"Now, it's time for the happy recap." - Bob Murphy
Baseball 2006 Archives
January 3, 2007
BLOG: Flipping the Calendar
As usual this time of year, I'm creating new categories for the new year. This is especially important for those of you who come here directly to the baseball category page, which should now be here. Update your bookmarks accordingly. Also note that posts about the 2008 presidential race will be in the Politics 2008 category.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:37 AM | Baseball 2006 | Baseball 2007 | Blog 2006-14 | Politics 2006 | Politics 2007 | Politics 2008 | War 2006 | War 2007-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 28, 2006
BASEBALL: Giants Bag Zito
First reaction to the news: this stinks for the Mets, who really could have used Zito and his durability. Second thought: 7 years and $126 million is crazy money for a guy who is a durable quality pitcher, yes, but not a championship-quality staff ace.
One thing that happens in Rotisserie baseball is that you sometimes realize that the economics are shifting - people are throwing stupid money at closers and speed is cheap, something like that. So you change your strategy. Starting pitching still matters, but it matters less than it used to, and yet has become obscenely expensive. I can't criticize the Mets for mostly staying out of the feeding frenzy. Glavine and Maine give the Mets two solid starters, and El Duque will hopefull be OK when available. Dave Williams and Jason Vargas may give the Mets some non-Lima-quality insurance. Which, with Trachsel, Bannister and Zambrano gone, leaves two rotation slots, one to be filled by Oliver Perez in the hopes of progress, the other open for competition between Pelfrey, Humber, and Soler, and Pedro to return at mid-season.
Not a great rotation. But with a deep bullpen and a solid lineup and defense, maybe the Mets are ahead of the game in shifting their strategy and saving their resources.
December 21, 2006
BASEBALL: Next Year's Free Agents
Good overview of the big fish that might be on next year's market. Carlos Zambrano is obviously the major prize here.
December 17, 2006
BASEBALL: Sisco for Gload
The Royals deal Andrew Sisco to the White Sox for Ross Gload. This is an interesting deal. My gut reaction is to say that it is a horrendous deal for the Royals. Sisco is a 23-year-old lefthander who could throw a feather through a brick wall, and those don't grow on trees, especially for the pitching-starved Royals. He had a fine rookie campaign in 2005 followed by a terrible year, but 6'10" power lefties have something of a history of coming along slowly, and they are dealing him when his stock is down. I'm also not sure it's a great deal for Sisco; while he gets into a much better organization for developing pitchers, he is probably more likely now to get pigeonholed as a situational lefty reliever, which is not the best role for a guy with his upside but also his control problems.
All of that said, though, the deal may yet be partly salvaged if Gload turns out a few good years as a regular. He is a pretty good hitter, probably better than, say, Jeff Liefer or Jeff Abbott or Greg Norton. While his upside is lower than Sisco's, he's a better bet to be productive in 2007. That may not be the profile you are seeking if you are KC and building for 2008-09, but it's something.
UPDATE: Pinto says Sisco may have been dealt for eating tacos during a game in Mexico. Or something.
December 13, 2006
BASEBALL: Dumb de Dumb Dumb
Boy, the Mariners are just idiots, aren't they? First they trade Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez - at first glance a deal of two young-ish pitchers with good arms and bad injury histories, but really a deal of a guy with a great record (when healthy) as a reliever (2.89 career ERA), who could easily hold down an elite closer job, for a starter who has never pitched decently or had good peripheral numbers at any stage of his career. Then, they trade one of their few promising (albeit also injury-prone) young bats, Chris Snelling, for a manifestly washed-up and expensive Jose Vidro - and, in the process, eliminate the job of 23-year-old Jose Lopez, who for all of his second half swoon last year is a promising young hitter whose top ten comparable players include three Hall of Famers.
Win now, or build around youth. The Mariners will do neither in 2007.
BASEBALL: Free Agent Contracts By EWSL
For those of you who have been wondering what I was doing instead of blogging about baseball lately - besides being swamped with work and a not-sleeping-well baby - I decided to take a systematic look at this year's free agent signings thus far, using Established Win Shares Levels. These are all the signings through Monday, drawn from ESPN's list. [UPDATE: Yes, I know the chart is already a bit out of date - I may re-run this later to include Drew, Lugo, and Pettitte, as well as some of the people who sign later in the offseason].
EWSL is explained here, and the age adjustments I used, developed from the 2004-05 results, are here (I have not yet had time to add the 2006 results). As you will recall, EWSL is not a predictive tool and is not individually tailored to the player; it simply looks at the established level of quality a player has produced over the last three years, applies an age adjustment derived from actual experience, and concludes that a particular level of Win Shares is a player's current established level of production. I see it as a baseline or starting point for an analysis of this nature, rather than an endpoint - in other words, if EWSL says a player's current established level is 6 Win Shares, you need a really good reason to explain why you are paying a guy with the expectation that he will give you 20. I don't exclude the possibility that a closer statistical analysis or some teams' scouting and coaching staffs may have such good reasons, but the bigger the gap is, the more skeptical we should be.
The chart below is mainly self-explanatory. The last five columns list, in order, (1) the average per-year contract value, (2) the player's 2007 EWSL, (3) the average contract value divided by 2007 EWSL, (4) the player's average EWSL for the life of the contract, and (5) the average contract value divided by the average EWSL for the life of the contract. The chart is ranked by the final column, with the best bargains in terms of dollars per EWSL for the life of the contract at the top, and the worst deals at the bottom. I explain below some of the biases in the study, however.
EWSL more than a year out was computed by successive application of the age adjustments (I'll spare you the algebra). Obviously that's a crummy way to project a player as far as 8 years into the future, but then I'm not convinced that the Cubs have a better way to project a player 8 years into the future.
As I see it, this analysis has three biases you need to take account of before using it to analyze contracts.
1. You will notice that the top of the chart is dominated by short-term deals for low-cost, low-quality players, while most of the stars are in the bottom half. There's a rational reason for that that doesn't depend on GM stupidity. Lots of players can give you 1 Win Share; very few can give you 30. And there are still only 25 roster spots. In a perfectly efficient free agent market, that marginal 30th Win Share should be more expensive; the stars ought to cost a premium for scraping the right end of the bell curve. That's an argument that the best measures analyze contracts by marginal value, but I didn't have time to run an analysis of that nature.
2. Win Shares accords a fairly large share of the value of preventing runs to fielders as opposed to pitchers. As a result, especially with declining innings totals, all but the very best starters and nearly all relievers will top out in the mid teens, comparable to a solid but not star-level regular. While you could argue that this is a reflection that real-world teams should spend less on individual pitchers, you still need pitching, and accordingly the pitchers generally come in as more expensive. Another way of viewing this is to recognize that pitching is scarce and thus more valuable.
3. Unsurprisingly, players returning from long injuries preceded by periods of injury-reduced effectiveness are rated by EWSL as not being worth much. Naturally, the teams employing Randy Wolf and Octavio Dotel know that they are taking on a risk.
That said, some thoughts:
*I see Adam Kennedy as a guy nearing the end of his effectiveness, at least as an offensive player, but EWSL sees him as a guy who has been a consistent producer and is not that old, and just signed for a lower annual salary than Jose Valentin. The Cards don't need to get a ton of value from Kennedy for that to pay off. Credit the savvy Walt Jocketty for that one.
*Yes, I recognize the inherent skepticism that accompanies anything that rates Kaz Matsui as a good deal. Just because he appears to be a good use of money doesn't mean he's a good use of at bats. Although I do still think Matsui may have a revival in him in Colorado.
*No, I do not actually think Gary Matthews and Juan Pierre are better investments than Glavine. Don't forget the value of their defense, but I do see Pierre in particular as a guy who is in rather faster than usual decline.
*Note that Aramis Ramirez is the only player on the chart who has an EWSL of 15 or higher for the duration of his contract. Obviously, he's a steal.
*I was a little surprised to see Jason Schmidt in the rogues' gallery with Eaton, Wells, Meche, Lilly, and Padilla, none of whom are pitchers of comparable quality.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Baseball 2006 | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
December 8, 2006
BASEBALL: Jose Uribe, RIP
Slick-fielding, light-hitting 1980s Giants shortstop Jose Uribe was killed in an auto accident late last night; he was 47 and living back home in the Dominican Republic:
Uribe owned a hardware store and other businesses in his hometown of Juan Baron in recent years, and ran unsuccessfully for mayor earlier this year.
For some reason, I found this description especially touching, symbolizing both the importance of ballplayers to the Dominican and the bond between generations of players:
Guerrero blasted music out of a van as they marched from the Uribe family home to the town's baseball field. Among the mourners was Chicago White Sox shortstop Juan Uribe, a second cousin of Jose Uribe and from the same town.
The article mentions that Uribe's widow is named Guerrero as well, so Vladimir may also be some sort of kin. Pinto notes that his first wife died in 1988. A postscript, not to blame the dead but as a reminder to the living: like Derrick Thomas, Uribe wasn't wearing a seat belt.
BASEBALL: Cause and Effect?
Let's see - the wholly unaccomplished Adam Eaton and the injured Randy Wolf sign $8 million/year contracts, Vincente Padilla, Gil Meche, Ted Lilly and Greg Maddux sign $10-11 million/year contracts, even though Maddux is past 40 and got plastered for three months straight last season and Meche ran out of gas in the second half last year and hasn't had a good ERA in seven years.
Now word comes that Andy Pettitte, still in his prime and with a chance at 300 wins and the Hall of Fame if he sticks around, has decided not to retire. Gee, what do you think convinced him?
I'll have to do a more comprehensive roundup of the free agent deals soon, but so many of these contracts are just insane.
December 7, 2006
Blez gives the pros and cons of Mike Piazza signing with the A's to DH for $8.5 million. Personally I think Piazza's value is wasted on a team that barely uses its backup catcher and will make him #3. Oakland probably would have been better off with Bonds, but I don't know the whole story there. Still, there are only so many good hitters available and freeing Piazza from the daily grind of catching should keep him healthy. I agree that the A's are rather short of offense after replacing Frank Thomas with Piazza, who whatever his other virtues is not Frank Thomas.
December 5, 2006
BASEBALL: Worth Waiting For
Ryan McConnell tears apart a supremely silly column by NY Daily News writer Bill Price complaining about the Mets' patience in waiting out Tom Glavine's decision to re-sign. Price somehow manages this screed without once explaining how the Mets suffered from waiting for Glavine or how he is not worth the $10.5 million price tag compared to the alternatives in the market, and his overwrought comparisons to Tom Seaver and Sandy Koufax just sound stupid, given that Glavine is a certain Hall of Famer who will almost certainly pass 300 wins next season.
It really is amazing how stupid and consumed by petty envy so many sportswriters are.
BASEBALL: Figgins Must Go!
Matt Welch, as part of his top-ten list of the best seasons by an Angels DH (see if you can guess who is #1), has a lengthy and exhaustive analysis of why the Angels need to trade Chone Figgins for the same reasons as the Dodgers benefitted from dealing away Bobby Valentine before the 1973 season. Welch's analysis sold me, as well as reminding me exactly how much young talent the Angels really have. The interesting question is where to deal Figgins, who has great speed and flexibility but fell off to a career-low .336 OBP last year at age 28, making him a dicey prospect at best as a leadoff man (I'm thinking St. Louis, which has a couple of weak spots in its lineup, a few injury-prone stars at 3B and CF, and a manager who worships defensive flexibility).
December 4, 2006
BASEBALL: Plain Foulke
The Indians are looking at Keith Foulke to shore up a bullpen that just killed them in 2006. Foulke may well be a good gamble for a team that has made extensive use of re-built relief pitchers like Bob Wickman and Bobby Howry in recent years, but he has to be regarded as a reclamation project unless and until he proves that he's healthy again.
BASEBALL: Not A Humble Carpenter
Chris Carpenter signs for five years at $13 million a year. Presumably Carpenter's long injury history (including missing the 2004 postseason) will prevent this deal from being a ceiling on Barry Zito, who is a lesser but more durable pitcher (although I would prefer not to shell out more than $65 million for Zito, given that he's really not a legitimate #1 starter, as Carpenter is).
BASEBALL: The Bullpen Option
I know I'm a bit of a broken record on moving starters to the bullpen and vice versa, but I would feel a lot better about the Mets keeping Orlando Hernandez around if I thought there was at least a reasonable possibility that he could be shifted to the pen if needed (I gather he was not happy pitching relief with the White Sox). Hernandez is ideally suited to middle relief work, as he eats up righthanders and his unorthodox motion will be quite off-putting to a hitter who has taken a few at bats already against someone else. I looked at his career record and if you count the postseason, Hernandez has made 10 career relief appearances (mainly with the White Sox, and half of them in October). The results? 0.76 ERA in 23.2 IP, 24/8 K/BB ratio, and just 11 hits allowed (2 of them solo homers). I'm not saying it has to be done ASAP, but with the departure of Bradford, Hernandez signed to a two-year deal and a bunch of young arms on the way, that has to be an option the Mets should consider down the road.
BASEBALL: Glavine and More
Well, the Mets' pitching staff is coming into focus. Glavine will be back next year, but Roberto Hernandez won't, nor Chad Bradford. I also didn't get the chance at the time to comment on the deal that sent Royce Ring and Heath Bell to the Padres for reliever Jon Adkins and outfielder Ben Johnson. I don't like that deal - I realize that Bell and Ring had lost the confidence of the organization, but I just don't see what in Adkins' record suggests a useful pitcher, and Johnson seems like a guy whose upside is that he might be Xavier Nady someday.
Looks like the Mets' pen will depend a lot on (a) the return from injury of Duaner Sanchez and Juan Padilla and (b) who doesn't make the rotation.
I can't believe that the Mets are paying more to keep El Duque than to keep Glavine. If you look at the pitcher salaries this offseason, Glavine is a pretty good deal even before you consider the fact that it's just a one-year commitment. Here's how this year's pitching free agents stack up (in millions per year):
Mike Mussina 11.5
December 2, 2006
BASEBALL: Trivia Time Again
Here's a good brain-buster - name the ten players since World War II to score 140 or more runs in a season (it's been done 12 times in that period, two guys doing it twice). I guarantee you can keep this one going for a good while in a group of reasonably knowledgeable fans - a ten-man list is the right length for this kind of question and none of these guys is truly obscure, although you may need to think about the ballparks they played in to get two of them.
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Jeff Bagwell (152 in 2000, 143 in 1999)
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November 30, 2006
BASEBALL: Drew Sox
Word is that JD Drew is signing with the Red Sox for 4 years and 56 million. Drew's an outstanding offensive player - he's a real upgrade compared to Trot Nixon - and the star-studded Sox shouldn't need him to be an emotional leader, which he obviously isn't.
That said, $14 million a year for a guy who has qualified for the batting title just twice in 8 years and has missed more than 50 games in a season three of the past six years is awfully pricey, even considering how badly inflated the free agent market has been thus far (it sure makes Aramis Ramirez at $15 million a year look like a steal). What is alarming is the idea that the Sox might use Drew to replace Manny. Manny's contract at this point is cheaper - $38 million over two years. If you look at Runs Created, for example, Manny's established performance level over 2004-06 is 127 runs created compared to 88 for Drew (9.20 per 27 outs compared to 7.69 for Drew). Now, there are ameliorating factors. Drew played in Dodger Stadium and Turner Field, not Fenway. And Drew is 31, while Manny at 35 is entering a serious danger zone, especially for a guy who is coming off an up year - the odds are way more than 50/50 that Manny is due for a serious falloff in 2007. But even for all of that, Drew's fragility and lesser offensive skills still make him worth a lot less than 74% of Manny (which is where their salaries stack up).
November 27, 2006
BASEBALL: Wins, Losses and ERA
One of the many fancy new features rolled out at Baseball-Reference.com lately is the ability to get career and year-by-year splits, in more detail than they have previously been available even at Retrosheet or through David Pinto, because they are derived from a newly completed database of all box scores dating back to 1957. It's a goldmine, the potential of which I have not yet fully absorbed.
One cool feature is the splits showing how pitchers over the course of their career pitched in their wins vs. their losses. I started examining some recent pitchers of interest and decided to do a comparative study.
I looked at 58 pitchers, including every 200-game winner to start his career since 1957, plus three Hall of Fame pitchers for whom all but their first two years are available (Koufax, Drysdale and Bunning), plus a bunch of other guys who cleared 150 wins and/or 2500 Ks or were otherwise notable: Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Dave Stewart, Fernando Valenzuela, John Smoltz, Andy Pettitte, Al Leiter, Kevin Appier, Bret Saberhagen, Ron Guidry, Rick Sutcliffe, Mark Langston, and Sam McDowell. The group is a cross-section of the top pitchers from the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, Nineties and today. Some conclusions:
1. I was amazed at quite how dramatic the difference was between these guys' average ERAs in their wins and losses. Yes, you expect a big separation - but of the 58, all but 12 had ERAs below 2.00 in their victories, and all but three had ERAs above 5.00 in their losses. The lesson: yes, starting pitching matters quite a lot in determining wins and losses, in case you still had any doubt.
2. The 12 who posted ERAs above 2.00 are obviously weighted more towards the post-1994 period and almost exclusively towards good teams. In order: Kenny Rogers (2.39), Pettitte (2.33), Jamie Moyer (2.30), Jack Morris (2.29), Sutcliffe (2.26), David Wells (2.25), Mike Mussina (2.17), Langston (2.10), Appier (2.07), Charlie Hough (2.06), Dennis Martinez (2.06), and Stewart (2.05).
The guy who jumps off that list is Morris - he played in the 1980s, not the 1990s, but always had superior offensive firepower at his back. The relatively high ERAs in his wins suggests that his W-L record should be viewed with a bit of skepticism, which I have argued for years as being a reason to doubt his Hall of Fame credentials. The same doubts, to a lesser extent, may be raised about Mussina, depending how his career record ends up, and especially since Mussina lacks Morris' reputation as a big-game pitcher.
Appier was more surprising, until you remember that he got a disproportionate number of wins with the A's, Mets and Angels after his prime, as opposed to his best years in KC. Appier also posted a solid 3.50 ERA in his no-decisions, but more on that below.
(If you are wondering, Steve Trachsel had a 3.97 ERA in his wins in 2006, 2.23 career).
3. The three guys with the lowest ERAs in their losses should not be surprising, though I was mildly surprised. One was Bob Gibson (4.69), who pitched in the pitcher-heaven Sixties (in 1968 he had a 2.14 ERA in his losses and a .500 record when not throwing a shutout despite pitching for a first-place team). One from the same era who surprised me more, since he always had good Mays-and-McCovey offenses, was Juan Marichal (4.94), but then you have to figure that Marichal lost a lot of his games to Gibson and both lost a lot to Koufax and Drysdale. The third, unsurprising given his teams, was Tom Seaver (4.92).
4. The very best pitchers in their wins were the extreme power pitchers and guys who won a lot in Sixties-era pitcher's parks: Koufax (1.34), McDowell (1.43), Nolan Ryan (1.45), Drysdale (1.48), and Pedro Martinez (1.49). But the next rank, the guys in the 1.50s is a mixed bag: Jim Palmer (1.52), Gaylord Perry (1.54), Tommy John (1.57), Jerry Reuss (1.58), Gibson (1.59). Bert Blyleven was next at 1.60, if you were wondering.
5. The worst pitchers in their losses - Rogers (7.39), Wells (7.27), Pettitte (7.18), Leiter (7.04), Mussina (6.73), Sutcliffe (6.70), Stewart (6.62), Langston (6.57), Moyer (6.55), Gooden (6.54). Leiter (1.90-7.04) and Rogers (2.39-7.39) have the biggest differences between wins and losses, though Reuss (1.58-6.24) has perhaps the biggest percentage difference (I didn't run the numbers on that).
6. A fascinating field of study would be to look at these guys' no-decisions, but that proved labor-intensive and I may wait and see if further changes on the site make it easier to compute. One problem is that there is as yet no way, outside of reviewing individual games, to separate no-decision starts from no-decision relief appearances - for example, Koufax had a 6.90 ERA in 118 games where he appeared without a win, loss or save, but only 64 of those were starts, and much of the rest was probably early-career mopup work.
Anyway, while the results of this study can't be separated out from the various other influences on a pitcher's ERA and W-L record, I did find it interesting and illustrative.
November 22, 2006
BASEBALL: Today's Trivia Question
Comments may be down but you can still amuse yourself. Derek Jeter slugged .483 this year and finished second for the MVP Award, leading to the question: how often has a player won the MVP and slugged below .500?
Well, since 1969, it's been done
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These are mostly controversial selections, not least because three of them were OF/1B and none of them really drew a ton of walks. Munson, despite a low OBP, may well have deserved the award in a year when the league lacked a dominant hitter and the best batting year was by Hal McRae as a DH, and Larkin's best competition was Mike Piazza. But Rose clearly robbed Willie Stargell and may not have deserved the award ahead of teammate Joe Morgan; Garvey was not as valuable to the Dodgers as Jimmie Wynn or Mike Marshall, and the best player in the league was probably Morgan, Mike Schmidt or Johnny Bench; and Ichiro had no business finishing ahead of Giambi and A-Rod, nor even Roberto Alomar or Bret Boone.
UPDATE: I forgot Gibson; hat tip to Ricky West for pointing that one out. Gibson, of course, robbed Darryl Strawberry, who deserved the award in 1988.
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November 21, 2006
Justin Morneau wins the 2006 AL MVP Award; my pick, Joe Mauer, the first catcher to lead the majors in batting average since Deacon White in 1875, finishes sixth, Derek Jeter (who unlike Morneau was clearly one of the two best players on his own team) finishes second, David Ortiz (who unlike Morneau was one of the three best hitting 1B/DHs in the AL) third, Frank Thomas fourth. Jermaine Dye fifth. Once again, the MVP voters fall under the hypnotic sway of RBI.
AL batting leaders are here; Morneau finished seventh in batting, sixth in slugging, eighth in OPS, fifth in Total Bases, and seventh in Hits (he wasn't among the OBP, Homers, 2B, or Runs leaders). AL Win Shares leaders are here (Morneau tied for fifth with Raul Ibanez).
Lots of baseball stuff to catch up on the past two weeks or so.
*Judging by the search engine traffic, a lot of people are looking for my take on the 2006 NL MVP race, the 2006 AL MVP race, and the other postseason awards; go here for that. The big surprise to me in the NL voting was Lance Berkman finishing third. Given Carlos Beltran's spectacular defense and superior baserunning, I have little doubt that Beltran was more valuable; then again, it's good to see Berkman get some overdue recognition.
*It can't have been lost on the agents for Ryan Howard and Miguel Cabrera that Alfonso Soriano finished sixth in the balloting, behind their clients, while having a career year. Soriano's 8-year, $136 million ($17 million per year) contract with the Cubs is utter madness. I know I was too hard on Soriano for his huge home/road splits in Texas, and it's true that (a) he's a tremendous athlete, and athleticism does matter in projecting how a player ages, and (b) under Frank Robinson's tutelage he drew 67 walks, more than he had drawn the prior two seasons combined and almost 30 above his career high. If Soriano can sustain most of that (his 16 intentional passes will probably fall off), he will remain a very dangerous hitter into his 30s, not only because he will get on base more but also because he will be less susceptible to pitchers taking advantage of his aggressiveness.
But that's a big "if" for $136 million (the Mariners made the same gamble on Beltre and look how that worked out), and Soriano remains either a bad second baseman or a mediocre left fielder (the Cubs apparently plan to keep him in the outfield), plus Lou Piniella wants to bat him leadoff, which is nuts. And even if he does repeat 2006 a few times, that's an awful lot of money and he is unlikely to be worth it by age 35, 36, 37 and 38. Perhaps the Cubs expect such salary inflation under the new collective bargaining agreement that $17mil for a 36 year old left fielder batting .270/.485/.340 with 18 stolen bases will be a bargain, but I doubt it.
And the Soriano signing represents a larger failure to come to terms with the organization's persistent inability to take a pitch. I was OK with the Aramis Ramirez re-signing, which was cheaper and for a younger player who plays third base, but the two in combination tie up a lot of resources in aggressive hitters. Consider, since 1986, where the Cubbies have placed in the NL in walks:
Although Sammy Sosa eventually learned patience, the tendency to import guys like Andre Dawson and Sosa and make them the team's signature veteran leaders has not helped this. Simply put, the Cubs will continue to underachieve as long as they fail to make use of the free pass.
*I'm yet again not thrilled with the Mets' signing of Moises Alou, which together with the money thrown at El Duque and Jose Valentin establishes a rather ominous pattern of over-investment in geriatric players (Glavine too, but Glavine's worth it). Replacing Cliff Floyd with Alou is six of one for half a dozen of the other in terms of their injury histories, and at 40 Alou is more likely to decline or get hurt again; I'd give Floyd a 60/40 chance of having a better year in 2007 than Alou. In an ideal world, you would platoon them and get rid of Shawn Green, who unlike those two has almost zero chance of slugging .500 again. Green was a necessary stretch drive pickup but with a full offseason to work with he should not remain penciled in as a regular.
What is doubly concerning is the implication that the Mets are looking to dump Milledge, who I discussed at some length here. I'm fine with trading Milledge if the Mets get major value in return, but telegraphing their interest in dealing him is probably the first step to giving up way too soon on a guy who is just 21 and (so far as I can tell) has no problems that maturity can't fix.
*The Mets also had a couple deals under the radar. They brought in Damion Easley, another 37-year-old infielder, which isn't great news but I'm inclined to trust Minaya on this one, as he has had a decent record locating veterans to stock the bench. I'm less happy with dealing minor league relief stud Henry Owens, who the Mets gave up on after 4 major league innings, for Jason Vargas (the deal also includes Adam Bostick from Florida for Matt Lindstrom; I know nothing about either except that Lindstrom is three years older and both have had trouble throwing strikes in the minors).
November 15, 2006
BASEBALL: Moose Not Loose
Yankees re-sign Mussina. I agree with David Pinto that the 2-year, $22.5 million price tag is a reasonable one for a guy of Mussina's age and effectiveness, especially for the Hated Yankees. Glavine should command about the same ballpark - in fact, he will probably want more than Mussina given his superior durability.
Signing Gil Meche, as the Yankees are contemplating, I don't understand. Talk about being doomed to repeat your mistakes. Meche was an exciting prospect a few years ago and his 32 starts and revived K rate this season (7.52/9 IP) suggest a guy who may finally be healthy, but his health record is certainly no better than Carl Pavano's and Jaret Wright's were when they signed with the Yanks. His ERAs even pitching in SafeCo the last four years are 4.51, 5.01, 5.09, and 4.48, and he wore out in the second half last year (3.83 ERA before the break, 5.42 after; his career ERA after the break is 5.03). Meche hasn't actually pitched well in seven years.
November 14, 2006
BASEBALL: The Duque of Flushing
Mets re-sign Orlando Hernandez for two years and $12 million, through an age known only to his Maker. This, like the Valentin signing, seems to be a signing a bit like the Kris Benson deal, driven more by fear of the market and complacency with 2006 than a cold-eyed analysis of the future. Of course, Omar Minaya is blunt about the fact that the second year was the price of the first:
"The way the marketplace is, I didn't think it would be realistic to sign Orlando Hernandez for one year. He stays in shape. He's a hard worker. If you wanted to get him, you were going to give him two years."
Yeah, I like El Duque too, and he can still pitch. But he's also a 41-or-so-year-old pitcher with a checkered record for durability, who was signed for the purpose of pitching in the playoffs and then pulled up lame and missed them, and who posted a 4.66 ERA in the regular season. That may well be a pitcher worth bringing back, but for twelve million dollars?
November 13, 2006
BASEBALL: Valentin's Payday
Jose Valentin returns for a 1-year deal for 2007, estimated at $3 million. You gotta have a second baseman, and it's hard to cut Valentin loose after the tremendous bounce-back year he had. But I have a feeling that the Mets will be shopping for a replacement by July.
BASEBALL: 11/13/06 Notes
*The Cubs really had no choice but to re-sign Aramis Ramirez to retain credibility with their fans, especially as a big-market team that could obviously afford to do so. While I obviously prefer more patient hitters and the Cubs in particular have a longstanding problem in that regard, Ramirez is too valuable a property, as a 29-year-old who hits for big-time power and a good batting average, to blame him for the things he doesn't do.
*I have to regard the Jaret Wright trade as a sign of hubris on the part of Leo Mazzone. Perhaps Wright is best suited to middle relief work, given his utter inability to go past 5 innings with any regularity. As for the Yankees, they eat the bulk of yet another ill-considered contract, a luxury few of even the other rich teams have.
*I just gotta say: if you had tried at the All-Star Break to name the members of the traveling Major League all-star team that would visit Japan at the end of the season, how long would you have been guessing to come up with John Maine on the roster?
*The Rookie of the Year awards will be handed out this afternoon. The NL field is just an embarrassment of riches (the Dodgers and Marlins alone were loaded with quality rookies), but I have to regard the top three as Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Johnson. I'd give it to Ramrez very narrowly over Zimmerman, for having a slightly more impressive year, but both will - health and contract issues permitting - contend with Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, David Wright, and Miguel Cabrera for many years to come for the title of best SS and 3B in the NL East (in fact, Ramirez and Reyes are almost even as is). Dan Uggla had a fine year and may win the award but wasn't as good as his double play partner this season and doesn't have as bright a future - Ramirez is four years younger, had the same slugging percentage and an OBP 14 points higher, plays a more demanding defensive position, had more plate appearances, and stole 51 bases to Uggla's six.
In the AL, I don't really have a quarrel with Justin Verlander, who seemed to become the consensus choice after Liriano went down, although it's easy to forget that Jonathan Papelbon is also eligible for the award; Papelbon will head to the rotation next year, which combined with Keith Foulke being cut loose raises some interesting questions about what the Red Sox bullpen will look like.
*My picks for the other major awards are discussed here.
UPDATE: Ramirez and Verlander win, with Zimmerman, Uggla and Johnson finishing 2-3-4 in the NL and Papelbon and Liriano 2-3 in the AL. Well done by the writers.
November 12, 2006
Can it really be possible that Keith Law ranks Barry Zito behind Mike Mussina, Ted Lilly, and Gil Meche?
I like and respect Law, but someone needs a remedial lesson on the value of durability.
November 11, 2006
BASEBALL: Sheffield's Welcome Wears Out Again
Gary Sheffield becomes the first major player move of the offseason, shipping out to Detroit for three minor league pitchers. Interestingly, while the Yankees concluded that they had too many big, exorbitantly-paid veteran sluggers with big egos, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs was eager to claim one of those sluggers. Go figure.
From the Yanks' perspective, the deal probably had to be made. Sheffield wasn't going to fit well in the lineup unless he was willing to play first base, and while few of the pricey Yankee vets can really be moved, Sheffield was the one with the longest and best-known arsenal of methods to make himself a nuisance in the clubhouse. Even with Sheffield's departure, if Giambi can't play first base, the Yanks are stuck with nowhere to put Melky Cabrera unless he, Abreu, Damon or Matsui parks his wheels at first.
I don't know that much about the pitching prospects, Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett. The 23-year-old Sanchez, a starter, is the top guy for now, the closest to the majors but having missed the last two months of the season with an elbow injury. His numbers suggest a guy just mastering his stuff, as his career minor league BB/9 rate is 4.56, but under 4 in 2005 and 2006; in 2006 he struck out 129 batters in 123 innings between AA and AAA. The 22-year-old Whelan, a reliever, is behind him in progress, having walked 4.26 per 9 innings for his career without advancing beyond 78.1 career innings A ball, but his 110 career whiffs (12.68 per 9) suggest a live arm. Claggett is a college reliever with a little over a year of pro experience, but good results so far. To an organization starved for young arms, this is a good deal.
For the Tigers, Sheffield is an investment in taking a 1-year miracle and turning it into a credible contender, as with the White Sox' acquisition of Jim Thome a year ago. And certainly Sheffield's history (a lifetime .297/.525/.398 hitter in over 9500 plate appearances) suggests that he should immediately become the defending AL champs' best hitter. But they had to sign him to a 3-year deal through age 40, a risky proposition for a guy coming off a season nearly wiped out by injury and whose durability without the aid of performance-enhancing substances is questionable. It's a calculated gamble, and an expensive one.
BASEBALL: You Belong To The Citi
The big Mets news of the day is that the new ballpark to open in 2009 will be named CitiField, thanks to an 8-figure deal with Citigroup (the parent company of Citibank) estimated as much as $20 million per year. (More here). While it would have been nice to follow my suggestion that the Chock Full O' Nuts coffee company pay to name the place Jackie Robinson Stadium, I'm basically fine with this, and not just because Citigroup (1) is a major client of mine and my firm's and (2) holds the mortgage on my house. Four points about stadium names:
1. You get a new stadium, you get a new name. Let's have none of this "New Shea"/"Old Shea" nonsense. Shea Stadium is a place with its own identity and its own place in the history of the game and the hearts of Mets fans. You tear it down to build a new stadium, you get a new name.
2. I don't, in principle, have a problem with corporate stadium names (ballparks have been named after companies, egomaniacal owners, or some combination of the two - see "Wrigley Field" and "Turner Field" for examples - as long as there have been ballparks). $20 million a year can make the Mets more competitive, and that is a good thing. I'm fine with corporate names subject to points #3 and 4.
3. No ridiculous names. CitiField isn't a ridiculous name, like the Poulan Weedeater Independence Bowl, the rather wimpy-sounding Minute Maid Field, or abysmal phone company names like SBC Field. There is a certain affinity between "Citi" and "Metropolitans," after all. Citibank is a longstanding New York-based business and in an industry (banking and Wall Street investment banks) that has deep roots in the city.
4. No names that change every few years. In fact, were I negotiating a stadium deal, I would add in a substantial premium and an escape clause for renaming rights. That's my big issue with naming stadiums after banks and phone companies, as well as new and unstable companies (see: "Enron Field"). But the First National City Bank of New York has been known as "City Bank" or Citibank for decades, and given its size and brand equity, should be for the forseeable future.
November 6, 2006
BASEBALL: Fremont Dreaming
The A's are about to ink a deal to build a new stadium in nearby Fremont, leaving Oakland and the Coliseum behind. Not clear yet whether the former Philly/KC franchise will take the name of its fourth city or, NY Giants and Jets style, stay the Oakland A's. Could this be an end to 106 years of boom-and-bust financial cycles for the A's?
November 5, 2006
BASEBALL: No, Please, Go Away
Really, I was never a huge Sosa fan but I never actively disliked him, either. And unlike some people I'm not calling for Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Sheffield and Palmeiro to be barred from Cooperstown. Like the great spitballer Ed Walsh, or like the cheat-any-way-they-could Orioles of the 1890s, they were creatures of the conditions of their era.
But baseball needs to turn the page on that era. We're stuck with Bonds - he hit too well last year and is too close to the record for him to end up blackballed this offseason - and for a little longer we will be stuck with Sheffield, as well perhaps with other veteran sluggers yet to be unmasked. But we don't need any more of those guys playing in the aftermath of the steroid revelations than we have to.
November 1, 2006
BASEBALL: No To Mota
Guillermo Mota suspended 50 games for failing a steroid test. Indians fans in particular will be amazed to hear that Mota was taking performance-enhancing drugs. People who remember his clashes with Mike Piazza may not.
I'm ambivalent about Mota as a pitcher anyway, and this certainly complicates his free agency, as did blowing the lead in Game Two of the NLCS. On the other hand, if the Mets can re-sign him for cheap as a result, this may be a blessing in disguise.
Note that middle relievers remain seriously over-represented among the guys who get caught.
October 31, 2006
BASEBALL: Steinbrenner Sick
BASEBALL: Declining Options
Perhaps the bigger story than Piazza is the unsurprising news that despite a rough 2006, the White Sox picked up the option on workhorse Mark Buehrle. The exit of Buehrle and the Mets' likely re-signing of Tom Glavine will leave the field of free agent pitchers exceedingly narrow, with Barry Zito, Jason Scmidt and Andy Pettitte the only guys who can be seriously characterized as healthy, effective and in their prime (although the wild card is Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka), plus a few oldsters like Mike Mussina and Greg Maddux.
BASEBALL: Piazza for Sale
The Padres have declined an $8 million option for Mike Piazza. Which makes sense; Piazza may have been worth that money this year in retrospect (although what they actually paid him was a good deal less), but a catcher his age he is always a risk of major injury or catastrophic falloff. The ESPN article indicates that both sides are interested in keeping him in San Diego, and when you discount for the fact that they are negotiating in the newspapers here it seems pretty likely another deal will get done.
The Mets, of course, have no room for Piazza, but if things don't work out with San Diego there's his hometown of Philly, which split its catching duties among three guys, none of them younger than 33, but there aren't a ton of teams with money and a chance of competing that need either a starting catcher of a catcher/DH.
October 30, 2006
BASEBALL: A Bad Hand
So, let me take one more crack at explaining precisely why the 2006 Cardinals winning the World Series bothered me, and then I'll shut up on the topic, or at least move on to something else.
Obviously, of course, as a Mets fan, I was bitter at the way the NLCS ended. But that's not really the heart of it - I was bitter at the end of the 1999 NLCS, but I didn't think the Braves didn't belong in the World Series. If the Mets had lost to the Tigers, I would have felt the same way.
St. Louis' surprising run seems particularly galling now because this era of playoff randomness coincides with the height of baseball's statistical age. While random chance governs the sport from game to game, the opposite is true on a season-long level. The gradual accretion of outcomes - pitch after pitch, at-bat after at-bat, game after game - yields a deep body of evidence about which teams and players are the best. By the end of the season, we know not only who's more valuable, but by how much. And Yadier Molina isn't valuable.
The problematic aspect of the Cardinals' victory is that it is a defeat for rationality. There is, of course, more than one way to build a champion, and nobody wants to see the team with the best record or the scariest roster on paper win every single time - that would be boring. But most of the winning teams in the game's history had at least a plausible case for why they could represent a model for postseason succcess, like this column I wrote on the Angels after the 2002 Series. The 2002 Angels were a healthy team all in its prime, specializing in putting the ball in play and pressuring the defense. The 2003 Marlins had young power pitchers, who could rise to the occasion in October; the 2001 D-Backs had two veteran aces who seized control of the postseason; the 2000 Yankees, who were one of the weakest champs in memory, represented the fruits of keeping a championship core together past their prime. Past Cardinal teams offered clinics in fielding and baserunning. And both the strong teams and the overachievers generally played to their strengths in the postseason. If you predicted the 1988 Dodgers to win it all, it would be on the back of Orel Hershiser, and so it was. If you expected the 1973 Mets to topple the Big Red Machine, it would be with outstanding starting pitching and Tom Seaver throwing the clincher, and so it was. I always loved Bill James' analogy to baseball, which he borrowed from a friend's description of chess, as being an argument without words about how the game should be played. Different arguments can win at different times, but you'd like to see the winner at least have an argument.
But what of this Cardinals team would you imitate in building a roster to win in October? Pujols, of course, is the best player in baseball, but while Pujols contributed at key junctures he was not the dominant figure in any of St. Louis' three series victories. Carpenter, the ace, wasn't especially effective, and Reyes, the young power pitcher, had his moments but didn't blossom overnight like Ryan in 1969 or Rivera in 1995. Rolen and Edmonds played hurt and were not consistent contributors. You just would not ever try to build a championship team by assembling veteran mediocre hurlers like Suppan and Weaver and anemic hitters like Yadier Molina; and even David Eckstein is at best a complimentary player.
Of course, there is still room in any sport for the unexpected Cinderella team. But the great Cinderellas come from humble origins - the 1914 Braves were a moribund franchise for a decade and a half and were in last place on the Fourth of July. The 1969 Mets had never finished higher than 9th; the 1973 team had been doormats again in 1972 and was in last place at the end of August. Same dynamic goes for the worst-to-first 1991 Twins and Braves, and the 1987 Twins. The Cards don't seem like any kind of a Cinderella; this team won 105 games in 2004 and 100 games in 2005, has been a powerhouse in its division for a decade, and was running off with the division until a late season collapse. The Cards were, essentially, a veteran team on the way down - with some young talent, yes (Wainwright, for example) but not the kind of Talent that presages a return to glory in the immediate future.
They aren't a small market team, either, or a city that has suffered long awaiting a championship - St. Louis may lack the resources of the New York and LA markets but as one of baseball's most storied franchises (only the Yankees have won more championships) they are vastly more financially successful than neighbors like the Royals and division rivals like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, and in recent years they have regularly imported guys the A's could no longer afford (McGwire, Mulder, Isringhausen) or other pricey veteran stars (Rolen, Edmonds). That's not a reason to root against them, given the presence of other, larger payrolls in the annual postseason picture, but it is yet another reason why the Cards don't fit the "miracle team" mold.
I love the drama of the postseason as much as anybody, but when the storyline goes in the books, I want it to make some sense, whether the strictly rational sense of the most talented or best-suited-to-October team winning or the best player carrying his team on his back, or the Hollywood poetry of a good dramatic arc. This championship, at the end of it, doesn't feel like a good ending to a story so much as an ordinary June hot streak for a just-above-.500 team that just happened to come in October. That's anticlimactic for anybody outside St. Louis, and it makes the whole season seem like an exercise in random sample sizes instead of a coherent narrative the way so many postseasons past have been. That's why I think the Cards winning this one was bad for baseball.
October 29, 2006
BASEBALL: The Thrill Is ... On Hiatus
I can't say the postseason was lacking in thrills for Mets fans, but David Pinto does make a good and admirably concise point about this being a lackluster postseason from the perspective of the fan with no special rooting interest:
Only one series was truly competitive. Only the Mets and Padres won a game facing elimination. Of a possible 41 games, 30 were played. There was a distinct lack of drama.
October 27, 2006
BASEBALL: World Series Game Five
I dare you to find anyone before this - or any - series who said that the series would turn on the fielding of the pitchers. Next thing you know, the Tigers will be lobbying the American League to institute the Designated Fielder. Eight unearned runs the Tigers have now allowed, almost all due to their pitchers. Appalling.
Where else but the Midwest would you see a banner reading "Please win"?
For the record, I actually agree with McCarver calling for the Cards to take Duncan out for a fielding replacement in the middle innings.
UPDATES: Yes, I just posted that moments before his error in the sixth. Duncan is a born DH.
Weaver makes a great play in the field - talk about rubbing salt in the wounds of Tigers fans.
Eckstein brings his own Rally Monkey everywhere he goes, doesn't he?
McCarver wants the Cards to start bunting to pressure the Tiger pitchers, as if they are Jim Abbott or something. Then again, Jim Abbott was never this bad a fielder.
You would never know Fernando Rodney was Dominican to look at him; the guy looks very American.
Rolen gets the 2-out RBI. You have to tip your cap to Rolen for a gutsy performance even though he is plainly not close to 100% at the moment. 4-2 Cards in the 7th.
I keep seeing this ad from the US Postal Service with a water cooler talking to boxes of sneakers. The voice of the water cooler has to be William Sanderson, Larry of Larry, Daryl and Daryl from Newhart.
Tigers down to their last 3 outs. This is sad, and very bad for baseball.
Wainwright's in. I'm getting ugly flashbacks.
Frankly, little as I feel the Cardinals deserve this, their fans do. I would have been rooting for them in 2004 if it hadn't been the Red Sox.
Casey doubles after a long at bat to bring up the tying run with one out. Jose Reyes would have had a home run on that ball, which bounces past Taguchi in right and jangles around center.
Rodriguez grounds out to Wainwright, who does not make an error. Two outs.
1-2 to the hitless Polanco. Polanco takes a knee-buckling curve, but this time it's a ball.
Polanco walks, it's up to Inge with the tying runs on.
That's it. Inge strikes out. Cards win their 10th World Series.
I'm still really in shock as to all of this. Congratulations to all the Cards fans.
How long 'till pitchers and catchers?
BASEBALL: How 'Bout Them Tigers?
I have to admit that after the way the NLCS ended I just have not been able to muster a lot of enthusiasm for the World Series - I've mainly been listening on the radio while doing work. But I gotta ask: you think Leyland will have his pitching staff taking grounders before Game Five?
BASEBALL: Poor Gary
And after having a crummy year, no less. I guess if the Yankees are keeping A-Rod and Sheffield they really are committing to go with their present core largely intact next year. Although the ESPN report suggests that the Yanks still want to deal Sheffield but re-upped him just to keep him from signing with the Red Sox or Mets.
October 24, 2006
BASEBALL: Fun Fact, 1959-Style
I noticed this recently - I forget whether this is a record or not and haven't had time to check, but in 1959 Ernie Banks led the Cubs in RBI by a margin of 91. Banks drove in 143 runs; #2 on the team, Bobby Thomson, drove in 52.
Banks actually had a pretty short peak - for all but about 7 seasons he was mainly a mediocre first baseman - and he wasn't a very patient hitter (he topped 50 unintentional walks only once), but with the arguable exception of Arky Vaughan, there wasn't a shortstop between Honus Wagner and A-Rod who could stand up to him with a bat in his hands.
October 23, 2006
BASEBALL: Ace Up His Sleeve?
Of course, pine tar on the pitcher has factored in the postseason before - in 1988, Dodgers
The moral of the story? Um, I'll get back to you on that one...
UPDATE: Of course, anyone looking for hidden advantages for Rogers has to explain why his strikeout rate has fallen off sharply in the last two years. The fact is, Rogers is an aging pitcher hanging on to effectiveness, albeit better than others have done historically.
BASEBALL: Pudge at 34
Matt Welch takes a look at the numbers and concludes that Ivan Rodriguez was the third-best 34-year-old catcher ever this season. (Also from 2006 are Jorge Posada at #6 and Paul Lo Duca at #13. Of course, Rodriguez had all but punched his Hall of Fame ticket by the time Lo Duca was a rookie). Topping the list, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Elston Howard, a guy whose time behind the plate in his younger years was limited by the color line and Yogi Berra.
October 22, 2006
BASEBALL: Game Two, Over and Out
This game was fairly impossible for New York baseball fans - Mets and Yankees alike - to view without a hot steaming cup of bile at hand:
*Jeff Weaver yet again pitching creditably (albeit not more than that) in a postseason game.
*Kenny Rogers throwing lights-out baseball one more time, 8 innings of two-hit ball.
*The Tigers closer (Todd Jones) beaning a guy - not just any guy, but Mookie's stepson - to load the bases while protecting Rogers' lead, setting up the potential for karmic retribution for 1999.
*Yadier Bleeping Molina hitting into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded and the tying run in scoring position.
This was better baseball than Game One, but this still has the feel of a series that hasn't really gotten rolling yet. Which is fine; such serieses sometimes come to highly dramatic conclusions after the two combatants circle each other for a few games, setting up the decisive battle.
BASEBALL: Game One Thoughts
A few disjointed observations:
*Gradually, Scott Rolen seems to be getting his swing back, or at least admirably gutting out his shoulder troubles.
*Justin Verlander must be unpleasant to face in any conditions, but the fact that tonight wasn't as cold as originally predicted had to be a factor in the Cards having a fighting chance against him (which they made the most of).
*As we have known for some time, Anthony Reyes has a good arm and the makings of a good pitcher. Like Oliver Perez, he really isn't at the stage where you trust him in a big game, but he could be that kind of guy some day, and tonight's performance obviously puts him on the road to that.
*That said, I have to think that every now and then Cardinals fans wish they had Dan Haren back.
October 21, 2006
BASEBALL: All Quiet on the Queens Front
So the World Series is just beginning, and the Mets are at home watching on TV with the rest of us. I'll be taking at least tonight off from live-blogging, and I'll play it day to day during the Series; it takes a little time to get back into the swing of this after such an abrupt and painful defeat.
The bitter irony of the NLCS is that the Mets were defeated not by their weaknesses (besides Trachsel, the starting pitching held up better than could have been hoped, and Cliff Floyd was more than adequately replaced by Chavez) and the Cardinals' strengths (Pujols did much damages but ultimately had only one RBI - six fewer than a game this season against the Mets, which the Mets won, and Carpenter was ineffective), but rather by their strengths (offense and bullpen) and the Cardinals' weaknesses (Taguchi, Molina, Suppan, Weaver).
There is no point in making predictions for this World Series. The Tigers are heavy favorites, and deservedly so. As we saw in 1988, of course, that's no guarantee that a team that spilled a far superior team can't do it again. But these Cards are so much less compelling than past Cinderellas - this isn't like the Hershiser of 1988 imposing his will on the postseason single-handed, nor is this a young team on the way up. The Cards are an old team on the way down from their 2004 peak that ended in getting swept.
In truth, this doesn't feel so much like 1988 as like 1999, when the Braves beat the Mets in a tenaciously contested NLCS, and then gave no sign of even wanting to win the World Series, rolling over and playing dead for the Hated Yankees. I have never wanted to watch a series less than that one.
In a short series, anything can happen. So who knows? But I can't pull for the Cards the way the NLCS played out. Go Tigers.
October 19, 2006
BASEBALL: NLCS Game Seven
Game Seven. The importance needs no explanation, the drama no introduction. If the people on the LIRR with me an hour before game time were any indication, the crowd will certainly be raucous.
The Mets have played a double-elimination game (loser goes home) four times in their history, and won three, including both that have been played at Shea.
1973, NLCS Game Five, at Shea: The 1973 NLCS was a mirror image of this one, an 82-win Mets team against a Big Red Machine with a powerful and versatile offense and a suspect rotation. The deciding game pitted Tom Seaver against Jack Billingham. Ed Kranepool drove in two runs in the first, Cleon Jones had three hits and two RBI, and the Mets behind Seaver won 7-2.
UPDATE: Writing too fast, forgot Game Seven of the 1973 World Series, John Matlack vs. Ken Holtzman at the Oakland Coliseum, which the Mets lost.
1986, World Series Game Seven, at Shea: Even with a day's rain giving Bruce Hurst the start against Ron Darling, a shell-shocked Red Sox team couldn't hold a lead. Keith Hernandez had the big hit and Darryl Strawberry a famous insurance home run, but the hero was Sid Fernandez, pitching 2.1 electrifying innings of hitless relief, striking out 4 to hold the fort until the offense arrived. 8-5 Mets.
1988, NLCS Game Seven, at Dodger Stadium: Darling knocked out early again, this time fatally and with the help of a meltdown by the Mets' infield defense, with errors by Wally Backman and Gregg Jefferies. Gooden, Leach and Aguilera pitched scoreless relief but the damage was done, as Orel Hershiser shut the Mets out. 6-0 Dodgers.
1999, One-Game Playoff, at Riverfront Stadium: The Reds again, after the Mets recovered dramatically from a September swoon to force a one game playoff for the Wild Card. Al Leiter vs. Steve Parris; Edgardo Alfonzo homered and drove in three, but the key guy was Leiter, pitching as dominant a game as I have ever seen, a 2-hit shutout in which I believe the Reds got only one runner as far as second base. 5-0 Mets.
Obviously, while any number of players will be important tonight, the guy with potentially the biggest impact is Jeff Suppan. Oliver Perez is very unlikely to throw a dominating pitching performance here, especially on three days rest. But Suppan shut the Mets down the last time around, and despite his terrible road stats, he is a threat to a good start tonight.
Perez gets a fly out after falling behind Eckstein, then punches out Preston Wilson looking. A good start. But now Pujols is up. 0-1.
Ugh, Perez gets Pujols - Pujols! - to pop it up in the infield, but Delgado drops it and Pujols ends up on second.
Perez gets out of trouble. If my expectations for Game Four were low, this time it's even lower - two scoreless innings is all I ask. Everyone is available.
Beltran barely legs out a 2-out double. Mets get started.
2-2 to Delgado. Mets need a base hit. 3-2.
Delgado walks, and Wright drops a single down the right field line. Slump over? 1-0 Mets.
Top Two, 1-0 Mets
Leadoff single for Edmonds. Let's not see that graphic again about the Cards scoring to answer every Mets score.
Rolen flies out.
0-2 on Molina.
Edmonds goes to third on a bloop single to left; Chavez bobbles it but to no cost.
1-1 to Belliard. Strikeout would be good here; Perez isn't a ground ball pitcher.
Belliard bunts the run home.
Suppan's not likely to homer here, with Trachsel not pitching.
Bottom Two, 1-1
We're hearing about Suppan in Game Seven in 2004 again.
1-2-3. Suppan hopefully is not getting into a groove.
Top Three, 1-1
Eckstein leadoff double. Typical of Eckstein, it was just blooped in front of Chavez.
Two strikes on Preston, the crowd smells blood.
Walking Pujols with 1 out. I guess you need to do this, but I hate to give Perez the chance to give up a 3-run homer.
A lineup with both Wilson and Encarnacion will really strike out a lot. 0-2 on Encarnacion.
Encarnacion shatters his bat and hits into the 5-4-3 double play. Perez has now exceeded expectations.
Bottom Three, 1-1
This is sad: Armed Forces Radio won't cover the World Series for the first time in 60 yars due to lack of interest, as uniformed personnel prefer overhwelmingly to watch on TV (and in the military, unlike an office job, you can't listen to the radio on duty).
It really hasn't sunk in that the winner here starts the Series with just one travel day to Detroit.
Reyes and Lo Duca have been quiet so far tonight.
Another 1-2-3 inning. A pitchers' duel is not what the Mets need tonight.
Top Four, 1-1
Perez really is throwing more strikes than usual, so far. Long as he does that, he will stay in the game, although of course the longball remains a risk.
Perez gets Edmonds. Gets ahead of Rolen 0-2 before throwing a ball.
3-2. This is still Perez, folks.
Perez gets Rolen on an infield popup. Strike one to Molina.
Perez gets Molina.
Bottom Four, 1-1
If Perez gets out of this game having allowed just 1 or 2 runs, that will be a huge confidence-builder. Of course, you generally don't use these games for that purpose...
Leadoff walk for Delgado.
Weak grounder for Wright, at least he avoids the DP. Probably should not have swung at the first pitch.
Green whiffs again. I've perhaps been too hard on Green's hitting, but he has struck out quite a bit in this series.
Suppan just winked twice - does he have a nervous twitch? That would explain the wink to Trachsel before his home run.
You always see something in baseball you never saw before - maybe I have seen this, but I don't remember it - Valentin gets beaned by a pitch that bounces off the plate and hits him in the face.
Top Five, 1-1
Still 1-1? I'm nervous again. Perez can't hold the fort that well. Suppan can.
Leadoff single for Belliard, just out of Reyes' reach.
Game Seven in 1986 comes to mind, where the Mets struggled early to get good wood on the ball as they had before against Hurst.
Idiot Bartman-esque fans almost interfere with an Eckstein foul that Chavez misses. Eckstein then takes one for the team.
Perez is probably on his way out here, but Randolph likes him against Wilson. 0-2.
Make that 0-3. Wilson just can't lay off Perez' high hard stuff.
Randolph leaves in Perez to face Pujols. This is nuts.
Well, it worked. Perez gets Pujols to pop up to Reyes in short left. Amazin'
Bottom Five, 1-1
Wow, Perez is batting! Randolph is treating him like a real starting pitcher.
Reyes goes quickly again, Lo Duca is up. Last night's heroes, quiet this time against the Soup Man.
The problem with letting Perez bat is that he is throwing on three days' rest. He's thrown just 76 pitches, though; he can probably go one more inning. But I'd have taken him out.
Collision between Edmonds and Wilson - not really that violent, but Edmonds looks a little shook up.
Top Six, 1-1
Edmonds is still in.
3-2 to Edmonds. Edmonds walks.
Perez issues his first walk, has thrown 87 pitches. This has to be it for him soon.
WOW WOW WOW! Chavez robs Rolen of a home run AND doubles Edmonds off first, Edmonds having rounded second.
Move over, Ron Swoboda. There's a new best catch in Mets postseason history.
Bottom Six, 1-1
I actually feel bad for Rolen. Guy just can not catch a break.
Now, we need to capitalize on the momentum.
But Beltran grounds out. I think Wright needs another RBI this inning.
Delgado walks, here comes Wright.
I'm assuming that Perez really is done now.
Wright still up there hacking early.
Wright hits a very slow roller, Rolen throws the ball into the seats. This really is not his day. They're walking Green to load the bases with one out for Valentin.
Cards are clearly banking on the DP here.
Hey, was that John Franco in the stands?
Perez, Chavez, - now Valentin? That would be your unlikely heroes.
1-0. Nowhere to put him.
Just get it out of the infield.
Rain is coming down something serious here.
Whiff. Looks like Endy Chavez has to do everything tonight.
Chavez flies out to center, a fly that would have been great news if Valentin had hit it.
Top Seven, 1-1
I want Heilman here, Heilman or Bradford.
Seventh game, seventh inning, still tied. Many hearts yet to be broken tonight. Until then, no, it does not get better than this.
Bradford's in. Perez did everything you could possibly have asked of him. Now if we can be rid of Suppan, we go bullpen-to-bullpen. I'll take those odds.
2-2 to Molina - Bradford is very good at getting even when he starts off behind in the count.
Good play by Valentin on yet another of those slow bouncers past the mound against Bradford.
Suppan stays in to hit. Grrrrr.
Bottom Seven, 1-1
Dare I breathe it: extra innings? I do not want to see Wagner except in a save situation, I know that.
Tucker pinch hitting. I guess he's the best option to lead off.
OK, time for the top of the order to make something happen.
1-2-3 inning. Suppan still pitching like there is no tomorrow. He just threw his 100th pitch.
Top Eight, 1-1
Heilman is in. He's the guy I want here, win or lose.
Gets Eckstein, 1-2 on Speizio, batting for Wilson. Pujols on deck.
Long at bat here. Heilman punches him out.
You pitch here to Pujols verrrrrry carefully.
Now, they make it intentional. Yes, I prefer Encarnacion with two outs and a man on first than Pujols with the bases empty, at least in a tie game.
0-2. I have a feeling Heilman's going to spend a lot of time here trying to get Encarnacion to swing at a bad pitch.
Nope, just one in the dirt.
Bottom Eight, 1-1
Beltran, Delgado, Wright due up next. It's go time.
Taguchi is in in left. La Russa must be expecting to see Wagner.
3-1 to Beltran. A leadoff walk would be good. Mets do not have a hit since the first. I hate Suppan.
Beltran walks. No Suppan for you! Tony goes to his bullpen, at last.
Randy Flores is in, probably just for Delgado.
Rain falling pretty visibly now. I wonder what it would take to stop the game. In 1925 they played Game Seven in a downpour and in the dark, with ugly results, lots of balls to the outfield that disappeared in the slop. Walter Johnson went the distance and set a record for total bases allowed in a World Series game.
Delgado strikes out on a check swing. Sure didn't look like he swung, but there we are.
Wright takes the first pitch. Good, stay back, play within himself, like he usually does.
2-0, way outside. I think I am still breathing. If I stop typing you will know why.
2-1, check swing, at least that was a swing. Now 3-1. 3-2, Wright takes one inside.
Wright strikes out. It's up to Green.
Green hits a shot to Pujols.
Top Nine, 1-1
Please, no Wagner. Tie game. Pitcher up in the next inning. Leave. In. Heilman.
Both teams have put on a tremendous struggle here, but this will be a tough one to lose.
Heilman still in.
Edmonds strikes out on another one in the dirt.
0-2 on Rolen. McCarver just called Endy "Eric Chavez"
Rolen takes a ball right down the middle.
Rolen is certainly battling here. Single to left. Molina is up, the designated bad hitter who kills us.
And he does. Home run, 3-1. Doom, defeat, ruination.
Molina smacked that ball into the LF bullpen. Now we need a miracle.
Adam Wainwright warming up. We will need him to be Calvin Schiraldi tonight.
No further damage. Three outs remain, and they belong to the bottom of the order.
Bottom Nine, 3-1 Cards.
The starters held the line, the last two games. How ironic.
Ball One to Valentin. Wait the kid out.
Three high pitches, two balls.
Bloop, very Game Six 1986-ish bloop, to right center. Chavez bats as the tying run. McCarver wants him to bunt for a hit????
Wainwright almost sails one to the backstop. It ain't over till it's over.
Cliff Floyd goes up looking for a
1-1 to Kirk . . . Cliff Floyd.
With Floyd up there it feels like two outs. Molina tries to pick Chavez off first.
2-2. Floyd strikes out, it's up to Reyes and maybe Lo Duca.
High ball, inside strike. 1-1 to Reyes. Foul, 1-2. Another foul. Reyes drills one to center, too close to Edmonds. All up to Lo Duca.
Gotta sit on the curve, Wainwright can't get the fastball down into the zone.
Bases loaded for Beltran. Tying run in scoring position. An out ends it, a single ties, a double or HR wins it.
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Beltran strikes out looking. It's over. It's over. It's over.
Yadier Bleeping Molina.
October 18, 2006
BASEBALL: Oliver's Army
Willie Randolph on who is picthing Game 7 and why: "Oliver Perez, and I like him."
Given Darren Oliver's record as a reliever compared to starting, I agree with this, much as it horrifies me to start a guy as volatile as Perez in an elimination game, and on three days' rest no less. The good news is, Perez has great stuff and is unpredictable, so the Cardinals don't get an edge from just having seen him.
Here is the Mets' staff by how rested they are for Game Seven in terms of pitches thrown:
Glavine reportedly is available for an inning, roughly. Trachsel, hopefully, will not pitch. Oliver has four days' rest and should be fresh if needed. The thing that jumps out here, though, is how rested Heilman is; he's really the guy I'd like to see go two or three innings tomorrow with the chips down. Wagner threw a lot of pitches tonight but had several days of rest before that, and could be sharper tomorrow from having pitched tonight, as relievers sometimes are. Maine and Glavine are the only guys on the staff who have thrown more than 24 pitches over the past three days.
BASEBALL: NLCS Game Six
Well, this is it. The LIRR picked a horrible night to go out of order; I had quite an odyssey getting home on time for the first inning.
Second and third and one out after a Pujols double. Maine not looking too steady here.
Ha-yooooge strikeout for Maine getting Edmonds. Two outs, but then Maine hits Encarnacion, to set up two outs and bases loaded for Rolen.
Maine gets Rolen to fly out weakly. Like Pedro and Piazza, Rolen has an uncomfortable habit of being seriously out of gas come October.
Maine and Oliver Perez were both essentially throw-ins in trades - and here the Mets are with Maine standing between them and elimination, and Perez possibly starting tomorrow.
Profesor Reyes goes yard! 1-0 Mets. No shutout for Cy Carpenter tonight. Hey, the last Game Six at Shea the other team had Clemens going, and the Mets wore him out, getting him to throw 138 pitches. Let's see a repeat; Carpenter's good but he's no Clemens.
Beltran grounds out to first; Pujols does not try to race him to the bag.
Top Two, 1-0 Mets
Why is it that the really good Latino players so often have names like Pedro and Carlos and Fernando and Manny, instead of, say, Yadier?
Maine could really be a solid pitcher someday. He's the same general type as Maddux, Glavine, Brad Radke, Rick Reed, obviously more in the vein of the latter two.
La Russa is complaining about the count. I think he's trying to ice Maine.
Bottom Two, 1-0 Mets
Wright is still due.
DP by Valentin. They're gonna need more than one run tonight.
Top Three, 1-0 Mets
Eckstein really is the closest thing going these days to Wally Backman. Leadoff walk.
Maine gets Speizio to whiff on a low pitch; they walk Pujols and Maine falls behind Edmonds before getting him to fly out to right.
First and third, two out (Eckstein went to third on the fly).
Chavez beats out a leadoff bunt. Nobody expects the Venezuelan bunt! That really was a great bunt.
OK, wireless internet is back. Reyes is on second, after being tackled by Belliard to avoid trying for third on a slightly wild throw. Belliard basically sat on him. Then again, Reyes went into him awfully hard.
Lo Duca grounds out.
Belliard is definitely not built like a middle infielder. He's built more like a shopping mall security guard.
Not much happened in the fourth, except that a walk to Molina means Carpenter won't lead off the fifth. The Mets still need more than one run.
Beltran gets on for Delgado, Wright on deck...need some runs here.
Delgado crushes the ball to straightaway center, might as well have hit a popup. One out.
The funny thing about all the guff Wright is taking is, he batted .333 with 4 RBI in 3 games in the NLDS, he has a double and a homer in this series. But he needs to do more for people to feel like he stepped up.
Green singles in a run. About time he contributed. 2-0 Mets.
Speizio hauls in a short fly by Valentin. Even as a veteran infielder playing out of position he hasn't been any worse out there than Green.
Top Five, 2-0 Mets
Good recovery by Maine on a grounder he knocks down. The longer Maine goes, the better relievers the Mets can bring in. Saving the pen for tomorrow is secondary, since you need to win tonight or there is no tomorrow.
Pujols bats with two outs and the bases empty and down by more than one run. This is how it should always be.
Pujols whiffs on a low pitch outside the strike zone. He's done plenty of damage in this series but the Mets have also made him look bad more than usual.
Bottom Five, 2-0 Mets
Reyes is on again, which hopefully will drain some energy from Carpenter keeping him on first.
Nope - instead, Lo Duca hits an odd-bouncing grounder, so Reyes goes to second with two outs.
Top Six, 2-0 Mets
So far this looks a lot like Game One, but I don't see this ending 2-0. Maine has thrown 86 pitches; he might go seven innings at most, but this is probably his last.
Bradford is getting warm. Feliciano can't be far behind.
3-1 to Edmonds. This does not have the look of another 1-2-3 inning.
Leadoff walk. I'd leave Maine in a bit longer - he is still pitching a shutout - but he can't have much rope here.
2-1 to Encarnacion. If he gets on, curtains for Maine.
Bloop into shallow left; that drops in front of Floyd, but Chavez hustles under it for out #1.
Maine comes out after 98 pitches, still pitching a shutout. One more run and you would just leave him in until they draw blood, but Willie is nervous here. Let's hope everyone else has it tonight too. The Shea crowd gives him a well-earned standing O.
Bradford enters the game with a 2-0 lead, one out and a man on first.
Bradford goes 3-0 to Rolen. Uh-oh.
Bradford deals a beautiful 3-0 strike on the outside corner; if he threw that pitch all day nobody would hit it.
Bradford gets the double play! La Russa proves that he was right to bench Rolen earlier. Would La Russa rather be right than win the pennant? Don't answer that.
Bottom Six, 2-0 Mets
Can I say just now that I'm not excited about the prospect of Mota entering this game?
Carpenter is going after Wright with contempt for his bat. This is painful to watch for a guy who so rarely slumps.
Wright and Green both strike out looking.
Top Seven, 2-0 Mets
Just saw a Ned Lamont ad with lots of pictures of Lieberman with Bush & Cheney. I won't get political here, just passing that on that Lamont thinks he can win voters in this telecast. Interesting.
Bradford still in. Belliard singles - Bradford gets two quick strikes and Belliard hits a bouncing grounder up the middle, just luck that it gets by Bradford.
Bradford gets ahead of Molina, too. He's throwing well, but guys like him can get chipped away even when they do.
He's got Molina down 1-2. This time, he needs to put him away - maybe another GIDP?
Molina hits a towering fly to CF. I'm not sure Beltran even opened his eyes to catch that one.
Pitching change. I think I have seen enough of Uncle Ernie and his heartburn.
Mets need eight more outs.
Mota comes in to face Duncan. I have a very bad feeling about this.
1-1 to Duncan. Foul, 1-2. This is a very big inning.
Mota gets Duncan to hit into a DP. I bow before Randolph's genius.
Bottom Seven, 2-0 Mets
Valentin bunts, is thrown out. Now, I know Looper's healthier and tougher this year but he's still one of those guys you want to give a chance to dig his own hole.
Heilman warming up.
I'm not sure why Tucker is hitting here. I'd try Floyd in the two out none on situation and hope for a Big Fly.
Tucker flies out to left, except that Speizio butchers the ball. Reyes is up.
Tucker is running; I would not mind risking him running here, since if he is thrown out Reyes leads off.
I'm guessing right now that this game comes down to Wagner with the bases loaded. Probably against Pujols.
La Russa overthinks, Tucker steals on a pitchout. Reyes gets an easy infield single as Eckstein can only knock the ball down in the hole.
Reyes steals second uncontested. The Cards had to hold the ball but if Lo Duca gets a hit that will be very costly for the Cards.
And so it is: LoDuca drills a single up the middle, 4-0 Mets. Looper Time!
Which ends, as Tyler Johnson comes in. Tucker goes up there with Dave Roberts in 2004 and Otis Nixon in 1999 for LCS-turning steals.
Error on Rolen. Which brings up Delgado with two men on. I would be throwing things right now, were I a Cards fan.
Delgado grounds out.
Top Eight, 4-0 Mets
The Mets will win this game, or they will suffer a catastrophic bullpen failure that will make Heilman and/or Wagner persona non grata at Shea for life. No middle ground remains.
Five outs remain. Speizio comes up, Pujols on deck, can not tie the game.
And the Speez pops out on the first pitch. Albert bats again with 2 down and the bases empty. Let him hit it off the 7 train.
Pujols singles, Edmonds up. They are talking about Perez vs. Oliver for Game Seven. Um, let's make sure first we have one.
Edmonds whiffs. Heilman does his job. Wagner will get his chance to pull out his set of matches and gasoline. Always leave 'em wanting more, Billy.
Top Nine, 4-0 Mets
Wright pops up. Vindication will await Game Seven. If there is one, of course.
Green gets drilled in the butt. That looks intentional, but I can't imagine why.
Rolen throws high, but gets Valentin. Man, he's had a terrible night.
La Russa is wearing those shades again. It's 11:00 and it's very dark out.
Chavez takes a 3-0 strike halfway down his shins.
Top Nine, 4-0 Mets
Wagner will enter the game in a non-save situation. You know, like that 4-run lead he blew against the Yankees.
I don't want to be too hard on Wagner, who was (with Hoffman) one of the NL's two dominant closers. He's probably going to nail this one down. I just don't entirely trust him.
First two pitches out of the strike zone. Here we go.
2-2 to Encarnacion. Trachsel is up in the pen just to frighten the fans. Encarnacion singles. This gives us a test: the fork in Rolen's back or the monkey on Wagner's?
Rolen bounces a double off the fence. The crowd is restive. Justifiably.
Why did Heilman come out?
1-2 to Belliard on a ball in the dirt that almost goes as a wild pitch. He bounces a grounder; Wright wisely takes the easy out at first. Molina is up.
Molina flies out quickly to CF. Taguchi comes up; La Russa is just gambling here. I guess he had nobody fit to hit for Molina.
0-2 to Taguchi. Wagner has his required degree of difficulty here.
2-run double to left for Taguchi. !#^%!$%!$^#*!%&!%&*!^#*&!^#*&!
Game Six, one out away. Why does that sound familiar? Ugh.
Nobody ever goes out to talk to Wagner in these situations.
Eckstein grounds out! We go 7!
Maine is giving a distracted and detatched interview while giving high fives with his left hand. Those two insurance runs sure came in handy.
They just asked Randolph who is picthing Game 7 and why: "Oliver Perez, and I like him." A Choo Choo Coleman-esque answer.
BASEBALL: Question of the Day, 10/18/06
Who would you rather have starting the big game tonight, if you had to choose - John Maine or Kris Benson?
I'd take Maine, who at least has a live arm and hasn't shown signs of wearing out down the stretch. Maybe he doesn't come up big tonight, but I definitely feel the Mets have a fighting chance with Maine.
October 17, 2006
BASEBALL: NLCS Game Five
Liveblogging but with some interruptions anticipated
TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE NIGHT: Almost all World Championship teams have at least one Hall of Famer playing a significant role. Of course, more recent teams' players haven't gone on the ballot yet; of players to play for World Series winning teams since the 1994 strike, I believe only Wade Boggs has gone in the Hall, although most teams will meet the test - consider Pudge Rodriguez, Tom Glavine and Albert Pujols on the three remaining rosters. But for the period before 1994, only three teams had no Hall of Famers, four if you count one team that had a Hall of Famer who had retired by October (three of these four teams had Hall of Fame managers, though). Name the teams. Answer to go below the fold as the game progresses.
Chvez in the lineup again, regardless of how good Cliff Floyd says he feels. Reyes starts off hot, with a single, but Lo Duca's grounder takes out Reyes as the lead runner. On the whole, Weaver doesn't look like a guy who will throw a shutout tonight.
Another fielder's choice with Delgado after a Beltran single - two out, Lo Duca on second, Delgado on first. Wright whiffs.
Eckstein singles off Glavine, who I assume will also not fare as well on the Cardinals' second look at him. Still, he's the best pitching matchup the Mets have in this best-of-three remaining, so this remains a big game.
My son can now recite that anti-steroids ad from memory.
Buck says that despite the power of positive thinking we are also not likely to see Floyd pinch hitting. Chavez responds with a double down the left field line.
The strike zone doesn't love Glavine tonight.
Inning ends on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out DP. All in a day's work for Glavine and Lo Duca.
Two quick outs. Weaver is settling in. Make that three.
Once again, scoring first is likely to be important in this game, not that it was decisive last night.
Not...much...happening. Of course, with Glavine on the mound I should not complain.
Long delay while they fix first base...
Wright looks cold again.
Green nails a double right down the line; fan interference may have saved the Cards a run, as Delgado pulls up at third. Then again, Delgado isn't exactly the most aggressive baserunner.
But it's moot, as the suddenly un-frozen Jose Valentin follows with another double for two runs.
Glavine batting, two outs and Valentin on third. Groundout.
Bottom 4, 2-0 Mets
I'm back. And a rough inning for Glavine, who finally ends the Christy Mathewson act with a Pujols bomb to left and now a drip-drip Cardinal rally consisting of a walk to Rolen and dink singles by Edmonds and Belliard to right, and now a long at bat for Molina.
Molina walks, bases loaded and 2-0 for Weaver, a career .206 hitter.
Glavine gets another grounder, this one weakly to Reyes. But a costly inning not just in runs but in pitches thrown, plus Weaver doesn't lead off the fifth. Glavine has thrown 73 pitches through four innings.
Top Five, 2-2
They were saying Weaver may be making himself some money this postseason - maybe earning a second chance, but Weaver was really, really bad this year, 5.76 ERA and his K rate went off the table. If he is smart he'll stay in St. Louis with Dave Duncan (who specializes in mediocre veterans), a good organization, small-city media and supportive fans.
That said - Please, please go to the Cardinals bullpen.
Beltran rips one to right, but within Encarnacion's reach.
Buck says this is by far the biggest at bat of the night, Delgado up with a man on first and 2 outs. Um, didn't the Cards just leave the bases loaded? But Weaver gets Delgado.
Bottom Five, 2-2
Reyes almost made a really great catch there going over the shoulder on a bloop by Eckstein. Glavine's still getting eaten away here, and the bullpen will probably be in soon.
Preston Wilson tattoos a double to right, 3-2 Cards. Glavine's not fooling anyone.
Glavine's walking Pujols intentionally, and then getting pulled. I guess you don't ask Bradford to walk a guy intentionally, with his windup.
Encarnacion apparently can't bunt. But he can single. Bases loaded. Nobody out. This is trouble.
Bradford whiffs Rolen. Now, a DP can get them out of this. Easier said than done.
Top Six, 3-2 Cards
Somehow, they got out of that; I was trying unsuccessfully to walk the baby back to sleep and missed how.
Very nice grab by Pujols on a Green shot down the line, saving a double.
Weaver throws a serious brushback at Valentin. Valentin rips one foul - I think he's back.
Chavez is hacking again.
Bottom Six, 3-2 Cards
Weaver's coming out for a pinch hitter. Still, it feels like it's getting late early.
Big, high arcing homer to right for Duncan. 4-2.
Top Seven, 4-2 Cards
Rally cap time!
That Tucker at bat would have been a good time to see Cliff Floyd if he had been available.
1-2-3 inning. Six outs left or we face an elimination game against Carpenter and another with "staff" pitching.
Bottom Seven, 4-2 Cards
Pujols grounds out off Roberto Hernandez.
They're showing El Duque. He should be available for the Series, maybe Floyd will too. But only if they get there.
Gun says Roberto is throwing 95. Another ageless wonder on this team.
Top Eight, 4-2 Cards
Delgado doesn't look too good either. Until he drills one just foul into the RF corner.
Infield hit for Delgado! Well, in the sense that Belliard was playing in shallow right.
Man, Wright is due. And if he wasn't in such a slump he'd usually be the best guy to have up representing the tying run down 2.
And he hits one off Hornsby on the left field fence. As I have said before, Wright reminds me of Rogers Hornsby, at least in his build and batting stance (not that I expect him to hit .400)
Green, on the other hand - not that guy. But he's the guy we have. Edmonds hauls in a bloop with a basket catch.
Down two, game we really need the Mets to win, second and third, two out - and it all comes down to Jose Valentin. Did you expect this, in April?
Cliff Floyd looks like he really wants to grab a bat here.
A second high curve, 2-2. But the third one drops in and freezes Valentin. The odds on these Mets just got very long.
Top Nine, 4-2 Cardinals
Longshot territory, now. Another night off for Heilman so far, as Mota starts the ninth.
About 40% of Cardinals fans are blonde and female. And wearing red.
Miles triples to right. The Cardinals now - properly - have contempt for Shawn Green's defense in right. For a guy who opened the postseason with a great play with the glove, he has struggled terribly out there.
Forget winning the game, the potential squeeze play gives La Russa the chance to manage real hard. That's what this is all about.
Eckstein pops up in the infield; now there's two outs and Wilson up. Please, don't walk Wilson and get Pujols up there.
Top Nine, 4-2 Cards
Chavez, probably Franco, and Reyes due up. Need two guys to get on to bring back the boppers. If Franco gets on, with Reyes' wheels behind him, you have to run Anderson Hernandez for him.
Floyd is on deck. Interesting.
Chavez is not inspiring confidence. And he grounds out.
Here comes the big man. A risky move, down one. I can't fault Randolph too much; he's a fine hitter and you can run for him, if he gets out of the box.
Floyd grounds out. He hobbles to first, but really anyone but Reyes, and maybe Reyes, is an easy out on that ball anyway.
Reyes is wound up pretty tight here.
Gotta go through Carpenter now to force a Game Seven. After that . . . well, no win in Game Six, no after that to worry about, is there? The Mets always have to do it the hard way.
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The team with one Hall of Famer who retired before October? The 1988 Dodgers, Don Sutton's last stop, also managed by Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda. And probably no other Hall of Famer - not Hershiser, not Gibson, not Scioscia.
The other three?
The 1981 Dodgers, also managed by Lasorda. Again, a couple of guys with good careers - Fernando, Garvey, Lopes, Cey, Pedro Guerrero - but that's all she wrote.
The 1984 Tigers, managed by Sparky, who's in. This team may yet get Morris in, and Whitaker, Trammell and Darrell Evans may deserve induction, and Gibson and Lance Parrish also had good careers.
The 1990 Reds, whose best candidate is Barry Larkin, who I believe should go in. Otherwise . . . Paul O'Neill? Jose Rijo? Eric Davis?
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BASEBALL: The Long Reliever
If this series goes seven, there is talk that the Mets might start Darren Oliver. But Oliver hasn't started all year, and for good reason. As I noted back in May, Oliver has a very pronounced record, going all the way back to his rookie year in 1993, of pitching much better out of the bullpen. I'd rather see him stay in that comfort zone that allowed him to have his best year in more than a decade. The breakdown:
BASEBALL: Question of the Day
The 1973 Mets entered October with a tremendous 4-man rotation, a solid bullpen - and a completely punchless offense led by Rusty Staub, Cleon Jones and John Milner. Which would you rather have in the postseason: that team or this one, as it stands today? Great as Seaver, Koosman, and Matlack were, and as big an impact as big-time starters can make, I think I'd still take the current team, with its deep, powerful and versatile offense, and I'd certainly take this team if you added El Duque back into the mix.
BASEBALL: Macha Macha Macha
Blez looks at the firing of Ken Macha, which seems unfair to me, but it is true that the one thing the Beane-era A's have never had is a manager who could be an emotional leader. Even within the parameters of selecting a guy who will go along with the Beane program, you would like to see them hire someone who is a little more Captain Kirk and a little less Mr. Spock. In fact, on a team where roster management and strategy are largely decided above the manager's pay grade, you would think the emphasis on getting a good leader of men would be greater.
Meanwhile, the Cubs hope Lou Piniella can recreate the success he has had in Tampa. Or was that the postseason success he had in Seattle? I do think, though, that the Cubs would be well-served by trying to acquire A-Rod to replace Ronny Cedeno at shortstop, and the hiring of Piniella could help that. But the Cubs, in sharp contrast to the A's, also need to shake a two-decade-long aversion to patience at the plate; adding another guy who hits solo homers won't help that. Even a middle of the order with two patient hitters (Lee and A-Rod) needs tablesetters.
October 16, 2006
BASEBALL: The Washout
So the Mets get cosmic justice for the Game One rainout in New York with a Game Five rainout in St. Louis, as tonight's game is put off to tomorrow. I don't want to sound like Whitey Herzog here, bemoaning that the particulars of the postseason schedule didn't precisely fit the relative strengths of his and his opponents' pitching staffs, but it is in general a good thing, as well as obviously good for the Mets, that Glavine and Weaver will now start on their regular rest. (It's even better news, in a way, if this tempts LaRussa to start Carpenter on short rest, since the Mets need to beat him once anyway). Of course, it's even more urgent than it was in the 1986 NLCS (with Mike Scott looming) that the Mets put this away in six with Glavine and Maine, rather than have to go back to the grab bag of Perez, an injured Trachsel, or a reliever who hasn't started all year (Oliver or, less likely, Heilman - especially less likely with no rest after Games 5&6) to start Game 7 against Suppan.
As to Trachsel, unlike some, I don't fault him for coming out of the game the other night after being hit by a line drive - he was about ready to be yanked anyway, and the injury gave the Mets time to get Oliver warm. And a really deep bruise can be nasty. But if the Mets did want him to pitch Game 7 (I'd rather see Perez, at this point, if only because he's more likely to make it to the third or fourth inning before melting down), I can't see why a days-old bruise, painful as it is, would prevent a professional athlete from wanting that ball.
The other good news: if the Mets do get to the next round, El Duque will be ready to go. Hold on: the cavalry is coming! (that is, to the extent that "the cavalry" means "a 40-year-old pitcher with a 4.66 ERA who hasn't pitched in three weeks").
October 15, 2006
BASEBALL: NLCS Game Four
Anthony Reyes' 5.06 ERA this season makes him the easy favorite in tonight's pitching matchup...the goal for Oliver Perez tonight is twelve outs. If Perez gets through four innings with one or even two runs allowed, everything else will be gravy; any shorter leash and he would not be a starter at all.
A few things appeared in nthe cold light of morning today. One is something I should have noted before the series, since I had seen it in the numbers: Suppan had a great second half, such that the Cards should be regarded as a team with a 1-2 punch, rather than Carpenter's one man band.
Another is that the loss of Floyd and Valentin looking largely out of gas means that the Mets aren't really the same offensive team, let alone the same pitching rotation.
A third is that, at least once Game One was rained out, my assessment of the dynamics should have been the reverse of the Dodger series - the Mets were much better served putting this one away early rather than getting into a war of attrition.
I really would have liked a run to stake Perez with in the top of the first.
Ugh, Wright and Delgado both butcher that play. Perez is not the guy you want to see errors behind.
Double play; redemption for the defense.
My kids have nearly all the regular ads committed to memory by this point. An occupational hazard of watching playoff TV in baseball or basketball.
Perez...seriously, this is like the '86 Mets starting Bruce Berenyi in the NLCS.
Jim Edmonds is keeping very busy tonight.
Oliver Perez walks! Yes it's still 0-0 and yes these are two talented pitchers, but you can see them both playing with fire. A wise man will wait Reyes out.
You know what? Ugly as this has been between the ending of Game Two, the beginning of Game Three, and the innings of mutual ennui since then, all the Mets really need to do is get a lead in this game and my faith and optimism will be restored. I'm easy that way.
As much as I have griped about the condition of the Mets starting rotation, it should be borne in mind that the collapse of the Cards down the stretch was caused as much as anything by the injury/fadeout of Rolen and Edmonds, and neither guy has really been himself yet.
How many balls have been trapped or gone off the fingers by the Mets outfielders in this series?
Chavez throwing out Belliard at third was huge - the Cardinals get a run, but the difference between man on first two outs and first and third one out is... well, Perez has to work to make this a big inning now; he should get out of this.
And he does.
Man, Lo Duca is slow. The play that captured this was in Game Two when Speizio and Pujols both bobbled the ball and he was still thrown out by 10 feet. In fact, I suspect Lo Duca is distinctly slower now than he was three or four months ago.
I would not like Beltran so much, were I a Cardinals fan. Line shot homer to right, 1-1.
Wright homers into the left field bullpen. Hope has returned.
Six outs down for Perez, six to go with no more than one more run and he will have exceeded expectations.
They just replayed the two homers. Wright's swing was the big power swing, looked like a home run. Beltran just sort of reached out and golfed his.
Nice try by Jose Reyes to fake dropping a line drive by Pujols to get a double play. Reyes needs to spend some time with Vlade Divac.
Well, the Cards tie it back up on the 2-out triple to right bobbled by Shawn Green. Green is not having a good series in the field.
Three outs to go with no runs scoring for Perez to cover the spread. Then we're playing with the house's money.
Top Four, 2-2.
It's 8:20 pm in St. Louis. The lights are on. And Tony La Russa is wearing sunglasses. What does he think this is, the World Series of Poker?
You get a real sense of scale of major league players when you see Endy Chavez listed at 195 pounds.
Maybe I missed him but I don't believe there has been a Stan Musial sighting yet. Is he waiting for the Series? Or is Stan the Man finally getting too old to show up for events like this?
Wow, Reyes has thrown 84 pitches after striking out Perez. Perez, who is hardly economical with his pitches, has thrown 49 to get just two fewer outs.
Bottom Four, 2-2
New Busch is definitely tough on long fly balls - not like the old 80s-era Busch, but a bandbox this is not.
If you look at the transactions, La Russa in his short major league career was employed by the A's, White Sox and Cardinals. Interesting coincidence.
Belliard steals second as Molina strikes out. The throw beat him, but Valentin just didn't quite get the tag down. As McCarver points out, this is partly due to Molina obstructing Lo Duca. But no harm done, due to some outstanding defense by Valentin on the next play.
Perez has done his job now; if he gets in any more trouble he can be bailed out without disaster.
Top Five, 2-2.
3-run homer for Delgado! It is now actually imaginable that Perez could get the win in this game. A lot of baseball still to play, but that's a major lift. I had to run upstairs and tell my 9-year-old son, who just got sent to bed under protest.
Momentum is such a fickle thing, almost as fickle as Fox announcers - suddenly the flairs dropping in and botched grounders are going against the Cardinals.
Perez is batting with two on and two outs in the top of the fifth. And you know what? I'm fine with that. What a turn of events.
And he's ahead in the count again. You really would not want to walk him to face Reyes with the bases juiced. I mean really.
But he whiffs. On to...
Bottom Five, 5-2
Eckstein goes waaaaay deep, and yes, Virginia, this is still a tight October ballgame. I get Perez out if anybody gets on ahead of Pujols.
Willie Randolph calls both Perez and Darren Oliver "Ollie." Perez, if he ever does recapture his 2004 form, could use an intimidating nickname.
And whiffing Pujols with a pitch at his eyes is a reminder that this is still a possibility for this guy.
Top Six, 5-3 Mets.
Reyes singles to right - the ball just jumps off his bat.
To answer a question in the comments, yes those in-game interviews are idiotic, uncomfortable and risk giving away too much information to boot. But at least Tony took his shades off.
First and (Reyes on) third, nobody out. This is at least one run you need to add.
Beltran walks, bases loaded for Charlie the Cat. Hancock is having a tough series.
Deep fly for Delgado, which is what you wanted there. Ground rule double, two runs in, 7-3.
Buck is busting on Speizio for missing that, but let's face it, Speizio is an aging infielder playing out of position.
Hancock walks Wright on four pitches. Cards fans are unhappy, and it takes a lot to get them restive.
Ron Livingston, action hero? Not sure I am buying that.
Bases loaded, nobody out, up 7-3 - at this point you just want to keep bleeding in runs, even if with outs.
Green singles - only one run in, but we're still bases loaded, nobody out. 8-3.
Valentin drills one down the left field line for a double, empties the bases, 11-3. Now, I feel good. Heck, we may see Perez go 8 innings tonight.
Chavez strikes out on a pitch in the dirt. Really, you have to wonder if he takes that cut if they didn't just get an 8-run lead. Perez bats again.
In a normal postseason, you try to battle against getting too high or too low, which is a powerful temptation. I thought it would be different now that I'm older. But it's been awful hard to avoid, given how precarious is the state of the Mets rotation - everything turns on avoiding situations where you need a well-pitched game.
Edmonds hits the fence to catch the third out trailing by 8 runs. That's why he's Jim Edmonds.
Bottom Six, 11-3 Mets.
Perez goes right after Rolen and Edmonds, gets a popup and a home run. Hey, that's how you pitch with a big lead - don't fool around, don't worry about solo homers. (Beltran hits the fence trying to rope it back, too, but more smoothly).
Home run Molina. Well, maybe after this inning you get Perez out of there, if not sooner. You don't want to damage his confidence, and you don't want to turn this into a game again.
11-5, Bradford's coming in. The end was ugly but only because of the big lead did Perez go that last inning. And yes, to answer another comment, the Mets would really like to see a rainout tomorrow so Glavine can get back on his regular rest. In 1986, we didn't care if it rained (as it did twice), at least for the Mets' staff (it did matter that rain let Bruce Hurst start Game 7 rather than Oil Can Boyd.)
Preston Wilson being another reminder of 1986.
Top 7, 11-5 Mets.
Beltran goes deep; that's the Braden Looper we know and love. Nice twist of the knife there, needed or not.
Bottom Seven, 12-5.
Cards need seven runs, Mets need six outs. I like those odds.
Delgado's favorite actor is Morgan Freeman. If he were 10 years older it would be Lou Gosset jr.
Bradford still in; I'm feeling like a Roberto Hernandez sighting is in order soon, but Wagner (?!?) is warming up. OK, never mind that, he's not; they just mentioned him while I had my head down typing between pitches.
Top Eight, 12-5 Mets
It's 10:11pm in St. Louis, and LaRussa is still wearing sunglasses.
Buck is asking if you start Perez or Trachsel in Game 7. This, you see, is why a Game 7 is not a hopeful prospect. I'd rather start Heilman and see if he can go 4, if he hasn't been burned by then. In 1986, Roger McDowell went 5 in NLCS Game 6 (and had surgery the next spring)
Bottom 8, 12-5 Mets.
They are saying they will ask Randolph before tomorrow who will start Game 7. I predict they will not get an answer.
Top 9, 12-5 Mets
I can hear the Mets fans in the stadium now, doing the "Jose, Jose Jose Jose" chant.
The Braden Looper Face is in the house.
Somewhere, an Astros fan is throwing things at the screen after a gratuitous shot of Jesse Orosco celebrating the 1986 NLCS Game Six clinching strikeout.
And there's Mookie in the stands!
La Russa is warming up his closer down 7 runs. You can't fault the man for lacking optimism.
Reyes gets doubled off first for running on contact on a ball in the air with one out. Granted, Reyes doesn't do the space cadet bit in a close game, but that still should not happen.
Bottom Nine, 12-5
Needless to say, you need to put this one away. In the books, as Howie Rose would say. Mota is in; what ever did happen to Hernandez? Is he tired from pitching last night?
One on, one out. The Mets really did need the 12 runs tonight, even if they win by seven.
It's over. What can I say? Amazin'
October 14, 2006
BASEBALL: Game Three, NLCS
LIVEBLOGGED DURING THE GAME
Let me say, first of all, that I - like many other Mets fans - will be very happy after this season is done to never see Steve Trachsel in a Mets uniform again. Granted, Trachsel pitched some fine baseball before his back injury in 2004, but he's never been the same since.
It's not just that Trachsel pitches badly so often, but that he most frequently pitches his worst at the start of the game, so there's no way to get him out of there before he does his damage.
With Trachsel leaving in the second, that rainout stripping the Mets of a travel day off is looking huge right now.
And so is Game Two. It was the fifth time in fourteen postseason serieses in franchise history that the Mets have blown a lead at home in the sixth inning or later - and it has not been a good omen:
1. 1973 NLCS Game 4: up 1-0 into the 7th, Mets lose 2-1 in 12 innings. Mets go on to win the clincher the next game.
2. 1973 World Series Game 3: up 2-0 into the 6th and 2-1 into the 8th, and ended up losing 3-2 in 11 innings. Mets lost the series in 7 games.
3. 1988 NLCS Game 4: the Mike Scioscia game - up 4-2 into the 9th, Scioscia homers off Dwight Gooden, and the Dodgers win 5-4 in 12 innings. Mets lost the series in 7 games.
4. 2000 World Series Game 5: Mets lead 2-0 into the 6th, Yankees tie it up and score 2 in the 9th to end the series.
Of course, much as I'd like to see no more Trachsel next year, I also don't especially want tonight's injury to promote Oliver Perez to third starter.
I'm already very sick of Scott Speizio's . . . it's not really a beard so much as a tassel.
I guess they will ask Suppan after the game why he was winking at Trachsel before his home run - maybe he was talking some trash about the last homer he hit off Trachsel?
I was astonished this morning to see the papers all blaming Wagner for last night's debacle - sure, Wagner blew up and lost the game, but Mota was the one who lost the lead.
Why was I not surprised at the graphic last night saying that Lo Duca's favorite actor is Robert DiNiro?
I'm not thrilled to see Oliver batting in the third, but I guess you can't burn all your pitchers in the third inning.
Down by less than 5, I think that triple by Reyes went far enough that it could have been an inside the park HR.
I'd feel a lot better about the Mets being in a hole here if they were hitting the ball well.
TRIVIA QUIZ - Answer below the fold. They said that Jim Leyland is now the 7th manager to take a team to the World Series in each league. Can you name the other six?
Great job by Darren Oliver to settle back down, albeit after aggravating the bases-loaded situation he inherited from Trachsel.
Ack! Valentin gets thrown out stretching a single to a double down 5-0. Which completely kills the inning.
Now I'm really baffled as to why Oliver bats a second time leading off the sixth. Is Randolph writing off Game 3?
OK, I am ready for Gonzalez and McCarver to shut up now. Which is not to say I'm not sick of Joe Buck, too.
It's extremely frustrating to see Yadier Molina ripping the ball - I'd call him the poor man's Ben Molina, but Jose already has that role filled.
If the Mets lose this series, the odds of Omar giving Jeff Suppan an imprudently large free agent contract have to be rising. (Although as I have noted before, Minaya hasn't actually pulled the trigger on that many bad moves - it's just the things he's been rumored to do.. And of course you can't argue with the results of a lot of his gambles.). Suppan is basically the same pitcher Trachsel used to be, a guy who gives you a steady 32-33 starts a year right around the league ERA. I remember when he was a hugely touted ("next Greg Maddux") Red Sox prospect, but he's long since made his own record to be judged against.
Roberto Hernandez is definitely leading the team in most games warmed up without pitching. Looks like we might see him come in next, though.
I really feel bad for Matt Cerrone; if you haven't been there, his site is down, at the worst possible time for a Mets blog to be down.
It would really be nice for Wright to get a hit in this series .. . . after that seventh inning I'm all but ready to write this game off myself. If you can't tell, I'm not in a real optimistic mood right now.
I know there's no one way to win a baseball game, but it will be very, very useful if the Mets can score in the top of the first tomorrow night before Perez takes the mound. The upside is that a good outing by Perez would wash away the past two years.
OK, we go to the 8th inning needing five runs before the Cards get six outs. It can be done; this team can do it.
Leadoff walk in the 8th for Green. It's a start.
Make that five runs vs. three outs. Now we are in serious miracle time.
Down without a fight. The only good things there are to say about this game are (1) it's just one game, (2) it's over, and (3) they didn't burn much of the bullpen, other than the fact that we won't see Darren Oliver again for a while.
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TRIVIA ANSWER: Tony LaRussa, Sparky Anderson, Dick Williams, Yogi Berra, Joe McCarthy, and Alvin Dark.
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BASEBALL: First Blood
Well, the Mets have finally lost one, and a crusher, sending them to St. Louis with Trachsel, Oliver Perez, and Glavine on short rest coming up. Ugh. The crucial mistake here was Randolph leaving in Mota too long - I knew after the marathon at bat to Pujols that something bad was going to happen to Mota in that inning. Someone should go back and count how many pitches the Cards fouled off tonight, between Pujols and Eckstein's at bat against Heilman.
Off to bed - more on this game later.
October 12, 2006
BASEBALL: Game One
Listening on the radio...will update as I go.
Glavine strikes out Pujols! They should put that on a poster, like the famous John Starks dunk (hope this series ends better than that one).
Jeff Weaver is pitching a no-hitter.
Floyd is hurting, and is out of the game. That did not take long.
You know, Encarnacion can pop a big hit now and then, but I have to believe that batting him cleanup is a deliberate ploy to get the Mets to walk Pujols.
Oof! Pujols doubled off first by Beltran! Inning over!
Where did the Cardinals get this Jeff Weaver guy? He can't be related to the guy who pitched for the Yankees, Dodgers and Angels.
This game is starting to remind me of Game One of the 1986 World Series. Come to think of it, there wasn't much scoring in Game One in the NLCS in 1986 or 1988. Game Three of the 1999 NLCS comes to mind as well, Glavine being prominently involved in that one.
BELTRAN HOMER! 2-0 Mets!
Delgado doubles. It's midnight and Weaver just turned into a pumpkin.
Tyler Johnson on in relief. Allowed 56 baserunners this year in 36.1 innings.
I don't like seeing Mota instead of Heilman in the 8th.
Two outs, Eckstein on first, Pujols on deck, 2-run lead, Mota really needs to get Preston Wilson here.
Bradford warming up - because Bradford keeps the ball down, I'd rather have him face Pujols in that situation than Heilman or certainly Mota.
Mota back from 3-0 to 3-2 on Wilson. Foul out to Delgado! Whew. Pujols will lead off 9th and can hit the ball to Hartford and it won't matter.
Braden Looper is in! It's Christmas in October!
2d & 3d, 1 out. Lo Duca on third. I think I would run for Lo Duca here; the insurance run would be big.
Instead, Wright grounds out. Need a hit from Chavez for the big insurance run.
Nope, lineout to Edmonds. !^%$#^!% Edmonds.
You can hear on the radio how hard Wagner is throwing. I still say Randy Myers is the only Mets closer I have really, truly trusted.
Two outs, none on. Wagner can't do this without drama, can he?
Wagner walks Rolen. That's more like it. Speizio will come up as the tying run. Other than Pujols he's the only Card to hit in September.
The Mets Win! Theeeeeee Me-e-e-ets Win!
Well, that was unexpected: a shutout and only three pitchers used. Of course, that was Glavine on regular rest; it's all downhill from here (not that Maine is a problem, but he probably won't go 7). Now we hold our breath for word on Floyd's ankle.
BASEBALL: Um, Typo?
I only recently discovered that The Baseball Cube has historical minor league stats going back to some time in the 60s or 70s, albeit of spotty coverage. But this Dave Cochrane page must be a typo - I think I would have heard if a guy, especially a guy in the Mets system, had stolen 800 bases in the minors in the 1980s, including a single season high of 146. I suspect the walks, steals and strikeouts columns got transposed somehow (note his persistent single-digit walk totals).
Also, while looking through the site, I got to look at Dan Norman's minor league numbers, and let's just say that for a guy who was supposed to be the key guy in a trade for Tom Seaver, they don't pass the smell test. Norman batted .297 and slugged .441 as a 19 year old in rookie ball in 1974, reasonable enough numbers, but in 1161 at bats between A, AA and AAA between then and The Trade, the man batted .269 and slugged .422. I know the Cube lacks walks and steals data for those years and Norman hit a ton of triples, so he presumably was quite fast, but nothing in his subsequent career suggests a budding Rickey Henderson. The Mets should have known, and probably knew, that Norman was at best a middling prospect with limited chances to become a major league regular.
BASEBALL: Milledge Watching
Another reason I was baffled by the Mets putting Anderson Hernandez on the NLCS roster is that, with Cliff Floyd hobbling on a bum Achilles, you would think you would want some extra insurance in the outfield before another infielder. I expected to see either Milledge or (gasp) Ricky Ledee, even notwithstanding Milledge's immaturity and inconsistency and the fact that Ledee appears to have nothing left.
While I was thinking of that, I took a look at Milledge's 2005-06 numbers at AA, AAA and the majors; they add up to a full season's worth of at bats, and while you can't get a lot of information about quality by lumping together two seasons' work (at age 20-21) at three different levels, when combined they do offer a bit of insight into the type of player Milledge is and could be:
*Milledge isn't much of a home run hitter yet, though at his age and with his doubles power, he should still develop some home run pop as he ages and fills out.
*He's unlikely ever to be a successful base thief; almost all successful base stealers are already successful at it by the time they get to AA ball. Again, Milledge's youth is an asset, as he may be able to learn some, but a guy who is stealing at less than a 60% clip even in the minors is never going to be Carlos Beltran on the basepaths.
*I didn't realize how often Milledge gets hit by pitches. That will help his OBP long term as long as it doesn't lead to a lot of injuries.
*Milledge obviously doesn't have good strike zone judgment at the major league level, but he's not a no-walks guy in the minors, which suggests the potential to learn.
I still think he's an excellent prospect, although even in 2007 he may need more AAA seasoning before handing him an everyday job in Queens.
BASEBALL: Sign of the Times
October 11, 2006
BASEBALL: Rained Out
It's hard even for a fanatical fan like me to focus on tonight's games after what happened this afternoon, but as you have likely seen by now the Mets were rained out. The Mets will now lose the travel day between Games Two and Three, which is awful news for a team with only three starting pitchers.
BLOG: Horror in Manhattan
The big story today - I've been hearing the sirens from my office - is a small plane crashing into an apartment complex on 72d and York. Word just came across Fox News that the plane was registered to Yankee (and ex-Met) pitcher Cory Lidle. No word on who was on board.
UPDATES: ESPN says Lidle was on board and is dead:
Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle died Wednesday when a small plane he was piloting crashed into a 50-story condominium tower Wednesday on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
This is shocking, shades of Thurman Munson and then some. Presumably Lidle was on his way home from the end of baseball season. I always liked Lidle when he was with the Mets, and he had some decent years, especially in Oakland. Lidle was 34.
Here's an article from September about Lidle as a pilot. As you will recall, Lidle was a descendant of Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat; I guess the interest in transportation ran in his family.
Bloomberg's doing a press conference now. He's basically saying NTSB will have to clear up what happened, nobody knows much else for certain yet, reports are conflicting. Air traffic control lost contact around 59th street as Lidle was heading north. Bloomberg is utterly emotionless.
This obviously casts a very serious pall over tonight's scheduled games, including two of Lidle's former teams. The Mets may not play anyway, given the rain (more on the implications of that later).
Via Instapundit, though, a smidgen of humor: Alec Baldwin being . . . well, Alec Baldwin.
BASEBALL: The NLCS Roster
Via the invaluable MetsBlog, you can go check out the Mets' NLCS roster. Cliff Floyd will indeed be on the roster, though I expect we will at most see him pinch hitting for the moment. The only change appears to be the substitution of Anderson Hernandez for Royce Ring, which I don't understand (why would you need fewer pitchers in a longer series?) unless Randolph wants to carry a guy to pinch run for Lo Duca, Floyd, Franco and perhaps Delgado. Cerrone also reports that the Mets have not abandoned hope of El Duque being ready to go for the World Series.
Ryan McConnell debates whether this season is a success if the Mets don't win it all. Entering the playoffs I felt like the Mets needed to do two things for me to be satisfied: climb over the weak NL field to the World Series, and outlast the Yankees. They did the second; as to the first, if they lose to a Cardinals team with poor pitching several holes in their lineup and as many injury problems as the Mets, I will go home disappointed. If the Mets make the Series and lose to Detroit or Oakland, I'll of course wish they had won, but I'll have no real basis to complain.
October 10, 2006
BASEBALL: I Need A Zito
Some people will tell you that tonight's Game One starter for the A's, Barry Zito, is overrated. They will look at his mediocre W-L records for contending teams, his solid but unspectacular ERAs, his also solid but unspectacular K/BB numbers, compared to the money and attention Zito will attract this offseason, and conclude that Zito isn't really even a legitimate number one starter, let alone a guy who will likely end up as the highest paid pitcher in the game.
All of that is true as far as it goes, but it also misses the point of why Zito was so valuable to the A's that Billy Beane kept him around while he was dealing Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, and why teams will be falling over themselves to get him. You see, there are two things you want, at a minimum, from an expensive investment in a starting pitcher: consistent durability and consistent quality. And Zito is among baseball's best in that regard. Let's look at the major league pitchers who have met, for at least three years running, what you would think of as the minimum tests for a star pitcher: 200 innings pitched and an ERA at least equal to the league (measured by ERA+, baseball-reference.com's park-adjusted comparison to the league ERA). As it turns out, there are but eight pitchers who have met that standard three or more seasons in a row entering 2007:
"200" is consecutive seasons of 200 or more innings, regardless of meeting the quality threshold; "age" is 2007 age. To complete the picture, let's list the guys who have thrown 200 more innings three or more years, but with a shorter string of those seasons beating the league ERA (bear in mind that some of them have beat the league ERA a few times in that stretch; "0" just means they missed it in 2006).
One note on the arbitrary 200-IP cutoff here - if Maddux had thrown an additional two-thirds of an inning in 2002, he'd top the list with 19 years in a row of 200 innings and a 100 or better ERA+.
No, Zito isn't Pedro Martinez; he's never led the league in ERA or strikeouts. But Pedro isn't pitching this week, and Zito is, and that counts too. Don't think GMs the league over aren't excited by Zito's four times leading the American League in starts. Just as with Don Sutton's Hall of Fame credentials, in an age of ever decreasing starting pitcher workloads - this year's Mets setting a new historical nadir - there is much to be said for the sheer dogged persistence of a guy who hitches up the plow every fifth day ready to give his best effort.
October 9, 2006
BASEBALL: Long At Bats
I thought I'd pass this along after an exchange with a reader - a 2002 Baseball Prospectus study by Keith Woolner on what length of at bats favors the hitter vs. the pitcher. The short answer is that 3 pitches is the best for pitchers; OBPs start rising rapidly after that, whereas power numbers drop sharply after 2 pitches and don't recover until around 11.
BASEBALL: Classic Quote
There might've been more of them during spring training, but the signs still show up at Shea.
October 8, 2006
BASEBALL: The Bandwagon Stops
Four hours after they were eliminated by the Detroit Tigers, the New York Yankees pulled up to Yankee Stadium in three buses late Saturday night, greeted by fewer than a dozen fans.
Ouch. In all seriousness, this one has to hurt worst of all for Yankee fans (well, except for 2004), given how rapidly the team just froze up and went down without a fight. Like I said: just good pitching and a short series. But that doesn't help you through the winter months.
BASEBALL: Bring on the Cards!
Time to break that old 80s greatest hit, hatred of the Cardinals.
Yeah, now I have your attention. I should put some Def Leppard records on to get in the mood.
The good news is, the series starts Wednesday, so with three days off the Mets can get all three of their starters set, whereas the Cardinals can't start Carpenter on his regular rest until Game Three.
UPDATE: OK, want some more contemporary names? Braden Looper. Jeff Weaver (that's for the Yankee fans). And of course, it's every baseball fan's duty to hate Tony La Russa.
Besides, if you liked the 2004 NLCS, you have to want a Beltran-Pujols rematch.
Who needs injury reports when you've got a blog? Cliff Floyd speaks:
I want to play, and I don't know what to think. I wanted to score that run. It's the postseason. You don't hold back. We wanted that run, and now my leg might hold me back.
H/t MetsBlog. If you don't like Cliff Floyd, well, you just don't like baseball.
BASEBALL: Jobless Joe?
I don't see a specific story on the website but the talk of the TV is that the Daily News is reporting that Hated (or Pitied?) Yankees will fire Joe Torre, perhaps as early as today, and bring back Lou Piniella. Mike Lupica wants it to happen. This strikes me as insane - I'm no lover of Torre but how exactly is it his fault? This is a veteran team, and they just picked a bad time to lose 3 in a row to a good pitching staff. And I'm not sure what Piniella adds to the picture.
BASEBALL: It Was A Good Day
Very quick thoughts here, perhaps to be expanded upon later:
*METS WIN! METS WIN! METS WIN! METS WIN! METS WIN! METS WIN!
*I guess we'll never know who the Game Four starter would really have been. I fear finding out in the next round, though.
*Broxton bombed - but not really. That long sixth inning was a replay of the 1986 Game Six rally in terms of dinks and dunks into short center. Still, Grady did leave him out there an awful long time. Randolph also left Mota in so long as to really tempt fate, when there's really no reason why a fresh Roberto Hernandez is inferior to a tired Mota.
*I sure hope Cliff Floyd is OK.
*The Yankees were, purely and simply, done in by the 1-2 punch of a very short series and good pitching. Of course, as I have noted before, if you hold the view that the Yankees' victories in 1996-2000 were due to some superior reserve of clutch-ness, you need to find scapegoats. Hence, A-Rod will get all the blame.
*I have to think the pressure to trade A-Rod for pennies on the dollar will now be irresistible, most likely to a team that can return him to his natural position. Granted, that's still a lot of pennies. The team with perhaps the best case for making a run is the Cardinals - Edmonds, Carpenter, Rolen and Izzy aren't getting any younger, and upgrading from Eckstein to A-Rod would be huge on both sides of the ball. A deal won't make sense except for a team that can take on a substantial amount of the remaining 2/3 of A-Rod's salary the Yanks are on the hook for. It won't make any sense for the Yankees, but the focus of media/fan anger at him has passed the tipping point of rationality.
*Frickin' Jeff Kent. ^!#%!# Carlos Baerga.
*Will they never learn to never give the "Player of the Game" until the game is over?
October 6, 2006
In 1977, Mike Torrez was a big part of the Yankees stretch drive against the Red Sox, and pitched brilliantly in the World Series. Sox fans, having suffered through watching Torrez lead the Hated Yankees to vitcory, were ecstatic when the Red Sox got Torrez - only to see him hurt them even worse in 1978, going 1-4 with a 5.96 ERA against the Yanks, including the notorious Bucky Dent home run that decided the season in its 163rd game.
In 2000, Joe Torre - the man who led the Mets to three straight seasons of 95 or more losses - managed the Yanks to their fourth World Championship in five years, defeating the Mets in the Subway Series.
Today, the Yankees finally found themselves on the other end of such a turnaround, as Kenny Rogers, notorious for his playoff flops in New York, stuck a dagger in the Bronx Bombers and their vaunted lineup.
Somewhere in the darkness of Comerica Park, he broke even.
BASEBALL: Hard to Get Good Help
If you count tonight's liklely starters and the likely starters for the remaining divisional series games that are certain to be played (counting tonight, 2 in the Yankees-Tigers series and 1 in each of the others), 26 different starting pitchers will have taken the mound - and of those 26, the cream of the major league crop after a long season, the frontline starters for the best teams in baseball, 12 are either (1) rookies, (2) age 40 or older, or (3) had ERAs of 4.89 or higher (the league ERAs were 4.55 in the AL, 4.48 in the NL). And this is before Oliver Perez (6.55 ERA), Carlos Silva (5.94 ERA), Rich Harden (9 starts all season) and Brad Penny (6.25 ERA after the All Star Break) take the mound, in Perez and Silva's cases replacing 40-something Orlando Hernandez and rookie Francisco Liriano. The guys who are counted as OK here include second-year starters Chien-Ming Wang and Chris Young, 37-year-old Mike Mussina, Jeremy Bonderman (4.72 career ERA), Jeff Suppan (4.60 career ERA, 5.83 ERA before the All Star Break), Brad Radke (pitching with a career-ending stress fracture in his shoulder), and Jaret Wright (career ERA of 5.07; this year, 4.49 ERA an an average of 5.05 innings per start). If you include Wright, you can conclude that half of the frontline playoff starters are very old, very inexperienced or below-average pitchers.
October 5, 2006
BASEBALL: Dodgers Links
Here's the story, if you've missed it so far, about how the Dodgers' only significant lefthanded reliever suffered a freak accident and will miss this series. Here's a NY Times piece on Vin Scully, his New York roots and his call of yesterday's hijinx on the basepaths. And here's Jon Weisman's look at "The Play".
October 4, 2006
BASEBALL: Amazin' Already
What a Mets game today:
1. The 9-4-2-2 Double Play
Obviously, the headline play - if you somehow missed it - was Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew both being thrown out at home on the same play. I'm not sure which is worse - Kent getting thrown out at the plate coming in from second on a ball that bounced off the right field fence, or Drew trying to score when he had to see that the guy ahead of him wasn't even home safely yet. Dodger third base coach Rich Donnelly, the least popular man in LA right now, says the two were so close together he couldn't switch his signs fast enough:
Kent froze between second base and third, waiting to see if the ball would drop. Drew, with a better angle at first base, could see the ball slicing and knew it would fall safely.
Of course, Drew and Kent are both pretty universally unpopular everywhere anyway... credit to Green for a great thrown and Valentin for the relay, and credit to John Maine, for screaming at Paul Lo Duca to get up and tag Drew (he had no idea there was another runner on the way), but after he tagged Drew, Lo Duca then came up in throwing position, looking to see where Russell Martin had got himself to. Maybe he thought Martin was next.
2. The Three Man Rotation
Willie Randolph can't seriously be contemplating a 3-man rotation for the NLDS, can he? It makes some sense, and it's the most logical reason why he would have pulled John Maine in a jam in the fifth inning, pitching on his regular rest and having thrown only 80 pitches and resulting in burning two relievers to get through the fifth. The Mets have a deep, healthy, relatively fresh pen and only three even semi-reputable starting pitchers, and they have Friday off; if Glavine also doesn't go deep tomorrow, he and Maine could be available to start Games 4 & 5 on three days' rest (if Glavine does go 7 or 8 innings, it's less likely that there would be a Game 5).
3. Mota Is The Guy You Pinch Hit With, Not For?
The other really bizarre thing in this game was when, having burned relievers like there was no tomorrow but still with Oliver, Ring, Perez, Heilman, Hernandez and Wagner to go, Randolph let Guillermo Mota hit with 2 outs and the bases loaded up 4-1 in the sixth. I say you go for the jugular there and pinch hit; you pulled the starter early, why get antsy now about using too many pitchers?
I really didn't need to see Steve Phillips in there. Mercifully I watched the game from crowded bars with no audible sound.
Great to see Floyd, in particular, contribute. What a massive homer that was.
Does Marlon Anderson get a pitch in the ear for his takeout slide at Reyes' legs? We know Mota's not above that.
BASEBALL: Prepping for Game One
I've got just a minute to blog this morning - quick thoughts:
*There really is nothing more frustrating in professional sports than having a great regular season and not being able to field the same team in the postseason. With the exception of David Wells begging out of a big game, and perhaps Dwight Gooden running out of gas in 1996, this sort of thing never happens to the Yankees. That said, as to Game One itself, if we get John Maine pitching on his regular rest, well, we could do worse.
*This is the Dodgers lineup over the last two months, which in contrast to LA's full-season numbers is a steady nine. While old warhorses like Kent and Lofton are locked in now, the really scary guys are Furcal and Drew. Furcal really is the star of this team, and a guy whose value to the Braves - and loss this year - was not fully appreciated. And has there been anything more improbable than Marlon Anderson slugging .813 over his tenure in LA?
October 3, 2006
BASEBALL: Actual Runs on the Board
One of the more irritating arguments, to me, in favor of Ryan Howard over Albert Pujols for NL MVP is that Howard drove in more runs. Even aside from the fact that RBI depends on your teammates, the obvious problem with counting only total runs on the board is that while Howard drove in 12 more runs, Pujols scored 15 more - so in total, Pujols changed the numbers on the board directly more often than Howard, even in fewer games.
Just to help out in that debate, I thought I would run a chart (with much help from Pinto's database) showing who actually put the most runs on the board in 2006. It's not, as I said, the best measurement of offense, but it is an actual, real-world number and thus something of a reality check on these debates.
There are two ways to measure Runs and RBI together. One is the "Runs Produced" measure that seeks to ask how many runs a player contributed to - that's (Runs + RBI - HR). Homers are subtracted out because a player would otherwise be double counted for driving in and scoring the same run.
Of course, driving in and scoring the same run is twice as valuable, since it means the hitter needed no further assistance, so I prefer a second measure - I'll call it "Total Runs" here but I'm sure someone else has called it something else before and I just can't remember what. This is a figure that gives a player half credit for driving the run in and half for scoring: (R+RBI)/2. Obviously, that means home run hitters are implicitly given their due for one full run, so it won't cheat guys like Howard and David Ortiz who do a lot of their work with the longball.
The chart below ranks all players with 400 or more plate appearances by their Total Runs, and also adds a second measure: Total Runs per 27 outs, with outs calculated by ((AB-H)+SF+CS+DP). Again, this isn't the most precise computation, but neither is it complicated theoretical metric; it's just dividing runs by outs, and multplying by 27 for ease of comprehension.
So, who actually put the most runs on the board?
Read More »
If you count by runs per out, you will see that the top 10 is Pujols, Hafner, Beltran, Howard, Ortiz, Thome, Berkman, Chipper, Giambi, and Dye. The bottom ten (starting at the bottom): Ausmus, Ronny Cedeno, Yadier Molina, Miles, Pierre, Eckstein (three Cardinals already!), Brady Clark, Clayton, Jack Wilson, and Berroa (that's 8 out of 10 in the NL Central). You will also see that Jeter beats Mauer 6.73 to 6.14, although of course the rest of the Yankee offense does have a fair bit to do with that.
« Close It
BASEBALL: Barry Zito Market Value Watch
All signs point to "up": Twins hitless through 4, now scoreless through 5.
UPDATE: 8 innings, 1 run, and Zito lowers his career postseason ERA to 2.43. And The Frank is Mighty and Shall Prevail: Frank Thomas homers twice. A's lead 1-0, Santana or no Santana.
IN OTHER NEWS: Kenny Rogers is under police investigation for choking. No, seriously.
And El Duque is questionable for Game One due to a calf injury. It's almost Lima Time! Either that, or Glavine does the Old Hoss Radbourn routine and starts every game.
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Politics and Baseball
The New Republic has a silly effort to compare the Mets to the Democrats. Much as I do both baseball and politics on this site, I try not to mix the two, and I have mocked similar efforts in the past.
That said, if we are just having fun with the numbers, it's time to update one of my favorite factoids: The Hated Yankees haven't won a World Series with a Republican in the White House since 1958. In fact, the Yankees won their first pennant in 1921, and since then:
Democratic Administrations: 40 seasons, 19-3 in the World Series
(If you are wondering, just for comparison, the Mets have won 4 division titles, 3 pennants and 2 World Championships with a Republican in the White House, compared to 1 pennant and 2 Wild Cards under Democratic presidents; they've also had 9 last place finishes during Democratic administrations compared to 4 under Republicans).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:18 PM | Baseball 2006 | Politics 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: First Round Predictions
Yankees over Tigers in 4: Yankee fans, of course, are drooling at the prospect of facing a team that heads its rotation with Kenny Rogers and his 8.85 career postseason ERA. The Yanks in recent years have shown three vulnerabilities in the postseason. First, like all teams, they are vulnerable to superior starting pitching; the Tigers could have that if Bonderman and Verlander get their acts together. Second, teams like the Angels that put the ball in play a lot can exploit their defensive weaknesses; those weaknesses have been less pronounced this year, and in any event the Tigers are a power team, not a contact team. And third, the Yankees have run into trouble when their bullpen wears down - but Mariano in particular is fresh entering October. Sheffield and Matsui are back too - Torre has always had a great record of getting his teams healthy in time for the playoffs. They are just too tall an order for Detroit, as good a year as the Tigers have had.
Twins over A's in 5: The Twins are hot and have Santana . . . much as I'd love Oakland to finally win in October they are just not the strongest team, and they are heavily dependent on Frank Thomas staying healthy. It's hardly impossible, and the holes in the Minnesota rotation make it unlikely that the Twins can put away anybody quickly, but I'd go with the Twins.
Padres over Cards in 3: I don't think I have ever seen a team back into the playoffs as badly as the Cardinals, and it's not an accident of a late-season slump - their pitching really is that bad, and their offense really is that shallow behind Pujols and Rolen.
Mets over Dodgers in 5: More on this tomorrow, time permitting. The echoes of 1988 frighten me; this is a different Dodgers team than that one (much deeper offense, but not similarly strong frontline pitching), while the Mets are much weaker (the 1988 team had a deceptively dominant offense and a deep bullpen, but they also had an outstanding rotation, and unlike these Mets they entered October with only their third starter unavailable rather than their ace and fifth starters; on the other hand, their defense was much weaker than this team's). The Dodgers don't have the one thing these Mets fear - proven quality lefthanded starters - but they will now start the talented Hong-Chih Kuo in Game Two at Shea and hope for a repeat of his mastery of the Mets when he last faced them.
This Mets team is built more for long serieses than short ones, as the depth of the bullpen and strength of the offense makes them well-designed for exhausting wars of attrition. Which is why the first round is scary. But I do think they are the better team, and the longer the series goes, the more it favors the Mets.
BASEBALL: Thinking Blue
Jon Weisman has a good rundown of the Dodgers heading into the postseason. One thing that jumped out as I ran down the LA roster is just how many rookies played key roles on this team - LA got 67 Win Shares (25% of the team's total) from Russell Martin, Takashi Saito, Andre Ethier, Jonathan Broxton, Chad Billingsley, Hong Chih-Kuo, and James Loney.
Which raises an interesting chicken-and-egg question. On the one hand, the staggering number of successful rookies in the NL this year may bode well for the future strength of the Senior Circuit. On the other hand, you could say that those rookies succeeded in part because the NL was relatively weak this year.
October 2, 2006
BASEBALL: The Postseason Roster
What we know for sure is, Milledge, Ledee and Ring won't be on it. Ring's a talented LOOGY but not ready yet and not really needed. Ledee, no loss. Milledge was. I guess, just to nervous-making; the Mets don't have a ton of righthanded bats, but he's really not ready either. I would assume that that decision may be re-evaluated series by series based on how many lefties the Mets will face.
By the way, the Maddux-Glavine matchup for Game Two looks interesting.
BASEBALL: Show Me The Money
Matt Cerrone has some perspective on claims that the Mets' budget makes them "the new Yankees". Specifically, the Yankees payroll is 62% higher than the #2 AL team; the Mets' is 2.7% higher than the #2 NL team (the Dodgers, incidentally); and, of course, the Yankees' is 93% higher than the Mets'. Cerrone also looks at the trend in the Mets' payroll in recent years.
BASEBALL: Birds of a Feather
A point I have made before, but underlined by their final season totals - you would have to look long and hard for three more similar hitters:
Crawford is the weakest of the three only because he's the oldest, not a shortstop and walks the least, but I suspect he may also have the best power potential. Joel Sherman of the Post (h/t Pinto and Rays Index) think Crawford might be available in a deal for a young pitcher, maybe to the Mets. For the Rays this is either sheer stupidity (trading their franchise player) or a sign of maturity (dealing from strength in the OF) depending on what they would expect to get back.
From the Mets' perspective, while I'd love to see Crawford and Reyes as a 1-2 punch even despite the fact that this would combine two relatively low-walk guys atop the order, and while replacing Floyd with Crawford would save the Mets money (which could be invested in the rotation) while improving their defense and durability, the Pedro injury does make me doubt how much further they can be stripped of young arms. I'd certainly consider Pelfrey or Humber for Crawford - even the best pitching prospect is a much more speculative deal than a healthy young outfielder - but I suspect that the Mets' need to hold on to credible contenders for the rotation will outrank any opportunity to convert young arms into equally young bats.
BASEBALL: The Envelope, Please
There's much to discuss with the playoffs coming up, but for now I thought I would give my quick rundown of who I would vote for in the two top individual awards (I ran out of time to do the Rookie of the Year):
1. Albert Pujols
I expect Howard to win the award because he has the sexier numbers in the HR and RBI columns and had an amazing run in August and September. But neither Pujols nor Howard contributes much with the glove, so you have to compare their batting lines straight up. Pujols is the obvious winner, .331/.671/.431 to .313/.659/.425 despite Howard playing in a generally more favorable park (although Howard did actually put up better road numbers, and Beltran slugged .683 on the road). On the downside, Pujols hit into more DPs than Beltran and Howard combined, but I still think his offensive value gives him a decisive edge. And Pujols' clutch hitting was certainly instrumental in the few Cardinal victories that helped carry a moribund team over the finish line.
(As a side note, Pujols' injuries ruined the bizarre consistency of one stat line - in five prior major league seasons his career high in at bats was 592, his career low was 590).
Beltran missed more time than the other two, and his offensive numbers tailed off in September - but Beltran's defense was a huge factor in the Mets finishing, among other things, 12 games ahead of the Phillies, and of course Beltran did all this in one of the toughest pitchers' parks in the league.
Honorable mentions include Miguel Cabrera, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Lance Berkman, Alfonso Soriano, and Chase Utley.
1. Joe Mauer
The best hitters in the AL this year were Travis Hafner and Manny Ramirez, but both missed over 30 games, which combined with zero defensive value is just too much. While there are a number of other plausible candidates among the big boppers, it really comes down to Ortiz, Jeter and Mauer.
Ortiz obviously has the offensive edge, but then he's a zero on the basepaths and with the glove, and his OBP and batting average was lower than the other two. That leaves an awful lot of advantages for slugging alone to make up, and while Big Papi is clearly the emotional leader of the Sox and a major clutch hitter, you can only award so many points for leadership on a sinking ship.
When I started writing this up, I was still leaning Jeter. For the first time since I had Jeter #2 on my ballot (behind only Pedro) in 1999, the Yankee captain deserves a serious MVP look. Like Mauer, Jeter plays a crucial defensive position, and he has recovered a bit with the glove from his decline prior to the arrival of A-Rod (I intend to look at the defensive stats more closely when I get the chance, but ESPN's Zone Rating stat, which measures how many of the balls in his "zone" of the field he gets to, lists Jeter seventh among nine regular AL shortstops, albeit in a fairly close group between #4 and #8).
Jeter's main advantages over Mauer are threefold. First, Jeter played more - 14 more games, nearly 90 more plate appearances. That does a lot to balance out Mauer's better percentage stats: .347/.507/.429 to .343/.483/.417. Second, Jeter stole 34 bases compared to 18 outs on caught stealings and GIDP; Mauer's ratio is 8 to 27. And third, Jeter is a steady veteran on a team that had a lot of turmoil this season.
But then, Mauer had to do his bit to hold together a pitching staff that was in constant turmoil as well, plus the fact is that the Twins - with far less impressive offensive talent and a disastrous injury of their own to their phenomenal #2 starter - came back from a huge deficit to win their division and end with just one fewer win than the Yankees. It's not accidental that the revival coincided with Mauer batting .452 in June. Mauer is also obviously more valuable with the glove, as a catcher with a cannon arm - as of late September the Win Shares method rates him behind only Pudge Rodriguez and Jason Kendall (and just ahead of Beltran) in terms of the most valuable defensive players in the game, and even if you don't put much stock in defensive Win Shares, Mauer threw out almost 38% of opposing baserunners (third in the AL) and may have intimidated more than that, as only Rodriguez saw fewer thieves even try. And as for playing time, a catcher with 600 plate appearances is nothing to sneeze at.
Catchers with Mauer's mix of skills are a rare breed (there hasn't really been a catcher like Mauer since Mickey Cochrane), and it's rarer to get his mix of production from a catcher these days than to get Jeter's from a shortstop. The top three AL candidates are close, but I give Mauer the narrowest of edges.
Honorable mention: Manny Ramirez, Travis Hafner, Justin Morneau, Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, Carlos Guillen, Grady Sizemore, Johan Santana.
NL Cy Young
1. Roy Oswalt
There's a tendency to say that the NL award should go to a reliever: no NL starter won 17 games, only one (Roy Oswalt) had an ERA below 3.00, the league leader in innings was Bronson Arroyo, and the two dominant relievers (Billy Wagner and Trevor Hoffman) towered over the rest of the league's closers in a year when most of the dominant relievers were in the AL. But then, neither Wagner nor Hoffman had the kind of mind-blowing season (sub-2.00 ERA, 80+ innings, 50+ saves) you expect from a Cy Young reliever.
Coming into the final week I assumed Webb would win the award, as he had more innings, a better ERA and a tougher ballpark to deal with than Chris Carpenter and Carlos Zambrano, but Webb and Carpenter both got lit up while Oswalt was firing bullets in an inspiring last-minute charge. Since Oswalt finished with the best ERA and a comparable record and innings total, I give him the nod.
Honorable mentions: Wagner, Hoffman, Zambrano, John Smoltz.
AL Cy Young
1. Johan Santana
Santana led or tied for the AL lead in wins, ERA, innings, and strikeouts, among other things, and missed by a hair (to Roy Halladay) the league lead in winning percentage. Papelbon was just utterly dominant; an 0.92 ERA deserves some special recognition, even when BJ Ryan and Francisco Rodriguez also put up mind-boggling numbers in relief and only pitched 4 or 5 more innings.
Interesting random fact: the best road ERAs in the AL were CC Sabathia and Barry Zito.
Honorable mentions: Francisco Rodriguez, BJ Ryan, Chien-Ming Wang.
October 1, 2006
BASEBALL: Backing In
So the Astros' loss - inflicted by John Smoltz, in a characteristic 3-1 offensive brownout - ends the defending NL champs' season, backs the Cards into the playoffs amidst what is, at present, a 5-0 blanking by the Brewers, ends Barry Bonds' season (by mooting a potential makeup game tomorrow) and perhaps ends Roger Clemens' career. A sad spectacle all around.
September 30, 2006
BASEBALL: Starting for the National League
If my math is correct, the National League career record for games started is 677, by Steve Carlton. Greg Maddux started number 673 today, notching his 333rd victory and reaching 15 wins for the 18th time.
Will Maddux return next year? Hard to say. As more than one reader has pointed out to me, I was premature in declaring Maddux done this summer after consecutive months of 1-4 with a 5.94 ERA, 1-4 with a 6.25 ERA, and 2-3 with a 5.21 ERA before reviving with the Dodgers (as an aside, one reason I was skeptical that Maddux would get better in LA was that he had actually pitched much better at Wrigley this year than on the road, so the "get to a better park" theory seemed strained).
Even if he doesn't, you have to ask at this point a question I intend to address in more detail at a later date: whether Maddux is, in fact, the best pitcher in the National League's history, surpassing - when you adjust for the context of his time, including levels of offense as well as the difference in pitcher workloads over time - the National League careers of such luminaries as Carlton, Christy Mathewson, Grover Alexander, Tom Seaver, Warren Spahn, Kid Nichols, John Clarkson, Bob Gibson, and Sandy Koufax.
Already ruled out of the playoffs because of a bad left leg, the three-time Cy Young Award winner will have right rotator cuff surgery next week and won't resume throwing off a mound until June, Mets general manager Omar Minaya said Saturday.
Now, the truth comes out. The Pedro contract was a crucial step towards credibility for the Mets, and put a lot of extra fans in the seats in 2005, but it now looks like they will definitely not get their money's worth on the field.
September 28, 2006
UPDATE: What, you wanted rational analysis? Not being rational right now.
BASEBALL: The Oldest
Alan Schwarz has a nice profile in the NY Times of the oldest living ballplayer, a 111-year-old (born the same year as Babe Ruth) who played in a precursor to the organized Negro Leagues.
BASEBALL: Swimming Upstream
BASEBALL: A Certain Bestseller
Who wouldn't buy the Benny Agbayani story?
September 27, 2006
BASEBALL: 100 Runs, Like Clockwork
The top 4 hitters in the Yankee batting order sure know how to score runs - look at their collective record of 100-run seasons:
Damon: 9 in a row
* - And the other one was a 99-run season
BASEBALL: The Tides Recede
Soccer Dad has a great post on a subject I hadn't followed at all - apparently the Mets' long affiliation with the Norfolk (formerly Tidewater) Tides is coming to an end, as is the Yankees' affiliation with the Columbus Clippers - the Tides will become an Orioles affiliate, the Clippers a Nationals affiliate, the Mets' new AAA team will likely be the former Milwaukee franchise in New Orleans (the Zephyrs) and the Yankees will apparently take over the Scranton market, being abandoned by the Phillies' affiliate . . . well, go read the whole thing. It's not just the end of an era but the simultaneous end of several eras for different franchises.
Reading between the lines, Norfolk wasn't happy with Omar Minaya's use of the New York-Norfolk shuttle to expand his pitching staff at the expense of the AAA club.
I remember in 1981 during the strike, Channel 11 (then the Yankee station) showed the Clippers games, and they had this amazingly hokey theme song, the hokiness of which can only be partly captured with the lyrics:
Col-um-bus Clippers, our team is Number One!
(Repeat ad nauseum - there must have been more but that's the part I remember).
BASEBALL: Card Star Crashing
I linked last fall to a Baseball Prospectus analysis of the biggest pennant races collapses of all time, ranked by the team's statistical odds of making the postseason. As of September 19, 2006, the Cardinals were estimated by Coolstandings.com to have a 99.9% chance of making the postseason, which if they blow it would tie them with the 1995 Angels for the biggest choke ever.
September 26, 2006
BASEBALL: For Whom It Tolls
I believe we just saw Heath Bell's last appearance in a Mets uniform. It's a shame, I still think with a little patience someone can get a lot out of him.
BASEBALL: Party Like It's 1964
It remains too early to panic, but Cardinals and A's fans are starting to get that sinking 1964 Phillies pheeling just about now; the A's have lost 3 straight and, despite a magic number of 2 to KO the Angels, have 4 of their last six games against them (the other two against the Mariners) and all six on the road; after a 6-game losing streak, the Cards' lead is down to 2.5 over the long-given-up-for-dead Astros and 3.5 over the Reds, although St. Louis has its final six games at home and four of them against the Brewers after two more against the West-leading Padres.
September 24, 2006
BASEBALL: I'm Rolling Thunder, Pourin' Rain
Congratulations to Trevor Hoffman, the new career saves leader.
WAR/BASEBALL: Now This Means War
Could Hugo Chavez' unhinged diatribe at the UN jeopardize Boston's landmark Citgo sign? I sympathize with the sentiment, and frankly I'm avoiding Citgo stations whenever possible, but at this point the sign is a Boston landmark.
September 23, 2006
If there's one thing that worries me more than Pedro's health or Trachsel starting in the postseason, it's Beltran's legs. We saw last year what a difference it makes if he's not 100%, and he hasn't been 100% all September.
BASEBALL: The People vs. Jason Marquis
Following up on my Trachsel vs. Maine post, a reader at Viva el Birdos has compared the game scores for Jason Marquis and Al Reyes. The split isn't quite as dramatic but as with Trachsel, Marquis' real flaw is that he almost entirely dominates the bottom of the chart.
BASEBALL: Some Guys Have All The Luck
And some, like Nick the Stick Johnson, don't. Given the angle of his collision with Austin Kearns today, I thought he had broken a collarbone or perhaps a cheekbone or something; I was surprised when the carted him off with his leg in a splint, and now it's broken. The impact in 2006 is negligible, but in addition to being painful it's discouraging nonetheless to a guy with a terrible injury history. Best of luck to Johnson in making it back in 2007; he really is a tremendous talent with the bat. My take on Johnson in April:
Nick Johnson is entering the "is that all there is" stage of his career, and I no longer expect sustained greatness, but it still would not surprise me to see him rip off one healthy year in the next year or two where he slugs .550 with a .450 OBP and drives in 110 runs.
Well, he got partway there this year - .292/.520/.428 with 46 doubles, 23 HR and 110 walks, resulting in 100 runs scored but just 77 RBI on the flailing Nationals - but I have a feeling we've just seen the best year he's going to have.
September 21, 2006
BASEBALL: Pedro Is In The House
57 pitches through four innings. None of them put in play safely. If you catch my drift.
UPDATE: The Marlins eventually got to Pedro, but an encouraging outing nonetheless. He's getting there.
BASEBALL: Gut Check
We'll see if Pedro is ready for the postseason, but ready or not, he's Pedro; he'll be the #1 starter. And I feel pretty solid right now about Glavine, El Duque and Maine, all things considered. But while (correct me if I'm wrong) there doesn't seem to have been a formal announcement, it seems unlikely that the Mets are going with Maine instead of Steve Trachsel.
The Maine/Trachsel decision is a major test of what Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya are made of. Starting Trachsel, who is the longest-tenured Met and has been in the rotation all year, is the sentimental move, the "he's one of my guys" move, the Joe Torre move. Starting Maine, the better pitcher, is the Casey Stengel move, the John McGraw, Earl Weaver, Connie Mack move. (In 1929, Mack sent his ace, Lefty Grove, to the bullpen because he thought Grove matched up poorly against the Cubs and started the aging Howard Ehmke instead).
Fact: if you look at Trachsel's starts 3 at a time, he has just two, overlapping three-start stretches this season (August 2-13 and August 8-18) where he posted an ERA below 3.44 - while Maine's ERA for the season is 3.42.
You tell me - who's more likely to throw a good or at least an acceptable start in the postseason? And isn't that, not seniority or salary or sentiment, the only question Randolph and Minaya need to be asking?
For once, Mike Lupica is right on calling out Jason Giambi for having the gall to criticize anybody (in this case A-Rod). Then again, I didn't realize A-Rod was now playing the race card (hasn't he ever heard of Derek Jeter?). Face it, when people look at A-Rod, the only color they see is green; the man had few energetic detractors in Seattle, and he is hated today almost entirely because of the money he makes. Everything else that gets thrown at him is rationalization for that hatred. But that doesn't make calling his detractors racists is at all justifiable.
BASEBALL: Not Laid Back in SoCal, Part II
Jon Weisman on the Dodgers' comeback against the Padres over the weekend, and on Vin Scully's call of the comeback.
September 20, 2006
BASEBALL: You Never Can Tell
There are few things more frustrating and uncertain in the game than when a young pitcher - whether or not he appears to be talented - is suddenly going to "get it". Witness the case of Cubs starter Rich Hill. Hill had a 9.13 ERA in 2005 and picked up where he left off (in fact, incredibly, he was even worse) in 2006; entering his start on August 1, his career record stood at 0-6, 9.32. Since then: 6-2, 2.23. And it's been a complete turnaround in every aspect of his pitching line:
Everyone who saw that coming at that precise moment, raise your hands. Time will tell if he keeps this up.
BASEBALL: Extra Bases
After today's game, not only is Luke Scott of the Astros batting .387/.700/.470 in 170 at bats, but per 600 at bats he's producing at a clip for 64 doubles, 21 triples and 28 homers. Zowie.
BASEBALL: Not Laid Back in SoCal
September 19, 2006
BASEBALL: The Hangover
Tonight's Mets starting lineup:
A. Hernandez, SS
This looks like a World War II lineup - the very young, the very old, and the lame.
UPDATE: That is, if you're keeping score at home, a career .099 hitter leading off, a 21-year-old batting third, a 48-year-old man making his first start at third base in 24 years batting cleanup, a .208 hitter batting sixth, and three other guys who were basically picked off the scrap heap. Yet Anderson Hernandez homers, and the Mets at last check trail just 2-1.
Here is the box score from Julio Franco's last start at 3B. Starting pitchers: Marty Bystrom and Scott Holman. Pete Rose played in the game, as did Rusty Staub and the late Bo Diaz. George Foster stole a base. It was the last major league appearance for Stan Bahnsen and Willie Montanez. Five players in tonight's starting lineups hadn't been born yet (Hernandez, Milledge, Miguel Cabrera, Scott Olsen and Hanley Ramirez), and Marlins manager Joe Girardi was still four years away from being drafted by the Cubs.
SECOND UPDATE: And the Mets win with that lineup, 3-2, thus driving that fork deeper into a Marlins team that has imploded over the past week or so and miraculously salvaging Tom Glavine's 289th win.
September 18, 2006
BASEBALL: National League East Champions
New York Mets. Mmmmmm, that feels good. It's been a long 18 years.
BASEBALL: Line of the Night
Howie Rose on the Devil Rays: "They're playing out the decade."
BASEBALL: Head to Head
My latest defeats in head to head fantasy baseball leagues have me re-thinking my strategy. For those of you who do fantasy baseball, read on.
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This season I did three leagues - my usual AL auction league (in which I'm currently hovering in 5th place hoping for 1 or 2 of the in-the-money teams to run short of the innings requirement) and two Yahoo-based 5x5 (Runs and Ks included) NL/AL head-to-head leagues. As usual in such leagues I ran in first most of the season in one league, a close second in the other, powered by a pitching staff deep in power pitchers, especially young power pitchers - my rosters as drafted are here, plus I picked up Francisco Liriano in each league when teams dropped him in late April having given up on him entering the rotation.
And, as has happened to me repeatedly now, I lost in the 1-week first round of the playoffs, and in significant part (at least in one league) due to my young power pitchers wearing out by mid-September - Liriano's down, Kazmir's done for the season, Zambrano was iffy and missed a start, Bonderman just won this week for the first time in six weeks and I had him and Zambrano on the bench out of concern for where they'd been in the weeks leading up to this one.
Which has me wondering if starting pitching is - despite its advantages in the head to head format, where it affects 4 of 5 pitching categories - a poor strategy because of the need to have players who are playing at maximum capacity in mid to late September.
« Close It
BASEBALL: Deja Delay
September 11, 1986: Mets lead the Phillies by 22 games with 23 to play, entering a 3-game set in Philly. Magic Number: 1 to clinch a tie, 2 to clinch outright. One win will lock it up. (Personally, I'm bummed because I'm on a religious retreat all weekend with no TV or radio). Mets get swept in Philadelphia and split two in St. Louis while the Phillies win two more against the Pirates, dropping the Mets' lead to 18.
Yeah, this is like that. Of course, the first chance the Mets got to put the race to bed at home, they beat the Cubs and that was that.
Mets play at home tonight.
September 15, 2006
BASEBALL: Best in the Business
How far does the best record in baseball get you in the playoffs? Not far.
The Atlanta Braves put third baseman Chipper Jones on the 15-day disabled list Thursday night so their insurance company will pay a portion of his $13.6 million salary.
General manager John Schuerholz insisted the 1999 NL MVP could return early next week.
I don't know the details of the Braves' policy on Chipper, but seems to me that if he's not that seriously hurt and the Braves are admitting to DL-ing him just to collect insurance, the carrier may have grounds to refuse to pay.
September 14, 2006
BASEBALL: Good News for Giants Fans
Armando Benitez done for the season. It would have been too good to be true to face teams with both Benitez and Braden Looper as their closers in the playoffs.
UPDATE: And more good, actual, genuine news: counting today's 8 shutout innings against the Rockies, Matt Cain is now 7-3 with a 2.21 ERA since the All-Star Break. In 81.1 IP he's allowed just 52 hits and 5 HR, walked 31 and struck out 83. A star is born.
BASEBALL: Breakfast With The "Pennant" Race
What a wake up for Padre fans - the Pads and the Reds are on at 12:35 EDT today, which is 9:35 in the morning in San Diego.
No starting lineups yet but I'm guessing that Piazza, who caught last night, will not be catching.
UPDATE: He didn't. Padres win, 4-2, Pads lead the Phillies by 2 games, and Trevor Hoffman gets his 474th save, 4 off the record. Hoffman will have an interesting Hall of Fame case - thus far, the pure closers to go on the ballot (i.e., mainly 1-inning pitchers, not heavy-workload aces like Fingers, Sutter, Wilhelm or Gossage or half-career starters like Eck) have had short careers (Henke) or not really been all that dominant for more than a year or two of their careers (Reardon, Lee Smith, Aguilera). And Mariano Rivera is sui generis because of his postseason accomplishments. Hoffman will test whether a guy who's a genuinely outstanding (2.70 career ERA and almost 90% save conversion rate) closer over a long career can be taken seriously as a Hall of Famer despite never having thrown 100 innings or won 10 games in a season.
BASEBALL: Youth Will Not Be Served
It really was not much of a surprise to see the Marlins' defense come utterly unglued last night in the 11th inning of a game that - with the Padres winning and the Phillies handing the Braves another doubleheader sweep - they really needed to win. Like it or not, that's what usually happens to teams with a lot of young position players. Florida isn't done yet but the Marlins are now three games back and fourth in a five-team wild card race (I'm assuming the Astros are toast at 4.5 back), and while they still get to play the Phillies six times and the Reds three, they are done with the leader, San Diego, as well as with the Giants.
While we're at it, let's look at the remaining schedules of the five NL teams by two measurements - the average winning percentage of the teams they have left on their schedule (weighted by number of games) and the number of games remaining against the other four:
The biggest problem here for the other teams is that after today's Padres-Reds game, the Pads have no more games left against the other contenders, and thus nobody can make them come back to the pack. The Marlins, with 4 games remaining against the Mets and 6 against the Phillies, have by far the hardest road, and last year's victory for the Astros reminded us of the value of a soft September schedule in a multi-team wild card race. The Giants, oddly, are the only NL team that will not play any of the wild card contenders the rest of the way.
BASEBALL: Hudson's Decline
What ails Tim Hudson? Yesterday's loss drops Hudson, once a premier pitcher, to 12-11 with a 4.95 ERA. Let's start by updating a chart I did at the end of the 2004 season of the major components of Hudson's game:
I noted in 2004 that Hudson had been plagued by a declining strikeout rate but had coped by relentlessly improving every other facet of his game. While the relatively low K rate compared to his early years may still signal a problem, Hudson has arrested that decline; the problem now is that all of his coping mechanisms have eroded or entirely unravelled - his remarkable control, his high groundball rate and low HR rate, his ability to strangle the running game and thus set up the double play. Of course, I strongly suspect that the hand of a declining Atlanta defense is at work in several of these. (As to balls in play, the Hardball Times notes that Hudson gets outs on 70% of balls in play, about average, and gives Hudson a fielding independent ERA of 4.43 or 4.14 (depending if you use the FIP or xFIP metric - the latter is more favorable because it assumes that luck is responsible for the fact that Hudson allows the highest percentage of home runs per fly ball of any pitcher in the National League)).
Another trouble sign I noted in 2004 was Hudson's difficulty with lefthanded hitters, who batted .298/.422/.352 against Hudson in 2004; it's only gotten worse, as this year, they're hitting .283/.505/.353.
A better defense and the confidence to throw more strikes might help Hudson, although if his problems with the running game can be ascribed to Brian McCann, he's stuck; McCann is the National League's best catcher and young, so he's not going anywhere. His HR rate probably will go down a bit on its own, but his troubles with lefthanded hitters may require him to take a new approach, something the intelligent and adaptable Hudson has shown the ability to do in the past. I expect Hudson to rebound a bit next year - there's nothing in his record that signals an imminent collapse to Russ Ortiz country - but his days as an elite pitcher are most likely behind him.
September 13, 2006
BASEBALL: Perfect Through 7
Freddy Garcia's got through 7 innings and the Angels have no baserunners. He just got Guerrero to ground out to end the 7th, so he could finish this without having to face Vlad again.
UPDATE: 4 outs to go.
3-2 to Adam Kennedy. Kennedy singles.
BASEBALL: A Short Return
Francisco Liriano came out of his return start today after just 28 pitches and 2 scoreless innings, escorted by the trainer. Not sure what's up but the news can't be good.
UPDATE: As always, Pinto has more.
September 11, 2006
BASEBALL: Still Hurting
Going in the opposite direction from the Red Sox, the A's have yet again rebounded from a slow start, going 59-31 (.656, a 106-win pace) since falling to 23-29 on May 30. Here's their batting and pitching numbers since then.
As you can see, the A's are relying on two things: balance and the Big Hurt. On the pitching side, four starters (Zito, Haren, Blanton and Loaiza) have started 75 of their 90 games, with Kirk Saarloos taking 9 others; none of the five has an ERA below 3.89 or above 4.39 in that period, although several A's relievers have been lights-out. Hitting-wise, there are multiple people just hitting well enough to keep the offense going; big guns Eric Chavez and Nick Swisher are batting .222 and .225, respectively, with a combined 25 homers, but have drawn enough walks (105) to avoid becoming offensive black holes. Jason Kendall's hit well and rarely come out of the lineup, leading the team in hits and runs. And Jay Payton has stepped up - Payton, the poor man's Garret Anderson, has always had good speed and defense, middling power, but no walks or steals, so he can be valuable if and only if he hits for a good average. Over the past 3 1/2 months he's batting .321, the best baseball of his career.
But the overall team otherwise doesn't look very impressive until you add vintage, rejuvenated Frank Thomas, batting .317/.625/.421 with 25 HR and 71 RBI in 76 games. I was high on Thomas' productivity back in April, but I don't think anyone expected this. The downside is that Oakland will enter October very much dependent upon keeping Thomas healthy (and could have to play without him if the A's make the Series).
September 10, 2006
BASEBALL: Quick Quiz
Question: What do the Mets, Phillies and Padres have in common?
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They're the only three teams in the NL with a winning record on the road. The Mets, of course, are by far the best at 41-28. Six AL teams have a winning record on the road (though the Red Sox and Twins don't), topped by Detroit at 44-29.
« Close It
September 9, 2006
BASEBALL: The Fallen Sky
At last check, the Red Sox trail the Royals by 6 in the 12th inning. This team will be lucky to win 90 games. It's 2000 & 2001 all over again.
UPDATE: The Sawx stood 48-28 (.632, a 102-win pace) after sweeping the Mets in late June. With tonight's loss they are now 27-39 (.409, a 96-loss pace) since.
SECOND UPDATE: Here's Boston's hitting and pitching stats over that stretch. The offense isn't terrible, but there's not a ton of help there for Ortiz and Manny. Pitching-wise, most everyone has been poor.
September 8, 2006
BASEBALL: Pistol Pete
Wow. Ralph Kiner was saying tonight he once saw Pete Reiser hit the CF fence so hard they gave him Last Rites carting him off the field. It was a tough game in those days.
BASEBALL: Upside Down Rotation
Since June 1, Mets starters are 40-24 (.625); Mets relievers are 14-8 (.636). The funny thing is that the record of the starters is propped up almost entirely by two guys you would not have expected (John Maine and Dave Williams are a combined 8-2 with a 3.18 ERA) and two who haven't even pitched well in that period (Steve Trachsel and Mike Pelfrey are 14-3 with a 5.06 ERA). The rest of the staff is 18-19, including a 15-14 record and 5.06 ERA for Pedro, Glavine and El Duque.
September 6, 2006
BASEBALL: No Quarter
Nope, not feeling sorry for the Braves today. Not one tiny little bit.
UPDATE: I'm not trusting Oliver Perez yet, either. Brilliant as he was today, he's still playing with gasoline and matches out there. Still, you have to love throwing Perez and Dave Williams out there and sweeping a doubleheader (with neither game being particularly close).
Then again, even Soler had a 3.32 ERA in his starts against NL opponents.
BASEBALL: Parks in Pics
BASEBALL: Good Grief!
September 5, 2006
BASEBALL: No Derby Downer
Mike Sheets looks at recent participants in the Home Run Derby and doesn't find a dramatic second-half dropoff to substantiate concerns over David Wright and (in 2005) Bobby Abreu. Even the effect he does find is probably partly explained by the tendency of All-Stars to be people who played at or above their expected level in the first half, and thus inherently more likely than average to decline in the second half.
BASEBALL: One Liner of the Day
Will Carroll on Corey Patterson, Carlos Beltran, Aaron Rowand and others: "Wall is still way ahead in this year's battle with players"
September 3, 2006
BASEBALL: Diaz for Nickeas
I know little or nothing about Mike Nickeas, the 23-year-old AA catcher the Mets got from the Rangers for Victor Diaz, but the minor league numbers suggest that besides drawing an above-average number of walks, the guy has no discernable offensive skills. I'm guessing this was strictly a deal to move Diaz after he fell out of favor within the organization.
BASEBALL: That's Gotta Hurt
I'm pretty sure I don't want to know what an "intrascrotal hematoma" is.
September 2, 2006
BASEBALL: Beltran's Knee
The Mets will be very fortunate if tonight's victory isn't very, very costly - Carlos Beltran caught his spikes in the chain links in Minute Maid Field's center field fence and turned his left knee the wrong way coming down from a spectacular game-saving catch of a drive off Lance Berkman's bat with two on and one out up 4-2 in the ninth. Beltran limped off the field, and there's no word just yet on the status of the knee.
Another tough loss tonight for Brewer lefty Chris Capuano, dropping his record to 11-9. With the fate of Ben Sheets perennially uncertain, Capuano has very quietly had himself a fine season and snuck up to the brink of being a credible ace in his own right. I noticed the other day in USAToday that Capuano leads the majors in "Quality Starts" (e.g., 6 IP or more, 3 ER or less - he tossed his 23d in 29 starts tonight. His K/BB ratio has hopped up rapidly from OK (176-91) to great (160-35) in a single season, and his pickoff move is approaching legendary status - just 1 steal in 3 attempts against him this season, 2 in 11 attempts last year. Capuano's something of a fly ball pitcher and still gopher-prone (55 homers and 95 doubles allowed in two years, although the latter may be partly the Brewers' outfield), but if he can cut the homers even a little he stands to become a legitimate #1 starter.
September 1, 2006
BASEBALL: Tough Times
Jon Lester has non-Hodkins Lymphoma, which may sound - in Larry David's words - like "the good Hodkins" but it's still plenty scary for a 22-year-old. Let's hope he makes a full recovery. David Ortiz is still being tested.
BASEBALL: Please, Sir, I Don't Want Some More
Given his youth and talent, I'm hardly ready to declare the Oliver Perez Experiment a failure, but it is pretty clear after two starts that no miraculous change-of-scenery metamorphosis is going to make him into a pitcher the Mets can use in the postseason. (Which is not to question them using him right now out of necessity). Wait 'til next year.
August 31, 2006
BASEBALL: And Not The Tasty Kind
BASEBALL: Rays of Hope
With BJ Upton and Delmon Young finally in the lineup, the Devil Rays should start getting a look at the building blocks they need for a contending team. Personally, these guys are a big reason why I think they should set a minimum age (say, 28) to be a free agent, rather than incentivize excitement-starved teams like the Rays to keep their green but talented young prospects at AAA to avoid accruing service time.
Fun fact about Upton: his real name is Melvin Emanuel Upton. Upton had a disappointing year with the bat at AAA, though I suspect a lot of that was mental pressure and frustration from being trapped in AAA two seasons after getting an extended big-league cup of coffee. I see nothing wrong with Upton that some maturity and job security can't fix.
As for Young, he batted .316 with 22 doubles and 22 steals as a 20-year-old at AAA Durham in a half-season's work, all signs of a great future power-speed guy. But he hit just 8 homers, which means he's probably not a big HR threat just yet (though you never know what sort of hot streak he might run off in September). His 65/15 K/BB ratio is also not a great sign, but again he's young.
BASEBALL: Cursed Once Again!
Let's see - David Ortiz out indefinitely with heart trouble, Coco Crisp sidelined with a bum shoulder, Jon Lester may have cancer . . . At this point, it would not surprise me to see a plague of locusts and a river of blood at Fenway. Dr. Manhattan asked recently if a franchise has ever had a worse month, all things considered - the Mets in August 1991 come to mind, the 1899 Spiders the month their stadium burned down, and the White Sox in September 1920 probably take the cake, but this is up there.
But hey, at least Jeff Reardon got off.
They said on the Mets broadcast the other night that the Mets - now with the best record in baseball - have used 47 players this year. I only count 45 but I may have missed someone along the way - 20 non pitchers, 25 pitchers including 13 different starters. The thing is, that much turnover is usually the sign of serious problems - the 1962 Mets, for example, used 45 players, including 14 different starters (the breakdown was 28 position players and 17 pitchers). Somehow, the Mets have instead used all that turnover as a way to keep regenerating on the fly, dumping people like Matsui and Lima and surviving a variety of injuries.
You think the people who booed Carlos Beltran are ashamed of themselves yet?
On another story, a reader recently asked what I thought of the Coors Field humidor. Well, it hasn't exactly been in evidence in this series, but scoring is down at Coors - it's played more like a traditional hitters' park of late rather than a separate planet (608 runs scored in Rockie home games this year vs. 584 on the road, a modest 4.1% increase). Personally, to me, anything that does that is good. From a purist's perspective, Coors itself (and indeed, any high-altitude baseball) is an abomination that distorts the very movement of the ball. Tampering with the game's equipment to counteract that and restore the balance of power between batter and pitcher can only be a good thing.
August 30, 2006
Ryan McConnell posts a vintage John Pacella baseball card, the classic one showing Pacella's unruly perm immediately after ejecting his hat (as always). Shame on McConnell for not knowing who Pacella was.
BASEBALL: Off the Market
Yet another big-time pitcher will be staying put, as the Astros lock up Roy Oswalt for 5 years and $73 million. It's a good deal for Houston - Oswalt's expensive, and being a pitcher he's a serious injury risk, but he's been mostly healthy and you gotta pay somebody to pitch, so he's as good a bet as you will find.
I'll get to this another day, but given the current state of the free agent market, and particularly if the White Sox pick up Mark Buehrle's option, Barry Zito is going to become a very rich man this offseason.
August 25, 2006
BASEBALL: Going Down, Down, Down, Down Part V
Resuming, with Part 5, my look at young or still-establishing-themselves players whose stock has fallen dramatically in 2006 and/or 2005 - the NL Central. (Parts I, II, III & IV here, here, here, and here, respectively)
The Cards actually don't have anyone who fits the bill, as this is a veteran team and the few young players are rookies. Randy Flores, maybe, as he had finally put together a solid big league season last year, but Flores is a 31-year-old middle reliever who never had much of a ceiling anyway.
Jason Lane: Lane, a free-swinging power threat, got a full shot in 2005 at age 28 and responded by doing what free-swinging power hitters do: 34 doubles, 26 HR, a .499 slugging % but only a .316 OBP. He chipped in 3 HR and 8 RBI in the Astros' postseason run, including a 4th inning homer in the dramatic 14-inning Game 3 of the World Series. Lane held the right field job entering this season, but ended up getting demoted back to the minors after batting just .207 in 246 at bats, leaving him fighting to reclaim his status as a regular.
Brandon Backe: Backe was nothing spectacular in 2005, but he was a young pitcher making progress, and he pitched some tremendous games in the postseason. This year he managed just 8 starts before hurting his elbow and now may face Tommy John surgery.
Ezequiel Astacio: The wages of postseason failure - Astacio had a solid (for a rookie) 66/25 K/BB ratio in 81 IP last year, giving hope that he could someday be an effective starter, once he cut down on that atrocious HR rate (2.6 per 9 IP). But Astacio, the last man in the Houston bullpen, melted down in the 14th inning of Game 3 of the Series after surrendering Geoff Blum's home run, and he wasn't the same pitcher this year in brief action, walking 6 in 5.2 IP. He's been better at AAA Round Rock, but still with a 4.76 ERA. Astacio is now a ways from contributing again at the major league level.
(By the way, although he's not a youth, this may be a useful point at which to look at Brad Lidge's unraveling in 2006 in light of my post last year on closers who blow the big one in the postseason).
JJ Hardy: Hardy struggled as much as an everyday player could possibly struggle in the first half in 2005, batting .187/.267/.293, but rebounded 180 degrees to bat .308/.503/.363 in the second half. This year, at age 23, Hardy was on a lot of lists of potential breakouts, as a guy expected to team with Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks to anchor the Milwaukee infield for years to come, and he hit OK in April (.281/.449/.323). Instead, Hardy struggled badly in May, dropping his season numbers to .242/.398/.295 before going down for the season with ankle surgery.
(Weeks may also belong here - he performed quite well with the bat this season before his own season-ending injury, but his own glovework has been so bad, combined with a career year by Bill Hall, that the Brewers may end up sending Weeks to the outfield, making him much less valuable).
Ronny Cedeno: Cedeno's just 23 and batted .300 in a very brief trial last year (80 at bats), and had projected as a guy who might hit enough (Baseball Prospectus projection: .273/.387/.320) to hold a SS job and eventually develop into an offensive contributor. Cedeno's 2006 has been a total wipeout: .244/.329/.269, a deplorable 81/13 K/BB ratio, caught stealing in half his attempts, and a lower batting average each month (.308, .276, .234, .200, .185). You have to wonder about keeping a guy like that in the lineup.
Jerome Williams: In chaos there is opportunity, and precisely that opportunity presented itself to the onetime Giants prospect, still just 24, as the Cubs' rotation unraveled and Williams, who posted a 3.91 ERA last year in 106 innings for the Cubs, had the chance to prove himself. Granted, his peripheral numbers weren't all that impressive (59/45 K/BB ratio), but the chance was there. Instead, a 7.30 ERA and 11 walks in 12.1 IP got him an early ticket to Iowa, where he has been drilled to the tune of 131 hits in 98.1 IP while striking out just 45 minor leaguers.
Brandon Claussen: 2005: 121/57 K/BB ratio in 166.2 IP, a 4.21 ERA in 29 starts, and a lot of hope for the future. 2006: A 6.19 ERA and season-ending shoulder surgery.
Paul Maholm: Maholm is the same story as Duke - great ERA last year, mediocre one this year, and a low K rate that spells a low ceiling. Plus Maholm walks way too many batters.
Chris Duffy: Duffy's .341 average last year in 126 at bats now looks like a Tike Redman-ish fluke, as he has batted .217/.283/.273 this season in 185 at bats.
Ryan Doumit: Hamstring injuries have limited Doumit to just 57 at bats this year after a respectable rookie campaign; Ronny Paulino took his job while he was away and has hit .312, and Doumit may now face a battle to get playing time.
Nate McLouth: Yet another Buc with the same old story - decent but unspectacular as a 2005 rookie, helpless and hurt in 2006.
August 24, 2006
BASEBALL: Royal Numbers
It's a good thing for Royals 3B Mark Teahen that he is having such a monster year since returning from the minors in early June, batting .333/.599/.411 and averaging 118 Runs, 112 RBI, 40 2B, 11 3B, 29 HR, 72 BB and 15 Sb per 162 games after struggling mightily since the beginning of 2005, because Royals 3B prospect Alex Gordon is having a tremendous year at AA Witchita in the Texas League, batting .318/.578/.422 and averaging 129 Runs, 108 RBI, 44 2B, 33 HR, 85 BB and 26 SB per 162 games. Which, even if you assume that Gordon still needs a bit of seasoning, puts the Royals in the unusual (for them) position of an embarrassment of riches at one position, and needing to decide which of them moves, and to where, or whether to trade one of them.
August 22, 2006
BASEBALL: NLCS Preview?
Grand slam and 7 RBI, Albert Pujols.
Grand slam, Carlos Delgado.
7-5 and the fifth inning not over yet.
Mets' and Cardinals' pitching: priceless.
BASEBALL: Green to the Mets?
I'm sort of OK but not thrilled with the Mets getting Shawn Green, which is widely reported but not yet confirmed. Obviously, Green is expensive (he's owed $9.5 million next year plus a $2 million buyout for 2008, and for that kind of money you might as well just suck it up and get someone like Abreu).
Money aside, he's really no better than Xavier Nady at best at this stage, although he's a little more patient at the plate. And who knows? By October, Lastings Milledge could be on a tear - he's that kind of talent. But there's also a substantial risk that Milledge could be in a .210-with-no-walks type of funk, and when combined with Floyd's health you can't risk going into October with nothing but Milledge, Chavez, Tucker and Ledee as your corner OF options. Hopefully, the D-backs are eating a good chunk of Green's 2007 salary, so this deal doesn't constrict the Mets' financial flexibility. If the money's not a problem, the deal is OK.
BASEBALL: Oakland Twins
How's this for identical pitching lines (except for the walks)?
A is Barry Zito, and B is his teammate Dan Haren. Zito is defying the usual rule that K/BB/HR rates are the biggest determinant of ERA, but then there's some reason to believe that his big sweeping curveball may make him more effective on balls in play. The bigger lesson here is that Haren is really on the verge of something big if he can ever cut his HR rate a little.
BASEBALL: Why Bobby Abreu Never Plays For Winners
Because he doesn't do things like this.
BASEBALL: Who's Your Papi Now?
Well, yesterday afternoon had to be the coup de grace for the Red Sox. The Sox remain pretty close to the top of the AL in runs scored, so despite the failures of Coco Crisp and the injury to Varitek, the offense really can't take much of the blame here.
Boston started the season with a projected 5-man rotation of Schilling, Beckett, Clement, Wakefield and Wells. Schilling hasn't quite been the Schilling of old, but given his age and injuries he's done about as well as could be expected (14-5, 3.84 ERA) and Wakefield was pitching in typical Wake style until he got hurt. And rookie Jon Lester (6-2, 4.72) has pitched some great games, albeit without the consistency of a more experienced pitcher.
The problem has been the rest of the rotation. In 45 starts, Beckett, Clement and Wells have gone a combined 20-16 with a 5.67 ERA, averaging just 5.8 innings per start, 1.67 HR/9 and 1.47 baserunners per inning. Now, the Sox knew going in that Wells was a gamble, but they had reasonably depended on Clement to be halfway decent and Beckett to step up and shine.
The other five starters -
Like the Yankees' acquisition of Abreu and Lidle, there's nothing more complicated to Boston's collapse than that - the starting pitching just isn't there. The bullpen has been thin all year (Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez being unreliable), but with better starters they wouldn't have had to lean so hard on a couple of guys.
August 21, 2006
BASEBALL: The Difference Maker
Yankees through July 31: 61-41 (.598), scoring 5.59 Runs/Game, allowing 4.80 Runs/Game.
Yankees August 1-20: 13-7 (.650), 6.15 Runs/Game, allowing 4.50 Runs/Game.
The difference: Bobby Abreu, batting .397/.526/.500 and scoring 113 runs per 162 games; Cory Lidle, 3.86 ERA in 3 starts. It really is as simple as that. Abreu, now second in the majors in OBP, batted .529/.706/.652 in this weekend's demolition of the Red Sox. Apparently Abreu didn't get the memo about how he wasn't supposed to be a big-game player.
I don't really know what else to say at this point about the dire situation the Mets face in October if they can't get Pedro and Glavine healthy. Matt Cerrone has the grim outlook. But let's think about it this way: if the season ended today, the Mets would face the Reds in the NLDS, with the Cardinals facing the Dodgers. If Pedro but not Glavine is available, the matchups would be something like this:
Game 1: Pedro vs. Bronson Arroyo. Significant advantage: Mets.
Game 2: El Duque vs. Aaron Harang. Harang's been better two years running, but I'd feel OK about this matchup given the Mets' offense. Glavine vs. Harang would be much better.
Game 3: Trachsel vs. Eric Milton. Tie on your hittin' shoes, boys, this is gonna be a long night. Advantage Mets solely on the basis of their offense.
Game 4: Maine vs. ... Elizardo Ramirez? Kyle Lohse? Anyway, someone I would trust significantly less than John Maine.
Game 5: Pedro/Arroyo again.
How about the other two NL teams? The Cards have Carpenter, whose odds of staying healthy through October are similar to Pedro's. Beyond him, though, Mulder has been injured and ineffective, Jason Marquis has a 5.70 ERA and Jeff Suppan a 5.03 and Jeff Weaver 6.07 - none of those guys looks much better than Trachsel. Young Anthony Reyes, with less big-league experience than Maine, may be their #2, and their offense has all sorts of cavities.
The Dodgers are another story, with Brad Penny apparently healthy for the moment, Derek Lowe in a second-half groove, and Greg Maddux having righted the ship since arriving in LA, plus a good if likely unsustainable ERA from wild rookie Chad Billingsley (much like Maine and Reyes, Billingsley has all of 12 big-league starts to his name). Even Aaron Sele has, inexplicably, not been awful. I don't like the Dodgers' rotation all that much, and a healthy Pedro-Glavine would match the Mets up with them fairly well, but right now they are the only team on the NL playoff slate that really puts the Mets in a hole even if they go with Pedro + grab bag.
Of course, the World Series is another matter.
UPDATE: Of course, Oliver Perez flirting with a no-hitter in AAA is good news, and makes some of his peripheral stats at Norfolk halfway respectable, but I'm not ready yet to trust Perez with a significant assignment. On the other hand, the performance of Dave Williams underscores the wisdom of his acquisition - not that he will ever be better than mediocre, but he's the kind of guy it helps to have hanging around AAA when you are desperately short of starters and want to avoid Lima Time.
BASEBALL: NO Network
From my 9-year-old son: "If the Yankees games are on the YES Network, that must mean they show the Royals on the NO Network."
BASEBALL: Omar's Experiments
Omar Minaya tries yet another reclamation project with the acquisition of Guillermo Mota. Since Mota is a free agent after the season, Minaya must be hoping to get him straightened out soon.
Presumably, this would have been impossible if Piazza was still the catcher.
August 17, 2006
BASEBALL: The Mustache Did It!
Maxim's look at 10 great baseball mustaches, at least in the modern era (the 1880s was an earlier golden age for facial hair). A few quick thoughts:
*They probably should have included at least one black and/or Latino player. What, Jose Valentin wasn't available? Or how about this valiant effort to link mustache and sideburns?
*Actually, Keith Hernandez did shave the mustache in 1987, leading to him having the "phantom mustache" effect, where it's gone but you keep thinking it's there. Keith didn't stay clean-shaven long enough for this effect to wear off.
August 16, 2006
BASEBALL: Believe It . . . Or Not
Lenny Dykstra, successful stock picker. Which brings to mind the old Wall Street Journal contest where the investment pros would match wits with stocks picked by throwing darts at the Journal's stock tables. The darts held their ground pretty well.
August 15, 2006
BASEBALL: A Little Decency, Please
Or at least a little less indecency. Now that my 9-year-old son reads the sports pages regularly, I'd really rather not have daily articles about Paul Lo Duca's sex life, thank you.
BASEBALL: 2006 AL MVP Race
More on this later, but this year's AL MVP race looks wide open; Joe Sheehan (subscription only) breaks things down at Baseball Prospectus. Who is your pick and why? Vote and explain. (For now, I'm with Joe Mauer narrowly over Big Papi. You just don't everyday get a catcher leading the league in batting and OBP, throwing well, running well, staying healthy and handling a rotation with a rookie ERA leader for a contending team. No catcher has won a batting title since Ernie Lombardi. Of course, Big Papi is still unearthly in the clutch, but when you line him up against Manny, Hafner and Thome you can't say he's unambiguously the best hitter in the league this year, which is my baseline requirement for giving the MVP to a DH.)
BASEBALL: Going Down, Down, Down, Down Part IV
Resuming, with Part 4, my look at young or still-establishing-themselves players whose stock has fallen dramatically in 2006 and/or 2005 - the NL East. (Parts I, II and III here, here and here, respectively)
Victor Diaz: Seems like a lot longer than a year and a half ago people were calling him "mini-Manny" with a straight face, given his power bat, improving patience and - yes - fits of vapor lock in the field. Many Mets fans wanted him to take Mike Cameron's job and were surprised when he lost out to Xavier Nady. By late May, Diaz's stock had fallen so far there was nearly no consideration of bringing him up to sub when Nady went on the DL. The 24-year-old Diaz is batting .223/.334/.275 at AAA Norfolk, and now seems a longshot to have a significant career as an everyday player.
Oliver Perez: Thrown in by the Pirates in the Nady deal, perhaps unwanted by the Mets (who were planning to flip him back to the Padres for Scott Linebrink the day they acquired him), maybe nursing an undisclosed injury and surely suffering a severe loss of command and a drop in velocity, the pitcher who posted a 2.98 ERA with 239 K to only 145 hits allowed in 2004 will now be Rick Peterson's Everest. The early returns are ugly - 12 hits, 9 walks and 3 HR in 6.1 innings in two starts at Norfolk.
For what it's worth, Baseball-Reference.com's 10 most similar pitchers to Perez through age 23 (entering this year), in order:
1. Sandy Koufax
I'm not so sure what the list will look like after 2006.
Heath Bell: Bell's stock has slid only slightly among those who were his fans a year ago based on his fine K/BB ratios and reasonable HR rate, but even with the Mets' habit of demoting him whenever he has a bad outing, Bell has been hit awfully hard at times at the major league level (34 hits in 25.1 IP this season; he's continued to dominate AAA hitters), dimming his prospects for making the immediate leap forward he needs to overcome his doubters in the Mets' front office.
Anderson Hernandez: A legitimate contender for the Mets' starting 2B job before the season, the 23-year-old Hernandez was utterly overmatched at the plate (6-for-41 with no walks or extra base hits) and hasn't been much better back at Norfolk (.252/.301/.291). Hernandez' fine glovework in his brief tenure did have the benefit of making Kaz Matsui all the more unsustainable by comparison, and with the 36-year-old Jose Valentin holding the 2B job for 2006 and Jeff Keppinger traded away, Hernandez should get another crack at the bigs soon. But the doubts about his bat have mounted.
Aaron Heilman: Heilman showed flashes of brilliance as a starter last year, but was perhaps permanently relegated to the bullpen by his brilliance in a setup role - only to suddenly hit a long stretch of inconsistency in that role, too.
Alay Soler: Soler has had a roller-coaster year, winning himself into the Mets' good graces with a strong performance at AA Binghamton after a poor spring, hopping well into the rotation in Flushing, only to suffer a string of bad outings and an injury that have him off the Mets' radar screens.
Ryan Madson: Madson's past as a successful setup man led to hopes that he could transition to a larger role as a starter. As I've noted before, Madson has proven not at all up to starting, but the Phillies keep trying him in that role despite an ERA this year of 6.28 in 17 starts and 2.95 in 12 relief appearances.
Cole Hamels: Hamels was supposed to be an instant star, but a 4.50 ERA says otherwise. Hamels doesn't really belong on this list in terms of his long-term outlook, which if anything is brighter as a result of his staying comparatively healthy, but his short-term expectations have been tempered a bit.
Joe Borchard: Borchard opened the season with the Mariners' CF job tantalizingly within reach, as Jeremy Reed's wrist injury left only Willie Bloomquist as immediate competition. But the perennial prospect Borchard got only 9 at bats before Reed got himself back in the lineup and Borchard was shipped to Florida. Now 27, Borchard has run out of future - his .225 batting average may have dragged his career mark up to .204, but that won't win him more chances. We can now safely say Borhchard will never hold a regular job.
Yusmiero Petit: It's a testimony to the success of Florida's youth movement that there isn't a much longer list of Marlins here. File Petit, like Hamels, under "dial back your expectations for immediate success" rather than "lower your long-term expectations." An 8.68 ERA, 3 HR and 32 hits in 18.2 IP say that Petit, at 21, is no major leaguer yet. (I could have included Mike Pelfrey on the same theory as Hamels and Petit).
Luis Matos: Much like ex-teammates Larry Bigbie and David Newhan, Matos has his moment of glory, batting .303 and slugging .458 at 24 as a fleet-footed center fielder for the O's in 2003, and batting .280 last year. Sent to the Nationals after hitting .207 in 121 at bats this year, Matos is now a bench player in a crowded Washington outfield.
Felipe Lopez: After his breakout year at 25 last season (.291/.486/.352, 97 runs, 23 HR, 15 steals), the onetime Blue Jays phenom looked like a cornerstone of the Reds franchise, but he became expendable in a hurry this year when his power dried up (especially his doubles power) and he got traded down in the standings. A .358 OBP and 31 steals suggest that Lopez still has much to contribute, but comparisons to Miguel Tejada won't be forthcoming soon.
Ryan Church: Church, yet another prospect from the old Montreal system, batted .287/.466/.353 last year at 26. This year, he was sent out to AAA New Orleans batting .215 in mid-May. He's recovered lately to bat .281/.526/.354 since his mid-July recall, so the jury's still out.
John Patterson: With a 3.13 ERA and 185 K in 198.1 IP last year, Patterson finally looked ready to assume the mantle of an ace and put behind him years of injury-plagued inconsistency. Instead, he's been back to the operating table, the rest of his season in doubt after just 8 starts.
Jeff Francouer: Francouer's struggles have been no shock to those of us who doubted his strike zone judgment and lack of big-star minor league pedigree, and his youth (he's still just 22) gives him time to learn and grow back into a serious hitter, and he'll have a steady job for some time to work on it. Perversely, the fact that he's continued to drive in runs (81 so far) may retard his development if he thinks he's still hitting well. A .256/.447/.281 line says otherwise.
Ryan Langerhans: Unlike Francouer, Langerhans, at 26, isn't young enough to regard a .244 average and 6 homers as anything that will lead to a productive career as a corner outfielder. Without a serious improvement, Langerhans will be an endangered species as an everyday player by next May.
Pete Orr: Orr has suffered the vissicitudes of fate as a bat off the bench with less than 200 at bats a year, plunging from .300 to .216 and a .232 OBP.
Kyle Davies: Davies started hot and finished mediocre in 2005 (4.93 ERA), but this season started bad (6.12 ERA) and has ended with surgery.
Horacio Ramirez: As you can see, Atlanta's youth movement has been bumpier than Florida's, although the Braves did get a division flag in 2005 from these guys . . . Ramirez has been another injury case, plus between 2005 and 2006 he's struck out 117 batters in 278.2 IP, a rate (3.78/9 IP) well below the survival rate for major league starters.
Jorge Sosa: This, again, was predictable failure: Sosa regressed badly in 2006 from a 2.55 ERA to 5.46 before being packed off to St. Louis. He's now officially a journeyman at age 29.
August 14, 2006
BASEBALL: See You In September
With Pedro pitching badly and leaving early with a calf injury tonight (Pedro pitching badly and being hurt are practically synonymous), I'm assuming another DL stint is in the works, which probably means a few more weeks of Pelfrey.
UPDATE: I am reminded in the comments that Pelfrey's also hurt. As, unless I'm mistaken, is Soler. And Bannister doesn't seem ready to go yet, nor Oliver Perez. We may be compelled to see Darren Oliver starting soon, which would be a very bad thing on several levels. (Humber can't be ready yet).
One of the subtle things in the media's campaign to run down A-Rod is how he always seems (as this morning) to pop up on the back page of the Daily News after a Yankees loss, rather than a win. This, after he homered yesterday and batted .455 with 3 HR, 5 runs and 5 RBI over the past week.
The "trade A-Rod" movement, by the way - spearheaded by Steve Phillips, still (as Dr. Manhattan has pointed out to me) retroactively trying to justify his decision to pass on A-Rod in 2001 in favor of Rey Ordonez - is one of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard. Not only is Rodriguez the best player in the American League and still in his prime at 31, but no other team would take him without the Yankees eating a big chunk of his contract, much less give up anything resembling equal on-the-field value for him. (If you disagree, please cite examples of teams willing to do so.)
If A-Rod didn't have the gigantic contract, trading him could make sense, at least because he's more valuable to a team that could play him at short. But the contract is what it is, so he'll be a Yankee for the duration of it. Live with it.
UPDATE: Yankee fans do have one legitimate grievance with A-Rod, aside from his struggles of late at third: against the AL East on the season he is batting .193/.340/.309, scoring 105 runs per 162 games and driring in 93, compared to .337/.605/.421 and a pace for 126 runs and 135 RBI against the rest of baseball.
August 12, 2006
BASEBALL: The Big Giant Head
Can someone tell me why Mr. Met was sitting behind the third base dugout tonight in Washington? I've never seen him at a road game before.
BASEBALL: Rodney McCray
Former Met Rodney McCray is being honored with his own bobblehead for one of baseball's most memorable moments, when he ran through a fence in a minor league game in Portland Oregon in 1991. McCray understands his unique place in the game's history:
"I'm honored and tickled to death," McCray was quoted as saying on the Beavers' Web site. "I never get tired of talking about [the crash]. It's kind of like the skier who epitomizes the 'agony of defeat' -- I'm the guy who crashed through the wall. Usually, it's the big-league superstars who get their own bobblehead, so I'm very excited."
"I might not be a Hall-of-Fame player, but I made it to the Hall of Fame with a film clip," McCray said. "Not too many guys can say they're in the Hall of Fame, some way, some form. It's still pretty cool."
August 11, 2006
BASEBALL: Not There Yet
Lastings Milledge is 21 years old. Jose Reyes was 21 in 2004. That is all.
August 10, 2006
BASEBALL: The Second Team
One need hardly say more about the current state of the National League, now at its lowest ebb since the late teens, than that the Mets today completed a sweep of the division-leading Padres with Mike DeFelice starting at catcher, Jose Valentin at second base, and an outfield of Endy Chavez, Ricky Ledee, and Michael Tucker. All five of those players could have been had for a song before the season; three of them could have been had for a song last week.
Check out these two batting lines:
Player A is the combined batting line for Carloses Beltran and Delgado at Shea this year - B is their combined line on the road. The flip side, of course, is that Pedro and Glavine have an ERA of 4.57 on the road, 2.82 at Shea, and in particular have allowed 1.5 HR/9 on the road, 1.0 at Shea. Food for thought: all of John Maine's starts have been at Shea.
BASEBALL: Trop Till You Drop
So, I was away from the blog here the past six days attending a family wedding in St. Petersburg, followed by a couple of days at Disney World. Among our travels, we took the opportunity to visit Tropicana Field and take in a Devil Rays home game against the Red Sox on Sunday.
Now, it had not occurred to me until I was there that the Rays play in St. Pete, not in Tampa (hence the "Bay" in their name). And I hadn't really seen outside views of the stadium before - when you approach it from the highway, the dome appears to be slanted badly to one side, like it's halfway into a sinkhole. I'm not sure what this Leaning Tower of St. Pete look was supposed to accomplish - I could imagine a side-tilted dome being an ultra-modern, Jestons-ish look in the early 60s when they built the Astrodome, but the concept here is beyond me.
First impression of attending a Devil Rays home game: the parking/transportation is a nightmare. We were driving in view of the stadium 15 minutes before game time, and not in terrible traffic, and we didn't get seated until the third inning. The parking lot was apparently too small to handle the crowd, the detours to "alternate baseball parking" were Byzantine and poorly labeled, and when we finally followed the circular route to the parking garage, it was too far away - and we were too lost - to walk with two kids and a baby in a stroller, so we had to wait on an extremely long line for trolleys that were ferrying about 20-30 fans at a time to the park. There were - more on this in a minute - a large proportion of the fans on that line wearing team paraphernalia of some sort, but only a tiny fraction were Devil Rays stuff. Being dependent on mass transit like trolleys to get to and from the game completely defeats the point of driving, which is to have control over when you get there and when you leave. The crowd was a big one but hardly huge - the box score says attendance of about 30,000, which filled most of the stadium except for big sections of the upper deck. If your parking setup isn't designed to handle a crowd that cracks 30,000 fans, you do not have a winning business model.
To make the timing situation perversely worse, the Rays gave out coupons at the ticket window for free sodas and hot dogs. When we arrived in the third, my wife went off to get the free food, and due to the long line (I did mention it was free, right?) didn't get back until the seventh inning. On the other hand, the dogs were good, similar to Shea hot dogs and far better than my experience with Dodger Dogs.
Now, our seats. We sat in right field, in fair territory, a few rows from the back wall. The Trop has a lot of seats in fair territory the outfield - all in one deck, like Yankee Stadium or Fenway - and they are really good seats, very close to the field and lined with prime catch-a-homer seats. Somebody at the front of our section got David Ortiz' homer in the fifth inning. The one major disadvantage was that we could not see the main center field scoreboard - not even by turning around, like in Fenway's CF section -so unless you knew them by uniform number (hah!) or heard them announced, it was impossible to tell who the Devil Rays' relievers were (for the record: Edwin Jackson, Ruddy Lugo, Seth McClung, Brian Meadows and Shawn Camp).
The fans. Well, if I had three words to describe the fans at Sunday's game, they would be "Red Sox fans." Our section in particular was filled with Sox jerseys (probably 60% Varitek jerseys to 40% Ortiz, with the women almost uniformly wearing Varitek jerseys) and thicker-than-clam-chowdah accents, and pretty much exactly the same mix of attitude and bad language you get in the Fenway center field bleachers. I'm not sure where they all came from - the braying guys behind us (who were a little tongue in cheek, I think, when they started yelling for Manny to "hit it wicked wicked faaahhhh" late in the game) were apparently transplanted Bostonians living in the area, but were the rest bandwagon Sox fans, tourists who planned their vacations around this, or perhaps people who decided to abandon their livelihoods and follow the Old Towne Team Deadhead-style from city to city, supporting themselves by selling hairspray, stonewashed jeans and Dan Shaughnessy books? Hard to say. But as we did see Sox jerseys and hats all over our hotel and - on Monday - at Disney, I'm guessing there were a lot of vacationers in the house. When the fans did the "Yooooook" chant or cheered for Big Papi, you'd have sworn they were the home team. By contrast, we did see one knot of loud, profane but generally incompetent hecklers in Rays garb, who accomplished little other than to bring down retribution from smug Sox fans and demonstrate that the Tampa area lacks major-league quality hecklers (There was also a hyperactive guy in our section dressed as Fred Flintstone who was jabbering at Wily Mo Pena, but he pretty much defied generalization).
The part of the scoreboard we could see hectored the crowd with various alliterative slogans based on the hometown batter's name ("Get Crazy for Carl!" "Get Zany for Zobrist!") . . . let's just say it's impossible to imagine them doing this at Fenway, Yankee or even Shea. There's also a mini blimp sponsored by a local energy company that drifts around between innings.
As for the game itself, even with an awful Rays starter, a lineup full of more sub-.300 OBPs than you could shake a stick at, and some amazingly bad fielding by Russ Branyan in right, it was a backbreaking loss for the Sawx, as the bullpen blew a 6-2 lead with homers by Travis Lee and Dioner Navarro, Papelbon blew the save (on Navarro's dinger), and Greg Norton went deep for the walk-off in the tenth (after Manny ended the top of the tenth following an intentional pass to Ortiz).
We walked a block from the long line for the return trolleys - in the rain - until we could get a cab back to the parking garage. A good game and a fun time at the ballpark, but it would have been nice to see the whole 10 innings.
August 7, 2006
The Wright Thing To Do (Aka, I Hart Omar)
None of which compares to the really good news:
David "Derek Who?" Wright will be a Met for at least 6 years. He really is The Prince of New York. Omar completed his most excellent week, penciling in Young Mr. Wright for six years at $55 M, with the option for an extemely expensive seventh year.
We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. All I know, fellow Met fans, is that we get 4-5 years, minimum, to watch the Dynamic Duo do their thing on the left side o' the infield. Wooo-hooo! The price may seem high for two very young players, but (a) the Mets can afford it and (b) these guys look well on their way to stardom. Especially Wright. The list of guys who hit .300 with 27 HRs and 100 RBIs (not to mention fine peripherals) at 22 is a small one. Small, but strong, like Mel Ott, who failed to make the list at 22, but was a member at 20. Other names you may know who qualified? Ohh, fellas like Williams, DiMaggio, Foxx, Vlad, A-Rod. Wright's easily on pace to do it again at 23. This is a great deal.
It reminds me of what John Hart did in Cleveland in the early-mid 90's as guys like Thome, Manny & Belle came into their own as young sluggers. Thome, for instance, stayed with the Tribe through 2002, when he hit 52 homers . . . and earned $8M. He crossed the $3M threshold in 1998, the season after the Indians' 2nd WS appearence in three years. And Thome himself? He'd already hit .300 twice, hit 30+ HRs twice (including 40 in '97), driven in 100 twice, topped .400 in OBP three years running, etc. He was a bargain and it helped Cleveland remain competitive.
Manny? Even more ridiculous! In 1995, when the Tribe won 100 out of 144 games played, Manny put up the first of many 300/30/100 seasons (with his standard rock-solid peripherals) and earned $150,000. He ended staying with the Indians through 2000, never earning over $4.25 M a year, despite driving in 165 one season, hitting .328+ twice, all that Manny stuff we love. Then he went to the Sox, signing for the GDP of a mid-sized Central Asian Republic.
Albert Belle? With the Tribe through 1996. Never earned over $5.7 M per.
And the point of all this? I'm not completely sure, but I think I'm trying to show that signing young, top talent to long-term deals before they reach superstardom is the way to go, the way both to keep your young studs and avoid paying them A-Rod money too soon. They either fall apart -- and then you're doomed anyway, regardless of what they earn -- or they emerge and eventually require $22 M/yr to "feed their families," "earn respect," "keep up with the Rodriguezes," whatever.
But that's then, this is now (S.E. Hinton allusion). In the meantime, the Mets got em, and they ain't going nowhere. Niiiiiice.
August 4, 2006
Ladies & Gentlemen, Your First Place New York Mets
Hey, Crank readers. My name is Mike, and a few of you may recognize me as one of the annoying guys who posts comments, complete with shameless links to my own blog, Mike's Neighborhood, every darn day. Well, last night I received a very nice e-mail from the Crank, informing me that he'll be out of town for a few days. Ok, you're thinking, "Uhhh, gee Mike, that's really exciting. And you've hacked into the Cranks's blog to tell us this why, exactly? Now get outta here, and leave us alone."
But the funny thing is, Crank invited me to "guest blog" for him in his stead. And, yes, I agree with you: he's must be completely insane. But, far be it for me to correct someone else's shocking lapse in judgment when my own self-interest is at stake. So, with no further ado, Met fans & baseball fans alike, I present for your reading pleasure -- as well as for a great opportunity for me to crank it up and generate some traffic at my own site ("Crank" it up, get it? . . . as in Crank, you know the guy who's blog . . . ohhh, never mind) -- an inartfully edited compilation of the last two Mets posts from my blog, Mike's Neighborhood. A few of the statistics cited may be sliiiiightly off, due to my posting these earlier in the week. But they're close, So gimme a break, will ya?
Oh, and Enjoy:
Forty-four. Henry Aaron's number, yes. Also Reggie's, after he went to the Yanks. And Everlastings Milledge is the latest in a long line of players to wear that super-cool number in Queens.
It's also the Met's magic Number: 44. And counting. A few Random Thoughts for your Friday morning pleasure:
Two Princes: The would-be "Prince of New York," Young David Wright is tired. I think he needs a break. The guy's 23 years-old, he's played one full season in the majors before this, and he had an excellent first half. Then he appeared in the freaking Home Run Derby, then the All-Star Game itself, before quick stops on Letterman, at the White House, before the UN General Assembly, the Jedi Council, and the Interstellar Federation. Heck, he introduced Bruce Sutter at his Hall of Fame induction last week. (Very moving speech, by the way, what with crediting him for inventing the split-finger fast ball and all. Charming anecdote about watching him in the '82 Series, two months before he was born . . .)
Mr. Wright hasn't had any serious time off! And from the looks of things lately, he needs it.
Yes, I know Keith Hernandez's saying Wright's "pulling off the ball," but Keith says that about everyone. Albert Pujols goes 0-for-3 with a walk? Pulling off the ball. Tony Gwynn hit only .312 one season? Pulling off the ball. Barry Bonds' head grows to epic proportions and he's so gimpy he can hardly walk? Pulling off the ball. China's economic growth rate dips to 6.4 %?
Ok, you get the idea.
Maybe Wright's pulling off the ball. Ok. But why is my question. His approach at the plate looks the same to me. Since the end of June, he's walked 14 times in 94 ABs, a little bit more than earlier in the year. I don't think the problem's mental, or at least it wasn't at first.
I think he's tired. Last season, you may remember, Wright began to slow down a bit in July. I don't have breakdowns of every game from last season, but I know he hit 307/345/505 for the month. Lowest OBP for any month, and still about 20 points below the season SLG. And that includes a very hot stretch immediately after the All-Star Break. And of course he went on to carry the team in August, behind 378/470/633 numbers.
I distinctly recall thinking last year that he looked sluggish before the break, and that I hoped he'd recover with rest. His numbers before the break last year? 281/369/470. After? 333/409/582. Yet this season . . . no break. No rest. The slight dip he experienced going into the break has continued. His July numbers of 282/384/494, while not bad at all, are the lowest of any month this year by a large margin. Since the break? An ugly 277/365/415.
So am I saying he's doomed? No. Blaming him for living it up like a rock star, getting overexposed at J-Lo levels last month? Heck, no! The kid's 23. Thinking we've got "An Abreu" on our hands, that he messed up his swing in the Home Run Derby? Absolutely not (though I wish he'd skipped the stupid event).
I just think he needs a rest, and needs it badly. I'd give him an entire series off, either before or after an off day. 4 days rest. Kind of like his own All-Star break. We don't need him hitting 285/360/475 through August. We need him hitting 325/400/575 in October. That's when he'll really earn the "Derek Who?" label he's been flirting with.
And the right to flirt with the hottest chicks in NY.
MVP! MVP?: Like the emotionless & rampaging cyborg he was contructed to be, The Beltranator continues to destroy all that stands in its path. Its basically a line-drive smashing, bases loaded clearing, crooked number creating, Braves pitcher humiliating (8 homers against Bobby's Boys so far!), Met fan salivating monster. In the "Pure Power" department, other than late 80's Darryl, '00 Piazza, and maybe Wright last August, I'm not sure when I ever saw such a one man wrecking crew. I fully expect a homer from him every at-bat.
And I plan to lustily boo him if he fails in that regard. 4-for-5 with two doubles, a triple, 3 SBs and 4 runs scored? I'm booing. I want taters!
But seriously, as great as he's been, he's not the NL MVP at this point. Even with Beltran's 7 extra games, superior baserunning, far more value in the field, a ballpark disadvantage, & the league-leading RBI total . . . Phat Albert's the NL MVP. It takes a lot to overcome Beltran's advantages -- as of Tuesday -- of 8 runs, 7 RBIs, 7 2Bs and 10 SBs.
And Pujols brings them: 1 extra 3B, 1 extra HR, and 36 fewer batting outs. Beltran's been dominating. Just great. But in my opinion, he's just not quite in Pujols territory, because he requires far more outs to put up his numbers. But as you can see, he's probably the clear number two guy in the league. Amazing.
Tommy Strikezone: He's not in the zone. I don't wanna pile on, I really hope he turns it around, and I don't know exactly what to say. But this ain't working right now. He's been a BP pitcher for a couple months, and his post-all star break numbers aren't even acceptable: 21 2/3 IP, 30 H, 12 BB, 9 K, 3 HR. 6.65/1.94. And, as if we need to see this horror show more accurately . . . he's yielded 3 unearned runs in those 4 starts, meaning he's been giving up nearly 8 runs per 9 IP since the break.
Glavine's 40 years old and hasn't had a great season in quite a few years now. The Mets need 6 innings of 3 runs or less from him come October. This is a requirement. Just like Pedro got his suspicious one month vacation, it's time for Tommy to have his. Free Pelfrey? How's about Lock Up Tommy. Enjoy your August, big guy, you earned it. See ya after Labor Day.
Cliff Floyd Has Missed 30 Games: No point to make. Just felt I needed to point that out.
The Loathsome Yanks: Abreu and Cory Lidle for 3 retarded dwarfs and a rusty bicycle chain. I hate Steinbrenner. Jerk.
And, yes, that is unbridled envy. What do you want me to say? With a pitching staff giving up runs by the bushel every other start, I'm thinking a .425 OBP guy and a serviceable arm might have been nice. More runs on one side of the ledger, less on the other. That's the idea of the game, right?
I Like The Pitching Portion of Our Trade: Omar, for whom I've had my share of unkind words, did what he had to do. Sanchez is out, he's gone. So Minaya went out and got a major league reliever to replace him. Period. Roberto Hernandez isn't great at this point, and while Duaner's better, he wasn't great either. Sorry, Met fans, but you'll have to admit that. His K/BB was under 2, and his K/9 was falling as the season progressed. He was good, and he had a rubber arm. But he wasn't dominating.
Anyhow, the key the trade isn't Hernandez, who can't be, won't be, and doesn't need to be as good as Sanchez. No, the key to the trade is . . . Aaron Heilman (the same guy who blew it last night. He has to step it up big time and start to throw like he did last year. And so far (or at least before last night's debacle), it's looking good. Before the blown game, since the end of his disastrous June, Heilman compliled 3.44/1.25 on 18 1/3 IP, 17 H, 6BB, 11 K. Not great, to be sure, and the K rate is waaaaay too low. But since the All-Star Break those numbers improve to 3.09/1.29 on 11 2/3, 11, 4, 7. Still not perfect, but they're in Sanchez range and a lot better than the gar-bage Heilman put up in late spring. He pitched well last night. Here's hoping he finds the magic of last year.
I Really Like the Hitting/Fielding Portion of the Trade: I didn't like Nady, for the reasons I mentioned last month: bad glove, poor approach at the plate, little indication of improvement. I like Endy "Every Met Fan's Secret Favorite Player" Chavez, even though I'm convinced he's hitting way, way over his head this year. He's an incredible fielder, only El Rapido has more speed, he's been very clutch so far, and he brings a bag full of fundamentals like bunting, base stealing, hitting the cut-off man, hitting behind the runner, etc.
I don't think Nady could spell "fundamentals."
Sanchez's injury meant Omar couldn't really get top value for Xavier, but that's what happens when your 8th inning guy has his cab rear-ended the day before the trading deadline.
(You think I'm joking, but I'm not. Look at Rule 37 (a) (2) (C) (iii) in the General Manager's Trading Deadline Handbook. Under "Freakish Car Accidents Involving Goggle-Wearing Relief Pitchers." Scroll down to the sentence beginning with, "Under such circumstances, you must move fundamentally unsound corner outfielders, even if you receive less than market value for their services . . ." Yes, that one. Read through it; Omar played it by the book, you gotta give him credit for pulling the trigger)
The Good Stuff: And finally, just to end things on the overwhelmingly positive note I feel it's my duty to bring to you, a few "Staggering Post All-Star Break Numbers From Selected Individual Hitters":
Carlos Delgado: 321/428/625, with 5 2B, 4 HR, 16 RBI and 12 BB in 56 official ABs. Ahhhhh, that feels better.
Endy Chavez: 333/385/500, albeit with only 39 plate appearences.
Oh, and this: he's managed to drive in 9 during that span!
Paul LoDuca: (and, no, these numbers are not a misprint): 371/426/468.
He can go 0-for the rest of the season and improve his career post all-star break numbers.
And finally . . . (you knew this one was coming), The Beltranator: 310/390/732, with 6 2B, 8 HR, 10 BB, 17 R and 28 RBI in 18 games and 71 official at-bats. Now that's some hitting!
Forty-four, folks. Forty-four.
* * *
Thanks for indulging me, folks. Guess what? That was the shortest Mets post I've ever written (and it combined two pieces!). If you're curious -- uh-oh, shameless plug time -- swing on by my blog and check out some of my past Mets entries, as well as my irreverent take on politics, culture, religion, advertising, as well as an occasional appearence by talking elk and wise-cracking public figures.
August 3, 2006
BASEBALL: Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose
Reported: Jose Reyes has agreed to a four-year, $23.25 million contract, with a fifth-year option. Via Always Amazin'. Treeeee-mendous news, and let's hope for the same for Wright. With guys this good, a big-market team can afford to pay its stars more now for the benefit of locking them up and keeping them happy.
The Mets also sent down Mike Pelfrey and replaced him with lefty reliever Royce Ring (who may yet give the Mets more than did the man he was traded for, Roberto Alomar). I've completely lost track of which relievers are up and down . . . Pelfrey showed some flashes but he very clearly is Not Ready for Prime Time yet. Still, if the Mets could get Oliver Perez straightened out, they will have a bunch of options for 2006 between Pelfrey, Bannister, Maine, Perez, Humber and Soler to go with Pedro, probably Glavine, and possibly Zambrano and/or Heilman (though they seem convinced that he's a reliever) as well as the chance to sign Barry Zito.
August 2, 2006
BASEBALL: Big Papi Walks on Water
You have a better explanation for this? Good research by Allan Wood.
BASEBALL: Programming Note
Sorry, took a while on the Iraq essay below. It may be next week by the time I resume the series on the great disappointments of 2006, especially since I have to keep straight a number of them that changed teams the past week.
In the meantime, discuss: after Pedro and Glavine, now that no additional help has arrived, who would you want starting Games Three and Four of a postseason series? I think at this point my trust in Trachsel is so low I'd go with El Duque (who at least hasn't been terrible and has been known to pitch well in October) and (holding breath) Maine. Which doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
August 1, 2006
BASEBALL: Essence of Derek Jeter
BASEBALL: Maddux Mustache
OK, I just had to link to this post just for the Greg Maddux baseball card. I'd forgotten Maddux ever had that cheesy mustache. Although reading that anyone "was weaned on a steady diet of Bill Simmons during his formative years" just makes me feel very, very old.
BASEBALL: Perspective on the AL East Race
July 31, 2006
BASEBALL: Baseball's Slugging-est Catcher
The results are even more pronounced since May 1.
BASEBALL: Mets Deadline Deals
We briefly interrupt our workday to bring you this:
*Duaner Sanchez is out, quite likely for the season, after separating his shoulder in a taxi accident (shades of Tom Glavine two years ago).
*The Mets have a number of potential setup men - Heilman is now the key guy - but to fill the hole, they've traded Xavier Nady to get back Roberto Hernandez plus Oliver Perez. Hernandez hasn't been that great this year after pitching great in 2005 - a 2.93 ERA and just 3 HR in 43 IP, but his K rate has dropped in half, he's allowing more than a hit an inning and he's walking 5 men per 9 (3.56 per 9 if you exclude intentional passes). You hate to deal an everyday player for a 41-year-old setup man.
*Barring another shoe drop, Lastings Milledge now becomes the everyday RF. I see Milledge as about even with Nady at present, but obviously this leaves the Mets with less depth and no chance (or risk) of dealing Milledge for a stud pitcher.
*Perez isn't a terrible gamble, since he's a still-young (24) lefty with a great arm, but he's obviously hopelessly lost at this point (Peterson presumably won't promise to fix him in 10 minutes) - 121 BB and 36 HR in 179 IP in 2005-06. I can't imagine that he'll pitch any important innings in the majors the next three months.
*If we don't get Linebrink, it's time to get more innings now for Heath Bell and Henry Owens and see what they can do. Ditto Maine and Pelfrey.
*Looks like no help on the way for the rotation.
BASEBALL: In-Season Salary Cap
Dan Lewis has some interesting thoughts on market efficiencies and deadline deals for free agents-to-be. I don't have time to digest this, but a thought on a related matter.
With hue and cry from some quarters over the Abreu deal, I can suggest that - if you think it's bad for the game for teams like the Yankees to be able to add a star player in season by bulking up payroll without parting for much talent - a debatable proposition - there is a relatively simple solution: an in-season salary cap. As with any cap, there would be some complex rules to make the thing work. But the general design would not involve the same set of skewed incentives provided by year-round caps; you could simply rule that a team needs to set its payroll (both current-season payroll and future committed payroll) by Opening Day, and can't add more than a limited amount to the payroll (except, perhaps, extensions for guys already on the roster) during the season.
BASEBALL: Slugger's Progress
.421, .494, .376, .458, .378, .378, .286*
.605, .603, .642, .656.
* - 7 at bats in October
BASEBALL: The Abreu Heist
A few very quick thoughts on the Yankees getting Bobby Abreu and Steamboat Cory Lidle for some prospects:
*Man, the Phillies should get a big tax deduction for this donation. Except, of course, that the Yankees are the least needy cause on earth.
*Abreu may be the best mid-season Yankees pickup since Johnny Mize, and at least since David Justice and David Cone. We're talking a Hall of Fame quality player who's 32 years old. Yes, his power and batting average have been off the past year or so, but he's still an on-base machine and a dangerous hitter. The Yankees may be best suited leading him off, except that Damon is comfortable in that role.
*So Abreu doesn't love the limelight. Neither did Gehrig or DiMaggio; plenty of guys with quiet personalities have thrived in the Bronx. And so he doesn't like running into walls; big deal, neither does Sheffield. When you have a hitter like Aaron Rowand, you can live with losing him for two weeks because he ran into a fence making a game-saving catch. A guy with Abreu's kind of bat, you want in the lineup.
*So Abreu makes a load of money. If he plays at his present pace, he's not really that overpaid; if he plays like he did in 2004, he's absolutely a $14-15 million player.
*From the Mets' perspective, the deal is frustrating in one sense: you hate to see them miss a chance when a great player is on the market for peanuts, though even with a big payroll they don't have the Yankees' bottomless resources (nobody does) and they don't need corner outfield help as badly as the Yanks. But it's also good news; besides Miguel Cabrera, Abreu was the best player on any of the Mets' four division rivals, and his departure ends the Philllies' time as a contender.
BASEBALL: The King Is Dead
The last stage of every pennant race is Miracle Time: the point at which a replay of 1995 or 1978 or 1964 or 1951 is still possible, but all other avenues to toppling the leader are closed. Entering this weekend, it was still Miracle Time for the perennially defending NL East champs in Atlanta - but the red-hot Braves needed to sweep the staggering Mets at Turner Field to keep that possibility alive. Instead, the Mets turned the tables and did the sweeping (as my son has pointed out, this means the Mets have now swept a series from each of their division rivals this season, which has to be an unusual accomplishment). Now, with the Braves having been swept and the Phillies having given away their best player and one of their few semi-reputable starters, we can finally say definitively: it's over. The division belongs to the Mets. The Braves will, for the first time since entering the division, finish a season in October out of first place.
July 28, 2006
BASEBALL: Going Down, Down, Down, Down Part III
Kameron Loe: 3.42 ERA at age 23 in 2005 now looks like a fluke.
Laynce Nix: The 25-year-old outfielder had holes in his game in 2003 and 2004; the past two years, it's been all holes, as he's surfaced just for a 3-for-32 slump this season.
Dallas McPherson: McPherson's a classic guy whose star has dimmed due to injuries; he's continued to flash decent power when healthy long enough to get into a groove, but he missed April in the minors and has missed July with back spasms, and you can't establish yourself that way.
Casey Kotchman: With Darin Erstad breaking down and offense in short supply in Anaheim, the 23-year-old Kotchman's time to shine was now. But he batted .162 in April and .091 in May before the Angels had to DL him with mononucleosis.
Dan Johnson: Despite a bad late-season slump that marred a fine rookie campaign, the 26-year-old Johnson entered the season with a hammerlock on the A's first base job but potentially a narrow window of opportunity ahead of super-prospect Daric Barton. The good news, for Johnson: Barton has struggled badly at AAA Sacramento, raising questions about his own prospect status, and the A's had the patience to sit out a terrible early-season slump (Johnson batted .196 with with 2 HR and 8 RBI as the everyday 1B in April and May) to be rewarded with a hot June in which he batted .321/.543/.406. But Johnson tumbled back into a slump in early July and the A's finally sent him down, indicating that Billy Beane's faith in him may be waning.
Joe Blanton: Blanton's another cold-hot-cold story - he won over some early skeptics in 2005 by raising his K rates as he came down the stretch to a 3.53 ERA in 201.1 innings last year, but regressed and struggled with his command in April and May, and has yet to post an ERA below 4.00 in any month. Blanton projects as a fourth starter now.
Bobby Crosby: An assortment of nagging injuries in 2005 and 2006 and a .231/.343/.298 line this season have taken much of the bloom off the 26-year-old Crosby. I still expect good seasons from him, but a long and smoothly successful career seems much less likely than it did a year or two ago.
Mark Ellis: Ellis looked to have hit his stride with the bat last year with a .314 average to go with a great glove after missing all of 2004. At 29, Ellis could have been entering a nice couple of year run, but his .220/.328/.286 line this season means he'll be fighting for jobs again in the near future.
Keith Ginter: Having lost out to Ellis, Ginter - who came to Oakland at age 29 in 2005 with a career .257/.448/.344 line - batted .161 part-time last season and has spent most of 2005 and 2006 at Sacramento, despite a major league contract. His .278/.431/.361 line at AAA this season is solid but not enough to attract the suitors he needs to bring him back to the majors.
UPDATE: Of course, this is probably where I disclose that my AL list here includes three members of my 2006 rotisserie team - Dan Johnson, Brian Anderson, and Josh Towers - five if you count the reserve draft (Willie Harris and Kyle Lohse).
BASEBALL: For The Fan Who Has Everything
July 27, 2006
BASEBALL: Going Down, Down, Down, Down Part II
Part II of my look at young or still-establishing-themselves players whose stock has fallen dramatically in 2006 and/or 2005 - the AL Central.
Jhonny Peralta: At age 23 in 2005, Peralta made the sudden step up - as guys that age sometimes do - from non-hitter to "young Nomar"-type slugger. His regression to a .258/.397/.330 line this season has to lower expectations for the future, and the signs are that his glove work hasn't been quite as stellar either.
Fernando Cabrera: The one-time future Indians closer was passed over for that title in favor of Fausto Carmona when Bob Wickman left town, and for good reason, with a 5.65 ERA inflated by 22 walks and 6 dingers in 36.2 IP. Cabrera's 42 Ks mark him as a guy who still has potential, but not for today.
Cliff Lee: Lee's failures haven't been as dramatic, but there was talk before the season that the 27-year-old lefty was ready to jump to the elite level of starters; a 4.78 ERA says otherwise.
Scott Baker: Baker got the nod over Francisco Liriano as the fifth starter in spring training, a decision that now seems very long ago. Baker looked like a quality pitcher in 2005 (3.35 ERA in 9 starts) and April (3.47 in 4 starts - a total K/BB ratio of 48-18 in that stretch) but has been pounded unmercifully since, allowing 58 hits and 12 homers in 37 innings. Unlike some of the others on this list, Baker is probably just taking needed lumps as a learning experience, and should have more chances.
Jesse Crain: 15-5 with a 2.53 ERA as a setup man in 2004-05, the 24-year-old Crain has struggled this year (4.31 ERA). Probably in the same boat as Baker: he's suffering but isn't losing out on opportunities that he'll never have again.
Denny Bautista: Major velocity, but like more Royals than we have time to discuss here, no sign of pitching talent shows up in his box scores, as Bautista has started just 7 times with a 5.66 ERA, no wins, and a 22-17 K/BB ratio. (See also: Jeremy Affeldt, Mike Wood)
Andrew Sisco: Perhaps the brightest spot in the 2005 KC wipeout was Sisco, a 6-10 southpaw Rule V pick with blazing heat; 76 K and just 6 HR in 75.1 relief innings gave visions of a future rotation star. But Sisco's control problems (28 walks in 40.1 IP) have sent him back to "project" land this season (7.14 ERA).
July 26, 2006
BASEBALL: Going Down, Down, Down, Down Part I
Baseball is an unforgiving game: the flip side of a crop of young players on the rise is that somebody has to be on the way down. And it's not always just old guys. Let's take a look at players who are young or still establishing themselves whose stock has tumbled dramatically in 2006 and/or 2005, starting with the AL East:
Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small: Two more guys who people like me never thought much of, but a lot of folks expected that their remarkable stretch runs in 2005 would translate into full-season rotation gigs as reliable starters. Didn't happen. Chacon's 6.67 ERA and Small's 8.46 prove that midnight came once again for Cinderella.
Coco Crisp: Like Carlos Beltran in 2005, Crisp's off year may just be a combination of nagging injuries and high expectations; his future isn't as grim as others on this list. But bigger things than .266 with 4 HR were expected from Crisp coming to Fenway at age 26 after two years of steady progress.
Jason Frasor: A 3.25 ERA, down almost a run from his rookie year, and good peripheral numbers marked Frasor in 2005 as a quality steup man for BJ Ryan. His K rate is still good, but a 5.18 ERA and a rise in BB and HR rates has moved Frasor down the depth chart. He's not a bad bet to rebound, though.
Russ Adams: A regular SS at 24 last year, Adams didn't embarrass himself with the bat, and could have expected plenty of time to establish himself. Instead, John Gibbons' shuffling of the lineup - and its success with other hitters - has limited Adams to 199 at bats as he has hit just .226/.337/.280 on a team that's batting .294/.488/.361.
Jason Phillips: Phillips cooled drastically after a hot start as the Dodgers' #1 catcher in 2005, and ended up in the minors this year, only resurfacing this week with the Jays. Now battling to re-establish himself as a backup catcher.
David Newhan: .311/.453/.361 in 373 at bats marked Newhan as a possible late-bloomer rookie in 2004 (he was 30), but Newhan batted .202 last year and broke his leg in April, an injury he hasn't returned from.
John Parrish: Promising young pitcher who has missed most of 2005 and all of 2006 with arm surgery.
Sean Burroughs: Having at last worn out his welcome in San Diego, Burroughs at least brought a career .340 OBP in more than 1500 plate appearances to Tampa, and he's just 25. Instead, he lost his job in spring training and has batted .190 in just 21 at bats. A return to a regular job seems unlikely.
Seth McClung: Granted, McClung's never been any good, but he throws hard and struck out 92 batters in 109.1 IP in 2005; from that you can make something. Except that this year, even the whiffs have deserted him: 38 (to 47 walks) in 80.2 IP on his way to a 6.81 ERA.
Edwin Jackson: Once a hot Dodger pitching prospect and still just 22, Jackson has struggled at all levels for the third year in a row, with a 7.17 ERA in a brief major league trial. Think "Ed Yarnall."
July 25, 2006
BASEBALL: Getting Back on Track
Sorry for the outage in the site last night (my hosting company was sending bills to an old address and an expired credit card number), and for the general lack of baseball content of late. Should be back to normal here by tomorrow.
Two quick thoughts from last night -
1. Greg Maddux is just done. I had thought before this season that he might be a good mid-season pickup who can dependably take the ball for 6-7 innings every fifth day, throw strikes and let the defense work, but Maddux just looks finished. I assume he'll keep showing up to cash his paychecks and eat up innings (from the injury-plagued Cubs' perspective, the innings alone still make him worth the money), but I have to believe that 2006 will be the end.
2. One of the standard arguments of stat-head types vs. old-fogey sportswriters is that blowouts, rather than close games, are the test of a quality team: good teams beat people up and rarely get blown out, while most teams will play much closer to .500 in close games. Last night was a perfect example of why this is true. If the Cubs were a good team, they would have been more likely to bury the Mets once they had them down 3-0 or 8-4. If the Mets were not a good team, they would have been more likely to stay down. Instead, they mounted rallies to tie the game 3-3 and to draw within one, 8-7 (the latter including a fine effort by Bell, Bradford and Sanchez in relief), to give the top of their lineup a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth.
They didn't win it, of course, so this one goes down as a failure in a 1-run game. But that obscures their success in making it into a 1-run game in the first place.
July 20, 2006
BASEBALL: Bonds Won't Be Indicted
Just saw this. This is good news for baseball, when you think about it.
BASEBALL: Close Call
Let's hire Steve Phillips just so we can fire him again. Via Pinto. I couldn't find a post in the archives, but I know in conversations I've given Phillips some credit for drafting Wright (with the pick the Mets got for Mike Hampton). I now renounce that.
July 19, 2006
BASEBALL: Bob Sikes
While I'm in one of my busy-with-work modes, I've been meaning for some time to link to Bob Sikes at Getting Paid to Watch. Bob is a former assistant trainer with the mid-80s Mets; between posts on the current Mets he has some interesting stories that will eventually be published in a book.
July 18, 2006
BASEBALL: Partial Progress
Jose Valentin's OBP in 2005: .326
Which is funny, since in 2005 Valentin batted a punchless .170 and slugged .265 and looked completely finished, whereas this year he's batting .284 and slugging .528.
July 17, 2006
BASEBALL: Cliff is Back
Cliff Floyd is batting .307/.567/.417 since May 5 (good for fourth on the team in slugging and first in OBP in that period).
July 13, 2006
BASEBALL: Quiz Me!
Take this quiz, via John Salmon. I got 49 out of 50, missing only #44; none of the ESPN analysts broke 45 (Rob Neyer got 43). (Kevin Mench got 40, topping the ballplayers who took the quiz, which proves that Mench knows baseball history better than he knows his own feet). Many of these are easy if you know basic history, but a few are quite tough. I got a couple by educated guesses (I would probably have scored around 38-40 if this wasn't multiple choice), and got #4 & 43 right through more random guesses. I'll have to try this one out on my son.
BASEBALL: Youth Will Be Served
There are few bigger stories this season than the massive youth movement sweeping baseball. I leave it to the reader to judge whether the ability of young players to supplant the older generation has been accelerated by the (presumed) reduction in steroid use resulting from the institution of drug testing. Either way, the youngsters are dominating the game as they haven't in some time. Look at the under-24 age groups:
Other 22-year-olds with more mixed or incomplete results so far: Cole Hamels, Nick Markakis, Dioner Navarro, Brandon McCarthy, Craig Hansen, Mike Pelfrey, Kyle Davies, James Loney, Howie Kendrick, Rene Rivera, Zack Greinke.
Other less successful 23-year-olds: Zach Duke, JJ Hardy, Ronny Cedeno, Yadier Molina, Chris Resop, Ricky Nolasco, Anderson Hernandez, Casey Kotchman, Andrew Sisco, Jeff Mathis, Gavin Floyd.
Other less successful 24-year-olds: the effective but injury-plagued Rich Harden, Jhonny Peralta (60 runs, but a comedown year with the bat), Willy Taveras, Oscar Villereal (8-1 but not that effective for the Braves), Ian Snell, Nate McLouth, Paul Maholm, Oliver Perez, Brian Anderson, Jesse Crain, Fernando Cabrera, Matt Murton, Kameron Loe, Brad Thompson, Brandon Watson, Corey Hart, Victor Diaz, Jerome Williams, Mark Teahen, Franquelis Osoria.
(This is before we get to the 25-year-olds, like Jonathan Papelbon, Curtis Granderson, Justin Morneau and Dan Uggla.) The next few years should be a great time to be a baseball fan.
July 11, 2006
BASEBALL: He Must Be In The Front Row
There's pathetic, there's really pathetic, and then there's stalking Bob Uecker.
BASEBALL: Long Memories
While we remain on the subject of our least favorites, Metstradamus is taking votes for his Hall of Hate. What I found amusing is that Dick Young is running fourth in the voting with 118 votes at last check, despite having been dead for something like two decades. Not that this is uncalled-for. It's never too late to hate Dick Young.
And also, while we're at it:
FACT: If the NL wins the All-Star Game, the NL team gets home field advantage in the 2006 World Series.
FACT: As the team with the NL's best record, the Mets are as likely as anyone to benefit from this.
FACT: Kenny Rogers is starting the All-Star Game for the AL.
Life is good. Now, an entire league of fans has a chance to be let down by Rogers all at once.
July 10, 2006
BASEBALL: He Actually Can't Win
"David [Wright] should get Jose [Lima] to throw to him. He'd win for sure."
UPDATE: With Paul Lo Duca pitching to him, Wright finishes as the runner-up to Ryan Howard.
SECOND UPDATE: For those of you who get the reference, the third comment on this post is a classic.
BASEBALL: He Just Can't Win
Lyford takes the Boston media, particularly WEEI, to task for giving Manny Ramirez a hard time over his decision to play with pain in his knee in the games that count but not in the All-Star Game. Presumably, if he was still in Boston, they'd give Pedro the same guff. The negativity in the Boston media really does stink.
BASEBALL: Trivia Time
Over the past year (from last July 10 to this July 9), four pitchers have won 19 or more games. Name them.
BASEBALL: Pre-All-Star-Weekend Mets Notes
Thoughts from an up-and-down weekend of Mets baseball:
*Jose Lima made my son cry. Well, not actually cry, but he looked pretty close after Lima gave up the grand slam to Dontrelle Willis. Please, Omar, keep Lima in Norfolk where he belongs. Do it for the children.
*As it turned out, the big story with Mike Pelfrey wasn't his fastball, but his tongue. If you haven't seen him yet, Pelfrey sticks out his tongue as he leans into his delivery - and not a little out of the side of his mouth, like Reyes running the bases, but all the way down his chin, halfway between Michael Jordan and Gene Simmons. It's very disconcerting.
On the whole, Pelfrey was clearly nervous - his command looked good at first but deteriorated as he worked around the big-league hitters, even after the Mets spotted him 9 runs in the first two innings and even though few of the Marlins are more than a year or two older than Pelfrey and most are rookies themselves. That's not fatal, of course; to give one example, I don't think I've ever seen a young pitcher as much of a nervous wreck as David Cone in his first two starts with the Mets in 1987 (discussed in more detail at the end of this column). But Cone eventually grew into a guy we all remember as a gutsy, mentally tough pitcher. Pelfrey may yet have that in him as well, and for now the important thing is that he got one start under his belt in the bigs, survived, got the win - and, yes, got a lesson in how hard he'll have to work to be a winner here.
*I may have been too hard on John Maine the other day, or at least unduly influenced by his failure to go at least 5 innings in either of his first two starts. I guess the upside on a guy like Maine would be a Brad Radke-type pitcher with good control who gives up a ton of homers. Or Trachsel, perhaps. If El Duque eventually joins Pedro in taking his annual summer vacation, there will be more chances to figure out whether Maine, Pelfrey, or Soler should be the fifth starter (not that I'm thrilled with taking Trachsel into the playoffs as a #3).
*Henry Owens, combined 2006 line: 28 innings, 8 hits, 52 K.
*I can't tell you how much faith I have at this point in Carlos Beltran in center field. I wouldn't quite put him on the level with Andruw Jones, but he's awfully close, and probably as good when healthy as Cameron - just watch time and time again as balls are hit in places that used to frighten me, and I now just wait for Beltran to cruise in and put away without even a visible effort. As A-Rod has done for Jeter, Beltran has also made Floyd a better outfielder by cutting down the ground he has to cover; Floyd can make some really good catches and has a good arm, and with a smaller left field to cover he's been much more effective in 2005 & 2006.
*My confidence level in Wright at the plate in a big situation is much the same.
*The Mets team offensive record book could look very different at the end of the year if they keep this up. Wright is now a very good bet to bury the single-season club record for RBI (124, by Mike Piazza) with a pace for 135, and Lance Johnson's club Total Bases record of 327 with a pace for 355; Reyes is on pace to break Edgardo Alfonzo's club record of 123 Runs with 137, Roger Cedeno's club steals record of 66 with 71, and Johnson's club triples record of 21 with 22 (in fact, Reyes is already third on the club career triples list); and Beltran is on pace for 46 homers, breaking Todd Hundley's club record of 41, plus he's slugging .606, just trailing Piazza's team slugging % record of .614. On the whole, the team is on pace to score 861 runs, breaking the club record of 853 set in 1999.
July 8, 2006
BASEBALL: Making the Bats
The National Association of Manufacturers has a video up this morning showing how Louisville Slugger baseball bats are made. Parts of the video are targeted to kids, but it's still pretty cool. You can also check out how tennis balls are made.
July 7, 2006
BASEBALL: In and Out With the Old and New
The big news in Mets-land is the turmoil on the pitching staff, with Pedro to the DL, the injured Alay Soler to the minors, Heath Bell to the minors, and Jose Lima, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine joining the rotation at least for a turn.
*Bell, I've discussed before ad nauseum; he continues to frustrate, showing progress and then having a bad outing or two that uglies up his numbers. Despite his fine K/BB ratios, Bell remains hittable. Still, my general preference is for young pitchers who throw strikes and strike guys out over old retreads who do neither; I still think Bell would flourish over time if the Mets weren't jumping on him every time he fails.
*Had I known Lima was coming back, I would have added him to my "25 least favorite Mets" post.
*On a similar broken-record theme, isn't it past time to see if a move to the rotation would straighten out Aaron Heilman?
*Maine hasn't impressed; he, too, might benefit from some patience, but I don't know that the Mets are in a position to experiment with him at the major league level at this juncture.
*Pelfrey has certainly gotten on track after an adjustment period at AA (I like his overall minor league ratio of 103 K to 3 HR). Which suggests some caution - the jump to the majors is an adjustment, too - I'd guess he'd post an ERA around 4.00 if left in the rotation the rest of the year. I'm still worried he'll run out of gas as a starter in his first pro season, but if Soler doesn't get healthy and straightened out and Heilman stays in the pen, the Mets don't have many other plausible options for that slot. So Pelfrey may be here to stay.
*I'm not perturbed in the least by Pedro hitting the DL - it's an annual ritual, so the stretch over the All-Star Break is better than what happened last year, when he ran out of gas the last few weeks of September. This is where the double-digit lead in the NL East is so important; the Mets will end up spending some of that lead resting Pedro, but it will be well spent to have a fresh Pedro in the second half.
July 5, 2006
BASEBALL: Conspiracy to Pun
Pinto points to this Bleed Cubbie Blue post including Tribune columnist Phil Rogers' suggestion that with Dusty Baker on the verge of possibly being sacked, the Cubs might consider interviewing White Sox AAA manager Razor Shines.
I suspect that the Trib's headline writers would be on board with Shines as the Cubs manager. Oh, the possibilities.
I was out at Shea Stadium yesterday, for - among other things - my 4-month-old daughter's first baseball game. Before the game the Mets honored New York's last living Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Francis S. Currey. The official citation for his honor:
He was an automatic rifleman with the 3d Platoon defending a strong point near Malmedy, Belgium, on 21 December 1944, when the enemy launched a powerful attack. Overrunning tank destroyers and antitank guns located near the strong point, German tanks advanced to the 3d Platoon's position, and, after prolonged fighting, forced the withdrawal of this group to a nearby factory. Sgt. Currey found a bazooka in the building and crossed the street to secure rockets meanwhile enduring intense fire from enemy tanks and hostile infantrymen who had taken up a position at a house a short distance away. In the face of small-arms, machinegun, and artillery fire, he, with a companion, knocked out a tank with 1 shot. Moving to another position, he observed 3 Germans in the doorway of an enemy-held house. He killed or wounded all 3 with his automatic rifle. He emerged from cover and advanced alone to within 50 yards of the house, intent on wrecking it with rockets. Covered by friendly fire, he stood erect, and fired a shot which knocked down half of 1 wall. While in this forward position, he observed 5 Americans who had been pinned down for hours by fire from the house and 3 tanks. Realizing that they could not escape until the enemy tank and infantry guns had been silenced, Sgt. Currey crossed the street to a vehicle, where he procured an armful of antitank grenades. These he launched while under heavy enemy fire, driving the tankmen from the vehicles into the house. He then climbed onto a half-track in full view of the Germans and fired a machinegun at the house. Once again changing his position, he manned another machinegun whose crew had been killed; under his covering fire the 5 soldiers were able to retire to safety. Deprived of tanks and with heavy infantry casualties, the enemy was forced to withdraw. Through his extensive knowledge of weapons and by his heroic and repeated braving of murderous enemy fire, Sgt. Currey was greatly responsible for inflicting heavy losses in men and material on the enemy, for rescuing 5 comrades, 2 of whom were wounded, and for stemming an attack which threatened to flank his battalion's position.
That's enough to humble even a hardened combat veteran, let alone a guy like me. After the ceremony, Mr. Currey - now in his 80s - ended up sitting behind me for the game (we were in the loge). After Wagner got the last out, Mr. Currey stopped and wished good luck at the end of the game to a younger (twenties) guy in an Army t-shirt who appeared to be heading out to Iraq. The torch passes.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Baseball 2006 | History | War 2006 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
July 2, 2006
BASEBALL: Your AL MVP . . . Curtis Granderson?
Yes, at least through June 25, The Hardball Times' AL Win Shares leaderboard listed Granderson, with 16 Win Shares, as the AL leader, followed by Joe Mauer at 15 and four players tied at 14 (Jim Thome, Ramon Hernandez, Carl Crawford and Vernon Wells). Thome is rated as the top hitter in the league, followed by Travis Hafner, but both are DHs while Mauer, Granderson, Hernandez and Wells all have substantial defensive value.
Which is not to say I think Granderson is MVP material, although with his good OBP and power combo in the leadoff slot and outstanding defense on a team whose defense has been a huge part of its turnaround, he's certainly been an impact player (it would seem that he, Crawford and Wells all get valued highly by the Win Shares system for staying in the lineup a lot - here are the major league batting leaders as of that date).
There's a couple of broader points here. First, there really is no dominant MVP candidate in the AL this year, so far (I imagine Thome would win the award if they voted now, although a .392-hitting catcher with a good glove, power and good wheels is hard to turn down). Second, and relatedly, the strength of the AL this season is probably why - it's harder for a single AL player to have a really monster dominant season like Albert Pujols was having before he got hurt.
BASEBALL: Brien Taylor in 2006
*Taylor's record $1.55 million bonus was the work of his agent, Scott Boras; Taylor was, if I recall correctly, the player who put Boras on the map. Odd that the article - which has to work around the fact that Taylor doesn't want to talk to reporters - didn't interview Boras. The famous Boras honesty is on display here, after Taylor shreds his shoulder:
Boras tells reporters the injury is a bruise, no big deal. Famed surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe examines Taylor, who has in fact suffered a torn capsule and torn labrum. Taylor has surgery the following week. "Just tell everyone I'll be fine," Taylor told a reporter from his hospital bed.
*At least Taylor got something out of the money; he built his parents a nice house, and still lives in it with them. He also still drives the Mustang he bought, although it is presumably no longer a stylish car 15 years later.
*Taylor is one in a long line of Yankee starting pitching prospects - a number of them quite hyped - the past two decades or so who didn't pan out or enjoyed only fleeting big league success (Taylor, Sam Militello, Joe Cowley, Dave Eiland, Domingo Jean), were converted to relievers (Mariano Rivera, Dave Righetti, Ramiro Mendoza, Bob Wickman), didn't blossom until they left town, if at all (Al Leiter, Doug Drabek, Jose Rijo, Jim Deshaies, Brad Halsey, Ted Lilly) or only became mediocrities (Scott Kamieniecki, Sterling Hitchcock). Not that Yankee fans have anything to complain about with Rivera or much with Righetti, either, but not as starters. Since 1976, other than Ron Guidry, there's just one unqualified subsequent success story: Andy Pettitte. Besides Pettitte and Guidry, over those 30 seasons, the Yankees have had a home-grown starter+ win 10 games just 8 times (9 once Wang makes it this year), and only Righetti (twice) did it more than once, the others being Dennis Rasmussen, Cowley, Kamieniecki, Hitchcock, Wickman and Mendoza.
+ - I'm counting as home-grown young pitchers who came to the Yanks as prospects, like Cowley and Rasmussen, but not foreign veterans like El Duque and Irabu.
BASEBALL: Please Be A Stranger
Curtis Edmonds follows up on the "25 least favorite" meme with his 25 least favorite Texas Rangers. Kenny Rogers makes yet another appearance.
UPDATE: Chris Lynch adds his 25 least favorite Red Sox. Rogers has never played for the Red Sox.
June 30, 2006
BASEBALL: 25 Least-Favorite Mets, Part II
Continued from yesterday...
(By the way, in noting the pain of watching Mike Piazza play first like a catcher, I forgot the far more horrifying spectacle of Todd Hundley playing the outfield like a catcher)
10. Roberto Alomar .336/.541/.415. 30 steals in 36 attempts. 100 RBI, 113 Runs, 34 doubles, 12 triples, 20 HR. Those were not Roberto Alomar's numbers years before he came to the Mets - they were his numbers in 2001, the year before he came to the Mets. In his three years in Cleveland, Alomar batted .323/.515/.405 and averaged 121 Runs, 103 RBI and 35 steals. A year and a half later, he was traded in a deal in which the best player the Mets got was a AA pitcher who now projects as a LOOGY, and was replaced in the everyday lineup by Joe McEwing. I don't know whether Alomar didn't take good care of himself, didn't care, both, or just lost it, but the explosive player he had been before was completely gone in the blink of an eye at age 34, and the Mets got stuck holding the bag. To cap it off, Alomar's failures led the Mets to fill the 2B hole by moving Jose Reyes and signing Kaz Matsui.
9. Armando Benitez. Yes, he could be higher, but honestly, I loved Benitez when the Mets got him - his numbers in Baltimore were breathtaking, and finally a closer who could throw gas! - and for a long time I was willing to forgive some of his big-game blowups (basically, until Game One of the 2000 WS). Benitez' rap sheet for blowing big games is far too extensive to recount here, but let's say that by the end I was more than ready to cheer at his departure. (Charges that Benitez hit his girlfriend didn't help).
8. Mo Vaughn. Mo is, by all accounts, a nice guy, and it's not hard to see why he was a fan favorite in Boston. But his tenure with the Mets was an unmitigated catastrophe, starting with acquiring a gigantic contract for a player who hadn't played in a year, was demonstrably out of shape, and had no realistic prospect of getting in shape. His time in New York started badly - he didn't hit a lick for two months, least of all hit for power - and when he did get hot, he still couldn't even try to run or field. Then he got hurt again. For this, Mo was the highest paid player in the National League, and after two years with the Mets he still had three more to go on that awful contract. The #2 redeeming feature of the Mo era was that the Mets got rid of Kevin Appier's ridiculous contract, but even that joy was spoiled when Appier helped the Angels win a World Championship, one they likely would not have won with the iron-gloved Mo at first.
The #1 redeeming feature was that Mo's injury finally got his contract to be paid for by the insurance company.
7. Kaz Matsui. I can understand why people thought Matsui could be a major league hitter - his numbers in Japan weren't quite as gaudy as those of Ichiro or Hideki Matsui, but they also weren't so far away, either. .280/.450/.340 was a reasonable expectation for Matsui, and he's done nothing like that. What I could never understand was how anyone thought he could play shortstop in the majors, and well enough to move a tremendous prospect like Reyes off his natural position.
6. Braden Looper. Like Benitez, except without all the good parts - no great fastball, no brilliant seasons. Just a half-season of pretty good pitching followed by a year and a half of fooling absolutely nobody into believing he wasn't pitching hurt. You could tell by looking at Looper's expression when he came into a game if he didn't have his good hard sinking fastball - his primary weapon - that day. Which, in 2005, was most of the time.
5. Kenny Rogers. Tigers fans don't hate Rogers yet, but they will, they will. Rogers wasn't in New York that long, and his stint with the Mets began with a stretch of undefeated pitching (he didn't lose in his first ten starts), but that just set us up for the inevitable fall. I'll never forgive Bobby Valentine for starting Rogers over the red-hot Rick Reed in Game Two of the 1999 NLCS, thus guaranteeing that the team would get stuck in an 0-2 hole they could never climb out of. And that was before Rogers - supposedly a control pitcher - walked in the winning run to end an all-time classic series.
4. Dale Murray. If a relief pitcher is supposed to be a fireman, Murray and teammate Skip Lockwood were the Arsonists. The Mets of the early 80s were a crappy team, but with a Neil Allen/Jeff Reardon bullpen, and later an Orosco-led pen, they at least fared pretty well in late/close situations. But the late 70s were another matter. I was just getting old enough in those years to really follow the Mets regularly, and Murray's meltdowns really sucked the remaining rays of hope out of an already terrible team.
Murray's one redeeming feature: in 1983, the Yankees traded a 19-year-old Fred McGriff and Dave Collins and a young Mike Morgan to get him. Heh.
3. Rey Ordonez. When he first came up and the Mets were still bad, Ordonez was a lot of fun to watch. But Ordonez was wholly unsuited to playing on a team that was serious about winning (it's not an accident that the Mets made the World Series the year he was out hurt) - I don't have time to run the numbers here, but he was basically the worst-hitting everyday player to hold a job for a significant number of years since Bill Bergen. Plus, he wasn't a particularly good guy. Plus, his fielding deteriorated over the years (though he was always an above-average glove man). Plus, the guy couldn't even bunt.
2. Carlos Baerga. Before there was Alomar, there was Baerga, an allegedly 27-year-old lifetime .305/.454/.345 hitter entering 1996. The Mets traded Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino to get him; Kent could still be their second baseman, having outhit the Mets' actual second baseman every year since then except 1999. Baerga is higher on the list here than, say, Alomar because the Mets gave up for him and suffered through him for longer, 2 1/2 years. In 2003 with Arizona, Baerga batted .343.
1. Juan Samuel. It took an awful lot of bad decisions, injuries and bad luck to bring down the Mets juggernaut of the mid-1980s, but the watershed moment of the collapse - the first time I really felt management had no clue what it was doing - was when the Mets traded Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel in 1989. Recall that Samuel was a poor-fielding second baseman whose main virtue was that he hit well for a middle infielder; the Mets moved him to center field, where his bat even at its best would have been unremarkable, and his glovework was not much better.
In 1988, Samuel hit .243/.380/.298; Dykstra (a good defensive center fielder two years younger than Samuel) hit .270/.385/.321. In 1989, when they made the trade, Samuel was hitting .246/.392/.311, while Dykstra was hitting .270/.415/.362. Granted, the 1988 season had raised some questions about Dykstra's patience, and granted he did not hit well in Philly the rest of the year, but Dykstra was a real talent and would go on to bat .325 in 1990 and score 143 runs as one of the leaders of a pennant winning team in 1993. McDowell, too, remained effective on and off for several years. But Samuel was already done as a productive regular, as his performance to date in 1988-89 had shown; with the Mets, who ended up six games out of first place, Samuel hit just .228/.300/.299. (Eventually, several years later, Samuel became a fine hitter as a bench player, batting .274/.502/.350 from 1994 through 1997. But that was after years of futility as a regular).
In the fall of 1989, I went off to college and turned 18. I met my wife on August 20, 1989, the day Willie Randolph hit a homer off Don Aase that - I felt at the time - basically signified that the Mets would not catch the Cubs, who then held a 2.5 game lead. It was inevitable that I would move out of the stage where baseball in general and the Mets in particular were by far the most important thing in my life. But the ugly unraveling of that team made the process a lot more painful, and the Samuel deal was when it really became visible that the wheels were coming off. Which is why he remains my least favorite Met.
June 29, 2006
BASEBALL: Off the Ledge
BASEBALL: 25 Least-Favorite Mets, Part I
Ken Arneson at Catfish Stew discusses his 25 least-favorite A's of his lifetime of baseball fandom, and Alex Belth adds his 25 least-favorite Yankees. (This Red Sox fan offers up a partial list as well). Interestingly, a large number of players on each list played for both teams - Ken Phelps makes both lists, and Kenny Rogers, Johnny Damon, Luis Polonia, Greg Cadaret, Ruben Sierra, Esteban Loaiza, Don Baylor, Scott Sanderson, Jim Spencer, and Jay Witasick all make appearances.
So, who are my 25 least favorite Mets of the past 30 years? Why, funny you should ask. Today, we count down numbers 25-11:
First, the honorable mentions:
*Mike Piazza, first baseman. I never got down on Piazza throughout his Mets career, but it was hard to watch a first baseman whose natural reaction to throws in the dirt was to block them with his shins. Ouch.
*Hubie Brooks, Jeromy Burnitz, Roger Cedeno Part II: All three of these guys were favorites of mine the first time they played for the Mets, but all (and, to a lesser extent, David Cone) were painful to watch the second time around, and in Cedeno's case he was also unmotivated, out of shape and a huge waste of money.
*Willie Montanez and Richie Hebner. I wasn't really old enough to know better, but I probably should have disliked Montanez and Hebner for their listless performances with the Mets in the Joe Torre era.
*Joe Torre. I'm not listing managers here, plus I didn't really hate Torre at the time, but the fact is that he managed a bad team as badly as he has managed the Yankees well.
25. Tom Glavine - Around May of last year, Glavine would have been near the top of this list; now, he's close to pitching himself off it. Besides a contract he didn't come close to justifying the first 2 1/2 years - and which I opposed at the time - Glavine was a guy who killed the Mets as part of the staff of their arch-nemesis the Braves, then killed them some more whenever he pitched against the Braves in a Mets uniform (he hasn't been effective against the Phillies either). Plus, he's a long-time Players Union activist. More honorable mentions here for other guys who went from Met-killing opponents to Met-killing Mets, including Tommie Herr and Kevin Bass.
24. Don Schulze - Schulze was only a Met for 5 games, but he fairly symbolized the disaster of 1987, when the Mets had 7 top starting pitchers but wound up scraping the bottom of the barrel due to a bizarre series of injuries and personal problems. Plus, how can you root for a guy who once sued the San Diego Chicken?
23. Bill Almon - Almon was a two-time offender. His first tour with the Mets, in 1980, he inexplicably decided to take up switch hitting, and batted .170. His second tour, in 1987, he was ineffective again off the bench, and whiffed to end the 10th inning in the Mets' last chance to win a crucial September 30 game against the Phillies, preventing them from having at least a chance to tie things up in the season-ending 3-game set against the White Rat and his Cardinals. Davey Johnson should have sent up Gregg Jefferies in that situation.
22. Bobby Bonilla - I know a lot of people would rank Bonilla much more highly, but after his first season he did hit outstandingly well, and I did feel at the time that he got a raw deal from the press. Still, Bonilla was constantly unhappy as a Met, he stank his first year, and to top it off he was largely a useless malcontent when he returned in
21. Vince Coleman - Coleman's first two years with the Mets (1991 & 1992) were actually two of his best with the bat (OBPs of .347 and .355), but he couldn't stay healthy and had declined to mere mortal on the bases (61 steals and 23 caught in 143 games). He, too, had some unpleasant issues off the field, including throwing a firecracker that injured some fans, a few of them kids. Plus, to top it off, Coleman was - like Glavine and Bonilla - yet another guy whose problems with the Mets contrasted with his stardom on prior teams that beat up on the Mets.
20. Kaz Ishii - Ishii was a pointless and futile acquisition last year, and a frustrating pitcher to watch, with terrible control but lacking the overpowering stuff to compensate for it.
19. Todd Zeile - Zeile had half a good year the first half of 2000, but otherwise was an emblem of the Mets' decline from the days of John Olerud. His futility with the bat also led directly to the Mo Vaughn deal. And then there was his blunders on the basepaths in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series (granted, he did hit well that postseason). Zeile also had a hopeles second act with the Mets in 2004, and ended up getting nearly 400 plate appearances.
18. Rafael Santana - Santana was a nice enough guy, but he was never more than an average glove man, wasn't a particularly fast baserunner, and couldn't hit his way out of the proverbial paper bag. The Mets have had many such infielders over the years, but on a team with no other significant weaknesses, he drove me nuts. He drove Davey Johnson to play Howard Johnson and Kevin Mitchell at shortstop whenever possible.
17. Dan Norman - Norman's high in at bats for the Mets was 110, but of course it was his lack of accomplishment that made Norman so frustrating. When the Mets traded Tom Seaver for three other players, none of them stars (Steve Henderson, Pat Zachry and Doug Flynn), the management (specifically, M. Donald Grant) justifed the deal by touting Norman as a prospect and saying it would be remembered as "the Dan Norman trade." Indeed. If you ever wonder why Mets fans always call in to WFAN believing the Mets should trade an assortment of expendable loose ends for someone else's franchise player or best prospect, it's because we have been on the other end of so many deals like this one.
16. Tony Fernandez - Fernandez was a fine player before the Mets got him, but he stunk and made clear he didn't want to be around, batting .225 and slugging .295 in 48 games in 1993. Dumped by the Mets when many Mets fans had concluded he was finished, Fernandez immediately turned it on with his old team in Toronto, batting over .300 and driving in 9 runs in a 6-game World Series.
Only consolation: Fernandez did the same thing to the Yankees two years later.
15. Mel Rojas - In August 1997, while still hanging around the pennant race, the Mets dealt Lance Johnson, Mark Clark and Manny Alexander for Rojas, Brian McRae and Turk Wendell. I hated the deal at the time; as it turned out, McRae did have one good year (1998) for the Mets after playing poorly in 1997, and Wendell wound up being the best player in the trade. But Rojas, formerly an effctive reliever in Montreal (and well-paid, with a $4.5 million contract), was appallingly bad, with a straight-as-an-arrow low-90s batting practice fastball as his only pitch. In 84.1 innings as a Met setup man - including the 1998 season, when the Mets only narrowly lost the Wild Card race - he allowed 92 hits, 13 homers, 36 walks and posted an ERA of 5.76. (The ultimate Rojas moment came the next year with Detroit, when he managed to allow 9 earned runs on his first 11 pitches).
13. Garry Templeton - Formerly an obnoxious, overrated underachiever, Templeton by the time of his appearance with the Mets as a 35-year-old in 1991 was finished in all aspects of his game, batting an anemic .228/.306/.257 and playing a poor shortstop. The Mets responded to the discovery that he could no longer hit well enough to play shortstop by trying him as a first baseman for 25 games. Aaaaargh!
12. Doug Sisk - As was true of Santana, Sisk's failures were magnified by pitching for a team with few other weaknesses. The Mets in 1985 won 98 games and lost the pennant by 3. The 5 starters had a combined ERA of 2.65. The Mets' other top 3 relievers (McDowell, Orosco and Leach) had a combined ERA of 2.82 - in total, 1270.1 innings of a 2.69 ERA. But the team ERA ended up at 3.11. Much of that was guys throwing a few bad innings here or there, but the rest was Sisk - previously a key setup man - and Tom Gorman. For his Mets career, Sisk walked 210 batters and struck out 165. He was a constant irritant to watch.
11. George Foster - A disaster from the day of his arrival in 1982, Foster partly redeemed himself as a good RBI man, if one with no other useful skills, from 1983-85. But then he spoiled it when he batted .227/.429/.289 in 1986, and then accused the Mets of racism when they cut him to hand the left field job to Mookie Wilson and Kevin Mitchell. As a fielder, either Bill James or Jim Baker (I forget which) said that Foster "raised aloofness to an art form".
Tomorrow: The Top 10.
June 27, 2006
BASEBALL: Pray For Peter Gammons
BASEBALL: Bad Scheduling
Howie Rose just piointed out that the Red Sox bizarrely chose today - with the Mets visiting - to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1986 AL Championship team.
BASEBALL: Scouting Valentin
One of the decisions the Mets have coming up is what to do about second base: stick with Jose Valentin or go get an upgrade. Statistical analysis of the situation is important, but let's not forget that the numbers can only take you up to a point; sometimes, there are judgments to be made that go beyond the numbers. In signing Jose Valentin and keeping him on the roster in the first place, Omar Minaya was making a judgment between two sets of statistics, and it turns out, so far, that he's been right.
A lot of people, myself included, looked at Valentin's age (36), his train wreck of a 2005 season (.170 batting, .265 slugging) and his overmatched look in March and April and concluded that he was toast. (And I'd been a fan of Valentin when he was in Chicago) Instead, he's been on a ferocious hot streak. Is this for real? Well, if you toss out Valentin's 2005 and compare his numbers in 2000-04 as a regular for the White Sox to this year's numbers (projected out to the same number of plate appearances)
Obviously, Valentin's not going to bat .297 if he stays in the everyday lineup, but otherwise you can see that he's not so far off base from the player he was in Chicago as recently as 2004, when he hit 30 home runs. Kudos to Minaya to choosing correctly in deciding whether we'd see something more like the 2000-04 Valentin or the 2005 Valentin at Shea this year. If he reverts to his 2000-04 form the rest of the way, we can more than live with that from the #8 hitter.
June 26, 2006
BASEBALL: Endy Chavez, "Rock Star"
You always hear about players being larger-than-life heroes in their home countries, and I'm never sure what to make of the extent of the hyperbole involved. This article would seem to take the cake for "hey, that can't be true, can it?":
Mets outfielder Endy Chavez is a rock star en Español. In his home country of Venezuela, he is a hero. Fathers want their sons to grow up to be like him, and mothers want their daughters to date him.
Endy Chavez??? Granted, this does explain some of this:
It also helps that he plays for the Magallanes Navegantes, arguably the most popular team in the Venezuelan Winter Leagues. What is the other most popular team? The Caracas Leones. The matchups between Magallanes and the Leones rival the Red Sox-Yankees series in intensity, press coverage and of course, fan participation.
Chavez . . . played for Venezuela in the 2006 Caribbean Series and for the country's team in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. He hit a home run against Puerto Rico in the second round of the World Baseball Classic, re-establishing himself as a star in Latin America, sending the Venezuelan fans in attendance into a frenzy and creating a life-long memory along the way.
BASEBALL: Pelfrey the Long Man
Matthew Cerrone at MetsBlog notes that the Mets are apparently thinking about using Mike Pelfrey initially as a long reliever. Of course, as I've explained before, I approve of this idea, although if you follow the link to the Daily News item he cites, it doesn't say that they're thinking of doing that this year.
BASEBALL: Keeping the Baserunners
There are four components to offense in baseball. Getting on base and batting for extra bases are the two biggies. Next is advancing once on base; the fourth is avoiding losing runners on the basepaths. The fourth is probably the one that flies furthest below the radar; it may be thought of as something that doesn't show in the box scores, but at least two components do: GIDP and Caught Stealing. Which teams are doing the best and worst jobs this season of avoiding losing runners that way? Well, it's time for . . . a chart! The first column, GD%, shows GIDP plus CS as a percentage of runners on first base (i.e., hits plus walks plus HBP plus catchers' interference - included because, hey, ESPN lists it - minus extra base hits). The second, SB/SH, divides a team's number of successful steals and sacrifice hits - both of which advance a runner, albeit with different costs - as a percentage of the same. This column shows a team's successful efforts to avoid losing a runner and instead get them to scoring position. The third shows strikeouts as a percentage of plate appearances - teams that whiff a lot at least aren't hitting into double plays, even if they're not making "productive outs" either. (If you're wondering, I didn't bother listing GB/FB ratios - the Cubs hit a ton of grounders but nobody else is much of an outlier).
Unsurprisingly, with Reyes and Beltran at the top of the order, the Mets have excelled in this category - if you divide the second column by the first one you get a ratio of successful one-run strategies to lost baserunners of 2.43 to 1, whereas only two other teams are better than 1.15 to 1 (the Reds at 1.41 and the Orioles at 1.18) and some teams are below 0.5 to 1 (the A's, perhaps reflecting their philosophy, rank last at 0.35, with the Red Sox at 0.39 and the Blue Jays at 0.43 - the best-known "Moneyball" adherents - and the Rangers at 0.46)
BASEBALL: This Time, With His Bat
I have to say, I would not have predicted Orlando Cabrera, of all people, to reach base safely 53 games in a row. With a .361 OBP, 22 doubles, 11 steals in 12 attempts and only 4 GIDP in more than 300 plate appearances, Cabrera's been doing all the little things to make himself a consistent offensive contributor on a team that's been starved of them.
(Speaking of shortstops and GIDP, Miguel Tejada has hit into 21 this season, a pace to easily pass Jim Rice's single-season record of 36 - Tejada could be the first man to hit into 40 double plays).
June 23, 2006
BASEBALL: The Elements of A Great Pitching Team
Recall my comparison of the 2006 Tigers to the all-time great pitching teams (as measured by ERA compared to the league average). The Tigers were, at that writing, 39.9% better than the league, good for sixth best all-time; in coming back down to earth, they have settled at this writing to 31% better (3.52 ERA compared to 4.61 for the AL as a whole), which would put them just off the top 25, although that's still a plenty impressive place to be. You will also recall that I found that the Tigers' pitching success likely owes a lot to their defense.
Which got me wondering: if you look at the other top pitching teams - this time I expanded the list to the top 27 teams other than the Tigers, to include everyone since 1893 who ended 30% or better compared to the league - what most characterizes their great pitching? I decided to list out where each of these teams ranked vs. the league in the four main components of pitching: the three that the pitcher controls (preventing HR and BB and striking guys out), and the one that is mainly the responsibility of the defense (Defensive Efficiency, i.e., the percentage of balls in play turned to outs). As usual, I looked at Baseball-Reference.com for the answers. Let's see how these teams did it - "Lg" is how many teams were in the team's league at the time, and the rest are ranks from best to worst:
*Well, the obvious one that jumps out at me is how much more crucial the defense has been to making a great pitching team than any other element. I was stunned, frankly, that the results were this dramatic. Of the 28 teams, five finished in the bottom half of the league in strikeouts (including two 1960s White Sox teams), four in walks, two in homers (both pre-1920 teams), but not a one in DER, with the 1919 Cubs and 1912 Giants the only ones as low as fourth.
*More studies are still needed on which of these four elements are most subject to park effects.
*Granting that they had a lot of help from their park, the 1966 Dodgers were unsurprisingly the one team that swept the three pitching-only categories, unsurprising because - last I checked, in 2001 - they held the all-time (since the 4-ball/3-strike era began in 1889) record for best team K/BB ratio.
*Looking at the top 4 teams gives you more sympathy for the voters who put Tinker, Evers and Chance in the Hall of Fame. Ditto the voters who gave Marty Marion the 1944 MVP and put Luis Aparicio in Cooperstown.
*The 1939 Yankees' defense is also discussed here in the context of a broader look at the centrality of defense to the great Yankee teams of the 40s through 60s.
*Bear in mind as well that defense was more crucial before homers, walks and strikeouts became as commonn as they are today.
June 22, 2006
You know, all the things they said about Felix Hernandez were true - true of Francisco Liriano, that is. (Hernandez is still a work in progress, but his numbers come the end of the season will be fine). And assuming the Twins hold the 3-0 lead Liriano now has over Roger Clemens, a lot more casual fans are going to be learning Liriano's name in the next 24 hours.
BASEBALL: Complete Game Quiz
1. Name the last pitcher to throw 10 complete games in a season.
2. Name the last pitcher to throw 15 complete games in a season.
3. Name the last pitcher to throw 20 complete games in a season.
4. Name the last pitcher to throw 25 complete games in a season.
5. Name the last pitcher to throw 30 complete games in a season.
6. Name the last pitcher to throw 35 complete games in a season.
(Irv Young was the last to throw 40, with the Boston Braves in 1905. I wouldn't ask that one).
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1. Randy Johnson in 1999
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Yes, that's Jose Reyes' OBP after today's game. And David Wright now has 60 RBI before the end of June (MVP! MVP!) And .346 is Julio Franco's batting average. Young and old.
No, I don't have another point. Do I need one?
June 21, 2006
BASEBALL: Power Station
For the record, the slugging percentages (as of this morning) of the starting 8 from last night's Mets lineup:
Note that Lo Duca (.324) also has the lowest OBP in that lineup other than Milledge; it's a fair question what Lo Duca, who is slow to boot, is doing in the number 2 slot. Yes, he does some of the "little things," and the Mets have had something of a tradition in recent years of sticking their weakest hitter in the #2 hole, but there's really no reason to keep him up that high.
The short-term decision the Mets need to make is on Milledge when Floyd returns, but I have no problem with sending Milledge back for a few months, as long as he's back on the roster for the postseason. Right now, he's still about even with Nady - both have power and a mostly good glove, and neither gets on base much. Milledge needs to play every day, so Norfolk makes sense.
(As to the second base situation, I've gotta run but I'll get to that later).
June 20, 2006
BASEBALL/LAW: Separated At Birth?
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June 19, 2006
BASEBALL: The Junior Circuit Rules
David Pinto notes the AL's dominating record thus far in interleague play. I'm not so quick to write this off entirely as a small sample size - the AL isn't quite that much better, but I really have no question it's the stronger league right now. Certainly my pre-season look at the established talent levels in each league supported that view, as AL teams averaged 223.01 EWSL (74 wins' worth) vs. 202.29 (67 wins) for the NL. That's a substantial difference, although I'm not sure how real the difference is when you account for the fact that AL teams have 9 regulars and NL teams have 8 (there's some real chicken-and-egg issues there).
June 18, 2006
I got sidetracked from linking to this back in April: the video of Rick Monday saving the flag.
June 16, 2006
BASEBALL: Making It Home
One of Jose Reyes' signature gifts is the ability to score runs once he is on base - despite his low to (this year) middling OBPs, Reyes always manages to score a bunch of runs. Last year, he nearly made history, narrowly missing becoming the first player since 1892 to score 100 runs with an OBP below .300.
But is Reyes really the best at scoring once he's on base? Turns out he's close, but no, at least this year. I took a look at the players who scored the most runs per time on base not due to home runs. I took a look at every player with 100 plate appearances through last night's action and ranked them by their runs scored (minus homers) per times on base (minus homers). To correct for the fact that some guys get into scoring position in the first place with their bats, I added to the times-on-base number (doubles)*(.33) (since a double gets you a third of the way from first to home) and (triples)*(.66). I'm sure there's a more scientific formula, and I think Baseball Prospectus used one in an article a few years ago, but I was looking for something I could run quickly.
Of course, a player's speed, aggressiveness and heads-up on the basepaths is only one of three variables in scoring runs: you also need to bat near the top of the lineup (you score more runs if you don't start a lot of innings with two outs) and bat ahead of good hitters. Players who have had at least 100 plate appearances as a leadoff man are listed in italics. As you'll see from the chart, fast guys, leadoff men and guys on good offenses tend to congregate at the top (Reed Johnson is #1 mainly because of the strength of the Toronto offense thus far, I suspect), and catchers and low-order hitters at the bottom (if you're wondering, the guy at the bottom is the Colorado Luis Gonzalez). Unsurprisingly, David DeJesus - recovering from injury and playing for a lousy offense - is near the bottom of the leadoff men, but I was surprised to see Gary Matthews jr. and Curtis Granderson, both guys who run reasonably well and bat ahead of power-laden offenses, ranked so low. You can see here some of the offsetting cost to leading off a slower but high-OBP guy like Youkilis or Jason Kendall.
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June 15, 2006
BASEBALL: In the Wings
Given the current state of the Mets juggernaut and the relative success of Alay Soler and (to a lesser extent) El Duque, the desperation to shore up the rotation further has dimmed. But when the time comes for another arm, especially if we're looking for help in middle relief (since I'm still skeptical of tossing him right in the rotation), Mike Pelfrey's AA numbers are starting look pretty good. I particularly like the 55-1 K/HR ratio (81-2 if you count A ball).
Actually, at the moment it looks like Trachsel is the first guy you'd want to replace, as he was hit hard again today. The good news is that this team is starting to look like it will soon be ready to think mainly about October (fingers crossed, expecting run of catastrophic injuries), so the desperation level should be minimized.
June 14, 2006
BASEBALL: Double Up
Entering tonight, the Rangers were on pace to hit 394 doubles - a staggering 44 per lineup slot. The all-time record is 373, held by the 1997 and 2004 Red Sox and the 1930 Cardinals. Those Cardinals, the only NL team since 1900 to score 1000 runs, had an unbelievably balanced singles-and-doubles attack, with all 8 regulars and their top 2 bench guys all hitting .303 or better (granted, the league average was .303) and seven of the eight regulars hitting at least 32 doubles (the one guy who missed was catcher Jimmie Wilson, and the two catchers combined for 42 two-baggers).
BASEBALL: There They Go Again
It's almost a cliche at this point to say the Mets won the kind of game last night that championship teams win, pulling out a seesaw slugfest on the road against their only remaining division rival (paranoid as I am from years of losing to them, the Braves are toast, folks; they're 11 games back now) on a night when Tom Glavine (who has had nothing but trouble with Philly and Atlanta since he arrived at Shea) got smacked around for four home runs, and combining clutch hitting, great defensive plays (David Wright starting a crucial double play in the ninth) and some big bullpen innings to stretch their lead to 7.5 games.
Remember Bill James' "secondary average," basically extra bases on extra base hits plus walks plus steals divided by at bats? The Mets have three guys among the NL top 20: Carlos Beltran is third at .585, David Wright 16th at .400, and Carlos Delgado 19th at .380. But you might not expect the guy who's just off the leaderboard: Jose Reyes at .373 (Lastings Milledge is at .340, driven by power rather than patience). In part that's the fact that he's running tied withg Corey Patterson for the major league lead in steals, but it's also power and, yes, patience; if Reyes could just get his batting average from .251 to .281 at his present rate of extra base hits and walks, his line would read .281/.443/.356/. In fact, the team secondary average is .310 compared to .277 for the NL as a whole.
UPDATE: Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus (link for subscribers only) notes that the Mets' outfield defense, keyed by Beltran, has been crucial:
The real key to their run prevention, though, has been the defense, and in particular, the outfield defense. The Mets are fourth in the NL in Defensive Efficiency, converting 72% of the balls in play against them into outs. They have allowed 73 homers, good for just ninth in the league, but despite that they've allowed just a .389 SLG, last in the league, and an ISO of .147, second-to-last (to the Rockies?!?!). How is that possible?
Sheehan's chart shows that the next best team, the Padres, is at 4.65; the Mets have allowed 89 doubles, compared to 101 for the Giants, and 7 triples, bested only by the Reds (5). (I wonder if the Giants' low number is partly because Bonds plays so deep now to compensate for being unable to go back on fly balls, and how many singles that costs them). Beltran's defensive value is more quiet than showy, but the value of his glove is undeniable - the Win Shares system has also rated his defense very highly both last season and this season - and Cliff Floyd's defensive improvement under Willie Randolph has also been marked in 2005 and 2006.
June 13, 2006
BASEBALL: Remembering 1960
That series went seven games, and I vividly remember how it ended. School was out for the day, and I was heading home, pushing my bike up a steep hill, listening to my cheapo little radio, my eyes staring vacantly ahead, my mind locked on the game. A delivery truck came by, and the driver stopped and asked if he could listen. Actually, he more or less told me he was going to listen; I said OK.
June 12, 2006
BASEBALL: Poison Pens
Metsgeek runs down the various manufactured controversies involving Lastings Milledge and the media. The "Milledge high-fives the fans" story should hardly have been a controversy; granted, because big-leaguers don't do that, Willie Randolph was wise to sit Milledge down afterwards. But there's no good reason why big-leaguers shouldn't do it, and many players (Pete Rose comes to mind) have been lauded in the past for doing things that "just aren't done." The overreaction to every little thing with Milledge does help explain how some black players end up with complexes about the media; he's a kid, give him some space to get his bearings. There are also good examples of the loathesome Bob Raissman making trouble where it doesn't need to be - he wants the broadcasters to discuss a rape charge during a broadcast? There are kids watching! How does nobody get this?
BASEBALL: No More Matsui
I am, unsurprisingly, in favor of the deal that dumped Kaz Matsui on the Rockies for Eli Marrero. Matsui had passed the point at which it was at all realistic to expect him to be a productive regular, and yet as long as he was on the roster the Mets were tempted to give him another shot. Even as late as entering this year, I'd thought that Matsui had a chance to revive offensively with a change of scenery, but I'm skeptical now that even Coors Field can do that. Meanwhile, Marrero isn't anything great, but he's versatile, and given Paul Lo Duca's history of second-half fades, getting a plausible (i.e., not Carlos Delgado) third catcher should help encourage Willie Randolph to use Ramon Castro more.
June 9, 2006
BASEBALL: Caution on Lo Duca
A lot of Mets fans have been won over by Paul Lo Duca, and I can certainly appreciate after wathing him why people love the guy - he's a gritty player with quite a knack for big hits (and looks like the Met most likely to play a henchman on The Sopranos). And given that he's a few years younger than Mike Piazza, he may still end up giving the Mets more production over the long haul, though for now Piazza - playing in baseball's toughest pitcher's park for about a third of Lo Duca's salary - is batting .272/.483/.335 compared to .286/.401/.330 for Lo Duca. (Plus, Lo Duca isn't really much of an improvement over Piazza in terms of throwing arm or foot speed).
Anyway, what fans need to remember about Lo Duca is that June's batting line is unlikely to be where he finishes. Consider something every Rotisserie player knows - Lo Duca is baseball's most notorious second-half fader, as shown by his before/after All-Star Break splits for his five full seasons as a regular and his career:
As you can see, last year was the first time Lo Duca didn't have a dramatic falloff in the second half. It was also, perhaps not coincidentally, a career low in at bats (445, first season below 535 since his rookie year). Randolph has ridden Lo Duca very hard thus far, not giving him a lot of rest - a pace for over 520 at bats at last count, even though Ramon Castro is a perfectly adequate backup, a better defensive player than Lo Duca and not much of a falloff with the bat. I hope Randolph starts to get him some rest soon.
BASEBALL: The Astros' Worst Mistakes, 1991-2006
Every baseball organization has its share of disastrous trades (don't even get Mets fans started on this). But over the past 15 years, few franchises - and still fewer successful franchises - can match the Houston Astros' record for giving away talent for little return. Let's count down the 11 worst personnel moves of Astros history since 1991 in terms of surrendering talent for little or no return; while many of these are more in the category of bad moves in hindsight than just plain stupidity, the fact is there's a lot of lost talent here:
11. November 11, 1994: Astros trade Pete Harnisch to the Mets for Todd Beckerman and Juan Castillo. Harnisch was a highly effective pitcher in 1991 (12-9, 2.70 ERA, 172 K) and 1993 (16-9, 2.98, 185 K), but he had a bad, injury-riddled 1994 and the Astros dumped him and his $3 million salary to the Mets for a couple of nonentities. Harnisch was OK for the Mets in 1995-96, although it wasn't until 1998-99 that he became once again an outstanding pitcher. The deal wasn't indefensible, but it clearly gave away a servicable pitcher for peanuts.
10. October 17, 1997: Let Melvin Mora leave as a minor league free agent; Mora signed with the Mets the following July. Now, Mora was 25 at this point and had been stuck in the minors for seven years without progress, so this wasn't so much a glaring error as "one that got away". But Mora eventually went on to several years of star-caliber play with the Orioles, capped by a 2004 season when he batted .340/.562/.419, drove in 104 runs and placed (18th) in the AL MVP balloting.
9. December 16, 2002: Let Mark Loretta sign as a free agent with the Padres. Loretta, who had made $5 million in 2002, killed the ball in a brief trial with Houston down the stretch, batting .424 and slugging .576. He signed for a bargain price of $1.25 million and proceeded to bat .314 in 2003 and .335 in 2004. This one is ameliorated by the fact that the Astros signed Jeff Kent (for $7.5 million) and gave Morgan Ensberg the third base job, so they would only have had room for Loretta if they'd stretched him defensively at shortstop and benched Adam Everett.
8. December 9, 1997: Let Luis Gonzalez sign as a free agent with the Tigers. Gonzalez had returned to Houston in 1997 after having played there from 1990-95. Behind him was a career as, at best, an average corner outfielder, and one on the downside: he was entering his 30s, coming off batting .258 with 10 homers, and was a career .268/.425/.342 hitter, who wouldn't have cracked the Astros' 1998 outfield of Moises Alou, Carl Everett and Derrek Bell. From 1998 through 2003, though, Gonzo batted .306/.550/.395 and averaged 108 RBI per year, including batting .336 in 1999 and smacking 57 homers in 2001.
Honorable mention goes to the June 28, 1995 deal that sent Gonzalez away the first time along with Scott Servais for Rick Wilkins, who hit just .218 with 7 home runs in an Astros uniform (after a .303 and 30 HR season in 1993).
7. December 2, 1993: Traded Doug Jones and Jeff Juden to the Phillies for Mitch Williams. Jones posted a 1.85 ERA in a career-high 111.2 innings and 36 saves in 1991, his sixth outstanding season in seven years despite a fastball that wouldn't dent bread, but backslid to an unsightly 4.54 ERA (in the Astrodome, in the pre-1994 era) at age 36 in 1993. Juden was still just a raw prospect at that point, 22 years old with 23 career big league IP. The flamethrowing Williams, by contrast, was 29 and had saved 43 games in 1993 before a disastrous postseason capped by the infamous Joe Carter home run that ended the 1993 World Series.
The deal was a train wreck for the Astros. Williams never recovered, walking 24 batters in 20 innings for a 7.65 ERA for the Astros and getting released by Memorial Day; he pitched just 17.2 more innings in the bigs, although the Astros were able to paper over the closer job with youngster Todd Jones and rookie John Hudek. Meanwhile, Doug Jones posted a 2.17 ERA in Philly and saved 27 games that strike-shortened season (Jones would remain inconsistent, having one more great year as a closer at age 40 in 1997 for the Brewers and pitching well as a setup man in Oakland in 1999-2000). Juden also pitched fairly well in 1995 and 1996, but never lived up to his promise and never stayed in one place for long.
The redeeming feature of the Williams deal, besides giving an opportunity to Hudek, was that a week later the Astros dealt Eric Anthony to Seattle for Mike Hampton.
6. August 10, 1995: Traded Phil Nevin to the Tigers for Mike Henneman. The Astros gave up on Nevin, the first pick in the draft in 1992, at age 24 with just 60 major league at bats behind him, trading him to shore up a bullpen weakened by an injury to Hudek. Henneman gave the Astros some decent work (8 saves and a 3.00 ERA) on the way to a second-place finish, one game behind the Rockies for the wild card, but that would be all - he left after the season and retired a year later. Nevin, meanwhile, slugged .533 as a part-timer in 1996 and would, by 1999, develop into an outstanding player.
5. June 25, 1991: Released Mark McLemore. In six major league seasons, the 26-year-old McLemore had batted .225/.289/.295 and not even been a particularly effective (71%) base thief. The Astros cut bait. But Johnny Oates and the Orioles saw something nobody else did, and signed McLemore; by 1993, McLemore batted .284 with a .353 OBP, and after following Oates to Texas he became a perennially productive regular, posting a .360 OBP in nearly 6,000 plate appearances from 1993 to 2004 and retiring only at age 39.
4. December 10, 1991: Kenny Lofton and Dave Rohde to the Indians for Eddie Taubensee and Willie Blair. Now, the real disasters. Lofton immediately set out on a long and productive career that saw him make six All-Star teams and four Gold Gloves, finish as high as fourth in the MVP voting, score 100 runs six times, bat .300 seven times, steal well over 500 bases and keep playing to this day, batting .335 as recently as 2005 at age 38. Taubensee never got his OBP above .300 in two-plus years in Houston, though he would later be a productive player, And Blair pitched poorly and was gone from the Astros in a year.
3. December 13, 1999: Allowed the Marlins to snag the 20-year-old Johan Santana in the Rule V draft, after which the Marlins flipped Santana to the Twins for cash and a minor leaguer. Santana, of course, became an elite pitcher by 2002, won the 2004 AL Cy Young Award, and at 27 is now the best pitcher in baseball. He would have looked very good in last year's Astros rotation.
2. April 2, 1992: Traded Curt Schilling to the Phillies for Jason Grimsley. I'll repeat what I wrote before on this - one of the great underrated terrible trades in recent baseball history is the Astros' decision to trade Schilling straight up for Grimsley. Schilling and Grimsley were both young pitchers trying to establish themselves at this point - Grimsley was 24, Schilling 25 - and both had followed some success as rookies in 1990 (a 3.30 ERA in 57.1 IP as a starter for Grimsley, a 2.54 ERA in 46 IP as a reliever for Schilling) with struggles in 1991 (1-7 with a 4.87 ERA in 61 IP as a starter for Grimsley, a 3.81 ERA in 75.2 IP as a reliever for Schilling). But it should have been obvious at the time not only that Schilling threw harder but that he was closer to breaking through: 103 K and 58 walks for Schilling in 121.2 IP over the previous two years - including 71 K in 75.2 IP in 1991 - compared to an abysmal record of 83 K to 84 walks for Grimsley (and 16 wild pitches) in 118.1 IP. And the results were immediate and dramatic: Schilling posted a 2.35 ERA in 226.1 IP in 1992 for the Phillies - 4th best in the NL - and would pitch a shutout in the World Series by the end of 1993, while Grimsley never pitched a game in an Astros uniform and was released a year later (although he was still pitching until this week).
It's not clear to me, years later, what Houston was thinking; with Pete Harnisch, Darryl Kile, and Butch Henry, Houston had no shortage of young starters, and Schilling had started in the minors. Perhaps Grimsley had options left and Schilling didn't (after all, the deal was April 2)? Either way, the Astros don't get nearly enough grief for this one in the annals of catastrophically bad trades.
1. November 18, 1997: Allowed Bobby Abreu to go to Tampa Bay in the expansion draft (a move only topped in its foolishness by the Rays then flipping Abreu to Philly for Kevin Stocker). Yes, as discussed above in connection with the departure of Luis Gonzalez, the Astros were glutted with outfielders at this point, with the cheap offseason acquisitions of Alou and Carl Everett adding to the incumbents Bell and Gonzalez and prospects like Abreu and Richard Hidalgo. But Abreu's been clearly the best of that group since 1998, and entered this season a lifetime .303/.512/.411 hitter (plus 241 career steals) and a legitimate future Hall of Famer. For which, as with so many on this list, Houston got nothing.
June 7, 2006
BASEBALL: Keith Miller
June 1, 2006
BASEBALL: Buccing Again
The Pirates, living in Royals-land at 14-33 entering their current homestand, have abruptly caught fire, winning 6 of 7 against two pretty good teams (the Astros and Brewers) including a 4-game sweep of Milwaukee, slamming 15 home runs in that stretch and outscoring their opponents 60-25. The red-hot return of Sean Casey from the DL for the Milwaukee series has been crucial, as have been a 6-HR 17-RBI rampage by Jose Castillo (who had just 19 homers his first two seasons in the league) and 4 HR and 11 RBI by Jason Bay. Pittsburgh is still 14.5 games behind the Cardinals and 10.5 behind the wild card-leading Dodgers, so it's not like they'll be in any pennant races this season, but the odds of a historically bad 110-loss type of season have been lowered dramatically.
BASEBALL: Fun Pedro Fact
Pedro Martinez has allowed 22 runs (21 earned) in 75.2 innings this season - of which 14 have come on home runs. Thus, he's allowed just 8 other runs (7 earned) in his 11 starts.
BASEBALL: 1-0 in 13
I was out at Shea last night for yet another Mets classic, as Pedro baffled the Diamondbacks and the unlikely duo of Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez finally broke a 0-0 tie in the 13th. Some thoughts:
*Lastings Milledge looked every inch the talented but raw rookie: a great running catch in right, an amazing throw to cut down a runner at third, a muffed easy fly when he tried a one-handed catch, and a combination of quick hands and a from-the-heels swing that had him out in front of almost every pitch all night. The crowd very badly wanted Milledge to do something good - he got a number of ovations - but he was just too eager.
*On the whole, some incredible defense, particularly by the Mets outfield, with Beltran and Floyd also making a number of tremendous running catches.
*The Mets are now 5-3 in extra innings, a pace to play 25 extra inning games this season. The record is 31 by the 1943 Boston Red Sox, who must have spent a lot of innings wishing Ted Williams wasn't in the Marines.
*When Brandon Webb is in a groove, nothing at all happens. At least Pedro is entertaining, changing speeds like a master puppeteer and notching strikeouts. Webb just puts people down.
*The Mets managed to use only three pitchers; with the overworked Duaner Sanchez throwing three innings, he may not be available Friday even after a day off today, but otherwise the bullpen should be fresh. By contrast, Arizona was down to Jason Grimsley, who I had no idea was still pitching, in the 13th.
*By the way: when did Sanchez start his whole Eric Gagne look - was it only when he got to the Dodgers? He's got the full Gagne look - the build, the goatee, the goggles, the beat-up cap.
*Now that he's reduced to pinch running duties, the Mets should consider whether Kaz Matsui would consent to them selling his contract back to a Japanese team. I doubt you could get anyone to eat his whole salary, but there must be someone who'd pay to get him back in Japan where he was a star.
May 30, 2006
BASEBALL: A Year On
Looking over the batting stats over the past 365 days on Pinto's database, a few random observations:
*Grady Sizemore is not a future star, he's just a star, period. And Travis Hafner is a monster.
*I've got to stop thinking of Michael Young as a guy who had a good year; he's been a tremendous producer for some time now.
*Concerns that the incredibly consistent and productive Bobby Abreu may be slowing down could be well-founded. Abreu's .268 average and 18 homers aren't that impressive, and 11 caught stealings in 36 attempts, and 11 GIDP, are comedowns from his previous levels. Abreu's still a highly valuable player, and this could just be a short-term rut, but like a lot of guys he may be entering the phase where he's not the same bankable superstar year in and out. Ditto Jim Edmonds (.246, 12 GIDP after going almost a year without one).
*Carl Crawford - who's been on fire lately after another slow start - has some serious power potential, given his age and athleticism. (And like super-fast players like Kenny Lofton, Marquis Grissom, Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, and Davey Lopes, Crawford may be a good bet to have a very long career). But Crawford's drawn 29 walks in the past year compared to 40 for Jose Reyes. Until he learns more patience, Crawford won't tap his true power potential. Willy Taveras, meanwhile, may be fast but he has not learned to steal bases.
*Lance Berkman may be baseball's most underappreciated slugger (120 RBI).
*Randy Winn has had a heck of a year, hasn't he?
*I never thought I'd see Craig Biggio end up as a low-OBP slugger at this age: 65 extra base hits compared to 62 times on base by walk or hit by pitch. Then there's 74 extra base hits for Bill Hall.
*Miguel Tejada has become quite the GIDP machine (27 of 'em). Ditto Jason Kendall (25), although Kendall can still get on base (.359).
*Matt Holliday sure has mastered Coors Field (.587 slugging).
*Brian Roberts went back to what he'd been before: a doubles machine. So did Brandon Inge - an easy out (.298 OBP). And Jose Guillen's days as a star appear to have been short-lived.
*Justin Morneau and Dan Johnson have been nothing to write home about - but unlike Johnson, Morneau is lucky not to have any big prospects breathing down his neck.
*Angel Berroa: 14 walks, 104 K. That's what happens to talented young players when they have no reason to learn how baseball games are won.
*Mike Cuddyer: .277/.501/.350, still no regular job.
BASEBALL: The Future Is Now
Well, while I'm feeling pretty good about the Mets banishing Jose Lima, trading Jeremi Gonzalez and bringing up Heath Bell, now comes news that - in response to an appendectomy for the already-ailing Xavier Nady - the Mets are bringing up Lastings Milledge, presumably to play right field regularly until Nady's return and show whether he's ready for prime time. Nady's been productive this season but the Mets shouldn't hesitate to replace him if Milledge shows he's ready.
BASEBALL: Baseball's Best Pitching Teams
Following yesterday's look at the Tigers and how their team ERA stands head and shoulders above the American League, I thought I would take a look - as I did here and here with slugging and OBP - at the all-time great pitching teams in terms of team ERA compared to league ERA (bear in mind these figures do not include any adjustment for home park). I'm not suggesting that, before May is even over, we can project that the Tigers will end up in this group - the contrary is far more likely - but it should help give a sense of the rarefied air they are breathing right now. This list covers major league teams back to 1893, when the mound was moved to its present distance of 60'6".
Three other teams came in at 30% or better - the 1915 Chicago team in the Federal League, the Spahn-led 1953 Milwaukee Braves, and the 1998 Braves. Among the teams just missing the 30% bar were the 1927 Yankees, but they have enough distinctions. I left off the pre-1893 teams because one pitcher could have an outsize influence - George "Grin" Bradley's 1876 St. Louis Cardinals and Old Hoss Radbourn's 1884 Providence Grays both bested the league ERA by more than 80%.
Most of these teams are familiar and unsurprising, some (like the 1912 Giants and 1939 Yankees) are perhaps better known for their superior hitting, some are obscure (the 1919 Cubs had Grover Alexander and Hippo Vaughn; more on that team here, and more on the 1960s White Sox here), and some surprising, like the 1954 Giants and the 1926 A's and perhaps most of all, the 2003 Dodgers, with a rotation including Kaz Ishii, Hideo Nomo, Odalis Perez and a cast of spot starters behind Kevin Brown.
Naturally, the Tinker-Evers-Chance/Three Finger Brown Cubs dominate this list, and Bobby Cox's Braves make a few entries. Interestingly, some of these teams (the 1939 Yankees and 1966 Dodgers in particular) fit a pattern - several straight years of being 15-25% above the league and then a sudden step up with largely the same personnel both in the pitching staff and the defense. Besides random chance and the ability of established staffs to fill their remaining holes, one wonders if a stable relationship between the pitchers and the fielders led to improvements over time.
May 29, 2006
BASEBALL: Big Cats
The 35-15 Detroit Tigers have been baseball's biggest surprise team thus far, burying the more highly-regarded Indians and Twins in a double-digit early hole and even outdistancing the Thome-powered White Sox.
Globally, Jim Leyland of course deserves credit for finally lighting a fire under this long-dormant predator. But how are they doing it? The first and obvious answer would seem to be: pitching. The American League as a whole has an unsightly 4.75 league ERA, which if continued over a full season would be its highest since 2000, and 7th highest of all time:
(Hey, somebody check that DiMaggio kid for steroids!)
Anyway, even in this most inhospitable climate, Tigers pitchers are posting a sparkling 3.36 ERA, running away from the #2 White Sox at 4.13 and the #3 & 4 Yankees and Red Sox at 4.28 and 4.47. But while Detroit has some good young or young-ish arms like Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya, the fact is that most of them are overachieving the ERAs they should have based on their K/BB and HR rates, with the significant exception of Bonderman. Look at the K/9 figures for the rotation: Bonderman's at 7.57, but he's the only one striking out a significant number of batters; the others are at 5.73 for Nate Robertson, 5.24 for Verlander, 4.41 for Kenny Rogers, and 4.12 for Mike Maroth (although they do throw strikes - Robertson's at 3.47 BB/9, but the others are all down between 2.14 and 2.81).
The real answer is defense: both the Hardball Times and the Baseball Prospectus have Detroit rated above the Cardinals as the best defensive team in baseball this season in terms of turning balls in play into outs. As Bill James used to say, "much of what we perceive as pitching is in fact defense." Then again, give the Detroit staff credit for throwing enough strikes to let the fielders do their jobs.
There's also POWER. The Tigers' .336 team OBP is a bit below the league average of .339 (Curtis Granderson's doing his bit and is on pace for 87 walks, but nobody else is on pace to draw 70), but they are slugging .474 as a team; as I discussed here, the all time record is .491 by the 2003 Red Sox, followed by .489 for the 1927 Yankees (the 1953 Dodgers slugged .474). Given the .431 mark for the AL as a whole, that slugging average isn't of historic proportions (in fact, the Blue Jays lead the league at .490) and isn't as impressive as the team's ERA, but it's enough to put plenty of runs on the board even in the absence of a surfeit of baserunners. Detroit has mainly done this with 1977 Red Sox-style depth and Chris Shelton's hot start (Shelton's now at .603 and the rejuvenated Magglio Ordonez, who may earn his big contract if he can stay healthy all this year, at .571, while Marcus Thames steams along at his Toledo pace at .707. But like I said: the bats may be carrying their weight, but it's the gloves that are making the difference.
May 24, 2006
BASEBALL: El Duque de Flushing
Mets trade the expensive, expendable and unreliable Jorge Julio to the Diamondbacks for Orlando Hernandez. El Duque has a 2.65 ERA this year on the road and has struck out 10.25 batters per 9 innings this season, but an 8.16 ERA in home games in hitter-friendly Arizona made him available. I love this deal; Hernandez may not be the most reliable or durable starter, but he came cheap, he's still got good stuff, he's a proven big-game guy, and he can probably be a useful mentor to his countryman Alay Soler.
BASEBALL: On A Roll
Every year, it seems, there's some impatient young hitter who comes hot out of the gate and, instead of cooling off, just keeps getting hotter all summer. This year's model is the Mariners' 22-year-old second baseman, Jose Lopez. Lopez was overmatched at the plate the past two years, batting .239/.373/.272 in 397 at bats, but at his age dramatic improvements are as much the rule as the exception (and he had smacked 32 doubles in those 397 at bats, a good indicator of power potential for a guy that young). Lopez is currently batting .302 and slugging .516, and is on pace for 34 doubles, 17 triples, 24 HR and 131 RBI (while batting second). Yet, his command of the strike zone remains appalling: at this pace he will finish with 17 walks to 86 whiffs. Eventually, that will catch up to him, but it's possible that - like Alfonso Soriano's second season with the Yankees - it won't be this year. If not, enjoy the show.
BASEBALL: Ryan Madson Memorial Open Thread
Really, you can't ask more from a guy than 7 shutout innings of sudden-death relief. But the Phillies asked for one more, and the poor guy gets saddled with the loss.
You also can't very well play more games this dramatic in the season's first two months than the Mets have. Man, have we been treated to some great baseball.
UPDATE: Madson now has a career ERA of 8.16 as a starter, 2.97 as a reliever. I don't suppose he'll ever return to the rotation. Meanwhile, David Pinto notes that the hits keep on coming for the depleted Phillies pitching staff, as Cole Hamels is scratched from today's start in favor of Jon Lieber. Either way, given the state of the two teams' bullpens, Lieber and Alay Soler are both going 6 innings today if it kills them.
May 23, 2006
BASEBALL: Felix Infelicitis
Despite extravagant predictions from some quarters that he would take the AL by storm as Dwight Gooden and Vida Blue did in years gone by, Felix Hernandez has struggled badly, to the tune of a 5.84 ERA. How bad has he really been? The Hardball Times' pitching stats offer a closer look. Hernandez' K numbers have been fine (9.31 K/9), but his walks have been higher than you'd like (3.83 BB/9). He's allowed a ton of homers (1.64 HR/9). His groundball/flyball ratio is good, though not on Lowe/Webb levels, 58.4%, so where are all the homers coming from? 29.2% of his flyballs have left the park, 6 points higher than the next worst in the majors (Brad Radke). Granted, that could partly be a rookie serving too many meatballs, but if he keeps throwing that many grounders, the HR rate will fall. As for balls in play, Hernandez hasn't allowed a particularly high number of line drives, but his defensive support has been appalling, at .646 one of the lowest rates of balls in play turned into outs of any major league pitcher.
Conclusion: yes, Hernandez is struggling with rookie mistakes and control troubles. But all signs still point to a guy who will be a star sooner or later. As long as you didn't overinvest your hopes in young pitcher skipping his growing pains, there's no cause for alarm.
BASEBALL: The New Express
You know, I'm not ready to conclude that Billy Wagner was a bad signing for the Mets, who needed a better closer than Braden Looper. But as I argued last fall, it's now clear that BJ Ryan was a better signing.
BASEBALL: Odd Stat of the Day
Justin Verlander has yet to have a no-decision in his first 11 major league starts. I wonder who was the last pitcher to get through that many starts at the beginning of a career without a no-decision - in fact, these days, a double-figure string of starts without a no-decision is a rarity in itself.
A quick breakdown of homers by age:
One thing you can see is that Bonds picked up a 45-homer advantage - and Aaron, a 90-homer advantage - before age 24, when Ruth became a full-time outfielder. Of course, by then Ruth had an 80-41 record and a 2.09 ERA as a starting pitcher, was 3-0 with an 0.87 ERA in the World Series, and had won three World Championships. Even so, if you look on the age charts, Bonds doesn't even appear in the top 10 in homers through age 35 (Ruth is second, Aaron third, Mays fourth - Sammy Sosa is first and Ken Griffey jr. is fifth).
Anyway, there really isn't much point in baseball making any fuss over 714 or 715. Bonds still won't be the all-time home run king, at 715 he will still be 18 homers from the National League record, and he still isn't a better player than Babe Ruth.
BASEBALL: The Parachute's Not Opening
The (predictable) struggles of Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzales, contrasted with the near-juggernaut the Mets have been thus far when they start their real starters, made me think back to two Mets teams I remember well that had much the same problem: the 1987 and 2000 Mets. Let's compare how each team fared when starting their emergency starters vs. the main rotation - I've included not just W-L and runs scored and allowed per game but also the team's "Pythagorean" record with each set of starters:
The 1987 team was particularly frustrating (the frustration still burns today): this was the defending world champs, and they had seven top-notch starters - behind the front five of Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Sid Fernandez, and Rick Aguilera, they had the rookie David Cone and my all-time favorite Met, Terry Leach, who started 12 games and went 7-1 with a 3.51 ERA as a starter. As you can see, when one of those guys started, the Mets played at a 95-win clip, the same as the division champion Cardinals. But Gooden missed two months in drug rehab, and the others had a series of injuries - Ojeda and Aguilera missed months with arm trouble, Leach had knee problems, Sid wrenched his knee running out a triple, Cone had a finger crushed when he was hit on the hand while bunting, Darling tore up his thumb fielding a Vince Coleman bunt that broke up a no-hitter. In their stead, the Mets gave 19 starts to the resolutely mediocre John Mitchell, and 10 more to a combination of short reliever Jeff Innis, a washed-up John Candelaria, and hopeless cases Don Schulze and Tom Edens. The results were predictably disappointing.
The 2000 team was more a matter, like the current team, of just falling off a cliff after the 5-man rotation. The starters included two aces (Al Leiter and Mike Hampton), two reasonably dependable pitchers (Rick Reed and Glendon Rusch), and the by-then unpredictable Bobby J. Jones (the white, righthanded one), who went 11-6 despite a 5.06 ERA but ended up throwing a 1-hit shutout in the NLDS to eliminate the team with the best record in the National League, Barry Bonds' Giants (Bonds went 0-4 with two whiffs). But beyond there be dragons: Pat Mahomes was an occasionally effective reliever that year, but hideous in five starts, and the other emergency starters - Dennis Springer, Bill Pulsipher, Grant Roberts, and Bobby M Jones (the black, lefthanded one) all got shelled whenever they appeared, albeit not often enough to keep the Mets from the Wild Card.
This year thus far looks like 2000 - even including Victor Zambrano, the front five (featuring Pedro, Glavine, Trachsel and Brian Bannister) has kept the team playing at a 105-win clip, but Jose Lima, Jeremi Gonzalez and John Maine have offered nothing but grief. (I'm not totally down on Maine, but he's clearly not a great option). Lima is gone now, replaced tomorrow night by Cuban defector Alay Soler, who's been tearing up AA. Mike Pelfrey is probably not far behind as a replacement for Gonzalez, and Bannister is expected back soon. Let's hope that's as far down the depth chart as these Mets have to go again.
May 22, 2006
BASEBALL: Less Than 20
Mike Mussina's revival this year could give a shot in the arm to his Hall of Fame candidacy. A fuller assessment of where Mussina stands should await another day (see here for some perspective on his path to 300 wins), but my older brother pointed out something that I should have considered before: Mussina's never won 20 games. As it turns out, there are no starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame who have never had a 20-win season, and none of the active guys who would come up with Mussina (Clemens, Johnson, Maddux, Pedro, Glavine, Schilling) have the same problem, nor do Tommy John (3 20-win seasons), Bert Blyleven (1), Jim Kaat (3), Jack Morris (3) or Luis Tiant (4). The lowest totals of 20-win seasons by starting pitchers in the Hall:
One: Jim Bunning, Don Sutton, and if you count him Dennis Eckersley. Sutton, of course, won 324 games, and Bunning was a bad selection.
Two: Chief Bender, Don Drysdale, Whitey Ford, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Nolan Ryan. Ryan likewise won 324 games, Ford had amazing winning percentages, lost two years to military service and was held back by Casey Stengel's eccentric concept of a starting rotation, and Hoyt, Pennock and probably Drysdale and Bender were bad selections. Bender and Pennock at least were like Mussina in having very good winning percentages, but not in Ford's class. Babe Ruth also won 20 twice, but is, of course, not in as a pitcher.
Three: Jesse Haines, Sandy Koufax, Ted Lyons, Rube Marquard, Phil Niekro, Dazzy Vance. Again, a mix of bad picks, 300+ winners, and guys who had something else unusually impressive on their resume. John Ward also won twenty three times but is partly in as a shortstop and other things.
May 20, 2006
BASEBALL: Enter Sand-Bag-Man
Well, Wagner was even worse today than Rivera yesterday, so maybe this whole "Sandman" thing is jinxing them both . . . frankly, Willie left Wagner in at least one if not two batters two long - there was no need to let him load the bases, then walk in a run, then bean in another run; if they'd lifted Wagner when it was 4-2 and Bernie was coming up, they might have got out of that inning alive. What a horror show. So the Mets win with Jeremi Gonzalez coughing up six runs in three innings, and lose with Pedro tossing seven innings of shutout ball.
May 19, 2006
BASEBALL: Mets-Yankees 5/19/06
Well, the Mets trailed the Hated Yankees 4-3 after the first inning. The question is who should be more depressed: Mets fans watching Jeremi Gonzalez get trotted out and predictably get shelled, or the Yankees watching their #1 starter, Randy Johnson, yet again get lit up, on a day when the Yankes get news that Carl Pavano needs elbow surgery and is likely done attempting to pitch this season.
UPDATE: 5-5 in the third after Xavier Nady takes Johnson deep. Nady was nine years old when Johnson broke in. I've been a big believer in the Big Unit remaining effective with the Yanks, but I'm starting to think he's had it.
May 16, 2006
BASEBALL: Zambrano's End?
Looks like Victor Zambrano's injury could be career-threatening, as his surgery ended up being more extensive than anticipated. I wish Zambrano well, and far from New York and the memories of the Kazmir deal. Still, if this is curtains for Zambrano, let's remember the good stuff: leaving Tampa Bay as the Devil Rays' winningest pitcher, posting a 3.55 ERA in his first 20 starts as a Met, including a 10-start string as one of the most effective starters in the game, and his status as one of baseball's toughest starters to take deep. Zambrano never did have the consistency he needed to be successful, and in retrospect maybe his arm was hurting him much of last year. But it was never his fault who he was traded for.
May 15, 2006
BASEBALL: Snelling Salts
It's a small step, but Mariners fans have to be happy to see perennially injured prospect Chris Snelling playing again at AAA; all indications are that Snelling, who is pretty clearly a major league hitter and - when fully mobile - can play center field, will be up in the majors with a shot at some significant playing time in Seattle's offense-starved lineup once he's had some time to shake off the rust:
Snelling's rehab stint can last up to 30 days before the Mariners have to decide what to do with him. He could join the parent club, or with a final club option he could stay in Tacoma.
May 12, 2006
BASEBALL: No Sheffield, No Matsui
Hideki Matsui joins Gary Sheffield on the DL with a shattered wrist, probably for several months and perhaps for the year. As I noted before the season, the Yankees tried to stem their twin vulnerabilities in the everyday lineup - age and a lack of depth - by loading up on guys who have been insanely durable over the years (Matsui, Sheffield, Damon, Jeter, A-Rod, and - by catcher standards - Posada). But age and freak accidents can spoil that. Now the Yanks have Melky Cabrera and Bubba Crosby holding down outfield corners and a washed-up Bernie as DH. With Randy Johnson shaky and Carl Pavano still out, the Yanks need a powerhouse offense to win; they may not now have one.
May 10, 2006
BASEBALL: The Mets' Rotation
Always Amazin' and MetsGeek both had good roundups Monday of the possibilities for filling the holes in the Mets' rotation left by the injury to Victor Zambrano as well as the short-term injuries to Brian Bannister and John Maine. I had meant to do a longer roundup myself, but life has been intervening lately. Quick thoughts:
*Clearly, Lima Time is not even a short-term answer; Sunday's debacle wasn't entirely Lima's fault, but he's just not a credible major league starter anymore.
*Personally, I favor putting Heilman permanently into the rotation and calling up Heath Bell to shore up the bullpen. So far this season, Bell has a 1.35 ERA and 5 saves at Norfolk, with a 20/3 K/BB ratio and no homers allowed in 13.1 innings. UPDATE: Busy as I am, I missed that the Mets have indeed called up Bell.
*Odalis Perez makes me nervous; I've been a fan in the past, but in 2005-06 he's been beaten up pretty bad.
*Mike Pelfrey seems like he'll be ready quickly, although he's probably not going to be highly effective at the major league level just yet; his numbers between A and AA are very encouraging but not yet quite dominating when you account for the level of competition - 2.56 ERA, 38.2 IP, 40 Hits, 1 HR, 7 BB, 47 K. That says "future star" but it doesn't say "ready to take the NL by storm"; the real question is, does it say "ready to at least equal Victor Zambrano"? I'd guess yes, so if the scouts are agreed, the Mets shouldn't hesitate to bring him to the majors. But I'd be much more hesitant to use him as a starter, as opposed to breaking him in as a reliever - less out of concern for his productivity and more because most guys, in their first year of professional ball, don't have much more than maybe 120 good innings in them. Not only don't you want him hurt, you don't want him running out of gas when you need him most. A bullpen built around Wagner-Sanchez-Bell-Pelfrey-Bradford sounds good to me.
May 8, 2006
BASEBALL: WBC KO
Nate Silver has a must-read column - for Baseball Prospectus subscribers only - on pitchers who pitched in the World Baseball Classic, the bottom line of which is a collective underperformance thus far that's especially pronounced among the starting pitchers. And that's before you count the injuries, the latest of which was Victor Zambrano's elbow. The unanswerable question is whether the pattern will persist all year.
May 6, 2006
BASEBALL: Rally Caps!
I had meant to mention this in my roundup of Friday night's game, but Always Amazin' beats me with a picture of Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen donning rally caps in the broadcast booth in the 13th inning (strangely, Roger McDowell made no effort to do the same down in the Braves' dugout. But I'm still waiting for him to give Bobby Cox a hotfoot.)
BASEBALL: One For The Ages
Tonight's Mets victory - 8-7 over the Braves in 14 innings, opening an 8-game lead over Atlanta - is one of the all-time classics. The Mets rallied from behind four separate times to tie the game, including down 4 runs in the seventh and trailing in the 11th, the latter on a monster home run by Cliff Floyd, the bright spot on a night when the struggling Floyd stranded two men in the 3d and the 8th and stranded the bases loaded in the 13th. Even Jorge Julio got in the act, getting out of a jam in the 14th after Chipper Jones singled to lead off. David Wright - who ended the game by driving in Carlos Beltran with a drive to the wall in left center - and Jose Reyes each reached base safely six times in the game, Reyes getting walked intentionally after starting the game 5-for-5. Beltran's advance to second on a passed ball in the 14th reminded me of Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS, which I recently re-watched part of on DVD; I'd forgotten in that game how many pitches got away from an exhausted Alan Ashby in the late innings.
Yet again, as they have done repeatedly this year, the Mets won precisely the kind of game a championship team wins. They now stand 20-9, and if they remain healthy there's no reason this team can't win the National League pennant.
May 5, 2006
BASEBALL: Is Darren Oliver For Real?
Darren Oliver's ERAs from 1998 through 2004 (he didn't pitch in the majors in 2005): 5.73, 4.26, 7.42, 6.02, 4.66, 5.04, 5.94. Oliver has proven, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he is a bad major league pitcher; this is a fact as well-established as the fact that Albert Pujols is a good major league hitter.
Or is it?
Now, I've been relentlessly critical of the Mets for employing Oliver, but he has pitched quite well thus far this season in relief, which leads me to wonder: is it possible that the Mets are on to something? Noticing some patterns in his numbers, I decided to dig up Oliver's career stats just as a reliever. What I got here, here and here was interesting.
You see, Oliver pitched fairly well, mainly in relief, in 1993 and 1994 at the start of his career. Early in 1995, struggling in the bullpen, Oliver got moved to the rotation and ran off a few respectable starts. After that, he was used exclusively as a starter from 1996 through 2001, with severely diminishing returns. Let's break out his career numbers in relief, in three parts:
Now, even when you take out that disastrous stretch in April-May of 1995, those still aren't earth-shakingly good numbers, with 4.5 walks/9 IP being a particular concern, although the ratio since 2002 has been better than that (2.96 BB/9 and a 2:1 K/BB ratio). But the point is, Oliver over the course of his career has been merely a mediocre reliever, as compared to a really horrible starting pitcher. I'm still deeply skeptical of him (I'd rather have Royce Ring in the lefty role), and will be even moreso if he gets thrown into the rotation at any point, but kudos at least to Minaya and Randolph for putting Oliver into the situation where he has at least a change of succeeding.
May 4, 2006
BASEBALL: Real, Actual, True Fact
Percentage of saves out of save opportunities (regular season) by the Mets' primary closer:
2000: 89% (Benitez)
If you take out his injury-plagued 2000, Wagner has averaged 3.7 blown saves per year since 1998 - against 35 saves a year, a 90% conversion rate - whereas he's blown 3 already this year. Granted, he's mostly pitched well, his blazing fastball hardly inspires Looper-ish levels of anxiety, and most importantly the Mets have bounce back to win two of the three games he's blown, lessening their impact. And granted, there's this. But he's going to have to do better than a 70% conversion rate or people are going to lose patience with him in a hurry.
May 2, 2006
BASEBALL: Roto 2006
In general, there are few things less interesting to most people than hearing about someone else's fantasy baseball team, so feel free to skip over this post. But in the interests both of full disclosure and posterity, I annually review my Rotisserie draft here on the site. Let's start with the main roto team, drafted March 25 - AL league, traditional roto rules (4x4, 12 teams, $260 for 23 slots, 10 reserves):
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The offense on this team has been great so far, and even the slow starters like Dan Johnson are beginning to hit and Corey Patterson's speed has been a big factor lately. I always aspire to have a team full of guys who have regular jobs, and with Cintron subbing for Upton, everyone in the lineup either plays everyday or - in the case of Cintron and Bloomquist - plays regularly enough to contribute. The offense has kept me around the top 3-5 slots in the league the past few weeks, fifth today down from third yesterday. And Choi gives me some depth to weather the inevitable Thomas and/or Nevin injuries, plus Upton and - maybe - Alex Gordon could give me some upside later in the year. I got outbid for a few guys I wanted at 2B, which is how I got the Gruzz, but he should be respectable, at least.
The pitching staff is another story - I always seem to draft at least one key player who gets hurt between draft day and Opening Day, and this year it was Burnett who was complaining about a sore arm right away, followed by Sabathia going down on opening night. Then Riske went out. That meant I had no choice but to rely on my rotation's back end, though by now I've stuck Towers and Affeldt on reserve and cut Wright and Lohse in favor of free agents John Koronka and Jamie Walker. Basically, Lackey and Juan Cruz have been my only effective starters, and that will need to change if I'm going to stay in the hunt. Also, I overpaid for K-Rod, who ended up the draft's most expensive closer while other people snapped up the likes of Chris Ray and Jon Papelbon cheap; I think next year I'm going to avoid $30 closers.
As you will see, I didn't realize how enthused I was about Lackey and Granderson until I ended up with them on all three teams.
Next, we move on to team #2, a 10-team NL/AL head-to-head league, drafted automatically through Yahoo on March 30, 5x5 (Runs and K included) - I ended up with the first pick in this one:
I'm regretting taking A-Rod over Pujols, although I guess if I'd taken Pujols I might not have had room for Shelton. I was amazed at how low I was able to get Beltran and Peralta. Thus far, Shelton and Gomes have been my big bats along with A-Rod. Matsui is much underrated as a Roto player; the guy never takes a day off and always bats with men on base.
I've already tinkered with this team a good deal, dumping Uribe in favor of Ian Kinsler (who got hurt thereafter, so I added JJ Hardy while Kinsler is DL'd), Wilkerson in favor of Fernando Rodney and now Blanton in favor of Noah Lowry, who should be back next week. Team is presently in second place.
Normally I only do those two teams, but this year for fun I decided to take the same Yahoo pre-draft rankings and enter them in a public league, same rules except 12 teams and fewer non-pitching roster spots:
Unsurprisingly, this team looks a bit like the last one, but I was astounded by how strong my rotation was - Santana, Peavy, Zambrano, Hernandez and Lackey? - I guess the guys in this league just didn't rate starters that highly. Fat lot of good it's done me, given how badly they've all started besides Lackey. This one I've tinkered with quite a lot, cutting Hudson, Hermida, Uribe, Heilman, Wilkerson and most recently Iguchi (who is playing well but doesn't run as much as Weeks - I could regret that move) in favor of Rodney, Lowry, Coco Crisp, Hanley Ramirez, Nick Johnson, Orlando Cabrera and Brian McCann (I can't quite bring myself to cut Piazza, but I did finally bench him). Team currently stands in fourth place.
« Close It
May 1, 2006
BASEBALL: Pick Your Poison
So, if you think teams shouldn't pitch to Barry Bonds with the game on the line, why are they still pitching to David Ortiz with the game on the line?
(And, for that matter - if you think teams shouldn't pitch to Barry Bonds at all, why are they still pitching to Albert Pujols at all?)
BASEBALL: One of These Things Is Not Like The Others
BASEBALL: Thames and the Tyne
Through yesterday's action, Marcus Thames - subbing for the injured-again Dmitri Young - is batting .289/.632/.357, with 4 homers in 38 at bats. Those kind of slugging numbers are nothing new for the 29-year-old Thames - here are his totals at AAA and in the majors since 2004 (minor league stats via The Baseball Cube):
As to his numbers at Toledo - Wow. And remember, this is the International League, not the high-altitude Pacific Coast League. If you can slug .707 there in almost 500 at bats, even as a 28-year-old, you can hit. Unsurprisingly, Thames has carried that slugging to the majors, slugging close to .500, but it's his plate discipline that's been more lacking against major league pitchers. I'm not suggesting Thames would be a star if he got a longer big-league trial, but Dmitri Young has batted .270/.467/.327 over the same three-year period, and Young makes a lot more money than Thames does; I have little doubt that Thames could easily replace the production the Tigers are getting from Young.
More baseball notes from the weekend:
*Speaking of the Tigers, as I mentioned in my preseason preview, although they are off to a good start, they remain a better source of Rotisserie players than real baseball - they have seven guys on pace for between 577 and 629 at bats and between 156 and 194 hits. And four of their five starters have ERAs of 3.77 or lower, with the fifth at 5.04; Jim Leyland has clearly taken the old-manager tack of setting an ironclad rotation and lineup and sticking with it, and thus far it's working out well.
*Time to send Jorge Julio back to Norfolk, not that it wasn't three weeks ago; not only did Julio predictably implode when put into a 2-run game against Atlanta, he helped add to a great, confidence-building day for struggling Braves slugger Jeff Francouer. Until Julio can prove he can blow away AAA hitters, he has no business in the majors. As for the Mets, 2 out of 3 in Atlanta isn't bad, but the key is doing it again this weekend, after which they will see the Braves for only three games until September.
*The Yankees put on quite the show Saturday, scoring in each of the 8 innings they batted; I'm no expert on the code of ballplayers, but I have to think that Toronto wasn't thrilled with Johnny Damon taking an extra base (i.e., scrambling all the way from home to second) on a dropped infield popup in the 8th inning with a 16-6 lead. Joe Torre was properly impressed with Damon's hustle, but that's the kind of thing that sometimes rubs people the wrong way in a blowout.
April 29, 2006
BASEBALL: Killing the King, Part II
As I noted before the last Mets-Braves series, if you shoot at the king, you better kill him. Last time, the Mets got a good first right to the Braves' jaw, and then got the beating you get when you don't knock out the bully on the first shot.
They're learning; tonight, they took the second straight against Atlanta in Turner Field, stretching their division lead to 7 games, still longer than it was at this time in 1986. They face off again tomorrow and for another three games next weekend. The time to go for the jugular and put Atlanta in a hole it hasn't seen since 1993 is now.
April 27, 2006
If there's a #1 reason to be skeptical about the Indians this year, it's that in 2005 they had three seriously subpar offensive players at positions that should have produced a lot of runs - Ben Broussard at first base, Casey Blake in right field, and Aaron Boone at third base - and haven't replaced any of them. I noted this in my AL Central preview.
Through tonight's 8-RBI rampage by Broussard, however, the two of the three who had hit well in 2004 - Broussard and Blake - were off to a torrid start, .407/.661/.444 for Broussard, .351/.527/.429 for Blake. That could be a good sign - these guys aren't old, so they do still have the possibility of running off a year like 2004 again, and if they do that, the Cleveland lineup gets pretty scary. Plus, if one of them had to struggle out of the gate, best it be Boone, since in Andy Marte they already have an upgrade waiting in the wings. Of course, not everyone else in the Indians lineup is killing the ball yet - Ronnie Belliard's been mediocre, and Jhonny Peralta and Jason Michaels are way off their previous paces. And it's early yet; those hot starts could become a millstone if Broussard and Blake sink back to last year's level in slow stages until it's too late to do anything about them. But for now, it's an encouraging start.
BASEBALL: Still Streakin'
April 26, 2006
BASEBALL: Everybody Wang-McClung Tonight
I'm sorry, the pun on the pitching matchup for tonight's Yankees-Rays game was just too good to pass up.
While we're in the 80s I'll throw in something I noticed over the weekend but can't be the first one to comment on - doesn't Khalil Greene look like he should be ordering a pizza in Mr. Hand's class?
BASEBALL: I Hate Barry Bonds
I really hate Barry Bonds. Well, Bonds' game-tying, ninth-inning three-run homer off Billy Wagner pretty well answers why people still pitch around him in that situation. Though I still think there are too many situations where he gets walked.
UPDATE: Adding insult to injury, Armando Benitez gets out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th.
SECOND UPDATE: Mets rally in the 11th and win! This is exactly the kind of game championship teams win, coming back after blowing a 3-run lead on the road on an error (by Wright) and a bomb in the ninth. Bonds flies out against Darren Oliver to end it.
Mike Piazza has hit his 400th home run, the first catcher ever to do that. (Yes, I know he didn't hit all 400 as a catcher). Congratulations.
April 25, 2006
BASEBALL: Mad About Maddux
MetsBlog repeats a thinly-sourced rumor that the Mets might be interested in Greg Maddux, whose contract is up at the end of this year. I was actually thinking before the season that Maddux might be a good target - given his age and slowly declining performance, he seemed like a potential cheap acquisition who could shore up the back end of the rotation, never gets hurt, throws strikes, and would benefit from getting out of Wrigley. And I'd still be interested in getting him cheap, with cheap being defined to include people like Zambrano or maybe even Victor Diaz, who I like but is certainly expendable. The problems:
1. Now that Maddux has a 0.99 ERA, he won't be cheap and will probably attract other bidders.
2. No, it's not a good idea to trade real, substantial prospects for a 40-year-old control pitcher in his walk year.
3. You won't get Maddux from the Cubs, who are painfully short on starting pitching, unless and until they are out of the race.
If the Cubs fall out of contention I do expect there to be bidding for Maddux, but the Mets should continue to regard him mainly as a potential bargain, and avoid him if he gets out of that price range.
BASEBALL: Run, Don't Walk
The Mets this season have drawn 48 walks in 652 at bats, tied with the Cubs for last in the NL and ahead of only the Blue Jays, Royals and Angels. The chief culprits are the middle infielders and the right fielders: Jose Reyes has drawn 5 walks in 82 at bats for a .276 OBP in the leadoff role, Xavier Nady and Victor Diaz have drawn 3 walks in 82 at bats, and Anderson Hernandez, Kaz Matsui, Chris Woodward and the re-animated corpse of Jose Valentin have drawn a combined 1 walk in 99 at bats, for a .282 OBP. Cliff Floyd and Paul LoDuca haven't helped, drawing a combined 9 walks in 116 at bats, nor has the injury to Carlos Beltran helped; Beltran was leading the team with 10 walks, but Endy Chavez has drawn just 2 in 32 at bats. It's more forgivable for a hot hitter to be more aggressive, as has been true of Nady as well as David Wright and Carlos Delgado, who have both been drawing fewer walks than their usual share. But unless this team learns to take free passes, the offense is yet again going to sputter for lack of baserunners.
April 24, 2006
BASEBALL: Off To The Races
Offense is definitely up, at least in the AL, where the league ERA is 4.91. I looked at the Hardball Times' ranking of AL pitchers by "xFIP," a defense-independent pitching metric that basically looks at a pitcher's expected ERA based on K, BB, groundball/flyball ratio and percentage of batted balls that are line drives. Among pitchers who would qualify for the ERA title, only two AL pitchers - even this early in the season when sample sizes are small and fluke performances are still the rule - have an xFIP below 4.24, those being Roy Halladay and the apparently struggling Felix Hernandez, with Chien-Ming Wang ranking third. (The NL, by contrast, has nine guys below 4.00). Note also that Brian Bannister's xFIP is 6.90, an indication - as if one were needed - that Bannister's run of success isn't going to last very long if he keeps walking more guys than he strikes out and keeps pitching with the bases loaded.
BASEBALL: Sang Hoon Lee, Rock Star
BASEBALL: Similar But Different
Player A: Babe Ruth, age 40. Player B: Barry Bonds, age 40-41 combined. Bonds has a bit more left in his gas tank after the injuries than Ruth did, and he may yet show us he has a lot more. But for now he does look to be at a similar stage in his career in terms of the decay in his legs. Most of the power numbers from that line are last season (he just homered for the first time this weekend) - if Bonds doesn't start showing that same power this season, eventually people will start pitching to him again.
BASEBALL: Now That's A Slump
Entering Saturday's action, Oakland first baseman Dan Johnson was batting .146 in 144 at bats dating back to August 31 - only one player in baseball, Pedro Feliz, was within 50 points of Johnson on that score in 150 or more plate appearances. Johnson rapped out three hits on Saturday before hanging another oh-fer on Sunday; it remains to be seen whether he can pull out of the slump in time to save his job. The A's are patient, but there are limits even to their patience.
April 21, 2006
BASEBALL: 2006 NL Central EWSL Report
Yes, as always, the six-team NL Central is last in line in my division-by-division previews using Established Win Shares Levels; having just put the finishing touches on this one, I should finally have a little more flexibility back in the blog.
EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2006 revisions to the age adjustment are discussed 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 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 are in my AL East preview here.
St. Louis Cardinals
Raw EWSL: 239.67 (80 W)
Larry Bigbie, originally part of the outfield mix, is still injured. Overall, the Cards are a lot less fearsome than they were a year or two ago, with holes having sprung in the lineup at several points (outfield corners, second base, catcher) and continuing question marks on the health of Scott Rolen (who looks 100% so far this year, in which case he'll easily bypass his EWSL of 15) and the age of Jim Edmonds. Chris Carpenter, like Rolen, will likely exceed his established level if he breaks with his history and manages another full healthy season. Pujols remains this team's backbone, but the more the Cards are Pujols rather than Pujols-Edmonds-Rolen, the more trouble they'll be in.
One of the imponderables in