Saturday, November 27, 2010

2010 in Review

Time again to revisit my preseason predictions.  Sorry to say.


New York Yankees (98-64) 96-100 win range

Boston Red Sox *WC* (94-68) 92-96 win range

Tampa Bay Rays (88-74) 86-90 win range

Baltimore Orioles (74-88) 72-76 win range

Toronto Blue Jays (66-96) 64-68 win range

And here’s what actually happened …

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Giant Step

Quick note:  The title of this blog refers to the underrated musical stylings of The Monkees, whose TV show I was a big fan of as a kid (and yes, I’m serious).  I should also note that, thanks to a typo, this was almost titled “A Giant Strep.”  Make of that what you will.

Question:  When was the last time the Giants had two pitchers as good as Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain?  (And I don’t just mean for one year.  I mean two legitimately excellent, still-in-their-prime pitchers for a fair amount of time).

Short Answer:  About 35-40 years.

And now for the long answer …

Thursday, November 18, 2010

2010 NL East in Review

Note:  This article was completed before I learned of the trade sending Dan Uggla from the Marlins to the Braves.  Instead of starting this entry over, I’ll just say that the deal really helps the Braves while providing little other than money saved for Florida.

Atlanta Braves

W-L:  91-71 (2nd in NL East; NL Wild Card)

Pythagorean W-L (pW-pL):  93-69

Payroll:  $90.3 million (7th in NL)

R/G:  4.56 (5th in NL)

ERA:  3.57 (4th in NL)

Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER):  .687 (T-8th in NL)

Team MVPs:  Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Martin Prado

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hall of Fame Player = Hall of Fame Manager?

Since Lou Piniella’s retirement, it’s become clear that former Cub Ryne Sandberg is the favorite for his replacement.  This isn’t coming from the team so much as from fans and commentators.  In fact, the impression I’ve gotten from the relevant commentary is that it would be a huge blunder to offer the job to anyone but Sandberg.

The rationale behind Sandberg’s candidacy is that a Hall of Fame player is supremely qualified to be a major league manager.  At the risk of overusing my favorite word, I must call this rationale pure hogwash.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Year of the Pitcher

There was an article in the morning paper today entitled "2010:  The Year of the Pitcher."  The article claims that, with Matt Garza notching the fifth no-hitter of the season this week, 2010 can be claimed as a new "Year of the Pitcher."  Their argument was that with those five no-hitters, not to mention several near-no-hitters (and one near-perfecto) there was a new dominance of pitchers after over 15 years of hitter supremacy.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Booknotes (NBR): H.G. Wells

I just finished reading a collection of H.G. Wells' short fiction, called A Dream of Armageddon:  The Complete Supernatural Tales.  The following passage struck me; it's from a story entitled "The Queer Story of Brownlow's Newspaper."  One morning, instead of receiving a newspaper for the current year, 1931, he receives a paper from the future:  1971.  His maid accidentally throws it away, and so he can only describe bits and pieces of it to the narrator.  Here's the narrator's response after hearing that the idea of individual nations was more or less obselete in 1971:

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Where Does Griffey Rank?

Since Ken Griffey, Jr. retired a few days ago, he’s been referred to consistently as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.  I’m not so deluded as to disagree with this.  What I’d like to know is where he ranks all-time. 

Because of an injury-ridden second half of his career, I don’t really think we can call Griffey one of the best players of all time.  A more substantive question is whether or not Griffey is the best center fielder of all time.  He’s got some stiff competition for that title, but let’s take a look at the facts and see if we can’t shed some light on the subject.

I figured that a good point of comparison would be to rank Griffey against the center fielders currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame (excluding Negro Leaguers, for whom the statistical record is spotty).

Here is a list of the MLB Hall-of-Famers who spent most of their careers as a center fielder:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

NBR: Pop Music IQ

I just took a quiz on Sporcle that asks you to listen to a series of short clips and then identify the song.  The songs are #1 hits in the US between 1958 and 2009.  They're in chronological order and offered a nice glimpse of my pop music IQ.  Here are the songs.  The ones I got right are in bold/italics:

Book Review: Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert

For his new book Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert, Timothy Gay chose the following subtitle:  The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson.  The text, however, doesn't really support the promise of a "wild saga."  Instead, Gay's retrospective on mixed-race baseball games serves more as an amusing scrapbook of a bygone era.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Play My Sporcle Quizzes!

If you haven't yet experienced the wonder that is Sporcle, I urge you to do so right now.  Sporcle allows users to build their own quizzes, allowing others to take them and test their knowledge on just about anything.  Think you can name the countries of the world?  Try it.  Want to try and name all of Shakespeare's plays?  Give it a shot.  Or maybe you'd just like to name the different flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans.  From the academic to the inane, it's all here.
By the way, don't blame me if you lose weeks -- perhaps months -- of your life to the wily temptress called Sporcle.  The word "timesuck" does not even begin to describe it.

As you might imagine, this offers no end of amusement for the baseball fan.  So I've listed below the quizzes I have created on Sporcle.  Have fun!

NBR: Conrad, Briefly

On Tourism ... and Imagination

"An outward-bound mail-boat had come in that afternoon, and the big dining-room of the hotel was more than half full of people with a hundred pounds round-the-world tickets in their pockets.  There were married couples looking domesticated and bored with each other in the midst of their travels; there were small parties and large parties, and lone individuals dining solemnly or feasting boisterously, but all thinking, conversing, joking or scowling as was their wont at home; and just as intelligently receptive of new impressions as their trunks upstairs." 
"The danger, when not seen, has the imperfect vagueness of human thought.  The fear grows shadowy; and Imagination, the enemy of men, the father of all terrors, unstimulated, sinks to rest in the dullness of exhausted emotion."
-- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Soriano a Disappointment?

In this article, Dan McGrath reflects on the Cubs' disappointment in the performance of Alfonso Soriano.  This is certainly understandable -- Soriano's career hitting stats before joining the Cubs were 280/325/510.  Since joining the Cubs, he's hit 277/329/512.

Wait -- what?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Introducing the NBR (Non-Baseball wRiting)

The beginning of the baseball season is the leanest time for me as a baseball writer.  You'd expect the opposite, I guess.  But as someone who's more of an analyst than a scout, I'm much better at talking about what has happened rather than what's going to happen. Plus, I try to resist the temptation to draw sweeping conclusions from a week and half of baseball games, or less than ten percent of an actual season.
So let me take the opportunity to unify all of my various writing efforts in this one place.  Baseball will take up most of my time.  But I'd like to fill the gaps with a number of other projects, efforts and things that I just wanna talk about. I figured there's no sense in creating 8 separate blogs for my various interests; I'll just change my baseball blog to "baseball plus."  To make things easier for my readership (both of you), any non-baseball blog will be clearly labeled NBR:  Non-Baseball wRiting.
I'm working on my first effort, which should be up in a few days.

Happy Spring.  The Jason Heyward era has begun.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

2010 Final Predictions


New York Yankees (98-64)

Boston Red Sox *WC* (94-68)

Tampa Bay Rays (88-74)

Baltimore Orioles (74-88)

Toronto Blue Jays (66-96)


Minnesota Twins (86-76)

Chicago White Sox (82-80)

Detroit Tigers (79-83)

Kansas City Royals (72-90)

Cleveland Indians (67-95)


Los Angeles Angels (89-73)

Seattle Mariners (86-76)

Texas Rangers (84-78)

Oakland Athletics (74-88)

ALCS:  Red Sox over Yankees

WS:  Red Sox over Phillies

AL MVP:  Joe Mauer, Twins

AL Cy Young:  Felix Hernandez, Mariners

AL Rookie of the Year:  Neftali Feliz, Rangers


Philadelphia Phillies (96-76)

Atlanta Braves *WC* (92-70)

Florida Marlins (85-77)

New York Mets (80-82)

Washington Nationals (69-93)


St. Louis Cardinals (92-70)

Chicago Cubs (83-79)

Milwaukee Brewers (81-81)

Cincinnati Reds (77-85)

Houston Astros (71-91)

Pittsburgh Pirates (64-98)


Los Angeles Dodgers (93-69)

Colorado Rockies (89-73)

Arizona Diamondbacks (83-79)

San Francisco Giants (78-84)

San Diego Padres (67-95)

NLCS:  Phillies over Braves

WS:  Red Sox over Phillies

NL MVP:  Chase Utley, Phillies

NL Cy Young:  Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

NL Rookie of the Year:  Jason Heyward, Braves

A.L. East Off-Season: Team by Team

Baltimore Orioles

Dec. 9:  Orioles trade Chris Ray and a PTBNL (Ben Snyder) to the Rangers for Kevin Millwood and cash.
Are 75 wins really that much better than 70?  I’m not being sarcastic; I really wonder.  How much difference does it make having Millwood on the roster?  Does it help season ticket sales that much?  Is he really going to tutor the young pitchers enough to make it worthwhile?  Or is he there to take the pressure off of them?  If so, is that really practical, or is it just another one of those things people say?  Is that enough rhetorical questions for ya?

Dec. 18:  Orioles sign Mike Gonzalez to a two-year contract worth $12 MM.
I’m much more skeptical of this than I am of the Millwood deal.  Does a fourth-place team really need a B-level closer?  The team’s record with free agents relievers is discouraging.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A.L. Central Off-Season: Team by Team

Chicago White Sox

Nov. 6:  White Sox sign Mark Kotsay to a one-year contract worth $1.5 MM.
There’s not a great deal of demand for an outfielder/first baseman who hasn’t had a decent year at the plate since 2005 (2009 line:  278/327/390).  To be fair, there is some value here as a guy who can spot Paul Konerko, sub at all three outfield spots, and still hit righties fairly well.  I just wonder if the Sox should be focusing on bigger, perhaps better solutions to their problems on offense. 

Nov. 6:  White Sox trade Chris Getz, Josh Fields and cash to the Royals for Mark Teahen.
Teahen is a placeholder at third, and that’s being generous.  His bat is adequate, but his glove isn’t.  You’d probably be better off waiting for Godot than waiting for Josh Fields to break out.  The concern here is that you’re also giving up a useful, if flawed, player in Getz.  And on a practical level, you’re paying more for Teahen and getting less service time before free agency.  My guess is that this move doesn’t have a big impact on the team, either positive or negative.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A.L. West Off-Season: Team by Team

Los Angeles Angels

Nov. 6:  Angels re-sign Bobby Abreu to a two-year contract worth $19 MM, with a vesting option for 2012.
Abreu’s $5 million contract for 2009 was (over-)reported as the biggest bargain of the offseason.  And it may have been.  Abreu brought much-needed plate discipline (.390 OBP) to a team that has never actively sought high-OBP players.
The snag is that Abreu has gone from under- to over-rated very quickly.  His power is basically gone.  He hasn’t hit more than 30 homers since 2001, and hasn’t hit more than 20 since 2005.  His 15 blasts in 2009 are a more accurate predictor of his future.
Granted, when combined with an excellent approach at the plate, 15 homers is enough.  The more immediate problem is Abreu’s declining defense.  He wasn’t as good as his reputation in his younger days and is quickly degenerating to designated-hitter status.  If that day comes in the next two years, it will be the Angels’ problem to deal with.  Because if his on-base skills slip, he could end up being a below-average DH.
The lesson here is that the same player who’s a bargain at 1/$5MM may not be one at 2/$19MM.

Dec. 16:  Angels sign Hideki Matsui to a one-year contract worth $6 million.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

N.L. West Off-Season: Team by Team

Arizona Diamondbacks

Dec. 9:  The D-Backs completed the following three-team trade:
Yankees Ian Kennedy,Phil Coke, Austin Jackson Curtis Granderson
D-Backs Max Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth Edwin Jackson, Kennedy
Tigers Granderson, Jackson Scherzer, Schlereth, Coke, Jackson

This deal makes good sense for the Yankees; they needed an everyday center fielder, and they’re not giving up any impact players.
The deal also makes good sense for Detroit; Granderson was overrated and besides, the team really needed to save money.  They get back well-needed pitching depth.
 For the Diamondbacks . . . well, the deal makes no sense.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

N.L. Central Offseason – Team by Team

Chicago Cubs

Dec. 31:  Cubs sign Marlon Byrd to a three-year contract worth $15 MM.
The thinking here is that Byrd can be their starting center fielder.
Let’s take a look at Marlon Byrd’s recent history first:
2007 454 10 307 355 459
2008 462 10 298 380 462
2009 599 20 283 329 479

Not bad for a center fielder.  But Byrd was playing for Texas those seasons – in hitter-friendly Ameriquest Field (or whatever the hell it’s called now).
Here’s what My Darlin’ Marlon did on the road those years:
2007 230 6 259 304 410
2008 224 3 297 362 411
2009 292 6 285 322 419

I believe the word I’m looking for is … erp!  (Byrd is a career 272/322/393 hitter on the road.  Double erp!)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

N.L. East Offseason – Team by Team

Atlanta Braves

Nov. 13:  Braves sign Tim Hudson to a 3-year deal for $28 MM, with a club option for 2013.
The only question here is how well you expect Tim Hudson to age.  Based on Hudson’s track record, he’s easily worth 9 million per, even for his age 34-36 seasons.
But Hudson is coming off Tommy John surgery that limited him to 29 starts over the past two seasons.  They were 29 good starts, but that is still troubling for someone entering his mid-30’s.  It would be great to have him for one healthy season before committing to a multi-year deal, but the team doesn’t have that luxury.  While Hudson may never be an ace again, this contract isn’t likely to turn into an albatross, although I think I said the same thing about Derek Lowe’s deal.

Dec. 2:  Braves sign Billy Wagner to a 1-year deal for $7 MM, with a club option for 2011.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The 5th Annual Whiz Kid Awards

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training within a month (YEEHA), it’s time for me to publish my final articles on the 2009 season.  If time permits, a team-by-team postmortem is forthcoming, but that may not be feasible.  So I thought I’d go ahead with the 5th Annual (!) Whiz Kid Awards.
The Whiz Kid Awards began back in 2005 as my contribution to the year-end awards discussion.  I also added in a few unique categories to add my own stamp to things.  I may be late to the party with this, but you’re never too late to stir the stool, so to speak.


The Mauer-for-MVP discussion was just the latest episode of the so-called Moneyball debate.  Mark Teixeira made an early bid for the AL honor by piling up HR and RBI on the AL Champions.  But on the same team, Derek Jeter was having one of the best seasons of his career.  This prompted many Jeter fan-boys to plead his case for the MVP as a “lifetime achievement” award.
I hate and despise lifetime achievement awards unless they are clearly labeled as such and nothing more.  It may be that they’ve never merited the award in any one season, but just deserve it based on their career.  Or they’re meant to honor someone who, for various reasons, didn’t get the honor when they should have … perhaps because somebody else was getting a lifetime achievement award.  That’s the crux of the matter; if we give Jeter a bogus MVP award this year, are we going to have to do the same for Mauer in ten years?  And which deserving young superstar will that screw over?
That aside, the biggest (and most substantive) objection to Mauer’s MVP case is that he lost about a month to injury at the start of the season.  The implication is that you can’t miss a month and be the MVP.  And I would usually agree with that.  It would take a phenomenal performance by a player to be the league’s best player with such a handicap.