Category Archives: General baseball

Discuss today: Are Wooden Baseball Bats Better and The Hit and Run in Baseball

If you’re new to baseball or you’ve been playing for a while, this is a question you might not have an answer to, but one that is important. To be honest, there are quite a few good things about wooden baseball bats, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better than aluminum baseball bats.

Are Wooden Baseball Bats Better?

It all comes down to what kind of player you are and what bat you perform better with. Luckily, with so many websites offering great discount baseball items and also full information for you to refer, you can afford to purchase an aluminum bat as well as a wooden bat so you can figure out for yourself which is better, and Around The Bats is one of these websites.

Wooden baseball bats have been around a lot longer than other types of bats, but the technology used to make them has changed quite a bit over the years.

This is good news for you, however, because you’re going to get a better wooden bat because of it. There’s also the question of what type of wood bat you want to get. There are many options available to you when you shop for discounted baseball equipment online. With a little research (or going by experience), you’re sure to find the best wooden baseball bat for you personally.

We still have our original question – are wooden baseball bats better? As mentioned, this is really going to come down to your personal preference.

There are people who will tell you that one is better than the other for this or that reason, but when it comes down to it, the choice is yours. Luckily, the Internet makes it easy to get great baseball bats, baseball shoes, baseball gloves and everything else you need!

The Hit and Run

The other night I was talking with another guy who has coached baseball for years, and the subject of the hit and run came up. We recalled times when it had worked to perfection and others when it failed, usually because the batter didn’t swing, leaving the runner from first to get thrown out at second.

The hit and run can keep a rally alive and avoid a double play like few other strategies. If well executed it even can put the batter on base while moving the runner past second and onto third.

It’s not a play you want to try at the younger levels. Hitters at that age lack the bat control to even attempt to put the ball where it needs to be. Also, catchers at that age usually can’t throw out a runner trying to steal second anyway so there’s no reason to possibly give up your hitter to advance the runner.

But at the upper levels of youth baseball, the hit and run can be an effective weapon. At worst, the runner advances to second and the hitter is out. But done well, the runner on third makes it all the way to third and the hitter is safe at first.

Here is a good article from eteamz.com that covers when and why to attempt the hit and run. As for how to do it, here’s a short video that demonstrates the process from start to finish. I wish they’d filmed on a sunnier day (the video is a little bit dark), but you can see exactly how the hit and run is supposed to work.

You’ll need to practice the strategy with your team a number of times before trying it in a game, and you’ll need a hitter with good bat control. But the kids love the opportunity to swing away at pretty much any pitch the catcher could catch, and they love the sort of clever strategy of the play itself. And when a rally continues and runs score, everyone likes the result.

Postseason awards

It’s postseason awards time again. I was going to do another version of the All-Jerk Team this year, but the jerks haven’t really shifted much from last year. I then turned my attention to creating an All-Scrappy team, but with David Eckstein and Willie Bloomquist on the team, who else do you need? Those two could pretty much singlehandedly tear apart any team in the league, so there’s really no need to flesh that concept out further.

Instead, what I decided to do was to take a look at the pre-season predictions of various “experts” (their words, not mine), to see how they did in relation to what really happened. I do this not as a gotcha, not to point out that the experts suck, but merely to demonstrate the relative folly of preseason predictions – most of these things, even with the most sophisticated analysis tools and numbers available, are a complete guess. 162 games is a long season, and anything can happen – so don’t get all upset when your favorite site picks the Yankees to win the Series. It’s not a foregone conclusion; in fact, picking the Yankees to win the Series is like being a weather forecaster in the PNW. If you say “Partly cloudy, chance of rain” in the winter and “Partly sunny, chance of rain” in the summer, you’ll be right about 30% of the time, so why bother doing, you know, actual work?

Anyway, on to the predictions.

First up, the Worldwide Leader. They put up a page which collects all their various preseason articles and analysis here, and quite handily compiled all their staff predictions here. What do we find there? That of the 16 prognosticators surveyed, not a single one had the Tigers even making the postseason, much less the World Series, and of the ten guys that picked the Cardinals to be in the World Series, only two (Alan Schwarz and John Shea) picked the Cards to win the whole thing. The Cards were, though, a near-unanimous pick to win the Centra, with only Mark Simon picking differently (the Astros).

On a rather astounding, if not world-altering, note, there was one guy that is employed by ESPN that got it right. Using what no doubt was a toolbox full of the most sophisticated analysis methodology available, numbers that would make Billy Beane salivate like a starving man at a buffet, this guy nailed it. He got the AL team wrong, but he flat out nailed the Cardinals. Ladies and gentlemen, Dick Vitale’s preseason picks. Yeah, I’m weirded out by it too.

Now, moving on to the good folks at the Hardball Times. First and foremost, I have to say this: David Gassko is a stud. The only division champ he missed was in the AL East (he had Boston over NY) and with a few exceptions, his order of finish was pretty damned accurate all the way across (at least compared to most of the other people I’ve taken a look at here…). As for postseason picks, again, nobody got the Tigers into October, and of the five guys that picked the Cards, none had them winning the Series. Honorable mention here goes to Dave Studeman, who picked the Cubs to win the Series this year. He must be that guy in the tree in the Lasorda commercial.

And, last but not least, it’s Baseball Prospectus turn. Their NL predictions are here, and the AL’s are here, here, and here. As for accuracy, at least in the NL BP (and when I say “BP”, I mean Joe Sheehan, who did all these…) did pretty good, getting all the division winners but missing the Padres, who BP had finishing third behind the Dodgers and D’Backs in the West. The AL West was pretty straightforward, but BP was off on the number of wins for the A’s by eight. the ALW preview did contain an interesting tidbit about the Mariners, though:

The Ms are an interesting team, but in the AL West , interesting isn’t enough. They could end up over .500–there’s a fairly wide range of possible outcomes for guys like Betancourt, Johjima, Jeremy Reed and Jose Lopez that makes prediction difficult–but there’s only a small chance that they’ll contend for a playoff spot.

Firefox’s new spell checker wanted me to replace Betancourt with “courtesan”, but whatever. That would be a great title for the Mariners’ season review DVD – “. Interesting just isn’t enough.”

In the Central, BP did OK – they got the Twins and the Royals right, but pegged the Tigers at 78-84. This line about the Tigers jumped out at me:

Still, the core talent here falls shy of impressive, and the surrounding parts aren’t difference makers.

While nobody predicted the Tigers’ run to the Series, this line comes as close as anyone to nailing why they didn’t actually win the thing once they got there.

Over there in the AL East, BP got the Yankees right, but missed the Jays’ second-place finish. See the above analogy re: weather forecasting for why everybody always picks Boston to finish second or first, interchangeably with the Yankees. This division rarely surprises anybody, at least at the top, and I don’t think anybody can be punished for missing the Blue Jay rise up the table.

As for October, BP doesn’t really do postseason predictions in March – Sheehan said it himself:

Picking the results of the postseason is hard enough, and silly enough, in October. Trying to guess them in March and April is six months’ moreso.

He then goes on to pick the A’s and Braves, but without much conviction, and has the A’s winning in six.

So what does this little exercise prove? Nothing, really, except what I stated earlier – the “experts” aren’t a whole lot better at the predictions game than, say, a three year old. When you read preseason predictions, remember that – season previews are interesting reading, sure, and if you read the individual team previews you can get some valuable information, but using that information to forecast what happens six months down the road is kinda nuts.

I’m big enough to admit I was wrong

The St. Louis Cardinals are your World Series champions. This is the outcome nobody expected, and the outcome nobody outside the 314 area code particularly wanted. I myself may have belittled the Cards once or twice, but for now if I were wearing a hat I’d tip it to the Cardinals.

I don’t really pay much attention to the whole stats v. scouts debate – it’s an artificial choice, both are necessary for success – but the outcome of this series is pretty much the anti-stats-guy result. The Cardinals, let’s face it, are a weak team – offensively, they’re Pujols and not much else, and pitching-wise, they’re Chris Carpenter and what’s left of Jeff “I’m not my brother, dammit” Weaver.

The Cardinals are the World Series champions not because of numerical superiority, or because they were consistently the better team than every team they faced. The Cardinals are the World Series champions almost solely because they did what they had to do when they had to do it. They realized, even as nobody else did, that the 162 games leading into October, while valuable, are utterly irrelevant once baseball narrows down to eight teams.

October baseball is mostly about things that can’t be quantified – momentum, chemistry, clutch performances, and managerial calmness/direction. Those things make a lot of people gnash their teeth in mid-summer, and rightfully so, but when it comes down to the business end of the season, they suddenly come into play. Baseball is a game played by human beings, and never is that more apparent than in late October – if you want an indication of how relevant the X factor of humanity is, look no further than Justin Verlander last night.

This is a kid who pretty much owned the regular season – 17-9, 3.63 ERA, and can hit 100mph with his pitches with seemingly no effort. This is understandable because he uses the best baseball gloves. The kind of guy, in other words, that you want pitching when your team’s facing elimination But, he’s a kid, and it showed last night – he was sitting on the bench before the game practically wetting his pants with tension. The look on his face, to me, was a look of barely contained terror – which I’m not blaming him for, that is what some would call a “high-leverage situation” and I’d be terrified too.

100mph pitches

When the game actually started, he had pretty serious control issues, bouncing several pitches in front of the plate and causing what seemed to be most of the team to come to the mound at various times, in an attempt to settle him down. Verlander didn’t singlehandedly lose the game for the Tigers, and once he settled down he pitched well. He did, however, throw away a ball that would have gotten So Taguchi out at third, instead allowing Taguchi to advance and then score on an Eckstein ground ball.

So what I’m trying to say is, in the playoffs, intangibles do matter. Here’s one of the better pitchers in the game, and he had a pretty bad game because he was nervous. That’s what makes the playoffs so interesting – the human factor matters a lot more when there’s only seven games to be played. Separating men from mice, nutting up, and all that.

So anyway, the Cardinals are the champs, and good for them. And, in an era when you see ultra-image-conscious athletes always celebrating with their kids or piously having prayer circles after a game, how refreshing is a picture like this? It’s nice to see Eckstein throw down (although I’m glad there’s no pictures of the aftermath of draining that bottle…), especially since he’ll probably have trouble seeing over the top of the MVP trophy he won.

That was a tough one

I can’t imagine what this morning must be like for Tigers fans. That game actually turned out to be pretty good, but the Tigers lost it by several plays that could be variously described as sloppy (Fernando Rodney’s bad throw to first), unlucky (Curtis Granderson slipping in pursuit of a ball) or just cruel (Craig Monroe really, really needs Ichiro’s fishnet of a glove). Games like this are excruciating in June, and in October they’re miserable – I’d almost rather see a team get blown out than to lose by a death of a thousand cuts like this.

Now it’s 3-1 to the Cardinals, and they’ve definitely got the advantage – but as any fan of the Red Sox can tell you, 3-1 is nothin’. The Tigers finally got their hitters to hit last night – at least Pudge, who went 3 for 4, and Granderson, who doubled in a run. Now, if Magglio Ordoñez would start hitting the ball, the Tigers may yet put up a fight.

I know this was just an idle discussion item on an off day, but I seriously hope this idea never gains traction. With all the bad weather in the last few days, the idea of a neutral-site world series has been floated – and this year isn’t the first time it’s been talked about. This is a bad idea for about a million reasons. It is, first and foremost, an overreaction brought on by the incessant 24/7 coverage of all things sports – there have been three rainouts so far this postseason. Prior to this season, there were three rainouts in the decade from 1995-2005. This is also the first time there have been three rainouts in a postseason since the 1975 World Series.

Does something that happens, on average, once a year every three years, and three times a year in 30, really constitute a problem? Doesn’t seem so to me.

The other problem with the neutral-site scenario is the fans. I’m not necessarily talking about the fans that go to one or two games a year, although they’re to be considered as well – I’m talking about the season-ticket and ticket-package holders, who hork up a big wad of cash every year to watch their team try to make it to the Series. If I’m that season ticket holder, I want a reward for sitting through 81 games a year, I want to know that my efforts will be paid off by sitting in the seat I’ve sat in all season, watching my team play for a nice shiny trophy, and looking at an out of town scoreboard in October and seeing no other games on the board because my team’s one of the last two playing.

What I don’t want, if I’m that guy, is to have to fly somewhere, make hotel reservations, and thus triple or quadruple my expenses – and probably not be able to stay for the entire Series, either – in order to satisfy Fox, MLB, and whoever else is responsible for such a crazy idea. So please, Bud Selig, if you were ever taking this idea seriously (which it doesn’t seem like you are), please put it out of your mind now, OK?

And, speaking of Bud Selig, when is it time to realize that, despite what we all want to believe, Selig’s reign has actually been (hold on) good for the game? I know, I know, there’s the whole head-in-the-sand-on-steroids-until-it-was-too-late thing, but even the traditionalist in me has to recognize that the wild card has been a success, interleague play didn’t cause gravity to reverse itself, and now a new labor agreement means there will be 16 consecutive years without a strike. This is a pretty amazing run of play, considering that there were more strikes from 1970 to 1995 than at any other time in baseball’s history (I think).

This new deal was done largely in secret, but it seems like both sides just looked at each other and said “hey, guys, there’s a big fat pile of money out there with both our names on it – we’re both fat, rich, and happy, let’s keep this train moving. The Cristal and hookers don’t pay for themselves!” and went ahead and did the deal. There is an obscene amount of money in professional sports, and for the first time, baseball seemed to realize that it can be shared in such a way that there’s no “loser” in negotiations any more. I mean, really, whether you accept a 20 foot tall pile of money or a 15 foot tall one is a nice dilemma to have, and it seems that both sides have finally decided to make nice so everyone gets their pile.

As a fan of what goes on between the lines, this is great news – it means I get to watch complete baseball seasons for 6 more years, at least. How can that be a bad thing?

Championship Series decision time

I rant about this every year, and I’m not the only one. At least I don’t think I am. Every baseball season, there are 4,860 baseball games, spread out over about 180 days; on any given day, there are at least ten games on (some travel days only have a couple games, but still).

Depending on the time zone of the game being played, then, it is at least theoretically possible to watch three, maybe four baseball games a day, especially if your first game is a Cubs home game. This does not require much beyond an mlb.tv subscription, no job, and an intense desire to be awash in baseball. MLB feeds this addiction, with mlb.tv and all its related archives – a really, really cool thing if ever there was one.

It is now the postseason, and it’s the “proper” postseason, to boot. The ALCS started yesterday, and the NLCS starts today, with ALCS game two being played as well. MLB, then, is down to four teams, and a maximum of 13 more games for each of those four teams.

You would think, given this finite pool of games, that MLB would schedule the games such that anybody without a natural stake in any of the four teams involved – say, me, for instance – could watch both LCS games without any undue televisual gymnastics. After all, there’s only two games on today – how hard can it be to stagger them?

Apparently it’s really hard. Both games are on tonight at 5pm, with the Tigers on Fox and the Mets on F/X. What genius is behind this decision? If you are an MLB official, you have to be secretly thrilled that the Yankees and Red Sox are out of the playoffs, because you will hopefully draw more neutral/casual fans to the LCS’s and the World Series with “new” teams involved. So you’d think that MLB would schedule the series (serieses?) so that the maximum number of eyeballs could see each game of each series.

Sure, this would mean that one of the games might start early for us West Coasters, but what would be wrong with starting one game at 4pm ET and one at 7pm ET? That way, those of us that want to can TiVo the earlier game while we’re at work, follow it on ESPN, or listen to it, whatever, and then watch the later game as it happens, thus not missing much of the action.

But no – MLB has decided that it’s not important for fans to see both games. They do this every freakin’ year, and it’s really irritating. I’ll be watching the Mets tonight, and checking the A’s score online – this is no way to run a postseason, dammit.

As much as I dislike the Yankees, I most certainly do not wish any sort of physical harm on any of them. Unfortunately, it appears that Cory Lidle perished in a plane crash today, making the whole “will Torre stay or go and what about A-Rod” thing seem a little insignificant. It’s shades of Thurman Munson, really, and it’s too bad.