Jeff Passan

  • Manager Matt Williams isn’t the only one to blame for Nationals’ mess

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 5 hrs ago

    While a Washington Nationals victory Wednesday night stanched the wound of two disastrous losses the previous two nights that trained focus on Williams’ inability to properly manage a bullpen, it did nothing to make up the 6½-game deficit Washington faces, some of which, surely, is owed to Williams’ blundering. During a radio appearance with D.C. radio station WJFK-FM on Wednesday morning, Williams used the following logic to rationalize keeping closer Jonathan Papelbon on the bench for the previous two nights in games blown by lesser relievers: “He’s our closer. He’s the one that closes games.”

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    And as much as one wants to blame Williams for that – and Washington descended with the sort of fury typically reserved for the Redskins and Wizards and Capitals and … when did the nation’s capital turn into an oversized Cleveland? – he is far from alone. Because Rizzo, in many ways a strong GM, is allowing Williams to play the heel to his Achilles.

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  • Royals clubhouse hit by bout of chickenpox

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A chickenpox outbreak struck the Kansas City Royals clubhouse over the weekend, infecting All-Star reliever Kelvin Herrera and starting right fielder Alex Rios. The team has scrambled to ensure its other players are inoculated against the disease, which is expected to sideline the affected players for two weeks.

    The news, first reported by The Kansas City Starand confirmed by Yahoo Sports, is not expected to severely distress the Royals, whose 13-game lead in the American League Central is twice as large as any in baseball. Still, the club asked players to contact family members and inquire about their immunization status and whether they contracted the disease as a child, according to the Star.

    The severity of chickenpox is higher in adults, who can develop pneumonia, among other complications. Rios, who was diagnosed with the disease first, and Herrera have been quarantined, according to the Star.

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  • 10 Degrees: The postseason contenders, ranked from easiest schedule to hardest

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    Still, to include the Red Sox and the rest of their sub-.500 brethren in this supersized 10 Degrees felt wrong, because let’s face it: If you can’t muster a .500 record at this point in the season, you probably don’t deserve a playoff spot, not even with the extra wild card turning a Bud Heavy postseason into Bud Light.

    The break-even threshold yielded 14 playoff contenders, some of whose spots are essentially locked up, some of whom will continue fighting in a race not yet ripe with drama. Two weeks from now, perhaps it’s there, and much of that depends on the schedule of each contender, with some teams capable of preying on their gift and others ruing their misfortune.

    While this assessment usually begins with the toughest schedules, it seemed better to start the 2015 version with the easiest, because it’s reflective of this season that’s so full of mediocrity. That, and if they manage to bungle this cakewalk, there may be no greater disappointment possible, and that’s really difficult to fathom, considering the past collapses of the …

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  • The Pirates pitcher who succeeds by not throwing strikes

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    If only they didn’t swing. That should be the strategy against Francisco Liriano. Lope into the batter’s box, sling bat over shoulder and play statue. Stare at every ball that whizzes by. And chances are, if temptation doesn’t take over, if the almost pheromonal scent of Liriano’s pitches can’t cajole a swing, the exercise will end in a leisurely stroll to first base.

    Because in a pitching world whose mission boils down to a two-word statement repeated ad nauseam – “throw strikes” – Liriano serves as the literal and figurative wild child. Nobody in baseball delivers fewer pitches in the strike zone than the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 31-year-old left-hander, and his mastery of effective wildness has grown into wild effectiveness.

    “He’s got two of the most dynamic off-speed pitches in the game,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “And he has good enough stuff that he still gets swings even when it’s not close.”

    “He has learned how to pitch,” Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage said. “Every once in a while, he’ll have a flashback where he thinks he can pitch 97. But he’s more disciplined now.”

    They never do.

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  • Why MLB needs to keep exploring ways to improve pace of play

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    More than 540,000 pitches have been thrown in Major League Baseball games this year, and after each one comes the delay. In the best scenarios it is barely a hindrance and in the worst an interminable bore, and on average, 22.1 seconds lapse between pitches, which means the 2015 baseball season has featured about 12 million seconds of dead time.

    This is notable because in spite of the perpetual wrench heaved into action, the effort to speed up pace of play in baseball has been a rousing success. The average nine-inning game is down to 2 hours, 54 minutes, down eight minutes from last season's foray past the three-hour mark. Now that the threshold has been crossed, MLB needs to figure out whether sub-3:00 is a goal accomplished or a starting point from which to build.

    The average game time in the Texas League is down from 2:51 to 2:46. The Southern League dipped 11 minutes to 2:41. The Eastern League shaved 12 minutes off its games. The biggest differences are at Triple-A, where the Pacific Coast League lost 13 minutes and the International League went from the second-longest games in the minor leagues (2:56) to sixth of 16 domestic leagues (2:41).

  • 10 Degrees: The hard truth about RBIs

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 10 days ago

    Let’s talk about RBIs. This is going to be a frank discussion, with no room for sentiment, dogma or any of the other things fostering the propaganda that crowns a Most Valuable Player because he leads baseball in a statistic with ever-waning relevance to such conversations.

    Late Saturday night, a few hours after Toronto Blue Jays star Josh Donaldson drove in six runs to hit the 100-RBI threshold this season, the promotion of his MVP candidacy cranked into overdrive. The confluence of a fantastic game, a monster second half and particularly an unhealthy obsession with round numbers launched the Donaldson-vs.-Mike Trout MVP debate that seems likelier and likelier to dominate the final six weeks of the season.

    There is no wrong choice between the two. Donaldson has been brilliant. Trout has been glorious. They’re the two best players in the American League this season. Nobody else is particularly close.

    @JeffPassan why? Runs win games.

    This is accurate. It also conflates runs with comparing RBIs from player to player, which can be an apples-and-oranges appraisal, as it is with Donaldson vs. Trout.

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  • Mike Trout's off-field obsession proves he's a man for all seasons

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 14 days ago

    At first, Jim Cantore thought the question was a joke. Then he saw the blue checkmark verifying the Twitter account that sent it and realized the best baseball player in the world really did want to know everything he could about the size of the snowstorm headed for New Jersey.

    “All of a sudden, I get this direct message from Mike Trout,” said Cantore, the Weather Channel’s voluble on-camera meteorologist and among the most trusted voices in forecasting today. “He’s asking me about the storm. Not like, ‘Hey, Jim, it’s Mike.’ He just went right into the details. He was genuinely curious about what the models said.”

    For all of Trout’s star power and the possibility of back-to-back American League MVP trophies, precious little is known about him away from the field. Which is why Cantore, a New York Yankees fan, was tickled to learn something that a few Internet sleuths later figured out.

    Mike Trout is a weather geek. And if he weren’t patrolling center field for the Los Angeles Angels nightly, the 24-year-old figures he would be holed away in some corner of the northeast where snow falls during the winter delivering the daily weather report on local TV.

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  • Short-sightedness of the Red Sox will work only if they give Dave Dombrowski autonomy long-term

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago

    The Toronto Blue Jays were pursuing Dave Dombrowski and all that comes with him – the pedigree, the gravitas, the haircut – when in swooped the Boston Red Sox to consummate another shotgun marriage. The Red Sox adore these sorts of dalliances, ones where the names are as big as the fits are questionable.

    Now, let it be said: Hiring Dombrowski as president to run baseball operations, which the Red Sox officially did Tuesday night, isn't an ill-advised idea in a vacuum. Dombrowski's past success, especially with the sort of payroll leeway he'll get in Boston, speaks for itself.

    Which, as much as anything, shows how myopic the Red Sox have become, not just in their ability to let a talented executive like Cherington go but to potentially drive out the rest of a front office that has constructed a well-above-average major league core and one of the five best minor league systems in baseball.

    "No," one GM said Tuesday night. "The best."

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  • 10 Degrees: Buster Posey headlines baseball's best seasons no one is noticing

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 17 days ago

    Posey is the finest catcher in baseball today, the most well-rounded since Joe Mauer's prime, the likeliest threat to Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra's place atop the best-ever list. He hits for a high average and power in a home stadium that is like a baseball blackout. He walks more than he strikes out in an era where such hitters get rarer by the day. He throws out a higher percentage of attempted base stealers than anyone and frames so well he should work at Michael's. Were he more hare than tortoise, Posey would be the platonic ideal of a catcher.

    True excellence can go unrecognized when in the presence of transcendence, so perhaps Bryce Harper is to blame for Posey's season lurking under the radar. It's not the only one, of course, though how it's possible for someone like…

    1. Buster Posey to be two-thirds of the way to one of the greatest seasons ever from a catcher with barely a mention of just how great it's been is almost as incredible as what he has done.

    Between Posey and …

    With this sort of offense, the Royals look even more dangerous this October than they did last postseason. The one thing they never want to see again is …

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  • Johnny Cueto: the pitcher so frustrating he makes hitters want to punch strangers

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 20 days ago

    Ian Kinsler wanted to punch me in the face.

    I had asked him just how much the varying deliveries of Johnny Cueto really affect hitters, and with the wound of getting shut out by Cueto still raw and fresh, Kinsler did not exactly cotton to the line of questioning. Because he is a professional, and an educator, Kinsler stood up and decided to demonstrate. And the best way, he figured, was with his fists.

    He balled up his fingers, cocked his right arm back and held it there for a beat, then two, before extending his arm inches from my nose.

    "If I punch you like this three times in a row," he said, pausing to reload his fist, only exploding forward almost instantaneously instead of holding it back, "and then I go: Boom! Is it the same? Because it's coming from the same spot?"

    That's not a punch to the face. It's more like a kick somewhere else.

    The Tiant is like his fastball. He doesn't utilize it all the time, and because that's the case, the idea that Cueto might use another delivery exists in the minds of hitters who already have enough to worry about with six distinct pitches.

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