ATR: Ask the Reports Answers Your Baseball Questions: Sunday October 7th

Sunday October 7th, 2012



Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@me.com, message us on Twitter, post on our Facebook Wall and leave comments on our website! There are many ways to reach us and we will get to your questions from all social media outlets!

Jonathan Hacohen: The regular season is done. Toast. That’s it. We even finished the one game sudden death Wild Card playoffs. We are now officially in full swing, MLB playoff mode.

It is a bittersweet feeling. I love the playoffs. But it is hard to go without having 12-15 MLB games going every day.  And then I shudder to think what life is like when the playoffs are finished. We are less than 3 weeks away from the World Series.  Can you believe it? This was an incredible season, with many highs and lows.  From all those no-hitters to the countless players undergoing Tommy John surgery. The surprising A’s and Orioles. The disappointing Angels and Phillies. We had quite the year. Valentine Gate. Melky’s suspension. Miggy’s triple crown. Trout’s dominance. Dickey’s greatness. 2012 will go down as one of my favorite baseball seasons of all time.

Before we turn over to your questions, let’s address those Wild Card games. For all the talk of Atlanta’s great season, they are done. One game and over. The St. Louis Cardinals, the defending World Series champs squeaked into the playoffs…and are now heading to the NLDS for a date with the Nationals. Over in the American League, the powerhouse Rangers are done. For a team that led the AL in wins for most of the year and held the AL West crown for almost the entire season, their late season collapse ended in disaster. With a two game lead going into the final season, the A’s sweep in Oakland of the Rangers meant a date at home for Texas with Baltimore. This shows the importance of a division title vs. a wild card spot. While the A’s face the Tigers in a 5-game series, the Rangers had only one chance and blew it. Given the fact that they had enjoyed back-to-back World Series appearances the last two seasons, 2012 will go down as a black mark in Rangers history. It goes to show you: a team can have all the hitting on the planet, but to win- they need pitching. Sure the Rangers hitting cooled off in the 2nd half, but they also did not have enough reliable pitchers to be ready for the playoffs. Now imagine the Rays had a better offense. That’s the type of team that was built to compete in the playoffs. Great, young and healthy pitching is usually the secret to success in today’s game. But without enough hitting, the road was too hard for the Rays. 

As a result, teams like the Orioles and the A’s are in, while the Rays and Rangers are out. The teams may not have the best pitching or hitting- but with a steady amount of both, playoff dreams became a reality. What the A’s and Orioles both enjoy is lights-out bullpens. So called experts may call bullpens/relievers/closers as overrated. Looking at the Orioles success in 1-run games and the A’s in extra innings, I would have to disagree. If a team can lock down a game from the 6th inning an on with a lead consistency, that is what we call a dangerous team. I have no idea if the A’s and O’s face-off in the ALCS. If they do, that should be one explosive series. My crystal ball sees the winner of the A’s/Tigers going to the World Series. In the NL, I see it as the Reds all the way. They are just too stacked and consistent. Anything can happen in a short series, but those are my picks for baseball’s biggest showdown of the season. Stay tuned!

Now let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Q:  Hi Jonathan,

What is your opinion on the new 1-game Wild-Card playoff? Would you rather see it become a best-of-3 Wild-Card series or do you like it the way it is?

-Joe

JH: This question has come up the season. Countless times. When you asked me this a few days, I had an answer all lined up. Now…I’m thinking that I will change my mind at the last second. Let me explain. From the second the 1-game playoffs were announced, I said that they were not the right way to go. What I wanted to do was to give the top team in each division a first round bye. Give them an incentive to win the division and get an automatic championship series berth. I was very firm on this. So the Wild Card teams would play the other teams, based on seeding in the opening division series…while the top teams get a chance to take a breather, heal their injuries and prepare for the division series. This was my theory literally all season long. Then I got to thinking about it more. While I tend to be very strong in my convictions, I will change my mind. But I need to hear the logic of an argument why another way may be better. The convincing argument that changed my mind was momentum. A team headed to the playoffs will often do poorly on a long layoff. This is the case in many sports- check out the records. To go into the playoffs hot and stay hot, a team needs to keep momentum.

Going on the momentum theory, my argument of a first round bye for top seeds is probably the worst thing that you can do to a top team! Here I was trying to help them, when in fact my plan would be hurting them. Go figure! While I figured a long season (162 games plus spring training) can lead to many injuries, having as much time at the end of the year to heal would be beneficial. But apparently rust is a baseball killer. Coming into games cold after a long layoff could hurt a team more than it can help it. This makes sense on many levels. Think of a player that comes back from injury. After some rehab, they need some games in the minors and then major league action to get back into the groove. If a team is sitting for a week or two, there is no groove. So assuming that the first round bye idea is out, we are left with two possibilities. Keep the current Wild Card sudden death playoff games intact, or move to another format- the  most popular one being thrown around is the best of three. Thinking it through, I am going with leaving things the way they are.

While the results this week may have been not been so good for the Rangers and Braves, that’s how the system works out sometimes. Is there an issue of “fairness” to the Rangers and Braves? Specifically, I have read countless times on twitter on how unfair the system was to the Rangers. Here they were, leading the AL for most of the season and their division. Now they are out after a one game playoff. My response? Next time…don’t choke down the stretch run. The Rangers blew a huge September lead. They faced Oakland in their final series with a two game lead. Oakland had to sweep to take the division. They did. So why is that unfair? Texas controlled their destiny for the most part and couldn’t take care of their business. Would a three game series really have mattered in this case? Probably not. Baltimore had all the momentum and Texas was simply cold at the wrong time. A three game series simply means a much longer playoffs, more games where they are really not leaded. If a team cannot win a division outright, then they should consider themselves lucky to even be in the playoffs. Period. A one game sudden death Wild Card game is pretty exciting stuff and Friday proved that. No matter what system pick, there will always be complaints. In this case, I say so far…so good. Leave the Wild Cards as they are for now and let’s revisit this question again in five years. 

Q:  Hello!  My 8 yr old son asked this question the other day and the more and more I thought about it … the better the question became. so here goes:

Has any pitcher had at least 1 win in every MLB park he pitched in????

I’m sure somebody did it……

Walter Johnson?

Cy Young??

Seaver?

Carlton?

Ryan?

Clemens?

I do know it would take a 20 year HOF effort to do this as it’s not as easy as you would think! I would assume it was a starting pitcher that did the deed! Maybe it was a reliever?

Thanks

Gavin 

JH: Gavin, thank you very much for sharing your son’s question.  We have quite the baseball fan on our hands. Just what I like to hear!

His question is an interesting one and really made me think. Were there any pitchers out there that one at least 1 game in every park they pitched in. The more I thought about this one, my thoughts were as follows. I bet there are more pitchers who have accomplished this feat than you think. The good ones (as we will call them), all won at least game in every park they pitched in. I am pretty sure of it. I feel pretty confident, but at the same time remain extremely impressed with your son’s stumper.

To prove my theory, I decided to think of three superstar pitchers and view their stats. First name: Sandy Koufax. Pitched in 17 ballparks over his career. Only 1 win in Atlanta Stadium. Only 2 wins in the old Busch Stadium. Could I find a winless stadium? Answer was…yes. Seals Stadium. Three games pitched (two starts) and zero wins. Way to go Giants- you kept the great Koufax winless in your park!

Ok…so far I am batting .000 on this one. Let’s go with an obvious one. Greg Maddux! Or is it obvious? Maddux pitched in an incredible 39 ballparks. Winless in any? Yes. Winless in one start in Anaheim Stadium. Winless in two starts in Jacobs Field. Winless in one start in the Oakland Coliseum, one start in the Metrodome, two starts in Safeco Field, and one start in RFK Stadium. Unbelievable. I’m in shock! Certainly not what I expected to find.

Still no hits for me. So I have to throw out a big gun. Let’s go Bob Gibson. Will I pull this off? 21 career ballparks. I am feeling really good about this one. Any winless stadiums? Incredibly one. I can’t believe it. The culprit? Oh my…Seals Stadium again! Gibson pitched twice there (one start) and couldn’t pull off a win. I have never seen Seals Stadium, but I am certainly getting the sense that it was one tough park to win in!

I got stumped. Congratulate your little man. Well done! Now let’s try some of the names you suggested. Nolan Ryan is the first. 35 career ballparks. Winless in 4 stadiums (New Comiskey, Municipal Stadium in KC, Forbes Field and the Skydome). Roger Clemens: 39 career stadiums. Winless in five of them (Turner Field, Dodger Stadium, Shea Stadium, Citizens Bank and Petco Park). I literally can’t find any pitcher that has done it! Ok…i’m trying another. Jack Morris. 20 ballparks. At least 1 win in 19 of them. Winless in 7 career starts in New Comiskey Park. Dave Stieb pitched in 21 parks in his career. Of those parks, he only pitched once in each of Tropicana Field, Metropolitan Stadium and Turner Field- with no wins in all three. Even Mike Mussina- winless in several parks. I’m going to have to turn this one over the readers. Can you find a pitcher who has at least one win in every stadium he has played in? I am going to have to assume that we need some sort of minimum as far as games pitched- let’s say a pitcher who has pitched 5+ years in the majors. A big question: let’s see how you do!

Q:  Hello, my name is Jose. From Cuba. I am baseball fanatic.

Your opinion about Yoenis Cespedes ……
If you speak Spanish please contact by this language, I would like to contact you and to exchange ideas about the sport that I love very much …
Regards, Jose …. Bye

JH: Hello Jose.  You have picked one of my favorite subjects, Yoenis Cespedes. Unfortunately, no habla espanol. But as we have figured out together, google translate takes care of any language barrier that we may have. Another miracle of the internet.

As Jose and I corresponded, he also asked me how good I thought Cespedes was and how he compared to Kendrys Morales. Plus how Cuba would do in the World Baseball Classic.

To start off, I am extremely high on Cuban baseball. I love it. I love every part of it. The talent of the players. Intensity. Everything. I love that the coach has pitchers warming up in the pen as soon as a starter gives up a hit. I love that Castro’s son is the team doctor and travels with the Cuban WBC team and even goes in for mound visits. Classic. Catchers that get upset with pitchers for giving up home runs. Pitchers upset with outfielders who drop balls. Intense and passionate baseball. These guys take their baseball seriously in Cuba and live/die with every game, every at-bat and every pitch. This may rub some fans the wrong way, but personally, I love it. 

I am curious what Jose thought of Yoenis Cespedes before he joined Oakland. There was much mixed information out there about him and few people knew what to expect when he arrived. Well, he has proven to be a superstar after completing his first MLB regular season. He has been everything and more that Oakland could have expected when they signed him. 23 home runs in 129 games. 70 runs, 82 RBIs, 16 stolen bases. .292 AVG, .356 OBP and .505 SLG. I have watched him play many games. At the plate and in the field, this kid is a superstar. I just couldn’t take my eyes off him. He is captivating to watch. You feel his talent when he is on the baseball field. He is a special player that will only get better.

Kendrys Morales on the other hand came with a great deal of hype to Anaheim. But he ended up taking a while to develop, as opposed to Cespedes who burst onto the scene in his first year. When Morales finally was breaking through, he got hurt. This injury cost him playing time and he may never fully recover. Hopefully the same thing never happens to Cespedes. So I find them very difficult to compare. Cespedes is turning 27 this month while Morales is 29. Aside from his huge year in 2009, Morales has not done much in the big leagues. Will that change? Hard to say until he fully recovers, IF he ever fully does. Morales had a good season this year, but not great. The next 1-2 years will tell us what we need to know about Kendrys Morales. In my mind, Morales has much to prove to me that I will consider him a star. On the other hand, Cespedes is a star to me unless he proves otherwise, he has earned that distinction. 

As far as the 2013 world Baseball Classic goes, I certainly expect Cuba to have a good showing. They will eventually win the whole thing in my opinion. Maybe one day the team will allow defectors to play. Until then, the Cuban team needs to rely on players that stayed in Cuba to represent them. The talent is there and it will happen for Cuba one day. Who knows, maybe the latest WBC tournament will be Cuba’s chance to shine! It is too bad if Ariel Pestano does not play. He has been a fixture behind the Cuban plate for years. I see a managerial role for him in the future. Pedro Lazo as well. While defectors are not welcome, the players that stay home should stay active with the team. It builds loyalty, shares experience and makes for a better baseball team. Bottom line.

Q:  Moneyball. Man I hope the Reds get somebody else in the WS.  Jeremy 

JH: Are you feeling it as well? That Oakland might be a team of destiny? They actually played fairly well last night. But are they the overwhelming “scary” team to face to play in the playoffs? I’m not too sure about that. If the Reds make it to the World Series (and that is a BIG if considering that they still must beat 2 other teams), they would face either the Yankees, Orioles, Athletics or Tigers. Can we really say that the Tigers are any less scary? Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are some very talented players. You are talking one of the best (if not the best) starting pitchers in the game in Justin Verlander. A triple crown winner in Miguel Cabrera. What about the Yankees on the other hand? Sure, they may be aging. But they still have a very strong All-Star caliber roster. The Orioles, just like the Athletics, have been very hot going into the playoffs. If they can get 5 innings out of a starter, their bullpen is lights out.

We have reached a point Jeremy where we have 8 teams in the playoffs. 8 very strong teams, led by 8 intelligent managers with 8 strong rosters. In a short playoff series, anything can happen. As a Reds fan, I wouldn’t worry about who your opponent will be in the World Series. Get to the World Series first. No matter who it will be, they will be a tough opponent. But first you have to get through the Giants and their incredible pitching staff. Then it will be either the Nationals or defending World Series champs, the Cardinals. That’s a tough road in itself. I’m not saying the Reds won’t get there. They are my pick from the NL to make it to the World Series. But let’s not get too much ahead of ourselves. There is still a ton of ball to be played.

Q:  I have a good feeling for the Fighting Showalters!  Ben 

JH: We end this week’s ATR with Ben’s shoutout to the Baltimore Orioles, led by Buck Showalter. It is really hard not to like this team this year. Going into 2012 Ben, I predicted the AL East would have 5 teams over .500. People said I was crazy- but not for the reason you think. They said the only reason that won’t happen is because of Baltimore, because they would finish in last and under .500. Guess not. Who knew it would be the Red Sox and Blue Jays that would fall flat? I thought the Orioles would be good, but  not this good. But that is the magic of Buck Showalter. The man doesn’t get the respect he deserves. Everywhere he has gone, he has been gone. Usually happens in his 2nd full year with a ball club, with his greatest season falling in year 2 with Arizona. But this year may go down as Buck’s finest. Considering how bad the Orioles have been for so long (16 year playoff drought I believe), Buck took a group of players destined for a last place finished and turned them into a 93-69 team. They almost took the AL East. And they knocked off Texas convincingly in the Wild Card elimination game.

So how did Buck do it? I have heard various baseball analysts discuss him. He is considered the most prepared manager in baseball. He loves the game. He eats, sleeps and breaths the game. He loves young players and knows how to get the most out of them. But the new Buck, compared to the old one, may have mellowed out a tad. He has enjoyed a great relationship with all of his players this season, including the veterans. That’s not the reputation he always had. If it is possible, this is a kindler and gentler Buck Showalter. He has apparently mellowed. He will always be intense and prepared. But perhaps he has learned the human element of the game better. Regardless of what he is doing, it is working.

The 2012 Orioles have truly played like a team. All those 1-run ballgames that they have won. Incredible. Their starting pitching is patchwork at best, yet got the job done. Maybe not the best offense in baseball, but definitely very good. Solid defense for the most part. But the secret is that bullpen. The best and deepest in baseball. That is the true secret of the Orioles success. All the credit in the world goes to Dan Duquette and Showalter. The Orioles GM put together a roster that clearly works well and was able to compete in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. The Orioles manager then shaped the team and led them victory…after victory…after victory. But everything begins and ends with that bullpen, led by closer Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop and Darren O’Day. If you’ve watched a late inning Orioles game, it was almost always a foregone conclusion. The starter goes 5-6. Then bullpen locks it down. While I respeC. Johnson, I get really excited by Strop. He is a future MLB closer. Baltimore has Texas to thank for losing Strop and O’Day. Their loss is Baltimore’s gain. So for all those people who say that bullpens and relievers are overrated, check out the Orioles. They are proof that a solid bullpen can make or break a squad.

So Ben, it is hard not to feel good about Showalter’s squad. The million dollar question is how far can they go. How long can the magic continue. We will find out starting today as they take on the Yankees in a their division series matchup. If the Orioles can get through New York, they will certainly be a strong favorite to go all the way. But they still aren’t there and need to play the games first. But I don’t blame you for feeling good about this squad. The Orioles have been a great baseball story this year and hopefully the team can keep this up for many years to come. Orioles fans have suffered long enough. It is time to enjoy winning baseball again!



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Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

Posted on October 7, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hey Jonathan,

    You can tell the young lad that Don Drysdale of the Brooklyn/ LA Dodgers owns this honor with 19 parks http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=drysddo01&year=Career&t=p

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