An audible discussion of current baseball stories

While the ALDLAND Podcast continues to take a technical hiatus, I was a guest on this week’s episode of the Banished to the Pen podcast, where we discussed current baseball stories ranging from StatCast to Chicago Cubs prospects to the Detroit Tigers and the rest of the fightin’ AL Central.

You can download or stream the entire podcast here.

Predators Struggling to Last Through Second Periods

Even as the Predators picked up a win last night (ending at a reasonable hour too), there are still some worries with the long change. The long change happens in the second period (really, considering how this series is going, I should say even periods) when a team’s defensive zone is on the opposite side of the ice from its bench.

Read the full post here.

If We Win Again, We’ll Be One Again (via The Bitter Southerner)

The moment has been lauded for over 40 years. It trumped, for a short time, the more ominous brand of “white flight,” that of white folks selling their houses and fleeing to the suburbs. Hank was the right hero at the right time. He had no bluster about him. He had poise and was stoic, Russell said. Some white folks of the day said they liked that Hank wasn’t “uppity” — as if his grace was just an act to please them.

Aaron suddenly has some diplomatic descendants in the meshing of two sides of town. Just as baseball has ripped us apart as a sporting city with the Braves and their business flight to Cobb County and the taking of public money to build their new stadium, there are some new heroes in our midst at the right time. They created a oneness with a round ball — this one weighing about 22 ounces. They play with poise and heart, like Hank played.

I’m talking about the Hawks, of course.

Preposterous, you say?

Go buy a playoff ticket and see for yourself. They are the People’s Team. … Read More

(via The Bitter Southerner)

The moral implications of StatCast

moralitycastIf your neighborhood baseball nerd is nerding out a little more than usual today, it’s probably because Pluto’s in retrograde right now or something, and it definitely doesn’t have anything to do with tonight’s television broadcast debut of StatCast, which will go far beyond showing balls and strikes by tracking things like player movements and batted-ball data. Ben Lindbergh has a good preview of the technology and its chief implications for expanded baseball analysis here.   Continue reading

Predators Advancing on Chicago

After dropping an 87 minute double overtime game to Chicago in game of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Thursday (the game started on Wednesday), the Predators come back and blast Chicago back north with a 6-2 win to tie the series. With this win, the Predators have the loud-mouthed Blackhawks just where they want them.

Read the full story here.

Shane Greene Outduels A.J. Burnett as Tigers Hurdle Pirates to Avenge Only Loss

hurdle

After the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Detroit Tigers their only loss of the 2015 season on Monday afternoon, Detroit sought and found revenge against Pittsburgh Tuesday night. The Tigers’ first seven games were marked by nearly unbridled offense (+32 run differential, second only to Kansas City and, excluding third-best Oakland (+28), not close to anyone else), but they looked to their defense for a bounceback win in game eight. Starting pitcher Shane Greene, making his second start for the Tigers after his acquisition from the Yankees during the offsesason, was excellent. In particular, Greene was highly efficient, averaging just over ten pitches per inning for eight innings of three-hit, no-walk, shutout baseball. Not-insubstantial credit for his performance is due to key defensive plays by Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler, and J.D. Martinez. (Greene, who was making his first-ever plate appearances as a major leaguer, was generally ineffective with his brand-new Louisville Sluggers, but no one should care because this from his mother was adorable.)

Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett also had a strong outing, but he could not keep the Tigers at bay forever. The visitors broke through with one run in the seventh and, thanks to some heads-up baserunning by Iglesias, an insurance run in the ninth. Joakim Soria retired the Pirates side in the bottom of the ninth to seal the win.

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A minor subplot during this pitchers’ duel was the seemingly vertically compressed strike zone of home-plate umpire David Rackley, who had little interest in labeling anything up in the zone a strike. I was watching the Pittsburgh broadcast via MLB Network, but even I had to agree with the Pirate faithful that Rackley was robbing Burnett, who was throwing plenty down and away, when he even tried to go up in the zone. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle certainly thought so, and after Rackley sided with the batter on a second or third Burnett pitch that really appeared to be in the zone, Hurdle started hollering at Rackley from the dugout, and Rackley tossed him as Jim Leyland watched from the front row.

Taking a fresh look at last night’s pitches this morning, it appears that my eyes did not deceive me, and Hurdle et al. were justified in their complaining:

burnettpitchplotI’ve circled in blue what I believe to be the Burnett pitch that immediately preceded the Hurdle ejection. Looked like a strike last night, and it looks like one today too. In Rackley’s limited defense, he wasn’t really calling any high strikes, but that defense isn’t much of a defense at all in the broader scheme of things. Consistency is important, but an umpire’s imposition of his own personal, deviant strike zone really isn’t.

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Our 2015 Tigers series, Window Shopping, will begin in earnest very soon. Consider this post a prequel, and until I can get the engine revved up, I encourage you to enjoy this 2015 Tigers season preview to which I contributed in significant part.

2015 Detroit Red Wings Playoff Preview

The longest active playoff-appearance streak in American professional sports is alive and well. This is the good news in Detroit, where the Red Wings are preparing for their twenty-fourth consecutive NHL postseason. Their first-round opponent: the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The smart hockey folks predicted a very bad hockey season for the Wings, so the team should take some extra satisfaction in this postseason appearance. (They were right to project improvement by Justin Abdelkader, but less so for Luke Glendenning.) Their reward for consistently above-average production all season long was third place in the Atlantic Division, one spot behind their first-round opponents in Tampa Bay.

The Lightning, who got the better of Detroit in their four meetings this season, present a difficult challenge for the Red Wings.

Two areas where Detroit would seem to have an advantage, goaltending and powerplay scoring, may be mitigated by external factors. April is a bad time to host an internal goaltending competition, but neither of the team’s two primary options, Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek, has been able to carry the load to the satisfaction of coach Mike Babcock, who today announced that Mrazek will start game one. A question mark in net is not part of a winning playoff formula, but this is part of the hand these Red Wings have been dealt.

The powerplay advantage is nice, but powerplay opportunities are at their lowest in at least the last seventeen seasons, which means Detroit is likely to have fewer chances to leverage this advantage, particularly in the playoffs, where penalties already are reduced.

Detroit still has some of the best veteran and young players in the sport, as I was fortunate enough to witness in two wins against top teams (Nashville and St. Louis) this season. By my count, they had a .500 record against other playoff teams this season. They will be underdogs in this round and likely any others to which they advance, but if their defense can hold up, they have a fair shot of doing so.

There’s nothing like playoff hockey – enjoy!