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Ryan Howard: Phillies have played very well this year

Ryan-HowardThe Philadelphia Phillies have started the season 3-6 and are in last place in the NL East. Considering they finished the 2013 season with a 73-89 record, very few people are surprised. One person isn’t discouraged by the slow start, however. A certain optimist actually thinks the Phillies are playing well. You know him as Ryan Howard.

“In all actuality we’ve actually played very well this year,” Howard said Thursday before the Phillies lost yet again, per Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. “I disagree with everybody else. Our record doesn’t necessarily reflect that right now, but, you know, we’ve played well. We had three real bad games. So the only thing to do is go out there and try to win again.”

Have the Phillies simply been victims of a series of bad breaks? As Lawrence noted, they have committed seven errors in the past four games. Philadelphia is batting .263 as a team, which isn’t horrible. Howard, who currently owns what many have called the worst contract in baseball, is hitting right where we all expected him to — .200 with one homer and three RBI. He has one hit in his last 18 at-bats.

Is it time to panic? Of course not. We’re nine games into a 162-game season. That said, the Phillies have gone straight downhill since they won 102 games in 2011. Their roster is filled with aging superstars who can’t stay healthy and just don’t seem to have it anymore. If Howard wants to pretend the 2013 Phillies have a bright future, that’s certainly his prerogative.

H/T Hardball Talk 

Michael Pineda says pine tar-looking substance is just dirt

Michael Pineda dirtMichael Pineda had such a comical explanation for the dark substance spotted on his hand during his outing Thursday against the Boston Red Sox that not even he could keep a straight face when talking with the media after the game.

When the subject of the alleged pine tar on his hand came up, Pineda answered the questions and explained that it was just “dirt” on his hand.

“It’s dirt,” said Pineda after the game. “Between the innings I’m sweating too much. My hand — I’m putting dirt. I’m grabbing the dirt.”

Pineda was then asked why the substance disappeared from his hand after the fourth inning. Did someone talk to him about it? Was he asked to get rid of it?

“No no no, nobody asked me. Nobody said nothing about that.”

What’s this tell us? Nothing to see here, just move along.

Everyone knows that Pineda was using pine tar, but that’s a common practice. The Red Sox didn’t even complain because they don’t want people busting their pitchers, who also use foreign substances. But calling it dirt is just comical.

Come on, Michael. Who’s actually buying that?

Hawk Harrelson gets stereotypical, says Chen-Chang Lee has ‘typical Asian motion’

Hawk HarrelsonChicago White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson is best known for being a huge homer and not for delivering play-by-play with the type of tact that legends like Vin Scully display. So it’s probably not too surprising to hear the poor phrasing he used when talking about Cleveland Indians pitcher Chen-Chang Lee.

Lee is a relief pitcher from Taiwan who threw 4.1 innings last season in the bigs. He made his season debut on Thursday and pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless relief against the Sox. While he was facing his second batter of the inning, the White Sox announcing team seemed intrigued by his sidearm delivery and sweeping finish.

“It’s a nasty slider from down under,” Steve Stone said about a slider Alexei Ramirez took for a strike.

“Yeah that’s a typical Asian motion,” said Hawk. “Deception involved.”

Yeesh.

Yes, many Asian pitchers have different motions from North American pitchers. They most likely have different instruction in Japan and other Asian countries compared to North America, which is also why many Asian hitters have different stances, swings and finishes from what we’re used to seeing. Hideo Nomo had his tornado thing, Dice K Matsuzaka had a hesitation, and Hiroki Kuroda has a hitch in his leg kick, just to give a few examples.

But is Lee’s motion a “typical Asian motion”? If so, what is a typical Asian motion, Hawk?

If Hawk wanted to point out that many Asian pitchers have something with their delivery that is different from what we are used to seeing, that would be fine. If he wanted to say Lee has a tough ball to pick up because it’s sidearm, that’s fine. But what about this was typical Asian deception? The way he phrased and worded things was just plain bad.

Via Deadspin

Michael Pineda appears to have pine tar on his pitching hand

Michael Pineda pine tar hand

Michael Pineda will be under scrutiny when he pitches in the future after cameras caught him with a foreign substance on his hand Thursday that sure as heck appeared to be pine tar.

Pineda, who went six-plus innings of 1-run ball for the New York Yankees to pick up his first win of the season, had a dark substance on his hand for the first four innings of the game against the Boston Red Sox.

Michael Pineda pine tar

Michael Pineda pine tar

As MLB Network showed, by the fifth inning, he had cleaned up his hand. He didn’t allow a hit in the first four innings but allowed four after that, though he only let up one run.

Pineda was acquired by the Yankees from the Seattle Mariners over two years ago and was making his first start at Yankee Stadium.

Pineda also appeared to have the same substance on his hand during his first start of the season where he allowed just one run over six innings in a loss to the Blue Jays on April 5:

And here’s how his pants looked from the substance:

Michael Pineda pants

The substance clearly appeared to be pine tar. Pine tar is a sticky substance used by batters to get a better grip on the bat. Some pitchers have also been known to use it — especially on cold days — because it helps them get a better grip on the ball.

The Red Sox probably can’t make much of a fuss about things because their pitcher who was opposing Pineda is Clay Buchholz, who was accused last year of doctoring the ball.

David Ortiz said after the game that it wasn’t a big deal because everyone uses pine tar.

Watch Justin Upton hit a baseball that landed 477 feet from home plate (Video)

We’re not even a month into the new Major League Baseball season, but we’ve already seen a few impressive home runs launched.

justin-upton-home-runLast week, Giancarlo Stanton turned a pitch by Eric Stults into a 484-ft blast to left field. Yesterday, Bryce Harper deposited a three-run homer into the upper deck at Nations Park.

Against the New York Mets on Thursday, it was Justin Upton’s turn to get into the act.

In the bottom of the third inning, the younger of baseball’s Upton brothers hit his second home run of the game. The first went a modest 379 feet. The second, almost one hundred feet further.

Upton’s prodigious clout is currently the second-longest home run of the young season behind the one mentioned above by Giancarlo Stanton, which you should take a look at.

This is the look of a man who just served up a 477-ft home run.

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The Milwaukee Brewers made their own ‘Happy’ music video

Since America got its first listen of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”, it has become one of the country’s most popular songs.

brewers-happyBecause it’s what happens when we fall in love with a song, seemingly everyone wants to use it.

“Happy” can be found playing in the background of a commercial for the Fiat 500L as well as one for the Beats by Dre Pill mini-speakers.

The Milwaukee Brewers have now jumped on board, releasing their own music video which features Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Yovani Gallardo, Rickie Weeks, Bernie Brewer, and legendary broadcaster Bob Uecker playing a trumpet.

There’s a decent chance you may be tired of “Happy” before long. Until then, you can watch these few moments it produced.

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Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Mike Schmidt wants ‘force field’ calling balls and strikes, not umpires

Mike-SchmidtPhiladelphia Phillies legend Mike Schmidt is tired of seeing umpires screw up balls and strikes. Bad calls at the plate are as old as the game of baseball, but do they have to be? We have had technology like the K-zone for quite some time, so it couldn’t be that difficult to have a computer determine balls and strikes.

What would be difficult, however, is using a force field to call balls and strikes. A force field (is that even a real thing?) is used to keep things out of a certain area.

“I think the umpire at home plate should not call balls and strikes,” Schmidt told Harry Mayes and John Marks on 97.5 The Fanatic on Thursday. “I think they should have a force field over home plate and if the pitcher throws and the ball touches the force field a little bell goes off and it’s a strike.”

Schmidt believes computerized balls and strikes would help speed up the game.

“That would expand the strike zone to the point where the hitters would now have to swing the ball, which would shorten the game,” the Hall of Famer said. “The umpire needs to be at home plate for the safe and out calls at home plate and foul balls and fair balls and basically to run the game but we’re going to see at some time — my guess is within the next 10 years – that you’ll see the balls and strikes just like the line calls in tennis.”

I’m not sure I agree with that. Judging by most of the games I’ve seen, I’d say it’s more common for a pitch that is outside the strike zone to be called a strike than it is for one that’s in the strike zone to be called a ball. If a computer was making the calls, players wouldn’t have to swing at anything that was even a fraction of an inch off the plate. Wouldn’t that mean more walks, deeper counts and longer plate appearances?

All that said, this probably will happen at some point. Technology always seems to win over the “human element,” and there’s no reason to think baseball will be any different in the long run.

H/T Hardball Talk