According to Hardball Talk, here is a list of the 20 players who have been given a qualifying offer from their current club.

Brett Anderson, Dodgers
Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles
Chris Davis, Orioles
Ian Desmond, Nationals
Marco Estrada, Blue Jays
Dexter Fowler, Cubs
Yovani Gallardo, Rangers
Alex Gordon, Royals
Zack Greinke, Dodgers
Jason Heyward, Cardinals
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners
Howie Kendrick, Dodgers
Ian Kennedy, Padres
John Lackey, Cardinals
Daniel Murphy, Mets
Colby Rasmus, Astros
Jeff Samardzija, White Sox
Justin Upton, Padres
Matt Wieters, Orioles
Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

Some are clearly no-brainers, Greinke, Upton, Hayward, Zimmermann…these guys are going to get huge contracts somewhere and it is worth protecting them.

Others are hard to understand. Ian Kennedy for example. A 9-15 record and a 4.28 ERA in the NL merits a salary of $15.8-million next year?

But the bottom line is that if your club signs one of these players, you forfeit your first-round pick, unless you are the Phillies, Reds, Atlanta, Rockies, Brewers, Marlins, Padres, Tigers, or White Sox, they will forfeit their next pick if they sign one of these guys. (Note to Red Sox fans, if you had lost two more games, you would have made this list.)

Three notable players are not on the list because they were traded mid-season- Price, Cespedes, and Zobrist. Jon Lester cashed in last season thanks to that, I imagine Price will start his bidding around 6/150 and go from there.

It is 1985 All Over Again

About a month ago, I referenced the 1985 Yankees and how the 2015 season was starting to resemble that year with the Blue Jays surpassing the Yankees and taking the AL East. Little did I know how right I was.

Besides the Blue Jays beating the Yankees out for the AL East crown, they are now headed to the ALCS where they will play the Royals- just like in 1985.

In 1985, “Back to the Future” came out. At the end of the movie, the characters travel forward in time to 2015. In the sequel to the movie, we find out that the 2015 World Series winners are the Cubs- the team currently with the best odds to win the World Series.

Spooky isn’t it?

Ok, so maybe it all doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny, but the playoffs have been must-watch TV.

Start with the Cubs beating the hated Cardinals and clinching their first ever postseason series win at Wrigley. (In retrospect that should not have been a surprise. The Cubs have won one postseason series since Wrigley was opened!)

The Mets-Dodgers go to Game 5 tonight, and I am sure Chase Utley will get a warm reception at Dodger Stadium. I think the slide was legal, but dirty. I don’t think it should be legal, but he was clearly able to touch second on it, so I don’t understand the suspension. Would he have been suspended if he had not broken Tejada’s leg? Why wasn’t the guy who broke the Pirates’ shortstops leg a few weeks ago suspended? Makes no sense to me.

How about the Royals? Six outs away from elimination and down four runs, and they storm back to win Game 4 and then comeback in Game 5 as well.

And then there is Toronto. Start with the fact that they lost the first two games at home, but then consider the 7th inning yesterday  which had about everything you could ever expect to see in a baseball game. Personally, I have never seen a catcher’s throw hit a bat, that was a first. Bautista’s bat flip was perfectly fine in my mind, that was a monster homer, much better than the guys who preen over a meaningless homer in May. The game also made me very, very glad the Yankees never bit on Elvis Andrus, what a terrible meltdown he had.

It’s been a great postseason so far, and another do-or-die game tonight. I can’t wait.

How Did I Do?

I make my predictions every year before the season starts, and I review them every year before the playoffs start. This was not a good year for me.

Start with the fact that my World Series prediction– Angels-Nationals has already been eliminated. I also only got four playoff teams out of ten. What went wrong? Let’s go through things division-by-division.

AL East

I am going to give myself a pass of the AL East. My two main predictions at the start of the season were: 1- You could pick these teams out of a hat and 2- Barring a big move at the trade deadline these teams will finish within 10 games of each other. I picked Toronto for second and they clearly made two huge deals at the trade deadline. If that hadn’t happened, would they have won the division and would they have finished 15-games in front of the last-place Red Sox? I don’t think so.

Oh yeah, I missed on the Yankees. I thought they would win 82 games and finish 4th, but I did a lot worse in other divisions.

AL Central

Like this one. I had Cleveland winning it and KC second. I also had Minnesota in last. My lone good prediction, I picked the Tigers to finish 4th despite the hype surrounding them at the start of the year.

AL West

I really messed this one up. I picked the eventual division winner to finish last and I had Houston in third. I did predict that Anaheim would finish ahead of Seattle, so there is that small victory.

NL East

I missed on Washington completely, I am still not sure what happened there. I did pick the Mets for 2nd and got the rest of the division in the correct order.

NL Central

I picked St. Louis for third, but had Pittsburgh and Chicago at the top with Milwaukee in 4th and the Reds in last. Considering that Chicago and Pittsburgh finished with the 2nd and 3rd best records in baseball, this went pretty well.

NL West

I got the Dodgers as the champs, my only division winner,  but picked San Diego to be in 2nd and a wild card team- whoops!

So what do I think will happen now? I think the Blue Jays are going to win the World Series over the Dodgers. I wouldn’t be on it though.

The Price Will Be High

David Price has been everything the Blue Jays could have hoped for and more. In ten starts, he has gone 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA. Against the Yankees he has gone 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA. He isn’t the only reason the Blue Jays look like the AL East champs, but he is a big one and as an impending free agent, he is going to cash in big time.

Compare him to Johnny Cueto, another ace traded mid-season this year. Cueto has gone 2-6 with a 5.12 ERA since joining the Royals. There is a legitimate argument to keep him off the postseason roster.

Here’s the amazing thing, there are probably five pitchers who are ace-caliber talents headed to the free agent market this fall. Besides the two above, Jordan Zimmerman, Zach Greinke, and Jeff Samardzija are free agents. Based on 2015, Greinke and Price will sign massive deals. Zimmerman should do very well, and Cueto and Samardzjia may have cost themselves millions.

And don’t forget all the bats. Heyward, Gordon, Cespedes, Upton, Davis…. We could easily see over 10 $100-million deals signed this winter and probably at least two $200-million ones. What a great time to be a baseball player.

It’s Not About Baseball

I think my favorite Yankees-Red Sox moment had nothing to do with a game result. It was the night that Joe Torre returned from cancer treatments to manage the Yankees. The game was at Fenway and I was there. The Boston crowd was absolutely perfect, cheering Torre and giving him ovations whenever he came out of the dugout.

I thought of that last night when I heard the awful news about John Farrell. Cancer is an awful disease and it has affected both sides of this blog profoundly. I hope John Farrell gets well very soon. I hope that we see him managing the Red Sox next season and that Yankee fans get to give him a long ovation.


It’s Just Probability

There has been a lot of press about the fact that last night was the first ever time in baseball history that all 15 home teams won. It was written about a bunch this morning and even made the national news casts. It’s a neat thing, but the fact that it has never happened before isn’t a surprise.

Start with the fact that baseball has had 30 teams since the 1998 season, meaning this is the 18th season that you could have 15 home teams win on the same night. Now estimate the expected winning percentage for a team at home. Let’s say 60% is probably the highest average you could justify. You would therefore expect all 15 home teams to win 60% raised to the 15th power. That’s would put the odds at roughly 1 in 2,500. If you assume that all 30 teams played on the same night 162 times a season, you would have had 2,916 times that all 15 home teams could have won on the same night since the expansion in 1998.

But it is worth remembering that if you have odds of 1-in-2500, trying something 2500 times doesn’t guarantee you will experience it. Vegas makes a lot of money off of people watching roulette wheels and expecting that eight-consecutive reds will result in the ninth spin being black, but it doesn’t work that way. Each spin has the same odds as the last. (And Vegas diabolically has two green numbers so your odds of black and red are not even 50-50 but about 47.5%-47.5% with a 5% chance that green comes up and ruins you.)

All of this is another way of saying I am bored and too depressed to talk about the Yankees right now. Hopefully, that changes tonight.

154 Games?

Reports are that Tony Clark and the MLBPA would like to look at a 154-game schedule the next time the CBA comes up for negotiation. Like the author of the article I linked to, I am very skeptical that this has a chance of being approved by the owners. He points out the three biggest obstacles:

1- Reduced game revenue

2- Reduced product for TV partners.

3- Reduced product for municipalities.

Even if the players agreed to roll back their salaries by 5% (roughly the reduction in the number of games) The loss of gate revenue and TV revenue would make the owners very unlikely to do it. I suggested a number of years ago that MLB should incorporate the WBC into the middle of a 154-game season, but I still don’t think that will happen.

I also question the comment by Tony Clark about the hardships the players face today schedule-wise. Yes, there are some grueling trips, and short turnarounds, but let’s not pretend that these players are not given every amenity possible when traveling. They travel almost exclusively on chartered planes, usually something like a 757 that has been modified with fewer seats. They are put in first-class hotels and they are driven to and from the ballpark in buses when on the road. It’s a pretty comfortable way to travel and certainly beats the trains of yesteryear.

So, I don’t see the need, and I certainly don’t expect to see the schedule roll back to 154 games. What are your thoughts?

Why Not Net It?

A season ticket holder for the A’s sued MLB Monday to get them to install nets from foul pole to foul pole in all ballparks. The suit is not seeking any monetary damages, just the installation of the nets. My question is, why wouldn’t MLB do this?

I have been racking my brain on this issue, and I am having a hard time coming up with a reason. I think every park in the league has put screens in front of the dugouts. That was a sensible move. There is already a net behind home plate, which means in front of the most-expensive seats. I really don’t think it would cost that much to install. Maybe player safety from crashing into the net? But wouldn’t that be preferable to crashing into the stands?

Most importantly, it would protect people from getting hurt. MLB has insulated itself from lawsuits because the back of every ticket tells you “The bearer of the Ticket assumes all risk and danger incidental to the sport of baseball … including specifically (but not exclusively) the danger of being injured by thrown bats, fragments thereof, and thrown or batted balls.” But MLB can’t possibly be that callous about fan safety can they?

I think the lawsuit language also highlights a hugely important fact- people are more distracted than ever at ballgames. Smartphones are everywhere and people are not paying as much attention as they used to. Beyond that though, plenty of fans simply can’t get out of the way. A screaming line drive into the stands, over the dugout, is a potentially deadly missile- no matter how much attention is being paid to the game. So why not add a net and protect the fans?


Royal Flush?

MLB announced the latest All-Star vote totals today and if you are not a Kansas City Royal, you should demand a trade to them if you want to play in this game. Eight of the nine starting spots for the AL are now held by Royals. Only Mike Trout breaks up a clean sweep for KC.

I have complained about the All-Star Game before and this vote reinforces my gripes. You can’t keep telling me that the game “counts” but allow the lineups to be selected by biased fan bases. (Please note, I would make this same complaint if 8 Yankees were leading the voting.) I get it, the Royals fans want to reward their players for last season and are voting for them like crazy. The only fix I would ask for is that baseball drop the preposterous plan that home field advantage in the World Series goes to the league that wins the All-Star Game. Switch it back to rotating every other year or, and here’s a novel idea for a league that prides itself on a 162-game season, award it to the team with the best record!

But that won’t happen because FOX has convinced MLB that this helps them get more viewers and that allows them to pay MLB more money. MLB has always been willing to sell its soul for another buck, but this is getting silly. They have neutered the concept of AL and NL through the years by eliminating the separate league offices, standardizing the umpires to call both leagues’ games, and finally forcing interleague play on us year-round. My National League friends don’t want to hear it, but I will bet anybody the DH will be the standard in both leagues very soon. (Pitcher salaries are reaching the point where owners won’t want to pay them to take any unnecessary risks) How about you throw the fans a bone and let us enjoy the EXHIBITION game that the All-Star game was created to be? Then I won’t care who gets put in the starting lineup. Well, unless some of my favorite Yankees don’t make it!


Signature Significance

If there is a theme to my April baseball watching and writing it is this- beware small sample sizes. We have seen time and again players who get out of the gate quickly only to fall apart after the calendar turns to May. Joel Sherman provided  a good example the other day with Vernon Wells. Another good example from that 2013 Yankee team is Travis Hafner. Hafner had 6 HR’s and a line of .318/.438/.667 when April ended and he finished with 12 HR’s and a line of .202/.301/.378 for the season. Those two examples are why we should be very, very, careful to avoid making any conclusions about the rest of the season from the results so far, and why the following should be looked at with a skeptical eye.

In an Economist blog post the other day the author took a look at Alex Rodriguez’s 477-foot home run on Friday and what it means for the rest of the season. I encourage you to read the article, but the key takeaway is the concept of signature significance- an idea named by Bill James that says that certain rare results have much higher predictive power than one game or even one swing normally should. Hitting a 477-foot home run is that type of result. The key quote:

The fact that Mr Rodríguez propelled a single baseball 477 feet means there is a very strong chance he is not the player we thought he was. Guys who are washed up just don’t hit 477-foot homers. Not even once.

I’m still wrestling with this idea and its predictive powers, but I find it a fascinating concept.