I tried to picture Jose writing his book and his movie. Hunched over, his broad shoulders casting a shadow across his desk like a raptor's wings, his brow furrowed in concentration, his massively muscled body tensed in anticipation of that torrent of words about to flow out of him like urine for one of the many steroid tests he'd been forced to take during his baseball career. I wondered, just how does Jose write? Like Shakespeare, with a quill pen on parchment? Like Dickens, wearing a green eye shade while seated at a clerk's desk? Like Hemingway, standing at a lectern in Finca Vigia, with a stubby pencil and unlined paper? Like Thomas Wolfe, in his Victorian house in Ashville, pounding away on a tall, black, manual Underwood? Or maybe the words flow out of Jose in such a torrent, 10,000 an hour, that he can relieve himself adequately of his thoughts only by tap-tap-tapping on a lightning fast computer, like Stephen King?Rules for living number three and four: don't hire a lawyer who will discuss my financial affairs with a reporter, and keep those martial arts movie ideas under wraps.
Anyway, as Heidi said, Jose is writing a book, and a movie, about his life, which he will star in, as himself. Jose is also going to star in a Kung Fu martial arts movie. That's what Rob told me. "Jose is fielding offers," said Rob. Rob is Jose's lawyer and agent. He's a Cherokee Indian from North Carolina. In the four years that Rob has been Jose's agent, Jose has racked up about a half-a-million dollars in legal fees. Rob hasn't been paid anything yet, although he said that Jose did give him his five World Series rings, worth about $50,000, as a down payment.
Heidi, Rob told me, is Jose's girlfriend/publicist. She's a "cute, little, junior college graduate, who lives with Jose," said Rob. "She likes to let Jose think she's working hard for him when really all she is doing is fucking things up for him." Rob said Heidi lives with Jose without paying anything, which may be literally true, but not figuratively. The price women pay for living with Jose is actually quite high. All those boring days and nights during which Jose rarely speaks, except to say, "Where's the Iguana?" because of Jose's fervent belief that when "women talk only bad things can happen."
...After a little prodding, Rob did admit to me that as of the moment no actual offers for that Kung Fu movie have come Jose's way, which, considering his fielding prowess (he once camped under a fly ball which hit him in the head and bounced into the bleachers for a home run), might be a good thing. Still, Jose spends his days at his house in Sherman Oaks, California, off the Ventura Freeway near the San Fernando Valley, home of the porn industry, waiting for producers to call to inform him that the time is ripe, America is now hungry for a Kung Fu movie starring a steroid-inflated, Cuban, ex-baseball player in his forties. In anticipation of that call, Jose showed off his martial arts moves to the man who choreographed "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The man watched Jose's 250-pound body spin and kick and leap into the air for a few minutes and then he told Jose that his moves "were stiff, not very fluid, and you don't kick very well." Jose told Rob, "That guy doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about."
So, the recent Yanks [2005-2007] have averaged about 123 starts per year from their top five, leaving 39 starts to be absorbed by the rest of the staff. Even if they were to play towards the high side of that time span, 136 starts, those extra 26 are more than one extra pitcher can be expected to absorb. Of that surplus, how many can we expect Chamberlain to make?From there I took a look at Chamberlain's performance in relief last year using BP's Reliever Expected Wins Added stat (WXRL), which measures the incremental impact, in wins, of a reliever's performance based on the changes in score margin and game state (runners on base and number of outs) when he arrives and departs. Joba was 1.85 wins above replacement level in his 24 innings last year; on a per-inning basis, only Cleveland's Rafael Betancourt had more of an impact, and all Betancourt did was set a record among the subgroup of nonclosers that I'm calling MISERs (Maximum-Impact Setup Relievers, crudely defined as pitchers with at least 1.0 WXRL and fewer than six saves in a season). The leaderboard for 2007:
An aggressive estimate might put him at about 15 starts, leaving the Yanks to come up with another dozen or two from among the Jeff Karstens/Darrell Rasner/Kei Igawa/TBNL herd. Suppose Chamberlain pitches on a 180-inning pace as a starter for three months of the year, and takes the guise of a heavy-use 90-inning reliever for the other three months. In his starter phase, he could total 15 starts averaging six innings per start (90 innings) and as a reliever, he'd average an inning every other day (45 innings). That would put Joba at 135 innings, not far off from his Rule of 30 target. Of course, that wouldn't leave a ton of headroom for October, if the Yankees get there. One can't determine whether the team might want him to be part of their front four, or to return to the set-up role without knowing the rest of the staff's strengths and weaknesses at that point in time. Either way has its merits so long as he can usurp a greater percentage of innings than the regular season, but both have their drawbacks as well.
Pitcher Team IP WXRL WX/9By comparison, Mariano Rivera's WXRL/9 was 0.467, which ranked 20th in the majors. Still, as good as Chamberlain's performance was, 24 innings is a pretty small sample size to base many conclusions on, so when I retroactively computed leaderboards for the seasons 2001 to 2006, I raised the bar to 40 innings to allow the occasional LOOGY or midseason callup to sneak through. What the rankings show is that the Yanks have been fairly deficient in this department recently. Here are the qualifying Yankees dating back to 1996:
Rafael Betancourt CLE 79.1 6.845 0.777
Joba Chamberlain NYA 24.0 1.848 0.693
Hideki Okajima BOS 69.0 4.429 0.578
Mike Gonzalez ATL 17.0 1.079 0.571
Heath Bell SDN 93.2 5.656 0.543
Brandon Lyon ARI 74.0 4.357 0.530
Zack Greinke KCA 53.1 3.114 0.525
Carlos Marmol CHN 69.1 3.694 0.480
Rafael Perez CLE 60.2 3.142 0.466
Pat Neshek MIN 70.1 3.572 0.457
J.C. Romero 2TM 56.1 2.822 0.451
Bobby Seay DET 46.1 2.303 0.448
Akinori Otsuka TEX 32.1 1.566 0.436
Tony Pena ARI 85.1 4.103 0.433
Ehren Wassermann CHA 23.0 1.075 0.421
Henry Owens FLO 23.0 1.051 0.411
Chad Qualls HOU 82.2 3.608 0.393
Derrick Turnbow MIL 68.0 2.752 0.364
Matt Herges COL 48.2 1.927 0.356
Justin Speier ANA 50.0 1.950 0.351
Scott Downs TOR 58.0 2.260 0.351
Pitcher Team Year IP WXRL WX/9 RkSince Mo ascended to the closer role, only Mike Stanton and Tom Gordon have cracked the majors' top 20 in a given season. For a team spending as much money on its bullpen as the Yankees have, that's no relief. And it's yet another reason why sending Chamberlain to the bullpen for at least part of the year makes sense.
Mariano Rivera NYA 1996 107.7 6.876 0.575 1
Mike Stanton NYA 1997 66.7 3.541 0.478 2
Ramiro Mendoza NYA 1999 84.0 2.385 0.256 27
Mike Stanton NYA 1999 58.3 1.480 0.228 34
Jason Grimsley NYA 1999 75.0 1.608 0.193 41
Jeff Nelson NYA 2000 69.7 1.534 0.198 35
Mike Stanton NYA 2001 80.3 3.333 0.373 10
Jay Witasick NYA 2001 40.3 1.037 0.231 32
Ramiro Mendoza NYA 2002 91.7 1.621 0.159 44
Chris Hammond NYA 2003 63.0 1.954 0.279 21
Tom Gordon NYA 2004 89.7 6.438 0.646 1
Paul Quantrill NYA 2004 95.3 1.546 0.146 51
Tom Gordon NYA 2005 80.7 3.269 0.365 11
Scott Proctor NYA 2006 102.3 1.833 0.161 49
Luis Vizcaino NYA 2007 75.3 2.081 0.249 35
Kyle Farnsworth NYA 2007 60.0 1.142 0.171 51
The Pinstriped Bible comes to you from a railroad car moving between Baltimore and Philadelphia, or what those of us who rarely find a reason to venture off of I-95 between New Jersey and Washington refer to as "terra incognita." "Here there be dragons," the maps say, and one suspects that what they refer to are not literal dragons but bad Chinese restaurants secretly staffed by goth college dropouts from the Midwest who have parlayed an interest in hair-straighteners and black dye into semi-lucrative careers in ethnic impersonation and culinary counterfeiting, passing off Indiana corn and Arkansas chicken parts as Moo Goo Gai Pan. It could be some intestinally corroding experiences with off-coast Asian foods has made me paranoid, or maybe it was two days amidst the striped-tie boys of occupied Washington. Maybe they're all working together out of the CIE, Culinary Institute of Espionage. The latest briefing says that the Iranians won't have the George Foreman Grill for at least five years, but we may go to war anyway.It was an honor to be a bit player in that little comedy, just as it's an honor to spend time with Steve, who's one of the best friends I've made in this racket. We're separated by two hours of geography and don't get to spend much face time except in the context of these promo gigs; most of our interactions tend to come via instant messaging in the wee hours as we pick apart something I've written for one of his book projects. As one of the hardest workers I know, he's a great influence to be around, always reminding me that I can and should think bigger and do better, and -- given the serious health woes he constantly finds himself up against -- with a greater sense of urgency. More than that, he's a constant font of ideas, with a tremendous breadth of knowledge and a wacky sense of humor, the ability to muster an apt and funny quotation that will find its way into a conversation several times in a given encounter (such as the Abe Lincoln one in the title of this post).
I enjoy traveling by train between short-hop destinations like New York and Washington. In the age of the interminable airline delay, it really is the smarter, faster way to travel, and indeed, as soon as (if) the United States ever gets a true high-speed train system up, airline travel between Boston, New York, and Washington will wither and die. Similar effects have occurred in Europe, where they bullet along similar inter-city distances at roughly 200 mph in more or less perfect safety. With no grade-level crossings, there are fewer opportunities for Jereboam to park his poultry truck on the tracks and cause a major disaster.
My only regret about this one trip is being cautioned by the Norman Lloyd look-alike across the aisle (for photo reference see, appropriately enough, Alfred Hitchcock's "Saboteur") not to speak. Jay Jaffe, my traveling companion, and I inadvertently ensconced ourselves in the "Quiet Car." The Quiet Car, to quote the sign hanging above the aisle, requires that you, "Please refrain from loud talking or using cell phones in this car." When Jay whispered a question at me about — well, I never did get to find out what he was asking — I am hopeful that he had not just discovered that he was on fire — Norman jumped up and shouted, "Could you guys not TALK? It's really disturbing." I briefly considered shouting back, "Hey, Himmler, this is the Quiet Car, not the MUTE car. This is not the Maharishi's Meditation Caravan or the Prior Restraint Choo-Choo. Maybe you'd be more comfortable in the Corpse Car. Are you disturbed now? How about now? Wait until I tell you my theory about Chinese food imposters in off-highway Delaware. Then you'll be sorry you stopped my friend from telling me he was on fire."
Alas, I only mumbled a small fraction of that, not wanting to be forcibly relocated or removed. Principle was on my side, but after a few weeks of touring, I'm too fatigued to fight. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking with it.
2007 Coors 2007' 90-07 90-07'2007' is the average fence distance sans Coors, 90-07' the change from 1990 to 2007 excluding Coors. Anyway, this increase to the left side appears to have an impact on the distribution of home runs. In 1990, according to data from the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index, 54.4 percent of homers were hit to left field and left-center field. Last year it was 50.8 percent. Sparing you my first-ever graph for a BP article, an ugly one that puts this graphic designer to shame:
LF 332.0 347 331.4 2.4 1.9
LCF 376.6 390 376.2 1.2 0.7
CF 404.9 415 404.9 -0.1 -0.4
RCF 377.6 375 377.7 1.6 1.7
RF 329.1 350 328.6 0.2 -0.5
Year % LF+LCFAs noted in the article, there's a bit of intermediate squirreliness with the data in a few years; not every year are the home run locations equally well-recorded, but the trend is apparent: fewer hoemrs are leaving the yard on the left side than before.
Now the estimable Tom Tango has added some support for that viewpoint, at least with regards to parks and expansion. Comparing matched sets of head-to-head plate appearances between hitters and pitchers in the same park against all other pitcher/hitter/park combinations, Tango found virtually identical changes in home run frequency (HR per contact PA) from 1987 to 1988, and from 1992 to 1994. That is, both the matching combo and the unmatched combo saw their homer frequencies change at comparable rates during the same periods, first from 1987 to 1988, when a one-year home run spike came and went, and then from 1992 to 1994, a span in which homer and scoring rates escalated to levels that would be common over the next decade.Like me, Tango then turned his attention to the baseball itself as an engine for the rise in home runs, and to evidence found via the University of Massachusetts-Lowell's series of tests back in 2000. But it appears he was a little off base when he tried to connect the ball's compositional changes with some data pertaining to fly ball distances:
In Tango's piece, he turns his attention to the ball as well, and to the UMass-Lowell testing in particular, focusing on testing director Dr. James Sherwood's report of an 8.7-foot difference in flight distance between tested major league balls and minor league ones, which differ in the compositions of their cores. Extrapolating from data provided by Greg Rybarcyzk of HitTracker Online, Tango finds that, lo and behold, an 8.7-foot decrease would reduce home run rates to almost exactly where they were in the decade prior to the surge. A tidy little explanation for where those extra long balls might have come from, right?Take a picture, kids -- it's not often a hack like me can legitimately find fault with the work of one of the field's top researchers. Then again, Enrique Wilson did get a few hits off Pedro Martinez, and D.J Houlton has struck out Albert Pujols in their only two encounters. It happens.
Not quite. Tango implies that what took place may have been as simple as MLB and Rawlings, the ball's current manufacturer, replacing balls made with a pure cork center (as specified for the minor league balls) with ones made with a compressed-cork center (a composite of cork and ground rubber, known as cushion cork or cushioned cork, which is part of MLB's official specifications for the ball). In actuality, the cushioned cork center ball is decades old: according to information provided by the Spalding company (which manufactured the balls up through 1976), it was officially adopted in the major leagues way back in 1926. Oddly enough, the words "cushioned cork center" imprinted on MLB balls were removed in 1999, the year before the UMass report was published, although the report notes that rubber continues to be added to the pill, the innermost element of the ball...
Though rubber and cork are still in the pill, its exact composition appears to have changed over the past couple of decades. A team from Universal Medical Systems confirmed this last summer, when they compared computerized tomography (CT) scans of baseballs from different eras. Whether simply due to technological advances incorporated into the manufacturing process or a calculated desire to produce more home runs, the pill has increased in size and density over the years. And that's without considering the aforementioned synthetic ring, or the increasingly synthetic composition of the yarn used to wind the ball, something a University of Rhode Island study identified back in 2000. While Sherwood and company continue to test balls on an annual basis for MLB and have even shown some teeth by criticizing the outdated specifications of the testing, they've remained conspicuously quiet as to the impact of the composition changes, to say nothing of MLB bulldozing its own published specifications.
Since this article's publication, several readers have pointed out that while the fair territory of playing fields aren't getting smaller, a decreasing amount of foul territory may be contributing to the rise in homers and scoring in general. That's something I'll be examining in my next take on this subject.MLB 1990 2007 ChangeWith the exception of the teensiest of fractions for straightaway center field, fence distances have actually increased during the wave of building that's put 21 clubs (including four expansion teams) into new ballparks. What has decreased during the time period in question -- indeed, what may be confusing the issue -- is smaller park capacities. In 1990, the average ballpark held 53,057 patrons; last year it was 48,219, a drop of about 10 percent. So yes, parks are smaller, but not in a way that carries any ramifications for home run levels.
LF 329.6 332.0 2.4
LCF 375.5 376.6 1.2
CF 404.9 404.9 -0.1
RCF 376.0 377.6 1.6
RF 329.1 329.3 0.2
June 2001 July 2001 August 2001 September 2001 October 2001 November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010
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