28 April 2003

Alou Has Totally Feliped Out

Kevin Millwood pitched a no-hitter yesterday at the Vet.

It was the first major league no-hitter since Derek Lowe did it exactly one year ago.

It was the first NL no-hitter since Bud "Not Enough for Scott Rolen" Smith did it in 2001.

It was the first Phillies' no-no since the Immortal Tommy Greene did it back in 1991, at Montreal.

It was the first Phils no-no at the Vet since the Immortal Terry Mulholland did it back in 1990.

It was the first Phillies no-hitter by a righty at the Vet EVER. Just in time too, since this is the Vet's swan-song season.

It was the first Phillies no-hitter by a righty at Philadelphia since Red Donahue did it....in 1898. That's right. It's been 105 years since Philadelphia Phillies fans got to see their own righty pitch a no-hitter at home. That 1898 team had four future Hall of Famers on it (Nap Lajoie, Ed Delahanty, Sam Thompson and Elmer Flick. I'm guessing that this one has considerably fewer.

It was the first no-hitter by a pitcher with two sets of double letters in his last name since Jim Abbott did it back in 1993.

We could go on and on (don't worry, we won't) about how special this is...everyone else has already belabored the point, so I'll leave most of that to others.

Otherwise, there are two things of note about this particular no-hitter:

1) The Phillies traded a backup catcher to get Millwood from the Braves, in a trade much decried as an unfortunate residue of the slime that is the new collective bargaining agreement, by both the baseball-following public and even moreso, by the Braves' GM.


B) Giants Manager Felipe Alou practically handed the game to Millwood and the Phillies.

Lemme ask you something: If you're playing a game, and aware that you not only standa good chance of losing, but of being totally embarassed in the process, what would you do? Well, if you're a competitive sort (and hey, if you're not, what the hell are you doing in major league baseball?) you'll want to give yourself the best chance to win. And if not to win, at least to avoid embarassing labels next to your name in the record books. Right?

Well, apparently not. Apparently Felipe Alou likes having his name associated with embarassing records. Faced with the opportunity to make pone last-ditch effort to break up said potentially embarassing no-hitter, Alou removed light-hitting infielder Pedro Feliz (YAY!) and pinch-hit for him with...

...lighter hitting infielder Neifi Perez?

Yep. Given the choice of using:

SS Neifi Perez (roughly a career .230 hitter away from Coors Field),
3B Edgardo Alfonzo (career .289/.365/.442 hitter, admittedly having a bad month),
C Benito Santiago (career .262/.306/.415 hitter with a sore elbow), and
OF Ruben Rivera (career .216 hitter, and besides, he might have tried to sell the game-ball to a memorabilia dealer),

Alou chose Perez. Why?

Maybe because Perez is the only one of the four with much baserunning speed? Nope, Rivera has had much more success as a basestealer (49 for 69) than Perez has (46 for 84), and is therefore probably faster. Also a lousy hitter, but faster. Figures that he'd be good at stealing.

Maybe because Perez is a switch "hitter" and the others are righties? Of course, being able to see the ball from the pitcher better only really matters if you know what to do with it once it reaches the plate. It would seem that this theory is at least possible, given that he did use lefty-hitting Marvin Benard to pinch hit for the pitcher, despite that Benard is only 2-for-20 this season, and kept the righties on the bench.

In spring training, Alou was quoted as saying that his biggest concern for the 2003 season was finding playing time for Neifi Perez. I betcha a lotta Giants fans wish he coulda found Neifi's playing time in some other game this week.

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21 April 2003


In a continuing effort to remain gainfully employed, I have commited the sin of neglecting a few plug requests, for which I must now make ammends.

Cub Reporter Christian Ruzich was away for a while at spring training, and saw his readership fall off dramatically, as OBM's did during his computer problems saga. He asked for a plug over two weeks ago, and I'm just getitng around to him now, sadly. But thankfully, Christian was not relying on me to save his site, so i 'spek he's back upta normal by now, as any blogger worth his bandwidth will be saved on the strength of his writing, and not by how many other bloggers can help prop him up. Christian's excellent writing and following of the Cubbies stands out among nondescript, lackluster baseball blogs like...well, this one, for instance. Go check him out. Great picture of Sammy Sosa's head exploding, too.

Jay Jaffe, the Futility Infielder, also posted a review of his spring training trip, which you can check out here. Jay is also an excellent writer, and has the added bonus of being able to , howyousay...ah-yes, "pick a winner", as he is a Yankee fan. Not that it was a hard choice.

Baseball Ranting Mike Carminati has a review of the history of the designated hitter, which I have not yet had the opportunity to readin its entirety, but despite that he's a purist, he seems to think its OK. I happen to agree, even though Mike and I evidently disagree with a lot of other big name baseball people, I'm always interested to see what Mike has to say on such a subject. And you should be too.

Also, Mike did his weekly mangling of a Joe Morgan Chat session, which, if it's anything like last week's Beatles/Taxes themed post, will have you peeing in your pants before it's over. On second thought, maybe you don't wanna check that one out right now, especially if you're in public somewhere.

Baseball Crank always has interesting stuff on his site, which has now moved. I will update his link soon. But in the meantime, you can find him at http://www.baseballcrank.com/.

My hero, Rob Neyer, has a newly designed website (which will also be linked here soon) and a new book, which I'm hoping I can convince him to give me so I can post a review here and on my Boy of Summer's Book Reviews page.

The guys from Elephants in Oakland were actually at the game in Oakland where Carl "What Dinosaurs" Everett got hit with a cell phone, and they haven't stopped talking about it since. Go see.

And last, but not finally, Alex Belth's Bronx Banter passed 5,000 visits a few weeks ago, a neat little milestone, and deserves some congrats for it. Congrats.

And speaking of milestones, I just passed 10,000 readers myself. Wow. Thank you for your support. I couldn't have done it without you. Well I could have, but it woulda sucked.

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The Full Almonte

AP reported last week that Derek Jeter has started throwing again as part of his rehab assignment. As it was his non-throwing shoulder that was dislocated (turns out it was located under Ken Huckaby's shinguard...) this seems like something of a case of non-newsworthy news. Also, ESPN's version of the article reported that,

"The MVP of the 2000 All-Star Game and World Series hit a career-low .297 

last season with 18 homers and 75 RBI. His batting average has dropped three
straight years, from .349 in 1999 to his first sub-.300 average last season."

(italics added)

Wow. Two errors in two sentences. They're batting 1.000, just like Jeter, who hit .291 in 1997, his sophomore season, after winning RoY honors in 1996 with a .314/.370/.430 line. Not a career low. Not his first season under .300. Not that it matters.
Just shoddy journalism. Tisk-tisk. This is too easy. I'm in the wrong business.

Anyway, like I said, not really news, as Jeter is still optimistically expected back in 4-6 weeks. But a nice segue into an analysis of his replacement, Erick Almonte.

Almonte has played 15 games, has 6 runs and 6 RBI, even a homer! But after taking the Golden Sombrero (0-4, 4K's) on Thursday and two more lackluster performances this weekend, he's hitting only .231/.273/.327, for a .600 OPS, and has 14 K's against only 2 walks. After going 7-for-17 in his first four games (.412), he's hit only 5-for-35 since, or .143/.167/.171, for a .338(!) OPS. and he's made five errors in the field, again, in only 15 games. This puts him at a pace for something like 243 errors over the course of the year, or roughly the same number Fred Durst makes in a typical sentence.

But the rest of the Yankees hit like crazy (New York leads the AL in Runs scored and is tied with Texas for the lead in homers), and the starting pitching has been great (12-0, 2.57 ERA), and they keep winning, so nobody's noticed.

Yanks skipper Joe Torre keeps insisting that Almonte is his starter, and I suppose that Enrique Wilson isn't much better with the stick, but he could certainly hold up the defensive side of things a little better than this. I didn't really expect them to take my advice and go get a Mike Bordick type to play in Jeter's stead, but I didn't expect them to bring in a guy with stone hands just to spite me either. Eventually Yankees' radio announcer John Sterling is going to have to stop chanting that Almonte is doing a 'reasonable job' as the SS while Jeter's gone. He's not hitting, he's not fielding, and sooner or later someone more important than me is going to have to take notice and do something about it. Especially if Jeter's out longer than six weeks.

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15 April 2003

What are you doing reading Boy of Summer today? Go do your taxes!

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08 April 2003

"Hey! Speaking of Declining, Overpaid, Offensive Superstars Who've Dislocated their Non-Throwing Shoulders Diving During the First Week of the Season..."

Wow, how about that? Another has been added to the list. During a game on Saturday against the Chicago Cubs, Cincinatti Reds star centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr.dove for a fly ball, and sustained his Annual Debilitating Injury (ADI). Kudos to Griffey for getting creative with the ADI this year and not just pulling a hamstring, like he usually does. Griffey's expected to miss at least six weks, and more likely the whole season, if he needs surgery.

The fly ball came off the bat of lead-footed (and lead-batted) Cubs' catcher Paul Bako, who was credited with his Annual Only Triple (AOT) for his effort. Seriously, Bako has gotten exactly one triple every year since he broke in with the Detroits in 1998.

With Griffey out indefinitely, the plan apparently is for shortstop Barry Larkin to platoon in center field with Reggie Taylor. Larkin, once a top-flight SS, is now 38 years old and obviously in decline, after hitting only .247/.320/.368 the last two seasons, well below his career marks of .295/.372/.447. Larkin will spend some time playing CF as well as SS, and will undoubtedly be among the NL's worst centerfielders whenever he plays there. Thankfully, he will have competition for that honor on his own team, as Reggie Taylor might best be described as "Doug Glanville Lite". Ouch.

Reggie Taylor is a tools-guy drafted out of high school by the Phillies in the first round of the 1995 draft, ahead of Carlos Beltran, Randy Winn, Roy Halladay, Russ Ortiz, Jarrod Washburn, Brett Tomko, A.J. Burnett, Dave Dellucci, Mark Belhorn, and Mike Lowell, among others. Of course, hind-sight is 20-20, or maybe that's the number of steals and walks Taylor would get each year if he played every day? No wonder the Phillies never brought him up: they already had one of those.

Despite taking eight years to learn the trade and reach the majors, Taylor still doesn't know the strike zone from a No Parking Zone. He never hit higher than .280 in the minors, never walked more than 30 times and never hit more than 15 dingers in any year. The one thing he did do often was steal bases (20 to 40 each year), but with just barely enough profieciency that it was actually a useful skill. (Note: Baseball Cube (aka Sports-Wired.com) doesn't list minor league Caught Stealings, but Baseball Prospectus indicates that his minor league steals in 2001 and 2000 were 54/71 or 76%.)

Playing Larkin in centerfield will let manager Bob Boone get Felipe Lopez and Brandon Larson into the lineup more often. Lopez came over to Cincinnati from Toronto in a trade, and Larson has come through Cincinatti's own farm system. Both have "potential" (read: "haven't done anything yet"), having put up at least superficially impressive minor league numbers in 2002. Time, as always, will tell. The Reds probably lost about five wins to this injury, if you presumed that Griffey would have been healthy all year. But then you know what happens when you presume: You make an ass out of you and pre.

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02 April 2003

Amazing, but True

As you all probably know by now, New York Yankees shortstop, #2 hitter and #1 superstar Derek Jeter will miss at least the next month or so with a dislocated shoulder, which he suffered Monday Night in the third inning against Toronto. Jeter's a great player, but there are rarely many great players on the market in early April, at least for anything in way of prospects the Yankees have to offer (hint:not much), so now what? Yankees backup IF Enrique Wilson is not the long-term answer, and Yankees farmhand Eric Almonte is so not the answer that prospects guru John Sickels didn't even include him in his 2003 book (thanks, Aaron). So we need someone who's both decent and available.

Naturally, a player of Jeter's magnitude is not easy to replace....or is he?

Take a look at some of the Baseball Prospectus translated stats for three (sorta) players from last year:

Player J 157 .293 107 50 -27 5.9
Player B 117 .247 45 9 32 6.6
Player C 157 .247 60 12 43 8.9
Diff (C-J) nil -.046 -47 -38 70 3.1

First, some explanations of the stats:
G is games played. Baseball Prospectus's Equivalent Average (EqA) and Equivalent Runs (EqR) are all pretty obvious. You can go to Prospectus if you need further explanation on these. BRARP is Batting Runs Above Replacement Position, the number of batting runs the player was responsible for above a replacement-level player at that position. FRAA, similarly, is Fielding Runs above Average, the number of fielding runs more (or less) than an average player at that position. WARP is the drive that always malfunctions whenever Scotty needs something to rant about, but it happens also to stand for Wins Above Replacement Player. This takes into account all the player's contributions, for hitting, fielding and pitching, if applicable.

Now, given the context of the table in discussion, you probably know that player J is the aforementioned baseball demigod, Derek Jeter, and yes, the demi-god is, in fact, demi-god-awful at defense. Player B is what Mike Bordick did last year for the Baltimore Orioles, in 117 games, and Player C is a projection of Bordick's performance over the same number of games Jeter played. The Difference row is the difference between Jeter's actual performance and Bordick's projected performance.

So what strikes you? Well, first of all, you should notice that Bordick gives up 46 points of EqA to Jeter, which is a lot. It's roughly the difference between Mike Piazza and Ben Davis, or Alfonso Soriano and Ramon Vazquez, or between Eric Chavez and Craig Counsell. It's a LOT. Because Bordick played 40 fewer games, he naturally loses a few "counting" runs in the analysis, so the projection is intended to adjust for that. That EqA difference projects out to about 47 fewer runs somehow scored as a result of the Bordick's hitting compared to Jeter's, roughly four or five wins worth.

But on the fielding side, what happens? Despite what Tim McCarver tells you, Jeter is a terrible defensive shortstop, and always has been. Last year, he was 27 runs worse than a league-average defensive SS, while Bordick was 32 runs better, for a net difference of 59 runs, which more than covers the gap in offense. And that's just in the games Bordick actually played! If you take the projected difference over 157 games, Bordick's defense saves 70 runs more than DJ's would! Seventy runs! Holy cow!

So what are we saying here? Theoretically, if Mike Bordick had played every game that Jeter played last year, the Yankees would have actually won two or three more regular season games than they did. Obviously, this way over-simplifies these stats, and Bordick can't really be counted on to play such stellar defense again this year. But it does mean that Jeter may not be as hard to replace as we think: If the Yankees can get a mediocre-hitting SS, (they've got enough offense that they could afford to carry a guy like that, batting him 9th) who happens to be an excellent fielder, they should be able to make up most of what they're missing with Jeter gone, albeit in a different form.

Oh, and they could probably get Bordick or another such player for a song, and pay him beans, while collecting the insurance on Jeter's contract. He may even help Soriano learn some defense, and the Yanks could be better off in the long run.

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First and foremost, in case you haven't already heard, you must know that your hero and mine, John J(acob Jingle-Heimer) Perricone, has finally gotten Only Baseball Matters back online, after weeks of server problems, Macintosh problems, Blogger problems, Scud missiles, and attacks by packs of wild dogs. John is a great writer, who is knowledgeable about all things baseball, but still willing to listen to dissenting opinions. He's passionate about his Giants, but still fosters some affinity for the Yankees, on whom he was weaned. And despite that he is ten years older than I, and twice as old as Aaron Gleeman, he hasn't lost his touch ;) just a lot of his readership. So go check him out. Now, dammit. John happens also to be my biggest website referrer, bringing in roughly 10% of all my references, at least since I started keeping track.

Speaking of referrers, David Pinto's Baseball Musings (recently moved) is also excellent, and is running a close second to Perricone, especially since he plugged my fisking of Joe Morgan yesterday. With his new location comes a new logo, classy and understated, as is his style. This allows me to place his link up with the other picture links on the left, and he will go at the top of the list. This disparity has long needed a remedy, and I'm glad to change it.

While you're surfing, check out Mike's Baseball Rants, who finally finished his History of Relief Pitching a few weeks ago. The news is a little cold now, but since I started plugging these, I figured I'd finish.

Also, Alex Belth, who apparently is Somebody (unlike Yours Truly), has got an interview with Hall-of-Fame Negro Leaguer Buck O'Neil. Alex also had an interview with former players' union rep Marvin Miller, who probably belongs in the Hall of Fame himself, given his impact on it, but will likely never be elected because baseball owners and many old-school writers think that he's the Anti-Christ. Must be nice to be somebody.

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