The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


The Skinny

The latest Prospectus Hit List went up on Tuesday, and for the second time this year, the Yankees have taken over the top spot. Over the past two weeks (through Sunday, not including last night's debacle), the Yanks had gone 9-3, elevating them to a much more representative record than the 9-8 anomaly via which they topped the April 23 list. They're followed by last week's #1, the Tigers, then the White Sox, and the Mets.

Those four, each with a Hit List Factor of at least .626, are head and shoulders above the other 26 teams; the #5 Cardinals are at .591. Move down another 35 points (the difference between the Mets and Cards) and you've a cluster of six teams, with a couple more not far off that pace. What's even weirder is that the area around .500 is a virtual no-man's land; from the Rangers at #14 with a .542 HLF, we drop to the Dodgers at .502, and then the Padres at .486, starting another cluster of four teams. Very strange.

Anyway, I'm much happier with this week's effort than last week's; we've got Old School, Young Frankenstein, The Facts of Life, Alfred Hitchcock, a $7,500 baseball card, two shots at Jason Kendall (new rule: if you can't slug .350, you don't get to charge the mound, ever), and a gratuitous Simpsons reference that was impossible to resist: a link to the most recent episode's clip where Homer randomly celebrates the 1974 Oakland A's as the greatest team ever. A fun one to write up.

• • •

From Terry Forster to Fernando Valenzuela to Livan Hernandez to David Wells, some of my favorite pitchers have been on the chunky side of things. As pointed out by Will Carroll, the Columbus Dispatch recently ran an article featuring a couple of the game's noted medical experts, who agreed that too much fuss is made regarding pitchers' waistlines:
"We put too much emphasis on how they look in their uniforms," said Dr. Tim Kremchek, medical director of the Cincinnati Reds. "We stereotype them by their waist size, but sometimes they are the best athletes on the team."

Kremchek has looked for a link between waist size and injury, as part of a larger look at pitching injuries and how to prevent them, and he found no correlation. He is not alone.

Glenn Fleisig, chairman of research for the American Sports Medicine Institute, works closely with Dr. James Andrews, a noted orthopedic surgeon, and said their studies also found no correlation between weight and risk, or even between weight and effectiveness.

...If a pitcher has the arm strength to generate sufficient energy, the coordination and flexibility to transfer that energy efficiently through multiple stages of a delivery, and the stamina to maintain that energy and efficiency for the duration of his outing, Fleisig said, it should not matter if he has a few extra pounds around the midsection.

It is why golfer John Daly can be among the longest hitters on the PGA Tour and why Cecil Fielder could have a long career as a power hitter while a muscle-magazine coverboy such as Gabe Kapler has 62 home runs in nearly 800 career games. And it is why pitchers from Mickey Lolich to Rick Reuschel to Fernando Valenzuela to David Wells have hung around the big leagues for years, despite a little flab hanging over their belts.

..."I call it the David Wells rule," Kremchek said. "There are a lot of guys you could point to who look fat but have successful careers. You don’t want to change that too much. A lot of them are more durable and more effective at a certain body type."
Fascinating stuff; I've always enjoyed the fact that baseball attracts a far more diverse selection of body types than other sports; even the greatest player in the history of the game (no, not this assclown) was known for his corpulence.

The article, which was written in connection with the return of C.C. Sabathia from the disabled list, is also somewhat timely in terms of the names it drops. Valenzuela, who 25 years ago set the game on its ear with an incredible run of success to open the season (8-0, 0.50 ERA with seven complete games and five shutouts), was recently elected to the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals. The Reliquary is an L.A.-based grass-roots museum devoted to the more esoteric corners and characters of the game, and the Shrine is its Hall of Fame. Valenzuela joins Negro League catcher Josh Gibson and Japanese-American baseball pioneer Kenichi Zenimura in this year's class. Last year's class included Jackie Robinson, Rod Dedeaux, and Lester Rodney; prior inductees include Dick Allen, Jim Abbott, Moe Berg, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Roberto Clemente, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, "Dummy" Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill Lee, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, and Bill Veeck -- "individuals... who have altered the baseball world in ways that supersede statistics," as the Reliquary's site states. A cool crowd.

Meanwhile, Cyril Morong of Beyond the Box Score has an interesting piece on Rick "Big Daddy" Reuschel (not to be confused with Cecil "Big Daddy" Fielder), looking at how he fares relative to many Hall of Fame pitchers at Chicago Sports Review. The answer is that he holds his own by Morong's methodology, something not too surprising given that he's got a JAWS score that's not too far off of the average Hall of Fame pitcher. Not as good as when I first studied him, since the methodology has changed -- he's now about four points below the HOF average, but that still means he scores better than many enshrined pitchers.

One more note on the rotund: he's not a pitcher, but bad-body catcher Jeremy Brown of Moneyball infamy (listed at 5'10", 210 lbs, and definitely not selling any jeans) is hitting .333/.400/.507 and throwing out 50 percent of baserunners for Oakland's Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento, according to Kevin Goldstein. Maybe he'll end up with Kendall's job sooner or later.

• • •

After all that, including a slew of dictionary definitions showing that death wasn't a necessary element in the definition, the guy still can't use the word right? Unfrigginbelievable. The Bush administration would do well to find him a spot as a spokesman.

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