Post 100

By Steve Samek

Hard to believe, but Hammer Down has reached 100 posts. This post has a bit more of the celebratory than the informative. Taking a look at our best posts and any of significance so far.
Starting off of course with the first post ever written. This was my post on Mitch Keller as a top Pirates prospect. It was a fun post to write and has enjoyed some success as far as being viewed. Check it out here. https://hammerdownsportsblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/after-strong-season-mitch-keller-is-a-top-three-pirates-prospect/
Next let’s keep with milestones and hit up post 99. It’s a piece on UBA expansion into Los Vegas. It’s based off the relative success on my post talking about the league may do well with an expansion in Portland, Maine. Read them here.
Moving on let do some editor’s choice. This would be my all-star team of some of the best posts we have to offer so far.
Our first pick is a couple options on Jose Fernandez. Both were incredibly well written by two excellent classmates and writers. Give them some love here. https://hammerdownsportsblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/live-life-like-jose-lived-life/
And here https://hammerdownsportsblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/in-close-race-for-nl-cy-young-jose-fernandez-should-come-out-on-top/.

Next would be the most popular post by views on the blog. Talking about rank Pirates closers here. A good read worth seeing why it’s so popular. https://hammerdownsportsblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/ranking-the-top-five-pirates-closers-since-2000/.
Another favorite of mine was one from a couple weeks ago. I never thought I would cover something as wild as snail racing. Here it is though, good for a laugh, or two. http://bit.ly/2tHvJZO.
This is one I just feel really proud of. A bit disappointed it hasn’t been viewed much. http://bit.ly/2p6qTmk. Support it there if you please.
While it has been a great run it would not have been possible without a lot of people. A lot of great classmates of mine contributed to the foundation of this blog. It would be missing a lot if it wasn’t for them. So many thanks to them, they know who they are.
I also want to than the fans and followers. It’s always so rewording to know someone appreciates the time and effort spent on these posts. Thank you fans.
What’s next you ask? Well here’s to another 100 posts I hope. I really was surprised to get this far. It almost was a done for blog in December. Though I made it through a tough couple of months and have done a decent job so far. I’m happy with the consistent up-ward direction of the blog. Looking to keep it that way and keep expanding best I can. Thanks again to all for your continued support.

His Honor

Yankees rookie is on many radars.

By Steve Samek.

The New York Yankees a team of money. Known to flash the cash at whatever free agent can come their way. Yet what if I told you the Yanks did it the old-fashion way and have a home-grown talent dominating the game today.

The domination comes in the form of rookie outfielder Aaron Judge. Judge is hitting at a .344 clip with 21 home runs and 47 RBI. All of those are top marks in the American League.  The 21 homers are a league-wide best. Throw in additional top marks for runs scored, walks, total bases and the dominance is real. http://m.yankees.mlb.com/news/article/235942730/aaron-judge-is-named-al-player-of-the-week/.

Judge is coming off a week where he hit .500. Got on base at a .600 while slugging 1.00. The Yanks won five of the six contests and led the American League East.  The impressive week gave Judge the nod as player of the week for the first time in his career.

http://m.yankees.mlb.com/news/article/235942730/aaron-judge-is-named-al-player-of-the-week/

This comes on the heels of Judge being named AL rookie of the month for both April and May. http://m.mlb.com/awards/history-winners/?award_id=ALROM&year=2017

If that doesn’t get your attention his power should. On Sunday June 11,2017 Judge hit 495 feet, clearing the left field bleachers at Yankee Stadium. It was the second longest tracked home run ever, sense 2015 and the longest homer in the majors this year. http://m.yankees.mlb.com/news/article/235942730/aaron-judge-is-named-al-player-of-the-week/.

 The power looks to be real too. By homering 21 times to date, Judge has already amassed a career high in homers. Judge hit 56 homers in the minor leagues, with 39 of them coming in the past two seasons. 27 of those round trippers came at the triple a level. http://m.mlb.com/player/592450/aaron-judge?year=2017&stats=career-r-hitting-minors. Think twice pitchers before throwing the high heat.

Judge was a great player in the minors. Three times he was selected as an Milb.com Yankees organization all-star. In 2014, he received an invitation to play for Scottsdale of the Arizona Fall League for advanced prospects. Judge made the AFL all-prospect team for his play with Scottsdale, while also being an AFL player of the week award. Then in 2015 Judge was selected for the Futures game as a member of the Scranton/WB Railriders. http://m.mlb.com/player/592450/aaron-judge?year=2017&stats=career-r-hitting-minors. The first call to the majors came on August 13,2016 when the Yankees selected his contract.

Judge suited up in 27 games during that final month of 2016. He hit .179, but had 4 home runs and 10 rbi. Though an oblique strain sent him to the 15-day DL. http://m.mlb.com/player/592450/aaron-judge?year=2017&stats=career-r-hitting-mlb. Now the injury looks to be behind him and the numbers are improving.

Judge’s stellar season has gained the attention of fans league wide. Judge has the led in the All-star game vote for the American league outfield. His over a million and 250 thousand and 500 votes is the top mark in the American league for any position. http://www.baseballamerica.com/majors/american-league-star-game-voting-a/#5ysDggDukcAhpHQC.97. To capitalize on this success Judge has earned his own cheering section. The section has been dubbed the Judge’s chambers and sits in right field. Fans wear judges robs and receive foam gavels that say “All Rise.” https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/05/22/yankees-aaron-judge-chambers-cheering-section-photos.  True intimidation factor for opposing right fielders. Judge approves of the section too. http://www.nj.com/yankees/index.ssf/2017/05/what_yankees_aaron_judge_thinks_of_the_judges_cham.html

 

Can’t wait to see this guy in the all-star game. Should he win the triple crown, Judge can easily put a stamp on Rookie of the Year as well. No jury deliberation needed on that one.

 

Challenge One

Issued By Steve Samek

Deciding to change it up with content. Below are some links to YouTube videos from a channel called TPS, or total pro sports. In these videos, there is a different naming challenge to conquer. I ran through the challenges below and recorded the following scores. I am passing on the challenge to Hammer Down readers and fans. Can you best the Hammer Down Sports Blog Staff?

Here are the rules I followed during the challenge. You have one view per video to attempt the challenge. You can start naming during the commercial break before a video should one occur. The challenge ends when the video has run out. The challenge should occur in writing. The goal is to gain the points by naming the correct teams before they are said in the video. If you get an answer from the video the point will not count. Gather the most points possible. No googling, internet, or phone help allowed either.  Teams of friend are allowed to brainstorm, but are still subject to the same above rules. Some videos also are broken down into segments by league. If you get other team names while working on a different league they count, but after all the leagues teams have been named in the video you can’t count those for points. Again, name the teams before they are mentioned in the video to score the points.

After attempting the challenge post your results by commenting on the post in WordPress, or via Facebook, or Twitter. Good luck on the challenge.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51Rt2m_me3U. 2 of 6

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyoGgHICZGk 10 of 11

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-1z8g4lj2k 9 of 15

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GelG2m6LTjc 10 of 12

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TKeSQACff8 10 of 12

Total score 41 of 56 73%

Ties in Baseball

By Steve Samek

Sunday night I turned on the TV to watch. I turned on the usual late night fair ESPN. To my surprise the Yankees and Cubs were still going at it locked in a draw. Deep into extras the game lasted 18 innings. It took six hours and five minutes to complete.

Now Buster Onlney of ESPN is writing that the end of play till you win games are coming. That extra innings depletes lineups and can cause injury. That players hate playing marathon games at the expense of travel and sleep. http://www.espn.com/blog/buster-olney/insider/post/_/id/16653/olney-fight-to-the-tie-extra-innings-moving-toward-extinction.

Conversely Onlney and the fans like extra-inning games. A twitter poll conducted by Onlney produced a 75 percent in favor rating for keeping current rules based on about 34,500 responses. https://twitter.com/Buster_ESPN/status/861600172098408449. Who wouldn’t like the extra play though. It gives fans more bang for your buck on super expensive tickets. It gives the opportunity to experience the dramatic walk off win. It can create memories. Memories like the Braves and Pirates 19 inning affair that was the longest in Pirates history and dubious for the Jerry Meals call. Though it was very memorable. It also lasted longer than the Cubs and Yankees game in question. http://m.pirates.mlb.com/news/article/22358556//.

Yes, many fans do leave the stadium after it gets too late for obligations, and yes it may be tough to play for a dwindling crowd. Though it is a requirement to play the game to conclusion no matter what the number of fans is. Plus, with replay and television people will see what happened even hours later. I would also say teams should love extra innings as it gives them more time to sell food and merchandise to fans. The longer the game goes the more likely fans will get hungry and need to visit the concession stand. Get too cold for an evening game, grab a sweatshirt or blanket from the team store.

Efforts are being made to shorten games. Pitch clocks namely being used to shorten games. http://nypost.com/2017/02/04/rob-manfred-opens-up-on-how-mlb-is-trying-to-shorten-games/. Though the not timed game is part of what makes baseball unique.

Looking at a graph from the Onley article I would say the marathon game isn’t the norm. In 2016 34 percent of 185 extra-inning games went 12 or more innings. Only 185 games out of 4,900 or so contests even made extra innings. That’s only 38 percent. In 2015 only 30 percent of extra-inning games went beyond 12 innings. 2014 and 2013 season numbers also average about 35 percent of games entering extras. http://www.espn.com/blog/buster-olney/insider/post/_/id/16653/olney-fight-to-the-tie-extra-innings-moving-toward-extinction. So even if extras are being played most are ending after 12 and not extending into marathon territory.

The World Baseball Classic, as well as soft ball have a rule placing a runner in scoring position to begin extra innings. This would create more opportunities to conclude the game by driving home that runner. http://www.espn.com/blog/buster-olney/insider/post/_/id/16653/olney-fight-to-the-tie-extra-innings-moving-toward-extinction. It is an option to be used if things get too bad, but sometimes one swing and its over in the bottom of inning 13. No guarantees that runner scores and the game ends earlier.

As for depleting lineups and injuries that is a concern. The longer you play the more people you have to use and the more stress on player’s bodies. However, players can get injured at any time during any contest. It’s not just an extra innings thing. Having players play longer can also tire them out. However, there is a bench. How the bench is used is a strategy that can make, or break the game. Though both teams are playing equally long and have the same issues to deal with. If tired players are a concern call players up from the minors and give the starters a rest, or use reserves for a day. Breaks are allowed you don’t have to play all 162 games. Maybe schedule a couple minute break in between innings if games get too late.

Though I would say one of the worst things is the idea that a relief corps of specialists can only pitch in certain points isn’t helping. Go your one inning and your toast. Then possibly have to waste a starter in a situation that counts the same as the next day’s game. The idea of having pitchers and firemen may help with this. View my arguments for it here. http://bit.ly/2qfDxk6.

Though I would say the biggest supporting issue with ties is close sure. Fans want to know who won and lost. Wins and losses are the front of the standings. Things need to have an ending to satisfy viewers. Wins excite the viewer, losses sadden and ties are ho hum. If baseball doesn’t want to move even more toward ho hum normal rules for extra innings should apply.

 

 

 

 

Save the Save

By Steve Samek

The hot button statistical topic of Major League Baseball is the save. Just how important is the save. Is it worth saving your so called top relief pitcher for a situation that may never come.

Be hold a new strategy. Andrew Miller gets acquired by the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline. Miller was acquired to be the Indians shutdown man in the ninth inning closer. When did he enter the game, as early as the fifth inning during the Indians run to the end of October baseball. Then behold the debate on whether or not the closer, or at least the modern one is going to become extinct. http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/17903285/how-andrew-miller-became-most-important-reliever-baseball

Miller’s role was that of the fireman. The old-school terms for relievers. That came in during a tough situation to put out the fire. Firemen pitched multiple innings with the tightest of leds. The save wasn’t even adopted by the MLB until 1969. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/goose-egg-new-save-stat-relief-pitchers/?sf71069884=1 The save then gave way to the relief man of the year award solely tabulated on save and win total. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sporting_News_Reliever_of_the_Year_Award.

 

Today the best arms are sent into the ninth innings with up to a three-run led for the all-important save. The starters go the six expected or maybe seven innings the turn it over to an 8th inning guy and the closer in the ninth.  It’s a bull pen of specialization rather than get in there and get the guy out no matter what the scenario.

Taking a look at the save requirements. According to the Major league baseball rule book, Saves:
Rule 10.20 in the Official Rule Book states:
Credit a pitcher with a save when he meets all three of the following conditions:
(1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; and
(2) He is not the winning pitcher; and
(3) He qualifies under one of the following conditions:
– (a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or
– (b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces; or
– (c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings. No more than one save may be credited in each game.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/about_mlb/rules_regulations.jsp.

Seems too easy right. Three run led saves require everyone due up in the inning to score if tied.  Though under conditions 3 b and c the save is much tougher, but still reasonable.

An alternative was given for the stat called the Goose egg. It is a harder save set up more in the old fireman style. A long explanation can be seen here. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/goose-egg-new-save-stat-relief-pitchers/?sf71069884=1.

Though the first part of the article is about how too many stats are ruining baseball. So why add another one. Why not just change the save requirements and call it a day? Why not just get rid of the save all together?

I advocate for the latter. It promotes the best pitcher pitching to get the outs rather than waiting and wasting your best pitcher on a chance that may never come.

Two I hate the fact that it is such a situational stat. The number of saves a pitcher gets changes based on the number of three and under run wins a team gets. So why are teams aiming to win by less, just for a stat. Granted the stat is a bit of an equalizer as an 80-win team and 50-win team can both have 30 plus save men in a season if the chips fall right. Though the save is exactly that based on how the chips fall. A hit can be all it takes to create, or bust a save. The situation may come 30 times a year or it may come 15. So is the 30 save man better than the 15 save man because of situations beyond each’s control.

If you want to simplify the game why not eliminate a worthless situational stat from the ranks. If that’s not possible maybe go the goose egg route and toughen up the requirements. Better yet let your starters pitch as much as they can and forget the bullpen. Saves need to die if baseball wants to move forward strategy wise.

 

Defense of Goofy Monikers

By Steve Samek

I have made it a well-established fact that I am pro unique Minor League Baseball nicknames. While I do favor uniqueness, I do have some grounds when it comes to just being too over the top.  I came across an interesting article on the selection of Minor League names  and I took a look. According the article a test exists to see if a name is ridiculous. It’s based on the how it compares with the Toledo Mud Hens. http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/nicknames-veer-toomuchville/#zKlddxzT6IFdRG5F.97

My take is that the Mud Hens is a middle of the road if not pedestrian nickname now a days. I would think that it’s a conservative logo that has become more commonly known thanks to the hit show Mash. It ranks right up there with the Durham Bulls as far as iconic minor league teams.

Most of the team names in the minors try to tell a story for the local community.  Others just name them after the major-league affiliate. While this was a tradition in the past the trend is dying. Thankfully this is happening. It really does show a lack of creativity if all your teams are named the Braves. Plus, what if you change affiliations after your PDC is up. Most agreements only last up to four years unless extended, or the team is purchased by the parent club. It seems like a lot of work to work on all new uniforms logos and branding if you’re just going to skip town after two years.

By giving each team a unique brand it stays with the town regardless of affiliations. Giving the town a sense of pride and ownership that it’s the communities team and not just a Major-League Clubs team. The unique names also stand out and give that definite sense of identity. It’s the one and only Blue Wahoo’s against how many other Panthers, Lions and other big cats.

Merchandising is the other big reason I support local unique nicknames. Again, I pick on the Braves system. Most of the teams have the same hat logo with just a letter change, so no real point to collecting them all if you’re not a fan of the Braves. Take that up against a team like The San Diego Padres and their cast of teams from Chihuahuas to Tin Caps and more. I want the goofy hats and unique ones more.  Of the top 25 teams in minor league baseball in merchandise sold in 2016 only three shared the name of a club in the majors. http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/nicknames-veer-toomuchville/#zKlddxzT6IFdRG5F.97.

Giving unique names the edge in moving merchandise and making money for the team. https://www.milb.com/milb/news/milb-announces-top-merchandising-teams/c-183791642/t-185364810

Though yes sometime names go over the top. In my two most recent rebrand posts I crushed the awful change from New Orleans Zephyrs to Baby Cakes.  It was one example of a bad idea. Though this season also saw a well done rebrand in the form of Binghamton becoming the Rumble Ponies from the Mets. http://bit.ly/2mBxu8e.

 Of the 30 plus teams that make up Triple A I would say one name maybe two could be considered over the top. In Double A, I can see five teams getting knocked for crazy monikers. Six out of 60, one out of 10. A .100 batting average for off the wall names in the upper levels of the minors. I’m not totally buying into the it’s all over the top theory of the article in question. I think fun unique names not affiliated with the parent clubs when done right is most effective. It’s a trend that will and should continue.

 

 

Crashing The Party

Outfielder’s departure hurts teams chances for the postseason.

By Steve Samek

The Pirates lost a huge player as Starling Marte was suspended for 80 games for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. http://m.pirates.mlb.com/news/article/225044864/pirates-starling-marte-suspended-80-games/

 As a result, Marte is gone for at least the next half of the season and will sit out the playoffs. This also prompted an interesting set of moves. Andrew McCutchen was moved back to centerfield after being moved to right. Then Jose Osuna was called up from Indianapolis to serve as outfield depth. Osuna is a definite call up worthy candidate after being one of the last cuts during the spring. Hit .404 with 5 homers. https://www.milb.com/indy-indians/news/jose-osuna-recalled-to-big-leagues-joins-pirates-in-st-louis/c-225078364/t-196097292

Adam Frazier also should add depth in the outfield as a utility man as will Josh Harrison. Though it will be interesting to see if Josh Bell gets any time in the big-league outfield. Bell was a primary outfielder before being moved to first base. Bell primarily played right field during his times in the minors.

Though if the hole is in center field why not call up Austin Meadows. Meadows being the second-best prospect in the Pirates system should have the fast track to Pittsburgh. Simple answer is he isn’t quite ready yet. Meadows is only facing his first full season at Triple A. Meadows also isn’t dominating like a Tyler Glasnow was. Meadows started the season hitless in 11 at bat before a recent streak as improved his average to .162. https://www.milb.com/milb/news/pittsburgh-pirates-austin-meadows-ignoring-the-hype/c-224790146/t-185364810. Granted it is only a very small 10 games sample. Look for Meadows to improve and maybe knock on the door of Pittsburgh in June like Bell did last year should the need arise. Though the more likely case would be to see Meadows in Pittsburgh in September. http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/pirates-not-likely-call-top-prospect-austin-meadows/#2d7XTpyLFySJEbGl.97

The transition will be tough for the Pirates. It will take McCutchen playing back to form, and consistent production from the rest of the starting lineup to keep this club in contention. Breakout seasons for Frazier and Bell would go a long way to minimize the damage of Marte’s departure.