’ World Series hopes.
But don’t pin this all on Matheny. The Cardinals offense failed to put their team in a position to win without unnecessary drama from the Matheny and the bullpen.
Last year, the St. Louis Cardinals put together an incredible season that far exceeded many expectations. The Redbirds set an all-time record for batting average with runners in scoring position (.330), which was key to scoring runs in an offense that ranked 27th in the majors in home runs (125). Meanwhile, the pitching staff saw several young arms emerge from the farm system. Rookies Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, Michael Blazek, Kevin Butler, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez, Tyler Lyons, John Gast, and Michael Wacha all saw playing time in 2013, and all made meaningful contributions to the team.
2013 could easily have been a disaster for the Cardinals, but somehow they were able to hit and pitch their way to a 97-65 record, tying the Boston Red Sox for the best regular season record in the big leagues. The Cards rode that momentum to a National League pennant, and held a 2-1 lead in the World Series before losing to the aforementioned Red Sox. All in all, the season was a rousing success for the Cardinals, although anyone in the organization would probably tell you otherwise after falling short of a championship.
Entering 2014, the expectations are high. With major league experience–as well as valuable playoff experience–their young arms are expected to carry the load alongside veterans Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, and Lance Lynn. Offensively and defensively, the team has upgraded in multiple positions from a few wise offseason moves. However, power may once again prove to be the team’s Achilles heel.
Last week I wrote Part 1 to my MLB Hall of Fame ballot if I had an official vote. The entry included my voting criteria, as well as what I personally value more in a Hall of Famer than others. It all culminated in listing the four players on the ballot that undoubtedly deserve induction into the Hall of Fame this year (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Craig Biggio, Frank Thomas).
But I still have six more names that I can include on my ballot! Which bring me to today: figuring out those final few players whom I believe should be inducted this year. I narrowed the ballot down to eight players to choose from for those last six spots, and today it’s time to choose.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America turned in their final ballots for the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 on Tuesday. Results will be announced January 8 with those receiving 75.0% or more of the votes heading to Cooperstown for enshrinement in July.
Although I don’t have an official vote (yet…), that can’t stop me from putting together my own ballot of Hall of Famers. Since these players put together some of the best baseball careers ever, I don’t want to limit myself too much in the numbers I present. So, this will be Part 1 of my HoF ballot, with just the shoo-ins listed today. But before I reveal my ballot, I feel I should go through my thought process on who belongs in the Hall of Fame.