Friday, April 12, 2013

The Defense for Carlos Quentin

Last night, the Los Angeles Dodgers (6-3) and San Diego Padres (2-7) met up for the final game of a three game series. In the top of the first inning, Padres starting pitcher Jason Marquis threw a ball that was up and in to Dodgers star Matt Kemp, and then gave up a 2-run home run to former Padres star Adrian Gonzalez. The game remained 2-0 until the bottom of the fourth, when Dodgers star pitcher, Zach Greinke, threw a wild pitch. The pitch allowed rookie second baseman Jedd Gyorko to score, making it a 2-1 game. The score held up until the top of the sixth inning, when Zach Greinke hit Carlos Quentin with an 89 MPH fastball in the arm. Quentin charged the mound, and several players were ejected. Carlos Quentin, Jerry Hairston Jr., Zach Greinke, and Matt Kemp were all ejected in the wild brawl that took place, but the game continued. Padres' first baseman Yonder Alonso drove in the tying run to bring the score to 2-2. In the top of the 8th, Padres' reliever Luke Gregerson gave up the go-ahead run, a solo home run to Juan Uribe, that brought the score to 3-2. The score stayed the same, and the Dodgers emerged victorious, but the interesting part of this game was the brawl.

Before I go in detail about the benches clearing fight, I want to give you some quick background information:
  • Carlos Quentin has been hit by the pitch 116 times since 2006.
  • Including this HBP, since 2008, Greinke has hit Quentin 3 times in 31 plate appearances, equating to about 10% of PA's resulting in a hit-by-pitch.
  • Zach Greinke has pitched to about 4,300 hitters since 2008, hitting 19 of them, equating to under .5% of plate appearances resulting in a hit-by-pitch.
  • Zach Greinke signed a 6 year, 147 million dollar contract with the Dodgers this offseason, who are one of the MLB's big market teams. Most big market teams receive favoritism from the commissioner's office, since they bring in the most money for baseball.
  • Zach Greinke was the highlight of a Dodgers offseason that saw the Dodgers surpase the Yankees in payroll commitments, and also created a huge amount of hype for the season.
  • A good comparison for the Padres-Dodgers rivalry is: Imagine the Giants are UNC, the Dodgers are Duke, and the Padres are NC State. The Padres don't really have a true rival, so all of the fans hate the Giants and Dodgers.
  • Zach Greinke has been open about anxiety issues in the past, and also has been labeled by many as having a passive-aggressive personality.
  • Carlos Quentin has no history of charging the mound.
  • Carlos Quentin is 45 pounds heavier than Zach Greinke, and played as a linebacker in high school.
Now here is the reason this brawl is so newsworthy. Zach Greinke, a star pitcher, broke his collarbone in the collision with Quentin, and will miss the eight weeks. Here is the brawl, followed by an explanation.

As you can see, the hit by pitch of Quentin may or may not have been retaliation against the pitch thrown at Matt Kemp earlier in the game. Greinke hit Quentin in the arm, Quentin took a step forward to look at Greinke, who was clearly visibly taunting Quentin after Greinke hit him! After the provoking comments, Quentin, acting on impulse and adrenaline, goes after Zach Greinke. Greinke goes 2-3 steps in front of the pitcher's mound, and puts his shoulder down. Quentin drives straight into him, and the smaller Greinke's collarbone is shattered as he falls back. He is very lucky that the injury wasn't worse. After this, Quentin and Greinke are ejected and led off the field. Eventually a second fight ensued, and Matt Kemp and former Padre (current Dodger) Jerry Hairston Jr. had to be taken off the field. Allegedly, according to Jerry Hairston Jr., Padres' back-up catcher John Baker was mocking Greinke's injury. After the game, Matt Kemp hunted down Carlos Quentin in the parking lot, and makes a scene, but former Michigan QB and current Padres starting pitcher, listed at 6-5 and 240 pounds, intervenes and keeps Kemp away from Quentin. 

Kemp and Richard getting into it.
After the game, Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly said "He should not play a game until Greinke can pitch. If he plays before Greinke pitches, something is wrong. Their guy charges the mound being an idiot and our guy is going to be out for however long and their guy is probably going to be playing in three days. It's a joke" which displays an inadequate understanding of MLB's suspension system.

Zach Greinke is expected to miss 56 days, or 11 starts. This is about the same amount of time as the 50-game suspension major league baseball gives for its performance enhancing drug policy. Last year, Johnny Cueto of the Reds kicked Cardinals catcher Jason Larue in the head during a brawl, and only was suspended for 7 games, or one start. The kick ended Larue's career. This is a very good precedent for the case against Carlos Quentin. Most suspensions for brawls range from 1-15 games, depending on the circumstances. The fact that Greinke was a star pitcher, and Larue was a second string catcher, should not be taken into consideration, as that shows favoritism. Considering that Carlos Quentin was involved in the start of the brawl, while Cueto was not, should be taken into consideration. A 10-game suspension seems fair. The blow will still be huge to a San Diego team that lost its two best hitters not named Carlos Quentin to injury or to a suspension. Most people forget that Matt Kemp was also a key player in the brawls, and should be suspended through the clubs next series with San Diego, to keep things under control, so a 6-game suspension to cover the San Diego series that takes place in three days would be worth it.

Most people immediately assume Quentin was wrong, and Greinke is an innocent victim, but people do not realize it was not the hit by pitch that drove Quentin to charge the mound, but the provoking words from Greinke! If you got hit my an 89 mph fastball, and then the person who threw it started calling you profane names, how would you feel? Matt Kemp was quoted as saying "I heard he went to Stanford. I've heard smart people go to Stanford, but that wasn't too smart" to put insult to injury. Remember, Matt Kemp did not receive any kind of college education, due to being drafted out of high school...

One of the major controversies that stemmed from this brawl, was about how ethical it was to throw at a hitter. Usually, if a pitcher throws up and in, or a hitter makes a cocky move, then the pitcher will throw at the hitter, to send a message. Sometimes the hitter can take the message and charge the mound. This is one of the many "unwritten" rules of baseball. The instances in which a player is injured are seldom, and it is very entertaining and exhilarating to go to a game where a major fight breaks out. This is similar to when, two years ago, last year's MVP Buster Posey was injured at a collision at the plate, and fans argued to discontinue the tradition. If a minor leaguer had been injured, there would have been no talk surrounding it.

I would like to make this clear: I am not saying it was the right thing to do for Quentin to charge the mound. I am only saying he is not the only one at fault. He deserves a suspension, but not one that is the same size as CHEATING. Zach Greinke is also at fault. Not only is he injured, but he should face a similar suspension as Quentin. I also wanted to mention that if it had been Clayton Richard who was hurt, everyone would see Clayton Richard as the person at fault. The mentality is that big market teams get their way, and small market teams have to deal with it. Compare this to in the NFL, if a Browns player is paralyzed due to a fight that takes place against the Patriots, and the Browns player provoked the Patriots player, the Browns player would be at fault (According to the fans).

Look at both sides of the situation, and put yourself in Quentin's shoes before passing judgement.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that when Quentin was hit, it was a close game, and a full count. The catcher was set up down and away. Greinke's thought process could have been why not hit him, the best hitter in the Padres lineup (pitching around him), and not risk a home run, while at the same time making a statement about the Kemp incident earlier in the game? Even if it was an accident, it was the provoking words from Greinke after he hit Quentin that drove Quentin to the mound.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hundley, Venable Homer in Smaller PETCO
The Padres debuted in their smaller version of PETCO park today, and apparently the confidence of Padre hitters, shown by a rare offensive outburst by the San Diego Padres, has improved greatly. Nick Hundley and Will Venable both hit solo blasts during a 9-3 victory in the home opener. A solid performance in the home opener might be able to help the fans get over a miserable 6 game road trip (1-5). Mark Kotsay continued his amazing ability to pinch hit by providing a go ahead RBI double in the bottom of the 7th inning.

One of the main topics of discussion, provoked by the game, is how the 3 year, 24 million dollar project to move in PETCO's right field wall closer to home has added to the offense. Will Venable hit a homerun in the bottom of the first would have potentially been a routine flyout if not for the new dimensions, or even a continuation of the cold streak because of a lack of confidence. Which do you prefer, the Will Venable and Nick Hundley home runs (and more to follow), or Cody Ross (who also was available for 24 million dollars over 3 years)? I will let you pick.

The former Princeton alum Venable provided most of the offense, hitting the aforementioned home run, as well as a bases clearing triple that brought in three runs in the bottom of the 8th. He also walked twice and stole a base, potentially one of the biggest days for Will Venable ever.

Let's check in on the best performing and worst performing Padres of the first 7 games:

The Best:
Jedd Gyorko .269 3rbi 27ab
Eric Stults 1-0 0.00era 5ip
Yonder Alonso .231 1hr 26ab
Mark Kotsay .600 1rbi 10ab
Chris Denorfia .462 2rbi 13ab

The Worst:
Edinson Volquez 0-2 10.00era
Cameron Maybin .100 20ab
Everth Cabrera .192 26ab
Alexi Amarista .136 18ab

Analysis: As a team we are hitting .224, and our team ERA is 5.90. Edinson Volquez (10.00) and Clayton Richard (8.68) have posted high ERA's in the first week, and we will hopefully improve. Volquez has had major control issues and Richard looks like he is throwing batting practice, giving up home runs and other hits left and right. The hitting lost some talent when Chase Headley jammed his thumb, but this is the projected lineup he is back, the second lineup is the projected lineup for when Yasmani Grandal is finished with his suspension. Headley will be back in the next 10-15 days. Grandal still has 43 games left to serve on his suspension.



If Maybin can step up and put up a quality season, and Venable/Cabrera can be decent at the top of the order, this could be a very good offense. 

Chase Headley, thumb
ETR: April 20th-April 30th
Projected Season Stats: .300 30hr 100rbi

Logan Forsythe, foot
PSS: .290 5hr 30rbi (200ab)

Yasmani Grandal, suspension
ETR: Early June/Late May
PSS: .280 16hr 50rbi (400ab)

Cory Luebke, Tommy John
ETR: June
PSS: 8-2 2.98era 75k's

Notes & Observations:
  • Eric Stults got a pinch hitting appearance in the bottom of the 5th, which confused a lot of fans! Bud Black said Stults is the staff's best hitting pitcher, and he wanted to save the bigger bench bats for later.
  • Tyson Ross also had an appearance, pinch-running for the oft-HBP and injury prone Carlos Quentin after a ball hit him above his wrist. No need to worry, the X-rays came back OK.
  • Tomorrow's match-up: Eric Stults vs. Chad Billingsly