Archive for October, 2012

The Flat Bat Award 2012

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

With the regular season behind us, it is time once again to hand out the Flat Bat Award for the best bunter in baseball in 2012. In 2011, Emilio Bonifacio beat out the two-time defending champion Erick Aybar. However, Bonifacio only played in 64 games this season because of a series of injuries. Will it be Aybar who reclaims the title or someone else?

To decide, we will first look at which players were most successful on bunt hit attempts. These players had the best batting averages on bunt hit attempts with a minimum of 10 attempts:

2012 Bunt Hit Leaders


Bunt Hit Results

Batting Average

Alcides Escobar, KC

11 out of 13


Denard Span, Min

8 out of 10


Alejandro De Aza, CWS

8 out of 11


Emilio Bonifacio, Mia

9 out of 13


Will Venable, SD

8 out of 12


Danny Espinosa, Was

6 out of 10


Ben Revere, Min

9 out of 16


Erick Aybar, LAA

15 out of 27


Juan Pierre, Phi

10 out of 18


Jose Reyes, Mia

8 out of 15


Erick Aybar set the pace for bunt hits with 15, which were four more than Alcides Escobar, the nearest bunter to him. However, Aybar also attempted 27 bunt hits, which were far and away the most in baseball. The result was a .556 average on bunt hit attempts, which is a excellent but still well behind the leaders. Escobar led baseball with a .846 average, and Denard Span and Alejandro De Aza were close behind.

Next, we will consider the most successful sacrifice bunters with a minimum of 10 attempts:

2012 Sacrifice Bunt Leaders


Sacrifice Hit Results


Elvis Andrus, Tex

17 for 17


Clayton Kershaw, LAD

14 for 14


Chris Capuano, LAD

13 for 13


Marco Scutaro, 2 Tms

10 for 10


Juan Pierre, Phi

17 for 18


Johnny Cueto, Cin

17 for 18


Bobby Wilson, LAA

13 for 14


R.A. Dickey, NYM

10 for 11


Barry Zito, SF

10 for 11


Ian Kennedy, Ari

10 for 11


Elvis Andrus was an impressive 17 for 17 in sacrifice bunt attempts. He led the American League in sacrifices and did not fail once. Juan Pierre and Johnny Cueto put down 17 successful sacrifices in the National League. Each had just one failed attempt.

Pierre is the one player who appeared on both lists. He bunted 36 times, which was the most in baseball. That is nothing new for Pierre, who led baseball with an incredible 61 total bunt attempts in 2011. The major change for Pierre was with his success rate. A year ago, Pierre batted .438 on his bunt hit attempts and had an 86 percent success rate on sacrifice bunt attempts. This year, Pierre increased his average to .556 on bunt hit attempts and his success rate on sacrifice attempts to 94 percent.

With those improvements, we were tempted to call Pierre the winner. However, Pierre’s edge comes from his sacrifice bunts, which are not nearly as valuable as bunts for hits. In aggregate, players were successful in their sacrifice attempts 85 percent of the time in 2012. Pierre attempted a sacrifice 18 times and was successful 17 of them. In a similar number of attempts, an average bunter would have succeeded between 15 and 16 times. The difference in their run expectancies is only a third of a run.

In contrast, even with his high volume of bunt-for-hit attempts, Erick Aybar had four more successes than anyone else (five more than Pierre), and those successes each create nearly half a run in value, on average. Despite the fewer sacrifice attempts and the more-frequent failed bunt-for-hit attempts, Aybar still outpaced the field by two runs of expected value. That is why Erick Aybar is the 2012 Flat Bat Award winner.

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®,”

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Morning News: Ozzie Guillen, Naked X-Rays, and PCP-Induced Mayhem

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

I’ll be honest, I’m still giddy from the Cardinals’ elimination from the postseason Monday night. And regardless of the spectacular and endlessly satisfying outcome, how beautiful were those final moments of monsoon baseball? I’m sure many of them are suffering from low-grade pneumonia right now, but I’m a little jealous of the fans who got to witness Game 7 live in the rain-soaked stands. On to the news:

The Cubs have named a new third base coach and made some other moves to round out the coaching staff. Nothing groundbreaking here–just some housekeeping before the offseason stove heats up.

Elsewhere in the National League, if you had October 23rd in your When Will Ozzie Guillen Get Fired pool, congratulations. After spending more than $630M on a new stadium and much more on filling out the roster, Guillen’s praise for Fidel Castro hobbled what might have been a breakout season just as it was starting. The question I’m left with, and the one I want your thoughts on below is if Ozzie is even employable in the big leagues right now. Is there a team that can afford to take a risk on him, with all the guaranteed headaches he brings with him? I say it’s possible there’s a team for him, but I think it’s far more likely he has to head down to the minors and earn some trust before another GM hands him the keys.

And in other disgruntled former manager news, Bobby Valentine isn’t finished burning bridges yet. Tuesday Valentine accused Big Papi himself of quitting on the team after the blockbuster (and ultimately futile) trade between the Red Sox and the Dodgers. You can read his version of the story in his forthcoming memoir, I Never Had to Put Up With This Crap in Japan. (And just for fun, let’s extend the whole “is he unemployable” discussion to Bobby V, too.)

Tuesday was a big day for Apple devotees. In addition to the debut of the new iPad Mini, Apple announced a whole wave of improved and updated products, including a new full-sized iPad and a radically sleeker iMac.

I’m no political mastermind, so I have to ask: is combining your opponent’s name with a mental disorder and adopting worn-out tropes from Jeff Foxworthy’s standup supposed to be a sign that your campaign is going well? Stay classy, Mr. President.

Big news for travelers here: the TSA is swapping out the controversial Backscatter security scanners–or in the parlance of our time, the naked x-ray machines–in most major airports. Soon frequent flyers won’t be subject to regular tidal waves of radiation, not to mention the possibility of TSA lowlifes posting their naked x-rays online.

It won’t be often that back-to-back stories in my morning news posts will involve nudity, but this story was too bizarre not to post. The man ate his own finger!

A top-ten list of amazing parking spaces. What more do you need to know.

Let’s try to go out on a high note: the first trailer for Iron Man 3 premiered Tuesday. And if it’s your kind of thing, here’s an collection of 10 revelations and/or insights the intensely observant viewer can draw from the trailer.

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Should the Cubs Eschew the Big Name Free Agent Forever?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

With my return to non-minor league topical posting, I actually spent quite a bit of time considering what I wanted to write about today. At first, I thought I might write about what free agents I thought the Cubs should pick up, but then thought that would be a better post when we get closer to free agency. Next, I thought about a post regarding why the Cubs should keep Alfonso Soriano, but thought that would be better to put in my back pocket until after we see what the Cubs do to start their offseason from a personnel standpoint? And then I thought maybe I should write about what I think the master plan Theo and Jed for the Cubs is. But that would honestly be too obvious, as I don’t think they’ve made any mystery of that.

However, one clear part of the plan for the first couple off seasons under current management is to entirely avoid big name free agents. Last year, the Cubs’ biggest free agent pickups were Paul Maholm and David DeJesus. And, by all accounts, the Cubs will not be involved in the big name free agents this season, so for those of you hoping to see Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke in Cubby blue, you’re likely to be disappointed.

The general viewpoint among most insiders is that a team should avoid the big name free agent until they are poised to compete for the postseason. But look at the $100 million plus contracts that have been signed. How many of those contracts worked out?

And think of Theo Epstein’s history with big time free agent contracts. Carl Crawford was a disaster. John Lackey was a disaster who also was involved in the largest controversy involving fried chicken in United States history.

The big name free agent is problematic for several reasons. First, players who reach free agency are almost always flawed in one way or another. This year’s top free agent position player, Josh Hamilton, has a long history of injury issues and personal demons, not to mention the fact that he will turn 32 shortly after next season starts. A lot of big market teams are concerned that Zack Greinke, the best free agent pitcher, would struggle with his mental health issues in a higher pressure environment like New York, Boston or Chicago. Even Albert Pujols, the best player of the last decade, had a big red flag in the combination of his age and contractual demands when he hit free agency a year ago. The players that lack red flags simply don’t reach free agency… until they are old enough that their age becomes that red flag.

This past year, the best free agent acquisitions were Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Beltran and Josh Willingham. The Brewers signed Ramirez $36 million over 3 years. He put up a .300/.360/.540 line to go along 27 home runs. His .900 OPS was 40 points higher than Albert Pujols’ this season. The Cardinals signed Carlos Beltran for $26 million over 2 years. He hit .269/.346/.495 while playing a respectable right field. Josh Willingham batted .260/.366/.524 in the first year of a 3 year, $21 million deal.  The combined money in those three deals is less than 1/3 of the Albert Pujols contract.

Big name free agents might just not be worth the risk. Ever. Especially when you can often get players who will put up similar numbers but require not only a commitment of a lot fewer years, but also a lot fewer dollars per year.

This is not to say that I think the Cubs should never attempt to obtain a superstar. But I think the path to do that is the trade market. And if you look where Theo Epstein had the most success in Boston, it was in the trade market. You can attain younger players who are not only cheaper, but have more of their primes ahead of them than free agents, who already have at least six seasons of service time, do.

Also, Ronnie Woo Woo was on my train home tonight. In his Cubs’ uniform and a Bears helmet. Just thought I’d close with that.

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Morning News: Good Triumphs Over…

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Last night the Giants completed the collapse of the undeserving playoff participants from St. Louis. No truth to the rumor that Montgomery Burns Bud Selig was retroactively seeking to make the NLCS a best-of-five series. Giants v. Tigers on Wednesday…speaking of Tigers, the Lions and Bears met in a forgettable MNF matchup. The Bears managed a workmanlike 13-7 victory that convinced the Packers that Green Bay is still the team to beat in the NFC North, and it convinced Brandon Marshall that Ndamukong Suh is still a dirty player…speaking of an irrelevant lying, serial falsehood propagator and infamous cyclist, Lance Armstrong was effectively and officially blackballed by anyone and everyone who had a role in making him famous. His teammates. Cycling leaders. His sponsors. Chris Rock has even weighed in, “Nike dropped Lance Armstrong, but didn’t drop Tiger Woods. I guess in America you can cheat on your wife, but not on your bike.” A sad commentary to be sure; I wonder if the comedian would have a similar commentary were the situation reversed (I doubt it; probably would be joining a chorus accusing Nike of racism). It’s a good reminder that major companies are simply about money, supporting Armstrong is financially untenable – especially since his career is over. Supporting the No. 2 golfer in the world, the sport’s generational icon will always be a moneymaker – the decision has nothing to do with their offenses OR skin color…speaking of racism, the debate last night was followed by accusations of exactly that on MSNBC. Ah race-baiting, so attractive. Chris Matthews’ preposterous assessment was perhaps the most entertaining event on an otherwise melancholy evening. The President wasn’t terribly Presidential, Romney didn’t do a lot to distinguish himself, and much of the foreign policy debate wasn’t spent discussing actual foreign policy. If you missed it, Romney talked about peace 12 times – Obama, not once. We’re two weeks from this whole thing being over, after which we can drop the words ‘swing state’ from our vocabulary for another 3.5 years. Maybe by then the Cubs will be relevant!!

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Morning News: NLCS finale, Bears on MNF, O v. R pt. III, and More!

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Don’t Get Eliminated!
The San Francisco Giants won their 5th playoff elimination game on Sunday night. Tonight at 8pm EST, the only broadcast channel NOT showing Obama v. Romney III will be Fox – they’ll be carrying Game 7 of the NLCS. Kyle Lohse facing off against Matt Cain. I really don’t know how the Giants have been doing it, their offense is smoke and mirrors; then again the Cards were only slightly better than .500 over six months so perhaps their luck has finally run out. The big winner in this game is the Tigers, who merely await travel instructions for Wednesday’s World Series opener.

Monday Night Football
If the Cards jump out to an early lead, flip on over to ESPN and see if the Bears can cash in on a chance to stay atop the NFC North. A win over Detroit would keep Chicago .5 game up on Minnesota, and 1.5 up on the suddenly more focused Green Bay Packers. A loss for Detroit puts them in serious peril of being finished before Halloween.

Presidential Debate
If the Cards jump out to an early lead, AND the Bears start throwing up all over themselves, perhaps a sliver of entertainment can be found on one of the many stations airing the third and final Presidential debate. You’ll recall that in the first debate Obama barely registered a pulse; the second time out, he was feisty – as if he’d had a predebate meal of Fun Dip and Red Bull. If you want a drinking game, try putting one down every time Obama talks about killing Osama bin Laden, or every time Romney tries to steer the conversation back to Libya.

If you want something a bit more lighthearted, watch Obama and Romney speak at a benefit dinner in New York on Thursday night. I’d rather see a debate like that – where they just take pot shots at one another for 90 minutes. It’d be a welcome change from 90 minutes of “he’s lying, no he’s lying; I love the middle class, no I love the middle class.” Scheduled to be a foreign policy debate, it’s sure to be loaded with talking points and demagoguery. I fail to see the need for a debate on foreign policy, just look each candidate’s supporters (Romney; Obama).

Parkour, The ‘Sport’ For Idiots
If you’d rather not watch two grown men bicker, watch this clear example of failed parenting. If your child grows to adulthood and thinks THIS is a good idea – you’ve failed, irreparably. (You really have to watch the video for the full cringe).

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – 10,000 Days Later
The Hardball Times has a piece from Sunday about the ‘day-versary’ of Ferris Bueller’s day off. In other words, someone (presumably from their mother’s basement) used game action to discern the exact date of live shots from John Hughes’ cult classic. After determining said date to be June 5, 1985 (by the Gregorian calendar), conventional annual celebrations were eschewed in favor of a significant number of days; in this case 10,000. If this is starting to sound like a contrived secondary plot for a hipster movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, then you too can be a Hollywood writer. How many of you will spend the rest of the day planning a big celebration for your 25,000 day of life? Me neither.

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