Here are several go-to links from the past week to make the first Monday in February a bit more bearable:
Congratulations to Cal Tech’s baseball squad on its first victory in nearly ten years. On Saturday the Beavers opped Pacifica, 9–7, winning for the first time since February 15, 2003.
John Sickels rates the minor-league systems of all MLB 30 teams. Here are his top three and bottom three:
1) St. Louis Cardinals (ranked #5 last year): Strengths: Everything. They have pitching, hitting, high upside, and depth. They have a proven track record of player development. Weaknesses: none really. They could use a shortstop with a better bat but so could most teams.
2) Seattle Mariners (#4 last year): Strength: Good balance between hitting and pitching, strength up the middle with Zunino, Miller, Franklin; potential ace arms; good knack for finding underappreciated college hitters. Weaknesses: Persistent problems with Latin American prospects showing poor strike zone judgment and contact issues.
3) Tampa Bay Rays (7): System was already strong and trade with Royals just adds more. Strength: considerable pitching depth; good mix of players who will be ready now/soon (Myers, Archer, Odorizzi) plus guys at lower levels with high upside. Weaknesses: upper level hitting other than Myers.
28) Chicago White Sox (30): White Sox scouts can find players when given the resources to do so, but years of cheapskate draft strategy and poor non-Cuban Latin American focus have crippled system depth. Strengths: toolsy outfielders, with Courtney Hawkins looking excellent from 2012 draft. Weaknesses: overall depth, particularly with potential starting pitching. It will be interesting to see if new GM Rick Hahn can turn this around quickly.
29) Los Angeles Angels (18): Big drop now that Mike Trout has graduated and other players have been traded. Strengths: decent group of position players with Kaleb Cowart the best of the lot. Several potential bullpen arms. Weaknesses: impact pitching, especially potential starting pitchers. Overall depth.
30) Detroit Tigers (23): Very thin in all respects. Strengths: Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia could help soon, and there are some potential role players behind them. Bullpen arms. Weaknesses: lack of depth almost everywhere, particularly hitting.
While embracing the wins-above-replacement metric as a useful tool, ESPN columnist Jim Caple cautions against relying solely on WAR when evaluating talent.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wonders if harsher penalties for the use of performanc-enhancing drugs in baseball will be much of a deterrent.
What goes into the process of teams’ insuring against player injuries? The Economist offers some insights:
As salaries in professional sports have soared over the past few decades, so has the price tag associated with the risks inherent in such strenuous physical activity. Athletes in sports like golf and tennis often buy their own insurance, though those with recurring conditions have trouble getting coverage. But sports teams that offer guaranteed contracts face huge losses if stars are injured, even only temporarily. As a result, the economics of the business are now shaped by insurance markets just as they are by TV contracts or ticket sales. . . .
One big risk for insurers is moral hazard. Players insured against a career-ending injury may have little incentive to make a comeback if they have already received a payout; clubs with temporary disability policies have an incentive to keep a player sidelined until he is fully healthy. Jeff Moorad, a former boss of baseball’s San Diego Padres, recalls a debate over Chris Young, a pitcher recovering from a shoulder injury in 2010. “As a matter of principle, we didn’t stand in his way, and he came back and contributed,” he says. “But the accounting department much preferred that he stay on the disabled list.”
Sports economist and MLB consultant Andrew Zimbalist talks with the Tampa Bay Times’ Steven Nohlgren on the Rays’ ongoing attempt to get a new ballpark built in Tampa.
Bruce Markusen of the Hardball Times pens another must-read, this one devoted to the baseball history of the Alou family.
80 This is the number of times Sid Fernandez and Bonds faced each other. Fernandez never intentionally walked Bonds. No one else has done so with more plate appearances. Dwight Gooden, a former teammate of Fernandez, is second with 75.
Paul Assenmacher and Chuck McElroy show up farther down the list. If you needed someone to retire Bonds, you could do worse than those two. He hit a combined .114/.171/.300 against them, with 18 strikeouts in 76 plate appearances. Even then, seven of his eight hits went for extra bases.
86 This is how many intentional walks Liván Hernández, the active leader, has issued in his career. Hernández faced Bonds 30 times and issued just one free pass. Bonds went 10-for-21 with four homers, so maybe that wasn’t the optimal strategy.
110 This is how many unintentional walks Shawon Dunston drew from 1989 to 2002. That covered a span of 1,340 games and 4,435 plate appearances.
Dunston and Bonds played together for the Giants in 1996, 1998, and 2001-2002. Dunston drew five walks over those final two seasons. Bonds drew the same number on September 12, 2002.
For those living in or near Houston, BPro and the Astros are teaming up to offer baseball fans field-box seats to a game on Saturday, May 11, and an opportunity to meet online-magazine and front-office personalities. Details here.
NBC Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra provides details on how those interested may help County Meath in Ireland get a field of their own.
That’s it. Have a walk-off week!