A few new changes have been made to the game of baseball. Ones that will impact the game greatly. Beginning in 2014, we will no longer have home plate collisions. Beginning in 2014, replays will be expanded. Beginning in 2014, changes will be made, as the game of baseball continues to evolve into a more advanced sport. Although it's called "America's Pastime," it's finally moving along with the new technology available. It's becoming safer. It's changing. But it is all for the better?
Back on June 2, 2010, the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians were right in the middle of a three-game series. It was definitely unordinary. Twenty-eight year old Armando Galarraga had gone 26 hitters without allowing a baserunner. One out away from the perfect game, Indians shortstop Jason Donald hit a ground ball to first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Galarraga received the throw, apparently beating Donald, and securing the perfect game. However, first base umpire Jim Joyce saw differently, and called Donald safe. The rest is history.
In November, Major League owners approved the funding to expand replay and to approve new rules when they meet on January 16 in Arizona. What still needs to be worked out is what happens when a baserunner is deemed out on a trapped ball, or a foul ball that was a fair ball. How many bases does the runner advance? That still has to be fixed.
Baseball's biggest concern is adding time to a game that is already viewed by many as too slow. They hope for the replays to take around 1 minute and 15 seconds. The big question is: How bad does baseball want to get the call right? I would think that even without replay, people will view the sport as slow, which is a lose-lose situation. Baseball won't get the call right, and people won't change their minds about the sport. They should focus on getting the calls right, and it seems like they will be.
How replay will work (details to be finalized January 16 in Arizona):
The replay was tested in the Arizona Fall League this past fall, and I thought that it worked well and was able to clear up some "missed calls" and confirm "close calls." (If you want to view the replay in action, click here.) However, remember that was the AFL and not the MLB. There is so much more at stake in the Majors, but it should be able to make the game better.
Home Plate Collisions:
If you watched the video, you saw a short documentary on the Buster Posey plate collision from May 25, 2011. Mrs. Posey no longer has to worry. Home plate collisions will no longer be allowed by Major League Baseball. At the 2013 Winter Meetings, MLB banned the collisions, wanting to make the game safer. Home plate collisions are recipe for disaster when it comes to injuries, but should they be banned all together?
Pete Rose doesn't think so.
"First of all, if they can eliminate concussions, I’m all for that," Rose told Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News. "But I’ve thought and thought about it. The only concussions I can remember recently in baseball is Justin Morneau, and he got that sliding into second base. I know this is mostly about Buster Posey, but he got hurt when he got his ankle caught and twisted it."
"I’m a traditionalist," he said. "I thought the game has always been pretty good. About the only major changes they’ve made to the game since 1869 was when they lowered the mound afrter the 1968 season and the designated hitter. I mean, the game is going pretty good, isn’t it?"
"What’s next? Are they going to eliminate the takeout slide on double plays at second base?" Rose asked.
Rose played gritty baseball during his tenure in the big leagues. He liked to get dirty and play hard. Eliminating home plate collisions definitely fits Rose's baseball ego. Personally, I believe baseball is doing the right thing. Players will continue to get bigger, stronger, and faster, thus increasing the chance of a very serious injury at home plate. Players now will have to slide at home, which does happen already without the rule.
The question about banning home plate collisions comes with an issue. What happens to a player that collides with a catcher at home plate? Do they get ejected? Suspended? That still needs to be clarified fully to me.
These two rules are game changing. I believe that they are for the better. Nonetheless, they will be here, starting Opening Day 2014.
It has been a few months since the final out of the 2013 World Series. Many players have changed teams and inked contracts, as we see a better picture on team's outlooks for the 2014 season. Some teams have done well improving themselves, while some teams have suffered. Many of the top free agents are gone and have moved on, bringing themselves to new whereabouts. Without further ado, here are my picks for the winners and losers this offseason.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have done a fantastic job this offseason, making somewhat subtle moves to bolster their team in 2014 and beyond. Adding Mark Trumbo and re-signing Brad Ziegler will add to a team that is relatively young and getting ready to enter its prime. Also, the D-Backs shipped Heath Bell to Tampa. The reliever had some troubles out of the closer position. In return? The D-Backs got prospects, making their farm system even deeper. Nonetheless, acquiring Trumbo was huge. Trumbo has rare right-handed power, something many teams covet. By adding him to a lineup with Paul Goldschmidt should make the Diamondbacks a threat to win the National League Wild Card or even the National League West in 2014.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees want to win. It doesn't matter to them if they are getting younger. It just matters if they are getting better. The Yankees signed a trio of notable players this offseason: Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran. All the signings come with a risk attached. However, in 2014, they should be able to produce to the level the Yankees expect them to. After that, it's all up in the air. We've seen how winning an offseason doesn't necessarily win you a championship (2012 Marlins, 2013 Blue Jays), but adding valuable pieces should theoretically win you some ballgames. Just wait and see for now.
The Rangers are putting their chips in and going all in. They want to win. They want to win now. Adding Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder is huge. Without them, the Rangers ranked 8th in the MLB in runs scored. With them? They should make a run deep into October, perhaps winning the pennant, maybe even the World Series. Losing Ian Kinsler hurts, but Jurickson Profar should fill in nicely at second base. Choo is a player that will get on base 35-40% of his plate appearances. Fielder can hit homers. A ton of them. In Texas, he could be a 40-home runs player. What the Texas Rangers did should make them a team to watch in the American League.
Honorable Mentions: Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals
The Milwaukee Brewers had many questions coming into this offseason. Could they retain Corey Hart? How will Ryan Braun fare in 2014? What will they do to improve their offense? Their pitching? Nothing it seems. Corey Hart is a Mariner, and the largest transaction the Brewers have made this offseason is acquiring pitcher Will Smith for outfielder Norichika Aoki, an outfielder that has a career 103 OPS+. Yes, he is almost 32 years old, but he can produce. The Brewers need a huge culture shock to get off the "losers" list, let alone the "winners."
The Philadelphia Phillies are supposed to trade Jonathan Papelbon, Domonic Brown, among others. Nothing has happened. Yes they signed Marlon Byrd and re-signed Carlos Ruiz, but yet again we see the Phillies relying on an aging core that just won't produce to the same level that it produced from 2007 to 2011. They've been busy making minor signings, but it seems as if we will be seeing the same Phillies team we have since 2007. That is just too long. They could do something in the trade market and acquire some young talent, but they want too much. The Phillies will be worse in 2014 unless they make a huge group of moves.
The Atlanta Braves expected to lose Brian McCann, but hoped to re-sign Tim Hudson. Hudson's in San Francisco, and the only notable move the Braves made this offseason was getting a new stadium. Even that people have mixed feelings on. They have a well-overdue TV deal, and expect to keep their payroll under $100 million. This most likely means that they are pretty much done this offseason. It looks like the Nationals will be the next to reign the National League East division.
Honorable Mentions: Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays
It's a happy holiday for baseball teams this winter. Starting Tuesday, Masahiro Tanaka, Japan's top pitcher, will be allowed to sign with any team that is willing to pay the Rakuten Golden Eagles $20 million as a release fee for Tanaka. Although no team will likely bid on Tanaka for some time, teams have expressed interest. Let's break down which teams have shown interest in Tanaka.
New York Yankees: The Yankees need serious pitching in 2014. Yes they have C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova, but young, unproven arms in Michael Pineda and David Phelps seem like the leaders to round out the staff. Pineda made 28 starts in 2011 with the Mariners, when he posted a 101 ERA+ and a 3.74 ERA. He missed the entire 2012 season and 87 games in 2013 recovering from shoulder surgery. Phelps posted a 81 ERA+ in 22 games with the Yankees in 2013. We know the Yankees have the money for Tanaka. Being young and better than the rest of the starters on the market, he seems like the best option for the Yankees.
Chicago Cubs: The Chicago Cubs have expressed interest in the right-hander. CSN Chicago's Dave Kaplan spoke to a MLB source on Tuesday. "I just spoke with a source who believes Cubs will not be outbid on Tanaka. He also said convincing Tanaka to come to Chicago will be hard," Kaplan tweets. Tanaka will get the money from the Cubs, but might not want to come there over the Dodgers and the Yankees. Again, he'll add youth and talent to a team with a good amount of it down in the Minor Leagues. Also adding Tanaka to a staff with Jeff Samardzija (with no trade) could make the Cubs a borderline playoff team in 2014.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers have pitching, but we know they'll do anything to win the World Series. It could be worth nothing, but Tanaka chose the same agent who represents Dodgers pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke. That means the agent has a good relationship with the team, which could boost the probability of Tanaka heading to Los Angeles. Their GM said on Tuesday that he was pretty much finished tinkering with his 40-man roster. That was before Tanaka was posted. The Dodgers are in the "wait-and-see" mode right now.
Other teams with interest: Angels, Mariners, Red Sox, among others are also interested in Masahiro Tanaka.
On Sunday, a Spanish report reported that outfielder Nelson Cruz and the Seattle Mariners were close to signing a deal. On Saturday, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted this:
Could we see another big free agent head northwest? It's possible. For those of you who would like the article roughly translated, here you go:
The Seattle Mariners are still one of the busiest in the winter in all MLB teams, and now want to Nelson Cruz in his right.
How true is the article? It's hard to know. It could be a false-alarm, or could be something that could tell us the answer of the Nelson Cruz sweepstakes. However, keep caution and keep your eyes peeled because Cruz could be headed to the Seattle Mariners.
Hat tip to Jamie Kelly (@JamieSportsTalk on Twitter).
On-base plus slugging percentage may seem like a great stat to use when determining a player's value, but it can be a tad bit misleading. Sometimes players play in ballparks in lighter air, giving the ball a better chance to go over the fence (see: Coors Field). Sometimes players play in ballparks with nearby ocean air, which forces the ball to not go as far (see: Petco Park). Every ballpark has different dimensions and different weather conditions. This can cause a player's OPS to fluctuate on an increase or decrease, based on where they play.
Don't worry, however, there is a solution. A stat called OPS+ is the solution, an OPS statistic adjusted to that player's ballpark and which league the player played in (American League or National League). The formula for OPS+ is:
OPS+ = 100 x (OBP/lgOBP*+SLG/lgSLG* - 1)
The easy way to understand lgOBP* and lgSLG* is that they are park-adjusted league-average on-base percentage and slugging-percentage. Basically, it's the average of how well the players played in those leagues in their ballparks. ESPN's Park Factor shows this equation for adjusted runs in a specific ballpark, thus creating lgOBP* and lgSLG*:
((home runs scored + home runs allowed)/(home games)) / ((road runs scored + road runs allowed)/(road games)
An OPS+ of 100 is exactly average, making it even easier to determine the value of a player. An OPS+ of 150 or greater is excellent, 125 is good, while an OPS+ of 75 is poor. Using this stat, you can determine how much better a player is than average (100 OPS+) or how much better a player was compared to another player of another era.
For example, if player A had an OPS+ of 110, and player B had an OPS+ of 80, player A can be considered to drive in 30% more runs than player B.
The only problems in OPS+ is that the stat weighs on-base percentage and slugging percentage equal to one another. Sabermetricians agree that OBP is more valuable than SLG, which somewhat throws the stat out the window. OPS+ is completely an offensive stat as well, and does not factor in other ways a player can be valued, in base running and fielding. Players who are valued higher because of defense can sometimes be given a misleading OPS+ stat.
Here are two quotes from a Yahoo article about OPS+:
Conceptually, it's easy to understand: it's a single number that attempts to measure a player's contributions at bat. It doesn't account for baserunning or defense and it doesn't account for the discrepancy in value between on-base percentage and slugging, but it's a pretty good indicator of how good a year a particular player has had...."
The top 10 OPS+ players in 2013 were: Miguel Cabrera (181), Mike Trout (179), Chris Davis (165), David Ortiz (160), Paul Goldschmidt (160), Andrew McCutchen (158), Jayson Werth (154), Joey Votto (154), Josh Donaldson (148), and Edwin Encarnacion (145). While the top 6 were "no-brainers," the rest of the list goes to show that these players are far more underrated than people think.
OPS+ is a great statistic that proves a player's worth in one number. Easy as pie.
Pitching has a similar stat. It is called ERA+.