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.