9.26.2004

Searching For A Spark.



The San Francisco Giants lead the NL Wild Card by a half a game. Not since the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa has an event been so mysterious. Equally mysterious are the underachieving Chicago Cubs, a half game out of the wild card lead. Righty Grove has already posted an excellent analysis of the Cubs pitching, which I recommend to those of you who have any doubts about the Cubs Starting rotation. To put it simply, the Giants pitching is roughly as good as a AA team without Jason Schmidt. The Giants staff is 12th in the NL in ERA, and boasts two pitchers with an ERA under 4.00. If I was to choose one player to embody the Giants staff as a whole it would be former closer Matt Herges. Anyone who can save 23 games with an ERA of 5.23 is nothing short of a magician. With apologies to Jason Schmidt and Barry Bonds, the Giants are a team featuring mostly Journeymen players and AL Central castoffs. How have the Giants managed to craft a lineup that has scored the most runs in the NL with Bonds only hitting once? Manager Felipe Alou has been brilliant at shuffling the Giants lineup, always putting his hottest hitter behind Barry Bonds.

The Cubs have displayed an complete lack of focus, involving themselves in pointless verbal feuds with TV broadcasters, the local media and opponents. Some feuding is only natural but the Cubs have become a textbook case of overindulgence of temper tantrums. Dusty Baker needs to step up the plate and show that he will not tolerate the kind of whining which the Cubs have all too frequently indulged in. Baker, unbelievably, told reporters that "My dad didn't like no whining. He didn't like no excuses, either. I'm the same way." Yet when asked about Moises Alou's complaints about TV broadcasters being "too negative" he responded that "There could be merit to some of it." I know that Dusty has always been a players' manager, but this rises to the level of sticking his head in the sand. Last season it took an all out brawl to give the Cubs the drive they needed to make the postseason. Last year it took Kyle Farnsworth tackling Paul Wilson when he charged the mound to spark the Cubs. This year requires something more subtle, for Baker put the mantle of players' manager on the shelf for a few weeks and just be a manager. After all, Paul Wilson probably won't make the same mistake twice.


9.22.2004

Walkgate



We've been talking about it for the last three seasons, originally as footnotes to the real records he was breaking. In Barry Bond's assault on the most prestigious numbers in baseball (single season and all time homeruns) he's been setting all sorts of records along the way. The one that has, at times, taken center stage, is the sheer volume of walks he generates. I think at this point it is fair to say that no hitter in the history of the game (rightly or wrongly) has been more feared. No one changes a game more than Barry Bonds. I have problems with the way he is treated, for many reasons. Firstly, I simply believe that this is not how the game should be played. Baseball is perhaps the most egalitarian (at least in the NL) game concieved and to take his at bats and turn them into the farce they've become is disgusting. Every man on the field get's his three a game, guaranteed and opposing managers have taken that away from him. Secondly, there is no one in the majors, not Vlad and his chiropractic gyrations, not Manny and his "Made-For-Slow-Mo" homers (and fielding), not Ichiro's Sixty Foot Sprint, not even the most determined looking man in baseball, Sammy Sosa, or Sheffield and his wrist-breaking waggle as impressive. For me, it's all about number 25, the most imposing force in sports, lurking in the on-deck circle, slowly striding to the plate like a gunfighter at high noon, waiting with the patience of a saint for a strike. It's the way he turns on a ball before I can even identify it with the help of the on-screen pitch speed. It's the simple grace, the effortlessness of the swing, the purest, cleanest, fastest swing in baseball. It is perfection.

Joe Morgan finally brought some sanity to this deabte. You can argue the benefit of giving a man over 200 free trips to first base, and man who in those at bats would have had less than ninety hits, likely less than eighty. You can argue the point of picking one guy on the team not to beat you. You could even forget to take your medication and pull a Jack McKeon and say that even if Ruth hit behind him you wouldn't pitch to Barry. Joe Morgan, a man for which I have tremendous respect, who I've even met, (although I don't remember it. I smudged his autograph as well) put it like this. If you tell a pitcher to walk him intentionally, you're telling him that you do not believe he can get Barry out and eventually, you are going to have to pitch to Barry Bonds. Now you've set up in the minds of everyone on the field that Barry is superhuman, that he cannot be taken down my mere mortal pitchers, and that if he doesn't hit a home run, it's because he was distracted by the things that Barry Bonds thinks about. God only knows what those are. Maybe he's wondering if he could do this with his eyes closed. The point is, this isn't good for the game, it isn't even good for the team. You need to build a team that believes it can win, no matter what. For as much as I hate them, that is how the Angels won two years ago.

And one other thing. I know that passions run high, and that everyone in a field as competitive as professional sports is going to want to win every night, but I think there's a moment when opposing managers, opposing players, even opposing pitchers stop and watch his balls go sailing into McCovey Cove. I think even they can appreciate that greatness for exactly what it is, if only for a second. But not for a second time. We all know what's coming in the next AB. 4 wide, take your base please. In the end, we'll only get to guess what might have happened if pitchers would throw to him with some consistency, or if the Giants had gotten two big bats to protect him, or if there were a limit on intentional walks. But for as hard as they make it, he's still at 701 and I don't think he's planning on stopping.

9.11.2004

North Side Wake Up Call

It was a familiar situation for the Cubs. Going into the bottom of the seventh against the Marlins they were down two runs. Dontrelle Willis had held them scoreless for seven, despite not throwing much of a game. His control was off early, and the Cubs had the bases loaded in the second. Derek Lee promptly grounded out. Until the fifth, Willis was having trouble throwing first pitch strikes. But the Cubs let him settle into a groove and he was taking them apart at leisure. With the Marlins bullpen ready to come in and lock down the game, it was a show we'd all seen before. The Cubs hadn't hit a home run all day, and they weren't going to. That's a recepie for failure, for the Cubs. Zambrano had thrown very well, giving up only one earned run, the two runs due to a throwing error and a broken bat flare. The Cubs don't have a Rally Monkey for these sorts of situations. The animal most associated with the Cubs is a goat. This seemed appropriate.

There was only one person on the field who must have felt out of place. Only one man felt unfamiliar today. Sammy Sosa hadn't hit sixth in a lineup in over 10 years. But his first two at bats were familiar. They were exactly what we'd come to expect from the Cubs this year.

And then, it happened. The Cubs had threatened and then scored one in the seventh, but all that managed to do was bring the dreaded Guillermo Mota into the game. After the strikeout of Moises Alou looking to end the inning, the Cubs looked beaten. Two more runs off Mota, or Benitez with the bottom of the lineup? Highly unlikely.

In the eighth, Dusty Baker pinch hit with Nefif Perez. This in itself was enough to suggest to me that he was ceding the game, but Perez rapped a ball through the infield and took second on a throwing error. There was a glimmer of hope for a moment, and then I saw the man in the on-deck circle. It was Sosa.

There have been times when seeing the Dominican Daddy step to the plate with the game on the line would have sent electric shivers through me. But I thought we'd lost that Sammy. For the year he's hitting .236 with men on, .209 with a man on second, and .185 close and late (results in the 7th inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck). I thought it was the end.

And then it happened. He happened. Sosa chipped a ball into the outfield, scoring Perez. The Cubs piled on for three more with a bases loaded double from Lee. Still, in the back of my mind, there was a worry. Hawkins had to go through Conine, Encarnacion and Gonzalez. He did it in nine pitches. Nine strikes. Three strikeouts. He was pouring heat on the outside corner and had Conine and Ecnarnacion swinging at pitches six inches off the plate. It was determination, it was grit, and it was blistering fastballs centimeters from the edge of the plate.

It may be premature, but this is exactly what the Cubs needed. There were flubs, blown bunts, Nomar came out in the fifth, and the error in the first. But the Cubs needed to remember how good they really are. They needed to pick up a game on the 'Stros and Marlins. And more than anything else, one thing needed to be proven, that Sammy Sosa was still Sammy Sosa. If the Cubs win the Wild Card, this game will have been the turning point. This is when they started believing they could win it all. In the end, it was the Marlins who looked beaten, flailing at Hawkins in the ninth. The Cubs looked ready for more.

Contender Analysis: The Twins

DISCLAIMER: I am, and always have been a Twins fan. Since every sportswriter or commentator has biases I see no conflict of interest in profiling the Twins.

Rotation:

The most important factor in determining playoff success (aside from just being red hot) is starting pitching. The Twins have an excellent one two punch with Brad Radke and Johan Santana. I have already read from the gospel of Johan Santana pretty throughly. Johan started twice last year againist the Yankees with one excellent start, and one bad one. This is a different Santana now, having gained complete control over his stellar changeup and he hasn't given up more than three earned runs since June 3rd (only allowing 3 ER once in that stretch). Radke has also improved over last year, currently tied for the MLB lead in quality starts (3 ER or less) with 22. Brad usually takes it up a step in the post season; last year he had a 2.84 ERA in the Yankees series, and a 1.96 ERA in the 2002 playoffs. Brad is a gamer.

The problems are with the Twins 3-5 starters. They're not paticuarly good. Terry Mullholland (4-8, 5.06 ERA) has pitched very well at times, but not well enough to obscure his age(41). Carlos Silva (10-8, 4.56 ERA) is my pick for the number three starter. GM Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire have wisely decided to use a three man rotation in the first round. Silva has pitched badly againist the Yankees (12.60 ERA) but very well againist Boston (2.84 ERA) and effectively againist Oakland (3.86 ERA). However, Silva is in his first year as a starting pitcher and sometimes has trouble pitching deep into ballgames. Even with these difficulties, is the bullpen stays true to form the Twins should be alright with a 5-6 inning effort. Unfortunately, the likes of Carlos Silva scares no one, which leaves the spot for the number three starter up in the air.

Kyle Lohse is working his hardest to make sure that the Twins leave him out of any possible playoff rotation. With an ERA of 5.56, his inability to get hitters out with either bases empty (.322 opponent BA) or with men on (.297 opponent BA) and his utter lack of control, Lohse is increasingly looking like he will not be pitching in any kind of meaningful postseason situation.

The Twins starters should hold up over a five game series. However, in a seven game series they would have to rely on the strength of their bullpen in order to win.

Relief:

The Twins pen is their greatest strength. They have picked up the starters, bolstering team ERA to lead the AL. The most impressive dimension of the Twins pen is the depth of talent available. The Twins have five pitchers (Rincon, Balfour, Crain, Romero and Nathan) out of relief who are trustworthy in high pressure situations. Joe Nathan has made an unexpectedly smooth transition into the closer role, becoming almost unhittable at times. With 39 saves and a K/9 of 10.97 Joe has become one of the elite closers in the AL. Setting Nathan up are four hard throwing relievers in Juan Rincon, Grant Balfour, Jesse Crain and JC Romero. Juan Rincon has been one of the primary arms coming out of the pen, and his pitched very well this year with a 2.86 ERA. JC Romero has not given up a run since June 1st and is 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA over 34 and 2/3 innings since then. That's a club record for consecutive scoreless innings. Grant Balfour has been another solid power arm out of the pen, with a 3.56 ERA (with a 2.63 ERA after the break in 13.2 innings). Balfour was injured recently but shoud be healthy in time for the ALDS. Jeese Crain has only been up for a month, with only 16 innings on the season. Gardenhire is crazy about Crain, who will likely see playing time in the postseason.

The pen also includes Joe Roa and Aaron Fultz. Roa has been adaquate; Fultz has been sent down to AAA and only recenly recalled. These two do not perform well under pressure.

Lineup:

This is the area of greatest concern. The Twins' offense has not kept up with other contenders this season. The Twins rank 10th in AL in RBI's and runs scored, in team BA (.263) and eleventh in OBP.

The Twins have made several roster shuffles in an attempt to remedy their hitting woes. The most effective was giving Justin Morneau everyday starts at first. Since Morneau took hold at first base (July 31), the Twins have improved to 8th in the AL in RBI. The return of Shannon Stewart as a true leadoff hitter has also helped, but still does not address other problems, such as the power deficiency. The Twins, as a team, are slugging .428. This doesn't look too bad against an opponents SLG of .405, but the Yankees, Boston and even the light-hitting A's (compared to the Sox and Yanks) are slugging at much higher percentages. The Twins are still, despite the addition of Morneau and return of Stewart, a subpar offensive team and the worst offense of any contender in the AL, and really of any division winner. They must pitch well in order to survive. The Twins also lack a veteran presence on the bench, which could hurt them as they progress into the playoffs.

Prediction:

In order for the Twins to win in the postseason they have to pitch well. The Twins will need clutch hitting to make up for a lack of consistent power. The other big question is if Silva/Mullholland can pitch well enough to give the Twins a shot in a later rounds. The Twins are as likely as anyone to advance past the ALDS, but a seven game series would prove a considerable challenge.

9.09.2004

Quantum Leaps?



The Spiderman Catch from Marlon Byrd was a true magic moment in baseball. Holding on for dear life, he struggled halfway up the centerfield wall to rob Andruw Jones of a homerun. But what did it really mean for the Phils to take a doubleheader from the Braves?

In the end, not a thing. It was a marvelous performance, solid defense, great pitching, and clutch hitting. In short, it looked more like the A's, or the Twins, or the Bosox traded uniforms with them. Especially the A's. It looked like the A's left town after dropping two the the Sox and decided to play a double header for the Phillies. Maybe they still loved the old Athletics stomping grounds. Maybe they just wanted to play a team worse than Boston. Whatever happened, the A's did not show up at Oakland (sorry, Network Associates) Coliseum Wednesday night. It must have been the Phillies. And those Phanatics weren't playing the Braves last night. It must have been those A's.

But seriously, this is what the Phils were supposed to be, from day one of spring training. There were people talking about a Phillies World Series. These games in mid August could have been the second most exciting series all year, to the Yanks and Sox in mid August. It could have been the battle of the NL East. It could have been a clash of dynasties; one in the twilight of its reign, the other hungry and raw, ready to turn the baseball world on its head. I don't pretend to know what went wrong. It reminds me of a line that is credited to no one in particular:

"We didn't lose the game; we just ran out of time."

The Phillies are out of time. They were weeks ago. I can't fathom how the Braves are running away with the division. There's only one thing I can say. It's a shame for all of us that they didn't pull it together. Then these games could have been dramatic, even profound, instead of a spectacle and a reminder of what could have been.

9.06.2004

AL Cy Young: Why the debate?

There has been some talk about which pitcher is most deserving of the AL Cy Young. A number of names seem to have come up in most press coverage, most frequently those of Mulder, Schilling and Santana. A good indicator of the contenders seemed to be would be anybody in the top 5 in ERA (Although, I am by no means saying ERA without flaws but face it nobody without a top 5 ERA has a chance).

AL ERA Leaders (9.5.04)
1. Tim Hudson 2.95
1. Johan Santana 2.95
3. Curt Schilling 3.38
4. Jake Westbrook 3.42
5. Pedro Martinez 3.55

Mark Mulder appears nowhere on this list. In fact due to some recent troubles his ERA has jumped to a pedestrian 3.90. To be fair however one ought to look at some of his other numbers just in case. Opponents are hitting Mulder at a .250 clip and getting on base at a .320 clip. His K/BB ratio (one of my favorite stats) is at 3.19 which is a fair increase from last year, his K/9 declined slightly. All in all, Mulder has had a good season. However, the only reason his name is mentioned in the Cy Young race are his 17 wins. Although this is a important factor it isn't enough to overcome such a high ERA.

What about the other member of the Big Three in contention? The main rap against Hudson is that he simply has been injured too long during the season to deserve the award, and its a good rap. Comparing a guy with only 149 IP started to the other contenders simply doesn't make sense. Wait til next year.

Jake Westbrook is enjoying a breakout year with the resurgent Indians. Jake has held batters to a .251 average. However, with his record only at 12-7 and his ERA at 3.42 he is unlikely to overtake any of the other contenders and thus much more analysis is largely academic.

Pedro can also be disqualified; he has a excellent season, no doubt. For all the talk about his diminished status as a power pitcher he still averaged 9.45 K/9, opponents are hitting an anemic .232 off him. However, his ERA is the highest its been in years (since 1996 with the Expos) and the batting average is about .15 higher than last season. A good season, but one of Pedro's weakest in years and not worthy of another Cy Young Award.

Curt Schilling has recently come (along with Santana) to be considered one of the top two contenders for the award. At 18-6 his record is hard to argue with. However, in the world of Aho, win/loss record is just a factor and not the factor in selecting a worthy candidate. Curt is holding his opponents to a .251 average and unlike some of other names mentioned with almost the same stat he has done a better job of keeping men off the basepaths with a .279 OPS. Another factor is playing on a gutsy contender like the Sox, helping to pitch them into contention (and nearly past the Yankees thus far). His K/9 has declined by a significant margin but I don't hold the development of finesse over power against a guy.

Now if you've been reading this you might be wondering what criteria I'm using to determine the worthiness of these pitchers Cy Young chances. Well, folks its this simple; Johan Santana has made himself 2004's standard of excellence in AL pitching.

The numbers are just unreal. Since his league best ERA has already been posted I'll examine the lowest opponent batting averages in the majors.

1. Randy Johnson .192

2. Santana .196

3. Jason Schmidt .204

4. Oliver Perez .206

5. Al Leiter .215

You might have noticed that the only one in the American league is Johan. In fact the next best AL starter is Ted Lilly at .232, and he doesn't appear on the list until #11. Santana also has the lowest opponent OBP in the AL at .253, and the lowest ERA, and the most K's (by almost 30 over Pedro). What's more is Johan has been hottest when it counts the most: after the break. He is 8-0 with a 1.68 ERA since the All-Star hiatus. This is the man who has been AL pitcher of the month twice in a row. Johan's k/9 is an insane 10.34.

The only reason that there is any debate over Santana is his 16-6 record. Perhaps if Schilling was getting a win in every start I might consider that enough difference in their records. However to deny the award to Johan based on Schilling having two more wins is well, there is only one word for this ladies and gentlemen: idiocy. Only one man is leading in every significant pitching statistic other than wins (and 16 wins is pretty damn good with 6 starts to go).

That man is Johan Stantana.


Spetember Reading List

With the school year rolling around again, trees turning colors and the Yankees pitching staff rummaging through Giambi's locker for horse tranquilizers, I felt I ought to put up some required reading for any true baseball fans.

Gammons, with his usual brevity, gives us a bevy of predictions of free agent signings for 2005. I actually found this article even more interesting, in which all the teams out of contention were sized up. Reading through these send me on a web search of Scott Boras, and I came across an article from 2001 laying out very clearly who he is. After reading Moneyball I tend to agree with Rick Morrissey. Eventually this search led to some far more humorous content.

All from The Brushback:

Scott Boras Demands $35 Million To Rescue Drowning Child

Man Playing Entire Season Of MLB 2004 Not Getting Laid Anytime Soon


Baseball Fight Marred By Actual Punches

MLB To Institute New Minority Firing Initiative

Peter Gamons Arrested on Marijuana, Gun Charges

It's football, but I still have to mention it because it's jsut that funny

Struggling Eagles Admit J-Lo/Ben Afleck Breakup 'May Have Been A Distraction'

Check the archives for other satirical colunms, but just a fw more baseball related entries before I sign off.

Montreal Expos Lost in Poker Game

Yanks Quietly Place Sleeping Jose Contreras On Raft Back To Cuba

And finally, to continue the theme from my last post,

John Kruk's Column Mistaken For Lost Writings Of Ernest Hemingway

Let's all hope the Rays can get out of Florida and help wipe out the Yankee's division lead. Until next time sports fans.


9.03.2004

Bring Back Bobby V

In a recent BBTN (Baseball Tonight) segment, John Kruk and Harold Reynolds were asked to rate the five contending teams in the NL Wild Card race on pitching, defense and offense. Kruk rated the Marlins and Padres above the Cubs for pitching, officially making him the stupidest man ever on the program, edging out both Ken Caminiti (I'm assuming he's been interviewed at least once) and Jose Canseco.

If the Marlins had kept Penny, and that's a big if, I might consider them for second on the list. However, trading him took a formidible chunk out of their rotation. Willis is at 9-9 with an ERA just points below 4, Beckett is 6-8 with a 4.05 ERA, and while Ismael Valdez is 12-7, his ERA is 5.23. Carl Pavano is carrying this rotation at 16-5 and 3.09. That is the ninth best ERA in the NL, but he's #23 for strikeouts, behind Willis. More on Valdez, he does not have a winning record for his carreer and has been wildly inconsistent since his first four years as a Dodger. His K/9 has declined steadily since 2000 from 6.22 all the way down to 3.13. Furthermore, Willis' brilliant K/9 ratio from his debut year is down to 6.45, and he is no longer holding opposing batters to a .245 BA, possibly because hitters have figured out his bizarre mechanics. They now hit him at a .276 clip. If I had to guess as to what was wrong, it was that batters have imporved at hitting him out of the stretch(.266 with the bases empty and .292 with men on), eliminating the advantage of his 'elbows and knees' delivery. Beckett's numbers look eeriely similar to his 2003 stats, with the only difference being a 60 point jump in his SLG. Valdez's stats look about like one would think with his record and ERA, as is the case with Pavano. This does not look like a very healthy rotation to me; it looks like an ace and three number three or four starters, or maybe some young pitchers trying to figure it out.

The Padres are an interesting choice for second best rotation. Adam Eaton is the only one with a losing record at 9-12, 4.71 ERA. Both Brian Lawrence (13-11, 3.82) and David Wells (9-7, 3.49) have midling records. Only Jake Peavy stands out at 11-4 and a 2.21 ERA. The problem with Peavy is that he's untested, not even having reached 100 innings last year in the show. His K/9 has been going down since he came into professional baseball (which is to be roughly expected when he started above 12) but dropped from 8.29 to 7.21, although his WHIP improved marginally. Batters are hitting .282 against Lawrence, way up from last year (.258) and they are slugging .460 off him, a fifty point jump over last year. In contrast, Peavy's numbers are .235 and .352. Wells has actually improved his K/BB by two full points since 2001, but but K/9 has been dropping steadily since '98. I don't think I have to even bother with Sabermetric numbers for Eaton, sometimes ERA and W-L record are pretty honest about a pitcher. The only one that seems to hold any hope for him is that his K/9 has stayed fairly high, above 6.75 for his carreer. Still no one in that rotation scares me but Peavy who is 6-0 since the All Star break and who gets tougher with runners on and tougher still when they're in scoring position (.245 empty, .220 men on, .189 scoring position). After the break, batters agaisnt Wells are hitting .301. Before it was .244. His offense has bolstered his win total, giving him a record since the break of 5-2 while his ERA has climbed over a full point. This seems to be the same story with the Marlins.

I will admit before I start in on the evaulation of the Cubs that I am rather partial to them. That being said, here goes.

Kerry Wood, (7-6, 3.30) Mark Prior, (4-4, 4.87) Matt Clement, (9-12, 3.44) Greg Maddux, (13-8, 3.70) and Carlos Zambrano (12-8, 2.94) are the best rotation in the National League. Period. Zambrano's carreer K/9 (in two and and half seasons) is 7.59, AVGAgainst (or AVGA from now on) is .234, sucked even further down by is almost Mendoza-esque .222 this season so far. By the way, that is the only time in the history of baseball that Mendoza has been used as a compliment. Clement's K/9 has gone up from last season, to 9.48. His ERA has gone down, from 4.11 to 3.44. His AVGA is identical at .227. I have no explanation for his record, except that the Cubs offense has not picked up its pitchers this year. Wood's K/9 remains over nine for the year and his AVGA is at .230. Prior still has an astronomical K/9, 10.62 (10.71 for three seasons), although his AVGA and SLGA has jumped by a lot, due mainly to his injury begning the season and the one that took him out of a game on July 15th. I'll finish with the elder statesman of the group, a man who came home to end his carreer, the most dependable pitcher for the last fifteen years. You have to go back to 1988 to find a year he had a losing record, or a season in which he won less than fifteen games. His K/9 is solidly at 6.27 and AVGA is .245 for the last ninteen years. There was an article on ESPN.com awhile back that talked about just how good Maddux has been, especially compared to his contemporaries.

Coming into this season, according to Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, the average National League pitcher during Maddux's career (1986-present) had an ERA of 4.24. Maddux's career ERA, on the other hand, looked a little different than that:

At a fabulous 2.89.

You might not be surprised to learn that's the greatest difference in ERA by any 300-game winner in modern history (after 1900), compared to his league ERA...

Maddux also has the biggest difference, compared to his league, in baserunners per nine innings (2.39 better than his league) and walks per nine innings (1.51 better). And he's second only to Christy Mathewson in strikeout-walk ratio (1.49 better). So this just in: This guy can really pitch...

What has also defined this man is that he's one of the great control artists of his time -- or any time. He once ripped off nine straight seasons with a walk ratio lower than 2.00 per nine innings. And only three pitchers in history ever had a longer streak. [one of which was Cy Young]...

Only five 300-game winners in history have had a higher career winning percentage than Maddux (.638). And, not coincidentally, only three had more seasons in which they won at least 10 more games than they lost. Maddux has had eight seasons like that.

HIGHEST WINNING PERCENTAGE, 300-WIN CLUB:

1. Lefty Grove .680
2. Christy Mathewson .665
3. Roger Clemens .664
4. John Clarkson .650
5. Grover C Alexander .642
6. Greg Maddux .638

SEASONS WITH AT LEAST 10 MORE WINS THAN LOSSES:

12 Christy Mathewson
11 Cy Young
9 Grover Alexander
8 Greg Maddux
8 Kid Nichols
8 Walter Johnson
8 Lefty Grove

Furthermore, all of these pitchers are horses, pushing or passing 200 innings with regularity. How anyone could not rate this as the best rotation in the NL Wild Card race, the NL, or even the Major Leagues is beyond me. The only rotation even close is Oakland.

At least Krukmeister (for as dumb as his choices were) and I can agree on one thing, the Giants rotation is dead last among contenders. Honestly, let the mascot pitch. He couldn't do much worse that Reuter.

Currently listening to the A's on MLB.com and Swisher is 1-1 in his first three at bats with two walks (what a Moneyballer) and a double. That's nothing but good news, unless you're Ted Lilly.

9.01.2004

This blog may eventually prove to be nothing more than a way to settle bar bets, when someone accuses me of predicting the Reds to win the Central in the next decade, or the Yankees to finally admit that they sold the souls of New York to play the way they've played for the last ten years. It may be a useful place to read baseball commentary. It may start a new world order. Who knows?

Now, the ceremonial throwing out of the first pitch, by, none other than Jessie Orosco ... well, at least after I get him out of the wheelchair.

Play ball.