Sunday, May 2, 2010

Troubling Baseball IQ

Is Adrian Beltre the dumbest player in baseball? No, he's not singlehandedly responsible for the Boston Red Sox getting swept by the worst team in the American League. He's actually been reasonably good at the plate. However, it's been four weeks and we have already seen a plethora of perplexing baseball decisions made by Mr. 2004.

We've heard a lot about players who haven't had the mental/emotional capacity to play in Boston. Julio Lugo (now hitting under .120 for Baltimore) was the most recent member of this club. As Lugo's entire Boston career overlaps the How Youz Doin Baseball era, we have an extensive lexicon of Lugo's thinking failures. But there have been whispers that Beltre can't handle this place either. If critical on-field mental errors are an indication, he's in for a long couple of months.

First, we've seen the free swinging. With the overemphasis on OPS and with the consistent practice of taking called third strikes down the middle by the Red Sox' corner outfielders, it's nice to see a guy who wants to go up there and hack. But you can kind of deduce that Beltre is a "see the ball, hit the ball as hard as you can from one knee" kind of guy. And that's fine. But when he takes thinking so far out of the equation while 1) fielding and 2) baserunning, that's what makes my blood boil. Friday night featured TWO more examples of that.

Previously, we had seen the following, in the order of increasing egregious-ness:
-Routine ground balls become doubles as Beltre sails the ball over first base.
-Beltre forgetting that a pop-up in short left field is the outfielder's ball if three people go after it. Number Two is still not back.
-Whacking a ball off the wall sharply, and getting thrown out by 15 feet at second base.

Friday night, we saw Beltre forget how many outs there were and get caught stealing at second base to end an inning. Look, you have a lot of things to worry about when you're running the bases. One of the first should be how many outs there are. Poor concentration, and while it can be excused on an isolated bases, we have seen this player fail to use his brain on three different occasions in less than a month of baseball.

We also saw Beltre commit what I think was the most asinine A-Rodesque play of the year. On a weak ground ball to short by Hermida, the Orioles only had a shot at one out. However, Beltre decided to grab Ty Wigginton's leg and trip the second baseman so he'd throw the relay into the ground instead of to first. Due to Beltre's completely avoidable interference, Hermida was called out and the Red Sox' series of hits that ensued were just a series of 2-out hits instead of a rally that could have prevented the aforementioned sweep at the hands of the worst team in the league. Seriously, if the ball was hit as softly as it was, everyone in the park knew Baltimore couldn't turn two. So why would Beltre make a dirty play and trip Wigginton? He says he didn't try to hook Wigginton's leg. That's a load of crap. He just wasn't thinking.

And I don't like this pattern. Beltre said all the right things to the papers the next day, just as Lugo had: "I have been playing horrible," he told the Globe. "I wasn't thinking."

Guy hasn't been thinking for four weeks. Look, I know that once greenies were banned in baseball, a lot of players got "diagnosed" with ADD or ADHD. Maybe Beltre's one of those players who might get a legitimate diagnosis for this--much like Manny Ramirez and Julio Lugo. Because in order to avoid repeating weekends like this one all summer, he might want to start thinking.


Anonymous said...


The mental errors are troubling from Beltre. In fact, they are borderline inexcusable. That said, as you mentioned, he's far from the problem with this team. Through 25 games they have not had one ounce of consistency yet. The games where they score a ton of runs, they can't get anybody out. The games where they pitch well, the offense either doesn't show up or the defense lets everyone down.

It's still very early. And I'm fairly confident that this team will be much better than what we've seen. What's disconcerting is that even if they are much better, I can't be confident that it will be good ENOUGH to get into the playoffs.

Lastly, as an aside, I'd like to make mention of how awful Daisuke was in the fifth inning Saturday. It's getting to the point where you have to look back at all the Sox/Yanks bidding wars for pitchers and you can see that whomever 'wins' the bidding actually ends up getting hosed--Javier Vazquez, Daisuke, Carl Pavano, and Jose Contreras all bombed to some degree with New York or Boston. And the question is, how does this happen? Shouldn't these two teams be better at evaluating talent?

--the Gunn

from the bronx said...

gm, beltre is the least of your problems right now. i'm surprised that is the case, as i thought he'd be a complete disaster, but you should be more focused on how poorly your starting rotation has done thus far.

and no mention of brett gardner's contributions to your fantasy team? 6th in the AL in batting average, 10th in OBP, 9th in runs scored, 25th in OPS, leading the AL in steals... the guy should be on the AL All Star team.

the gm at work said...


Obviously the Red Sox have 99 problems. David Ortiz told me that without citing the reference. I wrote about Beltre a) because I was pretty pissed off when I saw that play Friday night and b) because everyone knows how bad the pitching has been, while the Beltre lack of concentration is more prone to going under the radar.

Let's not go nuts on Daisuke quite yet. I mean, he's only thrown 25% of the stinkers Javier Vazquez has thrown and Pat still won't throw that homey under the bus.

the gm at work said...

Also--slightly out of scope but I'm curious--while we're on the topic of concentration and ADD/ADHD drugs, what kind of percentage of students at Colby/in law school/at your own school would you say do study drugs during finals week? I've been thinking about this for years now, but I remember being at a study group before an economics final, and out of the 16 kids in the class, about 11-12 were illegally taking Ritalin or Adderol. Blew my mind--I felt like Rick Helling out there.

TimC said...

Isn't 90+ pitches a lot to give a guy in his first game back with the big club?

the gm at work said...

Tim C,

Hard to make a concrete call on that one. I mean, if the guy were really hurt (and it is questionable whether Matsuzaka was in the first place), then yes, 90 is too much. But if memory serves me right, he threw quite a few pitches at Pawtucket, too. It's not like he was making a cameo for three innings.

jason said...

i knew a few people that took adderol at my school, and suffice to say it worked very well for them i have no knowledge that this is an illegal practice at our school though

Ross Kaplan said...

I don't do drugs during finals week or ever because my body is a temple and needs to be kept in tip top shape in order for my mind to run at its full capacity. On that note, I'm going to order a veal parm platter with a side of penne ala vodka for dinner.

The GM said...

Ross Kaplan, ladies and gentlemen!

TimC said...


Good point on Dice. And I think a lot of people at Colby do use study aids but it would be impossible for me to put a number on it.

Also, I am currently doing a project for the EC475 baseball seminar that looks at how actual winning percentage differs from pythagorean winning percentage. Do you guys have any thoughts about what might cause the differences? I would appreciate any comments. On that same note, what do you guys feel are the best stats to use to measure hitting and pitching ability (both at team and individual level)?

Anonymous said...

A few questions:

- Is Robinson Cano the best player in baseball right now?

- With Teixeira turning 30 last month, should we worry that he may be over the hill and will never regain anything close to last year's form ever again?

- Who would win in a burrito eating contest, Joba or C.C.?

- When the Celtics lead began to deteriorate midway through the 4th quarter tonight, was anyone else thinking: "We need to get Rasheed some more touches"?

- Did Ross Kaplan accidently post his menial daily update on this blog as opposed to Facebook where that kind of nonsense belongs?