Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
April 30, 2009
LAW: Not Precisely An Excuse

This is certainly an entertainingly straightforward case for avoiding jury duty, but not the most persuasive one. Well, until you consider whether you'd want this guy on your jury.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:54 PM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
April 28, 2009
BASEBALL: Being There Is Not Enough

I probably can't summarize the Mets' frustrations this season better than these two facts:

1. The Mets have a team OBP of .362. (The club record is .361 in 1999, the only Mets team above .346).

2. The Mets are 7th in the National League in runs scored.

Partly that reflects more GIDP than usual, but mostly it reflects a combination of very high-scoring conditions and poor hitting with men on base, especially for power.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:55 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Slash and Burn

Jay Cost on Obama's harshly partisan rhetoric:

One reason that I was so interested in candidate Obama in 2007 was that he seemed to have the same broad orientation to politics as I do. The world is a harsh, complicated place in which to live. Ultimately, we're going to have different views on what to do. But politics isn't like math, where there is some unequivocal answer waiting at the bottom of a proof. It's hazy and uncertain. Our policy proposals are more like stabs in the dark than geometric theorems. So ultimately, we should accept as fact that others will disagree - and we should respect those who disagree with us, above all assuming that they're acting in good faith.

In 2007, I thought this is how the President thought about things, too. It has become increasingly clear to me, however, that either he doesn't, or his inner circle doesn't.

(H/T) It's been grimly amusing watching people on the center-right who bought into this notion of Obama one by one waking up to the realization that he is, in fact, the most archly partisan president since LBJ, a man who is unceasing in his attacks on his predecessor (who remains, as always, too classy for his own good and accordingly unwilling to respond) and all too fond of personal attacks on his critics as well as the kind of rhetoric Cost addresses.

Obama still retains the personal popularity that comes with the political honeymoon - how much, depends on how you read the polls, which can vary - but at the end of the day, his policies are going to be less so. If you would be happy with Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank or Charlie Rangel as president, you will of course be happy with Obama, and if you wouldn't, sooner or later you won't be happy with him. Obama, of course, is gambling that he can restructure the American electorate and electoral system into one that is more supportive of that faction of his party before we get there, and a soon-to-be-60 vote Senate majority gets him closer to that goal. The only issues will be whether he can succeed in that race against time, and how long it takes for the rest of the electorate to start identifying Obama with his policies.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:13 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
April 27, 2009
WAR/POLITICS: The Inverted Conscience of Barack Obama

Obama's Moral Bearings

Next time the United States captures some hardened, mass-murdering terrorists, the CIA should tell President Obama that we captured some unborn children, and he'll let them do whatever they want.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:57 PM | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (42) | TrackBack (0)
April 26, 2009
BASEBALL: Zack Attack!

Every season, baseball brings us something at least slightly new. Zack Greinke has struck out at least 7 batters without allowing an earned run in each of his first four starts (no runs at all in the first three). Nobody has started the season with more than two such starts dating back to 1954 (as far back as's database goes). Here's how Greinke's first four starts stack up to some classic seasons past:

Zack Greinke20094-
Cliff Lee20084-
Pedro Martinez20004-028.11.595.400.641.5912.71
Greg Maddux19943-
Dwight Gooden19852-130.01.505.100.302.407.80
Fernando Valenzuela19814-
Bob Gibson19681-130.01.977.500.601.805.40

(If you're wondering, Gibson went on to throw 23 innings in his next two starts).

This isn't a scientific sample, and four starts do not a season make - but this is one heck of a start to a season, and it's gaudy enough to raise a real possibility that Greinke has broken the barrier between promising and dominating.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:58 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 24, 2009
LAW: Unpublished Law

In the process of declining to revisit a prior opinion after the Ninth Circuit (in a decision called McCoy) created a Circuit split by disagreeing with the Seventh Circuit, Judge Frank Easterbrook hits one of my pet peeves - unpublished opinions on unsettled questions of law, and the courts that ignore them:

Before McCoy issued, every federal judge (trial or appellate) who had analyzed this subject had concluded that [Section] 226.9(c) requires notice of a change in contractual terms, but not of a lender's decision to invoke its rights under terms already in the contract....It takes more than a vague regulation plus cloudy commentary to displace a contract.

One of the courts that had reached this conclusion was - the ninth circuit. Evans v. Chase Bank USA, N.A., 267 Fed. App'x 692 (9th Cir. 2008). True, Evans is a nonprecedential decision, see Fed. R. App. P. 32.1, and therefore did not bind the panel in McCoy. But nonprecedential decisions should be used only when the
legal issue is clear enough that all reasonable judges will come out the same way
. The panel in Evans must think that the result of the panel in McCoy is unreasonable. What’s more, there was a persuasive dissent in McCoy written, as it happens, by a judge of this circuit sitting by designation. McCoy, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 5380 at *25–*46 (Cudahy, J., dissenting). If there is a conflict in need of resolution, it is among judges of the ninth circuit rather than between the seventh and the ninth.

This goes to the heart of the unpublished-opinion issue. Nobody disputes that, with the volume of appeals ever increasing, federal appellate courts may sometimes write abbreviated dispositions of routine cases without producing a full opinion suitable for publication in the Federal Reporter - opinions that provide just enough reasoning to explain to the parties that their arguments were heard and understood and why the court ruled as it did, but without requiring the court to concern itself with how the opinion will be read as a guide to future cases. But in a common law system, the emphasis must be on routine - like the scores of repetitive immigration, pro se cases and prisoner appeals that constitute the biggest chunk of the volume of the docket and that often presents no serious legal controversy. But if a court is grappling with the application of law to fact in a way that is frequently litigated in the lower courts, and still moreso if it is addressing a question on which courts have divided or the courts of that Circuit have yet to definitively rule, it is no excuse to say, in essence, 'we decide this case without deciding the rule' if the rule governs that case. Instead, my sense from seeing this arise with increasing frequency is that courts are disposing of more and more appeals raising serious, contested questions of law, sometimes on issues that have divided districts or circuits, and marking them unpublished. The result is bad for the administration of law and justice because it ignores the primary function of appellate courts: to say what the law is for the purpose of settling legal questions so that trial courts can focus to the greatest extent possible on the facts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:33 AM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Megan McArdle on fair pay. Some of her best work.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:31 AM | Business • | Politics 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
April 23, 2009
BASEBALL: Must Not Be In The Front Row!

The NY Times looks at a trend that speaks to the Mets' and Yankees' mispricing of seats at their new stadiums, and maybe more metaphorically to the state of the NY City economy: fans buying the cheap seats while the best seats in the house are empty.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:03 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Education in Pettiness

Lileks has a first-person look at educational bureaucracy in action:

The impact...was like a comet on a town that makes china and cymbals: all the moms at the bus stop today expressed a unanimous desire to remove their children from the system.

Attention, Mayor! Hello, School Board! Here's your people - they all vote the way you want, they all queue at the polls to pass whatever bills you want, they all support the public schools - and in one stroke, you added to the suspicions caused by the realignment process and turned everyone against you.

To which the school board might well conclude: fine. Take your kids. We'll keep your money. And when the test scores go down? Proof more money is needed.

They can't lose. They made the system, after all.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:17 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Wired To Be Deceived

Wired has a fascinating look, with the help of Penn and Teller, at how magic works on our brains. H/T

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:15 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: Nancy Pelosi Was Briefed On Waterboarding But Didn't Inhale

One of the occupational hazards of partisan politics is attacking the other side for something people on your own side knew about or participated in. Of course, that's politics; but it becomes a serious problem when you raise the rhetorical temperature to the point of calling your political opponents war criminals ... and it turns out your own people knew about the "war crimes" and didn't see anything wrong with them at the time, or at least didn't act as if they did. It's a pretty clear sign that they don't believe it now, either - but try telling that to the people who have bought the "war criminal" bill of goods and now find out that you did what they consider the equivalent of sitting in camp construction meetings with Himmler and not making a peep.

So we find that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, despite her angry denials, has to face up to having been briefed back in 2002 on the CIA's 'enhanced' coercive interrogation techniques:

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

Pelosi's laughable defense is now to admit that she was briefed on the Bush Administration having obtained Office of Legal Counsel memos on waterboarding but she thought they got those memos but didn't actually intend to use them:

Pelosi denied these claims. "We were not -- I repeat -- were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used. What they did tell us is that they had . . . the Office of Legal Counsel opinions [and] that they could be used, but not that they would," she said.

She said some officials, such as Goss, who went on to become CIA director, argued the lawmakers should have known the waterboarding would be used because they were told it was a legal practice. But she said they had no way of knowing that for certain...

Yes, I guess George W. Bush was ordering up OLC memos as an intellectual exercise, so he could kick back and read some dense legal reasoning to unwind at the end of a long day of not using the anti-terrorism tools at his disposal on captured Al Qaeda leaders. That's credible, right?

Pelosi's other tactic is to claim that she was sworn to secrecy so she couldn't do anything anyway:

[T]hey were then forbidden from talking about what they had learned so they could not work to outlaw the practice.

She summed up the briefings this way: "This is what they're doing. That's all they do. They don't come in to consult. They come in to notify. They come in to notify. And you can't -- you can't change what they're doing unless you can act as a committee or as a class. You can't change what they're doing."

Uh, didn't she just say they were briefing her on what they were not doing?

Now, when Congressional leaders are sworn to secrecy for national security purposes, they better have a very good reason for breaking that pledge. But when they learn about something that the Executive Branch is doing, claims is legal but ought to be made explicitly illegal, can the Speaker of the House be powerless to introduce legislation stopping it? Is our Congress that powerless if it thinks that tyranny or torture is actually afoot? As it happens, the Framers of the Constitution, being far wiser and more courageous than Nancy Pelosi, already thought of this problem and thoughtfully even gave her explicit instructions that in such a situation she could speak out without fear of prosecution. It's right there in Article I of the Constitution (Joe Biden, if you're reading this - that's the one that deals with Congress):

Section 6. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

Under the Speech and Debate Clause, if Speaker Pelosi was told that the Executive Branch was committing war crimes, she has an absolute constitutional privilege to speak about that on the floor of the House, as well as to introduce legislation to stop it.

Unless, of course, it wasn't really a war crime at all. Unless, of course, it would have been too politically risky in 2002 to come out against a hard line on interrogation of terrorists.

There is deep foolishness of many kinds in the desire to criminalize the Bush Administration's efforts to protect the nation. The more Speaker Pelosi and her party insist that waterboarding is a war crime, the more they have to distort the evidence to fit their narrative, the harder it is to justify their own acquiescence, their actions that spoke louder than words when they learned what was being done to keep the nation safe. And the harder it will be for those who watched them nod their heads one day and turn Inquisitor the next to do their jobs with the same zeal. Back when the real Nazis stalked the land, there were indeed people who sat down and tried to do business with them, and they almost brought the West to ruin; but even in the direst and darkest hour, when he had been called upon to replace those people after years of enduring their mockery, Winston Churchill gave a warning that today's Democrats would have been wiser to heed:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:16 PM | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
April 22, 2009
LAW/POLITICS: Uh, Pandora, Shut That Lid...

Christopher Badeaux continues his look at the dangers unleashed by threatening to impeach a federal judge over legal advice given prior to taking the bench. As he notes, Democrats proposing these sorts of things plainly are not planning for the possibility that Republicans might ever retake control of any branch of government.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:29 AM | Law 2009-14 • | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
April 21, 2009
BASEBALL: Murphy's Law

Tonight's Mets loss came from a variety of factors. One, Carlos Beltran failed to slide when he really needed to when attempting to score after going from second to third on a fly ball. Two, Oliver Perez couldn't find home plate with a lead.

And three, tonight was yet another reminder that Daniel Murphy is not a major league outfielder, as he fell down while misjudging a catchable fly ball off the bat of Brendan Ryan that ended up as a triple and the winning run.

Murphy's a major league hitter, but as yet there's no reason to think he's the kind of offensive one-man wrecking crew that can justify an iron glove in left field (see: Ramirez, Manny). He's more of a Ty Wigginton or Melvin Mora type of hitter, a tweener who is only as good as the defensive positions he can handle. And right now, he's not even adequate at a position on the far left end of the defensive spectrum.

Also, neither here nor there, I was playing "who looks like who" tonight...doesn't Pedro Feliciano remind you of David Paterson? Partly it's superficial - they're both light-skinned black men with sketchy beards - but they also share a certain Will Ferrell-ish set of the jaw to complete the picture. A similar and totally unrelated thought: Johan Santana reminds me of Mike Hampton, with his small jaw and semi-pointed 1930s movie-villian goatee.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:09 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Barack Obama Thinks You Can't Count
[W]hat I've proposed, you'll hear Sen. McCain say, well, he's proposing a whole bunch of new spending, but actually I'm cutting more than I'm spending so that it will be a net spending cut.

-Barack Obama, Second Presidential Debate, October 7, 2008.

OBAMA: ...[W]hat I've done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut. I haven't made a promise about...

SCHIEFFER: But you're going to have to cut some of these programs, certainly.

OBAMA: Absolutely. So let me get to that. What I want to emphasize, though, is that I have been a strong proponent of pay-as- you-go. Every dollar that I've proposed, I've proposed an additional cut so that it matches.

-Barack Obama, Third Presidential Debate, October 15, 2008.

If ever a public policy proposal deserved universal ridicule, it has to be President Obama's effort to convince the public that [cue Dr. Evil voice] 100 million dollars in spending cuts are a significant dent in federal spending. Since Obama looked the nation in the eye and made that read-my-lips promise of a net spending cut in those two debates, we have sat and watched as he signed into law a colossal $787 billion 'stimulus' bill, proposed a $634 billion fund to begin offsetting the projected trillion-dollar cost of his health care plans, and unveiled a $3.6 trillion budget that's projected to consume 26% of GDP, the biggest share for federal spending since World War II (it hasn't been above 21% since the last budget before the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994).

Francis Cianfrocca notes the puny relative size of this proposal:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: The Other Half of the Story

Drew M at Ace notes that Dick Cheney's demand that the Obama Administration release all intelligence gathered from the interrogation techniques detailed in the memos it recently released places Obama in a bind:

Will Obama do it and risk people thinking, "maybe this wasn't such a bad idea after all". If they don't do it, then the argument becomes, "there must be something so valuable they can't talk about it". Which again means, it worked.

(H/T) If critics of coercive interrogation were honest, of course, they'd welcome the release and the chance to argue that even interrogation methods that get results are not worth the moral lines we have to cross to get there. And in fact, many of us on the conservative side would agree with that in principle; we just disagree on where you draw the line that says that certain forms of coercion constitute torture, and think that, for example, exposing a man to a caterpillar or bouncing him off a fake flexible wall doesn't get there.

But of course, most of the voices shrieking "torture" not only refuse to define where they draw the line - and denounce anyone who tries, to the point of cheering on prosecutions of lawyers for making the effort - but insist on living in a fantasy world where there are never any tradeoffs. They look at interrogators saying that less coercive methods of questioning are often the best (true), and that individuals acting under coercion or torture may provide false information (also true, but of course true as well of any method of interrogating terrorists or criminals) and conclude from this that coercive techniques never, ever work, never, ever provide useful information, and are always the least effective method.

It's the cheap, easy way out of a moral debate as old as war itself. Now, if there really is intelligence that's still too valuable to disclose, just say that and I won't question it; but otherwise, if you are going to argue that coercive interrogation is 100% ineffective, you should not fear disclosure of its fruits.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:33 PM | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (27) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: You Know What We Needed? More, Cheaper Subprime Loans! And Maybe Cheaper Hookers, Too.

So, Ezra Klein wants Eliot Spitzer back in public life, and argues that New Yorkers should take him back just like his wife did, and presumably for the same reasons. This is part of Spitzer's rehab tour (more here and here). But Klein has picked the wrong man, and for the wrong reasons.

First of all, Spitzer should never be entrusted with any sort of executive authority ever again. The reasons for this are too numerous to recount here, but let's start with the obvious: the man held the State's top two law enforcement positions (Attorney General and Governor) while pursuing a lengthy and illegal prostitution habit, which he surrendered (so far as we know) only when exposed by a federal investigation. Yes, some politicians have survived hookers and other sex-and-crime scandals before: Barney Frank is still in Congress two decades after paying for an affair with a prostitute who operated a brothel out of Frank's apartment; David Vitter is running for re-election in the Senate after being exposed as a former client of the DC Madam; Gerry Studds kept a commitee chairmanship in the House after an affair with an underage Congressional page; Ted Kennedy is still in the Senate four decades after leaving a woman to drown in his car, an event that in a just world would have resulted in a charge of second-degree murder. But bad as our tolerance for such scandals in legislators may be, they are another thing entirely when you are talking about a man who was charged not only with casting votes and writing laws but with taking care that the laws be faithfully, fairly and uniformly enforced while he was creeping around choking hookers.

It should also not be forgotten that fair and reasonable law enforcement was never Spitzer's thing. Before the hooker scandal broke, he was already mired in investigations over improper use of state troopers to dig up dirt on political foes. He pursued a thuggish investigation designed to intimidate crisis pregnancy centers while giving a pass to abortion clinics. He forced out the successful management of AIG over charges that seem terribly penny-ante compared to what happened afterwards, and pursued a petty and ultimately unsuccessful vendetta against former NYSE chairman Dick Grasso. He tried to issue drivers' licenses to illegal aliens, and while he was going after New York's leading industries, his parole board dramatically increased the number of violent felons it let back on the streets; Spitzer never had much interest in violent crime. His signature move was applying vague laws to conduct they'd never been extended to; over and over again, he prosecuted things people had done that they'd never thought illegal. His targets, when they fought him in court, often won, a reflection of the weakness of his cases on the merits; Spitzer's MO depended on suing businesses who couldn't afford the consequences of an ongoing government campaign against them and had to settle rather than fight. Oh, and let's also not forget, as we watch New York suffer under the bumbling regime of David Paterson (who even Klein admits is a "disaster"), that Spitzer was the guy who picked Paterson (already known for such lunacy as his 'shoot to wound' bill) to take over in case Spitzer had to resign, at the same time that Spitzer was engaging in the pattern of criminal activity that forced him to do just that.

All that aside, let's look at the Spitzer article from 2004 that has Klein swooning about "pretty prescient stuff":

Unfortunately, our belief in the importance of equal opportunity and nondiscrimination is too often forgotten when it comes to the debate over whether and how to police the market for home mortgages. In poor and working-class communities across the nation, predatory mortgage lending has become a new scourge. Predatory lending is the practice of imposing inflated interest rates, fees, charges, and other onerous terms on home mortgage loans -- not because the imperatives of the market require them, but because the lender has found a way to get away with them. These loans (which are often sold as refinance or home improvement mechanisms) are foisted on borrowers who have no realistic ability to repay them and who face the loss of their hard-won home equity when the all-but-inevitable default and foreclosure occurs. When lenders systematically target certain low-income communities for loans of this sort, as they often do, the result is more insidious. Costs are imposed and burdens inflicted in a manner and to a degree that is discriminatory by race.

On the surface, predatory lenders are doing nothing more than seizing a "market opportunity" for refinancing or home-improvement loans in lower-income communities. To be sure, such communities desperately need credit. And it stands to reason that the prices and terms will be less favorable to borrowers whose financial circumstances are troubled or limited. In this sense, predatory loans are the natural outcome of a competitive market.[...]

[But] it is difficult to imagine a less rational, less efficient economic practice than lending of this sort. At the micro-level, it results in a gross misallocation of costs-- imposing higher costs than the market requires on those least able to bear them. At the macro-level, it denies lower-cost capital to whole classes of persons who would otherwise qualify for it and to neighborhoods whose economic vitality depends on it.

In these circumstances, government must step in to curb predatory lending and encourage the flow of fairly priced capital to sectors where it is needed and will be well-used.

Leave aside Spitzer saying that the problem with the market is that it charges more than the market requires, which is nonsense by definition in the absence of a cartel (nobody claims that the chaotic mortgage market was a cartel at the retail level; the only place where the market narrowed to a few players was at the GSE level). The critical point here is that Spitzer never argued that the borrowers he discussed should not be given loans at all; to the contrary, his reference to "lower-cost capital" makes clear that he felt that the problem was that lenders were pricing loans too high. But if lenders had made the same loans at lower rates, they'd have been in even worse shape than they are now, with less return on their investments to cover the same default rates. Spitzer's simplistic thinking seems to be that the only reason why subprime borrowers would end up defaulting was because they were paying too much in fees - it never occurred to him that the problem was underpriced credit for overpriced real estate investments by people with insufficient credit, whether they be people who should never have been given a mortgage to higher-end borrowers who were given one too big for their means. In short, Spitzer got the problem precisely backward - and worse yet, Ezra Klein, writing with the benefit of hindsight, still thinks this is profound.

No thanks.

UPDATE: I see Mickey Kaus beat me to making some of the same points about Klein and that Spitzer quote.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Business • | Politics 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
SPORTS/WAR: Carrying The Weight

Now this is impressive.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Other Sports • | War 2007-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
April 20, 2009

Some heads-up work by the Mets signing Wily Mo Pena to a minor league deal. Obviously, guys who get cut by the Nationals are not as a general matter the best investments, and Pena's .205/.243/.267 line last season was pretty horrific. Still, Pena is 27 years old, he slugged .504 over a three year period from 2004-06, and he's righthanded and has a career batting line of .277/.339/.457 against lefthanded pitching; for your cheap outfield pickups, at least that gives him some specific skills to fall back on, and if he starts hitting again he'd be a logical guy to step up if a replacement is needed for Sheffield or Tatis. (Interestingly, Pena for his career has a slightly higher slugging percentage on the road despite playing in Boston and Cinicnnati, but has a career batting average 15 points higher at home and a career OBP 25 points higher). If not, well, that's why it's a minor league contract.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:15 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
April 19, 2009
BASEBALL: 2009 NL Central EWSL Report

Part 6 of my preseason previews is the NL Central; this is the last of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold. Prior previews: AL Central and AL West, AL East, NL East, NL West.

I'll be frank: as often happens, I'm a bit at the end of my tether and pushing to get done after the season starts when I get to the NL Central, baseball's largest division and the one with the most lost ships. The numbers are all here, but some of the commentary may be a bit abbreviated.

Key: + (Rookie) * (Based on one season) # (Based on two seasons)

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 226.00 (75 W)
Adjusted: 245.11 (82 W)
Age-Adj.: 217.59 (73 W)
2009 W-L: 85-77

C26Geovany Soto*1224
1B33Derrek Lee1613
2B29Mike Fontenot#87
SS29Ryan Theriot1312
3B31Aramis Ramirez2319
RF31Milton Bradley1513
CF32Kosuke Fukudome*812
LF33Alfonso Soriano1916
C230Koyie Hill00
INF32Aaron Miles108
OF32Reed Johnson108
1228Joey Gathright66
1329Micah Hoffpauir+24
SP128Carlos Zambrano1616
SP227Rich Harden99
SP333Ted Lilly139
SP432Ryan Dempster139
SP526Sean Marshall45
RP131Kevin Gregg108
RP226Carlos Marmol1011
RP329Neal Cotts21
RP434Luis Vizcaino43
RP530Aaron Heilman54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - So Taguchi. Esteban German was cut and headed for the Rangers.

Pitchers - Relievers Angel Guzman and David Patton, starting prospect Jeff Samardzija. Chad Gaudin was cut and has caught on with the Padres.

Analysis: The Cubs are the favorites in the NL Central; they're not any more an overpowering one than the Dodgers, but they're a good, solid team and nobody else in the division has a proven basis for being considered one. As usual, the health of Rich Harden will be a significant factor - Harden's still only 27, but has the medical history of a 37-year-old. Soto's recent banged-up status is also a concern; catchers have that and thus far it may just be routine, but he's such a valuable commodity the Cubs would be in trouble if he ends up with one of those lost seasons that happen to catchers sometimes.

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 205.00 (68 W)
Adjusted: 217.72 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 212.57 (71 W)
2009 W-L: 84-78

C35Jason Kendall1611
1B25Prince Fielder2328
2B26Rickie Weeks1416
SS26JJ Hardy1719
3B29Bill Hall1110
RF27Corey Hart1617
CF36Mike Cameron1915
LF25Ryan Braun*1928
C232Mike Rivera32
INF38Craig Counsell75
OF29Chris Duffy32
1226Casey McGeehee04
1326Brad Nelson+04
SP123Yovanni Gallardo#45
SP234Jeff Suppan85
SP326Manny Parra#56
SP429David Bush87
SP534Braden Looper96
RP141Trevor Hoffman107
RP225Carlos Villanueva67
RP328Seth McClung44
RP428Todd Coffey22
RP530Jorge Julio43

Subjective Adjustments: None, but Gallardo is a heckuva pitcher and if healthy should blow by that EWSL. I didn't ding Hoffman, since his EWSL incorporates the injury woes of fortysomething pitchers.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Tony Gwynn jr.

Pitchers - David Riske, Mitch Stetter, Wes Littleton, Chris Capuano, and Chase Wright.

Analysis: The Brewers return the same lineup and should score runs in bunches with all that power, but the pitching staff has been decimated by the departure of Sheets and Sabathia and the failure of Capuano. Suppan's K rate was in decay last season, and through 2 starts so far he has 7 BB, 2 K and a 12.91 ERA in 7.2 IP. It's possible that a healthy Gallardo could be an ace, and it's possible that they'll find the money to bring Sheets back in midseason, but on the whole this team just doesn't have the arms.

When I mentioned the National League's oversupply of failed Mets relievers, I forgot to note the Brew Crew with Looper and Julio. They should make Willie Randolph feel right at home.

St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 181.67 (61 W)
Adjusted: 201.84 (67 W)
Age-Adj.: 185.89 (62 W)
2009 W-L: 75-87

C26Yadier Molina1315
1B29Albert Pujols3432
2B29Skip Schumaker#1012
SS29Khalil Greene1110
3B26David Freese+04
RF30Ryan Ludwick1513
CF29Rick Ankiel#910
LF28Chris Duncan1010
C235Jason LaRue42
INF32Troy Glaus1714
OF22Colby Rasmus+04
1228Brian Barden#04
1327Brendan Ryan#33
SP127Adam Wainwright1111
SP230Kyle Lohse108
SP330Joel Pineiro33
SP430Todd Wellemeyer87
SP534Chris Carpenter42
RP127Jason Motte+16
RP227Brad Thompson43
RP336Ryan Franklin76
RP432Dennis Reyes54
RP536Trever Miller33

Subjective Adjustments: None. The 3B situation is in flux pending Glaus' return, which may take months; I have Freese listed as the starter but graded as a bench player rather than take the WS out of Glaus, and anyway Joe Thurston is battling Freese for the playing time. Carpenter's injury is in line with his recent history, so no adjustment needed.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Thurston, Joe Mather, Brian Barton. Mather and Rasmus are the team's outfielders of the future, but only if they can get rid of the current outfield.

Pitchers - Kyle McClellan, who's been perhaps their best reliever in the early going, Josh Kinney, and Royce Ring.

Analysis: The Cards have started hot, and this team often has people who surprise me - two of the three outfielders (Duncan and Ludwick) have picked up where Ankiel and Ludwick left off last year. I'd warn that Pujols is reaching the age where guys as good as him start to be less consistently awesome every single year, but he hasn't looked thus far like this will be the year he gets his first taste of kryptonite. He'll be the best player in the game until someone wrests the title from him (although EWSL does rate Hanley Ramirez above him due to his youth).

Greene is an offensive enigma. Entering last season, while his overall numbers were poor because he hit so badly in San Diego, he had a career road batting line of .280/.338/.515, but he batted .212/.225/.317 on the road last season and has hit .158/.158/.316 on the road in the early going this year. He'll run out of excuses if he repeats last year's road performance.

Houston Astros

Raw EWSL: 210.50 (70 W)
Adjusted: 214.57 (72 W)
Age-Adj.: 181.56 (61 W)
2009 W-L: 73-89

C37Ivan Rodriguez149
1B33Lance Berkman3126
2B33Kaz Matsui1210
SS35Miguel Tejada1611
3B36Geoff Blum97
RF26Hunter Pence#1621
CF26Michael Bourn#57
LF33Carlos Lee2218
C229Humberto Quintero22
INF29Jeff Keppinger88
OF33Jason Michaels76
1235Darin Erstad64
1331Jason Smith11
SP131Roy Oswalt1715
SP230Wandy Rodriguez76
SP336Mike Hampton21
SP437Brian Moehler54
SP535Russ Ortiz10
RP129Jose Valverde1211
RP232Geoff Geary65
RP335Tim Byrdak32
RP436LaTroy Hawkins55
RP531Chris Sampson65

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Catching prospect JR Towles, who suffered a colossal (.137/.250/.253) wipeout last year, and outfield nomad Reggie Abercrombie. Aaron Boone was slated to play but will miss the season following heart surgery.

Pitchers - Doug Brocail started off in the pen but hit the DL after early ineffectiveness. Wesley Wright and Clay Hensley will be in the pen, and Brandon Backe's still trying to get back where he was. Jeff Fulchino and Jose Capellan are also on hand.

Analysis: The Astros were surprisingly competitive in 2008, but they were 9 games above their Pythagorean record, their team is old, and frankly they are fooling themselves if they think this roster is anything but spare parts to sell to contenders, or in the case of the back end of their rotation, guys who should have been put to pasture by now.

Lance Berkman had to win the 2008 "guy least likely to double his career high in steals while hardly ever getting caught" award. Berkman is basically Bob Horner if he'd stayed in shape, but he's a better athlete than Horner was even when young.

Cincinnati Reds

Raw EWSL: 156.67 (52 W)
Adjusted: 174.71 (58 W)
Age-Adj.: 174.65 (58 W)
2009 W-L: 71-91

C33Ramon Hernandez1311
1B25Joey Votto*1115
2B28Brandon Phillips1818
SS32Alex Gonzalez54
3B26Edwin Encarnacion1517
RF22Jay Bruce*414
CF27Willy Taveras99
LF33Jerry Hairston jr76
C228Ryan Hanigan*24
INF26Paul Janish+14
OF27Chris Dickerson*35
1230Darnell McDonald+11
1328Laynce Nix00
SP125Edinson Volquez910
SP231Aaron Harang1210
SP332Bronson Arroyo129
SP423Johnny Cueto*36
SP526Micah Owings#57
RP134Francisco Cordero128
RP239David Weathers98
RP334Mike Lincoln21
RP439Arthur Rhodes43
RP528Jared Burton#56

Subjective Adjustments: None. I thought of knocking Jay Bruce up a few spots, but 22 year olds, even ones who are accurately projected as big stars, are never a sure thing to make that dramatic an improvement. And Volquez has been kicking around long enough that I wasn't at liberty to just disregard his pre-2008 performance.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Jonny Gomes, Jacque Jones and Norris Hopper; Daryle Ward got cut.

Pitchers - Relievers Bill Bray, Danny Herrera and Nick Masset, and starter Homer Bailey, who seems to have been reclassified pretty swiftly from the next Clemens to the next Schiraldi but is still young and hard-throwing enough that nobody's counting him out yet. If nothing else, Bailey will get the chance to break the reputations of a few more pitching coaches before he's through.

Analysis: The Reds will feel the loss of Dunn, and at least symbolically the loss of Griffey as well, but there remains enough young talent here to build on with Votto, Bruce, Volquez and Cueto; it's just that there are still a lot of holes as well. Dickerson is sharing time with Hairston in left. I'm not sure I see the point of employing Taveras to play in a bandbox - it was one thing to live with his slap hitting in Colorado, where at least the vast outfield requires a fleet center fielder.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Raw EWSL: 135.83 (45 W)
Adjusted: 142.68 (48 W)
Age-Adj.: 136.16 (45 W)
2009 W-L: 58-104

C28Ryan Doumit1213
1B29Adam LaRoche1615
2B31Freddy Sanchez1614
SS31Jack Wilson1210
RF25Brandon Moss*36
CF27Nate McLouth1616
LF28Njyer Morgan#33
C226Jason Jaramillo+04
INF32Ramon Vazquez76
OF32Craig Monroe54
1231Eric Hinske76
1325Luis Cruz*11
SP127Ian Snell66
SP226Zach Duke44
SP327Paul Maholm77
SP426Ross Ohlendorf*11
SP526Jeff Karstens11
RP125Matt Capps910
RP231Tyler Yates32
RP330John Grabow54
RP426Sean Burnett11
RP525Craig Hansen11

Subjective Adjustments: None. The Pirates are, however, a classic vacuum situation: there's a lot of young guys on hand who haven't established themselves, most of whom have failed in a half a season or so worth of playing time but haven't yet proven themselves failures. A few of those single-digit guys in the lineup are bound to find their sea legs enough to keep this team from being quite as bad as 104 losses, but they won't be able to keep them far from the cellar.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Cruz was listed by default, as he seems to have been less of a proven failure than Brian Bixler, also a shortstop. Also catcher Robinson Diaz and outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

Pitchers - Relievers Jesse Chavez and Donald Veal; starter Tom Gorzelanny is in AAA purgatory. Phil Dumatrait is injured.

Analysis: There's no sense blowing up a bad team in exchange for prospects if you're not gonna play the prospects, and so that's what the Pirates are doing: the younger LaRoche, Moss, Ohlendorf, Karstens, and Hansen are the bounty of various deals the last few seasons as Pirate veterans like Jason Bay and Xavier Nady were sent to contenders, and Pittsburgh means to find out if they can do the job. It's still a shame that a storied franchise playing in a beautiful new stadium can't support itself - the Pirates' winning percentage dating back to 1993, during which they've suffered 16 straight losing seasons, is .438, good for a 71-91 record over a 162 game season, and they haven't finished higher than 6th in the NL in attendance since 1972, not even when they won the World Series in 1979 or the three straight division titles in the Bonds/Bonilla/Van Slyke era. 2001, when they opened PNC Park, is the only time in franchise history they've averaged more than 26,000 fans per game, and 1990-91 were the only other years they cracked the 2 million mark. It's hard to paint the current rebuilding effort with much hope if there just isn't any reason to believe that the current club ownership thinks it could make more money by having a winning team.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:24 AM | Baseball 2009 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 17, 2009
WAR: Obama National Intelligence Director Declares Terrorist Threat Over


What was more interesting was the accompanying statement by the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, trying to justify Obama's decision--or at least put it "into perspective." The perspective, the context, is that in the months after 9/11, "we did not have a clear understanding of the enemy we were dealing with, and our every effort was focused on preventing further attacks that would kill more Americans. It was during these months that the CIA was struggling to obtain critical information from captured al Qaida leaders, and requested permission to use harsher interrogation methods. The OLC memos make clear that senior legal officials judged the harsher methods to be legal."

Blair continues: "Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing. As the President has made clear, and as both CIA Director Panetta and I have stated, we will not use those techniques in the future. But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos and those guidelines."

So: We were once in danger. Now we live in "a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009." Now, in April 2009, Obama's Director of National Intelligence seems to be saying, we're safe.

Yes, September 11 was a bright, sunny day too - and too many of us thought we were safe then as well. Now, it's true that in the rapid, multifaceted mobilization against terrorism that took place in late 2001 and early 2002, there were a vast number of decisions made quickly on the basis of incomplete information; it's only natural that as the anti-terror effort has become part of the permanent institutions of government, there would be some rethinking of which of those emergency measures to make permanent and which to put back on the shelf. Maybe exposing detainees to caterpillars or pushing them against a "fake, flexible wall" or "Grasping the individual with both hands, one hand on each side of the collar opening, in a controlled and quick motion" are horrors beyond our imagining these days - as opposed to things most of us would associate with grammar school - but it's far more frightening to me to hear the DNI telling us that we're too safe these days to worry anymore about the need to get intelligence quickly out of captured terrorists.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:10 AM | War 2007-14 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Knowing Where To Look

The New York Times headlines an article about an appearance by Clarence Thomas before a high school group "Reticent Justice Opens Up to a Group of Students." What's amusing is that after Justice Thomas has spent 18 years on the Court, the Times still thinks it's newsworthy that he would speak to a student group simply because he does not ask questions at oral argument (a practice he has explained and defended and which was once more of a norm on the Court). In fact, anyone remotely familiar with the Court will tell you that Justice Thomas has long been very active, perhaps the most active Justice on the Court, in meeting with visitors from the general public (when I was in college, in the spring of 1992, he took 45 minutes to meet with a group of 12 of us who were in DC for Holy Cross' semester-in-Washington program, and I gather he's been doing that ever since), he's a frequent speaker at events around the country - he even wrote a deeply personal autobiography that may have escaped the Times' notice. (Note also Adam Liptak's shot at Thomas giving a "rambling" answer to a question - we are compelled to take his word for it, although of course it's rare to hear an unscripted Q&A with anybody without a few of those answers).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 AM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
April 16, 2009
BASEBALL: Quick Links 4/16/09

*Nothing quite like Jose Reyes scoring from first base on a wild pitch last night. Speed gets overrated sometimes compared to the ability to get on base - without which it's of little use - but that play was a perfect illustration of how speed can really unsettle a defense: Nick Hundley may well have let the ball go by and Luis Castillo score from third in part because he was distracted by Reyes taking off for second, ending with Reyes coming all the way around to score on a comedy of bad throws.

The Mets radio announcers were complaining that neither they nor the managers nor the team PR staff that runs the scoreboards can see into the new bullpens to figure out who is warming up. Last night that was multiplied by the fact that everybody was wearing #42, which is a nice tribute to Jackie Robinson but kind of confusing in mid-April when people haven't absorbed all the rosters yet.

*Lyford notes an even more no-hitter friendly lineup. Ouch.

*Matt Wieters walks in his only appearance against David Price; presumably there will be many, many more rematches. Is PECOTA overprojecting Wieters by virtue of overly lenient adjustments for players from the Eastern and Carolina Leagues? And how long will it be before I can remember to write "Wieters" instead of "Weiters" without checking?

*I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that Chris Carpenter is injured.

*I don't love all aspects of the new redesign (which converts the site to features that had already been in place for the sister sites covering football, basketball and hockey); I'm always skeptical of things that make a site run slower and less clean, and that create more hazards of clicking something that will do something on a page when you are just moving your mouse or trying to scroll down. And some information seems to be harder to find or navigate to. That said, there is a huge amount of new data, and from my personal perspective, the ability to copy and paste stats into an Excel spreadsheet is a colossal improvement - I experimented with the method I use for my Hall of Fame columns in particular and found I could run four or five players in the time it used to take to run one. On balance, I give it a big thumbs up.

*Not baseball, but big sports news: John Madden is retiring. Madden's not as sharp as he used to be, but he's still entertaining, and he'll be remembered as the man who revolutionized NFL analysis.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:49 AM | Baseball 2009 • | Football | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 15, 2009
BASEBALL: Knuckling Under

Tim Wakefield hasn't given up a hit through 7 innings today.

These things usually take some help from the opposing team....take a look at that Oakland lineup:

Ryan Sweeney CF
Orlando Cabrera SS
Jack Cust DH
Matt Holliday LF
Mark Ellis 2B
Travis Buck RF
Kurt Suzuki C
Bobby Crosby 3B
Landon Powell 1B

Now, several of those guys are solid players for one reason or another, but seriously, how many of them would you put money on to bat above .250 this season? Maybe three - Holliday, of course; Cabrera; and probably Sweeney. It's definitely a lineup prone to a shortage of hits.

UPDATE: Suzuki singles in the 8th to break it up.

For a famous example of how a lineup can set up a pitcher's accomplishments, here's the box score for Roger Clemens' first 20-K game. Again, not a terrible lineup but a very high-strikeout one, with Steve Yeager and Spike Owen and a bunch of big-swinging sluggers including Danny Tartabull at second base. (Amazingly, only one of Clemens' Ks that day was Gorman Thomas).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:08 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
April 14, 2009
BASEBALL: Full of Years

The recent spate of deaths in the game brought this to the fore of my mind - my older brother and I were having a discussion over the weekend about who the oldest living baseball stars are, specifically with reference to Tommy Henrich being the oldest remaining star of the Yankees. According to this website, the oldest living Major League ballplayer is Tony Malinosky, who appeared in 35 games in 1937 for the Dodgers and will turn 100 in October. Henrich, who just turned 96 in February, is 6th on the list, with the top player of any note being Lonny Frey. As best I could figure, here's a list covering the high points among players who are now past the age of about 85, covering the last of the guys who made their mark in the majors before World War II (I've almost certainly missed some people and probably listed somebody here who died recently); they are a generation passing from the scene:

Lonny Frey19101933
Connie Marrero19111950
Tommy Henrich19131937
Eddie Joost19161936
Phil Cavaretta19161934
Buddy Lewis19161935
Dom DiMaggio19171940
Virgil Trucks19171941
Bob Feller19181936
Bobby Doerr19181937
Johnny Pesky19191942
Ralph Houk19191947
Stan Musial19201941
Dave Philley19201941
Eddie Robinson19201942
Boo Ferriss19201945
Ralph Kiner19201946
Alvin Dark19221946
Mel Parnell19221947
Red Schoendienst19231945
Bobby Thomson19231945
Jerry Coleman19241949
Yogi Berra19251946
Minnie Minoso19251949
Bobby Shantz19251949

Of course, when you look through the registers by year, you can really see the impact of the war, especially around 1924 (the generation that was 18 years old in 1942), in terms of there simply being fewer guys born that year who were able to have long and successful big league careers; there was only one pitcher born that year who went on to win 100 games (Alex Kellner) and nobody who got 2000 career hits, although there were some successful sluggers like Gil Hodges and Ted Kluzewski.

UPDATED: A commenter points out that Mickey Vernon, listed in the original chart, died last fall at age 90.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2009 NL West EWSL Report

Part 5 of my preseason previews is the NL West; this is the fifth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold. Prior previews: AL Central and AL West, AL East, NL East.

Key: + (Rookie) * (Based on one season) # (Based on two seasons)

Los Angeles Dodgers

Raw EWSL: 232.67 (78 W)
Adjusted: 251.63 (84 W)
Age-Adj.: 234.49 (78 W)
2009 W-L: 91-71

C26Russell Martin2022
1B25James Loney#1318
2B31Orlando Husdon1916
SS31Rafael Furcal1411
3B35Casey Blake1510
RF27Andre Ethier1818
CF24Matt Kemp1317
LF37Manny Ramirez2516
C240Brad Ausmus84
INF35Doug Mientkiewicz85
OF31Juan Pierre119
1237Mark Loretta117
1323Blake DeWitt*612
SP124Chad Billingsley1315
SP234Hiroki Kuroda*57
SP321Clayton Kershaw*37
SP432Randy Wolf64
SP536Jason Schmidt32
RP125Jonathan Broxton1011
RP226Cory Wade*47
RP331Will Ohman43
RP435Guillermo Mota32
RP527Hong-Chih Kuo65

Subjective Adjustments: None; this team is pretty heavy on established talent.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Infielder Tony Abreu, outfielders Jason Repko and Delwyn Young, and catcher Danny Ardoin.

Pitchers - Claudio Vargas is on the 60-day DL. Joe Torre wants Jeff Weaver to take a crack as a reliever, but for now, Weaver and Shawn Estes are Isotopes. Also Ronald Belisario, Ramon Trancoso, and James McDonald.

Analysis: The Dodgers bear a pretty strong Joe Torre stamp by now, especially the antiquarian bench. 16 Win Shares still looks small for Manny after his colossal 2008 stretch run, but the history of 37-year-old hitters is ugly; even if he hits, there's the risk of injury. The Manny lovefest in LA has already been tarnished some by the offseason wrangling; it will be Torre's job to keep him happy for another year (you take one month at a time with Manny). Hudson, meanwhile, should upgrade the interior defense (especially if Furcal is healthy), helping offset an outfield defense with Kemp stretched in center and Manny in left. The pivotal guy for the offense, though, may be Loney, a lifetime .304 hitter who is about reaching the point where he'll either start hitting some home runs or never do it.

The rotation's combination of the young, wild Kershaw and the surgically rebuilt Wolf and Schmidt is naturally unstable, and will undoubtedly at some point tempt Torre to put Kuo back into a starter's role. Then again, the bullpen isn't that solid even when healthy.

The Dodgers are the natural favorite in the West, but age and injuries will be their trial.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Raw EWSL: 210.33 (70 W)
Adjusted: 222.03 (74 W)
Age-Adj.: 216.61 (72 W)
2009 W-L: 85-77

C28Chris Snyder1414
1B29Chad Tracy66
2B29Felipe Lopez1111
SS26Stephen Drew1719
3B25Mark Reynolds#1319
RF21Justin Upton*48
CF25Chris Young#1419
LF27Conor Jackson1516
C225Miguel Montero#34
INF34Augie Ojeda44
OF33Eric Byrnes119
1237Tony Clark32
1325Alex Romero*11
SP130Brandon Webb2118
SP228Danny Haren1817
SP333Doug Davis96
SP429Jon Garland1110
SP524Max Scherzer*25
RP130Chad Qualls109
RP230Jon Rauch98
RP327Tony Pena77
RP441Tom Gordon43
RP535Scott Schoeneweis42

Subjective Adjustments: None. Scherzer seems likely to do better than 5 Win Shares if he's healthy, but combine that with the uncertainty inherent in any young pitcher, and I'm leaving him as is. Webb's injury doesn't yet look bad enough for me to feel confident about downgrading him from 18.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Infielder/utilityman Ryan Roberts.

Pitchers - Relievers Doug Slaten, Billy Buckner and Juan Gutierrez and swingman Yusmiero Petit.

Analysis: You need three things to develop a young team into a powerhouse. One, you need a plan that identifies good young talent, commits to developing young players and slotting them into your lineup and pitching staff. Two, you need money - at least enough money to keep guys up through free agency and bring in the occasional complementary veteran. And three, you need luck - all the scouting in the world can't guarantee you'll land a major star.

The D-Backs have executed the first two parts of the plan: by a weighted average of their starting lineup by non-age-adjusted EWSL, they come in at an average age of 26.5, right on the sweet spot for a team coming into its own. They have multi-talented athletes, power threats, good gloves....but as of yet, when you let the park-effect air out (besides scoring 4.84 runs/game in 81 games at Chase Field last season, they scored 6.11 runs per game in their 9 road games at Coors, compared to 3.79 everywhere else), there are no stars in this lineup. And Reynolds, with his stone glove and outrageous K rate, isn't primed to become one, which leaves the D-Backs hoping either that (1) Drew or Young will have a big year or (2) Upton will mature into a star faster than his brother did.

Arizona seems a perfect illustration, however, of Bill James' "Devil's Theory of Ballparks," by which teams in good hitters' parks get complacent about mediocre hitters who put up big numbers, but develop outstanding pitching staffs because only the strong survive there (and vice versa for pitcher's parks). (The theory has exceptions, as an extreme location like Colorado simply destroys pitchers). Because what the D-Backs do have is - at least when healthy - a genuinely outstanding rotation. Scherzer, who throws nasty stuff in the high 90s, should make for a fearsome Big 3 when he comes off the DL tonight, assuming he can stay healthy and nothing is seriously wrong with Webb's shoulder. Haren in particular managed the difficult feat of setting a career high in K/9 and career lows in HR/9 and BB/9 while moving into high-scoring Chase.

Arizona's main asset last season was their superior ability to pound the NL West's three weak sisters: they went 8-10 head to head against the Dodgers, but picked up six games by going 36-18 against Colorado, San Francisco and San Diego (they were 15-3 against the Rox) compared to 30-24 by the Dodgers.

I expect Arizona, as usual, to hang in the division and wild card races to the end. The health question marks about their pitching, and the loss of Orlando Hudson's glove, are the main reasons to hesitate picking them as the favorites in the NL West.

Colorado Rockies

Raw EWSL: 170.67 (57 W)
Adjusted: 185.44 (62 W)
Age-Adj.: 182.72 (61 W)
2009 W-L: 74-88

C26Chris Iannetta#1014
1B35Todd Helton1510
2B30Clint Barmes76
SS24Troy Tulowitzki#1319
3B29Garrett Atkins1615
RF30Brad Hawpe1715
CF29Ryan Spilborghs87
LF26Seth Smith*23
C230Yorvit Torrealba54
INF24Ian Stewart*512
OF23Dexter Fowler+04
1228Jeff Baker44
1327Omar Quintanilla22
SP130Aaron Cook1311
SP225Ubaldo Jimenez#79
SP330Jason Marquis76
SP428Jorge De La Rosa44
SP523Franklin Morales#12
RP125Huston Street1112
RP226Manny Corpas99
RP327Taylor Buchholz66
RP432Jason Grilli64
RP539Alan Embree54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Outfielders Matt Murton, Carlos Gonzalez and Eric Young (that's Eric junior), and 1B Dan Ortmeier. Scott Podsednik was cut and signed with the White Sox.

Pitchers - Ace Jeff Francis is out for the season following shoulder surgery. Many options are on hand: starters Greg Smith, Josh Fogg, Jason Hammell, Greg Reynolds and Glendon Rusch, and relievers Matt Belisle and Ryan Speier. I didn't say they were all good options, but Smith at least deserves another chance in a big-league rotation after posting a 4.16 ERA in 32 starts with Oakland last year (although his peripheral numbers were not encouraging).

Analysis: The departure of Matt Holliday and the loss of Francis formalized the Rockies' return to full-time also-ran status, and Helton's advancing age and declining health and production (just 29 RBI last season) mark the end of an era in Colorado baseball. The lineup is weak, the rotation in shambles. Fowler and Stewart will probably end up playing a lot - Fowler's had more plate appearances than Seth Smith so far, and there's not going to be any reason not to let the kids play.

I understand why people think Huston Street was overrated in Oakland, and certainly his start this season (10.12 ERA through 3 appearances) is not encouraging, but I don't subscribe to the idea that a guy who entered the season with career averages of 0.6 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 9.1 K/9 is a certain disaster waiting to happen or necessarily a bad pick over Corpas to close. Street's only 25, he should have more up his sleeve. That said, there have been concerns over both his and Corpas' velocity, and Street's not a guy who can lose a few miles off his heater and remain an elite reliever.

San Francisco Giants

Raw EWSL: 173.50 (58 W)
Adjusted: 188.93 (63 W)
Age-Adj.: 178.62 (60 W)
2009 W-L: 72-90

C34Ben Molina1613
1B25Travis Ishikawa*25
2B24Emanuel Burriss*25
SS33Edgar Renteria1211
3B22Pablo Sandoval*312
RF35Randy Winn1712
CF31Aaron Rowand1513
LF28Fred Lewis#810
C237Rich Aurilia912
INF29Juan Uribe1211
OF25Nate Schierholtz#23
1227Eugenio Velez*24
1331Andres Torres00
SP125Tim Lincecum#1520
SP224Matt Cain1315
SP326Jonathan Sanchez#34
SP445Randy Johnson96
SP531Barry Zito87
RP127Brian Wilson66
RP235Bobby Howry74
RP330Jeremy Affeldt54
RP429Brandon Medders22
RP526Alex Hinshaw*24

Subjective Adjustments: None. I could bump up Ishikawa on the same theory as I used to bump up Ortmeier last season, but that didn't work out so well.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Steve Holm is the #2 catcher, but has been sent down, so Sandoval will back up Molina. That's why I listed Aurilia as the backup catcher, since he will likely sub for Sandoval at third when Sandoval catches. I'm not sure I've seen a team carry only one catcher and use the backup to play everyday at another position before (maybe the Yankees when they used Elston Howard in left, before they got Johnny Blanchard). Also Kevin Frandsen.

Pitchers - Noah Lowry, still struggling to reclaim his past form; Joe Martinez, who is injured; and Justin Miller and his armful of tattoos.

Analysis: The Giants are probably a year away from getting a handle on whether any of their youngsters are going to be productive regulars, but at least they now have some. On the other hand, with a heavy investment in starting pitching, they have made the defensible decision to rest on veterans in the key defensive slots at C, SS and CF (perhaps less defensible in Renteria's case, as his glove is somewhat shaky at this stage). Progress by Sanchez in throwing some strikes and/or a return to form by Lowry would be a big help.

If you are wondering, Nolan Ryan at Johnson's age - 45 - remained effective and a power pitcher, but saw his K rate drop from 10.56 to 8.98. Johnson's throwing well thus far, and while his durability is dubious at best, he seems to have recovered his strikeout rates from their dropoff with the Yankees.

San Diego Padres

Raw EWSL: 145.50(49 W)
Adjusted: 170.47 (57 W)
Age-Adj.: 159.34 (53 W)
2009 W-L: 66-96

C25Nick Hundley*24
1B27Adrian Gonzalez2324
2B34David Eckstein109
SS29Luis Rodriguez32
3B27Kevin Kouzmanoff#1215
RF38Brian Giles1914
CF31Jody Gerut75
LF25Chase Headley*410
C237Henry Blanco32
INF31Edgar Gonzalez*46
OF29Scott Hairston76
1236Cliff Floyd75
1322Everth Cabrera+04
SP128Jake Peavy1615
SP230Chris Young97
SP329Cha Seung Baek#43
SP428Kevin Correia44
SP532Walter Silva+04
RP131Heath Bell86
RP226Cla Meredith55
RP325Edward Mujica*00
RP425Luke Gregerson+06
RP529Duaner Sanchez33

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Perennial journeyman outfielder Emil Brown.

Pitchers - Starters Shawn Hill and Mark Prior, although Prior is way, way off anybody's radar to pitch again soon. Reliever Mike Adams, who is injured. Also Edwin Moreno and Eulogio De La Cruz.

Analysis: The Padres win this year's award, usually going to the Marlins, for most players I had to add to the spreadsheets for the first time; it's practically half the roster, as only 8 players return from last season's Padres depth chart. The Mets announcers last night quoted Bud Black as saying that the Padres' bullpen would change as other teams released people, which pretty much speaks for itself. Don't be fooled by the 6-2 start, this team has a lot of holes and comparatively few strengths. Hundley, if you are wondering, is no relation to Todd and Randy; he just happens to be a weak-hitting catcher named Hundley.

If nothing else, the Mets can feel good about having distributed their failed relievers across the NL - Mota in LA, Schoeneweis in Arizona, Sanchez in SD, Heilman in Chicago, Jorge Sosa in Washington. Of course, if watching Sanchez and Bell last night is any indication, those guys will be lights out against the Mets.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/LAW: Should The Surviving Somali Pirate Be Tried...In Juvenile Court?

It's so hard to do satire these days, because the truth is so often beyond parody. The last of the heavily-armed pirates who stormed the Maersk Alabama, held a paralyzed U.S. Navy at bay for three days and repeatedly threatened to execute their hostage unless they were paid millions in ransom may well be tried in the United States for piracy. This is probably the right call, since this is piracy against American ships, although really it would have been better if all the pirates had been killed on the spot. Where this gets bizarre is the suggestion that an act of piracy on the high seas should be treated as a juvenile crime because the pirates reportedly were somewhere between age 16 and 20:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Law 2009-14 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
April 13, 2009
BASEBALL: More Farewells

Rest in peace, Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych, both of whom died suddenly, Kalas collapsing in the broadcast booth at age 73, the Bird in an accident on his farm at 54.

I looked a little at Fidrych's celebrated rookie season in this post.

UPDATE: Following up on a point in that post - Fidrych, of course, is best known and will be most vividly remembered for his offbeat personality, but from a numbers point of view the great unanswered question of his career was whether, if he hadn't gotten hurt, Fidrych would have continued to be a highly successful pitcher, given his extremely low strikeout rate. As I noted in that 2008 post, he may well have struck more guys out as he matured as a pitcher, but if he hadn't, could he have sustained anything like his career 126 ERA+ with his career K rate of 3.71 per 9 innings? Well, I ran the numbers, and among pitches who threw 1000 or more innings after World War II while striking out fewer than 4 batters per 9 innings, there were a few successful pitchers, albeit almost all of them relievers. Leaving aside the guys this picks up who were already in mid-career by 1945, only six managed an ERA+ of 110 or better:

Dan Quisenberry (146)
Mel Parnell (125)
Bob Stanley (118)
Greg Minton (118)
Dave Rozema (117)
Ned Garver (112)

although other reasonaly successful pitchers on that list included Bill Lee, Larry Gura, Ed Figueroa, and Randy Jones. Then again, only six pitchers since 1960 have thrown 1000 innings with a lower HR/9 rate than Fidrych's 0.5 (one of them being Minton); combine that with Fidrych's career rate of 2.16 BB/9, and you have a highly unusual combination; since 1945, only two other pitchers besides Fidrych have thrown 250 career innings while allowing as few as 0.5 HR and 2.2 BB/9, those being Mariano Rivera and Steve Howe. Both of those guys were relievers with good K rates - another way of saying that Fidrych's skill set as an extreme low-K, low-BB, low-HR starting pitcher was somewhat historically unique. Whether he could have sustained it, like so much about Fidrych, is a question that remains frozen in time in the mid-70s and unanswerable, just as Fidrych will remain in our memory, forever 21, lanky and eccentric.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:35 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
April 10, 2009
BASEBALL: Flamethrower

In case you missed it, Baseball America had a good interview a couple weeks back with monster pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg. He comes off about right, as a guy who has some brains and knows how good he is and what he needs to do. He seems pretty level-headed in the interview, but then, so did Doc Gooden; you can't know that much about these guys from a distance. Here's hoping he stays healthy enough to show us what he can do; the comparison to Mark Prior is a cautionary one.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:54 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2009 NL East EWSL Report

Part 4 of my preseason previews is the NL East; this is the fourth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold. Prior previews: AL Central and AL West, AL East.

Key: + (Rookie) * (Based on one season) # (Based on two seasons)

New York Mets

Raw EWSL: 254.67 (85 W)
Adjusted: 264.84 (88 W)
Age-Adj.: 240.03 (80 W)
2009 W-L: 93-69

C32Brian Schneider108
1B37Carlos Delgado2013
2B33Luis Castillo1210
SS26Jose Reyes2730
3B26David Wright3034
RF30Ryan Church1210
CF32Carlos Beltran2923
LF24Daniel Murphy*38
C233Ramon Castro54
INF33Alex Cora54
OF34Fernando Tatis76
1240Gary Sheffield95
1328Jeremy Reed22
SP130Johan Santana2017
SP225Mike Pelfrey88
SP328John Maine88
SP427Oliver Perez77
SP534Livan Hernandez74
RP127Francisco Rodriguez1615
RP232JJ Putz129
RP332Pedro Feliciano54
RP430Sean Green43
RP524Bobby Parnell+06

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Utilityman/pinch hitter Marlon Anderson is clinging to the last roster spot for now; he will probably be moving soon into a role as a third base coach. Nick Evans was the odd man out in the outfield corners but remains a promising if unspectacular prospect. Angel Pagan, now long-forgotten after last year's hot start, will return to the outfield mix when he returns from injury, but continues to lack any significant skills. Robinson Cancel is the third catcher when he finds space on the roster, as he will do whenever Castro is on the DL. Fernando Martinez remains a heralded prospect but has yet to put up numbers commensurate with that status and is unlikely to get more than a late-season cup of tea; perhaps he'll still end up a superstar, but perhaps he should have been traded while his reputation was sky-high.

Pitchers - Billy Wagner is out for most or all of the season, but the bullpen could really be impressive if he makes it back by September, as has not yet been ruled out. Darren O'Day is currently in the pen. Jon Niese will likely claim the fifth starter job eventually; rehabbing Freddy Garcia and organizational fodder Nelson Figueroa and Casey Fossum are also candidates. Other pitchers in the mix include reliever Brian Stokes, swing man Tim Redding (also on the DL) and starter Brandon Knight. Orlando Hernandez remains unsigned at last check; I've lost track of whether he's trying to pitch this season, but it won't be with the Mets; the same goes for Matt Wise. A return of Pedro Martinez hasn't been ruled out - Omar still loves him - but seems unlikely.

Analysis: This Mets team is no juggernaut, but it could well be enough to take the division despite the weak links at second base, catcher and the outfield corners, due to the powerful frontline talent that if anything has gotten younger the past two years as K-Rod, Santana and Pelfrey have replaced Wagner, Pedro and Glavine. The bullpen should be improved, although as I have noted repeatedly, K-Rod's workload and declining K rate and Putz's health are both risks. But this team will ultimately rise or fall on its starting pitching; the front four starters all have their risk factors but they all have upsides too, albeit in Santana's case his upside is doing the same thing again. Santana's gradual transition to a control pitcher is a concern, as are Pelfrey's big jump-up in innings last season and still low K rate. Perez might flop or bust out or pretty much anywhere in between. But the most pivotal of all is Maine, who showed flashes of real star potential in late 2006 and much of 2007, but faded down the stretch in 2007 (other than his sensational start the next to last day of the season) and was sufficiently hobbled by injury last year to raise questions about whether he's cut out to be a starter at all. If Maine fails to make 30 starts this season, his days as a starting pitcher may be numbered.

Let's compare two starters in 2008:


The first, of course, is Pedro Martinez; the second is Livan Hernandez (who may or may not actually be 34 years old now). Livan allowed 257 hits in 180 innings in 2008; among pitchers to qualify for the ERA title, that's the third-highest hits/innings ratio since 1900, and the top two pitched in the Baker Bowl in the 1930s. Neither was effective in 2008, but looking at those lines I'd take Pedro's still-respectable K numbers and K/BB ratio (and velocity and ability to change speeds) over Livan's superior control and less gruesome HR numbers. The Mets have their reasons for preferring Livan - partly his durability and mostly his lower salary demands - but it would be hard to justify preferring Livan as a baseball decision.

Sometimes, players have a clear trendline pointing one way or another, but Carlos Delgado is all ways at once. On the one hand, he's 37 and coming off a year of dramatic improvement, so you would expect a serious dropoff; on the other, he's leaving a park that just murdered him (Delgado batted .237/.337/.458 for his career at Shea Stadium, although he did hit 21 homers at home last year), and he tore the cover off the ball after getting healthy again after a string of nagging injuries. My hope is that Delgado will take a slow decline from where he was the last four months of last season, which might mean, say, 28 HR and a .340 OBP. Delgado has started hot, but then last season he batted .375/.423/.542 the first six games before falling into a funk and being useless through the end of May.

In addition to keeping Putz healthy, the hard-throwing Parnell - still a work in progress - may become important, given that Feliciano and especially Green have had problems with overwork in recent years. The Mets will simply need to avoid having those guys throw 75+ appearances.

World Champion Philadelphia Phillies

Raw EWSL: 260.50 (87 W)
Adjusted: 261.63 (87 W)
Age-Adj.: 224.46 (75 W)
2009 W-L: 88-74

C30Carlos Ruiz#88
1B29Ryan Howard2624
2B30Chase Utley2925
SS30Jimmy Rollins2622
3B34Pedro Feliz109
RF30Jayson Werth1311
CF28Shane Victorino1616
LF37Raul Ibanez2215
C236Chris Coste75
INF31Eric Bruntlett43
OF41Matt Stairs95
1230Greg Dobbs76
1335Miguel Cairo43
SP125Cole Hamels1517
SP228Brett Myers98
SP328Joe Blanton109
SP446Jamie Moyer118
SP536Chan Ho Park43
RP132Brad Lidge129
RP231Chad Durbin65
RP328Ryan Madson66
RP433Clay Condrey43
RP533JC Romero64

Subjective Adjustments: None; as befits a defending World Champion, the Phillies are relying entirely on established players.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Infielder Pablo Ozuna, outfielder Jason Ellison, and John Mayberry jr. Marcus Giles, in camp with the Phillies, did not make the team and appears to be finished.

Pitchers - Relievers Gary Majewski and Scott Eyre; starter Kyle Kendrick is in the minors; also JA Happ and Jack Taschner.

Analysis: The Phillies had to win when they did - this is not yet an old team, and the window of opportunity probably has a good two more years left in it, but there's little room for improvement left, as Hamels is the only player listed here under age 28 (Moyer was 28 in 1991). The Phillies' bullpen was their surprising strength last season; how that holds up will have a lot to do with their ability to repeat as division champs, let alone in the playoffs. As for the rotation, you'd love to have five of Hamels, but beyond him, the question is what kind of pitcher thrives in a bandbox like Citizens Bank. You'd assume that the pinpoint control of Moyer and Blanton has been their success - make the homers solo shots - but actually Hamels walked many fewer batters, whereas Moyer allowed the rotation's fewest longballs - 0.9 per 9 innings, his lowest average in five years and only the second time in the past decade he's allowed fewer than a homer per 9. That seems unlikely to continue; his groundball percentage was up last year, but mostly he allowed far fewer homers per fly ball, some of which is just luck. In fact, among current Phils who have thrown at least 50 innings at Citizens Bank, Moyer has the worst career ERA there:

Chad Durbin1153.22.010.503.526.37
J.C. Romero2251.22.260.525.238.71
Clay Condrey9077.03.160.472.106.08
Cole Hamels2012259.23.291.322.118.15
Brett Myers2725430.04.081.512.608.23
Kyle Kendrick125143.04.221.322.644.22
Ryan Madson1912222.
Jamie Moyer169206.24.661.612.535.66

Atlanta Braves

Raw EWSL: 196.33 (65 W)
Adjusted: 222.90 (74 W)
Age-Adj.: 208.93 (69 W)
2009 W-L: 82-80

C25Brian McCann1822
1B26Casey Kotchman1214
2B27Kelly Johnson1617
SS26Yuniel Escobar#1114
3B37Chipper Jones2415
RF25Jeff Francouer1214
CF22Jordan Schafer+011
LF37Garret Anderson1611
C232Dave Ross76
INF27Omar Infante77
OF31Matt Diaz54
1225Martin Prado56
1336Greg Norton65
SP136Derek Lowe1412
SP232Javier Vazquez1310
SP323Jair Jurrjens#68
SP433Kenshin Kawakami+04
SP543Tom Glavine64
RP131Mike Gonzalez44
RP229Rafael Soriano55
RP324Eric O'Flaherty#12
RP430Peter Moylan#44
RP530Jorge Campillo*58

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Clint Sammons is the third catcher. Nobody else appears immediately on the horizon, but young players seem to shoot pretty quickly through the Atlanta system to arrive in time to help out the big club in mid-season.

Pitchers - Tim Hudson could be back from Tommy John surgery by August, which would help. Other available arms include Blaine Boyer, JoJo Reyes, Buddy Carlyle, Boone Logan, Jeff Bennett, and Charlie Morton.

Analysis: Speaking of pitchers with diametrically opposite styles, it would be hard to find teammates more specially designed for opposite circumstances than Lowe, Mr. Groundball, and Vazquez, Mr. Flyball. The revamped veteran-heavy rotation was a necessity for the Braves, who have had their starting staff unravel in recent years and don't have young arms ready to carry the load besides Jurrjens.

This isn't exactly a contending team - the Braves aren't a bad team, but they'll need the Mets and Phillies to stumble badly to be a serious player in the race. It's not quite a rebuilding team either - McCann is a young star, Jurrjens could be, Schafer may be in a few years (he's supposed to be a multi-tool type, he's still very young, and I know the Braves have a lot of pitcher's parks in their system, but he's also a career .270/.339/.447 hitter in the minors who's never hit more than 15 homers in a season and hasn't played above AA before); Francouer could still find his way, but he regressed so badly last season he's lucky to have a job at all. Kotchman, Johnson and Escobar are all solid players just hitting their primes, though none have star potential. The Gonzalez-Soriano 1-2 punch in the pen never seems to end up as impressive as it should be, although Gonzalez' bizarre rocking motion does appear to have added an additional level of deception to an effective reliever. Campillo actually had the staff's best K/BB ratio last season and should get an extended look somewhere on the staff.

The third basemen are next up in my annual "Path to Cooperstown" series, and I intend to get a serous look at where Chipper stacks up against the best third basemen of all time, updating this from before the 2001 season, but I'm thinking he may well be in the top five by now, jockeying for position with Brett and Boggs, a bit ahead of Brooks Robinson and Pie Traynor and behind Schmidt and Eddie Mathews.

Florida Marlins

Raw EWSL: 151.50 (51 W)
Adjusted: 174.59 (58 W)
Age-Adj.: 183.67 (61 W)
Subj. Adj.: 187.67 (63 W)
2009 W-L: 75-87

C28John Baker*59
1B27Jorge Cantu1111
2B29Dan Uggla2120
SS25Hanley Ramirez2936
3B24Emilio Bonifacio*17
RF28Cody Ross1213
CF22Cameron Maybin+211
LF25Jeremy Hermida1215
C228Ronny Paulino77
INF31Alfredo Amezaga76
OF26Brett Carroll+04
1233Wes Helms54
1333Ross Gload65
SP125Josh Johnson56
SP226Ricky Nolasco88
SP325Anibal Sanchez22
SP422Chris Volstad*48
SP524Andrew Miller#11
RP129Matt Lindstrom#55
RP226Reynel Pinto33
RP326Logan Kensing33
RP425Leo Nunez44
RP534Kiko Calero21

Subjective Adjustments: I added +4 to Bonifacio, who is rated on a fairly small major league sample here but seems to have the third base job in hand.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - 1B Gaby Sanchez is in AAA. Dallas McPherson wins the "what does a guy have to do?" award for being released this spring after keeping his back healthy all year and smashing 42 homers in 448 at bats at AAA (along with a .379 OBP). McPherson's still an injury risk who strikes out a ton, but he's only 28 and has legitimate power, so he figures to catch on somewhere.

Pitchers - Rick VandenHurk, Dan Meyer and Hayden Penn are all hoping to turn things around after falling from grace as starting pitching prospects. Scott Proctor is also in the bullpen.

Analysis: As usual, EWSL is pretty much at a loss in dealing with the Marlins, since "established major leaguer" generally translates into "former Marlin." The rotation is very young and regrouping from injury, a bad combination if you want to try to rely on major league track records. Maybin has tools to burn but is still extremely raw. This looks like a team that will jostle with the Braves for third, but with this much youth on hand, you never know. The Marlins have continued to get more mobile and athletic, which has to help them consolidate the gains in team defense that followed the departure of Miguel Cabrera.

Volstad's ERA was very impressive last season, but 3.8 BB and 5.5 K per 9 are not a good mix; unless he can keep his HR/9 rate down near last season's microscopic 0.3 per 9, he'll have problems, and even then he still needs work on his control. Nolasco's K numbers are much more impressive. Bonifacio has made a lot of early noise, but didn't hit a lick for the Nationals last season and has a career .285/.341/.362 line in the minors. Hermida, of course, continues to disappoint - he's got JD Drew's durability without the same kind of production - but at 25, he is still young enough that we should not be surprised if he takes a huge leap forward at some point.

The perils of not doing previews all at once: sharp-eyed observers will notice that the NL East preview includes two players (Sheffield and Gload) who were also featured in my AL Central preview.

Washington Nationals

Raw EWSL: 164.33 (55 W)
Adjusted: 178.93 (60 W)
Age-Adj.: 177.61 (59 W)
2009 W-L: 72-90

C24Jesus Flores#710
1B30Nick Johnson65
2B26Anderson Hernandez*25
SS31Cristian Guzman1210
3B24Ryan Zimmerman1520
RF29Austin Kearns1110
CF24Lastings Milledge811
LF29Adam Dunn2018
C231Wil Nieves22
INF34Ron Belliard1211
OF25Elijah Dukes#58
1230Josh Willingham1513
1331Willie Harris87
SP124John Lannan*57
SP225Scott Olsen67
SP328Daniel Cabrera66
SP422Shairon Martis+04
SP523Jordan Zimmerman+04
RP127Joel Hanrahan*45
RP231Saul Rivera65
RP332Joe Beimel75
RP431Jesus Colome33
RP527Jason Bergmann33

Subjective Adjustments: None. Anderson Hernandez isn't rated on anything like a full season's worth of work, but I remain unconvinced that he can hit enough to play every day, despite his outstanding glovework (he's also on the DL to start the season). Nick Johnson, of course, will be worth a lot more than 5 WS if he's healthy, but that's as big an "if" as there is in the game.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Dmitri Young is still on the DL with a bad back and an uncertain timetable. Catcher Josh Bard and disappointing outfielders Ryan Langerhans and Corey Patterson are at AAA if needed. Wily Mo Pena has been given his walking papers.

Pitchers - Wil Ledezma, Gustavo Chacin, Steven Shell, Mike Hinckley, Julian Tavarez and Matt Chico; Chico is rehabbing from the unbiquitous Tommy John surgery.

Analysis: Hope and Change may be the buzzwords in political Washington, but both are in short supply for the capital's baseball team, which brings to mind words from the financial press these days instead. 14th among the 16 NL teams runs scored in 2008, 15th in runs allowed, just below average in defensive efficiency (and 15th in fielding percentage), 15th in homers, 13th in batting average, 13th in pitcher strikeouts, the Nationals needed to repair everything about their team, and while the addition of Adam Dunn addresses one of those needs - home run power - and there are causes for optimism regarding individual players (Jesus Flores showcased some doubles power early last season before fading in the second half, and Milledge as usual showed flashes), the failure to assemble a starting rotation leaves the Nats perennially in a hole that only a powerhouse offense - which they obviously lack - could get them out of. Importing Cabrera, the poor man's Bobby Witt, is just a symptom of the desperate need for stability. Ryan Zimmerman, of course, has been the biggest disappointment; it's no longer reasonable to project him as a guy who will go head-to-head against David Wright, but they need him to step up and become the team's go-to guy. It also doesn't help that a combination of inconsistency and lunacy has sent Dukes back to the bench yet again, given his talents. 2009 is unlikely to be as grim as 2008, although I suspect that the 72-win estimate above is the high end of what is realistic.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
April 9, 2009
BLOG: Well, He Was A Protestant Minister

Fortunately, ignorance is curable, at least in the young. Although if that's the way the question was actually written, the teacher's ignorance is another story.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:23 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Cut Too Short

Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart killed by a hit-and-run driver just hours after his first start of the season. Adenhart was just 22; RIP.

As usual in these situations, the loss to the fans and the game pales in comparison to the loss of life, so I'll just say that, as with guys like Josh Hancock and Darryl Kile, what disturbs us at the sudden death of an athlete isn't just the usual forceful reminders of arbitrary mortality we get from any news story about a young person dying suddenly, nor is it the more banal sports impact of a team being robbed of a player without warning, as happens as well with mere injuries; most of all, it's that when people say "this puts the game in perspective," it feels wrong because the whole point of the games is to give us a respite from perspective. (That's a point I made in my essay after September 11, and it's also why I generally don't spend much time on stories about steroids or off the field scandals or even business of baseball stories, if I can avoid them). Most of us get our fill of real life from real life itself - the tragedies, the tradeoffs, the obligations. Our loss when a man like Nick Adenhart dies is a small loss, insubstantial compared to the loss to his loved ones and teammates, but it's a loss nonetheless: an erosion of the safe haven sports provides from the rest of the world.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:37 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/WAR: Dock Amok

Christopher Badeaux at the New Ledger looks at why the American Bar Association should be opposed to indicting lawyers for giving legal advice. One can certainly imagine a world in which lawyers would simply refuse to advise governments and other institutional clients as to what the rules governing some topics are, on the grounds that, say, the President should consult only his conscience - and possibly Scripture - before acting, rather than inform himself as to whether or not he is in compliance with the law. But that is hardly the world institutions like the ABA purport to champion.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:25 PM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 8, 2009
POLITICS: Sovereign What?

The lawyers here will find this endlessly amusing. Yes, to Olbermann, Turley and Greenwald, a foundational legal concept that's been black-letter law for the entire duration of American jurisprudence, and is recognized in just about every jurisdiction on the planet, is somehow a novel and frightening expansion of executive power. Olbermann at least is not a lawyer, but how the other two passed the bar exam escapes me.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:33 PM | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
April 7, 2009
POP CULTURE: In The Criminal Justice System, The People Are Represented ....

Law & Order is expanding into a UK series.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:39 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: None Too Bright

George Will looks at some of the perils of the new compact flourescent lightbulb. I can attest from personal experience to the fact that the bulbs are prone to burning out quickly despite the alleged long life that comes with their hefty price tag, and to the slow warm-up times and generally inferior quality of the light produced (Megan McArdle notices a similar trend with other supposedly 'green' products). All of which, of course, is why the force of the law will be required to outlaw Edison's great invention by 2014.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:14 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/POP CULTURE: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

The good: reader Rob B points me to the Tauntaun sleeping bag, which of course I now want...or at least, wish I had had when I was about 11.

The not so good: Brian Faughnan looks at the new General Motors ....vehicle. Um, yeah, let's see how this drives on the highways of Minnesota in winter. And this Iowahawk video Brian links to is too good not to share:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:11 PM | Business • | Politics 2009 • | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
April 6, 2009
BASEBALL: On Sabathia's First Day, He Rested

A little perspective for panicked Yankee fans - CC Sabathia's stat line in his first start of the season, 2006-08:

13.2 IP (4.5 per start), 7.24 ERA, 11.20 H/9 IP, 2.63 HR/9, 3.29 BB/9, 7.90 K/9. I don't know why Sabathia can't get himself loose for Opening Day - pick your favorite theory - but that's his history. Last year, of course, was the extreme example, with CC posting a 13.50 ERA in his first four starts, 1.88 in his last 31.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:10 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: According To Plan

Mets openers in recent years haven't had a lot of true surprises or variations from script - either the game goes pretty much according to the script the Mets envisioned before the season, or it goes horribly wrong in a predictable way. Today, with Santana pitching well despite poor control and the Putz/Rodriguez tandem slamming the door in the 8th/9th, fell into the former category, which was nice. Magic number: 161.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:10 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Where We Will And Won't Go

An interesting debate between two people I know and greatly respect in the blogosphere: Patterico and my RedState colleague streiff - about a topic I addressed immediately after the election: how the Right should conduct itself in opposition. The debate is, unsurprisingly, reflective of their backgrounds - Patterico, as a prosecutor, has a lawyer's sensitivity to the costs of losing credibility, while streiff, as an old infantryman, is focused more on how to confuse and overwhelm the other side. Basically, Patterico argues broadly that there are lines we should not cross, and specifically that certain types of personal attacks on Obama run the risk of sinking to the level of madness and virtiol characteristic of the Left and the Democrats the past 8 years; streiff cites chapter and verse of Obama's inspiration, Saul Alinsky, to argue that those tactics were ultimately successful against Bush and that the Right should not hesitate to use them, at least within reason, and has suffered in the past from refusing to do so.

I agree with a good deal of what both of them say, and at the end of the day it comes down to specific cases. Surely, there is a happy medium between being an aggressive advocate and ending up like the Left.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:08 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (28) | TrackBack (0)

Obama apologizes for not speaking Austrian. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

This is also a great riff on what happens when Obama tries to answer a question without his Teleprompter handy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2009 AL East EWSL Report

Part 3 of my preseason previews is the AL East; this is the third of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold. Prior previews: the AL Central and AL West.

Key: + (Rookie) * (Based on one season) # (Based on two seasons)

The Hated Yankees

Raw EWSL: 283.00 (94 W)
Adjusted: 288.43 (96 W)
Age-Adj.: 253.86 (85 W)
2009 W-L: 98-64

C37Jorge Posada1510
1B29Mark Teixeira2624
2B26Robinson Cano1618
SS35Derek Jeter2216
3B33Alex Rodriguez2823
RF30Xavier Nady1513
CF25Brett Gardner24
LF35Hideki Matsui118
DH35Johnny Damon2014
C232Jose Molina76
INF33Cody Ransom22
OF28Nick Swisher1516
1324Melky Cabrera911
SP128CC Sabathia2222
SP232AJ Burnett129
SP329Chien-Ming Wang1110
SP437Andy Pettitte1110
SP523Joba Chamberlain#79
RP139Mariano Rivera1715
RP234Damaso Marte54
RP328Edwar Ramirez#33
RP428Jose Veras*35
RP527Brian Bruney44

Subjective Adjustments: None; I had considered downgrading A-Rod for his injury, but the age adjustment hacks off 5 Win Shares, and that's probably a built-in adjustment for the scope of the injury (assuming A-Rod is something like the old A-Rod when he returns; if he's not, things will get ugly in a hurry).

The Yankees get a boost for having two outfielders on the bench (Swisher and Melky) who are rated largely on the basis of regular playing time, but that just offsets Gardner and Matsui, who are not.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - The Yankees' bench is stronger than it has been in some time, but the next level down is still pretty sad; other than Shelley Duncan, the people immediately on hand are non-hitting catcher Kevin Cash and Royals castoff Angel Berroa. 22-year-old OF prospect Austin Jackson appears to be a year away from being ready to help at the big league level.

Pitchers - Here, there is more depth. Phil Hughes will likely step in if one of the rotation starters gets hurt (a pretty good bet with the likes of Burnett and Joba), and there's also Brett Tomko, Ian Kennedy and Kei Igawa, although the latter two are in very bad odor. Also relievers Jonathan Abadejo, Phil Coke and Alfredo Aceves. Darrell Rasner signed with a team in Japan.

Analysis: The Yankees seem more vulnerable offensively than they have in years, with the injury to A-Rod and Father Time chasing down Jeter, Posada, Damon and Matsui. But EWSL says they are still the team to beat in this division, thanks very largely to the acquisitions of Teixeira and Sabathia (see here if you missed my look back at the Yankee's pitching acquisitions of the last 35 years). I'm not sure I'd go that far, but this team has excellent starting pitching, few holes and a fair amount of redundancy built in; they're going to be formidable.

This is (other than Wang) a very high-strikeout staff, maybe even one that could challenge the 2001 Yankees' AL record for strikeouts (1266). Andy Pettitte, at 7 K/9, was above his career average last season and higher than in any of the Yankees' championship seasons, and Sabathia, Burnett and Joba combined to strike out 600 batters in 574.2 innings last season, 9.4 per 9 innings. Of course, they will still need defense. The Yankees, as so often has been the case in the past decade (and in contrast to days of yore) were third from the bottom of the AL in defensive efficiency. With many of the same fielders returning, aside from a distinct upgrade at first, the pressure will be on the light-hitting speedster Brett Gardner (the poor man's Jacoby Ellsbury) to provide a boost with the glove. Gardner is a kind of light, fast player the Yankees haven't had much lately - Derek Jeter in 2006 is the only Yankee in the last five years to steal 30 bases in a season; Chuck Knoblauch in 2001 and Tony Womack in 2005 are the only Yankees since 1995 to steal 20 or more bases without hitting double figures in home runs.

Somehow, though, the story of the Yankees' year seems destined to be Alex Rodriguez. Your guess of how he will perform when he returns is as good as mine. With Cody Ransom handling third base in his absence, the pressure will mount daily to get A-Rod's bat back in the lineup no matter how unpopular he is.

Boston Red Sox

Raw EWSL: 258.00 (86 W)
Adjusted: 274.51 (92 W)
Age-Adj.: 252.87 (84 W)
2009 W-L: 97-65

C37Jason Varitek106
1B30Kevin Youkilis2421
2B25Dustin Pedroia#1928
SS33Julio Lugo76
3B35Mike Lowell1611
RF33JD Drew1513
CF25Jacoby Ellsbury#1015
LF30Jason Bay2017
DH33David Ortiz2118
C226George Kottaras+04
INF25Jed Lowrie*49
OF27Rocco Baldelli44
1333Mark Kotsay76
SP129Josh Beckett1312
SP228Daisuke Matsuzaka#1214
SP325Jon Lester1112
SP442Tim Wakefield107
SP531Brad Penny97
RP128Jon Papelbon1615
RP233Hideki Okajima#86
RP327Manny Delcarmen66
RP439Takashi Saito1312
RP531Javier Lopez54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Infielder Nick Green, and outfielders Cris Carter, Paul McAnulty and Chip Ambres. The Brad Wilkerson experiment seems to have run its course; Wilkerson was once a multi-tool player, but too many disappointing seasons have left him at what looks like the end of the line at 32.

Pitchers - The Red Sox have an embarrassment of pitching riches, even taking account of the traditional baseball maxim that you can never have too much pitching, and if you do you'll end up needing it all. I didn't even have room to list reliever Ramon Ramirez, the bounty of the Coco Crisp deal who had an outstanding year for the Royals last season, or Justin Masterson. The Sox hope to get John Smoltz to return around June, and presumably they'll make room for him somewhere. Clay Buchholz was a hotter property than Lester this time last year; Buchholz had a 2.52 ERA this spring (0.46 until his last spring outing), he struck out 8.5 men per 9 last season and had a 2.47 ERA while striking out a batter per inning at Pawtucket last season; none of that was enough to avoid getting sent back to AAA this year, but for a 24-year-old pitcher with his credentials and stuff, 76 innings of poor control and too many longballs last season should not be enough to give up on him as a prospect.

Analysis: The Sawx remain a deep team with few real holes and lots of pitching depth, albeit without a proven front-line regular-season ace (yes, I know about Lester's and Matsuzaka's big years last season and Beckett's 2007 and postseason glories). The offense should be OK as long as Jason Bay doesn't revert to 2007 form, even assuming some return to earth from Pedroia, but the man in the spotlight will be David Ortiz. Ortiz remained productive last season, but 2007's falloff in homers amid an otherwise outstanding season followed by 2008's distinctly declining production for a guy who - while better-conditioned - has the build of a Mo Vaughn or a George Scott raises the question of whether he'll be following a similar mid-30s fade or whether last year was just the kind of off year that signals a guy moving out of his prime but not necessarily sledding straight downhill.

Baldelli should get his chance to seize the fourth outfielder role before Kotsay returns from injury.

Tampa Bay Rays

Raw EWSL: 210.33 (70 W)
Adjusted: 238.52 (80 W)
Age-Adj.: 244.84 (82 W)
2008 W-L: 95-67

C25Dioner Navarro1114
1B31Carlos Pena2017
2B30Akinori Iwamura#1516
SS29Jason Bartlett1514
3B23Evan Longoria*1024
RF29Gabe Gross87
CF24BJ Upton1925
LF27Carl Crawford1616
DH32Pat Burrell1916
C228Shawn Riggans*24
INF26Willy Aybar45
OF24Matt Joyce*38
1328Ben Zobrist55
SP125Scott Kazmir1314
SP227James Shields1312
SP325Matt Garza88
SP426Andy Sonnanstine#68
SP523David Price14
RP139Troy Percival44
RP231Dan Wheeler98
RP326JP Howell66
RP431Grant Balfour65
RP526Jeff Niemann+06

Subjective Adjustments: None; I could rate Niemann as a starter and Price as a reliever, but it doesn't really matter. Niemann will open as the fifth starter following Jason Hammel's trade to Colorado, but Price will be in the rotation pretty quickly, I have to assume, and the Rays don't seem shy about sending Niemann to the pen.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Gabe Kapler in the outfield and Adam Kennedy in the infield provide insurance. SS prospect Reid Brignac is on hand, but will be pressed to make his move quickly on Bartlett by the specter of Tim Beckham, the last first pick in the draft the Rays are likely to have for a while. Outfielder Fernando Perez is out three months with a dislocated wrist. Morgan Ensberg was in camp but was cut.

Pitchers - Reliever Joe Nelson, who had a great year for the Marlins last season and veteran relievers Jason Isringhausen, Chad Bradford, Brian Shouse and Lance Cormier provide depth.

Analysis: EWSL rates the Rays pretty highly when you factor in all the adjustments, but it's unsurprising that any rating based on established major league performance still shows they have to prove last year wasn't a fluke compared to the twin titans of this division. Of course, at the end of the day, it's unlikely that there will be three 95-win teams in the East no matter how solid they are; one of them will have to give.

I scoffed last season at Baseball Prospectus' projection that the Rays would cut their runs allowed from 944 to 713 in a single year, being unable to find any precedent for such an enormous percentage reduction in runs allowed by a single team in a single year and operating on the assumption that you never predict something that's never happened before. A year later, I still have yet to do a systematic study but I've also yet to locate another team with such a dramatic reduction - yet the Rays allowed 671 runs, accounting for almost the entirety of their improved record. As I've detailed on several occasions, that improvement was partly the young pitching but overwhelmingly the defense. There being really no precedent for this sort of thing, I remain guarded and skeptical at best about whether they can avoid a natural letdown from such a drastic leap forward in defense in a single season.

If you are looking for a sleeper on this suddenly under-the-microscope team, it would be Matt Joyce, who slugged .492 with the Tigers last season before being dealt for Edwin Jackson. Joyce may even get an audition in center when Upton's unavailable.

Toronto Blue Jays

Raw EWSL: 186.50 (62 W)
Adjusted: 211.64 (71 W)
Age-Adj.: 190.57 (64 W)
2009 W-L: 76-86

C33Rod Barajas76
1B32Lyle Overbay1210
2B27Aaron Hill1212
SS33Marco Scutaro1210
3B34Scott Rolen1311
RF28Alex Rios2021
CF30Vernon Wells1714
LF25Adam Lind#69
DH21Travis Snider+211
C232Michael Barrett43
INF34John McDonald43
OF37Kevin Millar117
1328Jose Bautista1010
SP132Roy Halladay2015
SP224Jesse Litsch#811
SP327David Purcey*11
SP424Rickey Romero+04
SP529Scott Richmond+14
RP133BJ Ryan86
RP233Scott Downs96
RP328Jesse Carlson*59
RP431Brian Tallet54
RP526Brandon League33

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Joe Inglett and Russ Adams in the infield, Buck Coats in the outfield and catching prospect Curtis Thigpen.

Pitchers - Dustin McGowan may or may not be out for the season; Shawn Marcum likely is. Others on hand include relievers Jason Frasor and Shawn Camp, as well as TJ Beam, Brad Mills, Brian Burres (a year removed from his unfortunate tenure in the Baltimore rotation), Casey Janssen, and Brett Cecil.

Analysis: Sometimes, a team that underachieves its Pythagorean projection is a candidate for a leap forward the next season on the grounds that bad luck evens out, but sometimes, as with the Jays (who fell 7 games under theirs last season), it's just a missed opportunity. The injuries to McGowan and Marcum and the departure of Burnett have left a shell-shocked remnant of the AL's best pitching staff last season (hey, you could look it up). Litsch, with a career average of 4.7 K/9, seems an unreliable second starter, and things get scarier after that (Purcey's an excellent prospect but as yet unproven). And beyond Lind and Snider, both unproven as well, there isn't a lot of future in their current lineup - Rios and Hill and in their primes, and the rest are 30 and up. Not that you'd be looking to dump a guy like Rios, but at this point he doesn't look like much to build a championship team around.

Baltimore Orioles

Raw EWSL: 160.50 (54 W)
Adjusted: 192.43 (64 W)
Age-Adj.: 175.94 (59 W)
2008 W-L: 72-90

C23Matt Wieters+011
1B32Aubrey Huff1613
2B31Brian Roberts2016
SS29Cesar Izturis76
3B37Melvin Mora1510
RF25Nick Markakis2025
CF23Adam Jones*512
LF24Felix Pie#34
DH31Luke Scott119
C238Gregg Zaun86
INF31Ty Wigginton1311
OF33Ryan Freel54
1334Chad Moeller21
SP130Jeremy Guthrie#1111
SP234Koji Uehara04
SP331Adam Eaton22
SP435Mark Hendrickson43
SP528Alfredo Simon04
RP132George Sherrill75
RP227Chris Ray44
RP326Jim Johnson*49
RP428Dennis Sarfate*34
RP537Jamie Walker43

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Newly-acquired infielder Robert Andino, catcher Robby Hammock, Luis Montanez and Donnie Murphy.

Pitchers - Rich Hill, who has fallen incredibly far in such a short time but will probably get another crack at a rotation gig once he's healthy, Danys Baez, Matt Albers and Radhames Liz.

Analysis: Another grim year in Baltimore, and like Toronto, while the Orioles don't look like they have a 100-loss kind of lineup, their weaknesses - especially a pitching staff that may rival the Rangers for the league's worst when you adjust for the park - will be brutally exposed playing New York, Boston and Tampa all year.

That said, there is some hope here - once Wieters gets promoted, you really do have a core of very young and at least possibly very good players in Wieters, Markakis, Jones and Pie (the latter two being crapshoots at this stage, but young and gifted enough to be worth hoping on). Hopefully for O's fans, they won't fall into delusions of adequacy again if the rotation opens with a few good weeks.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 AM | Baseball 2009 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
April 4, 2009
BASEBALL: Day At The Citi

I was out at Citi Field today for the Mets-Red Sox exhibition. Thoughts and impressions:

-The new park really is gorgeous, but it is most definitely not ready for Opening Day quite yet. Part of that impression is just the fact that it's new and nobody - least of all me - knows their way around, and perhaps part is where we were sitting (down in the lowest ("Sterling") level seats behind home plate - spectacular seats) seems to be finished, but there's a distinct lack of signs showing you where to go and it was extremely difficult to get from one place to another, with a lack of ramps and escalators, stairs with no re-entry and elevators that don't go down. There's a bar and grill down there but there's no signs anywhere to tell you what food is for sale where or at what prices (there were also no vendors in our section and no waiters either, as Shea generally had in the priciest field-level seats). We had to go up a level to get a simple beer and hot dog, were told that other food choices required a trip to right field, and had to beg passage in a freight elevator to get back down again. The scoreboards were out of sync and sometimes showed the wrong team's pitcher. There's a disturbingly large amount of un-sold or at least un-posted ad space on the scoreboard. And the lines everywhere were bad, especially on entry. I suspect a lot of this is more in the nature of initial disorganization than lasting problems with the park, but we shall see. I was at a similar dry run at Camden Yards, the first game ever played there in the spring of 1991 (a Mets-Orioles exhibition that Sid Fernandez christened with a classic Sid outing, five no-hit innings followed by a 5-run sixth), and that place was totally ready in a seamless way that immediately made you realize you were walking into the future of baseball stadiums. This is still a work in progress.

-There were, so far as I could see, no championship banners up. I know they are selling the old ones from Shea online, but I'd expected they had the replacements ready.

-One overwhelming impression: man, was there a ton of garbage on the field, just loads of wrappers, cups, plastic bags - Youkilis and Ortiz were stopping to scoop up trash. The grounds crew would clean up between innings, and then it would get bad again. I don't know if it was the wind, the closeness of the seats to the field, the exhibition game crowd or what, but they're going to have to do something about it.

-Like I said, though, it's a wonderful park. There's a lot of foul territory around first and third but home plate is barely in front of the backstop, so sitting in the field level seats behind the plate is like being at a Little League game (in a good way). The padded seats are much more comfortable than anything I have previously seen at a ballpark. The Magic Apple, which didn't exactly have a busy day today, is enormous, and the irregular outfield dimensions will make life interesting. There's no longer a screen above the seats behind the plate, so it's prime foul ball territory, but they may have to rethink giving people plates and glasses to sit at some of the little tables back there - we heard quite a crash when a guy knocked a plate over diving for a foul ball. The party area in right field is also kind of unnerving. The color scheme on the fences has more of a (baseball) Giants than Mets motif. Also, the field really has a close view of incoming airplanes, perhaps due to facing a little different direction than Shea.

-I don't know if the radar gun was slow, but between Perez, Maine and Matsuzaka we didn't see a single pitch above 86 mph.

-It could be a long year for Oliver Perez. I don't know that I have ever seen a guy booed like that in a spring training game. The Mets have purged most of the unpopular guys from the bullpen, so the boo birds will need a new favorite, and when Perez is like today and can't find the strike zone, he's an easy target.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:24 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 3, 2009
BASEBALL: Sheffield Finally Arrives

The Mets have signed Gary Sheffield. Generations of Mets front offices have been panting after Dwight Gooden's nephew since about 1988, so it was inevitable that they would get him eventually, and most likely when he wasn't any good anymore. On a gut level, I like the move: lacking corner outfielders who are good enough to play everyday, the Mets should probably be platooning both Church and Murphy, but Fernando Tatis can't play both corners at once against lefthanded pitching. Sheffield's been a great hitter for years, and roared down the stretch as recently as 2007, so he doesn't seem a bad bet to have some gas left in the tank for a cheap salary. And he's not really in a position to be that much a distraction if he's fighting for playing time; if he becomes one, you can just cut him.

Realistically, though, I'm not sure that's my head talking. His personality aside, Sheffield's 40, he's probably not using all of the, er, substances he's used in the past, he batted .225/.326/.400 in 2008 (a slightly more respectable .232/.328/.455 in the second half), and worst of all he hit .239/.314/.440 against lefthanded pitching, so platooning him may not end up yielding a lot of benefits. So, this may be a low-risk move but it's still one that may not generate much in the way of runs on the scoreboard.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:48 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
April 2, 2009
POLITICS: Not Much Better

Since I noted the poor state of the Oakland Mayor's office yesterday, we get news that the Democrats' next in line has his own problems:

Former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata said Tuesday he will run for mayor of Oakland in 2010.


Perata is a political heavyweight who served four years as state Senate president pro tem, when he was, arguably, the most powerful Democrat in state government. But candidate Perata will bring plenty of baggage into the mayor's race, too.

The FBI has investigated Perata for more than five years, trying to determine whether he took kickbacks or bribes for official favors, perhaps through a network of friends and associates.

Earlier this year, the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco told Perata's attorneys the office would not file charges. But the FBI subsequently took their case to the Sacramento U.S. attorney's office, which agreed to review the case. Perata said he hasn't heard anything about the case since then.

Of course, there's not always fire where there is smoke, but the step of trying a second set of prosecutors certainly suggests that the FBI thinks it has something.

Meanwhile, David Freddoso looks at the "corruption tax" imposed on residents of Illinois (the latest Daley ally convicted last week is discussed here). Then there's Alabama, where Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford will stand trial this summer and former Governor Don Siegelman, also a Democrat, saw the bulk of his conviction affirmed earlier this month. Pretrial proceedings also continue against Democratic officials in Baltimore, including the Mayor. And the NY Daily News has an article and a rogues' gallery on corruption and dysfunction in Albany. As usual, when you dig for this stuff there's a boatload of Democrats and a handful of Republicans.

UPDATE: Rod Blagojevich is expected to (finally) be indicted today.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:18 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
April 1, 2009
BASEBALL: News From Alaska

David Pinto has an item you simply must read today.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:08 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Most Likely To Kill Cops

Jack Dunphy looks at a stone-cold Oakland cop-killer and the morally depraved excuses made for him. The comments from Red Ron Dellums are enough to make you wonder why anyone would agree to serve in the Oakland PD under such a Mayor.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:05 PM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)