15 more Baseball 101 questions answered (No. 60-75): Diving into first, OPS, best rotation

We got derailed a bit by Buster Posey’s shingles and Tim Lincecum’s haircut.

But we continue with answering Baseball 101 questions posed by Mark Hermman of Newsday:

61. With the Wilpons having received good news in the Madoff settlement, when can Mets fans look forward to good news about the ballclub?

2014, by then very costly contracts will have expired, giving the team all sorts of flexibility.

62. How would The Boss have responded to having spent nearly $2 billion on payroll during the past 11 years and winning only half as many titles as the Red Sox and Cardinals?

By spending another $2 billion.

63. Why do players sometimes dive into first base when studies show it is quicker to run?

Ignorance. Perhaps they should spend time watching Usain Bolt run the 100 meters and notice who he doesn’t do a head-first slide across the finish line.

64. Is the total of on-base percentage and slugging percentage the best measure of a hitter’s value?

OPS is a useful, simple tool. But slugging’s heavy weight on home runs lets OPS tell us that it’s better to have a .200 hitter who belts a ton of homers than a light-hitting .300 hitter. Good news for Dave Kingman and Rob Deer, not good news for Ichiro Suzuki and Tony Gywnn. That’s why we like wOBA (weighted on base average), which levels the field a bit better.

65. Can a team possibly get anything close to an equal return if it trades Babe Ruth, Tom Seaver or any other icon at his peak?

It is possible, if the team gets a couple of prospects back who bloom into superstars. But the odds are long, and the team trading the icon at his peak is usually burned.

66. Will Derek Jeter eventually move to another position or will he just retire when he can’t play shortstop anymore?

With 3,000 hits and five World Series rings in his possession, we’re guessing he’ll retire when he can’t play shortstop anymore.

67. Is it a good idea to expand rosters to 40 on Sept. 1 or is it unfair to have minor-leaguers in big games?

It’s totally unfair. It completely changes the game. For five months, managers juggle lineup decisions, pinch-hitting and double-switches, with the limitation of having a bench the generally is comprised of five players. Then suddenly in September they don’t have to worry about that stuff as they have almost an endless supply of bench players, by comparison. In 2010, during the Giants playoff push to the World Series, they called up Darren Ford, a speedy outfielder who couldn’t hit a lick. But he could run and field. He appeared in seven September games, six as a pinch-runner. He did not have a plate appearance, but stole two bases and scored one pivotal run that helped the Giants win a key game. I understand the desire to take a look at some prospects and the need to provide roster depth late in the season when players are getting fatigued. But 40 players is too many; 30 would be better.

68. In the draft, should you go with the most talented player no matter what his age is, or play it safe and take a college guy?

Depends on your situation. If you’re a contending or hopeful team that needs a piece filled on your roster in a year or two, a college guy is the better choice. But if you have a very good team with few immediate needs or a young team that is years away from contending, a high school player may be the right pick.

69. Why is there caterwauling every year about which players aren’t chosen for the All-Star Game, followed by complaining that the game is meaningless?

The All-Star Game is all about honoring the best players. So there is a lot of debate about who are the best and most deserving players. But once the roster has been set, then the game itself is just an exhibition and it shouldn’t matter who wins.

70. Billy Martin or Joe Torre . . . Gil Hodges or Davey Johnson.

Torre. Martin was a nutbar. Johnson. Hodges was a Dodger, which is worse than being a nutbar.

71. In 1972, there were nine African-American starters in the All-Star Game. In 2011, there were four. In 1964, the Cardinals had four African-American players in the lineup for Game 7 of the World Series. In Game 7 of 2011, the Cardinals had none. Sixty-five years after Jackie Robinson’s breakthrough, how can baseball again attract top black athletes?

Continue to develop inner-city youth baseball programs. Developing baseball skills takes time and money. The best American-born players today have extensive experience with camps, clinics and travelling teams. These cost money.

72. Has a player ever presented a more honest question to a sitting President than when Babe Ruth, upon being introduced to Calvin Coolidge on a sultry Washington day, said: “Hot as hell, ain’t it, Prez?”


73. Where does Citi Field’s Shake Shack rate among the best ballpark concessions, and what else is on the short list?

Never been to Citi Field, so couldn’t say. But I’d say any list should start and finish with Gilroy garlic fries.

74. Should you sell your Honus Wagner baseball card now or hold on to it?

Sell it now. The trading card market peaked about 20 years.

75. Who has the best starting rotation in baseball? (Fangraphs.com lists the Angels first).

Well, given that Barry Zito — the weak link of the Giants’ roation — just threw a four-hit shutout in Coors Field, it’s got to be the Giants.


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