Jeff Passan

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Jeff Passan is an award-winning columnist who has covered baseball since 2004. He graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in journalism. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October.

  • The Pirates pitcher who succeeds by not throwing strikes

    If only they didn’t swing. That should be the strategy against Francisco Liriano. Lope into the batter’s box, sling bat over shoulder and play statue. Stare at every ball that whizzes by. And chances are, if temptation doesn’t take over, if the almost pheromonal scent of Liriano’s pitches can’t cajole a swing, the exercise will end in a leisurely stroll to first base.

    Because in a pitching world whose mission boils down to a two-word statement repeated ad nauseam – “throw strikes” – Liriano serves as the literal and figurative wild child. Nobody in baseball delivers fewer pitches in the strike zone than the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 31-year-old left-hander, and his mastery of effective wildness has grown into wild effectiveness.

    Francisco Liriano gets whiffs 31.5 percent of the time a batter offers at a pitch. (Getty)Francisco Liriano gets whiffs 31.5 percent of the time a batter offers at a pitch. (Getty)In the last 10 years, since baseball started tracking the strike zone through its PITCHf/x system, only one time has a pitcher thrown fewer baseballs in the zone than Liriano’s 36.8 percent this year: Liriano last season, at 35 percent. That’s exactly what it sounds

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  • Why MLB needs to keep exploring ways to improve pace of play

    More than 540,000 pitches have been thrown in Major League Baseball games this year, and after each one comes the delay. In the best scenarios it is barely a hindrance and in the worst an interminable bore, and on average, 22.1 seconds lapse between pitches, which means the 2015 baseball season has featured about 12 million seconds of dead time.

    Mark Buehrle could be used as an example to help speed up the game. (Getty)Mark Buehrle could be used as an example to help speed up the game. (Getty)This is notable because in spite of the perpetual wrench heaved into action, the effort to speed up pace of play in baseball has been a rousing success. The average nine-inning game is down to 2 hours, 54 minutes, down eight minutes from last season's foray past the three-hour mark. Now that the threshold has been crossed, MLB needs to figure out whether sub-3:00 is a goal accomplished or a starting point from which to build.

    And when MLB looks at what's happening in the upper reaches of the minor leagues this season, it wonders whether satisfaction is selling itself short. In the five Double-A and Triple-A leagues this season, minor league

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  • 10 Degrees: The hard truth about RBIs

    Let’s talk about RBIs. This is going to be a frank discussion, with no room for sentiment, dogma or any of the other things fostering the propaganda that crowns a Most Valuable Player because he leads baseball in a statistic with ever-waning relevance to such conversations.

    Late Saturday night, a few hours after Toronto Blue Jays star Josh Donaldson drove in six runs to hit the 100-RBI threshold this season, the promotion of his MVP candidacy cranked into overdrive. The confluence of a fantastic game, a monster second half and particularly an unhealthy obsession with round numbers launched the Donaldson-vs.-Mike Trout MVP debate that seems likelier and likelier to dominate the final six weeks of the season.Mike Trout has 73 RBIs in 123 games this season. (Getty)Mike Trout has 73 RBIs in 123 games this season. (Getty)

    There is no wrong choice between the two. Donaldson has been brilliant. Trout has been glorious. They’re the two best players in the American League this season. Nobody else is particularly close.

    Because of that, the backers of each begin looking for something, anything, to

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  • Mike Trout's off-field obsession proves he's a man for all seasons

    At first, Jim Cantore thought the question was a joke. Then he saw the blue checkmark verifying the Twitter account that sent it and realized the best baseball player in the world really did want to know everything he could about the size of the snowstorm headed for New Jersey.

    “All of a sudden, I get this direct message from Mike Trout,” said Cantore, the Weather Channel’s voluble on-camera meteorologist and among the most trusted voices in forecasting today. “He’s asking me about the storm. Not like, ‘Hey, Jim, it’s Mike.’ He just went right into the details. He was genuinely curious about what the models said.”

    To put it simply, Mike Trout loves weather. (Getty)To put it simply, Mike Trout loves weather. (Getty)For all of Trout’s star power and the possibility of back-to-back American League MVP trophies, precious little is known about him away from the field. Which is why Cantore, a New York Yankees fan, was tickled to learn something that a few Internet sleuths later figured out.

    Mike Trout is a weather geek. And if he weren’t patrolling center field for the Los Angeles Angels

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  • Short-sightedness of the Red Sox will work only if they give Dave Dombrowski autonomy long-term

    The Toronto Blue Jays were pursuing Dave Dombrowski and all that comes with him – the pedigree, the gravitas, the haircut – when in swooped the Boston Red Sox to consummate another shotgun marriage. The Red Sox adore these sorts of dalliances, ones where the names are as big as the fits are questionable.

    Now, let it be said: Hiring Dombrowski as president to run baseball operations, which the Red Sox officially did Tuesday night, isn't an ill-advised idea in a vacuum. Dombrowski's past success, especially with the sort of payroll leeway he'll get in Boston, speaks for itself.

    Boston, of course, is not a vacuum. The Red Sox operate in a parallel universe, the modern-day equivalent of George Steinbrenner's Yankees, hiring and firing at a pace so frenetic, so harried, that anyone who takes a job with Boston does so aware that the guillotine undergoes regular sharpening on Yawkey Way. Gone this time is general manager Ben Cherington, who sandwiched a 2013 World Series victory in among

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  • 10 Degrees: Buster Posey headlines baseball's best seasons no one is noticing

    Extraordinary people aren't supposed to be able to camouflage themselves into the goings-on of everyday life, and yet here is Buster Posey, the former National League MVP whose team won three World Series titles over the last five years, and nobody outside of San Francisco seems to notice the true splendor of his 2015 season.

    Posey is the finest catcher in baseball today, the most well-rounded since Joe Mauer's prime, the likeliest threat to Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra's place atop the best-ever list. He hits for a high average and power in a home stadium that is like a baseball blackout. He walks more than he strikes out in an era where such hitters get rarer by the day. He throws out a higher percentage of attempted base stealers than anyone and frames so well he should work at Michael's. Were he more hare than tortoise, Posey would be the platonic ideal of a catcher.

    True excellence can go unrecognized when in the presence of transcendence, so perhaps Bryce Harper is to blame for

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  • Johnny Cueto: the pitcher so frustrating he makes hitters want to punch strangers

    Ian Kinsler wanted to punch me in the face.

    I had asked him just how much the varying deliveries of Johnny Cueto really affect hitters, and with the wound of getting shut out by Cueto still raw and fresh, Kinsler did not exactly cotton to the line of questioning. Because he is a professional, and an educator, Kinsler stood up and decided to demonstrate. And the best way, he figured, was with his fists.

    Johnny Cueto plays a unique game with hitters. (Getty)Johnny Cueto plays a unique game with hitters. (Getty)He balled up his fingers, cocked his right arm back and held it there for a beat, then two, before extending his arm inches from my nose.

    "If I punch you like this three times in a row," he said, pausing to reload his fist, only exploding forward almost instantaneously instead of holding it back, "and then I go: Boom! Is it the same? Because it's coming from the same spot?"

    Nobody in baseball today, and nobody in quite some time, has thrown a baseball like Cueto, the 29-year-old right-hander acquired by the Kansas City Royals to anchor their rotation during what's becoming an extended

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  • Divisions in baseball need to be benched

    Were the postseason to begin today, the National League’s second- and third-best teams would play each other in a single winner-takes-all game for the honor of going on the road and playing a series against the best team in baseball. In the meantime, the teams with the fourth- and fifth-best records in the league would face off for a ticket to the NLCS.

    If this seems screwed up, it’s because it is. The wild card opened up a world of possibilities, including the one playing out in the NL Central today: The three best records happen to come from the same division, and baseball’s playoff system is in danger of penalizing teams for having the temerity to exist in relative geographic proximity to other good teams.

    Pittsburgh's Gregory Polanco and St. Louis' Kolten Wong are part of the toughest division in baseball. (Getty)Pittsburgh's Gregory Polanco and St. Louis' Kolten Wong are part of the toughest division in baseball. (Getty)This, of course, is ridiculous, and even if the New York Mets ride the weakness of the National League East or the Los Angeles Dodgers the strength of their $300 million payroll to pass up the Central’s St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs or even all three, an

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  • 10 Degrees: It's a historic season for rookies

    Never before has baseball seen a group of rookies like the Class of 2015, one so rich in position players that with two months left in the season it’s on the verge of being more productive than every previous class in history. The Year of the Rookie is a real thing, though perhaps its designation is missing a word, because it’s really more the Year of the Hitting Rookie.

    Sometime this week, everyday rookies are going to surpass every class from the last 100 years in Wins Above Replacement. Even if it is a flawed metric, this year’s group of rookies reigning supreme with a third of the season remaining speaks to just how much talent suffuses it – and how teams are relying on rookie position players more than anytime since World War II.

    This season, rookie position players have accumulated 48.8 WAR, according to FanGraphs. Every hitter in baseball has a combined WAR of 386.8, meaning 12.61 percent of all offensive and defensive wins have come from rookies. Only war beget a greater

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  • Why Dave Dombrowski deserves to get paid more like a player than a typical GM

    More than catcher or shortstop or starting pitcher, the general manager is the single most vital asset in baseball, the person with the greatest ability to make and break an organization. Because they wear suits instead of uniforms and operate inside offices instead of before tens of thousands, GMs make a fraction of what their employees do, one of the rare jobs where bosses are compensated so disproportionately with those they hand-pick.

    Dave Dombrowski helped lead the Tigers to a pair of AL pennants and four straight postseason appearances. (AP)Dave Dombrowski helped lead the Tigers to a pair of AL pennants and four straight postseason appearances. (AP)If anyone can change that calculus, it is Dave Dombrowski, the first marquee free agent from the Class of 2015 to hit the market. The Detroit Tigers let Dombrowski go Tuesday afternoon, a move that divorces one of the most successful executives of his generation from the team he rescued from the doldrums and led to a pair of American League pennants and four consecutive postseason appearances.

    Detroit's success cemented Dombrowski's place in the upper echelon of executives and as the most successful of his generation. Dombrowski ran the Montreal Expos

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