New-fan week: We’re all trying to hit .300

Editor’s note: A recent reddit post — this one to be exact — really stuck with me. The author is an Irishman who’s looking to get into baseball and, not knowing where to start, he asked for help. Well, this week at Infield Fly, we aim to help everybody’s who’s just getting into the game. If you’re a new fan, if you’re interested in becoming a fan or if you know somebody who think would love the game and you want to point them our way, hopefully this week will have something for you. We plan to cover the how and the why for new fans.

Read the first instalment, a basic stats primer, here. The second instalment, a quick guide on how to get the most out of watching the game, is here. The third piece, a new fan’s perspective on why the game is great, can be found here. The fourth instalment, a player’s perspective on the game, can be read here.

Today we feature a guest post from Navin Vaswani. You can find his work at NotGraphs and, occasionally, at the definitely-worth-adding-to-your-RSS-feed Sports and the City. If you’re on Twitter and you’re not following him already, shame on you.

[twitter-follow screen_name=’vaswani_’]

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When Chris asked me to write a guest post for Infield Fly on why I enjoy baseball, he noted that I could bring a unique perspective to this week’s series because I’ve been to 30 Major League ballparks, all of them except for the Marlins’s new home. He’s right that I have been to all those parks. I did it a couple of years ago. Thirty-one ballparks in 55 days. The Baseball Road Trip of a Lifetime, as I called it, one I didn’t finish writing about after being diagnosed with depression. But I don’t think that my trip — my insane trip — has given me any special insight into baseball, into the game, and why one likes it, and watches it. I think I learned more about America, backpacking through the country, than I did about baseball. Let’s face it: You’re going to love baseball, whether you’re a new fan, or someone returning to the game, because you love baseball. Not because of what you read here, or anywhere else, for that matter. I think what I’ve learned over the past few years, as I’ve become more of a baseball enthusiast, as compared to any other sport, is that baseball isn’t for everyone. And that’s OK. Continue reading

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New-fan week: Prep your baseball mind, appreciate baseball emotion

Editor’s note: A recent reddit post — this one to be exact — really stuck with me. The author is an Irishman who’s looking to get into baseball and, not knowing where to start, he asked for help. Well, this week at Infield Fly, we aim to help everybody’s who’s just getting into the game. If you’re a new fan, if you’re interested in becoming a fan or if you know somebody who think would love the game and you want to point them our way, hopefully this week will have something for you. We plan to cover the how and the why for new fans.

Read the first instalment, a basic stats primer, here. The second instalment, a quick guide on how to get the most out of watching the game, is here. The third piece, a new fan’s perspective on why the game is great, can be found here.

Today an Infield Fly regular, Cole, looks at his experiences coaching and playing and shares what makes the game so special to him. Cole currently plays in the Southern New Brunswick Baseball League, a men’s wood bat league, and has coached in the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League, which has alumni such as former major leaguers Matt Stairs and Jason Dickson. Continue reading

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New-fan week: Baseball is boring. Baseball is not boring.

Editor’s note: A recent reddit post — this one to be exact — really stuck with me. The author is an Irishman who’s looking to get into baseball and, not knowing where to start, he asked for help. Well, this week at Infield Fly, we aim to help everybody’s who’s just getting into the game. If you’re a new fan, if you’re interested in becoming a fan or if you know somebody who think would love the game and you want to point them our way, hopefully this week will have something for you. We plan to cover the how and the why for new fans.

Read the first instalment, a basic stats primer, here. The second instalment, a quick guide on how to get the most out of watching the game, is here.

Today, we have a guest post from Ruhee Dewji of Double Switching. She’s been a ball fan for just over a year now and she’s sharing what she loves about the game and why she’s hooked. If you’re on the Twitter, give her a follow. She’s cool beans. Continue reading

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New-fan week: How to enjoy watching baseball

Editor’s note: A recent reddit post — this one to be exact — really stuck with me. The author is an Irishman who’s looking to get into baseball and, not knowing where to start, he asked for help. Well, this week at Infield Fly, we aim to help everybody’s who’s just getting into the game. If you’re a new fan, if you’re interested in becoming a fan or if you know somebody who think would love the game and you want to point them our way, hopefully this week will have something for you. We plan to cover the how and the why for new fans.

Read the first instalment, a basic stats primer, here.

Today, I, Chris, go over a few basic things the new fan should do to gain an appreciation for the game.

OK, so you want to be a baseball fan. Good choice! Baseball can be a very rewarding sport, but it’s not an easy one for newcomers. You’ve got a lot to learn, so, rather than overburden you with explanations, here are three simple steps to get into the game. Complete these three and you’ll still have a lot to learn about the sport, but you should come away with an appreciation for the game and a willingness to keep watching. Continue reading

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New-Fan Week: In Baseball, the Numbers Don’t Stop

Editor’s note: A recent reddit post — this one to be exact — really stuck with me. The author is an Irishman who’s looking to get into baseball and, not knowing where to start, he asked for help. Well, this week at Infield Fly, we aim to help everybody’s who’s just getting into the game. If you’re a new fan, if you’re interested in becoming a fan or if you know somebody who think would love the game and you want to point them our way, hopefully this week will have something for you. We plan to cover the how and the why for new fans.

Today, resident stats guru coolhead2011 goes over the basic stats and numbers needed to understand the game.

Baseball players do not, in fact, carry calculators around in their back pockets. In fact, most players, when interviewed about a streak they are on, or counting stat they’ve accumulated, will claim they don’t pay attention to that sort of thing at all. I assume some of them are lying, because many players are also fans of the game, and when talking about the game, it often comes down to comparing players to one another. The baseball gods have given us a game from which we can draw so many numbers, and the discussions based on those numbers never end.

So, let’s start with the numbers a new fan needs to understand, just to know what’s happening on the field, and then we’ll look deeper into how those numbers have grown into a way to evaluate players. Continue reading

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Brett Lawrie deserves to be suspended

“I didn’t mean to hit him, your honour; I just meant to fire a warning shot.”

At some point, likely today, Brett Lawrie will be suspended for his actions during the ninth inning of last night’s loss to the Tamp Bay Rays. Lawrie deserves whatever sort of punishment MLB metes out and, unless the punishment is harsh, he probably deserves more than he gets.

Lawrie says he didn’t mean to hit the ump with his helmet. I believe him. But intent only matters up to a certain point.

Hitting an umpire — even if unintentional, even if the ump just called you out on two borderline pitches you thought should be balls — is completely inexcusable.

Lawrie must pay for his actions and he should do whatever he can to make good with the umps so that any lingering anger isn’t taken out on his teammates in the form of questionable calls going against them.

GIF courtesy of Ian, the Blue Jay Hunter.

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The man, the legend, Jose Canseco

You know how Jose Canseco gets on Twitter and is all like “I’m the best at everything. I challenge you to challenge me”? Or, in the man’s own words:

Well, a guy in Ottawa took Canseco up on his offer to challenge him and this past weekend, Canseco was in Ottawa to take part in a home-run derby with Evan Malamud, appliance salesman.

Canseco lost the derby.

In fairness, Canseco had to hit baseballs out of the park and Malamud had to hit softballs over a much shorter softball fence. But still, Canseco lost.

I was unable to find video of the derby itself, but I did find this gem: Canseco’s media scrum. He says some interesting-in-a-crazy-way things: Twitter is like acting (presumably implying that he’s not really crazy); he believes he could still lead the majors in home runs if some team would just give him a chance already; and he’s developed an anti-aging drink that really works, you guys.

Without further ado, the man himself:

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Fight or flight: Impaling Lind’s spirit?

I know it’s en vogue to analyze teams and players strictly by the statistics available about them. There is definitely something to do be said for the value of statistics and basing organizational decisions on as much information as humanly possible. Math(!) is a good thing.

But, as much as I value math and people who are really, really good at it, I do think some people have a tendency to take the numbers too far. Baseball players are human beings and there’s a definite human element to their performance — unless the player in question is a Roy Halladay-like cyborg, of course.

Except for 2009 and a brief period of last season, Adam Lind has proven that he is not a good MLB hitter. Despite that, the team keeps running him out to first base everyday and, until very recently, he was batting cleanup on a daily basis.

Why does the team keep running Sleepy out there despite his obvious deficiencies? Well, he has shown that he has the potential to crush MLB pitching and he’s currently signed to a very team-friendly contract, so why not give him the chance to figure things out?

And, even if he didn’t have those things going for him, who would the team replace him with? David Cooper? Ha!

The only legitimate internal option is the trifecta of moves oft-mentioned by fans: Travis Snider promoted and installed in left field; Eric Thames moved to DH; and Edwin Encarnacion taking over first. In theory, I like those moves. In reality, it doesn’t seem likely as team management seems committed to finally giving Snider some stability and leaving him at one level (Triple-A) for an extended period.

Human beings, when threatened, generally go into fight or flight mode. Confront the problem head on or run away from it and hope for the best. Some, but not all, lapse into a sort of contentment when they’re not really threatened.

I won’t pretend to know what goes on in Lind’s head, but given his previous comments about how much he hates working out, I wouldn’t be surprised if he tends to feel content when he’s not pushed. Struggling at the plate? “Big whoop, what are they going to do? Call up Cooper?”

If that’s his attitude — and it may well not be, but hear me out — maybe he needs a push.

The team may have given him that push on Thursday.

At 37, Vladimir Guerrero is a shell of his former self. But the shell of a likely Hall of Famer is better than what Lind’s been doing lately. That Toronto signed the Impaler to a minor-league deal can only be viewed by Lind as a threat to his job security.

If Guerrero can prove in the minors that he’s got anything left in the tank, the team could easily improve its offence by moving Encarnacion to first and letting Vladdy DH while Lind rides the pine. Not only would it be a good move in terms of improving the offence, it’d have to be a PR score, too. Employing the services of a Montreal Expos legend isn’t exactly going to hurt.

Of course, there is always the possibility that Lind, sensing that he’s threatened, fights for his job and does whatever it takes to get as close to his 2009 form as he possibly can. If he does, the team wins on this deal with Vladdy.

If Lind doesn’t improve and Guerrero ends up making the Jays a better team, the team wins on this deal with Vladdy.

If Lind doesn’t improve and Guerrero doesn’t have anything left to contribute, well, Vladdy’s deal is for peanuts, relatively speaking, so the team doesn’t lose on this deal with Vladdy.

It’s a win-win-draw deal if I’ve ever seen one!

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It’s not Cordero’s fault

If your closer can make Brandon Inge celebrate like this, he probably shouldn’t be your closer.

It’s not Francisco Cordero’s fault. It’s really not. Never mind the fact that, to date, opposition batters have posted a 1.164 OPS against him. Never mind that his ERA is closing in on double digits. Never mind the fact that he’s blown three of five save opportunities so far this year. It’s really not his fault.

The blame for Cordero’s failures has to fall squarely on the shoulders of manager John Farrell. No, Farrell is not on the field failing to get the job done, but Farrell is the one who continues to put Cordero in at times when it seems he shouldn’t be called upon.

Farrell has said many times that he misused the bullpen last year and that he believes the relievers need defined roles to help them succeed. I’m not one to completely deny the fact that psychological factors can affect a player’s performance, so I’m willing to buy it. But for Farrell to say that Cordero is “our guy” is just plain wrong.

The team has a capital-C closer (whether a team really needs someone in that role is an argument for another day). His name is Sergio Santos. Yes, he’s on the disabled list, but just because he’s out, doesn’t mean his role has to be filled.

It seems to me that Farrell should be telling his guys that, while Santos is out, who he calls upon to close out a game will be a decision based on how his relievers have pitched lately and any sort of statistical evidence that suggests a given pitcher would have success against whoever’s due up for the opposition in the ninth. Maybe that’s Jason Frasor or Darren Oliver. Maybe it’s Luis Perez. Hell, maybe it’s even Cordero.

I do believe that Cordero has value. I do believe there are situations in which he could be called upon to do good for the Toronto Blue Jays. But it’s obvious that, for right now anyway, he should not be the team’s go-to ninth inning guy. And bad results that come out of the team continuing to call on him in save situations have to fall on Farrell for continuing to treat Cordero as “our guy.”

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Hack, hack, hack

For all the consternation in Toronto about Jose Bautista’s slow start to the 2012 season, baseball fans in Orange County have much bigger worries. Continue reading

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