As usual this time of year, I’m creating new categories for the new year. This is especially important for those of you who come here directly to the baseball category page, which should now be here. Update your bookmarks accordingly. Also note that posts about the 2008 presidential race will be in the Politics 2008 category.
First reaction to the news: this stinks for the Mets, who really could have used Zito and his durability. Second thought: 7 years and $126 million is crazy money for a guy who is a durable quality pitcher, yes, but not a championship-quality staff ace.
One thing that happens in Rotisserie baseball is that you sometimes realize that the economics are shifting – people are throwing stupid money at closers and speed is cheap, something like that. So you change your strategy. Starting pitching still matters, but it matters less than it used to, and yet has become obscenely expensive. I can’t criticize the Mets for mostly staying out of the feeding frenzy. Glavine and Maine give the Mets two solid starters, and El Duque will hopefull be OK when available. Dave Williams and Jason Vargas may give the Mets some non-Lima-quality insurance. Which, with Trachsel, Bannister and Zambrano gone, leaves two rotation slots, one to be filled by Oliver Perez in the hopes of progress, the other open for competition between Pelfrey, Humber, and Soler, and Pedro to return at mid-season.
Not a great rotation. But with a deep bullpen and a solid lineup and defense, maybe the Mets are ahead of the game in shifting their strategy and saving their resources.
Good overview of the big fish that might be on next year’s market. Carlos Zambrano is obviously the major prize here.
The Royals deal Andrew Sisco to the White Sox for Ross Gload. This is an interesting deal. My gut reaction is to say that it is a horrendous deal for the Royals. Sisco is a 23-year-old lefthander who could throw a feather through a brick wall, and those don’t grow on trees, especially for the pitching-starved Royals. He had a fine rookie campaign in 2005 followed by a terrible year, but 6’10” power lefties have something of a history of coming along slowly, and they are dealing him when his stock is down. I’m also not sure it’s a great deal for Sisco; while he gets into a much better organization for developing pitchers, he is probably more likely now to get pigeonholed as a situational lefty reliever, which is not the best role for a guy with his upside but also his control problems.
All of that said, though, the deal may yet be partly salvaged if Gload turns out a few good years as a regular. He is a pretty good hitter, probably better than, say, Jeff Liefer or Jeff Abbott or Greg Norton. While his upside is lower than Sisco’s, he’s a better bet to be productive in 2007. That may not be the profile you are seeking if you are KC and building for 2008-09, but it’s something.
UPDATE: Pinto says Sisco may have been dealt for eating tacos during a game in Mexico. Or something.
Boy, the Mariners are just idiots, aren’t they? First they trade Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez – at first glance a deal of two young-ish pitchers with good arms and bad injury histories, but really a deal of a guy with a great record (when healthy) as a reliever (2.89 career ERA), who could easily hold down an elite closer job, for a starter who has never pitched decently or had good peripheral numbers at any stage of his career. Then, they trade one of their few promising (albeit also injury-prone) young bats, Chris Snelling, for a manifestly washed-up and expensive Jose Vidro – and, in the process, eliminate the job of 23-year-old Jose Lopez, who for all of his second half swoon last year is a promising young hitter whose top ten comparable players include three Hall of Famers.
Win now, or build around youth. The Mariners will do neither in 2007.
For those of you who have been wondering what I was doing instead of blogging about baseball lately – besides being swamped with work and a not-sleeping-well baby – I decided to take a systematic look at this year’s free agent signings thus far, using Established Win Shares Levels. These are all the signings through Monday, drawn from ESPN’s list. [UPDATE: Yes, I know the chart is already a bit out of date – I may re-run this later to include Drew, Lugo, and Pettitte, as well as some of the people who sign later in the offseason].
EWSL is explained here, and the age adjustments I used, developed from the 2004-05 results, are here (I have not yet had time to add the 2006 results). As you will recall, EWSL is not a predictive tool and is not individually tailored to the player; it simply looks at the established level of quality a player has produced over the last three years, applies an age adjustment derived from actual experience, and concludes that a particular level of Win Shares is a player’s current established level of production. I see it as a baseline or starting point for an analysis of this nature, rather than an endpoint – in other words, if EWSL says a player’s current established level is 6 Win Shares, you need a really good reason to explain why you are paying a guy with the expectation that he will give you 20. I don’t exclude the possibility that a closer statistical analysis or some teams’ scouting and coaching staffs may have such good reasons, but the bigger the gap is, the more skeptical we should be.
The chart below is mainly self-explanatory. The last five columns list, in order, (1) the average per-year contract value, (2) the player’s 2007 EWSL, (3) the average contract value divided by 2007 EWSL, (4) the player’s average EWSL for the life of the contract, and (5) the average contract value divided by the average EWSL for the life of the contract. The chart is ranked by the final column, with the best bargains in terms of dollars per EWSL for the life of the contract at the top, and the worst deals at the bottom. I explain below some of the biases in the study, however.
EWSL more than a year out was computed by successive application of the age adjustments (I’ll spare you the algebra). Obviously that’s a crummy way to project a player as far as 8 years into the future, but then I’m not convinced that the Cubs have a better way to project a player 8 years into the future.
|Geoff Blum, 3B||34||SD||SD||1||$900,000||$900,000||5||$166,256||5||$166,256|
|Damion Easley, SS||37||AZ||NYM||1||$850,000||$850,000||5||$175,941||5||$175,941|
|Mike Lieberthal, C||35||PHI||LAD||1||$1,250,000||$1,250,000||6||$211,411||6||$211,411|
|Ramon Martinez, 2B||34||LAD||LAD||1||$850,000||$850,000||4||$219,828||4||$219,828|
|Royce Clayton, SS||37||CIN||TOR||1||$1,500,000||$1,500,000||6||$235,738||6||$235,738|
|Kazuo Matsui, 2B||31||COL||COL||1||$1,500,000||$1,500,000||6||$259,905||6||$259,905|
|Adam Kennedy, 2B||31||LAA||STL||3||$10,000,000||$3,333,333||12||$276,228||12||$283,546|
|Kevin Millar, 1B||35||BAL||BAL||1||$2,750,000||$2,750,000||9||$292,180||9||$292,180|
|Craig Counsell, SS||36||AZ||MIL||2||$6,000,000||$3,000,000||11||$283,447||10||$315,146|
|Sean Casey, 1B||32||DET||DET||1||$4,000,000||$4,000,000||12||$323,939||12||$323,939|
|David Weathers, RP||37||CIN||CIN||2||$5,000,000||$2,500,000||8||$317,622||7||$344,545|
|Alex Cora, SS||31||BOS||BOS||2||$4,000,000||$2,000,000||6||$338,839||6||$363,488|
|Jose Mesa, RP||41||COL||DET||1||$2,500,000||$2,500,000||6||$394,737||6||$394,737|
|Scott Spiezio, 3B||34||STL||STL||2||$4,500,000||$2,250,000||6||$363,685||6||$397,448|
|Rich Aurilia, 3B||35||CIN||SF||2||$8,000,000||$4,000,000||10||$394,633||10||$397,615|
|Frank Catalanotto, LF||33||TOR||TX||3||$13,000,000||$4,333,333||11||$379,164||11||$401,637|
|Gary Bennett, C||35||STL||STL||1||$900,000||$900,000||2||$414,365||2||$414,365|
|Jay Payton, RF||34||OAK||BAL||2||$9,500,000||$4,750,000||13||$365,610||11||$417,342|
|Wes Helms, 3B||31||FL||PHI||2||$5,450,000||$2,725,000||6||$472,161||6||$454,489|
|Aaron Fultz, RP||33||PHI||CLE||1||$1,650,000||$1,650,000||4||$454,566||4||$454,566|
|David Dellucci, LF||33||PHI||CLE||3||$11,500,000||$3,833,333||9||$414,026||8||$462,964|
|Alex Gonzalez, SS||30||BOS||CIN||3||$14,000,000||$4,666,667||12||$397,886||10||$471,003|
|Gregg Zaun, C||36||TOR||TOR||2||$7,250,000||$3,625,000||8||$440,355||7||$493,970|
|Tanyon Sturtze, RP||36||NYY||ATL||1||$750,000||$750,000||2||$494,071||2||$494,071|
|Mike Stanton, RP||40||SF||CIN||2||$5,500,000||$2,750,000||6||$496,241||6||$498,913|
|Jose Valentin, 2B||37||NYM||NYM||1||$3,800,000||$3,800,000||7||$511,888||7||$511,888|
|Bengie Molina, C||32||TOR||SF||3||$16,000,000||$5,333,333||11||$490,286||10||$521,305|
|Pedro Feliz, 3B||32||SF||SF||1||$5,100,000||$5,100,000||10||$525,665||10||$525,665|
|Mark DeRosa, 2B||32||TX||CHC||3||$13,000,000||$4,333,333||8||$566,893||8||$546,034|
|Ray Durham, 2B||35||SF||SF||2||$14,000,000||$7,000,000||13||$542,159||13||$559,361|
|Dave Roberts, CF||35||SD||SF||3||$18,000,000||$6,000,000||12||$512,616||11||$560,597|
|Kerry Wood, SP||30||CHC||CHC||1||$1,750,000||$1,750,000||3||$570,652||3||$570,652|
|Roberto Hernandez, RP||42||NYM||CLE||1||$3,500,000||$3,500,000||6||$614,035||6||$614,035|
|Russ Springer, RP||38||HOU||STL||1||$1,750,000||$1,750,000||3||$618,229||3||$618,229|
|Wade Miller, SP||30||CHC||CHC||1||$1,500,000||$1,500,000||2||$625,000||2||$625,000|
|Steve Kline, RP||34||SF||SF||2||$3,500,000||$1,750,000||3||$521,558||3||$643,051|
|Luis Gonzalez, LF||39||AZ||LAD||1||$7,350,000||$7,350,000||11||$648,949||11||$648,949|
|Darren Oliver, RP||36||NYM||LAA||1||$1,750,000||$1,750,000||3||$667,429||3||$667,429|
|Henry Blanco, C||35||CHC||CHC||2||$5,250,000||$2,625,000||4||$659,216||4||$676,174|
|Jose Guillen, RF||31||WA||SEA||1||$5,500,000||$5,500,000||8||$710,701||8||$710,701|
|Juan Pierre, CF||29||CHC||LAD||5||$44,000,000||$8,800,000||14||$612,103||12||$721,928|
|Jim Edmonds, CF||37||STL||STL||2||$19,000,000||$9,500,000||14||$695,020||13||$743,655|
|Paul Bako, C||35||KC||BAL||1||$900,000||$900,000||1||$745,856||1||$745,856|
|LaTroy Hawkins, RP||34||BAL||COL||1||$3,500,000||$3,500,000||5||$768,611||5||$768,611|
|Gary Matthews Jr., CF||32||TX||LAA||5||$50,000,000||$10,000,000||14||$708,617||12||$813,729|
|Tom Glavine, SP||41||NYM||NYM||1||$10,500,000||$10,500,000||13||$818,713||13||$818,713|
|Nomar Garciaparra, 1B||33||LAD||LAD||2||$18,500,000||$9,250,000||10||$888,057||11||$869,319|
|Guillermo Mota, RP||33||NYM||NYM||2||$5,000,000||$2,500,000||3||$739,754||3||$881,379|
|Greg Maddux, SP||41||LAD||SD||1||$10,000,000||$10,000,000||11||$889,548||11||$889,548|
|Woody Williams, SP||40||SD||HOU||2||$12,500,000||$6,250,000||7||$897,129||7||$898,150|
|Mike Piazza, DH||38||SD||OAK||1||$8,500,000||$8,500,000||9||$912,507||9||$912,507|
|Joe Borowski, RP||36||FL||CLE||1||$4,250,000||$4,250,000||5||$933,245||5||$933,245|
|Aramis Ramirez, 3B||29||CHC||CHC||5||$75,000,000||$15,000,000||18||$839,991||16||$957,903|
|Scott Williamson, RP||31||SD||BAL||1||$900,000||$900,000||1||$983,965||1||$983,965|
|Orlando Hernandez, SP||41||NYM||NYM||2||$12,000,000||$6,000,000||6||$971,660||6||$990,388|
|Alan Embree, RP||37||SD||OAK||2||$5,500,000||$2,750,000||3||$937,820||3||$1,027,868|
|Danys Baez, RP||29||ATL||BAL||3||$19,000,000||$6,333,333||7||$908,917||6||$1,083,488|
|Frank Thomas, DH||39||OAK||TOR||2||$18,120,000||$9,060,000||11||$829,556||8||$1,094,241|
|Chad Bradford, RP||32||NYM||BAL||3||$10,500,000||$3,500,000||3||$1,018,923||3||$1,096,806|
|Kenny Lofton, CF||40||LAD||TX||1||$6,000,000||$6,000,000||5||$1,133,680||5||$1,133,680|
|Carlos Lee, LF||31||TX||HOU||6||$100,000,000||$16,666,667||17||$977,422||14||$1,156,569|
|Moises Alou, RF||40||SF||NYM||1||$8,500,000||$8,500,000||7||$1,160,806||7||$1,160,806|
|Justin Speier, RP||33||TOR||LAA||4||$18,000,000||$4,500,000||5||$921,848||4||$1,261,868|
|Alfonso Soriano, LF||31||WA||CHC||8||$136,000,000||$17,000,000||17||$1,028,620||13||$1,315,438|
|Mike Mussina, SP||38||NYY||NYY||2||$23,000,000||$11,500,000||9||$1,258,848||9||$1,329,466|
|Jamie Walker, RP||35||DET||BAL||3||$12,000,000||$4,000,000||3||$1,524,100||3||$1,391,725|
|Vicente Padilla, SP||29||TX||TX||3||$33,750,000||$11,250,000||8||$1,462,210||7||$1,597,677|
|Ted Lilly, SP||31||TOR||CHC||4||$40,000,000||$10,000,000||7||$1,366,618||6||$1,804,602|
|Jason Schmidt, SP||34||SF||LAD||3||$47,000,000||$15,666,667||10||$1,594,355||8||$2,011,000|
|Gil Meche, SP||28||SEA||KC||5||$55,000,000||$11,000,000||7||$1,542,669||5||$2,042,034|
|Octavio Dotel, RP||33||NYY||KC||1||$5,000,000||$5,000,000||2||$2,219,263||2||$2,219,263|
|Adam Eaton, SP||29||TX||PHI||3||$24,500,000||$8,166,667||4||$2,009,185||3||$2,372,750|
|Kip Wells, SP||30||TX||STL||1||$4,000,000||$4,000,000||2||$2,500,000||2||$2,500,000|
|Randy Wolf, SP||30||PHI||LAD||1||$8,000,000||$8,000,000||3||$3,000,000||3||$3,000,000|
As I see it, this analysis has three biases you need to take account of before using it to analyze contracts.
1. You will notice that the top of the chart is dominated by short-term deals for low-cost, low-quality players, while most of the stars are in the bottom half. There’s a rational reason for that that doesn’t depend on GM stupidity. Lots of players can give you 1 Win Share; very few can give you 30. And there are still only 25 roster spots. In a perfectly efficient free agent market, that marginal 30th Win Share should be more expensive; the stars ought to cost a premium for scraping the right end of the bell curve. That’s an argument that the best measures analyze contracts by marginal value, but I didn’t have time to run an analysis of that nature.
2. Win Shares accords a fairly large share of the value of preventing runs to fielders as opposed to pitchers. As a result, especially with declining innings totals, all but the very best starters and nearly all relievers will top out in the mid teens, comparable to a solid but not star-level regular. While you could argue that this is a reflection that real-world teams should spend less on individual pitchers, you still need pitching, and accordingly the pitchers generally come in as more expensive. Another way of viewing this is to recognize that pitching is scarce and thus more valuable.
3. Unsurprisingly, players returning from long injuries preceded by periods of injury-reduced effectiveness are rated by EWSL as not being worth much. Naturally, the teams employing Randy Wolf and Octavio Dotel know that they are taking on a risk.
That said, some thoughts:
*I see Adam Kennedy as a guy nearing the end of his effectiveness, at least as an offensive player, but EWSL sees him as a guy who has been a consistent producer and is not that old, and just signed for a lower annual salary than Jose Valentin. The Cards don’t need to get a ton of value from Kennedy for that to pay off. Credit the savvy Walt Jocketty for that one.
*Yes, I recognize the inherent skepticism that accompanies anything that rates Kaz Matsui as a good deal. Just because he appears to be a good use of money doesn’t mean he’s a good use of at bats. Although I do still think Matsui may have a revival in him in Colorado.
*No, I do not actually think Gary Matthews and Juan Pierre are better investments than Glavine. Don’t forget the value of their defense, but I do see Pierre in particular as a guy who is in rather faster than usual decline.
*Note that Aramis Ramirez is the only player on the chart who has an EWSL of 15 or higher for the duration of his contract. Obviously, he’s a steal.
*I was a little surprised to see Jason Schmidt in the rogues’ gallery with Eaton, Wells, Meche, Lilly, and Padilla, none of whom are pitchers of comparable quality.
Slick-fielding, light-hitting 1980s Giants shortstop Jose Uribe was killed in an auto accident late last night; he was 47 and living back home in the Dominican Republic:
Uribe owned a hardware store and other businesses in his hometown of Juan Baron in recent years, and ran unsuccessfully for mayor earlier this year.
For some reason, I found this description especially touching, symbolizing both the importance of ballplayers to the Dominican and the bond between generations of players:
Uribe’s death prompted an outpouring of grief in his hometown, where Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero led thousands of mourners through the streets.
Guerrero blasted music out of a van as they marched from the Uribe family home to the town’s baseball field. Among the mourners was Chicago White Sox shortstop Juan Uribe, a second cousin of Jose Uribe and from the same town.
The article mentions that Uribe’s widow is named Guerrero as well, so Vladimir may also be some sort of kin. Pinto notes that his first wife died in 1988. A postscript, not to blame the dead but as a reminder to the living: like Derrick Thomas, Uribe wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
Let’s see – the wholly unaccomplished Adam Eaton and the injured Randy Wolf sign $8 million/year contracts, Vincente Padilla, Gil Meche, Ted Lilly and Greg Maddux sign $10-11 million/year contracts, even though Maddux is past 40 and got plastered for three months straight last season and Meche ran out of gas in the second half last year and hasn’t had a good ERA in seven years.
Now word comes that Andy Pettitte, still in his prime and with a chance at 300 wins and the Hall of Fame if he sticks around, has decided not to retire. Gee, what do you think convinced him?
I’ll have to do a more comprehensive roundup of the free agent deals soon, but so many of these contracts are just insane.
Blez gives the pros and cons of Mike Piazza signing with the A’s to DH for $8.5 million. Personally I think Piazza’s value is wasted on a team that barely uses its backup catcher and will make him #3. Oakland probably would have been better off with Bonds, but I don’t know the whole story there. Still, there are only so many good hitters available and freeing Piazza from the daily grind of catching should keep him healthy. I agree that the A’s are rather short of offense after replacing Frank Thomas with Piazza, who whatever his other virtues is not Frank Thomas.
Ryan McConnell tears apart a supremely silly column by NY Daily News writer Bill Price complaining about the Mets’ patience in waiting out Tom Glavine’s decision to re-sign. Price somehow manages this screed without once explaining how the Mets suffered from waiting for Glavine or how he is not worth the $10.5 million price tag compared to the alternatives in the market, and his overwrought comparisons to Tom Seaver and Sandy Koufax just sound stupid, given that Glavine is a certain Hall of Famer who will almost certainly pass 300 wins next season.
It really is amazing how stupid and consumed by petty envy so many sportswriters are.
Matt Welch, as part of his top-ten list of the best seasons by an Angels DH (see if you can guess who is #1), has a lengthy and exhaustive analysis of why the Angels need to trade Chone Figgins for the same reasons as the Dodgers benefitted from dealing away Bobby Valentine before the 1973 season. Welch’s analysis sold me, as well as reminding me exactly how much young talent the Angels really have. The interesting question is where to deal Figgins, who has great speed and flexibility but fell off to a career-low .336 OBP last year at age 28, making him a dicey prospect at best as a leadoff man (I’m thinking St. Louis, which has a couple of weak spots in its lineup, a few injury-prone stars at 3B and CF, and a manager who worships defensive flexibility).
The Indians are looking at Keith Foulke to shore up a bullpen that just killed them in 2006. Foulke may well be a good gamble for a team that has made extensive use of re-built relief pitchers like Bob Wickman and Bobby Howry in recent years, but he has to be regarded as a reclamation project unless and until he proves that he’s healthy again.
Chris Carpenter signs for five years at $13 million a year. Presumably Carpenter’s long injury history (including missing the 2004 postseason) will prevent this deal from being a ceiling on Barry Zito, who is a lesser but more durable pitcher (although I would prefer not to shell out more than $65 million for Zito, given that he’s really not a legitimate #1 starter, as Carpenter is).
I know I’m a bit of a broken record on moving starters to the bullpen and vice versa, but I would feel a lot better about the Mets keeping Orlando Hernandez around if I thought there was at least a reasonable possibility that he could be shifted to the pen if needed (I gather he was not happy pitching relief with the White Sox). Hernandez is ideally suited to middle relief work, as he eats up righthanders and his unorthodox motion will be quite off-putting to a hitter who has taken a few at bats already against someone else. I looked at his career record and if you count the postseason, Hernandez has made 10 career relief appearances (mainly with the White Sox, and half of them in October). The results? 0.76 ERA in 23.2 IP, 24/8 K/BB ratio, and just 11 hits allowed (2 of them solo homers). I’m not saying it has to be done ASAP, but with the departure of Bradford, Hernandez signed to a two-year deal and a bunch of young arms on the way, that has to be an option the Mets should consider down the road.
Well, the Mets’ pitching staff is coming into focus. Glavine will be back next year, but Roberto Hernandez won’t, nor Chad Bradford. I also didn’t get the chance at the time to comment on the deal that sent Royce Ring and Heath Bell to the Padres for reliever Jon Adkins and outfielder Ben Johnson. I don’t like that deal – I realize that Bell and Ring had lost the confidence of the organization, but I just don’t see what in Adkins’ record suggests a useful pitcher, and Johnson seems like a guy whose upside is that he might be Xavier Nady someday.
Looks like the Mets’ pen will depend a lot on (a) the return from injury of Duaner Sanchez and Juan Padilla and (b) who doesn’t make the rotation.
I can’t believe that the Mets are paying more to keep El Duque than to keep Glavine. If you look at the pitcher salaries this offseason, Glavine is a pretty good deal even before you consider the fact that it’s just a one-year commitment. Here’s how this year’s pitching free agents stack up (in millions per year):
Mike Mussina 11.5
Tom Glavine 10.5
Adam Eaton 8.2
Randy Wolf 8
Danys Baez 6.3
Woody Williams 6.3
Orlando Hernandez 6
Justin Speier 4.6
Kip Wells 4
Jamie Walker 4
Chad Bradford 3.3
Mike Stanton 2.8
Kerry Wood 1.8
Aaron Fultz 1.7
Wade Miller 1.5
Scott Williamson 0.9
Tanyan Sturtze 0.8
Here’s a good brain-buster – name the ten players since World War II to score 140 or more runs in a season (it’s been done 12 times in that period, two guys doing it twice). I guarantee you can keep this one going for a good while in a group of reasonably knowledgeable fans – a ten-man list is the right length for this kind of question and none of these guys is truly obscure, although you may need to think about the ballparks they played in to get two of them.
Word is that JD Drew is signing with the Red Sox for 4 years and 56 million. Drew’s an outstanding offensive player – he’s a real upgrade compared to Trot Nixon – and the star-studded Sox shouldn’t need him to be an emotional leader, which he obviously isn’t.
That said, $14 million a year for a guy who has qualified for the batting title just twice in 8 years and has missed more than 50 games in a season three of the past six years is awfully pricey, even considering how badly inflated the free agent market has been thus far (it sure makes Aramis Ramirez at $15 million a year look like a steal). What is alarming is the idea that the Sox might use Drew to replace Manny. Manny’s contract at this point is cheaper – $38 million over two years. If you look at Runs Created, for example, Manny’s established performance level over 2004-06 is 127 runs created compared to 88 for Drew (9.20 per 27 outs compared to 7.69 for Drew). Now, there are ameliorating factors. Drew played in Dodger Stadium and Turner Field, not Fenway. And Drew is 31, while Manny at 35 is entering a serious danger zone, especially for a guy who is coming off an up year – the odds are way more than 50/50 that Manny is due for a serious falloff in 2007. But even for all of that, Drew’s fragility and lesser offensive skills still make him worth a lot less than 74% of Manny (which is where their salaries stack up).
PS – This TJ Simers article about Drew is interesting on many levels I lack the time to address at the moment.
One of the many fancy new features rolled out at Baseball-Reference.com lately is the ability to get career and year-by-year splits, in more detail than they have previously been available even at Retrosheet or through David Pinto, because they are derived from a newly completed database of all box scores dating back to 1957. It’s a goldmine, the potential of which I have not yet fully absorbed.
One cool feature is the splits showing how pitchers over the course of their career pitched in their wins vs. their losses. I started examining some recent pitchers of interest and decided to do a comparative study.
I looked at 58 pitchers, including every 200-game winner to start his career since 1957, plus three Hall of Fame pitchers for whom all but their first two years are available (Koufax, Drysdale and Bunning), plus a bunch of other guys who cleared 150 wins and/or 2500 Ks or were otherwise notable: Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Dave Stewart, Fernando Valenzuela, John Smoltz, Andy Pettitte, Al Leiter, Kevin Appier, Bret Saberhagen, Ron Guidry, Rick Sutcliffe, Mark Langston, and Sam McDowell. The group is a cross-section of the top pitchers from the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, Nineties and today. Some conclusions:
1. I was amazed at quite how dramatic the difference was between these guys’ average ERAs in their wins and losses. Yes, you expect a big separation – but of the 58, all but 12 had ERAs below 2.00 in their victories, and all but three had ERAs above 5.00 in their losses. The lesson: yes, starting pitching matters quite a lot in determining wins and losses, in case you still had any doubt.
2. The 12 who posted ERAs above 2.00 are obviously weighted more towards the post-1994 period and almost exclusively towards good teams. In order: Kenny Rogers (2.39), Pettitte (2.33), Jamie Moyer (2.30), Jack Morris (2.29), Sutcliffe (2.26), David Wells (2.25), Mike Mussina (2.17), Langston (2.10), Appier (2.07), Charlie Hough (2.06), Dennis Martinez (2.06), and Stewart (2.05).
The guy who jumps off that list is Morris – he played in the 1980s, not the 1990s, but always had superior offensive firepower at his back. The relatively high ERAs in his wins suggests that his W-L record should be viewed with a bit of skepticism, which I have argued for years as being a reason to doubt his Hall of Fame credentials. The same doubts, to a lesser extent, may be raised about Mussina, depending how his career record ends up, and especially since Mussina lacks Morris’ reputation as a big-game pitcher.
Appier was more surprising, until you remember that he got a disproportionate number of wins with the A’s, Mets and Angels after his prime, as opposed to his best years in KC. Appier also posted a solid 3.50 ERA in his no-decisions, but more on that below.
(If you are wondering, Steve Trachsel had a 3.97 ERA in his wins in 2006, 2.23 career).
3. The three guys with the lowest ERAs in their losses should not be surprising, though I was mildly surprised. One was Bob Gibson (4.69), who pitched in the pitcher-heaven Sixties (in 1968 he had a 2.14 ERA in his losses and a .500 record when not throwing a shutout despite pitching for a first-place team). One from the same era who surprised me more, since he always had good Mays-and-McCovey offenses, was Juan Marichal (4.94), but then you have to figure that Marichal lost a lot of his games to Gibson and both lost a lot to Koufax and Drysdale. The third, unsurprising given his teams, was Tom Seaver (4.92).
4. The very best pitchers in their wins were the extreme power pitchers and guys who won a lot in Sixties-era pitcher’s parks: Koufax (1.34), McDowell (1.43), Nolan Ryan (1.45), Drysdale (1.48), and Pedro Martinez (1.49). But the next rank, the guys in the 1.50s is a mixed bag: Jim Palmer (1.52), Gaylord Perry (1.54), Tommy John (1.57), Jerry Reuss (1.58), Gibson (1.59). Bert Blyleven was next at 1.60, if you were wondering.
5. The worst pitchers in their losses – Rogers (7.39), Wells (7.27), Pettitte (7.18), Leiter (7.04), Mussina (6.73), Sutcliffe (6.70), Stewart (6.62), Langston (6.57), Moyer (6.55), Gooden (6.54). Leiter (1.90-7.04) and Rogers (2.39-7.39) have the biggest differences between wins and losses, though Reuss (1.58-6.24) has perhaps the biggest percentage difference (I didn’t run the numbers on that).
6. A fascinating field of study would be to look at these guys’ no-decisions, but that proved labor-intensive and I may wait and see if further changes on the site make it easier to compute. One problem is that there is as yet no way, outside of reviewing individual games, to separate no-decision starts from no-decision relief appearances – for example, Koufax had a 6.90 ERA in 118 games where he appeared without a win, loss or save, but only 64 of those were starts, and much of the rest was probably early-career mopup work.
Anyway, while the results of this study can’t be separated out from the various other influences on a pitcher’s ERA and W-L record, I did find it interesting and illustrative.
Comments may be down but you can still amuse yourself. Derek Jeter slugged .483 this year and finished second for the MVP Award, leading to the question: how often has a player won the MVP and slugged below .500?
Well, since 1969, it’s been done
five six times. The winners are below the fold.
(UPDATE: Added one I missed).
Justin Morneau wins the 2006 AL MVP Award; my pick, Joe Mauer, the first catcher to lead the majors in batting average since Deacon White in 1875, finishes sixth, Derek Jeter (who unlike Morneau was clearly one of the two best players on his own team) finishes second, David Ortiz (who unlike Morneau was one of the three best hitting 1B/DHs in the AL) third, Frank Thomas fourth. Jermaine Dye fifth. Once again, the MVP voters fall under the hypnotic sway of RBI.
AL batting leaders are here; Morneau finished seventh in batting, sixth in slugging, eighth in OPS, fifth in Total Bases, and seventh in Hits (he wasn’t among the OBP, Homers, 2B, or Runs leaders). AL Win Shares leaders are here (Morneau tied for fifth with Raul Ibanez).
Lots of baseball stuff to catch up on the past two weeks or so.
*Judging by the search engine traffic, a lot of people are looking for my take on the 2006 NL MVP race, the 2006 AL MVP race, and the other postseason awards; go here for that. The big surprise to me in the NL voting was Lance Berkman finishing third. Given Carlos Beltran’s spectacular defense and superior baserunning, I have little doubt that Beltran was more valuable; then again, it’s good to see Berkman get some overdue recognition.
*It can’t have been lost on the agents for Ryan Howard and Miguel Cabrera that Alfonso Soriano finished sixth in the balloting, behind their clients, while having a career year. Soriano’s 8-year, $136 million ($17 million per year) contract with the Cubs is utter madness. I know I was too hard on Soriano for his huge home/road splits in Texas, and it’s true that (a) he’s a tremendous athlete, and athleticism does matter in projecting how a player ages, and (b) under Frank Robinson’s tutelage he drew 67 walks, more than he had drawn the prior two seasons combined and almost 30 above his career high. If Soriano can sustain most of that (his 16 intentional passes will probably fall off), he will remain a very dangerous hitter into his 30s, not only because he will get on base more but also because he will be less susceptible to pitchers taking advantage of his aggressiveness.
But that’s a big “if” for $136 million (the Mariners made the same gamble on Beltre and look how that worked out), and Soriano remains either a bad second baseman or a mediocre left fielder (the Cubs apparently plan to keep him in the outfield), plus Lou Piniella wants to bat him leadoff, which is nuts. And even if he does repeat 2006 a few times, that’s an awful lot of money and he is unlikely to be worth it by age 35, 36, 37 and 38. Perhaps the Cubs expect such salary inflation under the new collective bargaining agreement that $17mil for a 36 year old left fielder batting .270/.485/.340 with 18 stolen bases will be a bargain, but I doubt it.
And the Soriano signing represents a larger failure to come to terms with the organization’s persistent inability to take a pitch. I was OK with the Aramis Ramirez re-signing, which was cheaper and for a younger player who plays third base, but the two in combination tie up a lot of resources in aggressive hitters. Consider, since 1986, where the Cubbies have placed in the NL in walks:
6th three times
12th eight times (most of them when the league was 12 teams)
14th twice (2003 and 2004)
16th twice (2005 and 2006)
Although Sammy Sosa eventually learned patience, the tendency to import guys like Andre Dawson and Sosa and make them the team’s signature veteran leaders has not helped this. Simply put, the Cubs will continue to underachieve as long as they fail to make use of the free pass.
*I’m yet again not thrilled with the Mets’ signing of Moises Alou, which together with the money thrown at El Duque and Jose Valentin establishes a rather ominous pattern of over-investment in geriatric players (Glavine too, but Glavine’s worth it). Replacing Cliff Floyd with Alou is six of one for half a dozen of the other in terms of their injury histories, and at 40 Alou is more likely to decline or get hurt again; I’d give Floyd a 60/40 chance of having a better year in 2007 than Alou. In an ideal world, you would platoon them and get rid of Shawn Green, who unlike those two has almost zero chance of slugging .500 again. Green was a necessary stretch drive pickup but with a full offseason to work with he should not remain penciled in as a regular.
What is doubly concerning is the implication that the Mets are looking to dump Milledge, who I discussed at some length here. I’m fine with trading Milledge if the Mets get major value in return, but telegraphing their interest in dealing him is probably the first step to giving up way too soon on a guy who is just 21 and (so far as I can tell) has no problems that maturity can’t fix.
*The Mets also had a couple deals under the radar. They brought in Damion Easley, another 37-year-old infielder, which isn’t great news but I’m inclined to trust Minaya on this one, as he has had a decent record locating veterans to stock the bench. I’m less happy with dealing minor league relief stud Henry Owens, who the Mets gave up on after 4 major league innings, for Jason Vargas (the deal also includes Adam Bostick from Florida for Matt Lindstrom; I know nothing about either except that Lindstrom is three years older and both have had trouble throwing strikes in the minors).
Yankees re-sign Mussina. I agree with David Pinto that the 2-year, $22.5 million price tag is a reasonable one for a guy of Mussina’s age and effectiveness, especially for the Hated Yankees. Glavine should command about the same ballpark – in fact, he will probably want more than Mussina given his superior durability.
Signing Gil Meche, as the Yankees are contemplating, I don’t understand. Talk about being doomed to repeat your mistakes. Meche was an exciting prospect a few years ago and his 32 starts and revived K rate this season (7.52/9 IP) suggest a guy who may finally be healthy, but his health record is certainly no better than Carl Pavano’s and Jaret Wright’s were when they signed with the Yanks. His ERAs even pitching in SafeCo the last four years are 4.51, 5.01, 5.09, and 4.48, and he wore out in the second half last year (3.83 ERA before the break, 5.42 after; his career ERA after the break is 5.03). Meche hasn’t actually pitched well in seven years.
Mets re-sign Orlando Hernandez for two years and $12 million, through an age known only to his Maker. This, like the Valentin signing, seems to be a signing a bit like the Kris Benson deal, driven more by fear of the market and complacency with 2006 than a cold-eyed analysis of the future. Of course, Omar Minaya is blunt about the fact that the second year was the price of the first:
“The way the marketplace is, I didn’t think it would be realistic to sign Orlando Hernandez for one year. He stays in shape. He’s a hard worker. If you wanted to get him, you were going to give him two years.”
Yeah, I like El Duque too, and he can still pitch. But he’s also a 41-or-so-year-old pitcher with a checkered record for durability, who was signed for the purpose of pitching in the playoffs and then pulled up lame and missed them, and who posted a 4.66 ERA in the regular season. That may well be a pitcher worth bringing back, but for twelve million dollars?
Jose Valentin returns for a 1-year deal for 2007, estimated at $3 million. You gotta have a second baseman, and it’s hard to cut Valentin loose after the tremendous bounce-back year he had. But I have a feeling that the Mets will be shopping for a replacement by July.
*The Cubs really had no choice but to re-sign Aramis Ramirez to retain credibility with their fans, especially as a big-market team that could obviously afford to do so. While I obviously prefer more patient hitters and the Cubs in particular have a longstanding problem in that regard, Ramirez is too valuable a property, as a 29-year-old who hits for big-time power and a good batting average, to blame him for the things he doesn’t do.
*I have to regard the Jaret Wright trade as a sign of hubris on the part of Leo Mazzone. Perhaps Wright is best suited to middle relief work, given his utter inability to go past 5 innings with any regularity. As for the Yankees, they eat the bulk of yet another ill-considered contract, a luxury few of even the other rich teams have.
*I just gotta say: if you had tried at the All-Star Break to name the members of the traveling Major League all-star team that would visit Japan at the end of the season, how long would you have been guessing to come up with John Maine on the roster?
*The Rookie of the Year awards will be handed out this afternoon. The NL field is just an embarrassment of riches (the Dodgers and Marlins alone were loaded with quality rookies), but I have to regard the top three as Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Johnson. I’d give it to Ramrez very narrowly over Zimmerman, for having a slightly more impressive year, but both will – health and contract issues permitting – contend with Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, David Wright, and Miguel Cabrera for many years to come for the title of best SS and 3B in the NL East (in fact, Ramirez and Reyes are almost even as is). Dan Uggla had a fine year and may win the award but wasn’t as good as his double play partner this season and doesn’t have as bright a future – Ramirez is four years younger, had the same slugging percentage and an OBP 14 points higher, plays a more demanding defensive position, had more plate appearances, and stole 51 bases to Uggla’s six.
In the AL, I don’t really have a quarrel with Justin Verlander, who seemed to become the consensus choice after Liriano went down, although it’s easy to forget that Jonathan Papelbon is also eligible for the award; Papelbon will head to the rotation next year, which combined with Keith Foulke being cut loose raises some interesting questions about what the Red Sox bullpen will look like.
*My picks for the other major awards are discussed here.
UPDATE: Ramirez and Verlander win, with Zimmerman, Uggla and Johnson finishing 2-3-4 in the NL and Papelbon and Liriano 2-3 in the AL. Well done by the writers.
Can it really be possible that Keith Law ranks Barry Zito behind Mike Mussina, Ted Lilly, and Gil Meche?
I like and respect Law, but someone needs a remedial lesson on the value of durability.
Gary Sheffield becomes the first major player move of the offseason, shipping out to Detroit for three minor league pitchers. Interestingly, while the Yankees concluded that they had too many big, exorbitantly-paid veteran sluggers with big egos, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs was eager to claim one of those sluggers. Go figure.
From the Yanks’ perspective, the deal probably had to be made. Sheffield wasn’t going to fit well in the lineup unless he was willing to play first base, and while few of the pricey Yankee vets can really be moved, Sheffield was the one with the longest and best-known arsenal of methods to make himself a nuisance in the clubhouse. Even with Sheffield’s departure, if Giambi can’t play first base, the Yanks are stuck with nowhere to put Melky Cabrera unless he, Abreu, Damon or Matsui parks his wheels at first.
I don’t know that much about the pitching prospects, Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett. The 23-year-old Sanchez, a starter, is the top guy for now, the closest to the majors but having missed the last two months of the season with an elbow injury. His numbers suggest a guy just mastering his stuff, as his career minor league BB/9 rate is 4.56, but under 4 in 2005 and 2006; in 2006 he struck out 129 batters in 123 innings between AA and AAA. The 22-year-old Whelan, a reliever, is behind him in progress, having walked 4.26 per 9 innings for his career without advancing beyond 78.1 career innings A ball, but his 110 career whiffs (12.68 per 9) suggest a live arm. Claggett is a college reliever with a little over a year of pro experience, but good results so far. To an organization starved for young arms, this is a good deal.
For the Tigers, Sheffield is an investment in taking a 1-year miracle and turning it into a credible contender, as with the White Sox’ acquisition of Jim Thome a year ago. And certainly Sheffield’s history (a lifetime .297/.525/.398 hitter in over 9500 plate appearances) suggests that he should immediately become the defending AL champs’ best hitter. But they had to sign him to a 3-year deal through age 40, a risky proposition for a guy coming off a season nearly wiped out by injury and whose durability without the aid of performance-enhancing substances is questionable. It’s a calculated gamble, and an expensive one.
The big Mets news of the day is that the new ballpark to open in 2009 will be named CitiField, thanks to an 8-figure deal with Citigroup (the parent company of Citibank) estimated as much as $20 million per year. (More here). While it would have been nice to follow my suggestion that the Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee company pay to name the place Jackie Robinson Stadium, I’m basically fine with this, and not just because Citigroup (1) is a major client of mine and my firm’s and (2) holds the mortgage on my house. Four points about stadium names:
1. You get a new stadium, you get a new name. Let’s have none of this “New Shea”/”Old Shea” nonsense. Shea Stadium is a place with its own identity and its own place in the history of the game and the hearts of Mets fans. You tear it down to build a new stadium, you get a new name.
2. I don’t, in principle, have a problem with corporate stadium names (ballparks have been named after companies, egomaniacal owners, or some combination of the two – see “Wrigley Field” and “Turner Field” for examples – as long as there have been ballparks). $20 million a year can make the Mets more competitive, and that is a good thing. I’m fine with corporate names subject to points #3 and 4.
3. No ridiculous names. CitiField isn’t a ridiculous name, like the Poulan Weedeater Independence Bowl, the rather wimpy-sounding Minute Maid Field, or abysmal phone company names like SBC Field. There is a certain affinity between “Citi” and “Metropolitans,” after all. Citibank is a longstanding New York-based business and in an industry (banking and Wall Street investment banks) that has deep roots in the city.
4. No names that change every few years. In fact, were I negotiating a stadium deal, I would add in a substantial premium and an escape clause for renaming rights. That’s my big issue with naming stadiums after banks and phone companies, as well as new and unstable companies (see: “Enron Field”). But the First National City Bank of New York has been known as “City Bank” or Citibank for decades, and given its size and brand equity, should be for the forseeable future.
The A’s are about to ink a deal to build a new stadium in nearby Fremont, leaving Oakland and the Coliseum behind. Not clear yet whether the former Philly/KC franchise will take the name of its fourth city or, NY Giants and Jets style, stay the Oakland A’s. Could this be an end to 106 years of boom-and-bust financial cycles for the A’s?
Sammy Sosa wants back in.
Really, I was never a huge Sosa fan but I never actively disliked him, either. And unlike some people I’m not calling for Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Sheffield and Palmeiro to be barred from Cooperstown. Like the great spitballer Ed Walsh, or like the cheat-any-way-they-could Orioles of the 1890s, they were creatures of the conditions of their era.
But baseball needs to turn the page on that era. We’re stuck with Bonds – he hit too well last year and is too close to the record for him to end up blackballed this offseason – and for a little longer we will be stuck with Sheffield, as well perhaps with other veteran sluggers yet to be unmasked. But we don’t need any more of those guys playing in the aftermath of the steroid revelations than we have to.
Guillermo Mota suspended 50 games for failing a steroid test. Indians fans in particular will be amazed to hear that Mota was taking performance-enhancing drugs. People who remember his clashes with Mike Piazza may not.
I’m ambivalent about Mota as a pitcher anyway, and this certainly complicates his free agency, as did blowing the lead in Game Two of the NLCS. On the other hand, if the Mets can re-sign him for cheap as a result, this may be a blessing in disguise.
Note that middle relievers remain seriously over-represented among the guys who get caught.
Perhaps the bigger story than Piazza is the unsurprising news that despite a rough 2006, the White Sox picked up the option on workhorse Mark Buehrle. The exit of Buehrle and the Mets’ likely re-signing of Tom Glavine will leave the field of free agent pitchers exceedingly narrow, with Barry Zito, Jason Scmidt and Andy Pettitte the only guys who can be seriously characterized as healthy, effective and in their prime (although the wild card is Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka), plus a few oldsters like Mike Mussina and Greg Maddux.
The Padres have declined an $8 million option for Mike Piazza. Which makes sense; Piazza may have been worth that money this year in retrospect (although what they actually paid him was a good deal less), but a catcher his age he is always a risk of major injury or catastrophic falloff. The ESPN article indicates that both sides are interested in keeping him in San Diego, and when you discount for the fact that they are negotiating in the newspapers here it seems pretty likely another deal will get done.
The Mets, of course, have no room for Piazza, but if things don’t work out with San Diego there’s his hometown of Philly, which split its catching duties among three guys, none of them younger than 33, but there aren’t a ton of teams with money and a chance of competing that need either a starting catcher of a catcher/DH.
So, let me take one more crack at explaining precisely why the 2006 Cardinals winning the World Series bothered me, and then I’ll shut up on the topic, or at least move on to something else.
Obviously, of course, as a Mets fan, I was bitter at the way the NLCS ended. But that’s not really the heart of it – I was bitter at the end of the 1999 NLCS, but I didn’t think the Braves didn’t belong in the World Series. If the Mets had lost to the Tigers, I would have felt the same way.
Larry Borowsky of Viva El Birdos had an article in Slate that captured one part of the equation:
St. Louis’ surprising run seems particularly galling now because this era of playoff randomness coincides with the height of baseball’s statistical age. While random chance governs the sport from game to game, the opposite is true on a season-long level. The gradual accretion of outcomes – pitch after pitch, at-bat after at-bat, game after game – yields a deep body of evidence about which teams and players are the best. By the end of the season, we know not only who’s more valuable, but by how much. And Yadier Molina isn’t valuable.
Stat-centric analysis holds such sway over fans and sportswriters that when it clashes with the outcomes on the field, we tend to sneer at the outcomes. Next to the rich trove of data we’ve acquired throughout the season, a seven-game series seems like a ridiculously crude instrument for determining the best team. The Cardinals’ October accomplishments, however stirring, don’t seem as believable as those recorded by better teams over the long haul. I’m a huge Cardinals fan, and I still can’t convince myself that they’re the best team in baseball.
The problematic aspect of the Cardinals’ victory is that it is a defeat for rationality. There is, of course, more than one way to build a champion, and nobody wants to see the team with the best record or the scariest roster on paper win every single time – that would be boring. But most of the winning teams in the game’s history had at least a plausible case for why they could represent a model for postseason succcess, like this column I wrote on the Angels after the 2002 Series. The 2002 Angels were a healthy team all in its prime, specializing in putting the ball in play and pressuring the defense. The 2003 Marlins had young power pitchers, who could rise to the occasion in October; the 2001 D-Backs had two veteran aces who seized control of the postseason; the 2000 Yankees, who were one of the weakest champs in memory, represented the fruits of keeping a championship core together past their prime. Past Cardinal teams offered clinics in fielding and baserunning. And both the strong teams and the overachievers generally played to their strengths in the postseason. If you predicted the 1988 Dodgers to win it all, it would be on the back of Orel Hershiser, and so it was. If you expected the 1973 Mets to topple the Big Red Machine, it would be with outstanding starting pitching and Tom Seaver throwing the clincher, and so it was. I always loved Bill James’ analogy to baseball, which he borrowed from a friend’s description of chess, as being an argument without words about how the game should be played. Different arguments can win at different times, but you’d like to see the winner at least have an argument.
But what of this Cardinals team would you imitate in building a roster to win in October? Pujols, of course, is the best player in baseball, but while Pujols contributed at key junctures he was not the dominant figure in any of St. Louis’ three series victories. Carpenter, the ace, wasn’t especially effective, and Reyes, the young power pitcher, had his moments but didn’t blossom overnight like Ryan in 1969 or Rivera in 1995. Rolen and Edmonds played hurt and were not consistent contributors. You just would not ever try to build a championship team by assembling veteran mediocre hurlers like Suppan and Weaver and anemic hitters like Yadier Molina; and even David Eckstein is at best a complimentary player.
Of course, there is still room in any sport for the unexpected Cinderella team. But the great Cinderellas come from humble origins – the 1914 Braves were a moribund franchise for a decade and a half and were in last place on the Fourth of July. The 1969 Mets had never finished higher than 9th; the 1973 team had been doormats again in 1972 and was in last place at the end of August. Same dynamic goes for the worst-to-first 1991 Twins and Braves, and the 1987 Twins. The Cards don’t seem like any kind of a Cinderella; this team won 105 games in 2004 and 100 games in 2005, has been a powerhouse in its division for a decade, and was running off with the division until a late season collapse. The Cards were, essentially, a veteran team on the way down – with some young talent, yes (Wainwright, for example) but not the kind of Talent that presages a return to glory in the immediate future.
They aren’t a small market team, either, or a city that has suffered long awaiting a championship – St. Louis may lack the resources of the New York and LA markets but as one of baseball’s most storied franchises (only the Yankees have won more championships) they are vastly more financially successful than neighbors like the Royals and division rivals like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, and in recent years they have regularly imported guys the A’s could no longer afford (McGwire, Mulder, Isringhausen) or other pricey veteran stars (Rolen, Edmonds). That’s not a reason to root against them, given the presence of other, larger payrolls in the annual postseason picture, but it is yet another reason why the Cards don’t fit the “miracle team” mold.
I love the drama of the postseason as much as anybody, but when the storyline goes in the books, I want it to make some sense, whether the strictly rational sense of the most talented or best-suited-to-October team winning or the best player carrying his team on his back, or the Hollywood poetry of a good dramatic arc. This championship, at the end of it, doesn’t feel like a good ending to a story so much as an ordinary June hot streak for a just-above-.500 team that just happened to come in October. That’s anticlimactic for anybody outside St. Louis, and it makes the whole season seem like an exercise in random sample sizes instead of a coherent narrative the way so many postseasons past have been. That’s why I think the Cards winning this one was bad for baseball.
I can’t say the postseason was lacking in thrills for Mets fans, but David Pinto does make a good and admirably concise point about this being a lackluster postseason from the perspective of the fan with no special rooting interest:
Only one series was truly competitive. Only the Mets and Padres won a game facing elimination. Of a possible 41 games, 30 were played. There was a distinct lack of drama.
I dare you to find anyone before this – or any – series who said that the series would turn on the fielding of the pitchers. Next thing you know, the Tigers will be lobbying the American League to institute the Designated Fielder. Eight unearned runs the Tigers have now allowed, almost all due to their pitchers. Appalling.
Where else but the Midwest would you see a banner reading “Please win”?
For the record, I actually agree with McCarver calling for the Cards to take Duncan out for a fielding replacement in the middle innings.
UPDATES: Yes, I just posted that moments before his error in the sixth. Duncan is a born DH.
Weaver makes a great play in the field – talk about rubbing salt in the wounds of Tigers fans.
Eckstein brings his own Rally Monkey everywhere he goes, doesn’t he?
McCarver wants the Cards to start bunting to pressure the Tiger pitchers, as if they are Jim Abbott or something. Then again, Jim Abbott was never this bad a fielder.
You would never know Fernando Rodney was Dominican to look at him; the guy looks very American.
Rolen gets the 2-out RBI. You have to tip your cap to Rolen for a gutsy performance even though he is plainly not close to 100% at the moment. 4-2 Cards in the 7th.
I keep seeing this ad from the US Postal Service with a water cooler talking to boxes of sneakers. The voice of the water cooler has to be William Sanderson, Larry of Larry, Daryl and Daryl from Newhart.
Tigers down to their last 3 outs. This is sad, and very bad for baseball.
Wainwright’s in. I’m getting ugly flashbacks.
Frankly, little as I feel the Cardinals deserve this, their fans do. I would have been rooting for them in 2004 if it hadn’t been the Red Sox.
Casey doubles after a long at bat to bring up the tying run with one out. Jose Reyes would have had a home run on that ball, which bounces past Taguchi in right and jangles around center.
Rodriguez grounds out to Wainwright, who does not make an error. Two outs.
1-2 to the hitless Polanco. Polanco takes a knee-buckling curve, but this time it’s a ball.
Polanco walks, it’s up to Inge with the tying runs on.
That’s it. Inge strikes out. Cards win their 10th World Series.
I’m still really in shock as to all of this. Congratulations to all the Cards fans.
How long ’till pitchers and catchers?
I have to admit that after the way the NLCS ended I just have not been able to muster a lot of enthusiasm for the World Series – I’ve mainly been listening on the radio while doing work. But I gotta ask: you think Leyland will have his pitching staff taking grounders before Game Five?
I always get hopping mad myself when someone pays me $13 million.
And after having a crummy year, no less. I guess if the Yankees are keeping A-Rod and Sheffield they really are committing to go with their present core largely intact next year. Although the ESPN report suggests that the Yanks still want to deal Sheffield but re-upped him just to keep him from signing with the Red Sox or Mets.
I noticed this recently – I forget whether this is a record or not and haven’t had time to check, but in 1959 Ernie Banks led the Cubs in RBI by a margin of 91. Banks drove in 143 runs; #2 on the team, Bobby Thomson, drove in 52.
Banks actually had a pretty short peak – for all but about 7 seasons he was mainly a mediocre first baseman – and he wasn’t a very patient hitter (he topped 50 unintentional walks only once), but with the arguable exception of Arky Vaughan, there wasn’t a shortstop between Honus Wagner and A-Rod who could stand up to him with a bat in his hands.
What was that on Kenny Rogers’ hand?
Of course, pine tar on the pitcher has factored in the postseason before – in 1988, Dodgers
batting practice pitcher closer Jay Howell got suspended for having pine tar on the bill of his cap, forcing the Dodgers to replace the spectacularly ineffective Howell with Orel Hershiser, who took over as closer in between starts and was devastating. Without that suspension the Mets, who just owned Howell that year, may well have pulled that NLCS out.
The moral of the story? Um, I’ll get back to you on that one…
UPDATE: Of course, anyone looking for hidden advantages for Rogers has to explain why his strikeout rate has fallen off sharply in the last two years. The fact is, Rogers is an aging pitcher hanging on to effectiveness, albeit better than others have done historically.
Matt Welch takes a look at the numbers and concludes that Ivan Rodriguez was the third-best 34-year-old catcher ever this season. (Also from 2006 are Jorge Posada at #6 and Paul Lo Duca at #13. Of course, Rodriguez had all but punched his Hall of Fame ticket by the time Lo Duca was a rookie). Topping the list, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Elston Howard, a guy whose time behind the plate in his younger years was limited by the color line and Yogi Berra.
This game was fairly impossible for New York baseball fans – Mets and Yankees alike – to view without a hot steaming cup of bile at hand:
*Jeff Weaver yet again pitching creditably (albeit not more than that) in a postseason game.
*Kenny Rogers throwing lights-out baseball one more time, 8 innings of two-hit ball.
*The Tigers closer (Todd Jones) beaning a guy – not just any guy, but Mookie’s stepson – to load the bases while protecting Rogers’ lead, setting up the potential for karmic retribution for 1999.
*Yadier Bleeping Molina hitting into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded and the tying run in scoring position.
This was better baseball than Game One, but this still has the feel of a series that hasn’t really gotten rolling yet. Which is fine; such serieses sometimes come to highly dramatic conclusions after the two combatants circle each other for a few games, setting up the decisive battle.
A few disjointed observations:
*Gradually, Scott Rolen seems to be getting his swing back, or at least admirably gutting out his shoulder troubles.
*Justin Verlander must be unpleasant to face in any conditions, but the fact that tonight wasn’t as cold as originally predicted had to be a factor in the Cards having a fighting chance against him (which they made the most of).
*As we have known for some time, Anthony Reyes has a good arm and the makings of a good pitcher. Like Oliver Perez, he really isn’t at the stage where you trust him in a big game, but he could be that kind of guy some day, and tonight’s performance obviously puts him on the road to that.
*That said, I have to think that every now and then Cardinals fans wish they had Dan Haren back.
So the World Series is just beginning, and the Mets are at home watching on TV with the rest of us. I’ll be taking at least tonight off from live-blogging, and I’ll play it day to day during the Series; it takes a little time to get back into the swing of this after such an abrupt and painful defeat.
The bitter irony of the NLCS is that the Mets were defeated not by their weaknesses (besides Trachsel, the starting pitching held up better than could have been hoped, and Cliff Floyd was more than adequately replaced by Chavez) and the Cardinals’ strengths (Pujols did much damages but ultimately had only one RBI – six fewer than a game this season against the Mets, which the Mets won, and Carpenter was ineffective), but rather by their strengths (offense and bullpen) and the Cardinals’ weaknesses (Taguchi, Molina, Suppan, Weaver).
There is no point in making predictions for this World Series. The Tigers are heavy favorites, and deservedly so. As we saw in 1988, of course, that’s no guarantee that a team that spilled a far superior team can’t do it again. But these Cards are so much less compelling than past Cinderellas – this isn’t like the Hershiser of 1988 imposing his will on the postseason single-handed, nor is this a young team on the way up. The Cards are an old team on the way down from their 2004 peak that ended in getting swept.
In truth, this doesn’t feel so much like 1988 as like 1999, when the Braves beat the Mets in a tenaciously contested NLCS, and then gave no sign of even wanting to win the World Series, rolling over and playing dead for the Hated Yankees. I have never wanted to watch a series less than that one.
In a short series, anything can happen. So who knows? But I can’t pull for the Cards the way the NLCS played out. Go Tigers.
Game Seven. The importance needs no explanation, the drama no introduction. If the people on the LIRR with me an hour before game time were any indication, the crowd will certainly be raucous.
The Mets have played a double-elimination game (loser goes home) four times in their history, and won three, including both that have been played at Shea.
1973, NLCS Game Five, at Shea: The 1973 NLCS was a mirror image of this one, an 82-win Mets team against a Big Red Machine with a powerful and versatile offense and a suspect rotation. The deciding game pitted Tom Seaver against Jack Billingham. Ed Kranepool drove in two runs in the first, Cleon Jones had three hits and two RBI, and the Mets behind Seaver won 7-2.
UPDATE: Writing too fast, forgot Game Seven of the 1973 World Series, John Matlack vs. Ken Holtzman at the Oakland Coliseum, which the Mets lost.
1986, World Series Game Seven, at Shea: Even with a day’s rain giving Bruce Hurst the start against Ron Darling, a shell-shocked Red Sox team couldn’t hold a lead. Keith Hernandez had the big hit and Darryl Strawberry a famous insurance home run, but the hero was Sid Fernandez, pitching 2.1 electrifying innings of hitless relief, striking out 4 to hold the fort until the offense arrived. 8-5 Mets.
1988, NLCS Game Seven, at Dodger Stadium: Darling knocked out early again, this time fatally and with the help of a meltdown by the Mets’ infield defense, with errors by Wally Backman and Gregg Jefferies. Gooden, Leach and Aguilera pitched scoreless relief but the damage was done, as Orel Hershiser shut the Mets out. 6-0 Dodgers.
1999, One-Game Playoff, at Riverfront Stadium: The Reds again, after the Mets recovered dramatically from a September swoon to force a one game playoff for the Wild Card. Al Leiter vs. Steve Parris; Edgardo Alfonzo homered and drove in three, but the key guy was Leiter, pitching as dominant a game as I have ever seen, a 2-hit shutout in which I believe the Reds got only one runner as far as second base. 5-0 Mets.
Obviously, while any number of players will be important tonight, the guy with potentially the biggest impact is Jeff Suppan. Oliver Perez is very unlikely to throw a dominating pitching performance here, especially on three days rest. But Suppan shut the Mets down the last time around, and despite his terrible road stats, he is a threat to a good start tonight.
Perez gets a fly out after falling behind Eckstein, then punches out Preston Wilson looking. A good start. But now Pujols is up. 0-1.
Ugh, Perez gets Pujols – Pujols! – to pop it up in the infield, but Delgado drops it and Pujols ends up on second.
Perez gets out of trouble. If my expectations for Game Four were low, this time it’s even lower – two scoreless innings is all I ask. Everyone is available.
Beltran barely legs out a 2-out double. Mets get started.
2-2 to Delgado. Mets need a base hit. 3-2.
Delgado walks, and Wright drops a single down the right field line. Slump over? 1-0 Mets.
Top Two, 1-0 Mets
Leadoff single for Edmonds. Let’s not see that graphic again about the Cards scoring to answer every Mets score.
Rolen flies out.
0-2 on Molina.
Edmonds goes to third on a bloop single to left; Chavez bobbles it but to no cost.
1-1 to Belliard. Strikeout would be good here; Perez isn’t a ground ball pitcher.
Belliard bunts the run home.
Suppan’s not likely to homer here, with Trachsel not pitching.
Bottom Two, 1-1
We’re hearing about Suppan in Game Seven in 2004 again.
1-2-3. Suppan hopefully is not getting into a groove.
Top Three, 1-1
Eckstein leadoff double. Typical of Eckstein, it was just blooped in front of Chavez.
Two strikes on Preston, the crowd smells blood.
Walking Pujols with 1 out. I guess you need to do this, but I hate to give Perez the chance to give up a 3-run homer.
A lineup with both Wilson and Encarnacion will really strike out a lot. 0-2 on Encarnacion.
Encarnacion shatters his bat and hits into the 5-4-3 double play. Perez has now exceeded expectations.
Bottom Three, 1-1
This is sad: Armed Forces Radio won’t cover the World Series for the first time in 60 yars due to lack of interest, as uniformed personnel prefer overhwelmingly to watch on TV (and in the military, unlike an office job, you can’t listen to the radio on duty).
It really hasn’t sunk in that the winner here starts the Series with just one travel day to Detroit.
Reyes and Lo Duca have been quiet so far tonight.
Another 1-2-3 inning. A pitchers’ duel is not what the Mets need tonight.
Top Four, 1-1
Perez really is throwing more strikes than usual, so far. Long as he does that, he will stay in the game, although of course the longball remains a risk.
Perez gets Edmonds. Gets ahead of Rolen 0-2 before throwing a ball.
3-2. This is still Perez, folks.
Perez gets Rolen on an infield popup. Strike one to Molina.
Perez gets Molina.
Bottom Four, 1-1
If Perez gets out of this game having allowed just 1 or 2 runs, that will be a huge confidence-builder. Of course, you generally don’t use these games for that purpose…
Leadoff walk for Delgado.
Weak grounder for Wright, at least he avoids the DP. Probably should not have swung at the first pitch.
Green whiffs again. I’ve perhaps been too hard on Green’s hitting, but he has struck out quite a bit in this series.
Suppan just winked twice – does he have a nervous twitch? That would explain the wink to Trachsel before his home run.
You always see something in baseball you never saw before – maybe I have seen this, but I don’t remember it – Valentin gets beaned by a pitch that bounces off the plate and hits him in the face.
Top Five, 1-1
Still 1-1? I’m nervous again. Perez can’t hold the fort that well. Suppan can.
Leadoff single for Belliard, just out of Reyes’ reach.
Game Seven in 1986 comes to mind, where the Mets struggled early to get good wood on the ball as they had before against Hurst.
Idiot Bartman-esque fans almost interfere with an Eckstein foul that Chavez misses. Eckstein then takes one for the team.
Perez is probably on his way out here, but Randolph likes him against Wilson. 0-2.
Make that 0-3. Wilson just can’t lay off Perez’ high hard stuff.
Randolph leaves in Perez to face Pujols. This is nuts.
Well, it worked. Perez gets Pujols to pop up to Reyes in short left. Amazin’
Bottom Five, 1-1
Wow, Perez is batting! Randolph is treating him like a real starting pitcher.
Reyes goes quickly again, Lo Duca is up. Last night’s heroes, quiet this time against the Soup Man.
The problem with letting Perez bat is that he is throwing on three days’ rest. He’s thrown just 76 pitches, though; he can probably go one more inning. But I’d have taken him out.
Collision between Edmonds and Wilson – not really that violent, but Edmonds looks a little shook up.
Top Six, 1-1
Edmonds is still in.
3-2 to Edmonds. Edmonds walks.
Perez issues his first walk, has thrown 87 pitches. This has to be it for him soon.
WOW WOW WOW! Chavez robs Rolen of a home run AND doubles Edmonds off first, Edmonds having rounded second.
Move over, Ron Swoboda. There’s a new best catch in Mets postseason history.
Bottom Six, 1-1
I actually feel bad for Rolen. Guy just can not catch a break.
Now, we need to capitalize on the momentum.
But Beltran grounds out. I think Wright needs another RBI this inning.
Delgado walks, here comes Wright.
I’m assuming that Perez really is done now.
Wright still up there hacking early.
Wright hits a very slow roller, Rolen throws the ball into the seats. This really is not his day. They’re walking Green to load the bases with one out for Valentin.
Cards are clearly banking on the DP here.
Hey, was that John Franco in the stands?
Perez, Chavez, – now Valentin? That would be your unlikely heroes.
1-0. Nowhere to put him.
Just get it out of the infield.
Rain is coming down something serious here.
Whiff. Looks like Endy Chavez has to do everything tonight.
Chavez flies out to center, a fly that would have been great news if Valentin had hit it.
Top Seven, 1-1
I want Heilman here, Heilman or Bradford.
Seventh game, seventh inning, still tied. Many hearts yet to be broken tonight. Until then, no, it does not get better than this.
Bradford’s in. Perez did everything you could possibly have asked of him. Now if we can be rid of Suppan, we go bullpen-to-bullpen. I’ll take those odds.
2-2 to Molina – Bradford is very good at getting even when he starts off behind in the count.
Good play by Valentin on yet another of those slow bouncers past the mound against Bradford.
Suppan stays in to hit. Grrrrr.
Bottom Seven, 1-1
Dare I breathe it: extra innings? I do not want to see Wagner except in a save situation, I know that.
Tucker pinch hitting. I guess he’s the best option to lead off.
OK, time for the top of the order to make something happen.
1-2-3 inning. Suppan still pitching like there is no tomorrow. He just threw his 100th pitch.
Top Eight, 1-1
Heilman is in. He’s the guy I want here, win or lose.
Gets Eckstein, 1-2 on Speizio, batting for Wilson. Pujols on deck.
Long at bat here. Heilman punches him out.
You pitch here to Pujols verrrrrry carefully.
Now, they make it intentional. Yes, I prefer Encarnacion with two outs and a man on first than Pujols with the bases empty, at least in a tie game.
0-2. I have a feeling Heilman’s going to spend a lot of time here trying to get Encarnacion to swing at a bad pitch.
Nope, just one in the dirt.
Bottom Eight, 1-1
Beltran, Delgado, Wright due up next. It’s go time.
Taguchi is in in left. La Russa must be expecting to see Wagner.
3-1 to Beltran. A leadoff walk would be good. Mets do not have a hit since the first. I hate Suppan.
Beltran walks. No Suppan for you! Tony goes to his bullpen, at last.
Randy Flores is in, probably just for Delgado.
Rain falling pretty visibly now. I wonder what it would take to stop the game. In 1925 they played Game Seven in a downpour and in the dark, with ugly results, lots of balls to the outfield that disappeared in the slop. Walter Johnson went the distance and set a record for total bases allowed in a World Series game.
Delgado strikes out on a check swing. Sure didn’t look like he swung, but there we are.
Wright takes the first pitch. Good, stay back, play within himself, like he usually does.
2-0, way outside. I think I am still breathing. If I stop typing you will know why.
2-1, check swing, at least that was a swing. Now 3-1. 3-2, Wright takes one inside.
Wright strikes out. It’s up to Green.
Green hits a shot to Pujols.
Top Nine, 1-1
Please, no Wagner. Tie game. Pitcher up in the next inning. Leave. In. Heilman.
Both teams have put on a tremendous struggle here, but this will be a tough one to lose.
Heilman still in.
Edmonds strikes out on another one in the dirt.
0-2 on Rolen. McCarver just called Endy “Eric Chavez”
Rolen takes a ball right down the middle.
Rolen is certainly battling here. Single to left. Molina is up, the designated bad hitter who kills us.
And he does. Home run, 3-1. Doom, defeat, ruination.
Molina smacked that ball into the LF bullpen. Now we need a miracle.
Adam Wainwright warming up. We will need him to be Calvin Schiraldi tonight.
No further damage. Three outs remain, and they belong to the bottom of the order.
Bottom Nine, 3-1 Cards.
The starters held the line, the last two games. How ironic.
Ball One to Valentin. Wait the kid out.
Three high pitches, two balls.
Bloop, very Game Six 1986-ish bloop, to right center. Chavez bats as the tying run. McCarver wants him to bunt for a hit????
Wainwright almost sails one to the backstop. It ain’t over till it’s over.
Cliff Floyd goes up looking for a
1-1 to Kirk . . . Cliff Floyd.
With Floyd up there it feels like two outs. Molina tries to pick Chavez off first.
2-2. Floyd strikes out, it’s up to Reyes and maybe Lo Duca.
High ball, inside strike. 1-1 to Reyes. Foul, 1-2. Another foul. Reyes drills one to center, too close to Edmonds. All up to Lo Duca.
Gotta sit on the curve, Wainwright can’t get the fastball down into the zone.
Bases loaded for Beltran. Tying run in scoring position. An out ends it, a single ties, a double or HR wins it.
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Beltran strikes out looking. It’s over. It’s over. It’s over.
Yadier Bleeping Molina.
Willie Randolph on who is picthing Game 7 and why: “Oliver Perez, and I like him.”
Given Darren Oliver’s record as a reliever compared to starting, I agree with this, much as it horrifies me to start a guy as volatile as Perez in an elimination game, and on three days’ rest no less. The good news is, Perez has great stuff and is unpredictable, so the Cardinals don’t get an edge from just having seen him.
Here is the Mets’ staff by how rested they are for Game Seven in terms of pitches thrown:
Glavine reportedly is available for an inning, roughly. Trachsel, hopefully, will not pitch. Oliver has four days’ rest and should be fresh if needed. The thing that jumps out here, though, is how rested Heilman is; he’s really the guy I’d like to see go two or three innings tomorrow with the chips down. Wagner threw a lot of pitches tonight but had several days of rest before that, and could be sharper tomorrow from having pitched tonight, as relievers sometimes are. Maine and Glavine are the only guys on the staff who have thrown more than 24 pitches over the past three days.
Well, this is it. The LIRR picked a horrible night to go out of order; I had quite an odyssey getting home on time for the first inning.
Second and third and one out after a Pujols double. Maine not looking too steady here.
Ha-yooooge strikeout for Maine getting Edmonds. Two outs, but then Maine hits Encarnacion, to set up two outs and bases loaded for Rolen.
Maine gets Rolen to fly out weakly. Like Pedro and Piazza, Rolen has an uncomfortable habit of being seriously out of gas come October.
Maine and Oliver Perez were both essentially throw-ins in trades – and here the Mets are with Maine standing between them and elimination, and Perez possibly starting tomorrow.
Profesor Reyes goes yard! 1-0 Mets. No shutout for Cy Carpenter tonight. Hey, the last Game Six at Shea the other team had Clemens going, and the Mets wore him out, getting him to throw 138 pitches. Let’s see a repeat; Carpenter’s good but he’s no Clemens.
Beltran grounds out to first; Pujols does not try to race him to the bag.
Top Two, 1-0 Mets
Why is it that the really good Latino players so often have names like Pedro and Carlos and Fernando and Manny, instead of, say, Yadier?
Maine could really be a solid pitcher someday. He’s the same general type as Maddux, Glavine, Brad Radke, Rick Reed, obviously more in the vein of the latter two.
La Russa is complaining about the count. I think he’s trying to ice Maine.
Bottom Two, 1-0 Mets
Wright is still due.
DP by Valentin. They’re gonna need more than one run tonight.
Top Three, 1-0 Mets
Eckstein really is the closest thing going these days to Wally Backman. Leadoff walk.
Maine gets Speizio to whiff on a low pitch; they walk Pujols and Maine falls behind Edmonds before getting him to fly out to right.
First and third, two out (Eckstein went to third on the fly).
Chavez beats out a leadoff bunt. Nobody expects the Venezuelan bunt! That really was a great bunt.
OK, wireless internet is back. Reyes is on second, after being tackled by Belliard to avoid trying for third on a slightly wild throw. Belliard basically sat on him. Then again, Reyes went into him awfully hard.
Lo Duca grounds out.
Belliard is definitely not built like a middle infielder. He’s built more like a shopping mall security guard.
Not much happened in the fourth, except that a walk to Molina means Carpenter won’t lead off the fifth. The Mets still need more than one run.
Beltran gets on for Delgado, Wright on deck…need some runs here.
Delgado crushes the ball to straightaway center, might as well have hit a popup. One out.
The funny thing about all the guff Wright is taking is, he batted .333 with 4 RBI in 3 games in the NLDS, he has a double and a homer in this series. But he needs to do more for people to feel like he stepped up.
Green singles in a run. About time he contributed. 2-0 Mets.
Speizio hauls in a short fly by Valentin. Even as a veteran infielder playing out of position he hasn’t been any worse out there than Green.
Top Five, 2-0 Mets
Good recovery by Maine on a grounder he knocks down. The longer Maine goes, the better relievers the Mets can bring in. Saving the pen for tomorrow is secondary, since you need to win tonight or there is no tomorrow.
Pujols bats with two outs and the bases empty and down by more than one run. This is how it should always be.
Pujols whiffs on a low pitch outside the strike zone. He’s done plenty of damage in this series but the Mets have also made him look bad more than usual.
Bottom Five, 2-0 Mets
Reyes is on again, which hopefully will drain some energy from Carpenter keeping him on first.
Nope – instead, Lo Duca hits an odd-bouncing grounder, so Reyes goes to second with two outs.
Top Six, 2-0 Mets
So far this looks a lot like Game One, but I don’t see this ending 2-0. Maine has thrown 86 pitches; he might go seven innings at most, but this is probably his last.
Bradford is getting warm. Feliciano can’t be far behind.
3-1 to Edmonds. This does not have the look of another 1-2-3 inning.
Leadoff walk. I’d leave Maine in a bit longer – he is still pitching a shutout – but he can’t have much rope here.
2-1 to Encarnacion. If he gets on, curtains for Maine.
Bloop into shallow left; that drops in front of Floyd, but Chavez hustles under it for out #1.
Maine comes out after 98 pitches, still pitching a shutout. One more run and you would just leave him in until they draw blood, but Willie is nervous here. Let’s hope everyone else has it tonight too. The Shea crowd gives him a well-earned standing O.
Bradford enters the game with a 2-0 lead, one out and a man on first.
Bradford goes 3-0 to Rolen. Uh-oh.
Bradford deals a beautiful 3-0 strike on the outside corner; if he threw that pitch all day nobody would hit it.
Bradford gets the double play! La Russa proves that he was right to bench Rolen earlier. Would La Russa rather be right than win the pennant? Don’t answer that.
Bottom Six, 2-0 Mets
Can I say just now that I’m not excited about the prospect of Mota entering this game?
Carpenter is going after Wright with contempt for his bat. This is painful to watch for a guy who so rarely slumps.
Wright and Green both strike out looking.
Top Seven, 2-0 Mets
Just saw a Ned Lamont ad with lots of pictures of Lieberman with Bush & Cheney. I won’t get political here, just passing that on that Lamont thinks he can win voters in this telecast. Interesting.
Bradford still in. Belliard singles – Bradford gets two quick strikes and Belliard hits a bouncing grounder up the middle, just luck that it gets by Bradford.
Bradford gets ahead of Molina, too. He’s throwing well, but guys like him can get chipped away even when they do.
He’s got Molina down 1-2. This time, he needs to put him away – maybe another GIDP?
Molina hits a towering fly to CF. I’m not sure Beltran even opened his eyes to catch that one.
Pitching change. I think I have seen enough of Uncle Ernie and his heartburn.
Mets need eight more outs.
Mota comes in to face Duncan. I have a very bad feeling about this.
1-1 to Duncan. Foul, 1-2. This is a very big inning.
Mota gets Duncan to hit into a DP. I bow before Randolph’s genius.
Bottom Seven, 2-0 Mets
Valentin bunts, is thrown out. Now, I know Looper’s healthier and tougher this year but he’s still one of those guys you want to give a chance to dig his own hole.
Heilman warming up.
I’m not sure why Tucker is hitting here. I’d try Floyd in the two out none on situation and hope for a Big Fly.
Tucker flies out to left, except that Speizio butchers the ball. Reyes is up.
Tucker is running; I would not mind risking him running here, since if he is thrown out Reyes leads off.
I’m guessing right now that this game comes down to Wagner with the bases loaded. Probably against Pujols.
La Russa overthinks, Tucker steals on a pitchout. Reyes gets an easy infield single as Eckstein can only knock the ball down in the hole.
Reyes steals second uncontested. The Cards had to hold the ball but if Lo Duca gets a hit that will be very costly for the Cards.
And so it is: LoDuca drills a single up the middle, 4-0 Mets. Looper Time!
Which ends, as Tyler Johnson comes in. Tucker goes up there with Dave Roberts in 2004 and Otis Nixon in 1999 for LCS-turning steals.
Error on Rolen. Which brings up Delgado with two men on. I would be throwing things right now, were I a Cards fan.
Delgado grounds out.
Top Eight, 4-0 Mets
The Mets will win this game, or they will suffer a catastrophic bullpen failure that will make Heilman and/or Wagner persona non grata at Shea for life. No middle ground remains.
Five outs remain. Speizio comes up, Pujols on deck, can not tie the game.
And the Speez pops out on the first pitch. Albert bats again with 2 down and the bases empty. Let him hit it off the 7 train.
Pujols singles, Edmonds up. They are talking about Perez vs. Oliver for Game Seven. Um, let’s make sure first we have one.
Edmonds whiffs. Heilman does his job. Wagner will get his chance to pull out his set of matches and gasoline. Always leave ’em wanting more, Billy.
Top Nine, 4-0 Mets
Wright pops up. Vindication will await Game Seven. If there is one, of course.
Green gets drilled in the butt. That looks intentional, but I can’t imagine why.
Rolen throws high, but gets Valentin. Man, he’s had a terrible night.
La Russa is wearing those shades again. It’s 11:00 and it’s very dark out.
Chavez takes a 3-0 strike halfway down his shins.
Top Nine, 4-0 Mets
Wagner will enter the game in a non-save situation. You know, like that 4-run lead he blew against the Yankees.
I don’t want to be too hard on Wagner, who was (with Hoffman) one of the NL’s two dominant closers. He’s probably going to nail this one down. I just don’t entirely trust him.
First two pitches out of the strike zone. Here we go.
2-2 to Encarnacion. Trachsel is up in the pen just to frighten the fans. Encarnacion singles. This gives us a test: the fork in Rolen’s back or the monkey on Wagner’s?
Rolen bounces a double off the fence. The crowd is restive. Justifiably.
Why did Heilman come out?
1-2 to Belliard on a ball in the dirt that almost goes as a wild pitch. He bounces a grounder; Wright wisely takes the easy out at first. Molina is up.
Molina flies out quickly to CF. Taguchi comes up; La Russa is just gambling here. I guess he had nobody fit to hit for Molina.
0-2 to Taguchi. Wagner has his required degree of difficulty here.
2-run double to left for Taguchi. !#^%!$%!$^#*!&#%&!%&*!^#*&!^#*&!
Game Six, one out away. Why does that sound familiar? Ugh.
Nobody ever goes out to talk to Wagner in these situations.
Eckstein grounds out! We go 7!
Maine is giving a distracted and detatched interview while giving high fives with his left hand. Those two insurance runs sure came in handy.
They just asked Randolph who is picthing Game 7 and why: “Oliver Perez, and I like him.” A Choo Choo Coleman-esque answer.
Who would you rather have starting the big game tonight, if you had to choose – John Maine or Kris Benson?
I’d take Maine, who at least has a live arm and hasn’t shown signs of wearing out down the stretch. Maybe he doesn’t come up big tonight, but I definitely feel the Mets have a fighting chance with Maine.
Liveblogging but with some interruptions anticipated
TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE NIGHT: Almost all World Championship teams have at least one Hall of Famer playing a significant role. Of course, more recent teams’ players haven’t gone on the ballot yet; of players to play for World Series winning teams since the 1994 strike, I believe only Wade Boggs has gone in the Hall, although most teams will meet the test – consider Pudge Rodriguez, Tom Glavine and Albert Pujols on the three remaining rosters. But for the period before 1994, only three teams had no Hall of Famers, four if you count one team that had a Hall of Famer who had retired by October (three of these four teams had Hall of Fame managers, though). Name the teams. Answer to go below the fold as the game progresses.
Chvez in the lineup again, regardless of how good Cliff Floyd says he feels. Reyes starts off hot, with a single, but Lo Duca’s grounder takes out Reyes as the lead runner. On the whole, Weaver doesn’t look like a guy who will throw a shutout tonight.
Another fielder’s choice with Delgado after a Beltran single – two out, Lo Duca on second, Delgado on first. Wright whiffs.
Eckstein singles off Glavine, who I assume will also not fare as well on the Cardinals’ second look at him. Still, he’s the best pitching matchup the Mets have in this best-of-three remaining, so this remains a big game.
My son can now recite that anti-steroids ad from memory.
Buck says that despite the power of positive thinking we are also not likely to see Floyd pinch hitting. Chavez responds with a double down the left field line.
The strike zone doesn’t love Glavine tonight.
Inning ends on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out DP. All in a day’s work for Glavine and Lo Duca.
Two quick outs. Weaver is settling in. Make that three.
Once again, scoring first is likely to be important in this game, not that it was decisive last night.
Not…much…happening. Of course, with Glavine on the mound I should not complain.
Long delay while they fix first base…
Wright looks cold again.
Green nails a double right down the line; fan interference may have saved the Cards a run, as Delgado pulls up at third. Then again, Delgado isn’t exactly the most aggressive baserunner.
But it’s moot, as the suddenly un-frozen Jose Valentin follows with another double for two runs.
Glavine batting, two outs and Valentin on third. Groundout.
Bottom 4, 2-0 Mets
I’m back. And a rough inning for Glavine, who finally ends the Christy Mathewson act with a Pujols bomb to left and now a drip-drip Cardinal rally consisting of a walk to Rolen and dink singles by Edmonds and Belliard to right, and now a long at bat for Molina.
Molina walks, bases loaded and 2-0 for Weaver, a career .206 hitter.
Glavine gets another grounder, this one weakly to Reyes. But a costly inning not just in runs but in pitches thrown, plus Weaver doesn’t lead off the fifth. Glavine has thrown 73 pitches through four innings.
Top Five, 2-2
They were saying Weaver may be making himself some money this postseason – maybe earning a second chance, but Weaver was really, really bad this year, 5.76 ERA and his K rate went off the table. If he is smart he’ll stay in St. Louis with Dave Duncan (who specializes in mediocre veterans), a good organization, small-city media and supportive fans.
That said – Please, please go to the Cardinals bullpen.
Beltran rips one to right, but within Encarnacion’s reach.
Buck says this is by far the biggest at bat of the night, Delgado up with a man on first and 2 outs. Um, didn’t the Cards just leave the bases loaded? But Weaver gets Delgado.
Bottom Five, 2-2
Reyes almost made a really great catch there going over the shoulder on a bloop by Eckstein. Glavine’s still getting eaten away here, and the bullpen will probably be in soon.
Preston Wilson tattoos a double to right, 3-2 Cards. Glavine’s not fooling anyone.
Glavine’s walking Pujols intentionally, and then getting pulled. I guess you don’t ask Bradford to walk a guy intentionally, with his windup.
Encarnacion apparently can’t bunt. But he can single. Bases loaded. Nobody out. This is trouble.
Bradford whiffs Rolen. Now, a DP can get them out of this. Easier said than done.
Top Six, 3-2 Cards
Somehow, they got out of that; I was trying unsuccessfully to walk the baby back to sleep and missed how.
Very nice grab by Pujols on a Green shot down the line, saving a double.
Weaver throws a serious brushback at Valentin. Valentin rips one foul – I think he’s back.
Chavez is hacking again.
Bottom Six, 3-2 Cards
Weaver’s coming out for a pinch hitter. Still, it feels like it’s getting late early.
Big, high arcing homer to right for Duncan. 4-2.
Top Seven, 4-2 Cards
Rally cap time!
That Tucker at bat would have been a good time to see Cliff Floyd if he had been available.
1-2-3 inning. Six outs left or we face an elimination game against Carpenter and another with “staff” pitching.
Bottom Seven, 4-2 Cards
Pujols grounds out off Roberto Hernandez.
They’re showing El Duque. He should be available for the Series, maybe Floyd will too. But only if they get there.
Gun says Roberto is throwing 95. Another ageless wonder on this team.
Top Eight, 4-2 Cards
Delgado doesn’t look too good either. Until he drills one just foul into the RF corner.
Infield hit for Delgado! Well, in the sense that Belliard was playing in shallow right.
Man, Wright is due. And if he wasn’t in such a slump he’d usually be the best guy to have up representing the tying run down 2.
And he hits one off Hornsby on the left field fence. As I have said before, Wright reminds me of Rogers Hornsby, at least in his build and batting stance (not that I expect him to hit .400)
Green, on the other hand – not that guy. But he’s the guy we have. Edmonds hauls in a bloop with a basket catch.
Down two, game we really need the Mets to win, second and third, two out – and it all comes down to Jose Valentin. Did you expect this, in April?
Cliff Floyd looks like he really wants to grab a bat here.
A second high curve, 2-2. But the third one drops in and freezes Valentin. The odds on these Mets just got very long.
Top Nine, 4-2 Cardinals
Longshot territory, now. Another night off for Heilman so far, as Mota starts the ninth.
About 40% of Cardinals fans are blonde and female. And wearing red.
Miles triples to right. The Cardinals now – properly – have contempt for Shawn Green’s defense in right. For a guy who opened the postseason with a great play with the glove, he has struggled terribly out there.
Forget winning the game, the potential squeeze play gives La Russa the chance to manage real hard. That’s what this is all about.
Eckstein pops up in the infield; now there’s two outs and Wilson up. Please, don’t walk Wilson and get Pujols up there.
Top Nine, 4-2 Cards
Chavez, probably Franco, and Reyes due up. Need two guys to get on to bring back the boppers. If Franco gets on, with Reyes’ wheels behind him, you have to run Anderson Hernandez for him.
Floyd is on deck. Interesting.
Chavez is not inspiring confidence. And he grounds out.
Here comes the big man. A risky move, down one. I can’t fault Randolph too much; he’s a fine hitter and you can run for him, if he gets out of the box.
Floyd grounds out. He hobbles to first, but really anyone but Reyes, and maybe Reyes, is an easy out on that ball anyway.
Reyes is wound up pretty tight here.
Gotta go through Carpenter now to force a Game Seven. After that . . . well, no win in Game Six, no after that to worry about, is there? The Mets always have to do it the hard way.
Reyes is our last hope.