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Friday Rewind: Big Book News, Padre Problems and More
OK, I’m going to begin this week’s Friday Rewind with the WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL update because … whew, we have a lot of amazing things coming. This is going to be longer than anyone wants, but the book comes out on Sept. 5, a little more than three weeks away, and there’s so much happening that my head is spinning a bit.
Let’s start with the West Coast Swing:
On Sept. 12, Molly and I will be in conversation at the amazing Chevalier’s Books. Molly tells me it’s on what might be her favorite block in L.A., complete with an incredible bakery and restaurant. It’s going to be SO much fun.
But here’s the thing: If you want to come, please RSVP RIGHT NOW. There are two reasons to do so. One, I’m told Chevalier’s is quite small (we like to use the word “intimate,” when it comes to bookstores!) so it will probably be a zoo. And I say that for reason No. 2, which is that Molly and I will be joined by Michael Schur, and, seriously, hold on to your hat if you’re wearing a hat, NICK OFFERMAN.
Mike and Nick are kind of super-surprise special guest stars, you know, like when Springsteen just shows up unannounced at some club in Jersey, so you are the only ones who know this. Anyway, if you’re in L.A. or can be on Sept. 12, this is going to be an incredibly fun one. But you’ll want to RSVP. Really.
On Sept. 13, 7 p.m., I’ll be at Copperfield’s Books in Santa Rosa at 7 p.m. As of right now, there’s no special guest listed … but I’m trying to get a super-special one. It might not happen, but I’m working on it. I’d RSVP for this one too if you can make it.
Then on Sept. 14, as I mentioned last week, Substack is throwing me a book party in San Francisco. It was going to be an intimate dinner for only a few people, but SO MANY of you asked to be a part of it, that they changed plans and have now reserved the amazing Harlan Records Vintage Cocktail Bar for a full-on experience.
And, I’m so proud to say, that for this one I will be in conversation with my friend and hero, the amazing Farhan Zaidi, president of baseball operations for the San Francisco Giants. I mean, we’re going to have so much fun talking baseball. And there will be a few other surprises, I think.
Those of you who have already emailed asking to be invited, you don’t have to do a thing. I’ll send you full details when they are finalized. And if you have not emailed me but want to attend, please do so. I’m not exactly sure when and if we will run out of space, but we’ll try to accommodate as many people as we can. Farhan!
Then, two days later, Sept. 16, I’ll be in Topeka at the Kansas Book Festival … and I’ll be in conversation with none other than my friend Bill James at 1 p.m. This is how the Kansas Book Festival is pitching it:
Why We Love Baseball—Memorial Union, Washburn Rooms A & B
Baseball gurus Joe Posnanski (Why We Love Baseball: A History in 50 Moments) and Bill James (The Bill James Handbook 2023) converse about their favorite subject and why it is their favorite subject! Moderator: Brad Allen, Lawrence Public Library,
Baseball gurus! What could be better?
On Sunday, Sept. 17 — are you seeing my crazy travel schedule? — I will be back in Charlotte, and we are tentatively planning on having WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL Day at the Charlotte Knights’ final game of the season. Details are still being finalized on that, but if some of the stuff that’s been talked about happens, it will be an absolutely incredible day.
And after that, I sleep.
I should probably go over the first week, too, since, I’m told, tickets are selling lightning fast. I’m not used to being quite this popular, but as my mother always says: There are worse things.
Sept. 5: Spring Lake, N.J. Launch day! As of right now, this is my New York-area book event. I know, Spring Lake is a good 60 miles South of New York, but this is simply how the schedule is working out. I am going to be in conversation with Hall of Famer and legend Bob Costas; I just don’t know what could be better than that. And it’s Springsteen country! We’re doing this for Thunder Road Books, for crying out loud. I’ll be buying some merch. Buy tickets!
Sept. 6: Newport, R.I. As of right now, this is my Boston/Providence-area event. I know, Newport is 71 miles South of Boston, but this is simply how the schedule is working out. I’m going to be in conversation with the amazing Alex Edelman, whose incredible Broadway show, “Just For Us,” is down to its final 11 shows — you will want to get on that. And then you will want to come see us talk baseball and whatever else comes to mind. How about me with the Royals baseball card? Buy tickets!
Sept. 7: St. Louis. I’m not kidding, tickets are going like crazy here. I’ll be talking with Gerald Early — seriously, come to see him, forget about me, Gerald is one of the great American voices on everything, including baseball. Plus, the Cardinals are involved, Fredbird is going to be there, I mean, this is going to be a party. Buy tickets!
Sept. 8: Kansas City. Mike Schur and I are going to be in conversation at Unity Temple on the Plaza. I’m basically going to spend the entire night rubbing it in that I broke his preorder record at Rainy Day Books. And I was thinking that maybe we would do an Immaculate Grid live on stage. This looks like it will be the biggest night of the tour; you’ll definitely want to get your tickets if you can come. And I’d absolutely love to see you.
Sept. 9: Cincinnati. The amazing Jeff Garlin is flying into Cincinnati special just to be a part of this … he’s got to leave early the next morning because he obviously HAS to be at the Chicago Bears’ opener against the Packers. I mean, seriously, if Jeff is putting in this kind of Herculean effort, you can do the same, Cincinnati! I’ll be having some Skyline for sure, by the way. I’m proud to say that I’m down 32 pounds (and counting) and I’ve been ultra-committed to changing my lifestyle, and throughout the process, I’ve thought countless times, “but on Sept. 9, I’ll be having some Skyline in Cincinnati.” Get tickets!
More book stuff? Yeah, a bit more … I’ll get to some other stuff in a minute, I promise.
I want to remind you that there’s one more week left on the super-special Barnes & Noble preorder sale — enter the code CATCH25 and get TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT off the price. This works also for the Signed Book edition, while supplies last.
And remember, if you preorder from anywhere — Amazon, Bookshop.org, Hudson Booksellers, anyplace — it’s huge for the success of the book and, more importantly, you’re eligible to receive exclusive director’s cut content. All you have to do is sign up here.
Just a little more — in addition to the book tour, I’m going to be doing a whole bunch of media, like a whole bunch. I can’t write down all of it and you are already sick of reading about this, but I did want to let you know about something super cool that will be appearing over at Esquire the week of publication.
Esquire is having a WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL Week! On Sept. 5, Esquire will be running an excerpt from the book — it just so happens to be my wife Margo’s favorite chapter in the book, so that will be awesome. But it gets more fun: They asked me to choose a few of the best baseball stories ever to appear in the pages of Esquire (with the help of the maven, Esquire archivist and my friend Alex Belth). So I did, and they will run all week, along with little introductions from me. Some of the very best baseball writing ever appeared in the pages of Esquire, so this was an amazing experience and I think you’ll love it.
There are actually a bunch more things happening, but I’ll leave it here because I imagine I’ve already lost 99 44/100% of you.
So let’s talk some baseball!
What’s the Deal with the Padres?
The Padres break my brain on a daily basis. As I write these words, they still lead the National League in ERA. They have a position player who is in a virtual tie with Ronald Acuña Jr. for the league lead in WAR … and Ha-Seong Kim isn’t even one of their four super-duper stars. They have outscored opponents by 56 runs. They have drawn almost 2.4 million people, the second-highest attendance in the league. Everything should be copacetic in San Diego.
And the Padres are still, as they have been all year, five games under .500 and fifth in line for the final playoff spot.
Some of this you can explain with math — the Padres are 6-18 in one-run games this year and an almost impossible 0-10 in extra-inning games. Some of that just has to be rotten luck, no?
“We’ve got to play as a team. We’ve got to go out there and grind every day. Grind every at-bat. … It’s been really inconsistent. Some days we do, some days we don’t. We gotta do it every day. Days like this series, we just give up. Like literally, we just give up instead of keep grinding, keep pushing.”
He said this after Wednesday’s game, when the Padres managed just four hits and one run against six Seattle pitchers. That was one day after they managed just three hits and no runs against Logan Gilbert and two relievers.
I’m skeptical whenever anyone talks about players “giving up.” But this isn’t just anyone saying it — it’s Juan Soto. And that’s concerning.
I want to show you something else about the Padres. Here’s how the league hits in different leverage situations:
Low leverage: .245/.316/.410
Medium leverage: .250/.319/.416
High leverage: .253/.330/.412
You can see, things tend to go up for hitters a bit based on the importance of the moment. This is true this year, it was true last year, it was true 10 years ago, etc. I don’t know that I can fully explain the reasoning — maybe Tom Tango will weigh in — but the numbers always show a tick upward as the leverage gets higher.
Now, here’s how the Padres are hitting in different leverage situations:
Low leverage: .255/.346/.435
Medium leverage: .238/.320/.420
High leverage: .201/.288/.328
Yikes. So far, when the situation has been loose, the Padres have swung freely. They have the fourth-highest OPS in low-leverage situations, behind only Texas, Atlanta and Tampa Bay, who are, you know, three of the best-hitting teams in the game.
But when the moment matters most, they collapse into themselves like a dying star — they are the second worst-hitting team in all of baseball, ahead of only the Kansas City Royals.
I don’t know who you blame for something like that, or how you fix it. Maybe it’s just one of those years. Maybe there’s something fundamentally wrong with this team. Maybe, as Juan Soto theorizes, this is a question of effort and concentration. Whatever it is, it totally stinks, and I suspect people are going to lose their jobs over it.
WAR, What Is It Good For?
Since I mentioned it above, can we talk for a moment about what an amazing season Ha-Seong Kim is having? I mean, I feel pretty sure that Baseball-Reference WAR is overvaluing him, but, I mean, at this moment he has 5.9 WAR which, as mentioned, puts him in a virtual tie with the incredible Acuña Jr. and ahead, somehow, of Freddie Freeman.
No, that doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Ronald Acuña Jr.: .340/.422/.585, 26 HRs, 53 steals, 101 runs, 70 RBIs.
Freddie Freeman: .345/.423/.600, 43 doubles, 23 HRs, 16 steals, 101 runs, 81 RBIs.
Ha-Seong Kim: .288/.384/.451, 15 HRs, 27 steals, 63 runs 41 RBIs.
One of these things is not like the other.
But, of course, Kim is a shortstop and an electrifying one. Acuña is probably an average rightfielder, and Freeman is normally a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman but his defensive numbers are down this year. And that is obviously a huge advantage for Kim. Is it a big enough advantage to make up that much offense? Well, Baseball-Reference WAR calculates that it is.
FanGraphs WAR, though, calculates that it does not even come close — FanGraphs has Acuña Jr. at 6.3 WAR, Freeman at 6.2 WAR and Kim at 4.4 WAR. That feels more right to me.
In either case, though, Kim is having a spectacular season, one worthy of down-ballot MVP votes. It’s astounding that the Padres, with Soto, Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, Fernando Tatis Jr., a top-notch rotation and a dominant closer are wasting that season. But they are.
Let’s give it up for Kansas City’s MJ Melendez, who this week hit .391/.462/1.000 with a triple and four home runs. I heard from a friend who made a compelling case that this seemingly disastrous Royals season can actually be spun into something promising. Bobby Witt Jr. is coming into his own. Melendez is coming on. They’ll get some key players back from injury. They’re so wildly underperforming in high-leverage situations (.201/.277/.305) that it seems inevitable that they will just naturally improve next year. Hey, maybe.
The obvious pick is Philadelphia’s Michael Lorenzen, who pitched a no-hitter against the Nationals on Wednesday. Lorenzen has lived a hard life; he says that both of his parents were drug addicts and fought so often and with such fury that the police often came to his home. He himself began drinking heavily in the eighth grade. He says his life would have been lost had it not been for a guy who approached him on a pier to ask if he knew about Jesus. We tend to avoid talking religion here, and I’m certainly not going to now, but Lorenzen has Galatians 2:20 tattooed on his left arm — the entire verse — and it’s clear that his whole life was turned around by a stranger talking about faith and service.
All hail, the Seattle Mariners, our team of the week, who have won seven in a row and put themselves in prime position to fight for the final playoff spot. My World Series pick, like Number 5, is alive! And I certainly hope you caught Julio Rodriguez’s spectacular fake-out catch. Pure joy. If I were still writing WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL I might include it … well, hey, maybe I’ll write up a quick little essay about it and include that in the director’s cut exclusives for people who preorder.
JoeBlogs Week in Review
Tuesday: A bit about the fiasco in Baltimore.
Thursday: By request, I made the Hall of Fame case for Zack Greinke.