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Week 1 Recap

Ahhhh, it’s good to have “real” baseball back!

It’s still early in the season, the excitement is still high, and I have baseball on pretty much non-stop once the kids are in bed (Baseball can’t trump Elmo during wind down time). So if you haven’t had much time, or you tend to focus on a single team, don’t worry I’ve got you covered. Here’s a quick recap of what has happened the past 10 days.

  • Opening Day starts with a bang
    First pitch, first hit, first home run. Ian Happ wasted no time and went yard on the first pitch of the MLB season and forced a sports writer to eat his words and go swimming. The Marlins are not going to be good this season after Jeter shipped everyone out (including Marlins Man… he’s still a Free Agent though). Happ has struggled mightily since then after what looked like a no-brainer pick in Group E of the HR Derby contest.
  • Home Runs are still King
    There were 33 homers hit on opening day. That’s the most since 2006 when the league started doing mandated drug testing. Don’t worry, they have finally admitted to the ball being slightly different. Lower seam height… maybe causing less movement on pitches?! Whatever the cause, I’m happy to see homers still flying out at a high rate to help with our home run contest.
  • Orioles like to Walk-Off on Opening Day
    The Orioles are the first team to win 3… 3! consecutive Opening Days with walk-off hits. This year it was done by Adam Jones in the 11th inning.
  • Free Baseball and No Baseball
    Speaking of extra innings, as of April 8th, there have been 18 games that have provided free baseball to fans, including a 17-inning snooze fest between the Cubs and the Marlins. A lot of them being spectacular and exciting finishes. On the other side of the spectrum, MLB decided to start baseball 5 days earlier than usual to give teams 5 more off days throughout the season. However, some of those have already been consumed because Winter just won’t quite (I think I’m on day 567 of Winter). There have been 10 postponed games thus far which is going to make for a packed Summer of baseball.
  • Harper Hits Homers
    Harper is on a tear. He just doesn’t stop hitting. He’s now hit 6 homers in 27 AB and has 13 Walks which is good enough for the top of the HR leader board. It only helps his stats when he faces pitchers that he just OWNS. Harper has Atlanta Braves Julio Teheran’s number. He has now homered off of him 8 times (once this year already) in 39 ABs with a slugging pct of 1.154. But that’s ok, the Braves organist got a good laugh out of Harper coming to town by playing Go Cubs Go and New York, New York as Harper approached the batter’s box (Harper is a free agent this season and will go where the money is).
  • Stranger Things are afoot in MLB
    So there have been more and more odd things going on in the MLB these days. The defensive shift is super popular. There is a pitch clock and a man starting at 2B in extra innings in the Minors. But some managers are getting even crazier. The Tampa Bay Rays have implemented a 4 man starting pitcher rotation. That’s not all that odd, but 1 of the days is a ‘Bullpen’ day. Yes, the Rays have 3 SP on their roster and the rest are Relievers. Even more strange is that the ‘Bullpen’ day is the 3rd spot in the rotation. Sooooo, they plan to burn up the bullpen on the day before their worst starting pitcher?! Just as odd are the Astros’ new defensive shift of 4 outfielders. Do they think they are playing beer league softball or what?! Just bunt it to 3B!!! If this 4 man outfield “works”, I suspect the MLB coming up with a rule about odd shifts which probably will include 5 infielder shifts as well.
  • Sho-time
    Continuing the non-normal theme, Shohei Ohtani bluffed everyone in Spring Training. His stats in Spring were 4-for-32 at the plate and a 16.2 ERA on the mound. But with a simple change to his batting stance (no more leg kick), Ohtani is 7-for-18 with 3 homers and a 2.08 ERA with taking a perfect game into the 7th inning. Right now, he has MORE home runs than Aaron Judge AND MORE strikeouts than Max Scherzer. Ya, I would say that is living up to the hype.
  • The Giants offense is scuffling but winning games
    The Giants are the first team to get their first 3 runs of a season by 3 solo home runs by the same player. Yes, Joe Panik (not a HR hitter by trade) hit 3 solo home runs and the Giants won 2 of those games by a score of 1-0. Not only is that odd, but the newly acquired McCutchen was awful with a 2-for-24 start but then goes 6-for-7 in an extra inning game with a walk-off homer.
  • Back to Back to Start, Back to Back to End
    The Brewers and Cardinals made history this week by starting a game where the first two batters hit Back-to-Back homers and then the game ended with the last 2 hitters going Back-to-Back to walk-off a win for the Home Team… thankfully, the Brewers were on the winning side of that game.
  • Eagles Continue to Make Headlines in Minnesota
    James Paxton of the Mariners (nicknamed “Big Maple” because he’s Canadian) became a true American this week when a Bald Eagle landed on him during the National Anthem in Minneapolis. The last time Eagles made the headlines in Minnesota… Beating the Vikings in the Superbowl in February. *Bu Dum Tss*
  • Fighting Phils put up a 20 on the scoreboard
    The Phillies are on the back-end of finishing a rebuild. Will they be good this season? Will it be 1 more season? The signed Arrieta hoping to help build a young starting rotation, but the Phillies bats did all the talking during one game. They scored 20 (they only scored 19 in the first 9 days) against the horrible Marlins by hitting 2 grand slams in the first 3 innings of the game. The first time since Fernando Tatis did it by himself for the Cardinals in 1999… and in the same inning.
  • Big Fat Bartolo Colon is still relevant
    Somehow, at the age of 44, soon to be 45, “Big Sexy” is still relevant in the pitching world of professional baseball. He signed with the Rangers and in his first game of the season he threw 6-innings of 1 run ball for a QS (no run support ended in a non-win). He literally throws like 1 pitch, an 85mph 2-seam fastball. How can most pitchers not pitch below a 4.00era and here Bartolo is at 45, throwing 1 pitch, and still keeping his team competitive?!
  • Red Sox Can Still Make History
    And finally, the Red Sox have started 8-1 this season. This is the first time in the club’s history… which dates back to 1901. I didn’t think they would win the AL East (those Yankees’ bats are crazy powerful) but with their best start in history, maybe I should reconsider the AL East final standings.

What did I miss from the Opening Week??? Feel free to comment below.

And So It Begins… 2018 Starts With a BANG!!

Wow… wow… So we all know that the Marlins are bad. I mean Jeter cleaned house down there (Brewers fans rejoice!). He not only let go of all of his talent, he fired the Mascot, and he let the Marlins biggest fan, Marlins Man, go to Free Agency to find a new team.

But did we ever expect Ian Happ to open the season with a monster Home Run on the FIRST pitch of the season. Obviously, a lot of you think Ian Happ is going to do great things in the Home Run department this season at the top of the Cubs lineup (more on the group selections later). But no way, you all thought the first pitch of the season was going to go over the wall. That was the first time since like 1986 when Dwight Evans did it.

Opening days other major story line, which also ties to Miami, wasn’t a let down either. Stanton’s first AB as a Yankee also saw the ball leave the yard. And then he did it a 2nd time later in the game. He’s on pace for 324 HR this season. And he may be the only player that can actually maintain that pace.

However, Stanton’s two homer game wasn’t the most impressive display of Homers on Opening Day. The Chicago WhiteSox, yes that isn’t a typo, the Chicago WhiteSox had a home run derby of their own on opening day with 6 homers. 6! And those 6 were hit between only 3 guys. Matt Davidson hit 3 of those homers. No one chose Matt Davidson… and yes, I actually put him in Group D. So he was actually a choice I gave you…

Derby News:
Thank you for putting up with a couple hours without the standings on Opening Day. It’s like a holiday for me, so I was out watching all the games with a group of guys and didn’t want to risk breaking the standings until I was sitting behind a computer to debug the inevitable problems.

Surprisingly, after about 4hrs of execution (real robust validation over here…), the standings look to be fully functional and it only took me 2hrs of debugging this year (2hrs is a HUGE success in my mind). The standings should be updating roughly every 15 minutes. If stats don’t look correct, give it a few minutes and refresh. If they still look wrong, the stats should get corrected by noon the next day. Just a reminder that the official stats are kept offline and are triple verified for accuracy. The online stats are just for convenience and my sanity of not having to manually update them.

If you are new, here’s a reminder on how the standings page works and how you can use the standings to see a bunch of different information (yes, the capabilities of the standings is much, much more than just finding your name).

As for the entries, we have succeeded in having more entries again for the 8th straight season (pending a few payments) and I’ve only been doing this for 8 seasons. It still impresses me how much excellent feedback you guys give me on wanting me to continue do this competition. Even with a year off, we still managed to have 107 contestants (this ties 2016 entries but we had a few forfeit their teams in April due to missing payment deadlines). So kudos to you for spreading the word on our fun little contest. I’m still debating on how to award the prizes this season, but I will continue to payout prizes through the entire standings, similar to what we did in 2016, and not just rewarding the very top teams.

I thought this season was the easiest for me to group players in a long time. It seemed like there were obvious tiers of power hitters.
But apparently, you all tend to like the same player in a lot of the groups (I’m guilty too this season in gravitating to player names versus the statistics). And for the first time in 8 seasons of the contest, we finally have a duplicate team selection. And not just 1, we have at least 2 duplicate team selections. And there may even a few more that I haven’t noticed but will become apparent as more and more ABs are taking this season.

Stanton, Trout, Hoskins, Ozuna was a very popular combination this year. 4 teams had some form of this combination. That may not sound like a lot but with over 9million+ combinations, that’s probably the most similar picks in 4 groups we have ever had. And if you did have this combination, you duplicated a team. Yes, of those 4 teams, there were only 2 group E selections… Ian Happ and Yasiel Puig.

The most popular selections in each group were: Giancarlo Stanton (51 teams), Mike Trout (34), Freddie Freeman (20), Marcell Ozuna (27), and Ian Happ (19). Let’s take a look at the selection breakdown per group:

Group A
What happens when you are the most powerful swinger and you have a full, healthy season? You hit 59 homers and then get traded to a home run friendly ball park and hit 2 homers on Opening Day. You also get chosen by almost 50% of the HR Derby contestants. Yes, Stanton leads group A by a long shot. The second most is no surprise either, his own teammate, Aaron Judge. We could see almost 120 home runs just between these two guys this season. The Yankees are going to be fun to watch (Whoa, did I just actually say that…). Every player in Group A got some love this season with no player getting snubbed by all team selections.

  • Stanton – 51
  • Judge – 24
  • Arenado – 17
  • Encarnacion – 4
  • Bellinger – 3
  • K.Davis/Gallo/Martinez – 2
  • Cruz/Donaldson – 1

Group B
I finally caved and put Trout and Harper down in Group B. Just looking at their past statistics and performances, they didn’t deserve to be in the top tier with the true power swingers from last season and seasons past. In doing so, almost 50% of the teams chose one of those 2 players. 1 in 3 teams choosing Trout. Goldy got the 3rd most selections. Apparently, 10 of you aren’t worried about the humidor in Arizona this season (is baseball really going to mandate humidors in all stadiums next season?!). And, much to my surprise, the Cubs fans prefer Bryant over Rizzo… 9 to 7. Jay Bruce get 0 selections from Group B… no love for a guy who has hit over 30 homers in 5 seasons in his career.

  • Trout – 34
  • Harper – 14
  • Goldschmidt – 10
  • Bryant – 9
  • Rizzo – 7
  • Sano – 6
  • Schwarber – 5
  • Dozier/Machado/Votto – 3
  • Cespedes/Duda/Sanchez/Springer/Abreu – 2
  • C.Davis/Frazier/Upton – 1
  • Bruce – 0

Group C
Half of the teams chose one of the following 3 players: Blackmon (23), Freeman (20), Hoskins (18). Hoskins put on a display of power late last season and people took notice. But some of you may have forgotten of the even more impressive display of power late in 2017 by Matt Olson, as only 3 gambled on that youngster. Youth powers Group C choices as we see a lot of our aging stars not getting many selections (Granderson/Jones/Morales/Napoli/Pujols/HanRam/Seager/Trumbo).

  • Blackmon – 23
  • Freeman – 20
  • Hoskins – 18
  • Correa – 11
  • Lamb – 7
  • Morrison – 6
  • Jones/Olson/Smoak/Thames – 3
  • Dickerson/Myers – 2
  • Bour/Morales/Pujols/Ramirez/D.Santana/K.Seager – 1
  • Bautista/Conforto/Napoli/Trumbo – 0

Group D
As the groups keep expanding with more and more selections, the choices should start to distribute more and more. Group D isn’t an exception except there is a major distribution between only 3 guys before the field becomes much more selective. Ozuna got a whopping 27 picks in Group D. Did I screw up in his grouping? Am I biased because he plays for the Cardinals? Am I skeptical of his 37 homer season last year after never topping 23 previously? I don’t know, but after watching his ABs yesterday, he did not look very good… at all. Hopefully he and the 27 teams that chose him proves me wrong.

Moose coming back to KC, after failing at free agency, got 16 of you excited. And 7 of you like the odds of Mookie Betts repeating his success in Boston this season. We are all probably very lucky that we didn’t play in 2017, because most of us would have probably gotten burned on Trevor Story’s elite 2016. Only 5 managers were even willing to risk their selections on him in Group D this season.

  • Ozuna – 27
  • Moustakas – 16
  • Betts – 7
  • DeJong/Lindor/Shaw/Story – 5
  • Braun/McCutchen/Odor/Schoop/C.Seager – 4
  • Baez/Zimmerman – 3
  • Gattis/Grichuk – 2
  • Beltre/Cano/Cargo/Moreland/J.Ramirez/Souza – 1
  • Bell/Belt/Cabrera/Davidson/Franco/Kemp/McCann/Mesoraco/Pearce/Renfroe/Reynolds/C.Santana – 0

Group E
Ah, the write-in group. This is my favorite group. Why?! Because I really enjoy seeing the people who write-in a guy that I decided to not include on the list. It makes me have to research the guy and understand what you may see in that player that I didn’t see. We had a few people write-in Ohtani, which I would love to see the Japanese Babe Ruth succeed from both sides of the plate. But after a disastrous Spring Training, those few teams rightfully backed out of the selection.

We did have 16 teams go off script and choose players that weren’t originally listed: Acuna, T.Beckham, Bird, Broxton, Buxton, Carpenter, Chapman, Devers (2), Kipnis, Mazara, McMahon, Pham, Pollock, Soler, Yelich.

Otherwise, the Cubs fans really dominated by coming through with an alarming 20 picks for Ian Happ. I’ll be honest, I hope I’m the one that is right by putting him in Group E. But after yesterday and all the hype the media is giving him, I think I may have been wrong for including him this low. Jose Altuve was popular with 13 after he lit up the scoreboard last season. How does a guy that is so small have so much pop?! Castellanos (8), Sir Didi (8), and Puig were also popular picks in Group E when you could have chosen almost anyone in the MB player universe.

  • Happ – 20
  • Altuve – 13
  • Castellanos/Gregorious – 8
  • Puig – 7
  • Contreras/Rosario – 5
  • Rendon – 4
  • Longoria/Schebler – 3
  • Devers/Gyorko/Hosmer/Pham/Zunino – 2
  • Alonso/Calhoun/Choo/Grandal/Healy/Murphy/Suarez/J.Turner – 1

Write-in:
Acuna/T.Beckham/Bird/Broxton/Buxton/Carpenter/Chapman – 1
Kipnis/Mazara/McMahon/Pollock/Doler/Yelich – 1

Week 1, 2016: What A Story!

Wow. Week 1 of 2016 feels very different than Week 1 in years past. I mean, The Offense… Wow!! No pitcher was safe the first week. Big names got lit-up, no names got lit-up. There have been less than 10 days of baseball and already there have been already 233 home runs!

The current league leader? Trevor Story
What?! You don’t know who that is. Well, one of our Home Run Derby managers did and he is currently riding the hot streak as his write-in candidate (more on the Derby later). Trevor Story has hit 7 home runs in the Rockies first 7 games. And it has been quit impressive to watch. He’s hitting fastballs, sliders, curveballs out of the zone. He is one of the Rockies top prospects and got an opportunity when Jose Reyes was suspended by Major League Baseball (what a fall from grace that guy has had). Story can’t keep up this pace, but it sure is exciting to watch at the moment.

And what about those Cubbies. This is ‘the’ year… or so I’m told. But they lost a key piece on day 2 of the season. Kyle Schwarber went down with a torn ACL after colliding with the Fowler in the outfield. The experiment of him in leftfield didn’t last long and he will now sit out for the remainder of the season (sorry to the 2 managers that selected him in the Derby). But the Cubs are still in first place at 6-1.

There are no teams that haven’t lost and there are two teams who haven’t won (thank god it’s not the Brewers). The Orioles were the last unbeaten but lost on Wednesday to go to 7-1. Versus the Braves and Twins who are 0-8 and I’m not sure they plan on winning any time soon.

Other interesting notes from Week 1:

  • The new interference slide rule has been interesting to watch. Two games ended on an interference call (Brewers got a win thanks to one) where neither slide looked that bad but the players did break the rules per the writing of the rule. It will be interesting to see if the writings change.
  • The Dodgers pulled a rookie pitcher in his first career start when he had a no-hitter intact. Ross Stripling hit 100 pitches and hadn’t allowed a hit through 7.1 innings. But he is coming off Tommy John and his limit was 100 pitches prior to the game… A no-hitter by a rookie in his first appearance hasn’t occurred since 1892 when Bumpus Jones did it (Note: Bumpus is a great name to save for my second son).
  • Robinson Cano is looking like a Yankee hitting into the short porch again. He hit 4 homers in the first 3 games for Seattle but has cooled off again but that’s still the best in Group C of the Derby so far.
  • Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rookie pitcher from Japan, pitched well in his first professional game. But it wasn’t his pitching that people were talking about. Maeda slammed a home run in his second at-bat. I love pitchers batting for the strategy and the entertainment. #JustSayNoToDH
  • And lastly, Harper stole my HR Derby team name. But I’m willing to vote for him this fall when compared to my other choices…

Derby Update:
Well, I battled Google again the entire first week to get our player stats updating correctly. But I’ve out smarted them, at least for now. So the standings should be updating roughly every 15 minutes. If stats don’t look correct, give it a few minutes and refresh. If they still look wrong, the stats should get corrected by noon the next day. Just a reminder that the official stats are kept offline and are triple verified for accuracy. The online stats are just for convenience and my sanity of not having to manually update them.

As for the entries, we have succeeded in having more entries again for the 7th straight season (pending a few payments) and I’ve only been doing this for 7 seasons. So that’s kind of awesome. Right now we are sitting at 107 contestants and roughly 20% of those teams are first time participants. So kudos to you for spreading the word on our fun little contest. I’m also saving a bit of a twist this season, but I won’t announce that until the beginning of May. So be on the look out for that announcement.

Also for the 7th consecutive year, we don’t have a duplicate team selection. This still boggles my mind. I know there are something like 9million+ combinations but there are only so many players that are typically selected in each category and this season was no different. Let’s take a look at the selection breakdown per group:

Group A
This is a much more diverse group A than last season. The most common player chosen isn’t even on 1 out of every 4 teams which is Stanton at less than 25%. Chris Davis in Baltimore surprised me at being the 2nd most selected. And then Harper and Trout are neck and neck which I’m sure if they followed our contest would just add fuel to the rivalry between them. And then there is Ortiz, who got 0 love from us for his retirement campaign. Adios DH.

  • Stanton – 26
  • Davis – 19
  • Harper – 18
  • Trout – 15
  • Abreu – 6
  • Cruz/Donaldson/Rizzo – 5
  • Goldschmidt – 4
  • Bautista – 3
  • Encarnacion – 1
  • Ortiz – 0

Group B
I’ll be honest. I was very afraid when the first entries started to trickle in this season because it felt like I saw Arenado on every entry in group B. In reality, he’s only on about 1 out of every 3 teams. Followed by Bryant riding the Cubs fan-wagon. Then there is a steep drop to either young upside players or proven veterans. Unfortunately for 2 teams (This Is The Year and Billy The Goats), they will have to use their trade on April 26th to replace Schwarber. Most surprising to not get a single selection, the hottest Group E player a season ago, Joc Pederson. I guess people didn’t like his K, BB, or HR mentality at the plate.

  • Arenado – 34
  • Bryant – 22
  • Sano – 9
  • Cargo – 8
  • Cabrera/Martinez – 6
  • Cespedes/Frazier – 5
  • Pujols – 4
  • Correa/Machado/Schwarber – 2
  • Alvarez/Park – 1
  • Carter/Duda/Gattis/Jones/Pederson/Arod/Springer/Teixeira – 0

Group C
This by far is the most difficult group. Do you go with the mediocre power hitter who showcased more power once or do you go with the declining veteran? Obviously based on the selections below, no one has the right answer. Their are no real standout surprises below, but I’m sure the 2 teams (1907, 1908, 2016 World Champs… and Toad Frazier who selected Cano are liking their choice right now with 5 homers.

  • McCutchen – 13
  • Dozier/Upton – 11
  • Trumbo/Votto – 8
  • A.Gonzalez – 7
  • Bruce/Fielder/Granderson – 6
  • Seager – 5
  • Braun – 4
  • Bour/Davis/Tulo – 3
  • Cano/Puig/Rasmus – 2
  • Gallo/Howard/Kemp/Longoria/McCann/Moreland/Valbuena – 1
  • Hamilton/LaRoche/Moss/Pollock/HanRam – 0

Group D
Ah, yes, Group D. The group that harbors the catchers, the fallen stars, and the high ceiling young unproven players. This is always a crap shoot. Just throw a dart and hope you get lucky. Franco had a huge Spring Training so I’m a little surprised by him only being chosen by 10 teams. But I’m sure the 1 team who chose Dickerson (Trasky) and the other who chose Souza (Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz) is really liking their selections at the moment.

  • Grichuk – 15
  • Calhoun – 13
  • Franco/Freeman – 10
  • Posey – 7
  • Beltre/Conforto/Crawford – 4
  • Beltran/Holliday/Marte/Morales/Smoak/Soler – 3
  • Baez/Betts/Byrd/Gomez/Pence/C.Santana/Seager/Souza/Zimmerman – 2
  • Belt/Dickerson/Napoli/Wieters – 1
  • Desmond/Mesoraco/Pearce/Reynolds/Singleton – 0

Group E
For the first time in our 7 year history, more than 15% of the teams wrote in a player that wasn’t on my original list. And 2 of those write-ins were the 4th and 5th most popular selections in the group (Chris Carpenter and Domingo Santana). The best choice in Group E thus far (who was also a write-in)… Trevor Story who was selected by PEDispensers and is riding the league leader in HR to the top of the current Derby standings.

  • Moustakas – 18
  • Heyward – 13
  • Hosmer – 10
  • Plouffe – 9
  • Carpenter – 7
  • D. Santana – 6
  • Cron/Vmart/Reddick/Schoop – 4
  • D’Arnaud/Garcia/Kang/C.Perez/Valencia/Werth/Story/Buxton – 1
  • Guerrero/Gomes/Gyorko/Hart/Headley/Kim/Lind/Morse/Tomas/Young – 0

Most unique team selection once again goes to Manager H. Stovall and the team of My Husband and his Alter Egos. They chose assembled and entire team of players with the name of Carlos or Curtis as a tribute to their husbands alter ego. A very close second goes to Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz managed by K. Wolf who only selected players with Z’s in their name.

The season has just begun and I can’t wait for the rest of the summer baseball!

Ballpark Review: PNC P-aaaaaaargh-k

The site has been fairly silent with the summer sun starting to set. It’s just one of the sacrifices made this summer, not due to the lack of stories because there has been plenty (Mets crying in Baseball, an AWESOME home run derby, or the Brewers bullpen catcher setting the Philly Cheesesteak eating record), but just lack of time to do the stories and the site justice (I’ve barely had any time to properly host fantasy baseball leagues).

One thing I have found time for was some vacation time. Time away from the monotony of ever day life. And one thing I (we) like to do on vacation time is visiting new stadiums and watching good baseball. And I was fortunate enough recently to visit Pittsburgh, which many call the best place to watch a baseball game, to see the red hot Pirates take on the National League favorite Nationals.

I’m not here to review the offense heavy game that ran Scherzer out of the game in 5 innings with 5 runs. But I will review a ballpark that is a must visit for any true baseball fan.


PNC Park, Pittsburgh

The Stadium:

  • Very open and airy. Maybe I’m too used to domes, but the outfield seating wasn’t very tall which allows for the nice weather be shared with the fans.
  • Great views of the city of Pittsburgh. Thanks to the outfield not being a skyscarper itself, there is a great view of the downtown, the Roberto Clemente bridge, and you can hear the great sounds of boating and fun being had on the river.
  • Pirate theme is well played. They don’t underplay or overplay the Pirate theme throughout the park. They have their pirate flags and the big Jolly Roger in CF that gets raised after a win. Their scoreboard is all pirate ship themed graphics. And after every home run they fire the cannons and fireworks. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a plank to push the opposing team mascot off either.
  • Great food and amazing prices. They have all your ballpark staples plus fresh seafood (sushi included), wings, extra large sandwiches, and best of all Pierogies. I would definitely recommend the pierogies. One because they have the pierogi races, two they are amazingly delicious, and three they only cost 5 bucks. Most of the food and beer there are surprisingly cheap. I think I paid $8 for a 24oz bomber.
  • Souvenirs. Lots of choices and great deals. I’ve been in a lot of merchandise shops and typically you see all the same things just with a different team logo on the item. But somehow the Pirates merchandise stores have a lot of items and clothing that I have never seen in any other MLB logo. So many choices! And the prices aren’t marked up 400%. The prices are actually amounts you would find at your local superstore. Plus they gave away free shirts to everyone that day and threw shirts into that stands at least twice in the game. Gotta love free swag.
  • Friendly players. Every single half inning, Starling Marte through his warm-up ball into the stands. You don’t see that much anymore. I’m not sure the MLB appreciates it due to the possibility of a lawsuit if anything were to happen. But Marte seems to be a true player of the fans, and that seemed to be the case with all the Pirate players that came near the fans.
  • The only negative I encountered with the stadium was that the traffic and flow in the concourse was horrible. At times we had to walk through the seats in order to avoid complete gridlocks.

The Fans:

  • Diehards. It may just be the fact that the Pirates are competitive again, but the fans are enthusiastic and nice people. There were a few National fans around us that had to make a scene but the Pirate fans left them be. No jawing, just ignoring. And the stadium was pretty much sold out and the streets/bars were packed with people that I don’t even think had tickets to the game.
  • The mates dressed their part. It never occurred to me but I think the Pirates may be the only team that the fans can actually dress up to show their team’s support. I mean who is going to dress up as a type of bird, a fish, or an article of clothing you wear on your feet. Maybe an Angel or a Ranger?! But yes, in Pittsburgh, it isn’t weird to see Pirates roaming the streets (some of them drunk like its their only day at port) or the concourses. In fact, I’m kind of upset I didn’t strap on my peg leg, pulled down an eye patch, and had Petey the Parrot on my shoulder.

The Location:

  • The city. Another stadium located in the heart of the city. Not on the outskirts, not in the sticks, its in the city. What is even more remarkable? The city shuts down the Clemente bridge and surrounding roads for games, which becomes mobbed with people. The river separates the game from the high rises, and the trees and rolling hills separate the city from the freeways and passers by.
  • The stadium surroundings. As mentioned previously, the surrounding streets are shutdown pre, during, and post game. There are lots of bars and restaurants within close proximity of the stadium. But even cooler are the bars and restaurants built into the exterior of the stadium that allows fans (with and without tickets) to eat and drink while socializing in the shut down streets. They even had a live band playing outside the gates pre-game.
  • The river. I’m jealous of the fans who just cruise down the river. Dock their boat in right field. Listen to the game on the radio and the sounds of the stadium. Heck, they even got a chance at 2 home run balls at the game we were at.

Seriously, put this stadium at the top of your list of next visits. You won’t regret it (except maybe the hotel prices around the stadium).

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2015 All-Star Preview: The NL vs… The Royals???

I can’t even comment on the Hack-a-thon that the Cardinals organization is putting together right now… you just wonder why did they hack the Astros instead of someone like the Dodgers or Nationals??

I’d rather talk about how stupid homer and bandwagon baseball fans are instead of how stupid the evil empire is.

Yes, you read that right. I’m calling out all homer, bandwagon, one-day baseball fans out there. That or MLB has to be dealing with a hack or autobot of its own. Why am I calling them (some of you) out?! 8 of the 9 projected players (including a DH who will not start in the All-Star game) are from the Royals… 8!!!!!! The only starting position player that wouldn’t be a Royal is Mike Trout (well, atleast there are enough Non-Royal fans voting for the same person to overtake them).

I wouldn’t have a problem with 8 players from a single team assuming that the players were a top-3 player at their position between the dates of the last All-star game and today (or even just this season). But that’s not the case with players like Omar Infante who has a -0.2 WAR. NEGATIVE 0.2 Wins Above Replacement. Meaning he could be substituted by 18 other 2B this season and the Royals would have at least 0.2 more wins this season. And one of those other 18 2B is Jason Kipnis who actually has the 3rd Highest WAR among ALL players this season. Kipnis is behind Infante by almost 3 million votes. 3 Million!!! At least Altuve is within 300,000 of Infante…

Or how about Eric Hosmer at 1B. Ya, he’s having a decent year at 30+ Runs/RBI, 7HR, and almost a 0.300 BA. But I can name 3 other American League 1B that are having much, much better years and their WAR rating agree. How about Teixeira with 18HR and 48RBI. Or Pujols who looks like he’s back in St. Louis and just keeps homering with 19HR. Or how about the top 1B in the AL, Miguel Cabrera who has 14HR, 38RBI, and a 0.345 BA.

Let’s pick another position on the diamond. Outfield. The Royals have 3 of the top-4 outfielders in the current All-Star voting. Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, and Alex Rios. I can’t argue with Cain, he’s a legitimate All-Star this season. Gordon is close but he is a top-5 AL outfielder this season so he’s fine in my books as well. But Alex Rios has played 20 games total and is batting 0.213. There are probably at least 35-40 other starting outfielders more deserving than him (and if you did the math, there are only 42 other starting OF in the AL that aren’t Royals).

Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that fans get to vote for the All-Stars. What I don’t like is when fans don’t vote for the players that are the most deserving. It’s like we are in a high-school popularity contest. MLB needs a way to fix this issue because it hurts the die-hard fan base more than the casual fan base. I would say that any ballot that has 5 or more players from the same team selected, you just throw that ballot in the trash. Or maybe MLB limits the maximum number of players from a single team being able to start the All-Star game. Or maybe MLB just corrects the issue itself by fudging the numbers for the players that are the most deserving. Seriously, I would be ok with a sudden, unexplainable up-tick in votes over the next 15 days that dethroned several of these Royals players.

I like the Royals, but I also have an understanding of what it means to be an All-Star player.

Passing Zone Ahead: Major Milestones

There is a saying that goes something like “Rules are meant to be broken”… er, that’s not the quote I wanted to apply to A-rod…

“Records are made to be broken”. There that’s the quote I was looking for. And breaking records Arod is trying to do prior to his unbelievable contract expiring in New York.

ARod passed Willie Mays for 4th all-time on the career HR list with his homer on May 7th (He has 3 since then for a total of 664, or 98 behind Bonds). And then 20 days later (May 37), ARod passes Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig for 3rd all-time on the career RBI list at 1995 RBI (only 302 more to go to break Hank Arron’s all-time record).

Steroid asterisk aside, its always incredible and jaw dropping to see records be broken or nearly broken. To be a sports fan witnessing history just makes for great story telling. I can remember the McGwire/Sosa home run chase and watching the game live when McGwire send a line drive out of the park to break the record (against Sosa and the Cubs no less). Then a few days later, Ripken ended his Ironman streak at 2632 games played. A few years later, I watched Bonds break the McGwire mark with 71 homers in a season followed by breaking the Hank Arron 756 home run mark.

When the Brewers were bad (similar to this season), I can remember even cheering on Jose Hernandez to break the single season strikeout record as a hitter (which Mark Reynolds has destroyed since then). He promptly benched himself 1 shy of the record for like 4 out of the last 5 games so that he wouldn’t be cheered for when striking out.

Good times down memory lane. But let’s look ahead to the future. What players should you be paying attention to this season as they near significant MLB milestones.

  • Alex Rodriguez:
    • 3000 hits – Projected June 20th. Currently at 2982 hits.
    • 8th All-time Runs Leader – Projected June 1. Currently at 1947 runs. 3 away from overtaking Stan Musial.
  • Albert Pujols:
    • 17th All-time Home Run Leader – Projected June 27th. Currently at 529. 6 away from overtaking Jamie Foxx.
    • 20th All-time Doubles Leader – Projected July 3rd. Currently at 568 doubles. 7 away from overtaking 20th place.
    • 16th All-time Home Run Leader – Projected July 9th. Currently at 529. 8 away from overtaking Mickey Mantle.
    • 19th All-time Doubles Leader – Projected July 30th. Currently at 568 doubles. 11 away from overtaking Wade Boggs.
    • 18th All-time Doubles Leader – Projected August 27th. Currently at 568 doubles. 16 away from overtaking Robin Yount.
    • 17th All-time Doubles Leader – Projected September 8th. Currently at 568 doubles. 18 away from overtaking Rafael Palmeiro.
    • 15th All-time Home Run Leader – Projected September 20th. Currently at 529. 20 away from overtaking Mike Schmidt.
  • David Ortiz:
    • 20th All-time Doubles Leader – Projected October 2nd. Currently at 555 doubles. 20 away from overtaking 20th place.
  • Ichiro Suzuki:
    • 38th All-time Steals Leader – Projected July 28th. Currently at 490 SB. 6 away from overtaking Willie Keeler.
    • 3000 Hits – Projected early 2016 season. Currently at 2876 hits.

True Life: I’m A Sub .500 Fan

Originally Posted July 2, 2010:

Cue the entry audio to MTV’s True Life.

Fans come in all different sorts of intoxicating personalities. We all know of the Fair Weather Fan. They join the party after the party has already started. They jump on the band wagon after the wagon has made its 100th winning stop. They can tell you the time they watched their team win the 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 World Series, but not their rosters.

Then there are the Casual Fans. They can tell you the big three on the team, but they can’t name who the starting catcher is. Or who replaced the struggling superstar closer. Or who filled in for the team’s famous broadcaster when he was out for heart surgery.

I think more annoying than casual fans are Homer Fans. These fans, no matter how pathetic their team is playing, still think their team is God’s gift to Earth and there losing season is to blame on this guy. You can’t even confront these fans about their team without receiving a reaction like this.

But let’s face it, the greatest type of fans are the DieHard Fans. No matter what they are doing, they will drop everything for a chance to watch their team play. No matter their team’s performance, they are behind them 110% for the entire season and off-season. They don’t just sit and agree with the GM’s moves, they analyze, criticize, and scrutinize all the moves and makes their voice heard.

I would like to encourage everyone to at least be a diehard fan for one season (of course, please assess the situation… marriage and family should still be top priority, by a small margin). Follow a team, any team, pick a new team, any sport, and follow each and every play as if it were their last.

The greatest moment in a sports fan life is to follow your team to the championship from the beginning when their record was 0-0 and watching them win it all… But, winning isn’t just about bringing home the bling. Sometimes, winning is just about making it to the championship, just barely making it into the playoffs, just finishing above 0.500 for the first time in 12 years. I can honestly say that following a losing team for years as a diehard fan pays the biggest dividends in the end. Some fans have never seen a losing season (the last Yankees losing season: 1992. Yankee fans under 21 years of age definitely can’t remember that). Some have only seen losing seasons. The diehard that sticks through sub 0.500 winning percentages from their team year after year get butterflies in their stomach when their team is even competing for a wild card spot (some fans look at contending for the wild card a losing season). Welcome to my life as a Brewers fan since the late 80’s.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
If you root for the following teams year after year despite finishing in the red, you have earned your badge which gives you access to the greatest circle of fans in the baseball community.

Baltimore Orioles / St. Louis Browns / 1901 Milwaukee Brewers
For the Rest of the Story: Follow the Jump…

DH or Not to DH. That is ‘The’ Question

OH MY GOD! Everyone LOOK! A pitcher got injured playing baseball so let’s all over react and say that a baseball player shouldn’t perform duties that the other ~70% of players have to perform.

Here we go again. People complaining about not having a DH in the National League. All because an athlete got injured performing a task he is weak at. Yup, Adam Wainwright was injured Saturday night when he tore his achilles as he left the batter’s box trying to run to first base.

I get it. Freak accident. Need something to blame. Blame the task you were doing because you aren’t very good at it and now you can’t do the tasks you enjoy doing and are good at it. If David Ortiz got injured playing 1B in an interleague game, would we start talking about not letting DH’s play in the field ever. Bad example, he shouldn’t be playing 1B if there is a DH in both leagues. Should we put a rule in play to not allow a position player to come in during the 17th inning to pitch because the last guy blew out his arm?

People are going to say I’m biased since I’m an National League fan. But let me lay out the facts:

No DH DH
Pitchers swing a limp noodle. Most sacrifice bunt. DH is usually the power hitter. Leads team in RBI and HR.
Pitchers get pulled in the 5th due to scoring opportunity and need a better hitter. Pitcher goes until he reaches a jam or his pitch count.
Bullpen and bench players get lots of use for strategic changes. Usually no one left to play by 13th inning. Always surprised by some new player pulled off the bench or the bullpen because they play once a month.
Double Switches!!! Two light switches???
Pitchers have to deal with revenge for ‘Chin Music’. Pitchers send out their position players to pay for their ‘Chin Music’.
NL teams lose out on good hitters that are horrible defenders. AL sign players that are not athletic enough to perform tasks by most players.
NL teams lose out on good pitchers that are horrible hitters. AL sign players that are not athletic enough to perform tasks by most players.

I get people tend to enjoy offense more than quality pitching and strategy. I get the fact that if it weren’t for the DH we wouldn’t be watching guys like A-Rod and Ortiz. Do other sports prolong athletes’ careers by letting them only perform a single task in the game? I never saw Michael Jordan come in to only shoot 3-pointers or free throws and then head back to the bench. I never saw Joe Montana come into games to throw a hook-and-ladder to Rice and then go back to the bench. Did Gretzky ever come onto the ice just to shoot a wrist shot and then go straight back to the bench?

Simply put, the DH ruins the game and only adds a bit of flare. The National League plays the game of baseball. They use strategy.

Scenario #1, your pitcher has only given up two runs in 6 innings but there are 2 men on with 2 outs your team is down 2-0 and the pitcher is up to bat. What do you do? Pull the pitcher and put in a hitting specialist and then have to pull that sub from the game to bring in the next pitcher? Let the pitcher attempt to hit and help his own cause?

Scenario #2, man on 2nd base. 1 out. Have the pitcher bunt and move the runner to 3rd? Let him swing away?

Scenario #3, 2 outs, men on the corners and your pitcher has thrown 110 pitches and his spot is up to bat first in the next inning. Burn a relief pitcher to maybe face a single batter and then have to substitute in a batter for him in the next inning? Double switch and move the RP to the previous batter who was your #5 batter? Leave the pitcher in and hope he gets through this last batter?

I could keep going. But the fact is that in any of those scenarios, an AL team wouldn’t have to think about what they would do. The pitcher never bats. The DH would swing away. They bring in a RP whenever they want and he can face as many hitters without thinking twice.

What am I not seeing? Why do people like the DH so much? I’m sure that people who like the DH also hate the shift (I’m not a fan of the shift, but until players start to beat shifts I would also stack the defense in my favor). And no Scherzer, I would much rather see you swing a wet newspaper than pay an athlete a ton of money who can only perform a single task.

If I’m wrong, tell me in the comments. If I’m right, tell me in the comments. Comment on this topic!!!

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Quick Hits: April 9

Things that I noticed in the first few days of the baseball season:

  • Wrigley Field was a shit show Opening Day
  • Sonny Gray looked fantastic taking a no-no into the 8th
  • Who do Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez think they are? Two homers each on Opening Day
  • Rain or Shine, Cubs weren’t playing on Tuesday because of Opening Day shit show
  • Mat Latos got rocked by the rebuilding Braves. 7 Runs in 0.2 innings. Could be a long season for the Marlins
  • Brett Lawrie defied Moneyball. He scored a Golden Sombrero by striking out 4 times on Tuesday while only seeing 12 pitches… That’s called patience
  • Adrian Gonzalez looked like a Padres again with 3-homers in Wednesdays game
  • Cubs and Cards played a barn burner on Wednesday. 2-0 Cubs win with 5 total hits in the entire game
  • Tigers have scored 22 runs in 3 games. Think they have something to prove in the AL Central this season
  • Billy Hamilton is really fast. Really, really fast. He has 7 stolen bases already. Thats a pace of 370+ for the season
  • Not to be out done by Lawrie, Evan Gattis has 2 golden sombreros this season… and in back-to-back games
  • ARod is back! Hit HR #655 on Thursday

Turn Right. Destination Ahead: Unemployment

Maybe Google Maps should manage the Cubs. Because it seems that they know where to put Edwin Jackson more than the Cubs front office does.

On Tuesday March 24, Edwin Jackson went to the wrong baseball stadium prior to his scheduled start. By the time he showed up to the correct stadium, the game was already nearing the 2nd inning. He entered the game immediately without getting to warm up and promptly gave up 8 runs on 9 hits over 1.2 innings. Jackson said Google Maps took him to the wrong stadium and is blaming the program and not the user.

Edwin Jackson signed a $52 million deal in 2013 and is owed $22 million of that over the next two seasons. He has a 5.58 ERA as a Cub and currently holds a 7.59 ERA this spring. I don’t think Google Maps is the one in the wrong Edwin Jackson…

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