If recent farm-system performance tells us which teams to watch each season – and the record book indicates it does – the club with the most cred to follow this year is already showing its strength. The NL West-leading San Francisco Giants have finished in the top 10 of Baseball America’s annual system ratings in six of the seven past seasons. They finished second in the 2013 rankings, sick and, buy since SF is on a modest even-year title streak (having won the World Series in 2010 and 2012), the team karma in 2014 looks to be in place.
The flip side of the predictive thesis suggests that fans of two currently competitive NL Central teams have reason to be concerned. The Reds and Brewers both made the bottom five in Baseball America’s annual system ratings for 2013: the Brewers finished 28th of 30, the Reds dead last. More troubling for people connected with those clubs is the consistency of their low rankings. The Reds have been in the cellar area four of the last five seasons, the Brewers three of the past four.
The Reds, now two games under .500, have lost Jay Bruce to knee surgery for at least the next month; the Brewers, atop the division, are not the same without offensive catalyst Ryan Braun – oblique muscle strain; he will be missing from their lineup for a few more days. Rather than embrace an ominous stance with regard to either team, we note only that the Baseball America rundown provides fair warning about both.
An economic equivalent of the farm system ratings is one – product of an international study – that measures the comparative effectiveness of schooling in developed countries. The study, gauging the learned skills of adult workers in 23 national systems, exposed glaring shortcomings in the way ours works. The stats tell how far down in the standings we finished: Team USA was 14th in problem-solving, 16th in reading, and 21st in math.
Behind the poor numbers was what the study identified as our “particularly large” education inequality gap. National Journal’s Ron Brownstein describes the gap in detail:
“The spread between the performance of adults with college degrees and adults with only high school degrees was larger in the U.S. than anywhere else. The gap between the performance of adults whose parents had obtained a college degree and those who had not also ranked among the largest…These findings send a (familiar) message: While the U.S. continues to nurture islands of spectacular achievement, it is less committed than its competitors to maximizing the potential of all of its people. The flagship U.S. colleges and universities, which still recruit disproportionately from affluent white families, spend at least twice as much per student…than the less-selective public four- and two-year institutions that enroll most of the growing numbers of minority students.”
Brownstein quoted a Georgetown U. expert on the subject who summarized the situation this way: “We invest only in people who do well. Every new dollar in the American system only goes toward the winners.”
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Not Quite Forgotten: It’s easy from here to overlook or dismiss the Colorado Rockies: they play in hit-friendly Coors Field and are usually out-glamorized in the NL West by the Giants and Dodgers. Not for the moment: the Rockies’ 23-year-old third baseman Nolan Arenado hit in 28 straight games until his streak ended last night. Then there is the Rockies’ all-world shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is flirting with a season BA of .400. Tulo’s stats so far this week: .518 BA, two HRs, nine RBIs, 10 runs. The Rox, two games behind the Giants, have won 13 of 18 home games and are just uner.500 on the road, a pace that demands attention.
Eying Joey Bats: Eye on Baseball’s Matt Snyder noticed a streak ignored by all but a few obeservers: Jose Bautista’s consecutive on-base mark; Joey Bats has reached in all the Blue Jays’ 36 games this season. Albert Pujols was the last to excel in that category: 41 games in 2008.
Late Scores: Giants 3, Dodgers 1; Rangers 8, Red Sox 0; Oakland 8, Nationals 0; KC 6, Seattle 1; San Diego 10, Marlin
(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)