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November 29, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Arrieta, Keuchel Cy Young winners

The ace pitchers for two of this year's "Cinderella" teams -- the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros -- won baseball's highest honor for their position. On November 18 it was announced that Jake Arrieta (Cubs) and Dallas Keuchel (Astros) had won the 2015 Cy Young Awards. With a 22-6 record this year (and the final 11 decisions all wins), Arrieta prevailed by a comfortable margin over two Dodger pitchers: Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. The last Cubs pitcher to win the Cy Young Award was Greg Maddux in 1992.

On the American League* side, Dallas Keuchel easily beat David Price (Tigers until late July, then with the Blue Jays) and Sonny Gray (of the Oakland A's). He threw 301 strikeouts, the most in the major leagues since 2002. See nydailynews.com. Dallas Keuchel must have a confusing identity problem, since his first name is that of Houston's rival MLB city in Texas.

* I'm still having a hard time thinking of the Astros as being in the American League...

 Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park update

Over Thanksgiving break, I put a lot of effort into diagram revisions, some of which are done or nearly done. The first fruit of my ceaseless labor is a rendering of Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros' Dallas Keuchel pitched so well this past summer. The grandstand is notably smaller than I had previously estimated, while changes to the field itself were negligible.

In contrast to most stadium diagram revisions that I do, the entry portals per se in Minute Maid Park are not visible (from above) in the diagrams, because of the big vertical discontinuity (about eight feet) between the upper and lower portions of the upper deck. This, in turn, is a reflection of the unusually large balconies which were built into the upper deck, in every other section of the grandstand, more or less. The diagrams do show the stairs (in medium gray) to the upper part of the upper deck. Whereas most such staircases are about three feet wide, in Minute Maid Park they are about six feet wide.

In addition to multiple diagrams for various degrees of roof closure (and translucent vs. opaque renderings), there is a brand new lower-deck version which shows the visitors' bullpen in left center field. It also shows the support pillars between the big stone (?) arches overlooking left field, mimicking a railroad bridge. (I thought about including that faux locomotive and the tracks in one of the diagrams, and may add that whimsical detail later.) If the Astros go ahead with the plans to remove "Tal's Hill" in center field and add more seats out there (not until after 2016 at least), I'll have to revise that diagram again.

This was one of the most-overdue diagram revisions among all current MLB stadiums. (I could have sworn I had done a diagram update for that one in 2012, but as often happens, I never finished it.) The previous (2010 edition) "dynamic diagram" for Minute Maid Park had a sideways orientation, so as to occupy less space in the computer window. Now all of the diagrams are oriented with center field at the top. That was the last of the (ten) stadium pages for teams that made it to the postseason this year.

I should mention that two of the photos on that page were taken by my friend Dave Givens, who saw a ball game in Houston last summer.

Retractable roof stadiums

The update of the Minute Maid Park diagrams means that all six current MLB ballparks with retractable roofs are now fully "up to par," with dynamic diagrams that show the roofs in open, closed, and (sometimes) partly-open positions, following the conventional center-field up orientation. In alphabetical order:

  • Chase Field
  • Marlins Park
  • Miller Park
  • Minute Maid Park
  • Rogers Centre ("Skydome")
  • Safeco Field

Since the Twins left the Metrodome after the 2009 season, there is now just one MLB ballpark that is permanently enclosed: Tropicana Field. Among MLB stadiums of the past, Olympic Stadium in Montreal was supposed to have a retractable roof, but it didn't work, so they just left it permanently closed. The other three fully enclosed MLB stadiums were: the Astrodome, the Kingdome, and the Metrodome.

Judge voids decision on MASN

Earlier this month, New York State Supreme Court judge Lawrence Marks voided an arbitration decision by Major League Baseball, which would have favored the Washington Nationals. According to the Washington Post, "The Nationals will receive $40 million in TV rights fees from MASN per year, nearly $20 million less than the amount awarded by the MLB panel in June 2014." Strangely, the judge's ruling seemed to be based on his suspicions of the law firms associated with the teams, rather than the merits of the decision per se. A few days later, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he and his staff are studying the ruling to see what the next step should be. (Washington Post)

How many of you folks remember what MASN really stands for? Click on the camera icon below for a surprise. (Photo taken in September 2005.)

Mr. Angelos Screws the Nationals!

Ballparks in the news

Mike Zurawski let me know about the ongoing renovations to Wrigley Field. Most notably, the exterior walls around the main entrance have been removed, making it look like the entire stadium is being demolished. The same thing for the walls behind the bleachers as well. The bleacher renovations earlier this year were only about "70 percent complete," as new restrooms and viewing terraces are being built. Also, the bullpens will be moved underneath the bleachers in time for the 2017 season, and light towers are planned for the outfield, perhaps in that year as well. Finally, the dugouts are going to be shifted several feet down the left-field line, to accommodate expansion of club houses, etc. under the grandstand. See bleedcubbieblue.com. (Check out the related links at the bottom of that page for some construction photos.)

Bruce Orser sent me a link to a Web site about baseball (or beisbol) down in Cuba: cubanbeisbol.com. It features a piece on "El Gran Stadium de la Habana." (Why not "Estadio"?) Now that travel restrictions on U.S. citizens are being removed, I may seize the opportunity to visit Havana in the next year or two.

Also, Brandon Henderson alerted me to the news that the Cactus Bowl will be played at Chase Field for the next three seasons due to construction at Sun Devil Stadium. This event was held at Chase Field from 2000 to 2005, when it was called the Insight Bowl. See azcentral.com. Also, Miller Park will host a friendly international soccer match next July 14, pitting Club Atlas (Mexican), against Newcastle United F.C. (English). See MLB.com. Another soccer diagram to do...

Speaking of lesser-known bowl games, the Virginia Tech Hokies qualified for a spot in a bowl game by beating the UVa Cavaliers 23-20 in Charlottesville yesterday. Otherwise, retiring Coach Frank Beamer would have ended his truly legendary career on a sour note. Today UVa Coach Mike London resigned his position, probably the best thing for everyone concerned. He's a good guy, but has made some very questionable on-field decisions over the past couple seasons.

I fell so far behind on e-mail correspondence this year, that it wasn't even funny. For all of you folks who tried in vain to contact me, please accept my apologies. I'll try my best in the weeks to come to get caught up, while I also put more effort into finishing the diagram revisions.

November 21, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Unanimous: Bryce Harper is the NL MVP!

By a unanimous vote (30), Bryce Harper was selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) as the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player. Harper was the first Washington player to be so honored since 1925. He is also the youngest player ever to be elected unanimously. Most Nationals fans expected him to win, since he was clearly the most likely candidate, but the overwhelming "mandate" from the experts was a pleasant surprise.

The Washington Post devoted almost the entire front page of the sports section to a painting of Bryce Harper, including a day-to-day chart showing Harpers on-base-plus-slugging percentage compared to the three other Nationals' players who hit decently this year: Yunel Escobar, Ryan Zimmerman, and Clint Robinson. Harper vastly outshown his team mates. The Post produced this online video summarizing what Harper accomplished. Here are the numbers that made Harper's selection almost a no-brainer:

  • Home runs: 42 (T-1st)
  • Runs: 118: (1st)
  • Average: .330 (2nd)
  • On-base %: .460 (1st)
  • Slugging %: .649 (1st)

The only reason to question Harper being the MVP is that there is a tradition of favoritism to players whose teams make it into the postseason. But neither Paul Goldschmidt (D-Backs) nor Joey Votto (Reds) played for postseason-qualifying teams this year, so that was that.

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper, in some of his finer moments that I had the good fortune to see. Clockwise from top left: home run #31 on August 21, 2015; at bat on September 22, 2013; at Nats Fest in D.C. on January 26, 2013; sliding into second on September 28, 2014*; in left field on August 15, 2013.
* the same day that Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter!

It was nice to hear that Harper expressed a hope to make Washington his career home, which will of course depend on whether the Lerner family is willing to fork over the megabucks it will take to keep him here. For a player with his amazing early accomplishments and enormous future potential, that could be one of the biggest baseball contracts ever.

I confess to being hesitant about believing in the hype surrounding Harper, but there is no doubt about it: He is for real!

Congratulations, Bryce! We look forward to many more years with you playing in D.C.!

Nationals annual records

Since Bryce Harper set so many records this year, I thought it would be appropriate to update the Washington Nationals page, which now includes a day-to-day graph of the team's winning percentage for the 2015 season, along with those for the previous ten years. As you can plainly see, from mid-July until late August it was just horrible:

Nats winning percentages 2015

That page also features the team's individual batting and pitching annual records going back to their inaugural year of 2005. I have only been keeping that data systematically for the last few years, so I had to refer to the Nationals' official MLB.com Web site for the older numbers. Here is a slightly "squeezed" version of that table:

Washington Nationals:
Best batting and pitching annual records
Year Batting average Home runs RBIs ERA Wins Strikeouts
2005 Nick Johnson .289 Jose Guillen 24 Jose Guillen 76 John Patterson 3.13 Livan Hernandez 15 John Patterson 185
2006 Nick Johnson .290 Alfonso Soriano 46 Ryan Zimmerman 110 Ramon Ortiz 5.57 Ramon Ortiz 11 Ramon Ortiz 104
2007 Dmitri Young .320 Ryan Zimmerman 24 Ryan Zimmerman 91 Matt Chico 4.63 John Rauch 8 Matt Chico 94
2008 Cristian Guzman .316 R. Zimm. & L. Mill. 14 Lastings Milledge 61 John Lannan 3.91 Tim Redding 10 Tim Redding 120
2009 Ryan Zimmerman .292 Adam Dunn 38 Ryan Zimmerman 106 John Lannan 3.88 John Lannan 9 Jordan Zimmermann 92
2010 Ryan Zimmerman .307 Adam Dunn 38 Michael Morse 103 Livan Hernandez 3.66 Tyler Clippard 11 Livan Hernandez 114
2011 Michael Morse .303 Michael Morse 31 Michael Morse 95 Jordan Zimmermann 3.18 John Lannan 10 Jordan Zimmermann 124
2012 Ian Desmond .292 Adam LaRoche 33 Adam LaRoche 100 Gio Gonzalez 2.89 Gio Gonzalez 21 Gio Gonzalez 207
2013 Jayson Werth .318 Ryan Zimmerman 26 Jayson Werth 82 Stephen Strasburg 3.00 Jordan Zimmermann 19 Gio Gonzalez 192
2014 Denard Span .302 Adam LaRoche 26 Adam LaRoche 92 Doug Fister 2.41 Doug Fister 16 Stephen Strasburg 242
2015 Bryce Harper .330 Bryce Harper 42 Bryce Harper 99 Max Scherzer 2.79 Max Scherzer 14 Max Scherzer 276


Schu will return

After being let go, along with the rest of the Nats coaching staff, Rick Schu has been rehired as the Nationals' hitting coach. It was new manager Dusty Baker's call, evidently. See the Washington Post

Josh Donaldson wins AL MVP

On the American League side, Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays was chosen as Most Valuable Player. It wasn't unanimous, as with Bryce Harper, but he did receive 23 first-place votes and seven second-place votes from the 30 BBWAA voters. Mike Trout of the L.A. Angels came in second place. The last Blue Jay MVP was George Bell, in 1987. Donaldson batted .297, hit 41 homers, and had 123 RBIs. See MLB.com. Coincidentally, I saw Donaldson play in Toronto last July:

Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson after drawing a walk in a game at Rogers Centre on July 19, when the Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0.

Best rookies: Bryant & Correa

The Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant and the Houston Astros' shorstop Carlos Correa were awarded the 2015 Rookie of the Year awards, and few people argued. Bryant hit 26 home runs, batted in 99 runs, and had a batting average of .275. (He struck out 199 times, however, the most in the National League.) Correa hit 22 home runs, with 68 RBI and a batting average of .279, managing to outshine the Astros' other young star, Jose Altuve. See bleacherreport.com.

Football and "football" news...

On November 6, the Toronto Argonauts played their final game in the Rogers Centre, beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 21-11. Toronto failed to make the Canadian Football League playoffs, going 10-8 for the season. Because the Blue Jays made it to the MLB playoffs, the Argonauts were obliged to host their October home games in Ottawa. See argonauts.ca. Next year the Argonauts will play their home games in BMO Stadium, built primarily for soccer. It is located about a mile to the west, on the north edge of where Exhibition Stadium used to be. I saw it while driving into Toronto last July. Accordingly, I have updated the text on the Rogers Centre page.

When I updated those diagrams in late September, I should have mentioned that the Buffalo Bills are no longer playing any of their "home" games in that stadium. The decision was announced in December 2014; see the CBC. The Bills only won one of the six games they played in Toronto since 2008, and the lack of fan enthusiasm seems to have hurt the team's performance. The Bills plan to build a new stadium to replace Ralph Wilson Stadium, one of the oldest NFL venues.

In Washington, meanwhile, the D.C. Government has undertaken eminent domain procedures to acquire land to be used for the future D.C. United soccer stadium. It will be located about three blocks southwest of Nationals Park in the Buzzards Point area of Washington. See the Washington Post. D.C. United had an excellent regular season, but once again fell flat in the playoffs, losing to the New York Red Bulls on November 8.

November 18, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Strasburg gets back surgery

Now we know why Stephen Strasburg was having so much trouble with tightness in his back last summer: he had a painful skin growth that turned out to be a non-cancerous tumor. He had surgery to have it removed, and hopefully he'll be back to normal next spring. See ESPN.

Zimmermann, Desmond depart

As expected, both Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond declined the "qualifying offers" from the Washington Nationals, which almost certainly means they're about to become free agents. If they accept an offer from another team, the Nationals will get a draft pick from the other team in compensation. See MLB.com. They'll probably both rake in top dollar multi-year contracts, and I wish them all the best -- except when they're playing against the Nationals, of course. They both played like champions for years with the Nats, and they will be remembered fondly.

 Milwaukee County Stadium

(Milwaukee) County Stadium update

I took a quick "detour" in my diagramming work, and make some minor enhancements to the diagrams for Milwaukee County Stadium. That, of course, was the former home of both the Milwaukee Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. It mainly involved the upper-deck and lower-deck diagrams, with the entry portals being bigger and the support columns being much more prominent than before. Also, the bullpens were rendered more accurately in all the diagrams, with the pitching rubbers and home plates shown, among other details.

November 10, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Keeping up with the diagram revisions

As my work on revising stadium diagrams heads into the final stretch, I updated the Diagram update log for the first time in several months. For nearly all current and past Major League Baseball stadiums, it shows when the diagram in question was last revised (aside from trivial "tweaks"). Currently, the oldest diagram is Forbes Field, which was last updated ten years ago. frown For most such stadiums, that log shows the history of diagram updates, with links to the blog posts when those updates were announced. For the remainder of the stadiums, there is simply a blank cell to indicate that the compilation of past updates is still underway. By the end of the year, that task should be completed.

Also, I have taken a big step in the transition toward a simpler layout for the stadium pages. For recently-updated stadium pages, and eventually on all such pages, the key displays interactively when you roll the mouse over the last of the "dynamic diagram" links. It no longer appears on the right side of those links. This is part of the ultimate plan of making the stadium pages easier to view on mobile devices such as iPhones. (Yes, I'm aware of that.)

Williams back to Phoenix

The Washington Nationals' former manager Matt Williams is going back to the Arizona Diamondbacks next year, serving as third-base coach. He played third base in Phoenix from 1998 through 2003, when he retired. See ESPN. I hope the experience does him good. He has many good potential qualities, but just needs more experience before managing a championship-caliber club.

Shea Stadium mini-update

Shea Stadium

Having finished my Citi Field diagrams after much laborious pixel-tweaking, it was fitting (and relatively easy) for me to make a slight enhancement to the Shea Stadium diagrams as well. Only two things changed that anyone would notice: First, the entry portals in the upper deck have been moved back a couple feet, and are rendered more accurately with the vertical discontinuity in back of the lateral walkway, and the small stairs (five steps) on either side of each entry portal. Second, the pitching rubbers and home plates in the bullpens are now shown.

November 7, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Dusty Baker is introduced to D.C.

In a press conference on Thursday, "Dusty" Baker was formally introduced by Mike Rizzo as the new manager of the Washington Nationals. The event was a big success, as Baker quickly developed a rapport with the journalists, answering their queries with wit and a big smile. He is determined to get the team to the postseason again, and is hopeful that he can win his first World Series ring as a manager. See the Washington Post, which had a photo of Baker wearing a business suit leaning on the dugout at Nationals Park.

The beginning may have been a little awkward, but Dusty is full of charm and optimism, as well as skilled leadership, and I'm guessing we'll forget all about that Bud Black mess before long. He is almost certainly the best "second-best" choice ever!

The Nationals' new pitching coach, Mike Maddux, was also introduced to reporters.

Desi, J-Zimm get offers

Veterans Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann both received "qualifying offers" from the Washington Nationals, which means that if they sign elsewhere (as expected), the Nats will get compensatory draft picks. (See MLB.com.) It is still possible that either or both could remain with the Nats next year, and I kind of hope both do. J-Zimm is a proven top-notch performer and would keep the pitching rotation in a championship caliber, while Desi had a solid record until this year which was a big disappointment. He's bound to improve next year, whatever team he's with.

Citi Field update update

Citi Field

OK, I get it, I'm way too much of a perfectionist. But is that really such a bad thing? Yes, sports fans, believe it or not, I made a few more tiny corrections and enhancements to my Citi Field diagrams. It mostly involved details such as the seam that divides the grandstand in left field from the rest of the grandstand. Also, I had to reconcile slight inconsistencies from one diagram version to another. New features in the lower-deck and second-deck diagrams include the entrances to the aisles, as well as a transparent color (thus showing the green background) to differentiate the field level from the main concourse level. I really hope that takes care of that.

October 31, 2015 [LINK / comment]

The Mets strike back!

I was hoping the World Series wouldn't end in a premature sweep, and sure enough the Mets rose to the occasion last night, beating the Royals 9-3 and thereby assuring that there will at least be a Game 6 back in Kansas City. [Oops -- me and my hasty calculations.] The Royals struck first with a run in the first inning, but then David Wright hit a two-run homer for the Mets in the bottom of the inning. The Royals retook the lead in the second inning, and then the Mets did likewise in the third, making it 4-3. The Mets put the icing on the cake with a four-run sixth inning, and the Mets' bullpen held firm for the last three innings, not allowing any hits or walks.

In Game 4 tonight, the Royals' pitcher Chris Young (whose age of 36 belies his name) faces the Mets' Steven Matz (age 24).

Kauffman Stadium tweak

For the record, I made some tiny revisions to the Citi FieldKauffman Stadium diagrams. All that changed was the entry portals in the upper deck, which are larger than before, and some small "balconies" directly behind home plate and near the far ends of the upper deck. It is not worth considering a diagram update per se.

Ballpark news

Mike Zurawski informs me that Tal's Hill [the steep slope in center field in Minute Maid Park] will be around for another year, because of delays in construction and other factors. That's good news to me, but I wish they would just leave it the way it is on a permanent basis. See ESPN.

In Georgia, meanwhile, the shady stadium deal between the Atlanta Braves and Cobb County is revealing some funding gaps that no one seems to want to fill, such as a vital pedestrian bridge over the adjacent interstate. Unless someone shoulders the responsibility soon, the result could be a traffic disaster once Sun Trust Field opens for business in April 2017. Read all about it at streetsblog.org; hat tip to David Finkel.

Coming Attractions

(Includes major revisions, minor revisions, pages with additional diagrams, and future stadiums that are under construction. This is only a rough guide; the sequence is subject to change.)

Stadium construction

Between March 2012, when Marlins Park was completed, and September 2014, there were no major league baseball stadiums under construction. It was the first time since September 1986 that this situation existed. But in light of the recent groundbreaking on the future home of the Braves, the table that had been removed from this space is being restored.

Stadium construction

Franchise /
Opens % done
Atlanta Braves
Sun Trust Field
2017 15%
Oakland (San Jose?) Athletics
Cisco Field (?)
2019? 0%
Tampa Bay Rays
Rays Stadium (?)
2020? 0%
NOTES: This table includes stadiums that are currently under construction or are being contemplated.

Research department:

Postseason scores, 2015

Major League Baseball championship series, 2015
World Champions: Kansas City Royals
Wild Card Games / Divisional series
Oct. 6 - 15
League Championship series
Oct. 16 - 25
World Series
Oct. 27 - Nov. 4
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
NL-E: New York Mets (.556) 3 2 13 1 3    
NL-W: Los Angeles Dodgers (.568) 1 5 7 3 2    
    Chicago Cubs 2 1 2 3 X X X  
    New York Mets 4 4 5 8 X X X  
NL-wc: ^ Pittsburgh Pirates (.605) 0  
NL-wc: ^ Chicago Cubs (.599) 4   0 6 8 6 X
NL-C: St. Louis Cardinals (.617) 4 3 6 4 X    
  New York Mets 4 1 9 3 2 X X
  Kansas City Royals 5 7 3 5 7 X X
AL-W: Texas Rangers (.543) 5 6 1 4 3    
AL-E: Toronto Blue Jays (.574) 3 4 5 8 6    
    Toronto Blue Jays 0 3 11 2 7 3 X  
    Kansas City Royals 5 6 8 14 1 4 X  
AL-wc: ^ New York Yankees (.537) 0  
AL-wc: ^ Houston Astros (.531) 3   5 4 4 6 2   Extra-inning game: X
AL-C: Kansas City Royals (.586) 2 5 2 9 7   Win by visiting team: X

See explanatory notes at bottom.
^ : Both of the visiting wild card teams (Astros and Cubs) won, so their row positions were switched after the fact, so as to properly align in the subsequent divisional series.

Explanatory notes

(Regular season winning percentages in parentheses.) Boldfaced scores indicate the winning team. Underlined scores denote extra-inning games. Olive-shaded score boxes denote games won by the VISITING team. Higher-seeded teams (those with the initial home field advantage) are shown on the BOTTOM side in each matchup. However, beginning with 2012, each league has TWO wild card teams, competing in a one-game "play-in," and whichever of those two teams that wins in each league is displayed below (after the outcome is known), so as to properly align with the subsequent divisional series scores. Beginning in 2003, the league that wins the All Star Game gets the initial home field advantage in the World Series; prior to 2003, initial home field advantage in the World Series alternated from year to year. Except for 2002 (the infamous tie), the American League won the All Star Game every year between 1997 and 2009.

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