(Insert your own snarky, witty intro here.)

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OK, so I’m going to omit Target Field because when someone asks you about the nicest houses you’ve been in, you never list your own.

  1. Fenway Park – This was in 2006, but even still I remember moving around the dimly lit concourses and just feeling the history in the building. Also: Sweet Caroline is a pretty cool experience in person.
  2. Wrigley Field – More underwhelming than you’d think — the press box is stuck in the dark ages — but again, the history of the building wins out. I took an incredible panoramic photo when I left for the last time, and I’ll try to share it below. Also — “Go Cubs Go” in person is another wonderful experience.
  3. Kauffman Stadium – The parking situation is top-notch, and the fountains are the perfect aesthetic on a warm summer day. It feels a lot different in person than on television.

Honorable mentions: old Yankee and Shea Stadium(s), Safeco Field

Here’s the panoramic photo I promised (click to enlarge):

I’ve never understood this. It’s a tactical move to keep the runner close. What’s wrong with that?

I mean this is a fairly broad question, but everyone knows I wasn’t a fan of the Aaron Hicks trade. Since that is too obvious, I would say letting Liam Hendriks get away without trying him out of the bullpen is a questionable move to me. Not because there was any way of knowing he’d be throwing gas out there, but because there’s really no reason not to try most starters who aren’t going well out there before giving up on them — especially when they have either a decent track record of success or at least a moderate prospect footprint.

It was the Butcher & the Boar rib tips, but those have been gone for…I think two seasons now? I was also head over heels for the Korean chicken sandwich at the Andrew Zimmern stand.

Now? I really don’t have anything. The hot chicken sandwich in the Metropolitan Club is….fine.

I suppose I’ve found my first assignment for the 2019 season!

That’s a really good question. The rolling three-year totals for MLB are 5,610, 6,105 and 5,585. On the pitching side, that comes out to 1.17 homers per nine innings, 1.27 and 1.16.

If we take a longer look back to 2010, the trend is…kind of wild.

  • 2010 – 0.96 HR/9
  • 2011 – 0.94 HR/9
  • 2012 – 1.02 HR/9
  • 2013 – 0.96 HR/9
  • 2014 – 0.86 HR/9
  • 2015 – 1.02 HR/9
  • 2016 – 1.17 HR/9
  • 2017 – 1.27 HR/9
  • 2018 – 1.16 HR/9

So, there has obviously been a big spike over the last four years, with 2017 truly out of whack for reasons a lot of people are suspicious of, but probably won’t just come out and say.

Is 1.16ish homers per nine the new normal? I tend to think so — and so I’ll say it’ll probably be about the same in 2019.

Low. Maybe 10 percent at best? He makes a lot of sense and of course, I’ve said a few times they really could use some stability behind Jose Berrios — the team’s only starter signed past 2019.

And I’ve said before that I think it’s possible the team is hanging out in the weeds to see if a free agent they previously didn’t have interest in comes down to a price point they’re willing to match. With Keuchel, maybe that’s three years and $20ish million per?

I just think it’s likely someone with deeper pockets or a stronger willingness to pay him what he wants wins out here.

Because it doesn’t add anything meaningful. An out is worth more than the base gained — or not gained, when unsuccessful — as noted by Tom Tango’s run-expectancy charts.

See here:

The best way to explain this is the average number of runs that score from a bases/outs state. The average number of runs scored in an inning with zero outs and the bases empty is .481, and that goes down to .254 and .098 with each out added.

So with a runner on first and nobody out, the average number of runs scored between 2010-15 was .859. Bunt that runner over to second, and the runs number falls to .664.

Ergo, bunting hurt the team’s chances to score more runs that inning.

Similarly, a runner on second and nobody out leads to, on average, 1.100 runs per inning. A runner on third with one out is .950 runs scoring on average — again a decline.

Now let’s look at a second chart:

Now, this is chances that a run — just one — will score in the inning.

Bunting a runner from first to second with nobody out takes the percentage from 41.6 percent to 39.7 percent, but from second to third actually improves the chances of a single run scoring from 61.4 percent to 66.0 percent.

So if you need a single run — for instance, the bottom of the ninth in a tie game — then it makes sense.

But based on those two charts, you can see what the difference is — the potential for just one run scoring versus multiple runs.

So in other words, bunting actively hurts a teams chances for scoring runs (plural), gives away what precious few outs an offense has.

We’ll talk about this on Wednesday’s episode of Midwest Swing — with Ryan Turnquist and MLB outfielder Lane Adams — but I don’t like it at all.

FIrst of all, while it isn’t direct circumvention of the existing CBA — which is growing increasingly fragile by the day as free agency drags on — it still in my opinion violates the idea of drafting a player and putting them on the 40-man roster, something that is now prohibited after players in previous eras like Andrew Miller were allowed to do that.

Again, that may not have been the intent of the A’s, but intent, to me, is irrelevant here. It sets a horrible precedent that teams can simply walk around existing CBA rules when it’s convenient to them, allowing them to sign players and then add sweeteners to their deals a year later. In Murray’s case, he hasn’t even suited up for a minor-league game.

In a game that already doesn’t actively promote its existing stars and allows its minor leaguers to starve — almost literally — this doesn’t strike me as a good decision optics-wise. Furthermore, Murray also isn’t the kind of talent a team should be doing this for, based on my very amateur evaluation of him.

Very few mocks from last year had him going anywhere near the first round, much less in the top-10 picks. He’s going to be extremely raw — he’s played just one full year of college baseball, and the partial year before that as well as his time in the Cape Cod League were pretty ugly, albeit in small samples — and this new deal would require he be placed on the 40-man roster, thereby accelerating his developmental time clock in a way that is not conducive to either him or the A’s.

As weird as it sounds, football is the right play for Murray.

Last year, Baker Mayfield went first overall and signed a four-year deal worth $32.6 million, with a $21.8 million signing bonus and a cap number of almost $6 million.

Murray’s signing bonus of $4.66 million — paid out in two installments — is lower than his first-year cap number would be (assuming 2018 values carry over) if he’s taken in the first five picks, a realistic scenario given this year’s paucity of quarterbacks available.

We also have to assume that Murray would make almost no money while in the minor leagues, a brutal reality of the game today. Let’s say he somehow pushes his earnings to $5 million by the time he makes the big leagues.

The first 53 draft picks last year signed contracts of $5 million or more over four years. Not all players are guaranteed to see all that money, but quarterbacks are probably the most likely to based on their positional value and the amount of time teams will allow players to develop at the position — especially if they have a decent starter right now.

A good comparison could be Lamar Jackson, who didn’t open the year as Baltimore’s starter but still took over for Joe Flacco — the human version of a house of cards — midway through the season. Jackson was selected 32nd overall, and signed a deal worth just under $9.5 million for four years with a first-year cap hit of $1.72 million and a signing bonus of, you guessed it, almost $5 million.

The path to the big leagues was always going riddled with bumps for Murray, a toolsy outfielder with the skills but not necessarily the polish. Now add in the shorter timeline to the big leagues based on being added to the 40-man roster — which Oakland would have to do to make him a more substantial offer — and it’s just not a good gamble in my estimation. In this scenario, he’d use up his three option years in the minors and have to be in the big leagues for good in 2022.

If they do, they’re going to be completely out of left field. Like signing Keuchel, or someone like A.J. Pollock.

More likely, I think they’ll sign another reliever and keep an eye on the starter market. Ervin Santana coming back could make some sense, but I really like someone like Cody Allen or even Tony Barnette would give this bullpen a nice boost.

My only changes: Escobar at short and Polanco on the bench, Sano at third and Plouffe on the bench. Starters would have to be Gibson and Liriano based on fWAR.

  1. Berrios
  2. Gibson (re-signs on two-year deal with club option for third)
  3. Romero
  4. Thorpe
  5. Gonsalves

If they don’t re-sign Kyle Gibson, I fully expect them to look into next year’s free-agent market for a starter. That group may include — as of this writing — Madison Bumgarner, Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Gerrit Cole, Sonny Gray, Stephen Strasburg, Julio Teheran, Zack Wheeler, Michael Wacha, Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Cole Hamels, Miles Mikolas, Felix Hernandez and Trevor Cahill.

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From George Murphy — “Cake or pie?”

Cake in a walk. Get it?

Sorry. No, I’m going with cake. I just prefer the texture, really. I think pumpkin pie is overrated, and a hot piece of cake with minimal frosting — we really do overdo it on the frosting — is the way to go.

Now with that said, a well-made piece of apple pie with ice cream or whipped cream is excellent, but I’m still taking cake seven days a week.

Although right now the answer is neither — because I’m trying a modified version of the keto diet.

From Austin Burandt — “If the White Sox land Machado, does that make them the favorite in the Central? Also, what will a return look like for Kluber?”

I don’t think so. I like the roster and the prospects for the most part, but right now their outfield is Nicky Delmonico, Jon Jay and Leury Garcia. Expecting the kids to make an immediate impact isn’t impossible, but is a lot to ask. The bullpen has some live arms, but still has plenty of question marks. Manny Banuelos might be making starts for them every fifth day. There’s still no reason to think Lucas Giolito is particularly good — though I’m not completely out on him.

Right now if everything breaks right, I think they could win like 75 games. That’s a huge stepping stone type of season. But they still have too much equity tied up in young players as well as some older guys who are merely decent — Yonder Alonso, Welington Castillo, Ivan Nova — or appear to be on the downside (Jose Abreu) of their careers.

They’re going to be a trendy pick if they get Machado, but even then I don’t know if they break 80 wins.

As for Kluber, it all depends on where he goes. I think he gets two of a team’s top-10 prospects — probably a top-50 one globally, at least — and then someone lower down the list that Cleveland really likes more than prospect rankers do.

But I think it’s increasingly unlikely that happens. This whole Cleveland offseason is really weird, because not trading a starter to get the outfield back up to snuff sort of makes the teardown…uneven.

From Andrew Bieganski — “Besides the Falvey connection. Why Allen over Ottavino?”

I’d much rather sign relievers to shorter terms than what Ottavino will be getting. The reason is that years like Allen’s 2018 can come out of nowhere — and Ottavino’s 2017 was exactly like that.

So I’d much rather stay lower and slow in the free-agent market for relievers.

From Mandi Warne — “What kind of bear is best?”

Black bear.

From Nick Ladwig — “How do you feel about Oakland signing Chris Herrmann and rolling with a platoon over trying to get Lucroy back or signing a higher-end catcher?”

It feels very Oakland to me. Few teams rely more on platoons and positional versatility than the A’s, and Herrmann can not only help them behind the plate when they need it, but in the outfield or at first base if he’s swinging it well — like he did in 2016.

Lucroy might just be done, and if you can’t afford one of the higher-end catchers, you might as well try to coax production out of a duo like Herrmann and *checks notes* Josh Phegley.

I don’t hate it.

From Nathan Timm — “Who do you think the mystery team might be in the Machado sweepstakes?”

Mike Axisa of CBS Sports makes a compelling case that it’s the San Diego Padres, and I think I agree. They have the money available and the need for such a player, and have the prospects coming up who could use a superstar around them while they’re cheap to help elevate the team’s level.

From Andrew Jore — “Who do you want in the Super Bowl and why?”

Chiefs-Rams, because holy moly do I want to see a reboot of their matchup earlier this year. Patrick Mahomes is everything that’s great about football right now.

From Nicholas Moen — “Favorite player all-time at each baseball position? 3 SP, 2 Closers included along with each defensive position.”

*takes off writer cap*
*puts on fan cap*

Most of these I’ve never thought of before, so I’m learning about myself as well.

OK, here we go:

  • C- Joe Mauer
  • 1B- Jeff Bagwell
  • 2B- Ben Zobrist
  • 3B- Adrian Beltre
  • SS- Alex Rodriguez
  • LF- Babe Ruth
  • CF- Ken Griffey Jr.
  • RF- Ichiro Suzuki
  • DH- Jim Thome
  • SP1- Randy Johnson
  • SP2- Pedro Martinez
  • SP3- Johan Santana
  • CL1- Joe Nathan
  • CL2- Billy Wagner

From Matt Morin — “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

I think we’ve been misled. I think they can — and it depends on the woodchuck.

From Phil Wiese — “How much longer until a minor league team chooses a computer to manage its games?”

Never. But as a brief aside, I think we need to be very careful about this “robot umps, please” thing. I don’t like the idea of getting rid of human jobs, and I’m not wild about any potential unintended consequences, like using instant replay to see if someone came off the bag sliding into second base.

From Joshua Kusnick — “Can I be on the show again to vent on free agency?”

You name the time and place, brother.

From Ron Haggstrom — “Are you taking me down to spring training with you?”

I’ve never actually been to spring training in Fort Myers. Hopefully, this will be the first time. Maybe next year, Ron.

From Christy Jurina-Jones — “How do you think the Twins will do this season?”

I think they’re about an 85-win team right now. Close enough to maybe put a scare into Cleveland, and win the division if the Indians falter altogether. It’s hard to see that happening, though.

One more move — adding a No. 2 starter or another really good position player — and I’d peg them closer to 88-90. For as bad as they were last year, they have so much talent.

From Keith Law — “Why do you hate the Twins?”

Oh my, look at the time. Thanks for another great set of questions!


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