Right Place … Right Time by Bob Ryan

We all know that being in the right place, right time is an important part of life. I bet each of you could provide examples of that happening to you. But….being at the right place, wrong time can really be devastating….you saw in the  Kentucky Derby one horse cutting off another…..who knows maybe seconds earlier…or seconds later….there’s no disqualification and we have a different Kentucky Derby winner. It’s true all around sports and has been for a long time.

…of course the classic example is the Lou Gehrig story. According to folklore, on June 2, 1925 1B Wally Pipp showed up @ Yankee Stadium with a severe headache and asked the trainer for 2 aspirin. Mgr Miller Huggins overheard the request and said, “ Wally, take the day off. We’ll try that kid Gehrig  @ 1b today and get you back in there tomorrow. Gehrig had 3 hits that day….and didn’t miss a game again until May 2, 1939. 2130 consecutive games! Gehrig wasn’t just playing…he was truly outstanding….in his HOF career he scored AND drove in more than 100 run in 13 consecutive years. In 1931, Gehrig drove in 184 runs!! In 1934 Gehrig won the triple crown….HR (49), avg (.363), RBI (165). Not being intimidated by “Big Games”, Gehrig batted .361 cumulatively in the World Series’ in which he competed. Clearly Wall Pipp was at the wrong place and the wrong time with his statement. Btw….the most recent playing streaks of over 500 games is held by a very, very unlikely candidate in my eyes….I don’t think of this guy as one who could take the daily grinds of MLB action….it’s Prince Fielder—547 games, September 14, 2010-May 16, 2014.

….the Blues hiring of Craig Berube was a perfect example of right place, right time. The Blues seemed to need a more definitive approach. Berube’s, “ you WILL do this…or that” resonated with the Blues. His handling of veterans with the same type of corrective comments…sometimes …probably…on the harsh side helped to make the players feel that his message was to ALL the players…not just the youngsters. Berube had more experience than many seem to know. He was the HEAD coach of the Phil Flyers in 2013-14, 42-27-10; and 2014-15 when his team was 33-31-18.  

…another player who was at the right place, wrong time was Ted Simmons. Looking strictly at his batting credentials as a catcher, Simmons belongs in the HOF. Now, many feel that his defense wasn’t that strong.  He wasn’t BAD…..unfortunately for Ted, he played at the same time as Johnny Bench. Bench owned 10 Gold Gloves and was an All-Star 14x. Simmons got lost in his shadow.

…being at the right place, right time was ANY fan of the St Louis Blues for game 7 of the Dallas series. What an OUTSTANDING game and series! It kept one on the edge of their seats.  Now…I must admit … the Blues WINNING THE GAME….really topped off the excitement I enjoyed the play of the team but special place in my heart for Colton Parayko and Robert Thomas. Of Course the BIG B in net was truly incredible.  LGB, LGB, LGB,LGB, LGB (you get the idea…as I mimic the fans @ the game!)

….are more of  these 100mph hurlers going to continue to appear on the scene? It doesn’t look like it statistically….soooo….is it the right time to work on curve balls?  There is a possible end to the increasing velocity trend in the MLB and one of the reasons why we keep seeing more strikeouts. In 2008, just over 12 percent of fastballs were thrown at 95 mph or higher. By 2015, that number was nearly 22 percent, a tremendous increase. The thing is, it hasn’t gone higher. In 2018, it was still just barely over 22 percent. The average fastball was 93.6 mph in ’17… and 93.6 mph in ’18. Soooo….. maybe you “control…oops….command” type pitchers can take a deep breath. You may be in the right place at the right time.

….NBA players seem to be in the right place, right time. It seems to me that more and more of the super stars are following the Lebron James path. The players CHOOSE the team that they want to join, make it public to ward off any attempts by other teams and then cajole other “supers” to join them… the owners seem to be in the secondary level and just signing the checks and smiling. If that continues…..soon it’ll only be LA Lakers, one of the NY teams, Golden State maybe the Chicago Bulls drawing in the highest level players in the near future.

…being a seasoned…probably far above the minimum pay scale.. player in the MLB, is NOT being in the right place @ the right time currently. There has/is a definitive movement towards younger players in the MLB.  Of course, despite the huge incomes….this is another matter of more $$$$$ for the owners. Take a look, according to fan graphs…In 2000, players aged 30 and older took 86,019 plate appearances, and they threw 17,373 innings. They contributed 43.4 percent of all Wins Above Replacement . In 2017, players aged 30 and older took 69,110 plate appearances, and they threw 15,241 innings. They contributed 32 percent of all Wins Above Replacement. Now that we have 2018 in the rearview mirror, we can update those numbers, and it’s more of the same. In 2018, players aged 30 and older took 60,300 plate appearances, and they threw 15,129 2/3 innings. They contributed 29.8 percent of all Wins Above Replacement. 26000+ LESS plate appearances for that age group from the year 2000 to 2018.  Jeff Gyorko….watch out for the grim reaper!!

…..if you’re a young African-American athlete , it may seem to you  like the MLB is at the wrong place, wrong time for you. In 1981, 18.7% of the MLB  players, and 22% of the All-Star game rosters, were African-American. On opening day this year, African-American players made up 8.4% of the league, and recent All-Star rosters were less than 5% African-American. Meanwhile, African-American athletes dominate the NBA (74%) and the NFL(over 65%). I’m suggesting that IF the MLB wants to make progress in this area, that THEY should pay former players to be high school coaches. Their names alone should entice young athletes to at least TRY baseball. With a professional type approach at the HS level for an entire season…and hopefully….several seasons…..I believe that we’d see some upgrade in the number of African-Americans playing baseball in the MLB. Right now, many of these former Pro’s host 1 week camps in the summer….come on….how can you REALLY change a kid’s thoughts in 5 days?

….Jason Tatum… may be…at the right place, wrong time…..fellow Dukie,  Kyring Irving’s idea of sharing the ball and setting up teammates for “good looks” seems to be on the back burner currently. Tatum’s scoring has dropped due to the” Irving Alone “offense. However, Tatum has been a defensive stalwart during this playoff series. Many NBA viewers …and seemingly observers…have been bashing Tatum for not scoring. Ya can’t score if you don’t get timely, frequent passes…sorry…that’s how it is.

…..strangely….it seems like Luke Voit…who couldn’t nail down a job in the Lou….is NOW in the right place, right time in New York. Voit’s .333/.405/.689 slash line with the Yankees over the final two months of the 2018 season was a performance that demanded skepticism. NYY had acquired him from the Cards at the trade deadline in a transaction that most outside of StL didn’t even notice. Let’s dive into the numbers for 2019 for Voit. He doesn’t go after many pitches outside the zone…. Voit uses restraint outside the borders. He’s offered at just 16% of pitchers’ deliveries in Statcast’s “chase” and “waste” zones, giving him a similar profile to several of MLB’s most consistent hitters:

Voit: 87.2% swing vs. “heart” pitches | 16% vs. “chase/waste” pitches

Freddie Freeman (ATL): 85.4% vs. “heart” | 14.4% vs. “chase/waste”pitches

Corey Seager (LAD): 84.8% vs. “heart” | 15% vs. “chase/waste” pitches

Khris Davis (OAK): 84.7% vs. “heart” | 18.4% vs. “chase/waste” pitches

Christian Yelich (MIL): 82.0% vs. “heart” | 12.7% vs. “chase”/waste”  pitches

Then….when Voit does hit the ball….it’s with the sweet spot of the bat.

Highest “sweet spot” rate, 2019—Min. 50 batted balls (269 hitters)

1) Brian Goodwin (LAA): 47.6%

2) Austin Meadows (TB): 47.5%

3) Rowdy Tellez (TOR): 46.5%

4) Voit: 46.4%

5) Yadier Molina (STL): 46.2%

Sweet-spot rate: % of batted balls hit with launch angles between 8-32°

Further, Voit’s strikeout rate is reasonable …according to these staticians…

Voit’s reasonable 24.7% strikeout rate, his expected slugging percentage — based on his quality of contact and those punchouts — stands at .564. That ranks 16th among 216 hitters with at least 100 plate appearances.  I have nothing against Paul Goldschmidt…in fact….I think he’ll be a terrific addition but….darn…did we give away our home-towner, Luke Voit, for a smile & a shake?

….Being at the right place, at the  right time was the St. Louis Patriots. Competing in the Home-School Baseball World Series at Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in Florida, the Patriots won the Homeschool World Series Association Division II title with an 11-7 victor over the Richmond Patriots recently. The Patriots (23-13-1) are led by 14 seniors. St. Louis Patriots Head coach Mark Valle had his doubts about this level of success about 3 weeks ago but when his team got healthy about a week later, things began to look up. Seniors David Olejnik,  Patrick Baalman and Frank Griesbauer were all named to the HWSA All-American squad. Olejnik, who has inked a scholarship with Western Illinois, was voted as a 2-time All-American by the National Athletic Association of Private Schools. He had prodigious semifinal and championship games as he batted 6-for-6, scored 6 runs with two doubles, two triples, one home run and five RBI’s. But…it isn’t anything new for Olejnik….for the season, he has a .474 batting mark with an OPS .933. He leads the team in hits (57), 2B(10), 3B (9) HR (9 ) & RBI’s (55). Olejnik has signed with W. Illinois for next season. He follows the Footsteps of Jacob Stoker, who played last year for the Patriots and saw considerable playing time THIS year at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

…we’re at the right place and right time to sign off…….thanks for the read!

Comments

  1. – The Wally Pip/ Lou Gehrig story is probably the best known
    – How bout in StL? Mark Bulger goes down with season ending knee surgery & a former grocery clerk named Kurt Warner leads the Rams to a Super Bowl victory, MVP& eventually Hall of Fame Career.
    – Although it’s early, Harrison Bader goes out 10 days with hamstring injury & Jose Martinez hits.350 , Dex Fowler finds his stroke, leaving pre-season fav Bader a late inning defensive replacement
    – Remember 1968? Gibson is struck by Clemente liner. Nelson Briles is inserted into rotation & Cards win pennant!
    – Having Done some coaching at the HS level, the frustration of Spring Sport cancellations due to rain/ wet fields IS highly damaging to these athletes. Baseball, golf, girls soccer & lacrosse take the hit due to STL Spring weather. These kids begin training indoors in January only to have their seasons compromised each spring due to lousy weather! Tough to keep the kids motivated.
    I’m an advocate of fall baseball & soccer. Cooler,?drier weather , field conditions not an issue.
    Only problem is multi- sport kids. Football is the marquee sport at many schools & boys would have to choose between football & other sports.
    More turf/ artificial surface fields are only answer, but a very cost prohibitive answer for many schools. JP1

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