Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
May 31, 2007
POP CULTURE: Treason

Jonathan Last has been pumping up the Harry Potter 7 speculation with posts discussing the possibility of an early-in-the-book death for Mrs. Weasley and speculation that Professor McGonagall is a double agent. I don't buy the latter at all - I don't think even a fictional character could be convicted in a court of law of treason on such flimsy evidence, most of which consists of (1) sour facial expressions and (2) questionable decisionmaking.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:37 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: This Is A New One On Me

Pud Galvin, steroid user?

To be frank, he wasn't even that good a pitcher except for the talent-diluted 1884 season (more here), but is in the Hall due to his exceptional durability. Galvin died at age 47 from "catarrh of the stomach."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:23 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Trivia Time, Single-Season Record-Holder Edition

Now that HostingMatters has fixed the comments, let's try a little trivia. Hard-core baseball fans know the single-season record holders for a variety of records - but in most cases, there is also a best-ever in the other league. Let's see how many of these you can guess. The ones listed below include some easy and some hard - a few of these formerly held the overall record - but most of these guys are either recently active or in Cooperstown, and none of them is hugely obscure.

Questions: The Single-Season League Records

Batting:

1. AL, Batting Average
2. NL, Doubles
3&4. AL, Triples (two players tied)
5. AL, Home Runs
6. AL, Runs
7. AL, RBI
8&9. NL, Hits (two players tied)
10. NL, Steals
11&12. NL, GIDP (two players tied)
13. NL, At Bats
14. AL, Strikeouts

Pitching

15. NL, ERA (Post-1893, so this doesn't include Tim Keefe in 102 innings in 1880)
16&17. NL, Saves
18. AL, Games
19. AL, Innings Pitched
20. NL, Strikeouts
21. AL, Shutouts

Scoring:

1-5: Softballs Only
6-9: Not embarrassed
10-14: Good showing
15-17: In the zone
18-21: En fuego

Answers below the fold

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:12 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
May 30, 2007
BASEBALL: Scott Boras Wants You To Like Him

Journalists love to write about baseball superagent Scott Boras. First, because fans generally hate him, it's a chance to flex their "let me tell you something you don't believe" muscles. Second, because front office people generally hate him, it's easy to get a steady stream of colorful quotes about what a malignant SOB he is. Third, because Boras talks non-stop, works very hard and is very good at what he does, a profile of him is never short on worshipful detail.

Thus, a lengthy recent profile in LA Weekly. Now, let's start with what is undeniably true about Boras: he is very, very good at squeezing the extra marginal dollar out of teams to pay for the players he represents. That's clearly in the best short-term interests of the player, and as Boras often points out, for many players the short term is most or all of their lifetime earning potential.

Boras' most significant accomplishment is his work in negotiating large deals for players in - and finding loopholes in - the amateur draft. This, too, is in the best short-term interests of his clients, a number of who then pull in the only big contract they will ever get. It also provides one arguable benefit to Major League Baseball - by driving up entry-level salaries, Boras helps make the sport more competitive in reaching young American players who might otherwise go into football or basketball, both of which generally require at least a year or two of unpaid apprenticeship in college but then offer the big bucks. (Then again, guys who have legitimate shots at the NBA or NFL have always had more leverage at draft time, even before Boras). That said, Boras' machinations have clearly undermined the entire purpose of the amateur draft, which is to level the playing field to benefit the poorer and weaker teams. Whatever that does for the players, and however indifferent the owners may be to the effects, it's bad for the fans.

Of course, some agents are content to live with the position that they represent the players' interests and need answer to nobody else. Not Boras: he wants you, the fan, to believe that he is good for baseball ("I look around the room and ask, 'As caretakers of the game, what have we accomplished?' . . . We should look at each other and say, 'We're honoring the game.'"). He wants the owners to believe that cutting deals with his players is good for them ("To offer Maddux less money than he is worth, "Now you've done something that you should never do."). He wants everyone to believe that when a negotiation goes badly, it's because of some foolishness or moral failing of the GM and not because his client wanted more money or could get more money elsewhere ("In response to critics who say it's all about money, Boras says, 'Really? I think it's about respect.'").

It's hard to tell whether Boras' relentless self-justification is driven by a desire to make himself more respectable and respected than the average sports agent, or whether he's just continuing to serve his own economic interests - after all, if GMs start believing that Boras' deals are bad for the buyers, they may think twice before inking the next A-Rod, Barry Zito, or Chan Ho Park.

But then, one thing the LA Weekly profile makes clear about Boras' tactics is that the GMs alone aren't his audience - he makes maximum use of the fact that he is wealthier, more powerful and more secure in his position than the average GM, who after all is a salaried employee with a boss as well as a fan and media base to answer to:

General managers might resent such statements. But one way Boras gets into their heads is to pit them against their owners. "The process is informational," he says. "There are GMs who are information sensitive, and their opinions are in the rear. There's a whole group of GMs who put their opinions out front, and they view me as an obstacle. I tell them, 'Let me help you and your owner make good decisions. Why wouldn't you want good players?'"

As for the financial pressures of running a baseball team, Boras finds the topic irritating. "You might [as a general manager] keep your budget eight years in a row, but that doesn't mean you're going to keep your job," he says. "Your job is to win. You have to cater the franchise to winning. That means I'm not the most difficult person to negotiate with. It's your owner. He's going to give you the wherewithal to do what you have to do. Then you just have to have the confidence and the skill to do it effectively."

It's an effective negotiating tactic, and of course because GMs lack Boras' job security, he's always around to get the last laugh. Nonetheless, you have to think that even aside from the question of how believable his advocacy is, it would be obvious to most GMs that the premium to be paid for a Boras player over and above the cost of a comparable player with a less aggressive agent makes his clients a bad deal. Not that all of them are a bad deal - A-Rod, for example, was and is a unique commodity. But first you sign an A-Rod, and then you go back to Boras and you sign a Chan Ho Park, and the value of the A-Rod contract goes down the tubes, to the detriment most of all of A-Rod, who got blamed for the Rangers' inability to spend wisely to build around him.

Another hardball tactic in evidence here is that when Boras feels spited - as the example of Dodgers GM Ned Coletti's decision to send subordinates to negotiate with him over Maddux, or as in the case of Johnny Damon - his players have a tendency to end up on a direct division rival, sending the message that Boras and his clients will go out of his way to screw you.

Still, I had to laugh at one set of examples here, the two Seattle signings - first, the article notes Dodger fans' angst at losing Adrian Beltre, without mentioning quite how badly that worked out for Seattle. And then, we have Boras' laughable attempt to spin the Cardinals as having made a bad decision to get outbid by the same Mariners for the services of Jeff Weaver:

Last year, another longtime Boras client, Jeff Weaver, was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals after a poor start with the Angels in Anaheim. Weaver was dominant in the postseason, and the Cardinals won the World Series, but St. Louis offered Weaver only a one-year, $5 million contract - which Boras found insulting. "That's what you'd offer a relief pitcher," he says.

Weaver eventually signed with the Seattle Mariners for $8.3 million. "You have to respect that teams have a right to make their own decisions," Boras says, before turning around and passing judgment on Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty. "Here's a GM who never played the game [i.e., the GM of the defending World Champs who have won five division titles, a Wild Card and two pennants in the past seven years -ed.] saying, 'We're going to go with our young guys,' and I go, 'You can't.'"

The Cardinals simply blew it, Boras concludes. "The Cardinals not signing Jeff Weaver is how you don't win divisions, and my prediction is the St. Louis Cardinals won't win their division this year." (At press time, the Cardinals were at the bottom of the National League Central.)

At press time, Jeff Weaver had a 14.32 ERA and had managed to lose all six of his starts while allowing 50 hits in 22 innings. I'm sure the Mariners are just thrilled that Boras talked them into spending $8.3 million on him.

The bottom line: Boras is out for his guys. He's good at getting them their money, and there are certainly far less respectable ways to make a living. But nobody should make the mistake of thinking he's doing anybody else any good.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:34 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Kerry Campaign Busted Spending Limit - On Customized Jets

Kerryplane.jpg

Dignity. Integrity. Duty.

Aw, heck, why not just blow it all on fancy airplanes?

Sen. John Kerry broke spending limits by nearly $1.4 million during his 2004 presidential bid, including some funds spent on customizing his campaign jets, a Federal Election Commission draft audit concludes.

The FEC could rule that Kerry's campaign must reimburse the government. Because his general election campaign was taxpayer funded, Kerry would have to pay back the U.S. Treasury.

Much of the disputed money was spent on customizing jets used by Democratic presidential nominee Kerry and his running mate John Edwards, according to auditors.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:26 PM | Politics 2004 • | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Next Mondale

rove_obama.jpg

"It's foolproof, I tell you! What's the downside?"

In 1984, Walter Mondale famously promised to raise taxes. He lost every state but Minnesota, and when he resurfaced to run for office again in 2002, he lost Minnesota as well. Now, Barack Obama is apparently looking to follow in Mondale's footsteps. He's offering a Hillary-style "universal" health care plan that he admits will be enormously costly:

With savings from healthcare efficiency, Obama's campaign estimated it would cost $50 billion to $65 billion a year to cover the uninsured. That sum could be raised by allowing President Bush's tax cuts for upper-income taxpayers to expire, the campaign said.

That cost estimate is too optimistic, [health policy analyst John Sheils, senior vice president of the Lewin Group, a top healthcare consulting firm] said. "If you want to have universal coverage, it's $100 billion to $115 billion," he said.

(Predictably, John Edwards blasted the plan for not going far enough - "Edwards spokesman Mark Kornblau said Edwards' plan, estimated to cost between $90 billion ... and $120 billion ... annually, is "truly universal.""). So where is Obama planning to get that kind of cash? Not by selling motivational books, but by soaking the taxpayers:

The experts [in a memo released by the Obama campaign] also said Obama could pay for his plan mostly through steps that the candidate has already said he would take -- allowing President Bush's tax cuts on dividends and capital gains and on those making more than about $250,000 a year to expire in 2010 instead of acting to make them permanent.

The rest of the $65 billion funding could come by raising taxes on inheritances worth more than $7 million. Many Democrats want to repeal Bush's elimination of taxes on estates worth more than $1 million. Obama wants the exemption to be higher but has not yet said exactly where it should be set.

Got that? More taxes on income, capital gains, dividends, and a hike in the estate tax. Assuming that all those tax hikes are enough to come up with $50-65 billion according to Obama's own estimates, which one would assume are probably as lowball as he thinks he can get away with - if they don't raise enough revenue or the program is more expensive, he will keep digging. And that's just to pay for one program - remember that any time he proposes anything else from here on, he has to come up with money from somewhere else besides these tax hikes, having already spent them.

Hey, it worked out well for Mondale, didn't it?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:42 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Davey for Perlozzo?

Soccer Dad says the hot rumor in Baltimore is that Sam Perlozzo may be sacked and replaced by his old boss, Davey Johnson. He doesn't like the move; he's closer to the situation than I am, but in general I don't see Davey as the kind of guy you bring in in the middle of a season, nor as the kind of guy who can squeeze extra performance out of a team with mediocre talent. And either way, you don't want to alienate Leo Mazzone.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:29 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 29, 2007
WAR: Do Your Homework First

Senators who criticize the Bush Administration for misreading the pre-Iraq War intelligence on WMD really should be embarrassed if they didn't read the National Intelligence Estimate themselves.

The full, classified report was 90 pages - maybe a bit lengthy for the average citizen to digest even if access wasn't restricted, but hardly a great burden on the people making the final decision on whether to authorize a war. It's hard to go around saying that the Executive Branch should have taken a more skeptical look if you didn't bother to look yourself.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:45 AM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 26, 2007
POLITICS: B.O.G.U.S. Hotline Attack on Fred

So Fred Thompson gives a speech, and in that speech he talks about the need to guard the borders better, and in the course of that he says that "We're are now living in a nation that is beset by suicidal maniacs..."

What conclusion does Marc Ambinder of The Hotline draw from this? See if you can guess, then click below the fold:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:32 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 25, 2007
BASEBALL: Bust-Out

My son and I have been using teams of Hall of Famers in Strat-O-Matic, and the thing about a lineup full of Hall of Fame hitters is, they are apt to get shut out all day and then suddenly blow the doors off a game in a single inning. These Mets are like that, as we saw in the 5-run ninth tonight.

We also had a marvelous performance by El Duque on the way back from an injury, and yet another example of why Billy Wagner can't be trusted with more than a 3-run lead.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:25 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: John Edwards' Fantasy World

I hate to waste my time, and yours, beating up on a minor candidate for the presidency. And I am tempted to dismiss John Edwards as just that - the man served but a single wholly undistinguished term in the Senate (which he rarely attended and had to leave because he could not have been re-elected), he has no accomplishments whatsoever in public life, and he is unserious to the point of claiming that he was not personally involved in his own haircut.

That being said, Edwards is currently leading the Democratic field in Iowa polls, and tied for second in New Hampshire, so one must take seriously his recent statement that "[t]he war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics," rather than an actual, live struggle against murderous fanatics. Put simply, Edwards is living in a left-wing fantasy world where the war is just a political "frame" and George Bush's greatest sin is in choosing to fight it.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:23 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: The McGovernites

Democrats labored long and hard to frustrate and hamper the war effort in Iraq, a job the troops want to finish, but at the end of the day even the likes of Jack Murtha couldn't pull the trigger on voting "no" on continued funding for the men and women in the field. Continuation of the war effort - at least, for long enough to give Gen. Petraeus and the rest of the military leadership and rank and file the time to make some real headway under the "surge" strategy - ended up garnering broad, bipartisan support, with only a handful of left-wing extremists (and a few Republicans casting votes of protest at pork in the bill) voting no. In the Democrat/Socialist-controlled Senate, for example, the vote to fund the troops was 80-14.

But consider that the few extremists who voted against it and against the mainstream consensus includes the top two Democrat contenders for president, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. John Edwards and Bill Richardson also voiced their support for a "no" vote (Chris Dodd, rumored to be conducting a 2008 campaign, also voted no). In 2004, of course, John Kerry famously tried to get out of a vote of this nature by saying he voted for it before he voted against it. The odds are pretty strong that the next nominee of the Democratic party will once again end up going before the general electorate in search of some mealy-mouthed excuse for taking the McGovernite position. Or maybe by next year, they won't even bother to hide the fact that the far left will be calling the shots if they win the White House next November.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:19 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Yes, The Troops Want to Finish The Job

Via Allahpundit, Spencer Ackerman - as vociferous and intemperate a left-wing war opponent as you could hope to meet - reports from Iraq that yes, the troops want to stay and finish the job:

The truth of the matter, however, is this: many troops in Iraq, perhaps even most of them, want to stay and fight. That doesn't mean that we should stay in Iraq any longer. It does mean, however, that if Democrats want to bridge the divide between themselves and the military - an effort further complicated by their opposition to the war - they're going to have to recognize that arguing in the name of the troops isn't going to work . . .

[F]or many troops in Baghdad, the surge had brought a significant boost in morale. . .

Democrats would do much better to speak honestly: to acknowledge that many fighting men and women want to stay in the battle and would be willing to do so for years longer.

But, you know, the only people who support the war are "chickenhawks," so Ackerman must be ignored, and so must the views of the people actually fighting the war.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:05 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Smoltz is Cooperstown Bound

John Smoltz's 200th win last night has to ice his credentials for Cooperstown, as it should. While 200 wins is hardly distinguishing on its own (see here, here and here on the Hall's de facto standards for career wins, winning percentage and 20-win seasons), there are a number of reasons why he deserves it. First of all, he doesn't just have 200 wins; he's also 61 games over .500, is closing in on 3000K (Bert Blyleven is the only eligible pitcher with 3000 K who isn't in) and has 154 career saves, 144 of them in a 3-year stretch (he's tied for the NL single-season saves record), and a Cy Young Award. He's the only NL pitcher since Dwight Gooden to win 24 games in a season, and threw as many as 291.2 and 271 innings in 1996 and 1997, counting the postseason. Second, he has had an ERA equal or better to the league, at least by Baseball-Reference.com's park-adjusted measure, every year since 1989, which is really hard. Third, he holds key career records for postseason play - career wins, Ks, third in IP. He's 15-4 with a 2.65 ERA and 4 saves in 207 postseason innings, a far better mark than Maddux, Glavine, Clemens or Randy Johnson and a much longer record than Curt Schilling.

The Hardball Times had an in-depth look at Smoltz's case compared to Schilling, whose credentials are generally quite similar.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Milledge and Dontrelle?

I probably don't pay enough attention to trade rumors in general, so excuse me if some of you have discussed this to death already, but Bruce Markusen discusses the revival of the ever-popular deal of prospects, headlined by Lastings Milledge, for Dontrelle Willis. (Joel Sherman of the Post also thinks they may target Willis).

In theory I'm all in favor of a deal like that - Milledge is a serious talent, but guys who are prime quality starting pitchers now are a very rare commodity, and Willis can't become a free agent until after the 2009 season.

The problem is whether Willis really is an elite pitcher. We're talking about a guy who had a 4.02 ERA in 2004, 3.87 last season and 4.80 this year. In 292.2 innings since the beginning of 2006, Willis has allowed 311 hits (9.56 per 9 IP), 30 HR (0.92), 113 BB (3.47), and 212 K (6.52). In Florida. Those aren't terrible numbers by any stretch, but for a 25-year-old in a pitcher's park, who has a complicated pitching motion and has been worked very hard, that kind of regression, especially in his control, is worrisome.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 24, 2007
BASEBALL: More of the Same, Please

The Yankees are apparently interested in Todd Helton and Rockies closer Brian Fuentes. (h/t). What's interesting is that not only would a deal for Helton and/or Fuentes involve addressing the Yankees' strength (veteran hitters - the team is third in the AL in scoring with only two regulars, one of them the 31-year-old A-Rod, under age 33) and moderate strength (the bullpen - the Yankees have three middlemen pitching solidly, Proctor, Myers and Bruney, plus they have Rivera, although the setup men - Farnsworth and Vizcaino - and Rivera have all struggled) and not their weaknesses in the starting rotation, but they are dealing with a team, the Rockies, that will likely want some of the Yanks' stable of young starters in return.

Not that a deal would be a bad idea - Clemens is on the way to help the rotation, and Helton and Fuentes would certainly be an upgrade on Mientkiewicz and Farnsworth. In fact, a willingness to act opportunistically to add to their strengths, rather than dealing on their weaknesses, has long been a hallmark of Yankee strategy, from signing Howard to go with Berra to adding Gossage to Lyle to adding Abreu to Matsui and Sheffield.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:59 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Milestone

David Pinto notes that the Phillies are closing in on becoming the first professional sports team to lose 10,000 games.

UPDATE: Also, today marks 72 years of night baseball.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:31 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/BASEBALL: Everyone Else's Fault

This is insane:

The father of Josh Hancock filed suit Thursday, claiming a restaurant provided drinks to the St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher even though he was intoxicated prior to the crash that killed him.

The suit, filed in St. Louis Circuit Court by Dean Hancock of Tupelo, Miss., does not specify damages. Mike Shannon's Restaurant, owned by the longtime Cardinals broadcaster who starred on three World Series teams in the 1960s, is a defendant in the case along with Shannon's daughter, Patricia Shannon Van Matre, the restaurant manager.

Other defendants include Eddie's Towing, the company whose flatbed tow truck was struck by Hancock's sport utility vehicle in the early hours of April 29; tow truck driver Jacob Edward Hargrove; and Justin Tolar, the driver whose stalled car on Interstate 64 was being assisted by Hargrove.

The Cardinals and Major League Baseball were not listed as defendants.

Authorities said the 29-year pitcher had a blood alcohol content of nearly twice the legal limit when he crashed into the back of the tow truck. He was also speeding and using a cell phone and wasn't wearing a seat belt, police chief Joe Mokwa said after the accident. Marijuana was also found in the SUV.


***
The lawsuit claimed Tolar was negligent in allowing his vehicle to reach the point where it stalled on the highway, and for failing to move it out of the way of oncoming traffic. A police report said the car became stalled when it spun out after being cut off by another vehicle.

Police said Hargrove noticed the stalled vehicle and stopped to help. The report said he told officers he was there five to seven minutes before his truck was hit by Hancock's SUV. But Kantack said the tow truck may have been there up to 15 minutes, yet failed to get the stalled vehicle out of the way.

"Were the police contacted?" [Keith] Kantack[, a lawyer for Dean Hancock] asked. "Why weren't flares put out? Why was the tow truck there for an exorbitant amount of time?"

Let's see how many things are wrong with this picture:

1. Isn't Hancock responsible for knowing that drinking for hours and then getting in his car is a bad idea (to say nothing of speeding, talking on a cell phone and not wearing his seatbelt)? The man had pot in his car, the bar didn't put that there. He made bad choices, and there are consequences for those. It's not like this is a lawsuit filed by some innocent bystander injured by Hancock.

2. Hancock made good money, died single as a grown man, left no dependents. Why should his father be entitled to get money on his behalf?

3. He's suing the guy whose car stalled on the highway? Because his car stalled out after he got cut off? And from whom he will presumably seek a share of the lost wages for a major league ballplayer who was driving drunk while yakking on the phone? Gimme a break. The tow truck driver may have been in some ways negligent, but even then, the guy drives a tow truck, and it's not his fault that Hancock was plastered and on the phone.

4. The cell phone manufacturer hasn't been sued. Yet.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:00 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Law 2006-08 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 23, 2007
FOOTBALL: Boys Will Be Boys

But someone still cares to teach them to be men.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:50 PM | Football | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: I Hate Hewlett Packard, Movable Type, HostMatters and Kenmore

Sorry, comments are down right now, because HostMatters sent me an email telling me that they were cutting off the comments until I upgrade to Movable Type 3.2 (which I did months ago - I'm running 3.33 now) and do a bunch of other technical goobledegook that is beyond my free time and technical expertise. What drives me nuts is dealing with people who think that running a blog means you understand how to download plugins and rewrite scripts. I have no way of knowing whether the problem here is that HM is a bad host or MT is a bad platform, or both, and given how little time I ordinarily have to blog in the first place, I don't need to spend a bunch of time trying to find out.

Meanwhile, 13 days after my new PC arrived from Hewlett Packard, I still have no functioning computer other than to keep borrowing my wife's laptop. The service guy who was supposed to come last Friday to replace the motherboard - to provide the expanded warranty service we paid hundreds of extra dollars for and repair a brand new machine that does not work at all - simply never showed up. When my wife called (I've been reminding her to take notes - dealing with computer companies is like litigation, you need to document every conversation), they finally admitted that the part the guy was supposed to bring hadn't come in and won't until the end of this month. So, no computer. The fact that I don't want to go through the hassle is the only reason I have not returned the whole thing yet, but I may.

We also have no functioning washing machine. My wife got the call from Sears asking us to buy the extended warranty/service contract on our Kenmore machine, since the 1-year warranty will soon run out. She said no - and just a day or so later, the machine basically melted down, and won't run at all because all of its fancy electronic parts are dead. (Dare I ask whether this has anything to do with the fact that this is an energy-saving washing machine). Progress on having that fixed is also slow.

(I won't even get into the fact that I can no longer connect my iPod to my wife's Dell laptop without frying the USB ports, which means no more downloading music).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:32 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: Losing Our Heritage

American Heritage magazine suspends publication after more than 50 years, awaiting a buyer to bankroll the magazine, which still boasts 350,000 subscribers. A sad day for a fine magazine.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 22, 2007
BASEBALL: Year in Review

As regular readers know, I like to take the 365-day look back through David Pinto's database now and then; let's go there again with the hitters.

Quick thoughts:

1. I would not have tagged Chipper Jones as baseball's most potent slugger over the past year.

2. David Wright: .302/.521/.375. Jose Reyes: .321/.520/.377. Talk about a matched set. Of course, with 60-odd more plate appearances, 50 more steals, half as many GIDP and his defense at short, Reyes has surpassed Wright. It remains to be seen which will give the Mets more value over the next four years, but it's a nice question to be able to ask.

3. Mr. Ausmus? It's the glue factory...

4. Stock up when you slice the numbers this way: Mark Teahen, Greg Norton, Jimmy Rollins (.508 slugging and .338 OBP probably means we've seen the last of him as a leadoff man), Endy Chavez. Stock down: Miguel Tejada (still productive, but where'd his power go?), Jim Edmonds, Craig Biggio, Eric Chavez,Craig Wilson, Sean Casey, Morgan Ensberg, Damian Miller, Scott Thorman, Jonny Gomes.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: The Hindenburg

Hindenburg.jpg

The NY Daily News has a cool photo retrospective of the famous air disaster 70 years ago this month.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:28 PM | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Tax Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants: Paying Taxes is For Suckers

As I have explained at great length before, there are two types of amnesty for violations of the law: complete amnesty, meaning no penalties whatsoever, and partial amnesty, by which people are absolved from consequences for lawbreaking for some penalty less than the full force of the law. It's been obvious for some time that the current immigration bill would provide a partial amnesty for people currently in the U.S. illegally. For people who oppose any type of amnesty, that's reason enough to oppose the bill. For people like me, who are willing to support a 'legalization' process under the right circumstances, the question is the details. But one thing should be absolutely non-negotiable: anybody who wants to stay in the U.S. legally has to pay their taxes.

The bill currently under discussion appears to fail that test. The immigration bill would bestow a massive tax amnesty on illegal immigrants. The supporters of this bill think that you, as an American citizen, should pay taxes - but illegal immigrants can become legal residents without paying their own share. This is scandalous. The bill should be rejected for that reason alone, and its supporters should be made to explain why they didn't want illegal immigrants to pay the taxes they already owe.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:21 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Over His Head

As Bill Simmons would say, there's comedy, there's high comedy, and then there is claiming you were not personally involved in your own haircut. (H/t).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:13 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Sad But True

1. Five pitchers have started all of the Devil Rays' games this season.
2. Edwin Jackson has a 7.78 ERA in 8 starts for Tampa.
3. Jackson's ERA is the third-best on the staff. (Jae Seo and Casey Fossum are both at 7.80).

The sad part is, you have a team that has some exciting young players (Tampa is still 10th in the league in scoring; not great but they've finished a season that high only once in their history, in 2005), Scott Kazmir and James Shields in the rotation (Shields is having a tremendous breakout year, with a 62/13 K/BB ratio and the lowest baserunners/innings ratio of any major league pitcher) and a rejuvenated Al Reyes ringing up a 1.31 ERA in the closer role. But between the back of the rotation and the middle of the bullpen, Tampa is just getting knocked out of the box too often to move up in the fluid (behind Boston) AL East. And that may end up costing them a last chance to bring fans to the Trop before ownership decides to hit the road.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:21 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: What Ills L Millz?

I can understand why the Mets would not be thrilled with Lastings Milledge, with such limited big-league success under his belt, recording a rap album, and still less so with him recording one full of all the standard offensive cliches of the genre. But why is the team going after him in the press, a move that is likely to turn the fans against Milledge and make it harder to deal him for value if the team decides to trade him?

It's certainly starting to look like the skids for a deal are being greased, and without much regard for his market value. There are three possibilities for why they are doing this in the press, as opposed to just sitting him down and talking to him:

(A) Fred Wilpon has bad memories of guys with personality problems from the 1991-93 period and is overreacting. This would have to be Wilpon and possibly Jay Horowitz - they've been there long enough. Omar Minaya doesn't seem the type to let a rap album stand between him and a talented player, and Willie Randolph, Joe Torre disciple that he is, would handle something like this privately.

(B) The team is nervous about Milledge doing something fan-unfriendly (especially after the Imus kerfuffle) and is trying to get out front of condemning it to control the PR narrative.

(C) The team knows something non-public that is wrong with Milledge (e.g., drugs) and wants to build a separate, public case for dumping him cheaply (which they may have to do if other teams know it too).

Both (A) and (C) would suggest he is not long for NY. (B) could mean he stays and they are just doing damage control.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:37 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 21, 2007
LAW: Listening Tour

WSJ Blog notes yet another story about how Justice Thomas doesn't ask questions at oral argument.

The logical answer to this would seem to be that Justice Scalia is an extremely aggressive questioner, and Chief Justice Roberts has now joined him in that regard - and on a nine-judge Court, there is a diminishing return in having multiple voices from the Right asking the same questions. But as I noted last fall, Thomas' own explanation is rather different, and in fact seems to be almost the opposite conclusion:

Thomas said that as a young state attorney general arguing before the Supreme Court of Missouri, he recalled justices who "actually allowed me to make my argument. They listened to what I had to say. ... Nor did I ever feel I had not been heard or did not have my day in court." . . . "It seems fashionable now for judges to be more aggressive in oral arguments," he said. "I find it unnecessary and distracting. ... I truly think oral arguments would be more useful if the justices would listen rather than debating the lawyers. ... I think the judges need to listen if the arguments are to be effective."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:37 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/BASEBALL: Sliding Scale

A lawsuit against the Little League for failing to teach how to slide.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:35 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Law 2006-08 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: More Than Just Notice

In what will almost certainly be the most practically significant case of this term, a major, major win for defendants, especially corporate defendants, today in the Supreme Court, and via a 7-2 decision written by Justice Souter from which only Justices Stevens and Ginsburg dissented.

The Court, in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, No. 05-1126 (May 21, 2007), held that plaintiffs in an antitrust conspiracy case may not survive a motion to dismiss the complaint at the outset under Rule 12(b)(6) by a bare assertion of conspiracy. In so holding, the Court significantly clarified the Rule 8 pleading standards governing motions to dismiss non-fraud-based claims.

To put the matter in non-lawyer-ese, the Court held that plaintiffs' lawyers (in this case class action plaintiffs in an antitrust case, but the ruling will affect all civil lawsuits in federal court) need to have more of a factual basis for filing lawsuits before they can kick-start the expensive and intrusive discovery process.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:02 AM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Two Sopranos To Go

I'm a little bleary-eyed from watching the Sopranos last night after the Mets got shut down by Tyler Clippard on the way to his junior prom....thoughts in the extended entry below, SPOILERS INCLUDED.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:54 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Forget the War, Taxes, and Abortion

John Hawkins, who I usually respect, is joining the caucus that is ready to blow up the Senate GOP over immigration. As I have said, I'm not thrilled with where we seem to be headed on this issue, and I understand the concern of people who think that more immigration will damage the GOP electorally (and help offset the Democrats' natural demographic disadvantage that flows from being the party of people who don't bear or beget children).

But I can't sign on to going bonkers over this issue. There's a war on. There are still fundamental differences between the parties on scores of core issues - taxes and economic liberties, life, the courts, the rule of law. Face it, we have lived with bad immigration policy for decades. We should fix that - but it's not the end of the world if we don't, and electing Democrats, of all people, won't help.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:42 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
May 19, 2007
BASEBALL: Hank's Rib

Some guys just can't catch a break; just when Hank Blalock was just back in the kind of groove he's been missing the past few years (with teammate Mark Teixeira also blazing hot), Blalock has to be out the next three months to have a rib removed to relieve "thoracic outlet syndrome," which is apparently some sort of nerve or vascular condition. The Rangers, already mired in last place 4 1/2 games behind the Mariners and with the second worst record in the AL, lose one more reason to hope they can get out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:34 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Subway Spring

Yeah, David Wright is all the way back.

Hated Yankees down 10 games to the Red Sox going into today; I won't feel good until they are more than 14 1/2 down.

Would you rather be a Yankee starting pitcher or the drummer for Spinal Tap?

Mike Myers threw 54 pitches today - wonder when the last time that was? 10 is usually a long outing for him. ESPN's game longs go back to 2002 and he hasn't thrown 50 pitches in a game in that time period.

UPDATE: For a game with a 6-run lead that was waaaaaay too close at the end. What on earth were Cano and Wagner thinking - Cano rushing a throw to first in the bottom of the 8th with Julio Franco trotting up the first base line on his way to the shuffleboard court and tossing it up the right field line, Wagner throwing home with a 4-run lead and one out instead of getting the easy out at first (and catching Paul Lo Duca totally unawares).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:24 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
May 18, 2007
POLITICS: Why Harry Can't Reid

Regular readers will know that immigration isn't exactly my top issue. The system is broken in many ways, unfair to legal immigrants, impotent in the face of mass illegal immigration and unlawful entry by criminals and terrorists, and lethargic and undermanned even when it takes action, but I remain skeptical that our political system is even capable of dealing seriously with these issues. I'm in favor of comprehensive reform, but only if it contains real enforcement teeth; I'm OK with more legal immigration and fine with allowing present illegals to become citizens, but only if there is a substantial price of entry paid for the privilege of citizenship (I discussed the "amnesty" issue at much greater length here).

All that said, there is no reason whatsoever for the Senate to be rushing a vote on the massively complex immigration bill when there will barely be time for Senators to read the thing and no ability for the public to examine its provisions and peaceably assemble to petition for redress of grievances with the bill.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
May 17, 2007
WAR: In a Word

No.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:45 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/LAW: Sandy Berger Won't Say

Allahpundit notes that Sandy Berger has surrendered his law license rather than face cross-examination about his destruction of original classified documents to obstruct the investigation of the 9/11 Commission. Allahpundit thinks that Berger would have been able to assert the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering those questions, but I'm not so sure; after all, he has already been sentenced for the conduct in question, and in light of the Double Jeopardy Clause the right against self-incrimination no longer attaches after sentencing.

Unless, of course, there are other crimes he could still be charged with besides the ones he was convicted and sentenced for.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:12 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Eliot Spitzer's Pro-Abortion Zealotry

Most of you should be familiar by now with the Seven Stages of Liberal Legal Activism:

1. It's a free country, X should not be illegal.
2. The Constitution prohibits X from being made illegal.
3. If the Constitution protects a right to X, how can it be immoral? Anyone who disagrees is a bigot.
4. If X is a Constitutional right, how can we deny it to the poor? Taxpayer money must be given to people to get X.
5. The Constitution requires that taxpayer money be given to people to get X.
6. People who refuse to participate in X are criminals.
7. People who publicly disagree with X are criminals.

We have known since very early on in Eliot Spitzer's tenure in public office that he was a pro-abortion zealot who would stop at nothing to serve the financial interests of the abortion industry. The only question now is whether New York's Governor is at Stage Six or Stage Seven.

Read On...

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:06 PM | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Meche Godzilla

Gil Meche, who entered 2007 with a career ERA of 4.65 and no seasons with an ERA of less than 4.48 in 100 innings or more, has an ERA this season of 1.91. What gives? Let's break out Meche's numbers for thus far in 2007 compared to his full season numbers for 2006 as well as his good first half in 2006, which ran through July 19 before the wheels came off. Stats courtesy of ESPN, THT and Pinto; the detailed stats aren't available for just a part of 2006:

YearERAIPH/9R/92B/9HR/9BB/9K/9LD%DERGB%DP/9
20071.9161.18.362.930.730.882.356.9014.4.71056.41.17
20064.48186.28.825.112.031.164.057.5218.5.70543.10.77
2006-13.83122.18.244.12NA1.103.467.43NANANANA

The immediate fact that jumps out is that Meche is allowing just over one unearned run per 9 innings, a high enough number to suggest that his ERA is misleadingly low. In fact, his overall numbers are much more consistent with a guy with an ERA in the high 2s than below 2.00.

That said, Meche is pitching dramatically better, even though his K/9 ratio is actually down a bit and the percentage of outs on balls in play (DER) is not much changed (even though the number of line drives he surrenders - LD% - has improved). Meche's improvement has come in a large step forward in his control plus a great improvement the proportion of ground balls among balls in play, which has resulted in many fewer doubles and home runs and many more double play balls.

The warning signs are twofold. First, the improvements in control and ground ball percentage are both way out of line with his career (ESPN lists him as having a 1.98 G/F ratio this season compared to 1.01 for his career and 3.89 BB/9); while he has shown real improvement and not just luck, the issue will be how long he can sustain that. Second, of course, is the durability issue. Meche flamed out in the second half last season after passing the 120 inning mark, he's never thrown 200 innings, and of course when younger he missed two full seasons with arm trouble. At his present pace, which puts him just an inning off the league lead, he is on track to throw 242.1 innings. There is a very serious question as to whether he can keep that up.

So far, Meche really has been worth all that money the Royals paid him. Stay tuned.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: Shenanigans

Patterico responds again to the idea (see here, h/t here) that voter fraud is a non-existent problem simply because it is hard to get criminal convictions for voter fraud. More background in this post, and that's before we even get to some of the voter-turnout figures for cities like Philadelphia and Milwaukee (I've never heard a legitimate explanation as to how a large city can have voter turnout in excess of 100%).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:51 AM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
May 16, 2007
BLOG: Random Thoughts From Last Night

I was switching back and forth last night between the GOP debate and the Met game before catching up on last night's "24," so let me give you my observations on what I did catch, plus a few other bits:

*It may almost be time to add Shawn Green to the list of Omar's successes - I'm really amazed that he is hitting .324 and slugging .525, when he looked for all the world like he was headed irreversibly downhill last season. It's a Mike Lowell-style resurgence. Green doesn't look like a power hitter; he's built like a finesse pitcher. The Mets have batboys beefier than Green.

*24 has just gone catastrophically off the rails since the end of the plot with the Arabs. They should probably have ended the season right there. In particular, we have seen no explanation of how Chaing new where and when to call Jack to start this whole thing, and no good reason why the White House should have agreed in the first place to negotiate with a state actor holding a U.S. citizen hostage in Los Angeles. It's gone downhill from there. The Russians seem awfully touchy about nuclear technology that their own consul was basically handing out like Halloween candy, yet blase about threatening war with the U.S. when they know that the U.S. has access to that technology. The simplest explanation is this one.

It looks like Jack is finally leaving Los Angeles after this season. This means we can ask a question that would come up for no other show: will they kill off Los Angeles?

*The account of the White House hospital visit to John Ashcroft, by the way, sounds so much like something from 24... a scene very, very radically different from the caricature of Ashcroft as a jackbooted thug. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for Bush's talk with Comey to know how his concerns were ultimately dealt with or whether Bush just twisted his arm on the importance of the intelligence being collected.

*That set for the debate looked like a bad game show...I missed the rules, were the candidates actually buzzing in for rebuttal time?

*Rudy had the best response of the night when he slammed Ron Paul for essentially saying the U.S. had invited 9/11. I think Paul misread his invite to the Green Party debate. As I have said before, one Ron Paul in Congress is a good thing, but more of them would be a disaster. Any time he opens his mouth on foreign affairs you see why.

*Runner-up line goes to Mike Huckabee: "Congress has been spending money like John Edwards at a beauty shop".

*Of course, both of them have stiff competition from Fred Thompson's brilliant and hilarious response to Michael Moore.

*Having seen only transcripts of the first debate, I had not seen Paul or Tom Tancredo live before, and they were much unlike my image of them from reading their statements for years - Paul seemed like a frail old man, and Tancredo seemed meek and nervous; I was expecting a guy who looked and sounded like Bob Dornan.

*Goldberg and Vodkapundit had basically the same reaction to Romney - of course, Romney's father was a car salesman (well, a CEO of a car company, actually). In positioning himself as a conservative, Romney is basically a smart businessman pursuing an underserved market, not a man seeking higher office out of a firm belief in anything in particular, and it shows.

*There is really, really no purpose to Thommy Thompson and Jim Gilmore being in this race, none.

*Other than his position on trade, I can't think of a single thing I have seen from Duncan Hunter to dislike. Hunter has no realistic chance of getting the nomination, but he might not be a bad running mate - he's a serious guy who looks and sounds like a serious guy.

*From what I saw, compared to some of the last debate's questions, I have to say that the Fox team was just miles better than the MSNBC team in asking questions that GOP primary voters would actually want to see answered (one exception was the justly-booed question to McCain about the Confederate flag) and avoiding speechifying by the moderators. From here on out they should just have Brit Hume & co. do all the GOP debates and Tim Russert do the Democrats.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Blog 2006-14 • | Politics 2008 • | Pop Culture | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
RELIGION/POLITICS: Jerry Falwell's Legacy

Like a lot of conservative pundits, I could exhaust my server with examples of things Rev. Jerry Falwell said that I would not want to associate myself with, the short summary of which is that for much of his career, he was not a political asset to the conservative movement. (Go here, though, for one example of me defending Falwell on theological grounds)

But a man's passing has a way of focusing attention on the big things he did with his time on this Earth, rather than the raw, rough edges of his public statements. And an article in the current New Republic inadvertantly gives Rev. Falwell a legacy any man would be proud to leave behind:

The Catholic Church was the first to attack abortion: Even before Roe, the Church hierarchy coordinated a parish-by-parish effort to stop any sort of reform bill, including those for therapeutic abortions. This predominantly Catholic movement didn't broaden into the more ecumenical one we know until the late '70s and early '80s, when Protestant evangelicals first joined in. In 1978, Jerry Falwell preached his first sermon on abortion; a year later, the newly formed Moral Majority put abortion at the top of its list of secular humanist scourges. Two years later, Ronald Reagan was the first presidential candidate in U.S. history to run on a party platform that condemned abortion.

R.I.P.

PS - That TNR piece also claims - revealingly, of the dehumanized mindset that sets in on this issue - that partial-birth abortion isn't a big deal because "only" 2,200 of them are performed a year . . . how, I ask, would the writer of that piece respond if a conservative said that "only" 2,200 deaths from the Iraq War per year was too small a number to be of concern to anyone, or that "only" 2,200 executions a year shouldn't be enough for anyone to care about.

I thought so.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Politics 2007 • | Religion | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
May 15, 2007
BASEBALL: Home of the Braves

A remembrance of the Braves' years in Boston.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:50 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Write First, Think Later

So much philosophy, so little time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:40 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Enter the Lefties

Tom Glavine, with 294 wins, is on the verge of becoming only the fifth lefthanded pitcher in Major League history to win 300 games (Randy Johnson, if he manages 20 more wins, would be the sixth). Which leads me to an interesting issue: the fact that it took some time for lefthanded pitching to take root in the majors. While this story would make a fascinating article by someone with more time to do the research, I'll lay out here the outlines in statistical terms.

Over the first 11 years of major league ball - the five year run of the National Association from 1871 to 1875, and the first six years of the National League from 1876 to 1881 - lefthanded pitchers were at best a curiosity:

YearsLeagueTotal IPLHP IP%
1871-75NA17,2286243.6%
1876-81NL29,1141,9626.7%
1871-81Both46,3422,5865.6%

Granted, there were a few hundred innings thrown over those years by pitchers whose handedness was not recorded, but those were rarely guys with significant pitching roles. In both 1874 and 1876 there was no lefthanded pitching at all.

Those 2,586 innings were thrown by just 11 men, three of whom (Charlie Pabor, Ed Pinkham, and Hall of Fame slugger Dan Brouthers) were full-time players who never threw more than 30 innings in a season, and three others of whom (John McMullin, John Cassidy and Curry Foley) also spent the bulk of their careers as everyday players, plus two (Jack Leary and John Greason) who never pitched as many as 70 innings in a season.

If there is a common thread among the earliest southpaws, it's that they were ineffective. McMullin threw 249 innings for Troy in 1871, the first lefty to play a significant pitching role, and was pounded, walking a league-leading 75 batters (an astoundingly high total for the day) and finishing with the worst ERA of any significant pitcher in the league. He spent most of the rest of his career as an outfielder. Next up in 1875 was John Cassidy, who was likewise spectacularly ineffective in 214.2 innings for Brooklyn and who likewise set off on a career in the outfield.

The first semi-significant lefty in the National League, and the first to spend his career primarily as a pitcher, was Bobby Mitchell, who threw 100 innings for Cleveland in 1877, 80 for Cincinnati in 1878, and 194.2 for Cleveland in 1879. Though ERAs were not tracked in those days, Mitchell never did manage a league-average ERA and ended with a losing record, but he at least pitched respectably, and had the highest K/IP rates in the NL in 1877 & 1878. In 1879 he was joined by Foley, an OF-1B who threw 161.2 innings in 1879 and 238 in 1880, both for Boston, with middling results. But most teams in those days used a single starter to handle most of the work, and in 1880-82, the first lefty to take that job emerged, as Lee Richmond threw 590.2, 462.1 and 411 innings for Worcester. Richmond pitched well his first season, but the Worcester Ruby Legs finished last in 1881 and 1882, so he didn't exactly inspire a rush of imitators.

In 1882, however, something new happened: the American Association sprang up as a rival major league. The first ERA champ in the league was 21-year-old lefty Denny Driscoll, who got a full-time rotation gig the following year. And then in 1884, a sea change set in: the rules were liberalized to allow pitchers to throw overhand. I have to believe that the ability to abandon straight underhand was the change that made lefthanders proportionately more effective, and the AA was the early adopter (as startup leagues are often quicker to process innovation): the first lefty to lead a league in IP or K was Ed Morris in the AA in 1885 (his second season as a rotation anchor, at age 22), the first in Wins was Morris in 1886, and lefties led the AA in innings and strikeouts from 1885-87, with young fireballers Matt Kilroy (age 20, 513 K) and Toad Ramsey (age 21, 499 K) posting the two highest strikeout totals of all time. The unfortunately nicknamed Lady Baldwin became the first star lefty in the NL, posting a 1.86 ERA in 1885 and going 42-13 while leading the league in wins and strikeouts in 1886.

Even so, significant lefthanded pitching was still a relative rarity through the end of the 1800s. While multiple righthanded pitchers racked up large career win totals, only six 19th century lefties won as many as 100 games: Morris with 171, followed by Frank Killen (164), Ted Breitenstein (160), Kilroy (141), Ramsey (114), and Duke Esper (101). One can look at the records of lefthanded hitters in this era and see, perhaps, the benefits of the relative dearth of lefthanded quality pitchers.

The end of the 19th century brought on the two men who would set the template for lefthanded pitchers to follow, and they plied their trade once again mainly in an upstart league, the American League. First came Rube Waddell, baseball's second pitcher (after Amos Rusie) to compile a multi-year record as a strikeout pitcher. Waddell, of course, was an eccentric, childlike, unpredictable drunk and - Bill James suggests - possibly mentally disabled, and likely contributed as much as anyone to the stereotype of the flaky lefthander. His teammate Eddie Plank, by contrast, was more like Glavine, a cerebral, college-educated pitcher who set the mold of the crafty lefthander. Together they brought a lot of success to Connie Mack, and Plank became the first lefty to win 300 games - indeed, the first to win 200 games. With 305 of his 326 wins coming in the AL, he holds to this day the career record for wins by an AL lefty.

As we know, the concept of platooning first began to be tried around 1906, though it did not come into heavy vogue until around 1920 - which was around the time that the emergence of Babe Ruth created a much more pressing need for teams to find their own Hub Pruett type lefties who could shut down the Babe. By 1919, the career leaderboard for lefties looked like this (and recall that by this point Walter Johnson was three wins from becoming the ninth righthanded 300-game winner, including five with 340 or more wins; counting wins in the NA, there were by then 14 righties with 250 or more wins, 24 with 225 or more). A few of these guys, as you can see from their career timelines, would win a few more in the 1920s; Marquard would become the second lefty to win 200 games, and two others who would as well (Eppa Rixey and Wilbur Cooper) were already active.

#PitcherYearsW
1Eddie Plank1901-1917326
2Jesse Tannehill1894-1911197
3Rube Waddell1897-1910193
4Doc White1901-1913189
5Ed Morris1884-1890171
6Frank Killen1891-1900164
7Slim Sallee1908-1921162
8Ted Breitenstein1891-1901160
9Hippo Vaughn1908-1921156
10Rube Marquard1908-1925149
11Matt Kilroy1886-1898141
12Hooks Wiltse1904-1915139
13Nap Rucker1907-1916134
14Noodles Hahn1899-1906130
15Lefty Liefield1905-1920124

You can see how Plank towered over his contemporaries . . . I haven't crunched the numbers to see how the proportion of lefties increased over time from the 1880s or when it reached modern rates, but by 1920, besides the above, there were a number of other active lefties on their way to decent careers, and in 1925 Mack came up with his third lefty superstar, Lefty Grove, who would go on to become the second lefty to win 300 games, followed by Warren Spahn (now the winningest lefty of all) and Steve Carlton. Today there are 25 lefthanded pitchers who have won 200 games, including 10 who have won 250 or more, compared to 83 righthanded 200-game winners, 34 righthanded 250-game winners, and 18 righthanded 300-game winners. I'll close with the top 10 winningest lefties of all time as of yesterday's action:

#PitcherW
1Warren Spahn363
2Steve Carlton329
3Eddie Plank326
4Lefty Grove300
5Tom Glavine294
6Tommy John288
7Jim Kaat283
8Randy Johnson280
9Eppa Rixey266
10Carl Hubbell253
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:08 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Ferreting Out The Crazies

A contrarian view on Rudy Giuliani and obsessive ferret enthusiasts.

I'm pretty sure "suffers fools gladly" is not on Rudy's resume.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:03 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 14, 2007
FOOTBALL/POP CULTURE: KSK Classic

Was behind on my KSK but this is hilarious.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:15 PM | Football | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Just What We Need

More environmental propaganda from Hollywood children's movies. Oh, goody. Quoth Cameron Diaz: "Well, hopefully there'll be a planet in four years." Ya think?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:52 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: First Roll of the Dice

Through tonight's game, Daisuke Matsuzaka had an ERA of 3.25 when facing a team for the first time, 6.00 when facing them a second time.

Granted, part of that is that one of the three teams he has faced twice is the Yankees, who have hit him hard both times. Still, a trend that may bear watching.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:39 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POP CULTURE: IMDb Protected

A California appeals court throws out a lawsuit against the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), holding that under California's SLAPP statute (designed to reduce lawsuits targeting public speech), IMDb was entitled to immunity from suit for basing its listing of film credits on the credits used by the studios. The plaintiff claimed an entitlement to be listed as a producer on three films but had had his credits deleted by the studio after he left its employ.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:48 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Score Three For Omar

If you aren't a statistically-analytical type of GM - and it seems that Omar Minaya isn't - you have to really get the other stuff right. Score three more examples of Minaya doing just that.

Exhibit A: Damion Easley, now batting .283/.604/.356. If you thought Minaya couldn't repeat last year's coup of a rejuvenated Jose Valentin, you thought wrong. I don't expect this to keep up, and Easley isn't Valentin defensively, but the point is that for the second straight year an aging middle infielder off the scrap heap (with a history of showing some power and speed but poor recent results) is contributing a surprising amount to the offense, and in both cases there was really no statistical indicator that the guy had much left.

Exhibit B: Oliver Perez. Like a lot of statheads I thought Perez was a worthwhile gamble given his stuff and youth, but give Omar credit for having the creativity to land him in what was otherwise a desperation deal at the deadline to shore up the bullpen at the expense of the team's starting rightfielder. Guys with Xavier Nady's upside are an eminently replaceable commodity. Lefthanded pitchers with Perez' are not.

Exhibit C: Billy Wagner. Yes, Wagner has had his bumps in the road as Mets closer, notably being near the top of the list of responsible parties for the NLCS fiasco. But I and a lot of others thought the Mets got the short end of the stick signing the older and less recently durable and effective Wagner for $43 million instead of BJ Ryan for $47 million. With Ryan undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Mets come out ahead again.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:11 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
May 13, 2007
POP CULTURE: Three Sopranos To Go

Thoughts on tonight's episode - SPOILERS INCLUDED so don't say you were not warned...but I will warn you that you should watch this one ASAP if you recorded it. There were Things that Happened in this episode.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:55 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
May 12, 2007
BLOG: Computers Bad

I am writing this from my wife's laptop. Why, you ask? Well, I finally had to get a new computer, since my old one was 7 years old and wheezing badly (still running Microsoft ME).

Having had quite enough of malfunctions and Dell tech support over the years, I decided to buy a Hewlitt Packard, having heard good things generally and seeing as how the company is doing so well, I assumed the products would be good. My HP Pavillion Slimline with its state-of-the-art LCD monitor arrived early this week, looking sleek and a significant upgrade in every way from the old desktop battleship.

Except it will not work. Just keep getting this "Monitor Going to Sleep" message. Tech support seems convinced that the problem is the computer, not the monitor; in either way the thing is entirely useless. Tonight they tried to get me to take a screwdriver and open the thing up...a brand new computer out of the box! They gotta be kidding. Now they want to send me a box and have me send them the computer back to fix, taking who knows how long, and in the meantime I had essentially dismantled my old PC.

Unbelievable. I just can't seem to buy anything that works on the first try.

UPDATE: So, HP has decided it's the motherboard, and they are sending someone to my house on Friday to replace it. It took some talking to get them to agree to do that even though we have the warranty/home service contract and even though I'd already been through two prior calls to establish that it didn't work, but at least now we hopefully will get a functional machine.

Meanwhile, my iPod is no longer on speaking terms with my wife's laptop, which is supposed to run the iTunes. I can't win...

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:53 AM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
May 10, 2007
BASEBALL: One-Sided

It may be time to stop even trying to have Jim Edmonds face lefthanded pitching.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:25 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Blog to the Chief

Chief Justice Roberts reads Howard Bashman's blog? Frankly, it's amazing that anybody associated with the appellate courts doesn't.

As for the substantive issue Ann Althouse raises, I agree that blogging about pending litigation or judicial opinions is no more or less ethical than writing a newspaper op-ed. And anyway, blogging is more often going to be about the law rather than the evidence, and we expect courts to consider outside sources about the law.

(H/t Bill Hobbs)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:47 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: End of the Line for Weaver?

It's starting to look even grimmer than in recent years for Jeff Weaver, who dropped to 0-6 today and actually lowered his ERA (to 14.32) by allowing 6 runs on 10 hits in 5 innings. In 22 innings pitched this season, Weaver has allowed 50 hits. Pitching in Seattle he can't blame the New York press anymore; he's just not getting outs.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:41 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Standing Against Evil

Mohammed Fadhil, of Iraq the Model, writes in today's NY Daily News about how the Congressional Democrats look from Iraq:

I wasn't surprised when I saw Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, appear on Al Jazeera to announce America's defeat last week, not long after U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did. Zawahiri claims Al Qaeda has won, and Reid claims America has lost.

But from here in Baghdad, I see only a war that's still raging - with no victory in sight for Al Qaeda or any other entity. In fact, I see Al Qaeda on the ropes, losing support among my fellow Iraqis.

In the midst of such a fierce war, sending more wrong messages could only further complicate an already complicated situation. It would only create more of a mess inside Iraq - a mess that would then be exploited by Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia for their own purposes: more iron-fisted control of the peoples and treasures of the region, more pushing the Middle East to crises and confrontations, and more spreading of their dark, backward ideologies.

And so, as an Iraqi, I say without hesitation: the American forces should stay here, and further reinforcements should be sent if the situation requires them. Not only that, these forces should be prepared to expand their operations whenever and wherever necessary to strike hard at the nests of evil that not only threaten Iraq and the Middle East, but seek to blackmail the whole world in the ugliest way through pursuing nuclear weapons.

You know, America went to Iraq for its own national interests; we don't do wars just to benefit somebody else. But once you go in, and your friends on the grounds stick out their necks in reliance on you, and your other enemies pour in to fight you, how can you say you have no obligation to finish the job? And what credibility do you have with the people you will ask for help in the future if you abandon your friends?

It's not like this is a morally ambiguous battle:

Those who prefer to bury their heads in the dirt today, and withdraw from this difficult fight, will be cursed forever for abandoning their duty when they were most capable. I don't understand why someone who has all the tools for victory would refuse to fight an enemy that reminds us every day that it is evil - with all the daily beheadings, torture and violations of all humane laws and values.

Well said. Read the whole thing. RedState's Jeff Emanuel has much more from Iraq in the same vein.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:55 AM | War 2007-14 | Comments (39) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Rudy Gets It On Domestic Spending

One area where the GOP does need a clean break from the past 6 years:

Rudy Giuliani took a rare swipe at his Republican brethren in Congress yesterday, saying they had failed to rein in spending and lost votes in last fall's midterm elections as a result.

"We did not do a good job on spending, and we just have to say that to ourselves," the GOP presidential front-runner told a gathering of the Tuscaloosa County Republican Party.

"Our Republican Congress started to look more like a Democratic Congress where it came to spending, and I think that hurt us a lot last year," he added. "We need a President who knows how to cut spending. I am an expert at it. I did it in a place where it is harder to do than Washington, D.C. - New York City."


Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:46 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
May 9, 2007
POP CULTURE: Not Over Yet

This sounds like news, at least incrementally:

Lucas... says he is readying "Clone Wars," an animated series for TV that's derived from "Star Wars." Many "Star Wars" characters appear in "Clone Wars," but voiced by other actors.

And here's a little news: Lucas tells me he will make two more live-action films based in the "Star Wars" era.

"But they won't have members of the Skywalker family as characters," he said. "They will be other people of that milieu."

The two extra films will also be made for TV and probably be an hour long each. But, like "Clone Wars," Lucas doesn't know where on TV they will land.

I wonder if the Clone Wars show will rehash the stuff in the animated micro-series or be different.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:42 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: A Bing or a Whimper?

So I have been pondering in recent days how The Sopranos will or should end, with 6 or 7 seasons (depending how you count) behind us and 4 episodes to go. There's much speculation that David Chase, the creator of the series, really doesn't want to give us a neatly wrapped, satisfying ending, and of course there is the fact that many long-running serieses leave us with endings that go wrong in one of two opposite directions: either it leaves us hanging or it ties things up with a forced, didn't-see-that-coming ending. (A discussion for another day is the best and worst ways that long-running shows have ended).

More below the fold, for those of you who aren't caught up. If for any reason you have genuine spoilers rather than educated speculation about the last four episodes, TAKE THEM ELSEWHERE.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:26 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Death. Taxes.

Armando Benitez meltdowns.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:09 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
May 7, 2007
BASEBALL: In Which I Lose The Very Brief Momentary Sympathy I Had For The Hated Yankees

$28 million dollars for Roger Clemens. The deal made the most sense of his three suitors; the Red Sox aren't as desperate for pitching as the Yanks, and the Astros aren't really in the running for the postseason, plus the Rocket's buddy Andy Pettitte is back in pinstripes. Clemens is nothing if not an accomplished tease...we see here the full market power of a guy who is, even at 44, one of the few dependably elite starters in the game and was willing to at least give the appearance that he'd be just as happy to sit at home if he didn't get his dollar. Much as I dislike Clemens, though, you gotta respect him as a pitcher (not until he retires for good will I entertain seriously the "greatest pitcher ever"/"greatest pitcher of the post-1920 era" questions, but he's got an argument) and it's good for the game for a guy with his talent to keep going.

So, how much money is Clemens making for what he will give the Yanks? I decided to use some assumptions to project him out. If he returns at the beginning of June, the Yankees will have 111 games left; a healthy Clemens taking roughly a fifth of those would start 22 games. But the Yankees aren't paying Clemens just for the regular season; a reasonably optimistic assessment says that he could throw anywhere from 1-5 starts in the postseason; I assume 4, since he has started 4 postseason games three times, 5 twice and 3 twice (he averaged 3.4 postseason starts per year from 1999-2005, plus the relief win in the NLDS clincher in 2005). I assume 6 innings pitched per start. For his wins, I looked at Clemens' wins per start over his years with the Yankees and Astros, including the postseason (126 wins in 265 starts), which projects neatly to 12 wins including October on these assumptions.

Here is the chart showing Clemens' salary per start, per inning and per win over the course of his career, including the postseason (I used baseball-reference.com salary data except for his rookie year, when I assume he made the MLB minimum of $40,000).

YearGSIPW$$/Start$/IP$/W
198420133.39$40,000 $2,000.00$300.00$4,444.44
19851598.37$140,000 $9,333.33$1,423.73$20,000.00
198638288.025$340,000 $8,947.37$1,180.56$13,600.00
198736281.720$650,000 $18,055.56$2,307.70$32,500.00
198836271.018$1,350,000 $37,500.00$4,981.55$75,000.00
198935253.317$2,300,000 $65,714.29$9,078.96$135,294.12
199033236.021$2,600,000 $78,787.88$11,016.95$123,809.52
199135271.318$2,700,000 $77,142.86$9,950.87$150,000.00
199232246.718$4,705,250 $147,039.06$19,075.39$261,402.78
199329191.711$4,655,250 $160,525.86$24,288.35$423,204.55
199424170.79$5,155,250 $214,802.08$30,206.66$572,805.56
199524147.010$5,655,250 $235,635.42$38,471.09$565,525.00
199634242.710$5,500,000 $161,764.71$22,664.90$550,000.00
199734264.021$8,400,000 $247,058.82$31,818.18$400,000.00
199833234.720$8,550,000 $259,090.91$36,434.76$427,500.00
199933204.016$8,250,000 $250,000.00$40,441.18$515,625.00
200036232.315$6,350,000 $176,388.89$27,331.46$423,333.33
200138247.021$10,300,000 $271,052.63$41,700.40$490,476.19
200230185.713$10,300,000 $343,333.33$55,475.96$792,307.69
200337234.719$10,100,000 $272,972.97$43,039.89$531,578.95
200437239.320$5,000,000 $135,135.14$20,891.39$250,000.00
200535227.315$18,000,000 $514,285.71$79,179.00$1,200,000.00
200619113.37$22,000,022 $1,157,895.89$194,118.41$3,142,860.29
200726156.012$28,000,022 $1,076,923.92$179,487.32$2,333,335.17

There's a fair bit of the financial history of the game in that chart, but you can also see that Clemens' price has risen very sharply the last few years, partly because teams are paying for less than a full season, partly because his credible threat to retire gives him such leverage, and partly because the market for starting pitchers has just gone over the edge.

Something for Johan Santana's agent to ponder.

UPDATE: It is pointed out in the comments that the last two years are inaccurate because those are annualized salaries that are reduced for the portion of the season that Clemens is off the roster. Which proves once again why I avoid business-of-baseball issues...

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:44 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
May 4, 2007
POLITICS: You Get What You Vote For (And You Pay For It Too)

taxes.jpgThe 2006 elections brought us eight new Democratic governors, plus the re-election of 11 Democratic incumbents. Nobody should be surprised, however, to see that several of those governors are reaching for Democrats' favorite cure for all ills: higher taxes. Let's take a look at some of the Democratic governors who think taxes just aren't high enough, as well as a few who have learned their lesson (and one Republican who hasn't):

The Main Offenders:

Illinois: Rod Blagojevich

Following his re-election, Gov. Blagojevich proposed the largest tax increase in Illinois history, "a tax on businesses at every step in providing services or products," carrying an estimated $7.6 billion price tag and supporting a plan "to boost spending on health insurance, schools and pensions," a plan that has drawn stiff bipartisan opposition in the state House and even led Chicago's Democratic Mayor to blast Blagojevich for jacking up taxes and using anti-business rhetoric.

Michigan: Jennifer Granholm

Michigan voters knew, with the state's economy badly lagging behind the nation as a whole, that they were voting for more of the same by re-electing Gov. Granholm. But apparently deciding that the business climate wasn't bad enough, she is proposing $1.5 billion in new taxes, and threatening cuts to essential services to get the state legislature to play along. "Granholm favors a 2-cent service tax that would tax everything from haircuts to car washes. An across-the-board sales tax increase is also an option," and she insists that a hike in income taxes is the only other alternative. Michigan retailers are crying foul.

Pennsylvania: Ed Rendell

Affable big-city machine politicians like Rendell, handily re-elected after a challenge by Lynn Swann, become a lot less likeable once the tab comes due. Rendell proposed upping the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, which would put Pennsylvania second only to California in sales taxes, and continue a sharp upward trend in the state's tax burden. Two thirds of the hike was earmarked for new spending, with a third offsetting planned property tax cuts:

About 40 percent of the $1.246 billion in new revenue would go toward expanding the $1 billion a year in property-tax reductions that slot-machine gambling is eventually expected to generate; the rest would be used to finance other state programs.

The increase would not expand the sales tax to items other than those currently taxed.

A failure to get a sales tax increase approved by the Legislature would likely spell doom for many of the new programs, or program increases, in Rendell's proposed budget, which includes significant increases in welfare spending and in education.

That proposal looks dead now due to opposition in the legislature, though legislators are split on whether to support other tax increases or to support the hike if the whole thing is earmarked for property tax cuts. Rendell had also proposed other tax increases:

Rendell's $27.3 billion budget includes proposals for . . . increasing waste-disposal fees from $6.25 per ton to $9 per ton to help the state's hazardous site cleanup fund and establishing a new electricity usage tax of $0.0005 on kilowatts of energy used per hour to help fund an energy independence program. It also proposes taxing oil companies 6.17 percent on their total profits and taxing businesses that do not provide health insurance to their employees 3 percent of their annual payroll to fund state health care.

All of this is intended to pay for "a 3.6 percent or $948-million increase in spending growth."

Colorado: Bill Ritter

While he stumbled in recent years, Colorado's former GOP Governor Bill Owens was rightly lionized for the hard line on taxes and spending that had earned him a National Review cover calling him "America's Best Governor". Central to that effort was the 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which restricts the ability of Colorado state government to raise taxes.

So of course, Owens' Democratic successor, Bill Ritter, is looking for ways around TABOR, setting up a possible constitutional crisis in Colorado. The proposal Ritter supports - and which passed the state Senate on a largely party-line vote - would strip away built-in protections against property tax hikes driven by increased property values:

Under current law, mill levies, which are used to calculate property taxes, ratchet down as property values rise, because of an interaction between the 1994 School Finance Act and various constitutional provisions, including TABOR.

By freezing mill levies, Senate Bill 199 would prevent the state budget from shouldering more of local education costs every year when property-tax receipts would either level out or decrease under the ratchet-effect.

Preventing a decline in mill levies, however, could mean a significant increase in property taxes for Mesa County residents.

The median value for a single-family home in Mesa County rose 29.8 percent, from $151,000 two years ago to $196,000 this year, according to figures released Tuesday by the Mesa County Assessor's office.

Call it what you will, but a bill to cause taxes to go up 29.8% when they otherwise would not certainly sounds like a tax hike to me. And it will to Colorado homeowners, too.

Massachusetts: Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick reclaimed the "Taxachusetts" governors' mansion for the Democrats for the first time since Michael Dukakis, and what's on his menu? First, closing "loopholes" to increase business taxes by some $500 million, though he is proposing a commission to nail down the specifics:

The Patrick administration proposes seven changes to corporate tax codes that would:

-Generate about $136 million in revenue by curbing the business practice of shifting income to out-of-state subsidiaries to avoid Massachusetts taxes.

-Yield $99 million in new revenues by requiring businesses to "check the (same) box" or conform their corporate identities between state and federal tax returns.

-Require that Internet resellers pay hotel and motel room occupancy taxes, producing an estimated $5.6 million for the state and $4 million for municipalities.

-Ensure that businesses pay the full sales tax on leased equipment, possibly generating about $28 million.

-Tax insurance companies on non-insurance revenue as well as premiums - currently, an insurance company is only taxed on premiums and not subject to tax on non-insurance revenue - for an estimated $14 million.

-Require recipients of the state's refundable earned income tax credit to live or work in Massachusetts, generating an estimated $2 million.

-Prevent companies from avoiding the real estate transfer tax when property is sold by placing the real estate in a subsidiary business entity and selling the interest in that entity rather than the underlying real estate, raising an estimated $12 million.

Business leaders say the tax changes would put them at a competitive disadvantage. They point to the fact that the state's annual corporate taxes have risen by more than $800 million in the past four years, largely because of previous rounds of corporate tax changes.

Patrick's administration "explains that these are not anti-business but a matter of fairness and shared responsibility." He also wants to open up new avenues of local taxation (a plan opposed by the state Senate's leading Republican):

Patrick's plan would allow communities to raise meals taxes from 5 percent to up to 7 percent; lodging taxes could be raised from 9.7 percent and 12.45 percent (for Boston, Cambridge and Springfield) to 10.7 percent and 13.5 percent. Patrick has proposed a separate idea allowing communities to tax telecom companies' properties.

Maine: John Baldacci

Baldacci, re-elected in 2006, wants to raise $131 million with a $1-a-pack hike in the cigarette tax (don't you love when Democrats propose regressive taxes on a product people are addicted to? At least it's a concession that this is one activity that won't go away if you tax it, though it can be evaded if you can drive to another state.) Some fellow Democrats disagree and think the alcohol tax should be raised instead, or want to "put more of the tax burden on visitors to the state." Republicans have been opposing any new taxes, while Democrats play chicken with business taxes:

Sen. Karl Turner, R-Cumberland, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said Republicans on the panel have worked out a list of proposed cuts to bring the budget into balance without raising taxes.

"That said, we need Democratic votes to pass a budget as much as they need Republican votes," he said.

Democrats also made it clear they realize the budget process will be a series of trade-offs, and they all but called a proposal to reduce the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program by 5 percent a year a bargaining chip in the coming negotiations. Maine Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors was upset that the program might be used in the budget process as a bargaining chip.

"This creates that same problem we have had year after year with predictability and sustainability," he said. "I am deeply concerned about it."

Wisconsin: Jim Doyle

The purplest state in the nation in the 2004 election re-elected Democrat Jim Doyle last year, campaigning on a platform of (among other things) not raising taxes, while the state legislature is split. Now, the bill is coming due, with perhaps as much as $1.75 billion in new taxes. As one state Republican explained:

Suder got down to the brass tacks of Doyle's proposal, $7.6 billion in new spending and borrowing over the biennial period.

In a handout, Suder showed if the state maintained its current spending levels and proposed revenue collections for 2007-09, there would only be a $320 million shortfall to be made up by tax increases or spending cuts.

If Doyle's budget were approved as is, the typical Wisconsin family of four would see an increase in fees, property and other taxes and bonded state debt of $5,613.

+++

[The budget includes] a tax on small business owners who file quarterly business forms by mail . . . and taxes on music downloads, e-mail greeting cards and soda purchases.

Republicans have opposed those new taxes. Doyle wants a staggering $1.25 per pack increase in the cigarette tax. And he proposes a 2.5% gasoline tax that is bound to be passed on to consumers one way or another:

A tax on oil companies proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle could be passed through to consumers at the gas pump, according to an analysis by state tax officials cited in a conservative group's new report.

Doyle has proposed taxing oil companies an estimated $272 million over two years and pledged he'll keep the costs from being passed on to Wisconsin consumers by fining or even jailing oil company executives who try to do so.

Oregon: Ted Kulongoski

Oregon has a $1 billion budget surplus, so what does the state's newly re-elected Democrat governor, Ted Kulongoski, want to do? Raise what some estimate as up to $1.6 billion in new taxes. To pay for a vast new healthcare spending plan, he proposed an 84.5 cent hike in, yes, the cigarette tax. But while Democrats control both houses of the state legislature, tax increases require more votes than the Democrats have, and so the cigarette tax hike bit the dust when only one Republican joined all 31 Democrats in the state House in supporting it.

New Hampshire: John Lynch

New Hampshirites may have a longstanding reputation for their flinty opposition to taxes and spending, but with Democrats controlling the legislature for the first time in over 80 years, Democratic Gov. John Lynch, re-elected in 2006, apparently doesn't share that view. Lynch proposed what some called an increase of 15-17% in state spending, and the state House passed a budget that raised spending 11% (compared to a Lynch proposal decribed as a 9% hike), plus tax hikes:

[L]awmakers approved two new tax increases: a 45-cent increase in the cigarette tax, to $1.25 a pack, and a 4 percent increase in the real estate transfer tax, raising the rate for home buyers and sellers from $7.50 to $7.80 each per $1,000 of home value. The House also voted to raise the state portion of the vehicle registration fee by $6.

On the tax side, "Lynch had proposed a 28-cent cigarette tax hike and a larger fee hike on registering large trucks." Republicans have denounced the tax hikes, and only two Republicans voted for the new budget.

Tennessee: Phil Bredesen

Gov. Bredesen rightly won plaudits in his first term for his centrism (he has resisted calls for a state income tax), and times are rich in Tennessee; the governor admitted in a recent address to the General Assembly that "I have never had a year with as much new money as we have before us now." Yet, he is standing by his request to triple the cigarette tax to pay for education spending, a 40-cent-a-pack hike that has drawn stiff opposition from Republicans who say taxes should not need to be increased in good economic times.

The Mixed Bags:

Iowa: Chet Culver

Iowa Democrats in the legislature proposed 20% increases to the state sales and use taxes. Iowa's new Democratic governor, to his credit, opposed the plan, which bit the dust, but ended up signing a $127 million increase in cigarette taxes to pay for new spending:

[One Iowa Republican] said a record wage and benefits increase of $1.8 million to state employees was too much, while Seymour criticized that 625 new state jobs will be created in the year beginning July 1. . . .

The senators slammed the growth in the state budget of 10 percent in one year, rising to more than $5.8 billion. Further, there are built-in spending increases of $557 million for next year and $656 million for 2009, they noted, saying that kind of growth is not sustainable.

New Mexico: Bill Richardson

There are any number of reasons to be alarmed by the thought of Bill Richardson as the Commander-in-Chief, but give the man his due: on taxes, he's as good as a Democrat with national aspirations is likely to get, compiling at worst a checkered record on taxes. He came into office in 2003 promising supply side tax cuts in income and capital gains taxes. After signing an income tax cut that slashed rates from 8.2% to 4.9% over five years, though, he backslid in raising other taxes and fees over the following years, including "tax increases on everything from cigarettes to fuel and a complicated, Dickensian, and later repealed surcharge on nursing home beds--all totaling a net tax increase of roughly $174 million through fiscal year 2006, according to the conservative Americans for Tax Reform." This year, he championed a popularly enacted $49 million sales tax hike to fund the construction of a Virgin Galactic spaceport in southern New Mexico.

New York: Eliot Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer surprised a lot of people when he promised on the campaign trail not to raise taxes after 12 years of Republican management in Albany. His record on the job has been more mixed, though not as bad as some of his Democratic cohorts. In March, Spitzer drew criticism from Mayor Bloomberg for a proposal to raise some $2 billion in taxes on banks (a crucial industry in New York City) through the closing of "loopholes," once again to finance a big-spending budget. The final budget backtracked significantly on those tax hike proposals, and contained a mixed bag for business taxes:

The budget does reduce the corporate tax rate from 7.5 percent to 7.1 percent and cuts the tax on manufacturing income to 6.5 percent from 7.5 percent. It also reduces the corporate alternative minimum tax from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent. The moves will help save New York companies $150 million, according to the governor's office. Other changes, however, will close what Spitzer has described as "loopholes" that allowed companies to shield income from state taxes. The changes will generate about $450 million in new revenue for the state. That means a net tax increase for businesses, Duerr says.

Spitzer is not done hunting for new sources of revenue, including squeezing stores owned by Native Americans in upstate New York to pay more in sales taxes. Spitzer has proposed property tax relief but is opposing a GOP plan to increase tax rebates for senior citizens.

Maryland: Martin O'Malley

Filling Bob Ehrlich's shoes in Maryland isn't easy, and newly elected Governor Martin O'Malley has tried to avoid pulling the trigger on new tax hikes even against the weight of Maryland's left-wing state legislature, opposing a hike in property taxes from 11.2 to 12 cents. But it ain't over yet:

"In the months ahead, I think we need to look at our entire tax structure and make it more modern, inclusive and fair," O'Malley (D) said...The state is required to set the residential tax rate by May 1.

Rising assessments across much of Maryland mean most homeowners will pay higher property taxes during the fiscal year that begins July 1, despite the board's action to hold the line.

O'Malley also declined to support legislative proposals for a 50% increase in the gas tax and a $1 a pack hike in cigarette taxes.

The liberal Baltimore Sun preferred the property tax hike to a proposal still in circulation for a 20% hike in the sales tax.

O'Malley has, in fact, drawn criticism for moving slowly in general (some calling him "O'Molasses"); the jury is still out on whether he will follow the lead of his tax-hiking brethren.

Kansas: Kathleen Sebelius

Kansas, as you would expect, has Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature, and has formed a bipartisan consensus (including Governor Sebelius) around low taxes:

On the topic of taxes, it was again a good year to be a business lobbyist in Topeka. The Legislature helped business with an estimated $135 million tax reduction over the next five years with the phase-out of the franchise tax, and an unemployment tax reduction worth $176 million.

This year, the Legislature helped out the little guy, too, at least the elderly little guy. Social Security is now exempted from state income tax. And senior homeowners on a fixed income got a tax cut, too. Poor families of any age will be eligible for state assistance on insurance premiums.

Still, Republicans are worried that overspending will erode this policy in the future. And Gov. Sebelius, re-elected in 2006, has announced that she will continue her years-long push for a 50 cent hike in the cigarette tax to pay for new health care spending.

Arizona: Janet Napolitano

After major tax cuts she signed in 2006, albeit after negotiating down Republican proposals for larger cuts, newly rele-ected incumbent Napolitano urged a go-slow approach on Republican legislators looking for further cuts in 2007:

Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, has argued that the state should measure the impact of those cuts before enacting more, but she has not commented recently about where tax cuts figure into budget negotiations.

More recently, the Republican state House passed $62 million in new tax cuts, but Napolitano has endorsed a bipartisan Senate bill that does not include them. In general, Napolitano has acceded to the reality of Arizona's anti-tax mood.

The Good Guys

Not every Democrat is on the wrong side of the tax issue. Here are some who have learned to buck their party's orthodoxy on taxes:

Arkansas: Mike Beebe

Mike Huckabee's successor is off to a good start on taxes, signing into law some $200 million in tax cuts ranging from sales and property taxes to income taxes on low income earners and taxes on manufacturers' energy use.

Oklahoma: Brad Henry

Oklahoma has the nation's lowest tax burden, something the recently re-elected Gov. Henry applauds, and has previously enacted tax cuts still to come online. While Gov. Henry recently vetoed a budget bill passed by the legislature (which is divided among the two parties), tax hikes were not on anyone's radar and further cuts remain possible.

Ohio: Ted Strickland

Losing their way on taxes was a big part of the Ohio GOP's dramatic downfall in 2006, and especially with the GOP still holding the legislature, that lesson has not been lost on new Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. Strickland's new budget won unanimous support in the Ohio House, thanks in no small part to a popular increased property tax exemption for senior citizens, paid for with windfall money from the 1998 tobacco settlement. Strickland is also considering tax breaks for companies that are losing money, although one can debate whether that is really spending disguised as a tax break.

The Heretic

Jodi Rell of Connecticut

Finally, I should add here that at least one newly elected Republican governor has been every bit as bad as any Democrat. Jodi Rell of Connecticut got re-elected in a landslide largely by avoiding the Republican label, but now she runs a serious risk of destroying the GOP's low-tax brand in her state for a generation by proposing a massive 10% increase in the state income tax, while state "Democrats' proposal would raise even more money but would also cut taxes for the middle class . . . [and] increase state spending by 10.4 percent and increase taxes by $1.6 billion" by hiking the top tax rate by 40%. A hardy band of Republicans in the state legislature has proposed a "No Tax Increase Budget" that includes no tax hikes, but with 2-to-1 Democratic majorities in both houses, don't expect much. Connecticut voters have been stuck with an echo, not a choice.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:56 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
May 3, 2007
BASEBALL: Yankee Go Home

Four words, chilling in combination for any Yankee fan: Carl Pavano. Dr. Andrews. James Andrews should immediately cue the Emperor's March when mentioned.

I know a bunch of teams have been buffeted with injuries this season - the Blue Jays (Ryan, Glaus, Reed Johnson) and A's (Dan Johnson, Swisher, Harden, Bradley, Kielty) probably worst of all, but the Hated Yankees' ill luck with the pitching staff is approaching 1987 Mets territory, especially since (like the 87 Mets) they are still hitting the ball well with a strong, healthy offense yet losing early ground to their arch-rivals.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
May 2, 2007
BASEBALL: One of These Things Is Not Like The Others

So Rawlings wants your vote for its "All-Time Rawlings Gold Glove Team," to consist of the best defensive player at each position since Rawlings initiated the Gold Glove awards in 1957, in commemoration of the award's 50th anniversary. The ballot includes a number of players who I would not regard as defensive stars of historic magnitude - Yaz, Larry Walker, Eric Chavez, JT Snow, Kirby Puckett - but there's no serious dispute that these were all good defensive players (at least for the earlier parts of their careers).

And then: Derek Jeter. Jeter is popular and sells gloves, which is probably why he is on the list, and yes, he is a smart player and a fine athlete. But his fielding percentages have never been consistently good, and pretty much every other defensive stat/metric ever invented - Range Factors, Zone Ratings, David Pinto's probabalistic range models, Baseball Prospectus' defensive stats - shows that Jeter has spent multiple seasons of his prime at or near the bottom of the major leagues in his ability to turn batted balls into outs, which at least in theory is the job of a Gold Glove shortstop. This is like taking votes for an all-time Silver Slugger team and putting Bucky Dent on the ballot. Jeter has shown some signs of improvements in recent years since A-Rod arrived, but try watching a few Yankee games and count the number of balls that go by him that you would expect to be outs; there's usually at least one a game.

Anyway, my votes:

P - Kaat, though I don't have strong feelings on this. Seems like there should have been more choices - based on reputation I might have voted for Bobby Shantz, who won the first 4 Gold Gloves at the position. No-windup guys like Shantz and Kaat have a natural advantage over guys like Bob Gibson who have to drop to fielding position from the conclusion of a huge leg kick.

C - This is a really tough call. I think Pudge Rodriguez has a fearsome arm but is overrated as a handler of pitchers, plus he hasn't had to contend with the havoc on the basepaths that existed in the 70s and 80s. It's close between him, Bench, Boone and Sundberg; I'm voting for Sundberg but catch me another day and I could answer one of the others.

1B - Keith Hernandez, of course. There's some good fielders here but Keith played the position in a way that nobody else did.

2B - Mazeroski, hands down.

SS - Ozzie. Another easy one.

3B - Brooks Robinson. If these aren't the four infielders chosen, something has gone very wrong.

OF - Clemente, Mays, Andruw Jones. Jones is the best I have ever seen, and the other two have reputations that speak for themselves. I'm not sure Mays was any better than Garry Maddox or Devon White, but it's a close call and aside from Yaz there aren't any career leftfielders on the list to justify trying to balance. Dwight Evans would crack the top if it weren't for Clemente.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:54 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
May 1, 2007
BASEBALL: 2007 NL Central EWSL Report

The last of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. As always, the largest and probably most obscure division, the NL Central, goes last - my apologies for lagging on this one. Until last year the NL Central, a division whose star had fallen badly since the McGwire/Sosa/Bagwell heyday, was the only division not to claim a World Championship under the post-1994 divisional alignment. In fact, the division features two teams that have never won it all, one that is nearly a century into its drought, and two others that entered last year having waited 24 and 27 years for a flag.

EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2007 revisions to the age adjustment discussed here and rookie adjustments here). Bear in mind as always that (1) EWSL is a record of past performance, adjusted by age to give an assessment of the available talent on hand; it is not an individualized projection system; (2) individual EWSL are rounded off but team totals are compiled from the unrounded figures; and (3) as demonstrated here and here in some detail, nearly all teams will win more games than their EWSL total because I'm only rating 23 players per team. Further disclaimers and explanations are in my AL East preview here; my AL Central preview is here, AL West is here, NL East here and NL West here.

World Champion St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 229 (76 W)
Adjusted: 240 (80 W)
Age-Adj.: 213 (71 W)

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C24Yadier Molina1012
1B27Albert Pujols3739
2B31Adam Kennedy1513
SS32David Eckstein1714
3B32Scott Rolen1916
RF32Preston Wilson108
CF37Jim Edmonds2012
LF26Chris Duncan*511
C235Gary Bennett32
INF30Aaron Miles109
OF34Scott Speizio76
1237So Taguchi85
1331Juan Encarnacion1613
SP132Chris Carpenter1812
SP230Kip Wells22
SP325Adam Wainwright*511
SP425Anthony Reyes*24
SP529Braden Looper85
RP134Jason Isringhausen108
RP225Brad Thompson#46
RP331Randy Flores22
RP438Russ Springer43
RP531Randy Keisler10

Also on hand: Ryan Franklin, Skip Shumaker, the rehabbing Mark Mulder, and Tyler Johnson. Josh Hancock, of course, was in the bullpen picture until his fatal auto accident Sunday morning; it seems terribly unfair that the Cardinals organization has to go through this again less than a decade after Darryl Kile's death. Keisler is presently in the rotation due to Carpenter's injury following an unprecedented two straight seasons for Carpenter without serious injury.

There isn't really a ton of precedent for whether a World Championship helps offset a 17-game decline in the standings (22 over two years); the closest parallel that comes to mind is the 1998-2001 Yankees. The Yanks dropped 16 games in the standings in 1999, another 11 in 2000, but still won the Series both years. In 2001 they bounced back from 87 to 95 wins and pushed the World Series to a Game 7. Like this team, those Yankees had a lot of guys in their early 30s but their signature star (Jeter) was 27. The Yankees added one high-end starter to their rotation, Mike Mussina, while these Cardinals have overhauled the whole rotation behind Carpenter but with two youngsters, a retread and a converted reliever. Oh, and both teams had Randy Keisler. The other parallel would be the 1908 Cubs, who won the series after a 17-game decline over two years; they bounced back to win 104 games but finish second in 1909 with essentially the same team, and the pennant in 1910, but have never won it all again.

Injury risks with Carpenter and Rolen are a given, but really the big question marks for this team - creating both the upside and downside are (1) that rest of the rotation, including the talented Wainwright and Reyes; (2) whether Edmonds has one last Jim Edmonds year left and (3) whether Chris Duncan, a born DH, can ever play the outfield respectably enough to keep his bat in the lineup (realistically, the Cards would be better off just dealing him to an AL team to whom he would have more value).

Houston Astros

Raw EWSL: 236 (79 W)
Adjusted: 245 (82 W)
Age-Adj.: 207 (69 W)

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C38Brad Ausmus107
1B31Lance Berkman2823
2B41Craig Biggio158
SS30Adam Everett1312
3B31Morgan Ensberg1916
RF29Luke Scott*610
CF27Chris Burke#79
LF31Carlos Lee2219
C227Humberto Quintero11
INF35Mark Loretta1913
OF30Jason Lane98
1231Mike Lamb97
1338Orlando Palmeiro32
SP129Roy Oswalt2017
SP228Jason Jennings1011
SP340Woody Williams77
SP427Chris Sampson*23
SP528Wandy Rodriguez#22
RP130Brad Lidge1110
RP229Dan Wheeler109
RP328Chad Qualls88
RP434Trever Miller43
RP538Rick White32

Jennings and White are presently injured, and Lidge has for the moment at least lost the closer job to Wheeler, though I expect him to reclaim it if he rights himself. Also on hand: Matt Albers (currently in the rotation), Brian Moehler, Dave Borkowski and Hunter Pence, plus the rehabbing Brandon Backe.

The Astros? The Astros. Partly EWSL rates, or overrates, them on depth - the bench is stocked with guys who recently held regular jobs (Loretta, Lane), the pen runs three deep in quality - plus the addition of Carlos Lee. And partly this just isn't that strong a division. Of course, experience tells us that over a long season, depth matters, especially when you have a 41-year-old second baseman and a rookie right fielder.

Jennings is key - he ought to be better in Houston than in Colorado, but the early injury is another sign that pitchers age in dog years in Coors.

Absent a return from Roger Clemens, I can't realistically see this team winning the division, but they should plod along around .500 again.

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 201 (67 W)
Adjusted: 219 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 206 (69 W)

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C31Johnny Estrada1311
1B23Prince Fielder*923
2B24Rickie Weeks#812
SS24JJ Hardy#58
3B36Craig Counsell1410
RF29Kevin Mench1110
CF27Bill Hall1718
LF32Geoff Jenkins1714
C37Damian Miller106
INF35Tony Graffanino118
OF25Corey Hart*36
1227Gabe Gross66
1324Tony Gwynn jr.+14
SP128Ben Sheets1111
SP228Chris Capuano1212
SP332Jeff Suppan128
SP427David Bush99
SP529Claudio Vargas65
RP132Francisco Cordero128
RP229Derrick Turnbow76
RP331Matt Wise54
RP438Brian Shouse32
RP523Carlos Villanueva* 24

Also on hand: Corey Koskie, Laynce Nix and Greg Aquino (all injured; Koskie's future seems doubtful), Elmer Dessens and Chris Spurling, and, looming at AAA, top pitching prospect Yovanni Gallardo, who has a 42-8 K/BB ratio and just 1 HR allowed in 30 innings this season in the hitter-happy PCL after striking out 188 batters while posting a 1.86 ERA last season.

When asked before the season who should be the favorite in the NL Central, I told people, without conviction, the Brewers. Now that April is behind us, the first place team is, without conviction, the Brewers. Sure, they are tied with the Braves for the NL's best record and with the Red Sox for the majors' largest division lead (3.5 games), but they have outscored their opponents just 117-114, for a "Pythagorean" record of 13-12. In other words, they aren't playing like a team that is gonna take the division out behind the garage and teach it a lesson. That said, the hot start by JJ Hardy, who fizzled and got hurt last season after a promising second half in 2005, is most encouraging, and as they have been doing for a few years now the Crew has scrounged up veterans to plug most of their potential holes. What this team is missing is a really big bat in the outfield; I still don't buy Bill Hall as a consistent 30 HR threat or Mench as a serious corner outfielder outside of Texas. Also, as has been true for several years, Milwaukee lacks a reputable fifth starter, although Vargas has gotten off to a good start. Presumably it won't take long for either Vargas or Bush to falter or Sheets to sustain his usual injury and get Gallardo into the rotation.

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 207 (69 W)
Adjusted: 219 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 202 (67 W)

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C30Michael Barrett1514
1B31Derrek Lee1714
2B32Mark DeRosa97
SS27Cesar Izturis88
3B29Aramis Ramirez2018
RF32Jacque Jones1412
CF31Alfonso Soriano2118
LF34Cliff Floyd1514
C235Henry Blanco64
INF24Ronny Cedeno#35
OF22Felix Pie+04
1227Ryan Theriot*36
1325Matt Murton#812
SP126Carlos Zambrano1818
SP227Rich Hill*35
SP331Ted Lilly108
SP428Jason Marquis78
SP530Wade Miller33
RP130Ryan Dempster87
RP227Neal Cotts44
RP333Bobby Howry96
RP428Michael Wuertz44
RP529Will Ohman#44

Also on hand: Daryle Ward, Scott Eyre, Angel Guzman, and of course the oft-injured Kerry Wood and already-out-for-the-season-again Mark Prior.

Eventually, after two years of significantly underperforming their EWSL, it was inevitable that the Cubs' expectations would drift down to meet their performance. That should end now that I'm no longer listing Prior and Wood anywhere on their depth chart (not that Wade Miller is Mr. Durability). They have shored up some of their weaknesses by importing pricey 30-somethings, but while Soriano will help them for some time (aside from his outrageous price tag), the long-term future around the core of Zambrano and Ramirez is with Hill, Pie, Murton, and Theriot. And Pie is still a raw youngster while the latter two have much to prove to show that they are more than just useful role players.

Win Shares aren't out yet, but Rich Hill is probably closing in already on that 5 Win Shares figure. As I have noted several times, Hill just clicked at the start of last August after getting pounded in 2005 and early 2006, and now looks like a coming frontline starter.

Lee is having an odd year that suggests a guy whose wrist is not quite 100% back but compensating well - he's batting .392 with a staggering 14 doubles in 24 games, but has only gone deep once. The homers will doubtless come, and it's good to see him back.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Raw EWSL: 154 (51 W)
Adjusted: 182 (61 W)
Age-Adj.: 184 (61 W)
Subjective Adj.: 186 (62 W)

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C26Ronny Paulino*716
1B27Adam LaRoche1314
2B29Freddy Sanchez#1617
SS29Jack Wilson1513
3B26Jose Bautista*510
RF28Xavier Nady99
CF27Chris Duffy#58
LF28Jason Bay2324
C226Ryan Doumit#34
INF26Jose Castillo89
OF26Brad Eldred+04
1225Nate McLouth12
1328Humberto Cota33
SP124Zach Duke#810
SP225Ian Snell#46
SP324Tom Gorzelanny*23
SP425Paul Maholm#57
SP529Tony Armas32
RP135Salomon Torres106
RP223Matt Capps*47
RP332Damaso Marte53
RP428John Grabow33
RP529Shawn Chacon44

I try to avoid the subjective adjustments with pitchers, who are inherently unstable when projected out to higher innings totals, but Gorzelanny, like Rich Hill, should easily surpass that 3 WS total. I did give a 2-WS subjective bump from 6 to 8 to Duffy to reflect increased playing time. I could have listed Jonah Bayliss or John Wasdin instead of Chacon, but Chacon is a little more estaablished than Bayliss and the Pirates already list a lot of unproven young pitchers.

Pittsburgh has little to be excited about beyond Bay on the offensive side, though an optimist would say that the next few years should be solid ones for LaRoche, Sanchez and Paulino. What we will know a lot better after this season is whether the Pirates have any real gems among their young arms - Duke, Snell and Gorzelanny have all given flashes (even Maholm, in late 05), and all four are 24 or 25, plus Capps is 23 - there ought to turn out to be somebody there with more upside than the last few generations of young Pirate hurlers, which gave us only Jason Schmidt and Denny Neagle as front-line starters (the jury is still out on Oliver Perez), and neither of those guys originally came out of their system. You'd like to see someone here better than the Kris Bensons and Kip Wellses of the world. Certainly the Pirates' fans deserve better.

Cincinnati Reds

Raw EWSL: 191 (64 W)
Adjusted: 201 (67 W)
Age-Adj.: 180 (60 W)

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C30Dave Ross87
1B37Scott Hatteberg138
2B26Brandon Phillips78
SS30Alex Gonzalez1211
3B24Edwin Encarnacion#813
RF37Ken Griffey148
CF31Ryan Freel1210
LF27Adam Dunn2324
C231Javier Valentin65
INF41Jeff Conine116
OF26Josh Hamilton+04
1235Juan Castro64
1328Norris Hopper+14
SP129Aaron Harang1312
SP230Bronson Arroyo1513
SP328Kyle Lohse67
SP431Eric Milton54
SP527Matt Belisle#33
RP137David Weathers98
RP226Todd Coffey#67
RP340Mike Stanton66
RP428Kirk Saarloos67
RP530Victor Santos22

Others on hand include Chad Moeller, Rheal Cormier, Bill Bray, Joe Coutlangus, the injured Eddie Guardado and Gary Majewski, and AAA flamethrower Homer Bailey, who like Gallardo is pitching well and likely to arrive this season.

The Reds, as so often has been true in recent years, seem less than the sum of their parts. Some of that is lack of pitching depth (though Harang and Arroyo are the best 1-2 punch they have had since the days of Jose Rijo). Some is that the parts are less than they seem - guys who are no longer the stars they were (Griffey), guys who are stuck in reverse (Dunn) or have never lived up to promise (Milton) or have yet to prove they can do it twice (Phillips, Encarnacion, Ross). They don't look like an awful team, though probably between Cincy, the Cubs, the Astros and the Pirates somebody will run off the rails.

You know, the first time I saw the name "Norris Hopper," before I knew anything else about him - position, skills, track record - I thought "speedy outfielder." Some guys really are exactly who they sound like.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:10 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)