2014 UCB Blogger Awards

It’s that time of the year when the UCB does its annual Blogger Awards.  This blog and yours truly are nominated for two of the awards this year:  Best Rookie Blog, and Post of the Year.  If you are a fan of this blog, you can cast your vote here:  Vote .

My ballot is set out below.

 

1) Player of the Year
Nominees: Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta.

Winner:  Jhonny Peralta

Peralta accumulated 5.4 fWAR in 2014, the highest by a significant margin of any other position player on the Cardinals.  The remarkable thing about Peralta is that his fWAR was based on both above average offense and above average defense.  This is in contrast to Matt Holliday, whose 3.8 fWAR was all as a result of offense, as his defense was significantly below average.  As one who appreciates good defense as much as good offense, this choice was a no brainer for me.

2) Pitcher of the Year
Nominees: Lance Lynn, Pat Neshek, Adam Wainwright

Winner:  Pat Neshek

This was a tough one for me.  Adam Wainwright is my favorite Cardinal, so a vote for him would always be influenced greatly by personal bias.  Even with that caveat, looking at all three nominees statistically the choice seems clearly Wainwright.  Wainwright accumulated the most fWAR of all the nominees, 4.5, followed by Lynn with 3.1 fWAR and Neshek by 1.9 fWAR.  For pitchers, however, I think the choice has to be evaluated on more than just a strict WAR comparison.  Because a pitcher’s contribution to team wins is concentrated in a smaller fraction of appearances over a 162 game season, and they influence the outcome in a different way than position players, I personally feel I have to consider more than just a statistical comparison.  I feel this way more especially because one of the 3 nominees is a relief pitcher.  For me, the contributions of Pat Neshek stand out this year.  Year in and year out, we expect Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn to give us excellent performances (Well, maybe for Lynn that is not the case with some Cardinals’ fans, but that is a different argument).  Neshek, however, came to the Cardinals with a rather muddy past and the expectations were not so high for him.  The fact that he performed the way he did given those circumstances, for me, puts him on top.  Sorry Waino, I still love you the most.

3) Game of the Year
Nominees: May 20 (Wainwright one-hitter), May 31 (Taveras debut), Game 1 NLDS, Game 4 NLDS, Game 2 NLCS

Winner:  Game 2 NLCS

Despite how the series ended, this game had it all.  Back and forth lead changes, 4 dingers, Matt Adams leaping.  What’s not to like?

4) Surprising Player of the Year
Nominees: Jon Jay, Lance Lynn, Pat Neshek

Winner:  Pat Neshek

I think I pretty much explained this choice in my Pitcher of the Year response above.

5) Disappointing Player of the Year
Nominees: Peter Bourjos, Justin Masterson, Kevin Siegrist

Winner:  Justin Masterson

This was an easy one for me.  Masterson, though he had the promise, didn’t deliver at all.  Kevin Siegrist just had an injury plagued year, I have to cut him some slack.  Peter Bourjos is a victim of circumstances as far I am concerned, despite what others who didn’t know the player at all before he became a Cardinal may think.

6) Cardinal Rookie of the Year
Nominees: Marco Gonzales, Randal Grichuk, Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong

Winner:  Kolten Wong

Oh for what might have been (quietly sobs about Oscar).

Kolten Wong is the clear winner here.  Marco Gonzales has promise, but didn’t play enough, and Randal Grichuk really didn’t perform that well overall.  And Oscar, he never had a chance.

7) Acquisition of the Year
Nominees: John Lackey, Pat Neshek, Jhonny Peralta

Winner:  Jhonny Peralta

Had to pick Peralta, because he contributed the most and over more games.

8) Most Anticipated Cardinal
Nominees: Rob Kaminsky, Stephen Piscotty, Luke Weaver

Winner:  Stephen Piscotty

Had to go with Piscotty here solely because he is closer to the majors than either of the other two nominees.

9) Cardinal Moment of the Year
Nominees: Taveras’s first home run as the rains came, “The Big City Leap” in Game 4 of the NLDS, Wong’s walkoff in Game 2 of the NLCS

Winner:  Taveras’ first home run.

This won on sentimentality alone.  I had to go there.

10) Best Individual Cardinal Blog

Winner: C70 At The Bat

Our fearless leader consistently puts out good content every year.  And he does it regularly, which I appreciate.

11) Best Team Cardinal Blog*

*–All members of The Cardinal Conclave are considered individual blogs.  No votes for “The Cardinal Conclave” as a whole should be done here.

Winner:  Viva El Birdos

The best sabermetric analysis out there.  This is important to me.  The quality of the baseball discussion is top notch.  The writers and the community as a whole provides high quality intelligent content that I can relate to.

12) Best Media Coverage
Nominees: Derrick Goold, Jenifer Langosch, Stan McNeal, Bernie Miklasz

Winner:  Derrick Goold

I get more good info from Goold, with a minimum of editorial noise.  That’s what I want from media coverage.  Just the facts.

13) Best Rookie Cardinal Blog
Nominees: Baseball Geek In Galveston, Bird Tales, Cajun Cardinal, Gateway Sports Connection, High Sock Sunday, Red Cleat Diaries

Winner:  Bird Tales

I always enjoy Tara’s take on things, even though we don’t always agree.  She has a much better opinion of Mike Matheny than I do, for starters.  I don’t seek content that always agrees with me, that would be boring.

14) Post of the Year
Nominees: The Dawn of the Stephen Piscotty Era in Right Field (Daniel Solzman), Doctor’s Prescription: A Daily Dose of Baseball (Doug Vollet), The End of a Love and a Season (Marilyn Green), The Lynning: Fact or Fiction? (Daniel Shoptaw), The Outfield Chronicles: A Conversation (Christine Coleman), Thinking of Playoff Baseball (Dan Buffa)

Winner:  The Outfield Chronicles: A Conversation

Really funny, and probably more realistic than many of us might think.

15) Best UCB Project
Nominees: Bloggers As Players, Cardinal Hall of Fame Voting, Mailbag, Roundtables

Winner:  Bloggers As Players

I had a lot of fun with this one.

16) Best UCB Podcast
Nominees: Conversations With C70, Gateway To Baseball Heaven, UCB Radio Hour

Winner:  UCB Radio Hour

17) Best Non-UCB Podcast
Nominees: Best Podcast In Baseball, St. Louis Cardinals Extras (MLB.com), Viva El Birdos Podcast

Winner:  Best Podcast in Baseball

18) Best Twitterer

Winner:  Bob Netherton  @CardinalTales

In addition to many insightful observations, Bob has had a litany of interesting name changes and avatars, which keeps it fun.

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Tragedy is a Teaching Moment

I was going to do a follow up post about the pace of game rules, and I still may do that at some point, but I decided to go a different route with my next post.  On Wednesday night we heard some news that many of us had dreaded to hear.  We learned that Oscar Taveras had been intoxicated (apparently excessively so) when he crashed his car in the Dominican Republic on October 26, killing himself and his 18 year old girlfriend.  This was devastating news, but for many, not completely unexpected.

Oscar was very young, only 22 years old, and one thing that is universal about young people is their sense of indestructibility.  When one thinks of death, one usually sees it as a result of age and infirmity.  Death to a young and healthy person seems like it just can’t happen, that there is so much life ahead to live.  While that perception may appear to be a little ignorant and naive, it is understandable why young people think that way.  How many of us thought about death when we were 22 years old?  I know I didn’t.

Because young people don’t think about death, they have a tendency to engage in risky behaviors.  It is a part of the joy of living, but those behaviors have a dark side.  One of those risky behaviors is drinking alcohol and driving an automobile.  Intellectually, we all know it is risky and we know the dangers, yet something inside the mind of a young person who is having fun just turns that fear of danger off like flipping off a light switch.  The alcohol itself certainly contributes heavily to that; it impairs the brain’s ability to reason and make judgments.  The thing is though, the ability to reason and make judgments still exists before the first drink is taken.  The knowledge that if I drink too much of this I could get in a lot of trouble, is still there in the computer chips of our brains.  It is at that moment that the rubber meets the road. Unfortunately, for many that moment passes quickly and the drink is taken, and the next drink is taken, and before long that intellectual, reasoning part of our brain takes a nap.

That moment passed for Oscar, and the drinks were taken, and the reasoning stopped, and he got into a car and drove fast on a wet road…..and he died.  The reasoning stopped for good.

Now the rest of us are left to grieve, and yes, in some cases be angry and pass judgment.  How could Oscar have been so stupid?  Many have asked that question, and as a result have blamed Oscar for his own death and the death of his girlfriend.  Is that an improper judgment?  Well no, not in the sense that factually, Oscar’s voluntary actions did cause his death.  Or perhaps more accurately, they more likely than not caused his death.  The accident could have occurred anyway, even if Oscar had been stone cold sober.  Stuff happens, no matter how careful we may be.

That’s the thing about these types of tragic deaths.  Sometimes it just happens.  We want to explain it, we want to blame someone or something, because 22 year olds are not supposed to die.  This particular tragedy most likely could have been avoided, but are we absolutely sure?  If you are, then you have your own problems and maybe should see a therapist about your God Complex.

I am 55 years old and I have seen and done a lot of things.  Some of them have been stupid.  Some of them have been recent and stupid.  The idea that with age comes wisdom is horse hockey.  Yes, there are certain things that you learn along the way that you never understand when you are young. Experience does teach, but it doesn’t make you infallible.  The most important thing to understand is whether young or old, YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING.  It is a shame that too many people don’t get that.  I don’t care how smart you are, you can always learn.  You can always grow in understanding.

So the moral of this story is this.  Be sad, be angry, feel what ever you want to feel about Oscar’s death.  He’s gone and he’s never coming back and that is a tragedy no matter how it happened or who or what is to blame.   What you shouldn’t be is smug and complacent in your judgment.   Learn something from this, even if you never drink and drive.  Let yourself absorb and reflect on this tragedy.  Keep your mind open.  Personal growth does not have a time limit.

Thank you for reading.

UCB Roundtable Project: Speed Up Games?

As a part of the UCB Roundtable project, I was tasked with asking Question #5 to our panel of bloggers.  The question I asked was the following:

The MLB Commissioner’s office has come up with a new scheme to make changes to the game.  These changes are to supposedly make the game move along a little faster.  The “Pace of Game Rules” are being tested (much like the Instant Replay was last year) at the Arizona Fall League Games.  What is your opinion about the efficacy of these rules in major league games?  Would you adopt all, some, or none of these rules if you were Supreme Dictator of Baseball, and if you would, which ones and why?

The answers I received are set out below.  I will give my response to my own question in a later post on the subject.

Mark Tomasik, Retrosimba

I like very much the pace of the game rules being considered.  Most especially, I like the batter’s box rule proposal, enforcement of the 20 second rule for pitchers, and the proposed 2:05 rule between innings.  There is way too much wasted time in games now.

I admire Skip Schumaker as a player, but his silly habit of stepping out of the box after every pitch to adjust his batting gloves is unnecessary and unprofessional.  If that kind of stuff went away, who would miss it?

Ironic that this question is asked today (11/7), the 76th birthday of former Cardinals pitcher Jim Kaat.  The ‘ol Dutch Master, a Hall of Fame candidate, was ready to pitch as soon as he got the ball from the catcher.  No reason everyone else cannot do that today.

Will be interesting to see whether MLB has the guts to implement the proposed 2:05 rule between innings, especially in postseason, because that would put advertising revenue at risk.  I hope they implement it.

Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants

Instead of adopting new rules, why not enforce the current ones?  Jonny Gomes is a human rain delay in his own right.  He stepped out of the box after every pitch to adjust his helmet during the 2013 World Series.  There was no reason to do that at all.

The only instance in which the game can be sped up is when the New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox.  For some reason, these two teams play close to four hours.  Except for when these two teams play, the game is fine as it is.  The only complaint I have would be to start the World Series games earlier.  No reason to be ending games when the east coast is asleep.

Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat

I never hear basketball fans trying to come up with rules to limit the stoppage of play, especially in the last minutes.  I’ve never quite understood the fascination with getting the game we enjoy watching over quicker.

That’s me, though, watching what I can on TV.  Those at the games and such I could well understand having a differing opinion.

The pitch clock is stupid.  I agree, if you are going to do anything, keep the batter in the box more.  Then again, would you want a key September decided because someone couldn’t step out, refocus, try to think what is coming next?

If they really wanted to speed things up, like Mark said, they’d look at commercial breaks.  That they won’t do that shows the priorities of the game are completely skewed.

Tom Knuppel

Just play the game.  The flow will be what it is.  If anything, limit stepping out of the box and limit catchers/infielders visits to the pitcher.  I don’t like the 20 second rule for pitchers.  Everyone is different in their approach.  So be it.

Bill Ivie, I70 Baseball

The commercial breaks…that is the key here.

Next time you attend a game, watch how slow the process between innings is.  Then, attend a national broadcast game and see how painfully worse it gets.  The game has never enforced staying in the box or stepping off the mound, though it has gotten worse over the years.  The game has embraced making more money by selling more commercials and charging companies more money to broadcast games.  The time between innings is the problem, if there is one.

I’m with Daniel (Shoptaw) though.  What’s wrong with the game?  Isn’t part of the beauty of baseball that there is no clock, no time limit, no assurance that the game will be over at a certain point?

In the postseason, we saw a bit of cat-and-mouse going on with hitters trying to call time at the last possible second to disrupt a pitcher.  Institute the “pitch clock” and that goes away.  You are speeding up the game and limiting the strategy of it.  Let me reward that for you – you are trying to keep people’s attention by dumbing down the product.  That’s sad.

Leave my game alone. Get off my lawn.  Kids these days.  #oldmansyndrome

Ben Chambers,  The View From Here

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago on my blog, but since then, I had the chance to watch the Arizona Fall League All-Star Game that I recorded off MLB Network and it was an interesting experience.

First, I really like the idea of having players keep one foot in the batter’s box.  I remember one at-bat between Carlos Martinez and Joey Votto (I can’t remember if it was last year or this year) where I was just shocked at how quick Votto would step back in and Martinez would throw the pitch.  Now that I’ve mentioned it, I want to try and find that video.  That said, the players are just sliding back in the box instead of stepping all the way out of it.  The time that is has improved is minimal.  If instead, you could require a player to keep one foot planted, it could make a much larger change.

I’m also a big fan of a pitcher not having to throw 4 intentional balls for a walk.  It’s not necessary, and although it’s another minimal change, it’ll be a nice one.  It throws off the rhythm of the pitcher, and it’ll start to eliminate someone trying to “pitch around” someone because they don’t want to throw the intentional walk.  The manager can just tell the ump to send him to first base.

I don’t like a pitch clock or an in-between innings clock, but I think TV is the reason that in-between innings has lengthened.  If they could just require TV broadcasts to cut out 1-2 commercials between innings, and the players on the field understood that they had less time, then that would definitely speed it up by itself without requiring a clock telling them when to come back.

Doug Vollet,  Baseball Geek in Galveston

I agree with Bill and others that commercials are the key.  There’s plenty of advertising revenue to be gained in other areas these days, such as the internet, and many people in both the eastern and central time zones are often asleep due to this one thing.  I left a few playoff game to crawl in bed.  I also forced myself to stay awake during the few regular season Cards games I caught on ESPN, when I would otherwise be sleeping.

An earlier start wouldn’t hurt either, but then it’s not in “prime time”.

I like the one foot in the box rule.

Don’t limit mound visits, especially catcher visits.  Where would Yadi be without his ability to go to the mound and calm down or instruct a pitcher?

I’m not a fan of the pitchers’ clock per se, but I would like to see it experimented with, in say, spring training.  I never like to dismiss an idea out of hand before it is even given a chance.  It may work better than we think it will.

I really like the elimination of four balls for an intentional walk.  That one is must have.

Dan Buffa, The Cardinals Nerve Center @ The Cards Conclave

I’m all for speeding up commercials but I know that won’t happen with the growing desire for more money and product placement.

I don’t like the pitcher clock because they already have enough of a hard time getting it right.  Let’s leave them alone.

Making the hitter resist leaving the box and pondering the meaning of life wouldn’t be a bad idea but I don’t want it to affect a game I love just the way it is.

When I am at a ballpark I do notice the delay and slow climb back into action but that’s when I’ll direct my attention around the stadium or into another avenue of thought.

The greatness of baseball lies in the patience of the game and the resistance to speed the action up.  It’s slow but for a reason.  It’s methodical in so many ways that taking too much away may deprive it of the exact reason six months a year we are addicted to it.  I won’t take that risk.

Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner

A great question, Marilyn.  I will strongly agree with Daniel on this one, just simply enforce the rules that are already in the book.  When you look back at the pace of games in the sixties, for example, the batters stepped into the box and stayed there until retired, reached base or something happened to their equipment.  The stepping out and gathering themselves was a relatively rare event, and not done by a lot of 8th place hitters.  There is a narcissistic element of the game today that should be looked at, but the rules to solve the problem are already there in ink and worked fine until umpires quit following them.

These new proposed rules, like the collision rule at home plate or replay, are an attempt to force a specific behavior or outcome into a game without consideration of the actual flow of the game.  After watching a couple of Salt River games, the obsession over the pitch clock is ridiculous.  I can understand it a bit in at time game like basketball or football (though curiously absent from hockey), but it has no place in baseball, outside the existing empty base 12 second rule (8.04).

The pace of the game can be improved by shortening the time between innings, but that impacts revenues.  Though it has the least impact to the actual game, it significantly impacts the business revenues of the game, so that won’t happen.

If I was Commissioner for a Day, I would instruct the umpires to call the high strike, don’t grant time to a batter for the purposes of adjusting his hitting gloves, and eliminate replay (thus cutting down an unnecessary trip by the manager each time there is a close play).  In other words, don’t keep trying to fix what isn’t broken.

I would also eliminate the DH and interleague play, but those don’t relate to the question at hand.

There you have it folks,  the bloggers speak on proposed Pace of Game rules.

Thank you for reading.

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