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Tag: "baseball"

Wedding Gifts

[ 37 ] October 4, 2011 |

Take lessons from Farley, because he’s doing it right.

It’s especially appropriate that this arrived in time for what might be the greatest day of the year, Yankee Elimination Day! Although the pictured quantity is not nearly sufficient for any game involving Jose Mesa Valverde and a 1-run lead.
Superficially, the elimination seems likely to occur — an elimination game at home against Mr. A.J. Burnett seems like a great scenario. The problem is Rich Porcello, who’s just as bad as Burnett. Actually worse, since while Burnett at least misses bats and has some upside, Procello is the kind of Twins-style pitch-to-contact guy the Yankees specialize in beating the shit out of. This seems like a battle of bullpens, and the Yankees have an edge there.

Prove me wrong again, Tigers, prove me wrong!

…could Leyland ease up on the damn bunting? They may let Burnett off the hook even if he doesn’t have any command.

Playoff Picks, Part Deux

[ 24 ] October 1, 2011 |

Rangers v. Devil Rays: I missed the opening game in this series,which would be a problem if I was planning on picking Tampa Bay, because who would believe me? But since my pick is the Rangers, it’s not an issue. It’s hard not to be impressed by the Rays and their spectacularly good organization. But it’s hard to overlook the fact that the Rangers have been about 80 runs better and are good on both sides of the diamond while the Rays were outscored by the Royals. The series is not as much of a mismatch as the run differential indicates, as the Rays play in by far the best division in baseball and the Rangers play in a division where the other three teams have approximately no good hitters between them. Still, the first game notwithstanding, the Rays just don’t have enough offense for me to pick them. RANGERS IN 5.

St. Louis v. Philadelphia. Now this looks like a mismatch, a 102-win team with a historic rotation against scraped into the playoffs on the last day during a historic choke by the competing team. Amaro has done a terrific job keeping the Phils in top, recognizing the team’s narrow window and getting top-shelf talent without paying a huge price. The fact that Tony LaRussa does a lot of irritating stuff has lead to a common pundit’s fallacy in which people want to deny that he’s a great manager, but he and Duncan’s tape and baling wire rotations tend not to hold up so well in a short series against an outstanding offense. And yet, as Rany Jazayleri notes in his contrarian analysis, the Phillies offense is in fact mediocre — lest you think that’s an exaggeration, they were outscored by the Mets in neutral parks by 50 runs. And while I was aware of that I didn’t know that the Cards’ offense was the best in the league by a fair margin. Combined with the fact that great rotation teams (not just the Cox Braves but the Weaver Orioles, Beane A’s, ’54 Indians) haven’t necessarily fared well in postseason play, and the contrarian case becomes rather compelling. Still, I’m not ready to go there. The fact that the small handful of comparable teams lost some series in which they were favored doesn’t really prove anything, and I’m inclined to believe that front-line pitching is a pretty good strategy for post-season success (cf. the 2010 Giants, who make the Phils offense look like the ’95 Indians.) If Holliday was healthy and the Phillies hadn’t acquired Pence I would pick the Cards — but as is, I think the Phillies win a somewhat closer-than-expected series. PHILLIES IN 4.


[ 70 ] September 30, 2011 |

…apparently out.

I suspect this will be a minority position, but I think this probably best for all involved. Francona has, on balance, done a good job in Boston. And I don’t think he’s committed a clearly firable offense, such as screwing up an elimination game a la Little 2003 or Showalter 1995 or running his lineup into the ground up to and including a third baseman who couldn’t throw like Zimmer 78. But:

  • It’s very rare for a manager to do work comparable to his best in the second decade of his tenure.   Maybe Francona is a truly cream of the elite manager like Weaver or Cox or McGraw, but it’s much more likely that he’s a more typical good manager whose effectiveness attenuates severely over time.
  • Keeping Francona will probably keep more emphasis on this year’s debacle than is helpful in an intense media market.
  • Because flops like this are by definition rare, there’s no way of clearly judging based on past instances.   But, still, what anecdotal evidence there is isn’t encouraging.   The Sox regressed under Zimmer, although since he was a bad manager who enjoyed very little success I’m not sure what this proves.   Mauch did a very good job with three other teams but never had a year in Philadelphia as good as 1964 again.   The Cubs underachieved under Durocher, once a great manager, after 1969.   In retrospect I think most Mets fans would agree with me that Randolph should have been fired after 2007, although I think overall he did a decent job — the team certainly started in 2008 as if he had lost the clubhouse.    I wouldn’t say this proves it would be better for Francona should move on, but I don’t think it’s meaningless either.
  • I don’t know if I would say that it’s Francona’s fault that the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs. exactly.   But it’s hard to say that he’s done a great job over the last three years either.    What I said about Friedman doing more with far less than Epstien also applies vis a vis Maddon and Tito. You can whine about injuries all you want, but it doesn’t explain why the Red Sox had a worse September than the Astros or Mariners or Pirates.

Francona has had a very successful tenure, and I can understand Sox fans not wanting his tenure to end on this note. But I think it’s probably for the best (and the reports seem to imply that Francona agrees.)

LGM Baseball Challenge Won By Guy Who Wins it Every Year

[ 3 ] September 29, 2011 |

Yawn.  Matt Ricci’s Free Leonard wins the LGM Baseball Challenge.  Again.

1 Free Leonard, mattricci 3919 8757
2 Jersey Burkers, john theibault 4025 8588
3 Roberts Steals Second, Smokin Joe 70 4050 8293
4 Ambulance Chasers, jsmdlawyer 3798 8286
5 Headless Thompson Gunners,hickes01 3605 8232
6 Carmalita, JeffLOrth 3762 8058
7 Too Much Coffee, PeterFD59 3603 7937
8 Hosmer Mubarak, DocPaisley 3775 7902
9 Petes Players, 54Pete54 3530 7861
10 BValer entry 2, BValer 3578 7711

The winner should contact me for information about the prize he always declines etc. etc. etc.

Dan Johnson

[ 38 ] September 28, 2011 |

I called it! His season batting line entering that AB: 108/178/157.   Hey, quality beats quantity…

Should the Rays win, I’m sure a lot of BoSox fans will complain about the parade of stiffs that Girardi ran out to the mound in game 162.   My position is that you can never complain about not getting help from other teams — Giradri’s job is to maximize his team’s chances of winning the World Series within the rules period.   Even leaving aside the whole “blowing a 10 game lead in a month” thing I don’t think there’s any basis for complaint.

…and we have a micro-choke to complete the macro-choke for the Braves.   At least the wildcard will go to a market than can actually sell out playoff games.

…OK, Crawford not making the play and then launching a throw that made Bonds ’92 look like Clemente was the way that had to end.   That signing was like sending yourself Anthrax.

…and both chokes completed.   Wish there could have been at least one playoff, but best regular season day in memory.

…Red Sox correspondent about 30 seconds after the game ended, but before Crawford’s throw got to the general vicinity of home plate:  “Luzinski would have had that.”

…I’m not helping, but it should also be noted that Crawford and Papelbon have plenty of co-goats. The Sox had plenty of chances to put that away.


[ 19 ] September 27, 2011 |

Y’know, I’m just going to go out on a limb and declare that Terry Francona’s decision to use Alfredo Aceves out of the bullpen in the final week was a good one.  6.1 innings with one run and four hits is pretty solid, and using Aceves from the bullpen made it more likely that his contribution would be in high impact innings.  I suppose the argument could be made that Aceves should have been switched with either Lackey or Bedard, but then he obviously couldn’t have contributed in the other game, much less stopped the bleeding in the Beckett start.

Dressen. Mauch. Randolph. Tito?

[ 77 ] September 27, 2011 |

We don’t know if the Red Sox will complete the choke, but they’ve already blown it.

And while Epstein isn’t to blame for the choke per se, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Cashman and (especially) Friedman have been running rings around him for a couple years.   This has partly been luck both ways — Garcia and Colon were both good cheap gambles, but between them they had been simultaneously good and healthy exactly zero times in the previous four seasons, and I’m sure even Cashman would concede that they didn’t expect 300 quality innings from them.    And while Crawford and Gingrich Lackey were bad contracts, there was no reason to expect them to implode like they have in the short term.   Lackey was a consistently good pitcher with consistently good K rates, and last year pitched in bad luck that has gotten even worse.     I don’t understand what the Red Sox were doing with Crawford, but there was no reason to expect him to immediately veer into Wells/Bay territory.  Not only has he hit nothing, the defense and baserunning that figured to give him an acceptable floor have completely deteriorated.  Before writing him off it should be remembered that after 2010 most Sox fans wanted Ellsbury’s head on a pointed stick — talent can be resilient — but it could be a historically bad contract.   In addition to the failed big tickets, Epstein hasn’t been able to make the little moves to provide depth; when Drew very predictably reached the end of the line he wasn’t backed up with anyone who should be playing a corner OF slot for a contending team.   They still might hold on, but however it turns out the Rays have done a lot more with far less.

The Deal that Lost the West?

[ 32 ] September 24, 2011 |

I think that Mike Scioscia is a pretty good manager, and that he’s done about as well as he could with the team that he has in LA.  However, it bears notice that Mike Napoli is about five games better than Jeff Mathis this year, and that Napoli is playing for the Rangers instead of the Angels in large part because of how Scioscia evaluates catcher defense.  It isn’t all Scioscia’s fault; somebody in the front office might have made a mental note that having a player who can play catcher, first base, DH, and can rake is worth more than the difference between Juan Rivera and Vernon Wells (!).  Also due credit to Ron Washington for appreciating what he had and steadily increasing Napoli’s playing time over the course of the season.

[SL] What bears emphasis here is that the Angels lost the trade horribly even leaving aside the fact that they took on one of the worst contracts in baseball. Wells, who has a handsome .252 OBA (albeit with very good defense in left), would be killing the team even if he had been signed to a cheap one-year flier. It’s a staggeringly bad trade. About the only thing you can say in their defense is that “winning” the Carl Crawford auction might have been even worse.

Things That Are Now Safe to Say

[ 18 ] September 19, 2011 |

I guess my earlier arguments about the lack of an AL East pennant race because of the wild card are now inoperative. I would strongly advise the Red Sox not to start Tom Glavine the last weekend of the season if the pennant is still on the line…

I also don’t remember exactly how this affects my annual bet for charity with Howard, but I do know that the generously sent me a copy of The Complete Savoy and Dial Master Tapes, for which I am immensely grateful.  If you’re a Red Sox fan, I assure you that taking a piece of Mr. Parker’s band will make you feel better…

Amazing Stat of the Day

[ 37 ] September 12, 2011 |

In 100 plate appearances against lefthanders this year, Adam Dunn is slugging .036.

Where’s Gary Ward When You Need Him?

[ 39 ] August 29, 2011 |

I think most baseball fans would get the right answer if asked to name the team with the worst run differential this year (Houston, of course.)    But I’m guessing not many would guess the team with the second-worst run differential – the Twins.     Sixty runs worse than the Mariners is bad. And while this might not be quite as surprising as it should be given their status as perennial contenders — anyone who watches the Yankees  obliterate them year after year knows that their talent wasn’t all that impressive — I certainly wouldn’t have expected them to be 100 runs worse than the Pirates, either.

What’s more striking, looking at the roster, is that I’m not sure that this is a one-year aberration; this just isn’t much of a team.    It seems very unlikely that Morneau, already 30, will be good and healthy again.   If Mauer stays at catcher he probably won’t stay healthy, but playing at the corners his offense just isn’t that impressive unless he hits like 2009 every year.     And beyond that, the team is just dreadful — not only are they barely outscoring the historically inept Mariners in neutral parks, their only good  hitters this year (Cuddyer and the now-departed Thome) are past their prime.    Even if Mauer comes back, it doesn’t figure to be a good offense anytime soon.    Pitching wise, they’re in the same boat, as the strategy of putting together slightly above-average pitch-to-contact guys has turned into below-average pitch-to-contact guys, with their only effective starter this year a 29 year-old with elbow problems.

Basically, the only things they have going for them are a decent amount of resources and a weak division.    But it’s hard to see this team back for its traditional sweep by the Yankees anytime soon.

Race and Sports Broadcasting

[ 39 ] August 19, 2011 |

Rule #1 of sports broadcasting–always, always, always compare a player to someone of the same racial background.

At Baseball Prospectus (not sure how much of this you can see without a subscription), Frankie Piliere pokes at what is one of the most annoying parts of sports broadcasting, and something I have complained about for years.

It is acceptable to compare an up-and-coming Brett Gardner to Kenny Lofton, and, every African-American, lefty-swinging slugger isn’t necessarily comparable to Ryan Howard. It’s clearly a gut reaction for people to compare players to current or former big leaguers merely because they resemble each other, and quite often it starts with race. It’s not done intentionally, but it’s done time and time again. Members of the media, particularly when they are less familiar with the player, are as guilty of this as anyone.

I get asked on a daily basis to give comparisons for prospects. The surprise for many people is that there isn’t always an obvious one. They’re surprised because for the longest time they’ve been the fed the idea that every prospect has to compare closely to a past or present big leaguer. Because of that, comparisons have become increasingly lazy.

When I was filing reports for the Rangers, sometimes comparisons were included in the summations, and sometimes they weren’t. Often there would be a comparison that referred to one aspect of a player’s game, but rarely would there be a perfect fit. The need to give the casual fan a visual of what a young player could become is not lost on me, and making a comparison to a big leaguer that they know is a quick and easy way of accomplishing that.

On the other hand, I have no doubt that fans are smart enough to accept a comparison of two players who don’t have the same skin tone. Every white center fielder is not Mickey Mantle, just as every hard-throwing, African-American right-hander is not Dwight Gooden. Some of you may laugh at this, but these examples are ones I’ve heard too many times to count.

These comparisons aren’t always racist, though they used to be more so, such as the idea that black quarterbacks were too dumb to win. They are just incredibly lazy. While Ichiro is a unique player in many ways, I wonder, in the minds of broadcasters, he is that much more unique because there’s not another Japanese player to compare him to. It might be acceptable to compare Brett Gardner to Kenny Lofton (though Lofton seems a much better player to me), but I wonder, if we could somehow go back and figure this out, whether Gardner has not been more often compared to, say, Brett Butler while Kenny Lofton was always seen as a poor man’s Lou Brock.

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