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Entries in billy beane (3)

Friday
Jun142013

Peter Gammons: Time for a Break

When Troy Tulowitski went down with a broken rib Thursday night, there had been 285 players on the disabled list this season who had combined to miss more than 10,000 days. “One of the biggest factors in the game today is the injury rate,” Billy Beane has uttered for two years, now. “The healthiest and deepest teams win.”

In Beane’s case, he saw this coming a couple of years ago, and combined with the exhaustion factor—schedule, weather, getaway night games, the enforcement of no amphetamine rules—saw that pennant races can be decided by young, talented, deep teams. Long term deals for players in their thirties may become increasingly scarce; injuries and the banning of HGH, which many of the anti-doping leaders claimed postponed the normal eyesight aging that begins in ones’ mid-thirties, are considered, and not just by a team like the Angels that in 2016 will have $95M tied up in five players well into their thirties.

But what we also have is an extraordinary number of oblique, rib cage, abdominal and other strains that were unheard of 25 years ago. In the last week, a half-dozen general managers have said that they are studying whether players today don’t work out too much. “Is it necessary to do the weight room work they do during the season, especially when they’re getting to hotels at 6 am on travel days?” asks one of those GMs. “Then look at their off-seasons. A lot of players never give their bodies time to recover, and they’re back in full training a week or two after they’re done with their seasons. They’re hitting and throwing in December, or early January. Does the body actually recover?”

This was not true in the past. In 1986, Ted Williams and Wade Boggs were riding in the backseat of my rental car from Winter Haven to Clearwater, Fla. to meet Don Mattingly and have a long dinner spent talking hitting. Going across the Courtney Campbell Causeway, Williams asked Boggs about his off-season routine. Boggs said he took two weeks off, then started hitting and training.

“I never picked up a bat in the off-season,” Williams said. “Looking back, I wish I had. Maybe I could have hit a helluva lot better.”

I almost drove into Tampa Bay, I was laughing so hard.

Giancarlo Stanton has been searching for reasons he has had assorted injuries, and it had been suggested that perhaps his body cannot take his 250 pounds when his body fat is 4%. There are several other cases like that.”

Giancarlo Stanton

“It starts with the kids,” says one scout. “The teenage kids today play year round. They have fall schedules. They all go to showcases all over the country, year-round.” In fact, this weekend, just after high school seasons and tournaments finished and the draft is a week old, there is the first huge showcase in Minneapolis for kids all across the country. We all love hearing about a kid from Gainesville, Georgia named Michael Gettys who has such a strong arm that a radar gun got him at 100 MPH throwing from the outfield. We love hearing that there is a host of “big” arms. A few years ago Dr. James Andrews talked about the incredible escalation in the summer of surgeries he performs on teenage baseball players. “It’s almost as if we like drafting a kid who just had Tommy John Surgery,” says one scouting director. “Because most of these kids play and throw so much under so much scrutiny that we know sooner or later, they’ll blow out. So better to get them pre-blowout that post-blowout.”

Oblique pulls are now part of everyday conversations. Double-A prospects miss time with torn abdominal muscles. “I know we’re having a complete review of our developmental and major league workout programs,” says one general manager. “It’s a constant conversation piece in our business. I think a lot of decision-makers look at games played per season before they look at Wins Above Replacement.”

Monday
Jun032013

Peter Gammons: Tired Baseball

Last Thursday night, May 30, the Royals and Cardinals sat around in the St. Louis rain past 3 am (Friday, May 31), forcing the visitors to have to arrive in Arlington, Texas past dawn and have to begin a three game series against one of the best teams in the American League.

It was so ridiculous that the umpires, led by crew chief Joe West—who abided by the rules and made everyone wait for more than four hours because it was Kansas City’s only trip down I-70—arrived at their Chicago hotel at 9:40am that morning and were at Wrigley Field around noon for their Friday afternoon game.

Tired baseball

The weather in the first two months of the 2013 season has seemingly been an aberration, from rain and snow and, worst of all, tornados that have ravaged most of the nation. Add on the fact that in the first two months there were 18 games that went at least into the 12th inning. On May 31, the Blue Jays and Padres played 17 innings in four hours and 58 minutes, finishing approximately 20 minutes after the rain-delayed Rays-Indians game in Cleveland.

“Everyone is playing under these conditions, between the one-time-visits schedule and the weather,” said one Boston coach. “I’m not making excuses for any one team. But the fact is we’re seeing some tired baseball.”

LINK: More from Peter Gammons: MLB Sources Say...

“The way it is now, you really need 35 to 37 players before the season’s over,” says Buck Showalter. Of course, Showalter, Dan Duquette and the Orioles masterfully juggle their roster between Baltimore and Norfolk. In many ways, it is born of necessity, because they do not have the big starting pitching horses, especially with Wei-Yin Chen on the disabled list. The ten starting pitchers the Orioles trotted out through June 1 made a combined total of approximately $13M; there are 27 individual starting pitchers around baseball who make $13M or more.

But the Orioles are not alone in their need for 12 and sometimes 13 active pitchers. “We see that more and more,” says Showalter. Problem is, teams that require 12 and 13 pitchers find their benches strapped. Play extra innings, get to bed at 6 am, get up and play the next day…

In reality, baseball’s meet and right banning of amphetimines has made the travel schedule more difficult. While players from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s decry the Steroid Era and its records, it was a different game in the era of greenies, red juice, etc. Now it isn’t worth the threat of suspension and the loss of pay to use amphetimines, no matter how tired the player might be, or how short the bench may be. Bud Selig has been adamant in trying to clean up the game as much as possible. He has suspended players for the use of amphetimines, and consequently, teams now have to adjust their rosters and some managers have suggested that rosters be expanded to 27 or 28 players.

“Depth is more important today than it ever was,” says Billy Beane, who has tried to fill his roster with 25 players who can play multiple positions and assume a myriad of roles. “The schedule is a huge factor. So are injuries, which may be related to the schedule. It isn’t who necessarily has the best core of star players, it’s who has the best depth and, most important, has the healthiest players.”

Versatility is key

The Tampa Bay Rays' versatile Ben Zobrist.Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay figured this out years ago. The Rays have had a roster dotted with versatile players like Ben Zobrist. They have found ways to keep their pitching healthy (that is, until David Price went on the disabled list in May). The Cardinals also seem to always have depth and flexibility. The Indians added Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn—versatile and virtual regulars—to combat the schedule. “You’re going to see teams play their prospects at different positions in the minors,” says one general manager.

The Rangers brought up Jurickson Profarand installed him at second when Ian Kinsler got hurt. But when Kinsler returns in mid-June, Profar will likely remain in the majors, playing five days a week between short, second and DH; that can allow Elvis Andrus and Kinsler days off and days as designated hitter in the Texas heat. Thus what we’re now seeing is teams bringing talented young players and breaking them in the way the great Earl Weaver Orioles of the seventies broke in young pitchers, using ultimate starting pitchers like Dennis Martinez, Mike Flanagan, Scott McGregor and Sammy Stewart first as relievers. 

Young talent - young energy

The Red Sox may have been frustrated with what some perceived as Jose Iglesias’s bigleague-itis in Pawtucket, where he was benched, hit .202 and got on base at a .262 clip. But when Will Middlebrooks was disabled with a back injury, Iglesias came up and played third base. Not only did he bat .434 in his first 16 games with a .456 on base percentage and 1.241 OPS, but he fielded magnificently. Now the play is to keep Iglesias when Middlebrooks returns, but play him at short and third. The Red Sox are also planning to work Xander Bogaerts at different positions in Portland, thinking he may add more versatility the last two months of the season. Once Mike Olt proves his early season vision problems are resolved, he may be moved up to the Rangers to add a power bat at third, first and the outfield.

“What these kids bring is necessary depth to teams having to carry 12 or 13 pitchers,” says one general manager. “But when you get young players like Profar or Iglesias, they bring an energy with them. At their age, they aren’t prone to getting tired because of the schedule and the delays.”

Every day, Iglesias goes onto the field to warm up and says, “today we have fun.” They got over the perception that he’s a better player in the big leagues, and what that might mean.

“Jose can help us in a lot of ways,” says John Farrell. “And he can still lean as he goes along.” Profar, ibid. It may eventually come down to the same for Anthony Rendon in Washington or Jonathan Schoop in Baltimore, and teams throughout both leagues.

Thursday
Jun162011

Moneyball: Brad Pitt as Billy Beane

The trailer for 'Money Ball' is out - Looking forward to it (comment below)?