brewers baseball and things

new wave of wizards

19 Comments

I get bored the other day so I figured what the hell and daydreamed that Buddha stopped over. Let’s see. I was watching a Milwaukee Brewer’s game and Buddha knocked on the door and I opened it and said “Oh, what a surprise. Come in Buddha.” He smiled and pulled up a chair beside mine.

He asked if there was any way we could see the Brewer’s shortstop-Jean Segura before the ball was pitched. I told him “not on this TV, but if we watch on mlb.com, I think they have more camera angles.”

Buddha was interested in watching the fielder’s first step instinct toward the ball. He never told me why. “Look how fat I am,” he said. “Even I could be a perfect fielder because I would never get close enough to the balls. I would never get the opportunity to make a mistake.”

Buddha’s words came at the perfect time or maybe I was being paranoid or enjoying a self fulfilling daydream because I had just been thinking about what might have been the most incredible defensive performance (s) on a baseball diamond during any season, any time, any where.

The Braves’ Andrelton Simmons and Orioles Manny Machado-one of the youngest player in baseball redefined what it means to be an Ozzy Smith wizard on the left side of the infield. This was all fresh in my mind from the 2013 season.

the original wizard-Ozzie Smith

the original wizard-Ozzie Smith

Simmons is 24-years old and from Curacao, Kingdom of the Netherlands. He was credited with 41 runs saved last season, the most ever by a shortstop in the brief 10 year history of the runs saved statistic. He also tied Terry Turner (1906) for the highest single-season defensive WAR (5.4) in baseball history. WAR stands for Wins over Replacement Player. Don’t ask. I don’t know, but it’s definitely good.

And then there’s Manny Machado; 21 years young and from Miami, Florida. He scored a 31.2 Ultimate Zone Rating in 2013. That was nearly 7 digits higher than Simmons, but like I said, don’t ask, just click anywhere on the photos and enjoy both of them for yourself.


SIMMONS

MACHADO

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Author: Steve Myers

I grew up in Milwaukee and have been a Milwaukee Brewers baseball fan for as long as I can remember.

19 thoughts on “new wave of wizards

  1. Perhaps baseball’s next Golden Age has arrived. I get so tired of hearing about baseball’s so-called “Golden Age” of the middle of the 20th-century.

    • I think you’re right. I think it’s here. I never saw Brooks Robinson and barely saw Mike Schmidt. Never saw Luis Aparicio or Bill Mazeroski. And the UZR rating and defensive runs saved is impressive, but it doesn’t speak to me like a language…not yet, anyway. I’m still wrestling with WAR and BABIP.

      But from the way it looks or from the way Simmons, Machado and Segura looked last year, it seems to be one of those special waves.

  2. My guess is that Buddha had been watching live TV coverage of the 1st Test from Brisbane, and couldn’t bear the sight of England’s first innings being such a bloodbath.

    • i thought buddha accepted suffering?

      • Yes, but not THAT much suffering!

      • the article I linked too from the google search says “Australia stacked up a lead of 560 before declaring with slightly more than an hour remaining on the third day and they made excellent use of the 15 overs they reserved for a bowl against a weary and demoralised England side as Michael Carberry and Jonathan Trott both perished…”

        I’m interested to know what “declaring” is, but from the sound of it, the Australian performance sounds once in a lifetime.

        I still can’t get over the three day duration of the same event. How many times do we hear in baseball “Today was today. Tomorrow is a new day and a new game.”

        Without any interruption in test cricket, I imagine the momentum can slide downward and just keep sliding.

      • A test Match lasts five days. To ‘declare’ is when the captain of a team decides that, without having lost all their wickets in a particular innings, they have amassed sufficient runs to defeat the other team; thus they put the other team in to chase a formidable total.

        In this case it’s not so much that Australia’s performance was outstanding; in their first innings they were largely kept in check by some excellent English bowling, including 5 wickets taken by Stuart Broad at the expense of only 65 runs. It’s more a case that the England team went to pieces in their first innings, being dismissed for a meagre total of 136.

        The Australian tactics in declaring with 15 overs left to play were just right, forcing England to bat late in the day, when they were tired from fielding. They quickly lost two wickets. If England want to ‘save’ the match, they have to bat for two days without losing the remaining wickets. At this level of cricket, that is possible but highly improbable.

        England always do this; in their first innings in the first match of a Test series they always play like a load of old grandmas at a picnic. It’s as though they need a dose of terror to get their hearts started. On paper England have a far stronger team than Australia; however, the match is played on grass, not on paper.

        The last couple of days of a Test Match can often be gruelling and not much fun to watch, if one team is trying to wrest a draw from a position of potential defeat. They might play stubborn, unadventurous cricket in that type of situation. Only someone who is fascinated by the subtlety of the game will enjoy watching at that point.

      • How often do the teams change rosters? I ask in the spirit of England’s habit of as you say “needing a dose of terror to get their hearts started.” It gets interesting and maybe enters the unknown realm when these habits stretch across generations.

        Is this stubborn, adventurous cricket a reflection of how cricket is played in England? It may seem boring or not so sensational, but as you say, it maybe has subtlety and what I assume is incredible vision and a winning formula.

        Thanks for the explanations of the test match.

      • By the way, a ‘draw’ actually does not mean even scores (that is a ‘tie’, and is rare in cricket). A draw is an inconclusive result, when a match comes to the end of its allotted time and although the last team to bat has not reached the target total, it has not lost all its wickets.

      • and me too, learning more every day.

  3. ‘Changing roster’ in cricket:

    Basically the term doesn’t exist as such. In a Test Series, each side will have a squad of players from which a twelve-man selection will be made for each individual match. Very shortly before the match starts, the final eleven will be announced, and the ‘twelfth man’ will become a substitute, to be used as a fielder if one of the fielding side is incapacitated. The ‘Twelfth Man’ is not allowed to bowl, bat, keep wicket, or act as captain, except with the consent of the opposing side; in practice this very rarely happens, the most likely exception being wicket-keeper.

    It is not unknown for further substitutes to be used for fielding, though I’m not sure how many may be on the field at once.

    The selection of the twelve and then eleven players for a match can’t be altered. It is based on many factors – state of the bowling ‘track’, matching the opposition’s likely player (for example, if one side has a demon fast bowler, the other side may pick a fearless batsman who stands up well to fast bowling; if one side has bowlers that are weaker when bowling to left-handed batsmen, then the other side may pick more left-handers; a selector may pick a wicket-keeper who can bat well, to fortify a weak batting side, in preference to a better wicket keeper who is not so proficient with a bat; and so on). The main thing is, no radical changes are made to a side once a match has started – you stand or fall by your selection. It is actually a fascinating and much discussed and debated aspect of the game.

    And at present, in Brisbane, England is falling.

    • Thanks for the explanation. I would imagine that the brain trust deciding on the 12 players come under incredible scrutiny both before and after the match? It sounds like their decisions evoke all kinds of discussions and like the duration of a test match, these discussions and debates and historic similarities spill into pubs and people’s homes.

      It must be frustrating for England at this point since as you say the player list can’t be altered. Are there discussions and debates on talk radio, things like “What if such and such player had been selected as a demon bowler instead of that other one?”

      On a side note, the terminology in cricket seems to be one of its many appeals. Very interesting.

      • You hit the nail right on the head. The guy to listen for is Geoff Boycott (most often to be found as part of the commentary team for BBC radio’s ‘Test Match Special’). He’s a Yorkshireman, and bluntly self-opinionated, but 99.99% of the time absolutely right. Why either team picked whomever they picked is a persistent topic of discussion amongst pundits and fans alike. The Selectors’ decisions do come in for a lot of scrutiny.

        Anyhow, the 1st Test at Brisbane is over. England lost emphatically, but not without some moments of brightness – Broad’s 5/65 haul, Cooks coincidental personal innings of 65 (could have been better, but was at least a minor show of defiance). The Selectors may make some changes to the team for the 2nd Test, and they may not. England aren’t going to roll over and play dead – not against Australia.

        And yes, the terminology of cricket is one of the things that set it apart, make it special – and what’s more, it makes me feel cosy because I can understand it.

      • I get the sense that England has a long standing habit, intentional or unintentional of luring the opponent into an exaggerated confidence and then as you say, “coming to life.” I’ll be checking out England’s revival. Thank you.

        The cosy of cricket language comes through as passion in your descriptions. I can’t help thinking of Billy Holiday’s “god bless the child” song with cricket seizing one’s mind regardless of the circumstances.

      • A few years ago – say before Nasser Hussain was captain – England went through a few decades when they couldn’t bat or bowl their way out of a wet paper bag. [Current captain Cook is a real poster boy and has the straight female fans swooning, by the way.]

        At the same time the West Indies were formidable world-beaters, but now seem to be a shadow of their former selves.

        At the same time Australia seemed to be unbeatable. It was said, not without justification, that they could have sent at least two national teams out to play simultaneous Test series. Australia has endless summer and a passion for sport, with lots of fine athletes to call on. However, their current Test side, whilst being no push-over, isn’t quite what it was back then.

        So whilst I expect England to wake up suddenly and put them to the sword, it’s be no means a certainty.

        I love and admire the Aussies and the way they play, albeit they are my deadliest foes when they take the field against England. The only thing I don’t admire about Australian cricket is that they are masters of ‘sledging’, which means verbal intimidation (often obscene) of the opposing batsman. Mind you, they can take it as hard as they dish it out. There was a famous incident – I forget who the players were – when an Australian bowler was failing to move an English batsman to do anything but block. The Englishman was sturdily built, and in one moment of frustration, the Australian bowler exclaimed “Why are you so bloody FAT?” The Englander came straight back with “Because every time I f*** your wife I eat a biscuit!” The entire Australian in-field fell about laughing and couldn’t continue playing for several minutes, and when they could continue they did so with occasional giggles breaking out.

      • Captain Cook and his seductive hook. Cricket has a little bit of everything, eh? It’s interesting the way you describe the Aussies as masters of “sledging.” I’ve never heard that term before. I guess North America’s equivalent term is “trash talking.”

        It seems to be more than a coincidence that Grant Balfour-a pitcher with the Oakland A’s and also an Aussie is a notorious sledger on the mound. It drives batters a bit batty at times.

        I guess it’s a risk to retaliate since the Aussie’s are well schooled in this verbal sparring and probably bating the opponent into their game to throw off their concentration, but in England’s case, it sounds like the batsman won some well deserved respect with that biscuit comment. To be continued I guess..

  4. Aussie sledging has been particularly intense against England since the 1932-33 tour – I think I introduced you to my essay on Douglas Jardine before http://mairibheag.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/well-bowled-harold.html

    • That’s a significant history. Adds to the rivalry’s intensity. Yes, I remember on Dougals Jardine and will enjoy again.

    • Your essay is even more fascinating the second time around; so well spaced with the baton being handed from Jardine to Bradman and Gilbert in the postscript.

      I get the sense that cricket, unlike baseball began as a clean and honorable game where sportsmanship was never taken lightly. This kind of climate makes for some very friction filled innovation, specifically the “fast leg theory.”

      As you point out, Jardine didn’t invent the tactic, but he seemed to assume responsibility for executing it-a testament to his character I imagine. “He could dish it out as well as take it.”

      It seems ironic that Eddie Gilbert never played for Australia because his bowling action was considered suspect; an action carried out against the very Jardine who had caused a lot of the ruckus in the first place.

      Or was Gilbert on the wrong side of history in terms of skin color?

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