Thursday, July 30, 2015

Matt Hague can really hit

I was at yesterday's Syracuse vs. Buffalo Triple-A game. I'd been planning on going most of the week, and when it was announced that Stephen Strasburg would be making a rehab start it was a pretty easy decision. Strasburg wasn't super sharp on the mound but he was spot on in the clubhouse, treating his teammates to delicious Dinosaur BBQ for the postgame spread

The point of this post isn't to debate the merits of the local barbecue scene, however. I wanted to talk about the Buffalo Bisons designated hitter. He was good. How good? Well, he compelled me to write a blog post about baseball, which I hadn't done in about forever. 

Hague went 4 for 5 with a double to raise his season line at Buffalo to a pretty remarkable .353/.432/.490. So why isn't he on every single prospect list? Because he turns 30 in 22 days. Hague first made it to Triple-A back in 2011, and has since compiled 583 games and 2508 plate appearances at the level. He's consistently hit there--.302/.378/.435--but he has never gotten a chance in the majors. 

So, Hague is probably just some Quad-A guy is what you are thinking. Having seen him live, I feel pretty confident that he isn't He reminded me quite a bit of Kevin Youkilis, who also took forever to get a chance. He holds his bat up and in front of his head, like a cross between Youkilis and Julio Franco, but with a much more upright stance. Then, as the pitcher is delivering, he shifts his weight back to an extreme level, going almost into a crouch. So, it doesn't look like a very effective swing. This isn't Ken Griffey, Jr.'s smoothness, folks. 

But, for all the weirdness in his stance, he was showing great hitting fundamentals, particularly with his hands. That enabled him to rip one base hit of Strasburg up the middle, and fist another in the same direction. Later, off of AJ Cole, Hague pulled a (slower) fastball hard for a base hit to left. Then, in the ninth, he hit a double the other way down the line off of left-hander Matt Grace. 

So, I don't really know why scouts or statheads haven't picked up on him. Maybe I just saw him on a particularly good night, but man, it seems impossible that he wouldn't be able to hit at the next level. His strikeout rate would probably go up, sure - but it's only 11% this year! He's not a great defensive player - but so what! Half the teams play a designated hitter, and even if he's a below average 3B/1B he would easily make up the difference with his bat. 

If I had to guess, I'd think he could hit something like .290/.360/.430. That would make him easily an above-average offensive first baseman. And while many teams around the league have that position filled, a team out of contention should absolutely give him a shot. The Red Sox, for example, have a lot of very expensive players. Getting a look at someone who could be a productive, very-low-cost option at first base (or even third!) for at least a couple years seems like a no-brainer. 

It seems like the Moneyball era got rid of players like this - Triple-A sluggers like Roberto Petagine and Jeff Manto who never got a chance because they weren't toolsy. Hague, though, is something of a throwback - a player who should be getting a shot based on his on-field accomplishments but has languished in the minors. Here's hoping someone gives him a chance.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

David Letterman, I will miss you

As you probably have heard, David Letterman's final "Late Show" will be on tonight. Even though I hadn't watched Dave as much the last 10 years as I did in high school, I will miss him greatly.

There have been and are going to be a lot of pieces that will explain in much greater detail and with much more authority what an influence Letterman was on late night TV and on comedy in general. While his detractors might want to point out that he rarely won in the ratings war, comedy is hard to measure by ratings. Being funny and having broad appeal don't always overlap - in a lot of cases, they are directly at odds with each other. Particularly in his early years, Letterman was never one to sacrifice being funny for being appealing. He was unimpressed with the cult of celebrity. As Julia Roberts said to him last week, "stupid people annoy you."

Enjoy retirement, Dave.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Observations, II

Jovian.

There has been a lot of cool astronomy stuff in the news this week (apparently there are underground oceans everywhere). But one thing that I never knew was that the adjective form of Jupiter is Jovian. I will now use that every opportunity that I get. You've been warned.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A tale of two cities: an observation on the different directions of Boston and Syracuse

So about a week ago, I can across two stories, one in my old home town, one my my new.

Courtesy of the Boston Globe:

At $37.5m, Millennium Tower condo tops most everything

That's one condo. Granted, it's a 13,000 (yes, thousand) sq. foot 60th-story penthouse that overlooks just about everything in Boston. But still, that's a lot of money. ALSO, the artists rendition of the porch/balcony in that new condo is a bit terrifying. Maybe a railing is a good idea when you're up that high? I mean, I suppose if you can afford a condo of that price you can afford the insurance on having a cliff portruding from your residence. But still, maybe a railing.

Meanwhile, on Syracuse.com, the website affiliate of the Syracuse Post-Standard:

NY: Benches will be removed where homeless gather under Syracuse highways

As you may know, Syracuse's economy is doing less well than Boston's I'm not sure that Syracuse actually has more homelessness than Boston - it's a serious problem in both cities. Poverty in general, however, is a much more common issue here in central New York. So in order to deal with homelessness, the state has decided "out of sight, out of mind" is the best policy and bets that maybe if those lazy homeless folks don't have a place to sit and panhandle they'll get off their lazy butts and get jobs? That's some good public policy, folks. Good to see the city biting the bullet and making sure the poors understand where they belong.

What I love most about his article is that this was a compromise. Initially, the county and city wanted to put "No Loitering" signs. On public benches.

"No Loitering" signs.

On public benches.

"No Loitering" signs. On public benches.

Welcome to Syracuse.

I might have some culture shock.

Or, I might just be fucked.

Fin

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Thoughts on the MA Governor's race and the Globe endorsement of Baker

The main paper in my old hometown has endorsed Republican Charlie Baker. As the nominal "liberal" paper in town, this has been the topic of a good amount of discussion, but really not much surprise. Baker has done a good job of portraying competence, while Coakley has been foundering. Again.

I have two thoughts here. First, more of an obervation. I'm eternally unimpressed with Coakley, but after the primaries I thought she had an upper hand. I thought her choice to let the LG race play out on it's own was smart. It allowed Steve Kerrigan to build up an electoral base, something Baker missed out on by hand-picking Polito (who is awful, for what it's worth). But the difference between Baker and Coakley in the time sine the primaries has been too much to ignore. Baker has a tendency to have a bit of an abrasive personality, but he has been forceful and consistent in his argument. Meanwhile, as a liberal myself, it is heartbreaking to see Coakley just totally unable to illustrate either her own agenda or the underlying arguments for liberalism in general. I don't think she's like Mitt Romney in that she has no agenda other than that she wants to be elected. Rather, I think she's just an abysmal communicator.

Second thought, and it is a more cynical one. The Boston Globe is interesting in selling papers. I do think they lean slightly to the left editorially, as the market it caters to does the same. But most of its leftist leanings come in the categories of foreign policy (which doesn't apply to Baker) an social issues (Baker is a moderate). The Globe has never been particularly progressive fiscally, and as Dan Kennedy of Northeastern University pointed out, Baker is the type of Republican the Globe has typically been attracted to. Anyhow, in order to keep its status as an independent arbiter, it makes sense to occasionally endorse a Republican. Unlike, say, Scott Brown who seemed to run a personalist campaign based on the fact that he'd be an "independent voice" while bending over backwards to avoid saying what that meant, Baker has outlined a policy agenda. You can call his agenda bullplop if you want. (And you should. It's bullplop). But at least it's something concrete-ish. So there's some meat there.

The point I'm getting around to is that, Baker and Coakley have given the Globe an opportunity to show off its own legitamacy. It's endorsements carry more weight in both the long and short term if it isn't just a down-the-line Democratic ticket. Compare this approach to the rival Boston Herald, which endorsed the embarrassingly unqualified Gabriel Gomez over Ed Markey in 2013. I don't know that the Globe entirely buys that Baker would make a better governor than Coakley, just that there's enough reason to believe Baker is more competent for the Globe to use this race as a chance to say "See! We endorse Republicans too!"