Monday, May 31, 2010

Trivia: Strikeout Your Age

Only two major league pitchers have ever struck out the same number of batters as their age in a game. One of them was Kerry Wood, who struck out 20 batters on May 6, 1998, when he was 20 years old. Can you name the other player to accomplish this feat? (Hint: This guy struck out fewer than 20 batters.)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

True Baseball Heroes

Joe Guzzardi of the Lodi News-Sentinel has written a good article recalling heroes who gave up baseball to serve their country. There are many interesting World War II facts in his story, from Cecil Travis possibly missing out on the Hall of Fame due to getting frostbitten feet during the Battle of the Bulge, to the manufacturer of Louisville Slugger bats converting its production lines to make M1 carbine rifle stocks. If you get a chance, you can check out his article here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Trivia: Ironman Catchers

Last June, Ivan Rodriguez surpassed Carlton Fisk for the most games played as a catcher in the major leagues. However, Rodriguez is not among the two catchers who have caught at least 1,000 innings for each of the past eight seasons. Can you name those two catchers?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Trivia: Hall of Fame Draft Picks

The MLB's first amateur draft was held back in 1965. Since then, only 23 drafted players have made it into the Hall of Fame. And none of them were taken #1 overall. Although, this will eventually change with #1 picks like Ken Griffey Jr. (1987), Chipper Jones (1990), and Alex Rodriguez (1993) surely on their way to Cooperstown.

The highest draft pick currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame was taken #2 in the 1966 draft. Can you name him?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trivia: More than a Perfect Game

This past Sunday, Oakland's Dallas Braden pitched the 19th perfect game in MLB history. The previous perfect game in the majors came courtesy of White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle last July.

Buehrle also went on to set the major league record for most batters retired in a row with 45. The previous record was 41, and it was held by two pitchers. One was San Francisco's Jim Barr who did it in 1972, and the other guy is still playing today. Who is he?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Number 11

I liked this one from the blog Smells Like Mascot:

Trivia: Gold Glove Love

In 1957, the baseball glove manufacturer Rawlings started honoring the top fielder at each position with the Gold Glove Award. Over the years, Greg Maddux has won the most Gold Gloves, taking home the award 18 times as a pitcher. And Darin Erstad is the only player to ever win a Gold Glove as an infielder and as an outfielder.

Among currently active players, Ivan Rodriguez has the most Gold Gloves with 13. Only five other current players have at least nine Gold Gloves. Can you name those five players?

Update: Previous version of this question mistakenly said there were only four other current players with at least nine Gold Gloves. This has been corrected to say five.

Friday, May 7, 2010

UPL Update: Where's the Genius Now?

Frankenstein is alive and well. I know this because he can run like a deer and has super-strong hands which are currently strangling my neck...

What a difference a year makes. Last season at this time I was sitting pretty in the UPL, blogging about my plans to win. But this year has gotten off to quite a different start. After losing my best closer (Joe Nathan) to injury for the year, I tried to patch up my bullpen with a "Frankenstein strategy" that consisted of lower-end closers like Octavio Dotel, Matt Capps, Matt Lindstrom, and Franklin Morales. Neither that strategy nor any others that I've tried this year have worked. Here's a look at where my '90 Reds fit into the UPL standings thus far:

1. SuckMyknuckleballs 110
2. TheJimmyDixLongballs 105.5
3. Benver Droncos 103
4. Phatsnapper 100
5. IamJabrone 98.5
6. O.N. Thugs 97
7. Cheeseheads 96.5
8. Black Sox 86
9. Hats for Bats 84.5
10. Westy's Sluggers 58.5
11. '90 Reds 57
12. Big Papi Smear 52.5
13. Muddy Mush Heads 43

It's been frustrating, especially when I was watching the Sox-Royals game earlier this week and saw the Royals' bullpen ERA on the season is the worst in the American League, but still better than my team's ERA. At one point this week I looked at my team's stats for the day and started laughing. (It was either that or cry.)

I'm just going to pretend that my team has finished a tough road trip and is coming home. Kind of like when Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals came home for Game 3, down 2-0 to the Knicks, after having just suffered the indignity of John Starks dunking on us at the end of Game 2. It's time to regroup, make some adjustments, get energized, and hopefully catch some breaks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ernie Harwell: That's Baseball

Ernie Harwell, the voice of the Detroit Tigers for 42 years, has passed away at the age of 92. He had a Hall of Fame broadcasting career, calling play-by-play for 8,500 MLB games over 55 years. Here's an excerpt from a New York Times article:
Mr. Harwell’s popularity in Detroit and beyond was underestimated when, in 1990, WJR radio decided that the 1991 season would be his last. Bumper stickers, T-shirts and billboards carried messages of protest. Detroit Red Wings fans chanted, “We want Ernie!” at a hockey game.
Fortunately, under new ownership, the Tigers were able to get Harwell back calling games in 1993.

I didn't really know much about Harwell until the Tigers invited him back for a tribute last September. And tonight I've done a little more searching. Here's an audio clip from Harwell's 1981 Hall of Fame induction speech:

Baseball will miss Ernie Harwell.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Trivia: Going Platinum

According to Wikipedia, the reason that a four-strikeout performance by a batter is known as the golden sombrero is because some people thought this feat should be considered "bigger" than a hat trick in hockey (three goals). Five strikeouts in a game is known as "The Olympic Rings" (of which there are five) or "The Platinum Sombrero." And six strikeouts in a game? That's known as "The Horn" (named after Sam Horn who accomplished the feat in 1991) or "The Titanium Sombrero." No batter has ever struck out seven times in an MLB game.

Among currently active MLB players, which batter has the most career games with five strikeouts?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Trade Wars

Earlier this week in the UPL we had the following trade: 1B Justin Smoak and SS Marco Scutaro of Pauly's Hats for Bats were to be shipped to CJ's JimmyDix Longballs for SP Jered Weaver and OF prospect Mike Stanton. On the surface, there doesn't appear to be anything earth-shaking about this deal. Except that the thugs in the commissioner's office auto-vetoed the deal--and then that set off Pauly. I won't reproduce the transcript of Pauly's message board rants (and yes, there was more than one rant), but I will give you a visual representation. First we had this:

And then some of this:

Finally, Pauly had to be restrained like this:

Honestly, I can't blame Pauly for being upset. Both he and CJ watch a lot of the MLB, have their own strategies for fantasy baseball, and had negotiated a deal that they each thought helped their own ball club. And while CJ later admitted it was OK for the deal to be nixed, Pauly was bouncing off the walls in frustration at the autoveto, reminiscent of Rupert's frustration with last year's Mauer/Lester for Holliday/Berkman deal that was autovetoed.

The resulting discussion on the UPL message board seems to be heading in the direction of ending the "autoveto" era as we know it. While it's hard to say what the new rules for trades will end up being, it looks like there is growing momentum to give managers more control over their own teams.

Last year I blogged about the challenges of deciding what's "fair" in fantasy baseball trades. Here's an excerpt from that post:
And what makes for a "reasonable" or "fair" trade anyway? I suppose in a non-keeper league certain things can be measured, such as how a player had done in the past and, if relevant, how that player has done so far that year. So in that case, you're trying to estimate how the players involved in the trade will do over the next 2 to 6 months.

But what about a keeper league? Doesn't the fact that you can keep players for the next year (and possibly for 5, 10, or 15 years) drastically change the equation? Isn't it possible you could propose a trade that the majority of owners will see as "obviously unfair to you," only to discover 5 years later that it was unfair to the other guy? (Except for the fact the trade was voted down and never happened. Lucky for the other guy...)
In fact, ever since the UPL first considered going to a keeper format, we've had discussions about how valuing trades might be affected. For example, in a non-keeper format, if you try to trade a top 50 player for a top prospect who likely won't see the field until September, the trade likely gets vetoed or voted down as unfair. But in a keeper league, trading away a top 50 player for a minor leaguer might be a key deal to set yourself up for a dynasty that starts in three seasons. Who knows?

On October 17, 2008, the Chairman first proposed taking UPL Baseball into the keeper era. At the time, in the comments section I warned about the difficulty in evaluating trades involving veterans for prospects. However, only now do I realize that I hadn't quite done a good enough job explaining my proposed solution. (I thought it really hard in my head, but I didn't type the words on my keyboard.) Here's what I proposed:

If it's a keeper league, I'd be in favor of putting restrictions on trades and waiver wire moves. For instance, a team could make no more than two trades in a year and the trades would have to be limited to at most two players for two players.

What I meant to add was this: By putting restrictions on the type (up to two players for two players) and number (two per year) of trades, we would give managers the right to make ANY trade they want without any possibility of it being voted down or vetoed. Period.

My thinking was that if we're going to give managers more control over the risks they're willing to take in trades (i.e., give up proven major league talent for top prospects), then there would need to be an associated cost: cap the number of trades in a season. Some people don't like the idea of fewer trades, and I can see their point. But capping the number of trades might increase the quality of trades by making people pick their spots better as to when to make a trade (such as right before the draft or right before the trading deadline).

Regardless, the key here is to somehow find the right balance between letting managers have fun making their own decisions and still keeping the integrity of the game intact for the league. If anyone out there has a solution to share with regard to how their league handles trades, I'd like to hear it.