Thanks to Baja F1 for their guest commentary! If you’re interested in being a “reader representative” on next week’s round table, speak up in the comments. I email the first qualifying person to post the questions on Saturday (so, obviously, you need to have an email address attached to your account!). You’ll need to be able to get the answers back to me by Sunday evening, so a timely turnaround will be necessary.
Where do you generally stand on the ‘unwritten rules’ of baseball?
ISH95: Let’s just say if I ever managed to hit a home run as an MLB player, I would stand and admire the hit for at least 30 seconds, do a bat flip, then cartwheel around the bases, and take my encore on the pitcher’s mound.
Jack: The very topic lends itself to vague definitions. Half the time people talk past each other when discussing the unwritten rules because the very ground upon which the conversation is rooted is as solid as quicksand. However IF we are specifically talking about celebrations, bat flips, etc, there are clearly double standards. Albert Pujols stares long and hard at any homer that has any relevance at all. He’s always done that from the beginning. Nobody is plunking him. Max Muncy let loose an epic bat flip last night. I didn’t see the outrage. A lot of times these controversies erupt with latino players. Carlos Gonzalez had this to say in an ESPN Article Beisbol Experience - 50 Man interivew Great read. Suggest checking it out.
““Maybe for guys from Cuba and the Dominican Republic, there’s a larger difference because they put more flair into the way they play, and they come to the United States and people don’t really like that. You see a lot of issues with guys like [Yoenis] Céspedes or [Yasiel] Puig, when they’re celebrating. However, that’s the only way they know, and I get it. Everyone comes from different situations, so you have to be open-minded. You’ve got to understand why they do that kind of stuff. You can’t just judge people because of the way they play.”
There will be those that say they should adapt and moderate their behavior to the “norm” in MLB, while others will say people should be more tolerant, especially since what is the “norm” is not consistent anyway.
Makakilo: Unwritten rules are part of baseball. It is what it is. Nevertheless, each player has free will to decide which unwritten rules to pay attention to.
Jim. I like the fact that baseball is less demonstrative and “show-offish” than many other sports. Really, if you’re going to the game to see extravagant demonstrations of emotion, just stay home and watch a telenovela. I think there’s nothing at all wrong with a code of player conduct which requires showing respect to an opponent. If only society had something like that…
James: For the most part, I think the concept has begun to get out of hand, especially over the last five years or so. I do think there is something to be said for their being a player code of etiquette that the players themselves enforce. When you are Barry Bonds and you are standing and watching #715 fly off into the night that’s one thing. Why should the guy hitting the ball not get to see the history happe? When you’re a .240-hitting rookie or sophomore who will be hard-pressed to get to 150 HR in an entire career, put your damn head down and jog the bases. These days though, bat-flips are now a part of players’ “signature play style” and trash-talking seems to be almost as common on the diamond as on the hardwood.
I don’t approve of head-hunting. I never have and I never will. At the same time, I don’t think any player showing up the opposite team and rubbing it in. By the same token though, an excellent player, putting together an excellent performance, should not be penalized just because his opposition is frustrated with the results.
The unwritten rules generally pertain to etiquette and decorum. If more players were concerned with those facets of the game, we might have less conversations about the unwritten rules.
We would probably have fewer discussions about them if pitchers still learned how to pitch inside without regularly plunking batters, but that’s a different conversation.Those tit-for-tats more often than not become headhunting expeditions. Those are never good.
Wesley: On one hand, I think they have a place in the game, on the other, I think they should be completely eliminated. If a rule is important, shouldn’t be actually written down? This goes for just about anything, but if a rule is important, and isn’t codified, eventually you are going to have someone come along and not only break those rules, but trample them completely. I think some of these unwritten rules though just make the sport less fun. Bat flips, and things that show personality in players would actually help make this sport a little more attractive to newcomers and young people who find baseball to be “boring”.
Baja F1: I feel they have their place in the game, some more than others. I think majority of them are about not showing another player up and respecting the heritage of the game.
Specifically, what are your thoughts on:
a) Puig vs. Hundley
b) Ureña vs. Acuña?
ISH95: Puig is lucky that no one has punched him in the face yet, cause in the real word, if you acted like he did, someone would have by now. Ureña shouldn’t play another game this season.
- Puig vs. Hundley: I don’t know what was said in their face to face confrontation. However the obvious hypocrisy of Puig later talking about respecting Dodger Stadium was laughable.
- Urena v. Acuna: Throwing a baseball at someone with the intention to hit them would be assault in any other sphere. If a batter threw the bat at the pitcher and hit him, causing injury, he would be suspended for a very long time. I know we get into arguments about intent all the time. Especially with other team’s fans, depending on who was on the receiving end. Getting hit by a pitch is part of the game. Getting hit intentionally should not be part of the game. There just isn’t any justification for assault. In my opinion.
a) Players who control their emotions are playing the game the right way. With emotional control, they contribute their best self. A benign example of loss of control was when Nick Ahmed argued a strike and got ejected. It hurt the team.
Let’s look at the Puig incident.
- How did Puig see it? “...[Hundley] told me to stop complaining and get back into the box, and when I got into his face, he told me to also get out of his face, so that’s when I got upset.”
- How did Hundley see it? “...We had some words, pushed a couple of times and you saw what happened. There’s really nothing more to it than that.”
- How did I see it? The two players walked up to each other and exchanged words. OK, that happens. Then, Puig pushed Hundley away - Puig had lost control. Hundley took no retaliatory action. Immediately, Puig walked back up to Hundley and pushed/punched him in the chest (much harder than the first shove). Two problems. First, Puig lost control of his emotions and was not his best self. Second, Puig thinks initiating violence is an acceptable way to address his problems.
b) MLB should have made a precedence-setting suspension (perhaps 15 games) of Ureña for the following reasons:
Hit batters are increasing in frequency.
- This season has the highest hit batters per game since 1900.
- Over the last 80 years, the general trend is higher every year.
A new precedence would be consistent with changes in rules to protect players.
- Home plate rule change - runners must run directly toward plate and catchers can’t block home plate without having the ball.
- Second base rule change - runners must contact the ground before second base, runners must attempt to touch second base, and runners must attempt to stop before sliding past second base.
Jim: a) I don’t know what was said by Hundley, and am likely biased by my dislike of Puig. Yet I can think of no cases where anything being said would justify violence. Two games seems very light, considering Eric Hinske was initially suspended for five, for the crime of getting punched by Puig… b) Though we’ll never know for sure, it’s hard to argue it wasn’t a deliberate act. And it wasn’t even done in response to a teammate being hit, which I’ve always felt is at least somewhat defensible. Acuña and the Braves literally did nothing wrong, except be very good. Retaliating for that is just wrong.
Hundley may or may not have been talking smack from the crouch. Puig obviously couldn’t keep his temper in check and decided he had to run his mouth and make an issue of things. This is one of those where etiquette comes in. I have no problem with the unwritten rules coming into play here. The thing that gets me is how Puig handled himself through the whole affair, demonstrating all sorts of false bravado. His shove of Hundley as he is backing away and his waiting until after teammates join him to go on the aggressive all point to a guy that realized too late he was in the wrong. Once he started jawing with Hundley, it was all over. Puig was going to make sure he came out looking tough and not scolded for throwing a temper tantrum about missing a fat pitch. The fact that Puig only received a two-game suspension for throwing blows after instigating the incident seems awfully light to me, especially given previous suspensions handed down over the years (cough Eric Hinske cough).
Ureña only getting a five-game suspension, which amounts to missing one game of play, is ridiculous. Ronald Acuña did nothing wrong. He climbed into the box to lead off the game and was thumped by Ureña for no other reason than he has been an excellent player playing excellent baseball. If you don’t want an phenom athlete to scoreboard you, make better pitches, don’t go throwing at him. I am not able to read the thoughts of Ureña at the moment he threw the pitch, but his actions in setting up and delivering the throw, combined with the way Realmuto set up and “received” the throw leave me 99.999% convinced that this was an intentional act. That’s just Bush League. It’s the sort of high-risk antics that have no place in the game. A more appropriate suspension would have been the sort to make Ureña actually feel it in the pocketbook and force the Marlins to find a new starter. The remainder of the season seems a bit too steep to me, but 30 games doesn’t. It would only take one or two such suspensions before players would get the message and knock it off. If they didn’t, those players still pulling such crap would find it harder to land a decent contract, as teams would be understandably worried about lost time.
Wesley: I am going to address the Ureña situation first. MLB should have flat out suspended him for the equivalent of two-three starts. I don’t think we should make pitching inside illegal, or necessarily even beaning someone, but if you go and do it, and it results in a significant injury, there need to be consequences. This is a loss of a great young talent, and considering where he was injured (his elbow), it could affect Acuña’s ability to perform later on, and more importantly to Acuña, it could affect his earning potential. Any time you have an injury to a joint, there is going to be lasting effects later on. Acuña will likely have arthritis in that elbow at some point, likely for the rest of his life. Yes, you play any sport knowing that there is a risk of injury, but when those injuries are intentional, that’s something else entirely. As to the Yasiel Puig situation, all I gotta say is he’s got a reputation for being an a-hole.
Baja F1: a) 100% biased answer here, because the hatred for Puig is real but if he is gonna react so emotionally on foul balls and everything in between, then he needs to expect the return from other players. Hundley did contribute to it, but this is a trend for Puig. b) Completely uncalled for. When your own teammates throw you under the bus you know it was in the wrong. Pretty clear cut IMO
Were the results on the D-backs’ road-trip good enough?
ISH95: I mean, they’re still in first sooooooooo…
Jack: Written before today’s game. A win would “salvage” a disappointing road trip. A loss would put it squarely into the “major opportunity blown” column.
Makakilo: On the road-trip, the D-backs earned 4 wins and 4 losses against three last-place teams (Reds, Rangers, and Padres). Even if the D-backs win today’s game, the road-trip was a lost opportunity.
James: The Diamondbacks squandered the part of the schedule that they should have used to build themselves a strong lead in the NL West. I was quite frankly looking for no more than two or three losses on the trip so, regardless of today’s outcome (they are currently winning), I still think this road-trip was at least somewhat disappointing.
Wesley: I am disappointed. They should have come out of this roadtrip having won every series.
Baja F1: Writing this as Boxman has 1 out in the 9th, and even if we hang on for a 5-4 trip this was a failure of a trip. We had every chance to be 3-4 up coming back home. Time to buckle up from here on out cause that buffer was gonna be our saving grace. Hopefully we play up to the good teams as much as we played down to these last place teams.
Where will the NL wild-cards come from?
Jack: Really tough to say. I’ve thought all year that it was division title or bust as the WC seemed like it was surely coming out of the Central and East. But the records are all so close right now. The Phillies and Braves square off 7 more times this year. The Cards and Brewers have 4 more games head to head, and the Cards and Cubs have a 3 game set to finish the season. So they could all be beating up on each other as well.
Makakilo: Too close to call. This morning, the Dodgers are in third place in the NL West, 2 games down from a wild-card spot.
Jim: The landscape has certainly changed dramatically. On May 27, the five NL West teams had a combined wild-card shot of just 20.8%. Now, that figure sits at more than three times as much, 65.4%. That’s considerably better than the East (38.1%), though the Central still has the best odds, at 96.4%. I think it’ll probably be one from the Central and one from the West, though that could very easily change in the remaining games.
James: With all the intra-divisional games left on the schedule, this is a tough one. I do think the Diamondbacks are nicely situated to win the NL West. If they fail to do that, I see them as the first wild card team. Although the NL East has lower chances overall, I think the Braves and Phillies are both good enough to be playoff teams. I also think the NL Central is just a strong division. So, I think the two wild card teams come from the NL Central and NL East. However, the next 10 days could change that significantly.
Wesley: I was adamantly against the Wild Card coming out of the NL WEST, I just couldn’t see it happening, but at this point as everyone said it’s a toss up.
Baja F1: One team from the Central for sure, likely the Cardinals. The other as of today is a coin toss, but I feel more and more that who ever ends up 2nd in the west will be on the outside looking in for the wild card.
The Diamondbacks have scored 107 first-inning runs, most in the majors. They're also the best in innings one through three. However, they're last from the fourth through the sixth and 22nd from the seventh through the ninth.— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) August 19, 2018
What does this mean, and is it a problem?
ISH95: It’s frustrating for sure as a fan. Is it a problem? I’m honestly not sure. On the one hand, it’s similar to “a win you get in April is one you don’t need in September.” On the other hand I think it points to the general inconsistency of the offense and how long it takes them to make needed adjustments, which is a problem, and has been all season.
Jack: Fang and I had a (peaceful) lengthy debate over this the other day. Points were made. Good ones on both sides, I thought.
Makakilo: In that lengthy debate, Jack provided this link that showed the D-back hitters lead the National League the first time through the order. That is strong evidence of superior pre-game preparation. Superior preparation is a team strength.
Jim: I don’t care when they score, just as long as they score.
James: I’m with Jim. Give me five runs a game every game. I don’t care if they all come in the first inning. The important thing is that the runs are scored, not when they are scored.
Wesley: All that matter is a win. If they could adjust better to be just as good the rest of the game, we’d win more games, so…
Baja F1: It tells me we have a really good game plan going into every game, it’s a good problem but a problem none the less. From what I see is that the hitters stay too aggressive. So after those first few innings we go down 1-2-3 a lot not making anyone work. Where as last year it seemed like we would wear people down waiting for a mistake. But if our starters and pen can make those runs stand, then it’s not a problem at all.
Can Robbie Ray be fixed?
Jack: Sure, but the question becomes can he be fixed IN TIME. Not only in time for this season and a hopeful playoff run. But also before his arbitration clock runs out after the 2020 season. The DBacks only control him for 2 more years. It would be great if he could repeat a season like 2017, which was a top 10 pitching season in MLB last year. But it’s beginning to feel like that was perhaps his peak. Both his Velocity and Movement are off from last year. This has made him more hittable.
2017 vs. 2018
- Hits/9:, 6.4 vs. 8.0
- HR/9:, 1.3 vs. 1.6
- BABIP .270 vs .315 (With even better defense behind him)
That is his real problem this year, and it’s causing him to nibble even after he gets ahead. His overall strike % is the same as 2017, and his 1st Pitch Strike% is actually UP from last year. But swinging strikes are down, foul strikes are way up, and overall contact % is up as well. See here
One “Ray” of hope, (pun intended) is how uncanny the comparison is to Max through the same age 26. Look through each of the different stat lines at THIS LINK . It’s stunning how similar the numbers line up. Not just the results stats. But everything. I’ll hope for age 27-28 Max Scherzer like seasons from Robbie.
Makakilo: Last season, Ray reached greatness, or so I thought. With the benefit of hindsight, I now think that Ray was lucky. Last season, hitters’ BABIP against him was the lowest (.267) of any season, and this season’s BABIP regressed back to his career average (.315).
This season, three stats concern me:
- Ray is allowing more contact in the zone (84.3% vs 81.3%) and outside the zone (46.7% vs 45.0%).
- Ray is pitching less strikes (74.7% vs 86.4%).
- Ray has less “control of the zone”, meaning that his ratio of strikeouts to walks has decreased from 3.07 to 2.36.
Robbie Ray said, “I just need to get back to what I do best and that’s pound the zone. I’ve got too good of stuff to be pitching around the zone. I’ve just got to attack guys and then my off-speed stuff gets better.”
Mike Butcher said “The interesting thing is “he’s been really, really good not just before the game but also in all of his side work. It’s a matter of bringing that into the game. At some point, you have to say, where is the flaw? Why is this not going in there?”
My summary of what Robbie and Mike said: Robbie Ray needs to control the zone. The good news is it can be fixed.
Jim: I’m giving up hope at this point. It begins to look like 2017 was more of a fluke, and he has regressed back to being a high-walk, high-K pitcher. His walks are at a career high, and his FIP is up by almost a run over what it was in 2016-17, so unlike 2016, we can’t say he has been “unlucky.” As long as hitters can lay off his pitches outside of the zone, as they’ve been doing this year, he’s going to struggle.
ISH95: They need to stop fixing him. Let him throw high in the zone. Let him overpower hitters. Quit making him nibble. Let him become the RJ comp many of us always thought he was.
James: I think there is less to fix with Ray than many might suppose. The problem is, I don’t know if the changes are ever going to take for good or not. He’s still a good pitcher. He just isn’t the pitcher that 2017 convinced most of us he could be. The team has been tinkering with Ray since the day he has arrived. For the most part, it has not helped. It is possible that the best thing the team could do is just let Ray be Ray. Let him pound the zone working up around the chest on many hitters. I think Ray can be salvaged. I think he is key to this team having a serviceable rotation moving forward in 2019 and 2020. I’m not so sure there is much that can be done to “fix” him this season though, and that worries me. This team needs four pitchers for the rotation in the playoffs. Right now Ray is on the outside looking in. The problem is, Godley is just as likely to be blown up and has less “stuff” to fall back on if he isn’t throwing at 100%.
Baja F1: Yes, but not this year. Were seeing a blend of Mechanical and mental with Bob. He is not attacking like he did last year and I think that’s the mental part, and his fastball command has just been non existent. Now I think once the mechanical is fixed, then mental will follow. When you can’t throw a fastball in the zone consistantly your gonna have a ton of self doubt. As we get closer, and rosters expand, maybe we will see Bob right the ship if they tell him not to worry about going 5+, but to just go out there and blow guys away. I think this has always been his internal struggle of overpowering stuff and trying to go deep. Last yr it clicked, this yr were back to 2016.
How do you rate Goldy’s chances of finally winning NL MVP?
Jack: He’s doing better in Fangraphs metrics than BB-REF metrics due to the park factor issues. As mentioned multiple times, BB-REF is using multi year batting park factor of 108, while FG is using a Neutral, (i.e. 100) park factor for Chase this year. This means that DBacks hitters will be underrated by BB-REF stats like OPS+ and WAR. However voters will probably tend to be more reliant on BB-REF than FG. So that could hurt him
Goldy is 6th in OPS+ and bWAR, but ranks just 1 point behind Carpenter in wRC+ (153 vs 152) and his 4.7 fWAR is just 0.3 WAR behind leaders Freddie Freeman and Nolan Arenado.
If Goldy has a strong finishing kick over final 6 weeks and D Backs win division, he could get the award. There may be sentiment to FINALLY give it to him after being close so many times as well. All he can do is play the games.
Makakilo: The NL West and NL East Division races are close! If a top contenders can pull his team into first place, he will be the favorite. Those top contenders are Nolan Arenado (Rockies), Paul Goldschmidt (D-backs), and Freddie Freeman (Braves). If none of the Rockies, D-backs, or Braves win their Division, then I think Javier Baez (Cubs) becomes the favorite.
If Goldschmidt plays well as the D-backs win the NL West, he will be the heavy favorite.
Jim: It’s remarkable we’re even asking this question after his start to the season. Was any MVP candidate ever batting below the Uecker Line on May 22? Heck, Goldschmidt probably deserves to be given Comeback Player of the Year too… It may well come down to who does and does not make the post-season, as a deciding factor across a slate of potentially deserving candidates.
ISH95: Slim to none, which means if my track record of predicting MVP winners holds true, he should probably start finding a shelf to keep it on :)
James: As of today, he’s probably third in the voting -at best. If he continues to rake for the rest of the season the way he has since the last week of May rolled around, that changes things. At that point, the team making the playoffs may be as important to his chances of winning the award as anything else. If the Braves win the NL East, unseating Freeman is going to be difficult.
Wesley: I just going to be succinct and say that I believe that he can and will turn it around, in time.
Baja F1: If we hang on in the west, and Goldy gets to .300 he finally gets it. Even with the lack of RBI total. He will pass 30 HR’s, but without his turnaround this team is not where they are and that is a definition of an MVP.
Random question: Do you have any phobias?
Jack: Nothing that would reach a clinical definition . I’ve learned to really hate scorpions though, and probably spend a little too much time worrying about and hunting them with black lights. (Got stung last week...so not a completely unjustified reaction)
Makakilo: Chilopodophobia (fear of centipedes). Although I have never been stung, their sting is extremely painful. My volunteer work involves composting at the Urban Garden Center. Occasionally, a centipede will exit a compost bin. Upon seeing a centipede, my fellow master gardeners scream and run. They beg me to kill it or move it far away. They are hard to kill – they can’t be smashed without superhero power, and they keep crawling after being cut in half with a shovel – that is truly frightening! One last frightening fact – in China, where they are eaten raw, it was discovered that eating them can infect people with rat-lung disease.
Jim: Wasps. No particular reason - I’ve never been stung by one - but simply hearing a buzzing sound near me tends to trigger… “concern”, shall we say! Fortunately, they seem to be generally less common in Arizona than Britain. I am fine with this!
ISH95: Phobias? Not particularly. I have things that cause me anxiety, but nothing I’d describe as an irrational fear exactly.
James: Nothing in particular. I have rational dislikes of insects with stingers (bees, wasps, scorpions, yellow-jackets, etc.), and I am not a fan of spiders. However, this is more dislike than fear.
Wesley: My social anxiety has been so bad at various points in my life that I’ve developed a fear of being in large crowds of people in confined spaces. So going to packed theatres, concerts, and well, baseball games has been a challenge in my life.
Baja F1: I can’t say that I do. Anything I have been scared to do or of, I make it a point to do it anyway. The hardest one to overcome every time is heights, but after it’s over the feeling of overcoming it is worth every second of fear. Just reaffirms that the mind is a powerful thing.