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Why Evan Longoria Will Have A Huge 2012 Season PDF Print E-mail
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Rob Smith Article Archive
Written by Rob Smith   
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 12:23

LongoriaIt's common knowledge that Evan Longoria is the Tampa Bay Rays' best player, but he's about to get even better.

That might be difficult to believe considering Longoria is coming off a 31-homerun, 98-RBI 2011 season, which he memorably capped with a walk-off homerun on the final day of the regular season to send the Rays to the playoffs for the third time in the past four years, but it's true.

In addition to the obvious misfortune of dealing with injuries last year (Longoria missed 29 games), he was also a victim of having terrible luck when he put the ball in play. The BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) statistic illustrates this point.

BABIP has grown in popularity due to its ability to diagnose anomalous individual seasons that a player may produce. An unusually high BABIP tends to be followed by a regression, while an extremely low BABIP indicates a rebound season is forthcoming. Longoria's 2011 is a prime example of the latter.

The league average BABIP typically lands between .290 and .310. This means that for every hundred at bats in which a hitter makes contact, about thirty will result in base hits. Predictably, the better players usually have a high BABIP by virtue of consistently making solid contact. Until last year, Longoria had been one of those players. In his first three big league seasons (2008-2010), Longoria posted BABIPs of .309, .313 and .336. In 2011, his BABIP fell to .239.

In trying to keep this as simple as possible, BABIP is often influenced by the proportion of ground balls, line drives and fly balls a player hits. Fly balls produce more outs than ground balls, which produce more outs than line drives. So, the more line drives and ground balls a player hits, the better his BABIP is likely to be. Considering Longoria's BABIP fell nearly 100 points from the 2010 season to 2011, one would assume that he was hitting a lot more fly balls while producing fewer ground balls and line drives. Statistics reveal that was not the case. Although Longoria hit more fly balls in 2011 (44.7%) than in 2010 (43.1%), he also hit more grounders, too (36.6% in 2010, 37.3% in 2011). His line drive rate decreased from 20.3 percent to 18, but that is nowhere near drastic enough to explain such a large drop in BABIP.

Notwithstanding Longoria's fluky bad luck in 2011, there are other reasons to expect 2012 to be his best season to date. Despite playing in 18 fewer games than he did in 2010, Longoria drew 80 walks (his previous career high had been 72). His increase in plate discipline and power explains why Longoria's wOBA suffered only a marginal decrease (from .376 in 2010 to .365 in 2011) despite such a horrid BABIP. Further, Longoria lost 10 to 15 pounds this offseason in hopes of avoiding the muscle injuries that have sidelined him in previous seasons.

So, if Longoria's BABIP returns to even a league average figure in 2012 ( it will likely be higher), and his leaner frame allows him to play a full season, we can expect the Rays' franchise player to produce the MVP-caliber season he's capable of.


Rob Smith is a contributing writer for the Business of Sports Network. He can be reached on Twitter @RobSmithUSF or on his personal blog, http://smithersports.blogspot.com/

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Part 5: Matt Antonelli's Quest to Return to "The Show" PDF Print E-mail
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Matthew Coller Articles Archive
Written by Matthew Coller   
Friday, 06 April 2012 00:00

Matt Antonelli as a Padre

This is part five of the series on Matt Antonelli. See Matthew Coller's article archive for parts 1-4.

Matt Antonelli remains one step away from returning to The Show.

After spending most of spring training with the major league club, the Baltimore Orioles have assigned Antonelli to triple-A Norfolk. While his goal was to make the opening day roster, the former first-rounder is much closer to his ultimate goal than he was one year ago. Last April, returning to the major leagues seemed merely a pipe dream.

To begin the 2011 season, Antonelli was stuck in extended spring training. He was recovering from yet another injury while trying to sort out a rust-riddled swing.

At that time, the newest member of the Norfolk Tide was in camp with the Washington Nationals, who had signed him after he was released by the Padres following the 2010 season. During the spring he received few chances to show the Nats what he could do – and the chances he did get did not go so well.

Antonelli had only played one game in 2010 and just 59 in 2009 – all while battling a broken hamate bone in his wrist. Last year, his wrist was healed, but swing timing was out of whack.

It turns out hitting a 90 mph fastball isn't at all like riding a bike.

“I learned a lot about staying positive,” Antonelli said via email last spring. “When nothing seems to want to go your way. If I had given up after my first surgery didn't work, I wouldn't be playing right now. I've learned a lot about being patient and staying determined in the face of adversity.”

In addition to regaining his swing, Antonelli pulled his hamstring near the end of the spring. When he finally began his 2011 season, the Nationals assigned the him to their double-A affiliate Harrisburg. The injury gave Antonelli time to recover his swing. When the season finally began in mid-May, he hit well and was quickly moved up to the Nationals' triple-A team the Syracuse Chiefs.

In Syracuse, finally feeling like the same player who was a star at Wake Forest University and hit 21 home runs between high-A and double-A in 2007, Antonelli picked up where he'd left off before his wrist injury. In 86 games, he hit .297 with a .393 on-base percentage and eight home runs.

No matter his performance, the Nationals placed another barricade in his road back to the show, electing not to call him up in September.

He entered the off-season wondering if he'd gone from top prospect to four-A. From once called the “best prospect at second base” to a triple-A lifer, bound to drift from club to club Crash Davis style.

But one thing Mr. Davis didn't benefit from when Bull Durham was released in 1988 was sabermetrics. While Antonelli was headed back to his Massachusetts home – worried more about asking his girlfriend to marry him and buying a house than where he'd play next year – former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette was being hired by the Orioles. (His girlfriend said yes, by the way)

Duquette got busy playing catchup with the behind-the-times O's. He hired financial and statistical analysts and often noted new stats as being “accepted in baseball.” That was good news for Antonelli, whose specialty – drawing walks – is highly regarded by statisticians.

When Duquette signed Antonelli to a major league contract in late November, the team's press release noted his impressive on-base percentage and OPS (on-base plus slugging) numbers in the minor leagues.

“My coach in college used to yell at me,” Antonelli said last week from Orioles camp in Sarasota, Fla. “I would always take the first pitch and it would drive him nuts. I don't know why, but I've always had this ability to work walks.”

From the moment he arrived at spring training with the O's, everything was different from the year before. This time, he wasn't feeling his way around like a kid on his first day of school. He was confident he could make the big club instead of being hopeful to just stay healthy.

“This time around it doesn't feel strange at all,” he said over the phone, likely with a smile on his face. “I felt like I was an experienced veteran at switching teams even though I'd only done it once before.”

Unlike Nationals' camp last year, Antonelli was given significant time with the big club. He started off hot, getting on base 12 of his first 25 plate appearances.

But over the last week, he went 0-for-9 without a walk and the Orioles elected to assign him to triple-A. Of course, there were other circumstances that caused the big club to send him down. The O's had picked up another infielder Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 draft. Under Rule 5, the player has to make the 25 man roster or be sent back to his old team – which in Flaherty's case is the Chicago Cubs. Flaherty performed well and gave the Orioles little choice.

“I learned a long time ago that it just isn't up to you,” Antonelli said. “I used to drive myself crazy thinking about whether I would be the next guy called up. I would think, maybe if I get a couple hits today or whatever. I've learned to just play my game and let everything else take care of itself.”

Where Antonelli's career goes from here?  In the minors, you can hit, hit, hit and never see a call. He knows how the business works, but understands he's much closer to his dream than he was one year ago.

“One of the reasons I came to Baltimore is that I thought I'd have an opportunity hopefully at some point to play in the majors,” he said. “Whether it would be at the very beginning or whenever to be contributing at that level. That's my goal. Hopefully all the things I did last year will give me a chance this year, that's really all I'm looking for.”


Matthew CollerMatthew Coller is a senior staff member of the Business of Sports Network, and is a freelance writer. He can be followed on Twitter

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Sale of Padres Approved by MLB's Owners PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 16 August 2012 16:58
San Diego Padres

Major League Baseball approved the sale of the San Diego Padres from John Moores to the group led by the Seidler/O’Malley families and Ron Fowler during its quarterly meetings, today in Milwaukee, MLB Commissioner Selig announced today.  Mr. Fowler will serve as the new ownership group’s control person.  The involvement of the grandchildren of Walter O’Malley – as represented by the Seidler/O’Malley interests in the team - marks the return to Major League Baseball ownership for his family. Walter O’Malley owned the Dodgers in both Brooklyn and Los Angeles from 1950 to 1979 while his son Peter ran the club after till 1998 when the club was sold to New Corp.

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am pleased to congratulate Ron Fowler, the Seidler and O’Malley families and all of their partners as they become the new stewards of the San Diego Padres.  With significant local representation and extensive baseball experience, this group understands the Padres’ binding role in the community, and I believe that its collective long-term vision and passion will serve the fans of San Diego well in the years ahead.

“I appreciate all that John Moores has done for the City of San Diego and applaud his exceptional sense of personal philanthropy, which has benefited many worthy local causes since his purchase of the Club in 1994.  I wish John and his family all the best.”

The sale has been reported to be $800 million with $200 million of that as upfront money Moores receives as part of the media rights deal with Fox Sports San Diego that that Padres brokered prior to the beginning of this season.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Rogers Applies to Bring MLB Network to Canada PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Network / MLB Extra Innings
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 13:13
MLB Network
MLB Network could (finally) be
coming to Canada

Major League Baseball’s league-owned all-baseball channel MLB Network launched in 2009, and to date, it sees the largest distribution base of any of the other league networks. But, as of today, MLB Network is not seen in Canada, a case of being caught up in the approval process of the Canadian Television-radio Commission.

As early as 2009, Rogers Cable, who owns the Toronto Blue Jays, was trying to get MLB Network broadcasted in Canada (see MLB Network Reportedly Coming to Canada as "Baseball TV"). Rogers had let the license to pursue MLB Network expire last year.

But, according to a report today in The Globe and Mail, Rogers has begun actively pursuing  the league-owned network, again.

"MLB Network's market research in the U.S. and Canada indicates that Major League Baseball fans have a considerable demand for more information and insight about the sport of baseball," the network wrote in a letter supporting Rogers' application to the CRTC.

"MLB International believes that MLB Network should be added .... in doing so, the Commission will ensure that Canadian consumers are able to access a non-Canadian service that will provide unique programming content in a genre that does not currently exist in Canada."

[…]

Rogers argues in its application that the pay service would be complementary to existing coverage provided by its own spots channel, as well as those operate by RDS and TSN.

 "Of the 2,430 live regular-season games in Major League Baseball, MLB Network only features up to 150," the application states. "In other words, the percentage of live games offered on MLB Network is minimal compared to the number of live games that are available through Canadian specialty services like Rogers' Sportsnet. Any overlap in programming is insignificant to consumers today."

According to the report, the application for MLB Network in Canada is open for comment until mid-July.

MLB Network would not be the first sports channel from the United States to gain access into Canada. The CRTC has previously authorized the NFL Network, the Golf Channel and Speed for Canadian distribution.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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2013 MLB Regular Season Schedule Winners and Losers PDF Print E-mail
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David Simmons Article Archive
Written by David E Simmons   
Monday, 17 September 2012 14:33

Inside MLB attendance

Last week, MLB released their 2013 schedule and with it, Katy Feeney and the staff at MLB is responsible for piecing the schedule together that has to be one of the toughest in sports. The schedule has to balance local holidays, team travels, political conventions, concerts, national television contracts, competition from other sports leagues, and the team themselves in putting together the schedule. Some teams are happier than others with their tentative 2013 schedule. Others will have a tougher time selling more tickets with their schedules during the off-season. It’s important to note that the 8 worst road draws in baseball this season were the Royals, Mariners, Rangers, A’s, Indians, Twins, Blue Jays, and Rays. This could change for any of these teams with the signing of Josh Hamilton. Plus, a deep playoff run for the Rangers or A’s could help them on the road next year as well. The best road teams are all large markets including: Yankees, NY Mets, Philly, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Braves, and welcome to the big-time Nats. The Braves TBS roots still sell on the road and it appears all baseball fans couldn’t get enough of the Bryce Harper show on the road. Missing but not forgotten are the Red Sox who still claim to be a top 5 brand and given the number of transient former Boston students will continue to sell on the road. If you’ll notice none of the best road draws come from the AL Central or AL West. This puts teams at a definitive box office disadvantage from the NL Central who play the AL West and teams from the NL East who face the AL Central. One advantage for all teams this year is that rivalry interleague games will be played during the week which should sellout and their increases are greater than the decreases on a weekend series. That change alone should net teams ~35,000 tickets sold or about a million tickets sold league-wide. One trend to keep an eye on is the use of concerts made popular in Tampa, Washington, and the LA Angels to drive attendance. Given the multitude of projected slow weekends across the league many teams will adopt a Friday Fireworks and Saturday Concert model. Concession discounts during the week and promotions will continue in abundance as well. Without further ado here are the 2012 schedule release winners and losers.

2013 Schedule Winners

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: Host NY Yankees (2 games) and Boston Red Sox (3 games)
  • Toronto Blue Jays: April weekend with Yankees, Plus weekday hosts to Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, & Yankees
  • New York Mets: Host 84th all-star game in July but host Royals, Tigers, White Sox in interleague and only 2 Yankee games
  • New York Yankees: Host SF and Red Sox in September weekends – 2 Red Sox series plus Dodgers, Mets during week
  • Chicago Cubs: 9 April games, host Rangers in interleague, weekends vs. PHI/LAD/STLx2/ATL/NYM
  • LA Angels: Red Sox, Yankees weekend - Dodgers/Cubs/Cards midweek
  • Colorado Rockies: Host NY Yankees (3 games) and Boston Red Sox (2 games)
  • Detroit Tigers: 21 home games before Memorial Day weekend, ATL/PHI/BOS weekend series
  • Oakland Athletics: Red Sox & Cards on weekend plus Giants, Yankees, Cubs midweek
  • Minnesota Twins: Host Mets and Red Sox on weekend, plus Yankees and Phillies during week – then 2014 ASG
  • Cleveland Indians: Mets & Nats on weekend, plus 10 early weekday games vs. Phillies/Red Sox/Yankees

2013 Schedule Losers

  • Boston Red Sox: 17 April home games, Yankees first visit is July 19th, interleague host of Padres, DBacks
  • Chicago White Sox: 15 April games, face Sox, Cubs, and Yankees during the week
  • Arizona Diamondbacks: Host Rangers, Rays, Orioles, and Blue Jays in interleague
  • Baltimore Orioles: Play Dodgers in April, 1 Yankee weekend, plus interleague with Rockies & Pads
  • All NL Central not named the Cubs: Host AL West in Interleague play
  • All NL East not named the Mets: Host AL Central in Interleague play

Off the 9 interleague series to never happen it appears that MLB tried aggressively to get them all in as there will be 7 first time series in 2013:

  • Dodgers @ Yankees
  • White Sox @ Mets
  • Braves @ Royals
  • Rangers @ Cardinals
  • Cubs @ Athletics
  • Cardinals @ Angels
  • Rays @ Dodgers

Looking ahead to 2014 the following interleague matchups have never been played:

  • Twins @ Braves
  • Padres @ Blue Jays

David SimmonsDavid Simmons is a graduate of the University of Central Florida who worked in the front office of the Los Angeles Dodgers over 4 seasons and has a decade of ticketing experience.. He serves as CFO for Players For The Planet and currently resides in Baltimore. You can follow David on Twitter @davidesimmons

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