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Red, white, and bleh

July 6th, 2008 by

Independence Weekend Uniform Crazies

Today is July 6th, meaning that I’ve just started readjusting to meals not of the 12 oz. long-necked variety. So, forgive me if it took a while to adjust to the fact that the past three days worth of baseball wasn’t some strange patchwork of asinine MLB-orchestrated celebrations weaved into a nightmarish weekend of bad fashion decisions…this shit actually happened.

I first noticed the orchestration of this league-wide travesty during the Wednesday highlights for the middle game of the Giants vs. Cubs series. Upon first glance, I noted that my television might be a bit out of focus – “Are those really navy blue hats the Giants are wearing?” I pondered. In retrospect, I might have believed the drinks I consumed to mourn yet another Padres’ loss were the culprit, but make no mistake. While the Cubs hid this secret a bit better, the Giants’ hats were just completely out of whack. I didn’t think much about this, maybe it was just a one-off thing. Therefore, out of sight out of mind and I went to bed none the wiser. Then, without warning, I wake up on Friday morning and this happened…

Varitek's patriotic duty

It’s Captain America’s wet dream. Keep in mind, this isn’t even Varitek’s first venture into bad baseball fashion decisions this season, but it’s definitely the flashiest (although, you could argue that his Memorial Day garb was a bit worse). At first I believed this was merely an attempt for Varitek to draw attention away from his recent 12-for-100 slide at the plate, but at least this went to a good cause. Varitek, like last season, would auction this off with Children’s Hospital Boston. More importantly, however, this signified the beginning of a holiday weekend that would promote my least favorite baseball tradition: league-wide uniform trends.

Granted this didn’t necessarily creep up on people. Fred Wilpon, owner of the New York Mets, announced he was working on this with his “Welcome Back Veterans” program (complete w/Tom Hanks!) a while back and stated his desire to raise $100m from this particular endeavor. Worthy cause, and slapping a few logos on the bases and enduring three days worth of crappy hat designs isn’t the end of the world…but, c’mon. Is it not enough that we, as Padres fans, have to endure the occasional blue-on-sand uniform ensemble? What about the fact that our team’s uniform bears a striking resemblance to nearly a half dozen other teams (namely, this one)?

What’s worse, is we were given a firsthand example of how camouflage uniforms are supposed to look (Green hats? GREEN HATS!?!?!). Granted, the Reds’ attempt was a sad display (and, to spite us all, they wore them Saturday and Sunday), but the frickin’ South Sidin’ Pale Hosers got it right on the first try, guys. It might be a disgusting sight to behold bordering on uniform copyright infringement to the umpteenth degree, but they damned sure got it right. Just look at them:

Brown hat, matching pants…it’s beautiful. And I’ll be damned if Nick Swisher didn’t make it look even better. For being Major League Baseball’s self-proclaimed official Team of the Military, the Padres could at least take a style tip from these Chicagoans and present the camo uni to perfection.

But that’s not even the strangest thing that happened this weekend. While the Reds and White Sox busted out the Army fatigues and the majority of Major League Baseball busted out the Stars & Stripes, Fourth of July cap collection (which you can find and buy here), there were two occurrences this weekend that, I thought, put the icing on the crap cake that was this weekend’s baseball fashion:

1) Northern Shenanigans

The Blue Jays addressed the most pressing question of the week in stride: if the Stars & Stripes caps are specifically released to coincide with America’s independence, what’s a Canuck to do? In response, the Jays donned the best of the bunch, the l’Unifolié cap – a maple leafed sensation:

Roy Halladay

Forget for a second that it completely contrasts the entire aquamarine theme they’ve got going on…that puppy is visible from space. Awesome. And despite the fact that I watched a lifetime’s worth of History Channel programs on American independence this weekend, and my history degree reminds me that the French actually helped during the American Revolution (it did come in handy!), I’d like to believe that the reason I like this so much is because it’s throwing a giant middle finger to the entire spirit of the uniformity of these uniforms. It’s almost as ironic as seeing the Cleveland Indians sporting their logo in a star-spangled red, white, and blue. That should go along perfectly with smallpox blanket night.

2) Compound the Crazies

On Saturday, the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates did their best to throw this whole thing into flux and put on their best retro gear. No, these weren’t the Brewers’ Friday night specials they’ve been sporting (these beauties) – these were the uniforms of the Milwaukee Bears (1923) and the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1931-1938). That’s right, this was a Fourth of July weekend Negro League throwbacks celebration. Now, I’m all for a good cause and I can understand the merits behind wearing these jerseys during a symbolic weekend such as this one, but it was just an overload for me. We already have the ridiculous use of camouflage, standardized caps for every team, and fireworks celebrations around the country that present little history and as much visual stimulation as possible. To me, this cheapens the historical importance of these teams the Brewers and Pirates are honoring. Don’t get me wrong, though – these were some sweet unis.

This seems like poor timing. The perfect solution would have been to bust these puppies out in the weeks around and after the Negro Leagues Player Draft back in June, when most would be aware of the historical relevance. The message is just lost during the hodgepodge of festivities surrounding Fourth of July weekend. Instead, it looks like the players are taking advantage of every excuse to rock the Ronnie Belliard pajama pants look:

Cameron & Fielder

Yet, there is a silver lining to this story. For what it’s worth – and I’m sure Ray would agree – Mike Cameron is missed for more than just his glove and bat. He’s still proven to be a master at rocking the throwback uni.

Posted in postseason, the funny | 7 Comments »

War on strikeouts continued at the Union-Tribune

July 2nd, 2008 by

On June 22, San Diego Union Tribune writer Tom Krasovic published an article covering the year long ineptitude of the San Diego Padres.  Of course, any writer could find evidence of this printed on a bottle of baby powder, the way the team’s poor play slaps viewers across the face.

Unfortunately Krasovic chose to stretch the limits of traditional statistical analysis by addressing the rather infamous topic of hitting with runners in scoring position.  To throw fuel on the fire, he mixes that with some hot strikeout hating action.

Compared with the National League average, [the Padres] are 13 percent more likely to strike out with a man in scoring position.

One short line, no big deal, right?  The problem, is he is dead wrong.

Tom Krasovic is the UT’s expert. He misinformed readers who trust him to teach important statistical concepts and instruct fans about the game.

Strikeouts

We’ve covered the strikeout controversy already.  Mark Grant’s criticism prompted a post that ranks 2007 teams by total strikeouts.  We found that more playoff teams were actually in the top half of the league in strikeouts rather than the bottom.  One reason is because striking out is often an essential ingredient to hitting for power.  Big guys have to swing hard.  And sometimes, you miss hard.  (Have “that’s what she said” jokes gone out of style again yet?)

Another reason strikeouts don’t keep good teams from winning is that with runners on base, a strikeout is not the worst a batter can do.  That honor belongs to hitting into a double play.  And the double play, believe it or not, has never happened off a strikeout.  Strike-em-out throw-em-outs don’t count.  Because I say so.

With runners in scoring position

Every study I have ever seen on “clutch hitting” comes to the same conclusion: there is no such thing.  Allow me to take a small page from these studies and present a comparison.

San Diego Padres

Strikeouts Plate Appearances SO %
Bases Empty 412 1878 21.9%
RISP 157 797 19.7%

There is clear evidence that the Padres strike out less with runners in scoring position, not more.

National League

Strikeouts Plate Appearances SO %
Bases Empty 5196 28297 18.4%
RISP 2399 13772 17.4%

It does appear that striking out less with RISP is normal.  And while they may strikeout more than the league average in general, don’t complain to the 2007 Diamondbacks, Indians, or Phillies.  Those teams struck out the third, sixth, and seventh most in all the majors last year, you can see how shitty things turned out for them.  They all made the playoffs.

Conclusion

Krasovic’s data may be factually correct, but it signifies very little about the Padres hitting ability.  Which is odd, because you don’t have to look hard to see how bad the team has been.

I sent Tom an email to clarify what he meant by the statement. It is indeed his contention is that a higher strikeout rate with runners in scoring position is in fact an example of poor hitting, which just isn’t the case.  Readers who depend on sportswriters to provide accurate information deserve better.

Posted in gripes, media, statistics | 2 Comments »

Happy July

July 1st, 2008 by

Today is July 1st, meaning that there is officially less than a month left till the trade deadline. With the Padres’ hopes for the season fading away, it seems likely that the team will be sellers and, over the course of this month, we here at The Sacrifice Bunt will try to stay on top of all the rumblings surrounding our team. Think of us as a low-rate, more specific version of M.L.B. Trade Rumors.

Speaking of that fine website, they gave a rundown of Peter Gammons‘ latest blog entry discussing the Cubs and their starting pitcher search. While there’s no talk of Greg Maddux becoming a Cub for the third time, there is mention of Randy Wolf.

Gammons reports that the Cubs have interest in Wolf and Wolf has interest in playing for a contender. And for good measure, Gammons mentions that the Padres still show interest in Matt Murton who’s been on our radar for a minute now. Of course, we already have a full outfield, complete with players who buy into the team’s philosophy of getting on-base. Where would Murton play? Would one of the outfielders have to change positions, possibly moving back to the position he played in the minors that is currently manned by a free-swinger? Hmm.

(jes’ sayin’)

In more Wolf news, the Phillies have demoted Brett Myers to Triple-A. Wolf is a former Phillie (Philly?) who rebuffed their attempts to bring him back after the 2006 and 2007 seasons. I have no idea who they’d give us in return, though.

Ray’s update: Of course, not if Wolf’s value plummets.

Posted in hot stove, media, players | Comments Off

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