Monthly archives: April 2008
Taunting The Babe
The Phils won again tonight on a late-inning comeback, but I never got to see it. It was blacked out in my area. Well, it was available through some sort of pay channel in the 770's on Comcast, those bastards! Even MLB.TV Mosiac, which is well worth th moneyusually,let me down as well, another blackout. Alas.
Anyways, I watched a bit of the Yankees-White Sox game and overheard the oddly unappealing Paul O'Neill mention that the Sox had out-homered their opponents 25-5. Of course, the Yankees went on to hit three dingers in the game, including a Bobby Abreu game-winning grand slam, to Chicago's one. That's still an impressive 26-8 ratio.
I wondered what team out-homered their opponents by the largest margin. Of course, the "record" was in the nineteenth century when home runs were rare, men were men, and presidential candidates didn't appear on the WWE. The 1872 Boston Red Stockings had seven home runs and allowed none for an infinite ratio.
Here are the most dominate home run teams of all time:
You'll note that the '27 Yankees are the leaders since the dead-ball era. Even without Ruth's 60, the Yankees were crushing the opponents.
The last team to hit at least twice as many taters as their opponents was the 1946 Yankees, 136-66. In the last fifty years, the only team that came close was the 1988 Mets:
So the odds are that Chisox are just experiencing some early-season, small-sample-size aberrations. Besides a few more nights like tonight and a few more commentators like Paul O'Neill kibitzing on their feat will do the trick.
Second to None
Chase Utley homered again tonight, for the fifth game in a row, as the Phils rebound to beat the Rockies, 9-5, with five runs in the last two innings.
Utley's was one of three dingers in the game, including an inside-the-park jobber by Jason Werth and another by Pat Burrell, his seventh in his apparent career year (which coincidentally occurs as his monster contract expires. Utley also made a miraculous dive catch and shuffle throw to short to start an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded and the Rockies ready to break the game wide open.
Utley now leads the majors in home runs (9) and OPS (1.284). He projects to 73 home runs, meaning he is clearly a lock to tie Barry Bonds' record, at least by the end of the season.
It made me wonder what were the best years offensively for a second baseman and where Utley's 2008 project would put him. Here are the best years based on OPS for any starting second sacker (not necessarily a qualifier for the batting title). Note that Utley's performance so far bests them all. Also, note why Rogers Hornsby is the greatest second baseman of all time:
It's been over forty years since the baseball world witnessed three different teammates winning an MVP award (the Yankees' Elston Howard, Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris in 1961-63Maris also won in 1960). Three Yankees also did it in 1941-43 (DiMaggio, Gordon, and Changler) and Gashouse Gang members Marty Marion, Stan Musial, and Mort Cooper won MVPs in three consecutive years, 1942-44. But there were eight teams per league back then.
Chase Utley seems a great bet to make the Phils' Ryan Howard, Jimmie Rollins, and himself the first teammates to do it in the expansion era.
Situation No Win
The Phillies are doing something that I never anticipated. They are making me sympathetic to the plight of Adam Eaton. After becoming the fifth starter by default (and because the Phils can ill afford swallow his massive contract), Eaton has been arguably their second best starter this season behind the stellar Cole Hamels, a dubious distinction on this staff, given.
However, Eaton has kept the team in all three of his starts and lasted six innings tonight, leaving with the Phils trailing 3-0 only to see them pull out a victory with a 4-run ninth. And how did the Phils expect to win with the anemic Carlos Ruiz batting second? I have to say that Charlie "I Need a Friggin'" Manuel has come up with some ugly lineups (Geoff Jenkins leading off anyone?) but that might be the worst: placing your worst hitter in the spot that many argue (and studies indicate) is the spot for your best hitter. You might notice that the Phils were scoreless until the 0-for-3 Ruiz was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the ninth, recently minted new Phil, Chris Snelling, who promptly homered to start the four-run rally.
But I digress. Eaton's had a respectable 4.12 ERA and though his first two starts were losses, they both came with 4-3 scores and in both cases the losing run was allowed by the bullpen after Eaton's departure. Hey, Walter Johnson he aint, but this isn't exactly the 1971 Orioles rotation either.
So Eaton's disappointment got me to thinking., which is a rarity, believe me: what is the record for most starts without a decision. Eaton is at three. Is that a lot or does it just seem to be?
Well, the answer is that it is quite a bit but it's not the "record". That distinction belongs to Chris Brock, 6 in his rookie year in Atlanta. However, there are just seven men who have accomplished the feat with at least as many starts and innings pitched (3 and 19-2/3, respectively) as Eaton:
Unfortunately, Eaton will not be stopped when he breaks the "record". He will most probably put in a full season given the dearth of talent on this staff, and somewhere along the line he will win and loss a game or two, and given his career performance, there will be more losses. Even so, he may still end up their second best starter.
So Shoot Me Now!
I watched "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" the other day, and what made that movie great parody, besides the awesome presence of John C. Reilly, was that they played it straight through all of the ridiculousness from a random halving or two to Dewey's rendition of "Starman". Reilly even made me believe he was a fourteen-year old at one point. He played it straight, and that's what made the movie.
That's what makes the latest chapter in the Yankees-Red Sox so great: someone is actually taking this stuff seriously. Someone cared enough to plant a Red Sox jersey in the Yankees stadium, like bugs planted in foreign embassies as they are built. Someone cared enough to drill for five hours into the foundation of the new stadium to locate said jersey. And someone cared enough to donate the worthless piece of trivialness to a Boston-area charity. Sure, it had to be in Boston.
Boston-New York is not the greatest rivalry in the sport. For my money (and I did study this at some point), the Dodgers and Giants win this hands down. But those two have fallen on hard times of late. The Yankees and Red Sox are now the darlings of the baseball world. ESPN won't interrupt its 24-hour coverage of football unless the Sox and Yanks are playing. Heck, the networks don't get out of bed for anything less than a Sox-Yanks series.
Never mind that Brian Bannister and the Royals might be the most improbable success story since the 1914 Miracle Braves (or at least the 1969 Miracle Mets). Never mind that everyone's preseason pick to win the AL Central, the Tigers, us floundering, and the other pick, Cleveland, is just two games ahead of them. Never mind that the A's, O's, Cards, and Marlins are all leading their respective divisions and were all expected to be closer to last than first.
There are great stories throughout the majors, and yet we get the same old Yankees-Red Sox fabricated storyline. The jersey they planted was a David Ortiz's and given the way he was batting before it was resurrected, they should have kept it buried.
Has the erstwhile National Pastime become a farce? Have steroid scandals and congressional hearings and fantasy baseball and all the rest made the game into some sort of joke? Before we know it, it will be as lowly as the presidential election.
Baseball, take Dewey Cox's advice and walk hard.
Chase That Utley
Chase Utley was hit by a thrown ball four times in the Phils' 5-2 win over the Metsgoes today. That would be a major-league record for being hit by a pitch, but the last one was on a relay throw by Mets first sacker, Carlos Delgado, on a failed doubleplay attempt. That one gets scored as just a throwing error.
Utley did tie the record for times hit by a pitch in a nine-inning game. I tried to find a complete list of the players that preceded him, but there seems to be a dearth of data on the net.
The last NL player to do it was Houston's Richard Hidalgo on April 19, 2000. The last major-leaguer was the Twins' Corey Koskie on July 27, 2004. Before that it gets a bit murky.
My Ye Olde Tyme Record Books from the Seventies reports that there were 22 occurrences by 19 players in the AL, NL, and old Beer'N'Whiskey AA. It lists Tito Fuentes (SF) on 9/13/73, Bill Freeham (Det), 8/16/68 (consecutive). Ron Hunt (SF) also did it on 4/29/1969.
That's all I could find. Boy, that's annoying.
Tigers Tigers Burning Dull
Stick a fork in the Tigers. They are done, at least from a historic perspective. No team that started the season with seven straight losses has ever qualified for the postseason.
None actually had a winning percentage better than .525. Just two had a winning record. The average record for 0-7 starters is 53-109. Oopha! Here the ten with the best overall records:
O Hateful Error, Melancholy’s Child
Brad Lidge picked up his first save as a Phillie today, and Cole Hamels turned in another stellar outing. The only blight on the Phils day was a couple of unearned runs stemming from another couple of Phils errors. Lidge allowed an unearned run in the ninth when So Taguchi, a defensive replacement for Pat Burrell (who had two homers on the day), nonchalanted a two-out fly ball. Greg Gross he aint.
The Phils now have nine errors in seven games. Keep in mind that no team has had more errors than games played since 1993, when the inaugural Rockies accomplished the feat with 167 errors in 162 games.
But the Phils don't even lead the majors in errors. That honor falls to the Pirates who had two errors today en route to a 10-8 loss to the Cubs in twelve innings. The Cubs were far from perfect collecting three errors of their own. Even odder, Jon Lieber won his first game since June 9 of last year with the Phils. What's Freddy Garcia up to?
The glory of small sample sizes is that five teams are on track to record 162 or more errors this year:
Now, before you chalk it up to cold April hands, keep in mind that even in the small collection of games so far this year, baseball continues its slow, inexorable, asymptotic approach toward perfection at least where errors are concerned. Fielding percentages are at .983 on average for MLB, exactly where they were last year.
So what does it mean? It means the same thing as So Taguchi's error, not a whole lot. Taguchi had three errors in 109 games in the outfield last year. He probably will end up with about the same number this year. Just as it is highly improbable that anyone, even the Pirates, will be able to keep up the error pace for an entire season.
Von Hayes was on track to hit 100 home runs early one April. That's the glory of small sample sizes.
“No! No, not Detroit! No! No, please! Anything but that!”
(Kentucky Fried Movie)
That guy is kryptonite on a stick.
I have never seen a no-hitter. I have put the kibosh on every no-hitter in progress including Johan Santana's opener this year in which he lost his in the bottom of the fourth with two out on a Josh Willingham home run. I feel personally responsible for Steve Carlton never having thrown a no-no. I watched or listened to just about every one of his starts with the Phils.
But I never meant to screw up the Tigers by picking them to win the World Series. Detroit got blown out 13-2 tonight by the White Sox behind their number one starter, Justin Verlander (who, by the way, I picked to win the AL Cy Young, another mea culpa). They are now the only team in baseball to not yet own a win, and this was the team that was supposed to be a juggernaut. Their offense was supposed to be awe-inspiring and yet they have scored an average of 2.5 runs a game, four less than their opponents. And they have been swept by two division rivals that were supposed to be marginal teams at best.
So the Tigers are 0-6, but they have another 156 games to overcome that. An extra win every 26 games would nullify this deficit. It should not be that difficult, right?
Well, if history is any indication, the Tigers have a Herculean task ahead of them, something that just two teams out of 62 have ever been able to overcome. The average 0-6 team that ends up with what equates to a 57-105 record. Just seven had winning records over the full season, just twothe '95 Reds and '74 Pirateshave made the playoffs, and none have ever won their league's pennant, let alone a World Series.
Here are the teams with the best records that started 0-6:
And it's not like the Tigers are losing a lot of close ballgames. They have been outscored 15 to 39 or by four runs (2.5 to 6.5) per game. Their expected winning percentage is just .148, which translates into under one win (0.89) in six games. They deserve to be where they are, especially when they bat their catcher, Pudge Rodriguez, leading off. Pudge is a future Hall-of-Famer but he is 36, had a .294 OBP last year (just 13 higher than his batting average with just 9 walks in 515 plate appearances), and owns a less than fabulous .339 OBP for his career.
Oh well, Detroit please accept my apologies.
Ugly But I’ll Take It
The Phils won ugly on a bases-loaded walk to Jason Werth in tenth in their is my TV out of focus or are they wearing slightly retro uniform. Along the way they fell behind 5-0 in the first and were trailing by five run into the top of the sixth, they committed four errors, and used seven pitchers, including newly acquired Rudy Seanez, who was in line to pick up the win after their sixth inning rally until Ryan Madson gave up a game-tying run in the eighth.
On the plus side, the Phils bullpen allowed just five hits and one run in their six and a third innings of work. Every starting position player got a hit. Even Tom Gordon had some plusses: he pitched a scoreless ninth to keep the game tied including working out of an admittedly self-induced (2 walks) bases loaded stuation.
For two-thirds of the game, the Phils were on track to join an elite group of teams. They were on track to become the first team since the 1992-'94 Royals to start three, count 'em three, straight seasons with three consecutive losses. It's something that aside from the Royals hasn't been done in 28 years and has only occurred eight times since 1900.
Here are the only clubs to do it. The 1904-'07 Dodgers did it four straight years:
The seven errors that the Phillies have amassed in their first three games is the most since the 2000 White Sox. The last time that a team collected more in their first three games was thirteen years ago (9 by the 1995 White Sox).
Here are the teams that collected at least seven errors in their first three games in the last twenty years.
Speaking of Seanez, it should be remembered that while he is yet another recycled veteran brought in to stop the bleeding in the bullpen, he is a cut above the typical pickups like Joe Table, Roberto Horrendous, El Pulpo Alfonseca, or Mike Williams. Seanez has had two very respectable seasons in the last three, which either means that he still has something left in the tank or that he is due for a bad year, especially at 39. Seanez also struck out 73 in 76 innings and had a park-adjusted ERA 21% better than the league average last year. In '05 he was even better: 84 Ks in 60.1 innings and an ERA 43% better than the park-adjusted league average.
He might be another bust, but he has a much better resume than the typical Phillies pickup.
Sorry J-Roll—It’s Official, The Season’s Over!
Though their MVP-winning shortstop has predicted 100 wins this season, sadly the Phils' season is over. And not because they wasted a great effort by their actual number one pitcher Cole Hamels and lost 1-0 tonight. It was over after the opener really.
The Phils lost 11-6 thanks to a ninth-inning meltdown by putative closer Tom Gordon. While Gordon was inexplicable left in to receive his drubbing, the Phils crossed a line that history indicates is hard to overcome.
Only a handful of teams have given up at least eleven runs in their season opener and then gone on to make the playoffs, the last being the '06 A's. Only six teams allowed 11 at home in their openeras the Phils didand made the playoffs. And only one (the 1969 Miracle Mets) won one hundred games. So much for preseason predictions.
Here are the only teams to make the postseason after allowing 11 in their first game:
The average winning percentage of a team that allowed more runs in their season opener is .466, which translates into a 75-97 record.
This is a team that historically likes to dig as deep a hole as possible at the beginning of the season. With Flash's help they may have dug themselves a tunnel on opening day.
By the way, if anyone is trying to plumb the depths of the hypocrisy and self-serving that the steroids issues has been to politicians, forget the highly partisan Roger Clemens circus and look no further than this little item. God bless Mr. Roorda. I'm sure the Cards appreciate his patronage:
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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