"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
May 31, 2006
BLOG: Uncool Cars
FOOTBALL: Best Blog Post Title Ever
May 30, 2006
BASEBALL: A Year On
Looking over the batting stats over the past 365 days on Pinto's database, a few random observations:
*Grady Sizemore is not a future star, he's just a star, period. And Travis Hafner is a monster.
*I've got to stop thinking of Michael Young as a guy who had a good year; he's been a tremendous producer for some time now.
*Concerns that the incredibly consistent and productive Bobby Abreu may be slowing down could be well-founded. Abreu's .268 average and 18 homers aren't that impressive, and 11 caught stealings in 36 attempts, and 11 GIDP, are comedowns from his previous levels. Abreu's still a highly valuable player, and this could just be a short-term rut, but like a lot of guys he may be entering the phase where he's not the same bankable superstar year in and out. Ditto Jim Edmonds (.246, 12 GIDP after going almost a year without one).
*Carl Crawford - who's been on fire lately after another slow start - has some serious power potential, given his age and athleticism. (And like super-fast players like Kenny Lofton, Marquis Grissom, Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, and Davey Lopes, Crawford may be a good bet to have a very long career). But Crawford's drawn 29 walks in the past year compared to 40 for Jose Reyes. Until he learns more patience, Crawford won't tap his true power potential. Willy Taveras, meanwhile, may be fast but he has not learned to steal bases.
*Lance Berkman may be baseball's most underappreciated slugger (120 RBI).
*Randy Winn has had a heck of a year, hasn't he?
*I never thought I'd see Craig Biggio end up as a low-OBP slugger at this age: 65 extra base hits compared to 62 times on base by walk or hit by pitch. Then there's 74 extra base hits for Bill Hall.
*Miguel Tejada has become quite the GIDP machine (27 of 'em). Ditto Jason Kendall (25), although Kendall can still get on base (.359).
*Matt Holliday sure has mastered Coors Field (.587 slugging).
*Brian Roberts went back to what he'd been before: a doubles machine. So did Brandon Inge - an easy out (.298 OBP). And Jose Guillen's days as a star appear to have been short-lived.
*Justin Morneau and Dan Johnson have been nothing to write home about - but unlike Johnson, Morneau is lucky not to have any big prospects breathing down his neck.
*Angel Berroa: 14 walks, 104 K. That's what happens to talented young players when they have no reason to learn how baseball games are won.
*Mike Cuddyer: .277/.501/.350, still no regular job.
BASEBALL: The Future Is Now
Well, while I'm feeling pretty good about the Mets banishing Jose Lima, trading Jeremi Gonzalez and bringing up Heath Bell, now comes news that - in response to an appendectomy for the already-ailing Xavier Nady - the Mets are bringing up Lastings Milledge, presumably to play right field regularly until Nady's return and show whether he's ready for prime time. Nady's been productive this season but the Mets shouldn't hesitate to replace him if Milledge shows he's ready.
POLITICS: 22 Problems With The Senate Bill
John Hawkins has a rundown of 22 things wrong with the Senate immigration bill. As I think I've said before, I'm something of a moderate on immigration issues, but Hawkins does raise some good points. It's worth a read.
BASEBALL: Baseball's Best Pitching Teams
Following yesterday's look at the Tigers and how their team ERA stands head and shoulders above the American League, I thought I would take a look - as I did here and here with slugging and OBP - at the all-time great pitching teams in terms of team ERA compared to league ERA (bear in mind these figures do not include any adjustment for home park). I'm not suggesting that, before May is even over, we can project that the Tigers will end up in this group - the contrary is far more likely - but it should help give a sense of the rarefied air they are breathing right now. This list covers major league teams back to 1893, when the mound was moved to its present distance of 60'6".
Three other teams came in at 30% or better - the 1915 Chicago team in the Federal League, the Spahn-led 1953 Milwaukee Braves, and the 1998 Braves. Among the teams just missing the 30% bar were the 1927 Yankees, but they have enough distinctions. I left off the pre-1893 teams because one pitcher could have an outsize influence - George "Grin" Bradley's 1876 St. Louis Cardinals and Old Hoss Radbourn's 1884 Providence Grays both bested the league ERA by more than 80%.
Most of these teams are familiar and unsurprising, some (like the 1912 Giants and 1939 Yankees) are perhaps better known for their superior hitting, some are obscure (the 1919 Cubs had Grover Alexander and Hippo Vaughn; more on that team here, and more on the 1960s White Sox here), and some surprising, like the 1954 Giants and the 1926 A's and perhaps most of all, the 2003 Dodgers, with a rotation including Kaz Ishii, Hideo Nomo, Odalis Perez and a cast of spot starters behind Kevin Brown.
Naturally, the Tinker-Evers-Chance/Three Finger Brown Cubs dominate this list, and Bobby Cox's Braves make a few entries. Interestingly, some of these teams (the 1939 Yankees and 1966 Dodgers in particular) fit a pattern - several straight years of being 15-25% above the league and then a sudden step up with largely the same personnel both in the pitching staff and the defense. Besides random chance and the ability of established staffs to fill their remaining holes, one wonders if a stable relationship between the pitchers and the fielders led to improvements over time.
May 29, 2006
BASEBALL: Big Cats
The 35-15 Detroit Tigers have been baseball's biggest surprise team thus far, burying the more highly-regarded Indians and Twins in a double-digit early hole and even outdistancing the Thome-powered White Sox.
Globally, Jim Leyland of course deserves credit for finally lighting a fire under this long-dormant predator. But how are they doing it? The first and obvious answer would seem to be: pitching. The American League as a whole has an unsightly 4.75 league ERA, which if continued over a full season would be its highest since 2000, and 7th highest of all time:
(Hey, somebody check that DiMaggio kid for steroids!)
Anyway, even in this most inhospitable climate, Tigers pitchers are posting a sparkling 3.36 ERA, running away from the #2 White Sox at 4.13 and the #3 & 4 Yankees and Red Sox at 4.28 and 4.47. But while Detroit has some good young or young-ish arms like Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya, the fact is that most of them are overachieving the ERAs they should have based on their K/BB and HR rates, with the significant exception of Bonderman. Look at the K/9 figures for the rotation: Bonderman's at 7.57, but he's the only one striking out a significant number of batters; the others are at 5.73 for Nate Robertson, 5.24 for Verlander, 4.41 for Kenny Rogers, and 4.12 for Mike Maroth (although they do throw strikes - Robertson's at 3.47 BB/9, but the others are all down between 2.14 and 2.81).
The real answer is defense: both the Hardball Times and the Baseball Prospectus have Detroit rated above the Cardinals as the best defensive team in baseball this season in terms of turning balls in play into outs. As Bill James used to say, "much of what we perceive as pitching is in fact defense." Then again, give the Detroit staff credit for throwing enough strikes to let the fielders do their jobs.
There's also POWER. The Tigers' .336 team OBP is a bit below the league average of .339 (Curtis Granderson's doing his bit and is on pace for 87 walks, but nobody else is on pace to draw 70), but they are slugging .474 as a team; as I discussed here, the all time record is .491 by the 2003 Red Sox, followed by .489 for the 1927 Yankees (the 1953 Dodgers slugged .474). Given the .431 mark for the AL as a whole, that slugging average isn't of historic proportions (in fact, the Blue Jays lead the league at .490) and isn't as impressive as the team's ERA, but it's enough to put plenty of runs on the board even in the absence of a surfeit of baserunners. Detroit has mainly done this with 1977 Red Sox-style depth and Chris Shelton's hot start (Shelton's now at .603 and the rejuvenated Magglio Ordonez, who may earn his big contract if he can stay healthy all this year, at .571, while Marcus Thames steams along at his Toledo pace at .707. But like I said: the bats may be carrying their weight, but it's the gloves that are making the difference.
BLOG: No Comments
Yes, I'm moved now and gradually getting unpacked. And yes, I'm aware that the comments function is busted at the moment, but as of yet I have no clue how to fix it. Hope you're enjoying the holiday weekend as well as honoring our war dead who give Memorial Day its significance; hope to be back soon.
May 24, 2006
BLOG: Moving Day
We're moving tomorrow, so the blog should be quiet at least the next two days.
POLITICS: The Stupid Party
House Republicans, apparently determined to hand the Democrats a majority, have decided to circle the wagons around a corrupt Democrat; see here for the tip of the iceberg of RedState's comprehensive coverage of this idiocy.
Handed a golden opportunity to fight corruption and score political points at the same time, Speaker Hastert instead basically recorded a Democratic campaign commercial - on behalf of a corrupt Democrat! He has acted like a Congressman first, a Republican second, and a defender of honest government and the rule of law not at all. This is one of the poorest examples of political judgment I have ever seen.
You know, I've been as big a critic as anyone of the tendency to declare political obituaries over 1-week news stories; how many times, for example, have we read that thus-and-so will be the end of John McCain or Hillary Clinton? But this Hastert/Jefferson thing has just about broken the back of my remaining optimism about the 2006 elections. It's appalling to see the GOP concocting bogus legal privileges to stonewall an investigation, and doubly so to see it done on behalf of a Democrat, in a situation where there could not possibly be less to gain. It is impossible to watch the GOP leadership's behavior here and have any faith that the relevant decisionmakers have any political instincts at all.
BASEBALL: El Duque de Flushing
Mets trade the expensive, expendable and unreliable Jorge Julio to the Diamondbacks for Orlando Hernandez. El Duque has a 2.65 ERA this year on the road and has struck out 10.25 batters per 9 innings this season, but an 8.16 ERA in home games in hitter-friendly Arizona made him available. I love this deal; Hernandez may not be the most reliable or durable starter, but he came cheap, he's still got good stuff, he's a proven big-game guy, and he can probably be a useful mentor to his countryman Alay Soler.
BASEBALL: On A Roll
Every year, it seems, there's some impatient young hitter who comes hot out of the gate and, instead of cooling off, just keeps getting hotter all summer. This year's model is the Mariners' 22-year-old second baseman, Jose Lopez. Lopez was overmatched at the plate the past two years, batting .239/.373/.272 in 397 at bats, but at his age dramatic improvements are as much the rule as the exception (and he had smacked 32 doubles in those 397 at bats, a good indicator of power potential for a guy that young). Lopez is currently batting .302 and slugging .516, and is on pace for 34 doubles, 17 triples, 24 HR and 131 RBI (while batting second). Yet, his command of the strike zone remains appalling: at this pace he will finish with 17 walks to 86 whiffs. Eventually, that will catch up to him, but it's possible that - like Alfonso Soriano's second season with the Yankees - it won't be this year. If not, enjoy the show.
BASEBALL: Ryan Madson Memorial Open Thread
Really, you can't ask more from a guy than 7 shutout innings of sudden-death relief. But the Phillies asked for one more, and the poor guy gets saddled with the loss.
You also can't very well play more games this dramatic in the season's first two months than the Mets have. Man, have we been treated to some great baseball.
UPDATE: Madson now has a career ERA of 8.16 as a starter, 2.97 as a reliever. I don't suppose he'll ever return to the rotation. Meanwhile, David Pinto notes that the hits keep on coming for the depleted Phillies pitching staff, as Cole Hamels is scratched from today's start in favor of Jon Lieber. Either way, given the state of the two teams' bullpens, Lieber and Alay Soler are both going 6 innings today if it kills them.
May 23, 2006
BASEBALL: Felix Infelicitis
Despite extravagant predictions from some quarters that he would take the AL by storm as Dwight Gooden and Vida Blue did in years gone by, Felix Hernandez has struggled badly, to the tune of a 5.84 ERA. How bad has he really been? The Hardball Times' pitching stats offer a closer look. Hernandez' K numbers have been fine (9.31 K/9), but his walks have been higher than you'd like (3.83 BB/9). He's allowed a ton of homers (1.64 HR/9). His groundball/flyball ratio is good, though not on Lowe/Webb levels, 58.4%, so where are all the homers coming from? 29.2% of his flyballs have left the park, 6 points higher than the next worst in the majors (Brad Radke). Granted, that could partly be a rookie serving too many meatballs, but if he keeps throwing that many grounders, the HR rate will fall. As for balls in play, Hernandez hasn't allowed a particularly high number of line drives, but his defensive support has been appalling, at .646 one of the lowest rates of balls in play turned into outs of any major league pitcher.
Conclusion: yes, Hernandez is struggling with rookie mistakes and control troubles. But all signs still point to a guy who will be a star sooner or later. As long as you didn't overinvest your hopes in young pitcher skipping his growing pains, there's no cause for alarm.
BASEBALL: The New Express
You know, I'm not ready to conclude that Billy Wagner was a bad signing for the Mets, who needed a better closer than Braden Looper. But as I argued last fall, it's now clear that BJ Ryan was a better signing.
POLITICS: Dean 1, Drudge 0
In the face of the DNC's denials of Matt Drudge's story on Howard Dean supporting Ray Nagin's opponent in the New Orleans mayoral race, Drudge says cryptically that "[t]he DRUDGE REPORT takes chairman Dean and his spokesman at their word." Which is a frustrating response, since if Drudge thought he had good sources and has since decided to retract the story, he should say so, and if he never had sources he had faith in, he shouldn't have run the item. But then, Drudge's record on retractions hasn't been terribly consistent, despite the obvious fact that he's had to do a number of them.
KATRINA: What Went Right
Official estimates at this point suggest the [National] Guard, working from the Dome, saved 17,000 by air and uncounted thousands more by boat.
Except for the Coast Guard's brilliant performance, which saved up to 30,000 lives, most of the rescue operation was run by local National Guard middle management, combat tested in Iraq, accustomed to hardship, and intimately familiar with the city. (In fact, as I previously reported, Guard members rescued other Guard members, who then reported for flight duty.)
Gov. Blanco, facing the voters in 2008, is eagerly, and with justification, claiming some of the credit for the rescue operation. "When all the stories are told," Gov. Blanco is quoted as saying, "the story is going to be that Louisianans were saved by Louisianans." Understandable, but a little bit of a stretch, as it conveniently leaves out the federal contribution, namely the Coast Guard, the regular armed forces and Guard units from other states, as well as the key coordinating role the National Guard Bureau played.
I still think this account is too easy on Blanco and Nagin for not conducting a more thorough evacuation, although even on that score, reports after the fact have stressed that many more people were evacuated successfully than it first appeared. Overall, though, Dolinar makes yet another compelling case that the people responsible for first response accomplished the best you could ask of them, and - more to the point - they, not people in Washington or Baton Rouge, were the ones who were really responsible for handling the crisis. Read the whole thing. Unfortunately, as usual, the Bush White House is only facing forward while it bleeds profusely from shots to the back over the past, instead of setting the record straight.
BASEBALL: Odd Stat of the Day
Justin Verlander has yet to have a no-decision in his first 11 major league starts. I wonder who was the last pitcher to get through that many starts at the beginning of a career without a no-decision - in fact, these days, a double-figure string of starts without a no-decision is a rarity in itself.
A quick breakdown of homers by age:
One thing you can see is that Bonds picked up a 45-homer advantage - and Aaron, a 90-homer advantage - before age 24, when Ruth became a full-time outfielder. Of course, by then Ruth had an 80-41 record and a 2.09 ERA as a starting pitcher, was 3-0 with an 0.87 ERA in the World Series, and had won three World Championships. Even so, if you look on the age charts, Bonds doesn't even appear in the top 10 in homers through age 35 (Ruth is second, Aaron third, Mays fourth - Sammy Sosa is first and Ken Griffey jr. is fifth).
Anyway, there really isn't much point in baseball making any fuss over 714 or 715. Bonds still won't be the all-time home run king, at 715 he will still be 18 homers from the National League record, and he still isn't a better player than Babe Ruth.
BASEBALL: The Parachute's Not Opening
The (predictable) struggles of Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzales, contrasted with the near-juggernaut the Mets have been thus far when they start their real starters, made me think back to two Mets teams I remember well that had much the same problem: the 1987 and 2000 Mets. Let's compare how each team fared when starting their emergency starters vs. the main rotation - I've included not just W-L and runs scored and allowed per game but also the team's "Pythagorean" record with each set of starters:
The 1987 team was particularly frustrating (the frustration still burns today): this was the defending world champs, and they had seven top-notch starters - behind the front five of Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Sid Fernandez, and Rick Aguilera, they had the rookie David Cone and my all-time favorite Met, Terry Leach, who started 12 games and went 7-1 with a 3.51 ERA as a starter. As you can see, when one of those guys started, the Mets played at a 95-win clip, the same as the division champion Cardinals. But Gooden missed two months in drug rehab, and the others had a series of injuries - Ojeda and Aguilera missed months with arm trouble, Leach had knee problems, Sid wrenched his knee running out a triple, Cone had a finger crushed when he was hit on the hand while bunting, Darling tore up his thumb fielding a Vince Coleman bunt that broke up a no-hitter. In their stead, the Mets gave 19 starts to the resolutely mediocre John Mitchell, and 10 more to a combination of short reliever Jeff Innis, a washed-up John Candelaria, and hopeless cases Don Schulze and Tom Edens. The results were predictably disappointing.
The 2000 team was more a matter, like the current team, of just falling off a cliff after the 5-man rotation. The starters included two aces (Al Leiter and Mike Hampton), two reasonably dependable pitchers (Rick Reed and Glendon Rusch), and the by-then unpredictable Bobby J. Jones (the white, righthanded one), who went 11-6 despite a 5.06 ERA but ended up throwing a 1-hit shutout in the NLDS to eliminate the team with the best record in the National League, Barry Bonds' Giants (Bonds went 0-4 with two whiffs). But beyond there be dragons: Pat Mahomes was an occasionally effective reliever that year, but hideous in five starts, and the other emergency starters - Dennis Springer, Bill Pulsipher, Grant Roberts, and Bobby M Jones (the black, lefthanded one) all got shelled whenever they appeared, albeit not often enough to keep the Mets from the Wild Card.
This year thus far looks like 2000 - even including Victor Zambrano, the front five (featuring Pedro, Glavine, Trachsel and Brian Bannister) has kept the team playing at a 105-win clip, but Jose Lima, Jeremi Gonzalez and John Maine have offered nothing but grief. (I'm not totally down on Maine, but he's clearly not a great option). Lima is gone now, replaced tomorrow night by Cuban defector Alay Soler, who's been tearing up AA. Mike Pelfrey is probably not far behind as a replacement for Gonzalez, and Bannister is expected back soon. Let's hope that's as far down the depth chart as these Mets have to go again.
May 22, 2006
BASEBALL: Less Than 20
Mike Mussina's revival this year could give a shot in the arm to his Hall of Fame candidacy. A fuller assessment of where Mussina stands should await another day (see here for some perspective on his path to 300 wins), but my older brother pointed out something that I should have considered before: Mussina's never won 20 games. As it turns out, there are no starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame who have never had a 20-win season, and none of the active guys who would come up with Mussina (Clemens, Johnson, Maddux, Pedro, Glavine, Schilling) have the same problem, nor do Tommy John (3 20-win seasons), Bert Blyleven (1), Jim Kaat (3), Jack Morris (3) or Luis Tiant (4). The lowest totals of 20-win seasons by starting pitchers in the Hall:
One: Jim Bunning, Don Sutton, and if you count him Dennis Eckersley. Sutton, of course, won 324 games, and Bunning was a bad selection.
Two: Chief Bender, Don Drysdale, Whitey Ford, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Nolan Ryan. Ryan likewise won 324 games, Ford had amazing winning percentages, lost two years to military service and was held back by Casey Stengel's eccentric concept of a starting rotation, and Hoyt, Pennock and probably Drysdale and Bender were bad selections. Bender and Pennock at least were like Mussina in having very good winning percentages, but not in Ford's class. Babe Ruth also won 20 twice, but is, of course, not in as a pitcher.
Three: Jesse Haines, Sandy Koufax, Ted Lyons, Rube Marquard, Phil Niekro, Dazzy Vance. Again, a mix of bad picks, 300+ winners, and guys who had something else unusually impressive on their resume. John Ward also won twenty three times but is partly in as a shortstop and other things.
WAR: How Dare They Succeed?
So, a number of war supporters predicted that things would turn out well for Iraq in terms of its development into a functioning democracy after the traumatic decades-long reign of Saddam Hussein. Lo and behold, yet another milestone has been passed in that process. You would think that would make the optimists look good. But to some people, predicting success and then achieving success is proof of failure. Up is down.
POLITICS: The Black Sheep of the Democratic Party?
So, New Orleans has re-elected Ray Nagin, defeating fellow Democrat Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco's #2, the brother of Louisiana's senior senator, Mary Landrieu, and son of former New Orleans Mayor and Carter-era HUD Secretary Moon Landrieu. There are many things to be said about this race, and what it says about New Orleans' voters and Louisiana's byzantine politics after Hurricane Katrina and the relative standing of Nagin, Blanco and Mary Landrieu. For example, Paul at Wizbang - who knows New Orleans first hand - says that a Nagin victory spells doom for Mary Landrieu's hold on her Senate seat in 2008.
What's interesting tonight is that Matt Drudge is reporting that the Democratic National Committee worked behind the scenes against Nagin. (Paul's response: "Duh!"). This being Drudge, one can never be 100% certain, and of course Howard Dean is hardly going to publicly admit that he not only tried to run a Democratic incumbent out of office, but failed miserably in the attempt.
Why did Dean try to unseat Nagin? If you buy Paul's logic that this is bad news for the national Democrats because Landrieu wanted to rebuild New Orleans' slums and a Nagin-led New Orleans may not be as friendly turf for statewide and national Democrats who need it to have a chance in Louisiana, then the partisan logic is clear. Moreover, Nagin is a former Republican who endorsed Bush in 2000, and DNC loyalists may have felt he was an unreliable party man.
Or, perhaps the pull of family and the DC social circuit was a factor here: Landrieu's father and sister both served in Washington, and nobody in Ray Nagin's family has those kind of ties with the DNC old-boy network. Which brings us to why this could be really embarrassing if (hypothetically, of course) other news sources actually looked into this, and if they then discovered that the DNC did what Drudge said they did. Because, you see, Ray Nagin is black, and Mitch Landrieu is white. White like nearly everyone in Howard Dean's administrations in Vermont. White like Howard Dean's senior campaign advisers - and most of his supporters in 2004. And even forget Dean: imagine if the national GOP backed a member of a prominent Republican family against an African-American incumbent Republican elected official. We would never hear the end of it. It would be Selma, Alabama all over again. (Heck, some Democrats still complain that Republicans are racist for supporting George W. Bush over John McCain, who is roughly the color of Elmer's glue, in the South Carolina primary in 2000). And let's not ask how many Maryland Democrats are supporting Ben Cardin over Kweisi Mfume, when Maryland has never elected an African-American Democrat to statewide office.
Like I said: it's Drudge, and Drudge isn't always right. Further investigation is in order. But will the national media dig into this story and ask Howard Dean what Ray Nagin did to become the black sheep of the Democratic party?
UPDATE: The Raw Story (sorry, no permalink) says that, unsurprisingly, the DNC is denying any involvement. There are also rumblings about consulting lawyers, but if the Democratic Party files a lawsuit that opens up discovery of its activities in a Louisiana election, I'll eat my hat.
May 20, 2006
BASEBALL: Enter Sand-Bag-Man
Well, Wagner was even worse today than Rivera yesterday, so maybe this whole "Sandman" thing is jinxing them both . . . frankly, Willie left Wagner in at least one if not two batters two long - there was no need to let him load the bases, then walk in a run, then bean in another run; if they'd lifted Wagner when it was 4-2 and Bernie was coming up, they might have got out of that inning alive. What a horror show. So the Mets win with Jeremi Gonzalez coughing up six runs in three innings, and lose with Pedro tossing seven innings of shutout ball.
May 19, 2006
BASEBALL: Mets-Yankees 5/19/06
Well, the Mets trailed the Hated Yankees 4-3 after the first inning. The question is who should be more depressed: Mets fans watching Jeremi Gonzalez get trotted out and predictably get shelled, or the Yankees watching their #1 starter, Randy Johnson, yet again get lit up, on a day when the Yankes get news that Carl Pavano needs elbow surgery and is likely done attempting to pitch this season.
UPDATE: 5-5 in the third after Xavier Nady takes Johnson deep. Nady was nine years old when Johnson broke in. I've been a big believer in the Big Unit remaining effective with the Yanks, but I'm starting to think he's had it.
May 18, 2006
POLITICS: Hey! Kool-Aid!
While we're on a theme here, just go now and watch Markos from Daily Kos make his TV advertising debut in a jarringly cheesy ad for Connecticut Senate candidate Ned Lamont, who's challenging Joe Lieberman. The effect is much the same as if in 1998 a Republican candidate had put Matt Drudge in a TV commercial.
LAW: Milberg Weiss Indicted
WSJ Law Blog has the scoop and a link to the indictment of the prominent securities class-action plaintiffs' firm and two of its name partners, David Bershad and Steven Schulman, for making illegal kickback payments to class representatives. Bloomberg has more, such as the detail that
The firm obtained the money in a manner to make the payments difficult to trace, including from casinos, prosecutors said in the indictment. The money was kept in a safe located in a "credenza in Bershad's office at Milberg Weiss, to which access was strictly limited."
UPDATE: Yes, this officially makes it schadenfreude day here at Baseballcrank.com. What, you'd rather talk about Jose Lima?
BASKETBALL: He Can't Suffer Enough
If you haven't already, you must read this article in yesterday's NY Daily News, polling former CBA colleagues of Isiah Thomas about his current situation with the Knicks; to say these guys are experiencing schadnefreude is like saying Bill Gates makes a decent living.
May 16, 2006
BASEBALL: Zambrano's End?
Looks like Victor Zambrano's injury could be career-threatening, as his surgery ended up being more extensive than anticipated. I wish Zambrano well, and far from New York and the memories of the Kazmir deal. Still, if this is curtains for Zambrano, let's remember the good stuff: leaving Tampa Bay as the Devil Rays' winningest pitcher, posting a 3.55 ERA in his first 20 starts as a Met, including a 10-start string as one of the most effective starters in the game, and his status as one of baseball's toughest starters to take deep. Zambrano never did have the consistency he needed to be successful, and in retrospect maybe his arm was hurting him much of last year. But it was never his fault who he was traded for.
I concluded last month, after reading his interview with John Hawkins, that Arkansas Governor and potential 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee sounded more like a Clinton/Lieberman/New Republic-style "New Democrat" than like a Republican. This interview doesn't exactly dispel that impression.
BLOG: Quick Links 5/16/06
*Some days, the bear eats you.
*Laurence Tribe pens an op-ed for the Boston Globe entitled "Bush stomps on Fourth Amendment". (Via Bashman). You have to wait until the third paragraph to discover that the "stomping" in question is permitted by a 1979 Supreme Court decision, and that Prof. Tribe's argument is really that the Supreme Court should overrule its prior precedent, not that Bush is somehow flouting the law and the courts.
*Baseball Prospectus finally has HACKING MASS standings up. My team is currently ranked #21 out of 1,427. And BP's Kevin Goldstein is souring on Andy Marte.
*Today's Day by Day is pretty amusing.
*A devil's theory of J. Michael Luttig: There's been a lot of ink and pixels spilled debating why Fourth Circuit judge and Supreme Cout short-lister J. Michael Luttig decided to leave his life-tenured job to become General Counsel at Boeing. The decision became doubly interesting with the announcement (detailed on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal) that Boeing has reached a tentative settlement of criminal charges with the Department of Justice.
As is often true of these things, the answer is probably a bunch of reasons. Clearly, Judge Luttig will make more money at his new job, likely multiples of his $171,000 salary as a federal appellate judge, and his kids are reaching college age. Other proffered explanations - Judge Luttig didn't really love the solitary life of an appellate judge, he was frustrated by his clashes with the Bush Administration over the Jose Padilla case, he figured out that after Roberts and Alito the next Bush SCOTUS nominee couldn't be another white male and would likely not be the #1 guy on conservative wish lists, etc. - may also have much truth to them.
But here's another thing: Judge Luttig is young enough, at 51, to bide his time a bit. Boeing is heavily regulated by a Senate committee chaired by John McCain, who has been a critic of the company, and the new GC will have as part of his job the task of mollifying Senator McCain. Which will mean working with him personally. And McCain, of course, if elected president, will need to appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court to keep the restive GOP base happy. Perhaps you see where I'm going with this: I think it is at least plausible that Judge Luttig, understanding the ways of Washington, considered among the factors in his decision that getting to know John McCain would be a surer path to the Supreme Court than continuing to write Fourth Circuit opinions.
May 15, 2006
BASEBALL: Snelling Salts
It's a small step, but Mariners fans have to be happy to see perennially injured prospect Chris Snelling playing again at AAA; all indications are that Snelling, who is pretty clearly a major league hitter and - when fully mobile - can play center field, will be up in the majors with a shot at some significant playing time in Seattle's offense-starved lineup once he's had some time to shake off the rust:
Snelling's rehab stint can last up to 30 days before the Mariners have to decide what to do with him. He could join the parent club, or with a final club option he could stay in Tacoma.
May 12, 2006
BASEBALL: No Sheffield, No Matsui
Hideki Matsui joins Gary Sheffield on the DL with a shattered wrist, probably for several months and perhaps for the year. As I noted before the season, the Yankees tried to stem their twin vulnerabilities in the everyday lineup - age and a lack of depth - by loading up on guys who have been insanely durable over the years (Matsui, Sheffield, Damon, Jeter, A-Rod, and - by catcher standards - Posada). But age and freak accidents can spoil that. Now the Yanks have Melky Cabrera and Bubba Crosby holding down outfield corners and a washed-up Bernie as DH. With Randy Johnson shaky and Carl Pavano still out, the Yanks need a powerhouse offense to win; they may not now have one.
May 11, 2006
BLOG: Run Away!
Know when to wheel away, know when to run.
POLITICS: Fortunate in Our Adversaries
Bush's approval ratings may be low, but they're still higher than those for Kerry and Gore. Via Kaus.
May 10, 2006
BASEBALL: The Mets' Rotation
Always Amazin' and MetsGeek both had good roundups Monday of the possibilities for filling the holes in the Mets' rotation left by the injury to Victor Zambrano as well as the short-term injuries to Brian Bannister and John Maine. I had meant to do a longer roundup myself, but life has been intervening lately. Quick thoughts:
*Clearly, Lima Time is not even a short-term answer; Sunday's debacle wasn't entirely Lima's fault, but he's just not a credible major league starter anymore.
*Personally, I favor putting Heilman permanently into the rotation and calling up Heath Bell to shore up the bullpen. So far this season, Bell has a 1.35 ERA and 5 saves at Norfolk, with a 20/3 K/BB ratio and no homers allowed in 13.1 innings. UPDATE: Busy as I am, I missed that the Mets have indeed called up Bell.
*Odalis Perez makes me nervous; I've been a fan in the past, but in 2005-06 he's been beaten up pretty bad.
*Mike Pelfrey seems like he'll be ready quickly, although he's probably not going to be highly effective at the major league level just yet; his numbers between A and AA are very encouraging but not yet quite dominating when you account for the level of competition - 2.56 ERA, 38.2 IP, 40 Hits, 1 HR, 7 BB, 47 K. That says "future star" but it doesn't say "ready to take the NL by storm"; the real question is, does it say "ready to at least equal Victor Zambrano"? I'd guess yes, so if the scouts are agreed, the Mets shouldn't hesitate to bring him to the majors. But I'd be much more hesitant to use him as a starter, as opposed to breaking him in as a reliever - less out of concern for his productivity and more because most guys, in their first year of professional ball, don't have much more than maybe 120 good innings in them. Not only don't you want him hurt, you don't want him running out of gas when you need him most. A bullpen built around Wagner-Sanchez-Bell-Pelfrey-Bradford sounds good to me.
May 8, 2006
WAR: The View From The Other Side
It takes two sides to have a war; unfortunately, once started, it takes two sides to stop one. The Bush Administration and our military planners have been criticized, and not always unfairly, for planning the Iraq War and justifying it to the public without consideration of the enemy's strategies, in particular Saddam's careful pre-war preparations for a guerilla insurgency to be led by Ba'athists and by foreign Al Qaeda fighters under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. As streiff notes, even when proper care is taken to anticipate such moves, the American press and public tend to be unforgiving of the impossibility of projecting how things will develop when the enemy puts its own plans into action:
[W]e demand that our wars, like our commercial projects, arrive on time, under budget, and meeting specs. We ignore the advice proffered by von Moltke, "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy" or as rendered into American English by Gen. Tommy Franks, "The enemy gets a vote."
All of which is to say, in assessing both our progress in this war and how close we are to accomplishing our objectives, we need to step back sometimes and see how things look from the other side. As it happens, CENTCOM released today English translations of documents captured from Zarqawi's Al Qaeda-in-Iraq ("AQIZ") that were captured in an April 16 raid. Coming on the heels of Gen. Barry McCaffery's assessment (see here and here) of the war from the US perspective, it's interesting to see almost a complete mirror image of the strengths and weaknesses of the other side and the lessons we can draw therefrom in determining how to sufficiently demoralize the enemy to bring about a decision by the other side to throw in the towel and move its resources elsewhere:
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Most of the mujahidin power lies in surprise attacks (hit and run) or setting up explosive charges and booby traps. This is a different matter than a battle with organized forces that possess machinery and suitable communications networks. Thus, what is fixed in the minds of the Shiite and Sunni population is that the Shiites are stronger in Baghdad and closer to controlling it while the mujahidin (who represent the backbone of the Sunni people) are not considered more than a daily annoyance to the Shiite government. The only power the mujahidin have is what they have already demonstrated in hunting down drifted patrols and taking sniper shots at those patrol members who stray far from their patrols, or planting booby traps among the citizens and hiding among them in the hope that the explosions will injure an American or members of the government. In other words, these activities could be understood as hitting the scared and the hiding ones, which is an image that requires a concerted effort to change, as well as Allah's wisdom.
In other words, AQIZ looks weak and knows it. But is there a war plan in place to change this?
There is a clear absence of organization among the groups of the brothers in Baghdad, whether at the leadership level in Baghdad, the brigade leaders, or their groups therein. Coordination among them is very difficult, which appears clearly when the group undertake a join operations.
So, if their capabilities are limited and their organization is dysfunctional, what do they have going for them?
The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. Other word, the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them. This policy dragged us to the type of operations that are attracted to the media, and we go to the streets from time to time for more possible noisy operations which follow the same direction.
This is such an obvious point that it's amazing it needs to be repeated: the United States can only be defeated by bad press. Which is, I should add, why I loved the recent effort to mock Zarqawi for fumbling with a machine gun - not every tactic used in domestic electoral politics can be seamlessly transferred to the theater of war, but the Zarqawi video was exactly the sort of tactic Karl Rove used to great effect against Al Gore and John Kerry, mocking them as poseurs for, among other things, their hunting photo-ops. So what does the enemy think of our strategy?
At the same time, the Americans and the [Iraqi] Government were able to absorb our painful blows, sustain them, compensate their losses with new replacements, and follow strategic plans which allowed them in the past few years to take control of Baghdad as well as other areas one after the other. That is why every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin's control and influence over Baghdad.
In May 2003, we had won - but the enemy hadn't lost, and so the war continued. Today, maybe it's hard to see victory - but if the other side sees defeat, then defeated it will be.
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BLOG: She's Back
I hadn't noticed - I'd finally stopped checking - until Instapundit mentioned it today, but Michele Catalano is back; this essay is pretty much vintage Michele. Welcome back.
BASEBALL: WBC KO
Nate Silver has a must-read column - for Baseball Prospectus subscribers only - on pitchers who pitched in the World Baseball Classic, the bottom line of which is a collective underperformance thus far that's especially pronounced among the starting pitchers. And that's before you count the injuries, the latest of which was Victor Zambrano's elbow. The unanswerable question is whether the pattern will persist all year.
May 6, 2006
BASEBALL: Rally Caps!
I had meant to mention this in my roundup of Friday night's game, but Always Amazin' beats me with a picture of Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen donning rally caps in the broadcast booth in the 13th inning (strangely, Roger McDowell made no effort to do the same down in the Braves' dugout. But I'm still waiting for him to give Bobby Cox a hotfoot.)
WAR: Forked Tongue
Amir Taheri parses a NY Times op-ed by Iran's UN ambassador to observe the ways in which the Iranian regime's diplomats present a deceptive face to the West:
Taqqiyyah, a Shiite theological term, advises the individual and the community not only to hide their true beliefs but even to profess the opposite where this is to their advantage. Kitman, a politico-theological terms, means never revealing one's true intentions, especially when dealing-with non-Shiites and "the Infidel".
The ambassador, remembering his Majlesi, started by editing his own name, which is Muhammad-Jawad Zarif, by dropping the Muhammad bit which, so he must have thought, sounds threatening to American readers. Next he described himself as Iran's Ambassador, not the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic as mentioned in his official diplomatic credentials. He made only one reference to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, describing him as "leader", and ignoring his titles of "Supreme Guide" and "Regent of the Hidden Imam."
Dishonest propaganda and doublespeaking diplomats are, of course, hardly innovations in international affairs, but it's another reminder nonetheless of the value of blandishments offered by the Iranian regime and its apologists.
BASEBALL: One For The Ages
Tonight's Mets victory - 8-7 over the Braves in 14 innings, opening an 8-game lead over Atlanta - is one of the all-time classics. The Mets rallied from behind four separate times to tie the game, including down 4 runs in the seventh and trailing in the 11th, the latter on a monster home run by Cliff Floyd, the bright spot on a night when the struggling Floyd stranded two men in the 3d and the 8th and stranded the bases loaded in the 13th. Even Jorge Julio got in the act, getting out of a jam in the 14th after Chipper Jones singled to lead off. David Wright - who ended the game by driving in Carlos Beltran with a drive to the wall in left center - and Jose Reyes each reached base safely six times in the game, Reyes getting walked intentionally after starting the game 5-for-5. Beltran's advance to second on a passed ball in the 14th reminded me of Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS, which I recently re-watched part of on DVD; I'd forgotten in that game how many pitches got away from an exhausted Alan Ashby in the late innings.
Yet again, as they have done repeatedly this year, the Mets won precisely the kind of game a championship team wins. They now stand 20-9, and if they remain healthy there's no reason this team can't win the National League pennant.
May 5, 2006
BASEBALL: Is Darren Oliver For Real?
Darren Oliver's ERAs from 1998 through 2004 (he didn't pitch in the majors in 2005): 5.73, 4.26, 7.42, 6.02, 4.66, 5.04, 5.94. Oliver has proven, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he is a bad major league pitcher; this is a fact as well-established as the fact that Albert Pujols is a good major league hitter.
Or is it?
Now, I've been relentlessly critical of the Mets for employing Oliver, but he has pitched quite well thus far this season in relief, which leads me to wonder: is it possible that the Mets are on to something? Noticing some patterns in his numbers, I decided to dig up Oliver's career stats just as a reliever. What I got here, here and here was interesting.
You see, Oliver pitched fairly well, mainly in relief, in 1993 and 1994 at the start of his career. Early in 1995, struggling in the bullpen, Oliver got moved to the rotation and ran off a few respectable starts. After that, he was used exclusively as a starter from 1996 through 2001, with severely diminishing returns. Let's break out his career numbers in relief, in three parts:
Now, even when you take out that disastrous stretch in April-May of 1995, those still aren't earth-shakingly good numbers, with 4.5 walks/9 IP being a particular concern, although the ratio since 2002 has been better than that (2.96 BB/9 and a 2:1 K/BB ratio). But the point is, Oliver over the course of his career has been merely a mediocre reliever, as compared to a really horrible starting pitcher. I'm still deeply skeptical of him (I'd rather have Royce Ring in the lefty role), and will be even moreso if he gets thrown into the rotation at any point, but kudos at least to Minaya and Randolph for putting Oliver into the situation where he has at least a change of succeeding.
BLOG: Six Years and Counting
Although the blog didn't open until August 2002 and this site in its present form opened in April 2003, I count my real "blogoversary" as my first weekly column for Bill Simmons' old Boston Sports Guy site, which ran six years ago today, calling for baseball to change the rules to require relief pitchers to face at least three batters (go read the whole thing - I still stand by the proposal). The internet was but a pup then, and the word "blog" unheard-of. Somehow, I'm still going six years later, and while we all have our dry spells, unlike a lot of the burned-out bloggers out there I hardly feel like I'm running out of things to say (more often I come up with ideas too ambitious to get them done - right now I've got at least three long political pieces in draft form, one long statistical study yet to start, and a couple other baseball, politics and law columns I'd write now if I only had more time to write).
Anyway, thanks to everyone who has read, linked, commented, advertised or otherwise supported my writing these past six years.
POP CULTURE: "I'm Always Innocent"
It's nearly impossible to keep up with the steady stream of criminal activity by people associated with "The Sopranos," but this just cracked me up - Louis Gross, who just joined the cast as Tony's bodyguard (the one Tony picked a fight with to prove he was still top dog), has been arrested twice in recent months:
[Gross] was busted Sunday for allegedly bashing in the front door of a home in St. Albans in Queens, N.Y., and walking off with $2,700 in property.
He was busted on Feb. 3 for allegedly stealing a shirt from Michael K, a trendy SoHo men's shop, and then beating the store manager and a security guard when they confronted him, law enforcement sources said.
What I just loved was Gross' response:
"I don't know nothing. I'm innocent. I'm always innocent," he said last night. "They were personal items - they belonged to me," he added. "I had the right to take them."
I think I would not advise him to say that one in front of a jury.
May 4, 2006
POLITICS/LAW: Roe Below 50
POLITICS: The Real Eliot Spitzer
POP CULTURE: Han Shoots First, At Last
WAR: McCaffrey on Iraq
General Barry McCaffrey is - stop me if you've heard this one a lot lately - a retired general, a critic of Don Rumsfeld and a skeptic about the Iraq War. He also recently returned from his second trip to Iraq in as many years. Belmont Club has the story, and you may be surprised to hear what McCaffery thinks.
BASEBALL: Real, Actual, True Fact
Percentage of saves out of save opportunities (regular season) by the Mets' primary closer:
2000: 89% (Benitez)
If you take out his injury-plagued 2000, Wagner has averaged 3.7 blown saves per year since 1998 - against 35 saves a year, a 90% conversion rate - whereas he's blown 3 already this year. Granted, he's mostly pitched well, his blazing fastball hardly inspires Looper-ish levels of anxiety, and most importantly the Mets have bounce back to win two of the three games he's blown, lessening their impact. And granted, there's this. But he's going to have to do better than a 70% conversion rate or people are going to lose patience with him in a hurry.
WAR: Hitchens on Cole
I know Christopher Hitchens is no conservative, and I'm well aware of some of his more bizarre crusades, such as his hatred of, of all people, Mother Theresa. But stuff like this Slate column and this interview with Hugh Hewitt (the latter via RCP Blog), both demolishing the deplorable Juan Cole and his apologies for terrorism and tryanny, remind me again why I love reading him.
May 3, 2006
WAR: There He Goes Again
As I've noted before at exhaustive length (more here), Mark Kleiman seems to be addicted to the habit of demanding that conservative bloggers drop what they are doing and respond to him. Well, he's at it again, this time with a story that's at least two years old: Michael Scheuer's claim that the Bush Administration had Zarqawi and his terrorist camp in its sights in early 2002 and instead waited to deal with him as part of the broader invasion in 2003. Now, I don't know that Scheuer is the most credible source at this point, but assume for the sake of argument that he's right. President Bush is already on record, going back several years, with his skepticism of Bill Clinton's ineffectual pinprick strikes at bin Laden and his camps; it's certainly a sensible military decision to try to roll up the whole of the Iraqi problem at once with an invasion force, rather than lead off with partial and selective air strikes (this is, in fact, a continuing tactical problem in planning what we would do to Iran if it comes to that). Now, sure: in retrospect, we'd rather have gotten Zarqawi personally - not that he wouldn't have been replaced by someone else - but as usual with the Left's second-guessing of military tactics, there's no consideration here of the countervailing costs and benefits of the route not taken.
May 2, 2006
WAR: Soccer To 'Em
BASEBALL: Roto 2006
In general, there are few things less interesting to most people than hearing about someone else's fantasy baseball team, so feel free to skip over this post. But in the interests both of full disclosure and posterity, I annually review my Rotisserie draft here on the site. Let's start with the main roto team, drafted March 25 - AL league, traditional roto rules (4x4, 12 teams, $260 for 23 slots, 10 reserves):
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The offense on this team has been great so far, and even the slow starters like Dan Johnson are beginning to hit and Corey Patterson's speed has been a big factor lately. I always aspire to have a team full of guys who have regular jobs, and with Cintron subbing for Upton, everyone in the lineup either plays everyday or - in the case of Cintron and Bloomquist - plays regularly enough to contribute. The offense has kept me around the top 3-5 slots in the league the past few weeks, fifth today down from third yesterday. And Choi gives me some depth to weather the inevitable Thomas and/or Nevin injuries, plus Upton and - maybe - Alex Gordon could give me some upside later in the year. I got outbid for a few guys I wanted at 2B, which is how I got the Gruzz, but he should be respectable, at least.
The pitching staff is another story - I always seem to draft at least one key player who gets hurt between draft day and Opening Day, and this year it was Burnett who was complaining about a sore arm right away, followed by Sabathia going down on opening night. Then Riske went out. That meant I had no choice but to rely on my rotation's back end, though by now I've stuck Towers and Affeldt on reserve and cut Wright and Lohse in favor of free agents John Koronka and Jamie Walker. Basically, Lackey and Juan Cruz have been my only effective starters, and that will need to change if I'm going to stay in the hunt. Also, I overpaid for K-Rod, who ended up the draft's most expensive closer while other people snapped up the likes of Chris Ray and Jon Papelbon cheap; I think next year I'm going to avoid $30 closers.
As you will see, I didn't realize how enthused I was about Lackey and Granderson until I ended up with them on all three teams.
Next, we move on to team #2, a 10-team NL/AL head-to-head league, drafted automatically through Yahoo on March 30, 5x5 (Runs and K included) - I ended up with the first pick in this one:
I'm regretting taking A-Rod over Pujols, although I guess if I'd taken Pujols I might not have had room for Shelton. I was amazed at how low I was able to get Beltran and Peralta. Thus far, Shelton and Gomes have been my big bats along with A-Rod. Matsui is much underrated as a Roto player; the guy never takes a day off and always bats with men on base.
I've already tinkered with this team a good deal, dumping Uribe in favor of Ian Kinsler (who got hurt thereafter, so I added JJ Hardy while Kinsler is DL'd), Wilkerson in favor of Fernando Rodney and now Blanton in favor of Noah Lowry, who should be back next week. Team is presently in second place.
Normally I only do those two teams, but this year for fun I decided to take the same Yahoo pre-draft rankings and enter them in a public league, same rules except 12 teams and fewer non-pitching roster spots:
Unsurprisingly, this team looks a bit like the last one, but I was astounded by how strong my rotation was - Santana, Peavy, Zambrano, Hernandez and Lackey? - I guess the guys in this league just didn't rate starters that highly. Fat lot of good it's done me, given how badly they've all started besides Lackey. This one I've tinkered with quite a lot, cutting Hudson, Hermida, Uribe, Heilman, Wilkerson and most recently Iguchi (who is playing well but doesn't run as much as Weeks - I could regret that move) in favor of Rodney, Lowry, Coco Crisp, Hanley Ramirez, Nick Johnson, Orlando Cabrera and Brian McCann (I can't quite bring myself to cut Piazza, but I did finally bench him). Team currently stands in fourth place.
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May 1, 2006
BASEBALL: Pick Your Poison
So, if you think teams shouldn't pitch to Barry Bonds with the game on the line, why are they still pitching to David Ortiz with the game on the line?
(And, for that matter - if you think teams shouldn't pitch to Barry Bonds at all, why are they still pitching to Albert Pujols at all?)
BASEBALL: One of These Things Is Not Like The Others
HISTORY: 75 Years, 102 Stories
The Empire State Building today celebrates its 75th anniversary, having opened for business May 1, 1931. Super-skyscrapers and other monumental structures are traditionally built as symbols of prosperity and boom times - where else but America, where else but New York, would such a building be erected in the middle of a global depression?
Oh, and: they broke ground on the building January 22, 1930, finishing in less than a year and a half. And Ground Zero lies fallow.
BASEBALL: Thames and the Tyne
Through yesterday's action, Marcus Thames - subbing for the injured-again Dmitri Young - is batting .289/.632/.357, with 4 homers in 38 at bats. Those kind of slugging numbers are nothing new for the 29-year-old Thames - here are his totals at AAA and in the majors since 2004 (minor league stats via The Baseball Cube):
As to his numbers at Toledo - Wow. And remember, this is the International League, not the high-altitude Pacific Coast League. If you can slug .707 there in almost 500 at bats, even as a 28-year-old, you can hit. Unsurprisingly, Thames has carried that slugging to the majors, slugging close to .500, but it's his plate discipline that's been more lacking against major league pitchers. I'm not suggesting Thames would be a star if he got a longer big-league trial, but Dmitri Young has batted .270/.467/.327 over the same three-year period, and Young makes a lot more money than Thames does; I have little doubt that Thames could easily replace the production the Tigers are getting from Young.
More baseball notes from the weekend:
*Speaking of the Tigers, as I mentioned in my preseason preview, although they are off to a good start, they remain a better source of Rotisserie players than real baseball - they have seven guys on pace for between 577 and 629 at bats and between 156 and 194 hits. And four of their five starters have ERAs of 3.77 or lower, with the fifth at 5.04; Jim Leyland has clearly taken the old-manager tack of setting an ironclad rotation and lineup and sticking with it, and thus far it's working out well.
*Time to send Jorge Julio back to Norfolk, not that it wasn't three weeks ago; not only did Julio predictably implode when put into a 2-run game against Atlanta, he helped add to a great, confidence-building day for struggling Braves slugger Jeff Francouer. Until Julio can prove he can blow away AAA hitters, he has no business in the majors. As for the Mets, 2 out of 3 in Atlanta isn't bad, but the key is doing it again this weekend, after which they will see the Braves for only three games until September.
*The Yankees put on quite the show Saturday, scoring in each of the 8 innings they batted; I'm no expert on the code of ballplayers, but I have to think that Toronto wasn't thrilled with Johnny Damon taking an extra base (i.e., scrambling all the way from home to second) on a dropped infield popup in the 8th inning with a 16-6 lead. Joe Torre was properly impressed with Damon's hustle, but that's the kind of thing that sometimes rubs people the wrong way in a blowout.