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)
    The Mets aren't that bad off. Their pitching has suffered recently, but it's not as bad as you'd think. And for all their hitting problems, they're still better than anyone but the Cubs.
    Philadelphia: 86-68 (3rd), 759 R (3rd), 651 RA (3rd), pW-pL 88-66 (2nd)
    How 'bout that pitching? The Phils have gotten surprisingly good work from their starters and especially from their 'pen. It looks now like both the Phillies and Mets will make the postseason.
    Los Angeles: 80-74 (8th), 655 R (13th), 618 RA (1st), pW-pL 81-73 (5th)
    Imagine where the Dodgers would be in another division. Their pitching has been great; no complaints there. But look at all the potential in that lineup and then realize that only three teams in the NL are worse at scoring runs. If they win the pennant, I'll eat my hat.
    Milwaukee: 84-70 (4th), 712 R (6th), 667 RA ( 5th), pW-pL 82-72 (4th)
    As Oliver Hardy once said, "'Twas ever thus."

    Those are the only real contenders left. There are some pretenders still in the race. Houston is going to be the Mariners of 2009. Florida has an underrated offense, but their pitching staff is dodgy. And with their strict Scroog-y-ness, there's little chance that they'll capitalize on their upside. St. Louis is in a holding pattern; they're not going to get much better or much worse. Arizona needs to figure out why their offense can't connect the dots.
    AL PLAYOFF CONTENDERS: Los Angeles: 94-59 (1st), 719 R (10th), 652 RA (4th), pW-pL 83-70 (6th) O-VER-RA-TED :: clap, clap, clap-clap-clap:: It's disappointing that so many mainstream commentators have fallen for the Angels' smoke and mirrors act. They've been feasting on a weak division and benefiting from good luck. That's not to say that they won't succeed in October; they may. But they didn't win last year, they didn't win in 2005, and they didn't win in 2004. There's a reason that the Red Sox have won two World Series in that time (sweeping the Angels out of the ALDS in both cases) while the Angels haven't. Tampa Bay: 91-61 (2nd), 719 R (T-9th), 626 RA (1st), pW-pL 86-66 (2nd) It's amazing; at one point on the ESPN MLB page, they were running two columns side-by-side by Jayson Stark. One said, "The Rays' story keeps getting more amazing." The previous story said, "Bright season for Rays suddenly a bit gloomy." The shift took place in the middle of their recent series against the Red Sox. Short version? Really good team with bright future. Offense could use a boost, but they could make some noise. Boston: 90-63 (3rd), 806 R (2nd), 647 RA (4th), pW-pL 92-61 (1st) Here, friends, is the best team in baseball. Most of the concern over the Sox is typical Boston media fearmongering. They're the favorites again, not that that means a whole lot in the postseason, but it's cool. Chicago: 85-68 (4th), 767 R (5th), 679 RA (5th), pW-pL 85-68 (4th) They shocked me, but they're a potent team. They're not as strong as Boston or as pitching-happy as Tampa or the Angels, but they could be the surprise team of the postseason. Minnesota: 83-71 (T-5th), 795 R (3rd), 713 RA (7th), pW-pL 85-69 (5th) They're basically done. Question: If the Twins had pulled their head out of their collective asses re: their offense, Livan Hernandez, and Francisco Liriano earlier, would they be in the postseason? Should a franchise ever put themselves in a situation where you can even ask that question?
    Those are the only viable teams in the AL. Boston and Tampa are a couple games away from clinching. Chicago has a 2-game lead in the Central, which looks like it could stick. So who's gonna win it all? The easy pick is Chicago or Boston. But who knows? Wouldn't it be great if it were Tampa .vs. Milwaukee? I'd love it just to see the TV executives' heads explode. After the season's over, we'll refine our metrics and try to narrow down our analysis of each team's postseason chances.
  • Should Manny Ramirez be the MVP? Let's ask the man himself. From the Los Angeles Times:
    "I voted for Pujols," Ramirez said. The vote that Ramirez was talking about was for the player of the year of the Players Choice Awards, for which the Dodgers were handed ballots Wednesday. The MVP award is voted on by baseball writers. "It's nice that some people think I deserve it," Ramirez said. "I'd like to win it. But I have to be realistic. Someone who was only here for two months doesn't deserve it. It should go to someone who played the six months of the season." Ramirez said he has resigned himself to the reality that he might never win an MVP award. "I've played 16 years, I've been a pretty good player and I've never won it," he said. "It's not a big deal. I'll go on with my life."
    Rob Neyer's response: "You know, for a guy who's supposedly a child when he's not hitting, Manny makes a lot of sense."
    I say: If Pujols doesn't win this one, I'm turning in my BBWAA official fan club badge.

    "CHICO: Sorry, brother, you can't get on the train unless you've got a badge.
    GROUCHO: Badge? Oh, BADGE! You mean my Lone Ranger badge. Sorry, they took it away; I stopped eating the cereal." -- At the Circus (1939)
  • There's a fine article on -- a Yankee fansite -- have written a fine bit on the future of Brian Cashman. Cashman may be facing a coming "reorganization" in the Yankee hierarchy. Anyone who's ever been part of a "reorganization" should be wary about Cashman's future. The Nomaas article argues that the Yankees should keep Cashman. I concur. Cashman shouldn't have to face another period of mismanagement at the hands of the Steinbrothers, and there are several teams out there willing to pay him not to.
  • Joe Posnanski -- Kansas City columnist -- has another set of fine words about Carlos Beltran. Thank goodness. Because it's not just the Met fanblogs that think Beltran is useless; that feeling of disappointment is bleeding over into the mainstream media. And that's shameful and foolish. Beltran is one of the best players in baseball and has more than earned the money the Mets have paid him.
  • Congress has yelled at the Yankees for using too much public money on their ballpark and perhaps even committing some fiscal tomfoolery with the IRS. I'm glad that Congress is willing to act on this important issue facing our nation. What's that . . . the Dow fell 400 points in one day? People are dying in two different wars . . . so there may be more important things for Congress to do.
    But hey -- at least they're going to back up their words, bluster, and public posturing with action, right? ... Right . . . ?
  • The name of the new Twins ballpark is going to be Target field. Ouch.
  • Isn't this just amazing? I wish I could actually understand it.
I'll be back soon to discuss the Hall of Fame ballot put before the Veterans Committee among other things.

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