29 September 2003


Not that I'm really any good at this (I picked the Angels to win the World Series over the Giants last year, and by "Angels" I mean "Yankees." Oops.) but I'm going to give you my three and a half cents on the 2003 postseason anyway. Because what the hell, you're here anyway, might as well do something productive, like read. Let's take the playoff series one at a time, because four at a time is just too messy, and I'm too lazy to clean up after myself.

Yankees vs. Twinkies

You can probably guess what I think about this one. The Yankees will certianly not allow themselves to be embarassed in the first round of the postseason for a second consecutive year. No sir, we're waiting until at least the second round before we start playing like bench-warmers from an American Legion team. Overall, it's hard not to like the Yankees' chances with Mussina & Pettitte (81-30, 3.46 ERA career at home) at The Stadium and then Clemens and Mussina (20-2 career against Twins) in the Dome.

Besides, how hard can it be to beat only two guys?!!? WITH THE SAME DNA??! They're twins!

Seriously though, kudos to the Twins for winning them when they counted, playing hard and pulling out all the stops when they needed to, but they're not getting past the Yanks. The Twins took advantage of a mostly soft schedule down the stretch, and it took them until the last week of the season and collapses by the WhiteSox (only 8-10 since Sept 10th) and Royals (13-15 in Sept) to wrap up a very weak division.

Sure, anything can happen, but it won't. Yankees in 4.

Oaklands vs. Bostons

Normally, this would probably be billed as Boston's vaunted offense against Oakland's vaunted pitching, but Mark Mulder is on the shelf, and nobody from the Athletics is really hitting like they'll need to in order to get past the RedSox starting pitching. As for the rest of you, well, if you can't be an Athletic, be an Athletic Supporter!

I'll give this one to the Wild-Card-Winning BoSawx. But I won't like it.
Red Sox in five.

Braves vs. Cubs

This should be interesting. The Braves had, uncharacteristically, the best offense in the National League, while the Cubs' pitching was among the best in the Senior Circuit, including setting a new record for team strikeouts in a season. But in the end, I'll give Atlanta's wonderful offense and decent pitching the edge over Chicago's "Team of Destiny (and Strikeouts)" and mediocre offense. Dusty Baker is great at getting whatever he can out of aging veterans during the regular season, but's he's hamstrung himself with older, slower and less on-base prone hitters in the lower lineup and bench, and he won't get what he needs out of them.

All over North Chicago, businessmen will skip out early to watch the Braves put the nail in the Cubs' coffin.
Braves in 4.

And last, but not finally...

Marlins vs. Giants

This is one of those series that would scare the crap out of me if I were a Giants fan, and if I hadn't just gone already. The marlins, frankly, are not that good a team, but they deserve credit for winning the games they had to win, and the Phillies (13-13 in Sept) don't. The Marlins were 8th out of 16 NL teams in both ERA and runs scored, decidely mediocre on both counts, but they won the close games, and with their pitching, they're usually close. Bonds and the Giants are pretty good at taking walks, but the Marlins don't give a lot of them up, so it might not matter.

Also, the Marlins' offense isn't built around walks, so the fact that SanFran is good at preventing these doesn't necessarily help them. I hate to say it, but I really think that the Marlins could ride their hot pitching and timely hits to a quick defeat of the Giants, whose offense gets extremely thin after Barry Bonds.

Marlins in 5. But I hope I'm wrong.

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23 September 2003

CYA, Wouldn't Wanna BYA...

It feels a little disingenuous writing a column about the American League Cy Young candidates now, since the front-runner for the award a month ago, Esteban Loaiza, has gone 1-3 with a 6.85 ERA in his last four starts and essentially pulled the trigger for his White Sox teammates as they shot themselves in the collective foot in the AL Central race. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Loaiza’s primary competition, Roy Halladay, rattled off four consecutive complete games, two of them shutouts (including a 10-inning gem!), and allowed only one earned run in those 37 innings. He leads the AL in starts (35), innings pitched (257), K/W ratio (6.03) and wins (21), is 2nd in the AL in complete games (8), walks/9 IP, and strikeouts (195), 3rd in baserunners/IP (1.07) and tied for 6th in ERA (3.22) with Barry Zito.

As I mentioned, it’s a little late to be writing a “debate” column about this “race” as most experts have likely made up their minds in favor of Halladay at this point. But let it be said that I was supporting Halladay three weeks ago, when he and Loaiza were both 19-6, and Loaiza’s ERA edge was 2.60 to 3.42. ERA is probably the most significant means of measuring a pitcher’s effectiveness, but it’s not the only means. When you consider that ERA titles have been won by the immortal likes of Joe Magrane, Allan Anderson and Atlee Hammaker, it doesn't seem quite so important. Hell, Steve Ontiveros once won an ERA title, but there weren’t many folks picketing outside the offices of their favorite BBWAA members when the AL Cy Young award was bestowed upon David Cone.

The major factor that Halladay has going for him is quantity. He’s got more wins (as antiquated and potentially useless a stat as it may be) than anyone else in MLB, and has almost 20 more innings than his closest AL competitor, Tim Hudson. His eight complete games trail only Mark Mulder’s nine, who sadly had his season cut short by a hip injury last month. In an age when pitchers rarely complete what they start, when Roger Clemens won the first ever Cy Young Award for a starter without a complete game to his credit (2001), it’s refreshing to see a pitcher go the distance at least a few times.

I understand, in terms of actual wins and losses, that run support has a lot to do with a starter's record. I'll be the first to tell you that Loaiza has lost or gotten no decision for six Quality Starts (6+ IP, 3- ER) this year, while Halladay has had only four such experiences. Halladay's run support, over 6 runs/game, has been very good, 6th in the AL, but Loaiza's is over 5 runs/game as well, thanks to playing in front of Chicago's (until recently) great offense.

Ironically, some people will tell you,

"For the Cy Young award, I don't factor in a team's performance, because I see it as a best pitcher or pitcher-of-the-year award."

...immediately after telling you that the first thing they consider is the number of Wins a starter has. Which is a lot like a movie critic saying that he only considers individual performances, right after he tells you that he thinks that Keanu Reeves ought to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Matrix Resuscitated.

So Wins can't be the only metric, nor should it even be the first. The main problem with only looking at ERA, or even Support-Neutral Wins and Losses, as Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheehan pointed out here, is that the pitchers don’t all face the same teams, thanks to the newly unbalanced schedule. The fact that Loaiza has won four games in six starts, with a Bob-Gibson-esque 1.21 ERA against the woeful Tigers (helps to blow up his record’s appearance. Overall, Halladay’s average opponents have hit to the tune of .265 BA/.336 OBP/.430 SLG/.766 OPS, which is in the Tino Matrinez, Wes Helms, Randy Winn, Craig Biggio, Mike Cameron, Torii Hunter Neighborhood. Loaiza’s opponents have hit only .261/.327/.411/.738, which is akin to Juan Encarnacion, Eric Young, Casey Blake, and Adam Kennedy.

Clearly a notable drop in quality. Sheehan described the difference as being worth less than ten runs over the course of a season, but then he dismisses its influence out of hand. Actually, if you look at the difference in average batter quality, it works out to about 5 runs/450 outs, which doesn't sound like much for a batter, because it's not. But Halladay’s 257 innings pitched yielded 771 outs, which extrapolates the difference between (roughly) Mike Cameron and Casey Blake to about 8.5 runs over the course of Halladay's season. If you take away eight earned runs from his season total, do you know what his ERA becomes?


Which suddenly is not so different from Loaiza’s 2.92, trailing only Hudson (2.74) and Pedro (2.25, but in only 183 innings). Heck, even if you only take off seven runs, it’s still 2.97, and I’d say that’s more than fair given the difference in the qualities of the batters these two have faced.

And now, when you’re looking at two pitchers who allow earned runs at almost exactly the same rate but one of them has forty more innings to his credit, which one do you say was better? Hallady becomes the clear winner.

Tim Hudson probably has a better case for the Award than Loaiza does, if you consider how well he's pitched and not how well the team's hitting and defense have done on his behalf. But Hudson won't get much support from the writers, with his mere 15 wins, so it comes down to Loaiza and Halladay.

I'll take Roy.

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16 September 2003

Quien Es Mas Valioso?

There seem to be two great debates raging currently in the world of Major League Baseball. The first is who should be voted the NL MVP, with Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols as the main contenders, Gary Sheffield, Todd Helton, Eric Gagne and others following a distant third, fourth and so on. The second debate regards the AL Cy Young Award, with Esteban Loaiza and Roy Halladay the main contenders. We’ll take these one at a time, since trying to read a column about two different issues would be almost as hard as trying to write it. I'll get to the AL CYA argument in a day or two.


Barry Bonds has already won five (!) NL MVP Awards, while no one else in NL history has more than three (Stan Musial, Roy Campanella and Mike Schmidt shared this record until 2001, when Barry won his fourth). Some would argue that it’s time for Barry to step aside and let some younger blood in to share the glory. This is just about the dumbest argument I can imagine for naming Pujols the MVP instead of Bonds. But are there any cogent arguments for Pujols over Bonds? Let’s look at their overall numbers:

Pujols 626 547 127 199 48 42 122 69 .364 .441 .686 1.127
Bonds 512 361 104 123 20 42 84 142 .341 .534 .751 1.285

This happens to be something of a convenient time to analyze these two players, as they both hit their 42nd home run of the season on Monday night, but in most other respects, their numbers are quite different. The most glaring differences you should observe are those between their at-bats (AB) and plate appearances (PA), as well as Barry’s edge in the walks (BB) category. Pujols has over 100 more plate appearances than Bonds, and nearly 200 more at-bats, because Bonds has played 26 fewer games than Pujols has, and has walked over twice as many times.

Now the question arises: What do we do about such disparities? How do we compare players with different skills and with different amounts of playing time? Well, let’s try normalizing for playing time. We’ll project Barry’s numbers out over the same number of plate appearances that Pujols has and see what the differences look like then.

Pujols 626 547 127 199 48 42 122 69 .364 .441 .686 1.127
Bonds 626 441 127 150 24 51 103 174 .341 .534 .756 1.276
Diff 0 106 0 49 24 -9 19 -105 .023 -.090 -.065 -.158

With more playing time, the theory goes, Bonds would have nine more homers, 105 more walks, and just as many runs scored as Pujols, but would still have almost 20 fewer RBI, half as many doubles, and almost 50 fewer hits. Bonds’ edge in the “rate” stats (on-Base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS) remains, as does his 23-point deficit in batting average. A 158-point advantage in OPS, largely due to Bonds’ penchant for walking, is nothing to sneeze at. It’s roughly the difference between Alex Rodriguez and Mark Loretta, at least this year. So don’t let the relatively small percentage increase fool you: It’s huge.

Still, though, two problems remain:

1) Bonds still has a lot fewer RBI than Pujols, even with his additional projected plate appearances.

B) Bonds doesn’t have any additional projected plate appearances.

Bonds has only what he has, which is a lot less playing time than Albert Pujols. ESPN.com’s Jim Butler has made a good case for Bonds as the MVP, citing his runs created per 27 outs as significantly above Pujols’s number in that stat. RC/27, in case you don’t know, is a measure of how many runs a team of nine Barry Bondses or nine Albert Pujolses or nine Travis Nelsons would score, given average pitching and defense. Bonds blows Pujols away in this category, about 15 to 11. (For perspective, no one else in MLB has a mark higher than Todd Helton’s 10.05, which he owes largely to the Greatest Hitter’s Park Ever.)

Bonds, it seems, is the better player. I can’t really argue with that. But who’s more valuable?

I heard Bobby Valentine on the radio the other day discussing Bonds,

“…the walk is a very powerful play in baseball…Bonds is the best player I’ve ever seen…there are pitches that Barry could hit, I think sometimes Barry takes a walk in a close spot by taking a close pitch just to prove how good he is…”

Bobby V. did not seem to notice the irony in his statement: He acknowledges Bonds’ greatness and the utility of the Walk as a hitter, but then says essentially that Barry would somehow be better if he walked less often. Sounds a little like saying that Tiger Woods might be a better golfer if he didn’t hit the ball so darn far all the time, doesn’t it?

Ted Williams realized, a long time ago, that the batter’s eyes were the key to his success. Specifically, not giving the pitcher anything that the rulebook didn’t allow him. Swinging at a pitch just two inches off the plate increases the size of the strike zone roughly 20%, depending on how tall you are. This means that the pitcher has an area 20% larger at which to aim in order to get you out. (Note: If Eric Gregg happens to be umpiring, the area jumps to about 150%. If Alfonso Soriano is at-bat, this number increases to something like 200%. If both are true, I think Soriano’s out as long as they can find the ball at the end of his at-bat.) So Barry knows that giving the pitcher anything more than what he absolutely has to give will work against him, and against the team, much more often than not. So he doesn’t swing at those pitches. Which is why he’s so great.

With that said, I still think that Pujols will, and perhaps even should, win the NL MVP. The awards voters like RBIs, they like Runs, they like batting average, and Pujols has a big lead in all three. But more importantly, Pujols has played a lot more. Twenty six games is a lot to miss when your team is jockeying for position in a pennant race. Granted, the Giants have had their division locked up since July, but they could have gotten home-field advantage in the NL playoffs instead of the Braves, and they probably won’t. The step down from Bonds to Jeffrey Hammonds or Trever Linden or whomever plays left field when Barry's not around is a huge step down, especially when the Giants don't have another regular with an OPS over .800. He leaves a gaping hole in the lineup whenever he's not in it, and Neifi Perez can't swing at enough extra pitches to ocmpensate for it.

I understand that with his injuries and his father’s illness and death, Bonds had every right to miss those games. I don’t begrudge him that. But I (and the BBWAA) have every right to count those against him in deciding whether he or Albert Pujols has been the more valuable player over the course of the season.

I mentioned earlier that Bonds has a significant edge in RC/27 over Pujols, and he does. But Pujols, thanks to his 26 extra games, actually has more Runs Created overall, 151 to 140, which is not a huge advantage, but it’s something. If you like Baseball Prospectus’ numbers better, you get the same story: Bonds has an enormous edge in their rate stat, Equivalent Average, .424 to .366, but Pujols actually has a slight edge in their counting stat, Equivalent Runs, 142 to 140. Obviously this is a lot closer, but it’s still an edge.

The analogy goes like this: If you have a stack of $100 bills, say, 50 bills tall, it’s worth $5000. If you have another stack of $50 bills, only this stack is 101 bills thick, its worth, its value, is $5050. You can argue all you want that the $100 bills are worth more, and you’ll win that argument, because that’s not the contention I’m making. I’m arguing that the stack of fifties is more valuable, if only slightly.

And so is Albert Pujols. At least this season.

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09 September 2003

No Sense of History...

This Thursday, the second anniversary of the Worst Day In American History, I plan to take a friend to Yankee Stadium. What better way to stick it to the evildoers?

This date will be historic for a number of other reasons as well. For one thing, my friend (we'll call him "Cary" since that's what his parents named him) has never been to Yankee Stadium, so it is quite a privelige for me to be able to take him, a man who has been a Yankee fan in some sense for his whole 56-year life, to his first game.

As far as I can tell, this will be the fifth person for whom I've been able to do this, including my mom and my wife, and it never gets old. I cannot even describe the look of pure joy on my mom's face as she crested the stairs on the way to the tier section ('tier' comes from the French word for "entirely too high") to see her first game, at age 51. My mom is, frankly, a much more rabid Yankee fan than Cary is, but I'm sure he'll have a honkin' good time nonetheless.

Another reason that this Thursday may be historic in nature is that Roger Clemens is scheduled to start. This isn't really that big a deal, since he's done that over 600 times in his career already. But there's an excellent chance that this Thursday, 11 September 2003, will mark the last regular season home start of Clemens' career.

His next two starts should be at Baltimore and at Tampa Bay, and then his final start of the season could be at home, against Baltimore again, on the second to last day of the year. But if the Yanks have wrapped up the division by then, they'll likely sit Clemens to rest him for the playoffs and start some poor schmo in his place. And if they do that (I know, that's a lot of 'if's) then Cary and I will be present for the last regular season home start of the Rocket's illustrious career. Of course, Rocket hasn't exactly blasted off this year at home, going only 5-7 with an ERA over 5.50, but hey, it's only the Tigers, right?

The other reason that this could have been an historic occasion, but probably won't, is that Mike Maroth should have been scheduled to start against Clemens. Maroth, as you may know, is the newest member of the 20-Game Losers' Club, and the first since 1980, when Brian Kingman paid his dues and joined up.

Kingman was, amazingly, not that bad a pitcher in 1980. Despite the 20 losses, 1980 was the best season of his career. His 3.83 ERA, eight wins, 211 innings pitched, 32 games (30 starts), 10 complete games and 116 strikeouts were all career best numbers for him. He didn't even pitch on a particularly bad team, as the 83-79 Oakland A's had five starters with at least 210 innings pitched, a combined AL-best 3.46 ERA and no other starter with a losing record. Sadly, they scored only enough runs to rank 10th inthe then 14-team American League, and Kingman got only about 2.9 runs of support per game. Jim Rome apparently doesn't think that Kingman had anything of which to be proud, but then...

A) ...for a guy whose voice sounds like Jacob Silj with a head-cold, I'm not sure I'd be criticizing "losers" if I were Jim. And besides...

2) How many games has Jim Rome lost in the major leagues? Thought so.

Maroth is a different story. He's a bad pitcher on a bad team. A really bad team. The worst team in Tigers history, and they've had some doozies, having lost 100 games five times in their history, and without a winning season since 1993. Kudos to Tigers manager Alan Trammell for continuing to trot him out there as much as he has, in spite of the 20-loss stigma, but why suddenly the thought of losing 21 is so daunting I can't figure out.

So instead of watching the classic matchup of the Immortal Roger Clemens vs. the (now) Infamous Mike Maroth, we'll get to see Immortal Rocket vs. the Inconsequential Nate Cornejo.

At least the tickets were half-price.

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04 September 2003

The Gammons People Play

Peter Gammons' ESPN column from last week is full of the head-scratching, incoherent babbling that we've all come to know and love from 'Ole Pete. Like this:

"People win championships," said Joe Torre, and so it is that through all the Yankees have faced -- serious injuries (Jeter, Williams, Nick Johnson and Mariano Rivera), bullpen roulette, public spats with Raul Mondesi, David Wells and Jeff Weaver, the unraveling of Jose Contreras -- they came out of the Labor Day Weekend series in Boston with not only a safe six-game lead in the loss column but the final family reunion of Roger Clemens, who effectively buried the Red Sox's chances of catching the Yankees as he exchanged a figurative hug with New Englanders that reminded one and all how much they meant to one another."

Wow. That’s one sentence. 107 words, one sentence. Gammons sometimes writes as though preparing for when the Commies take over the world and make periods illegal.

I've already written about the Yankees bullpen in another column, so I won't go into that again.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that Contreras has “unraveled”. He’s been injured, like a lot of guys, but he’s actually pitched pretty well when they’ve used him as a starter. It’s only when they tried to get him to do long relief that he’s sucked. As a starter he’s 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA, 20 hits and 30 strikeouts in 31 innings. On the other hand (where I have four fingers and a thumb) the teams he’s beaten don’t exactly scream “Clutch October workhorse”: Detroit (37-102), Cincinnati (60-79), Toronto (69-70) and Baltimore (63-76).

Gammons also wrote:

"We know what we have to do," Giambi said. "[...]You learn to fight through it all."

Including Pedro Martinez. On Saturday, Martinez was still weak from his bout with a flu bug and threw one pitch above 89 mph, but the Yankees forced him into an early exhaustion with their patience.

Listen, Peter: The word "but" is what's called a logical connector, which serves to establish a contrast between what follows it and what preceeded it. For example:

"I was going to go wax my bronze statue of myself in the portico, BUT I decided that I would rather stay inside and practice looking menacing to opposing basestealers."

In this sentence [extra points if you can name the speaker!] used the word 'but' to show that one activity was excluded by the other. It was different from what had been expected.

In your sentence, (paraphrasing) "Pedro was still weak...couldn't throw hard..." shows that he should have been easier to beat than usual, which means that when the Yankees wore him out early, it was not unexpected, and so the logical connector 'but' does not belong. 'And', 'so', or 'therefore' would all have been better choices. Now, I'm going to have to start charging you for these grammar lessons if you don't start improving.

"Over the entire weekend, there were few obscenities, few of the "Yankees (----)" that usually litter the city. It was as if Red Sox's fans were getting over Roger, appreciating what it means to watch Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter play their hearts out with dignity, understanding that even when Pedro doesn't win he leaves his soul on the mound and that, indeed, these guys named Williams and Giambi, Jeter, Posada, Johnson, Pettitte, Mussina and Rivera will never stop trying to overcome all the shrapnel that surrounds them."

How exactly does one "overcome shrapnel"? Don't you just duck and hope for the best? Oh, and Pete's getting better: That sentence only contained 89 words.

Gammons' next segment:

Marlins get tougher with Conine

Tougher? Maybe. Better, probably not much.

"We felt," said Beinfest, "that we've come this far, so we owe it to our fans and to the players to do whatever we can do to win."

"But then we decided to trade two of our best prospects for Jeff Conine instead." Right? Look, Conine's not the worst player around, and there's something to be said for versatility, but Jeff's only had one season in the last seven when he was worth more than 3.5 wins more than a replacement level guy at his position. Which means that, even in the midst of a decent season (for him) he's not likely to be worth more than half a win over the last month of the season. But with the wild-card race as close as it is in the NL, it might just come down to that. I guess we'll see.

Conine is actually having a pretty decent year, right around his career average, and the Marlins needed something when they lost Mike Lowell, but don't make it out like they got some kind of steal in giving up two good pitching prospects for an aging, overpaid mediocrity. They were hard-pressed to make something happen and they did the best they could in a bad situation. Kudos for that, no more.

Regarding NL Manager of the Year candidates, Gammons had this to say:

"But has anyone faced more adversity than Felipe Alou? While holding a significant lead in the NL West, Alou has had to use more than 100 lineups and employ 13 starting pitchers. The Giants moved their two innings horses, Russ Ortiz and Livan Hernandez. They lost Rob Nen. Kirk Rueter has been injured. They've had J.T. Snow, Rich Aurilia, Benito Santiago and Ray Durham on the DL, and seen Edgardo Alfonso struggle at times."

The Giants have had their issues, and Alou may very well deserve the Managers' highest honor, but the fact that he has had an enormous lead with which to work is an advantage. Sure, there's pressure to stave off those chassing you, but nobody's been closer than about five games since the middle of July. Give him credit for patching together a winning lineup in spite of the persistent inneptitude of J.T. Snow and Neifi Perez at the plate, the surprising struggles of Alfonzo and Rich Aurilia, and Barry Bonds' personal distractions. Heck, you can even give him credit for winning despite having only one pitcher with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title (Jason Schmidt) and patching a rotation together with untested rookies, but don't tell us that he had this huge lead and present it as though it somehow worked against him.

And finally, Peter Gammons' trademarked...

News and notes

One NL executive suggests that if the Cubs could find one more starter to go with Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano and Clement, that Kerry Wood could be their answer to Eric Gagne and John Smoltz.

This is my absolute favorite item from this particular column. Gammons doesn't really comment on it, but the fact that he included the statement without ridiculing it outright is perhaps an indication that he actually finds the possibility intriguing. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why anyone who runs a baseball team with Kerry Wood on it would be interested in making him a closer.

I thought that this was something of a curious statement from a man who seems to understand as much about baseball as Peter Gammons does, but then I did a search of some of his previous columns and found the following:

"One State Department Official suggests that if the President could find one more Cabinet Member to go with Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Richard Armitage, that Condoleezza Rice could play a mean mariacci guitar at state department picnics."

"One Hollywood executive suggests that if the Universal Studios could have found one more actor to go with Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton and Ed Harris, that Tom Hanks could have been a great "LEM Controller White" in Apollo 13."

"One baseball historian suggests that if the '27 Yankees could find one more outfielder to go with Bob Muesel and Earle Combs, that Babe Ruth could have been one heck of a pinch hitter."

So maybe Peter's viewpoints are a little skewed.

Here you've got a pitcher who's had some injury issues, yes, but who has been pretty healthy for the last two years, can pitch 200+ innings per year when healthy, and strikes out more than 10 batters per nine innings and allows only about 7 hits in that span. Why the hell would you want to relegate such a talent to pitching only 65 innings per year? So he can make some impressive looking stat lines? 120 strikeouts in 70 innings looks nice in the history books, but it doesn't help win games like starting 34 times and mowing them down the way Wood can when he's on. The fact that he's yet to win more than 13 gemes in a season is more a function of his team not providing run support than it is an indictment of his abilities as a starter.

The problem is that pitchers like Eric Gagne and John Smoltz and Mariano Rivera were once starters who have become great closers, but people forget that they were bad starters. Or often-injured starters. Or superfluous to the starting rotation. You'd be hard pressed to pick up another pitcher somewhere who would be good enough to relegate Kerry Wood to a relief role. Besides, what the heck is wrong with Borowski?

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19 August 2003

Signed, Zeiled, Delivered

The Yankees released 15-year veteran Todd “Good Housekeeping” Zeile on Sunday.

Housekeeping was about all Todd had to do of late, given that the Yanks had recently acquired 3B Aaron Boone and jettisoned the lefty-susceptible Robin Ventura, whom Zeile had been hired to complement (“Nice bat, Robin.”) Besides this, Nick Johnson has recently come back from the DL, making it pretty tough to find playing time for Zeile at the 1B/DH spots.

I have two major observations about this:

1) I could have told you that Zeile was gonna suck.
B) The guys who pushed him out of a job have not exactly been hitting the cover off the ball.

Last year, Zeile hit .273 with 18 homers and 87 RBI, which looks pretty decent until I tell you that he played for the Rockies, and that his home/road splits looked like this:

Home 248 41 11 56 43 39 .315 .414 .500 914
Away 258 20 7 31 23 53 .233 .291 .353 644


So, given that a player's actual ability correlates much better with his non-Coors stats that with his Coors stats, what might we have expected out of a 38-year old with this kind of record? That's right:

.210 .294 .349 .644

...which is exactly what we got. Nothing to write home about, unless you're Gary DiSarcina.

In fact there is good news here: Despite his relatively advanced age for a baseball player, Zeile didn't really decline at all from 2002 to 2003. He had the exact same 644 OPS, which, while stinking to high heaven, is almost Bonds-ian in its age-defying consistency.

Nick Johnson came off the DL in mid July after recuperating from (yet another) wrist injury, and has hit only .230 since. Thankfully, he walks often, so his .390 OBP bolsters his otherwise unimpressive .410 slugging percentage on the way to a decent 800 OPS. Presumably, Johnson’s patience and health will allow him to start hitting .300 or so again, but he hasn’t been scorching since coming back thus far.

And what about Aaron Boone? Boone has hit a pathetic .169/.182/.238, for a sub-Neifi .420 OPS. Two lousy walks in 63 at-bats? Three extra base hits in two weeks? Zeile must be really upset. At least he wasn’t traded for Dooley Womack. Or worse, Tony Womack.

Don't worry about Zeile. He'll catch on somewhere. Dusty Baker is bound to bench some kid and give Todd another shot at mediocrity.

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14 August 2003

Could He be (H)Appier?

Kevin Appier beat the Yankees last night, pitching six shutout innings on the way to an 11-0 laugher due largely to Jeff Weaver's continued and inexplicable suck-ness. This was Appier's first start at Kauffman Stadium since rejoining the Royals, who traded him away to Oakland during the 1999 season. At the time, I was appy for Happier, er...appy for Appier, happy for Happier, er...I was glad for him because the Royals sucked back then (probably more than Jeff Weaver does now...maybe not). But now the Royals don't suck, at least not as much. And whomever in the AL Central can get through the rest of the year having sucked the least will win that weak-ass division and have a real, live shot at getting eliminated from the playoffs by the Yankees or Mariners. You can't beat that with a 19-or-20-inches-worth-of-pine-tar coated stick.

Appier spent the first eleven seasons of his career in Royal blue, pitching extremely well for some extremely lousy teams. Baseball-Reference.com's schedule breaker-outer indicates that only the Tigers, Phillies, Devil Rays, Marlins and Twins had a worse record than the Royals in that span, and that includes a 92-win season in 1989 in which Appier didn't play much of a role (1-4 in 21+ innings).

It also includes his best season, an 18-8 campaign in 1993 in which he won the AL ERA title by almost half a run less than the next closest competitor and almost a whole run less than the Cy Young winner, Black Jack McDowell. Jack had the good fortune to pitch for a team that could actually hit and therefore won 22 games despite a higher ERA and about 30 fewer strikeouts in 20 more innings. If the punchless Royals had somehow averaged more than the paltry 4.1 runs/game they gave Appier, he might have that trophy in his den instead of Black Jack.

For that matter, where would Appier's career numbers be if he'd had a team that could hit behind him for most of his career, say, like Andy Pettitte. Pettitte's got an ERA for his career roughly 18% better than the park adjusted league averages, which is pretty darn good. Granted, Pettitte's career isn't even ten years old yet, while Appier's been pitching in the bigs since 1989, but look at the contrasts:

Pettitte's career 3.95 ERA, roughly 18% better than average, has gotten him a career record of 141-77, so far, for a .647 winning percentage. That ERA ratio doesn't even rank him among the top 100 pitchers in history.

Appier is somewhere around #60, with an ERA about 24% better than average. That ratio is slightly better than current or future Hall of Famers Tom Glavine, Silver King, Bob Feller, Juan Marichal, Eddie Plank, Don Drysdale, Clark Griffith, and Joe McGinnity. What's more, it's only slightly worse than Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez, Tim Keefe, Jim Palmer, and Dazzy Vance. Pretty good company, if you ask me, which you must have, since you're still reading.

And yet Appier just doesn't have the wins to show for his effort. If not for the lousy run support he's received throughout most of his career, Appier might already have 15-20 more wins (and fewer losses). His "Support Neutral" record works out to about 175-130, instead of 169-135, but with good run support that could easily have been 190-115, which would place him squarely among some of the best pitchers in history. Where he is already, except that nobody knows it.

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11 August 2003

"Feature Analyst"

I haven't felt this important since the first time a clerk at the mall called me "Sir."

I add links to other baseball sites all the time. Other people link to me fairly often as well. Hopefully, at least some of those people actually think enough of something I write occasionally to mention it more specifically in their own writing. This is not completely unusual.

I have even been asked for my opinion, on occasion, on a certain subject in spirited debate. But now, I am syndicated.

That's correct folks, as you can see from the link on your left (right your to look should dyslexics you) I have linked a new site called Baseball Interactive, and, as you might have guessed from the 'interactive' part of their name, they have linked to me as well. Not just linked, syndicated. For now I am a member of the staff of writers at BI, and am listed as a "Feature Analyst" which is a somewhat cooler title than "Sir" and a much cooler one than "Ma'am," at least for me.

I won't necessarily be doing any extra posting, though I may get the chance to be part of an electronic round table discussion once in a while. The coolest part is that BI looks much better than Boy of Summer, and hopefully it will have an extent of reach beyond what I can do on my own. It'll be billed as "A Fan's Notebook", which will allow me to continue posting at random times on random subjects of my own choosing without having to have any sort of real responsibility at all! But I am proud to join Mike Carminati, Jay Jaffe, Brad Dowdy and a boatload of other writers to try to make BI a great fans' site. Should be fun.

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10 August 2003

What Goes Around Came Around for Pettitte

The Yankees lost today. Not such an unusual occurrence that it would normally be write-worthy, but it's the way they lost today that bothers me: They lost by playing well.

OK, so their hitters didn't play so well. They managed to scrounge together only three lousy hits and a walk. Four baserunners in nine innings does not often allow you to outscore your opponent, but given that they've averaged six runs per game over the last week, it's not as though they're in a "slump". Seattle Mariners starter Gil Meche just out-pitched them.

Meche was a super-prospect who broke through in 1999 and 2000, but had an undiagnosed injury to his pitching shoulder that shelved him for a while. Now, two years and two shoulder surgeries later, Meche is finally doing what everybody expected he would do in the first place: winning. He's now 13-7, 3.63 ERA, and strikes out twice as many batters as he walks, which isn't too shabby. But tip your cap to him and let's move on. This column isn't about Gil Meche.

It's about Andy Pettitte. Pettitte had the unusual misfortune of losing a game in which he pitched well. Since Pettitte hadn't seen an "L" next to his name in a boxscore since June 8, he might have forgotten what it felt like to lose. That performance (five outs, sig earned runs, two homers allowed to the Cubbies) stank very much bad. But since then, he may have begun to think that he led a charmed life, as even when he was less than stellar, his teammates picked up the slack. Four of his ten starts since that abysmal performance saw him allow four runs or more, never with more than 7 and a third innings pitched, but the Yankees hit in all of those, so he either got the win or someone in the bullpen vultured it from him. So this loss helps to make things even. If a man can be credited with a "Win" when he allows five runs to the lowly Devil Rays, then it only seems fair, if not appropriate, that he can be given a "Loss" for holding the mighty Mariners to two runs. But this column isn't about today's game.

It's about history. More specifically, Andy Pettitte's history. The guys announcing the game for FOX this afternoon were talking about how Pettitte has taken to working out with Roger Clemens, and how (presumably) this has helped Andy to improve his game. It seems that few, if any, of Rocket's teammates have been able to keep up with his workouts, but Pettitte is the exception, not the rule, and is the better pitcher for it. Apparently.

Year CG SHO   IP IP/GS H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 W L ERA
1995-97 9 1 636.33 6.42 9.12 0.64 2.83 6.25 51 24 3.58
1998-00 8 1 612.67 6.45 9.71 0.84 3.76 5.76 49 31 4.42
2001-03 5 1 482.00 6.34 9.73 0.71 2.02 7.26 41 21 3.87
Total 22 3 1731 6.51 9.50 0.73 2.93 6.36 141 76 3.96

Pettitte's never been much for stamina, averaging only about 6.5 innings per start over the course of his career,
somewhat less than most "aces" (Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Kevin Brown, etc) usually tally. He was quite a find,
the first Yankees pitching prospect to make a serious impact in quite a while. He finished third in a close vote for
1995 Rookie of the Year. (The 'close' was between Marty Cordova's 105 points and Garret Anderson's 99. Pettitte
finished a distant third with 16 points.) He finished a close (really this time) second to Pat hentgen in the 1996 Cy
Young voting, winning 21 games en route to the Yankees' first World Series triumph since 1978, and then found
himself among the leading CYA vote-getters in 1997, when he posted a career best 240 innings and 2.88 ERA,
allowing only seven home runs all year.

But then something happened. I don't know what, exactly, if Pettitte got complacent or if he just fell in love with that cut-fastball or what, but he slipped a little. From 1998-2000 his strikeout rates and innings pitched fell (though he was still a work-horse, averaging about 200 innings per year), his walk rates, homerun rates and ERA went up, and naturally he didn't win quite so often or lose quite as rarely.

But if his workouts with Clemens really are the reason for his turnaround, then it really didn't start to show until two years after Clemens joined the team. From 2001 to 2003, Pettitte has lowered his ERA, raised his strikeout rates, and cut his walk-rate almost in half. The hits have stayed about the same, as they are wont to do, but the things he can control, strikeouts and walks, he has controlled. And he should be commended for it. Where other pitchers may have gotten frustrated with lack of success or indignant towards new instruction when they had a hard time following success, Pettitte has seemed to embrace the advice and practices of someone who knows how to win and how to keep winning. Who better to look towards as a mentor than a guy who was your childhood hero, your rival for four years, and now your teammate for five? The only guy in history to win six Cy Young awards? The only guy to strike out twenty batters in a nine inning game twice?

Roger Clemens is to pitching longevity what E.F Hutton wa sto investment in the 1980's: Listen to him.

It's worked for Andy.

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09 August 2003

Mythological Figures...

Myth: (n) A popular belief or story that has become associated with a person, institution, or occurrence, especially one considered to illustrate a cultural ideal

There is a myth in the baseball world. Actually there are many of them, including the notions that “defense and pitching win championships”, “never make the last out at third base” and “Joe Morgan doesn't know what he's talking about". Well, maybe that last one has something to it.

The Yankees traded RHP Armando "Most Homers Allowed In Postseason Play By A Reliever In History" Benitez to the Seattle Mariners for RHP Jeff Nelson. The myth goes that you need solid middle relief (the Yankees already have a solid closer in Mariano Rivera, his recent penchant for allowing runs int he ninth inning notwithstanding) to win in the postseason, or maybe even to get into the postseason. The myth is probably right, in this case, but there's really no reason to believe that Benitez would have been any worse off in that role than Nelson will. The only real difference is that Nelson's done this job for years, while it's supposedly a relatively recent reaquisition for Benitez.

The myth has it that the Yankees relief corps just hasn't been right since Jeff Nelson departed for Seattle after the 2000 season. And in a move that would have made my freshman psychology professor cringe, they note that the Yanks haven't won a World Series since he left. But, as they say in France, "correlation never implies causality", and so I looked it up:

Yankees Right-Handed Relievers, Regular Season Performance

Year Saves Holds Innings HR/9 K/9 WHIP ERA
2003* 41 24 249 0.759 7.23 1.45 4.08
2002 47 29 288 0.719 6.66 1.30 3.59
2001 57 25 330 0.846 8.02 1.23 3.55
2000 40 22 333.3 0.729 6.26 1.40 3.94

*projected over 162 games

So we can see that the Yankees righty relievers actually got better after Nelson left. In 2001 and 2002 the right handed half of the Yankees Bullpen Monster had more saves, more holds, a lower ERA, allowed fewer baserunners, and struck out more batters than the team had in 2000, with Jeff Nelson. So there goes that theory.

So I thought to myself, "Self, I wonder if it was the POST-season that they were talking about..."

Yankees Right-Handed Relievers, Post-Season Performance

Year Saves Holds Innings HR/9 K/9 WHIP ERA
2002 1 0 14.0 2.57 5.79 1.50 5.14
2001 5 2 34.0 0.79 8.21 1.32 4.50
2000 6 3 29.7 1.21 6.67 1.11 3.94

This makes things a little tougher to evaluate, largely due to the small sample size. Clearly the Yankees relievers have nt been nearly as effective in the post season as they have in the regular season, and this is true for almost every year. But you can hardly blame the Yankees lack of post season success in recent years on the relievers.

In 2002, the Yankees' starters had a combined ERA of almost 11.00!, so the fact that the relievers didn't do so well seems hardly relevant. It's not as though there were many leads for them to protect.

In 2001 the starters were not so bad as all of that, but Andy Pettitte managed to lose three games in the postseason all by himself, which constituted half of the losses attributed to the Yankees starters in that post season. Mariano Rivera was the only reliever who was credited with a loss that year in the playoffs. So again, it's hardly for a lack of middle relief that the Yankees didn't win that World Series either.

And in 2000, the last year the commisioner's trophy did end up in the Bronx? Jeff Nelson did get three "Holds" that year in postseason play, but his ERA was 7.04, so I'd say that they were sucessful in spite of him.

Joe Sheehan has an article in Baseball Prospectus' Premium area in which he says it's a win-win trade. That the Mariners are better off having a righty who can get both lefties and righties out, and that the Yankees are better off having a situational pitcher with whom Joe Torre is comfortable, especially for the postseason. I don't disagree, necessarily, but the Yankees may end up with egg on their collective faces if Benitez comes in to close out games against them and succeeds, or if Nelson is asked to pretect a lead against the Mariners in the ALCS and fails. I guess we'll see.

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06 August 2003


I have been made aware that a couple of my fellow bloggers have moved over to Movable Type. I don't really know what this means, but I assume it costs money or something, so I doubt that I'll be doing it any time soon. However, if you're interested, you can now find the illustrious John J(acob Jingleheimer) Perricone's Only Baseball Matters at http://www.grousehouse.org/obm/. Of cours, if you go to his former site, there's a banner that will take you right over anyway. The only difference I really see is that he doesn't seem to have the papyrus font like he did before, but hey, you don't go there for the font, right?

Also, Brad Dowdy's Atlanta Braves Blog, **No Pepper** has moved to http://www.nopepper.net. No font change here, I think.

And of course both of these can be reached from my blog links on the left, as soon as I update them, which should be shortly.

While you're surfing, you may find Baseball Crank Dan McLaughlin's analysis of the Red Sox potential to finish the season with a team slugging percentage over .500, which has never been done before, and some ensuing comments, one from Yours Truly.

And Last, but not Finally, Elephants in Oakland has just become one year old. This Post marks their anniversary, but if you haven't read more of their writing by now, you're really missing out. EIO may be going the route of Movable Type or something even cooler soon, so stay tuned....

And speaking of being a year old, my own anniversary is Friday, August seventh. Here is my first post. Cool.

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05 August 2003

Trade Analysis...

How did this happen?

I went away for a couple of lousy days, and I came back to find that my favorite team's starting right fielder, third baseman and best pitching prospect had been jettisoned to the National League, and that they had gotten an overrated thirdbaseman, a backup outfielder, an injured lefty reliever and a couple of prospects in return. Not good.

What's more, my favorite team's immediate rival had gotten the second-best available starter (Jeff Suppan), two of the best available relievers (RHP Scott WIlliamson and LHP Scott Sauerbeck) and had given up only a couple of marginal prospects to do so.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that Yankees GM Brian Cashman did a pretty good job in getting a new, fairly productive thirdbaseman (Aaron Boone) to replace the aging, underproductive one they had (Robin Ventura), who was necessarily dumped into the Dodgers' already underachieving hitting ranks. And though I don't happen to put much stock in "team chemistry", if you hafta get rid of Raul Mondesi, it's best to get something for him and to send him someplace where he can't come back to haunt you. Arizona seems pretty safe.

Aaron Boone isn't that much of an upgrade on Robin Ventura, but it's something. Even when Ventura's batting average dips below .250, he walks enough to keep up a respectable OBP, but his almost complete lack of power this year (13 2B, 9 HR) and his age (36) meant that some upgrade was needed. There really wasn't anywhere else in the lineup they could expect to significantly upgrade anyway. And they got some decent (albeit old) prospects back in Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor.

Boston, on the other hand (...yep, still five fingers!), did a wonderful job shoring up their bullpen with Sauerbeck and Williamson, not to mention getting Byun Hyun Kim earlier in the year, while essentially giving up only a 2B prospect, once most of the original deal was un-done.

Suppan, frankly, I'm not very worried about. While he's a durable pitcher having a pretty good year (for the Pirates, no less) his career ERA is almost 5.00, and he's really not giving up any fewer hits or getting any more strikeouts this season than he normally does. What he is doing is allowing fewer walks (about one per nine innings less) and homers (about one-half per nine innings less). This, as Oakland GM Billy Beane and any sabermetrician worth his salt will tell you, is a good way to keep your ERA down. Unfortunately, it might just be a fluke. Suppan may revert to giving up that extra homer and extra walk and revert to the league-average innings muncher he usually is, in which case the Red Sox playoff foes have little to fear from him.

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29 July 2003


I have been remiss (miss, miss), not to be confused with or , in not giving appropriate props to a fellow blogger. Actually, I gave him props, but then I forgot to follow up on them.

For those of you out there who are Mets fans (the six or seven remaining), you may be particularly interested in The Eddie Kranepool Society, run by Stephen Keane. I had given him a reference a couple of months ago, but I forgot to add his link to my sidebar, so, upon his reminder, I have done so.

NOTE: Be careful not confuse his site with The Stephen Crane Society. Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage, which is a book about the Civil War, as opposed to the Civil Injustice that has become the New York Mets franchise. Also I think that the punctuation was a lot better in The Red Badge of Courage. I believe I still have a copy of this from a summer reading assignment in high school. If the Lodi Public Library ("Featuring the largest collection of absolutely nothing you've ever seen!!") fines are still $0.10/day, I owe them $498.70, for a book that was worth about a buck when they acquired it in 1962. Nice return on their investment. For that kind of scratch, I could have assaulted a young woman in a sausage costume! And then taken her out for dinner!

Actually, come to think of it, that might be the Catcher In The Rye that I still have. Never mind.

While I've got your attention, go check out Alex Belth's interview with Moneyball author Michael Lewis. Alex gets opportunities to interview people like this every once in a while, and he always makes the most of it. I'm sure that this time is no different.

In addition, the new edition of Mudville magazine came out last week, so go check that out, too. Mmmm, skin pics.....

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28 July 2003

I Wanna Comb-Over! To Hell With the Consequence!!

The Hall of Fame induction ceremonies took place yesterday afternoon, in Cooperstown, NY. Catcher Gary Carter and 1B/DH Eddie Murray were inducted as players, and your hero and mine, Bob Uecker, was inducted as a broadcaster, getting the Ford C. Frick Award, and generally making people laugh, like he always does.

I only saw a few highlights of the ceremonies, but I understand that Carter was concerned about crying onstage during his speech, and so he mad a point not to dwell on the especially emotional aspectsof his story, as outlined in the 23-minute speech he delivered. Of course, he got kinda choked up anyway, but overall it wasn't really embarassing, and even if he had cried, it would not have been especially embarassing. Heck, Buffalo Bills QB Jim Kelly was practically a fountain of tears in Akron last year, as he gave his acceptance speech to the football Hall of Fame, all the while facing his disabled son, and everyone thought it was very touching, and it was. Not embarassing at all.

No, what Carter should have been worried about was his hair. I mean, did you see this guy? They call him "The Kid"? OK, so he's no spring chicken, but he's not fooling anybody with an 8-inch combover either, y'know? Gary used to have hair, see?

But not now:

And of course, the speeches are filmed from the worst possible angle for a guy with this problem, one to which I can relate, given my relative abundance of forehead these days as compared to my youth. They shoot you straight on, just a little above level, so that every time "The Kid" looks down at his speech notes, all you see is the combover. Bad news, man. Bad news.

And what's worse is that the plaques they make for these guys always look like the sculptor finished the bust perfectly and then took a sledge hammer to to the face.

He looks like the title character from Mask. All told, not a very flattering weekend for The Kid.

On a related note: F#

ESPN has Rob Neyer's take on which current players would make the Hall of Fame if their careers ended tomorrow, and he picks a dozen guys who are essentially locks: Rocket, Big Unit, Mad Dog, Glavine, Piazza, Pudge, Alomar, Biggio, Bonds, Rickey, Sammy and Junior. Not a bad group.

Just missing the cut, in Neyer's opinion are Palmiero, McGriff, Bagwell, Pedro, Big Hurt, Barry Larkin, and A-Rod.

Now as I understand it, Neyer's not saying who deserves to get into the Hall, but who would get into the Hall, as I know that he has advocated for Palmiero, McGriff and Thomas under separate auspices, if not others in that group. And surely, if four Cy Young Awards will get Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson (5) and Roger Clemens (6) into the Hall, certainly these should do the trick for Pedro Martinez as well, despite his "frailty".

The really interesting stuff comes up in the opinion polls. Readers were asked who they would vote for, and then the results are tallied, with anyone who gets the requisite 75% vote (the minimum BBWAA percentage for induction) highlighted. And who's highlighted? Only, Clemens, Maddux, Randy, A-Rod, Bonds, Henderson and Sammy.

Pedro Martinez doesn't make 75%, but he gets 10% more votes than Glavine, which is interesting considering that he has about hundred fewer career wins. I'm not saying that either of them isn't deserving. I just don't understand the thought processes involved in not voting for a guy with 250 career wins, five 20-win seasons and two Cy Young Awards.

None of the four relief pitchers (Hoffman, Rivera, Smoltz or John Franco) got enough votes, but John Smoltz, who has been a relief pitcher for... -what, about half an hour? ...got more votes than anyone else. Go figure.

Neither Mike Piazza nor Ivan Rodriguez received 75% of the vote, which is amazing considering that Piazza is easily the greatest hitting catcher EVER, and that Rodriguez is one of only ten catchers ever to win an MVP award. Most of those are either in the Hall already (Campanella and Berra with three each, Bench with two, and Ernie Lombardi, Mickey Cochrane, and Gabby Hartnett with one each), on their way (Joe Torre) or died too young to cap off what would likely have been a Hall-meriting career (Thurman Munson). Only Elston Howard was never a serious candidate for enshrinement.

Among the 1B/DH types, nobody got particularly close to 75%, with Palmiero coming in the highest, with less than 65%, and Frank Thomas bringing up the rear, around 30%. This is sad. How in the world a guy with 500+ career homers doesn't get 3 out of 4 internet users to vote for him is beyond me. And how Frank Thomas ends up with fewer votes than Edgar Martinez completely escapes my comprehensive capacity.

Neither Roberto Alomar nor Craig Biggio got enough votes, not even 60% for Alomar and not even 35% for Biggio. What a shame.

It's hard to argue with Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Rickey Henderson, who all have "First Ballot" written all over their careers. But Ken Griffey not only doesn't get 75% of the vote, doesn't get 60%, doesn't even get 50% of the votes??? The guy's got 2000+ hits and 480-something homers, and he's only 33! He's been among the top ten vote getters in the MVP race seven times in 14 seasons! He even won once! Ten Gold Gloves! Seven 100-RBI seasons! Six 100-run seasons! Seven .300 BA seasons! FOUR HOME RUN TITLES!!! Do you know how many players have led their leagues in home runs at least four times (Since 1920, the end of the dead ball era, when homers really became significant) and aren't in the Hall of Fame?


There are seventeen guys on that list, and they're all in the Hall, except Griffey, who's not elligible. Yet.
But when he is, he'll get in. You better, you better you bet. Anybody who's that good, for that long, eventually gets enshrined. Even if he does get hurt or lose a step when he gets older.

The trouble with these internet polls is that you can't tell who's voting. Don't get me wrong, the BBWAA has made more than its share of mistakes over the years (how do you not elect Joe DiMaggio on the first ballot?), but by and large, they do OK, because most of them kinda know their stuff. With the Internet, you never know who's out there clicking those mouses. Meeses. Mice. Buttons. Or do you?

It seems from the results of this poll, that the average baseball fan is about eight or ten years old, and can only rember back about as far as 1999 or so. Maybe 1998. This would explain why Pedro Martinez (one CYA and two 20-win seasons in that span) gets more votes than Tom Glavine (none and one). It would also explain why Edgar Martinez gets more votes than Frank Thomas, who was basically the best hitter in the AL for seven straight years, but seven years that ended in 1997. It also explains Griffey's lack of support, as his trade to Cincinnati before the 2000 season coincided with his plummet from super-stardom.

And, of course, it explains why none of the voters seems to have any idea how good Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio and Barry Larkin were for most of their careers, before they got kinda old, and why they have no sense of history when it comes to rating two of the best players ever to strap on the Tools of Ignorance. Also, it explains why they think that Alex Rodriguez's nine seasons in the major leagues merit his enshrinement now, even though you need ten years just to be considered: They haven't learned to count yet.

So to sum up...

Bad News: The average fan of Major League Baseball is either ten years old, really stupid, or both.

Good News: The average fan of MLB is probably about ten years old, which means that the sport is doing a better job of marketing itself to youngsters than we thought!

Bud Selig, Bob DuPuy and their comb-overs will be so relieved.

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25 July 2003

Broken Record...

Barry Bonds, by all accounts, one of the greatest players in history, hit his MLB-leading 33rd homer of the season last night. It was his 646th of his career, and his 470th as a Giant, which is widely (but inaccuratley) being reported as eclipsing Willie McCovey's record for the club.

This is, as they say in France, a load of crap. Not only doesn't Bonds own the club record for homers, he doesn't even have the second most. That distinction belongs to Hall of Famer and beneficieary of the laughably short right field fence at the Polo Grounds, Mel Ott. Ott, you may recall, spent a long career as a New York Giant, smacking out 511 homers in 22 seasons as an outfielder and sometime thirdbaseman. And of course there was Willie Mays, who was no slouch himself, hitting all but 14 of his career 660 homers as a Giant. (That's 6-4-6, for those of you scoring at home. And hey, if you are, stop reading this and pay more attention to her!)

What Bonds owns is the San Francisco Giants record for career homers, which is like saying that the world (or at least that franchise) began in 1958, and that nothing that happened before that is valid. I think a lot of old-time Giants fans (and Dodgers fans, and A's fans, and Braves fans, and Senators fans) who might take issue with that.

And more importantle, we gotta give Jack Pfeffer his props! here's to the Dodgers career ERA leader! The greatest pitcher in Dodgers history!

Or not.

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23 July 2003

The Rich Get ...Older?

The Yankees, with their unbridled obsession to, either win the most, or make the most noise losing, have made yet another move, acquiring 309-year-old Jesse Orosco for three cases of Big League Chew and two tickets to a future Yankees home game. Or something.

It doesn't seem that they really needed another lefty reliever, since they've already got southpaws Dan Miceli, Chris Hammond, and Sterlling Hitchcock in the pen, not to mention right-handers Antonio Osuna, Armando Benitez and Mariano Rivera, who are all historically as good against leftys as they are against righties, if not better.

But for better or for worse (HINT: worse), they've now got Orosco, too. This will be Orosco's eighth different team (he pitched for LA twice), in his long, LONG, illustrious career. The only significant record he holds is for career games pitched, and so I suppose the only reason he's really hanging on is to pad that record, so that if some young whipper-snapper comes along, say, John Franco, and thinks that he can wrest this accomplishment from Orosco's dry, wrinkly, calloused, arthritic hands, he'll have another think coming.

Orosco used to be a pretty effective reliever against all comers, but of late (that is, the last ten years or so) he's been relegated to LOOGY status. Which is fine, because he sucks at getting righties out:

Right 47 22 2 10 6 6 0.426 0.482 0.660 1.142
Left 57 0 2 7 4 16 0.228 0.290 0.351 0.641

Or, to put it simply:

Righties: Think Rogers Hornsby
Lefties: Think Rogers, Fred

Can't you hear it?

"Pinch hitting for Jeremy Giambi, number twenty nine, Gabe Kapler..."

Of course, you had to expect that Orosco was gonna have a hard time maintaining his control as he got older. I understand that it's been especially tough for him to keep the walks down since they lowered the number of balls required for a walk from 5 to 4.

Actually, the guy they got Orosco to "save" them from, Chris Hammond hasn't been bad, overall. It seems to me that a 2-0 record, 3.02 ERA, with 13 holds and one save in 15 opportunities, pitching 41+ innings and striking out 32 while walking only 7 is pretty good, and it is. But there are two problems:

A) Hammond hasn't been nearly as effective against lefties (.303 BA/.342 OBP/.424 SLG/.767 OPS) as he has against righties (.253/.273/.295/.567). Being a LOOGY, this is his primary responsibility, and a .303 batting average against just ain't gettin' the job done.

2) Hammond hasn't been nearly as effective against anybody this year (respectable 3.02 ERA) as he was last year (insane 0.95 ERA). So they think that something's wrong. Bob Gibson's ERA nearly doubled from 1968 (1.12) to 1969 (2.18), but the Cardinals didn't run out and acquire Bill Henry, just because he was available.

Oh well. If anyone can afford to make this mistake, it's the Yankees.

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Wiley Coyote, Super Jeanyes Geenius Geneous...Genious

I found this article by Baseball Ranting Mike Carminati, in response to the inarticulate grouping of words that passed for a Ralph Wiley column last week.

Mike, as always, does an excellent job of picking apart Wiley's race "column", but I noticed that Wiley provided an alley-oop, and Mike missed the dunk! A rare occurrence indeed. Here's what Wiley wrote:

"[...]In other words, the cream will almost always rise.

I say "almost," because none of that helped Rickie Weeks.

Weeks went to Lake Brantley High, in Orlando, Florida. He was a starter on the high school baseball team. But somehow, all those in-state high-level college baseball programs like Florida State and Miami didn't offer him a scholarship, so he went to a historically black university, Southern U. in Baton Rouge, to be developed, and ended up as the No. 2 pick overall in the amateur baseball draft in June and just won the 2003 Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur player in the country. [blah-blah-race Dusty slavery-blah]"

Is it just me, or doesn't the evidence he cites actually work against his argument? He says, "Hey! The cream doesn't always rise to the top! Look at this guy!!" He then begins to propound what I expected would be some sob story about a poor black kid who grew up in the slums and could have been great if only some fat-slob, racist, honkey scout workin' for the Man woulda come watch him play for half an hour. Or something.

Instead I get the story of Rickie Weeks, a kid who, despite playing for (what I assume was) a relatively small high school program, got noticed as a college player, became the #2 pick in the amatuer draft and was named the Best Amatuer Player in the Country by a fairly knowlegeable and influential group of honkey racist slobs, the MLB Players Association and USA Baseball. Not to mention a littany of other awards.

This is it? This is your evidence that The Man is keeping you down? A kid who is all but universally acclaimed to be the best baseball player around not getting paid for it?

That's like arguing that the economy is in the dumps by pointing to Bill Gates' house. And then taking a tour of the place.

In a court of law, this is like arguing that the defendant is not guilty of murder because it happened at 12:03 AM, not 12:01, as the prosecution contends. And then showing a videotape from the 7-11 where the defendant clearly blows the cashier's head off at 12:03.

It sometimes amazes me what passes for "logic" in some sports columns.

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16 July 2003

Bucked Bucs: Ex-Pirates Starting All-Star Game

My esteemed colleague over at the Illuminated Donkey, Ken Goldstein, posted some ABC (Actual Baseball Content) on said blog, regarding the All-Star game and more specifically, its impact on the World Series. He looks at the effects of home field advantage in the World Series over its history, and has an interesting theory about it…but I won’t spoil his fun. Go check him out.

Another esteemed colleague, we’ll call him “Tim” (as we always do, since that’s his name and all), sent me an email yesterday:

Hey Travo, 

Here's a topic for your blog... How about 2 former Pirate
pitchers starting the all-star game against each other?
Thank you, Cam Bonifay!


“Tim” is very observant, as this didn’t even occur to me until he mentioned it, but he’s right. For that matter, several pitchers have left Pittsburgh to have significant success elsewhere:

Tim Wakefield was 6-11 with a 5.61 ERA for the pirates in 1993, was out of MLB in 1994, but then came back and won almost a hundred games for the RedSox since 1995, with an ERA as good as or better than the league average every year but one in that span.

Denny Neagle, who went to the Braves in the trade for Jason Schmidt (I think) won 20 games for them in 1997, and 51 games in the three years after the trade, despite his lack of success since joining the Colorado Rockies’ staff.

Jon Lieber was allowed to depart the Pirates and join the Cubbies, where he became a 20-game winner in 2001. Of course he’s injured now, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on the Yankees buck, but the Cubs got about 720 quality innings out of his arm in three and a half years before he broke down.

So what gives? Well, obviously, the first answer is money. Unlike Wakefield, Jason Schmidt was actually a pretty good pitcher when the Pirates had him, but they couldn’t afford to keep him, and so he was traded to the Giants for prospects or Wendy’s coupons or something in mid-2001, where he promptly became one of the dozen or so best pitchers in the National League. Take a look:

Jason Schmidt									

1996-01 PIT 129 799.67 6.2 9.35 3.62 6.71 44 47 4.39 101
2001-03 SF 58 384.67 6.63 7.04 3.25 9.36 29 13 3.06 134

And his salary jumped from just over $3 million to just under $5 million in 2001,
which essentially priced him out of the Bucs’ market.

Interesting notes about these stats:

1) Schmidt walks about the same number of batters now as he did then, so it doesn’t appear that he’s really gained control since his Pirate days.

2) Schmidt’s hits/strikeouts ratio essentially flip-flopped, perhaps an indication that he found a little more “heat” on his heater, allowing him to punch-out roughly two batters per game that would previously have gotten a hit. This is a really nice improvement, and more than a little responsible for the drop in his ERA, for which the new pitcher’s park at Pac Bell, or whatever it’s called this week, is also a little to blame.

3) The difference in winning percentage is largely owed to the ability of his teammates to actually hit. Eat your heart out, Kip Wells.

What about Loaiza? Well, as you probably suspect, since many of you may never have heard of him before this season, there wasn’t much to hear.

Esteban Loaiza									

1995-98 Pit 87 513.33 5.9 10.2 2.81 5.12 27 28 4.63 94
1998-00 Tex 46 307 6.67 10.7 2.73 6.07 17 17 5.19 98
2000-02 Tor 69 433.33 6.28 10.9 2.16 5.38 25 28 4.96 98
2003 CWS 19 130.1 6.85 7.4 2.15 7.33 11 5 2.21 200

Before this year, the esteemed Esteban was moderately…well, mediocre.

He’s never pitched 200 innings, never won more than 11 games in a season, never had a winning record in a season in which he pitched enough to qualify for the ERA title (162 innings), allows about 11 hits and 2-3 walks per nine innings, and only struck out about 5 or 6 per nine. M-E-D-I-O-C-R-E. Not terrible, just not a guy, at the age of 31, you would have expected to learn how to strike out two more batters per game without allowing any more walks, and to shave three and a half hits and three earned runs off of each box score.

And again, the Pirates weren't necessarily wrong to trade him. He was decent, but nothing special, and stood to make a lot more money as he entered arbitration. When you're the Pirates, you have to consider that. Especially if you want to be able to retain the services of, say, Kevin Young, Pat Meares, Mike Benjamin, and Al Martin.

Frankly, I don’t know what the hell happened here, but I’ll tell you this: I pity the poor fool GM whom Loaiza’s agent convinces to sign him for something like five years and $50 million, because you only catch lightning in a bottle once, and this was it.

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11 July 2003

Pitch Count Issues...

My old pal (and most frequent reader-referrer) John Perricone has been writing and ranting over there at Only Baseball Matters about the pitch counts of some of his favorite Giants pitchers for the last few days, and I was composing an email response, but thought that this might be a better way to respond to him, to his readers, and to solicit comments from mine (who are admittedly, largely his readers as well).

John has been looking at the declining performances and recent injuries of Jesse Foppert and Kirk Reuter, relative to their seemingly needless pitch counts of 123 and 122 pitches in a given start, respectively. He has noted that the two pitchers suffered apparently significant declines in effectiveness over their following starts and are now in the minors (Foppert) or injured (Reuter). And more specifically, he's worried that Williams will suffer a similar fate, given his recent complete-game start of 127 pitches on July 7th.

One of the things I love John for, besides his Pink Cadillac,

is that he can write something like "There can be little argument that..." and what he really means is "Please, someone, argue with me!!!"

So here I am.

John had a reader answer his contention that

"There is no doubt that pitchers years ago threw many more pitches in their starts."

with a response outlining how pitchers had generally easier lineups to face at that time, requiring less effort (and often fewer pitches) for certain batters, as discussed in an unknown Baseball Prospectus article. The article, which I also recalled, was written by Joe Sheehan in mid-June and is here.

ASIDE: The only thing I kinda disagree with Sheehan about is the contention that A-Rod or other "big" shortstops would have been made into outfielders in the 1950's, thereby weakening the lineup.

As I understand it, the reason that people like Mantle and DiMaggio were playing that position in the first place is that they were the best athletes in their neighborhood/team, and that's where you put such people: the toughest defensive position. But these guys were moved to the outfield when they reached the big leagues because their arms were too erratic to leave them at SS (at least according to Richard Ben Cramer). It wouldn't take a rocket scientist of a manager to realize that if you come across a SS who can play the field reasonably well (i.e. without knoblauching the ball into the mayor's head on a routine DP) and hit like Mantle/Aaron/DiMaggio, you leave him there. In case you're wondering, this has almost nothing to do diectly with Jerome Williams' pitch counts. END OF ASIDE

Anywho, with that said, I think John's overreacting a little with the pitch counts issue, at least in these few cases. I happen to agree with Perricone (and with Baseball Prospectus) that the evidence exists to indicate that repeated high pitch counts decrease short-term effectiveness and increase long term injury risk, but to say that Foppert or Reuter or Williams or anyone's specific injury is due to throwing too many pitches in a particular start is more than a bit of a stretch. Even the guys who actually did the research were referring to for BP will tell you not to go out and buy a sniper rifle if your favorite manager leaves your favorite young pitcher in for 140 pitches, much less 128 or 122.

Their numbers indicate trends, and in terms of the injury, the guys to whom you refer actually don't fit the trend. Here's why:

1) The ineffectiveness correlation doesn't really even begin until 120 pitches. The starts to which you refer for Reuter, Foppert and Williams, respectively, (122, 123 and 127) just barely get in under the wire anyway.

B) The injury correlation is not between pitches in an individual start and propensity for injury, but between above average career PAP and injury. (PAP, as you know, is Pitcher Abuse Points, a metric derived by Baseball Prospectus and described by here and here.

None of these three pitchers, having averaged roughly 100 pitchers per start, as John was so kind to point out in his own posting, would be likely to fall into the "above average PAP/career pitches" category.

It seems to me that, in terms of inneffectiveness, both Foppert and Reuter have been teetering on the edge of awful for some time now. Reuter's one of the rare examples of a guy who hardly ever strikes anybody out, but gets away with it because he has pretty good defense behind him most of the time, and he doesn't walk too many. But when the hits start to regress to the mean, he's in trouble. Reuter was kinda over his head last year, and seems generally to be just coming back to what we expect from him anyway, minus the "strikeouts".

Foppert seems the same, in some ways: both before and after that start, he has walked more than 6 batters per nine innings, and consequently it takes him nearly 4.5 pitches per batter. He does strike out a few more than Reuter does (and I'm taller than a Smurf...), but it looks like he essentially stopped inducing popoup outs after that start (41/64 GB/FB before, 26/21 after) and that those extra grounders & line drives became hits (8.8 hits/9IP before that start, 12.8 after). Sounds like luck to me.

He's just a kid, and kids get lit up, often for a year or two, before finding a niche. It's not always because the manager abused him...sometimes it's just because he has a lot to learn about how to pitch to the best batters in the world, and his once-apparent effectiveness was a mirage created by luck.

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10 July 2003

Randall's Scandal: Simon Arrested For Beating Sausage In Public

Sorry, I couldn't help it.

Apparently, Pirates' 1B/OM (out-maker) Randall Simon was actually arrested for clobbering a young woman in a sausage costume with a bat, during the nightly "Sausage Race" at Milwaukee's new Miller Park.

Frankly, I don't see what the problem is. I mean, in the movie Nine Months, everyone laughed their asses off when the Barney-like stuffed dinosaur got the crap beaten out of it, but now a guy just bonks a girl in a sausage suit on the suit and her skinned knees are a national scandal? Whatever.

Here's the more interesting part: Simon was fined $432 for the misdemeanor offense. Relative to his purported $1.475 million salary (???), this means that I would have been fined about $13 for the same offense:

Travis: I'm sorry your Honor, I'll never do it again. Should I write a check to the City of Milwaukee?

Judge: How's about you just buy a Brewers' tee-shirt for my grandson and we'll call it even?

A-Rod's fine would have been $7615.00. Or roughly one Lime-Green 1988 Chevy Silverado from e-Bay.

In other terms, $432 is eight bucks for every walk Simon has drawn in his illustrious 6-year career (spanning two millenia!). Here's what some other players would have had to pay based on this metric:

Rank Player Walks Fine
1 Rickey Henderson* 2179 $17,432.00
2 Babe Ruth+ ** 2062 $16,496.00
3 Ted Williams+ *** 2021 $16,168.00
4 Barry Bonds 2002 $16,016.00
5 Joe Morgan+ **** 1865 $14,920.00
25 Reggie Jackson+ * 1375 $11,000.00
32 Frank Thomas 1348 $10,784.00
34 Fred McGriff 1289 $10,312.00
38 Ty Cobb+ ** 1249 $9,992.00
59 John Olerud 1158 $9,264.00
95 Jim Thome 1058 $8,464.00

+ Hall-of-Famer
* If he weren't Retired/Inactive
** If he weren't Dead
*** If he weren't a Splinter-sicle
**** If he weren't an Analyst...oh, wait, he's not!

That same $432 also works out to exactly $144/triple in Simon's career. By this method, poor old Hall-of-Famer Sam Crawford would have to pay a fine of $44,496! Just for bopping some girl on the head with a bat that never touched her! Conversely, former Brewers utility man Ed Romero would owe a paltry $144, with only one triple to his credit, despite going to the plate over 2000 times in his career. Doesn't seem fair, does it?

So don't let this injustice pass! For less than the price of a cup of coffee (every hour, 24 hours a day, for a whole month...) you can help Randall Simon to escape the tragedy of a system that would put a Hall of Famer in the poorhouse while allowing a disappointment like Kevin Maas to walk off scot-free!

Don't let another minute go by! Pick up that phone now...no, wait, you don't have my number...

Send your contributions to:

Randall Simon Sausage Beating Anti-Injustice Fund
c/o Travis M. Nelson
1234 Boy of Summer Lane
The North Pole OU812

Don't delay!

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09 July 2003

All-Star Hoopla...and a Few More Updates

I understand from ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike that Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds have elected not to participate in this year's Home Run Derby as a part of the All-Star Festivities. Normally I don't much care about this sort of thing, and this is generally no exception. Every time I've watched any part of a home run derby I've found it to be exceedingly tedious and boring.

I, however, seem to be the exception and not the rule, as many fans will tell you that the Home Run Derby is actually more exciting than the All-Star Game itself. I happen to disagree, but there is a whole pile of merchandise-buying fans out there who evidently clamor to see Big Stars hit Big Homers in a Meaningless Exhibition on a Monday Afternoon. (As opposed to the Meaningless Exhibition that occurs on Tuesday Night. Oh, wait, I forgot, it's Meaningful now.)

Evidently Sosa and Bonds are not overly encumbered by any burden of responsibility to those who pay their checks. Bonds, citing his "right to do whatever he wants" (as though he's somehow prevented from doing that all the time or something) said he wouldn't go. It's his right to decline the invitation... but he doesn't hafta be so obnoxious about it.

Sammy, on the other hand (where, it turns out, I have one fewer finger than Antonio Alfonseca...and two more than Mordecai Brown!), is a different story. Sosa indicated that he turned down the offer because he wasn't going to play in the All-Star Game anyway and so he preferred to take the full three days off.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for vacation, time-off, a "little breather", whatever you want to call it. But, umm...hasn't Sammy had plenty of time off this season already? He missed 17 games with an injury and then another seven with a suspension for corking his bat, which reportedly has tarnished his reputation so much that he gets booed everywhere he goes to play now except Chicago. Cubs' manager and resident racial faux pas provider Dusty Baker and others have said that they agree with Sammy's decision to go "underground" for the three day All-Star break, but it would seem to me that the opposite would be true...

Shouldn't a player who's been maligned and injured, but who had in many ways been the Face of and Ambassador for MLB for the last several years, do everything in his power to regain some of that crediibility and stature? Given that his own income, via marketing contracts, depends not just on his ability to play the game but on the public's recognition and opinion of him, shouldn't Sammy be out there trying to get as much good publicity as possible to counteract some of the bad publicity he's received lately? Shouldn't a guy who's been accused of hitting cheap homers due to cheating go and at least try to prove that he can hit them without cheating? And if nothing more than for the sake of the Sport, and the Fans (read: his employers), shouldn't he at least try to kiss a few million asses by showing up? Guess not.


BTW, I have also added Royals Baseball Blog to my growing list. It's brandy-spankin-new! Hopefully it will last longer than the Royals' pennant hopes.

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08 July 2003

Happy Return...

Wow. Long time off. I was on vacation a few weeks ago, actually working with a group called NAILS in Cumberland, MD, on a Habitat-for-Humanity kinda trip, through my church. I'm hoping that a few of the pics I took and had developed at Wal-Mart will be able to be seen here soon, but I haven't figured out a way to do that yet. If not, well, sorry, you'll just hafta come visit.

In the span of the last several weeks, I actually have written something, but it's a book review, so you have to visit Boy of Summer's Books to see it. The review is of Michael Shapiro's The Last Good Season, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Highly recommended.

I have also gotten contacted by several people who wanted a reciprocal link, and I'm always happy to comply with such requests. No fewer than two Atlanta Braves bloggers will soon be added to my links, if they aren't already. One of these, David Lee, has a site called Braves Buzz, which is pretty good in spite of the fact that it's pink. I guess if you're a Mets or Phillies fan, you're used to looking at the pink of a Pepto Bismol bottle after Braves games anyway.
The other one is called **No Pepper** which I though is a pretty clever name, even though it has nothing in particular to do with the Braves. Actually, come to think of it, "Brad" never did ask for a link, I just found his site referring to mine, and I figured that it was only fair to give back. So there you go.

Also, a guy named Wil Everts asked for a link to his site, curiously located at wileverts.com. Not sure what "wile verts" are, but Wil's got an intresting and well-produced (read:non-Blogger) site that deals with lots of things. Specifically he has an area called Baseballtopia that deals with lots of baseball stuff, including Boy of Summer's favorite: smart-alecky commentary. Mmmmm. Smart alecks....

Someone named Steve asked for a link to his site where they legally scalp tickets to MLB games, in this case, specifically to Yankees games, though they have tickets to all of the teams, if you want them. In return for this, he'll link Boy of Summer to their site that lists schedules for all of the teams in Major League Baseball. Frankly, that site seems pretty superfluous, given that without even breaking a sweat I can think of at least half a dozen others where you could (and probably do) get the same info, plus previews, matchups and stats, so I doubt I'll really glean much traffic from it, but what the heck...it's not costing me anything.

I also added in a clever site called Replacement Level Yankees Blog, which has some good stuff about the Bronx Bombers. And a Tigers Weblog, which seems very well done. Unlike the Tigers.

Stick and Move is a general sports weblog it seems, for whom I am reciprocating the courtesy of extending a link.

And last, but not finally, Truth Laid Bear is a more political/social type of weblog, so it goes under the Not Just Baseball category.

Anywho, that's it for updates. Hoping to get back to writing about baseball again soon.

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