New pitch tunneling metrics and Luis Severino's offseason focus

There are all sorts of adjustments that players make in the offseason. Often times, we hear the trite "I'm in the best shape of my life". In other instances, a player attempts to improve something more measurable or readily apparent, such as Aaron Judge trying to cut down on strikeouts. Luis Severino's winter plan touches on both of those categories, though the latter is far more interesting (to me).

Brian Cashman asked Severino to improve his flexibility this offseason. That's fine and dandy, but it's next to impossible for us to determine how much that could potentially help. On the other hand, we can get an idea of the upside of another part of his winter plan: to become more consistent with his release points. In talking to's Brendan Kuty, Severino highlighted his trouble with his arm slot in 2016:

"My fastball was all the way over here," Severino told NJ Advance Media, showing wider-than-normal release point.
"But my changeup was over here," he said, his arm dropping even lower. "My slider was over here and then sometimes over here."

Severino wasn't speculating about his release points, as there is data that backs up this problem. Thanks to Baseball Prospectus' latest fascinating method of analysis, pitch tunneling, we can compare Severino's slider and changeup against his fastball when it comes to a couple of key metrics: release point (out of the pitcher's hand) and tunnel point (23.8 ft from the batter, the decision point for a swing). Release point data has been available for a while with PITCHf/x, but the folks at BP have taken further steps in using it in comparative pitch pairs while also layering on tunnel point data.

The ability to compare and contrast two pitches can give us a glimpse into how opposing batters are able to decipher what pitch is coming. And, if we know how easy (or difficult) it is to read a pitch out the pitcher's hand and/or at the decision point, we can get a better understanding of how effective certain pitches are. If Severino grades poorly per these metrics, then it would appear that he's taken the right strategy this offseason. Here's a snippet of the data I pulled from BP comparing the Yankees' 22 year-old hurler to his counterparts:

Per Baseball Prospectus, this stat measures the average variation of a pitcher's release point (in inches) of a pitch pair. The smaller the better, as it is tougher to decipher the difference between pitches with smaller variation. (FA=Fastball, CH=Changeup, SL=Slider)

Per Baseball Prospectus, this stat measures the average variation of a pitcher's release point (in inches) of a pitch pair. The smaller the better, as it is tougher to decipher the difference between pitches with smaller variation. (FA=Fastball, CH=Changeup, SL=Slider)

Per Baseball Prospectus, this stat measures the average variation of a pitcher's tunnel point (in inches) of a pitch pair. The tunnel point is when the batter must decide whether or not to swing. The closer the better, particularly if there is significant break differential after the tunnel point.

Per Baseball Prospectus, this stat measures the average variation of a pitcher's tunnel point (in inches) of a pitch pair. The tunnel point is when the batter must decide whether or not to swing. The closer the better, particularly if there is significant break differential after the tunnel point.

First, a look at Severino's changeup. Conventional wisdom says that in order to have a good changeup, a pitcher must have arm speed and a release similar to his fastball. That way, the pitcher can trick his counterpart into thinking he's throwing a fastball, only to be baited into swinging too soon. Some movement helps, too. Without similar arm speed or an inconsistent release point, a changeup isn't deceptive. In other words, as a drastic example for illustrative purposes, if a pitcher throws a 95 MPH fastball over the top and throws an 80 MPH changeup from three-quarters, the batter shouldn't struggle with the velocity difference because the release point is apparent.

Per BP, Severino's release point variation between a pair of a fastball and changeup was around five inches in 2016, about two inches more than league average. While five inches of separation seems difficult to decipher at game speed, we have to remember that we're mere mortals when it comes to Major League hitters. They can pick up on it. Despite the tunnel point variation being better than the average fastball-changeup combination, hitters have the opportunity to identify one vs. the other far sooner (i.e. at the release point).

Luis Severino 2016 Changeup Location Heat Map - via Baseball Savant

Luis Severino 2016 Changeup Location Heat Map - via Baseball Savant

Interestingly enough, his command of the pitch isn't dreadful. In fact, it looks pretty good. He's staying away from the heart of the plate, which is important. However, because his changeup is easier to differentiate than most and thus not particularly deceptive, hitters aren't overwhelmed by the pitch. League average whiff per swing on changeups last season was 31.4%, whereas Severino's mark was merely 20.0%.

Next, the slider. Severino's fastball and slider came out of his right hand closer than the previous pair, at about 3.4 inches of release differential. That was a tad worse league average, but not as awful as his changeup release. Still, though, it was nothing particularly special. That said, unlike a changeup, a slider isn't predominantly reliant on deception. Movement plays a big part in its effectiveness.

The best time to have significant movement on a pitch is after the tunnel point, especially if there is a small tunnel point variation between a pair of pitches (in this case, fastball-slider). I've already pointed out that Severino's fastball vs. slider release point wasn't anything to brag about, but the positive is that his tunnel point differentiation was better than most. Not strikingly better than average, but above average nonetheless. From there, the post-tunnel break (variation in movement in inches from tunnel point to home plate between two pitches) between Severino's fastball and slider was approximately five inches. That's almost a full inch more than the average combination of the two offerings.

To this point, nothing sounds disconcerting about Severino's slider. It would be nice if his release point was tighter to his fastball, but it's seemingly fine where it is. However, moving on to his slider location heatmap, and welp...

Luis Severino 2016 Slider Location Heat Map - via Baseball Savant

Luis Severino 2016 Slider Location Heat Map - via Baseball Savant

That's ugly. It didn't matter how good or bad Severino's release or tunnel differentials were for this pitch. With it constantly over the heart of the plate last season, it wasn't particularly effective. Severino garnered only 26.9% whiffs per swing, well below the league's 34.2% standard for the pitch type.

Thanks to Brooks Baseball, we can compare each of Severino's offerings to others in terms of pitch outcomes. The combination of Severino's pitch tunneling and location should at least partially explain some of the good and bad results shown above.

As it's painfully clear, the young righty's changeup and slider were well below average (index: 100) in whiffs per swing last season. In other words, batters weren't missing the pitch when they choose to hack at it. That's not a surprise for the changeup given Severino's poor pitch tunneling (read: lack of deception). It's not a shock for the slider either, as his command of the pitch was poor.

Severino generated more foul balls than average on those two pitches too, and that makes sense: he's not getting the desired swing and miss from what are supposed to be put away pitches. Again, some of the reason could be that pitch tunnels and location aren't strong for Severino's changeup and slider, respectively. Other bad indicators include his line drives per balls in play, quite high for his changeup and slightly above average compared to the league.

Despite a blazing fastball, Severino's inability to put away hitters with his secondary offerings has hurt his four-seamer. Even if batters can't do significant damage against his slider or changeup (opponents had a wRC+ of 78 against both last year), they are managing to fend off the two offerings until a heater comes. Hence the low whiff per swing and high foul per swing numbers on the changeup and slider. Once Severino turned to the fastball, opposing hitters feasted, posting a remarkable 164 wRC+ last year.

The metrics paint an ugly picture of Severino's secondary pitches for now. The good news is that he and the Yankees' staff are keenly aware of it. Perhaps data similar to this was available to them, which spurred them to address the problem. Regardless of how it was discovered, it's pleasing to see the data support that his release point is a potential opportunity for improvement. How much such adjustments can help Severino, let alone if he's capable of making said adjustments, remains to be seen. It certainly seems plausible that closing the gap between the release of his fastball and changeup could help, though I don't think it's clear how much his slider stands to gain from a release point adjustment. Perhaps it could help his command of the pitch, but it's not an obvious fix. From the sounds of it, Severino is making good progress:

"I'm doing very well," he said. "I've been throwing my bullpen and my changeup is way better than last year. My fastball location is better, too. So hopefully in spring training it'll be good."

Let's hope so.

25 years, 25 Yankees: Building a roster with one player from each team since 1992

Coming up with fresh baseball content in January and February is difficult, but thankfully, there are those like Baseball Prospectus' Russell Carleton to supply ideas. This one is a fun exercise, selecting one player from each Yankees team from 1992-2016 to fill out, as he phrases it, a coherent entire 25-man roster without any repeats. Here we go:

1992: Melido Perez (Starting Pitcher)

That's right, Melido Perez! He was the bright spot on a 76-86 team. This was his first year in pinstripes after being acquired for Steve Sax, and boy did he shine. At 26 years of age, the righty delivered a 2.87 ERA and 3.05 FIP in just under 250 (!) innings, good for 6 WAR. The Yankees must have thought they had a long-term ace on their hands, but unfortunately, Perez was never the same and pitched his final big league season in 1995.

1993: Randy Velarde (Bench - Utility)

One of my ground rules is to not include a full-time regular on the bench. So, we'll start the bench with an ideal utility player: 1993 Randy Velarde. Despite missing nearly two months of the season due to injury, Velarde got into 85 games, 16 as a pinch-hitter. He amassed impressive numbers, recording 2.2 WAR thanks to a sturdy .301/.360/.469 (123 wRC+) batting line in 253 plate appearances. With the ability to play all over the infield and outfield, he might be this squad's best bench player. The '93 squad was a pretty solid team, winning 88 games while falling short of the playoffs. There certainly were some good options on the 1993 squad to choose from (I had Jimmy key in my first iteration), but this is a partly a strategic selection to make room for others.

1994: Paul O'Neill (Right Field)

I feel like we could say this about a lot of players in 1994, but I wish we could have seen what stats O'Neill would have wound up with had the strike not prematurely ended the season. And obviously, Yankees fans will never know the fate of its team that was 70-43, first place in the AL East, when the season was cut short. Oh well. At least we can enjoy O'Neill's ridiculous numbers. Take a gander at this: in 443 trips to the plate, O'Neill hit 20 home runs and slashed .359/.460/.603 (171 wRC+), all good for 4.3 WAR. This is an easy choice for my starting right fielder.

1995: Darryl Strawberry (Bench - Outfield)

This is my next thinking ahead/strategic choice. I could have gone Bernie Williams here (133 wRC+, 6.4 WAR), but took a different path. Darryl Strawberry is a bit of a wonky pick, because he only played in 32 games that season after debuting in early August. Nonetheless, his .276/.364/.448 (115 wRC+) line makes him a nice left-handed option off the bench.

1996: Mariano Rivera (Relief Pitcher)

Ironically, Mariano Rivera's best season was as a set-up man for John Wetteland on the World Champion 1996 Yankees. In 107.2 dominant innings, Rivera posted a 2.09 ERA and 1.88 FIP while setting a career high in WAR (4.3). He had plenty of similarly dominant years on a per-inning basis, but I'll take this version of Rivera for my club given the workload he bore.

1997: Andy Pettitte (Starting Pitcher)

Andy was dandy (apologies John Sterling) in 1997, posting a 2.88 ERA and 2.96 FIP in 240.1 innings pitched (7.2 WAR). He finished fifth in Cy Young voting. His 25 year-old campaign was easily the best of his career with the Yankees, though many more good ones followed.

1998: Bernie Williams (Center Field)

1998 was Bernie Williams' best offensive season with the Yankees. He hit .339/.422/.575 (158 wRC+), swatted 26 dingers, stole 15 bases, and won the batting title. It wasn't his top season per WAR (4.9), but it was still an excellent season during the Yankees 114-win regular year.

1999: Derek Jeter (Shortstop)

You knew he'd be on here eventually. Derek Jeter's 1999 season is the highlight of his career, when he set career-bests in the following categories: home runs, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, wRC+, WAR...the list goes on. A 7.4 WAR player with a 156 wRC+ at shortstop? Easy call. He was the best player on that championship team.

2000: Mike Stanton (Relief Pitcher)

Here's another strategic pick. Though the Yankees topped the Mets in the World Series in 2000, they weren't really that good of a club. At least, not up to standard with years prior. They won only 87 games after an ugly September freefall, but fortunately that was enough to win the division. This isn't to say there weren't good options to choose from on the 2000 team (Jorge Posada, 6.1 WAR or Bernie Williams, 4.9 WAR), but I'm saving Posada for later and I preferred Bernie's 1998 campaign. I'm taking a reliever. I was torn between Mike Stanton and Jeff Nelson, but ultimately went with the former. Stanton is going to be the second lefty in my pen (you'll see the primary one later). Though Nelson was better by ERA (2.45 vs. 4.10), Stanton had the advantage in FIP (3.03 vs. 3.49). 

2001: Mike Mussina (Starting Pitcher)

In his first season in the Bronx, the Moose lived up to his billing from free agency. In 228.2 frames, Mike Mussina accumulated 6.9 WAR with a 3.15 ERA and 2.92 FIP. Though his teammate, Roger Clemens, took home the Cy Young award that year (pitcher wins are the best, guys), Mussina was the best pitcher on that year's American League champions.

2002: Jason Giambi (Designated Hitter)

Another year, another newly minted free agent signing as my selection. Jason Giambi split time between first base and designated hitter (a near 50/50 split), but I'm going to utilize him in the DH role. He was a beast in 2002, crushing 41 home runs on the heels of a .314/.435/.598 (175 wRC+) triple-slash. His 6.6 WAR made it his best season in pinstripes.

2003: Jorge Posada (Catcher)

I told you before that I was waiting to use Jorge Posada, and here he is. The switch-hitting backstop finished third in MVP voting that season thanks to a career-high 30 home runs and 6.0 WAR. My favorite memory of Jorge from 2003 was his bloop-hit off of Pedro Martinez in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS to tie the game in the 8th.

2004: Hideki Matsui (Left Field)

This isn't the best all-around season by a Yankees' left fielder in the last 25 years, but it's the best offensively. Hideki Matsui posted a 140 wRC+ behind a 31 homer season and a .298/.390/.552 batting line. It was his second year with the club and his best in his seven seasons with the Bombers.

2005: Tom Gordon (Relief Pitcher)

Another strategic choice. Alex Rodriguez won the MVP award this year, but I'm waiting to use him later. Other players with top seasons, like Jeter, Giambi, and Rivera have already been used. So I'm going with Flash here, who posted an excellent 2.57 ERA and solid 3.68 FIP in 80.2 innings. He was actually better in 2004, but still a good member of the bullpen in 2005.

2006: Scott Proctor (Relief Pitcher)

This pick makes me chuckle a tad, but Proctor was a valuable and durable piece of the bullpen this year. Of course, he wasn't the same after eclipsing 100 innings in 2006, but we'll always remember him as Joe Torre's go to guy that season. His 3.52 ERA and 1.2 WAR works for me, and allows me to bide my time to fill my roster with better players going forward.

2007: Alex Rodriguez (Third Base)

I wish that I could watch the 2007 team again. It was one of my favorites despite a disappointing end in the ALDS. A-Rod put together his second MVP season with the Yankees, this one being the best of the two. Rodriguez' 2007 is arguably the best season by a third baseman ever. Need I say more?

2008: Brett Gardner (Bench - Outfield)

Under new manager Joe Girardi, the 2008 Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993. It was a transitional year in a sense, though it's funny to say that when the team won 89 ballgames. It was a few key players final seasons with the team (Mussina, Giambi, and Bobby Abreu). There was some new blood that emerged that year, including Brett Gardner, my choice for 2008 in this exercise. He hit poorly (54 wRC+) in 42 games, but I like this version of Gardy as a defensive replacement and pinch runner for this fantasy squad. After all, he won't need many at-bats in the lineup I'm trotting out.

2009: Mark Teixeira (First Base)

For first base, I initially thought about 1997 Tino Martinez, who slugged 44 home runs. However, Pettitte was just too good that season to pass up. Giambi wasn't an option as I prefer him at DH, and Don Mattingly's 1992-1995 seasons were nothing to write home about. So, 2009 Mark Teixeira it is, who was essentially equivalent to '97 Tino. 39 home runs (to Tino's 44), 142 wRC+ (to Tino's 141), and 5.1 WAR (to Tino's 5.3) make them hardly any different. I think we sometimes underappreciate how important Teixeira was to that 2009 championship club because of his decline in the seasons thereafter.

2010: Francisco Cervelli (Bench - Catcher)

My roster needs a backup catcher, and 2010 Francisco Cervelli is a good fit. He had a passable bat in 317 trips to the dish that season (92 wRC+, .279/.359/.335) and offered solid defense. Not the most exciting pick, I know, but a necessary one.

2011: CC Sabathia (Starting Pitcher)

I could have gone with a handful of different seasons with CC Sabathia, but this one was the best. His 6.4 WAR in 237.1 innings with a 3.00 ERA and 2.88 FIP was sheer brilliance. I had also considered Curtis Granderson for this season, the year he broke out for 41 home runs and 6.8 WAR. However, with Bernie in tow in center field and 2011 being Sabathia's best season, I went with the big left-hander.

2012: Robinson Cano (Second Base)

Robbie's penultimate season with the Yankees was his best. After flirting with 30 home runs in the two seasons prior, Cano blasted a career high 33 dingers in 2012. His 149 wRC+ was also a lifetime best, a result of a fantastic .313/.379/.550 slash-line. In the last 25 years, Cano has no competition for the position. An easy call. This serves as a reminder of how much I miss watching him everyday.

2013: David Robertson (Relief Pitcher)

D-Rob's best season in New York was actually 2011, but 2013 was a stellar one too. He boasted a 2.04 ERA in 66.1 innings as a bridge to Mariano. Robertson posted a gaudy 87.5% strand rate, living up to his Houdini nickname.

2014: Dellin Betances (Relief Pitcher)

Another year, another reliever. The Yankees have had plenty of great relievers in the past 25 years, and many of them have been concentrated in this decade. Dellin Betances is yet another pitcher fitting that category. His first full season in the bullpen was Betances' best, though it's not like he's declined ever since. In 2014, he threw 90 innings and finished with 3.2 WAR on a 1.40 ERA and an absurd 39.6% strikeout rate.

2015: Andrew Miller (Relief Pitcher)

The bullpen trend continues. As I alluded to earlier, I had another southpaw reliever in mind, and Andrew Miller is that guy. Despite missing nearly a month of the season, Miller was nails in 2015. With a 40.7% strikeout-rate, 2.04 ERA, and 2.0 WAR along with no platoon split, there isn't anything wrong with the lanky left-hander. 

2016: Masahiro Tanaka (Starting Pitcher)

Last but not least, 2016. On an 84-win team that sold at the deadline, there aren't many great options. Obviously, Gary Sanchez stands out on a per at-bat basis, but Posada is still the clear cut choice for starting catcher. And, under my ground rules, Sanchez can't be the backup catcher. Thus, I'm going with the best overall player, Masahiro Tanaka. There were other better starting pitching seasons that I left off this list, but I did it purposefully because Tanaka was the best value from 2016. Besides, a 3.07 ERA and 4.6 WAR in just under 200 innings is pretty, pretty good for a fifth starter.

The Results:

C: 2003 Jorge Posada, 2010 Francisco Cervelli

1B: 2009 Mark Teixeira

2B: 2012 Robinson Cano

3B: 2007 Alex Rodriguez

SS: 1999 Derek Jeter

LF: 2004 Hideki Matsui, 2008 Brett Gardner

CF: 1998 Bernie Williams, 2008 Brett Gardner

RF: 1994 Paul O'Neill, 1995 Darryl Strawberry

DH: 2002 Jason Giambi

IF/OF: 1993 Randy Velarde

SP: 1997 Andy Pettitte, 2001 Mike Mussina, 2011 CC Sabathia, 1992 Melido Perez, 2016 Masahiro Tanaka

RP: 1995 Mariano Rivera, 2014 Dellin Betances, 2015 Andrew Miller, 2013 David Robertson, 2005 Tom Gordon, 2006 Scott Proctor, 2000 Mike Stanton


Podcast Episode 71: Michael Pineda

EJ welcomes Derek Alpin to the blog. They discuss some recent New York Yankees news, EJ's Michael Pineda article, and the remaining free agents available on the market. 

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Tuesday Afternoon Linkapalooza

We are a scant three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting, and just a month shy of the Yankees first Spring Training game (which will be against the Philadelphia Phillies). And, for those of you who are interested in the World Baseball Classic - as you should be - we're just over forty days away from the first match-up, between Israel and South Korea. In short, the end of this long, ephemeral period between the bursting bubble of free agency and actual baseball is nearly at its end.

With that in mind, here are some links to whet your appetite:

In much more somber news, Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte passed away this weekend as a result of separate car accidents. There have been some moving tributes written for both - I was particularly fond of this piece by Grant Brisbee, this piece by Jeff Passan, and this piece by Sam Mellinger. Major League Baseball has lost another dynamic young talent, and a former top prospect that never gave up his dream; all that we can do is send our thoughts and prayers to their families and friends.

The Yankees' lack of left-handed power and the question of Greg Bird

Mark Teixeira. Jason Giambi. Robinson Cano. Hideki Matsui. Curtis Granderson. These are just a few of the names featured in Yankees lineups in this millennium. One of the main traits these five have in common, along with many other sluggers on recent Yankees teams, is that all of them bat left-handed (or switch-hit). Left-handed power hitters taking advantage of the House that Ruth Built's short porch in right field has been a staple of successful Yankees teams not only recently, but also throughout the franchise's history. This year, the familiar sight of a lefty power might be notably absent.

There are plenty of left-handed options in the lineup in 2017, but only one of them truly has the potential to be a long ball threat. Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, and Chase Headley have all shown flashes of power at different points of their careers, but it would be foolish to count on any of them exceeding 20 home runs this season. 15 might even be a stretch. Of that group, ZiPS projects Didi to hit the most dingers (15), while Ellsbury, Gardner, and Headley are expected to launch 9, 11, and 13, respectively. There's no better way to generate offense than hitting a home run, and we can already see that four of the nine regulars are probably going to be below average in doing so. There is one lefty, however, that might be able to pick up for the rest of his fellow lefties' slack: Greg Bird.

As a prospect, Bird had the ideal pedigree for a future left-handed slugger at Yankee Stadium. Then, in 2015, he impressed in his debut in pinstripes, when he blasted 11 long balls in 178 plate appearances and boasted a .268 ISO. That's the type of power we all had been dreaming of from Bird. It's not like he was one dimensional, either. He showed the ability to reach base (.343 OBP, 10.7% BB-rate) and spray the ball around the field. To everyone's dismay, the first baseman needed shoulder surgery in the offseason, which cost him all of 2016. That gets us to the crux of the Yankees' left-handed power issue. The Yankees need Bird to pick up where he left off in 2015, which is a tall order for a 24 year-old returning from a serious shoulder operation.

The encouraging news is that ZiPS projects 18 home runs from Bird in merely 397 plate appearances, or one in roughly every 22 times to the plate. In a full season (i.e. 600 PA), that translates to 27 taters. Beware of the full season prorated total, though. There's a good reason that ZiPS doesn't think Bird has a full season in him, and it's primarily because of the layoff in 2016. Aside from the possibility of another injury (Bird's had his fair share in the minors, even before the surgery), it's possible that Bird needs more time at Triple-A to regain comfort against live pitching in a less pressurized situation.

Bird did get a taste of game action in the Arizona Fall League a few months ago, but understandably struggled as he shook off the rust. His .215/.346/.354 (102 wRC+) reflected some difficulty in finding his power stroke, though at least his on-base ability was still present. It was a far cry from his 2014 MVP performance in the same league (156 wRC+).

Whether his time in fall ball was enough to get Bird back up to speed will remain to be seen. Fortunately, he's had all of the winter to continue preparation and will have plenty of reps in spring training. In a perfect world, Bird doesn't miss a beat and come Opening Day, he's penciled in to the heart of the order and ready to crank out 25 bombs while exhibiting patience in the batters' box. We can dream, right?

In reality, there are going to be some bumps in the road. It's a big ask to pencil in Bird as the everyday first baseman in the middle of the lineup. Moreover, I think we forget that he was still getting his feet wet at the big league level in 2015. Though he raked right out of the gate, he only had 178 plate appearances and also showed some vulnerability with his propensity to strikeout. Most prospects, even those who have immediate success after debuting, experience rough patches in the big leagues before truly settling in. Bird (probably) wasn't going to be an exception, and when you tack on a lost season because of injury, it's important to temper expectations for 2017. Really, it might not be until 2018 that Bird feels like himself again. Should that be the case, the Yankees dearth in left-handed power will be glaring. It's not a death knell, as there's no requirement for winning teams to possess such a characteristic. Yet, for the Yankees, winning and left-handed power seems to go hand in hand.

Episode 70: HOF Results, Yankee Designated Hitter

EJ and Scott discuss the Hall of Fame voting results. Tim Raines is in! Later, they ponder if the Yankees missed an opportunity for a cheap, higher quality DH when they signed Matt Holliday.

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Hall of Fame Voting: Writers Still Don't Get It

Sitrep: Hall of Fame voting is complete. Congratulations to Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Pudge Rodriguez for a much deserved call to the Hall. However, two of the best players you ever saw play baseball still didn't make the cut. 

As detailed in last week’s podcast, I would have voted both Clemens and Bonds in before they hung up their spikes. The reason why this bothers me is the same reason why I don’t focus on stats in baseball, even though as an engineer, I am by nature a numbers guy (call me if you want to talk aerospace electronics, orbital slots or SPC - I can do "nerd" with anyone). To me, Hall of Fame voting emphasizes how little joy baseball writers take in watching baseball.  They hone in on numbers, historical context or personality. None of these elements influence me in buying tickets to a game, or subscribing to MLB.TV. I'm not investing my time in baseball for a moral compass, history lesson or stats-immersion experience.  I'm in it to see athletic greatness. 

When you evaluate the worthiness of Bonds and Clemens, you don’t need the numbers or the off-field case studies. Just watch the tape. Pop in Game 4 of the 2000 ALCS, and tell me if the barrel-chested righty in Yankee gray isn’t the best pitcher you’ve ever seen. 

Side note: how many all-star strikeout victims did you catch in that firework show?

Oh yea, and the other guy basically filled McCovey cove with Rawlings leather and reminded us that the bases-loaded-intentional-walk was actually an option.

Feel better? Good.

If the Hall is about capturing greatness, I don’t know how it’s taking so long for these two to get an invite. Here's hoping for next year.

Also, isn’t it universally hated when home plate umpires try to steal the spotlight during a game?

Couldn’t we say the same about baseball writers in the Hall of Fame voting process?

Last note: Writers were suspicious of Bagwell's 6 foot - 200 lb frame hitting bashing 30 homers a year, but no one flinches at Pudge, at mighty 5'9"-205 lb, averaging 27+ homers per season from '99 to '01. I don't get it.