Friday, December 19, 2008

In Which Rafael Furcal Makes a Boo-Boo

  • Rafael Furcal's agents apparently had a deal with the Braves for Furcal to sign with Atlanta. But instead of doing so, Furcal took the deal (which had already been agreed upon, according to the Braves) and used it to extort a better deal from the Dodgers, who ended up actually signing Furcal. Furcal's agents are claiming that no deal was agreed to, but the Braves say that they sent the term sheet to Furcal's agents -- which is, in baseball, equivalent to a handshake deal. Furcal's agents reneged, and the Braves are seriously angry. They've vowed never to deal with Furcal's agents again.
    I don't know who's telling the truth, but the Braves' story seems more plausible. Granted, no deal in baseball is really official until the commissioner and the player's union sign off on it. But a deal is a deal is a deal, and to go against that rule will seriously hurt your integrity in the future. Furcal's agents aren't stars; they're not people that teams have to work with to get the good players. It seems they made a pretty serious miscalculation, not to mention a breach of ethics, even if no rules were broken. And the person who will end up getting booed over it is none of these guys, but rather Furcal himself.
  • Since writing up the Raul Ibanez deal in my last post, I've changed my opinion somewhat. This is mainly due to a fact that I should have remembered when they signed the deal -- Ibanez is a Type-A free agent, meaning that the Phillies lose their first round draft pick to Seattle. On the other hand, the Phillies did not offer Pat Burrel arbitration at all, so they won't get anything in return from the team that ends up signing him.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter Meetings Round-Up

  • The Yanks ended up getting C.C. Sabathia for a 7-year deal worth about $161 MM ($23 MM AAV). Considering where the Yankees are, I can see how this is the right move for them. They've been pressured to sign a free agent starter in past offseasons and ended up with the likes of Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano. This time there was a legitimate ace out there, and the Yankees nabbed him. Not that there was a lot of doubt on that front.
    My personal take is that I would NEVER give any pitcher a 7-year contract. So many things about Sabathia's future are unknown; he's shouldered a very heavy workload, but it hasn't seemed to affect him yet. He's nearly 300 pounds, but it's hard to find any pitcher from the past to compare him to. I'm far too conservative fiscally to commit so much money to an unknown quantity. But as I say, the Yankees are in the unique position of being able to afford it.
    There are just two things that bug me, even taking that into account: 1) the Yanks could have had him for less money, as their haste to outbid everyone else and get the deal done early added to the final amount, and 2) Sabathia has an opt-out clause after the third year of the deal. An opt-out clause fully protects the player while providing no advantage to the signing team. The disadvantage is that the Yankees don't really have Sabathia signed for seven years; they have him signed for three years with a player option for four more. Apparently the Yanks felt that they had to include this in the contract to be "competitive." I'm quite skeptical of that. $161 million and a seventh year is competitive enough.
  • Another Brewer who might soon become a Yankee is Mike Cameron. Rumor has it that the Brewers and Yanks are close to a deal that would send Cameron to the Bronx in exchange for Melky Cabrera. This would be a good money-saving move for the Brewers (and give them a center fielder for longer than one year), even if it hurts them in the short run. And it would give the Yankees a true center fielder who can hit to put in the lineup. The cost to them is minimal; Cabrera's time as a Yankee was done. We'll see if this deal gets done.
  • The Mets signed Francisco Rodriguez to a 3-year deal worth about $37 million. This is far less than the 5-year $60 million deal that some were predicting at season's end. It's still probably overpaying, but the Mets can afford to do that, as can the Yankees. The worry here isn't so much with dollars as it is with years; the Mets were able to get the most coveted relief arm out there (whether he's the best is debatable) without having to add a fourth year. And considering the concerns about K-Rod's arm and performance, this deal is a better risk for New York.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


For those of you who are new to my site, thanks to the excerpt published in the 2009 Hardball Times Baseball Annual, I thought I'd offer you a short introduction to what I've been doing here for the past three-plus years. Feel free to browse around, comment, or e-mail me with any feedback.


11/13/08: The 4th Annual Whiz Kid Awards
Some usual, some unusual.
11/12/07: My Awards 2007, Part 2
The 3rd Annual Whiz Kid Awards (2 parts)
10/10/06: 2006 Awards
The 2nd Annual Whiz Kid Awards (2 parts)
The Awards Go To Somebody ...
The 1st Annual Whiz Kid Awards (4 parts)


10/12/08: NLCS Game 3 Running Commentary
My first experiment with a live blog.
10/2/07: Rockies 9, Padres 8
A one-game playoff for the ages.
8/8/07: A Birthday at the Ballpark
Back to the GABP, this time with pictures.
7/26/07: Reds Win? An Evening at the Ballpark
A stream-of-consciousness evening at the Great American Ballpark. A laid-back night, until Pedro Lopez gets hit in the face by a pitch.
5/1/07: Yankee Stadium: April 19, 2007
My first (and only) visit to the stadium culminates in a Yankee comeback capped off by an A-Rod walkoff homer against Joe Borowski.

10/26/05: 5 hours, 41 minutes ...
Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. I decided to try calling the game as an announcer, using just my own little tape recorder. It turned out to be the longest game in World Series history.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2008 AL Central in Review

Chicago White Sox
W-L: 89-74 (1st in AL Central)
pW-pL: 89-74
Payroll: $121,189,332 (4th in AL)
R/G: 4.98 (5th in AL)
ERA: 4.11 (6th in AL)
DER: .686 (8th in AL)
Team MVPs: Carlos Quentin, John Danks, Jermaine Dye, Mark Buehrle, Jim Thome
A Drag on the Payroll: Jose Contreras (4.54 ERA, 70 K in 121 IP)
What Went Right:

Monday, November 17, 2008

2008 AL East in Review

Baltimore Orioles
W-L: 68-93 (Last in AL East)
pW-pL: 73-88
Payroll: $67,196,246 (10th in AL)
R/G: 4.86 (8th in AL)
ERA: 5.15 (13th in AL)
DER: .687 (7th in AL)
Team MVPs: Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff
A Drag on the Payroll: Ramon Hernandez (257/308/406, $7.5 MM), Jay Payton (243/291/346, $5 MM), Danys Baez (Did Not Pitch, $4.5 MM), Jamie Walker (6.87 ERA, 38 IP, $4.5 MM)
What Went Right: The Erik Bedard trade worked out pretty well. Adam Jones is still looking quite raw as an athlete, but even still, you know the Mariners would like that one back. Both Aubrey Huff (304/360/552) and Melvin Mora (285/342/483) experienced strong bounceback seasons in their 30's. There hasn't been a complete turnaround, but there's enough happiness here to sustain some legitimate optimism.

Preseason picks revisited


New York Mets (97-65) 95-99 win range
Philadelphia Phillies* (91-71) 89-93 win range
Atlanta Braves (84-78) 82-86 win range
Washington Nationals (73-89) 71-75 win range
Florida Marlins (65-97) 63-67 win range
* -- denotes Wild Card

And here's what really happened (and how much I was off):

Philadelphia Phillies (92-70) +1 wins
New York Mets (89-73) -8 wins
Florida Marlins (84-77) +19 wins
Atlanta Braves (72-90) -12 wins
Washington Nationals (59-102) -14 wins

This was not one of my better predictions.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Trade activity

  • The White Sox traded Nick Swisher and prospect Kaneoka Texeira to the Yankees for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez. The Yankees get a Plan B first baseman in Swisher, and if they sign Teixeira, they give someone who gives them more flexibility in the outfield. Swisher should bounce back from a poor season in Chicago and hit like a league-average first baseman.
    The question here is what this does for the White Sox, who are presumably trying to win in 2009. Unless they just don't like Swisher's aftershave, it's hard to see what they gain here. Betemit can play third base, but that's not saying much. He's not the kind of guy you target to fill a hole. I think they just gave up on Swisher too soon.
    This helps the Yankees, since they now have a legitimate backup plan if they can't sign Mark Teixiera. They need Teixeira, of course, and if they get him, Swisher becomes a useful outfielder. It may also enable them to bench or trade whomever becomes the odd man out.
  • The Cubs sent relief prospect Jose Ceda to Florida for Marlins "closer" Kevin Gregg.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The 4th Annual Whiz Kid Awards

American League MVP: Cliff Lee
This was the toughest one of all to determine. There are a half-dozen good candidates for AL MVP, but I decided to choose Lee. Although there's a Wild Card in the group that I had some trouble dealing with.
First of all, let's list the top players in the league and see who we can eliminate:
Sizemore: 268/375/502 , 62.7 VORP
Alex Rodriguez: 302/392/573, 65.6 VORP
Joe Mauer: 328/413/451, 55.5 VORP
Dustin Pedroia: 326/376/493, 62.3 VORP
Justin Morneau: 300/374/499, 45.5 VORP
Kevin Youkilis: 312/390/569, 55.8 VORP
Josh Hamilton: 304/371/530, 57.1 VORP

Cliff Lee: 22-3, 2.54 ERA, 223.1 IP, 34:170 BB:K ratio, 75.0 VORP
Francisco Rodriguez: 2-3, 2.24 ERA, 62 SV, 7 BS, 68.1 IP, 34:77 BB:K ratio, 22.3 VORP

Well, we can scratch K-Rod off the list right away. He's about the fifth-best closer in the AL, so he's not winning any awards this year. I think that Lee was the best pitcher in the AL (see below for that debate), so he's the only one we'll consider.
As for the hitters, remember that VORP doesn't take into account defensive ability. Once you admit that, I think you have to eliminate the first basemen (Morneau and Youkilis). Both were very good, but not really any better than the guys playing much more difficult defensive positions. Youkilis gets a good bonus for his glove, but he takes a hit for only managing 538 ABs (compared to 623 for Morneau and 653 for Pedroia).
Josh Hamilton's numbers look a bit better than Sizemore's until you consider the difference in home ballparks and Sizemore's better defensive skills. So Hamilton's out. As for Joe Mauer, he was quite good, but not demonstrably better than his competitors, even considering his defense. Since his playing time was limited (536 ABs) we have to get rid of him as well.
Unfortunately, the same goes for A-Rod. On a per-at bat basis, A-Rod was the best hitter in the league. But he only managed 575 PAs (AB + BB), against 732 for Sizemore and 703 for Pedroia. That's about 3 weeks worth of PAs, which is a sizeable chunk. Given that detriment, I think that A-Rod's superior play can't be called the best in the league.
As for Sizemore and Pedroia, Sizemore has the better overall numbers (if just barely), although Pedroia comes close when you consider defense. It's a very close call, and I wouldn't blame anyone who voted for Pedroia, but I'm going for Grady Sizemore.
So I'm left with just Sizemore .vs. Lee in my MVP discussion. Lee has a clear edge in VORP, but does that best reflect the differences between hitters and pitchers? I think it does. Lee was just better than any of the hitters in 2008. There was no hitter that had a really strong, MVP-level campaign. This helps explain why there are so many MVP candidates; no one had that really hot, MVP-caliber year. And when that happens, the spot opens up for a dominant pitcher, and Lee was, luckily for him, dominant enough.

And what about that wild card I alluded to earlier? It's this guy:
Mark Teixeira: 308/410/552, 66.5 VORP

Teixeira would be, if he'd spent the whole season in the AL, the league's top player. You could really argue then about whether he was better than Lee, and that would cause me a major headache. But it's a moot point, really. The award is the AL MVP award, and most of Teixeira's time came in the NL. Even if we were to combine his stats for the two leagues, we'd have to take into account that the NL is an inferior league with easier competition.
So although my vote goes for Cliff Lee, I have to say that only a technicality prevents me from considering Teixeira.
  1. Cliff Lee, Indians
  2. Grady Sizemore, Indians
  3. Dustin Pedroia, Boston
  4. Roy Halladay, Toronto
  5. Alex Rodriguez, New York
  6. Joe Mauer, Minnesota
  7. Jon Lester, Boston
  8. Justin Morneau, Minnesota
  9. Kevin Youkilis, Boston
  10. Nick Markakis, Baltimore
(Honorable Mention: Milton Bradley, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin, Curtis Granderson, Ervin Santana, John Danks, Daisuke Matsuzaka)
National League MVP: Albert Pujols

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Color me surprised. The Rockies have agreed (in principle) to trade star outfielder Matt Holliday to the Oakland A's for Huston Street, Greg Smith, and outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez.
The biggest shock, to me, is that the A's are in the market at all. After trading away Dan Haren and Joe Blanton last year, it seemed pretty clear that they were aiming to rebuild in 2009. What has changed since then to make them think they can contend in 2009? As far as I can tell, nothing. The A's had the worst offense in the AL last year. With Holliday, whoopee, they can move up to 10th or 11th. Now everyone's talking about them getting even better, perhaps going after a free agent or two.
I'm skeptical.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Trade Speculation

The trade market looks to be particulary active this offseason. So let's take a look at some of the players most often mentioned in trade talk. I'd also like to mention the relative wisdom of trading away, or trading for, these players, based on what they're expected to bring in return.

Jake Peavy
Key Suitors: Braves, Cubs, Dodgers

"Word" is that the Braves are the leading candidates in the Peavy trade talks. Atlanta GM Frank Wren had gone on record as saying that the Braves didn't have the prospects to give up in such a deal, but he has apparently changed his mind. The trade talks are deeply involved, according to Padres GM Kevin Towers, although he hasn't gone on record as naming a front-runner.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

2008 NL West in Review

Arizona Diamondbacks

W-L: 82-80 (2nd in NL West)
pW-pL: 82-80
Payroll: $66,202,712 (13th in NL)
R/G: 4.44 (10th in NL)
ERA: 3.99 (5th in NL)
DER: .685 (T-12th in NL)
Team MVPs: Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Stephen Drew
A Drag on the Payroll: Eric Byrnes (209/272/369, 52 G, $6 MM)
What Went Right:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

2008 NL Central in Review

Chicago Cubs
W-L: 97-64 (1st in NL Central)
pW-pL: 98-63
Payroll: $118,345,833 (3rd in NL)
R/G: 5.31 (1st in NL)
ERA: 3.87 (T-2nd in NL)
DER: .703 (1st in NL)
Team MVPs: Ryan Dempster, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto
A Drag on the Payroll: Kosuke Fukudome (257/359/379, $6 MM), Jason Marquis (4.53 ERA in 167 IP, $6.4 MM), Bobby Howry (5.35 ERA in 70.2 IP, $4 MM)
What Went Right:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2008 NL East In Review

Atlanta Braves
W-L: 72-90 (4th in NL East)
pW-pL: 79-83
Payroll: $102,365,683 (4th in NL)
R/G: 4.65 (6th in NL)
ERA: 4.47 (12th in NL)
DER: .692 (T-8th in NL)
Team MVPs: Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Jair Jurrjens
A Drag on the Payroll: Tom Glavine (5.54 ERA, 63,1 IP, $8 MM), Mike Hampton (4.85 ERA, 78 IP, $15 MM)
Defensive Stars: Mark Teixeira, Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar
What Went Right:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Weaver on Strategy

It's been about a year since I first read Earl Weaver's book on managerial strategy (written with Terry Pluto). I kept meaning to blog about it, because it was so very interesting and pertinent. But I kept forgetting about it. I didn't include it with my general blog on baseball books, and so it just got buried on my desk. But it's worth going back and taking a look at this book, because there's so much in there that's fascinating about baseball, analysis, and Weaver himself.

I made a series of notes, underlined a series of passages, and even made a few big stars next to some parts of the book. So let's go back and see what I thought the big deal was.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Series Predictions

Rays .vs. Phillies
The Phillies' offense is centered around a core group of star hitters (Utley, Howard, and Burrell) with a strong 1-2 leadoff tandem in Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino. It's a group that was remarkably productive against two very tough pitching staffs in the NLDS and NLCS. Their weakness is lineup depth; the bottom of the lineup, with the exception of Jayson Werth, if he's not batting second, is very poor. Carlos Ruiz is a good catcher, and Pedro Feliz is a good-glove third baseman, but both are barely above replacement level offensively.
The Rays have a somewhat different problem. They don't have superstar power like the Phillies do (although that's arguable, considering what Longoria and Upton are doing), but they have a much greater depth. The Rays don't often give up on offense from a lineup spot, except for shortstop Jason Bartlett.
Before the postseason, I think I would have given the edge to the Phillies. But now I'm not as certain. The Rays have really done a good job of scoring runs. Even if they don't keep setting home run records, they've got a top-notch offense with star-quality production. And here's what really gives them the edge:

If the Rays start Rocco Baldelli in right, that leaves either Cliff Floyd, Gabe Gross, or Jonny Gomes as DH. The Phillies don't have anyone remotely comparable to counter with. Their best bet would be Matt Stairs, who would do well against righties but would need a platoon partner (one the Phils don't have) against lefties. And postseason heroics aside, Stairs isn't as good as Cliff Floyd. This gives the Rays a much better set of options, especially in the later innings, and I think it's what gives them the edge on offense.

Starting Pitching

Monday, October 20, 2008

Momentum is Bunk

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Maybe then someone will listen to me.
Rays win, I was wrong, and I'll be back with my World Series predictions tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Not again . . .

The MLBPA is going to be filing a grievance against baseball for colluding against Barry Bonds this season. I'd expressed doubts about this before, simply because I thought the owners were too intelligent and/or too self-interested to collude against Bonds. I also felt that, unlike previous collusion scandals, the potential gain was far, far too low to offset the risk of legal action.
But never underestimate major league baseball owners.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quick Look at Attendance

Now I have neither the time nor the resources to do a comprehensive examination of MLB attendance in 2008. But I'll do what I can with the information available to me:

(First number is raw attendance figure; second number is % change -- increase or decrease -- from 2007 season)

American League
1. New York Yankees -- 4,298,655 (0.6% increase)

2. Los Angeles Angels -- 3,336,747 (0.8% decrease)
3. Detroit Tigers -- 3,202,645 (5.1% increase)

4. Boston Red Sox -- 3,048,250 (1.7% increase)
5. Chicago White Sox -- 2,500,648 (6.8% decrease)
6. Toronto Blue Jays -- 2,399,786 (1.7% increase)
7. Seattle Mariners -- 2,329,702 (13.8% decrease)
8. Minnesota Twins -- 2,302,431 (0.3% increase)
9. Cleveland Indians -- 2,169,760 (4.7% decrease)
10. Baltimore Orioles -- 1,950,075 (9.9% decrease)
11. Texas Rangers -- 1,945,677 (17.3% decrease)
12. Tampa Bay Rays -- 1,811,986 (30.6% increase)
13. Oakland Athletics -- 1,665,256 (13.4% decrease)
14. Kansas City Royals -- 1,578,922 (2.3% decrease)


Purely Optional

As the postseason nears its end, let's take a look at options still pending on player contracts. Some of them will play a big part on a team's future in 2009. And just as important, a team's action based on these options will tell us a lot about the team's game plan for the approaching 2008-2009 off-season. (Note: I'm not including players whose options have already been picked up or declined).
(The source for all option and contract info is the invaluable website Cot's Baseball Contracts.)

Garret Anderson (LF/DH), Los Angeles Angels
2009 Age: 37
2009 Option: $14 MM club option; $3 MM buyout
Anderson's reached that unfortunate age where he can't field well enough to play the outfield and can't hit well enough to DH. Somebody a little crazy might put him in the outfield, but I bet he comes back to the Angels, even if they decline his option.

Hank Blalock (3B), Texas Rangers
2009 Age: 28
2009 Option: $6.2 MM club option; $250K buyout

Monday, October 13, 2008

Javier Vazquez: Big Game Pitcher?

It's rare that a manager calls out one of his own pitchers as not being able to "win the big game." But that's what Ozzie Guillen did to Javier Vazquez. From the article:

''What you see is what you get,'' Guillen said of Vazquez. ''Javy is going to be Javy. I just want him to be aggressive, throw the ball over the plate and knock somebody on their [butt]. That's a big three games for us.
''You have to be mean. Go out there and show them we show up to play, show up to kick your guys' [butts]. And believe me, that will take care of itself."

Yes, Ozzie. Kick a little ass, and those fastballs and curveballs will work out just fine. I hope to GOD he doesn't actually believe that. :sigh:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

NLCS Game 3 Running Commentary

  • I mentioned yesterday that even though the Phillies are up 2-0, the Dodgers have a chance to take control at Dodger Stadium. Even though Moyer and Kuroda are very similar pitchers, which should make for an interesting match-up. The Phillies especially are able to take advantage of pitchers who don't get strikeouts.
  • Jeanie Zelasko: "Is this a must win?"
    I will give $100 to the first announcer who answers this by just saying, "No."
  • Both Kennedy and Grace are practically guaranteeing a win for the Dodgers. Why don't they just collectively fellate Joe Torre, Manny Ramirez, and Nomar Garciaparra (who is, unfortunately, starting tonight). Speaking of which:
    Phillies: 1. Rollins, SS 2. Victorino, CF 3. Utley, 2B 4. Howard, 1B 5. Burrell, LF 6. Werth, RF 7. Feliz, 3B 8. Ruiz, C 9. Moyer, P
    It's amazing to me that the Phillies have gotten so much production from Ruiz and their pitchers. Talk about best-case scenario. And here's hoping that they put "third baseman" at the top of their offseason wish list, because Pedro Felix ain't it.
    Even though I favor the Dodgers, I chafe at Kennedy & Grace for their outright dismissal of the Phillies.
  • Dodgers: 1. Furcal, SS 2. Ethier, RF 3. Ramirez, LF 4. Martin, C 5. Garciaparra, 1B 6. Blake, 3B 7. Kemp, CF 8. DeWitt, 2B 9. Kuroda, P
    Yeah, guys, this is the better lineup. I like them 1-4, but they've got some punchless guys at the bottom of the order, Kemp excepted. The Phillies' offensive advantage is their best bet. At least Torre left DeWitt in their for defense, since Kuroda gives up so many balls in play. Moyer is the same, and defense should play a bit part of the game tonight.


I'll be blogging and discussing Game 3 of the NLCS live tonight. I'll be commenting on the game, the announcers, the ambience, etc. and publishing live (or as close to live as Blogger allows).

Belated NLCS Predictions / ALCS Comments

So at the end of every year, I take all of the individual and team baseball statistics and churn them. It's a lot like working with butter and the cramping's the same. Unfortunately, I decided to churn the AL before I churned the NL. So I didn't finish churning the NL until midway through Game 2 of the NLCS last night.
Well, my original prediction probably would have been Dodgers in 7. Or Phillies in 7. I'm still not sure which way I would have gone. Besides, making a prediction now would be a lame exercise, since the Phillies took the first two in grand style. Game 2, especially, was pretty captivating. It's high time we saw another LCS go 7 games.
So in lieu of my NLCS predictions, here are a few comments and observations:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Fourth Year?

Just a quick note -- I'd like to celebrate a happy 3rd anniversary for this blog. It doesn't seem that long ago, but it's been quite something. If you want to get nostalgic, click the archives on the left side of the page, or just go straight to my first entry, a look at the division series three postseasons ago.

ALCS Preview

ALCS: Red Sox .vs. Rays


During the season, the Sox ranked 2nd in the AL with a .279 Equivalent Average (EqA). But the Rays were right behind them in 3rd place at .274.
Both teams have strong offensive attacks, but they'll also be working without some key producers. The Red Sox are dealing with a gimpy J.D. Drew and will be without Mike Lowell. Drew's replacement is either Coco Crisp or Mark Kotsay, which is a step down, but not too bad. The worst thing is that with Lowell gone, the Sox have been playing Kevin Youkilis at third and Kotsay at first. I know they don't have a wealth of options, but "Mark Kotsay, first baseman" doesn't give me a lot of confidence.
The Rays, too, will be running at less than 100%. Carl Crawford has just come back from injury, and although he appears to be in good shape, it's hard to tell so soon. The same could be said of B.J. Upton, although Upton acquitted himself pretty darn well in the division series.
Overall, I still have to give the edge to the Sox, since their best hitters (Youkilis, Pedroia, Bay, Ortiz) are better than the Rays' best (Pena, Longoria, Upton, Navarro). They also have greater depth and a better bench; few teams could handle a hobbled J.D. Drew and a hobbled Mike Lowell so well.

Starting Pitching

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Ode to a Grecian Computer (or a Dell, whichever)

My computer may be dead.
Well, the computer itself is OK; but Windows is screwed and the computer guy says he should be able to save most of the documents, etc. But Windows itself is probably toast along with the programs and applications.
Luckily, (and let's take a BIG breath there) I've backed up most of my documents. I say MOST with some regret, as I haven't backed them up in a month or so. But my biggest concern is the 100 or so files of baseball stat work that I've done, and those are mostly safe.
The biggest problem is the applications; it never really occurred to me to back up applications. With most of my software, I still have the CD to reinstall it, but some of it (including my favorite baseball sims) I downloaded online and didn't ever think to back up.
I guess everyone has a sad computer crash story to tell; it's just my luck (or such) that it hasn't happened to me yet. And there's still some hope that my good ol' Dell can be salvaged.
I say this as an excuse; it's October, which is usually my prime blog-writin' time, and I haven't been able to talk about anything yet. I'm typing this on my Mom's computer (which is funny in a Buzz Bissinger sort of way; I'm not writing in my parents' basement, but I am writing on my parents' computer) so my blog won't be as complete, mainly because I'm a creature of habit when it comes to keyboards.

Dodgers sweep Cubs

Friday, September 26, 2008

Quick links

  • There's an article on about the continuing story of corruption and bonus-skimming in the Caribbean, here specifically in the Dominican. This is a very important story for baseball, not least because it may implicate some very high-profile executives and team officials.
  • This article was written a while ago; I just kept forgetting to mention it. SI's Tom Verducci has written a great column about the misuse and misunderstanding of relief pitchers in baseball. It's something that's been said many times, but having Verducci say it will make more of an impact.
  • Buried in this chat with Keith Law is one person's question that just delighted me. They were referring to the fact that it's nice for teams to come up with decent or mid-level players so that ownership will not be tempted to fill the whole with an expensive and grossly overrated free agent. He refers to such a mid-level player as an "Armando Benitez Protection Device." I would be thrilled if this phrase caught on.
  • And this is just hilarious.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hitting Curveballs

Zack Greinke's genes gave him a career as a star pitcher. But then they almost took it away.
Greinke was supposed to be a star pitcher. He was a top-notch prep pitcher who was supposed to be the total package: a pitcher with good stuff, great control, and strong makeup. And he was.

The Royals drafted him in the 1st round of the 2oo2 draft. The Royals pushed Greinke aggressively through the minors, and he seemed to respond well. Well, maybe "aggressive" isn't strong enough. Greinke made just three starts in Rookie League, two in Low-A ball and then pitched one game in High-A. That's three levels, 12 innings, 18 years old.
The Royals didn't stop the fast track in 2003, when Greinke was still just 19; he began the year back in High-A and pitched very well. He threw 87 innings, posting a 13:78 BB:K ratio and a 1.14 ERA. That's simply amazing for any level, especially for a player who's younger than the competition. So he got bumped up to Double-A, and while he wasn't amazing, he was still quite good (3.23 ERA, 5:34 BB:K ratio in 53 IP) which is, again, fantastic for his age. The Royals had a promising year in 2003 (83-79), and it looked like Greinke might move up and complete the renewal of a moribund franchise. But the team's success in 2003 was misleading and illusory; one could argue that this disappointment and the need for some good news (and good pitching) played a part in Greinke's promotion to the majors in 2004.
Of course, they may have just brought him up because he was good. The team started him in Triple-A in '04, and he pitched very well in 6 starts. With the major league team suffering and with little competition among the resident starters, Greinke came up to the majors.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

S.O.M.M.: Stuff On My Mind

    This will be a fascinating offseason. And I do sincerely feel really bad for the Brewers. With that in mind, and with the Miracle Rays (I hope that catches on) headed for the postseason, let's discuss:
  • The ESPN Power Rankings must be the ultimate measure of front-running on the internet. But I guess it's more exciting if there's a new team at #1 every week, regardless of their overall performance. So how do the teams look, overall? Here's where we are right now (as of Friday 9/19 games):
    pW-pL denotes Pythagorean record. Stats followed by league rank in parentheses:

    : 92-60 (1st), 810 Runs Scored (1st), 631 Runs Allowed (2nd), pW-pL 93-59 (1st)
    This is why people pick the Cubs to win the pennant. They do look like the best team in baseball. No team is close in terms of runs scored, and they're a close second in runs allowed to the Dodgers.
    New York: 86-67 (2nd), 762 R (2nd), 668 RA (5th), pW-pL 86-67 (3rd)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

State of the Baseball Union

Apologies for the one-month absence. Health issues persist, I'm sorry to say. But what a fascinating month in the world of MLB.
  • Ned Yost was fired, in a pretty unprecedented move, with just 12 games to play in the season. The Brewers were struggling, but in real terms, what's the difference between Yost and Sveum over a 12-game period? It could be positive, but that's assuming that Sveum makes none of the same mistakes as Yost (which everyone seems to be assuming for some reason). This smacks as a panic move, and my problem is that panic is really contagious. So when ownership starts yelling, screaming, and gnashing their teeth, they can't expect the players to maintain their calm. While most people agree that Yost deserved to get fired, it's hard for me to accept that this was the best way to resolve the issue.
    As a side note, GM Doug Melvin has given Yost a great deal of praise, and it seems that the decision was made above his head, at ownership level. If Melvin was totally unwilling to fire Yost and the move needed to be made, I can understand management stepping in. Just not in mid-September.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Pitching Trivia Quiz

Q: Who was the last member of each franchise to lead the league in wins?

Atlanta Braves
a. Greg Maddux
b. John Smoltz
c. Russ Ortiz
d. Tim Hudson

Chicago Cubs
a. Greg Maddux
b. Kerry Wood
c. Ferguson Jenkins
d. Carlos Zambrano

Cincinnati Reds
a. Aaron Harang
b. Bronson Arroyo
c. Danny Jackson
d. Tom Seaver

Los Angeles Dodgers
a. Derek Lowe
b. Hideo Nomo
c. Brad Penny
d. both a & b
e. both a & c

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Trivia Quiz

I was watching the Braves-Giants game on Wednesday and paid particular attention to the AFLAC Trivia Question (how is it possible to sponsor every MLB trivia question on every network in America?).
Anyhow, with Tim Lincecum pitching for the Giants, the question was: "Who was the last Giant pitcher to lead the league in strikeouts?"
That's a tough one. The Giants haven't had a lot of power pitchers over the past 50 years or so. I'm the former team captain of my high school academic team, so I have some expertise in this area (trivia/miscellany/too much free time). First, I look at the current squad and count back. The only names of big winners from recent squads that popped up were Jason Schmidt and Russ Ortiz. Schmidt was a possibility, but I didn't think he ever actually led the league. (The play-by-play man picked him anyhow.) And Ortiz was never a big strikeout guy.
Then I start going back by eras, using any postseason appearances as benchmarks. Who were the Giants' pitchers on their 1987 and 1989 teams? The only names that came up were Bill Swift, Mike Krukow, and Atlee Hammaker. Good pitchers, but not dominant. I did remember that John Burkett had a big career year in the mid-90's, but that was due to wins, not actual dominance.
The Giants had a lot of good pitchers in the 70's, despite the fact that they did most of their winning on other teams. Gaylord Perry? Not enough of a K man. And I couldn't think of the other key Giants pitchers from the 70's. I remembered John Montefusco, who won the Rookie of the Year with a big season one year and then faded away. He became my default choice. I could have sworn there was some other big Giant rookie around that time, but I couldn't place a name (I was thinking of Mike McCormick, but he wasn't the guy).
That left the 1960's, and it was a stretch for me to believe that a team as good as the Giants hadn't had a pitcher lead the league in strikeouts since then. Juan Marichal was The Man for the Giants in the 60's, but I seem to remember that he never actually led the league in K's, mainly because he was up against Koufax and Gibson.
Okay. Now I know for sure that Carl Hubbell led the league in strikeouts back in the 1930's. But surely somebody has done it since then? The answer I settled on was Montefusco, but with some misgivings.

The answer?

Bill Voiselle in 1944.

The announcers playfully chided their trivia guru for giving them such an impossible question. I marveled at the fact that the Giants had had so many good teams since 1944 without having a real ace, Marichal excepted. You could maybe count Gaylord Perry or Jason Schmidt, but they didn't stick around for long.

Out of this, I came up with a great idea for a trivia quiz. Ask the same question for every major league franchise, and not just for strikeouts; for several key stats. It’s the sort of thing for someone with too much spare time, so here I go. And I’ve decided to include you in on the fun.

I submitted my own answers to the question. I’ll reveal my answers, along with the real ones, at the end of the entry:

Q: Who was the last member of each franchise to lead the league in batting average?

Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves
a. Hank Aaron
b. Rico Carty
c. Chipper Jones
d. Terry Pendleton

Chicago Cubs
a. Ernie Banks
b. Derrek Lee
c. Billy Williams
d. Ryne Sandberg

Cincinnati Reds
a. Pete Rose
b. Joe Morgan
c. Barry Larkin
d. Tony Perez

Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers
a. Steve Garvey
b. Willie Davis
c. Jackie Robinson
d. Tommy Davis

Monday, August 04, 2008

AL Central After the Deadline

[Blog deleted because Blogger's blog-writing interface is a piece of crap.]

Most everyone knows the frustration of writing a letter, paper, or essay, and then having it accidentally deleted. Well, we all know most of the ways to avoid this, and most word processing software has come up with failsafes against it.

Not Blogger.

You know how, in a word processor, you can highlight stuff? And then if you push the arrow key right, or down, it takes you to the end of the highlighted portion? Well, on Blogger, they've added a special feature; if you highlight a selection and push an arrow key, it interprets that as "erase."

I was just finishing up my 3-4 hours of work on the AL Central entry. I pushed the letter "A", and accidentally hit "Ctrl" at the same time. This highlighted the entire entry. So when I pushed the next key (a millisecond later), it was all gone.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Deadline

Cincinnati Reds trade Ken Griffey, Jr. to Chicago White Sox for 2B Danny Richar and P Nick Masset
Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus:

Now, there are a lot of permutations here, and not a single one looks attractive. Neither Dye nor Quentin is equipped to move to center field for more than an inning or so. Griffey isn't remotely a center fielder any longer, and an outfield featuring those three in any configuration, well, you probably can hear Javier Vazquez's teeth grinding as he contemplates the idea. You can't sit Thome, who's a better hitter than Griffey. If you give Konerko's playing time to Griffey, you force either Swisher to first base, Griffey to the outfield and Vazquez to a dentist, or Thome to
first base. The Sox have had Thome don a glove four times in three seasons, and if they go that route, they run the risk of off-field drama as Konerko adjusts to the bench and his legions of fans in Chicago go nuts. Keep something else in mind: the only one of the five players Griffey is better than, and even this is arguable, is Konerko.
The Sox gave up so little that you can't fault them for making the deal, but it's not clear what it does for them.

Sheehan is right on the mark. I can't say how Griffey really makes the White Sox better. I would also argue that Griffey is not better -- at this point in his career -- than Paul Konerko. Griffey, 38 years old, was hitting 245/355/432 in a good hitter's park in the worst division in the worst league. As a right fielder, Griffey was -11 Fielding Runs Above Average, making him one of the worst defensive right fielders in the NL. Konerko, 32 years old, was hitting 214/312/349. Even considering the difference in leagues, Konerko's offense was worse, yes. But he was also a perfectly average defensive first baseman, whereas Griffey was a liability. Konerko hit 259/351/490 last year, so what we're seeing from him is a slump, whereas Griffey is nearing the end of his career.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Pudge-y Yankee

Two big trades have gone down since last I wrote:
  • Just today, the Yankees traded reliever Kyle Farnsworth to the Tigers for Ivan Rodriguez. Rodriguez, 36, is hitting 295/338/417. Short-term, Rodriguez may have been the best solution out there for the Yankees. He certainly better than Paul Lo Duca and Gerald Laird. There may have been other solutions out there to fill the Yankees' needs long-term (Saltalamacchia, Teagarden), but apparently the Yanks are focusing on this year (Rodriguez is a free agent after the season), with the apparent hope that Posada can return to catching early in 2009.
    The Yankees do take a hit in losing Farnsworth. Their middle relief has been an issue this season, and Farnsworth was looking like he could be their key setup man. My guess, though, is that this will intensify the Yankees' efforts to trade for another reliever. I doubt they'll be satisfied by just swapping out Farnsworth for Damaso Marte in the 'pen.
    For the Tigers, this move helps solve their bullpen problems without creating a gaping hole. Todd Jones didn't work out as closer (which I saw coming, even if it came two after I first saw it), and the team has forced Fernando Rodney into the role. Rodney may work out, but it's nice to add Farnsworth.
    There is a concern that the loss of Pudge will hurt the Tigers more than the acquisition of Farnsworth. The hole created by Rodriguez's departure opens the door for Brandon Inge, who's been without a position since the team traded for Miguel Cabrera. But Inge hasn't caught regularly in years, although his offense this year has been roughly as good as Rodriguez's (227/320/438). But the main question here is whether the Tigers still see themselves as contenders. Despite the decimation of their pitching staff, they still have a realistic shot in the AL Central against paper tigers Chicago and Minnesota. But as the season goes on and the team fails to pick up ground, it's looking less and less likely that they can fulfill their potential.
  • But the biggest move was the trade that sent Mark Teixeira from Atlanta to Anaheim for Casey Kotchman and pitching prospect Stephen Marek. Teixeira fills a big void in the Angels lineup as the only well-rounded, impact bat on the entire team (Vlad Guerrero usually fills that role, but has lost a step to injury). I thought the Angels were fooling themselves if they thought they could get far in October with this lineup, and apparently, they thought so too. They gave up relatively little for Teixeira, but then the big man is a free agent in the offseason. More importantly, though, is that the Angels now have an exclusive window to negotiate a contract extension that would be a perfect fit for them and "Tex."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Trades on the Horizon

  • The Yankees made a big trade yesterday, acquiring Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pirates in exchange for minor league outfielder Jose Tabata, and pitching prospects Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, and Dan McCutchen.
    This isn't a season-maker for the Yankees, and I'm surprised that so many people are optimistic about this. Marte is a good lefty reliever (which the Yanks needed) and Nady is a good-hitting outfielder (which the Yanks also needed). But neither one is really that great. Nady is having a fantastic year so far, but he's never hit nearly this well in the past, and moving from the NL Central to the AL East should put a damper on his offense. Both men fill legitimate holes in the Yankee roster, but neither man is the impact player the Yankees could really use to make the postseason.
    The Yankees are also rumored to be pursuing Jarrod Washburn, for reasons that are beyond my understanding. Washburn has had a good run of starts recently, but on the year, he's got a 4.75 ERA with just 65 K in 110 IP. He's also nearing his 34th birthday, and he's been like this for a few years. He's a step up from Sidney Ponson, certainly, but that's setting the bar really low. Surely there's somebody better than Washburn out there for the Yanks.
    Some of the appeal may be in that the Yanks wouldn't have to give up much in prospects to get Washburn; if they just agree to pick up the rest of his contract, the Mariners will probably just settle for a B-level guy. But the difference between Washburn and Ponson is not significant enough to bother with, in my opinion, especially if it prevents the Yankees from getting a good pitcher before the deadline.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh my blog

It’s been a few weeks now since this episode of the HBO series Costas Now, where Buzz Bissinger verbally assaulted internet blogger Will Leitch, former editor of the popular blog Deadspin. Bissinger released all of his pent-up anger about the new internet media, the death of newspapers and the rise of blogs and spat it at Leitch in an incredibly crass and profane way.
This issue has been kicking around my head ever since then, and I was finally able to watch the entire (uncensored) segment just yesterday. This segment had a polarizing effect on the different segments of the sports media. The online bloggers generally excoriated Bissinger for his outburst. They claimed that it was just more evidence of the stodginess of the old guard, who couldn’t handle change or see their own power threatened. Many outspoken members of the “old guard” defended Bissinger, if not his outburst, agreeing with many of the points raised on the show about the generally hateful tone of blogs and their harmful effect on the already slumping newspaper industry.
So after watching the video, I feel like I need to make some response.

First, I’d like to put my own position on blogs out there. Since I write in my own online blog (obscure though it may be), I do have some stake in the matter. I’ve never really considered my blog to be journalism, since it mainly consists of commentary rather than the reporting of news. I’m not a journalist and have no pretensions of being such. My journalistic experience consists of one year of writing for my high school newspaper. This does not qualify me to be a journalist, and I neither desire nor expect my writing to replace that of a qualified journalist.
I do, however, consider myself to be a qualified writer. Granted, there aren’t many qualifications for writing¸ per se, but all I can say is that I’ve written a lot before, with some success, and although my professional writing consists mainly of a few published Letters to the Editor, I think I am able to communicate effectively through my work.

Now, to answer the charges of Bissinger (and others) against online sports media. Bob Costas expressed concern (while Bissinger was being sedated) about the often hateful and personal tone of online media. He was well-armed with quotes from Leitch’s own Deadspin site, although to be fair, none of it was written by Leitch himself, and so they were asking him to defend the words of others. Not only that, but most of the vitriolic comments cited by Costas and Bissinger were made by the comments of random web members, not the actual words of the blog author. Leitch argued, with some success, that it is essentially dishonest to exercise great censorship over even vulgar comments, since this reflects exactly what the average sports fan is thinking, feeling and saying. He felt that Bissinger and Costas were taking the site far too seriously by taking such personal affront at what amounts to the profane ramblings of a random dunderhead.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More Baseball Books

An update on the baseball books I've read since my last entry on the subject.

Rickey and Robinson by Harvey Frommer
Frommer's book is a great look at the relationship that erased the color line in major league baseball. It's an excellent introduction to the subject, and a good short biography of each man as it relates to their combined efforts in the game.

The Bill James Gold Mine 2008 by Bill James
I was looking forward to this book, hoping it would at be, at least to some extent, a throwback to the Baseball Abstracts. Instead, it's a bland collection of numbers that you can mainly find in other places, with very little in the way of original analysis or insight. There might be a few shiny nuggets in the book, but it's no gold mine.

The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers by Bill James

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Is it a rumor? Or just the landlord?

I stole that pun from Abbott & Costello. So even if I'm stealing my jokes, at least I'm stealing them from the right people.
But there's a lot of talk circulating now around baseball, especially in the wake of the Rich Harden trade (which I'll get to in a minute). The interesting thing is which teams are buying and which are selling, and why some of them may have it backward. What's also interesting is some of the names being thrown around as targeted acquisitions, the most surprising name being . . . Barry Bonds?

  • First, the Harden deal. The A's traded Harden and reliever Chad Gaudin to the Cubs in exchange for pitcher Sean Gallagher, outfielder Matt Murton, outfielder/second baseman Eric Patterson, and minor league catcher Josh Donaldson.

Monday, July 07, 2008

AL East: Down the Rabbit Hole

Tampa Bay Rays
When am I ever going to learn? I should never doubt Nate Silver's PECOTA system of projecting the future performance of players (and teams) ever again, lest I be made a fool of once again. This pre-season, PECOTA predicted that the Rays would win 89 games. I (and most others) thought that was preposterous. Maybe they could get a run of good luck and win 80 games. But 89 games? CONTENDERS? I laughed.
I'm not laughing anymore.
The Rays have the best record in baseball at 54-32, and in other news, east is west, the twain shall meet, and the Pope is Buddhist.
And this is no fluke, folks. After a 2007 season in which the Rays' defense was one of the worst ever recorded, and their pitching staff was miserable, they've made a truly miraculous turnaround. In 2007, the Rays allowed 5.83 R/G, with an ERA of 5.53. Both were dead last in the AL by half a run at least. Not only that, but their Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER, the percentage of balls in play converted to outs) was .650, the lowest mark in some 50 years. So you can see why I was skeptical of the 2008 Rays.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

C.C. See ya

The specifics are still coming out, but it appears that C.C. Sabathia has been traded to the Brewers, pending the usual paperwork and medical checks. In return, the Indians get the Brewers' top hitting prospect, first baseman Matt LaPorta, as well as a couple other players. Since the deal hasn't officially been announced yet, I haven't been able to get a firm lock on who else the Brewers are giving up in the deal. Keith Law's column indicates that the Indians will also be getting: Rob Bryson, a solid pitching prospect; Zach Jackson, a lefty who looks right now like an extra man in the bullpen; and a player to be named later (PTBNL), and there are a number of guesses on who that could be, although it doesn't look like the Brewers will be giving up any A-list prospects, other than LaPorta.
For the Brewers, this is a really good trade. It's a big risk, considering that they've still got a lot of other things to do before they're in the postseason, but they just got the biggest boost any team is going to be getting this July. After a slow start, Sabathia has been dominant in the AL Central, and moving to the NL Central will only make him perform better. Sabathia is a free agent after this season, so the Brewers will be getting just a half-season of the ace. But they seem perfectly aware of the fact and willing to take the risk, knowing that even if they don't sign him to an extension (which is a virtual impossibility), they'll get two good draft picks when he leaves as a free agent.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

NL West as we near the halfway point

[The first part of this blog was written two days ago. Instead of going through and changing all the stats I mention on account of two freakin' days, I'll just let you know ahead of time that the first part of this blog was written on Tuesday.]
So much can happen in two weeks.
  • Seattle GM Bill Bavasi finally got fired, after much lobbying to that effect in this space. Seattle also fired manager John McLaren in what will hopefully be the beginning of a housecleaning in that franchise. It's lucky that the Mariners play in Seattle, because rarely has a team with such a high payroll been so bad.
  • The Mets aren't nearly as bad off as the Mariners are, but you wouldn't know that to pick up a paper in the metropolis. The Mets' front office waffled like a tower of Jenga as the media forced them into firing Randolph. Blame the media for being so pugnacious, obnoxious, and ignorant (for a firing that didn't need to happen) and blame the upper levels of team ownership for refusing to take a firm stand to stave off attacks. Randolph was doomed the minute ownership showed that it wasn't ready to fully commit to him, and once the blood was in the water, the media sharks attacked and attacked until the team's already weak resolve was obliterated. It was a very bad showing for a team that isn't nearly as bad as everyone thinks it is, and a poor reflection of what life is like as a baseball figure in New York.
  • Toronto also fired its manager, if only to give J.P. Ricciardi more room to fight for his own job (which was in jeopardy before he embarrassed himself on the radio). People in Toronto have much more reason to gripe over Ricciardi's performance, which includes a spotty track record, a sometimes huffy public manner, and the failure to develop even the hint of an offense. This isn't a defense of John Gibbons per se; I think he should have been fired after getting into a physical altercation with a player last season. But firing the manager to save yourself rarely works.

Monday, June 16, 2008

How's it Going at the 1/3 Mark? NL Central

Well, the NL Central is always full of surprises, which is fun if you're a fan, but can be pretty frustrating if you're an analyst. My predictions went along with the prevailing wisdom: the Cubs were the team to beat, the Brewers stood a good chance, the Reds were a dark horse, the Cards would finish fourth, and the Astros and Pirates would fight over last place. Well, it hasn't exactly worked out like that so far.
The one thing that has worked out is the Cubs as favorites. The Cubs have the best record in baseball despite dealing with some injury issues and some guys who haven't performed up to snuff. This is actually good news; if the Cubs can post a .645 winning percentage with flaws, what will they do if they can get everything fixed?
Offensively, the Cubs have had pretty much everything go their way. And, even better, they don't seem to be playing too far over their heads. They lead the league in scoring, with Aramis Ramirez (303/416/496) and presumptive Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto (288/376/532) leading the way offensively. Mark DeRosa may be hitting over his head (305/390/473), but even if his batting average settles down, he's still an asset.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Cub offense is that it hasn't had all the pieces clicking simultaneously. Derrek Lee has had some mild struggles (286/345/511, which is great for most people but just decent for him). Kosuke Fukudome (295/405/430) has played very well, but without the 20 HR-power he was supposed to have. And Alfonso Soriano (283/332/547), who's had injury troubles before, just got hit in the hand with a pitch. Soriano was actually getting booed some at Wrigley Field, which I find hard to understand, since he's hitting right in line with his career numbers.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I Am Ozzie, Hear Me Roar

There's been a lot of interesting things happening in baseball lately. The Reds finally called up Jay Bruce to fill the center field spot, just in time for them to realize that this season is pretty much done. Thanks to Dusty Baker and Wayne Krivsky for screwing up what could have been a Wild Card contender. One of them is fired, and the other should be.
  • The Mariners' situation is just awful. They're 21-39, 15.5 games out of the AL West, dead last and well behind the 3rd-place Rangers. The prevailing optimism about the 2008 Mariners was something I never agreed with. Their performance last year was largely a fluke, and I didn't expect them to do more than finish a distant 2nd. It turns out that even I may have been too optimistic about the team. There's always the chance that they'll turn things around, but my goodness, they just suck. Of their five main starting pitchers, the only one who's played above replacement level has been Felix Hernandez, whose 15.8 VORP is tops among Seattle pitchers and second on the team only to Ichiro (16.3). (That's above replacement level -- not above average. Four of the Mariners' starters are pitching about as well as Rob Bell or Mark Redman for 10-15 times the salary.) King Felix has a 3.29 ERA along with 69 K in 82 innings. After that, the rotation (the very expensive rotation) is a horrific disaster. Erik Bedard has only made 10 starts, but his 4.47 ERA and 26:49 BB:K ratio aren't in line with the ace reputation he brought over from Baltimore.
    But that's the good news.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

How's it Going at the 1/4 Mark? NL East

We're about 25% of the way through the regular season, so it's about time to stop and take stock of what's going on, division by division. Let's take a look at the surprises and disappointments, and try to determine what's just a fluke and what's going to last.
Boy, there's a huge ruckus coming out of New York about the Mets, with silver-tongued Billy Wagner feeding the fire. Wagner recently called out and cursed out his teammates for not speaking to reporters. Wagner then backtracked, saying he was criticizing the media, not his teammates, which is about as transparent a lie as you'll come across. The Mets called a big team meeting today to discuss Wagner's comments and the state of the team. Manager Willie Randolph is now perceived to be on the "hot seat," with somebody trying to shake the team out of its malaise.
Oh, and by the way -- the Mets are 21-19. They're 1.5 games out in the division, in 3rd place behind Florida and Philadelphia. Now, to you and I, 21-19 and 1.5 out probably doesn't sound like a good reason to start pushing the panic button and burning people in effigy. But then, you and I don't live in New York (at least, I don't). The fans and the media are still smarting over last season's collapse, and I think we're seeing a delayed reaction of anger and resentment. After the Santana trade, the Mets were supposed to dominate the NL East, and since they haven't yet met that standard, they're already getting roasted.
Is there cause for concern in Queens? Of course. The Mets have been disappointing, even if it's only a relative disappointment judged as such just six weeks into the season.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

How to Write a Baseball Play

I recently decided to write a one-man show about baseball. I've been running dry recently, creatively speaking, so I decided to combine two of my creative passions, baseball and theatre, to direct my energies toward a specific end.
I wanted to do something that would tell the history of baseball, but from several different perspectives. I didn't just want players; I wanted managers, owners, GMs, scouts, reporters, and even fans. I also wanted to pick stories that were about more than just baseball. Retelling the final innings of the 1924 World Series would be exciting to a baseball fan, but maybe not to an average play-goer. So I decided that if I was to include pure "baseball" moments, they would still have to be relevant to people who weren't baseball fans. The great thing about baseball is that so many famous players, moments, and myths are connected to a specific moment in history, or are at least part of a larger story that makes them compelling no matter who you are. It was these stories I wanted to tell, but through the lens of the national pastime (that was even my first idea for a title: simply, "Pastime").

Thursday, April 17, 2008

News bits and Required Reading

I'm watching the Cubs and Reds right now on WGN, and commentator Len Kasper mentioned a breaking baseball story that caught my attention immediately. So I went online to check it out, and there it was: Tejada admits to being two years older than he had said. Miguel Tejada, whose birthday has always been listed as May 25, 1976, admitted that he was actually born May 25, 1974. Tejada's admission came just as ESPN was about to air a special with evidence exposing Tejada's real birthday.
First of all, what does this mean? It's bad news, any way you slice it. Astros GM Ed Wade said, ""Fact of the matter is that he plays like he's 25, so I don't think it really matters a whole lot." Well, Ed Wade might actually be dumb enough to believe that, but in reality, there's a huge difference in baseball between age 32 and age 34. The Astros owe Tejada $13 million dollars over the next two seasons, plus $4 million in deferred payments on his signing bonus. Tejada doesn't turn 34 until May, but that still means that the Astros are committing big money to a mid-30s player who can no longer play a key defensive position. And for a team whose best case scenario is 4th place, that's absolutely unacceptable. I wasn't such a fan of the Tejada trade when it happened, and now I think it's a terrible idea.
But could the Astros have known about the lie? Yes. In fact, they could have found out so easily, that it's a joke that no one figured this out sooner. Tejada's real birth date was on his green card and his driver's license! I guess the real culprits here are the Orioles, who signed Tejada to the contract in the first place. Before investing so much money in a player, I would run some background to make sure he was really as young as he claimed. And it seems like the most cursory of background checks would have revealed Tejada's real age.
I'm sure there will be more people, like Ed Wade, who just say, "Hey, he's a good player, and that's all that matters." That's a load of crap. With a baseball player -- any baseball player -- you can't predict the future. The only thing you can do is come up with a rough forecast based on a player's basica ttributes, with age being #1 among them. Many people think of baseball players as absolutely unique; like snowflakes. But in reality, it's very easy to make broad estimates of a player's future performance based on a few select criteria. And age is at the top of the list. A player's skills get worse as he gets older, and the closer you get to 40, the faster the decline occurs. You may not want to take such a dim view of Tejada's future, but I'm afraid that everything we know about baseball leads us to a fairly simple conclusion: players get worse as they get older, and every year -- especially every two years -- makes a difference.

  • The blog Florida Marlins Finances takes a close look at the financial records of the team and comes to a pretty strong conclusion: the team isn't nearly as bad off as they would like you to believe.
  • Former major leaguer Doug Glanville wrote this piece for the New York Times. You don't find many ballplayers who are this articulate.
  • These pictures of Hideki Okajima's delivery are fascinating -- unless human contortionists make you sick.
  • I love this t-shirt for many, many reasons.
Back soon, with words for the eternally grumpy Murray Chass.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rules is Rules

We're about two weeks into the season and have seen some interesting, if not earth-shattering, developments. The one that's struck me the most is the dispute over the third base coach's box. It seems that the umpires are going to be cracking down on more of the little things this year, or so it seemed when Yankees third base coach Larry Bowa was ejected from a game for standing outside the coach's box on the third base line. The umpire said that he warned him not to stand there, but Bowa (being Bowa) told him to shove off. The ump tossed Bowa and got a lot of people miffed.
The thing is that no one ever -- ever -- enforces the rule about the third base coach standing in the box. Very few coaches actually stand there; they move out to get away from errant line drives and to stand where the oncoming base runner can better see them. They've been doing this for years, and Bowa's ejection over this rule has to be the first in I don't know how long. The umpire claimed that he was just doing what the chief umpires were saying: enforce the rules, especially this one. And yet no other umpire has made a stink over the issue.
Stuff like this happens a lot, and it usually isn't a very big deal, but over time, it gets on my nerves.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2008 Season Predictions

American League
AL East:
Boston Red Sox (98-64) 96-100 win range
New York Yankees (93-69) 91-95 win range
Toronto Blue Jays (83-79) 81-85 win range
Tampa Bay Rays (80-82) 78-82 win range
Baltimore Orioles (66-96) 64-68 win range
AL Central:
Cleveland Indians (96-66) 94-98 win range
Detroit Tigers* (96-66) 94-98 win range
Minnesota Twins (82-80) 80-84 win range
Kansas City Royals (78-84) 76-80 win range
Chicago White Sox (71-91) 69-73 win range
AL West:
Los Angeles Angels (97-65) 95-99 win range
Seattle Mariners (85-78) 83-87 win range
Texas Rangers (76-86) 74-78 win range
Oakland Athletics (72-90) 70-74 win range
ALCS: Indians over Red Sox
World Series: Indians over Mets
AL MVP: David Ortiz, Red Sox
AL CY YOUNG: John Lackey, Angels
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Evan Longoria, Rays
National League Polls

I'm always interested in a chance to make some predictions for the forthcoming season, if only because it gives me a chance to make some well-documented mistakes before the first pitch of the regular season is thrown (at 6 AM eastern time). is gauging the nation's response to some big issues going into the 2008 season, so I decided to weigh in with my answers and see what the rest of "SportsNation (c)" is thinking.

Q: Who will win the NL East?

WK (Whiz Kid): Mets

SN (SportsNation): Mets (60.7%); Phillies (21.7%); Braves (14.3%); Nationals (1.6%); Marlins (1.4%)

I agree with the prevailing wisdom here, and my reasons will be detailed in my next article, which will be a full-scale round of win-loss predictions for the 2008 season. But suffice to say that the offense is good enough, and if the pitching staff was good enough to come close last year, Johan pushes them over the top. The Phillies will make it interesting, but it's hard to see how any of their off-season gains offset Johan even a smidge. If the Mets lose, it won't be because of the Phillies; it will be because of injury.

Friday, February 29, 2008

AL West Preview

Los Angeles Angels
2007 W-L:
2007 pW-pL: 90-72
Strengths: Pitching staff, Vlad Guerrero
Weaknesses: Overpaid $50 million+ outfield, lack of offensive punch
Biggest Change from '07: Torii Hunter and Jon Garland
One Reason:

One reason the Angels will win in '08 is that no team in the division is within 10 wins of them.

One reason the Angels will lose in '08 is if they change divisions.
The $50 million outfield referred to above is Torii Hunter ($16MM), Vladimir Guerrero ($14.5MM), Garret Anderson ($12MM) and Gary Matthews, Jr. ($9MM). Hunter is signed for 4 more years, Matthews for 3 more, and Guerrero and Anderson have 1-year club options for 2009. This pretty pickle means that somebody (Anderson and/or Guerrero) will play DH, sharing time with Juan Rivera (who's making just a little more than $2MM). Here's how these guys did last year, listed with their age in the forthcoming 2008 season:

AL Central Preview

Chicago White Sox
2007 W-L: 72-90
2007 pW-pL: 67-95
Strengths: Star Power
Weaknesses: Age, Contrition, Wrong Division
Biggest Change from '07: Shuffling of some names, but not enough to matter
One Reason:
One reason the White Sox will win in '08 is that there is some upside here. The lineup has some holes, but it's not hard to imagine Jim Thome, Nick Swisher and Paul Konerko putting up good numbers. And maybe Bobby Jenks, Jermaine Dye, A.J. Pierzynski, Orlando Cabrera, and young Carlos Quentin can, too. The rotation is still solid, headed by Mark Buehrle and Javier Vazquez, but it got much thinner with the departure of Jon Garland.
One reason the White Sox will lose in '08 is I'm not very optimistic about most of those names. Thome and Swisher are the only ones that are pretty much a lock for All-Star production, although keeping Thome healthy is an issue. Konerko is still strong, but is on a slippery slope towards becoming offensively average at first. Pierzynski is -- and has been -- average for years, and I wouldn't expect much more than that from Dye, who's getting older (34) and farther removed from a career year in 2006. And I'm not buying Bobby Jenks as the next big thing -- he's as volatile a closer commodity as there is, meaning his ERA is just as apt to be 4.00 as 2.50.

Monday, February 25, 2008

AL East Preview

Baltimore Orioles
2007 W-L Record:
2007 pW-pL Record: 71-91
Strengths: Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Brian Roberts**-- if they don't trade him
Weaknesses: Pitching, Pitching, Pitching ... and the rest of the offense
Biggest Change from '07: Bye-Bye Bedard
One Reason:
One reason the Orioles will win in '07 is an act of God.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NL West Preview


2007 W-L Record: 90-72
2007 pW-pL Record: 79-83
Strengths: Maturing young blue-chippers, Brandon Webb
Weaknesses: Inconsistent offense, tough division
Biggest Change from '07: Dan Haren
One Reason:

Monday, February 18, 2008

NL Central Preview

2007 W-L Record: 85-77
2007 pW-pL Record: 87-75
Strengths: Strong Offense, Solid Pitching
Weaknesses: OBP, Depth
Biggest Change from '07: Fukudome and his .400+ OBP

One Reason:
One reason the Cubs will win in '08 is that the best is set low in the NL Central. The Cubs won the division last year, have managed to improve over the offseason (without spending $1 billion), and aren't facing any rivals presenting serious challenges. They're not absolutely safe from Milwaukee or even possibly Cincinnati, but they're easy favorites.
One reason the Cubs will lose in '08 is that a lot of their production is precarious. The best-case scenario for their lineup is good, but if Fukudome struggles in his first U.S. season, or if Aramis Ramirez and/or Alfonso Soriano take a step back to mediocrity, the Cubs will be hard-pressed to replace them. There aren't a lot of backup plans for the lineup, and the same could be said for the rotation, where an inordinate amount of pressure rests on Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly. The Cubs do have some backups here in Jon Lieber and Sean Marshall, but neither of them can replace an injured or ineffective Zambrano.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Lesson in Hyperbole

I've kept up with the Roger Clemens fiasco only enough to have a sense of what is going on. Unlike the rest of the mainstream media, I take no delight in crucifying an ex-hero for "letting us all down," especially since the media never really liked him in the first place, which matters more than any PED accusation. I also have no interest in watching someone aggressively and obnoxiously try to force back the tides of suspicion, as if the truth can be defeated by sneers, press releases, and unbelievably inappropriate taped phone conversations. The offensive cult of celebrity and empty controversy is attracting all of the scavengers and hangers-on to be expected where free publicity is to be given away.
So it was with some dismay that I read Howard Bryant's column today. 

Friday, February 08, 2008

My baseball bookshelf

Often after I've read a baseball book, I'll share a few thoughts about it in my blog. But because I often have so much to say, and I try to read as many baseball books as possible, I decided to write an actual review of each baseball book I read in this space to help give my readers an idea of what's out there, good and bad.
My first review will be the book I just finished, Weaver on Strategy by Earl Weaver with Terry Pluto. That will come later. But first, here's a quick look at my baseball bookshelf. I value my shelf very much, except that my baseball-only shelf has started to spill over elsewhere. But I love them all. So here is, in no particular order, my personal baseball library:

Total Ballclubs: The Ultimate Look at Baseball Teams by Donald Dewey & Nicholas Acocella. This is one of the best baseball books I've ever read, and it's also one of the foremost references I've ever come across. It focuses more on the behind-the-scenes activity among owners, executives, and the public, dealing with every single major league baseball team. It's a great source of historical reference and fabulous anecdotes. I used this book extensively for my blog series on the history of expansion teams.


First off, greetings from never-never land. After a much-too-long hiatus, I have returned to the land of Whizdom. My time away from baseball was against my will, as I've had a pile-up of medical problems over the past six weeks, including being diagnosed with diabetes. A lot has changed since then, and I've found it difficult to generate the energy to pursue my former hobbies, among them this website. But I have returned to start my full-scale preview of the 2008 season. I'll blog again soon to cover all the news I missed while I was gone (something about Roger Clemens).

Before I open up my 2008 preview with a close look at the Alanta Braves, two quick notes: