12 February 2003


First of all, my apologies to anyone who has asked me for a plug and not gotten it in the last few weeks. As I mentioned yesterday, I've been very busy, and still am, so I won't belabor the point. Now, on to the good stuff:

Two new links appear on your right. The first is Mudville Magazine, full of prolific and excellent writing, regularly posted readers' email responses, cartoons and weekly reviews of baseball related stuff (this week: magazines).

The second is Sports Frog. Against my usual trend, this site has sports other than baseball (who knew they existed?), with smart-alecky commentary on everything from Baseball Magazines to Horses to basketball to Jennifer Lopez to...well, you get the point. They have four different writers, one of whom reportedly has a cat that eats Volkswagen Beetles for lunch, but personally I think the stray tabby that my aunt fed until it weighed thirty two pounds (they called it a "racing hippo") could probably take him. If it wasn't dead.

Also, I need to make some much-needed amends with my blog brothers, Mike Carminati, and Jay Jaffe, who have been reviewing and rewriting the way relief pitchers are evaluated for some time now. Mike's summarized all of those history links here, while Jay has a revision on a system for evaluating said short-winded hurlers here. Both are very thorough, and very good.

It's posted at Baseball Primer, where Aaron Gleeman's Top 50 Prospects Report also appears. Aaron is a college student, which, aside from being unemployed, is about the only way someone could possibly have the time to do what he does without being paid for it. You go, Aaron.

Also, Alex Belth over at Bronx Banter has posted the first part of the transcript of an interview with Ken Burns, the famous documentary guru. Belth was fortunate enough to work on Ken Burns' Baseball Documentary right out of school, which makes my pansy-ass brushes with greatness pale in comparison. Hopefully the celebrity endorsement will help him to pull in a few more readers. If that doesn't work, try mentioning supermodels in the text of one of your posts. Or underwear.

Batter's Box has piles and piles of great stuff, and not just about the Toronto Blue Jays, so much that I won't go into all of it. But you should go check it out. Now.

In other news, I missed a golden opportunity. Last week, Jayson Stark wrote the most ridiculous column he'd written since, well, the previous week, and I had hoped to take some time to pick it apart, but my schedule would not allow it. It turns out though, that I was not alone in my distaste for said crap, as Mike's Baseball Rants and Elephants in Oakland both beat me to the punch. Mike has a couple of follow-up posts, and between his stuff and that over at EIO, I don't think anything was written that I wouldn't have brought up myself, though perhaps with somewhat less name-calling, if only because I'm not good with names.

And finally, some of why I haven't been able to write much of late is that my family has a new addition. We adopted an eleven-week old girl, whose mother had been homeless, and she has taken up all of my free time, as well as my wife's. She's wonderful, except when she wakes us up in the middle of the night crying or something like that, especially if we lock her in her cage. She's lots of fun to play with and her personality is already coming out. She has "accidents" once in a while, but is generally learning when and where it's appropriate to relieve herself. Smart kid. Of course, she chews on anything she can get her sharp little teeth around, and her breath stinks, but overall, she's a lot of fun. She's a Dalmation/Laborador mix we got from Willing Hearts Dalmation Rescue, and we couldn't be happier, as you can tell from the pictures below. (My wife is the one without hair on her face.) We named her McCartney.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

10 February 2003

Boy of Summer would like to announce that the reason he hasn't posted anything in three weeks is that he's been working his ass off for his 2003 Philadelphia Phillies' Preview. Tracking down front office personnel, interviewing players, drawing schematics of the Vet, inspecting the locker rooms, conducting seyances, consulting oijia boards....I'd like to say that, but I can't. Well I could, but I'd be lying. Mostly I've just been really busy at the job I get paid for, and as well as in my home life. But finally, and without further ado (ado, ado), I present to you...

Phillies' Phutures... A preview of the 2003 Philadelphias.

Many of you know that Philadelphia is not my favorite town, nor are the Phillies my favorite team, and not just because they're about a quarter century's worth of World Championships behind my favorite team, but because they so rarely seem to be making any significant, intelligent efforts to remedy that situation. In my opinion:

* It's not that hard to like a team that seems mostly content to suck but doesn't mind 'cuz they've got nice digs that always sell out, and they win a division or something once in a while, just to impart a false sense of hope to their doting fans. Call it the Loveable Losers Syndrome. (cf: Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs)

* It's not that hard to like a team that tries to win but is somehow, always, tragically prevented from accomplishing their ultimate goal, often by their arch-rival. Call it the Tragic Heroes Syndrome. (cf: Boston Red Sox)

* It's not even that hard to like a team that used to be good when you were a kid, but isn't really anymore. Hey, nostalgia's better than nothing. (cf: NY Mets, most of the AL Central)

* But it's really hard to like a team that seems to aimlessly meander through history, trying to find a vision, alternately latching on to varying plans that range from the ill-advised to the insane. All the while lamenting the woes of their market and scapegoating the fan base for their lack of success, as though someone had forced them to play games in a Little League field on a small island off the coast of Alaska, when in fact they're in the largest one-team baseball market in the country. Such behavior is reprehensible and despicable. Also, the fans are really obnoxious and bitter. This means you, Philadelphia.

However, despite my relative distaste for the franchise, the Philadelphia Phillies have taken some serious strides. And I'm not talking strides toward mediocrity like Rob Ducey and Paul Spoljaric, or strides towards disappointment, like Mike Jackson and Danny Tartabull. I'm talking strides towards serious contention for the NL East crown, maybe more. Despite the lingering aftertaste of signings-gone-sour such as Mark Leiter and Greg Jeffries, the Phillies made the biggest splash in the free-agent pool this winter, bringing in Jim Thome and David Bell. They even traded for one of the best starters in their division, Kevin Millwood, giving up only a third-string catcher/motorcycle cop. They managed to let some of the dead wood float away, in Mike Timlin, Doug Glanville, Marlon Anderson, and Ricky Blow-tallico, who signed with the Red Sox, Rangers, Devil Rays, and Diamondbacks, respectively, and also Travis Lee who has ironically signed with the Devil Rays to "help their offense". Figures.

Anyway, here's what the projected lineup looks like:
Starting Eight

SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Placido Polanco
1B Jim Thome
LF Pat Burrell
RF Bobby Abreu
C Mike Lieberthal
3B David Bell
CF Marlon Byrd

If I'm a National League pitcher (I'm not), I'm going to lose a lot of sleep thinking about how to get from Thome to Bell without having to meet the homeplate umpire to get a ball to replace the one that just got air-mailed into the old Vet parking lot. Lieberthal isn't Mike Piazza, but a catcher who hits .280/.350/.450 when healthy is still in fairly select company. David Bell is unspectacular, and overpaid, but he hits for a little power, and so poses a threat himself. Bobby Abreu, despite his petulant refusal to hit lead-off, and Pat Burrell, despite the strikeouts, are two of the most underrated hitters in the NL. Marlon Byrd's upside is probably Carlos Beltran, but this year may resemble Jeffrey Hammonds a bit more than most Phillies fans would prefer.

The only real problem here is at the top of the lineup. Jimmy Rollins has some work to do to become a top-notch leadoff hitter, which is what this team needs: a patient hitter at the top of the lineup. Rollins isn't particularly patient (Fifty walks in 700 Plate Appearances just isn't gonna cut the gravy for a team that wants to win its division.) but is young, and therefore has as good a chance as anyone to become a little more disciplined and/or hit a little better next year. But all those big boppers in the middle of the lineup won't do much good if Rollins and Polanco don't get on base. In fact, outside of Thome-Burrell-Abreu, nobody in the lineup is really an outstanding hitter. Lieberthal and Rollins may be a little better than average for their positions, but not by a lot, and not enough to make up for the relatively weak-hitting Polanco and Bell or a still-developing (read: erratic) Marlon Byrd. They could really have used a Ray Durham or an Edgardo Alfonzo, but it's too late for that now. They can probably still be in the top 5 in NL runs scored, which, on a scale of one-to-ten, is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Polanco is serviceable (.296/.333/.390 career) as a backup IF and #2 or #8 hitter, but shouldn't be starting everyday. They've got Chase Utley, who has some power and patience, but didn't hit for average last season at AAA, has a lousy defensive reputation, and therefore probably won't be given a fair chance to supplant Polanco as the everyday 2B. So these are your 2003 Philadelphia Phillies. Hitters anyway.

Who's on the Bench?

C Tank Pratt
IF Tomas Perez
IF Tyler Houston
OF Ricky Ledee
OF Jason Michaels?
OF Eric Valent?

Pratt had a career year, hitting .311/.449/.500, with an OPS about 200 points above his career averages. That won't happen again, but there are worse backup catchers. Houston was a decent pickup. Nothing special, but not too pricey at ~$1.5 mil, and easy enough to flip to a contender for a prospect if they're out of it in July (they shouldn't be). Perez is placido polanco without the paying time. Ledee isn't going to amount to anything, despite the smooth swing. Woulda happened by now, you'd think. Michaels and Valent both came out of the Phillies' farm system, and I don't know if it's fair to expect very much out of them this year, other than to nobly ride the pine, and occasionally pinch run or replace somebody in the outfield for defense. Based on their minor league numbers, they both seem to have doubles power and mediocre plate discipline, so don't get your hopes up.

Now, what about the Starting Pitching?

Kevin Millwood
Randy Wolf
Vicente Padilla
Brett Myers
Brandon Duckworth

Millwood, as I've previously pointed out, is as good or better a bet than Bartolo Colon to be an ace in 2003, and was probably better than even Maddux or Glavine last year. Randy Wolf was also one of the better pitchers in the NL last year, despite not having been heralded as such, now two years removed from the watchful eye of Terry 'The Tyrant' Francona, who regularly left him in for 120+ pitches whether it was necessary or not (hint: it never is). His ERA (8th in the NL) is betrayed by a so-so 11-9 record, owed largely to bullpen ineffectiveness and lousy run support. Vicente Padilla was a surprise All-Star last year, though he faded somewhat in the second half. Look at the splits:

Vicente Padilla  ERA  W  L   IP   H   ER HR HR/9IP BB  BB/9IP  SO  SO/9IP  AVG

Pre All-Star 3.05 10 5 121 108 41 7 0.52 33 2.45 85 6.32 .239
Post All-Star 3.60 4 6 85 90 34 9 0.95 20 2.12 43 4.55 .274

Was he terrible in the second half? No, not by any measure. But was he worse? Absolutely: Hits, Homers and ERA went up, Strikeouts went down. Was it because of overuse, having never thrown more than 143 innings in a season before? Well, he wasn't abused, by BaseballProspectus PAP^3 standards, only throwing over 120 pitches once all year. Besides, the numbers he put up in the second half were only 'bad' in comparison to how 'good' he was in the first half: Andy Pettitte and Tom Glavine have been succeeding for years without numbers much more impressive than those, but he'd be better served to work on getting that strikeout rate back up, at least close to what it was. He'll probably end up somewhere between the two over the course of the year, maybe regressing to the mean a little from last year, but still a plus #3 starter, easily.

That gives them four guys who pitched at least 200 innings last season with better than league-average ERAs. Take a look at Brett Myers' combined numbers from 2002, but be warned, Kids, don't try adding stats from different leagues like this at home:

Brandon Duckworth GS W L CG IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP ERA
CityofBrotherlyBOOO! 12 4 5 1 72 73 34 11 29 34 1.42 4.25
Scranton/WB (AAA) 19 9 6 4 128 121 51 9 20 97 1.10 3.59
Total 31 13 11 5 200 194 85 20 49 131 1.22 3.83

Myers will have to get his strikeout rate back up to have any long-term success, but he's succeeded everywhere he's gone so far, so that should happen. Personally, I think that Brandon Duckworth could really break out this year as well. He strikes out batters, he's just had trouble with walks and homers, which is a lot like saying that an aspiring Olympic hurdler only has touble "running and jumping", but they're things that a little luck could change. Duckworth is one of those guys the mercenaries over at BaseballProspectus say is "one walk per 9 innings away" from being pretty good. Unfortunately, he's also about one HR/9IP away, but he could break out this year. Mark my words!

Who's manning the Bullpen?

Terry Adams RHP
Dan Plesac LHP
Turk Wendell RHP
Rheal Cormier LHP
Carlos Silva?
Joe Roa?
Mike Fyhrie?
Tug McGraw?

Yuk. First of all, the Phillies ought to be docked three wins or three million dollars just for offering Terry Adams salary arbitration. He's a replaceable swingman, and he's gonna reel in that much for his negligible contibutions to the team anyway, so they might as well just pay the fine and let him go. Someone in Scranton can fill his role for less than a tenth of that. Wendell's coming off arm surgery (I forget if it's elbow or rotator cuff, not that it matters much) and so he's a question mark at best for 2003. Plesac and Cormier are both on the wrong side of 35 (Plesac was born on the wrong side of the Cuban Missile Crisis), and are only still in the majors on the virtue of the fact that they both eat cereal with their left hand. And a spoon, I expect. Carlos Silva and Joe Roa and anyone else who might get to argue over the music playing on the bullpen radio is also a curiosity, as we don't really know how young hot-shot unknowns (like Silva) or older journeymen unknowns (like Roa) will fare the year after making a breakthrough like both of them did. I don't know that this will be the worst bullpen in the majors, but I'm venturing a guess that they'll be mediocre at best.

And speaking of mediocrity...


Joe Table

Jose Mesa has been the Phillies closer for the last two seasons, and has surprised just about everybody in the process by not sucking for two straight years. Here's Mesa's record as a relief pitcher since being sent to the bullpen full time in 1994: (This one's for you, Mike.)

1994 7 5 51 2 8 4 71.43% 73.0 71 1.33 31 3 .370 26 63 7.77 3.82 123 ---
1995 3 0 62 46 0 2 95.83% 64.0 49 1.03 8 3 .422 17 58 8.16 1.12 411 288
1996 2 7 69 39 0 5 88.64% 72.1 69 1.34 30 6 .747 28 64 7.96 3.73 131 280
1997 4 4 66 16 9 5 83.33% 82.1 83 1.35 22 7 .765 28 69 7.54 2.40 196 65
1998 8 7 76 1 13 3 82.35% 84.2 91 1.52 43 8 .850 38 63 6.70 4.57 99 97
1999 3 6 68 33 1 5 87.18% 68.2 84 1.81 38 11 1.44 40 42 5.50 4.98 101 2
2000 4 6 66 1 11 2 85.71% 80.2 89 1.61 48 11 1.23 41 84 9.37 5.36 85 16
2001 3 3 71 42 1 4 91.49% 69.1 65 1.23 18 4 .519 20 59 7.66 2.34 183 98
2002 4 6 74 45 0 9 83.33% 75.2 65 1.37 25 5 .595 39 64 7.61 2.97 127 56
Avg. 4 5 67 25 5 4 87.30% 74.5 74 1.41 29 6 .778 31 63 7.60 3.53 157 113

A few things need some 'splainin':
- SVH% is Save-Hold Percentage: (saves+holds)/(saves+holds+blown saves). I think it's a better representation of a pitcher's effectiveness than SV% as it takes into account that a pitcher asked to get a hold can get a blown save but cannot get a save.
- ERA+ is the ratio of the pitchers park adjusted ERA to that of the league, according to BaseballReference.com, where 100 would be average. Above 100 is good, below 100 is very much bad.
- DERA+ is the absolute value of the change (delta) in ERA+ from the previous year.
- Some of the numbers in the Avg. row are rounded for the sake of space. Let's not kid ourselves about the precision we use in this type of analysis.

Anyway, what does this tell us? Well it tells us that it's likely that Mesa will save somewhere between one and forty-six games, have an ERA between 1.12 and 5.36....in other words, not much. But why? Why can't we look at Mesa's career numbers and pick up a trend to project what he might do next season? Answer: Because he's a flake! I mean, not that he throws a fit when someone mistakenly includes green M&Ms in his candy dish or that he wears women's clothing on off-days. (At least I don't think so.) I mean he hasn't had more than two consecutive similar seasons since he's been relieving full-time. The average difference in his DERA+ is 113, meaning that on average, his ERA ratio may go up or down by over 100% of what it was last year. That's flaky. Now admittedly, this average is weighted considerably by his stellar 1995 season, in which that ratio was 411, but even if we remove that number, it's still about 55, meaning that his ERA ratio could change (in either direction) by about 55% of its previous value in the span of one season. I must also admit that I did not perform this calculation for anyone else, so a number like that might actually be normal, but I doubt it. It seems to me that Joe Table has been particularly flaky, compared to other top-notch relief pitchers, in the last eight years, and despite relative consistency in the last two seasons, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to hafta put all my huevos in his basket.

In all, it seems to me that Joe Table and his band of merry (if not consistent) relievers offer little more staying power than Questionmark and the Mysterians. Clearly this is the weakest facet of the team, but it is a facet that may be reasonably polished with some development of young arms or pickup of some better, experienced ones. Or, this aspect of the team could be largely ignored and avoided, if the hitters and starting pitchers mostly live up to expectations. That's the nice thing about this team: almost no one really has to have a breakout, career year, (though Pat Burrell may be poised to do so given that he's going to be 26 this season, heading into the hitter's traditional prime) for the Phillies to contend. Most of the hitters and starting pitchers just have to keep from falling on their respective faces, (see: 2002 Mets). And if they can do that, this will be a heck of a team.

In summary, a few things to look for in the Phillies' 2003 season:

- Brandon Duckworth to break out, striking out batters as he always has, but with a little more luck on balls in play, and winning phourteen games in a surprise season. Ditto Brett Myers.

- Placido Polanco to lose phavor in Philly phast if he's phorced to play second base everyday and the Phans realize that he doesn't really hit any better than Marlon Anderson did.

- Joe Table to completely phall apart, blowing phour or phive saves in April and losing his job to someone like...um...like uh...I'll get back to you.

- The bullpen to expose itself ("Please, sir, there are ladies present!") as the major chink in the Phillies' collective armor. If they don't make it to October, this is the first place to look for culprits. Even if they do make it, they will likely be ousted by a team with more depth.

- The 2003 Philadelphia Phillies to play meaningful, playoff baseball in October! If nothing else, on the strength of the fact that neither the Braves nor the Mets look as though they're in any shape to take the NL East in the Phillies' stead. But it's a step in the right direction.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

23 January 2003

Catching Up...

I'm currently working on a Phillies (Philadelphia, not Reading. And not horses.) preview, but it's gonna take a little while longer. In the mean time, it turns out, teams keep signing players without regard to my needs, so I hafta comment on some of these:

1) The biggest name of the remaining free agents Ivan "to suck your bank account" Rodriguez signed with (get this) the Florida Marlins, for $10 million dollars. I'm pretty sure that nobody saw this coming, as all indications I'd read right up til yesterday had I-Rod going to Baltimore for something like 3 years at $18 mil. Reminds me a little of the opening scene in the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, where the business men opposite Mr. Erstwhile James Bond are so proud of themselves for "finally getting [him] to sell something" right up until he mentions to them that they'll have to explain to their bosses how they paid $30 million more than anyone else was offering. They're deferring all but $3 mil of the salary, without interest, but it's still a lot of money for a 31-year-old catcher who hasn't been healthy for a whole season since 1999. What I don't understand is why they let Kevin Millar go, who's been a healthy productive hitter for the last few years, reluctant to splurge by spending $3million or so in arbitration, but now they're gambling three times as much on Pudge. The ESPN story says that,

"He replaces sluggers Cliff Floyd and Preston Wilson in the middle of the lineup and will help develop Florida's young and talented starting rotation that includes right-handers A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny and Josh Beckett."

And of course, he will help to develop the young pitchers, but then so would Tom Lampkin, so I don't see that as a particularly valuable skill set. Rodriguez can hit, but hey, Mickey Mantle would have a tough time replacing two players in a lineup, especially when one of them is as good as Floyd. Wilson had his difficulties last year, but can still be a productive hitting OF when healthy. And speaking of health, getting more than 110 games out of Pudge in recent years has proven to be a challenge already. Plus, he's not getting any younger, and there's not really any significant opportunity for him to DH in the NL, either, so I'll be surprised if that pattern of missed games changes this year. But even if he is healthy, he doesn't make up for Juans-the-Terrible (Pierre and Encarnacion), or for Todd Hollandsworth, or Alex Gonzales, or a weak bench.

Of course, Marlins owner-du-jour Jeffrey Loria is saying all the right things:

"We were dealing with a great and special opportunity to sign a special player. ... We feel like, for our team, this is a special year, and a special season, and he warrants it."

A special player? Certainly, and in more than a Stuart-Smalley-sense of the word. But a special year? Maybe, if by "special" you mean that this may be the first team in decades to field three regulars with an OPS under .600. (Todd Hollandsworth .618 OPS, Juan Pierre .594 OPS away from Coors in 2002; Alex Gonzales .623 OPS combined 2000-02. Yuk.)

Jayson Stark got it right, for once, that this is a great deal for Rodriguez. I just don't see what sense it makes for the Marlins. At least it's only a year.

 Ivan Rodriguez is shown dragging the sack of money the Marlins 

just gave him back to El Tiemplo de I-Rod in South Miami.

No Fair Ortiz-ing

Speaking (writing) of oft-injured sluggers getting one year deals, David Ortiz. This was expected, since Millar spurned the RedSox for Japan, but this quote from Boston's fledgling GM, Theo Epstein,

''David has shown the ability in the past to also hit left-handed pitching, not every year but he's shown he can do it.
The upside is him as an everyday player.

This quote is interesting for two reasons:

1) Epstein is part of the new wave (have you heard how young he is?) of GM's in MLB, who have a little better understanding of statistics and how to use them than, say, Allard Baird. So he realizes and even admits an apparent shortcoming of his newest player, but chalks it up (appropriately, I think) to a one-year-blip.

And the other reason...(drumroll)

B) ''The upside is him as an everyday player.'' This is really funny, when you think about it. Let's look at some other ways this could have been phrased:

* "The best we can hope for is that he doesn't get himself benched."
* "We're looking forward to not having to release him."
* "He's aspiring to be average."
* "We don't have any delusions here. Mediocrity is his goal."
* "Gosh, I sure hope we don't hafta platoon him."
* "We're looking for 'flashes of adequacy' punctuated by bouts of not-sucking."
* "Hey, he can't possibly hit as badly as Tony Clark did, right?"

I'm open to suggestions here, folks.

And finally...

He's Lieber, Not a Fighter...

Who can afford to give $3.5 million to a guy who probably won't even pitch for them in 2003? Why, the Yankees, of course. Jon Lieber has signed with the Yankees, who had to go out and get another starting pitcher, after paring the corps down to a paltry seven with the trade of Orlando Hernandez to the ChiSox last week, right?

Seriously though, this is an investment in the future. Lieber had Tommy-John surgery in the summer, and likely won't pitch again until late in 2003. If history is any indication, (and if it isn't, then why the heck do we spend so much effort keeping track of it?) Lieber will need until at least 2004 to get back to form. But that's what the Yanks are counting on. And if he comes back close to the form he's displayed recently, they'll have themselves a guy who can pitch 180+ innings of better than league average ball, and never walks anybody. Almost. Lieber's 7.25 K/BB ratio in 2002 would have been second only to Curt Schilling, if he'd pitched 20 more innings to qualify for the ERA title. And being a finesse pitcher, maybe he won't have to wait as long as a Kerry Wood-type to get his fastball back. And that $3.5 million investment will turn out to be a bargain. So the Yankees' 2004 rotation could look like this:

1) Mike Mussina
2) Andy Pettitte
3) Jeff Weaver
4) Jose Contreras
5) Jon Lieber

...or some up-and-coming rookie like Julio DePaula.

You could do worse.

This presumes, of course that Lieber rehabs fully, Contreras doesn't suck and Pettitte re-signs, but it would seem that these are all reasonable possibilities. After 2003, Rocket will likely retire, Boomer may sign elsewhere if he doesn't retire, and Sterling Hitchcock will probably go The-Way-of-the-Whitson, an underachieving, overpaid pitcher that Yankee fans will not soon forget.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

16 January 2003


In all the Delvis Fever I caught yesterday, I forgot to mention that I'm actually looking forward to Antonio Osuna as a Yankee. He seemed to always be just a lucky break away from assuming the closer's role in Los Angeles. (And I got burned a few times in my SmallWorld fantasy league because of it!) He did get the opportunity to finish off a few games with the ChiSox last season, and he didn't dissapoint, saving 11 games in 14 chances. Of course, there's a long hierarchy before Osuna will be nominated King Closer in New York, but he'll be a useful part of the bullpen behind Mo Rivera, along side Steve Karsay and Chris Hammond. That gives the Yankees three guys with experience closing games in the bullpen, not that Rivera is likely to lose his job any time soon. But if they wanted to go witht he bullpen by committee policy that the RedSox have adopted, they probably could. I think that the Red Sox have the right idea, even if for no other reason than the fact that they can save a few bucks by not having to pay "closer money" to anyone.

Speaking (writing, really) of relief pitchers, Mike Carminati is Ranting about the history of relief pitchers, and has been for weeks. It's very comprehensive, thorough research, and you know what? It turns out that there were a couple of decent relief pitchers before the advent of the one-inning closer. Go figure. Mike's been at it for a while now with this particular thread, so don't let him down. Go get yourself a Tootsie Roll Pop, start licking, and sit down to read one of Mike's Rants on relief pitching. I'm guessing that the pop will give out before Mike will, but you won't regret a minute of it.

Also, I'm obliged to tell you to check out Christian Ruzich's Cub Reporter's take on the lack of first-year HoF support for Ryne Sandberg. I expect he'll get in eventually, given that he was the best second-sacker in baseball for the better part of a decade, if not longer. Heck, Joe DiMaggio didn't even get in the first year he was eligible. But I understand Christian's angst. Well, not really. I'm a Yankee fan.

Also, I was asked to link to another baseball blog, called athomeplate.com, so I did. Despite it's name, this website is not about a collectible Jim Thome plate, but rather about baseball in general. Jonathan Leshanski seems to be the only writer at the moment, but others have promised to folow in his footsteps.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

15 January 2003

Delvis Has Left the Building...

Yankees Get:
Antonio Osuna (RHP)
Delvis Lantigua (RHP)

White Sox Get:
Bartolo Colon
Jorge Nunez
$2 million (from NYY)

Expos Get:
Rocky Biddle
Jeff Liefer
Orlando Hernandez
Cash (from CHW)

What's this all mean? It's a salary dump for the Expos, and even for the Yankees, not much more. The Yankees have too many starters, and don't want to hafta pay El Duque $6 mil not to be one of them. The Expos have to trim payroll, and Colon makes more than anyone else does, so he goes. The White Sox get Colon (and get to rub the Cleveland Indians' noses in it) by virtue of the fact that they are NOT the Red Sox, who seem to be achieving the status of "ugly kid no one want's to hang out with but no one has the heart to tell to go away" in many of these negotiations, as outlined by Mike's Baseball Rants (congrats on 20,000 visits!). This transaction just solidifies their position.

The Expos, under the royally screwed up construct of joint ownership by their competitors, had no choice but to trim payroll, and it would seem that at least half of El Duque's salary would be covered by the cash from the Yankees and Pale Hose, if not more. They get Hernandez, who's no Bartolo Colon, but is also no slouch, and if healthy, should give the Expos about 200 innings of better than average pitching, for a lot less than what they'd have to pay Colon. What else do they get? Not much. Jeff Liefer is 28, and can best be described as "Brian Daubach-Lite". A servicable bench guy, but not much else. Rocky Biddle (incidentally, if I had a name like "Lee Francis" I'd want people to call me "Rocky" too) is a replaceable swing man out of the bullpen, who's never finished a season in the majors with a winning record or an ERA under 4.00. He's only 26 right now, but is not really a prospect. Just bullpen filler.

In fact, nobody involved in this trade is a prospect. The White Sox also got Jorge Nunez from the Expos, who hit .291 in 91 games at Ottawa (AAA) last year, but walked only 12 times in almost 300 trips to the dish, and has no power. He does run a little, with 27 steals in 34 attempts, but that makes him "Pokey Reese Lite." Yuk.

The Yankees got D Lantigua:


Birmingham Barons (AA) 6-2 3.48 85.3 67 6 35 66
Charlotte Knights (AAA) 1-5 5.85 52.3 46 10 29 41

His age isn't even listed on Sports-Wired.com, since he wasn't Always On My Mind until just recently. Suspicious Minds are wondering who this guy is. At Birmingham he showed signs of becoming the Big Boss Man, but his attempt to Follow That Dream to the next level and become a Flaming Star got him All Shook Up, and had him longing For the Good Times and the Green, Green Grass of Home. If he had been dreaming of the majors and the Girls! Girls! Girls! he might encounter there, he wound up asking just to Help Me Make It Through the Night. He got a little Wild in the Country, essentially telling International League batters "You'll Never Walk Alone", issuing more than one free pass every other inning, after not getting in much more T.R.O.U.B.L.E. than a walk every third inning in AA. His strikeout rates and hits/9IP stayed decent, suggesting that his fastball would still get ticketed on the Speedway, but the Spinout in his home run rate had him wondering What Now, My Love? What I'd Say, after looking at those numbers, is that he won't get to the majors until A Hundred Years From Now.

If he's young enough, and this Mess of Blues during his half-season In the Ghetto passes next season, Delvis could still end up in a Long, Black Limousine bound for Fame and Fortune in The Big Apple. Or at least a cup of coffee and a Clambake in the majors. But I Just Can't Help Believin' that if he doesn't have a Change of Habit, he's gonna end up on thet Mystery Train back to writing Love Letters from the Kentucky Rain.


Stumble Upon Toolbar

14 January 2003

"You're Dead! ..And You're Ugly, Too!"

Sorry. I couldn't help myself.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Piracy of the Yankees' Roster

My friend, we'll call him "Tim", asked me if I knew anything about some wishful-thinking rumours he read about Raul Mondesi being traded to "Tim's" favorite team. We'll call them "the Pirates". ESPN's Insider echoes the rumour, but Boy of Summer brings it to you for free!

The rumour has it that Mondesi would go to the Pirates for a minor leaguer or two and that the Yankees would assume about $6 mil of his salary for next year, which would mean that three different teams would issue paychecks for Mondesi at some point next year, assuming that the Pirates don't flip him onto someone else at the trading deadline. Believe it or not, this is not a record, as Ruben Sierra was at one time paid by five different teams (Oakland, Yankees, Detroit, Reds, and Toronto) in 1997! And I have it on good authority that Bob Uecker was once paid by twenty teams. To retire.

Despite Mondesi's off-year, his .740 OPS would have placed him behind only Brian Giles, Rob Mackowiak, and Craig Wilson on the list of Pirates regulars last year, and only Giles actually qualified for the batting title, among those. Adam Hyzdu was better too, but only in 59 games. Mondesi also ties for the team lead in stolen bases, with 15 (Giles and Kendall). These are both bad things. When your speediest player, and second-best hitter (by a WIDE margin) is Raul Mondesi, you're in trouble. If Mondesi comes back to producing around his career averages, which he may, since he's only 31, the Pirates will have made themselves a good deal, and the Yankees will have made the only deal they could. If not, well, they're only out about one-third of what they once squandered on Derek Bell. Or Terry Mulholland. Or Mike Benjamin. Or Pat Meares. Oh, sorry, about 1/4 of what they spent on Meares annually.

The problem with this acquisition is, in case you haven't already noticed, that the Pirates who are comparable to or better than Mondesi are all outfielders. And last time I checked (...yep!) the National League still only allows you to play three guys out there. So now the Pirates will have the same problem as the Yankees, except with cheaper, generally less-talented players. Wilson can play some 1B, and Mackowiak can play 3B, but the Pirates already have Randall Simon/Kevin Young and Aramis Ramirez in those positions, respectively. This presumably gives them a decent bench, and enough OFs to keep Jason Kendall at catcher, where he belongs, but they still have the likes of Pokey Reese, Mike Benjamin, Jack Wilson and Abraham Nunez manning the middle infield spots. Yuk.

I also understand that young prospect Tony Alvarez is on his way, after hitting .318 at Altoona last season, but looking at his minor league numbers, 27 walks in 507 at-bats in AA ball does not usually translate into a lot of patience in the majors. Alvarez needs at least another year to prove that he can lay off a pitch once in a while, and to decide whether or not he really wants to be a base stealer, as he was successful in just over 60% of his 47 attempts. Of course, Sports-Wired's minor league numbers also indicate that he pitched about 25 innings over 15 games in the baltimore farm system in 1988. When he was nine. So maybe the numbers aren't everything, and he won't turn into thesecond coming of Jose Guillen. But I doubt it.

Bottom line: Team is going nowhere, with or without Raul Mondesi. Not this year, anyway.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

10 January 2003

Selig Plan To Permit Winner of Most Spring Training Games Choice of National Anthem Singer for Playoffs

In the latest of the brilliant ideas that have defined the reign of Acting-Commisioner-for-Life Bud Selig, he has proposed a plan in which the league that wins the All-Star Game will have home-field advantage in the World Series. If, that is, someone actually wins the All-Star Game. Doesn't always happen, you know.

This wouldn't be a bad idea, according to Jayson Stark, at least, giving some weight to the Mid-Summer Classic again, turning it back into the competitive, realistic, exhibition display of athletic skills rivaled only by...say...pro-wrestling! But seriously, there needs to be something to make these players want to compete, to make the managers want to try to win, to make the fans well, not boo at the end of it. This would do that, but why? What bearing does the All-Star game, an exhibition played with the intent of displaying the best and/or most popular players from each league pitted against each other in an epic battle for annual bragging rights, have on the World Series? A series of games between the two teams from each league that came closest to winning their divisions without actually doing so? If this policy had been in place last season, do you know how many All-Stars the Anaheim Angels would have had helping them toward home-field advantage int he World Series?


That's right folks, Garrett Anderson, he of the two and a half dozen annual walks, was the lone representative of the 2002 Anaheim Angels, who went on to win one of the most surprising and dramatic Fall Classics since, well, 2001. And what did he do? 0-for-4, RBI. So if the AL had lost the All-Star Game, and if the Angels had lost the World Series, and it was perceived that they did so for the lack of home-field advantage, then all the sportswriters could go back to one game played in the middle of July, in which the only representative of that team had done poorly, and blame Anderson for not having had the foresight to keep from doing so poorly. They could probably sue, if they wanted. How much more ludicrous could this be? Nobody even knew whether or not the Angels would be in the Playoffs by the end of the year, much less vying for the world championship. So what does it matter if the league from which the winning team comes in July gets home field advantage in October, when there might be no more than one player from that playoff team on the All-Star team, and that perhaps only for the sake of the rule requiring a minimum of one player from each team to make the All-Star game?

What Selig ought to do is issue a statement that the managers of the All-Star teams should make every reasonable attempt to manage this game like a regular-season game, as long as he doesn't physically jeopardize any of the players or something like that. Threaten a fine if there's indications of stupidity, like bringing in Barry Zito to throw three measley pitches.

Promise a quality product and the fans will love you for it. C'mon, Bud, they've hated everything else you've done so far. What do you have to lose?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

08 January 2003

"Prospectus? You Hardly Know Us!!!"

Baseball Prospectus is the coolest, most comprehensive book of its kind. Those guys are always working hard to bring us new stuff, better stuff, and they've done it again this year:

* Will Carroll of the wonderfully useful Under the Knife is now on their staff of writers, and will also be hosting a syndicated radio show. You can't really hear this through the book, I don't think.

* They've gone against their intuitions and added projections for pitchers for next year. I don't know how, and I don't know if they'll ever do it again, given the difficulties in such projections, but they did it this year, so I guess we'll see.

* You can even pre-order the book through them at 20% off the cover price, but then you make up the difference in shipping costs anyway. I reccommend going to bestbookbuys.com and getting ith through buy.com, where the book was only $13.82! You can even get free shipping, except that you take the chance of the book being delivered sometime in mid-August buy an old man using a rick-shaw. I went for the UPS standard at $3.85, which still brings the total to less than $18.

One of my only criticisms about the book, at least last year's edition, was their use of a particular quote:

"Their rankings by position are an invaluable tool. If more general managers understood it, they wouldn't do the trades they do." --Peter Gammons, ESPN

Sounds great, right? Except that last year's edition didn't include rankings by position. Which, besides eliminating what I thought was a very useful tool, made this quote kinda pointless. I wrote to them about it last year, but never got a response. That was before Clay and I were on a first-name basis. I guess it's just nice that Peter Gammons said something about you once, so you've gotta take advantage of it. I imagine that if Peter had said,

"With the season winding down, baseball fans from RedSox Nation and beyond
are realizing that this book is a piece of crap I use to wipe my wrinkly old ass,
and that it sucks so much that my living room gets cleaner every time I open it,
especially while watching Darrin Erstad grind out a gritty, epic, classic, line-drive
homer into the right-field bleachers at the beautifully classy, new, Edison Field
off Giants reliever Tim Worrell, with Dale Evans watching over him from above, the
love of millions of formerly unrequited Angels fans washing over him like a whirlpool,
thinking about the eckstrordinnarrilly underratedness of David Eckstein and Susan
Tedeschi, which flies in stark contrast to the overbearing, warmonger, micro-
managing owner of the hated, New York Yankees... "

they'd still have it right there on the cover, albeit in much smaller type.

Anyway, here's a quote from Boy of Summer:

"Go buy Baseball Prospectus. Now."

Stumble Upon Toolbar

07 January 2003

National Baseball Hall of Statistics Removed From Context and Manipulated to Serve My Own Evil, Narrow-Minded Purposes
- by Jayson Stark

Someone must have alerted my favorite empirical scientist to the fact that I had planned to tear apart his columns on a weekly basis, because for a while there, it seemed that he just stopped writing the silly, irreverent, non-contextual jibberish to which I had grown so accustomed to reading. But no more. The Jayson of old is back, today, with his Hall of Fame Ballot and Silly Explanations Column. Let's run through the ballot first. Stark voted for ten players this year, for the first time ever. They were, in the order he reviews their candidacies:

1) Eddie Murray
2) Ryne Sandberg
3) Lee Smith
4) Jim Kaat
5) Gary Carter
6) Goose Gossage
7) Bruce Sutter
8) Jack Morris
9) Andre Dawson
10) Dale Murphy

First of all, let me say that Murray, Ryno, and Goose are all HoFers in my mind. I won't argue much about Smith or Carter, though I think they weren't as great. I understand that Carter was a very good catcher for a long time, just as Smith was a very good reliever for a long time, so I'm OK with them. Dawson I could go either way: His low BA and OBP make me leary of him as a HoF, but his longevity helped him amass some nice career numbers. I'd prefer to leave him off personally, but won't argue much about him either. Kaat, Sutter, Morris and Murphy I would omit, all for the same reasons: Either they weren't excellent for long enough (Sutter, Murphy) or they spent too long not being excellent (Kaat, Morris, probably Dawson too, for that matter).

But I'm not here to take issue with Stark's choices. I'm here to take issue with how he made them. He's entitled to his opinions. No problem there. But as soon as Jayson the Empiricist starts citing reasons, I've got something with which to argue. Let's take the problems in order, shall we? These are quotes from the article, numbered by Stark's voting order.

1) Re: Eddie Murray "It's a funny thing about Eddie Murray. He played 21 seasons, and he never got as many hits, RBI or home runs in any of them as Albert Pujols has piled up in both of his first two seasons."

Jayson, he played 21 seasons in a different era of baseball. Offense is cheaper now. It's a funny thing about Warren Spahn, too. He pitched for 21 seasons without ever winning as many games as Cy Young piled up in his first two seasons. It doesn't mean anything.

4) Re: Jim Kaat
a. "He was an ace-type starter for a World Series team (the '65 Twins) -- and beat Sandy Koufax in a World Series game."

Yeah, but that was the only postseason game he ever won. In his career, he was 1-4 with an ERA over 4.0 in Octobers. You have to take everthing into account. If you're gonna give Kaat credit for beating Koufax, you have to give him demerits for losing to Koufax two other times, and another to Jim Palmer, plus not-so-great appearances against the Reds and Brewers in '76 and '82, respectively.

b. "He had a long period of excellence, winning 18 games at age 23 and 20 at age 37."

He had a long period. Period. In the twelve seasons between his 18-win and 20-win campaigns, he averaged a record of about 15-11, with an ERA around 10-15% better than the league average. Certainly very good, but not "excellence" by any standard. And let's not forget that Kaat pitched both before and after the period he cites, and not nearly as well.

7) Re: Bruce Sutter "...is still the only relief pitcher who ever finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times in eight years."

This simply isn't true. Baseball Reference indicates that Sutter finished in the top 10 in MVP voting five times (in 8 years). Gotta be more careful.

8) Re: Jack Morris

a. "...his 3.90 career ERA, which would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall. But Jack Morris wasn't defined by the ERA column, friends. He was defined by the Wins column."

Ah yes, "defined by the Wins column". But as we know, the Wins column has as much to do with what your teammates do while you're on the mound as it does with what you do. I completely agree that Jack Morris's career is defined by the number of wins he had. But I don't give him credit for playing on the second winningest team of the 1980's (The Detroits), and apparently Stark does. But we'll get back to this later.

b. "All you can do is compare a man to his peers. And in his 14 peak seasons (1979-92), Morris won 41 more games than any other starter of his generation. In that same period, he outwon Nolan Ryan by 65 wins (233-168)."

The irony here, of course, is that "comparing a man to his peers" is exactly what Stark did not do in his initial comments about Eddie Murray, as noted above. But that's another story. The real problem here is that he isn't comparing Morris to his peers at all here. Nolan Ryan may have retired within one year of Morris, but he started pitching in the majors eleven years sooner, in 1966, hardly a contemporary, in my mind. By the time Morris reached his prime ('79-92), Ryan's best seasons were behind him. If you're going to compare pitchers, the least you can do is compare their peaks. I seem to have missed where Abner Doubleday wrote that the best 14 seasons of a pitcher's career should be used to judge him, but we'll run with that, since Jayson picked it. Following are the career stats, "Peak 14" stats, Remainder (stats for the remaining seasons outside their 14 best consecutive years) and the team records for both Ryan and Morris during their 14 best consecutive seasons. Ryan's 14 best consecutive seasons were 1972-1985.
Morris      IP        W    L      W%   ERA

Career      3824     254  186   0.577  3.90

Peak 14     3378.33  233  162   0.590  3.46

Remainder   445.67    21   24   0.467  5.31

Team (peak)  ----   1193  1019  0.539  --- 


Career      5386     324  292   0.526  3.19

Peak 14     3426.33  212  180   0.541  3.08

Remainder   1959.67  112  112   0.500  3.40

Team (peak)  ----   1098  1111  0.497

So we see now that during his peak, Jack Morris went 233-162 with a 3.46 ERA, compared to Ryan's peak of 212-180 and 3.08. Not nearly the 65-win difference that Stark would have you believe. Ryan allowed fewer runs, on average, but won fewer games and lost more in essentially the same amount of innings. Ah, but then we look at the team records during those times, and we see that Morris had the benefit of a consistently good team behind him, the Tigers (through 1990) and then two World Series winning teams in Minnesota ('91) and Toronto ('92). Ryan's teams were mediocre, on average, not winning even half of their games during his "Peak 14". Of course, the real difference between them is that Nolan Ryan was a useful, even a good pitcher for about a dozen years besides those in his peak, with a .500 record and a 3.40 ERA, whereas Morris was basically a waste of rotation space in the two seasons each at the beginning and end of his career, going 21-24 with a 5.31 ERA. But then we wouldn't want to look at anything other than a pitcher's peak, would we? Nah...

c. "And his epic 10-inning Game 7 shutout in 1991 Series was the ultimate example of what people mean when they use the word, 'ace.'"

So what? So he pitched a good game when he needed to once. Overall, his career postseason record of 7-4 3.80 ERA isn't so different from his regular season record. There have been better pitchers to pitch badly in the playoffs on occasion, and there have been worse pitchers who occasionally did better than that "epic" performance in the playoffs. That's why we don't put people in the Hall of Fame based on singular accomplishments.

10) Re: Dale Murphy "But when you measure Hall of Famers, you don't measure them against the next generation. You measure them against their own generation."

Umm... Isn't that exactly what you just didn't do with Jack Morris? In baseball, a man eight years older than you, with eleven years more experience, hardly qualifies as part of your own generation.

But besides that, Murphy shouldn't be a Hall of Famer. He was great for about six years, but he played for 12 more years in which he wasn't so great, and having one-third of a great career, in my mind, does not make someone one of the best outfielders ever to lace up a pair of spikes for a major league team, which is what you ought to be to get into the Hall.

Incidentally, Aaron Gleeman takes Stark to task for this article as well, but he then proceeds to argue for Bert "Be Home" Blyleven's HoF case, which Stark just (inappropriately) disregards out of hand. Of course, Stark never said that he was going to defend choices he didn't make on his ballot, but still, I think anyone who votes for Morris and Kaat and doesn't vote for Tommy John and Bert Blyleven has some 'splainin to do. Aaron makes some good points, as Blyleven seems to have a much better case than Morris does, being unfairly penalized by the tough pitchers parks in which he spent most of his career and the bad teams for which he usually pitched.

As Aaron mentions, Joe Carter has a sort of similar perception among a lot of baseball fans and writers: "His Greatness cannot be measured by the conventions of BA/OBP/SLG like you measure most hitters. You have to measure him based on all the RBI he gathered. Look at all the pretty RBI!" Or some such crap.

You know, baseball isn't an exact science. Why, just fifty years ago, they thought that the statistics like RBI for a player like Joe Carter were caused by him being "great". But nowadays we know that Carter's apparent "greatness" is caused by an imbalance of bodily humors, perhaps caused by a toad or a small dwarf living in his stomach. No wait, I mean, the fact that he usually hit cleanup for teams with decent table-setters. Yeah. Dat's da ticket!

Anyway, we now know that wins and RBI have a lot to do with your teammates, because of the ground-breaking work of people like Bill James. And if the best thing you can say about a person is that he spent a long time being in the right place at the right time, well, that's not much of a vote of confidence in my book. Or on my Hall of Fame ballot. Which I don't have anyway.

The real problem, as Aaron also points out, is not that Stark has opinoins, but that he purports to ahve reasons for the opinions, whereas really he only has opinions and stats to back up what he always wanted to believe in the first place. Stark is a great journalist, as far as working hard and getting stories and all that. He's even an interesting writer who has (and provides us with) a little fun with his "Useless Info Dept" columns. But apparently he's begun taking this kind of work, which should only be considered light-hearted and silly, a little too seriously, thinking that you can actually do research like that, or build an argument on it. And you can't, at least not a solid one. It's half-assed, narrow-minded and blatantly irresponsible.

I wish Jayson Stark's email were available on ESPN.com like some of the other writers. I guess he just can't be bothered with people correcting him. I wrote to Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News once a few years ago when he wrote a particularly irresponsible article about the "similarities" between the Phillies and the Yankees (I think it was 1997), and he never responded. Maybe Stark's not as different from Conlin as I thought.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

06 January 2003

"YOUR HONOR, I OBJE.... never mind"

ESPN reported late last week that the MLB Players' Union is considering filing a greivance against the owners, alleging collusion to keep players' salaries down. The story is based largely upon the testimonies of three unnamed players' agents. As evidence, they have cited the fact that many of the top-notch free agents (Greg Maddux, Jim Thome, Pudge, etc.) have not garnered much interest in the off season, or at least that there have not been many teams bidding on such free agents. Other evidence of the supposed collusion between the owners is the fact that some of the agents' clients have received nearly identical offers from several teams, and that only after many days of negotiations did one of the teams step up its offer, at which point the player signed, an apparent indication that owners conversed with one another regarding these particular free agents, something the collevtive bargaining agreement does not permit, according to the AP story.

Sounds great, right? Owners' collusion, conspiracy to keep players' salaries down, arbitrators hidden in the Grassy Knoll...all wonderful fodder for the trough of the Free-Associating Press. Except that there's a myriad of problems with the story:

1) The first problem, if you saw the story on ESPN.com, occurs even before you read the story. Reading a headline that says,

"Agents hint union considering collusion grievance"

is all well and good, until you read the very next headline,

"Daal gets two-year, $7.5M deal from Orioles"

And no, that's not Marc von Daal, maker of fine uilleann bagpipes. This is Omar "Cabbage Patch" Daal, the erstwhile 19-game loser of just two years ago, who has a 4.45 ERA as a starter in the two years since his abysmal, Brian Kingman-threatening season of 2000. Personally, I think that the bagpipes would be a better way to spend $7.5 million, but maybe that's just me. When a pitcher as mediocre as Omar Daal is getting $7.5 mil, it's a little tough to argue that the owners are keeping salaries down.

B. The second problem is that there have been bidding wars for Jim Thome, Tom Glavine, Edgardo Alfonzo, and even (speaking of mediocrity) David Bell. The fact that only a few teams have actually been involved in these does not mean that there is collusion amongst all the other teams. It means that there is cheapness (or wisdom, depending upon your viewpoint) amongst them.

iii "The agents all recounted similar experiences: Their clients received similar initial offers from several teams and only signed when one of those teams, after many days of negotiations, finally made a higher bid." according to AP.

I've got news for you: This is how it's supposed to work!!! The market sets itself, it pays what it will bear. We're in kind of a recession, so it bears less than it did last year. That's the essence of Capitalism. If you don't want to pay above market value for a commodity, you don't have to, but you don't get the commodity either, someone else does.

And Fourthly, what the hell does the testimony of three agents mean? There are something like 800 players in the majors at any given time, not to mention thousands more in the minors. There must be hundreds of agents out there, and three of them, who probably had lunch together that day and fed off each others' stories. Reports from 1/2 of a percent of all the agents don't offer a very significant statistical cross section, do they?

Anyway, in other news...

Robert Fick just won the Braves another World Series. First of all, he became the best 1B option Bobby Cox has by signing for $1 mil with the Braves. He's not Hank Aaron, or even Fred McGriff, but he's better than Matt Franco. And he didn't cost much. And now Bobby Cox doesn't have to carry three catchers into October, as he invariably does, for no apparent reason at all. There are those who think that this lack of relief pitching and pinch-hitting depth has cost Bobby more than a few games in the last eleven Octobers, and now he doesn't have to worry about that, because now if the Braves are in the middle of a playoff game, and Lopez tears his ACL trying to crouch in the artificially large catcher's box and Estrada gets called away to lecture some punks making skid marks on the LA Freeway, Cox can bring in Fick to catch and play, um..., Terry Pendleton at first base....yeah, dat's da ticket!

BTW: Somebody named Mark Rosenberg beat me to Dick Stuart's baseballreference.com page, so I had to buy Bob Uecker's instead. I got one of baseball's foremost self-effacing humourists, and he's not even dead! Not bad for $15. You'll find a link to his stats (if you can call them that) on the right, under the baseballreference button. And of course, anyone curious enough to verify Uecker's claims about his playing career by checking Baseball Reference.com and looking him up will find my site, too.

If you like Boy of Summer and wanna buy another page for me, I'll certainly thank you for the publicity, and Sean Forman will gladly take the support.

"Anybody with ability can play in the big leagues. But to be able to trick people year in and year out the way I did, I think that was a much greater feat."

-Bob Uecker

Stumble Upon Toolbar

03 January 2003

Dealing With The Void...

"Baseball fans are generally a cheerful lot, at least between late February and late October. (Literary critic Jonathan Yardley says there are only two seasons: Baseball Season and The Void.)"
- George F. Will, Men At Work

There are essentially three ways to deal with the Void, other than Ralph Houk's idea of sitting and staring out the window until spring:

1) You can buy books and read about baseball. (Incidentally, in case I haven't already mentioned this, if you find a woman who will buy you books about baseball for Christmas or even for Valentine's Day, MARRY HER!)

B: You can follow all the minutae of free agent signings, waver wire transactions, trades, and libel suits (mostly between the Yankees and Red Sox).

iii. You can go to ESPN.com and read their Hot Stove Heaters, which are concise, insightful and well-written capsules of each MLB team's prospects for the coming Baseball Season. Their staff of writers takes turns writing the capsules for different teams, so you won't always be reading the same stuff, and you won't have as much of a bias as you might if it were done by an individual. Plus, they've been doing this every year since I was in college. Back then, I had to read these reports on my roommate's 486/25 w/4MB RAM, which is only about half a step up from that Flintstones' computer, with the miniature pterydactyl inside, pecking out instructions on a piece of slate.

Anyway, I recommend checking these out whenever you can, as they provide a nice synopsis of what's expected from and for each team next year. I'm putting a link for these on the right as well, in case you need it an can't seem to remember where ESPN.com's baseball page is.

Of course, this is still no excuse for not marrying a woman who buys you baseball books or making sure that you've read everything you can find about the Chicago White Sox hiring of Chris Cron as "bunting instructor" (honest!), but it's certainly more interesting than staring out the window waiting for the snow to melt.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

02 January 2003

Catching Up...

Not a lot to say of late, though I've had a few good email exchanges in the last week or so. I do want to mention a few new links. And I've tried to balance some of the existing links out, so your monitor won't list.

Right: Sports Wired.com. Despite the title, this is a site dedicated to baseball, not sports in general. I'd be lying if I said I went here every day, but it's a great site. I was reminded as I was cleaning out my email folders that I had promised them a reciprocal link a couple of weeks ago and forgot about it. They have lots of stuff there, but one of the best features is that they offer minor league stats for major leaguers, so you can see what Jeremy Giambi hit in the minors, and specifically how the Royals and A's jerked him around for four years, for really no justifiable reason. Site like that comes in handy sometimes, lemmetellya.

Sports Central is another good site, with plenty of stuff, but not dedicated to just baseball. Somebody once told me that there are other sports too. I didn't believe him, but these guys do a pretty good job of covering all this ficticious stuff like "football" and "basketball".

Also moved over Jamey Newburg's Texas Rangers site, Will Carroll's Under the Knife, Baseball Guru, and John Skilton's Baseball Links.

Left: As I was, you may be surprised to learn that there are actual Brewers fans out there, somewhere. I would have imagined that they existed somewhere between the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, in the mind of Bud Selig, but it turns out that they are as real as you and me. Al's Ramblings is a blog dedicated to the Brewers, though he often delves into topics pertinent to more successful franchises as well, like the Mets. And the Royals. Seriously though, Al and Kim Bethke, who run the blog, don't run the Brewers, or things would likely be very different around there. They seem to know what they're talking about.

By the way, Edward Cosette has a great, intellectually stimulating blog over at Bambino's Curse, and better yet, you get to decide how it looks! He's got six different designs from which you can choose, one of the benefits of paying for your own server. I'm so jealous, it makes my teeth hurt. We Yankee fans may have more World Championships than two Antonio Alfonseca's have fingers, but we don't have a fan website with six design options. Chalk one up for the BoSawx!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

30 December 2002

The King of the Tabloids...

Leave it to George Steinbrenner to be a bone-head and make some good points at the same time. In an interview with the NY Daily News, the Yankees' principal owner responded to criticism from John Henry and Larry Luccino of the Red Sox, mentioned some of his noted conflicts and problems over his thirty years as Yankees' owner, but took responsibility for them, and criticized Joe Torre and Derek Jeter.

On the state of the team he bought in 1972: When I first saw the team picture, it looked like a poster for birth control. (Mike) Kekich and (Fritz) Peterson had their wife-swapping deal. The Yankees were a doormat. I went to spring training and saw a lot of things I didn't like. I remember writing on an empty lineup card to Ralph Houk, "These men need haircuts." They didn't look like a team.

Of course, they were a team, but a mediocre one. If Steinbrenner has done nothing else as the Yankees owner over the last three decades, he has made the organization a team. It took a while, but the whole organization is run well now, and they succeed not just because they spend money, but because they spend it wisely. Such was not always the case.

On Joe Torre: Joe is the greatest friend I've ever had as a manager. It's a great relationship. I don't want to destroy that, but I will tell you this: I want his whole staff to understand that they have got to do better this year. I will not see him drop back into the way he was before. Right now he's a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Before he came to the Yankees he didn't even have a job. Three different times as manager he didn't deliver, and was fired. Look how far he's come. He's come that way because of an organization, and he's got to remember that. I'm glad that Joe is an icon. He's a hell of a guy, a tremendous manager and tremendous figure for New York. I just want his coaches to understand that just being a friend of Joe Torre's is not enough. They've got to produce for him. Joe Torre and his staff have heard the bugle.

An icon? Yes. A sure-fire Hall of Famer? No. Joe is borderline at best, because despite the four World Championships, the rest of his managerial record can best be described as "unspectacular." His success in Yankee Pinstripes may be seen by some of the voters as a happy coincidence for him, and so he may lose a little support. On the other hand (where, in case you haven't heard, I have five fingers) his four World Series titles would be two more than any other manager not in the HoF, so he'll probably get in eventually. But definintely not "sure-fire."

And Torre can only do as much as the players on his roster will allow. Granted, the Yanks had the highest payroll in baseball last year, but they're also an aging club, and nobody's going to win in the playoffs with a team ERA of 8.21.

On Bud Selig: I am a Bud Selig man. I consider him a good friend. He's a master at building people together. But while I'm loyal to Bud Selig, the biggest beneficiary in this whole plan are the Milwaukee Brewers. That doesn't seem quite right. I don't know how he sleeps at night sometimes.

Got to hand it to George there. By most accounts, Selig is very people-savvy, but also manipulative and quietly self-serving. At least Steinbrenner is openly self-serving.

On how the new CBA will change how the Yankees spend money: It's got to change it. That's a real chunk. A lot of people's whole payrolls are that. It's caused us to make slices. What we've tried to do is eliminate those perks and fringes that we would be granting without thinking. How many cell phones do we have out there? How many cars do we have out there?

That's it George, those couple dozen cell phones at $29.99/month are really what's putting you in the red, not the $200,000,000 you'll have to spend on players salaries, revenue sharing and luxury taxes. Better go out and get those No-Frills urinal cakes, too. Those SYSCO cakes cost ten cents more! Each!

On Red Sox owner John Henry's criticism of the Jose Contreras signing as "a big risk": That's just ridiculous. It makes him look stupid because they did everything they could to get him, including offering more money than we did. They offered $10 million to get him away from us. I give credit to Mr. Contreras. He wanted to play for the Yankees.

Well I'm not sure exactly why someone deserves "credit" for deciding to sign with the most powerful team in major league baseball, but as far as the question of risk goes, duh. It's all risk. There are no sure things in real, competitive sports.

On Lucchino calling the Yankees an "evil empire": That's B.S. That's how a sick person thinks. I've learned this about Lucchino: he's baseball's foremost chameleon of all time. He changes colors depending on where's he's standing. He's been at Baltimore and he deserted them there, and then went out to San Diego, and look at what trouble they're in out there. When he was in San Diego, he was a big man for the small markets. Now he's in Boston and he's for the big markets. [...] He talks out of both sides of his mouth. He has trouble talking out of the front of it.

Ouch. Lucchino and Steinbrenner are historically enemies, but Lucchino seems to haveearned this. It's pretty tough to justify criticisms of a guy who just wants to win, and will do whatever it takes to accomplish that. Sounds like sour grapes coming from Lucchino to me, though Steinbrenne rcould be a more gracious winner at times.

On the possibility of a partially state funded replacement for Yankee Stadium: Stadiums are being built everywhere by cities. Very few of them are built privately, and the one in San Francisco (PacBell) has deep financial problems, from what I hear. Building a stadium in New York costs two or three times what it would anywhere else, because of the labor unions and their power. And that's OK with me. I'm not against them. It's still a big puzzle that has got to be answered.

Well, yas and no. Yes, PacBell has problems, but no, it's not the same. While it's true that it may cost twice as much to build Yankee Stadium, the Sequel as it did to build PacBell Park, it's also true that the Yankees take in about 50% more revenue annually than the Giants do, according to Forbes. And while Pacific Bell probably paid a pretty penny to have their name inscribed upon the Giants new home, how much more would Coca-Cola, or McDonald's, or Microsoft pay to have their name(s) on the new home of the Yankees?

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Bobby Murcer, and welcome to The House That M&M/Mars Built, Wendy's Ballpark on the US Department of the Interior Waterfront at the New York Times South Bronx, presented by Visa, It's Everywhere You Want To Be..."

On his suspension for giving gambler Howard Spira $40,000 to find damaging information on Dave Winfield : That was a very tough one to take. He did what he realistically thought was the right thing to do.

Umm, yeah!? An owner is consorting with gamblers to find damaging personal info on one of his star players to justify getting out of his contract? I'd say suspending you was exactly the right thing to do. Heck, it turned out to be the best thing to happen to the Yankees since Mickey Mantle.

On his relationship with a guy like Spira:

Bad hookup. Bad hookup. There were reasons, but no reason would've been good enough to have done that.

Well, at least he acknowledges a mistake.

On cheap-shots taken at him over the years:

I'm sure a lot of the shots have been very well–deserved.

Wow, acknowledging more mistakes, potentially.

On Derek Jeter as a potential Yankees Captain: I don't think now is the right time. I want to see Jetes truly focused. He wasn't totally focused last year. He had the highest number of errors he's had in some time. He wasn't himself.

As far as trying and being a warrior, I wouldn't put anyone ahead of him. But how much better would he be if he didn't have all his other activities? I tell him this all the time. I say, 'Jetes, you can't be everything to everybody. You've got to focus on what's important.' The charitable things he does are important. A certain amount (of his outside pursuits) are good for him and for the team, but there comes a point when it isn't, and I think we're getting close to that point.

He makes enough money that he doesn't need a lot of the commercials. I'm not going to stick my nose into his family's business. They are very fine people, (but) if his dad doesn't see that, he should see it. When I read in the paper that he's out until 3 a.m. in New York City going to a birthday party, I won't lie. That doesn't sit well with me. That was in violation of Joe's curfew. That's the focus I'm talking about.

Jeter's still a young man. He'll be a very good candidate for the captaincy. But he's got to show me and the other players that that's not the right way. He's got to make sure his undivided, unfettered attention is given to baseball. I just wish he'd eliminate some of the less important things and he'd be right back to where he was in the past.

David Pinto thinks that Steinbrenner has a point, and I have to concur, at least to a degree. Jeter had 14 errors last year, which were the most he's had since...well, 2001, when he made 15. In fact, Jeter has only one full season in which he's made fewer than 14 errors, 1998, when he made nine, so George doesn't exactly know what he's talking about there. However, his defense has slipped, even from the lows at which it previously resided. According to Baseball Prospectus, Jeter's defense was 27 runs worse than an average shortstop in 2002, not his career low, but still pretty bad. Overall, Jeter's 5.9 wins above replacement (WARP1) in 2002, which combines his hitting and fileding contributions, was the worst of his career. (That works out to over $3 million/win!) Mind you, he's never been a good defensive SS, despite what Tim McCarver tells you, but he was at least only slightly below average until 1999. I guess the thrill and excitement of being part of the Team of the Century went to his head, and he stopped working on defense. Boy of Summer said, three months ago, that Jeter needs to work more on his defense than he does on his Fleet commercials. Of course, Nomar's defense doesn't seem to have suffered from filming those commercials. Leaders lead by example first.

Show us that you want to be a leader, Derek. Show us that in the annals of history, you will deserve to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Alex and Nomar.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

27 December 2002

A Little History Lesson

While writing about the Jose Contreras signing, I felt like he was bound to disappoint us, though I did not really know why. Then it occurred to me that it might be because almost every other pitcher to come out of Cuba in the '90s has disappointed us, so why should this one be any different? So, not wanting to let feelings or assumptions rule me, I did some research, using BaseballReference.com, Cuban Ball.com, and some other sites, and found that I was not wrong: Cuban defectors to Major League Baseball teams have left a legacy of disappointment in the 1990's and 2000's.

Despite adamant protestations from his agent, Jose Contreras, like El Duque and other Latin American players, will probably turn out to be at least two or three years older than the reported 31, and will be hard-pressed to do as well against the majority of major league baseball players as he did against the mediocre Baltimore Orioles in 1999. Despite his reputation, Contreras really is an unknown commodity, as the only times Cubans play Americans is in international competition, for which we only allow the use of college players and some more or less washed-up veterans, or in winter leagues, where the teams are hardly of the overall quality that is typical of MLB rosters. Well, not the Devil Rays. But other MLB rosters. So we don't have much on which to base our analyses/projections for a player like Contreras, which means that we have to look at History. Sure, Contreras' signing brought headlines to the Yankees, but will he bring wins?

History suggests that he won't. Of the approximately 93 Cubans who have defected since Rene Arocha in 1991, fewer than 20 have made it to the majors, and of those, 12 were/are pitchers. How have they fared in their careers? Let's take a look:

Rene Arocha 18 17 124 36 331.0 363 151 75 190 4.11 98
Rolando Arrojo 40 42 158 105 700.0 715 354 255 512 4.55 108
Danys Baez 15 14 82 26 215.7 194 95 102 182 3.96 114
Osvaldo Fernandez 19 26 76 67 387.0 439 212 136 208 4.93 88
Adrian Hernandez 0 4 8 4 28.0 25 17 16 19 5.46 82
Livan Hernandez 69 69 181 180 1216.0 1329 597 449 817 4.42 92
Orlando Hernandez 53 38 124 121 791.7 707 355 268 619 4.04 114
Hansel Izquierdo 2 0 20 2 29.7 33 15 21 20 4.55 88
Vladimir Nunez 17 26 194 27 372.0 349 180 157 270 4.35 97
Eddie Oropesa 3 0 62 0 44.3 55 39 32 33 7.92 55
Ariel Prieto 15 24 70 60 352.3 407 190 176 231 4.85 95
Michael Tejera 8 8 50 19 146.0 154 77 65 102 4.75 84
Totals 259 268 -- -- 4613.7 4770 2282 1752 3203 4.45 99

Not exactly tearing up the competition, are they? Only one pitcher with at least four more wins than losses. Only three with better than league average ERAs, one of whom has barely 200 innings under his belt. As a whole, these pitchers have combined for a losing record, a slightly below average ERA, a little more than a hit per inning, a 1.41 WHIP...in other words: Mediocrity.

And these are the stars of the Cuban Leagues! These are some of the best players Cuba has to offer! Or at least the best players to escape. When they came over, we heard alternately that Ariel Prieto, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez, Rolando Arrojo, and others were all going to be the next Luis Tiant. Instead, most of them have been hard pressed to become the next Luis Aloma. Many of them have lied about their ages to get better contracts, and their teams have been bitten in their respective asses as the pitchers aged sooner than expected. C'mon, did anybody really believe that Rolando "Honest, I'm NOT Billy Drago" Arrojo was only 30 when he signed with the Devil Rays in 1998?

Supposedly, Contreras has the potential to be a real ace. The evidence being cited for such a claim consists largely of his record in Cuba (117-50, 2.82 ERA, according to the Yankees. I couldn't find his career numbers on the internet. If anyone knows where to find them, email me.), his "barrell-chested" type body and his success against the Orioles in one game in 1999 (8 IP, 2 hits, 0 Runs, 4 BB, 10 Ks).

I just don't know. The fact that his torso resembles that of Roger Clemens doesn't necessarily mean that his pitching will follow suit. Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson are both great pitchers who don't particularly fit the description of "barrell-chested". His success against a mediocre MLB team in one game three years ago doesn't mean much, so the best we have to go on is his record in Cuba. But even that doesn't tell us much. There are so few players who play for any length of time in Cuba and then come to the US and make it to the majors (and NONE who go the other direction) that there's no way to come up with a useful "translation" for the Cuban leagues, as people like Baseball Prospectus' Clay Davenport have for the minor leagues, Japanese leagues, and others. But if there is one, it would seem that Cuban players, even stars, cannot usually be counted upon to be stars in the majors. So the Yankees may just have spent $32 million on the second coming of, well, Nardi Contreras.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

24 December 2002

More Nintendo Baseball...

Given that you are reading this now, I think it's fair to assume that most of you like both baseball and computers. This being the case, it is probably also fair to assume that at least some significant portion also likes video games, or did at one time, especially baseball video games. One of the fun things to do, in the sense that throwingthings at a neighborhood dog you never liked while it's tied to a tree is fun, is to trade all of the really good players from the other teams to your own favorite team. If, like me, you play such games to relax, rather than fooling yourself into thinking that you're developing some useful "skill".then you have no moral quandries with such tactics. You do, however, have a practical, logistical problem: How to find playing time for all those great players?

The New York Yankees, virtual masters of the reality video game called Major League Baseball, have such a problem as well. As outlined in this post, just a few days ago, the signing of Hideki Matsui gives the Yanks five outfielders who could start on most teams (Shane Spencer was apparently non-tendered and is now a free agent), and still only three outfield spots to play. First base and DH are positions in the lineup aptly and alternately filled by Jason Giambi and Nick Johnson, so there's really no room in the inn for White, Mondesi and/or Juan Rivera. Or, no room in the out, to be technical about it. And since White's got a history of injury and the Yankees already have Toronto eating some of Mondesi's contract, look for Raul to be traded. No surprise there.

Now it seems that Yankees brass was not content to have a glut of starting outfielders, nor were they apparently content with the glut of starting pitchers they already had. Steinbrenner definitely would not permit complacency, feigning a vague desire to reduce payroll, while the Arch Rival Boston Red Sox went out and spent their hard-earned money on a second potential ace pitcher. Jose Contreras, the erstwhile ace of the Cuban National Team, was signed by the Yankees on Tuesday, Steinbrenner's Christmas present to himself. Or Hannukah. Or something.

After the signing, Yanks' GM Brian Cashman was at least forthright about the order of priorities in the Yankees' front office:

"We couldn't, the right word is we wouldn't, sacrifice the opportunity to sign these talents on the basis of reducing payroll first...The mindset is still for me to reduce payroll...Obviously, when the opportunities to sign Hideki Matsui or Jose Contreras presented themselves, it was time for us to make decisions, to move now and continue to work on cutting the payroll down the line.''

Or not at all, as will likely turn out to be the case. But that's OK. It's King George's money, and last time I checked, he was still allowed to spend it pretty much however he wants. MLB, however, is also free to tax the hell out of him and give the money to his competitors. That's one of the risks he runs.

This brings the total of starting pitchers on the Yanks' roster to seven, not including Roger Clemens, whom most experts agree will be winning his 300th career decision in a Yankee uniform in 2003 as well. Which means that next year's starting rotation will be Clemens, Mussina, Pettitte, Wells, and probably Contreras. That means that Jeff Weaver will be left as a spot-starter/long reliever, making $4.1 million. No wonder they didn't want to pay Ramiro Mendoza $3 million to do the same job. It also means that Orlando Hernandez and Sterling Hitchcock will most likely be traded before next year. If they're lucky, they'll get three or four mid-level prospects out of whatever deals they make, and only end up eating half of the two contracts. Last time I checked, they can still afford it.

Stumble Upon Toolbar