I don't always just complain

I didn't know about this, but I think that this is a development that in five to ten years is going to provide us all with enough humor to keep us chuckling from April until October:
In recent weeks, Milledge has bonded with new Mets coach Rickey Henderson and hit his way back to prominence.
"How would you say you played tonight?"
"Lastings thinks that Lastings is the greatest. Rickey was Rickey, and Lastings owes Rickey, but Lastings is Lastings. Next question."


A "Winning" Argument

Some of you readers may know that I am a political animal as well as a baseball fan, and I spend some time in the 'blogosphere' (I really hate that term). Recently there have been some attacks by the MSM (mainstream media) on political bloggers, implying they do not have the accountability that reporters have. The response of the political bloggers was that until the MSM stops screwing up reporting and ignoring actual facts in place of (often wrongheaded) conventional wisdom, they're going to hold their feet to the fire, and that they aren't going away even if the MSM starts getting stories right.

This problem is not limited to news or political reporting. It happens just as much, if not more, in the world of baseball. Profiling the tightening AL Cy Young race was a great idea, but does anyone else see anything wrong with the analysis presented here (emphasis mine)?
1. Beckett, Red Sox (15-5, 3.15): Still tied for the league lead in wins despite a stay on the DL. His team is on its way to the playoffs, giving him the slightest of nods over Bedard, Santana and Haren, at least on my ballot.

2. Bedard, Orioles (12-4, 2.98): The league's best pitcher the past two months hasn't lost in 12 starts (he's 8-0 in that time). He's the only pitcher in the majors with 200-plus strikeouts.

3. Santana, Twins (13-9, 2.88): He's the only contender among the starters who doesn't have an overwhelming won-loss record, although he's allowed three earned runs or fewer in six of his past seven defeats. Still second in Ks, fourth in ERA., first in Q rating.

4. Haren, A's (13-4, 2.54): League-leading ERA and excellent record for losing team probably makes him the slight favorite in the eyes of many, but he's allowed 11 unearned runs to make the ERA a tad deceiving, toils in a pitchers' park and is working without the pressure of Beckett.

I'm not sure I agree with this ranking 100%, but that's not the reason I've bolded selections from this list. If we're going to debate who the best pitcher in the AL is, can't we use a more meaningful metric than wins? I thought even laggards like ESPN had finally started to realize that wins are a hugely flawed method for measuring a pitcher, but it looks like it took Sports Illustrated to prove me wrong. No one who is being paid to write about baseball should be allowed to give such a pathetic analysis of this race. Basic journalistic standards should push the writer to be aware of and include such basic pitcher metrics as K/9, K/BB, and FIP, among others.

In two minutes I was able to uncover the following:
  1. C.C. Sabathia has the highest K/BB of any starter in the AL, 6.22, higher than the only reliever on the SI list, J.J. Putz (5.25, who actually ranks just behind Joe Nathan in this stat) and higher than the number one pick, Josh Becket (4.93).

  2. Bedard, no surprise, has the best K/9 (11.02) of the group, followed by Santana (9.82) and Putz (9.78) None of the others are even in the top 40, and Bedard and Santana are the top 2 starters on the list.

  3. Putz has an amazing BAA of .146, followed by Bedard at .210 and Santana at .214. None of the others make the top 40.

Now, don't those numbers muddy the waters a bit? Not quite so easy to hand the trophy to "Mr. 15 & 5?" Surprisingly, these numbers have me leaning towards Bedard, which is not what I would have expected before my little sabermetric excursion. We need to look at these numbers, lest we repeat the travesty of the 2005 Cy Young. Just a reminder for all you out there:

B. Colon - 3.48 ERA, 157 K
J. Santana - 2.87 ERA, 238 K

Colon won the Cy Young, and Santana inexplicably finished 3rd in balloting. Why? Santana was 'only' 16-7, Colon was 21-8, pitching for a playoff team. More wins that probably came from the better hitting, playoff-bound Angels. So please, mainstream sportswriters, learn a little something about what you're writing about. You might even enjoy it.

I know I will, if it ever happens.


An Unorthodox Division lead

The D-backs are certainly playing some great baseball as of late, but a deeper look into their numbers reveals a disturbing statistic - this team has scored fewer runs than they've allowed. 502 scored, 523 allowed. Of all the teams in the division, they are most similar (based on these numbers) to the Giants. The Rockies, Dodgers and Padres all have positive differentials, in some cases substantial ones. Unless this is a trend from the beginning of the season, I don't see these baby-backs outlasting the Padres. Well, I guess that's why they play the games.


Notes from the Net - 6/5/2007

I've added SportLine to my regular sports reading, and I've been quite pleased with it. It fills a hole in my baseball reading that I've been missing more and more as ESPN attempts to lock down their site one article and one writer at a time. Sure, I'll continue to use the WWL for player stats (thanks largely to their brilliant splits) for the current year, and Baseball Reference for almost any other stats, but the player news replicates the sort of Gammons columns I used to be able to read.

One very interesting note was that the A's are pondering using Rich Harden as a reliever. Now, this sort of thing has already been done in the majors once this year with mixed results (Myers in Philly), but this is an idea I've heard floated once before. I remember an article on the Hardball Times from a ways back about swapping Harden with one of the relief men - but as usual I can't find the article since the search function for HBT is almost useless. This is a tangent, but it is a travesty that a site with the quality information and analysis of Hardball Times doesn't tag each and every one of their pages in a comprehensive manner. In these heady days of Web 2.0 (god I hate that phrase) it's a joke that it's not easier to use the archives at a site that is at the bedrock of the baseball net.

Anyway, the Harden move will be complicated by the fact that middle relievers, even great ones, don't make what starters do. Street is still considered the closer for the team, and injury risk closers don't fetch a lot on the market. Considering that Harden won't have a real shot at the closer job, his bottom line alone would lead him to oppose the move. However, for a pitcher that's never reached 190 innings in a season and is a regular on the DL, the chance to improve his longevity in the game, coupled with a possible trade of a resurgent Street in the offseason, could pave the way for him to move to the pen. A friend of mine has Myers in our fantasy league and is convinced that the new stress of pitching back-to-back days as a set-up man and then as closer is to blame for his injury, and I tend to agree with him. Certain pitchers seem to handle certain roles differently, so this could be just what he needs.

Or, it could just be the devious A's trying to plug their holes until the pen gets healthy. Both sound like A's thinking to me.


The Inevitable

Sorry folks, the legislative session has derailed my schedule as of late. But I had to draw your attention to this story from the Onion.

"I mean, three weeks ago it was still Foghat references and growling out the 'R' on 'the Raiders,' and now this."

Funniest part of the article, the idea of Berman reading. Priceless.


The Worldwide Leader is playing catch-up

Last year, FSN decided to start producing a highlight show to compete with SportsCenter. At the time I thought it was an interesting idea at best, and I remember at least one article comparing the real-life situation to one of my favorite shows of all time, Sports Night, which was about a witty, up-and-coming highlight program on a fictional cable network. The parallels are obvious.

I didn't watch the show much at first, but for the last two months or so, I've become increasingly disappointed by SC. They have moved further and further from providing highlights, or meaningful analysis and have devoted countless segments to their own original reporting. While this was acceptable in the sports doldrum that lasts from the day after the Super Bowl until Opening Day, it is inexcusable now. Over the last few weeks, I have seen more content on the NFL draft, and recently, college football programs that I have on baseball.

By contrast, FSN Final Score provides all highlights and recaps - no need for clever or touching segments. This is sports, I want to see the scores, and if the analysts on TV are progressively getting dumber (see Baseball Tonight) then I don't care what they even think about the games.

However, the most interesting development in this competition has only come in the last few weeks. Final Score had a unique look in contrast to SC; the video only takes up 80 percent of the screen. A ticker is included at the bottom of the screen, a la SC, but along the right margin Final Score displays their upcoming segments, and puts a title on top of the screen. The result is losing a few inches on each side of the screen, but having greater awareness about what is coming next. This has been their style from the first days of the show, and only changes to full screen when there is a death in the sporting world.

SportsCenter has adopted (some might say ripped off) this style of presentation from Final Score. They now list upcoming stories on the right margin of the screen in identical fashion to the FSN upstart. Perhaps the best thing for a stagnant behemoth like SC is to get pushed around and be forced to adapt, but I'd really rather that they used more creative tactics than plagiarism.

Bravo WWL, bravo.


Rivera Blows Another

Sure, this isn't actually a blown save, but it's a loss in yet another save situation for Rivera. 1-3, 3 saves in 5 opportunities, and an ERA that is still over 8. Watching a proven veteran implode like this might have put the Yankees off signing a 44 year old, but clearly that doesn't scare them. It's amazing what limitless ego and money co do for an organization.


Close the book?

Anyone who was watching Friday's Yankees / Red Sox game was thinking the same thing: Is Mariano Rivera done?

I know this season is a small sample size, but his BAA is over .280 and his ERA is north of 8. The Red Sox manhandled him when he came in to keep the win intact, and when Marco Scutaro takes you deep in the ninth, you should be worried.

His line thus far for the season: 1-2, 8.44 ERA, 0 SV, 2 BS

Just as a point of comparison, his career splits show him with a 2.38 ERA in March and April, 10 and 9, 53 saves and only 7 HR.

This season is a warning sign. Mariano can't be un-hittable forever, and if he turns out no better than anyone else in the Yankees pen, they are going to have a miserable season unless the rotation takes a huge step forward. This year could be the collapse of the dynasty.


And someone in the stands yelled POLO!!

I watched the first 7 innings or so of the A's - Yankees game yesterday and was slightly bummed that the bullpen came in and gave up the lead. Given that the A's don't exactly have the most potent offense, I assumed the game was over. I would have finished watching the game if I hadn't needed to leave, so I missed what happened. The game was over, Rivera was in, bottom of the ninth, two out, and it was all up to Marco Scutaro. He crushed an 0-2 (0-2 people) cut fastball, sending it flying into the left field foul pole.
"This has to be in the top two," Scutaro said. "Especially being against Mariano, it was very special.

Here's a little visual representation of how the game looked, courtesy of Fangraphs. One more win puts the A's at .500, and I still like them to be in competition for the division down to the last day of the season.


Opening Day Blunders

Even if we ignore the poor starts put up by some of the aces on opening day, and the mayor of Cincinnati getting ejected (in jest) before the Reds opener even started, it was a rusty few days for major league clubs. Two former MVPs had more than their share of trouble just running the bases.

2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau -
In the fourth inning, when Morneau delivered his second hit of the game, he advanced to second on a Rondell White walk. But when Jeff Cirillo delivered a hard-hit single to right, Morneau got waved all the way home and got called out at the plate. Morneau then was thrown out at second in the fifth inning when he tried to stretch a single into a double, and then got beat on ground ball to first in the seventh. Stopping just one base short of the running cycle, Morneau joked that he knows one thing hasn't changed.

"At least we know I didn't get any faster over the offseason," Morneau said with a laugh.

1990, 1992, 1993, 2001-2004 NL MVP Barry Bonds -
Bonds bounced a single into left field against the infield shift, then stole second and was thrown out at home when he tried to score on San Diego shortstop Khalil Greene's wild throw past first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez recovered the ball quickly and Bonds was such an easy out at the plate that he didn't even bother sliding.

Giants third base coach Tim Flannery said Bonds made the decision to go home because he could see the ball in front of him and gauge his chances himself.

"Joey Amalfitano taught me a great lesson,'' Flannery said. "When the ball is in front of a player like that, just pat him on the back and say, 'You're making $10 million a year and I'm making $60,000. You make the decision.'"

I didn't get to see the Barry gaffe, but the Justin Morneau ones were particularly amusing, especially when he tried to bowl over the catcher when thrown out at home. Hopefully these two will prove that they know how to run the bases before season's end.

P.S. - While I'm no longer the Barry defender and less and less the Barry apologist, Jim Caple made an interesting comment in his article on the poor Giants opener.
The Giants opened their 50th season in San Francisco on Tuesday and they introduced their All-Stars from that half-century during a long pregame ceremony. As Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays -- all Hall of Famers -- and others took the field, you couldn't help but wonder why this team hasn't won a World Series since moving here in 1958.

Perry's introduction also brought up another thought: Why are all the talk show blowhards and self-righteous columnists so quick to condemn Barry Bonds for "ruining'' the game when an admitted cheater is in the Hall of Fame and no one questions it? If it was all right for Perry to grease his way to 300 wins and Cooperstown, why do we hold Barry to a different standard? Why is one considered mere gamesmanship and the other a threat to civilized society? That's something for you to consider as the Great Home Run Chase resumes.

At this point, even I admit that there is a significant difference between steroid use and doctoring a ball, but both are brazen, straightforward forms of cheating. Whether or not you agree with him, it's a point worth considering.



Well folks, I've been bad. There's no other way to put it. Not the cool Michael Jackson (circa 1987) "Bad." I mean the good-golly-miss-Molly I've been too busy to get down a post in far too long. I can offer a brief recap of my life over the last few months, so as to provide a half-assed explanation as to my absence.

First, I spent two months interning in Congress before the elections. This was tremendously interesting and provided me a chance to see the Nats play at RFK. The game itself was one of the last home games of the year, and the Phillies were in town and still in the playoff hunt. The game became tremendously once I realized that the Nationals pitchers had no interest whatsoever in helping Ryan Howard pad his stats, and walked him intentionally several times in extra innings. It was the first time in recent memory that I left a game before it concluded, but the Metro was shutting down, and RFK Stadium is not in the safest part of Washington DC.

Following this, I returned for some aggressive campaigning before Election Day, and we did very, very well. Nationally, I was thrilled, although locally there were a few (huge) disappointments. To all of the rest of you in the United States, Michele Bachmann is in no way representative of Minnesota. Usually I'd be the first to rip this frigid state (I'm a California native), but it is a very nice place and that woman is seven different kinds of crazy.

After the elections wound down, I went job searching, which lasted until the Friday before Christmas. Since then, I've been at my new job and very busy.

So, in a nutshell, DC - Elections - Job stuff - sorry.

Now, on to other things. While logically, the worst day for baseball fans should fall in the week after the World Series, for me, it's right about now. The NFL fanfare is finally finished, and we're still too damn far away from full spring training for my tastes. We won't see squad games for another month at the earliest. This is a doldrums of sporting interest, with nothing but the NHL and NBA to hold my interest. All the winter meeting deals are done, and there really won't be anything new in baseball for a month, or maybe two.

I'll admit, I'm a baseball junkie. I need a good six month fix to survive the rest of the year. I personally can't wait for the days when ESPN will start televising the Caribbean Series, and I think that the WBC should be held every two. But the point is, I need baseball, and I cannot wait for the season to get here.

Pitchers and catchers in 6 days, though. A little ray of hope for us all.


Forty Two

Economics can't account for the value of certian things. There really is a pricelessness that can be applied to certian objects, and how many millions do we hit before the word 'absurd' begins to ring in everyone's ears? But is a new pitch really priceless?

Barry Zito is going to be paid a lot of money by someone; so is Jason Schmidt. Other no name starters are going to have their value ratcheted up and feel thankful to the worst man in baseball (Boras). But the bid the Red Sox put in to secure negotiating rights with Daisuke Matsuzaka is nothing short of insane. There isn't a starter out there worth twenty million a year, and very few starters are healthy enough or talented enough to justify a five plus year investment, but that's just the spot Red Sox have pyt themselves in, if they are truly intent on signing the pitcher. I fall more on the side that this was an attempt to outflank the Yankees and keep them from signing the gyroballer.

The one thing that I can say with certianty is this; I can't imagine a more interesting way to really kick off the dealing of the winter months. Stay tuned, sports fans.


Contest Extended!

Okay, maybe the questions were a little too hard. Tell you what, just answer one of them. Email me your answers and address, and on Labor Day I'll get around to drawing winners.


Power Potential: An introduction

While doing research for the Abreu trade article, I pored over salary numbers and payrolls, and a few things jumped out at me. I bounced over to the contracts on the Giants page, and was stunned by the ammount of money that Bonds, Alou, Finley and Durham were making. Their contracts for this year according to ESPN, 20, 7.45, 7 and 7 million respectively, for a total of 41.45 million. With Schmidt as a free agent at the end of this season, that gives the Giants' a payroll next year of around 40 million. Sabean might be dumb enough to pick up Finley's option for 7, and Durham might exercise his player option, but with all these contracts coming off the books, the Giants are going to have a tremendous ammount of flexibility.

The idea here isn't to predict which players teams will resign, but to look at their finance / talent position going into next season.

I was also looking at the Twins payroll and roster. Radke's 9 million will be gone, along with Hunter's 10.75. Stewart is gone for 6.5; several other players have options that may or may not be picked up. This will leave the Twins with only about 40 million committed, although, like the Giants some of this will disappear as contracts ramp up. The point remains that the Twins will also have a lot or room to redefine their team this winter.

The other advantage these teams both have is that they have some good young players coming along, especially in the rotation.

The Twins and Giants will provide the two archetypes for this series, big market teams that have a solid core and many millions to spend, and smaller market teams with a lot of cheap, young talent who clear some big contracts.

I'll profile the outlook for such teams in this series, so keep you eyes peeled for who's got power potential.