Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Make a Maddux

Master craftsman Greg Maddux retired seven years ago, but his legend lives on with a prestigious accomplishment that bears his name. Throwing a "Maddux" involves a complete game shutout, and a pitch total in the double figures.

The blogger Jason Lukehart coined the term. On his "Ground Ball With Eyes" blog, he writes:
In 1998, I came across a box score for a game in which Maddux had thrown a complete game shutout, and used fewer than 100 pitches. I LOVED it! Ever since then, I've kept my eye out for such games and calling such a pitching line a "Maddux."

Maddux, known as The Professor for his studious approach to pitching, rang up 13 Madduxes in his glorious career, notes Lukehart, who is also managing editor at LetsGoTribe.com. 

In this era of three-hour games, Madduxes are the stuff of games that last two hours or less.

Here's the all-time Maddux leaderboard, led by a mile by, of course, Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.

1. Greg Maddux       13
2. Zane Smith            7
3. Bob Tewksbury     6
t4. Tom Glavine         5
t4. Roy Halladay        5

Lukehart's term has caught on, making him the envy of, oh, every baseball blogger out there. BeyondtheBoxscore.com writes about Henderson Alvarez of the Marlins climbing up the Maddux chart.

The New York Times noted May 9:
Shelby Miller of the Atlanta Braves became the first pitcher with a Maddux this season, using 99 pitches to beat Philadelphia last week. It was the 290th Maddux since 1988.

The phenomenon even has its own hashtag. Tweeted Athletics Nation scribe Jeremy F. Koo (‏@jfkooAN) tweeted earlier this month,  "Jesse Chavez, exactly 77 pitches through 7 innings, no runs allowed. #MadduxAlert." (Alas, Chavez got but one more out that eve, though he did get the win.)

After typing "Maddux" several times in the last few minutes, I'm thinking "Mad Ducks" would make for a cool minor league franchise. That too would be a great way to commemorate the exceptional hurler.

Lukehart tells Batter Chatter (yes, we do a bit of original reporting every now and then) that seeing the "Maddux" catch on in the baseball lexicon has been a "great thrill."
"A lot of credit goes to [NBCSports.com baseball writer] Craig Calcaterra, who was the first person to mention it at a larger outlet than my little blog, and to [Grantland writer] Jonah Keri, who is a big fan, and has been gracious enough to mentioned it multiple times both in print and during Baseball Tonight. I owe Jonah a lot of drinks," says Lukehart. 
"Seeing MLB itself mention the Maddux has been awesome," he adds. "Now I just hope they mention me along with it one of these days. The ultimate though, that would be hearing Greg Maddux himself mention it. Fingers crossed."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

All A's On Ramirez's Report Card

A player whose skills go beyond the norm of a minor league player, yet fall a bit short of a major league athlete, is described as "4A"--a cut above a player competing in AAA baseball. SB Nation actually refers to these players as "Quad-A" and cites Wily Mo Pena and Brandon Moss among the patron saints of the Quad-A universe.
And then there's the "5A" player, which is how Red Sox first beardsman Mike Napoli describes new mate Hanley Ramirez.
Napoli told the NY Times:
“Hanley’s one of the best hitters I’ve seen. I always tell him he’s 5A — he’s above the big leagues. His swing, the way he backspins balls, it’s just different than how other people hit."
I have reason to believe Napoli has invented this term. Noodling around on the old Google, I see "5A" is a division of Texas schoolboy baseball. I see many mentions of five-tool players--guys who, as any fan of the game will tell you, can hit for average (1) and for power (2), throw (3), run (4) and field (5). I don't see any mention of 5A players.
I lived in apartment 5A in Manhattan's East Village for a dozen years; my email today, a decade since I moved out, has '5A' in it for that reason. To be a 5A player when referencing my old apartment would be to drink and smoke too much, to subsist primary on bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwiches from Cooper Diner, and to have surprisingly fit calves due to the sixth-floor walkup nature of our cramped digs.
But Ramirez, signed for $88 million over four years, is not living in a century-old tenement alongside a gaggle of elderly Ukrainian ladies and a few foreign-born NYU students, and hopefully is mixing in some salads with his bacon-egg-and-cheeses.
Napoli says his 5A teammate is one of a kind:
"Some people just got it. And he’s got it.”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sorry to Quibble, But He's Called a 'Gribble'

We have starters.
We have relievers of all stripes--closers, set-up men, mop-up men.
But what about the guys who both start and relieve?
They are, or at least should be, called "gribbles," posits Russell Carleton of the "Just a Bit Outside" blog on FoxSports.com.
If you're wondering about gribble's etymology, I don't believe it has any. It's just a fun word. It's also "any of about 56 species of marine isopod from the family Limnoriidae. (pictured right) They are mostly pale white and small crustaceans," says Wikipedia. Urban Dictionary, meanwhile, says that "gribble," in Hawaii, means falling, or "eating it." 
So maybe there's a touch of etymology there--the sometimes starter/sometimes reliever simply eats innings.
Carleton, in a detailed essay making the case for six-man rotations, notes that those starters-relievers are at times called a "swingman." That's really a euphemism, he says, for:
...€œthe guy who made the team as a minor-league invite and who we mostly send out there as a sacrificial lamb when we'€™ve run out of other warm bodies and who will probably be sent to AAA at the next convenient opportunity."€
I wonder if teams would do this if they could say to a pitcher, "€œWe want you to be a gribble for us,"€ and everyone knew what that meant.

The gribble could revolutionize baseball, says Carleton:
A team that embraced this six-man rotation model and who could convince three guys to take on this new/old gribble/swingman role could probably find guys whom the league only valued as back-end starters and turn a bit of straw into gold as a result.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Higher the Slash Line, the Bigger the Contract

Kordell Stewart was known as Slash in his Pittsburgh Steelers days, for his ability to play quarterback, slash wide receiver, slash maybe another position, I don't know, it was 15 years ago.

Saul Hudson was dubbed "Slash" but his best friend's dad growing up in England; he later became the guitarist for Guns 'N Roses.

More recently, a ballplayer's true measure of offensive value is his slash line. Says Baseball Reference, it's a "short listing of a player's key offensive statistics. In the 1990s, it replaced the former Triple Crown stat usage, as it more aptly describes a player's offensive contributions."

Slash line is batting average, slash, on base percentage, slash, slugging percentage.

So entrenched in the baseball lexicon--why didn't we write about this sooner?--is the slash line that it's even got its own verb form.

Reports Fan Graphs back in 2011:

In 120 plate appearances, [Bobby] Abreu is slashing .271/.417/.375. The season is still young, but out-OBPing a slugging percentage after 80-100 PAs is strange to the eye. 

I bet it would go up further if Abreu was wielding Slash's Gibson Les Paul. 


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Derek Jeter is now officially retired, and that means a new era of shortstop is officially upon us. The Yankee captain was not a top five shortstop in the game his last few seasons, but here is a look at the best guys to keep an eye on in fantasy baseball.

Troy Tulowitzki

The Colorado Rockies look awful on paper going into the 2015 season, but they do have the best overall shortstop in the game when healthy. No one knows for sure if they will keep him on the roster or trade him away to try and rebuild the franchise. His ability to be a great all-around hitter and also play above average defense makes him highly sought after.

Ian Desmond

With so many stars on the Washington Nationals, Desmond seems to be overlooked by a lot of fans. He is a very solid all-around player for Washington, and he is a big reason why their World Series favorites. He is in the prime of his career, and he has been mostly durable which factors into fantasy baseball value as well.

Hanley Ramirez

Many people don’t care for the defense Ramirez brings to the table, but he is still a very solid hitter. He should be even better now that he is playing for the Boston Red Sox in a pretty nice ballpark. His homeruns should go up a little bit, and he has a chance to improve in other aspects as well. He is starting to get up there in age a little bit, but he still has at least a couple of years left to play at a high level.

Starlin Castro

A very solid 2014 campaign has Castro feeling very well about the future. This is a shortstop looked at by the Chicago Cubs as a face of the franchise. He is just 25 years of age, but it seems like he has been playing at the MLB level forever. He might just be entering his prime finally, and this has people intrigued.


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--Matt Stevens 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Of Monsters and 'Monster Men'

The shift.

The second baseman moving over to short right, shortstop to right center, third baseman enjoying a smoke and a hot dog in the first row of the stands.

It's the baseball story of the 2014--that and all the glowing re2pect for the Yankee captain.

But what do you call that infielder hanging out in short right like an underage kid in a bar?

He's a monster man, saves David Cone.

"It looks like slow pitch softball out there," said Cone in a recent YES Network telecast. "The 'monster man' in those games played short right."

Boothmate Ken Singleton had his own term for the short, temporary right fielder.

"Monster man or rover," said Ken.

Maybe not enough people write about softball these days, but I don't see any use of "monster man" in a softball context in the interwebs.

I do see a football one on UTSports.com:
 
Three-time Vols football letterman Nick Showalter passed away on Monday at the age of 65. Showalter played "monster man" for the Vols from 1966-68. He went on to become a successful dentist in Knoxville.

And then:

In those days, Tennessee coach Doug Dickey often recruited prep quarterbacks, reasoning they were the best athletes on the team, and turned them into capable offensive and defensive players.
Dr. Showalter was one of those type players, playing defensive end and "monster man" during his career, a time in which the Vols won the SEC and national title in 1967 and graced three bowl games.
Apparently, "monster man" is a widely understood term down in Tennessee, as UT Sports offers no explanation as to what the heck it is.

But Wikipedia's "Glossary of American Football" defines it as:

A strong safety in a four-deep secondary with the ability to cover deep zones, defend against runs and, on occasion, play on the line of scrimmage.

The rover, says Answers.com, can be just about anywhere, as the word indicates.

The rover usually plays in shallow center-field, but like every other player (except the pitcher and catcher), can play anywhere on the field at any time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jeter Feeling 'Groovy' After Wainright Pipe Shot

Hey Adam Wainwright:

Maybe the next time you start the all-star game, don't through a cookie to the first batter you face!

And maybe, in case you do, in fact, serve up a giant meatball to the leadoff hitter, don't tell the media that you did so afterwards. It's insulting to the hitter...even if it's Derek Jeter...especially if it's Derek Jeter. It's insulting to the fans. It's insulting to the game.

And if you do choose to admit it to the media, don't later retract that statement by saying it was all a joke.

Lame!

In baseball parlance, Wainwright "grooved" the pitch to Jeter--gave him every chance to hit a straight fastball, which wasn't super-fast, in the Captain's final all-star game.

Wainright offered another term for it.

“I was going to give him a couple of pipe shots,” Wainwright told the NY Times. “He deserved it. I didn’t know he was going to hit a double or else I would have changed my mind. I thought he was going to hit something hard to the right side for a single or an out. I probably should have pitched him a little bit better.”

The Cardinals pitcher trotted out the verb form of "pipe shot" as well.

“I was hoping it would be the first pitch and he would take it,” he said. “Then I would say, ‘All right, I piped him one and he didn’t swing,’ so I could go to it. But I spiked it in the dirt. I gave him one more shot, and unfortunately he didn’t miss it.”

After a social media maelstrom broke out, Wainwright did what you do when your words spark a shitstorm. You say you were joking.

“Usually I kind of like to think about things before I say them, and obviously I didn’t do that very well,” he said. “And I’m an idiot. I made a mistake.”

Jeter doubled on the groove-y pitch. “If he grooved it, thank you," Jeet said. “You’ve still gotta hit it. But if that’s what he did, I appreciate it.”

There's some history of pitchers grooving pitches to notable hitters as a show of respect. The New York Post mentions Cal Ripken and Barry Bonds getting served up pipe shots late in their careers.

In '68, Denny McClain put one on a platter for Mickey Mantle when an aging Mantle was stuck on 534 homers--and tied for third on the all time list.

Asked how he wanted the pitch, the New York Times reports, Mantle said, “High and tight, mediocre cheese.”

Mediocre cheese is, of course, a synonym for a cookie or a meatball.

Now I must eat.