Feb 13, 2013: How Predictable are the Prognosticators

You hoping Baseball Prospectus is wrong?

FLORIDA & ARIZONA - As spring training 2013 begins so do the prognostications. Baseball Prospetus picks the Yankees, Tigers and Angels to be 2013 American League division winners. Nationals, Reds and Dodgers are favored by BP in the National League. Every other team is hoping BP is wrong.

How accurate was Baseball Prospectus last year? Let's look:

2012 Predicted Division Winners........Actual Division Winners
AL East..........New York Yankees.................New York Yankees
AL Central......Detroit Tigers........................Detroit Tigers
AL West.........Texas Rangers......................Oakland A's

NL East...........Philadelphia Phillies...............Washington Nationals
NL Central......Cincinnati Reds.....................Cincinnati Reds
NL West.........Arizona Diamondbacks..........San Francisco Giants

A's, Nationals and Giants fans were glad BP was wrong about them in 2012, especially the Giants who went on to win the World Series. As the old saying goes, "That's why they play the game."

Contributing Sources:
2012 Baseball Prospetus Predictions 
2012 AL Division Winners 
2012 NL Division Winners 

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Jan 19 & 20, 2013 - Politics


TODAY IN BASEBALL - JANUARY 19 & 20 - WASHINGTON, D.C., Presidential politics is in the air again. Let's reminisce about politics and baseball.

Many of you know that former Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a dominant pitcher for most of his 17 years in the majors, mostly for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. Finshed his career 224-184 with a 3.27 ERA. He is one of the few to throw no-hitters in both leagues.

Former New York Governor and presidential candidate, the late Mario Cuomo had a promising baseball career cut short by a fastball. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 1951 and assigned to their Brunswick, New Jersey minor league team. Later that first season he was hit in the head by a fastball. It was so serious doctors advised he give up baseball, which he did, and went on to finish law school.

The Chicago Cubs' dominance of baseball attention in the Windy City continues despite the White House being inhabited by a Sox fan. President Barack Obama did not worry about alienating fans of the city's north side team during the 2008 campaign. This is what he told ESPN when asked who he'd root for in a Sox-Cubs World Series, "Oh, that's easy. White Sox. I'm not one of these fair-weather fans. You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer; beautiful people up there. People aren't watching the game. It's not serious. White Sox, that's baseball. South Side."

Former President George W. Bush was principal owner of the Texas Rangers. His father, former President George H. W. Bush played baseball for Yale.

What other baseball-politics connections can you think of?

Contributing sources: 
Mario Cuomo in the Minors  

Dec 05, 1996: Interleague play approved

Let them play

TODAY in BASEBALL - DECEMBER 5 - NEW YORK, NEW YORK - It became official on this date in 1996. For the first time in the 125-year history of major league baseball, the Cubs will play the White Sox, the Yankees will play the Mets, the Dodgers will play the Angels in regular season games that matter. Eventually all National League teams would play all American League counterparts.

Interleague play was part of an agreement players unanimously approved to end four years of nasty labor unrest between players and owners that prompted a strike and cost the devotion of millions of fans.

Interleague play would start with the 1997 season. Before that the only time a National League team played an American League team was in the World Series. Some fans feel it should still be that way. But it can't be denied that interleague play has boosted attendance for many teams.

Associated Press (AP) December 6, 1996

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Sept 20, 1998: Ripken not in the lineup

Cal Ripken’s streak ends

BALTIMORE, MARYLANDCal Ripken didn’t play for the Baltimore Orioles on this date in 1998, the first time he was not in the lineup in over 16 years. It marked the end of his 2,632 consecutive game streak, a record Ripken held since breaking Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 game streak on September 5, 1995.

So, Cal Ripken is best known for the streak, but how good a ballplayer was he?

Pretty good.

  • 431 career home runs (the most by a shortstop - 345)
  • 3,184 hits (14th all-time)
  • 1,695 runs batted in (averaged 81 per year over 21 years)
  • 1,647 runs scored
  • .276 lifetime batting average
  • Started 17 all-star games at short
  • Two-time Most Valuable Player

Cal Ripken was exceptional and durable, while playing one of the most demanding positions on the field for most of his career. It’s unlikely his streak will ever be broken. The closest any recent player came was Miguel Tajada who played in 1,152 straight games, but that streak ended in June 2007.

Then again, they said Gehrig’s streak would never be broken.

Contributing sources:
Career stats leaders (Baseball Reference)
Ripken's last game (Baseball-Almanac)

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June 21, 2004: Griffey's 500th HR

CORRECTION: Below is a terrific story except there's an error. Ken Griffley Jr. hit his 500th HR June 20, 2004, not June 21. Thanks to my voluntary proofer reader Steve Basford for catching that.

500 Career Home Runs

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI - Ken Griffey, Jr. hit his 500th home run on this date in 2004 becoming the 20th major leaguer to reach that mark. At 34-years old he was the 6th youngest to hit 500. It was also Father's Day, which was fitting since Ken Griffey, Sr., a former player himself was in the stands.

Hitting 500 home runs in a career has always been a right of passage into the Baseball Fall of Fame. Will it continue to be? It's not as remarkable an achievement as it once was.

Up to 1950, the first 74 years of major league baseball, 3 players had reached 500 home runs. In the 69 years since 20 players have reached the 500 home run mark.

Players who reached 500 home runs from 1876 to 1950
1. Babe Ruth
2. Jimmie Foxx
3. Mel Ott

Players who reached 500 home runs from 1950 to 2011
1. Barry Bonds
Hank Aaron
3. Willie Mays
4. Ken Griffey, JR.
Alex Rodriguez
Sammy Sosa
Jim Thome
Frank Robinson
Mark McGwire
Harmon Killebrew
Rafael Palmiero
Reggie Jackson
13. Manny Ramirez
Mike Schmidt
15. Mickey Mantle
16. Ted Williams
Willie McCovey
18. Frank Thomas
Ernie Banks
20. Eddie Matthews
21. Gary Sheffield
22. Eddie Murray

Retrosheet milestones

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