All season long, Johnny Cueto partisans have been maintaining that stats like FIP undervalue the skill set the Reds’ ace brings to the table. Tony Blengino at Fangraphs presents us with "unadjusted contact score," a metric that involves comparing starting pitchers’ balls in play to league average, as well as a bunch of other statsy stuff. Blengino acknowledges that luck, defense and park factors all play a role, but that over time, leaders emerge. And who is the 2014 National League leader in unadjusted contact? Our very own Johnny Cueto. Those of us who watch him pitch start after start could have saved Blengino the trouble, of course, but it’s nice to see some statistics to back up what Reds fans already know.
Jason Linden of Redleg Nation has an in-depth look at the breakout season Devin Mesoraco is having. Looking at the statistics, Linden reaches the conclusion that Mesoraco is "swinging harder. A lot harder." That has helped to explain his high BABIP, which in turn has helped to explain his success this year. Linden concedes that there probably is some luck involved in Mesoraco’s numbers, but that doesn’t mean his numbers aren’t legitimate.
Ben Lindbergh has an interesting article for Grantland about the process by which American baseball players wind up playing in Japan. As Lindbergh points out, much is made of Japanese players coming here, but rarely does news of an American player crossing the Pacific have much impact, largely because those players have never been major stars. But the article is an interesting look at the lives of scouts working in the United States for the Japanese leagues.
Michael Powell of The New York Times has an expose about a charter school in Texas called Prime Prep Academy. The school’s academics have received an "F" rating from a nonprofit organization that rates such things, and there are allegations that the teachers are just handing out grades to keep the students eligible for sports. There have even been threats and physical intimidation on the part of one of the school’s founders. It’s a sad, ugly story. To make matters worse, that founder is none other than former Red Deion Sanders. I’ve always looked at Sanders as a self-promoter and a bit of an egotist, but a fundamentally decent guy. But this article paints him as a dangerous, greedy opportunist. For a large number of reason, I sincerely hope the charges are overstated. I’d hate to think these sorts of shenanigans are going on at any school, regardless of who’s in charge of it.
Of course, far and away the most important story in baseball recently has been the election of Rob Manfred as the tenth commissioner in MLB history. Manfred will take over when Allan H. "Bud" Selig retires this January, and he will inherit a sport enjoying unusual competitive balance on the field and unprecedented profits for ownership. When discussing the office of the commissioner, it’s important to remember what the job actually is. The commissioner’s true role is to represent and protect the financial interests of baseball’s 30 owners. That’s it. He’s appointed by the owners and serves at their pleasure, and he is to owners what the MLB Player’s Association is to the players.
However, within that framework, the commissioner still have considerable power to affect change in baseball. By all accounts, Manfred has been Selig's right hand man for a very long time, meaning his election can be seen more than anything else as a desire on the part of the owners for the status quo. Which, despite anyone's opinions of Selig, is generally a good thing. The most important thing a commissioner can do is work to prevent labor stoppages, and if you don't think baseball's recent labor peace has been crucially important, ask an NHL fan (if you can find one). But besides questions of economics and labor, Manfred will have the opportunity to weigh in on few issues in the near future. Which issues are the most important for Reds fans? Vote below and discuss.