Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
Monthly archives: June 2003


News on Players Whose Middlename Is Stacey
2003-06-30 12:28
by Mike Carminati

Kevin Stacey Young, who has played for the Pirates since the days of Stargell, Tekulve, and Enrique Stacey Romo, has been released by Pittsburgh in the last year of his mammoth contract. Young's career closely mirrors that of former Buc Mike Stacey Easler, the prototypical late bloomer (well, this side of Minnie Stacey Minoso and Chico Stacey Walker).

Easler was a recidivist minor-leaguer and part-timer until the Pirates gave him a full-time job in 1980 when he was 29 years of age. He responded with 21 HRs, a .338 batting average, a .396 on-base percentage, a .583 slugging average, and an OPS 68% better than the park-adjusted league average. Easler enjoyed a nice second half of a career and left us to wonder what kind of career the bastard son of Easler's and Lyman Stacey Bostock's would have.

Young had a similar renaissance having three good to very good years from age 27 to 29 (1997-99). It culminated in a 1999 season in which Young batted .298, got on base 38.7% of the time, slugged .522, hit 26 home runs and stole 22 bases, and scored and drove in one hundred runs. The Pirates and Young then signed a new pact f or four years and $24 M. And then the bottom fell out.

Young has averaged an OPS about 15% worse than the league average in the first three years of that contract. This season, he lost his starting job to Randall Stacey Simon and was batting only .202 with a .624 OPS.

Kevin Stacey Young will probably resurface somewhere, probably Tampa, where some team will hope to recapture some of his past success. He just turned 34 two weeks ago and could have something left in the tank though I doubt it.

In other news, Tsuyoshi Stacey Shinjo was oxymoronically sent down by the Mets in the middle of their doubleheader drubbing at the hands of the Yankees. Said the ever optimistic and highlighted Shinjo:

"I know what I have to do down there. I will do my best to get the results, and I'll be back.''

Unfortunately, what he needs to do is learn how to hit and at least as well as the actor who played Tanaka
In the Major League movie franchise. Shinjo's .193 batting average is dwarfed by his anemic .483
OPS. Evidently, GM Jim Stacey Duquette is the first person in the Mets organization who realizes that Timo Stacey Perez is the only viable option in center field-Bobby Stacey V's choice Jeromy Stacey Burnitz be damned (why didn't Bobby play him there when he managed the club anyway?):

"It's really going to be up to Timo, what he does with the opportunity and if he takes advantage of it"

It only took them a half a season and two GMs, but then that's why they are the Mets.

Meanwhile in other disaster areas, the Boston Stacey Red Sox are moving Byung-Hyun Stacey Kim from the rotation back to the bullpen. I think it's a mistake.

Kim has been just 1-5 with the Saux but has a 3.56 ERA and opponents are batting just .214 against him. Besides with Casey Stacey Fossum out, Boston has no viable options for the rotation (Ryan Stacey Rupe anyone?). It seems that either Ramiro Stacey Mendoza, who is pitching terribly, or a player to be named later will replace Kim.

This is brilliant logic: take innings away from the pitcher who is pitching well and hand them over to the one that's not. Theo Stacey Epstein's status as boy genius is slipping. The man knew enough to hire Bill Stecey James. Too bad he cannot follow James' tenets.

Shouts Out
2003-06-30 10:13
by Mike Carminati

I have added two new links on the left. One is Rich Lederer's Weekend Baseball Beat, which features an article on Rocco Baldelli and his real-deal-ness. As for me, Baldelli's name still reminds me of Dann Bilardello too much for me to expect more than his being the D-Rays rep on the All-Star squad this year. If you want me in-depth analysis read Rich's article.

I have also added Wiltopia, a wiltopic look at pre-apocalyptic world (including baseball). Any site with this picture deserves a link:

No longer Dennis
2003-06-30 09:51
by Mike Carminati

Yesterday was my birthday. Any Monty Python fan worth his salt can figure out my age from the headline above.

Some pretty good players born on June 29 include Harmon Killebrew, manager Wilbert "Uncle Robbie" Robinson, Bobby Veach, Pedro Guerrero, Dizzy Trout, Rick Honeycutt, Bob Shaw, and baseline Buc John Wehner.

There's not really enough for a good 6-29 All-Star team but there are a couple of great name among the bunch: Farmer Steelman and She Donahue.

Damonical Possession
2003-06-29 02:48
by Mike Carminati

Johnny Damon got three hits yesterday in one inning as the Red Sox lambasted the Marlins for 14 runs in the first innings and 25 in total. Two Marlins pitchers (Carl Pavano and Miguel Tejera) both left without recording an out and allowed a combined 11 runs. Damon's three-hit (single, double, triple) first inning was only the second time ever that a major-leaguer accomplished the feat.

My recent spate of odds making as regards hitting for the cycle has me in a probability state of mind. I wondered what the odds were in getting three hits in a row. Well, using last year's AL stats for an average batter, it's only about 1 in one hundred (1.3% based on hits-per-plate appearance cubed).

However, not only did Damon get three straight hits: he did it in one inning. The odds for such a feat are a little more complicated. That Damon led off the inning makes it a bit easier. Also, the fact that the Marlins did not record an error prior to his third hit does, too (Errors per plate appearance are dicey at best since an error could be on a throw after a hit or on a play that extends an at-bat).

So what we have is Johnny Damon leading off with a hit, eight teammates who record no more than two outs, Johnny Damon getting his second hit, eight teammates who again record no more than two total outs, and then Damon who gets his third hit.

The odds in that are 0.000082% or 1,214,606.455 to 1. Given that there have been 179,277 games (through 2002) and let's say that the average game has nine full innings (i.e., ignore extra innings, unplayed bottom of the ninth, etc.), that means that there have been 32,269,86 such opportunities. Using the historical percentage for AL (0.000006%), the expected number of batters who collect three hits in an inning is 1.944105562. So they were due I guess.

Season's Cycle (Keepin' It Real)
2003-06-27 11:13
by Mike Carminati

Tangotiger of Baseball Primer fame has kindly helped out by posting my Cycle screed here.

My thanks to him.

Season's Cycle
2003-06-27 08:57
by Mike Carminati

Brad Wilkerson's sequential cycle got me to thinking about the odds of sequential cycles (single, double, triple, and home run in order) and cycles in general. After going over the probabilities, Wilkerson's feat seems even more remarkable to me.

In the world of probabilities, a four-at-bat, sequential cycle is the rarest feat. Why? It's all probability-probability is our friend. Hitting a sequential cycle in 4 at-bats is like rolling a die and getting 1, 2, 3, and 4 in order, except that the die would have to be a bit odd-sided since the probability of hitting a single or of not getting a hit at all are much higher than getting a triple or home run.

Historically, the odds of getting a hit are not great. Here are the odds for each type of hit based on total plate appearances across major-league history (TPA= AB + BB + HBP + SF + SH):

Single: 17.10%
Double: 3.83%
Triple: 0.88%
Home Run: 1.60%

Today doubles and home runs are more plentiful and singles and triples are rarer than the historical average (Actually a league has not recorded a single or triple percentage as high as the average since the mid-Forties).

So unlike a die, on which the odds of getting a one are the same as the odds of getting any other number, the odds are much, much higher of not getting a hit and, then if a hit is made, of collecting a single. To calculate the odds of getting a sequential cycle in four at-bats would be the same as with dice except instead of using 1-to-6 as the odds, you would insert the odds above (for a historical average). So whereas a 1-2-3-4 roll would be 1/6 * 1/6 * 1/6 * 1/6 or about 0.00077 (7.7 * 10^4) , the odds of a sequential cycle would be 17.10%* 3.83%*0.88%*1.60% or about 0.00000092 (9.2 * 10^7). Given that there have been 179277 games in major league history each with two teams of nine batters, the expected number of 4-at-bat, sequential cycles in major-league history is just 2.97.

The previous sequential cycler was Jose Valentin in 2000, but he did it in a 5-at-bat game. The odds of a 5-at-bat, sequential cycle go up somewhat. The at-bat that was not part of the sequential cycle would have to be before or after the other four hits, and it wouldn't matter what he did in that plate appearance. Using the die example, there are two scenarios X-1-2-3-4 or 1-2-3-4-X (where X is the mystery at-bat). Therefore the odds increase two-fold.

There have been thirteen sequential cycles according to including Wilkerson's:

Bill CollinsBoston (NL)10-06-1910
Bob FothergillDetroit09-26-1926
Tony LazzeriNew York (AL)06-03-1932
Charlie GehringerDetroit05-27-1939
Leon CulbersonBoston (AL)07-03-1943
Jim HickmanNew York (NL)08-07-1963
Ken BoyerSt. Louis (NL)06-16-1964
Billy WilliamsChicago (NL)07-17-1966
Tim FoliMontreal04-22-1976
Bob WatsonBoston (AL)09-15-1979
John MabrySt. Louis (NL)05-18-1996
Jose ValentinChicago (AL)04-27-2000
Brad WilkersonMontreal06-24-2003

I don't think even Retrosheet can help us determine if that 2.97 expected value is in the ballpark or not. We are left with old Sporting News microfilm. I think I'll pass for now.

Next in the cycle food chain, you have the four at-bat, not-necessarily-sequential variety. Let's revisit the die: Let's assume that we throw a one first (to limit the results). To complete a cycle in 4 tries, here are the possibilities:


If my fancy ciphering works, that's six. Now, consider that given that there are four ways to start that run (1, 2, 3, or 4), there are 24 possibilities (4 * 6 or 4!-four factorial-if you prefer). That means the odds of a four-at-bat cycle historically are 0.0022% which translates into 59.68 expected cycles all-time, if all games were based on 4 at-bats. But they're not
In a 5-at-bat (or 5-plate-appearance to be exact) game, the odds go up five-fold. Again using the die, if we had five throws to collect 1, 2, 3, and 4 in any order, that would mean that we would have one "free" throw that could be anything: a hit, an out, an interference call, a Jeffrey Maier catch-who cares? Using just the first example above we could have five combinations to achieve the cycle:

1- X-2-3-4
1-2- X-3-4
1-2-3- X-4
(Where X is the "free" throw

So each 4-at-bat combination now propagates to five 5-AB combinations or that hitting for the cycle in 5 plate appearances is five times as likely then in four. This means that there 120 combinations that can result in a cycle (i.e., five times the 24 from 4-ABs or 5!)

A six-at-bat game is 25 times more likely to result in a cycle than a 4-AB game since there are two "free" throws. Here are the resulting 6-AB combinations from just the first 5-AB combination above:

X- X-1-2-3-4
X-1- X-2-3-4
X-1-2- X-3-4
X-1-2-3- X-4
(Where X is the "free" throw

Therefore, there are five 6-AB combinations for every 5-AB one and 25 for every 4-AB one. That means that there are 600 combinations in a 6-AB game that can result in a cycle (5 * 5 * 4!).

Also, I should mention that the odds of each combination do not change because the odds of getting anything in the "free" throw are 1. If you throw the die, you have to get something. Such a certainty is assigned the highest probability, one. So one times the combination percentage is still the original percentage.

So what does this all mean, if anything? It means that we can take the probability of hitting a single, double, triple, and home run for each league year and using the number of games, determine the expected occurrences of a cycle. Then we can see how they compare with the actual totals.

At the risk of overkill, I now list the odds of hitting for the cycle and the expected total of cycles per league and year based on 4-, 5-, and 6-plate-apperance at-bats. Also, I include an "Avg Exp" column which calculates the expected number of cycles based on the actual average of plate appearances per game (usually around 4.25). Lastly, I list the actual times a batter hit for the cycle for each league-year. (Note that I could only find NL and AL data. Data based on's cycle data):

[Unfortunately, the new and improved Blogger ate the table.]

First, you'll notice that the
2003-06-26 14:53
by Mike Carminati

First, you'll notice that the odds are best in the Thirties but that the expected values were highest in the last decade or so. That's because of all of the extra teams, and therefore games, that are playing today. More games mean more possibilities to hit for the cycle.

Also, you'll note that the actual cycle totals more closely match 5-plate-appearance expectations that 4-PA or the Avg. expected. There could be a few reasons for this. First that the players who hit for the cycle have better odds to hit a single, double, triple, or home run. Second that the odds to get a hit increase after a player gets a hit, i.e., the theory of the hot bat. Third that players who hit for the cycle do so in high-scoring and therefore high-plate-appearance games, thereby bettering their odds. And lastly, players that are hitting for the cycle are able to better their odds by focusing on their goals.

An interesting study could be conducted by studying the batting records for players who are one hit away from the cycle. Do they raise their own odds? Or is it just the luck that comes from playing in a high-scoring game?

My personal opinion is that there is an element of luck but that players can be streaky and can help themselves focus and achieve a goal such as hitting for the cycle. The higher-than-expected actual totals throughout history indicate to me that something more than dumb luck and a couple extra at-bats in an odd game are at work.

Le Carrousel du Brad Brad
2003-06-25 11:46
by Mike Carminati

Le Carrousel du Brad

Brad Wilkerson hit for the cycle yesterday in Montreal's 6-4 win over Pittsburgh. Not only did Wilkerson collect the four different hits needed for a cycle, he did it by amassing the hits in sequential order-first single, then double, then triple, and finally home run. ESPN reports that this the first sequential cycle "since the Chicago White Sox's Jose Valentin did it in five at-bats against Baltimore on Apr. 27, 2000." Wilkerson did it in a four-at-bat game.

I wondered what the odds were of a player hitting for a sequential cycle in a four-AB game. Using the NL 2002 averages, the likelihood is about 0.000088% or about 1 in 1,133,946. Given the number of games played in the NL in 2002, the expected occurrences of a sequential cycle were 0.02054 or about one every fifty years (I orginally said 5, sorry).

Wilkerson's odds given his 2003 stats were slightly better. The probability was about 0.00026%or about 1 in 388,592. Given that he has played 65 games the expected number of sequential cycles is a tiny fraction (0.00016727). Using a 162-game schedule, one expect Wilkerson to play about 2399 seasons before he recorded a sequential cycle.

Well, how about that! Go ahead and smile, Brad:

The 500-500 Club
2003-06-25 00:15
by Mike Carminati

Barry Bonds founded the 500 home run/500 stolen base club yesterday. Actually, he joined the 633-500 club, but 500-500 sounds nicer.

However, he still trails Rickey Henderson in total home runs and stolen bases. Here are the all-time leaders:

Rickey Henderson29514031698
Barry Bonds6335001133
Lou Brock1499381087
Ty Cobb1178921009
Willie Mays660338998
Hank Aaron755240995
Tim Raines170808978
Joe Morgan268689957
Billy Hamilton40912952
Babe Ruth714123837
Honus Wagner101722823
Max Carey70738808
Bobby Bonds332461793
Eddie Collins47744791
Reggie Jackson563228791
Frank Robinson586204790
Vince Coleman28752780
Arlie Latham27739766
Andre Dawson438314752
Cesar Cedeno199550749
Sammy Sosa506233739
Paul Molitor234504738
Bert Campaneris79649728
Mike Schmidt548174722
Tom Brown64657721
Davey Lopes155557712
Willie Wilson41668709

What is cool about Bonds is how evenly distributed the dingers and steals are. Here are the most evenly distributed players (two-to-one or less with either one) with at least 500 combined steals/homers:

Willie Mays66033899851.21%
Ellis Burks35117953051.00%
Gary Sheffield36119355453.46%
Joe Carter39623162758.33%
George Brett31720151863.41%
Larry Walker34222056264.33%
Darryl Strawberry33522155665.97%
Andre Dawson43831475271.69%
Ron Gant32124356475.70%
Jimmy Wynn29122551677.32%
Barry Bonds633500113378.99%
Don Baylor33828562384.32%
Robin Yount251271522107.97%
Kirk Gibson255284539111.37%
Vada Pinson256305561119.14%
Ryne Sandberg282344626121.99%
Eric Davis282349631123.76%
Steve Finley236285521120.76%
Bobby Bonds332461793138.86%
Brady Anderson210315525150.00%
Devon White208346554166.35%
Amos Otis193341534176.68%
Craig Biggio204386590189.22%
Barry Larkin189376565198.94%

So who will join Bonds in the new club in the near future? It doesn't look promising. Here are the players under 32 years old who have at least 300 combined steals and taters:

Andruw Jones20311631925
Alex Rodriguez31616748326
Vladimir Guerrero21711933626
Johnny Damon9422832228
Shawn Green24213037229
Chipper Jones26511538030
Ray Durham11523134630
Manny Ramirez3262935530
Ryan Klesko2397931831
Jim Thome3511836931
Raul Mondesi25322247531

The best bets appear to be the youngest, A-Rod and Andruw Jones, but they have already stopped stealing. Guerrero is behind them but given his 2002 steal total may be the best bet. He would still need 10 years as a 30-40 man to do it. Other than that, Mondesi appears to be the only one with the proper distribution of steals and homers and he is still stealing bases, but he would need to be a 30-30 man until he was 40 to break into the club.

My prediction is that unless baseball has a severe shift back to the pre-1993 high-scoring days, it will be hard for a player to get the requisite steals. Bonds is lucky in that he played in both eras. He has not had a 30-steal season since 1997 at the age of 32.

Juan Weigh Station, II
2003-06-24 22:29
by Mike Carminati

Lee Sinins reports that "According to the Rangers radio broadcasters, Juan Gonzalez's agent says he's not going to accept the trade."

Juan Weigh Station
2003-06-24 20:38
by Mike Carminati

Lee Sinins and ESPN report that Juan Gonzalez has been traded from the Rangers to the Expos. With his no-trade contract he has 72 hours to approve or veto the trade. There is not yet any information about what the Rangers received in return.

How long do you think it will take Bud Selig to give him to his friends in Boston?

Koppett Dead
2003-06-23 12:34
by Mike Carminati

79-year-old, Hall-of-Fame sports writer Leonard Koppett died Sunday from an apparent heart attack.

Everybody Seems So Happy To-Joe-Morgan-Chat-Day-It's a Sunshine Joe Morgan Chat Day!
2003-06-23 00:38
by Mike Carminati

Sir, you have tasted two whole worms; you have hissed all my mystery lectures and... been caught fighting a liar in the quad... You will leave by the next town drain.

- Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930). Translation: "Sir, you have wasted two whole terms; you have missed all my history lectures and...been caught lighting a fire in the quad...You will leave by the next down train".

Sun: sunrise and sunset, or at least I've heard tell. In the Northeast this spring we've had nary a sunny day let alone a daily peek at the orb that Shakespeare said, like foolery, "shines everywhere." And now our summer is at risk of being swallowed up by the same perpetual maelstrom.

It's been so bad that attendance is down at major-league parks even from the established post-strike lows. It's become de rigueur to play in a steady drizzle and to mention that a ballgame is official at the end of the fifth inning. Playing in the rain is such a glorious trend that the Yankees were accused the other day of canceling a game with the Devil Rays not because of excessive rainfall but rather because of excessive Jeff Weaver in the impinging Met series. This baseball season has been so much like a Scandinavian winter-that is, an eternal, or at least six-month-long, night-that it has me pining away for the fjords. No, it's not good-Norwegian wood.

Usually a summer breeze makes me feel fine as long as it's blowing through the jasmine of my mind, whatever that means. However, a summer breeze today is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. And speaking of things oxymoronic, no one fits the bill better than good ole Joe Morgan.

Morgan, as a player, was the epitome of everything sabermetric: a power-hitting middle-infielder who got on base and stole bases at a high percentage. As an analyst, however, he's a sabermetrician's nightmare, foregoing everything but batting average, RBI, and pitching wins to evaluate a player. Worse yet, his spurious logic and inability to answer a direct question make him the Reverend Spooner of baseball analysts.

Spooner, an albino scholar, rose to Warden (basically president) of New College in Oxford but is better known for lending his name to Webster's for the term spoonerism, "the transposition of usually initial sounds in a pair of words." Even though many of the spoonerisms attributed directly to Spooner are now viewed as apocryphal, the body of quotes as a whole seems to have had an enduring effect on Joe. They too range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Witness:

"The Lord is a shoving leopard" (i.e., "loving shepherd"-sublime).
And "When the boys come back from France (after WWI), we'll have the hags flung out" (i.e., "flags hung out"-sublime).

However, "A well-boiled icicle" (i.e., "a well-oiled bicycle") and "We all know what it is to have a half-warmed fish inside us." (i.e., "half-formed wish")-funny but ridiculous.

So does Joe in this chat session experience many tips of the slung, er, slips of the tongue, along with his usual spoonerismic baseball analysis. It's a dunshine say! Enjoy!

The Thud (i.e., The Good)

Doris - Virginia: Why do you call Barry Bonds by his first name when you refer to other players by their last name?

Doris, I wasn't aware of that. I call Mike Piazza, Mike. I call Ichiro, Ichiro! I wasn't really aware of that. But I'm not exactly sure you're right. I'm sure there are others.

I don't do it intentionally though..

[Mike:"She's a nice girl. She's a Virginian." Sheez, and people say I'm too tough on the guy. Doris, you finkosaurus. Talk about minutiae! As long as we can tell to whom he's referring, who cares? "Ichiro? Is that Ichiro Smith? Oh dear!"

Bonds, by the way, has earned the right to be referred to by just "Barry". So if Joe says "Barry", any baseball fan worth his salt should know the player in question.

(By the way, nods to the Sunshine Boys and the Stones...Fred and Barney for the above references.)]

Justin (Boston, MA): Joe, what do you think about Hampton's near no-hitter after pitching brilliantly in Seattle, is he back?

Obviously he has pitched well the last two times. We always say, maybe this will kickstart the rest of his season but we'll just have to wait and see. He has shown signs of coming out of it a couple times. We'll just have to keep an eye on him and hope he stays healthy.

[Mike:I have to agree with Joe on this one. Hampton has had a roller coaster season yet far. His stats reflect this too. He has some good numbers (3.59 ERA, .218 opponent batting average, .306 opponent slugging average, and .623 opponent OPS) and some ugly ones (38 walks to 35 strikeouts, 6 wild pitches, and only 4.5 strikeouts per nine innings).

Besides right before these two very good starts, he had to leave due to a groin injury after pitching one and two-thirds innings and allowing three unearned runs. This was the last outing in a string of six in which he had not pitched more than 6 innings or allowed fewer than 3 runs. They were preceded by three strong outings (April 24 to May 6).]

Egad (i.e., The Bad)

Lars (Int'l Falls, MN): While I still like the overall makeup of the Twins, I really think they lack a bigtime run producer in the middle of their lineup; do you feel GM Terry Ryan will pull the trigger on a deal to acquire help, or will he just stand pat and play the season out and take his chances with what he has?

This is basically the same team they had last year. They didn't pull the trigger last year so I'm not sure they will do it this year. But it's not that easy to just go out and there and get a guy. But it's the same position they were in last year.

[Mike:First, they are not the same team as last year: David Ortiz, their best pure power hitter, is gone. Add Torii Hunter's off first half and you get a dropoff from sixth to eighth in the majors in slugging. However, they have gone from 16th to ninth in on-base to compensate.

They don't have the ABs for the players they have so unless they restructure the team, I don't see them acquiring a power hitter.

Besides, their biggest problem is the starting rotation. It's 21st in ERA in the majors and beyond youngsters Johan Santana (only 3 starts) and Kyle Lohse, they have been a mess. The Twins would improve greatly by sticking Santana in the rotation and cutting Kenny Rogers loose.]

Joe Vallee (Woodbury, New Jersey): Hi Joe, What was it like coming back to Philly this week? Although you were there for only a short time, I'm sure you have some good memories of the World Series year in 1983. Can the Phils get consistent, or is this team hopeless?

The Phillies problem is their offense. As you say, they have not been consistent. That goes from the top of the lineup to the bottom. No one has been consistent all season. Their pitching has kept them in games. The only way they are going to do anything is their offense can get more consistent.

[Mike:Thanks, Joe. We Phillies fans love you, too. You're as effusive as Mike Dukakis responding to the Kitty-rape question when you discuss the old days with the Wheeze Kids Phils. To quote loosely John Winger in Stripes, "It's not just the uniforms: it's the stories you tell! Joe Morgan, you are a madman!"

I disagree with your assessment by the way. They have been consistent, consistently bad. Their pitching has been pretty good, but I don't think it's been that dominant. I originally thought that the offense was being affected by the new-stadium construction. I still think that has some bearing, but the Phils have hit much better at home than on the road. Basically, the entire lineup is struggling and has gone from a highly touted offensive unit to just plain offensive. Bell has been awful. Rollins doesn't seem the same player that was a phenom a few years ago. Pat Burrell is struggling.

It seems that Phils only upgrade may be in center fielder where Marlon Byrd has yet to establish himself (and may be competing with the Yanks for center fielders-yikes!). Byrd has not been great at the bat, but I would prefer that the Phils let him develop for a year or two before Wendell Magee-ing him perhaps with Ricky Otero-eaters. I think the Phils would be wise to cut bait on the overrated Rollins and pick up some decent prospects before everyone realizes that he's a bust. Take David Bell and move him to second base where he started. Take Placido Polanco and move him to short where he started. And give third base to Tyler Houston until Chase Utley is ready (but then again has already been moved to second in Scranton because of Bell). Or just give Tomas Perez the shortstop job. Maybe both of those scenarios are a bit too fantastical to actually happen, but Jim Rollins will not be worth the arbitration numbers he gets this offseason.

The sub-moronic Phils fans who were raised on the offensive output of Larry Bowa, Ivan DeJesus, Steve Jeltz, and Kevin Stocker at short think J-Roll actually is a viable offensive player. Rollins is 15th in OPS (.701) out of the 23 major-league shortstops who currently qualify for the batting title. He's 14th in on-base (.314) and is the Phils leadoff hitter. Mercy!

Sam (Ypsilanti, MI): Joe, I'm a big fan! In your column about the AL West, you note that the A's "Big 3" have been more vunerable than in the past. But look at their ERAs - Hudson 3.08, Mulder 3.26, and Zito 2.92. Struggling? These three are what is holding this team to a good record! Zito's 7-5 record overshadows that he is 1st in the AL in BAA (.197). What gives?

I don't think I said struggle.. I said they were more vulnerable. ERA's are just a personal thing. Wins and losses are what the game is all about. BA and BAA are personal stats. Those guys don't walk out and win three games in a row anymore.

[Mike:Ypsilanti from the old Border League? Yes, ERA's a personal thing. Personally Joe dislikes ERAs. Wins are what matter to Joe. Don't explain to Joe that the A's have won one more game than last year to this point. Don't tell Joe that Mulder is having the best year of his young career and has three more wins than he did at this time last year. Don't tell Joe that Tim Hudson was 5-6 at this point last year. Don't even tell Joe that as he was writing this the A's were preparing to win their seventh-not third-straight.

Look, the Big Three and still the Big Three. Their strikeout ratios are all down but besides that there are no possible complaints.]

Jeremy (Portland, OR): Hey Joe, It seems like the Reds have been getting into more than their fair share of Brawls recently. Is it just bad luck, or are they over reacting? It looks to me like some of them are a little eager to fight, but I've never had a Major League fastball coming at my head. Of course, you don't see Larkin or Griffey charging the mound.

You are right, you have never had a MLB fastball coming at you. Great point. One of the reasons could be the Reds are hitting lots of HRs and the pitchers are tired of it! But everyone reacts differently.

[Mike:Whoa, touchy much, Joe. We groveling peons apologize for never getting the majors to know what a major-league fastball coming right for our gray matter looks like. Let us genuflect at your feet. Thank you, sir. May I and "Jeremy spoke in Joe Morgan's chat today" have another?

By the way, the Reds are fourth in the majors in home runs and tied for third in hit batsmen. They are also first in strikeouts by a huge margin (73 more than swing-happy Milwaukee). Maybe it's just frustration.

Bobby N. (Bloomington,MN): Do you think that Roger Clemens has a chance to be the first 100% player in the Hall of Fame or do you think he will be around the Nolan Ryan percentage?

No. My perception would be if Joe DiMaggaio, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays couldn't do it, he won't either. But then again, I'm not voting.

[Mike:Thank god for small favors.

A) There were a greater number of deserving players to choose from in the past (no excuse for 5% of the voting populace leaving Babe Ruth off the ballot in the first year of voting). So percentages for lay-up type players are getting higher.

B) Nolan Ryan received 99% of the vote, the highest percentage ever (I think he was fractionally ahead of Seaver), and was not nearly the pitcher Clemens is, Advil commercials notwithstanding.

C) This is at least 5 years away. Who knows what may happen in the intervening years.

D) There will be at least one Boston writer who holds a grudge.

E) Ryan receiving 99% of the vote shows you how incompetent the voters are. So your guess is as good as mine.

Jerry, Seattle, WA: Joe, I love your analysis. Is race still as big of an issue in baseball as Gary Sheffield made it seem when he said that Sammy Sosa was being unfairly ripped because of his skin color?

I think anytime someone mentions race or uses race in their evaluation, you have to evaluate their reasons for doing it and their evidence. If they just say it without any evidence, then I throw it out the window. If a guy puts forward evidence, then you have to really look at what he is saying. That's how I evaluate it.

By the same token, Gary has the right to speak his mind if that is what he feels. We have the right to discount it, if that is how we feel.

[Mike:"Gary, you know by tattling on your friends, you're really just tattling on yourself. By tattling on your friends, you're just telling them that you're a tattletale. Now is that the tale you want to tell?"

Thanks, Mike Brady. Now please answer the question.

My opinion? Yes, race is still an issue. Ask Willie Randolph and Chris Chambliss. Or better yet ask John Rocker and Todd Jones. But does race have anything to do with Sammy Sosa corking his bat and getting punished for it. My opinion? Not a thing.]

Chuck (Chicago): Good morning, Mr. Morgan! I wanted to hear your opinion in regards to who you feel should be the starting pitchers for the All-Star game. Esteban Loaiza has the best ERA by nearly an entire point in the AL, but I don't even hear him being considered. And is Kevin Brown a lock for the NL? Which two pitchers ought to face each other at U.S. Cellular Field?

No idea! First of all, we have to wait till we get closer and see who is available. There are a lot of choices in both leagues. I think it's just too early to make that judgement.

[Mike:"I offer no opinion even though I run this chat session and these are of course the questions that people ask as the All-Star game approaches. And of course I will end my admission of 'No idea!' with an unnecessary exclamation point (but more on that later).

My opinion? Loaiza and Brown if they are available. Joe, at least say Halladay and Brown/Chacon-they lead their leagues in wins, your main pitcher-evaluation criterion.

(By the way, Loaiza is not nearly a whole point ahead in ERA in the AL. Pedro (Yes, Doris, that's his first name) is just 36 points behind.)]

Rob (Augusta, GA): Hello, Mr. Morgan! I was wondering, with the Braves sudden emphasis on hitting and just enough pitching, do you think the team is ready to win a five game series, and two seven series, like in 1995, and not just do well in the regular season? Being a huge Braves fan, this question preoccupies my mind from April until October.

They won 11 division titles with pitching and only one world championship. I think this team is better prepared to win postseason play now than they were before.

When they had Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, etc. they only won 1 championship. I think it is time to try it another way. I like their chances as long as Sheffield stays healthy.

[Mike:Well, that 'xactly so, Joe. The Braves had a very good offense for most of this run. Here ya go:

1991: 2nd in runs in the NL; 3rd in ERA.
1992: 3rd in runs; 1st in ERA.
1993: 3rd in runs; 1st in ERA.
1994: 5th in runs; 2nd in ERA (though 1st in runs against) and division "title" fell to Expos as strike cut season short.
1995: 9th in runs (14 teams); 1st in ERA; and only World Series win.
1996: 4th in runs; 2nd in ERA (though 1st in runs against).
1997: 3rd in runs; 1st in ERA.
1998: 3rd in runs; 1st in ERA.
1999: 6th in runs; 1st in ERA.
2000: 6th in runs; 1st in ERA.
2001: 13th in runs (16 teams); 1st in ERA.
2002: 8th in runs (16 teams); 1st in ERA.
2003 (so far): 3rd in runs; 9th in ERA (16 teams).

That's a pretty impressive run for a pitching staff. Their offense was also very good until around 1999 except for the one-year dive in 1995, the year they won it all.

So is it time to "try it another way"? I'd say no. Clearly having a nonpareil staff led to their 12-year run. That said, being among the bottom feeders in offense did not lead to postseason success. The answer? How about balance? Continually being among the league leaders in offense and defense seems to have created their great run. I cannot believe that being a subpar staff this year will help keep the run going.

By the way, Joe, as far as "When they had Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, etc.", they still have Maddux and Smoltz on the team. I just figured I'd let you know.]

Rob (Toronto): How bout we get some Blue Jay questions in here! Will they be able to contend with the BoSox and the Yankees over the long haul? Also what are your thoughts on Vernon Wells and do you think he will be an All-STar?

I think they will as long as their offense stays as high powered as it is and they get good pitching. I think it will be a three team race unless the Yankees are able to go out and get that strong left handed bat. But yes, I think Toronto will contend all season.

[Mike:Hey, that's really going out on a limb, Joe. "[A]s long as [Toronto's] offense stays as high powered as it is and they get good pitching"-so I guess defense is exempt. Unless the Yankees "get that strong left handed bat"? Here's a crazy prediction: if the Brewers get a high-powered offense and unhittable pitching, they'll contend in the NL Central unless the Astros get better players.

How's this for a prediction: unless Bud Selig cedes another star player, preferably a pitcher, to the Red Sox, they will fall out of contention after the All-Star break and be replaced by the Blue Jays as the Yankees' nemeses. Unless the Red Sox are better than the Blue Jays, then it won't happen. Oh, and Leon is getting laaaarrrrger.]

CBeatty (Denver): Joe, Why doesn't MLB bring games to inner cities to help rouse more you youth interest? MLB brings games to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Japan, etc., why not D.C., New Orleans, etc?

I've argued with MLB for years to do things to heighten interest in inner cities. I don't think you can play games in those cities, but you can have clinics and do other things like basketball does to get more kids involved. That is one of the shortcomings of MLB. They just don't do enough in the inner cities to get kids to play baseball instead of basketball. They have camps in the foreign countries but not in the inner cities. That is one of the reasons we have more players coming from overseas than players coming from this country.

[Mike:OK, Joe, that's not true. There are only 27.8% of major-leaguers who were born outside the good ole US of A. Also, the number of minor-leaguers is under 50% and dropped last year (48% to 46%). Though MLB doing a Benicio Del Toro and building a few inner-city ballparks would pay dividends for years to come.

Next, CBeatty, have you ever heard of the Bronx? The Yankees play there and it's pretty inner-city. And San Juan is not exactly Beverly Hills. However, baseball is a business and unfortunately the inner-cities are not where the money is for the most part. Besides New Orleans has a minor-league team, and DC is under Peter Angelos' protective thumb.]

David (Myrtle Beach, SC): Joe, why are the Marlins so Mediocre? It isn't like they don't have any talent. To me they should be contending, not rebuilding.

I agree that they have some talent. But for some reason they have not been able to put it together. They had all those great young arms but some of them just broke down and were injured. That has been their problem. All the youngs guys have not been able to produce together at the same time.

[Mike:"Youngs guys"? Are they Ross Youngs guys?

The Marlins have been rebuilding since 1997. Baseball allowed Wayne Huzinga to sign a ridiculous contract with the stadium group that he also owned. They allowed him to build and then destroy a championship team. They then allowed him to sell the team and keep the stadium deal. Then they let the execrable Jeffrey Loria buy the team. Long story short, the team has very little cash and even less brains.

Why are they mediocre? Because that's how mediocre teams perform. They were mediocre last year and they basically downgraded their entire outfield over the last 12 months. The Marlins have had Juan Encarnacion, Juan Pierre, and Todd Hollandsworth as the outfield for most of the year. Is that the "talent" Joe speaks of? Basically, their offense is Mike Lowell, Derek Lee, and Alex Gonzalez, whose OPS is up 50% and slugging up nearly 100% and who is the leading candidate for steroid abuse this side of Carl Everett.

Their pitching has been good but could have been great if Jeff Torborg hadn't destroyed the young arms. With Josh Beckett returning, Dontrelle Willis and Mark Redman dominating, and Miguel Cabrera's ascension, they could surprise some people in the second half. Unfortunately, Mike Lowell will be traded before that. Money you know.]

The Boggly (i.e., The Ugly)

I am here and ready to go!!!

[Mike:From the Elaine Bennis School of Excessive Exclamation Points!!!!!!!!!!!]

Dave, New Jersey: Hi Joe! Regarding "Hat-gate" (Clemens in the HOF as a Yankee); Why shouldn't Rocket go in as a Yankee? Everytime he plays in Fenway he gets no respect/love from the fans (partly because he is a Yankee, but more so)...even his wife and family get verbally abused at these games. The Boston fans don't like him, why should he honor that town and club by wearing their hat? Shouldn't it come down to what town he (and his family) was happiest playing in? His best memories? Everyone needs to remember Boston didn't want him anymore. Yet, the Yankees traded a favorite (Wells, at the time a great pitcher too, still is) to get him, showing they wanted him.

He's not honoring the town. That is the misnomer here I guess. He played there. You can't wipe those years away. Whether he likes the town or not. In retrospect, what happens if the Yankee fans start booing him next week? What happens then? The Hall of Fame is a museum. It's not a honor society. It's a museum as such to chronical a career.

The real point here is there has been a rule or a criteria established. Therefore the HOF will make that decision, with input from Roger. But this is all 5-6 years away. A lot can happen between now and then. It shouldn't have been brought up at this time.

[Mike:"Misnomer"? Good point! Boston is not a "town" but an incorporated city.

However, I think the word you were searching for was "misconception" (mis-Concepcion?). (The rest I'm OK with.)]

Carolyn (Vienna, VA): How aware are players and former players of Larry Doby? Seems like everyone talks about Jackie Robinson but rarely about Mr. Doby.

Very good assumption Carolyn. I've always felt Larry never got the credit he deserved for his accomplishments, on and off the field. Robinson was my idol growing up because I just didn't know any better. But as I've grown up and read books and met both of them and spend time with them, I realized the impact they both had on the game. People forget that Doby went to the AL 11 weeks after Jackie started. Most think it was a year or two later. Larry was the only African American in that league for some time. I guess no one remembers who finished second in a golf tournament. Larry was the second African American in the major leagues.

[Mike:"Assumption"? Remember what Felix Unger said, Joe. When you assume you make an ass out of u and me.

Look, people like firsts. It did help get Doby in the Hall perhaps belatedly, what else can be done?

By the way, Doby was not "the second African American in the major leagues". He was the fourth, after the Walker brothers and Jackie Robinson.]

Jeff from Newton, MA: On the topic of GM's and Billy Beane's new found fame (Moneyball): Who will be running the ball clubs of tomorrow? Will it be the Chairman of the Board type Owner(Steinbrenner), the all-knowing, stat watching GM (Beane, Epstein), or the ex-ballplayer Manager who understands the intangables (B. Valentine, J. Torre, M. Scioscia)? Can they work together?

I can't really make that judgement. The owners will make that decision. There is a place in the game for all of the types you mention. I prefer those that really understand the game as well as the stats. They go hand in hand. Some say they can look at stats without seeing a guy play. That's a joke. You can't measure a guy's heart by looking at a piece of paper. I prefer a person who knows the game but uses stats to reinforce his evaluations.

[Mike:Jeff from Newton? Say "Hi" to the Green Line.

I'm sick of Joe's belligerency on this issue. At least someone finally told him after over a month that Beane did not actually write Moneyball.

If Joe actually had read the book, he would know that its underlying theme is that there are certain things like heart and talent that were not being measured by the scouting system. Beane himself is a walking cautionary tale. When he was a player, scouts took a look at the way he ran, his physique, his measurable talents and said that he was a can't-miss prospect. The fact that he had no plate discipline, had glaring holes in his game, and did not especially want to play minor-league baseball could all be overlooked. Meanwhile, a minor-league teammate of Beane's, Lenny Dykstra, was all drive and desire but no one expected much from him.

Beane is smart enough to learn from his own career that scouts don't have all the answers. There are different ways to evaluate players and different ways to mine good players with limited funds. He developed an approach (based on on-base percentage and signing college players, i.e., low-risk players) and stuck to it.

The first thing that Beane did when preparing for the draft with his staff was to weed out the players that would not adapt well to minor-league life for various reasons. "Heart" entered into that equation and then they looked at the remaining players based on A) the scouting report and B) the player's stats (horrors!).

"I prefer a person who knows the game but uses stats to reinforce his evaluations." What, like you, Joe? You don't even accept on-base percentage and ERA. Joe uses stats like a drunk uses a street light to prop himself up. Sabermetricians use stats to form opinions. Look, Jimmy Rollins may look like the ideal leadoff man when you watch him warm up or even in the odd game, but when you see that he gets on base only 31% of the time you realize that he is not the man to whom you want to devote the most at-bats on your team.

There is a place for all types of baseball ideologies. The places for the outmoded ones are Milwaukee, the commissioner's office, and the analyst's chair evidently. They laughed at Branch Rickey for investing all that money in a minor-league system, too. Oh, and that Noah guy was a nut building an ark (whatever that is) is the desert.]

Utek (LA): Hi Joe. You say that Albert Pujols is the best young hitter in the majors, because he "attacks the ball". I'm not sure what you mean by this. Lots of hitters---particularly young hitters--- are aggressive and swing hard without putting up Pujols' numbers. Please explain. Thanks.

He is the best young hitter in the game, no doubt. A lot of people swing hard. He goes TO the ball and attacks it. He is going to the ball and driving it. Guys that swing hard, swing on one axix in one area. Big difference between swinging the ball and attacking it.

[Mike:"Axix"? As in "Axix of Evil"? Wasn't that one of the XFL teams?

Besides how does one "swing the ball"?

Oh, and Pujols may be the best young hitter, whatever that means, but it's because of his knowledge of and ability to control the strike zone (26 K's and 30 BBs this year).

Nelson (DC): Can a legitimate argument be made that Clemens' biggest career accomplishment on Friday was not that he got 300 wins but instead that he recorded his 4,000th strikeout?

Go back to what I said earlier.. it's about wins and losses, not so much about personal accomplishment. There are fewer guys with 4,000 K's but that doesn't always translate to wins. A win is a win. That is what the game is about.

[Mike:Not about "Personal accomplishments"? That was the question: which is his "biggest career accomplishment". Are you mental?

By the way, I prefer the 4000 Ks.]

Jeff: Polson, MT: Joe - Great to read your article about the M's and finally hear somebody extolling the virtues of the team and Gil Meche. As I look at their lineup and pitching, I see only one area that really needs an upgrade, Jeff Cirillo's offensive numbers (his defense has been great). If you were Pat Gillick, would you go after someone like Mike Lowell or would you sit tight? If such a trade were possible, what do you think the M's would have to give up (young pitching, pay part of Cirillo's salary)?

First of all, there is only one Mike Lowell and about 20 teams that want him. You can always pick a spot to upgrade. But when you have the best record in the Major Leagues, you need to worry about what you need to win a WS, not just the division. They will have to wait to make that decision.

[Mike:What? So keeping Cirillo's anemic bat is somehow going to help the M's win the World Series? Wouldn't Lowell's bat help more? And why wait? Isn't getting the player you need as early as you can the model that made the Yankees great over the last half-dozen years?]

Chris Rochester NY: Hi Joe If you were the Red Sox would you rather have Urbina or Armando B.

I guess the point is, do you have a choice? They are both capable but both high risk closers. They are not just going to walk out and go 1-2-3. It's a matter of choice. Benetiz, when he is one, can overpower you. Urbina uses a lot of off speed stuff. It's just a matter of choice. They are both good closers .. just high risk.

[Mike:"Ipples and Benetiz"? You Raffi fans know what I'm talking about.

"Benetiz, when he is one..."-one what? A choice?

By the way, the Red Sox lost Urbina in the offseason because, they claim, they could not afford him.]

nassau, Bahamas: Why is it that we haven't seem a player elected into the Hall OF Fame with 100% voting, and do you think Bonds could be that first player?

I think the writers always felt that only a few guys should go in on the first ballot. Some guys intentionally left off a guy like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays. It's the mentality of the writers that there has never been a perfect player.

Bonds have five MVPs and Roger Clemens has 6 Cy Young's. If Mays, Aaron and Ruth weren't 100 percent, I don't' see how anyone else could be.

[Mike:"Bonds have" but "Clemens has"? By the way, it's "Cy Youngseses".

You don't'''''' see how Bonds could get 100%? Well, it's simple the writers vote for him. Bonds is possibly the best player since Ruth, if any writer leaves him off his Hall ballot, the moron should be barred from voting again. It's not as if the voters of today should be meant to perpetuate the mistakes of men who failed to elect Cy Young in the first go-round.]
Stevie Ridzik (D.C.): Dig your work Joe...But one bone to pick, how can you say "the Blue Jays rely mainly on home runs." when they lead the league in BA-SLG-OBP-OPS-RUNS-RBI and are only 3rd in taters?

Listen to what I say and do not put somebody else's words in my mouth. I said they have a chance of winning because they have a great offense. I'm not sure where you got that. It seems that people want to put words in my mouth.

[Mike:That's horrible! Your own words are so much more edifying. Observe:

"This is in contrast to the Toronto Blue Jays, who rely mainly on home runs" (from Joe's June 19th ESPN article).

[Mike:It was a direct quote for goodness sake.

Look people change. As years go by, their opinions change and sometimes contradict earlier beliefs. But this was one day!]

I guess once a year I have to remind people to listen to what I say and not hear what you want to hear. I never said the A's were "struggling". I never said the "Blue Jays rely on HRs." All I ask is you listen to what I say and don't put words in my mouth! ; )

I really enjoy doing these chats. To Doris in Virginia, I promise to call Sammy Sosa, Sammy this week and Roberto Alomar, Roberto - to add to Barry.

Thanks for all the great questions and we'll talk again next week!

[Mike:I guess Joe is like the actors in the play within a play in Hamlet who can hear what the see or read.

Just don't put words in his mouth, especially his own.]

Come on, Freddy--Everyone into the Poo-el
2003-06-15 00:24
by Mike Carminati

I will be on vacation this week and will probably be unable to post anything.

In the interim, please enjoy some of the wonderful blogs on the left-hand column below or dig into my archives. That is, unless Blogger has ingested them again.

I'll see you in a week.

Matt Not at Bat
2003-06-14 02:17
by Mike Carminati

Matt Williams decided to call it a career today just a few weeks after being released by the Diamondbacks. My first reaction to this was to find his place in history. It's the bookkeeper in me, just like the main character's inclination for rearranging his record collection by chronological, alphabetical, or autobiographical order in High Fidelity, I must characterize and then file away a retired ballplayer.

My view of Williams is that he was a good ballplayer overall and a great one at time, but not great enough all-around to become a Hall-of-Famer. But what if my assessment was too rash?

Let's peruse his stats and see. Williams did record 378 home runs and 1218 RBI. He was an All-Star five times and won four Gorld Gloves at third. His career OPS is .807, 13% better than the adjusted league average. He earned 238 Win Shares through 2002 (tied for 359th all-time).

That's all pretty good, but is it Hall of Fame material. Well, he falls a bit short in the Bill James Hall standards (from

Black Ink: Batting - 8 (Average HOFer ~ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 58 (Average HOFer ~ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 29.4 (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 70.0 (Likely HOFer > 100)

That's not too encouraging, but how does he compare to other third basemen who are not yet in the Hall of Fame? Is he the best available?

Wade Boggs has an OPS that is 30% better than average, he was a 12-time All-Star, and led his league in average 5 times, on-base 6 times, OPS twice, etc. Boggs is clearly a better candidate than Williams, but he's not yet eligible. What about those eligible?

Graig Nettles was 10% better than the league average in OPS and had more home runs. Ron Santo was 25% better, was a 9-time All-Star, and 5-time Gold Glover. Darrell Evans had an OPS 19% better than league average, and had nearly 4- more career home runs. Paul Molitor, who was more a third baseman defensively than anything else, had an OPS 22% better than the league average and a 7-time All-Star. Old-time Cubbie third sacker Stan Hack was 19% better than the league average OPS. Ken Boyer's OPS was 16% better than league average, he was a league MVP, a 7-time All-Star, and a 5-time Gold Glove winner. Sal Bando was 18% better than the league average OPS.

All of those players are listed in the top thirteen third baseman in Bill James listing of the best ever in his revised Historical Baseball Abstract. Matt Williams comes in 23rd.

But a player that good has to at least be the best of his era, right? Well, switching to Win Shares, we find that Williams' 238 total is behind contemporaries part-time third baseman Edgar Martinez (277), Bobby Bonilla (267), Robin Ventura (256), Tim Wallach (248), and Ken Caminiti (242).

Williams does not have any batters similar who are enshrined in Cooperstown. One other thing that jumps out at you when you read his stats, through age 28 his most similar batter was the greatest third baseman of all, Michael Jack Schmidt.

So why didn't Williams become Mike Schmidt?

Here are both players number through age 28, the year in which Schmidt was most similar to Williams.


Now here they are over the rest of their careers:


After looking at him that way, I am prepared to say that Williams is no John F., er, Mike Schmidt. Not now and not when he was 28. He had a lot of similar stats at age 28: games, at-bats, home runs, RBI, batting average, and maybe even slugging. But where they are different, they are markedly different: stolen bases, runs, walks, on-base, and OPS. Schmidt was a much more diversified player. Williams at 28 closely mirrored the slugger in Schmidt, but couldn't come close to Schmidt as an on-base and baserunning machine.

At the age of 29, Williams loses potentially his best season to injury (1.046 OPS through 76 games). His post-30 career is still a slight improvement. His OBP, batting average, runs, and RBI rise and his strikeouts fall.

But compared to Schmidt, he's not even in the same ballpark. Schmidt's OPS is nearly 100 points higher than Williams and he doubles a number of Williams' stats.

So what is the legacy of Matt Williams? He was a very good ballplayer, just like ex-teammate Will Clark. They will both probably be passed over when the dangling chads of the Hall of Fame votes are added up.

How will 4000 Go Into 300? II
2003-06-13 23:52
by Mike Carminati

So on the fourth try Roger Clemens gets his 300th win. It wasn't pretty. Clemens threw a lot of pitches and had to get out of a few jams, but there were a lot of positives, too. Here are some notes from the game:

- Clemens recorded his first six outs as strikeouts (though he allowed a Jim Edmonds homer and a Scotty Rolen double).

- The Cardinals had men in scoring position in each of the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings but scored just one of those men.

- I have to applaud the Yankees fans for giving Tino Martinez a standing ovation each time at bat. That's loyalty that you don't often see. The man helped their team win 4 World Series and they remember. It's a stark contrast to the reception Clemens got at Fenway given both left the respective team under similar circumstances.

- When Clemens was pulled after getting two fly balls in the seventh and leading 3-2, the fans at first booed Torre for the move, segued right into a standing ovation for Clemens as he left the mound, and then segued perfectly into an intense booing as Clemens disappeared in the dugout and Chris Hammond walked to the mound.

- J.D. Drew, the first man to face Hammond, wisely bunted down the third-base line to get on base. Shades of Ben Davis? The Yankee broadcasters didn't think much of the decision.

- After Pujols singled to move Drew into scoring position, the fans starting booing again. It seems that they were booing the last game, in which Clemens was pulled leading 1-0 with two men on and the since-departed Juan Acevedo coughed up a home run and the ballgame on his first pitch. Hammond got out of the inning and given the quality of the hits he allowed, the booing was misdirected.

- I am constantly amazed at how poor a jump Soriano and Jeter get on ground balls. There was a play early on (I think it was the Miguel Cairo single in the third), on which a decent-fielding shortstop should probably have made the play or at least been close to the ball. Jeter looked to be a few yards away from the ball. There was a play the other day in the 6-man no-hitter in which Soriano failed to cover first quickly enough on a bunt. It was a hard play and Jeff Weaver, who fielded the ball, was partial blocked by the batter running to first, but there was no chance on the play since Soriano lollygagged his way to the bag. Joe Torre seemed disgusted by it. I have heard many people, including Joe Morgan and the Yankee broadcasters, say that Soriano's defense has improved. He doesn't commit as many errors but he still fails to get to balls that he should. For two guys who are as quick as these two, their range is atrocious. It must be that they get poor jumps on the ball, what with all their speed. Isn't this something the Yankees coaching staff could be of assistance in? I know Willie Randolph worked with Soriano this off-season, but can't Soriano be instructed how to read counts, pitchers, and hitters to determine which direction the ball is likely to go at any given time. For goodness' sake, these are the two defensive players besides the battery that know what pitch is being called. How can they not use that information to their advantage?

- The Yankee broadcasters intimated that the win was doubly sweet for pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre because he was the losing pitcher the last time the two teams met, in the seventh game of the 1964 World Series. Do they really expect us to believe that Stottlemyre is trying avenge that loss almost forty years later? These guys will say any ridiculous statement that floats through the transom of their minds rather than pay attention to the game at hand (it's the Phil Rizzuto school of phone-it-in broadcasting).

- Juam Rivera is possibly the worst outfielder that I have seen since Lonnie "Skates" Smith threw a ball that landed behind his back (he was at least on cocaine at the time). This comes from a man who in his youth watched plenty of Greg "Bull" Luzinski lumbering around in left. Rivera does not look comfortable fielding any fly ball and his arm is a wreck. In the fourth with the Yankees up 2-1, no outs, and men at the corners, Rivera caught a fly ball that was clearly deep enough to score the tying run. A perfect throw, something Rivera's arm does not contain, may have gotten Rolen at the plate. However, Rolen is not especially fast but he is an excellent baserunner. Rivera uncorked a throw that went completely over the cutoff man's head and landed a third of the way up the third-base line. The Yanks were lucky Posada fielded it (the only advantage in Rivera's weak, arched throw). The run scored and the runner at first representing the go-ahead run moved into scoring position. It was such an amazingly bush play that it even made the Yankee broadcasters comment on something related to the actual game.

- The Yankee broadcasters--am I belaboring a point?--also said that winning three hundred was a greater feat than 4000 strikeouts. Why is it that only three men have done the latter then? I know that 300 wins is a magical total, but given that pitchers have little direct control over wins and losses, isn't a strikeout record a better personal record for a pitcher? Hell, either one is pretty darn impressive to me.

How will 4000 Go Into 300?
2003-06-13 21:06
by Mike Carminati

Roger Clemens just became the third man to reach 4000 strikeouts...officially.

Clemens' 4K K actually came three innings earlier against Edgar Renetaria in the second inning of the Yankees-Cards game, but since there has been a steady downpour throughout there was some doubt if the game would go far enough for the feat to become official. Well, Roger, who started the night four strikeouts short of 4000, just finished off the Cardinals in the fifth with a Yankee lead (3-2), thereby making the game official.

Clemens is actually at 4006. He trails just Steve Carlton (4136) and Nolan Ryan (5714) in all-time strikeout leaders.

Next on tap is win 300 and now that the game is regulation, it's his to lose. By the way, here's the rule involved:

(c) If a game is called, it is a regulation game: (1) If five innings have been completed; (2) If the home team has scored more runs in four or four and a fraction half innings than the visiting team has scored in five completed half innings; (3) If the home team scores one or more runs in its half of the fifth inning to tie the score. (d) If each team has the same number of runs when the game ends, the umpire shall declare it a "Tie Game."

So if the Cardinals even the score and the game is called at the end of inning, it will be scored a tie game. There will be no winner but the stats count and the game must be replayed in its entirety. It happens rarely but did occur last year in a game between Atlanta and San Fran (if memory serves).

Zoning Out? II
2003-06-13 10:20
by Mike Carminati

Leonard Koppett completes his two-part series on the strike zone at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer online. Koppett has a similar tale to tell about the fall of the strike zone that I spelled out. However, he finds that the ceding of the outside strike to the pitcher occurred in the Sixties whereas I saw it happening in the mid-Eighties. PoTAto/POtato.

Koppett also expresses a dsitrust of the QuesTec system though he does not refer to it by name:

Sandy Alderson, who supervises the umpires, is striving for a uniform strike zone, using television and computer technology to define it.

This is utter nonsense. Alderson, an intelligent man, has zero experience with on-field baseball reality. What matters at home plate is what two humans -- batter and umpire -- see with their eyes in three dimensions, not what some equally inexperienced programmer feeds into a computer-generated picture. Nor have rulebook words and diagrams ever perfectly defined the strike zone's volume.

In opposing this, the umpires are dead right. So are the players and managers, but they must hold their tongues for fear of retaliation.

In the end, Koppett blames the lack of strike zone consistency to the influx of umpires in the expansion era. It's an interesting idea that poor umpiring could be the byproduct of expansion.

Most of all, I am uncouraged to hear another intelligent voice questioning the QuesTec. It seems that the sabermetric world is happily goose-stepping along with this ill-conceived notion even though it comes from the office of Bud. Wha'appened?

Flat-Headed Phillips Screwed
2003-06-12 14:31
by Mike Carminati

Jayson Stark reports that Steve Phillips has been fired as the GM of the Mets and be replaced by Jim Duquette on an interim basis. The Mets will announce the change at a 4 PM news conference.

Zoning Out?
2003-06-11 11:39
by Mike Carminati

Last week I posted a couple of emails from Anthony McLean, who had cc'ed me on an open letter to the commissioner in support of the QuesTec Umpire Information System. At the end of the second email Anthony asked an intriguing question:

Finally, for whatever reason(s), MLB umpires seem to cling to a divine ordination to apply "signature zones". Conventional reporting on this issue seems to accept the devolved/de facto horizontal zone like it was an immaculate conception. Clearly there were responsible umpires, and presumably causal events for twenty five years of ignoring the rule book. Still, I've yet to see an explanation as to how this came to pass, or why the MLB umps believed this was acceptable. Have you? I'd love to hear any sort of rationale, however weak.

It was a difficult issue to get one's arms around given the dearth of information. There is no way other than anecdotally to determine if a pitch in a certain location would be considered a strike in 2003 or 1973 or 1953. First, there is the variance between umps and leagues, especially before the umpire pool was merged across leagues. Then there are rule changes over the years. The strike zone itself has been tweaked in 1950, 1963, 1969, 1988 (and there was de facto change for the two years preceding this change), 1996, and 2001 though the umpires have adhered to the varying strike zone rule in varying ways. So a waist-high fastball down the middle of the plate may be a strike at a given time according to the rules but not according to the umps.

Besides there is no record of pitch location and the resulting ball-strike call. All that we have are statistics that are indirectly a result of strike zone definition, such as strikeouts, bases on balls (non-intentional), and perhaps hit batsman, home runs, hits, and the like. It was a pickle.

I wrote Anthony to let him know that I was still puzzling and puzzing even though my puzzler was sore than I thought of something I hadn't before-more on that later. Anthony wrote back:

Thanks... In pursuing this, I've had lotsa e-mail dialogs with everyone, from Murray Chass at the NY Dan Patrick at ESPN.

No one seems to be able to provide an answer

Ah, a personal challenge: to outdo Dan Patrick!

I initially thought of looking at data starting in the mid-Seventies, but after reading this article by the great Leonard Koppett, the first part in a series on the current strike zone war, I thought staking out a thorough archeological dig of the strike zone was in order.

Where do we start? How about with the history of rules that have affected ball-strike calls, including of course the definitions of the strike zone. (Sources: MacMillan's Baseball Encyclopedia, 8th Edition; Baseball Library's Baseball Rules Chronology, and MLB's Historical Timeline of the Strike Zone. I had a more comprehensive source, possibly Bill James, on the development of pitching but I cannot find it just now.). I have broken them down by category:

Count of Balls and Strikes:

1858: The called strike is introduced.
1879: All pitched balls must be called strikes, balls, or fouls. Three strikes equal an out. Nine balls equal a base on balls.
1880: Eight balls equal a base on balls.
1881: Seven balls equal a base on balls.
1884: Six balls equal a base on balls.
1886: Five balls equal a base on balls.
1887: Four strikes equal an out (first called third strike does not count). The batter may no longer call for a high or low pitch.
1888: Three strikes equal an out.
1889: Four balls equal a base on balls.

Definition of Balls and Strikes

1880: Third strike must be caught by catcher on the fly.
1894: Foul bunts (except tips) equals a strike.
1899: Foul tip if caught by catcher equals a strike.
1901: Foul balls equal a strike except if two already called (NL only).
1903: Foul balls equal a strike except if two already called (AL adopts).
1909: Foul bunt with two strikes is an out.
1910: A pitch without one foot on rubber is a ball.
1926: Pitcher no longer credited with a strikeout on a third-strike wild pitch.
1955: Ball called if pitcher does not deliver ball in 20 seconds when a base is occupied.
1957: A strike called if batter hit by a ball in strike zone.

definition of Strike Zone

1870: The batter may call for a high or a low pitch.
1876: "The batsman, on taking his position, must call for a 'high,' 'low,' or 'fair' pitch, and the umpire shall notify the pitcher to deliver the ball as required; such a call cannot be changed after the first pitch is delivered."
High - pitches over the plate between the batter's waist and shoulders
Low - pitches over the plate between the batter's waist and at least one foot from the ground.
Fair - pitches over the plate between the batter's shoulders and at least one foot from the ground.
1887: - "The batter can no longer call for a 'high' or 'low' pitch.
"A (strike) is defined as a pitch that 'passes over home plate not lower than the batsman's knee, nor higher than his shoulders.'"
1907: "A fairly delivered ball is a ball pitched or thrown to the bat by the pitcher while standing in his position and facing the batsman that passes over any portion of the home base, before touching the ground, not lower than the batsman's knee, nor higher than his shoulder. For every such fairly delivered ball, the umpire shall call one strike."
1950: "The Strike Zone is that space over home plate which is between the batter's armpits and the top of his knees when he assumes his natural stance."
1963: "The Strike Zone is that space over home plate which is between the top of the batter's shoulders and his knees when he assumes his natural stance."
1969: "The Strike Zone is that space over home plate which is between the batter's armpits and the top of his knees when he assumes a natural stance."
1988: "The Strike Zone is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the top of the knees. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball."
1996: The Strike Zone is expanded on the lower end, moving from the top of the knees to the bottom of the knees.
2001: No rule change but MLB asserts that umpires will call strike zone in rulebook.

Pitcher's Mound

1845: The pitching distance is forty-five feet, marked by 12-foot line.
1865: The pitcher's box appears: 12' x 3' box. Must pitch within box.
1866: The pitcher's box enlarged: 12' x 4'.
1867: The pitcher's box: 6' x 6'.
1868: The pitcher's box: 4' x 6'.
1869: The pitcher's box: 6' x 6'.
1881: The pitching distance: 50'.
1886: The pitcher's box: 4' x 7'.
1887: The pitcher's box: 4' x 5.5'.
1893: The pitching distance: 60'6" (present distance). The pitcher's box replaced by the rubber (12" x 4").
1895: The pitcher's rubber: 24" x 6" (present size).
1904: The height of the pitcher's mound established at no higher than 15".
1950: The height of the pitcher's mound exactly 15".
1968: Pitcher's mound: 10".

Restrictions on the Pitcher

1858: Can make a short run while delivering pitch. Pitch from below waist.
1863: No steps in his delivery. Both feet must be on the ground when he releases the ball.
1867: Can take as many steps as they like in their delivery.
1872: May snap wrist during delivery. Must pitch below waist.
1879: Must face the batter when he pitches.
1883: May pitch up to shoulder height.
1884: May pitch with any motion as long as not higher than shoulder height. May take one step before delivery.
1887: Must keep one foot on the rear line of pitcher's box. May take one step before delivery. Ball must be visible to ump.
1893: Must place rear foot against the rubber.
1897: Intentionally discoloring or injuring the ball is punishable by a $5 fine. The ball is replaced.
1898: Balk called if pitcher does not make throw to base after making motion to it.
1899: Balk for pickoff throws only.
1908: Forbidden from scuffing or soiling a new ball.
1920: Spitball banned. Two pitchers per team may be designated to be grandfathered in for year.
1921: 17 spitball pitchers granfathered in for their careers.
1925: Rosin bag allowed.
1940: Balk on fake throw to unoccupied base. May take two steps-one forward, one backward-as long as his pivot foot remains in contact with the rubber at all times.
1968: Balk if pitcher goes to mouth with men on base.

Other Rules of note

1845: Ball weighs 3 oz.
1854: Ball weighs from 5.5 to 6.5 oz. and is from 2.75" to 3.5" in diameter.
1858: Game set at nine innings (not ended when first team scores 21 runs).
1859: Bat limited to 2.5" in diameter.
1863: Bats must be round-no more flat cricket bats.
1868: Bats: no longer than 42".
1872: Ball weighs from 5 to 5.25 oz. And has circumference from 9" to 9.25".
1877: Home plate is relocated to its present spot.
1881: The pitcher is fined for deliberately hitting a batter with the ball.
1887: A batter hit by a pitched ball is entitled to first base and not charged with a time at bat Home plate is to be made of rubber and is to be twelve inches square. A base on balls is scored as a hit and counted as a time at bat.
1888: A hit batsman is awarded first base and credited with a hit.
1895: Maximum diameter of bat: 2.75".
1900: Home plate changed from 12" square to 5-sided, 17"-wide shape.
1910: Cork-centered ball officially adopted.
1920: Australian yarn introduced, creates "lively ball". Ball's "gloss" removed by ump.
1926: Cushioned cork-center ball adopted.
1934: Both major leagues adopt same brand of ball.
1950: Starting pitcher must go five innings for a win.
1971: Helmets required at bat.
1973: DH adopted in AL (becomes permanent in 1976).

You'll notice that aside from an odd DH rule or three, baseball has for the most part been just slightly tweaking its rules since early in the twentieth century. However, the redefinition of the strike zone every decade or so has been the one exception to the homeostasis in baseball rules, and it's more an issue today than ever. Just the fact that baseball had to assert that the rulebook would actually be followed is telling enough.

Now, Let's assume a few things. First, that a number of the changes above such as changes to the strike zone, the pitching distance, the number of balls in a walk, etc., affect the statistical record in a discernable way. You just have to know where to look for it.

If the umpires have been altering the strike zone, there should be some account of it in the statistical record. Maybe it won't be as sudden a change as a rule change, but it should be perceptible over time. Also, if de facto strike zones are adopted by umps in one league first, then there should be a perceptible difference between the leagues' statistical record.

I made a table of strikeouts, walks (unintentional), hits batsmen, hits, and home runs per plate appearance per league per year since 1871. I also calculated the percentage change per league each year and the annual differences between the leagues. For the sake of brevity-like that's a concern for me-, I'll just post strikeouts and unintentional walks here (By the way, there are inaccuracies between the pitching and batting data for pre-1962 data. For instance, no strikeouts were record for batters for the first decade of the 1900s. I have chosen the larger of the two to cast the widest net. Also, for interleague era data, I have opted to list the batting data. Neither would give a complete picture.):

YearLgK/PA%DiffLg DiffNIBB/PA%DiffLg Diff

OK, so it appears that strike zone definition affects the statistical record much less than other rule changes or even changes in the size or quality of the player pool.

The largest variance occurred in 1877 when home plate was moved to its current position though it was still square (K/PA increased 79.94%; BB/PA went up 50.33%). The foul strike caused huge increases in strikeouts in the NL in 1901 (59.38%) and the AL in 1903 (56.68%). The one-year switch to four strikes in 1887 caused a huge swing in strikeouts (NL: 1887 down 38.46% and 1888 up 37.29%; AA: 1887 down 35.37% and 42.87% in 1888). The largest change in walk occurrences happened in 1889 when the majors went to 4 balls per walk (65.98% in NL, 34.17% in AA), 1886 when it became 5 balls for a walk (49.65% in AA, 17.41% in NL), etc. But years like 1872 (65.98% increase in walks) and 1878 (48.95% increase in strikeouts), in which no rules changes were implemented but the quality of the play varied greatly, witnessed a great deal of variability in strikeout and walk calls.

The years in which the strike zone was redefined produced various results:

1887: Baseball defined the a unified strike zone for the first time as batters were no longer able to call for a high or low pitch. However, it is difficult to say how much the strike zone changes affected the statistical record given that baseball was still monkeying with lots of rules at once. For example, only in 1887 four strikes were required for a strikeout, the first time that a hit batsman was given first base was 1887 (at least in the NL; the AA had established the rule in 1884), and in 1887 the pitcher's box was shrunk and the pitcher was required to keep his foot on the back line of the box (thereby moving the release point back at least a couple of feet).

The end result was a huge dropoff in strikeouts (35.37% in AA and 38.46% in NL), walks held steady at least for that era (3.73% increase in AA and 7.03% in NL), and hit bastmen went up (38.02% in AA; first introduced to NL). If the desired effect was to stimulate offenses, it worked: hits per plate appearance went up 11.62% in the AA and 5.72% in the NL and homers went through the admittedly very low roof (35.18% up in AA, 44.02% in NL).

In 1907, the strike zone rule was re-written but remained basically the same. It was knee to shoulders but now the ball could pass over any portion of the plate and could not be called a strike if it bounced. The slight changes caused very little change in the statistical record: strikeouts were down slightly (AL 2.83%, NL 6.44%), walks were up ever so slightly (AL 0.73%, NL 0.75%), hit batsmen were up slightly (AL 2.35%, NL 0.39%), hits were down slightly (AL 0.21%, NL 0.66%), and home runs went up in the NL (11.84%) and down in the AL (24.88%). Overall, not much of a change occurred perhaps because the loss of the bounce strike and the addition of the "corner" strike balanced each other out.

In 1950 the big change to the zone was the loss of the shoulder-high strike. This strike zone redefinition is of special interest because it appears from the statistical record to have taken three years to become fully implemented. This may the first time that the rules and the umps had a parting of the ways at least for a short time. Another explanation could be that it took pitchers three seasons to adjust fully to the change though I think that the league stats starting to converge is a good indication that the umps in each league took extra time to arrive at a uniform strike zone throughout baseball.

In 1950 this was an increase in strikeouts but the AL's increase was disproportionately low (or the NL's was disproportionately high, depending on your point of view): a 3.18% increase to a 9.35% strikeout-to-plate appearance ratio in the AL and a 9.76% increase to 10.49 in the NL (the first year above 10% since 1916 except for a post-World War II spike in the AL due to returning players). The disparity between the leagues was the largest since the pre-Federal League 1912 season, 1.14% (again except for the one-year aberration in 1946).

The rule change affected the league differently as far as walk rates in 1950 were considered. The AL dropped 4.77% to 11.12% walks to plate appearances. This was still the second highest figure to that date for walks in a league-the highest being the AL the year before, 11.67. The unusually high and the quickly expanding strike totals in the AL may have been the impetus to redefine the zone. The NL increase by 3.57% to a 9.51% walk ratio, still 1.61% lower than the AL total.

The rule had an immediate effect on hit batsmen: a 21.39% increase in the AL and an 11.17% increase in the NL (and only a difference of 0.02% between leagues). Hits-per-plate appearance held steady (3.54% increase to 23.54 in AL and a 0.54% decrease to 23.22% in the NL: only 32 percentage points separated the leagues). Home runs went through the roof: 24.14% increase in the AL (2.00% HR-to-PA ratio) and an 18.30% increase in the NL (to 2.30%).

In 1951, almost all of the categories decreased: walks (AL down 8.57, NL down 4.08), home runs (AL down 12.63%, NL down 7.27%), hits (AL 1.95% and NL 0.36%), and strikeouts in the NL (down 5.58% though up 2.15% in the AL). More importantly the distinctions between leagues was decreasing for all ratios: strikeout difference only 0.35% from 1.14% in 19650, walks only 1.05% from 1.61 in 1950 and 2.50% in 1949, HBP only 0.01%, hits only 0.06%, and HRs only 0.39% (though up 8 points from 1950).

1952 appears to be the putative end to the mini-revolution. Strikeouts were up sharply (AL 12.61% up; NL 12.77% up-it's also the first time since the Federal League that both leagues were over 10% in same year). Walks continued to drop (AL down 4.92% and NL down 2.82%; only 0.80% separated the leagues as well).Hit batsman were way up (AL 9.24% increase, NL 8.12% increase), but hits and especially home runs were down (hits down 3.34% in the AL and 2.52% in NL; HRs: 4.99% AL decrease, 9.53% NL decrease). The end result was that the leagues were more closely aligned in terms of these ratios in a non-war year for the first time since the lively ball.

In 1963, baseball went back to the pre-1950 strike zone and decimated offenses for the rest of the decade. At least the effect was immediate. Strikeouts went way up (AL 9.70%, NL 7.95% and for the first time ever they were both over 15% in K-to-PA ratio) and walks went way, way down (AL decreased 11.79%, NL 14.13%-the NL's 6.65% BB-to-PA ratio was the lowest total in thirty years). Offenses were down slightly (except a 14.35% dropoff in HRs in the NL) and would continue to drop for another five years.

In 1969 baseball redefined the strike zone to the 1950 definition in an attempt to jump-start offenses. Home runs increased sharply: 20.86% in he AL and 35.54% in the NL. Walks did, too: AL up 18.32%; NL up 29.14%. Strikeouts dropped by 8.98% in the AL and increased slightly (0.53%) in the NL.

Bill James said in his original The Historical Baseball Abstract that the 1988 redefinition of the strike zone, which removed move of the upper part of the zone, was presaged by a de facto change that started three years earlier. I see nothing that supports a change in 1985 (strikeout up 2.25% in Al but down 2.55% in the NL; walks up 5.02% in AL, 2.55% in NL). However, home runs jumped by over ten percent in both major leagues (AL 10.50%, NL 11.18%), but that rise is still dwarfed by the one three years earlier (AL 28.02%, NL 19.52%).

In 1986, strikeouts spiked (AL up 10.37%, NL up 8.93%) and so did hit batsman (AL 18.78%, NL 11.23%). It appears that there was some sort of battle for the plate between the batters, who were hungry to join the power onslaught of the period, and the pitchers, who did want to give in to the batters.

In 1987, like two years earlier, strikeouts (AL up 2.30%, NL down 0.62%) and walks (AL up 2.75%, NL up 1.13%) stayed about the same but homers skyrocketed (AL 14.31%, NL 18.93%).

When the rule was officially changed in 1988, strikeouts dropped somewhat (AL down 6.97%, NL 3.74%) but walks dropped substantially (AL down 8.48%, NL 11.77%-at 6.86% the walk ratio was the lowest since 1968). In both leagues home runs plummeted by at least a quarter (AL 16.76%, NL 28.68%). So in the end strikeout rates were still slightly higher than before the zone was shrunken, and walks too came down. By 1988, home runs were down to almost exactly the 1984 rates in each league. Hit batsmen rates were also much higher than before the period.

This seems to be the story from the data available: home runs went way up in 1985 but the strike zone remained about the same. In 1986, home runs flattened slightly as strikeouts and hit batsmen soared. Apparently, here is where the outside strike was ceded to the pitcher to allow him to combat the homer brigade. Batters sensed this and crowded the plate to cover the outside corner, thereby getting beaned more often. 1987 was a repeat of 1985: lots of home runs but little change in the strike zone. Then the rule change in 1988 forced fewer walks and strikeouts as pitchers gave up on the high strike altogether. Batters still crowded the plate and given that and the fact that strikeouts dropped less than walks after the rule change, I am tempted to think that umps continued to give the pitchers the outside strike, ignoring the new (or any other) strike zone definition.
It seems to me that the accommodation, the outside strike, that umps made for pitchers started right there. How else would a smaller strike zone cause more strikeouts? I understand that hitters may strike out more often if they are trying to hit more home runs. However, the strikeouts stayed higher after the home runs went back to "normal". Pitchers stopped trying to get high strikes because they were dangerous. Batters crowded the plate to get to the outside strike that was ceded to the pitchers and got plunked more often.

By 1996, strikeouts and walks had both increased slowly over time. Home runs were up about 50% and hit batsmen were up about 100% from the early Eighties. Also, the strikeout and walk rates varied greatly per league (1.74% difference in strikeout rates and a 1.20% difference in walks in 1995). The 1996 redefinition appeared to be an accommodation for the existent lower strike zone. It made very little impact: AL had a 1.98% increase in strikeout and a 0.88% decrease in walks; the NL, 1.90% and 0.60%. Strikeout rates were at an all-time high, but that had more to do with a steady increase starting around 1982.

By 2001 strikeout rates had actually started to fall but walk rates were at their highest since the early Fifties, when baseball first started experimenting with the strike zone. The 2001 rule enforcement (again no rule change was actually made) had a significant impact: strikeout rates climbed by at least 5% (AL 5.21%, NL5.12%). Walk rates dropped by at least 12% in each league (AL 15.05%, NL 12.70%). This had an even larger impact on walk rates than the 1963 strike zone expansion. I would call the move a major success if not for one issue. Hit batsmen rates soared in 2001. In the AL that year a batter would be plunked more than once per one hundred plate appearances (1.05%). This was the highest rate since 1900 for any league. Also, the percent increase in hit batsmen in the AL in 2001 was 38.96%, the highest increase since 1890. The NL also experienced about a 10% increase to almost one hit batsman per one hundred plate appearances (9.86% increase to 0.97%).

In 2002, strikeouts dropped possibly die to the outside strike being taken away even more perhaps because of fear of the dreaded, computerized QuesTec system. Hit batsmen also dropped significantly (7.24 in AL and 7.62 in the NL). Home run rates have been dropping in both leagues since the 2001 rule enforcement.

So as far as I can tell, the drama that is being played out between owners, umps, and players regarding the strike zone and the QuesTec system, started in the mid-Eighties with umps ceding the outside strike to pitchers and almost simultaneously, batters crowding the plate and getting hit more often. But it seems impossible to disentangle those two events into cause and effect. It's a chicken-or-the-egg type Ghordian knot. What is clear is that as a result the batter's box was obliterated. I believe if the umpire requires a well demarcated batter's box, the hit batsmen and potentially the outside strike issues are somewhat mitigated.

The owners have become increasingly unhappy with the umpires strike zone since the Eighties. Their attempt at reconciliation in 1996 ("if we give you the low strike, will you give us the high strike and get rid of the outside strike?") failed miserably. Owners are not the kind of men who allow employees (i.e., umpires) to disobey orders. So in 2001, after a failed coupe by the umpires' union, the owners try to rein them in again. This time it's a success but not a complete one. Also, the owners are still distrustful of the umps, and start implementing a computerized strike zone guardian.

What happens next? I am left with Leonard Koppett's comments from the article above:

The whole ball-strike idea boiled down to one simple principle: A pitcher had to make a hittable delivery in fairness to the hitter, and the hitter had to swing at it in fairness to the pitcher.

What is a hittable pitch?

It seems incredible but after over 125 years of trying to codify that question baseball is still struggling to answer it. In one sense the answer is written down in black and white in the rulebook. However, as an average fan can tell you, what an umpire may call a hittable pitch varies from pitcher to pitcher, batter to batter, and inning to inning. It may even change within an at-bat.

Does this make umpires bad people or bad employees? I think not. They did make an honest effort in 2001. The fact that the owners are distrustful of them and imposing a computerized babysitter after the strides made in 2001 irks the umps doubly. Then again they did bring it upon themselves by re-interpreting the strike zone on their own at least as early as the mid-Eighties.

To me it boils down to a management issue. 2001 got them three-quarters of the way there. Now if the owners had used QuesTec to enforce the strides made in 2001 and retrain and empower (yeah, I said it) the umps instead of becoming oppositional with it, maybe they could get to the promised land , that is a strike zone according to the book. I'm afraid now that Bud and MLB's inability to properly motivate their employees will cause more bad than good as neo-Luddite umps attempt to circumvent the QuesTec system and bring the issue to a head.

It appears that the owners will implement QuesTec throughout baseball in the next few years. Whether that system can significantly improve ball-strike calling (I have my opinions) and whether umpires will continue to succumb to its use and its strictures remains to be seen.

Double Indemnity, II
2003-06-11 09:48
by Mike Carminati

John Tallman has a clarification on the play:

I was at the Yankees game last night sitting in a good enough spot to see the Ensberg/Matsui mish mash. Matsui definitely stayed within the baseline rule when he avoided Ensberg. From my vantage point you could see the play perfectly. The confusion was understandable because the way Matsui jumped made it look like he went outside the baselines, but he actually didn't move that far, maybe a foot at the most. If Ensberg had tried to tag Matsui higher on his body he would have been out, he just managed to move his big butt fast enough to avoid it.

Now if only the broadcast team could actually get a good vantage point on the play, even with the umpteen different angles and the closeup on Matsui's butt.

New York Minutes
2003-06-11 00:36
by Mike Carminati

Newsday reports that the Yankees intend to cut Juan Acevedo. Evidentally, George got upset by the way Acevedo gave up the lead on one pitch in Roger Clemens latest bid to win 300 games and bring world peace. Jason Anderson and Al Reyes return to fill out the puppet show and bullpen ("If I told them once, I told them a million times: that's bullpen and puppet show"). Jose Contreras is going on the DL and Jeff Weaver is going back to the rotation. And I'll get to Scotland before ye.

Meanwhile, in Flushed Meadows, CBS Sportsline reports, the Mets are calling up prized rookie, Jose Reyes, to replace injured Rey Sanchez at short. Reyes arrives just in time to became depressed about his future.

Double Indemnity
2003-06-10 23:59
by Mike Carminati

Hidecki Matsui was on third base tonight for the Yankees, who led 3-2 in the sixth. There was one out, Raul Mondesi was at bat, and teh Yankees very much wanted the insurance run that Matsui represented. Mondesi hit a ball sharply on the ground but rightat Houston third baseman (and tax accountant) Morgan Ensberg who was close to the bag. Matsui instinctively went back to third and then realized he was running straight toward Ensberg and the ball. He twisted around and apparently avoided Ensberg's tag. Ensberg tossed the ball to first to get Mondesi on what he thought was an inning-ending doubleplay. Mastui raced home to give the Yankees the insurance run the needed as the ended up winning, 5-3.

I thought that Ensberg missed Matsui when I saw the play originally and none of the various replays convinced me otherwise. So even though Enberg and Astro manager Jimy Williams argued the call vehemently, I think that the ump made a good call on the tag. The replays should that he was in a good position to make the call.

So even though Ensberg had this to say on the play:

"I felt the tag, I touched him. He ran into my glove. You tag, and you turn and throw."

I aint buying.

But I think Matsui was out.

"Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" you say?

Rule 7.08 states and I quote:

Any runner is out when (a) (1) He runs more than three feet away from a direct line between bases to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball

It looked to me that in avoiding the tag Matsui ran outside the lines. It's hard to see in the replays but I thought I saw it. I might be wrong, but why can't the announcers at least gives us a replay that confirms or denies it or at least enetertain the idea of his running outside the lines. They are too concerned about giving us eight different angles on a tag play that was impossible to call at any angle. Of course, you never see an ump make a call on something so seemingly tangentially related to the play.

2003-06-10 13:34
by Mike Carminati

Dan Lewis discusses Sammy's suspension as a deterrent to future bat-corkers.

Cotton-Eyed Joe Morgan Chat Day
2003-06-09 13:15
by Mike Carminati

I think these Boston fans won that [1903] Series for the Red Sox. We beat them three out of the first four games and then they started singing that damn Tessie song, the Red Sox fans did...[I]n the fifth game, the Royal Rooters started singing Tessie for no particular reason at all and the Red Sox won. They must have figured it was a good-luck charm because from then on, you could hardly play ball because they were singing Tessie so damn loud...Only instead of singing "Tessie, you know I love you madly," they'd sing special lyrics...And for us Pirates they'd sing:
Honus, why do you hit so badly,
Take a back seat and sit down.
Honus, at bat you look so sadly,
Hey why don't you get out of town.

Sort of got on your nerves after a while. And before we knew what happened, we'd lost the World Series.

-Pittsburgh's Tommy Leach, on the Boston's "Royal Rooters" singing the Pilgrims (not yet Red Sox) to victory (and sometimes substituting the own then-vulgar lyrics) in the first World Series. From Lawrence Ritter's incomparable The Glory of Their Times.

Times once were in sport that songs helped warriors gird their loins (what else do you gird?) for battle. They were the musical equivalent of such inspirational speeches as the St. Crispen's Day speech ("We few, we happy few...") in Shakespeare's Henry V or "Hello, my name is Indigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die," from The Princess Bride or "My name is Elmer J. Fudd. I own a mansion and a yacht" (citation unknown). A fight song drove the athlete to strive for the seemingly unattainable and made the "cranks" (Ye olde-tyme fans) almost part of the competition.

Today, the only shards of this are 1) the role calls that fans chant for each player in the field until that player acknowledges them at Yankee Stadium and 2) the cheers of "Yankees suck!" everywhere outside of Yankee Stadium. That cheer was chanted perhaps for the first time at Wrigley Field this weekend after Roger Clemens was again let down by his bullpen. But aside from those, we fans have been genericized to death with activities like the wave and watching the tomfoolery of the local endomorphic muppet that calls itself the team mascot while players pick their own ludicrous music, a snippet of which is played each time that player steps to the plate.

The only song that gets fans on their feet today is a good-old version of "Cotton-Eyed Joe", which is invariably accompanied on the jumbo screen by some rube either in the stands or in the broadcast booth cavorting around in a requisite straw hat. Where did it come from? Why won't it go? "Cotton-Eyed Joe" is supposed to appeal to us on some sort of preternatural level where "Froggy Went A-Courtin'" is cutting edge. It pre-dates the strictures of musical genres like country, blues, rock, or even folk. It harkens back to the early days of the United States, woebegone days when minorities were either enslaved or properly repressed. And it's chock full of foot stomping goodness, yee haw! "Cotton-Eyed Joe" is the sports fan's equivalent of the back-to-nature craze that was popular with the PC-repressed male culture of the mid-Nineties-except it fits in well with the wave, the chop, or the rally monkey. It's no wonder auto racing is the number one "sport" in the country.

So what does this have to do with Joe Morgan? Joe is responsible for the same charade but he registers in the left side our baseball minds. Joe tells us that on-base percentage doesn't matter. He tells us things were better in the good ol' days of small ball. He criticizes the A's for getting on base and hitting home runs. He evaluates pitchers by wins, the personal stat they have the least control over. And we stomp along like that bumpkin in "Cotton-Eyed Joe".

So without further ado, here's a little number we call Joe Morgan Chat Day. And a one-ah and a two-ah:

The Good

Steve Deal (Bellefontaine, OH): In the wake of Sosa's corked bat mistake, MLB will likely hand down a 7 or so game suspension for a potentially minor infraction (no player is directly hurt by using a corked bat). What do you think about increasing the suspension time for in game brawls? Could an automatic suspension for leaving the bench/bullpen like in the NBA work in baseball?

First of all, it wasn't a minor infraction. The rules say you can't do it. Minor is in the mind of the individuals. No, I think sometimes they give too large of a suspension for brawls.

[Mike: Right, brawls may do more physical damage but they do not harm the integrity of the game itself.]

Jim Hills, Menomonee Falls WI: Joe Why is it that the majority of Major League Players don't play with injuries any more. A perfect example of this was Wednesday night when Griffey hurt his right arms during a swing, and then on the next pitch he hit a homerun and then sat out the rest of the game. It just seems if he was able to hit a homerun then he should be able to play the rest of the game.

There is a perception that players today do not play with injuries. But sometimes when guys did it before, it was stupid. You can play with pain, but not with injuries.

[Mike: Right you are, Joe. Keep in mind that Mr. Hill doubles everything so when he says that Griffey hurt his two right arms, he actually means 60 right arms. Otherwise he's perfectly all right. And you have to say "dog kennel' to Mr Morgan, because if you say "right arm" he puts a bucket over his head. I should have explained. Otherwise he's perfectly all right.

(From the Monty Python Buying a Bed sketch)]

Andrew (Franklin Lakes, NJ): Joe- do you think the matchup going on at Wrigley this weekend could be a World Series preview?

I think it's interesting. The last time the Yankees were there, Babe Ruth had his called shot. For that fact, it will be fun to watch the matchup. It's too early to tell about the World Series.

[Mike: Right, Joe. Any interleague series could be the World Series at this point. It's the first week of June. Enjoy the regular season, Andrew. This isn't the NBA: the regular season has meaning in baseball. Besides, it's not like either of these teams has huge leads. The Astros and the Red Sox are dogging them. They might not win their division, let alone the league championship four months from now.]

Ned: What's worse: corking a bat or scuffing the ball?

Very very good question. No one has bothered to think about it. They all have their own thought about what cheating is. I would say scuffing a baseball. It affects more players and the outcome of the game more. One hitter with a corked bat doesn't affect the game that much. I still don't believe a corked bat helps a hitter nearly as much as people think.

[Mike: Right, Joe. Besides the batter isn't flinging a corked bat at another person as a scuffed ball is by design.

Also, what, are we playing a game of Scruples? It's against the rules. Let's not worry about the morals. Ned, let's say you had a little box with a button, and if you hit the button a person that you've never met would die but you'd get a billion dollars. What would you do? You go back in time and Hitler is a child. What do you do?

What's worse, appearing on American Idol and losing or Star Search and winning? Is it better to burn out or fade away? Who invented liquid soap and why? These are eternal questions that are beyond the ken of mortal man, except Captain Kirk, who would know the right answer even while diddling the green chick. ]

Jordan (Atlanta): Would Major League Baseball hide the fact that all of Sammy's bats were corked, for the sake of baseball?

No. They wouldn't do that. Secondly, I'm with the Hall of Fame and they checked the bats he gave them. We had five on display and we checked them ourselves and they were all clean.

[Mike: Well. Jordan, no. But the CIA is in on it and the Cubans, the Teamsters, the FBI, and the mob. "Read the book". "The truth is out there" and so are you.

The Bad

Brian (NYC): In your opinion, who is the best of all time at robbing homeruns in the outfield? To me that is the most exciting play in baseball.

You have to remember they just lowered the fences to those dimensions in recent years. When I played in Cincinnati, the fence was 12-13 feet high. But now you can jump over them. Probably Mikeameron and Torii Hunter are the two best. Had they been lower all the time, Eric Davis would be in that category. You couldn't jump over the Astrodome fence, that's for sure.

[Mike: Ah, Joe the fences at Riverfront were 12 feet from 1970 to 1983 but were lowered to 8 feet in 1984. Of course, that was after you left, but it was twenty years ago.

By the way, my pick is Timmy Lupus. That catch in The Bad News Bears was amazing. Runner up? Jeffrey Maier.]

Joey, Nj: Do you think the Orioles are finally a respectable team?

They have some good players on the team but they are still very much a work in progress.

[Mike: Yo, Joey! Wanna go for a coke and slice? Did you see the guy about the thing?

The Orioles were respectable for much of last year and fell apart miserably. Let's at least wait until the All-Star break to see about 2003.]

Philip (Denver): Hi Joe, It seems like this years Mariners are much like the 2001 team - which worries me because they have no #1 starter to guarantee wins in the playoffs. Is this a problem?

It depends on who they would be matched up against. But I agree, they do not have a clear cut No. 1 guy, although Moyer has pitched well and can match up with some No. 1's. I was shocked the 2001 team didn't win it all. Some teams have lost some of their toughness since 2001, including the Yankees. The teams they will potentially face will not be as strong.

[Mike: Look, Moyer is 10-2 with a 2.93 ERA. He won 20 games two years ago and has won at least 13 since 1996. That seems like a number 1 to me.]

Adam (West Columbia, SC): What are the Braves going to do about their pitching staff, especially their middle relief.

They will do what everyone does .. try to find a fit. But every team will be looking for the exact same thing. There are no teams without weaknesses. The salary restrictions are the cause of that. Everyone will have a hole to fill. The Dodgers need a bat. Talent is diluted and everyone will want something at the end of the season.

[Mike: To quote Bill Ray Valentine, "Thanks, you've been halpful." Yeah, a lot of teams will do a lot of things, but the guy wants to know about the Braves. Why not just say you don't know?

My gut feeling is that they will muddle through with what they have unless there is a major dropoff in the performance of the team.]

Nevada, Mo: Do you Think Roger Clemens will out duel Kerry Wood on Saturday to pick up three hundred? Or will you yet again have it allude him?

No one knows the answer to that! He pitched well enough to win last time, the team just self destructed. The question is how well will he pitch? If he pitches as well as last time, he will win.

[Mike: Well, that's an unfortunate prediction, isn't it? Don't stare. Move along. Nothing to see.]

Gordon (NYC): Hi Joe, Andy Pettitte is 30 years old with 132 wins and 4 rings. He could finish his career with some impressive stats, but will people dismiss them as a product of the great teams he's been on? Thanks!!

If he continues to win games, he will be remembered as a great pitcher. You have to have great players to make a great team. Otherwise it's just a good team.

[Mike: Gordon from NYC? How are Elmo and Oscar? Pettitte's ERA is a hair under 4.00. That's going to be a hard sell to the Hall voters even if he does have a great winning percentage. He's a good pitcher. Allie Reynolds is fondly remembered and he wasn't great either.]

Joey, Nj: Do you think Jose Contreras is better off being a starter?

I can't really say. I can only go by what I see. He has pitched better as a starter every time I have seen him. He looked great in a game for Cuba I did a couple years ago. He always looks better as a starter to me but it's still too early to tell.

[Mike: "He has pitched better as a starter every time I have seen him." So that would be twice, then-I don't think you can include the Cuba starts. He is pitching well as a starter so far, the Yankees need him with Weaver doing his best Eddie Whitson impersonation, and he sucked in the pen. Yeah, it's early, but there's no reason to think he would be better off as a reliever.]

Josh (Coventry, CT): I know it's silly, as a Red Sox fan, to be optimistic about our playoff chances, but this year, more than previous years, the Yankees look extremely vulnerable (especially in the bullpen). Do you think this is the year when the Sox finally outdo the Yanks? And do you think Pedro will make a dominant return?

I don't think it's silly to look at your chances as positive. You have a great chance. It's a better team than you have had before. You have more bats to depend on and you are getting some great contributions from many sources. You have a great chance.

[Mike: So, Joe, was there an opinion in there? Yeah, their chances look good. A twelve-year-old reading the standings could tell you that.

I think that the Sox could be closer to the Yankees than ever before, but now they have to worry about the Blue Jays. Of course, their yearly mid-season acquisition from brother Bud-is Vlad Guerrero available-should help.]

Ricky (Albuquerque, NM): Hey Joe! Being a loyal Mets fan, do I have anything to look forward to? It just keeps getting worse.

They have to get better! There is no way they won't get better. They will play better as the season progresses. Burnitz has given them a spark and Alomar should get better. I just think they will play better as the year goes along.

[Mike: Anything for a Mets fan to look forward to? How about football season? The Mets may improve like last year after they have been all but mathematically eliminated. Or they may sell of all of their veteran talent, play nobodies for the future, and get worse.

Burnitz is playing well (.869 OPS in only 120 AB is 30 points higher than career average), but has been far from revelatory. Besides he is 34 and will not be around when the Mets are good again.

As far as Alomar getting better, he is 35 and has established a new level, a poor one, that has been consistent over the last one and one-half seasons. His batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS (.707 in 2002 and .712 in 2003) have remained pretty consistent. It is hard to believe that he has suffered such a large dropoff after 2001, but it is probably harder to believe that he will come back at his age after so long a down period.]

Derek Monroe: what do you think about those devils?

I've been a Devils fan since John McMullen owned the team. I do think NJ will win but the Ducks have played very very well. The puck can bounce funny sometimes. But I think NJ will still win it.

[Mike: What is this, Al Morganti Chat Day? Get back to baseball. Besides "those devils" scare me with their pitchforks and cloven feet, except for Elizabeth Hurley. She makes me feel kinda funny, like when we used to climb the rope in gym-class.]

Dustin (Muncie, IN): Joe, what kind of pitcher is out on the trade market that the Reds can trade for? Do the Reds have enough to give for a good quality pitcher?

There are a lot of guys that will be available because teams will want to cut payroll. But more teams will be after them. I don't know if the Reds will be able to afford what they want or have enough guys to trade to get them. It's not just about paying the salary, you have to trade something to get them.

[Mike: What kind of pitcher? Over-rated, over-priced, over-aged ones, just like the Reds got last year. They trade Elmer Dessens and put all their hopes in Jimmy Haynes. What do they expect?

As far as payroll hits, last year teams would either look to cut payroll or acquire young talent, but rarely got both. I see no reason why that trend will not continue.]

Santos (Huntsville, Alabama: Do you think race has something to do with Sammy's media coverage?

As a minorty trying to look through the eyes of Sammy Sosa or Jose Canseco, I can see where Jose would draw some of those conclusions. I don't necessarily agree. But I can see where it comes from. No one attacked Mark McGwire and wanted to take away his records. The point remains, some people believe Andro helps your performance. But there just wasn't much said about it. That is probably what Canseco is referring to. I don't necessarily agree with what Jose said, but I can see where he is coming from.

I think when people make statements about race, you have to see what their evidence is. You don't just dismiss or condone something based on race. If they don't have good evidence, they should keep their mouth shut.

[Mike: Joe's right. I think Jose Canseco is just poor-me-ing. Blaming his own troubles on being a minority. There are always those who want to promulgate their own ideologies, but in Jose's as in Sammy's case race has little to do with the story.

However, as far as andro is concerned, it was a legal, over-the-counter supplement that the majors did not have a rule against. Joe is blowing McGwire's use of it out of proportion, just as the media blew Sammy's corked bat out of proportion.]

Ed Zaboski, Philadelphia, PA: Sure Sosa's excuses look real good now but they had a few innings to switch those bats before they were seized. My question is why even have a corked one in the first place? Like he's not strong enough and the pitches aren't grooved in BP? Just doesn't make any sense.

It makes sense to me. People used to watch McGwire early just for BP. Sammy is more of a people person than anyone I know. Instead of just hitting HRs, he wants to hit them 550 feet and really put on a show. He is more of a show than anyone. I tend to believe him because every other bat that has been X-rayed did not have cork. So I believe his explanation.

[Mike: Ed, I think your hanging out way to much with Jordan from Atlanta.

I agree with Joe, Sammy's explanation is plausible up to a point. He had been slumping after the injury and maybe wanted a little help. But whether it was an error of omission or commission, he is paying the price.

However, I take exception with Joe's condoning Sosa for using a corked bat in practice. Isn't it disingenuous to put on a show with a corked bat? I mean they already have some 50-year-old lobbing balls in where Sammy can hit them, and he still has to use a corked bat? The people came to see his BP show because they thought it was real. I know that there is little to no proof that the cork helps one hit a ball farther, but it had at least a placebo effect on Sosa. And it led to this entire incident.]

mike Ny: After Roger Clemens gets 300 are there any pichters after him who can boast that they have won 300; also will we ever see another 300 game winner in a few years from now?

There are two possiblities as I see them. Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. They have a chance. After that, I don't think we will see another one.

[Mike: Maddux should have a great shot, but I'm not so optimistic of Glavine's chances. He needs 53 more, is 37, and will be on a rebuilding team for the next 2.5 seasons. He also has a 4.82 ERA with the Mets and only 5 wins this year.

I personally think four-man rotations will make a comeback and in twenty years we'll may be ankle-deep in 300-game winners again though I may be nuts. Toronto is trying it this year. I heard Leo Mazzone say on Outside the Lines that there's no reason why you can't go to 4-man rotations. With young, forward-thinking GMs that want any edge they can get (like Billy Beane) coming into prominence, I don't think it's such a stretch. The old adage is that it's easier to find four starters than five, but maybe it should be that it's easier to find 11 guys for a staff than 12. Since bullpens are so deep now, even if you cut one starter, you won't need another reliever to make up for it. And one fewer pitcher means one extra position player.]

The Ugly

Dennis (NY, NY): Good morning Joe: Do you think we will ever get back to the "good old days" of baseball, where teams play the small ball and bunt & steal? There are very few teams who try to simply manufacture a run.

Good morning .. I don't think we will get back to that. The parks are smaller and everyone is playing for the 3-run homer. The Angels, D-Backs and Yankees were not really home run hitting teams. Those teams did manufacture runs and they have set the example. But I don't think we will every get back to that across the board.

[Mike: One Joe Morgan special to go, Mel!

Ah, Joe and small ball: it's like a dog with a bone. Successful teams use different strategies in different situations. The Angels were very successful with small ball last year, but did anyone notice that they went homer happy in the playoffs? Successful teams get on base and play for the three-run home run, just like Earl Weaver said. That doesn't mean that they won't score by any means necessary. The most important thing is to get on base. The A's do it and Joe puts them down every opportunity he gets. Joe himself followed the on-base model as a player and denigrates it as an analyst. Go figure.]

Greg, NY: Hi Joe, do retired players talking amongst themselves think that a lot of the current power numbers are tainted? Or is the only relevant comparison player within eras?

In most cases, they don't believe players today are better than them. They wish they could play in these small ballparks with such poor pitching.

[Mike: Give me a number 2, Mel. Hold the kraut.

These young whippersnappers have it too easy, with the crappy pitching and the dinky parks. And the andro and the corked bats. How do the smaller fences, over which outfielders may nab homers, fit into this schema anyway? And how do the ex-pitchers feel? And what about scarecrow's brain?]

2003-06-08 01:37
by Mike Carminati

Before you start feeling too sorry for Roger Clemens over having failed in his last two attempts at winning 300 games after leaving the game with the Yankees leading, consider Early Wynn.

Wynn enetered the 1962 season with the White Sox needing 8 wins to get to 300. He had his last great season in 1959, going 22-10 with a 3.17 ERA. Coincidentally, so did the Chisox, who won the AL pennant for the first time since the 1919 "Black Sox" disaster and last time until 1983. These White Sox were slipping toward mediocrity and would finish 85-77 in 1962 in fifth place in a 10-team AL. Wynn had witnessed a similar slippage in his career. He won 13 games in 1960 but lost 12 and saw his ERA rise to 3.49 (still 9% better than the league average). In 1962, he sustained that level with a 3.51 ERA and 8-2 record, but he lasted 17 games or roughly half a season. If he had finished the season, he would have had the projected win total needed to reach 300 for his career.

When the 1962 season rolled around Wynn was 42 and the Sox were in the midst of a youth movement. A number of older stars were either taking on reduced roles or had left the club. That includes 1961 players like Sherm Lollar, Minnie Minoso, Roy Sievers, Billy Pierce, Cal McLish, Luis Aparicio, Al Smith, Turk Lown, Warren Hacker, Don Larsen, and Herb Score, who were all gone by 1963 (aside from 35 games by Lollar).

Wynn stood at 7-12 on September 8, with a 6-3 over the Senators at Comiskey. He had one win to go to reach 300. He had just lost two heartbreakers: 2-0 against the Twins' Jim Kaat on August 28 and 4-3 against the Indians' Pedro Ramos in the first game of a doubleheader, September 3. Win 299 broke a personal four-game losing streak (with a 2-3 loss to Jim Perry and a 9-2 to Robin Roberts preceding the two above).

Wynn had three starts remaining and lost each one miserably: 5-10 to Boston at home September 18, 1-5 to the Yankees at home September 23, and 3-7 to the Yankees away September 28. In the last game Wynn led 3-1 going into the seventh but allowed 6 over the next two innings.

In the offseason, the White Sox released him to pursue his 300th win elsewhere (talk about a great marketing department!). When other options did not present themselves, Wynn returned to the White Sox only to get cut in spring training.

He signed with his old team, the Indians, on May 31, 1963. His first start was June 21 against-who else?-the White Sox (apparently the Indians' did have a good marketing department). He hooked up in a pitchers' duel with Juan Pizzaro, with no runs scored through eight full innings. With two outs in the ninth and a man at third, Wynn allowed a game-winning home run to Ron Hansen.

His next start was June 28 again against the White Sox, this time at Comiskey. He and Chicago starter and future baseketball star Dave DeBusschere matched up for a 2-2 tie through five and one-half innings. Wynn fell behind 3-2 in the sixth. His spot in the order was due up third in the top of the seventh, and even though the first two batters were out, Wynn was pinch-hit for. The Indians ended up losing, 4-3.

His next start was Independence Day against the Red Sox at home in the first game of a doubleheader (again good marketing). He left after six innings with a 1-0 lead after allowing a lead-off single in the seventh (sound familiar?). The Indians ended up winning, 4-3 in 12 innings, on a Jerry Kindall home run, but Wynn was no longer the pitcher of record.

He next pitched two meaningless innings of relief, July 7, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Yankees at home. He entered the game behind, 4-2, and pitched two shutout innings. The Yankees ended up winning 7-4 in ten innings.

His next start was July 13 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Kansas City A's away (only 13,565 showed up). The Indians led 1-0 going into the bottom of the fourth when Wynn allowed a leadoff homer to George Alusik to tie the game.

He made up for it in the fifth, leading off with a single (the only man to do so in his 300th win), scoring a run, and starting a four-run rally. The Indians ended up scoring all their runs with two outs with four singles and two walks. The inning ended with catcher John Romano trying score on an Al Luplow single to left.

Wynn allowed three in the bottom of the fifth after the first three batters singled. The bases were loaded with one out for Jerry Lumpe. Lumpe doubled to right to drive in all three runners but Lumpe, representing the tying run, was out at third trying to stretch the hit to a triple. Wynn got Alusik to pop out, and the inning was over.

Wynn was up second in the top of the sixth and he was pitch-hit for by Woodie Held, who doubled but did not score. The Indians added two more runs to win 7-4. Jerry Walker pitched the final four innings, allowing just three hits and no runs for a posthumous save.

Wynn had his 300th and final win. He is only one of three men, Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan being the others, to not complete his 300th game. He would start only one more game, July 27 again against KC, in which he lasted just four and one-third innings. In total he pitched 15 more games and just figured in one more decision, a loss July 21 at Yankee Stadium, in which he allowed one run in 2.1 innings. He ended up with a 2.28 ERA in 20 games.

So for a man who would be among the top 21 in wins all-time, the aptly named Early Wynn would only win one of his last 23 games and two of his last 28. He is said to have taken the most attempts (eight) to win his 300th game. It is also said that Roger Clemens has a picture of Wynn in his locker to remind him of who is ahead of him in career wins.

Maybe with the road Wynn traveled to get to 300, Clemens should find someone else to emulate.

Three Hundred, Part Three--Not Meant To Be
2003-06-07 15:58
by Mike Carminati

Roger Clemens' Yankees were leading 1-0 with one out in the seventh and men at first and second base. Clemens had only thrown 84 pitches and had allowd just three hits and one walk (including one of each on the inning). Right-handed Eric Karros, who replaced the injured Hee Seop Choi in the fourth, was up, and Joe Torre went for Juan Acevedo in the pen (also a right-hander). On Acevedo's first pitch, the ball and Clemens' 300th win were both gone--three-run home run to left.

Clemens was shouting at Torre as he walked all the way to the mound to remove the Rocket, and I don't blame him. If I were Clemens I would not entrust my 300th win to the Yankee bullpen (or their middle infielders for that matter). So Clemens cannot get win 300, but loss 155 is possible.

Choi Severely Injured
2003-06-07 14:40
by Mike Carminati

Hee Sop Choi has just been removed from Wrigley Field by an ambulance after colliding with Kerry Wood on a fly ball near home plate. Choi made a good lunging catch on the win-blown fly but was apparently hit be Wood's glove and then fell backwards on to the dirt cutout along the third base line. He was motionless for a few minutes while the trainers attended him. They seemed very concerned about a possible spinal injury, squeezing Choi's hand to verify that he could respond. After about five minutes an ambulance was brought onto the field via an opening in the right field wall. Choi was then lifted via a flat board and a gurney to the ambulance amid cheers of his name from the fans who had been deathly quiet the entire time. Dusty Baker placed a ball (possibly the one he caught) inside the ambulance before the door was closed. He was still being attended inside the ambulance for some minutes as Wood, who looked visibly shaken, and Eric Karros, his first base replacement, got ready to resume play.

50K Is A-OK
2003-06-07 14:02
by Mike Carminati

Mike's Baseball Rants just had its 50,000th visitor since going live (somewhat) almost eleven months ago.

Thanks and come again.

Three Hundred, Part Three
2003-06-07 14:00
by Mike Carminati

Roger Clemens just threw a 99-MPH fastball past Sammy Sosa.

This should be a good one...

On-Deck Coach
2003-06-07 00:39
by Mike Carminati

Reader Brian Rodriguez makes a good point about on-deck batters sometimes becoming part of the game:

something just struck me while watching the replay of the dodgers/royals game from thursday. as adrian beltre came home with the go-ahead run on cesar izturis's base hit, vin scully (interestingly) pointed out how on-deck hitter kevin brown was telling beltre not only to slide, but in which direction (away from the throw). what struck me was, what's the on-deck hitter doing up there might in the middle of the play? i know this happens all the time and i'm sure it's nice and legal, but it seemed odd how someone who has no part in the play just jumps into it like a "home base coach."
thanks for being my sounding board

Hi Brian,
Actually, there is a rule that covers this. It does not refer to on-deck batters sepcifically, but...

It is interference by a batter or a runner when: (e) Any member or members of the offensive team stand or gather around any base to which a runner is advancing, to confuse, hinder or add to the difficulty of the fielders. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate or teammates.

The players, coaches or any member of an offensive team shall vacate any space (including both dugouts) needed by a fielder who is attempting to field a batted or thrown ball. PENALTY: Interference shall be called and the batter or runner on whom the play is being made shall be declared out.

Directing the runner to slide away from the catcher as he is fielding the ball, I would consider adding to the catcher's difficulty. They would only call it if the player interferes with the play (which never happens).
Given that there are rules prohibiting certain actions by the third-base coach:

It is interference by a batter or a runner when: (j) With a runner on third base, the base coach leaves his box and acts in any manner to draw a throw by a fielder.

It is odd that the on-deck batter has carte blanche to hang out around home. It's a good point--we never question it because it's so common, but why allow it? Why not let a coach from the dugout wander out and direct the homeward-bound runner? We not let his wife on the field to plant a big kiss on him after scoring?

Triple Take, II
2003-06-07 00:09
by Mike Carminati

I ran across a similar reversal of a shoestring catch in Rich Marazzi's The Rules and Lore of Baseball:

Senators' manager Ted Williams and coach Nellie Fox protested a decision on April 13, 1969, when the Senators played at Baltimore.

Ken McMullen hit a liner to Oriole outfielder Don Buford, who appeared to have made a shoestring catch. However, umpire Emmett Ashford ruled that Buford had trapped the ball.

Ashford consulted with the other umpires after listening to a loud protest by the Orioles. The umpires decided that the ball was caught, and Ashford reversed himself, to the dismay of Williams and Fox.

He makes no mention of runners being affected, and since that was the most heinous part of the reversal from yesterday's game, I checked with Retrosheet. Here is the inning for the play in question from Retrosheet:

SENATORS 7TH: McMullen lined to Buford; Cullen popped to B. Robinson in foul territory; Brinkman singled to Buford; French popped to Belanger [Brinkman out at second]; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Senators 0, Orioles 2.

McMullen led off the inning so there were no runners affected. By the way, that was the final score.

Also, Batter's Box agrees that reversing the call--or rather its repurcussions--was a poor decision.

Triple Take
2003-06-06 14:34
by Mike Carminati

The Blue Jays "lost" a triple play last night when the umpiring crew reversed a call on a shoestring catch by Frank Catalanotto. Here's the AP story:

ST. LOUIS -- The Toronto Blue Jays played Thursday night's game under protest after an umpire's reversal turned a potential triple play into a bases-loaded, none-out situation for St. Louis.

With Eduardo Perez on second and Tino Martinez at first in the second inning, Mike Matheny hit a shallow fly to left fielder Frank Catalanotto. Umpire Kerwin Danley signaled an out after Catalanotto's shoe-top attempt.

Perez, who had run to third, was doubled off second. Martinez was tagged out between first and second by second baseman Orlando Hudson.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa sprinted on the field to protest, and replays showed that Catalanotto trapped the ball. It also appeared that Perez watched and waited until he saw the ball bounce into Catalanotto's glove before running to third.

After several minutes, the umpires ruled it a base hit and the St. Louis baserunners re-emerged from the dugout.

Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca then argued the call for several minutes and was ejected for the first time in his career. Tosca is in his first full season with Toronto after managing 109 games last year.

So is that kosher? Here's the rule on reversals from the umps section of the rulebook:


Do not allow criticism to keep you from studying out bad situations that may lead to protested games. Carry your rule book. It is better to consult the rules and hold up the game ten minutes to decide a knotty problem than to have a game thrown out on protest and replayed. Keep the game moving. A ball game is often helped by energetic and earnest work of the umpires. You are the only official representative of baseball on the ball field. It is often a trying position which requires the exercise of much patience and good judgment, but do not forget that the first essential in working out of a bad situation is to keep your own temper and self control...But remember! The first requisite is to get decisions correctly. If in doubt don't hesitate to consult your associate. Umpire dignity is important but never as important as "being right."

So a reversal makes sense, and everyone agreed that the ball was trapped, so there's no argument there. The man who was doubled off of second cannot therefore be out since there was no first out to allow for someone to be doubled off. That runner could, and evidently did, go to third.

However the runner at first has to be out, doesn't he? Remember that the Toronto fielder touched the bag with the ball in his possession. He thought he was doubling the running off second, but with the catch ruled a trap, didn't he then force the runner from first? If not, they tagged him before he returned to first anyway. He was therefore out twice.

The only way that he can stay in the game is if the umpire calls the play dead after the miscall. But then doesn't that put Toronto at a severe disadvantage? Clearly, the runner was more confused than the ump and he would have been tagged/forced out whatever the call. I see nothing in the rules that says that a miscall causes a dead ball. It's fine that they want to sort out the play, but when a runner is out no matter what the scenario, how is it a) fair and b) within the rules to basically give St. Louis a free pass?

Also, it makes you wonder why such plays to occur more often on shoestring catches. They (bad calls) happen, but usually it's so close that they just let the original call stand--not that the umps confer and decide that the play must stand: it's more that an ump won't admit a bad call, thereby allowing for a conference, unless the call is so awful to be obvious to everyone. Now, that we see the results, perhaps it's best to let the original play stand: there are fewer headaches.

Put a Cork In It
2003-06-06 13:34
by Mike Carminati

For those of you not yet sick of the Corkin' Sammy saga, ESPN reports that Sosa has been suspended eight games. However, he is appealing (in both senses of that word) so he will face the Yankees (and Roger Clemens in his third try at 300 wins) as the Cubs play host to the interleague series this weekend. I'm sure that MLB doesn't mind that Sammy is available for the high-profile series.

ESPN also has a recent history of funky-bat suspensions. I forgot to mention Chris Sabo the other day.

Woody? Could He?
2003-06-06 10:14
by Mike Carminati

The Cardinals' Woody Williams held his old team, the Blue Jays, hitless until an Orlando Hudson single to right with a 1-2 count and one out on the eighth. Williams ended up allowing just that single and a walk in eight full in the 13-5 win while contributing a triple that scored four in the third, putting the Cards up 7-0 at the time. His record for the year is 8-1 with an 1.99 ERA and leads the league in wins and ERA.

Williams is now 24-6 with a 2.28 ERA in his 40 starts since joining the Cardinals on August 2, 2001-a couple of weeks before his 35th birthday-when he was traded by the Padres for Ray Lankford. Williams a career junkballer has gotten his cut fastball into the low 90s with the Cardinals and perfected his excellent changeup. Williams was 58-62 with a 4.32 ERA (still 9% better than the park-adjusted league average) in 245 games in parts of 9 seasons prior to joining the Cardinals. Lankford had a nice two months in San Diego in 2001 but dropped off severely last year and the Padres decided to decline his $7.5 M option for this season. He is currently looking for work.

Williams' turnaround has been downright Koufaxian. Sandy Koufax was a better than average swingman for the Dodgers for his first 7 seasons. He always had the "great stuff" tag but control problems limited his effectiveness. Then the Dodgers moved into Dodger Stadium and he became a legend. Here is a breakdown of these two eras in his career:


Here are Williams' numbers in his Cardinal and pre-Cardinal careers:


Wow, Williams is a completely different type of pitcher than Koufax-righty versus lefty, finesse as opposed to power, etc.-but his turnaround is very similar. In the first period, both were part-time starters with ERAs slightly better than the league average, a .500 record, under two strikeouts per walk allowed (though Koufax had about 50% more strikeouts), and one and a third baserunners allowed per inning (WHIP).

In the second, even though neither severely increased his strikeout-per-inning totals, their number of strikeouts per walk increased precipitously. The both allowed about one baserunner per inning, saw their ERAs cut by about 50%, had ERAs at least two-thirds better than the park-adjusted league average, and had winning percentages close to 80%.

Koufax did it longer and more impressively, but Williams' turnaround has been no less spectacular. Koufax became a legend. Williams is largely unknown. It'll be interesting to see if Williams can stay healthy for another five or six years and if he can continue to perform at this level. Right now, he is probably the leading candidate for NL Cy Young award. That may get him some notoriety.

Questioning QuesTec, II
2003-06-06 01:23
by Mike Carminati

ESPN featured the QuesTec Umpire Evaluation/Information System:

- First Peter Gammons explains what QuesTec is in a little video.

Don't bother listening to Gammons but check out the footage of the QuesTec system at work. Though Stinky Pete is bloviating there are a couple things about the QuesTec system shown in the video that I, at least, have not seen before. They show that there are cameras mounted on apparently the mezzanine are as well as the field level cameras that Curt Schilling is wont to pound. Also, the system's computer system shows the path of the ball from the top view, the side view, and the plate view (at least that's what each frame in the window displayed).

What do I make of this? Apparently, QuesTec follows the path of the ball as it approaches home; it does not just take a snapshot at one point at home as I was led to believe from what I had read. This is good because the strike zone is defined as the area above the entire plate and the path of a ball may mean that it is a strike as it passes the front of the plate but appears to be a ball when it passes the back. That would mean that a system that takes readings at the back of the plate would inaccurately call it a ball. QuesTec, at least in theory, would call it (correctly) a strike.

Also, QuesTec uses four camera angles apparently: two field level and two mezzanine, each with views from either side of the plate. Of course, four camera angles are better than two. One would need at least three to triangulate the position of the ball at a given time.

So there were positive signs. However, I am still concerned that the batter himself may block up to two of those camera angles (i.e, a field-level and a mezzanine level on the side from which he is batting). If that is the case, I do not believe that the other two camera alone can accurately triangulate the path of the ball at the most critical point, as it crosses home. As configurations of stadiums vary wouldn't the quality of the camera angles vary? I am also concerned about the manner by which the cameras determine what consititutes the ball is they determine its trajectory. If it's motion, then wouldn't it be pick up the batter's preparations to swing and potentially add those coordinates into the trajectory? Also, the vertical perimeter of the strike zone is established by a technician and relies directly on his accuracy. How do we know that he is accurately following the rulebook definition? How do we know he is doing it as the batter sets himself, not when he swings or just stands at the plate? How do we know that the system itself gives him an accurate enough picture that he can do his job effectively?

It's scary, but I think I agree with Gammons: The system has to be universal (i.e., installed in al stadiums) to be effective and it is still in the nascent stages and improvements to the sytem must be forthcoming. I do disagree with Gammons in his believe that 21-year-old operators must be replaced by ex-umpires. I would think retired umpires would be intimated, neo-Luddites in dealing with the computer-based system. They should be consulted, but a trained technician has to be the most qualified person to operate the system.

- Next, they have an overview of the QuesTec system. Included are the 10 stadiums that have QuesTec currently installed, a list that is both handy and dandy:

Bank One Ballpark (Arizona)
Fenway Park (Boston)
Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay)
Jacobs Field (Cleveland)
Miller Park (Milwaukee)
Edison Field (Anaheim)
Network Associates Coliseum (Oakland)
Minute Maid Park (Houston)
Shea Stadium (Mets)
Yankee Stadium (Yankees)

It then describes the system with some possible inherent detriments:

Multiple track points precisely locate the ball in space and time.

Well, "track points" are nice, but why not a continuous tracking of the ball. Wouldn't that be more accurate?

According to the New York Times, a computer technician sets the strike zone from a snapshot taken as the first pitch to a batter was on the way to the plate. That is used to measure whether the pitch was a strike or not.

So it's only set for the first batter. What if that batter is Austin Kearns or Richie Sexson? Wouldn't the strike zone be too big for subsequent batters? What if it's Tony Womack, wouldn't the established zone be too small for Randy Johnson. I'm not sure if this is correct since one repeated criticism by the umps is that repeatedly setting the strike zone changes a call within a game, an inning, or even an at-bat.

Actually, a latter bullet point indicates this:

The strike zone is established by a computer operator, so they say it varies from park to park, from at-bat to at-bat with the same batter and sometimes even from pitch to pitch.

The piece also states that QuesTec claims to be accurate within one-half inch, though it does not say in which dimension nor how that was benchmarked.

Lastly, it tells us the curve for umps:

Umpires have been told that if at least 90 percent of their calls do not conform with QuesTec calls, they are guilty of below-standard umpiring.

- Next, the Baseball Prospectus boys compare the percentage of balls, strikes, and home runs hit and the number of runs scored per QuesTec and non-QuesTec park. They also compared down to the ump. Their findings? First they found that QuesTec does not bring consistency. Hitters' umps (i.e., ones that call more balls) are not reined in but rather overcompensate and call more strikes:

Our numbers reveal that QuesTec has made a difference for individual umpires, each of whom has adapted to the system differently, and unpredictably.

The one thing that pitchers and hitters can agree upon is that it's not so important what sort of strike zone is called, so long as it is called consistently. It's possible that with proper training, proper calibration, and comprehensive implementation at all ballparks, the QuesTec system will eventually be able to provide for that. But it isn't there yet, and until it is, cameras everywhere will not be safe.

Of course, their study did not record what type of strike was called in each case. Since one goal is to eliminate the outside, off-the-plate, Eric Gregg strike and call the belt-high, 1977 strike, it is possible that umps are awarding strikes differently in the QuesTec and non-QuesTec stadiums.

- On the same page, Rob Neyer cites Robert K. Adair, author of The Physics of Baseball and a consultant that the umpires hired to find fault with the system. He likes the system though admits that there are still a few kinks to be worked out:

"The umpire's strike zone and the QuesTec strike zone are consistent, but in different ways. The umpires' strike zone is much wider than home plate: at least a ball width on the outside corner, and half a ball on the inside. And the umpires' strike zone is smaller by a ball and a half at the bottom, and half a ball at the top."
Meanwhile, the QuesTec strike zone does closely mirror the strike zone defined in the rulebook. It's true that the zone must be adjusted up and down for each batter, but Adair says the operators generally do a good job making those adjustments. What's more, while a certain number of pitches do give incorrect readings, "Operators are given leave to kick those out, and typically they tend to throw out six or seven pitches per game."

Adair's opinion does carry a lot of weight here because he is probably the foremost authority on the physics involved in a game of base.

- Lastly, there's are old friend Joe Morgan. Morgan agrees with me on a few points, which really scares me. He opines that the tool is best used as a training device. He also offers that it is not accurate across all stadiums:

I was invited to the umpire's room before a "Sunday Night Baseball" telecast. Umpiring officials showed me the QuesTec system and explained why they felt it wasn't accurate. And after seeing their demonstration, I could see what they were talking about (from ballpark to ballpark, similar pitches to the same batter were called differently by the computer).

Of course, the camera angles that the umps were using to determine this may vary from stadium to stadium as well.

Oddly, Morgan puts all his trust in K-Zone, ESPN's answer to QuesTec. Perhaps, he's just being a loyal employee but he sells it:

K-Zone, ESPN's strike-zone accurate to within four-tenths of an inch. I don't use it to grade the umpires but to demonstrate how the pitcher uses different parts of the zone or misses just off the plate.
I trust K-Zone because I know how it works and I know it's accurate.

However, he never explains why it's accurate.

I have to say that the more I read about QuesTec, the more faith I have in its accuracy. I still have a ton of issues though. I am like the E.G. Marshall character in 12 Angry Men, who holds out until he has answered every question about every shred of evidence. He finally does agree with the rest that the man is not guilty, saying, "I have a reasonable doubt now." Well, my process is the reverse. I want to remove the reasonable doubt. I'll let you know if I get there.

Uncle Sammy?
2003-06-05 20:01
by Mike Carminati

From the Miami Herald by way of my friend Murray:

Several Illinois congressmen are expected to visit Wrigley Field on Friday to honor Sammy Sosa, even though the star is facing a suspension for playing with a juiced bat.

The U.S. House voted 372-0 Monday to congratulate the Chicago Cubs slugger on his 500th home run and praise him as a role model. Friday's ceremony is to present him with a copy of the House resolution.

A day after the House vote, Sosa was found to be hitting with an illegal bat.

Sammy is the perfect role model for congessmen.

Burnt Cork, II
2003-06-05 15:21
by Mike Carminati

As far as Canseco's comments are concerned, I forgot to mention one issue, which Charlie Mikolajczak brought to my attention:

This guy (Canseco) is as sharp as a marble. I saw the interview on ESPN you were referring to. If he doesn't think Sosa would be treated like this if he were white, what does he have to say about the scrutiny Mark McGwire came under when he admitted to taking andro? It essentially boils down to the same thing, people felt that they were using something to get an edge. The exposure you get simply comes down to your reputation and fame as a ballplayer based on your career, nothing more.

Good point. Andro (androstenedione) was found in Mark McGwrire's locker during his historic 1998 season by a reporter. It was a legal, over-the-counter nutritional supplement that was not banned by baseball (though it was by other sports) and that he stopped using after the season. However, even though he did nothing technically wrong--like cork his bat--he did catch a lot of flack over the incident.

Further Cork News...None of Sammy Sosa's Hall-of-Fame bats contain foreign substances. His five bats in Cooperstown were X-rayed and much like Dizzy Dean's X-rayed head, nothing was found. The next step is to start examining his garbage for cork-related substances.

I'm glad that the Hall has enough resources available to examine bats that are no longer used anyway--what were they going to do if they found cork anyway, suspend the bats? No, they have to explain when the same resources could not be brought to bear to help extraicate Hall president Dale A. Petroskey's foot from his mouth after the Bull Durham incident.

And from the Ft. Myers Miracle's site...

FORT MYERS, FL (June 4, 2003) - The Fort Myers Miracle, the Class-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, will hold a "Salute to Sammy Sosa" during the Thursday, June 5 game against the Dunedin Blue Jays at Hammond Stadium.

Evidently, the "tribute" will contain or entail giving away a corked bat to the 21st, 66th, and 505th fans. Twenty-one for Sosa's uniform number, 66 for his 1998 home run total, and 505 for his current number of career home runs.

Burnt Cork
2003-06-05 10:15
by Mike Carminati

Jose Canseco appeared on Outside the Lines last night and excerpts of his interview were re-aired on SportsCenter this morning. Aside from having more tics than Torgo in Manos, the Hands of Fate (rent it if you haven't seen it--you owe it to yourself) and wearing lovely evening attire that included a muscle-man T, "Uncle Jr." Canseco claimed that Sammy Sosa is getting the shaft in the media because he is a black, Latin player. He claimed that Mark McGwire would not have gotten the same treatment.

I tend to doubt it since minority players like Billy Hatcher, Albert Belle, Amos Otis, Norm Cash, and Wilton Guerrero have been guilty of or admitted to corking thier bats over the years. They were criticized to some degree but not as much as Sosa has been. Guerrero was the last person caught before Sosa back in 1997 but seems to have been forgotten whenever anyone makes up their list of recent culprits. He hit a broken-bat grounder and instead of running it out, he gathered up the shattered remains of his bat. (Graig Nettles used superballs instead of cork so he is in the minority as well. By the way, Hatcher claimed to have used pitcher Dave Smith's batting practice bat by mistake and Nettles claimed a fan presented him with the bat that he used in the game by mistake--he hit a homer that won the game in his previous at-bat.) The outcry has occurred with Sosa not because of his race but rather because he is a very famous, well-liked player, who is known for hitting home runs. The other incidents were not discussed all over the internet ad nausem (thank you very much).

ESPN had a headline the day after the incident that read "Say It Isn't So-sa". For an incredulous society it takes a lot to surprise us, but Sammy's corked bat did. Momentarily, we were left agape like the kid who supposedly uttered those famous words that ESPN paraphrased to Joe Jackson 83 years ago.

But we will get over it and so will baseball. It just might happen without "Slammin' Sammy" cereal, but it'll happen.

Popping the Cork
2003-06-04 22:19
by Mike Carminati

Evdently, MLB found no cork in the 76 other Sammy Sosa bats after X-raying them.

My first reaction was, "Whoa, that's a lot of bats."

My next reaction was that this issue is now left up to personal opinion. If more cork had been found then Sosa's alibi that he accidentally used a practice bat in a real game would have held no water. But now his story is at least one of two possible scenarios, the other being that he knowingly used a corked bat.

So what does this mean? Other players, including Albert Belle, have used a corked bat, been punished, and moved on. However, none were as popular and as revered as Sosa. I think that this will permanently tarnish his image. There will be those who will discount his achievements due to the incident. AP writer Ben Walker for one thinks that Sosa must have known what he was doing. Maybe there will be enough detractors to delay his entrance into the Hall of Fame. Even if the story dies down during his career and eventual retirement, it will inevitably be revived when his Hall of Fame credentials are discussed. I don't think that his image will be irrevocably damaged--he'll still have his ardent supporters--but I think that it will be tarnished. He's Pete Rose for the new millennium.

What do I think? I have heard arguments to the effect that cork does not make a ball travel faster as well as Sosa's alibi. Even though I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as far as his version of the events, he still used an illegal bat in a game. He just would have done it out of carelessness. It doesn't matter: he broke the rules, and as Robert Blake prophetically stated, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." He'll serve his suspension, and then baseball should forgive but not forget. I don't think it really would have affected his stats, given Adair's research, even if he had used a corked bat on a regular basis, but the fact remained that he cheated. The effect is largely perception, how one feels about him as a person and a player. That's what will be tarnished. His stats are his stats and they can't take those away, but Sammy will no longer by baseball's unofficial ambassador on the field. He lost that probably forever. It'll be interesting to see if managers challenge his bat in the future. And his All-Star vote tally should be telling as far as public opinion on the matter. Will his batting practice sessions be as well-attended (and will he still cork for them)?

Sammy will have to live with it for the rest of his baseball life. For a sport that allowed Steve Howe more comebacks than Aerosmith, that's kind of tough. But as so many say about Rose, Sammy knew the rules and should be prepared to face the consequences. Now, if the only had the gambling equivalent of a broken bat stuffed with cork, maybe baseball fandom's opinion of Rose would be different.

Bud And Circus
2003-06-04 21:57
by Mike Carminati

For the overly self-indulgent baseball fan, from this week's Baseball Weekly:

Souvenirs in Milwaukee

For $36, teh Milwaukee Brewers will guarantee that certain fans will leave Miller Park with either a foul ball or a ball used during a game. The Guaranteed Foul Ball tickets, in the outfield boxes at field level, come with a voucher that can be redeemed for a game-used baseball. The promotion begins June 6 against the Red Sox

They're installing the vomitoriums next week.

Legendary Listening
2003-06-04 16:34
by Mike Carminati

Mark Simon has an overview of Marty Brennaman's career in anticipation of his installment in ESPN's Living Legends series tonight. ESPN featured Curt Gowdy last week and will feature the Phillies' own Harry Kalas in two weeks (I originally said next week--sorry). Gowdy's installment was great, and even though I am not familiar with Brennaman's work, I am looking forward to tonight's game. How often do you get to hear a Hall-of-Fame broadcaster for the first time?

Smelling the Cork
2003-06-04 16:11
by Mike Carminati

Christian Ruzich has a list of everything you wanted to know about Sosa's corked bat including what a corked bat does to the ball fro Robert K. Adair's The Physics of Baseball.

Uncorking Pandora
2003-06-04 09:43
by Mike Carminati

SportsCenter had a s good segment on this morning in which Buck Showalter shows how one would cork a bat. It was something apparently in their archives that they dusted off after Sammy's bat-gate.

Showalter first removed a one to two inch plug from the end of the bat. He then filled it with shavings from a cork. He said that you can just wedge a cork in because any empty space creates an echo, which is a dead give-away. The shavings get pulverized as you use the bat and remove any possibility of an echo. He then took the tip of the plug he removed, checked that the grains matched up, and glued it shut. After weighing the bat he found that it was an ounce lighter (I think he said it was 32 oz. to begin with).

His last two comments I found interesting. First he said something like, "Therefore, you can hit like you have a heavier bat but swing like you have a lighter one," which is of course the point of using a foreign substance, but i thought he expressed it well.

And then he commented that you never go any further than a few inches into the end of the bat. He didn't elaborate any further. He just said it wasn't done. Well, looking at what was left of Sosa's bat, it is apparent that the cork went well up the handle as well.

That is apparently when the bat broke so easily and why the cork was so apparent when it did break. So, I am left to decide if Sammy is a bigger idiot for corking his bat, for using a corked bat against the Devil Rays (huh?), or for apparently corking it incorrectly, which led to its detection.

Because I liked it so much, I am including my ode to Sammy that I posted last night and that has already gotten lost in the detritus of my site:

Sosa Syllabic

There once was a bat full of cork,
That broke due to excessive torque.
500 homers he hit,
So he'll galdly admit,
"That's just my tuning fork"

Questioning QuesTec
2003-06-04 00:27
by Mike Carminati

Here are a couple of emails that I've received of late because of my anti-QuesTec stance. First...

Mike I have a question on the UIS.

Ther's a lot of complaining about the UIS and the ability to accurately call balls and strikes, but it seems to me that there was a whole lot of resistance to MLB's new(old) strike zone initiative from a year or 2 back. Isn't it fair to say that the system could merely be reflecting the new zone as deemed by MLB, albeit one that players and umps alike are neither used to nor in favor of ?

The most objective observation I have heard lately is the issue of consistency due to the abscence of the UIS in some ballparks. So then, if the UIS is installed in all ballparks to help ensure consistency as far as the umps' psychological state is concerned, then most of the issue should go away.

Consistency is a legitimate issue. But the strike zone is the strike zone, and it is determined by MLB, not by each of 50 different umpires depending on the numerous variables they admit to using (how late in the game, etc). The umps think they determine the strike zone, and perhaps for a long while they did, but in fact the rules of
the game belong to MLB, the umps are just there to make the calls. Perhaps that's a difficult pill to swallow for them.

Once UIS is in all 30 ballparks I would expect consistency of the strike zone - whether or not anyone likes that strike zone - should improve.

Russ Trommer

Towit I responded:

Hi Russell,
I agree that the QuesTec system has its uses. I just think that they don't outweigh its limitations when it comes to evaluating umps.
Now, don't get me wrong I think the umps had been doing a deplorable job of calling balls and strikes for years. The strike zone had shrunk vertically and expanding horizontally. And it varied from ump to ump and even from game to game and from call to call for an indivdual ump. The umps became arrogant and felt that the strike zone was their personal chattle and that the rule book could be igmored. That's what this is really about: it's a power struggle between MLB and the umps over control of the strike zone. The umps just don't get that they are the employees and that they can be replaced.
I also think it's well within MLB baseball's rights to do what is necessary (within reason) to get the umps to consistently call the strike zone in the rule book. I would have no problem using the QuesTec system if it were reliable, or at least as reliable as the human eye, which I do not believe it is.
I did some research on this last July, here
and here
The problem that I see is that the system apparently takes its reading at one spot, but the strike zone is three-dimensional space defined by the batter vertically and the plate horizonally and depth-wise. "The Physics of Baseball" showed that certain pitches such as a low curve can drop out of the strike zone and that certain pitches such as a high fastball can drop into it over the course of home plate. If QuesTec measures from the back of home, it favors fastballers; from the front, it favors junkballers. Harold Reynolds claims that the readings are made three feet in front of home, which would really screw things up royally. Besides, does the QuesTec system compensate for different size batters and different batting stances, bith of which would affect the strike zone? I doubt it unless it is intelligent enough to find the batters knee caps, belt and shoulders as the ball crosses home plate. That would be extremely difficult for it to do accurately. Also, are all these machines callibrated the same and are those callibrations checked on a regular basis weekly, daily, during a game, or only when Curt Schilling pounds it into oblivion?
I feel that with its limitations, the syetem would be a great training tool. However, MLB has positioned it to be basically a disciplinary tool to get the otherwise incorrigible umps in line. A) This is poor management: everyone knows who the worst umps are at calling balls and strikes according to the rules. Have those umpires retrain their eyes. If the cannot or will not do so, fire them thereby sending a message to the rest. It's basic staff management. B) It is an inappropriate use of technology. This is an industry that has yet to embrace OPS and relative ERAs, and they are going to install leading-edge technology and assume that it will cure all their problems?
A byproduct may be that the strike zone is called more accurately than in the past in QuesTec parks. And when they install QuesTec in every stadium, the strike zones will be more consistent throughout baseball, but will they be correct? No, but the pitchers who get squeezed by it will find other ways to exploit its shortcomings. Umps will be afraid to call the obvious balls that they consider a strike in their personal strike zone, so that will be an improvement.
I just think there are better ways to improve pitch calls through training, weeding out the poor umps, promoting minor-league umps who are deserving, and limiting home plate assignments (and attendant better pay) to those umps who display a better understanding of the strike zone, which can be ascertained from video as accurately and easily as from QuesTec.
That's my take.

Another reader sent me his open letter to Bud Selig and Bob Watson:

First, I'd like to offer these URLs as background and timeline:

and then there is this:

Dear Commissioner Selig and Bob Watson,

I've long admired Curt Shilling as a stand-up guy, but I hope he is disciplined by MLB for destroying QuesTec's umpire/strike zone analysis equipment. For the good of the game, this discipline should certainly exceed the cost of the equipment.
I'm a baseball guy, my son is a current collegiate pitcher, and for years it has been obvious to me that the existing strikes zones are not reliable, but instead liberally-customized interpretations. Most of my adult life, the in-game MLB strike zone has been a distortion compared to the MLB rule book. It was too wide, too short and for whatever reason, most MLB umpires felt compelled to have their "own zones".
There is no room for lose interpretation here. Rewarding pitchers for hitting out-of-the-strike-zone spots that are physically impossible to reach is unfair. It is wrong that "established pitchers" should get three fists on the outside corners. If, as the rules state, Home Plate is: Five-sided, 17 inches by 8 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches, cut to a point at rear, there are no exceptions. If MLB wants a functionally wider zone, to change the offensive/defensive balance, then make the wider zone official.
Watching my team (The Royals) play home games without QuesTec review, I observe extreme strike zone changes during nearly every series. Watching certain TV games, where the more consistent zones are higher-than-wide, its obvious when the QuesTec review system is already in place. There will always be real borderline calls, but just getting close to the strike zone is not a strike!
Of course there will be some rough spots. I'm sure Schilling, Smoltz, et al will continue to protest, because they have clearly benefited from the wide and short zone. Simply put, the rules are the rules. The strike zone should be a standard size, rather than changed daily like a golf course pin position.
Every regular Joe, has some form of employment performance review. To be effective, these reviews should be as impartial and objective as possible. Computer technology is a natural ally in this effort. We already trust computer systems with such critical life issues as bank accounts, medical analysis, air traffic control and national defense. We can certainly trust hardware and software as a component of a MLB umpire's performance review.
Please, don't be bullied by any person or group, especially those driven by selfish self-interests.
Do the right thing. Universally deploy the QuesTec system ASAP. Ten years from now the game will be better for it.


Anthony Mark McLean

Me lo respondi asi:

Hi Anthony,

Thanks for sending me a copy of your interesting letter. I'm not sure if you sent it to me because you disagreed with something I said re. the QuesTec system and wanted to present an opposing view or if you thought I was a horse's ass, one of the bullies trying to persuade the owners not to use QuesTec. Either way, the articles do provide an interesting declension of the issue and you present an informed view. (I do not agree with George Will's interpretation of things but that's beside the point.) I commend you for voicing your opinion in matters that you believe in strongly.

I agree that the strike zone had been deteriorating for many years. The zone that had been called more or less according to the rules when I was a child in the mid-Seventies morphed into an ever-changing flat rectangle that no longer bore any resemblance to that of the rule book. I agree that the owners are well within their rights to insight that their employees, the umps, perform their duties as told. I agree that many umps have been thumbing their noses at the rules and the owners for years, calling whatever strike zone they wanted on a given pitch--their strike zone as if it were their personal chattel. I agree that even though the strike zone had been redefined to be simpler the umps were still refusing to call it. I agree that many pitchers are against QuesTec because they benefit from the old system (especially veterans who get added leeway on outside pitches). I also agree that Curt Schilling should not be allowed to take out his frustrations on a piece of equipment owned by the owners to monitor their games.

I have to say that even though I agree with a number of your points, I do not agree with your conclusion that QuesTec's universal use will cure all of the problems with the strike zone. I work with computer systems and there's one thing that is apparent with any system: it can do certain things very well and other things not so well. For example, Microsoft Word is a good word processor, but it is a nasty HTML editor. Sure, we can trust computer systems with vital information but they can only with that information what we program it to do, nothing more, nothing less.

I believe that universal use of the QuesTec to evaluate umps would improve strike zone calling. However, I don't call replacing a C-minus system with a C-plus system much of an improvement.

Also, I do not believe that QuesTec is impartial as you indicate. As I have written, Robert K. Adair in "The Physics of Baseball" showed that a curveball may drop out of the strike zone as it travels over home plate. That means it is a strike even though when it crosses the back of the plate it is outside of the strike zone. The same is true of a 95-MPH fastball: it can travel from the front of the plate to the back and in the process drop into the strike zone. I do not have first-hand knowledge of the QuesTec (but would love to); however, the above indicates that to call balls and strikes, the system had better be monitoring the course of the ball as it travels above home. I seriously doubt that it does this.

Also, given that the strike zone is defined as:

The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hallow beneath the knee cap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

The QuesTec system would have to be able to determine where the batter's knee caps, belt, and shoulder are and to calculate the position of the horizontal line that defines the upper bound of the strike zone from these body parts. Consider that some of these measurements must be made from various angles. Not only that, the system must be able to determine when the batter is prepared to swing, even one who has a lot of motion while he is in the box, to make the measurements of the zone. I doubt that this system is making any of those calculations. Rather it is using a set of preset coordinates that are used whether it's David Eckstein or Randy Johnson at bat.

One final note, the umps state that a technician sets the coordinates of the system on the first pitch to the first batter. Given the size of that batter or the calibration method used, the strike zone may or may not be accurate. Also, the umps say that the calibration changes over the course of the game, which is definitely possible with a computer system that relies on certain conditions that may change over the course of the game.

Here are my two cents: The owners led the umps to the strike zone water but couldn't make them drink. They then brought in the QuesTec system as a disciplinary tool. The umps resent it, as well they should. The owners are outraged at the umps' recalcitrance, as well they should be.

But in the final assessment the owners dropped the ball. How's that? When they redefined the rules, they provided no re-education for the umps. In one of your articles, in spring training umps make reference to helping each other develop an eye. What if the owners had paid the umps to go to a camp to get in shape and develop their eye for the new zone prior to 2001 spring training instead of having to train on their own. Then they could have brought in the QuesTec system as a training tool to aid the umps not monitor them.

You speak of regular Joes, but that mentality can be accorded to the umps as well. Many umps over many years ruined the strike zone. The current umps had an edict from management, tried to comply but were given no assistance from management, finally said "Aw, screw it" and went back to their old ways, and then had management install what amounts to Big Brother to these scared umps right in their place of work. They're scared and angry. But management could have handled it another way and avoided this mess.

Also, and I've written extensively about this as well, if the following lines in the rule book were followed a number of these issues would be mitigated:

Definition: The BATTER'S BOX is the area within which the batter shall stand during his time at bat.


The batter's legal position shall be with both feet within the batter's box. APPROVED RULING: The lines defining the box are within the batter's box.


A batter is out for illegal action when (a) He hits a ball with one or both feet on the ground entirely outside the batter's box. If a batter hits a ball fair or foul while out of the batter's box, he shall be called out. Umpires should pay particular attention to the position of the batter's feet if he attempts to hit the ball while he is being intentionally passed. A batter cannot jump or step out of the batter's box and hit the ball.

If the batter's box were enforced in the first place, the umps wouldn't have had to given the pitchers an extra few inches on the outside of the plate. If they enforced the batter's box now, strike calling could go back to the old days. That's my opinion.

Please let me know what you think of my comments and if you got a response to your letter from the commissioner's office.

He wrote back with an interesting question that I am still mulling over:

So Mike,

I remember the peak era of distorted zones during the late 90s when Javy Lopez routinely set up outside the catchers box. Still, its clear that several conflicting issues are in play here.

My take: A complex power play is afoot. The umpires have effectively been in violation of their contact for 30+ years by not enforcing the rule book strike zone. MLB wants a more docile union that will actually enforce the rule book and generally behave.

I have no illusions about Questec's voracity. It is simply version 1.0. My notes indicate that Sandy Alderson psuedo-commissioned QuesTec, seeking any system that could effectively evaluate ball/strike decisions. Alderson's move has evoked fears of "Robbie the Robot" calling balls and strikes. Ultimately some other system, from some other vendor, may be used.

There may be problems with QuesTec, there may not be. I have no way to know. But no matter how this standardization of a regulation zone were to take place, MLB umpires would be howling in protest. MLB umps resisted a by-the-book zone every inch of the way. As such, their complaints ring of hollow self-interest. Its a turf war and they are loosing.

Finally, for whatever reason(s), MLB umpires seem to cling to a devine ordination to apply "signature zones".
Conventional reporting on this issue seems to accept the devolved/defacto horizontal zone like it was an immaculate conception. Clearly there were responsible umpires, and presumably causal events for twenty five years of ignoring the rule book. Still, I've yet to see an explanation as to how this came to pass, or why the MLB umps believed this was acceptable. Have you? I'd love to hear any sort of rationale, however weak.

btw: I'm certain I've before never quoted or referenced George Will before. (holding nose)

I'm still looking for a way to empirically investigate that one. I'll keep you posted.

I Cassandra I?
2003-06-04 00:13
by Mike Carminati

Not mine own fears nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.

--William "Author" Shakespeare

The Phils were shut out tonight by Jamie Moyer, the man who now leads the majors in wins (9) and whom the Phils pursued as a free agent in the offseason. To add insult to injury Moyer beat the Phils' ace, Kevin Millwood, who fell from the sky (or at least Turner Field) after the Phils failed to pick up a free agent starter. The Phils are now seven full games behind the Braves who won tonight.

Bosox Envy
by Mike Carminati

In a move that flies in the face of all of John Nash's best pick-up lines, George Steinbrenner is complaining about his dance partners in this round of interleague play. He is upset that the Red Sox drew the beer-goggled pair of Milwaukee and Pittsburgh while the Yanks drew the ravishing Reds and Cubs.

"Katy Feeney makes the schedule, and she has never been a favorite of mine or a favorite of the Yankees," Steinbrenner said. "We play Cincinnati, which is a fine, fine ball club; they're going to be in the middle of it. Then we play the Cubs.

"Now who is the other guy playing? They're playing against Milwaukee. Now what's right about that? They're playing Pittsburgh and Milwaukee while we're playing Cincinnati and the Cubs. I think they got the best of that deal.

"Bud Selig told me personally that he was overseeing the schedule, and that he'll see to it that it's fine. I used to be for it, but I'm not for it anymore. It's too easy for discrepancies."

Well, if Bud Selig is in control, then it's OK. He would never do anything to give Boston an unfair advantage. Hey, the Yankees do get three free passes at the end of interleague play against the Mets, so maybe he shouldn't complain.

All kidding aside, this does show how ridiculous interleague play is in MLB. The teams play 162 games to determine a champion. Those 162 games should be against common opponents so that it is clear (or as clear as possible) who is the best team in the division at the end of the year. This isn't the NFL, where a balanced schedule is impossible.

That's just reason number 17 in the H.R. Block list of "Why we hate interleague play". Thank you.

Sosa Uncorks a Wild One
2003-06-03 23:34
by Mike Carminati

Sosa Syllabic

There once was a bat full of cork,
That broke due to excessive torque.
500 homers he hit,
So he'll galdly admit,
"That's just my tuning fork"

Sammy Sosa was ejected from the first inning of the Cubs-D'Rays game (love that interleague play), after his bat shattered and it was found to contain cork. Sosa is expected to admit to using a corked bat after the game but...

Sosa will say the illegal bat was used for batting practice, but somehow got mixed in with his game bats. He will add that he has never used a corked bat in a major league game before tonight.

Yeah, right. Even if it's true, who's going to believe him?

Last year it was the Rick Reilly unfairly pinning the steroid tag on Sosa, but tonight he did it to himself.

Just Another Manic Mon-Joe-Morgan-Chat-Day
2003-06-03 00:17
by Mike Carminati

Pronunciation: "mor-g&-'na-tik
Function: adjective
Etymology: New Latin matrimonium ad morganaticam, literally, marriage with morning gift
Date: circa 1741
: of, relating to, or being a marriage between a member of a royal or noble family and a person of inferior rank in which the rank of the inferior partner remains unchanged and the children of the marriage do not succeed to the titles, fiefs, or entailed property of the parent of higher rank

-Merriam-Webster's OnlineDictionary

D'ya see? By definition Joe Morgan is the melding of the sublime-a superlative, Hall-of-Fame career as a ballplayer- and the ridiculous-a career as an ossified analyst after his playing days are done. We here at Mike's Baseball Rants love the Joe Morgan. No, really, we do, but we love the Joe Morgan Chat Day even more.

I know that last week I said that Joe was as personifies the Seventies because he is as retro as an J.R. Richard Astros jersey, but I have found a better analogy for Joe's baseball analysis sublimation in the next decade: Eighties music.

The Eighties will always be remembered for big hair, synthesized music, and "Frank Say" T-shirts. But before you run so far away, consider that the birth of Alternative music too place in the Eighties. Just as new wave was killing punk music, the Clash was becoming Big Audio Dynamite (that is Mick Jones was- a truly a BAD transformation), and video was killing the radio star, groups like R.E.M., Husker Du, the Minutemen, the Replacements, Pixies, the Feelies, U2, Camper van Beethoven, and Sonic Youth were getting back to the roots of the music: energy, noise and pissing (sorry, there's no other way t convey it) one's parents off. R.E.M.'s music spoke volumes before one could understand what Michael Stipe was actually saying ("Happy, Shiny People" indeed).

Actually, that was an era in which alternative actually implied that there was music that offered the freedom of choice (as Devo would say) as opposed to post-Grunge era, in which Alternative ironically became the term of choice for popular music. Back in the day they called it College Rock, Jangle Rock, Indie Rock, etc. Now, the term alternative has fallen into disuse since we have no alternatives: we have to listen to Britney Spears/American Idol-inspired pap or sexagenarians playing 30-year-old rock songs and hoping that they die before the get old at 150 bucks a concert seat (Thank heaven for the White Stripes).

But as so often happens, I have lost the nub of my gist. Ah, Joe Morgan. Yes. So what has this to do with Joe Morgan? Just as Eighties music represented the morganatic merging of great Alternative music with hair bands, Joe is the personification of the morganatic melding of Joe Morgan the greatest living second baseman with Joe Morgan the analyst who espousing ludicrous believes and when he does have a good comment morgantically fuses it with a seemingly contradictory perspective.

Maybe an example would help. There was a rock band that started life as "The Bangs" (but had to change their name since it was already in use by another band) playing Sixties retro roots pop and covering Love, Big Star, and the Soft Boys. They drew comparisons to the Beatles. The fact that they were women and for the most part attractive women didn't hurt their marketing. Their first album stands out as a pure pop gem (in the best sense) that was a critical if not commercial success. Subsequent releases found them foregoing their raw sound for synthesized dance tunes and ballads, releasing some of the more popular songs of the Eighties, stuff that is remembered as the typical tripe of the period. They gained short-term commercial success but lost the critics, their original following, and apparently all or most of their talent. A good cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter" was not enough to save the group and they soon broke up citing atypically "artistic differences". Apparently, one member of the group believed she was the star, appeared in an Eighties teen comedy (something that has since almost been PG-13'ed out of existence), and Yokoed the band. This long-winded history is that of the Bangles, which many remember solely for "Manic Monday" and "Walk Like an Egyptian".

Equate their first album to Joe Morgan's playing career, his opening act. The dismal follow-ups are Morgan's analyst career, in which he embraces the most retro (again the J.R. Richard jersey applies) opinions even though they belie the approaches he pursued innately as a player. How could the man who led his league in on-base percentage four times including a career high .466 (!), say that OBP is merely the statheads' cause celebre du jour (nes pas)?

So without further ado (or further A-Ha of "Take on Me (Take Me on)" fame), here is a little number that has a great beat and you can does to, Joe Morgan Chat Day:

The Good

Saul (New York, NY): What is up with the Marlins getting fined? it's not like they went out and interviewed 7 or 8 guys and none of them were minorities. they had ONE guy they wanted and they got him. should have marched in a few minority "candidates" when they already knew who was getting the job? i'd find that insulting if i were those "candidates."

Well, if that's the case, then you probably don't find it insulting that minorities have not been given equal opportunity for those jobs. The purpose of the rule is to make sure that minorities are considered. Jerry Manuel got his job because of that. They did not have him at the top of their list, but he got the interview and he ended up getting the job. Minorities deserve the chance to prove they deserve the job.

You can't leave things as they have been the first 100 years of the game.

[Mike: When the man's right, he's right. It's easy to become cynical about the rule when all it asks is that lip service be paid to the hiring of minority candidates, but a number of useful social programs started as half-hearted sops for one group or another. It could be stronger but if it gets one worthy minority a job, then it's a good thing. (Thank you, Martha Stewart, just for being you.)]

Mike (Anderson, California): Good morning Mr Morgan. I have noticed that some ML ballparks have this new electronic device motoring balls and strikes. The umpires are very uneasy about it. Do you think this should be continued? Case in point the Boston game last night. Second to the last pitch would have been called a strike anywhere. I just don't think machines or computers belong in the game. You might as well replace the umps and while you are at it the players too!!

It depends on how it is being used. The umpires are upset because it's being used as a grading device. I think it is good for showing trends. If the umpire is consistently calling strikes off the outside corner, you can make him aware. But when you grade them, they can lose focus on balls and strikes and worrying more about how the machine will call it. I don't like it the way it's being used in that respect.

[Mike: Mike Anderson?!? You were one of my favorite scrub Phillies when I was a kid. Too bad you threw your arm out trying to pitch (a la Jose Canseco) and pretty much destroyed your career.

Anyway, this is a really scary one because I find myself agreeing with Joe where bleeding edge technology and baseball meet. Uh oh! Well, at least it's the last "good" he scores on the day. (Besides he was praising ESPN's "K Zone", which is a QuesTec rip-off, in the Sunday night game and defended the umps based on K Zone's perception when the Braves were getting upset with calls).]

The Bad

Jeff Moody (Annapolis, Maryland): Joe, do the Dodgers have enough offense in their lineup to play in October. They are winning a lot of games with outstanding defense and pitching, but are at the bottom of the league in scoring. How far do you think they can make it playing this old school style ball?

That has always been a concern of mine about the Dodgers. They just do not have enough offense to get to the World Series. They will have to make some trades. Their pitching can get them in the race but they need some consistent offense through trades.

[Mike: I may be too rough on Joe here scoring this a "Bad". The Dodgers did have a pretty dreadful offense in 1988 (tied for third from last in the NL in OBP, 5th from last in slugging, and 4h from last in OPS), they lost their best offensive player for most of the Series, and still were MLB's champ that year.

Then again these Dodgers are dead last in on-base, slugging, and (therefore) OPS in the league. It isn't all Dodgers Stadium either. They are 2nd from last in OBP and OPS and third from last in slugging on the road. They are out-hitting the opposition by a lot (31 points in batting average, 25 in OBP, 33 in slugging, and almost 60 in OPS), but there offense does create very little margin for error for their pitching staff.

Then again the No Hit Wonder 1906 White Sox won the Series despite finishing last in batting average, slugging, and OPS in the AL (they were fifth in the league in on-base).]

Jeffrey; Richmond,VA: Joe: It is an honor to chat with you. I grew up imitating your batting style and saw the Reds EVERY game they came to Houston. I am bothered by this Red Sox trade w/ the D Backs. Isn't someone who has been spotty as a starter and a proven problem closing against the Yankees exactly not the way for the Sox to go? It seems over the winter they had far better offers for Hillenbrand. Is this the best they could do?

I don't know what all the offers were, but I do know that I saw Kim pitch Tuesday against the Giants and he was great. He had just come off the disable list then. I'm sure that is why they made the trade, they were watching him also. They know they need one more pitcher. He was very young when he was pitching against the Yankees. He is more of a veteran player now.

I don't know why they were set on trading Hillenbrand. It's been common knowledge that he was available but I'm not sure why.

[Mike: The reason why is that the Red Sox think that he does not have a good command of the strike zone. He swings at too many bad pitches and does not walk often. They feel this does not bode well for his future. (I call him Scotty Cooper mach II.) He also does not field third base well and had already been dislodged to first base by Bill Mueller.

The Sox have plenty of guys who can play first. They needed a starter. Kim could also be converted back to a closer, another commodity they could use. He is 24 and the Sox need young pitching desperately since all their young arms have been traded or are named Casey Fossum.

The Red Sox were afraid to give up Hillenbrand in the winter but Mueller has made that easy. He was no longer needed and a starter was. Kim must have been the best they could get. I think they will be the winners in the deal in the end.]

Paul (Washington, DC): Hey Joe, now that the Red Sox have sacrificed a solid player in Hillenbrand for pitching help, where would they be better off putting Kim, in the bullpen, or in the rotation?

I can't really answer that. They have committed to the bullpen by committe. What would they do with all those guys out there if they put Kim there? It would change somebody else's job description. I was impressed the other day when I saw him as a starter. I think he would be great as a starter.

[Mike: (see Hillenbrand-Kim review above) Actually, they never called it a bullpen by committee and besides Grady Little chucked their unconventional use of relievers plan early in the season. Brandon Lyon is now basically the closer. Kim is most valuable as a starter, which the Red Sox need and is where they will use Kim for the time being. It doesn't hurt that he was a closer on a World Series champion.]

Chris Rochester NY: I think walking the bases full to force a out at any base in the ninth or extra innings fails about 95% of the time and is the stupidest move made by managers what is your opinion

Not really. Because it makes a force out at the plate, is why they usually do it. It's easier to get the out at home without a tag. You are making it easier to get that out at the plate. A force is easier than a tag. That's the purpose of doing it.

[Mike: I spoke about this play in the Yankees-Red Sox series ad nauseum. Basically, it depends on the situation, the hitters, the number of outs, the men on base, the pitcher, etc., but for the most part the advantage of an out at every base is outweighed by the potential of a walk forcing in a run.

This opinion is not based on research but common sense and anecdotal experience, two things I try not to rely on, but eh? What else can you use here. Run expectations do dictate that you are better off with just a man on third with one out rather than the bases full and one out in a tie ballgame. However, those numbers are for the non-walkoff situation, but they don't support the "walk the bases full mentality".

Ricky C in Sacramento: Hi Joe As a Bay Area fan, I love your work with John Miller on Sunday Nights. My question pertains to the "home field advantage" of Coors Field. The Rockies recently dismantled the Giants, and just yesterday finished sweeping the hottest team in baseball--Dodgers. So, is the Coors' field advantage (pitcher's breaking balls don't break as much that effective still, or are the Rockies for real? Also how do you rate the Giants new pitchers Kurt Ainsworth and rookie Jesse Foppert? Thanks, Joe!

I think they are playing well. They don't have any bigger home field advantage than teams that play in domes or the Cubs at Wrigley. You always see the ball better in your home park. I think the Yankees have the best home field in baseball because of the fans and the history. You have to give the Rockies the credit and not the ballpark.

[Mike: The Rockies are 21-8 at home and 6-22 on the road. The Cubs are 14-13 at home; 16-12 away. The Yankees, 13-15 at home and 20-8 away.

I would criticize Joe for ignoring the second part of the guy's question. It was tacked on and derivative.]

Utek (LA): Hey Joe, Frank Robinson has done an amazing job with the 'Spos this year (reminds me of the job Gil Hodges did with the Amazin' Mets in 1969). What can he do to keep his team focused on its grueling road trip, with its San Juan to Seattle plane flights?

Very good point. First of all, Billy Beane gets a lot of credit for having a low payroll and keeping the A's in the race but he had great pitchers to work with. Minaya has done the same thing without the superstar pitching and they have a better record. Omar Minaya has to be given some credit here. This trip could break down everything they have worked towards this year. I'm not sure there is much a manager can do in this situation. It will be tough. If they come out of it OK, they will be ready for the stretch run.

[Mike: I think Utek is a code name for Joe. He shows up each chat session and lobs in these soft pitches that Joe hammers...straight back every time.

Look, the 1969 Mets had finished ninth or tenth in a 10-team league for seven straight years. The closest they had been to .500 was 15 games.

The Expos were in second place last year, albeit 19 games behind Atlanta. They were 4 games above .500 however. In other words, they were no 1968 Mets.

Next, stop the Billy Beane bashing (there's plenty to follow). Omar Minaya has gone through talent like Barry Bonds' bat through a hanging curveball. He acquired and traded Bartolo Colon, Chris Truby, Bruce Chen, and Cliff Floyd in the last year and change. Colon and Floyd came at great cost. Minaya is the lucky recipient of a great farm system.

By the way, everyone has been predicting that the San Juan excursions would destroy this team. I think that they are glad to get away from the dreariness that Montreal baseball has been allowed to become. I have a sneaking feeling that when the Braves start to falter, the Expos and not my Phils will be there to take over first.]

Matt, Santa Rosa,CA: Hey Joe,Why is Bonds strikeout total up so high this early in the season?

Part of it is they are concentrating on not giving him pitches to hit. He could keep his focus in the past but now he is getting a little more frustrated and swinging at bad pitches. That's expected though.

[Mike: Well, cause it's not. It's up from last year but well below his career average:


Yeah, his strike outs are up about 50% from last year but that's only because he was out of his mind last year. Now, he's merely superhuman.

Carl (Chicago): Good morning. I was just wondering whether or not you thought Greg Maddux could go into the HOF as a Cub? He had many great years here before going to Alanta. Thanks

I would say Brave but I don't know. He has become famous as a Brave but, I don't know what the breakdown is.

[Mike: I'll help you out, Joe. Maddux had one Cy Young in 7 seasons as a Cub. He has three (and counting) in 11 seasons as a Brave. He became Greg Maddux as a Brave. You do the math.

Richard, Birmingham, AL: Hi Joe. I read a column of yours earlier this week. In it you said that batting average is the most overrated stat in baseball. Do you think Chipper Jones is an overrated player. His batting average has been consistently good. But, his power numbers have dropped over the last few years.

I made my statements, it's up to you to determine which players are overrated or underrated. My point was run production is more important than BA. BA is a personal stat, like ERA. If Chipper had 30HR and drove in 100 runs, you wouldn't care what his BA was. The question was most overrated, so I think BA is the most overrated. BA alone doesn't win games.

[Mike: Let's leave Larry alone for a tick. Compare Gorman Thomas' 1980 season to Joe's own 1976 season:


Do you still think all 30 HR, 100 RBI seasons are alike. Joe didn't even have 30 dingers that year. Forget about the defense (people forget Gorman was a pretty good center fielder), who would you rather have in your lineup?

Their batting averages are miles apart, but where's the greatest difference? On-base, of course, the other stat that Joe feels is overrated.]

Rockville, MD: With Melvin Mora, Jorge Julio, and Jay Gibbons leading the way for the future, how close do you think the Orioles are to contending?

Well, what it tells you is they have some good young players. If they continue to improve, the team will improve along with them. I've been a big Mora fan for a long time and Gibbons has great potential. They are getting better for sure.

[Mike: I have to point out that Mora is 31, not exactly young, though he is having a nice Mike Easler-ian late blooming.]

greg louisville, ky: Hey Joe, I'm a big red's fan, I'm hoping for big things this season, but starting pitching is killing us. Do you see any hope in the near future wheather it be in a trade or something in the farm system?

One thing they can't do is go out and spend money. They have already tried to cut back. I just don't see it happening. They might find some low priced guys, but you are right. Pitching will be a problem all year. It's a tough ballpark to pitch in.

[Mike: Are you kidding? The Reds made acquiring soon-to-be-free-agent veteran pitchers a cottage industry in 2002. The Reds acquired Joey Hamilton, Ryan Dempster, Brian Moehler, Shawn Estes, and Bruce Chen during the season last year. They all pretty much stiffed on the Reds.

The problem is that Boone and the boys cannot evaluate talent. They made Jimmy Haynes the number-one pitcher on the strength of his 15 wins in 2002. What they didn't realize was that his 4.12 ERA was only slightly (7%) better than average, and that it was the lowest ERA in 7 years as a starter. Besides his 126 strikeouts to 81 walks in 196.2 innings were nothing special,

Chris Reitsma was 6-12 in 2002 but owned a 3.64 ERA (21% better than average) and struck out 84 with 45 walks in 138.1 innings. Elmer Dessens was a so-so 7-8 but had a 3.03 ERA (45% better than average) and had 93 K to 49 BB in 178 IP.

Reitsma started the season in Triple-A and Dessens was traded to Arizona. They're not world beaters but if Boone could get beyond won-loss, he may find a decent pitcher or two.]

Edward (Metairie, La): Good Morning Mr Morgan. I was just wondering can Ken Griffey Jr. revive his career like Mark McGwire did after a long stretch of injuries.

Yes. I think he can. He is still young. The biggest problem is staying focused after everything that has happened. He can't feel sorry for himeself. I think he can do it.

Thanks for all the great questions. I'm going to see Kenny Burrell and Bob James when they come to town next month. Otherwise, I'm a big jazz fan.

[Mike: Uh, Joe, those guys are jazz musicians. Anyway, there are some major differences between Griffey and McGwire. Griffey started declining after 1997 when he was 27 years old and still healthy. The decline was most evident in his batting average and slugging percentage. His adjusted OPS's for the 1997-2000 were 164, 148, 138, 128. By 2001 when the injury problems started, he was a different if still very good player. In 2002, he was just average in half a season.

McGwire was still an excellent player for the most part while suffered injuries (1993-95). He never had to come back, he just had to stay healthy. Griffey will need to come back if he is to be respected as the Junior of old.]

The Ugly

mike, Kansas City, Mo: Should the Royals try and pick up another hitter in an attempt to catch the Twins? Or is it time to trade Beltran and focus on next season?

My understanding is they need to take payroll away, not add payroll. I personally am a big Beltran fan. If I was a team that could get him, I would.

[Mike: Huh? No, they already have Beltran. The guy wants to know if they should trade him or not.

Look, it's a simple question. They throw the questions. You field the questions. You answer the questions. But you. You lollygag the chat around the internet. You lollygag your way down to first question. You lollygag down to the denouement. You know what that makes you? Larry!
Larry: A lollygagger!
Mike: A lollygagger.]

raig, Alpharetta, GA: Why do you think so few baseball fans score the baseball games they attend? When you look at photographs from the '30s, you have whole rows of people scoring. Once, while scoring a Braves game, I was asked if I was running a betting pool! Its a shame, you learn so much about the game when you score it.

The game has changed in the stands as well as on the field. I just don't think people want to be that meticulous about the game anymore.

[Mike: And he's talking about the analysts when he says that.

Look, he says this but hates that statheads rely on things like on-base percentage. What should people do, just keep score and do absolutely nothing with the data?]

David, CT: A lot of people have criticized Michael Lewis' book moneyball. As a former superstar player (who drew more than his fair share of walks), how do you feel about the points brought up by Lewis about Billy Beane's A's, and about the statistical side of baseball in general?

I haven't read the book, just excerpts in the NY Times. My feeling is Billy Beane did not come off very well in the excerpt I read. But as far as stats go, you can use them to try and grade players. But players still have to perform on the field. Just using numbers alone doesn't work. You have to have some kind of feel for what he does on the field and how he plays the game. They can help you evaluate a player but you also have to evaluate on heart and dedication. Sometimes stats can be deceiving.

[Mike: Why does he insist that Beane wrote Moneyball? Didn't anyone tell him otherwise after the last chat? This guy even tells him it was written my Michael Lewis. He is truly mental! Way!

As far as evaluating "on heart and dedication", that's the first thing that Beane and his scouts do in the book. He wades through a pile of names and those who seem ill-suited to the odd life that minor-leaguers endure are eliminated first. Beane himself was a highly-touted head case that never made it in the majors. Then he rates players not on "how they look in jeans" as Beane puts it, but what they have done and sepcifically he looks for a high on-base percentage because his studies show they have the best chance of making it to the majors. Scouts look for the best looking and ignore "bad body" players who draw walks and get on base. Beane realizes that he has a team that needs to conserve the cash and therefore must have an organization with minor-leaguers at the ready. He's just making sure he can provide those players as quickly and in as large a supply as is necessary.]

JB (Danville, CA): Joe - Did you enjoy Diana Krall last night? I thought she sounded great! The A's offense is scuffling, Dye comes back this weekend and Tejada is starting to hit a little. If you're Billy Beane where do you look to add some pop? I'd love to see them go after a corner outfielder or even a move for Roberto Alomar (the Mets have to be looking to dump salary). Thoughts?

I wouldn't be Billy Beane first of all!! I wouldn't write the book Moneyball!

I have said from the beginning their offense will struggle. They can get away with it in the regular season, but not the playoffs. They will be facing better pitching and their offense will really struggle. They have a lot of .260 hitters that get on base, but you have to have someone drive them in. That's why Tejada was MVP last year. Chavez is hitting under .100 against lefties.

Diana Krall does have a magnificent voice.

[Mike: Again with the finger! Joe, why must you bash Beane? Does he challenge your staid existence? Let it go. You're good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like you.

Again, anything can happen in a short series. However, I have to point out that the are a bunch of .260 hitters (.255 for the team) but they're not getting on base either (.324 OBP). But their pitching is limiting the opposition to a .226 batting average, .295 on-base percentage, a .356 slugging average, and a Rey Ordonez-like .651 OPS. What this and the Dodgers' stats tell me is that it's still early. They have been in a number of low-scoring affairs. It's a long season. Talk to me again in October.

By the way, who is this Diana Krall and why did she play skiffle music at the ballgame? Oh, I know, she's the soon to be Mrs. Declan McManus/Elvis Costello. Oh, ya! Well, god bless her.]

Bill-ious, II
2003-06-02 15:20
by Mike Carminati

Charlie Mikolajczak points out:

Nice rebuttal on the Clemens article. My buddy at work and I were a bit annoyed at that as well. One thing, when you were talking about Bobby Orr, etc, you forgot to mention that Ray Bourque went to Colorado to win his cup. And Boston gave him a parade. I don't understand how Clemens gets made out to be a villian because he left a team that didn't want him, when Bourque gets the city's blessing to do the same thing. I know it was a trade, but Bourque was with Boston 18 years before that, if he wanted to stay, he could have.

Good point. Bourque gets a free pass to fulfill his dream of winning a cup. Clemens finally wins a World Series ring or two via a circuitous route through Toronto and he's seen as a prima donna.

Deja Vu All Over Again
2003-06-02 01:37
by Mike Carminati

Roger Clemens again failed in his bid to win 300 games today. The Yankees won 10-9 in 17 innings, but when Clemens left after six, he led 8-6. Clemens had an 7-1 lead going into the fifth but like in his Memorial Day start, he seemed to hit a wall, just like the one against which the batters were slugging his pitches.

But Roger was the biggest Yankee problem in the game: he at least left in the lead. The fifth put Yankees defensive woes on full display as they committed three errors and allowed five runs. Jeter and Soriano had consecutive errors. Soriano had another on the day and Jeter could have been called for a ball he missed to re-start the Tigers' rally in the fifth. This was a ball maybe two steps to Jeter's right that even Tanner from The Bad News Bears could have gotten to but was scored a hit by a liberal, homer scorer. Maybe the Yankees don't need relief pitchers but rather relief middle infielders to cover for Jeter and Soriano. In fact on the Eric Munson ball that Soriano threw away in the fifth it appeared that Clemens (correctly) dove for the ball as it went by him rather than allow his infielders to touch the ball. Also, Juan Rivera had his requisite miscue in left, hitting a runner at third with a throw also in the fifth.

The other Yankee deficiency, relief pitcher, prevented Clemens from winning the game as Sterling Hitchcock and Antonio (I'm not Tony Orlando) Asuna coughed up the lead. Asuna may be the first pitcher in a long while to end the year with a WHIP (1.52) greater than his ERA (1.66). Of course, the run he gave up today was Hitchcock's, not his. The rest of the Yankee bullpen consisted mostly of seven and two-third innings from David Wells and Mariano Rivera. With the Sox shoring up their starting pitcher problems by acquiring Kim, the Yankees had better start addressing the relief pitching needs, unless Weaver again resurrects his year in the bullpen (like he did in 2002).

So the Rocket goes again on Saturday in Wrigley Park. And we fans get to see an historic game being played under the dog-and-pony show that is interleague play. Maybe the defense will show up for that one and he can get over the 300-win hump. We'll see.

Retraction...of Foot from Mouth
2003-06-02 00:53
by Mike Carminati

In last week's Joe Morgan Chat Day review, I said that Tom Jones sang the "Love Boat" theme. John Salmon points out that it was Jack Jones.

I thought he was the guy who wrote A Thin Red Line, but that was James Jones. But I thought he was the guy who wrote A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but that was James Joyce. I thought he was the guy who wrote The Portrait of a Lady, but that was Henry James. I thought he was "a steel drivin' man," but that was John Henry. I thought he was a pitcher whose name is synonymous with a type of reconstructive surgery, but that's Tommy John. I thought he sang "What's Up Pussycat?" (woo, woo, woo-oh), but that was Tom Jones.

So you see how it could have happened. Sorry.

A Tale of Two Sox
2003-06-01 01:37
by Mike Carminati

I recently had an interesting email conversation with a reader named Jurgen Maas regarding a comparison of two Red Sox pitchers, one current, Pedro Martinez, and one lapsed, Roger Clemens. It started innocently enough with a few comments about last week's Joe Morgan Chat Day burlesque:

"By the way, Clemens seems to have forgotten that he ever played for the Blue Jays let alone had two of his best years there."

Oh, man. The line of the year.

If nothing else, it's those two years with Toronto that most dissuade me from Clemens' whinny pleas to go to the HOF as a Yankee. If he had gone straight from Boston to New York, and proven his detractors wrong by winning another three Cy Youngs and some World Series rings in pinstripes, I wouldn't have a problem with it.

But it was Toronto, not New York, that took a shot on him after Boston left him for dead, and they're the ones who should deserve the credit for helping his resurrect his career. New York only wanted him after he'd already proven himself in two back-to-back Cy Young seasons, and only got him because Gord Ash gave up his best players (Shawn Green, Roger Clemens) for little more than a handjob. (Was any GM more accommodating to star players wanting to leave the club?)

What do I care? Everyone knows when the time comes he'll be wearing Boston blue.

Keep it up, Mike.


I responded:

Thanks for the email.
I actually like Clemens: I think he's the best pitcher that I have ever seen (and that includes Seaver, Maddux, Carlton, Johnson, Perry, Pedro, Glavine, etc., basically anyone from the mid-Seventies on) and I like his straight-forward, no-nonsense approach. I can see why it irritates people but I have always liked guys like Clemens, Sir Charles Barkley, and the like.
I think it's an inappropriate question, which cap he'll wear. A) He is still playing, B) he has yet to elected, and C) it's not even up to him. I know his enshrinement is a no-brainer, but let him enjoy the rest of his career first and then he can talk about his legacy.
That said, Clemens could have been more diplomatic about it or just plain not answered it. If he is asked he can't really dis his current team even if he feels that his legacy is as a Red Sox. He could have given Toronto a nod however; as you say, they gave him his shot after Dan Duquette helped usher him out of Boston.
The Hall will have to put him in with a Red Sox hat. After retirement, he will have had time to reflect on his career and will be courted by the Sox for appearances and celebrations (they are all set to retire his number since they no longer issue it anyway). He'll be fine with it by them.

It's less of an issue than where Rey Sanchez gets his hair cut.
Take care,

Then Jurgen compared Clemens to Pedro:


It's funny. You mention players who bristle fans, I've always loved and respected Bonds and Rickey Henderson, but Clemens just gets my goat. It really is an attitude difference. Barry and Rickey might swagger around like they're the greatest, but they also play the game as if they believe it. (Watching Bonds decimate anything over the plate during the World Series was one the highlights of my baseball viewing days.)

My memory of Clemens is so tainted by cowardly moments or big failures: getting the Jays to juggle the rotation so he won't have to pitch at Fenway, getting smoked in the 1999 ALCS against Pedro, the Piazza incident, beaning Jays DH Josh Phelps in their next meeting after he hit that upper deck homer, and even this stupid "300 win" patch. He's a great pitcher, but he's a bitch. Believe me, I think it's hilarious that he's going to have to try again for number 300 against the lowly Tigers. It's hard to believe it wasn't something Roger preplanned.

For the record, I think Pedro Martinez is the greatest pitcher I've ever seen with my own eyes. He needs to stay healthy into his late thirties, however, before anyone can make a reasonable argument that he deserves the title of Greatest Postwar Pitcher. I think he's been good enough, however, to warrant a hold on the ceremonies until he retires.

Pedro's 5-year peak (through age 30):

1997 241.1 IP, 221 ERA+
1998 233.2 IP, 160 ERA+
1999 213.1 IP, 245 ERA+
2000 217.0 IP, 285 ERA+
2002 199.1 IP, 196 ERA+

Roger's 5-year peak (through age 30):

1986 254.0 IP, 169 ERA+
1987 281.2 IP, 154 ERA+
1990 228.1 IP, 211 ERA+
1991 271.1 IP, 164 ERA+
1992 246.2 IP, 174 ERA+

Then, at age 36 and 37, Roger had his two best back-to-back seasons:

1997 264.0 IP, 226 ERA+
1998 234.2 IP, 176 ERA+

Even taking into account Roger's two years with the Jays, Pedro's 5-year peak betters Clemens.

(Sandy Koufax's reputation as one the best lefthander is largely based on five seasons at the end of his career. Admittedly although over fewer innings, Pedro was better.)

That said, I'm sure how you'd quantify weighing Pedro's dominance against Roger's durability. (Any suggestions on which metric might do the trick?)

Pedro doesn't need to get better. He already is. He just needs to stay healthy to rack up at least another 1600+ IP, and not succumb to a Dave Stieb-like collapse.


Interesting points about Pedro. Here's my response:

Hi Jurgen,
I take it from your response that you are a Red Sox fan. Being a Phillies fan who has lived extensively in both the Boston and New York areas and followed both clubs closely, I feel that I can be impartial on the matter.
You are certainly entitled to your opinion re. a player's personality. So I won't speak to that. He certainly has had a number of incidents that were blown out of proportion in his career, just like the 300-win patch and the Hall-of-Fame cap incidents. He's been a big star for years and has a fiery personality--I guess it comes with the territory.
I'm not certain what happened in the Piazza bat incident, but I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt--why would he be throwing a bat at Piazza anyway? To paraphrase Austin Powers, "Who throws a bat? I mean, really?" As far as head-hunting Piazza, who knows, he has had his fair share of hit batsmen over the years? But in some pitchers like Bob Gibson, that trait was revered. It goes with the territory when you're a power pitcher. Pedro has hit 14 and 15 batters in a season; Clemens' high is 12. This is generally the caliber of these incidents--they seem to be open to interpretation. I'm not interested in them frankly.
As far as Pedro being the better of the two pitchers, I think that using adjusted ERA (ERA+) puts Clemens at a distinct disadvantage and displays the limitations of adjusted ERA. First, ERA is a statistic that has a lower limit (0.00) and is unbounded at the upper end. That is you can have an infinite ERA, but cannot have an ERA lower than 0.00. ERA+ represents the ratio of the pitcher's ERA to the park-adjusted league average (actually the other way around). Therefore, in a pitchers' era league ERAs, adjusted or otherwise, will be low. If a hitters' era, they will be high. Let's say a pitcher has a 2.50 ERA in an era in which the park-adjusted league average is 2.75. His ERA+ is 110. Compare that to a pitcher with a 5.00 ERA in a 5.50 ERA league. His ERA+ is also 110. Which pitcher would you rather have? This is an inherent problem in ERA+: since the lower limit is difficult to impossible to reach, as the park-adjusted league average slides lower and lower, the worse better-than-average ERAs look.
Martinez started pitching during the offensive explosion of the last 10 years. Clemens had many of his better years in the late '80s and early '90s. That's why Pedro's 1998 season (2.89 ERA; 160 ERA+) looks much more impressive than Clemens' 1988 (2.93; 141) when you use ERA+. Pedro's may be the better season, but ERA+ is not the way to represent that.
So I would rather use some era-independent tool like Win Shares to compare their seasons. I will check into that and let you know what I find. That said, comparing the two pitchers stats before the age of 30 is fine, but I don't think that Pedro's entire career can be said to be even comparable to Clemens until he has another 5 years under his belt. There are a number of very good pitchers that have burnt out before 30 [Actually Martinez is already past 30 but you get the point]. Stieb is a great example: he was arguably the best pitcher in his league for 5 seasons and then he got injured and became ineffective. Pedro has been great and perhaps his peak was better than Clemens'. Once he has another 5 years under his belt, we can talk about comparing his career to all-time greats like Clemens.
Take care,

And then I checked out the Win Shares:

Hi Jurgen,
Here is a comparison of Win Shares for both Clemens and Pedro:

Thru 303023012040.680.68


Note that Clemens has more WS as of 30 than Martinez and a higher WS-per-game ratio. Martinez relieved one season, so in fairness I compared WS per game started, which Pedro won. Clemens' total win shares are almost double Pedro's and he has sustained a higher WS/G ratio for almost twice as long.

As far as peak, Clemens best 5 seasons by WS: 32, 29, 28 (twice), 26 (2); Martinez: 29, 27, 26, 21 (2). And only the 32-WS was after age 30. Best 5 by WS/G, Clemens: .94, .90, .88, .81, .78; Pedro: 1.00, .87, .84, .70, .64.

My conclusion is it's still too early to compare and these small differences may not mean much at all. However, not only has Clemens had a better career overall, he has registered a higher peak. That may change if Pedro continues as he has but given his injury history that is in no way a foregone conclusion.

They're both great pitchers, but that's just my opinion given the facts.

Take care,


And I think I may have convinced him:

Wow, that's great info, Mike. Thanks especially for those Win Share totals. That's exactly the sort of thing I was looking for...

I completely agree that it's insane to say Pedro's a better pitcher ... until he notches another thousand innings at the very least. I just think he's good enough that it's probably worth waiting to settle this question until he's finished...

For the record, I'm actually a Jays fan, with a soft spot for the Expos--it's the Expos side that makes me protective of Martinez, and the Jays side that leaves me bitter over Clemens.

Yeah, it's a shame about Stieb.


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