Matt Holliday’s Take-out Job on Marco Scutaro, Len Kasper’s BP Evolution Piece

I yield to no one in my love of Matt Holliday, Baseball Player. Holliday came up in 2004 with the Rockies and over the last nine seasons the list of players to have out-produced Holliday by fWAR are: Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, David Wright and Adrian Beltre. The players to have outhit him by wOBA are Barry Bonds, Pujols, Joey Votto, Manny Ramirez, Cabrera, David Ortiz, Ryan Braun, Lance Berkman. Six players provided more overall value, eight were better hitters. Holliday is one of the best of his generation without a doubt.

But his takeout of Marco Scutaro last night was an example of a player–a great one–making a bullshit play.

Nothing good about that absolutely ugly display. Holliday’s knee grazes the back of second as he uses his torso to take out Scutaro’s legs.

I don’t often wish I could be Major League Baseball’s commissioner, but once in a while, in 10-minute or so spans, it comes over me. This is one of those times, and one of those things I’d fix. There’s no room for the play above, and I think Holliday should be harshly penalized.

There’s no room for this one either:

That’s the Marlins Scott Cousins ending Buster Posey’s 2011 season in only Posey’s 45th game of the season. You can find video, longer than the gif file at left, that shows more of Cousins’ trip to home. The breakdown:

1. Cousins is headed toward the plate, on a straight line in foul territory.

2. Posey receives the ball on the pitchers-mound side of the plate.

3. Cousins, seeing this, moves off his line from the plate and makes the decision to go for Posey instead of home.

4. Cousins barrels into Posey, ending Posey’s season.

How about this one from this year.

Josh Harrison, who clearly has room to hook-slide around Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and reach for the plate, instead runs over the St. Louis backstop. The difference between this and the two above: Molina came out without serious injury.

Compared to the two above, this one looks like a clean play, even though it’s not:

That’s Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana having his probable Rookie of the Year campaign ended in 2010. Ryan Kalish at least slid with his leg outstretched a little, before he raised his left knee into Santana’s left leg, foregoing the shoulder-first maneuver. Almost gentlemanly. Still a bullshit play. That or Ryan Kalish has no clue how to slide.

Make me commissioner for a day and here’s the real simple rule.

1. No player is allowed at any time to purposefully commit a play involving violence on another player. (yes, violence would be the term used. These are all plays involving the most important aspect of according-to-Hoyle ‘violence’–behavior involving physical force.)

2a. A player to have committed a violent play will be suspended for a minimun of 5 games without pay and fined $100,000.

2b. In the event the player effected by the violent play is injured, the suspension of the player committing the violent play will be increased to the number of days the injured player is on the Disabled List plus one (1) day. The fine will be the greater of $100,000 or the prorated amount of the offending player’s salary during the term of his suspension.

2c. In the event the player effected by the violent play is injured and is physically unable to return to the playing field and would have been able to return to play in MLB were it not for the violent play (like, he can’t even take BP or field grounders), the player committing the violent play will be banned from baseball for life, with his current contract voided.

3. The above applies not only to home-plate collisions but to violent plays at any time during play, on any location on the field.

4. The player committing the violent play is called out.

You know what would happen? No one would have career-ending injuries. No one would get long suspensions. No one would get lifetime bans. Players would just stop doing this mindless crap. Guys thrown out by three steps would be out, the way, y’know, it’s kind of supposed to be. A player who is going to be called out regardless of outcome if he runs into another player in a violent manner won’t try to make a violent play to avoid an out. Problem solved. Let’s move on to instant replay…..maybe next time, when that 10-minute if-I-were-commish bug overtakes me.

Posey going out for the year has real implications. Through 45 games he was good for 1.8 Wins Above Replacement. This year he was worth 8 WAR and in his rookie year of 2010 he produced 4.2 WAR in only two-thirds of a season. He would likely have given the San Francisco Giants an additional 4 wins in 2011. The Giants missed a Wild Card berth–or a one-game play-in against the Cardinals–by four games.

If Yadier Molina had been injured on that play at home with Josh Harrison on August 28 of this year, the Cardinals would have spent the last 35 days without the man who was their best player this season. Molina cooled in September, but still created well over one win in that month for a team who made the playoffs by 2 wins over the Dodgers.

No Posey in 2011 meant no playoffs for the Giants and a World Series for the Cardinals. No Molina in 2012 might have spelled no playoffs for the Cardinals. The easy way around this is for baseball to step in and do what’s going to be unpopular with only a bunch of people whose opinion should be irrelevant–those who think violent collisions at home plate are a part of the game. They’re not. Relevant opinions, that is.


Len Kasper and Bob Brenly are the best radio team in baseball. Entire half-innings spent discussing the idea of ‘replacement level.’ Talk about Fielding Independent Pitching. It’s unfortunate that Brenly dumbs down when he goes national for FOX, preaching the unevolved stats because of the fear that an unevolved viewer will get bent out of shape and think that Brenly’s being a condescending fancypants instead of seeing that he’s trying to do his actual job in helping them understand the game better. (Truth be told, he and his employers at FOX are probably right.) Kasper, off the Cubs’ air, wrote a piece (subscription required) at Baseball Prospectus today, and it’s a doozy.

To summarize: Kasper used to think the Triple Crown stats were a good summary, he learned he was wrong, he started down a path of curiosity and discovered that it’s more important to ask the questions than to get the answers, and kept asking questions and learning. It’s a magnificent read–redundant to the converted who probably already subscribe to Baseball Prospectus, while behind a paywall and hidden from the people for whom it might do actual good, but a doozy nonetheless.

And at the very end, in ital and with a little asterisk next to it, for the unevolved, Kasper threw in a wonderful nugget:

*This is a topic for another time, but the biggest problem I have with the internet is the ability to post comments anonymously. It’s something I have not done and will never do. The discourse gets way too ugly and personal when people are allowed to hide behind a random avatar. I believe you should own your opinions and be transparent about them. That is what keeps us all honest and upstanding as internet users.

Kasper very slyly points out (at the tail end of a thoughtful piece about asking questions, learning, growing, challenging his own notions) how easy it is to be the drunk guy at the late-night pub of the internet, tossing out straw-man arguments and being loud, sarcastic and belligerent in the anonymous comments sections and message boards of the online world, when you’re just, well, loud and idiotic and too fearful to attribute your actual name to the mindlessness.

4 thoughts on “Matt Holliday’s Take-out Job on Marco Scutaro, Len Kasper’s BP Evolution Piece

  1. Gotta tell you, I usually agree with most things you say… but I totally disagree with your stance on being hypothetical commissioner. First of all, there are differences with all of the plays that you shared. The first two plays are in one group, the second two in a different. The Matt Holliday and Scott Cousins slides were blatant attempts to injure and cause malice. Those are not baseball plays. The second two plays were acceptable attempts to reach home plate. The base runner has as much right to a base path as the defender. The Harrison and Kalish slides were a product of the plate being blocked. For you to say that Josh Harrison could have slid around Yadi is insane. Yadi is only a maximum of two feet in front of the plate, same with Santana. If a player were to have an obligation to avoid contact, same should go with the defender. There would have to be fines and penalties put in place for blocking the basepath, not just home plate, but any base. Josh Harrison and Ryan Kalish both took direct paths, to the plate. This is much different than Cousins’ b-line for Posey. If you are making an attempt to prevent the runner from crossing home plate, by blocking his path to the destination, then you are in play and are choosing to subject yourself to a collision. Also, the players value should not be a factor when determining if the play is clean or dirty.

    • themiddle54 says:

      Dave, in my Utopian MLB as commish here’s how it works:

      The ball beat you to the bag? And the defender caught it? And was there, in the way, to tag you out? Guess what, unless you’re a good slider, you’re out. No violent move on the defender changes that, and under my (let’s be honest) perfect plan there’s no more bullshit running over players and needlessly risking injury.

      Let’s say in some bizzaro world Jose Molina, a horrible baserunner, attempts to steal 2nd against his brother Yadier, an excellent thrower-outer of runners. Once the ball gets to 2nd base and Pete Kozma or whatever replacement-grade gritty grinder the Cardinals have trotted out to play SS has received the ball, eaten lunch and watched “The Master”, and Jose Molina finally arrives at second…
      1. Should Jose Molina plow into Kozma to try to avoid what should be an out?
      2. Would (in our actual real world) Molina (or any player) ever do that?
      3. How is that different from a play at home except that players have the (incorrect) notion that it’s different at home because the C is wearing pads?

      (Which pads, BTW, are to soften the blow of foul balls, not to protect Cs against 200+ pound athletes lowering shoulders and hitting them full speed which is retarded no offense to retardeds.)

      The defender HAS THE FUCKING RIGHT to catch the ball and stand in the way of the base provided the baserunner is out by a good margin. The runner HAS NOT THE FUCKING RIGHT to run over said defender. At any base. At any time.

      • Ok, what about plays where the ball arrives simultaneously with the runner? The three plays at the plate listed as examples above the ball arrives just as the runner is coming into the vicinity of home plate. We agree that the play on Posey is dirty, you have no argument here. The other two plays, both Yadi and Santana are receiving the ball at the exact time that the runner is entering (Kalish), or should be entering (Harrison), a sliding motion. How is the runner charged with the task of avoiding an object in his sliding path that may, or may not, have the baseball. If you want to penalize players for making contact, you cannot allow a catcher (or any fielder for that matter) to stand in the base path without clear possession of the ball. What if Harrison attempts to slide wide and around Yadi, and the throw sails wide, and Yadi moves to catch it, causing a whole different kind of collision. Harrison would be completely vulnerable in attempting to slide as the catcher would run into him making a play on the baseball. If your seemingly perfect plan is to prevent violent plays, there is nothing that can be done to take into account the ball and runner arriving at the same time. To go all alpha male and quote a shitty sequel ‘Don’t stand on the tracks when the train is coming thru’ – Jack Parkman

        • themiddle54 says:

          If a throw sails and the C has to move to get it and runs into the runner you have a collision, and an accidental/situational one that is different than a conscious decision to commit a violent play on an opposing player. It’s the decision to waylay another player that I would outlaw and severely punish. The NBA and soccer leagues harshly penalize harmful plays. The NFL is trying. Baseball throws up its hands and says “Hey it’s just playing the game hard.” It’s one of the rare things in which baseball gets it wrong compared to other sports.

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