The Magical Land Of Fastballs.
In a magical world, a far off place. Dreams are made for “The Carriers of Wooden Clubs.” 90 MPH enemies shoot at their existence, yet they welcome the consistent approach of these “enemies.” They welcome the same mundane attack methods they induce upon the “Clubbers.” The “Leatherfaces” are tirelessly coming up on them, around 15 of them per day. They approach them in different locations, but always at the same speed. So there is no confusion on the “Clubbers” part. Different spots, but relatively the same location, they are an ease to fend off, to send on their way. Fairies aid in the process of ultimate completion, ultimate success. The magical fairies fly around recognizing each, telling them the secrets of the small, but deliberately shot “leatherfaces.” As each approaches, a fairy, whichever fairy recognizes it first, will yell something relating to the speed of which the enemy approaches. But in this world, there is no mix up, there is no change. Each fairy has grown tired, as they all yell in harmony–in that little fairy voice–“Gunner.” Gunner stands for fast, straight attack. The Gunner is the most convenient, the easiest for the “Clubbers” to club. Yet they seem bored. The “Leatherfaces” in the other forests have different strategies, different ways to try and win the battle. It must be since the omnipotent, most feared clubber stands behind them today. He makes everything easier. He is the leader of the “Clubbers,” the greatest of them all. For some reason, each time he follows the others, they have it easy, they laugh and smile, and have fun as they all have success in their own defense. Each will not admit it though, each is a little bored, a little too successful in defending their own on route to the nexus of creation, their chosen destination.
But it wasn’t always this simple, it wasn’t always this easy for “The Carriers of Wooden Clubs.” The previous forests, most of them, were without their omnipotent leader, their great wise-one. The “Leatherfaces” that have proceeded with their attacks, changed on them, they weren’t as predictable. Screaming through the air, changing speeds, differing, unpredictable approaches. There was success for the enemy. The object of defense when coming across these types was to stay back, wait as long as possible, then snap those clubs around. But it wasn’t that easy to apply it. The “Clubbers” would come out wounded, scarred after these battles. They felt banged up, bruised, and felt as though they could not go on. But they always found a way to continue on their path, to continue from one forest to the next, through the infested swamps, over the wretched hilltops. They made it, but it wasn’t as pretty. No, it wasn’t pretty, quite difficult in fact.
So they always wondered why with him, it was so much easier. Was it psychological? Was it the mind controlling abilities of the one who followed them, guiding their quest? Did the “Leatherfaces” feel that the best way to retire “The Carriers of Wooden Clubs” was to come at them as fast and as straight as possible? It just didn’t make sense. But they continued on, they didn’t ask questions, and they answered as if it was their own doing, their own victory, even though deep down, they knew that this “follower” had a lot to do with it, a lot to do with their own success.
The “myth” of protection. Is it a myth? Does it exist? Do pitchers throw more fastballs in this situation? “Baseball Between the Numbers,” a great book I might add, essential to all fans, attempted to dissect it. But what they ended up doing was making a mild stab, and then came off very dismissive of the subject. Their conclusion was basically this: “If protection exists, it matters very little.” I am not one to dismiss something on such a questionable study, but I do agree with the basic result; protection is overrated. I touched up on this in my early blogging days, but felt like expanding on it now, just a little expansion though.
Protection does matter to an extent in my opinion. I will use the current Nationals team as an example. Let us put Albert Pujols in the Nationals lineup. Now, without even digging much deeper, we all know that lineup is lacking danger around him. Why give him anything to hit? Why not nitpick most times Pujols comes up? Exactly. In a lineup like this, Pujols will probably see fewer hittable pitches, because there is no reason to let him beat you, as the rest of the lineup, in most cases, will not come through. Now, this lineup does have Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson. But this lineup also does not Nick Johnson. Confusing? Nick Johnson does not play most of the time. And while Ryan Zimmerman is a pretty good all-around 3B, he is nothing special at the plate, yet. The team has a few promising bats, that also carry heads that aren’t exactly on sewn on solid. But those “promising bats” have yet to prove much at all in the Major Leagues. So maybe, MAYBE Zimmerman sees a few more pitches that happen to be to his liking, as he bats in front of Pujols. But if Zimmerman actually, you know, hits incredibly well, pitchers would have no choice but to adjust to him, and start changing their approach, and treat him as a good hitter, too.
This came up a lot last season. Drew moved in front of Manny, and Drew started killing the ball. Manny moved to the Dodgers and Jeff Kent began killing the ball. And before 2008– back in 2003–David Ortiz moved into a lineup, and for basically a six-year period, killed the ball. Having never done anything beyond average in his career, Ortiz started crushing the ball in Boston. But it wasn’t just Manny hitting behind him in my opinion. If it were that simple, then there would be no way around it. But if Ortiz started hitting much better because there was a great hitter behind him, then pitchers would have adjusted. They would have changed their approach. I could see for a few weeks where a pitcher might come after Ortiz a little differently, not wanting anyone on base when Manny steps to the plate. Maybe the pitcher doesn’t mind catching a little more of the strike zone. But eventually, very quickly, pitchers would have to come after the hitter differently if he started having a lot of success. And the changing approach that the pitchers encounter would take place well before an extended period of 5 or 6 years. Ortiz was a great hitter, with or without Manny. There is almost no way that pitchers would continually let David Ortiz beat them the way that he did, simply because Manny Ramirez was on deck.
And about the studies that have been done…there have been studies as to whether or not Chipper Jones saw more fastballs once Mark Teixeira arrived in Atlanta. Chipper said he saw more fastballs, but if my mind is correct, I seem to recall a study where it discounted what Jones said. If “protection” increases the number of fastballs that the batter in front sees, then wouldn’t a higher number of fastballs be thrown, percentage-wise to that hitter? That is something that would have been seen through statistics. Yet, I believe that it was not seen. Maybe Chipper’s minds was playing tricks on him. Maybe Chipper just had more confidence because another great hitter was added to the lineup, and it gave him the feeling that he didn’t have to hit a home run every time he came up. I do not know the exact answer, but if a player says he sees
more fastball, and the numbers say that is not seeing any more fastballs, then, well, I have to agree with the stats.
What about having success with more runners on base? In 2008, hitters had an OPS of .769 with runners on base during their AB. But without runners on base, hitters had an OPS of .749. Hitters hit .264 with the bases empty, .270 with runners on. That isn’t a large difference, yet it is still a difference. But isn’t that skewed? Great pitchers are going to allow fewer baserunners over an extended period of time, so hitters will face poorer pitchers, in general, when there are runners on base. Livan Hernandez is going to allow more baserunners than Johan Santana. Dan Haren is going to allow fewer baserunners than Sidney Ponson, etc, etc, etc. So does this even matter much? Players are going to have more RBI’s with runners on base, that is through chance though mostly. Which is why I do not look at RBI’s. I look at percentage stats.
So how much does Manny Ramirez batting behind another hitter even matter? I can see Manny batting in a lineup by himself, mattering some maybe. But that isn’t very realistic. Most lineups consist of more than one quality hitter. In terrible lineups, with one great hitter, that hitter can be walked most times if that opposing team chooses. But lineups on average, are not as bad as the Washington Nationals lineup. I just don’t know if protection “is what we think it is.” Of course, I am far from the first to question this.
So what are your thoughts?
Manny Ramirez. One of the greatest hitters to ever set foot in a batters box. Not just from the right side either. One of the greatest hitters, period! Combine all of the left handed hitters and right handed hitters together, and Manny comes out in the top tier, the upper echelon of all time sluggers. I have seen Manny do things in the batters box that I have not seen from anyone. I have seen him crush a slider over the right center field fence, with consistency. I have seen him hit the ball away better than anyone I have ever witnessed. When he was completely focused, and was determined to hit the ball to the opposite field, there was no better hitter in the game, outside of the only hitter that was better, the one that resided in San Francisco. Last season, when the Anaheim Angels came to town, Manny and David Ortiz together, put on a show that I had never come across in my time of watching baseball. A tear that the two players basically took upon themselves to win the series singlehandedly (there was plenty of other help, it just felt like that). Manny posted a line of .375/.615/.1.125. Ortiz added in his hand which went a little like this: .714/.846/1.571. And they both continued there dominance in the second round helping the Red Sox hammer two “Ace” pitchers, at least last season, in Fausto Carmona and CC Sabathia. Some say those two “Aces” tired out as the season stretched out, but Carmona had just dominated the Yankees in the previous series. I think it was more of what might have been the greatest 3-4 combo that any lineup has ever seen. I know it is easily the greatest that I have ever seen.
Manny added an offensive game that few have ever contributed to a ball club. Manny’s “stick” has been 54% better than the average hitter over his career. And I would agree that he is a sure fire Hall of Famer, and still is. I will happily endorse his worth if anyone asks me. He is one of the greatest players of all time. The Los Angeles Dodgers just acquired a bat that may help them win the division, and they are getting a hitter who will be able to perform well come playoff time, if the opportunity does in fact present itself. But one player does not make a team, so the Dodgers look a little better than the Diamondbacks now, but it doesn’t propel them into the World Series, like some may think…
Which leads me to the Red Sox situation…The difference between Manny and Jason Bay down the stretch should not make too much of a difference. Manny is a better hitter and he has been doing it in a tougher league, and a tougher division than Bay has. But if the adjustment to a new league, and a new city isn’t too much for Bay, then the difference down the stretch shouldn’t be impossible to overcome, in terms of a postseason berth. The thing that worries me most, is the privilege that we had of watching the Ortiz and Manny combo. I don’t feel that Jason Bay could fill Manny’s shoes at the highest stage of the game, the playoffs. I am not saying that Bay won’t have success, because he may, but to do what Manny did last season is a lot to ask, for anyone. The rest of the Boston offense is good enough where they will still have one of the best in the game, but it isn’t quite as scary as it once was. And to rid of that distraction that was Manny Ramirez may loosen the clubhouse a little and help them get back on track. Jason Bay is a good player, who is cheaper, and a better defender. But he is not Manny Ramirez.. Although ultimately they get a fine player in return, who is more important looking forward toward the future. Because the Red Sox needed to get younger on offense eventually anyway.
And this…”Manny is misunderstood.” “Manny keeps the clubhouse loose.” “Manny never talks about his contract while working out in the Winter with teammates.”
…But right smack dab in the middle of a pennant race, he will not hesitate to speak his mind and disrupt what was as talented a team in Major League Baseball, seemingly tampering with a beautiful formula that won a championship in 2007.
“I love Boston fans.” Then Manny, hustle down the damn line when you hit a ground ball. “Show” the fans that you love them. Nothing speaks louder than the actions that you show to us. And if you are saying garbage, spewing garbage, and showing us a product that is good, but has some garbage mixed in, then we notice that. Without the fans, Manny, you don’t get paid. It is as simple as that. The consumer is needed for the product to be bought. And the product we bought was starting to widdle away the fine exterior, into the hostile, self absorbed and shall I say “fake” interior that was “Manny being Manny.” If Manny Ramirez truly cared about the Boston fans then he would have helped them try and win a World Series title this season, while keeping his mouth shut. He would have let the Red Sox exercise their right as to whether or not they were going to pickup the option by the deadline. A “right” that Manny Ramirez himself thought was ok in the offseason just before his first year in Boston, 2001. Apparently, Ramirez did not look ahead. Because had he done so, he wouldn’t have allowed a team option, let alone more than one of them.
Manny Ramirez one of the greatest hitters of all time. Manny Ramirez, someone I thought of as a fun loving guy, with a few flaws for many years, turned out to be a fraud. He wasn’t what we thought he was. And I am not just bitter because a future Hall of Famer walked out the door, I am bitter because he couldn’t shut his ******* mouth for two months, for the sake of the fans, and for the sake of his teammates. A player who wanted a four year contract more so than another World Series ring. We don’t see everything that goes on behind closed doors, but Manny presented us with enough to come to the conclusion that his next contract was more important than the fans that he said he “cared about.”
So the Red Sox did what they had to do. They parted ways with one of the greatest players of all time, while still giving themselves a chance to win a World Series by getting a return of Jason Bay. I am bitter because we lost a player that has been with the club for nearly eight years. I am bitter because the habit of seeing Manny’s name penciled in the fourth slot of the lineup card is now lost. And I am bitter because the chances of winning a World Series just became a little less likely. But I am not bitter that Manny wanted to leave, I am bitter that he couldn’t wait until after the year to try and solve this problem. That he couldn’t let the Red Sox do what he himself signed them off to do. And that he couldn’t let the ones who ultimately pay his contract, the fans, watch him for two more months while trying to obtain World Series ring number 3.