Silence makes people uncomfortable. When you are asked a question, if you sit silently for long enough the other person will grow physically uncomfortable. Sitting in silence can turn the tables on someone if they are trying to force you into a decision. I was promoted at a former job, but was informed my pay raise would take at least six months to process. When I told them I would not do the new job without the pay increase my supervisors tried to pressure me into accepting the delayed raise. When I asked them if they would work for less than they were worth they said no. I let the silence and hypocrisy hang in the air for several minutes. The literal ticking clock was the only noise in the room as I stared at my supervisors. Everyone but me was uncomfortable. Silence can be deafening.
Driving home after umpiring evening baseball games I often listen to the Reds radio broadcast. I normally drop in around the 6th or 7th inning. Broadcasting baseball over radio requires people like Marty Brennaman and Jeff Brantley to paint a picture on each play. The listener cannot see the fly ball to the warning track, rather the imagine must be created. While listeners are dependent upon radio announcers to tell them what is happening, good announcers also utilize silence. They do not need to talk every second of the game. Allowing the sounds of the stadium to come through the radio and wash over the listener adds to the drama of the game. The game is not played in an empty stadium. Cheering fans, the crack of the bat, the pop of the glove are part of baseball. The listener needs the whole picture, some of which cannot be said with words.
The silence as Billy Hamilton makes a diving attempt is the loudest moment of the broadcast for Marty Brennaman and Jeff Brantley. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
A brief description of the play and get out of the way. A dazzling diving catch by Billy Hamilton? Let the roar of the crowd tell the listener about Hamilton’s catch. Radio requires more focus than television as you must hear the call and then imagine the play. You are dependent on the announcers to tell you the score, the count, and the outs if you tune in late. There are no informational graphics. The game you see on the radio is created from your knowledge of baseball. Your imagination and the actual game are not a perfect match, yet both can be exhilarating. What is more exciting than late inning drama when the announcer stretches out a word, waiting to see what happens.
“The 3-1…Line drive to center. Hamilton coming in. He dives…”
The pause. The brief silence before you know if Hamilton caught the ball is pure ecstasy. Did he catch it? Maybe he trap it? Is the ball is rolling all the way to the wall? The drama of that moment is what draws people back to their radios night after night. Sometimes nothing is louder than silence.
Every fan wants to own part of their obsession. Star Wars fans want everything from shirts to full on costumes. Baseball fans are no different. Every die hard baseball fan wants to own a piece of the game. You collect a piece here and there, and over time it grows into a small collection. Few people can rival the collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but it does not mean we should not have our own version of Cooperstown.
This painting of Buck Leonard was a gift from my wife. (The Winning Run/ DJ)
I am under no illusion that my baseball collection of is vast, or even valuable. The value is the joy I get every time I walk through my baseball room. Every piece is a tiny part of baseball history and my own history. It is a reminder of my love for the game and what I have done in life. A wall can turn into two walls, then a room, and then hopefully into something even greater.
My baseball wall. It is small, but growing a little every year. (The Winning Run/ DJ)
My centerpiece is a signed Andruw Jones jersey my wife bought me. He is my all time favorite player. Jesse met Andruw Jones and Otis Nixon and had them sign a baseball for me. My other signed memorabilia has been collected through winning charity auctions; this includes signed baseballs by Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto, and Johnny Cueto. My wife bought me a signed Craig Breslow baseball. Our first real trip together was to Boston and a game at Fenway, Breslow was the winning pitcher that day for the Red Sox. I won cleats signed by Kal Daniels and a signed photographs of Brandon Phillips and Devin Mesoraco from charity auctions. My wife found the program from Johnny Bench night at Riverfront Stadium at a thrift store for me. I have the program from the 2016 South Atlantic League All Star game, which I attended in Lexington, Kentucky with my sister-in-law. I have a score card from a game I attended in Houston after a friends wedding. The Astros defeated the Blue Jays that day with the roof closed while it monsooned outside. I have a Dodgers cup and a Pirates plastic nacho helmet from attending games with friends and family. I have a Moneyball movie poster and a poster of all the professional baseball team names broken down by category. I have a reprint of a Norman Rockwell painting and a painting of Buck Leonard as a member of the Homestead Grays. These pieces of art have been given to me as gifts along the way. I have a Louisville Slugger signed by my friends and family from our wedding shower. My lamp is filled with baseballs signed by friends and family from our wedding.
Devin Mesoraco no longer plays for the Reds, but this photograph is still striking. (The Winning Run/ DJ)
Some of my collection has actual monetary value, however small. However, much of my collection is important for sentimental reasons. All of it helps to create my personal version of Cooperstown. I love it and I know it will continue to grow a little every year as I experience new things in life and my love for the game grows.
Fantasy sports have been in the news plenty in the last few months. The debate continues over whether Daily Fantasy is gambling, and if so how to regulate it. I personally have never partaken in Daily Fantasy or gambling in general just because I have no real interest. However, playing season long fantasy baseball is great, as it allows me to follow players and teams outside of my normal fandom. The league I play in, Infield Lies, along with the rest of The Winning Run, and others does not play for money. We play for something far more important than money, bragging rights.
This year we did an in-person live draft, except that Bernie couldn’t attend because of a tiny obstacle – a 10-hour one-way drive. Having previously done the draft online, the live draft was a much different experience. Our draft is fairly early for most people who play fantasy baseball, most people seem to get distracted by College Basketball in March. This year, however we held our draft in mid-March, later than usual as we had to work around people’s schedules. Typically, our league tries to hold the draft before Spring Training games begin. Blind drafting in a way, you do not get the advantage of watching who is hot and healthy through Spring Training. Researching and reading what experts are saying about the players poised to have breakout seasons shape who you draft and when. You cannot avoid a player who gets injured before the season either. Constantly reinventing your team separates people and gives the league more competition as it reduces the dumb luck factor.
The completed draft board. Somewhere on here is a championship team. (The Winning Run)
The live draft was different though. We still followed the same process as previous years, but with much more screaming and yelling in person. My perfect team was ruined by the other people, because they are spiteful and decided they wanted good players too. Among the many strange occurrences during the draft, the most odd was Jesse’s 7th Round pick of Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs. Schwarber is an excellent pick, especially when healthy, however Jesse failed to realize that Schwarber had been picked in the 4th Round. As he verbalized his displeasure, it turned to laughter as we had to tell Jesse that in the 4th Round he, Jesse, had picked Kyle Schwarber. Special.
The later into the draft you get the more cross over you have between teams, in terms of who you want. In the early rounds you are basically grabbing the best player available. The middle rounds are about grabbing the remaining stars. My own moment in the sun occurred in the 14th Round when I selected Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles. A solid closer, but there was a tiny problem, it was not my turn. I had not only skipped ahead of one person, but two. Britton was gone when my turn came, though I did get Glen Perkins so I cannot complain. Oops.
The Phillies draft room looks much more composed and formal than our draft room. (www.grantland.com)
The late rounds are reserved for grabbing players to fill a void and for taking a gamble on a hot prospect or veteran. Bernie selected Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees in the final round. A player Jesse had seen play only a day earlier when he was in Tampa. The Yankees sent Judge to their minor league camp the day after our draft. Sometimes you strike gold, and sometimes you hit the waiver wire. It is worth the gamble to grab the hot prospect if you can/and know to. Last year Jesse grabbed Kris Bryant. He had an undermanned team for a few weeks, but having Bryant around definitely helped Jesse throughout the season.
Then there is John’s 11th Round selection of J.P. Arencibia. A fine player with the Blue Jays for several years. However, before we allowed John to select him we had to double check he was on a major league roster, which he is. John made a clever pick with the backup catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. Later when it was time to enter our draft selections into the online league program, it would not recognize Arencibia as a major league player. Sorry about your luck and wasted draft pick, John.
I love fantasy baseball for what it is, a game that gives me an additional excuse to talk baseball with my friends all season long. Every one of us wants to beat the others, but ultimately our league is about having fun and gaining a more holistic view of the Majors. The rise of Charlie Blackmon, John alerted us to that a few years back. Jesse alerted us to Billy Hamilton as he made his way through the minors. Bernie brought us to Andrew Miller well before the media. I found Jose Altuve’s speed while looking for a good contact hitter. Fantasy baseball can help put you ahead of the curve before the media starts talking about a player. Why not enjoy an extra season or two of a potential future superstar?
The Infield Lies tropy, the prize at the end of each fantasy season. (The Winning Run)
Fantasy baseball is a fun game that makes the game of baseball more than just your local team. It allows those who want to learn about the game to access the game like nothing else. I love playing with my friends, and each of us will do everything we can to beat each other each week and to win the championship. As the season is has just begun I will say a final good luck to everyone playing fantasy baseball, especially Jesse, John, and Bernie as I attempt to turn my back to back championships into a three-peat championship. It is good to be the king.
2X defending Infield Lies Champion
You cannot steal first base. A player has to hit the ball, walk, or get hit by the pitch to make it to first. Once on first base, a player can steal any base, a fact that Billy Hamilton is proving on a nightly basis.
Pitchers pitch and hitters hit, baseball can be as simple as this. However, two of the leading contenders for the National League Rookie of the Year award seem to be proving this wrong. Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs are tied for the most strikeouts in the National League this season. The only player in Major League Baseball with more strikeouts is Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles. Why are two players who fail to do their jobs the most leading the charge in winning an award that is designed for the best new player in the game?
Entering play on August 15th:
Joc Pederson has the following stat line:
Kris Bryant has the following stat line:
Both Pederson and Bryant are excellent players with extremely bright futures. However, their consistent inability to put the bat on the ball should raise some concerns. Both players are still young and are in their first full season in the Majors, so there is obviously plenty of time and room for improvement. The idea of swing hard in case you hit something is fine on select pitches, but not during every at bat. Swinging for the fences every time does not help a team as much as understanding when to back away from this approach. The difference between hitting 30 and 40 home runs is at most 40 RBI (hitting 10 grand slams in a season has never happened, the most being 6, and the odds of shattering this record are astronomically small). Could those maximum of 40 RBI be made up, and more than likely surpassed, by cutting down on the all or nothing type approach?
It is impossible to force the defense to make an error if the ball is not put in play. Putting the ball in play means anything can happen. The fielder can misjudge a fly ball, whiff on a grounder, make a poor throw, lose the ball in the lights or sun; the batter can move a runner over with a well-placed ground ball or fly ball. None of this is possible if the batter does not put the ball in play.
In recent memory, Adam Dunn looms large as the king of the all or nothing swing. Dunn hit 462 career home runs, but he also struck out 2,379 times. Over his 14 year career Dunn’s 28.6% K Rate made him a liability for any team he played for that was not able to absorb the downside to his hitting abilities. Dunn could change a game with one swing, but at what cost? The all or nothing approach could kill rallies and scoring opportunities and shorten lineups. The reward just does not seem to balance out with the benefit. Dunn was an impact player for a long time; he averaged 33 HR, 83 RBI, 94 BB, 78 R a season. However, those numbers are countered with a lifetime .237 BA and an average of 170 strikeouts a season. Every season of his career he struck out more times than games played, not a recipe for long-term success. Even his 15.8% career BB Rate is higher than that of Pederson and Bryant. Adam Dunn, the most recent king of the all or nothing swing has a lower career strikeout percentage rate and higher walk rate than either Joc Pederson or Kris Bryant.
The Rookie of the Year award is supposed to reward the successful beginning of a players Major League career. The idea that Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant appear to be the front runners to win the award in the National League is strange. Yes, both players can hit the ball well beyond the outfield fence, but baseball is more than just a home run derby. The acceptance of this approach is a return to the ideas of the steroid era, skip playing small ball and wait for the big three-run home run. This approach is fine, as long as teams, fans, and players are willing to accept the fact that there will be fewer balls in play and strikeout totals from video games.
There is without a doubt a place within baseball for the sluggers, there is no denying that the game needs them. However, not every player can or should try to be like Ken Griffey Jr. or Babe Ruth. There is nothing wrong with hitting 20 to 25 home runs a year and having a batting average in the .280s, instead of hitting 30 home runs and batting around .240. Those extra .040 points worth of batting average will almost certainly match and surpass the runs produced by the extra 5 to 10 home runs that the player lost by not swinging for the fences every time at bat.
Say what you will, but baseball is a team game. The team needs each individual player to contribute if the team as a whole is going to be successful. Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant have both played for successful teams so far in the Major League careers. This has afforded them both the room to continue growing as professional hitters. However, for both of them to reach their potential they will need to make more contact with the baseball. This might require them hit fewer home runs. This is a trade off for being a better all-around player.
The great players are not the ones who have all or nothing types of swings, rather they are the Babe Ruth’s, Lou Gehrig’s, Hank Aaron’s, Willie Mays‘, and Miguel Cabrera’s of the world. These are the hitters who could hit the ball a mile when need be, but could also simply put the ball in play. Pederson and Bryant should learn from this approach. Ruth hit 714 home runs, while posting a .342 career batting average, and having a 12.5% K Rate. Gehrig hit 493 home runs, .340 career batting average, and having a 8.2% K Rate. Aaron hit 755 home runs, .305 career batting average, and having a 9.9% K Rate. Mays hit 660 home runs, .302 career batting average, and having a 12.2% K Rate. Cabrera has hit 405 home runs, .321 career batting average, and has a 16.9% K Rate. These all-time greats put the ball in play, and yet the home runs still came. They all helped their team be successful every time they stepped between the lines. Even Mike Trout and Bryce Harper understand that making contact is important. Trout has a 22.4% career K Rate and Harper has a 21.1% career K Rate. While their K Rate is higher than these legends, they are also much lower than Pederson and Bryant.
Adjusting to life in the Majors goes beyond just playing baseball. Pederson and Bryant are hopefully just settling into the beginnings of long and successful careers. They are off to good starts, but not Rookie of the Year award worthy starts, perhaps they should be on the second tier for consideration for that award. Both players do many parts of the game well, but both need to work diligently on putting the ball in play and reducing their number of strikeouts. If they can do this, they both have the talent to be successful year after year at the highest level of the sport.
Speed is the name of the game for Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds. Blazing speed and smart base running have made Hamilton a threat. A single easily turns into a double when Hamilton swipes second base. He can go first to third on hits that would force other runners to stop at second. It is almost surprising if Hamilton does not steal a base and score a run every time he reaches base.
The baseball adage that speed never slumps is true but in the case of Hamilton, he is having difficulty using his speed because he is not getting on base enough. Hamilton has played 208 career games entering Sunday, roughly one and a quarter seasons in the Major Leagues. He has collected 89 stolen bases, been caught stealing 27 times (76.7% success rate), scored 106 runs, 187 hits, 29 doubles, 11 triples, 9 home runs, and walked 46 times. However, Hamilton is a career .248 hitter, with a .290 OBP, and 151 strikeouts in 753 at bats. When he does hit the ball, Hamilton is batting .297 on BAbip (Batting Average on Balls in Play). It might be time for Reds Manager Bryan Price, Hitting Coach Don Long, and Assistant Hitting Coach Lee Tinsley to institute the Willie Mays Hayes rule on Hamilton. If he hits the ball in the air or strikes out, he owes them 20 pushups. If Hamilton can make more contact he can put more pressure on the defense to make mistakes while fielding the ball and/or once on base by stealing a base or three, or by taking the extra base.
Billy Hamilton has the talent to climb the ladder towards Rickey Henderson’s record of 1,406 stolen bases. Although it may be unfair to compare Hamilton to Henderson at this point in his career, it is a compliment this early in Hamilton’s career. After his first two seasons in the Major Leagues, Henderson had played 247 games, with 133 stolen bases, been caught stealing 37 times (78.2% success rate), scored 160 runs, 275 hits, 35 doubles, 7 triples, 10 home runs, walked 151 times, and struck out 93 times in 989 at bats. Henderson was batting .292, with a .392 OBP, and .314 BAbip.
Rickey Henderson was a great hitter and knew that his abilities with the bat were necessary if he was to utilize his legs. Hamilton has the lineup behind him to see pitches to hit. Opposing pitchers cannot take Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce lightly. Pitchers have their hands full with any of this trio at the plate, and having Hamilton on base only adds to the stress for each pitch. Do you want to give up a hit or a stolen base; this is the dilemma facing the other team when Hamilton reaches. Hamilton can change the fortune of the Reds offense by improving his ability to get on base. He knows what to do once he is on base. He just needs to increase the frequency that he is on base.
Let me begin by apologizing to everyone for jinxing their favorite time. I have the ability to ruin a good thing in baseball when I suggest the individual or team will be successful. Don’t believe me, ask the people I play fantasy baseball with. In the last two years I have drafted Roy Halladay, Kris Medlen, Jurkson Profar, Mike Minor, Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, ect. Understand now? So in keeping with this tradition I thought The Winning Run might offer up our own predictions for every team heading into this season. I am sure that we, myself and two contributors, either are completely wrong or just ruined the season for someone by believing in them. If this happens, we are sorry, but nevertheless here are our predictions.
The American League East
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox (1st Wild Card)
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
The Rays, Red Sox, Yankees, and Orioles could finish in any order 1 through 4. The Blue Jays are the clear favorite to finish fifth in the East. The Rays have the youth to stay healthy which the Yankees lack and the pitching which the Orioles lack. Repeating as World Series Champions is a difficult task. Nearly all the breaks when Boston’s way last year. It is time for the Rays to harness their young talent and win the American League East.
The American League Central
Cleveland Indians (2nd Wild Card)
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
The Tigers may well be the best team in baseball. Miguel Cabrera and the rest of the offense will put up plenty of offense while the pitching staff led by Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer could make short work of the opposition. The Twins and White Sox are both in full rebuilding mode and are fighting to stay out of the basement. The Indians are putting it together and could win the division if it was not for the Tigers and their dominance. The Royals will remain in the hunt for the post season well into September, however the youth which will make the Royals winners for years to come will fall just short this year.
The American League West
Los Angels Angels of Anaheim
Moneyball has reinvented itself and Oakland will find new ways to continue winning. Their pitching will carry them while they will over power the rest of the West by doing all the little things. The Angels will be healthier and have better pitching, but the pitching still is not quite there, and the offense relies too much on power, so when the bats go quiet the Angels will lose ground. The Rangers have had too many injuries this Spring to dig put of an early hole. Texas should be back in the race next year. Robinson Cano is now the man and he will be enjoying an extra month of vacation as the Mariners will be out of the hunt by mid summer. The Astros will be a major threat. Not now, in the future. 2014 is about not losing 100+ games again.
The National League East
Washington Nationals (1st Wild Card)
New York Mets
The Atlanta Braves will get more production from B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla, things could not have gone worse for these two in 2013. A rebound by two of the regular line up and the signing of Ervin Santana should pick up what was lost when Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy went down for the season. Washington Nationals have the tools but should fall just short. Injuries remain a constant worry for Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. Both the offense and defense are among the best in baseball, but they still have not bridged the gap to the elite even with signing Doug Fister. The Mets will pass the Phillies as New York is building towards the future while Philadelphia is still dreaming that it is 2008. The Marlins will be better, but they need more time before the can get out of the basement.
The National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals will once again be the class of the National League Central. The Cardinal way should have an easier time winning the division this season, as they are among the best in all of baseball. The Reds lost Shin Shoo Choo and Bronson Arroyo but they will have a full season of Billy Hamilton tearing up the base paths. The Pirates, like the Red Sox, had nearly every bounce go their way last season. Pittsburgh should see I slight step back this season, but not like in their two decade absence from the playoffs. The Cubs and Brewers are both a mess. Neither is in a quick rebuilding cycle and both should be out of the race fairly quickly. Look for a fight to stay out of the basement of the Central.
The National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants (2nd Wild Card)
San Diego Padres
The Dodgers, and their highest payroll in Major League Baseball, should keep the momentum of 2013 going as they should have the West won easily in time to align their rotation for the playoffs. The Giants should stay with the Dodgers for a while this year, but ultimately their season comes down to how healthy Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, and company can stay. If healthy San Francisco could do some damage. The Diamondbacks cannot keep pace with the Dodgers and Giants and will be a strong 3rd place team all season that could dictate who does and does not make the playoffs. The Rockies and Padres are full of young talent. Colorado has Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to lead their revival. San Diego is still seasoning their young talent at the Major League level. Look for San Diego to be the best last place team in baseball.
Once the playoffs go through their paces the Cardinals will play the Athletic’s in the World Series. Oakland will win the World Series over the Cardinals 4 games to 2 as the Cardinals finally tire out due to late post season runs the last several seasons and the Athletic’s and their intangibles finally win a World Series in the Moneyball era.
Love our picks? Hate our picks? Regardless this is what we think will happen in 2014. If we are correct in our picks it will be by luck, because anyone who knows baseball knows it is never predictable. We have had Opening Day now lets get going and see how the season works out.
D, J, and B