Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
Monthly archives: May 2004


Just Re-Ward?
2004-05-29 00:57
by Mike Carminati

In 2000, the Astros had four outfielders hit twenty or more home runs, and best of all for them three of them were 25 years old or younger. Daryle Ward slugged his 20 dingers in just 264 at-bats, and along with two 24-year-olds, Richard Hidalgo and Lance Berkman, looked ready to solidify the Astro outfield for years to come.

It never worked out that way though. It wasn't until Moises Alou left in 2002 that the three youngsters all became the outfield stalwarts on a full-time basis. And that year Ward and Hidalgo struggled. Neither had lived up to expectation in 2001 either. So with Jeff Kent joining the team, the Astros decided to assign erstwhile second baseman Craig Biggio to center field, which meant they had to make a decision to unload one outfielder. Ward became the odd man out and was shipped to LA for a minor-league pitcher.

As if hitting in a hitter's park (Minute Maid Park) weren't hard enough for Ward, he withered in Dodger Stadium. He played just 52 games but batted .163 with a .211 OBP, .193 slugging percentage, and a paltry .403 OPS, only 10% of the park-adjusted league average.

When the Pirates promoted him from Triple-A Nashville on May12, it was to replaced another disappointed outfielder the mercurial Raul Mondesi. The move seemed quite appropriate. However, Ward has been seen a renaissance as a Buc. In his first 57 at-bats, he is batting .368, an OBP of .390, a slugging average of .789, and an OPS of 1.179, all of which would be career highs if he could keep it up. His OPS would be the second highest in the majors if he qualified for the batting title, and would be just two points ahead of former outfield-mate Lance Berkman. He also six home runs and 17 RBI in just 14 games and the other day hit for the cycle to become part of the first father-son team to do so (with Gary Ward).

His OPS has gone up 776 points almost trebling his 2003 numbers. At 28 could Ward be coming into his own finally maturing enough to bury the demons that prevented him from fulfilling the expectations of stardom or is this just a fluke? Well, has anyone else ever had such a tremendous turnaround?

I investigated and the answer is no. The largest one-year turnaround for a batter with at least 100 plate appearances was .556 by Gates Brown in 1968 (from 0.571 to 1.127). However, Brown was just a bench player, who played a total of 118 games in those two years.

Besides, if Ward keeps it up, he'll get many more than 100 plate appearances. I readjusted the query to find the highest change with at least 100 plate appearances in the first year and 400 in the second. I found four with an OPS upswing of 400 points or more:

NameYr 1OPSYr 2OPSDiff
Eric McNair1938.3691939.800.431
Hughie Jennings1893.4641894.890.426
Bill McKechnie1913.3281914.745.417
Denny Lyons1886.5341887.943.410
Dave Martinez1986.3841987.790.406

The only player since World War II is Dave Martinez, who went from a rookie part-timer to a starter with the Cubs in 1987, which is hardly analogous to Ward's situation. However, let's assume that Ward matches Martinez and ends up with a .806 OPS. The Pirates average park-adjusted OPS since moving into PNC Park is in the mid-.770 range. If that holds true for 2004, Ward's OPS would be just 4 percent better than the park-adjusted average. And that's just if he can keep up with an historic rate of improvement.

Anything is possible, but I would have to think that the odds are against Ward becoming even an average player for the Pirates this year. But he may be an upgrade over Mondesi. I wonder if Mario Guerrero will try to hit Ward up for some cash because of it.

Royal Pena
2004-05-28 01:24
by Mike Carminati

Carlos Pena went 6-for-6 tonight with 2 home runs and 5 RBI to lead the Tigers over the Royals, 17-7. From May 4 to May 26, Pena also had six hits. However, it took him 16 games and 52 at-bats to do it. Over that period, Pena had 2 home runs and 6 RBI, one more than he had tonight. He also struck 19 times and batted .115.

His 6-for-6 night raised his batting average 32 points (.204 to .236), OBP 25 points (.290 to .315), slugging 72 points (.387 to .459), and his OPS almost 100 points (.677 to .775). It's too bad that those numbers are all substandard for a first baseman (no wonder he's batting 8th).

Meanwhile loser Brian Anderson falls to 1-7 with a 7.82 ERA, a .375 oppnents batting average, and 1.98 WHIP. He allowed 12 hits and 6 runs in four innings but walked just one. The good news was he did not allow a home run though he has allowed 13 in 10 starts this season. He projects to 4-26 on the season, but that might be generous given that he has lost seven straight. He has not gotten past the 6.1 innings in his 5 starts this month and has not allowed fewer than 4 runs in any of his 10 starts (though not always credited as eraned runs).

It was the second time this season Detroit had scored 17, the other being April 23 vs. the Indians (17-3). It was their 7th time scoring runs in double digits this year. Last year, their first double digit run total didn't come until July 17, after the All-Star break, and they did it a grand total of three times.

When Two Wrongs Do Make a Right
2004-05-26 12:36
by Mike Carminati

Monday's game in Toronto ended with a walk-off, two-bone-headed play that would make Fred Merkle blush. The Angels left home uncovered and Chris Gomez escaped a rundown to score the winning run with two outs in the tenth on a very odd play.

The game was tied, 5-5, at the start of the home half of the tenth. Ben Weber relieved Scot Shields and promptly walked Gregg Zaun, the leadoff hitter, on seven pitches. Chris Gomez next grounded into a fielder's choice to short. Eric Hinske then walked on six pitches. Then Josh Phelps flied out to right.

So Chris Gomez was on second, Hinske at first and there were two outs. Next up was Simon Pond. On a 1-1 count. He hit a ball hard to the right side. First baseman Casey Kotchman dove and was able to knock it down. However, the ball dribbled past him for a single and was picked up by second baseman Adam Kennedy. He had no play, and it seemed as if the game would continue with the bases loaded and two out.

But then the oddness ensued. Gomez unwisely rounded third and headed for home. Apparently, he lost sight of the ball and thought that it went through to right field. Replays showed that he ran through third-base coach Brian "Don't call me Paul" Butterfield's hold sign. (How appropriate is that he coaches for the Blue Jays?) Gomez was about halfway to home when catcher Bengie Molina received a throw from Kennedy and started heading up the line. Gomez, of course, headed back to third and it seemed that the inning would end with Gomez being tagged out in a rundown.

Then the next oddity occurred. Inexplicably, when Gomez was about 20 feet away from Molina as well as from third baseman Alfredo Amezaga, Molina decided to toss the ball to Amezaga. When Gomez saw the throw, he instinctively headed for home and scored when no one was covering the plate to complete the rundown. (Remarkably, Pond was credited with an RBI on the play as well.)

So Gomez, who had made the first blunder in initially attempting to score on the play, ended up scoring the winning run because of an ill-advised throw by Molina. Molina should have realized that there would be no one to cover the plate given that the right side of the infield was busy retrieving the ball and Weber was busy covering the bag at first. I could see him trying to get Gomez at third given that he was so far from the catcher. However, he should only have made the throw if he was still able to cover Gomez's retreat towards home. Even so, the throw is inherently ill-advised: it forces the runner to run toward home as the winning run. That's kind of a bad thing.

If Molina had instead run Gomez back to third, the Angels would have been no worse off than before the play. They would still have a tie ballgame with two outs and the runner in scoring position. The only disadvantage would have been that the runner could score on a walk and given that Weber had already given up two walks in two-thirds of an inning, that was a real threat. However, had Gomez not strayed too far from third, that's what the situation would have been.

What Molina should have done was run Gomez back toward third. He could have gotten rid of the ball once he was sure that Gomez was contained at third. However, he instead got rid of the ball definitely way too quickly.

Also, on the replay I was surprised that Weber didn't make more of an effort to get into the play. One angle from the third-base dugout, showed Weber lingering at first after Kennedy threw home and jogged toward home as Molina threw to third. He reached home as Gomez scored. I guess his only excuse was that he couldn't imagine that Molina would actually get rid of the ball so quickly.

It seemed that Molina was the only man in the stadium who thought that throwing the ball was a wise move. Here's what Jeff DaVanon had to say about what he termed a "freak play":

"Everyone was screaming for Bengie to hold the ball but it was so loud. It was just odd."

Angel manager and former catcher Mike Scioscia put it simply, "Bengie got caught in-between and we lost the play." ESPN added that Scioscia "thought Molina should have stayed at home or chased Gomez all the way up to third."

As far as the RBI credited to Pond, all that I can figure is that he lucked out with a homer official scorer who bent the intent of the rules by exercising his own judgment. By my interpretation of the RBI rule, there's no way Pond should have received a RBI:



(a) Credit the batter with a run batted in for every run which reaches home base because of the batter's safe hit, sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly, infield out or fielder's choice…(d) Scorer's judgment must determine whether a run batted in shall be credited for a run which scores when a fielder holds the ball, or throws to a wrong base. Ordinarily, if the runner keeps going, credit a run batted in; if the runner stops and takes off again when he notices the misplay, credit the run as scored on a fielder's choice.

Whatever Gomez did between third and home, he did on his own, well, with help from Molina. All that Pond did was get him to third.

By the way, Jose Guillen was hit by a pitch for the sixth time this season and said the following during what ESPN called "a profanity-laced tirade":

"I don't know how many times I've been hit and there's been no retaliation. I'm giving everything I got every day, playing hurt, playing in pain, and trying to win some games, and we don't get no help from nobody."

Jarrod Washburn ignored the triple negative but was surprised by the content of Guillen's media message. He prudently said, "That's something between the hitters and the pitchers. That's something we'll discuss."

For the record, even though Toronto starter Justin Miller hit Guillen and two others, Angel starter John Lackey did get his licks in by hitting Blue Jay leader Carlos Delgado and was ejected along with manager Mike Scioscia for hitting Pond with two outs in the sixth. Besides even though Guillen's six HBPs tie him for the lead in the AL. Craig Biggio has 8 for the Astros to lead the majors in the category (doesn't he always?). And Cincinnati's Jason LaRue has 7 in 82 fewer plate appearances than Guillen. It's small wonder that Guillen is on his fifth team in four years.

Mighty Casey Kotchman Has Struck Out
2004-05-26 12:35
by Mike Carminati

Rookie Casey Kotchman just strikeout for the first time on Sunday in his 46th plate appearance. Elias Sports Bureau reports that it was the longest stretch without a K at the beginning of a player's career since Bob Bailor went 51 plate appearances over three years (1975-77) and two teams (O's and the original Jays) without striking out.

When one considers that Kothcman has now struck out once and walked just twice in 51 plate appearances, one realizes that Kotchman is a bit anxious to stay in the majors. He just got promoted from Double-A as the Angels turned to the former number-one pick to spell the oft-injured Darrin Erstad at first. (By the way wasn't that supposed to change when he moved to first?)

That means that he makes some sort of contact with the ball 94.22% of the time, or that he walks or strikes out only 5.88% of the time. That seems extremely low for a ballplayer in the 21st century.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at all the ballplayers that have had what I'm calling a K+BB ratio under 6% with at least 50 plate appearance. There have been 106 since 1901. However, as you imagine, they are getting rarer all the time. The last to do it was the estimable Felix Fermin in 1995, and only three players have done in it in the last thirty years.

Here are all the players since 1950 to have a K+BB Ratio under 6%:

Felix Fermin1995662195.48%
Craig Gerber198532975.15%
Bob Heise197621614.92%
Dan Meyer197411523.85%
Bob Lillis196410113515.98%
Vic Power195814206205.48%
Chuck Harmon195741905.56%
Don Mueller19567154744.64%
Don Mueller195512196394.85%
Don Mueller195417226585.93%
Harvey Kuenn195212853.53%
Johnny Temple1952151025.88%
Murry Dickson1951511155.22%
Johnny Sain195131725.56%

By the way, the lowest since 1901 was pitcher Murry Dickson in 1948. He had one strikeout and one walk in 101 plate appearances for a K+BB ratio of 1.98%. Stuffy McInnis had the lowest for a batting title qualifier: 3.44% in 611 PA in 1924.

Like School on Saturday—Summary
2004-05-25 12:15
by Mike Carminati

Here are the parts to my series on the Hall of Fame that I'll be presenting at the Philly SABR meeting this weekend:

Part: I,IA,II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, and Epilogue.

The Independence Joe Morgan Chat Day After Tomorrow/Joe Morgan Chat Day-nouement
2004-05-24 12:14
by Mike Carminati

A toast, to the end of the world.
—Jeff "Geoff" Goldblum in Independence Day

It's the end of the world as I know it and I feel fine. [Now I'll have some time alone.]
—"Jerry" REM lyrics

Paradise, an endless movie. You walk in, sit down in the dark, it draws you into itself.
—Denise "Jesse" Levertov

Life is like a B-movie. You don’t want to leave in the middle of it but you don’t want to see it again.
—Ted Turner "Ward"

This movie is a toupee made up to look like honest baldness.
— Pauline Kael "Daniels"

Maybe this is a chick film and we just don't get it.
Tom "Scott" Servo, Mystery Science "Bad movie? You're soaking in it" Theater 3000

I discovered early in my movie work that a movie is never any better than the stupidest man connected with it. There are times when this distinction may be given to the writer or director. Most often it belongs to the producer.
—Ben "Guy" Hecht

Yeah, I want to write for the movies. "Goodfellas", shit like that.
—Christopher "Author" Moltisanti, "Sopranos"

You know, there’s a cowboy movie where one joker says, “Mighty quiet out there. Too quiet,” he says. Same thing every time; it’s too quiet.
—"Chrid" James Poe

All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.
—Jean-Luc "You're not my father" Godard

I don't really do action movies.
—"Roric" Harrison Ford

"Blue" Jay Sherman: But first, we have a special guest: Rainer Wolfcastle, star of the reprehensible McBain movies.
Rainer "Randy" Wolfcastle: Jay, my new film is a mixture of action und comedy. It's called "McBain: Let's Get Silly"…

Homer "Bush" Simpson: Ohhh, stupid movies. Who invented these dumb things, anyway?

Homer [menacingly]: Was it you, Bart?

—"Wayne" Simpsons

The sorrow of not being movie stars overwhelms millions.
—Mason "Don't Call Me Mel" Cooley

I'll tell you a secret. The last act makes the film. Wow them in the end, and you've got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you've got a hit. Find an ending, but don't cheat, and don't you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them. Do that, and you'll be fine.
—Screenwriting teacher Robert "Aaron" McKee played by the great character actor Brian "Danny" Cox in Adaptation

So the season is fully upon us. No, not baseball season. I'm talking about blockbuster movie season.

Whether it's a super whiz-bang apocalyptic laughfest or a good guys vs. bad guys angst-ridden taut psychological drama among characters in tights, they're headed in our direction with guns a-blazing and product tie-ins a-milking every dollar possible from your pockets.

Shrek 2has already made $123 M dollars. I haven't seen it yet but I feel as if I've seen every scene in the commercials that have been featuring the lead characters from M&M's to household cleaning supplies. I want to see it and enjoy it but I'm almost sick of it already from the damn commercials. I mean, when does a film generate enough money? How much more money can Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz make for chrissake?

The Day After Tomorrow, the worst named film since Friday After Next, expects us to suspend our disbelief while New York City is unexpectedly hit by a tsunami—no, unfortunately not the Nineties' alt-rock band, an actual storm—and has an overnight ice age hit. It's as silly as the scene in Ice Age when the saber-toothed squirrel end the last ice age with an acorn. And whenever I see Jake Gyllenhaal in the commercials, I think, "What is Bubble Boy doing in New York anyway?" Maybe Roland Emmerich can resurrect the star from his previous blockbuster bomb, Godzilla, or was it his son, Godzooki? Remember the unnecessary shot of the egg at the end, which was supposed to leave the door open to sequel until the film did so badly—what drug was Matthew Broderick on when he signed onto and acted in this crapfest anyway? That shot was worse than the cryptic "The End?" end-shots in old monster movies.

Then there's Spiderman II, which promises to make you hate the likable first film. I'm still recovering from the damage done to the Matrix franchise by the ill-conceived final two chapters.

Then there's another remake in Stepford Wives ("I was just going to get you a cup of coffee". Rinse. Repeat…) starring Mssr. Broderick, who had to go to Broadway after Godzilla, Inspector Gadget, and The Cable Guy. And then there's the middle-aged kids in the next Harry Potter flick. I like just about any scifi, but I just don't get the appeal of these scattershot, meaningless coming-of-age through ogre-baiting fests.

We just survived the tacky Van Helsing and the "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?"-esque Troy (this film is screaming out for Tony Curtis). I sustained damage to my cerebral cortex just by watching the previews of these films. And don't worry. There's no way to avoid these blockbusters whether it’s the endless trailers, product tie-ins, and the noise bleeding through the walls of your local megaplex as you try to enjoy the latest Almodóvar offering.

The other option for your precious entertainment time is the season-enders for your favorite TV shows. You get the umpteenth ludicrous twist in Alias—did anyone care that Isabella Rossellini turned on her niece and isn't Sydney being sold out by her father just a way to top last year's dénouement? Each week brought a new earth-shattering entity or twist: the Alliance, the Covenant, the Vessel, a surprise half-sister and a surprise aunt both of whom are of course spies, both characters that died in last year's finale were brought back to life, Qunetin Tarantino does an misplaced walk-through, Sydney's face is on the age-old Rimabldi manuscript. "Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" The producer's wife, Patricia Wetting of "thirty something" fame, is an ill-conceived character who is a psychotherapist enthralled with the creepy Arvin "Don't Call Me Cancerman" Sloane, forgetting any ethics that go with her profession. Vaughn's wife is a double-agent with a British accent, whose father is a US Senator, and who as she is being shot to death by her erstwhile husband, mutters the number to a secret safety deposit box that holds the secret to Sydney's past for no apparent reason other than to have a cliffhanger for next season. And Marshall plays a set of drums, that just happen to be set up at CIA headquarters. What the..?

Then we get series finales from "Friends" and "Angel". The big surprise is on "Friends" was that Rachel and Ross got together. Boy, that hasn’t been done more than a dozen or so times in the history of the show. The rest of the plot (Monica and Chandler's babies, destroying the foosball table, etc.) just served to open the door to Joey for his move to his own west-coast sitcom. "Angel" killed off the Buffy franchise by fighting a fight that they knew wouldn't put a crimp in evil's love life after killing off three major characters in the last half of the season and allowing scores more to walk out (what was the point of Lorne's character this year anyway?). Contrast that to Buffy's apocalypse-avoiding final show. It was nice to see the remaining characters fighting the good fight at the end but I was ready for this one to die all season.

Meanwhile "24" is going through its laundry list of bad guys and red herrings as an excuse to get to the final frames. The presidential plot has been laughably meaningless. Meanwhile, Jack goes from drug addict to feelin' fine in less than a day. One character is shot in the throat and hospitalized and another is tortured to the brink of death, but, to quote Monty Python, "I got better". And the final bad guy who is ready to subject millions to a horrible death even including his daughter, just caves in time to set up the final episode. At least Kim, the superfluous eye candy, isn't being chased by any mountain lions this year.

The "Sopranos" has been great if incredibly short this year. The last episode with Tony and Carmella getting back together more as a business arrangement than a real marriage and the shocking offing of Adriana, so that Drea De Matteo can go off to "Joey" next season, was tremendous. However, the show is famous for a big letdown in the season finales. This was best exemplified by the seemingly episode-long Uncle Junior aria that ended the show's third season.

So what am I talking about? Summer entertainment just aint what it's cracked up to be just like Joe Morgan's baseball analysis career. And like summer entertainment, I had to pad and overblow my subject to overcome its shortcomings. Joe's chat isn't that good—or bad, depending on how you look at it—this week. Maybe if we just kill of ancillary characters along the way, it will enliven it a bit. Here goes.

The Good

Elaine (San Diego): Do you think the cause of Garret Anderson's back pain could be the fork that is stuck in him? Because, he's done!

I wonder where you get that idea? Have you seen him play lately? He' hasn't been on the field. Back injuries are strange, sometimes they come and go, other times it takes awhile. He's a great player, certainly not done.

[Mike: Elaine! Elaine! Elaine!…Ben!

I am far from Garret Anderson's biggest fan, but I have to agree with Joe here. The guy has turned himself into a very good player. His career could be over due to the injury, not because he's "done".]

Juan (San Antonio): Joe, you used to play Minor League ball with the San Antonio Bullets. What are your fondest memories of playing/living in San Antonio?

I always enjoyed San Antonio, I used to live downtown so I'd take the Riverwalk. I was a young kid trying to get to the bigleauges. I had a lot of young teammates, we had a lot in common and a lot of fun playing down there.

[Mike: Joe's last stop in the minors was the AA San Antonio Bullets in the Texas League in 1964. He led the league in games (140), doubles (42), and DPs (106) and fielding percentage (.967) for a second baseman even though he had 25 errors. He batted .323 with 113 runs, 12 HRs, and 90 RBI and was voted the league's MVP and the second baseman on the league's All-Star team. By the end of the year, he was the Houston Colt .45s starting second baseman, skipping the Triple-A Oklahoma City 89ers. San Antonio ended up 85-55 (.670 PCT) in first place and won both rounds of its playoffs series, 3-1.]

Jeff (Swarthmore, PA): Hey Joe, now that the Phillies' bats are heating up, do you think they'll begin to distance themselves from their NL East Rivals? They have 3 potential 50 HR guys in Thome, Burrell & Abreu & a new park that looks like it will serves as one giant home run derby. Any reason to see them not winning the NL East? Thanks!

There's always a question in the NL East. The Marlins are tough, don't count them out. But NO, I don't believe you will have three guys hitting 50 HRs. I know it's a hitters park, but most of the other ball parks that are new or being built are hitters parks as well. But, don't worry, I would agree that the Phillies are the team to beat in that division.

[Mike: Like Joe, I am cautiously optimistic. If you want a "reason to see them not winning the NL East", how about two sweeps at the hand of the Marlins? If you want another, try Larry Bowa on for size.]

Victor (New York, NY): Will the lawsuit against Loria and potentially MLB by the former partners of the Expos prevent the team from moving next year?

I don't think that lawsuit will prevent them from moving. They are making plans to move already. Where they are going to move is the question. I keep hearing Northern Virginia -- but Peter Angelos doesn't want that. They can and probably will move, if they find a place to suit them. It's unlikely that they will be in Montreal next year, but every year, they keep saying they are going to move and they're still there, so who knows.

[Mike: That's the least of their worries. If MLB finally makes up their mind, they will make it happen. They might have to pay off the old partners, but it won't make up MLB's mind.]

Heath (College Station, TX): Joe, will Roger Clemens win the Cy Young, or at age 41, is this just first-half luck?

I don't think there is luck involed when you're talking about a great pitcher like Clemens. We've talked about how the switch to the NL is helping him. It's not luck, but either way, it's still too early to concede the Cy Young to anybody.

[Mike: I agree that it's not luck. Though I think that there's something other than the league switch that's the cause. Maybe the change of scene, being able to spend time with his family, reassessing his priorities, his offseason regimen, the fact that he pitched only 160 innings last year, etc. were all a part of it. Whether those factors will hold up over the course of the season, we can't tell.]

Peter (New Hampshire): Good morning joe! What do you think about Alou's hot bat! What a crazy scenario against his daddy the other night, huh?!

Well, Alou has always been a pretty good hitter and has had a lot of success in the last few years against the Giants. So it doesn't surprise me. The two Alou's have played against each other enough now where their matchup is not really the No. 1 topic on their minds.

[Mike: Alou is hitting with a great deal of power but his inability to take a BB keeps him from being a complete player. Joe's right that Alou has hit the Giants well since his dad took over, Numbers this year: .273/.385/.818/1.203 and 2 HRs in 11 ABs. And last: .333/.417/.667/1.084 and 2 HRs in 21 ABs.]

The Bad

Nick (Atlanta): Joe....Thanks for taking my question...Do you think the braves, if they can hang around until everyone is healthy again, might still have a chance this year?

Well, I still think it's too early to give up on anyone. Until the Braves are beaten in their division, I still think that you have to stick with them. They do have a lot of weaknesses, but we just have to wait, like you said, until they are completely healthy to see how good they really are.

[Mike: No.]

Mike G, NYC: Joe...Hope this doesn't sound too silly - Any chance the Mets are buyers at the All-Star Break? I don't think they are necessarily going to be too awful, if they can keep it together...

Well, at this point, everyone is still trying to see where they fit in the scheme of things, the Mets have certainly showed signs of being contenders. So, sure, at the break if they are right there, I could see them going after one or two players to keep them in the race.

[Mike: Uh, no. They may be buyers, but the best they can do is third place.]

Alan (Cape Cod, MA): Joe, is Derek Lowe hiding an injury? He's constantly getting killed, and the SOX definately need him pitching well if they have any post-season hopes.

Well, if Lowe was injured, at this point, it's still early, he has plenty of time to sit out and get healthy, I think he's just not pitching well. One of the Sox strenghts -- i thought -- was going to be their starting rotation, but now, with Lowe struggling, I can't say that. This is another club with a lot of injuries and getting those guys healthy will be a big part of how they do down the road.

[Mike: What has he been injured for the last season and a quarter? Even though he was 17-7 last year, he did have a 4.47 ERA. Lowe has not been the same pitcher since 2002. With Kim failing and Lowe pitching poorly, they have some real concerns in the rotation.]

Washington DC.: What is the outlook for the Orioles? and, are their younger hitters (Matos, Bigbie, Gibbons, Roberts) the real deal?

I was a big fan of the Os after they made all the aquisitions. These younger hitters will learn from watching the big bats of the seasoned veterans they have aquired. They have a deep offense, I think pitching is their problem. Ponson pitched well last time I saw them, but they pitchers have to carry their end for Baltimore to be successful.

[Mike: ATFQ! The outlook is a .500 season and a third place finish. All of the four players mentioned seem like serviceable starters, not much more.]

Andrew (Madison, WI): Do you think it was too early for Montreal to decide to extend Vidro considering the awful numbers he is putting up this year?

Well, you have to look at a player's carreer, he's been one of the best second basemen for a long period of time. I think it's good that they did it. I think it's good for him and it's good for the Expos franchise. They've lost a lot of their core and Vidro has been around there, this is a good move for both sides of the deal.

[Mike: No, it's about resale value. With Guerrero gone, they need a serviceable star in order to sell this team. The Expos are gutted except for Vidro. Why not resign him if his contract is going to be paid by someone else anyway?]

Aaron (Arkansas): Who do you think is the hottest in the National League Central? Do the Cardinals have what it takes?

The Cardinals are certainly a very good team, but everything in the Central is so hot and cold -- every time Clemens or Pettite pitch, the Astros have the edge. When the Cubs are healthy I think they are the tougestest defensively. I think any of those three teams are capable of winning the Central.

[Mike: ATFQ! The hottest team in the NL Central is the Reds. The Cards are certainly NOT a very good team. They're not much more than an average team. On paper the Cubs and the 'Stros are the class of the division.]

Bob Chicago IL: Who do you think is the more important person for the Cubs to get back healthy - Wood, Prior or Sosa? Thanks, love your work!

Thanks Bob. It's always more important to get your everyday player healthy. Teh Cubs problem right now is scoring runs. Even as dominant at Wood and Prior are, I think that a guy that plays every can always help you more than a guy that pitches every fifth day.

[Mike: Bob from Chicago? Bob Hartley? How 'bout a game of "Hi Bob"?

Well, Joe, I would usually agree with this argument at least in theory. However, the Cubs haven’t lost as much in going to Todd Hollandsworth to replace Sosa as they have by going to Glendon Rush and Sergio Mitre to replace Prior and Wood. Rush pitched well in his one start, but Mitre has a 5.82 ERA in his 8 starts and a 7.29 ERA so far in May.]

The Ugly

Heath (Washington, DC): Question about my Halos. I'm already nervous about all these injuries. Is there any way they can withstand the charge by Oakland before some of their guys get healthy?

The reason the Angels have been able to play well with the injuries is b/c they happened one at a time, but now, you have all your guys out at the same time. There's not a team out there that would be able to sustain all those injuries and play as well as they have. They need GArrett Anderson back, he is the heart and soul of that team. The As are playing well right now, but I think the Angels are still the best team in the West -- when healthy.

[Mike: Heath from DC? Heath Shuler? I wondered what you were up to. How's Gus Ferrot?

As far as the injuries happening "one at a time", Anderson and Salmon went down within three days of each other. Erstad went down over a week later, but that's more of a blessing in disguise anyway. Glaus went down the week before, and that could be a season-ending one. Actually, Anderson is the one that is being replaced the easiest, by Jeff DaVanon whose OPS is only nine points below GA's. Salmon has been spelled by a cast of thousands at DH, but their collective OPS is about 200 points above his this year. Kotchman's OPS is nine points better than Erstad's at first, not like that's really an accomplishment. The one injury that seems to be hurting the worst is Glaus's. His fill-in, Shane Halter, has an OPS over 300 points below Glaus. Unfortunately, he's the least likely to return.

By the way, since losing these guys the team has a 16-5 May record so it doesn’t seem to be too much of a burden as yet.]

Anthony, Dayton, Ohio: Joe, It is an honor to speak to you. If the Reds can stay a few games back going into the All Star break, do you think they will start to unload Griffey, Graves, etc., or maybe look for some help at third and pitching? With Dan O has GM, I can never tell what he is planning on doing.

I don't think they are going to add anything. They may delete some players to help them try and win the division. They'll either win it with what they have, or start to unload.

[Mike: What what what? This is like a conversation between two members of the whack pack.

This team has added players, esp. pitchers, each year at the All-Star break even when they were dark horses.

How can they "delete some players to help them try and win the division"? What is this a war of attrition? How does that make any sense?

The guy's basic question is meaningless as well: will they start to unload Griffey, Graves, etc. if they are in contention at the break? I guess anything's possible, but…]

Matt (Budd Lake, NJ): Do you think pitchers are nervous when they are throwing a perfect game or just concentrating so hard and not really aware of it until the 9th inning?

I can't get into the minds of pitchers, but I would think that you're always nervous when you're on the ground and you're on the brink of greatness. You're always nervous, but you have to perform and let your instincts for the game carry you. As an infielder playing behind a guy -- I've been behind a couple of no-hitters, not a perfect game -- my perspective is, "Hit it to me." But that's not always the case, some players would prefer to stay out of it and watch.

[Mike: You don't have to get inside their minds. Just ask them. It's a simple question. Sheez, whenever anyone even approaches a no-hitter or perfect game, it’s the first friggin' question the talking head, Jim Gray type asks. Joe has been in the media for going on 20 years, and he's never asked a pitcher that simple question?

And then he uses it as an excuse to bloviate on his playing days. Unbelievable.]

Brad NYC: Is Jeter now in the decline phase of his career. As a Yankee fan who watches every game, even last year was a fluke in that he got more cheap hits - bloops and swinging bunts - than I've ever seen. Did this mask what has been a gradual year-by-year decline?

Last year, he had some injuries. You know, this game is very difficult to play even when you're 100% healthy. It's too early to write Jeter off. He's always been an unorthodox hitter to me, his swing is different but, I mean, it works for him. He'll still play well. I wouldn't write him off yet.

[Mike: Does Joe even know who Derek Jeter is? Yes, Jeter was hurt last year, but had a very productive season. Jeter had been in a decline (see my article re. this below) and is having an historically bad season this year. That said, you can't take away from what he did last year. And Joe cannot argue that injuries are what is plaguing Jeter.]

Jim (Franklin Lakes, NJ): Hey Joe: Do you think Derek Jeter's excessive lack of offensive production is due to feeling 'second-fiddle' to A-Rod, or is it more that he may see the regular season as monotonous? Thanks!

Again, it's very difficult for anyone to get in the head of a player, but yes, I do think A-Rod coming to NY has had some effect on Jeter. Now, whether that's the reason why he's struggling, I have no idea. But anytime a guy like Alex Rodriguez comes to a ballclub, sure there are effects and repercussions that his teammates feel. But Jeter also got off to a slow start, and a slump is magnified when you are playig in New York. I don't know, every time I think he's about to pull out of it, he's not quite there, but I think he's tough enough where he will get himself together and be back up to par.

[Mike: Franklin Lakes? Pardon me, have you any Grey Poupon?

Joe can't plumb the depths of a pitcher's soul to determine if he's a bit nervous when he pitching a perfect game, and yet he knows Jeter's troubles stem from playing second fiddle? Torre seems to think that the move to leadoff after losing DP partner and former leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano is what's ailing Jeter. And he's giving the team captain every opportunity to pull himself out of the abyss in the top two positions in the order.

I couldn't tell you what Jeter's problem is. I doubt that his ego is bruised by the addition of A-Rod nor is the pressure of playing in NY anything more than de rigueur. It seems more likely that he has issues with which new hitting instructor Don Mattingly can't help him. It starts me to question if he's having a Robby Alomar post-2001 type career meltdown, just at a much younger age. We'll just have to see how he performs over the rest of this season and the rest of his career. I did think that he had a good shot at the Hall before this season though.]

Augie (San Francisco, CA) : The Dodgers started 22-10 and every faithful Dodger blue fan was thinking this could be the year we get back to the playoffs. After losing 6 straight, their confidence must be taking a big hit at the moment. My question is do you think that they will bounce back and make the playoffs this year? Second, what do they need to be a serious contender? Who will they go after before trade deadline? thanks in advance...

The Dodgers are definitely a contender in the West -- but that's not saying much. Everybody should be a contender in the West. Everyone of those teams is one losing streak away from dropping out of the No. 1 spot in the west. You are going to have this all year round. The Dodgers, the Giants, the Padres -- they win four, they lose six. Up and down with all these teams. They need to zone in on their biggest weakness and fix that so that they can find some consistancy.

[Mike: Is that why the difference between the first-place and third-place teams is the largest (4.5 games) in the NL. The Dodgers and Padres have been ahead of the pack for the last five weeks. The Giants haven't been more than two games over .500 all year and were last at .500 on April 16. Joe called them "not a very good team" just last week. Doesn't he even listen to what he says? The Rockies were at best one game over .500 and haven't been at .500 since April 14. The D-Backs were at best one game over .500 and haven't been at .500 since April 9. As far as streakiness, Arizona has won at most three games straight and lost 5, Colorado 3 straight wins and 5 straight losses, San Fran 3 straight wins and 4 straight losses, LA: 6 and 8, and San Diego: 6 and 3.]

Tito (Caracas, Venezuela): Hello Joe, What do you think of Melvin Mora performance so far, Do you think he is establishing himself as a 300's batter?

I've always like Melvin since the first time I saw him play for the Mets. I've always said the more I see of him the more I like him. He's very good, he's a smart player and he has a lot of qualities that I really like in the batters' box. Yes, I do think he has established himself as a 300s hitter.

[Mike: To paraphrase Billy Ray Valentine, "Tito, like Tito Jackson in the Jackson Five?"

A 300s hitter? What, is the guy a Roman or something? Biggus Dickus was a big hitter back then.

Mora is a career .272 hitter. Last year was his first over .275 (.317). Also, in 2003 he batted .349 in the first half and .188 in the second. He's off to a great start, but aside from the first half of last year, he has yet to establish himself as a .300 hitter.]

Dave, Brooklyn NY: Hey Joe- I think baseball is in a real golden era...a fan can watch any game with digital cable options, internet stats and chats with greats such as yourself allow for sophisticated knowledge...why can't MLB market itself properly? All the talk about lack of parity belies the fact that with three divisions, wild cards, shorter playoff series and more of 'em, it's easier for more teams to compete...and they do...what do you think MLB can do to better sell what is an outstanding product?

I majored in business in college, not marketing, so i don't know too much about how to advertise but I do believe that MLB has failed to market this product as effectively and efficiently as they could. But, there are a lot of great players in the game right now, which helps itself. Baseball has helped the marketing process by building smaller parks and making for higher runs. Baseball does not like to marke the individual, I think they should. JUst like the NBA pushes Jordan and Bird and Shaq and all the other superstars. Baseball likes to market the game and the team, but I think some individual strategies could help.

[Mike: Ah, Joe, Jordan and Bird aren't playing anymore. Maybe the NBA isn’t doing such a hot job of marketing their players after all. But I don't know since I majored in Math.

Someone explain this to me: "Baseball has helped the marketing process by building smaller parks". It sounds like Spinal Tap manger Ian Faith's response to the question of whether the group's popularity was waning giving that they was playing at much smaller venues than the previous tour. Without missing a beat, Ian said, "No, no, no, their appeal has just gotten more selective."]

Kurt Grand Rapids MI: I have noticed that my Tigers have really improved. Unfortunately the only people hitting are the newcomers. Is there some kind og player development problem within their organization? Why can't they produce good hitters?

Obviously, I'm not privy to the players in their minor league system, but this seems to be a problem throughout MLB. The players you see having great leagues do not come from the minor leauge and make an impact, they have been in the league. So it's not just the Tigers, I think it's a universal problem. I can't even think of a hitter that's been brought up through their system in the last fifteen years. Will Clark is probably the last to come up from the farm. Look at a lot of other teams and you'll see the same thing. It's a problem at the minor league level.

[Mike: First, Obviously, I'm not privy to the players in their minor league system: Why is that obvious. Joe has the greatest baseball resources at his fingertips. He gets paid to do it. Take five minutes to look at Detroit's minor-league system. They do have a fine hitter in Triple-A in OF Marcus Thames (13, 34, .338). They have Quad-A hitter Joe Vitiello (7, 25, .336).

Second, Will Clark? Will Clark? You may mean Tony Clark.He didn't come up 15 years ago. He became a regular in 1996. Bobby Higginson became a starter in 1995.

Lastly, I think it's a universal problem… Look at a lot of other teams and you'll see the same thing. It's a problem at the minor league level. So where do all the players come from? They can't all come from Japan. It's just more of Joe's it-was-better-in-my-day-isms.]

Derek and the Dominoes
2004-05-21 23:53
by Mike Carminati

Derek Jeter is having a bad season.

Wait, that's an understatement. Jeter is having an awful season. As of Thursday, his batting average (.194) was 120 points below his career average, his on-base percentage (.255) was 130 points below his career average, his slugging average (.288) was almost 180 points below his career average, and his OPS (.544) was a whopping 300 points below his career average. And that's after going 2-for-5 with a home run on Thursday (and 1-for-3 so far tonight).

He has been batting mostly leadoff for the Yankees but occasionally has been moved down to second when Kenny Lofton has been used in the leadoff spot. Along the way, he has collected 170 at-bats, which are the most on the team and project to 706 for the full season, one more than Willie Wilson's 1980 record for at-bats in a season. He also projects to 133 strikeouts, which would be his all-time high, and 45 walks, which would be his all-time, full-season low (he had 43 in 119 games last year).

His numbers as a leadoff hitter are even worse and he has been, in many ways, the worst leadoff hitter in the majors this year. Here are the worst leadoff hitters in the majors by batting average (qualifiers only):

D. Jeter1141120210229.
D. Jimenez13119263142222.198.316.313.629
T. Redman130132918213.223.237.308.545
K. Matsui13016303111215.231.308.362.670
M. Byrd12814302152110.234.310.336.646

(Michael Young's .357 is the best.)

Here are the worst by on-base percentage:

T. Redman130132918213.223.237.308.545
D. Jeter1141120210229.
M. Kotsay12911310113110.
K. Matsui13016303111215.231.308.362.670
M. Byrd12814302152110.234.310.336.646

Here are the worst by slugging average:

D. Jeter1141120210229.
M. Kotsay12911310113110.
D. Eckstein138163507439.254.322.290.612
T. Redman130132918213.223.237.308.545
D. Jimenez13119263142222.198.316.313.629

Here are the worst by OPS:

D. Jeter1141120210229.
T. Redman130132918213.223.237.308.545
M. Kotsay12911310113110.
D. Eckstein138163507439.254.322.290.612
D. Jimenez13119263142222.198.316.313.629

So Jeter is not the worst in OBP, which is probably the most important category for leadoff hitters, but is so much worse in the others and is in the top, or bottom, two in every ratio category, that that he makes up for it.

The Yankees' .184 batting average from the leadoff spot is the worst in the majors. They are second worst in OBP (.264) to the Royals (.249), worst in slugging (.287) and second worst again to KC in OPS (.550 to .548).

Given that he has underachieved to such a great degree, I am surprised that the Yankees have been able to hang so close to the Red Sox. It also makes me wonder how truly awful Jeter's quarter of a season has been and what the alternatives for the Yankees could be.

I made a list of all players with at least 400 plate appearances and with ratios not much better than Jeter's: a batting average no higher than .200, an OBP no greater than .260, a slugging average no greater than .290, and an OPS no greater than .550. I found 33 players all-time. The last time it had been done was 25 years ago by the touchstone of poor performance, Mario Mendoza. Here they all are, listed in reverse chronological order:

Mario Mendoza1979401.
Paul Blair1976413.
Tim Cullen1971443.
Zoilo Versalles1968436.
Bobby Wine1967400.
Zoilo Versalles1967626.
Ed Brinkman1965491.
Bob Lillis1963496.
Skeeter Webb1945449.
Jim Levey1933567.
Joe Dugan1918447.
Oscar Stanage1914441.
Eddie Zimmerman1911469.
Jimmy Williams1909415.
Billy Sullivan1908476.
Billy Maloney1908402.
Bobby Byrne1908490.
Lee Tannehill1906428.
Gus Dundon1905406.
Pete Childs1902447.
John Gochnauer1902506.
Bill Hallman1901525.
Jim Canavan1892487.
Jack Boyle1892476.
Henry Easterday1888437.
Harry Lyons1888522.
Bill Greenwood1888445.
Joe Gerhardt1886448.
John Cahill1886472.
Jim Lillie1886427.
Milt Scott1886515.
Joe Gerhardt1885423.
Charlie Bastian1885424.

I listed position to see where, well, basically the pattern that fell out. The vast majority since World War I are shortstops though it's odd that there aren't that many before that. Jeter is, of course, a shortstop. However, he has been far from one in the Mario Mendoza mold. Jeter has always been known more for his offense than his defense, which is openly reviled in most baseball analysis.

One other thing to notice from the list is that no one has nearly as many at-bats as Jeter is projected to have. Given that a) Torre has used him almost exclusively in the top two spots in the lineup, b) the Yankees have no viable alternatives at short (short of moving A-Rod to short and their troubles to third), and c) Jeter is making $18+ million per year, I see no reason why he won't reach the projection. Jeter's project total plate appearances would be around 776. There isn't anyone on the list within 150 plate appearances of the projection (Zoilo Versalles is the closest at 626).

That begs the question of whether Jeter would be the worst batter to ever collect so many at-bats if he continues at the current pace. So I retrieved all the batters who have ever collected at least 650 at-bats all-time. There were 190. Then I compared their ratio stats to Jeter's

Here are the five worst by batting average:

Tom Brown1892660.
Frankie Crosetti1939656.233.315.332.647
Don Kessinger1968655.
Woody Williams1944653.
Joe Carter1989651.243.292.465.757

Here are the five worst by on-base:

Rennie Stennett1976654.257.277.341.618
Alfredo Griffin1980653.254.283.349.632
Don Kessinger1968655.
Tom Brown1892660.
Bill Virdon1962663.247.286.345.631

The five worst by slugging:

Tom Brown1892660.
Don Kessinger1968655.
Woody Williams1944653.
Larry Bowa1971650.
Sandy Alomar Sr.1970672.251.302.293.596

And by OPS:

Tom Brown1892660.
Don Kessinger1968655.
Woody Williams1944653.
Larry Bowa1971650.
Horace Clarke1970686.251.286.309.595

Jeter is much worse than the worst player in everything but slugging average. However, you'll say that projecting Jeter's season out based on the worst two months of baseball probably of his career is unfair. Jeter is a career .300 hitter and one that many, including me, expected to have a Hall-of-Fame worthy career. I agree that it's a safe bet that he will improve but by how much?

Let's assume that Jeter gets the projected at-bats but hits his career average the rest of the way. He would finish the season at .285. That's not too bad, right? Let's say that he matches his career high of .349 from 1999. His batting average would be .312, one point below his career average.

Maybe that's why Torre is sticking with Jeter. He leads off two-thirds of the time. It does seem insane to turn to Jeter for so many at-bats per game when Jorge Posada, their best hitter so far, is batting sixth. Or maybe Torre doesn't feel that anyone else could step into the role.

Well, I disagree. I think the Yankees have three viable though unconventional candidates. First, why not try A-Rod in the leadoff spot? He owns a .381 career OBP and a .364 one this year. He also leads the team in steals with 6, twice as many as runner-up Jeter. You say that the Yankees need him too much in the third spot.

OK, so how about Hidecki Matsui? Matsui has a .393 OBP this year and a .360 OBP in his two-year career. Well, if you don't like using your erstwhile slow Japanese slugger as Brian Downing-type leadoff hitter, then how about Gary Sheffield?

Sheffield's power numbers are down this year and he is batting fifth. However, he does have a .399 OBP this year and .401 OBP for his career. Move him to leadoff and put Posada in the five hole. Not thrilled with a 35-year-old leadoff hitter?

Well, they are not thrilling choices but the Yankees have to do something. This is more than a slight slump. Jeter is 29 and should be enjoying his best years. The more that his current woes continue, the more it calls into question his upturn last season. Jeter had been continually falling from the heights of his great 1999 season until he reversed the trend in his abbreviated 2003 season. What if 2003 was a fluke "career" year at the typical age of 28? Maybe Jeter won't improve that much offensively.

Of course, with the rumors starting to swirl about New York acquiring Carlos Beltran, the may solve their problem through a trade. I'm not sure if the Yankees have enough spare parts to acquire the erstwhile Royal, but with his speed he could easily fill the leadoff hole. Maybe they can also package Kenny Lofton and/or a lefty middle reliever (Gabe White?) to the Phils to spell the beleaguered Rheal Cormier, they could also pry lose a dependable second baseman in Placido Polanco, thereby putting the Wilson/Cairo show on ice. This is of course speculation, but Chase Utley has started to hit the way the Phils have always expected him to (.964 OPS in his callup and three big hits, including a home run, and three RBI tonight) and it may not be possible or at least fair to send the 25-year-old back down.

The order could be Beltran, Polanco, A-Rod, Giambi, Sheffield, Posada, Matsui, Williams/Sierra (DH), and Jeter. It's not too respectful of the Yankee recent history, but it does remove a sinkhole from the top of the lineup.

Terrible News
2004-05-21 20:59
by Mike Carminati

The great Doug Pappas is dead. I send my condolences to his many friends in the world of baseball and to his family.

2004-05-20 12:12
by Mike Carminati

There's a feeling I get
When I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving…
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

—"Stairway to 'Brad' Heaven". Does anybody remember laughter?

The Phils are now in sole possession of first place for the first time since April 27, 2003, when they were 16-10 and one-half game ahead of the Braves and the Expos. They are 16-8 since being swept by the Marlins, April 20, 21, and 22 (second only to Anaheim, 18-6, over the period).

On April 12, they had just lost five straight (including another three-game sweep by the Marlins). They were last in the NL East, had the worst record in baseball, and were 4.5 games behind Florida, more games than any other team was behind their division leader at the time. They had a day off the next day, then a postponed game, and fell 5.5 games back.

The Phils are 20-11 (.645) since April 12 (third best in the majors after Anaheim, 22-11, and Minnesota, 21-11). No other team in the NL East is over .500 over the same period (Florida is the next best at 16-17).

The Phillies are 16-11 for May. And they haven’t been doing it with pitching, though the pitching hasn't been bad. The staff ERA is 3.95 in May but was 3.33 in April in which they were 10-11. The WHIP Is up (1.25 to 1.43) and the strikeouts per nine innings are down (6.67 to 5.40). Eric Milton is a great example. He was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA but so far in May is 3-0 with a 5.64 ERA. Millwood is 2-0 with a 5.30 in May but was 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA in April.

The Phils as a team are batting .278 in May with a .353 on-base percentage, .487 slugging average, and .840 OPS (and are 17 of 22 in stolen bases). Their numbers in April were .249/.332/.410/.742. Here are the Phils batters ranked by OPS improvement in May:

Jason Michaels1.323.2821.041
Chase Utley.691N/A.691
Pat Burrell1.253.800.453
Mike Lieberthal.964.578.386
David Bell1.035.666.369
Bobby Abreu1.202.882.320
Marlon Byrd.774.554.220
Jimmy Rollins.658.530.128
Tomas Perez.667.769-.102
Placido Polanco.441.674-.233
Shawn Wooten.463.697-.234
Jim Thome.9051.170-.265
Todd Pratt.619.955-.336
Ricky Ledee.8661.318-.452
Doug Glanville.353.820-.467

The offense has improved by getting guys like Lieberthal, Byrd (.348 OBP in May), and Bell involved and seeing improvements for Burrell and Abreu. They have gone from 4-5 drags on the lineup at the top and the bottom to nary a hole in the lineup. Unfortunately, with Polanco's injury, Rollins has been moved to the #2 spot to do more damage (.288 OBP). Utley is also doing poorly in his callup to replace Polanco, "forcing" Bowa to move Rollins up to #2. Actually, in Polanco's absence, Rollins does have a .742 OPS and .367 OBP in the #2 hole so he hasn't hurt them there.

So now the Phils offense is just about where people expected it to be barring the injury to Thome. However, the starting rotation may be in trouble with Millwood and Milton winning ugly and Wolf missing a turn. I wouldn't be surprise to see Ryan Madson (0.36 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) get a chance to start. But with Rheal Cormier having a tough season, they may need Madson in middle relief. Stay tuned.

Jeff Kent-Walt Weiss Memorial Baseball Darwin Awards, VI
2004-05-20 12:11
by Mike Carminati

My friend Mike rightly reminded me that Sammy Sosa should make the list for landing on the DL for violently sneezing in his annual sweeps week melodrama. Serves him right for passing Mike Schmidt on the all-time homer list.

Other entries: I, II, III, IV, and V

The Burning of Atlanta
2004-05-20 00:43
by Mike Carminati

Perfection itself is imperfection.
—Vladimir "Guerrero" Horowitz

After Randy Johnson throw a perfect game against the Braves last night right on the heels of an 18-strikeout drubbing at the throwing hand of Ben Sheets, the Braves batters finally scored four runs tonight in a 6-4 extra-inning loss to the D-Backs. The four runs were all in the eighth inning, after 18 straight scoreless innings.

It's little wonder given that the Braves lineup more closely resembles the 2003 Richmond Braves than the 2003 Atlanta Braves. Wilson Betemit, Nick Green, Jesse Gracia, Adam LaRoche, Dewayne Wise, and Johnny Estrada? The Jones boys are patrolling the outfield, but with Marcus Giles and Rafael Furcal injured, this team is paper thin.

Anyway, given that this offense was subjected to two very rare feats in two successive games, I wondered what the odds were that something like this would happen. Were the Braves just a victim of probability or did they have to work for those two drubbings?

There have been 20 pitchers who struck out at least 18 batters in a game (the list is here). Johnson threw the 17th perfect game in baseball history.

Going into this year there had been 363,334 games pitched (counting pitchers for each side separately). There have been 1138 games pitched this year. That's a grand total of 364,472. Ignoring the fact that the Braves have pitched some of those themselves, the odds that these two feats would follow each other are approximately 390,704,336 to one. ("Never tell me the odds."--Han Solo) That's pretty steep odds.

The Braves came to the plate 58 times in those two games (31 against sheets and 27 against Johnson), and they had 31 strikeouts, 3 hits (one of which was a double and one a home run), one walk, one sacrifice bunt, and one run. That translates into a .054 batting average, an .070 on-base percentage, a .125 slugging average, and a .195 OPS. In addition, their opponents had a 31-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Prior to the Sheets game they had been struck out 244 times and walks 120 (a 2.03 K:BB ratio) in 1196 at-bats (or 20.4% of their at-bats resulted in a K as opposed to 55.4% in the two "feat" games).

Freaky Fri-Joe Morgan Chat Day
2004-05-17 20:09
by Mike Carminati

Personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being. It is an act of high courage flung in the face of life, the absolute affirmation of all that constitutes the individual, the most successful adaptation to the universal conditions of existence coupled with the greatest possible freedom for self-determination.
—Carl Jung "Bong"

Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is.
—Mae "Bruce" West

Hey, you won't interfere with the basic rugged concept of me personality, will you madam?
— George "The Quiet One" Harrison being made up in A Hard Day's Night

The only idea more overused than serial killers is [swapping] personalit[ies]. On top of that, you explore the notion that cop and criminal are really two aspects of the same person. See every cop movie ever made for other examples of this.
—Charlie Kaufman "Stadium" in Adaptation (actually he referred to "multiple personality", but it applies to both)

Switch—Jimmy Smits.
—Odd ad campaign for the film Switch, in which Jimmy Smits name was blurted at the end of the trailer after the film's name for some odd reason.

Hollywood just loves swapping characters' personalities. Whether it's Rob Schneider becoming a "hot chick", a male chauvinist becoming Ellen Barkin (and thereby providing fodder for penile jokes for a good hour and a half), George Burns turning into an 18-year-old cigar-chomping, scenery chewer, or the two main female characters exchanging personalities in Mulholland Drive like Sneetches having stars alternatively stuck on or removed from thairs (and clearly, Laura Harring was the Star-Bellied Sneetch in the equation if you get my drift, because I sure don't). Then there was the brief period in the '80s, in which child/teenage TV stars were given film projects based on the same premise (Witness Fred Savage in Visa Versa and Kirk Cameron in Like Father Like Son).

As I remember it, this phenomenon started with a teenage Jodie Foster swapping personalities with her erstwhile mother, Barbara Harris. Both actresses deserved better. Foster was already a veteran of many years of acting starting with the tomboy/love interest on "The Courtship of (Mister) Eddie's Father" and had just been seen in Taxi Driver, released earlier that year. Harris was more famous as a stage actress, but she had just starred in Alfred Hitchcock's last film, the overlooked Family Plot.

Disney dusted off the old chestnut last year by trading down in acting chops but up in cup size by recasting the film with their latest ingenue, Lindsay Lohan, opposite Jamie Lee Curtis, who'll for obvious reasons always be remembered as Ophelia from Trading Places by me and anyone else who was a teenage boy in the early '80s. Everyone seemed to like the re-make better—I didn't see it. Given that Hollywood can't seem to come up with an original ideas—how many versions of the same thriller can Ashley Judd make anyway—, this sort of overused idea seems exciting and new. Come aboard: they're expecting you.

Even the glorious landscape of originality that is TV-dom was not safe from the scourge of personality swapping especially as shows ran out of other stupid ideas. I'm surprised that Jump The Shark doesn’t have a sub-category devoted to the issue, though admittedly it was never as prolific or pernicious as Ted McGinley.

Gilligan's Island had a special episode in which they left the island, at least temporarily, and traveled to some mad scientist's personal island (I think it was the same guy from The Munsters who created a dumber, if you can believe it, version of Herman Munster named Johan). The mad scientist proceeds to swap the cast's personalities. Ginger is inexplicably swapped with the scientist's Tor Johnson-esque henchman, an odd move given that he was the only means of controlling the crew and Ginger was the hot chippy on the show (therefore, the joke). Then again who knows what the whacked-out scientist was into anyway. The episode ended with the Gilligan 7 returned to normal and the scientist and the henchman being swapped with a dog and a cat. And hilarity ensued. In an odd plot twist, the crew had to return to their island due to some screw-up by Gilligan.

The venerable Flintstones even succumbed to the flimsy plot device. Fred has a bowling accident or rather his skull has one. Barney takes him to Dr. Len Frankenstone who ends up swapping his personality with everyone else on the show, just so that we get to witness Fred bark like Dino.

There was even a low-budget kids sitcom in the Seventies named "Big John, Little John", starring the Brady Bunch's cousin Oliver, Robbie Rist, and some nondescript fatherly figure, who I always thought was MacLean Stevenson, but I am gratified to realize was not (as if "Hello, Larry" weren't bad enough). One would become the other and visa versa at the most inopportune moments.

OK, so you are no doubt wondering what this has to do with Joe Morgan's weekly chat session. Well, I'm convinced, and I needed the documented proof, that ESPN is using the same kind of personality swapping with their online personalities or lack thereof. This week's experiment was evidently Joe Morgan and Rob Neyer, judging from their chats. There's also a trace of Jayson Stark's essence—maybe the remnants of his dearly department 'stache—in Neyer's message. So without further ado…

The Good

Mike ( Albany NY): Hey Joe, I believe Clemens will come back for another year. Your thoughts on that. Thanks

Well, Roger Clemens wants to get through this year first. I don't think it's a cut and dry decision and I don't think his mind has been made yet. It's a long season and injuries have a way of popping up for older players. ...

[Mike: Right, we didn't even know he was coming back this year. Very logical.]

Peter (Alpharetta, Ga): What is wrong with Andruw Jones' swing this year? Has he bulked up too much where it has hurt him? Will he ever hit .300 with 40 homeruns and 125 RBI's or will he just go down as a great defensive centerfielder. Also, he looks very lazy on the field and never runs a ground ball out or hustles. Your Thoughts?

I can't answer any of those questions b/c I don't really know if he got bigger. All I know is that he will go down as more than just a defensive centerfielder. He's been here a long time, but he's still a very young player. When I talked to him down in Florida this year, I thought he had a great attitude and his approach to the game. He impressed me. I don't know too much about him, I only get to talk to him every so often, but I really like the way he comes at the game.

[Mike: Sure, he's not Willie Mays but he's one heck of a player.]

PJ (Newark): Recently on Baseball Tonight, John Kruk said that if he needed to start a team today, he would draft Michael Young out of all eligible major league players. Do you agree with this assessment?

He is a very fine player, I enjoy watching him play. Kruk is entitled to his opinion, but I think mine would be someone else. A-Rod is one. There are probably a lot of players that I would choose before Michael Young, and that's not to say I dislike Michael, b/c I love the way he plays the game, but I wouldn't choose him No. 1 overall, no.

[Mike: Kruk is undoubtedly the worst thing to ever happen to BT. He was one of my favorite players on and off the field with his down-home Will Rogers-esque hokum. Now he's an overbearing bore who jams half-baked ideas down the audience's throat. I couldn't stand Bobby Valentine as a manger but thought he was great on and for BT. He seemed to bring out the best in Harold Reynolds. Reynolds has now lowered himself to Kruk's level. And then there's Gammons, who's unfortunately Gammons. The show's just about unwatchable. Kruk brings a certain PTI spirit to BT, which is the last thing it needed.

All that is to say that Morgan responds appropriately when it comes to Michael Young. That Kruk would select Young speaks volumes of his analytical skills.

Morgan selects a logical if very popular choice. He also answers the question directly, further proof that he's not himself.]

Jamie Hoffman, St. Pual MN: Joe Mauer is one of the best young talents that I have seen. He has a smooth swing and a mind for the game. Can you see him, blossoming into one of the great catchers on both sides of the plate?

I don't see how you can say all those things yet, he's been injured, he has potential, but it's his first year and he's been on the DL for the majority of the time. I"ve heard great things about this kid, but he has a lot to prove, yet.

[Mike: Right you are, Joe. This guy must argue on for Lyman Bostock as the greatest ballplayer of all time. Let the guy establish himself as a major-leaguer and we'll take it from there.

But Joe, you really don't seem yourself.]

Haines (DC): Who has been your most suprising team this year?

Proabably the Texas Rangers. They've been better than I anticipated and players like Young and Soriano have blended together, they have a great chemistry and a successful ball club.

[Mike: "Haines"? You don't say "Haines" until I say you say "Haines".

OK, I created a table with the winning percentage differences from last year to this:

TmPCT Diff

Texas is fourth, but given the loss of A-Rod and the attendant expectations for the team, I'll give it to Joe.]

Nick (memphis): How impressed are you with what Carlos Zambrano is doing right now for the Cubs? Thanks

Everyone said before Clement was on the staff that Zambrano had the best stuff but it was just a matter of him trying to control his emotions. I think he will continue to get a lott better. He'll be one of the great pitchers in the league.

[Mike: It's not like Zambrano came out of nowhere. He's been a very good pitcher for two years and was just 22 when the season started. His numbers (esp. ERA and K/9 IP) have jumped this year, but some of that may be explained by normal maturation.]

Ned(Los Angeles): Who will acquire Carlos Beltran before the trade deadline? (Yanks, Red Sox,Dodgers, Padres,White Sox, Angels?)

I can't answer that. I don't know what KC is looking for in return. It will be a tough trade for the Royals. Everyone knows he's going to leave, the question is, will he sign a new contract? Most teams won't give you a lot for 6 months, not know whether or not he'll stay.

[Mike: Ned? Is that Ned Nederlander as in Little Neddy Needles?

Sheez, it's already a foregone conclusion that he'll be traded. How the Royals have fallen.]

Fawaz (T.O): What do you think of the idea that Alou should put Bonds in the lead-off spot? Would this help in that an IBB would put a man on with no outs?

I don't think this would help. Your best hitter should hit third. It gets him 40 or 50 more at bats than you'd have a slot down. I think Barry is in the right spot though.

[Mike: I'm going to agree with Joe here. I know there are studies that show that your best hitter should bat second, but in this area I'm still a neo-Luddite.

Besides maybe the Giants' best bet is to camp their next best hitter, Marquis Grissom, behind Bonds, basically swapping their current spots in the lineup. And then put Feliz, their third best hitter, behind Grissom in his current #5 spot.

Oh, and as for Joe's "40 or 50 more at bats", that's a bit high. The number three spot for all teams average 636.4 at-bats (and 729.4 plate appearances) last year per team. Number 4, 620.2 at-bats (712.2 PA). That's only 16.2 at-bats (and 17.2 PA) and that's for the entire team.]

Chris (OR): Joe...what the heck is wrong with Albert Pujols? Thank you.

I don't think anything is wrong with him. People forget how awesome he was last year. That was one of those carreer years that you only have maybe once in your carreer. YOu can't do that consistantly. You just can't. But I think he is one of the greatest players in the league right now. Don't count him out. He'll still put up big numbers. The season is far from over.

[Mike: Joe's right. I'm not even going to quibble about having career years more than once in a career. OK, he had an incredible year last year, but he's no slouch this year either. He has a .925 OPS, is slugging .549, and has a .376 on-base percentage. He has 9 roundtrippers, more than twice as many walks as strikeouts (23 to 9), 12 doubles (which project to 51), and has scored 33 runs (tied for the league lead). Sure, he is batting just .278 and his OPS is just 41st in the majors. But it's still mid-May.]

Kfields (Pittsburgh, PA): I understand the frustration with walking Barry. But shouldn't a manager do whatever necessary to win the game?

Well, there are two ways to look at a sporting event. Part of it is entertainment -- if every player was walked intentionally or every batter struck out, I don't think the game would be very popular. It IS the managers job to try and win games, and he is supposed to do what is necessary. But, there is still a decorum of traditional entertainment value of the game and managers have to take that into consideration. ... Even though Barry is one of th greatest hitters of our time, there are situations where he goes into slumps, like the one he is in right now. He is human, he makes mistakes and you have to pitch to him. I don't think there should be any rule changes or adjustments.

[Mike: Joe's doing so well that I'm going to choose to ignore the "entertainment" digression. Why amend the rule for one player? Besides the strategy worked for the Phillies three times in their series against the Giants. However, the Reds lost by the strategy (they walked Bonds to lead off the 10th) just a few games before.

Besides, it's not as if the number of intentional walks being given out has gone through the roof (aside from the ones to Bonds). Ignoring Bonds' numbers, the average player drew an intentional pass only .67% percent of the time last year or once in each 149 plate appearances. For the average player that's about 3 or 4 per season. It's also much lower than the all-time average (.80%). The all-time high was in 1967 (1.06%) when batting averages were so low that it didn't hurt that much to give someone a free pass.

Here are the decadal averages since they started recording IBBs in 1955:


You'll note that the number of intentional walks has been dropping steadily since the '70s. So why change the rule? Because we have the odd occurrence of have the sabermetrically minded and the traditionalists agree on something. The SABR-heads hate the idea of giving someone a free pass and the traditionalists feel that walking Bonds is not aesthetically pleasing. (I happen to fall into both camps, a dangerous mix admittedly.)

Many get way too keyed up because of this issue. I agree with Joe's even-handed approach and, therefore, am convinced that someone has taken over his body.]

The Bad

Peter (Alpharetta, Ga): Now that the dust has settled a little bit on this hot topic ... What was your thought of MLB canceling the Spider Man Ads on the bases and all this advertising in Baseball? Dont we see enough of this on billboards, tv, and the Jumbo-trons all around major league parks? Your Thoughts Joe?

I'm not a big fan of anything that intrudes on the traditions of the game with the exception of trying to do things for charity. I think all charitable endeavors are worth us all taking a step forward and trying to help. If it's just for the sake of making money -- I don't buy it. If it can do something to help somebody -- I'm all for it.

[Mike: Joe, you coming out of it. Your look of lucidity proves it. What does charity have to do with Spidey-Gate? You're avoiding questions. It's got to be Joe.]

Tony (Danbury, CT): I am struggling to think of another complete infield in recent history that looks so impressive at such a young age as the one in Texas does. Teixeira, Young, Soriano and Blaylock. Ages 24,27,28,23 years old. Do you think Texas will be able to keep thiem togehter for awhile????

I think if you could spend $25 million on one guy, I think you have enough money to hold these guys together. So the answer is yes, I think. But I can't spend somebody else's money.

Read my column on the Rangers from two weeks ago if you are really interested in that. I get into in a little more.

[Mike: Well, the Dodgers in the early '70s come to mind. And the 199-95 Indians weren't bad (when Thome played third).

As far as holding on to these guys, the each have at least three years before free agency and Texas should now have a bit of cash.

Plugging his old articles instead of answering a question fully, boy, it sounds more and more like Joe all the time.]

Cory Garron, Nova Scotia, Canada: Since I was born in 1980, I unfortunately never go to see you or the Big Red Machine play, and I never got to see one of those "pancake" catchers mitts you spoke of in your article. I assume it was kind of like taking 2 catchers mitts, one left handed, one right handed, and attaching them at the top of each glove. I was wondering what was the atvantage of those "pancake" gloves, or why where they originally used? p.s. The article about Bench and Pudge was my 2nd favourite article to the one you did about Ricky Henderson a couple years back. :)

The gloves were more flat b/c they had so much padding in them to cushion the pitch. Everything went right into the middle of them. The gloes that we have now, the one handed catchers gloves, the ball never hits over the catchers hand, it goes in the pocket. The old ones needed all that padding b/c the pitch was coming in right on the palm of his hand.

[Mike: ATFQ! Gotta be Joe.

It wasn't necessarily the advantage of the old glove but rather the disadvantage of continuing to use them. The advantages were that they protected the catcher and the ball, helping prevent the ball from getting away from the catcher. The disadvantage was that it was hard to get the ball out of the glove, which became an issue in the Eighties when people actually stole bases.]

Ed (Edison, NJ): Do you think players that hit with a defensive over-shift on them (e.g., Jason Giambi) should adjust themselves to take advantage of the opennings? And if they were to work on it (hitting to the opposite field) how long would you think that it would take to make this adjustment?

I believe everyone that hits into an overshift, there are times when they should go the other way depending on the score of the game. If they could do this, they'll avoid the shift. Hitters can really do some damage if they could do this. The problem is, most hitters have their swings locked in, and to be honest with you, they are stubborn, but if they wanted to change, I think they could. Most guys just will not go the other way. I think it's more of a pride thing.

[Mike: Wrong, Joe. And you're becoming more Joe-like (jovial?) all the time. Ted Williams devotes a few pages to this in The Science of Hitting. He practiced hitting to the hole in the shift but just couldn’t do it at first. He described it as pushing the ball to the left almost like "hitting pepper".]

Nick (Westchester): Shouldn't the San Francisco Giants be a negative story in the sense that they have the best player in the game at a bargain price, and just a dearth of talent everywhere else. It's not like this is a small market team either, they have a mid 80s payroll.

I don't think they are a very good team. True, they have the best offensive player in game, but the supporting cast is not as good as you might think. They have a lot of role players, no standouts. I guess it should be a negative story right now, but the season is not over. I think you have to wait, see what happens come playoff time. Where they are. Their starting pitching -- other than Schmidt and Williams -- is not good. Their bullpen is not good. They offense around Barry is not good. ...

[Mike: C'mon that's a bit facile, isn't it? Pierzynski was an All-Star two years ago and was considered a steal. Alfonzo, Tucker, Perez, Snow, and Durham were all considered stars at some point. They were somewhat overrated and have aged for the most part very badly.

They made some choices that look bad right now, but some of them helped them win the division last year and helped them make the playoffs three of the last four. All teams age. It's just too bad that it's happening during Bonds' apotheosis.]

Ryan (woodlands,Tx) : What do you think, Scutaro or Mclemore for the A's starting second baseman? Mark is obviously a proven veteran but he is old and there are some questions about his range on defense. Scutaro has been sharp both offensivley and defensivley but he has a low OBP (the A's philosophy) and is still learning certain aspects of the game.

I don't think there's any doubt that Scutaro would be the best defensively. The question is, do the As need a verteran presence and some leadership in that line up. That's for the management to weight and decide. But, it is clear that Scutaro is the sharpest defensively.

[Mike: Who cares about veteran presence? Can either of these guys hit a lick? They seem about even offensively, but Scutaro may improve since he's still young. McLemore is 39 and was a much better player up to a couple of years ago but seems to be fading fast. Add in the defense and there really is no choice.

Joe, what's happening. You're fading. Your face. You're turning into…Robbie Rist? Wait, no, it's Rob Neyer on a bad hair day.]

The Ugly

Mike (Houston, TX): Rob...always enjoy your columns. One thing that has surpised me this year is Jose Guillen's performance thus far. I thought 2003 was a fluke, but perhaps not? What do you think?

It's a funny thing. Early in his career, Guillen was often compared to Roberto Clemente, who didn't really establish himself as a good major league player until he was 26. Guillen, meanwhile, didn't have his first good season until he was 27. I'm not saying they're the same, but I won't be shocked if Guillen turns out to be pretty good.

[Mike: Joe-Rob, isn’t this just a case of a player having a career year at the magic number of 27 years of age and starting off the next year strong?

Besides, Clemente was a certifiable All-Star by age 25. Guillen had a flash in two-thirds of a season at a brand-new hitter's park after six seasons of never even coming near mediocrity (highest pre-2003 adjusted OPS was 88). He was just slightly above average (107 OPS+) in Oakland, and has just one month and change under his belt this year. Three of Clemente's five pre-All-Star seasons resulted in better park-adjusted OPSs than Guillen's best (88). And if their careers were so close, why isn’t Clemente one of Guillen's comps for similar batters through age 27.

I'm not saying that Guillen will be a bust. I have my doubts. But what I am saying is that some prima facie similarities to Clemente mean absolutely nothing.]

John D. (Chicago): Seeing has how Bonds wears more armor on his arm than a 13th Century knight and stands 6 inches from the plate, why don't more pitchers pitch inside to brush him back?

Because it's not a winning strategy. If you pitch inside and you miss one way you've got an HBP, miss the other way and you've got a home run. And the HBP might lead to a warning, limiting your ability to pitch inside to other hitters. MLB hasn't done enough to address the problem.

[Mike: John D.? Mike's brother?

Joe-Rob, just enforce the batter's box. Who wants umps policing body army and verifying doctor's notes? That's what MLB needs to do.

As far as not pitching inside, that's what got us in this mess we're in today. Pitchers retreated outside, batters erased the batter's box and stood closer to the plate, and then umps flattened and widened the strike zone. So now we have body armor, pitchers afraid to pitch inside, and batters who charge the mound on high middle-of-the-plate fastballs.]

Duffman (Springfield): Why would they change the intentional walk rule for one player? Wouldn't getting players on base ahead of Barry solve the 'problem'?

First, they're not going to change any rules. And second, if it did happen it wouldn't be for one player, it would be for millions of fans. Does it really serve the sport to have Bonds -- or any other exciting player -- essentially eliminated from the action? I think the intentional walk should have been outlawed a long, long time ago.

[Mike: Joe-Rob, see the numbers above. Is this really affecting "millions of fans"? As for Bonds -- or any other exciting player, let's not confuse the issue. This is all about Bonds. IBB-per-plate appearance rates are dropping throughout baseball except when Bonds is at the plate.

Also, ATFQ! Wouldn't getting players on base ahead of Barry solve the 'problem'? No, getting someone who can drive Bonds in would change it. Joe-Jayson documented (i.e., exploited Elias' data to prove) that Bonds gets walked more often with men on base.

How do you outlaw the intentional walk? The idea is ludicrous, but more on that later.]

Jay (Newingington, CT): Hey Rob, what's the point of eliminating intentional walks if you can just pitch around someone? Throw 4 balls in the dirt and you're golden? There doesn't seem to be a good solution for the Bond's dilemma. Thanx!

There are ways around that. In a particular situation -- the second time in the game, or when it's a particular hitter -- you could treat any four-pitch walk "intentional." Trust me, if we wanted to come up with something workable, we could.

[Mike: Newingington ? What was your town name chosen by Charlie Callas or something?

First, Jay, you can't through balls in the dirt because when you intentionally walk someone it's usually with men in scoring position and balls in the dirt lead to wild pitches.'

Second, Joe-Rob, the idea of treating any four-pitch walk as "intentional" is beyond laughable. There are four-pitch walks all the time. What, will they be outlawed or will the defense be doubly penalized or will it be left to the umps to divine the pitcher's intent in making a judgment? None of these choices is acceptable.

Besides what prevents someone from sneaking one strike in—on the outside corner after a high and tight pitch, say—and then intentionally walking the batter? Well, what if you preclude catchers from leaving the catcher's box to receive a pitch? You would eliminate pitchouts and increase wild pitches. How about hiring Kathy Bates to hobble all of the catchers? Hmm, that has promise.

Joe, something is happening again. I think that intentional walk talk is causing you to transmogrify again. Wait, you are turning into a prop comic, a guy uses stats like a baby treats a diaper, a guy who gets ducked by the everyone at Elias when his name comes up on the phone display. It's baseball's Carrot Top himself, Jayson Stark… ]

So is there anything baseball can do? Between our survey last year and our survey this year, we've gotten five suggestions that make any sense whatsoever:






[Mike: So, Joe-Jayson, now you're asking and answering the questions, huh? OK. Let's take 'em one at a time.

1. You suggested this as Joe-Rob. To quote Jack Black, "Next song! Next song!"

2. Again, the average player gets 3-4 a season. It's just the Bonds rule. What are we going to do if a pitcher intentionally walks Bonds a second time, make him waste a time out? "Next song!"

3. How about you make the pitcher spin the "Wheel of Gas"? How inelegant is this proposed rule? So an intentional walk could be more valuable than potentially an infield single? Yuck!

4. So now it counts more than a ground ball through the infield? Who's going to keep track of this tripe? How about a three-point line or an overtime loss counting for a point? This is baseball for crissake!

5. Again with the football analogies. Why compare baseball to an inferior sport? So you decline it and start where, at 3-and-0 or restart the entire count? What if he walks the batter again and again? Is there a penalty? Is it a safety?

Lordy Mama, play the blues.]

Matt ( Budd Lake, NJ): As a 2nd Baseman, what was your reaction to Posada getting hit in the face by that throw? Should the ball have been thrown over the top instead of being side-armed?

Posada was sliding way away from the bag at the fielder, the ONLY protection a fielder has is to make the runner go down. All runners know that you HAVE to get down. Posada didn't go down. WHo's to determine how a guy is supposed to throw to first base. You have to throw from where you received the toss. If you receive it low, you throw it from there. If you receive it high, you throw it from there. So, if there is a fault, Posada should have gotten down sooner.

[Mike: Joe, you're coming out of it. No one else could answer this question quite the same way. However…

Posada was a good ten feet from the bag. Why should he get down? And he was sliding away from the bag. He was maybe a foot or two to the right of the bag but he was within the baseline (according to rule 7.08). Besides, how could he be sliding toward the runner AND not getting down?

Besides, Amezaga received the ball high and could have thrown it however he liked but chose underarm. I'm not saying he intended to hurt Posada but made no effort to avoid him. And that wasn't too bright because it cost the Angels the double play.]

Dave (Dublin, Ireland): Hi, Joe. I caught the Cubs-Dodgers game that you covered a couple of days ago. The Alex Cora 18-pitch AB was pretty amazing; did you ever try to prolong an AB against a starting pitcher late in a game by fouling off as many pitches as you could, hoping that he would tire or give in and throw you something down the middle of the plate for you to hit?

I always went up there to try and get a base hit off every pitch I swung at. I don't think you can go up there with that notion in mind of prolonging the at-bat. That rare situation that happened the other night, was where Clement's pitches were moving just enough that Cora wasn't getting the whole ball, he wasn't up there trying to wear down the pitcher. But it shows good focus from both of those guys.

[Mike: Of course a batter's approach is different with two strikes than with one or none. A batter tries to get a hit on every swing but is also protecting the plate with two strikes. He’ll end up swinging at pitches that he might otherwise forego to avoid striking out. Those pitches are lower percentage ones but swinging at them is preferable to being called out on strikes. Of course, it was quite an accomplishment to avoid striking out by fouling off 15 pitches you can't do anything with and then getting a pitch that you can hit out of the park.

Wait, you demean a feat by a current player and you answer like someone who's never played the game. Joe, you're back!]

Perez' Stroke-a genius
2004-05-17 00:16
by Mike Carminati

If you missed it, perhaps the oddest at-bat of the year, or any other year for that matter, came Friday in Colorado and it became the turning point of the game. The at-bat consisted of four pitches, three of which were catchable fly balls. None were caught, but the Rockies went from a man on first with no outs to none on with two outs. It was all the odder as it came soon after what some are saying is the best at-bat of the year, Alex Cora's 18-pitch home run the other night.

The score was 3-1 in favor of Colorado in the bottom of the fourth. The Phils had just gone down in order on eight pitches and resulted in three groundouts, two of which were to the pitcher. Jeromy Burnitz lead off the fourth with a home run to run the score to 3-1. Charles Johnson followed with a nine-pitch walk after falling behind 0-2. So basically Phils' starter Eric Milton was on the ropes and Rockie starter Joe Kennedy was cruising.

Then came the at-bat.

Matt "It's A" Holliday was up next. Holliday popped up the first pitch a few feet from first in foul territory. First basemen Jim Thome was set directly under the ball and seemed to get a glove on the ball but just flat out dropped it for an error. The next ball was hit closer to the dugout on the first base side. Again Thome got under the ball and again he dropped it for an error. Both seemed to hit off the heel of his glove.

As if those two plays weren't odd enough after an 0-2 ball, Holliday hit a soft fly to second baseman Tomas Perez. Apparently, Thome's two dropped balls gave Perez an idea. Perez had the ball directly in front of him from his second base position a few feet in front of the cutout. However, the ball fell in front of Perez, who kept the ball in front of him and tossed the ball to first. Holliday was then out. A stunned Charles Johnson was then tagged out by Thome in foul territory for the double play.

The next batter, Kit "Yes, That's My Real Name" Pellow, popped out on the next pitch to short to end the inning. The Phils went on to score three in the next half-inning on a two-out Jimmy Rollins single followed back-to-back home runs by Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell on back-to-back pitches, both of which appeared to be aided greatly by the thin air at Coors—Burrell hit his on one knee with one hand. Jim Thome next singled to right on the next pitch and it looked like batting practice. It then took ten pitches to finally get Mike Lieberthal to fly out to end the inning. The end result was that the Phils took a one-run lead that they never relinquished. Milton stayed in for two more innings and held the Rockies scoreless. He is now unbeatable (4-0), while Kennedy lost for the first time in 2004. He's now 4-1.

The win put the Phils at 6-1 on their road trip (they finished 8-2) and just a game behind division leading Florida. Colorado, meanwhile, is competing with the other dregs of the NL West for the honor of finishing a distant third, apparently.

If you ask why first-base ump Wally Bell never called for an infield fly, it's because it never applied. By definition the infield fly rule is only invoked if there are runners at first and second or first, second, and third. And the ball must be fair, so the Thome balls were doubly disqualified. From the definition:

An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out... If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare "Infield Fly, if Fair." The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.

The rule that could have applied is 6-5 (l):

A batter is out when…(l) An infielder intentionally drops a fair fly ball or line drive, with first, first and second, first and third, or first, second and third base occupied before two are out. The ball is dead and runner or runners shall return to their original base or bases; APPROVED RULING: In this situation, the batter is not out if the infielder permits the ball to drop untouched to the ground, except when the Infield Fly rule applies.

Even though it seems counter-intuitive, Bell's interpretation of the rule seems accurate: Perez never dropped the ball so Holliday was not out by 6.05(l) and the ball was not dead. Therefore, the ball was like any other ground ball in the infield. The batter was out when Perez' throw beat him to first. Meanwhile, Johnson was tagged out but would have been called out for being too far outside the baselines (rule 7.08: "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").

Colorado manager Clint Hurdle argued the play and the announcers discussed Perez' intent. However, Hurdle had no argument and whether Perez made an attempt to catch the ball or not had nothing to do with the call.

What should Johnson have done on the play? Could he have avoided the tag? According to rule 7.08e: "Any runner is out when…[h]e fails to reach the next base before a fielder tags him or the base, after he has been forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner. However, if a following runner is put out on a force play, the force is removed and the runner must be tagged to be put out." When Holliday was out, Johnson was no longer required to advance. If he stood on first, he would have been safe.

It seemed apparent that Perez let the ball drop, but whether he thought he would get the double play we'll never know. Given the fact that the runner can stay on first, it makes sense not to include it in the infield fly rule. That is, if the runner stays on first, then it's the same whether the fielder catches the ball or not. However, given the confusion that this play induced, I don’t see why more fielders (esp. second basemen) don't try the play. As long as you can get the runner at first OR you can fool the lead runner to stay near first and then force him at second, then it's worth an attempt. And you never know, you could get lucky like Perez and get two outs when the runners get confused. It seems worth the risk.

Major Nelson
2004-05-14 20:12
by Mike Carminati

Travis Nelson, The Boy of Summer, lampoons Bud Selig and various bloggers, including yours truly, via a farcical news conference. Apparently, I like lots of tables. Go figure!

Gypsy Maroth
2004-05-13 23:56
by Mike Carminati

"Even the losers get lucky sometimes"
—Tom "Don't Call Me Gary" Petty

O villain! Thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this.
—William "Author" Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

If a victory is told in detail, one can no longer distinguish it from a defeat.
—Jean-Paul "Bako" Sartre

After a 3-1 victory over the A's today, Detroit's Mike Maroth improved his record to 4-1. Considering the fact that Maroth was 9-21 last season and lost the most games by a pitcher since 1974 when four pitchers lost at least that many: Mickey Lolich (16-21), Bill Bonham (11-22), Steve Rogers (15-22), and Randy Jones (8-22).

Maroth is now on a pace to win twenty games (20-5). I highly doubt that he will win that many given his poor overall performance (4.86 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, .278 OBA) and the fact that pitches for the Tigers. He also is coming off two poor starts, five runs in 5.1 innings in an 11-9 loss to the Angels May 3 and nine runs (eight earned) on seven hits, six walks, and zero strikeouts in four innings in the crazy 16-15 loss to the Rangers after being staked to a 15-5 lead. In the process his ERA rose by two full runs. The Tigers offense which was non-existent last year has rushed to Maroth's aid scoring 59 runs in his seven starts or just under 8.5 per game.

Let's assume that Maroth's season continues as it had in April (3.58 ERA),that the Tigers continue to provide him great run support, and that Maroth does end up a twenty-game winner. Would such a turnaround be unprecedented at least since the advent of five-man rotations or since World War II? Here's a list of twenty-game losers since 1900 who went on to win twenty games the next season (Note: There are 135 all-time but only 23 since 1900):

NameYr 1WLYr 2WL
Randy Jones197482219752012
Wilbur Wood1973242019742019
Dick Ellsworth196292019632210
Paul Derringer1934152119352213
Ted Lyons1929142019302215
Dolf Luque192213231923278
Eddie Rommel1921162319222713
Walter Johnson1916252019172316
Nick Cullop1914142019152211
Ed Walsh1910182019112718
Walter Johnson1909132519102517
Cy Young1906132119072115
George Mullin1905212119062118
Jack Taylor1905152119062012
Vic Willis1905122919062313
Ed Killian1904142019052314
George Mullin1904172319052121
Togie Pittinger1904152119052314
Joe McGinnity190331201904358
Patsy Flaherty1903112519042011
Bill Dineen1902212119032113
Joe McGinnity1901262019022118
Noodles Hahn1900162019012219

Maroth's winning percentage has improved from .300 to .800. There are only 23 pitchers in baseball history who have improved their winning percentage by 500 percentage points (min. 10 decisions). They are in descending order of winning percentage improvement (and didn't you know I would list them?):

Don Larsen1960110.091196182.800.709
Cherokee Fisher1871416.2001872101.909.709
Don Larsen1954321.125195592.818.693
Jack Manning1874416.2001875152.882.682
Cal Eldred199928.2002000102.833.633
Stan Williams1969614.3001970101.909.609
Mark Grant198828.200198982.800.600
Tom Zachary1928912.42919291201.000.571
Mike Remlinger1998815.3481999101.909.561
Bill Doak191328.2001914196.760.560
Dick Bosman196829.1821969145.737.555
Tom Hall197147.3641972101.909.545
Carl Scheib1951112.0771952117.611.534
Larry French1941514.2631942154.789.526
Nelson Briles1966415.2111967145.737.526
Steve Hargan1969514.2631970113.786.523
Scott Stratton1889313.18818903414.708.521
Burleigh Grimes1917316.1581918199.679.521
Fred Corey1882113.0711883107.588.517
Darold Knowles1970214.125197174.636.511
Dennis Lamp198488.50019851101.000.500
George Caster194137.300194282.800.500
Scott Radinsky199237.300199382.800.500
Zane Smith1989113.0711990129.571.500

There aren’t that many great names in that list. There are a lot of veteran, journeymen types on the list, which perhaps doesn't bode well for Mike Maroth's future should he actually end up qualifying for the list. Don Larsen appears on it twice demonstrating how odd Larsen's career really was.

Some 41!
2004-05-13 18:18
by Mike Carminati

Clemens-y is the noblest trait which can reveal a true monarch to the world.
—Pierre "LaCock" Corneille

Clemens-y is also a revolutionary measure.
—"Dolph" Camille Desmoulins

From Heaven distilled a Clemens-y
—Thomas Hardy "Richardson"

Roger Clemens is having an amazing year (7-0, 1.99 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, .182 OBA, 10.32 K/9 IP) proving his critics, me among them, wrong. His win total projects to an inconceivable 34 games (in 222 innings) and his ERA projects to his second lowest ever (to his 1.93 ERA in 1990). At age 41, Clemens is on track for his best season ever and that's quite a statement given that he is arguably the best pitcher of his era and one of the best pitchers of all time.

Could Clemens season end up being the best ever for a 42-year-old? Let's find out, shall we…

Here are the all-time win leaders among 41-year-olds (Clemens: 7 projected to 34):

Cy Young190821111.26
Warren Spahn196218143.04
Pete Alexander19281693.36
Don Sutton198615113.74
Phil Niekro198015183.63
Jerry Koosman198414153.25
Ted Lyons19421462.10
Earl Caldwell19461342.08
Jack Quinn192513114.13
Babe Adams19231374.42
Rip Sewell19481333.48
Hoyt Wilhelm19641291.99
Mike Ryba19441273.33
Nolan Ryan198812113.52
Dazzy Vance193212114.20
Connie Marrero19521182.88
Don McMahon19711064.06
Gaylord Perry198010133.68
Curt Davis194510103.25
Charlie Hough198910134.35
Murry Dickson19581073.70

Here are the all-time ERA leaders (min 50 IP; Clemens: 1.99):

Cy Young190821111.26299.0
Eddie Plank1917561.79131.0
Hoyt Wilhelm19641291.99131.3
Earl Caldwell19461342.0890.7
Ted Lyons19421462.10180.3
Satchel Paige1948612.4872.7
Eppa Rixey1932552.66111.7
Connie Marrero19521182.88184.3
Red Ruffing1945732.8987.3
Warren Spahn196218143.04269.3
Ron Reed1984063.0873.0
Ellis Kinder1956513.0955.3
Johnny Niggeling19457123.16176.7
Jesse Orosco1998413.1856.7
Joe Berry1946373.2250.3
Curt Davis194510103.25149.7
Jerry Koosman198414153.25224.0
Dennis Eckersley1996063.3060.0
Mike Ryba19441273.33138.0
Pete Alexander19281693.36243.7

Here are the leaders for Walks Plus Hits per Innings Pitched (Clemens: 1.04):

Cy Young190821111.260.89
Hoyt Wilhelm19641291.990.94
Earl Caldwell19461342.080.98
Ted Lyons19421462.101.07
Eddie Plank1917561.791.09
Ron Reed1984063.081.11
Eppa Rixey1932552.661.11
Warren Spahn196218143.041.13
Mike Ryba19441273.331.14
Don Sutton198615113.741.16
Dennis Eckersley1996063.301.18
Satchel Paige1948612.481.18
Jesse Haines1935653.591.20
Red Ruffing1945732.891.20
Early Wynn1961823.511.22
Pete Alexander19281693.361.23
Connie Marrero19521182.881.24
Phil Niekro198015183.631.24
Nolan Ryan198812113.521.24

Here are the strikeouts per nine innings leaders (Clemens: 10.32):

Nolan Ryan198812113.529.33
Jesse Orosco1998413.187.94
Don McMahon19711064.067.79
Doug Jones1998464.547.49
Dennis Eckersley1996063.307.35
Ron Reed1984063.087.03
Hoyt Wilhelm19641291.996.51
Steve Carlton19869145.106.12
Virgil Trucks1958223.655.98
Gaylord Perry198010133.685.91
Phil Niekro198015183.635.76
Satchel Paige1948612.485.57
Jerry Koosman198414153.255.50
Dazzy Vance193212114.205.28
Danny Darwin19975114.355.26
Tom Seaver19867134.035.26
Early Wynn1961823.515.22
Tom Candiotti1999467.325.17
Roy Face1969423.945.16
Rick Reuschel1990363.935.07
Don Sutton198615113.745.04

[Note: Cy Young was at 4.52.]

Now the strikeouts-to-walks ratio (Clemens: 2.89, which actually below his career average of 2.97 even though his K per 9IP is well above his career 8.64 average):

Dennis Eckersley1996063.308.17
Doug Jones1998464.544.18
Ron Reed1984063.084.07
Cy Young190821111.264.05
Hoyt Wilhelm19641291.993.17
Nolan Ryan198812113.522.62
Bert Blyleven19928124.742.41
Don Sutton198615113.742.37
Jerry Koosman198414153.252.28
Roy Face1969423.942.27
Warren Spahn196218143.042.15
Gaylord Perry198010133.682.11
Phil Niekro198015183.632.07
Danny Darwin19975114.352.04
Kent Tekulve1988373.601.95
Ted Lyons19421462.101.92
Don McMahon19711064.061.92
Curt Davis194510103.251.86
Tom Seaver19867134.031.84
Dazzy Vance193212114.201.81

It looks like Cy Young's 1908 season will be impossible to top, but just the fact that Clemens is on a pace to challenge or best Young in many categories is quite a feat.

Clemens also is not far from the symmetrical number of nine strikeouts per nine innings for his career and with the second highest strikeout-per-nine innings ratio of his career (to 10.39 in 1998), could he eventually reach 9-Per-9 for his career? Well, his current pace projects to about 4322 strikeouts and 4501.1 innings for his career by the end of the year. That barely raises his career average from 8.6399 to 8.641, so unless Clemens pitches until he's 50 and continues at the same pace, an average of nine strikeouts per nine innings is unlikely.

However, how good is his 8.64 K-per-9 IP average? Here are the all time leaders with at least eight strikeouts per nine innings (min. 1000 innings and includes 2004 stats):

Randy Johnson393911.16
Pedro Martinez247610.46
Nolan Ryan57149.55
Sandy Koufax23969.28
Hideo Nomo18208.97
Sam McDowell24538.86
Curt Schilling25958.86
Dan Plesac10418.74
Lee Smith12518.73
Roger Clemens41518.64
Eric Plunk10818.45
Sid Fernandez17438.40
J.R. Richard14938.37
David Cone26688.28
Jesse Orosco11798.19
Chan Ho Park12688.14
Tom Gordon16518.14
Warmed-Over Leftovers Left Over to Be Warmed Over
2004-05-13 01:37
by Mike Carminati

Christian's questions at the A-B site regarding left-handed pitching got me to thinking a bit, and that's got to be dangerous.

I had looked at the percentage of games started by lefties and found that it was it's lowest ebb since the 1930s:

DecadeAvg LHP GS %

So where have all the lefties gone? I thought that maybe they moved to the bullpen as the significance of middle relief increased to work more and more as situational pitchers. To test this theory I built a table per decade of the percentage of left-handed innings pitched, relief appearances, pitcher-years (i.e., cumulative number of pitchers for each year in a decade). Here are the results:

Decade%IP%RA%Total #

You'll note that the number of relief appearances remains high (over 30%) since the '70s. However, the percentage of innings pitched and pitcher-years has decrease in the last decade and one-half.

So why the change? Did lefties go out of vogue? Perhaps lefties as a whole were being less successful of late. Perhaps the lefty-lefty advantage was diminishing. I thought that looking at the ratio of lefty ERA to average ERA would be telling:

DecadeLHP ERAERALHP ERA to avg%Diff

Could it be that the 1.40% increase in the Eighties has caused left-handers to fall out of favor? It is interesting to see that by the turn of the last century, lefties outperformed righties according to ERA and that was in effect until the 1990s.

Let's take a look from another point of view. What do Pitching Win Shares have to say in the matter? I took the total pitching win shares and total innings pitched for lefties and all pitchers and divided them to get PWS per IP. I then represented the lefty value as a percentage of the whole:

DecadeLHP WS/IPOverall%

Again it wasn't until the 1900s that lefties played a significant role on a staff. And as the relief era dawned (1960s) relievers were either used much less or were much less successful. Given that ERAs for lefties were still dropping faster than the overall ERAs, I would think that they were just being used less often. The 1990s experienced an abrupt dropoff in lefty Win Shares. Then they started to increase in the last half decade.

Could it be that lefties are being moved from starters to closers:


Well, that's not the case. Maybe we should look at the number of closers (20+ saves per year):

Decade%20 Sv

OK, they don’t seem to be closers now, and they aren't all being used as middle relievers; otherwise the percentage of the total number of relief appearances, although it is still high, would be increasing nit decreasing.

Therefore, my theory is that lefties are indeed being used less often today because of diminished returns of the lefty-lefty advantage. If we had historic lefty-righty splits, then we could test that theory. So it'll have to remain a theory based on the circumstantial remnants of proof found in the statistical record).

[By the way, the quote's from Barney Rubble.]

Pittsfield Pt II
2004-05-13 00:08
by Mike Carminati

Here's a follow-up from John Thorn re. my comments on the Pittsfield document:

Your points are well raised, and in fact were discussed in the press conference at Pittsfield yesterday. First, the 1791 ordinance was offered as, most specifically, the first recorded mention of baseball by that name on the North American continent; English mentions can be dated to 1798 (Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, published in 1818); Mary Lepell's letter of 1748; and John Newbery's A Little Pretty Pocket-book (1744). In fact, in the packet that members of the press received yesterday was the Chronology of Early Bat and Ball Games that Tom Heitz and I originally prepared in 1994 and which I have updated since. It's attached for your possible interest.

I think it would be a mistake (and has been so for some time) to emphasize so strongly the time-honored "establishment" dates for the New York Game (1845) and the Massachusetts game (1858). The codification of rules reflects long-standing conditions and evolved patterns rather than a starting point for anything particularly novel. This is equally true for the NY and Mass Games, as I might convince you if we had ample time and good will. Of course, some of this will worm its way into my long-in-progress book.

I did indeed look at your "rant" and I have many, many points of contest--matters of fact as well as interpretation. But for now, I'll just say that Pittsfield is not looking to become the definitive locus for baseball's emergence ... it is surely one of many such sites, and everyone at the press conference, from the mayor to the lowly historian, was happy to share credit with other burgs, whether they find earlier documents or not.

However, a document from 1791 is indubitably earlier than one from 1845 or 1823. And the "Pittsfield Prohibition" does not close the door to further research or superior claims. In short, while the document may not be everything we need to know about early baseball, it is not nothing.

Perhaps my dismissal of the document was a bit facile. It does have significance in context. I still have an issue with the comments from the Pittsfield mayor as to the town's being baseball's "Eden". However, there's no harm done though Newburgh may feel slighted, and I see little chance of Pittsfield supplanting Cooperstown as the mythical home of baseball in any case. As for me, that home is still Hoboken as much as any one place can lay claim to the title.

[By the way, the Chronology of Early Bat and Ball Games is too long to reprint here, but if you are interested, send me an email and I will send you a copy.]

Pittsfield Prevarications
2004-05-12 00:08
by Mike Carminati

So the earliest written reference to baseball has reportedly been found in Pittsfield, MA. It is in the form of a 1791 bylaw "to protect the windows in Pittsfield's new meeting house by prohibiting anyone from playing baseball within 80 yards of the building." The document was tracked down researcher John Thorn, one of authors of the once revolutionary Total Baseball.

City officials in Pittsfield are kvelling:

"Pittsfield is baseball's Garden of Eden," Mayor James Ruberto said.

The only problem is that it's not the earliest reference. A book called A Little Pretty Pocket Book printed in 1787, just a little further down the Mass Pike in Worcester,from an English woodcut shows children playing "Base-Ball". It was originally published in London 43 years earlier.

Then again baseball really had no James Naismithian start:

"There's no way of pinpointing where the game was first played," said Jeff Idelson, a spokesman for the Hall of Fame. "Baseball wasn't really born anywhere."

Of course not. An ever-evolving version of the game had been played until the mid-nineteenth century. In England it had been "rounders", which was to cricket sort of what chess is to checkers. It was widely played in colonial days as "town ball" and was often played on holidays like Election Day and Town Meeting Day by whole towns. The game featured a leather-clad sort of bean bag that was used to "soak" the runner, i.e., throw him out by hitting him with the ball, instead of tagging him.

Two forms of the game developed, the Massachusetts Game and the New York Game. The Massachusetts Game featured a 60' by 60' square instead of a diamond with poles for bases and the batter (called the "striker") would stand between home and first. There were no balls or strikes and the inning had but one out. This version was used in the first intercollegiate baseball game as it preceded the New York Game.

The New York game actually started in Philadelphia. There are reports in 1833 that the Olympic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia played on a diamond with a flat plate for home, positioned the striker at home, and used tagging (as well as soaking) to get runners out. This is the basis of the game that Alexander Joy Cartwright and the Knickerbocker club codified in Elysian Fields, Hoboken in 1845. Cartwright combined the Philadelphia field design with a rule from another offshoot of the rounders game called many names including "one hole cat", "one old cat", or "one o'cat". This game featured just a batter who with his foot catapulted the ball in the air and then running between the two bases tried to score as many "runs" as possible (sort of like the step ball that I played as a kid, though previous generations called it stoop ball, or sort of a solitaire version of cricket). He scored a run by tapping his bat, which he carried with him, in the hole at the striking position. The rule that Cartwright borrowed from this game was the idea of forcing the runner out by throwing ahead of him to his next base (also used in cricket). He also borrowed the pitcher (or bowler) and catcher combination from the Massachusetts Game.

The New York Game soon took hold in New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, baseball hot beds in the 1860s. The National Association of Base Ball Players, the grandfather of today's National League, was formed in 1857 led by the Knickerbockers. It was sort of a loose collective of all amateur gentlemen's clubs at first. After the Civil War interest in the New York Game spread as far as Massachusetts. Then in 1867 the National club of Washington traveled to the Midwest visiting Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Columbus, all of which became major-league perennials in the 19th century. The New York Game soon reigned supreme, evolving into the game we know today, and the Massachusetts Game was consigned to oblivion, presaging the Yanks-Red Sox rivalry.

I'm sorry for the long-winded history, but I just wanted to prove that baseball had no real start anywhere. The closest is Cartwright codifying the game and the birth of the Knickerbockers in 1845. Before that baseball could be found in any of a number of constantly evolving children's games played with a ball and a stick. Pittsfield claim to being baseball's Bethlehem is hardly any more valid than Cooperstown's apocryphal book of Genesis.

These Happy Joe Morgan Chat Days Are Yours And Mine, Happy Joe Morgan Chat Days!
2004-05-10 01:04
by Mike Carminati

Spin and die,
To live again as butterfly.
—"The Caterpillar" by Christina Georgina "Frankie" Rossetti

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin (off).
—The Bible, "Eddie" Mathew, vi. 28

Oh, spin, spin, spin, oh mighty wheel!
—Ed "Ross" Grimley, a decent guy, I must say, on his beloved "Wheel of Fortune"

Happy those early days! when I
Shined in my angel-infancy.
Before I understood this place
Appointed for my second race,
—Henry "Hippo" Vaughan

How short our happy days appear!
How long the sorrowful!
—"The (Seattle) Mariner’s Cave" by Jean "Brandon" Ingelow

A plucked phoenix is not worth a chicken.
—Ancient Chinese proverb, Huh?

How YOU doin'?
—Joey Tribiani on "Don't Call Me Bob" "Friends"

Wha' Happened?
—Mike "Spanky" LaFontaine, in the fictional show of the same name in the movie, A Mighty Wind

In 1974 a television show began that had had a failed pilot on "Love American Style" ("Truer than the red, white, and blue-ooh-ooh") two years earlier and was resurrected by a similarly minded film that helped make Richard Dreyfus and Harrison Ford stars and allowed a young film maker by the name of George Lucas make a small-budget science fiction movie by the name of Star Wars, that changed the film industry. The film was American Graffiti, and the show it helped revive was "Happy Days". It started as a half-hour-long episode of "Love American Style" under the title "Love and the Happy Days", in which young Richie Cunningham, played by Ron Howard, tries to use his family's new television set, a rarity in the Fifties, to get a date with a certain young lady. "Happy Days" the series started the year that "Love American Style" went off the air, lasted ten seasons, and eventually gave our culture the phrase "Jumped the shark".

This past week another show that lasted ten years, "Friends", went off the air. Reportedly about fifty million people watched its final episode. Next week, an eleven-year veteran, "Frasier", will end its run on TV as well. However, the spirit of "Friends" will soldier on as the only character not to get a life as well as probably the most one-dimensional character, Joey, gets his own show next season. Similarly, "Frasier" rose from the ashes of "Cheers" as Dr. Frasier Crane was transplanted from Boston back to his native Seattle. I can't imagine anyone believes the "Joey" show will enjoy half as much success as "Frasier". Drea de Matteo shouldn't miss much time from the set of the "Sopranos" before the show folds.

"Frasier" is indeed a rarity. "The Simpsons" started with short segments on "The Tracey Ullman Show". Both were good, but "The Simpsons" left Ullman in the dust long ago. However, many other long-running TV shows morphed into new spinoffs, which rarely if ever enjoyed even a modicum of success. The last episode of "M*A*S*H" was watched by one hundred million people, a record at the time. A good deal of that show was taken up with setting up the short-lived and tackily titled spinoff "After M*A*S*H" with three of the lesser characters from the original series. "All in the Family" was reborn as "Archie Bunker's Place" (and also birthed "Gloria", "The Jeffersons", and ("And then there's) "Maude", which in turn gave us "Good Times"). "The Andy Griffith Show" became "Mayberry, R.F.D." "Cheers" itself had already spawned a short-lived series, "The Tortellis", a few years before, and "Happy Days" delivered "LaVerne and Shirley", "Mork and Mindy", "Joanie Loves Chachi", and "Plansky's Beauties" with varying results.

OK, so what am I prattling on about? A number of people, including me, have been trying to figure out how Joe Morgan, arguably one of the top two second basemen of all time, begat Joe Morgan, pain in analyst after his playing days were done. I just came to the realization that it's all a crapshoot. Sometimes you get a "Frasier" and sometimes you get an "After MASH". "Sometimes you are the Louisville slugger, baby; sometimes you are the ball." I remember discussing the idea of a Frasier show when it was announced and scoffing at the idea. And then again how many shows were birthed, like "After MASH" was, with a shower that was one hundred million strong? Like the phoenix, these shows and Morgan's two careers existed separately and (usually) singular though they were fashioned from the ancestor's remains.

Therefore, it's not contradictory for Morgan the analyst to gainsay everything that Morgan the player made manifestly clear as a player. Look at Ted Williams—great player, not so great manager. Name the last great player who was a good manager: Frank Robinson? Joe Torre? Bob Lemon? Not too many others. Name the great managers who were bad players: Bobby Cox, Billy Martin, Sparky Anderson, Earl Weaver, Tommy Lasorda, Connie Mack, etc. That list is a bit longer. Name the great players who were great baseball analysts. (Bob Uecker does not count.) Success in the first career does not imply success in the second. They are totally different disciplines.

Could it also mean that "Joey" the series will find fertile ground on Thursday nights? Well, to quote Joey himself, the point is "moo".

The Good

Alex Godshall, Jupiter, FL: What's the best advice you can give to an aspiring young middle infielder, on defense in particular?

Only one thing --understand bending your knees and staying down on the ball means keeping your behind down too. Read my Baseball for Dummies book. There is a section in there on infield play.

[Mike: Joe is an expert on fielding, baseball for dummies, and behinds.]

Brandon (Indianapolis, IN): Why not move the Expos to Louisville, Kentucky and rename the team the Louisville Sluggers?

They are looking for a spot that would support them like the New York fans support the Yankees and I don't think they feel Louisville is that place. They are looking for a big media market. I think they will end up in Washington.

[Mike: Yeah, why not move a team to Mudville? Of course, they want the largest market available. I have to point two things out though: 1) No other area can possibly get the same fan support as NYC. It's just too damn big. 2) Why not add a third team to the New York metro area? It's the largest market available. However, I agree that Washington and the Expos are betrothed. We just don't know how long the engagement will be and what the dowry will be to Angelos.]

Matt (Houston, TX): Who do you think has the best 'stuff' in the game right now, and who would you like to face the least if you were still playing?

I'd least like to face Randy Johnson (like most left handed hitters). BUT, I still think that Pedro Martinez, Jason Schmidt, Gagne, Smoltz and Clemens all have great stuff. For me though, a lefty, I don't want to face Randy Johnson.

[Mike: Matt Houston? Lee Horsley? Eh, skip it.

OK, Billy Wagner's not bad either.]

The Bad

Jim (Peacedale, RI): Hi Joe, If the SF Giants are out of it early, what are the chances of Bonds being traded to a contender to try and get a ring? If he asks, wouldn't they at least have to consider it? Maybe Red Sox DH?

Well, first of all, I think Bonds has a no-trade clause so they would have to ask him where he wants to go. Knowing him, I don't think he'd want to go to the AL. And moreover, I think if Bonds leaves San Francisco, they'll have to shut the ballpark down. I don't see him leaving the Bay.

[Mike: Peacedale? What superhero lives there? The Winged Wussy?

ATFQ! He's asking if Bonds would ask to leave the Giants to get to the postseason before it's too late. I don't think he'll be traded, but stranger things have happened. It would depend Bonds desire to leave town and on the deal they could make. There's one thing for sure though: Pac Bell isn’t going anywhere. The Giants survived Mays, McCovey, Clark, and many other great players leaving town. I think Bonds is better than any of them, but the Giants won't fold when his career with them is over.]

Joe (Chicago, IL): Joe, with the weakness of the division, any chance the wild card could come out of the AL Central?

I don't think it will come out of the Central b/c you have a lot of great teams in the AL. Boston, New York, Angels, Oakland -- I just don't think it will come out of the Central.

[Mike: ATFQ Pt. II. Joe, he's asking if being in a weak division helps a team's chance of getting the wild card.

I guess it's possible, but of the 18 wild card teams only one came from the division won by the weakest division champ (i.e., the 1995 Rockies).]

Sergio (San Diego): Yo Joe! Don't forget about my Padres. They are also in first with LA. Which one of these teams do you see losing it first?

I can't predict who will win the NL West. Both teams are playing so well at this point. I guess, I'd give the Dodgers the edge, I really like San Diego but they have to get their bullpen on track. I'm surprised that this is is their weakness right now b/c they have such great arms in there.

[Mike: You know Sergio???

Well, the Dodgers have now won four straight and the Pod People are now two games back, so I guess they "lost it first". However, I'm not sold on either team. Just about everyone is over performing in the Dodgers lineup and I don't think they have that great a rotation. And I know they were everyone's offseason pick, but I'm still not convinced that the Padres are that good. Even though these two have separated from the other three, I don’t think it's inconceivable, to quote Wally Shawn, that San Fran or Arizona could still win this thing. In any case, I wouldn't be surprised if the division winner had the worst record of any playoff team in the majors.]

Sean Darcy: Hey Joe. The Mets are only 3 games out of first place, do you think this is just because they havent played any great teams yet, or because they are finally starting to come together as a team and they are making their way to the top of the NL East?

The Mets have had well pitched ballgames. And Tom Glavine has been key for them. I like Kaz, and when they get Jose Reyes back, they will certainly make some strides. They are finally more enjoyable to watch. I'm not going to say they are going to win the East, but the Mets are coming around. They are playing with some excitement.

[Mike: Wait a second….give me a moment…I'm still recovering…I'll give you a topic: Why do they call a ball that bounces into the stands a ground-rule double when no stadium is required to make a ground rule to cover it?…Oh dear, those Mets fans are a caution. To paraphrase Eddie Murphy, "I kid the Mets fans because they Met fans." The Met fan, possibly the most pathetic variety of fan known to man. Perhaps it's due to there being a landing strip in right field. All that air traffic and the dimensions of Mr. Met's head ("HEEEEAD!…Now he'll be crying himself to sleep tonight, on his huge pillow.") cause the fans to go all non compus mentus. Loco in la cabeza. Koo-koo for Cocoa Puffs (as opposed to koo-koo for Cocoa Crisp, which would be an Indian fan, which are now extinct).

No, it's because, to quote a greater mind than my own, "It's May, pal," and the Mets have not yet been able to dig themselves a hole deep enough. But don't worry the Grand Canyon wasn't built in a day either.]

Chris (Bowling Green, OH): Joe, I understand that superstition is a major part of the game of baseball for most players. Did you have any pregame rituals or superstitions that you did before each game?

I didn't really have a lot of superstitions, I mean, I didn't step on the foul lines. Nothing crazy. If I had a little success with a long sleeze sweatshirt I might wear it a few more times than usual. I'm trying to think of some weird ones. Wade Boggs ate chicken every day. That's pretty weird to me.

[Mike: How sleazy was it? Another lob from the new Utek, "Long Gone" Chris from Bowling Green.]

Hulk Hui - Menlo Park: Joe - Larry Bowa is under the microscope in Philly. Do you think his style of managing (volatile emotion) works in today's game. Or, is the Jack McKeon/Dusty Baker "friendly laid back guy" approach the way to succeeed in today's game?

I don't know if there is any one way to succeed in this game -- managing, coaching, pitching, hitting -- there is always more than one way to get the job done. I would say that most players prefer a softer approach. BUT, you can't always pat players on the back. Sometimes they need a kick in the rear. Not everybody responds to that gentle touch. I like Larry. I'd like to ask him if he feels this is the right situation for him.

[Mike: Who cares about motivation? Remember how great a motivator Tony Pena was last year. Wha' happened? I think that being able to make basic strategic moves, getting the best situations available to help your team win, is the most a manager can do on the field. Bowa is lacking in this area. Off the field, the best a manager can do is not tick off his players. Bowa is lacking in this area.

However, compared to you, Hulk, Bowa is as quite calm.]

Ray, Duncanville, Tx: Joe, Some players make the switch between leagues. Chan Ho Parks problems cant all be physical as he puts it. Why has he had so much trouble in the American league? Is it between the ears?

I think that switching leagues is very difficult. You don't know the players. I think a pitcher switching leagues is easier than a hitter switching leagues, though. The advantage is always with the pitcher -- that's one of the reason why Clemens and Pettite will do very well their first time through this league. Batters have never seen them. Chan Ho Park should have had the same advantage.

[Mike: Agreed, but was Park really that good or was he just a decent pitcher in a pitcher's park? Park's best season was 2000 (18-10, 3.27 ERA, 32% better than the park-adjusted league average). He only had one bad year, 1999 (13-11, 5.27 ERA, 15% worse than average). His first year in Texas mimicked his 1999 season. It came after two season of 225+ innings per season. He was "due" for an off season. And I've written before that pitchers who leave the friendly confines of Dodgers Stadium have had a rough time of it.]

Lee, Loudon NH: Hey Joe, the Yankees seemed to have settled down do you think that the Red Sox have a legit shot at finishing 1st?

The Yankees have definitely settled in and they have such an awesome lineup, you know they are going to win a lot of games. I think both teams will win 90-100 games. I still think that the Red Sox have the pitching edge and the Yankees have the power edge. NY has just sent Contreras out, so they will have to find somebody to step in. I said a long time ago that I would never bet against the Yankees. I'm sticking to that, that's my answer. But, we'll see.

[Mike: "If me and Lee and KG could be three, flyin' free tenaciously"—sorry, lost my train of thought. Oh, yeah, a little afraid to commit, Joe? I'm not. The Yankees will win the division. The Red Sox will fade again. There, it didn't hurt. I may be wrong, but I made a stand. C'mon you do it too. Give it a try.]

Chris (Chicago, IL): Hi Joe. The NL Central has lived up to all the pre-season talk as one of the most competitve so far. In the central, the Cubs seem to struggle at times producing offensively. Do you think that the Cubs offense relys too much on the home run? Where do you see the Cubs / Astros / Cards come September?

I know Dusty very well and he doesn't like to rely on the HR, but if that's all he's getting, that's what he'll go on. But he likes the hit and run, he likes aggressive baseball. I think we'll see more of that as the season goes on. IF Mark Prior comes back, you have to give the edge to the Cubs. Even if their offense is not as consistant as, say a team like Houston. If Prior goes not return, I give the nod to the Astros. St. Louis has the offense but not the starting pitching of the Cubs or 'Stros.

[Mike: I see the Cubs in Chicago, the Astros in Houston, and the Cards in St. Louis. There.

The Cubs are sixth in the NL in scoring. They do lead the league in homers but are second in doubles and third in sac bunts. 'Nuff sed?]

Pat (London ON): Hey Joe, Do you think the A's are starting to show symptoms that their lack of hitting is hurting them, despite the plethora of great starting pitchers?

You look at the A's hitters and you realize they will struggle a lot against great pitching. There is not a lot of power, not a lot of speed and not a lot of high aveage hitters. BUT, their pitching -- other than HUdson -- has not lived up to it's billing either.

[Mike: "Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?"

Joe criticized the A's for waiting for the long ball in the past. Now, he criticizes them for not being able to hit the long ball. The A's play on a pitcher's park. They have out-homered the opposition (39 to 33). They're also way ahead in walks (124 to 95). The problem is that they strike out so often (229 K's in 1109 ABs). Of their starters, Hudson, Mulder, and Redman have ERAs under 4.00. Zito is the only one really disappointing (6.17 ERA). The bullpen is more of problem (4.73 ERA) especially closer Arthur Rhodes (4.50 ERA and 2 blown saves) and setup man Chad Bradford (5.84).]

Chris (Lexington, KY): Hey Joe, I ask you this because you know the hearts and minds of Cincinnati fans. Do you believe Junior's criticism of, at least some, Reds fans is warranted? I feel like 98% of the fans want badly for things to go well for Junior and to embrace him, but it seems like he is perpetually angry with us. Comments?

Yes, I think it's a two sided sword there. Jurnior remembers people cheering when he got hurt -- whichis the worst thing you could ever do to a player -- or to ANYONE. He remember that and he just can't get over it. He needs to. Everyone, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, myself -- we were all booed at one time or another in Cincinatti. You just have to get over that if you want to be a great player.

[Mike: "No know, no care."]

The Ugly

Mike (Omaha): Hey Joe! What are your thoughts on Estrada in Atlanta? It looks like the Braves have found them another unheralded star to replace Javy Lopez...

Well, he's playing really well so far, but Javy set a HR record for catchers last year. He's an awesome talent. Estrada is a switch hitter, he is sound defensively. Look, he has a chance at greatness, but don't compare him to Javy Lopez yet.

[Mike: He's 27 and just starting to be an established major-leaguer. His career boils down to one nice month. He's no Javy Lopez. He's no "awesome talent." If he becomes a decent major-league catcher for three or four years the Braves should be estatic.]

Chris, Los Angeles: Hi Joe, How much longer will the dodgers continue to win without a true staff ace? Do you see them acquiring one before the trading deadline?

I don't understand what an ace is if all the pitchers are throwing well and they are winning games. If you're asking if they're gonna get a Pedro Martinez -- the answer is no. An ACE, I mean, how many ACES are there in baseball. Not many. Teams aren't going to let those guys go.

[Mike: Nah, guys like Schilling, Clemens, Maddux, Brown, Pettitte, Vazquez, they never switch teams. Oh wait, as a matter of fact they have all switched teams from last year. That's odd. Well, there's Randy Johnson. Oh, but there are rumors that he might get traded. There's always Pedro Martinez. Oh, he may get shipped out of Boston you say because of contract problems? But LA Is out of the question, as Joe points out, probably because it's such a small market that would not be able to afford his contract. Aha, Victor Zambrano. He's never switched teams. Good point, Joe.

As far as a true ace on the Dodgers, Odalis Perez was one of the best pitchers in the NL in 2002 (15-10, 3.00) and Nomo has won 16 games the last two years. What constitutes and "ace" anyway? Drop any pitcher in LA and he can become an ace. Look at Wilson Alvarez last year or Nomo since he returned to LA. Both of them looked washed up before coming to the Dodgers.

As far as I don't understand what an ace is if all the pitchers are throwing well and they are winning games, that would be fine if they were but they’re not. Perez and Ishii are the only starters with ERAs under 5.40. The Dodgers have Alvarez and Dreifort in reserve if Nomo, Weaver, and Lima continue to disappoint, but a trade is not out of the question. A Martinez or Johnson trade seem like very remote possibilities right now, but it's a long summer.]

Rick (San Jose, CA): Hi Joe! What do you think about the Dodgers, contenders or pretenders?

Well, obviously they are a contender b/c they are in first place. If you can hold first place for a month, you can hold it for the rest of the season. They have a fine anchor in the bullpen in Gagne. I expect them to be in the race all year long.

[Mike: A perfect Morganism: One reasonable statement (Well, obviously they are a contender b/c they are in first place.—I mean like, duh?) followed by an illogical one (If you can hold first place for a month, you can hold it for the rest of the season.). On May 1, 2003, the Expos, M's, and Royals were either in sole possession of first place or were tied for first in their respective divisions.

As for the Dodgers, the curious thing is that uncharacteristically three of their starters have faltered and their offense is over-achieving. The one thing that might sustain their playoff hopes is that as their offensive players return to normal, their rotation has room to improve. And yes, they have an historically good bullpen led by Gagne. So they got that goin' for them, which is nice (to paraphrase Carl Spackler).]

Jeff (Chicopee, MA): Joe, The big debate now is that Roger Clemens is the best pitcher since WWII, do you think there is anyone better than him or is he the best pitcher since the second World War?

1945? No. He is a great pitcher. But he is not the best. Sandy Kofax is generally considered one of the best but he only pitched for 10 years. Bob Gibson has to be mentioned. Roger is OBVIOUSLY one of the best, but I can't say that he is THE best.

[Mike: Chicopee? Home of the Chicopee Chucksters led by coach Norman Dale?

Morganism #2: Players were better in my day. Gibson was a great pitcher, but to listen to Morgan and Timmy McCarver you would think that Gibson was the greatest, toughest, meanest pitcher that ever existed. Of course pitching in the midst of the greatest pitcher's era of all time doesn’t hurt.

For the record, here are the Pitching Win Share leaders from 1946 to 2003, inclusive:

Warren Spahn402.6
Tom Seaver389.3
Phil Niekro375.2
Roger Clemens375.1
Gaylord Perry368.5
Steve Carlton367.1
Greg Maddux345.7
Bert Blyleven338.7
Robin Roberts332.9
Nolan Ryan332.2
Bob Gibson326.9
Fergie Jenkins319.1
Don Sutton318.7
Jim Palmer310.4
Dennis Eckersley298.3
Tommy John289.4
Jim Kaat268.3
Early Wynn260.6
Juan Marichal260.4
Jim Bunning256.4

Clemens has undoubtedly passed Niekro and may pass Seaver, the greatest pitcher I ever saw pitch before Clemens, this year but may never catch Spahn. Clemens is certainly the best pitcher of his era. The only question came as Maddux ran off his string of amazing years when Clemens was having his off years. Certainly, Spahn and Seaver are deservedly the front runners. Clemens can be mentioned with them now (and one can argue that with the fewer innings pitchers throw in five man rotations, Clemens has already surpassed them in WS/IP), but we'll have to wait until his great career is over to fully access it. After all, we thought his career was done in the offseason and now he's 6-0 with a 2.11 ERA.

By the way, Gibson is 11th in Pitching Win Shares over the same span, very respectable certainly but a poor choice for best of the era.]

David, Cambridge, MA: Hi Joe, where do you stand on this spiderman thing.

I don't stand. It's something that MLB decided to do, they have to determine whether it's for the good of the game or not. It's the commissioner's job, not mine. I guess the point is, they didn't ask me. I'm still attaining information that will help me make up my mind and make a clear statement on this whole issue.

Besides -- my understanding is that they have decided NOT to put the Spiderman logo on the bases afterall.

[Mike: Where does Joe stand? To quote Lina Lamont, "I can' stan' 'im". Why no backbone, Joe? Attaining information? Only the president gets away with such lame excuses.
Luckily for Joe someone saved his heinie by informing him a) what the hex the issue was and b) that it was already resolved. No need for those inconvenient opinions in a chat session, right?

As for me, to quote Mystery Science Theater's "Pod People" (for the second time in as many days, mind you), "It still stinks." There are worse things in heaven and earth, however, Horatio, than are dreamt of in Bob Costa's philosophy.]

Joe (Yardley, PA): Hey Joe, do you realize your still ripping them in ESPN Classic Fantasy Baseball. You just homered off Walter Johnson last night!!

If Walter could get it to the plate, I probably could still hit it. I think I'm in a little better shape than him these days! It's so interesting to be able compare players of differnet eras!

[Mike: The funny thing is that this constitutes a comparison to Joe. "Johnson is dead. I'm not. See I compared and contrasted." Joe could get his baseball GED.

The sad thing is that it is actually possible to compare players of different eras by various tools, none of which are the ESPN Classic Fantasy Baseball game. Sorry to bring you down, man.]

Josh Bonwell, Anaheim, CA: Good Morning Mr. Morgan, Ananheim Angels getting it done with out Garrett Anderson and Tim Salmon, wow-Enough Said!

I think the Angels, and I've said it before, are the best team in the West. They are basically the same team they were last year without those two guys. You haven't gained a lot. You need to get those two guys back, then I think they will really distance themselves from the rest of the division.

[Mike: Josh "Bonzo" Bonwell? I though you were dead, man: choked on your own vomit.

Nigel Tufnel: "Actually, it was someone else's vomit…You can't really dust for vomit."

What did Joe say? They're the best team but the are basically the same team as last year without Salmon and GA? They were 77-85 last year. Besides the guy's point was that the Angels are winning without them. Never mind.]

Michael(Bayonne, NJ): Joe, do you believe in "winning players" that push teams into the world Series. If you do, would you say that Jeter is a more valuable player to the Yankees than Alex Rodriguez is?

I agree. You have to say Jeter is mor valuable b/c he's helped them win championships. Sure, he'll put up far better numbers than Jeter, but I would never say that A-Rod is more valuable than Jeter right now. Jeter's is one of those 'winning' guys. Yes, I believe in that. A-Rod is probably the most talented playre in the game right now but Jeter's enthusiasm and work ethic and drive rubs off on the clubhouse and he can drive them to greatness.

And before you Giants fans go crazy -- Barry Bonds is by far the best hitter in the game, but A-Rod is the most complete.

[Mike: "I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a... fraid… on …a …bicycle ...built…for…two………."

I am sorry. My brain is pixilated after that answer. I think a wad of ginkgo biloba between my cheek and gum may help. "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain…By Jove, I think I've got it"

OK, where to first? Jeter is more valuable because he's won championships. OK, so DiMaggio won 9 championships, Ruth 7, and Mantle 7. Was DiMaggio more valuable than Ruth and Mantle? Sorry, that's too tough. How about, Joe Collins won 5 championships; Eddie Collins 4. Who's more valuable? Sorry, that's still too tough. Graig Nettles won two championships; Mike Schmidt one. Who's more valuable? Forget it.

Maybe it's not the number. It's just the fact they have won a championship and A-Rod hasn't. Well, Luis Sojo won three world championships. Does that make him inherently more valuable than A-Rod?

Just because a player happens to be on a World Series winning team, it doesn’t make him a different type of player. I remember Dave "Hendu" Henderson going to five straight postseasons with three different teams. Analysts pointed to this as if Henderson was anything more than a good player who happened to have gone to successful teams. In 1991, he was an All-Star and had arguably his second-best season, but the A's failed to make the playoffs. What happened to the Hendu magic? Did it dry up? Or maybe his team just wasn't as good overall anymore.

How about Walter Johnson? He didn’t get to the postseason or didn't win a World Series until his 18th season. Was Johnson a less valuable pitcher for the first 17 seasons? Did he get more valuable in his 18th or did the Senators just get better as a team? You make the call.

Barry Bonds is by far the best hitter in the game, but A-Rod is the most complete. ??? What the? Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do…]

Darren(Portland, ME): Do you think if the rangers are in the thick of the race in july that they might go after a pitch?

Read my column this week for the whole picture on the Rangers. It talks about the talents of this young club and also why it will be difficult for them to stay on top of their division.

There's the link to the story.

[Mike: The should go after pitches before July or they will be in danger of not scoring any runs. Joe has already proven that wlaks and OBP are meaningless.

Speaking of which, nice shameless self-promotion, Joe, and a very creative way to avoid actually answering a question. Okay, party…Bonus. Since you brought up the article, to quote Kyle Gass of Tenacious D, "If it's in there, it's fair game." You asked for it, You got it. Toyota. Let us read together in the English…

I also talked with Soriano about the significant strides he's made toward becoming a good defensive second baseman (as well as a good hitter). After making three errors in the season's first three games, he hasn't made an error in the past 23 games.

Based on my observations from Sunday's game, he's a much better second baseman than he was last year. He looks more relaxed and less stiff, and he's bending his knees better on ground balls.

[Mike: Joe likes Alfonzo. He really likes Alfonzo. For some reason, Joe wants to use the power of his wishful thinking to make Soriano a better second baseman. He's been saying that Soriano has improved defensively each of the last three seasons. He still boots too many balls. Whenever I see him he seems to end up committing a costly error or worse yet fails to even get to a ball that he should have fielded cleanly. Ok, that's anecdotal. Look at his fielding stats and tell me that he's improved much. His range factor was slightly better last year, but he's still below average. And he consistently boots about 20 balls a year, a lot for a second baseman. Besides Joe alludes to his three errors in the first three games. His fielding %, range factor and zone rating are still about what they were last year, sub-par. It's very unlikely that a player will improve significantly defensively at the major-league level. I remember Wade Boggs made himself a Gold Glove third baseman later in his career, but then again he is, or will be, a Hall of Famer. It's tough.]

Showalter told me a story from Saturday's doubleheader against the Red Sox. After winning the first game 4-3, the younger Rangers were back in the clubhouse, eating a big meal. Showalter said that Young yelled at them, "You haven't done anything yet! We've got another game to play -- you can't sit here and gorge yourselves until after you win the second game." The Rangers went out and took the second game 8-5, beating Pedro Martinez.

Sometimes that's what young players need -- veteran leaders who teach them what it takes to be a winner.

[Mike: Wow, the veterans really help with the subtle nuances of the game, like not feasting before a game. Great point, Joe. Mickey had better advice for Rocky: "Women are bad for the legs." These are the subtle details about the game that you only get in a Joe Morgan article.]

Owner Tom Hicks, Showalter, the coaches and all the young Rangers are on the same page -- so I expect to see a competitive Texas team throughout the season.

[Mike: Tom Hicks, the same man that outbid himself for A-Rod? The man that overpaid for Chan Ho Park? The man who ruined the buffet at the Harrow club this morning? Great! It's a sure harbinger of success if you can get Hicks on board.

Topic #2: What is the importance of On-Base Percentage? Joe "tell me some" Morgan…]

OBP important, but RBI and runs trump OBP
Since the beginning of the 1990s -- early in my time as a broadcaster for ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" -- I've tried to make fans more aware of on-base percentage on our telecasts.

[Mike: Joe Morgan stalwart defender of OBP! Who? Bill James? Never heard of him. "Ever heard of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle?… Morons!" ]

On-base percentage has always been an important stat, but RBI and runs scored are the truest tests of what a player does to help his team win. Once runners get on base, someone needs to drive them in.

[Mike: Joe just doesn't get cause and affect. Yes, scoring runs is important. It's of paramount importance in baseball. Scoring runs, driving in runs, yes, they are both of utmost importance. However, how does an individual's runs scored and RBIs effectively measure that? A lead off hitter with very good power hitters behind him will score a high number of runs even if he is not very effective. RBIs to a certain degree are dependent on one's position in the lineup and how effective the previous players are at getting on base.

In this search for effectiveness, OBP is important but OPS (OBP Plus Slugging) is the best indicator. More on this in a minute.]

The most important stat in baseball is the combination of runs scored and RBI.

[Mike: Joe in his own pathetic way is trying to invent OPS. It's like a feral child trying to develop language. Their futile attempts will not eclipse what thousands (millions?) of years of evolution have accomplished. But it's charming.

Runs and RBI are effective at the team level. However, how they get distributed may be based more on position in the lineup than on the effectiveness of the individual.

Lets thing about the effectiveness of R+RBI. If your cleanup hitter goes down and he his your leader in R+RBI, who do you turn to in order to replace him? Well, just take your #2 R=RBI guy, right? What if that happens to be your #5 hitter, who is struggling (.225/.280/.375/.655) but has had enough men in front of him to drive in a good number of runs. Also, he has scored a bunch because your #7 hitter is tearing the leather off the ball (.310/.370/.550/.920) and has driven in #5 guy just about every time he gets on base. However, the #7 guy doesn't score often because the #8 guy and the pitcher hardly ever drive him in. Who would you turn to? For those with at least half a brain, the answer is the #7 guy. I'll leave it to you to determine Joe's answer.]

The most important stat in baseball is the combination of runs scored and RBI.

[Mike: If I just keep repeating it, it becomes true.]

You can accumulate home runs just one swing at a time, but you can accumulate up to four RBI per swing. So it's harder to hit a home run than to drive in a run -- in fact, it's harder to hit a home run than to do anything else offensively.

[Mike: How about a triple? There were 5207 HRs last year and just 934 triples. There were only 2573 stolen bases, 1316 intentional walks, 1849 hit batsmen, 1626 bunts, 1336 sac flies, and 3850 GIDPs. How about them?

This is solipsistic logic because a home run by definition drives in at least a run. It's like telling someone that it's harder to draw a square than a rectangle and then chuckling to yourself over the fact that squares are in fact rectangles. Oh, that's a good one. I always pull that one on the rubes getting off the turnip trucks.]

Tomas, Tommy, Tom Terrific, and Brandon
2004-05-09 01:52
by Mike Carminati

The Phils' Tomas Perez hit a three-run home run and an RBI sac fly tonight to help the Phils slip past the Diamondbacks, 8-7, tonight. In the process the Phils have reached .500 for the first time since April 7, when they were just 1-1; it was their seventh try to reach the mediocrity mark.

Perez now has two home runs on the season and both were off of Arizona's Brandon Webb. The first came in the May 2 game which the Phillies won, 6-5, in the 14th inning (though they should have won in with the bases loaded and one out in the 11th, but Bowa ran Glanville out to hit). The two-run homer by Perez was the Phils' first runs in the ballgame. It came in the seventh with the D-Backs leading, 4-0. What's more, Webb has given up just three home runs on the season and two were to Perez.

It reminded me of the way that role player Tommy Hutton used to own Tom Seaver in the mid-Seventies. Hutton rarely started but whenever the Phils played the Metsand Seaver was pitching, there he'd be at first or left with his blond Cheshire Cat moustache and his glove way up on his hand. Seaver was probably the best pitcher of his era, and Hutton was little more than a bench player, but somehow Hutton owned 'im. I remember one night game at the Vet in 1977, in which Hutton hit a home run to lead the Phils over Seaver and the Mets. I remember a picture of Hutton rounding the bases with the old Vet scoreboard brimming with the word "TOMMY!" in lights while Seaver manicured the mound with his heel. I just looked the game up in Retrosheet and it was May 27. Hutton went 2-for-3 with four RBI. He singled in the game's first run in the first, hit a two-run home run in the sixth to put the Phils up 4-1, and hit a sac fly in the eighth that put the Phils ahead to stay, 5-4. Hutton hit one other home run and drove in 7 other runs in his 78 other at-bats that year.

By the way, more news from the Age of Jive. Ryan "Don't Call Me Oscar" Madson broke Marty Bystrom's team record for consecutive scoreless innings to start a career tonight with 21.1. For those who don't remember Bystrom went 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA after a September call-up in 1980. Before his first game September 7, the Phils were a game behind the Expos for the NL East lead. His first start came Sept 10 and he beta the the Mets, 5-0, pitching a complete-game shutout (he only had one other for his career). At this point the Phils were a half-game back. On 9/14, he held the Cardinals scoreless throiugh seven to keep the Phils a full game back of the Expos. He finally relinquished his first major-league runs on 9/20 in the fourth inning against the Cubs but ends up winning his third straight. On September 25, Bystrom wins a 2-1 pitchers dual against the Mets Pat Zachry to put the Phils in first by a half game as the Expos lose to the Cubs by one-run, 6-5. The Phils again fall behind the Expos, but Bystrom's 14-2 victory over the Cubs on September 30 kept the Phils one half-game back. Philadelphia ended up tied with Montreal as the faced off in the final series, which the Phils won two games to one. Bystrom ended up getting shelled in his one World Series start that year allowing three runs and 10 hits in five innings. The Phils, however, ended up winning 4-3 and ended up winning the Series the next game.

Rocket Science
2004-05-07 01:29
by Mike Carminati

As Mike Piazza passed Carlton Fisk in the farcical catcher home run "record", another much more important milestone was passed and is somehow being marginalized by the Piazza story and Spidey-Gate. The other milestone was Roger Clemens passing lefty Carlton for second all-time on the all-time strikeout list. I know that it's just second, but at least it's a real record.

Clemens is over 1500 K's behind Nolan Ryan for first place so he appears to have achieved his ultimate position on the list. For the record here it is:

Nolan Ryan1966199353865714
Roger Clemens1984200443174140
Steve Carlton196519885217.3334136
Randy Johnson198820043122.3333922
Bert Blyleven1970199249703701
Tom Seaver196719864782.6673640
Don Sutton196619885282.3333574
Gaylord Perry196219835350.3333534
Walter Johnson190719275914.6673509
Phil Niekro196419875404.3333342
Fergie Jenkins196519834500.6673192
Bob Gibson195919753884.3333117
Jim Bunning195519713760.3332855
Mickey Lolich196319793638.3332832
Cy Young189019117354.6672803
Greg Maddux198620043968.6672791
Frank Tanana197319934188.3332773
David Cone198620032898.6672668
Chuck Finley198620023197.3332610
Curt Schilling1988200425862587
Warren Spahn194219655243.6672583
Bob Feller1936195638272581
Tim Keefe188018935047.6672562
Jerry Koosman196719853839.3332556
Christy Mathewson190019164780.6672502

You might notice a few things about that list. For one thing, there are a number of recent pitchers. Critics charge that home run numbers in baseball have gone through the roof. They forgot, however, how many more strikeouts have been introduced by the recent style of play. One other thing is that there are a large number of pitchers, including Clemens and all-time K record holder Nolan Ryan, that pitched a ridiculous long time. That's not a knock on those two who will be remembered as great strikeout pitchers. However, when you see names like Greg Maddux and Frank Tanana, who will be remembered more for finesse than power (besides early in Tanana's career), you start to think that there's a better way to present the all-time power pitchers.

It got me to thinking about a way to compensate for era and career length. What I did was take for a given pitcher in a given year the strikeout-to-innings ratio for the league in which he pitched. Then I multiplied the pitcher's innings pitched by this ratio to get the expected number of strikeouts for the pitcher. I subtracted the expected strikeouts from the actual and recorded the difference. Then I summed that difference over a pitcher's career. Now, here are the top 50 for career strikeouts above expected through 2003 (Sorry, the Lahman database isn't updated dynamically):

NameFirstLastIPSOExp KDiff
Nolan Ryan196619935386.057143177.672536.327
Randy Johnson198820033122.338712166.201704.797
Roger Clemens198420034278.740992819.701279.305
Walter Johnson190719275914.735092317.701191.298
Rube Waddell189719102961.323161200.411115.587
Dazzy Vance191519352966.72045959.341085.663
Steve Carlton196519885217.341363155.37980.632
Bob Feller193619563827.025811617.34963.664
Sandy Koufax195519662324.323961437.43958.571
Pedro Martinez199220032079.024261482.38943.623
Sam McDowell196119752492.324531586.30866.701
Lefty Grove192519413940.722661422.08843.916
Bert Blyleven197019924970.037012896.28804.722
Tom Seaver196719864782.736402876.45763.550
Amos Rusie188919013769.719341183.60750.399
David Cone198620032898.726681940.42727.578
Bob Gibson195919753884.331172448.68668.322
Curt Schilling198820032586.025421883.57658.434
Toad Ramsey188518902100.71515885.57629.432
Tim Keefe188018935047.725621939.18622.815
Mickey Lolich196319793638.328322229.63602.373
Tommy Bridges193019462826.316741089.86584.139
Bobo Newsom192919533759.320821497.91584.089
Jim Bunning195519713760.328552276.34578.656
J.R. Richard197119801606.01493918.04574.965
Mark Langston198419992962.724641894.30569.699
Christy Mathewson190019164780.725021933.16568.845
Hal Newhouser193919552993.017961228.21567.789
Fergie Jenkins196519834500.731922653.34538.664
Sid Fernandez198319971866.717431222.86520.143
Lefty Gomez193019432503.01468954.57513.431
Dennis Eckersley197519983285.724011893.67507.329
Chuck Finley198620023197.326102127.06482.945
Hideo Nomo199520031787.318021322.02479.981
John Smoltz198820032618.023131837.48475.518
Rich Gossage197219941809.315021035.03466.975
Van Mungo193119452113.01242775.84466.159
Johnny Vander Meer193719512104.71294833.77460.230
Bob Veale196219741926.017031244.75458.246
Sam Jones195119641643.31376919.68456.319
Ron Guidry197519882392.017781322.30455.696
Dwight Gooden198420002800.722931843.49449.513
Dizzy Dean193019471967.31163725.48437.522
Tom Gordon198820031807.016371201.01435.988
Lee Smith198019971289.31251818.73432.265
Camilo Pascual195419712930.721671735.35431.653
Red Ames190319193198.017021285.47416.532
Jim Maloney196019711849.016051191.81413.190
Ed Walsh190419172964.317361324.49411.506
Mario Soto197719881730.314491041.58407.423

That eliminates the era issue. There are a good deal more old-time players on this list. It's interesting to see Toad Ramsey ending up #19. And it's great to see J.R. Richard up there, too.

So Ryan is still number one but Randy Johnson blows past Clemens for #2. And guys like Walter Johnson, Rube Waddell, and Bob Feller climb up the list.

By the same token, this method provides us with a list of the worst strikeout artists of all time, the ones that fell shy of expectations by the most Ks. Here they are:

NameFirstLastIPSOExp KDiff
Lew Burdette195019673067.33310741729.92-655.92
Claude Osteen195719753460.33316122184.537-572.537
Tommy John196319894710.33322452801.42-556.42
Bob Forsch197419892794.66711331666.6-533.6
Pud Galvin187518926003.33318062312.49-506.49
Kirk Rueter199320031620.3337371209.338-472.338
Bob Purkey195419662114.6677931255.483-462.483
Mike Morgan197820022772.33314031847.9-444.9
Jim Barr197119832065.3337411185.13-444.13
Vern Law19501967267210921528.15-436.15
Joe Niekro19671988358417472170.455-423.455
Terry Mulholland198620032390.33312461669.074-423.074
Mel Stottlemyre196419742661.33312571676.358-419.358
Bob Tewksbury1986199818078121229.537-417.537
Ted Lyons19231946416110731490.353-417.353
Doyle Alexander197119893367.66715281937.417-409.417
Ross Grimsley197119822039.3337501159.383-409.383
Jim Perry195919753285.66715761982.313-406.313
Clyde Wright196619751728.6676671042.284-375.284
Mike Caldwell197119842408.6679391311.167-372.167
Bill Lee196919821944.3337131085.143-372.143
Tom Glavine19872003352821362507.083-371.083
Randy Jones1973198219337351100.793-365.793
Lary Sorensen197719881736.333569934.6785-365.679
Brian Anderson199320031350.333636981.9731-345.973

There are some famously soft tossers on the list, Bob Teksbury for one and Kirk Rueter among the current players.

However, there is still the issue of career length to deal with. If we just add up the figures over the years, pitchers with longer careers get buoyed. So my next idea was to use a ratio of actual strikeouts to expected. This would indicate which pitchers exceeded expectations the most. (I set a minimum cutoff to 500 IP, otherwise OF Mike Anderson would rank among the all-time leaders.) Here are the results for the highest ratio:

NameFirstLastIPSOExp KDiffRatio
Cy Seymour189619021029.0584267.92316.082.1798
Dazzy Vance191519352966.72045959.341085.662.1317
Rube Waddell189719102961.323161200.411115.591.9293
Herb Score19551962858.3837451.53385.471.8537
Ryne Duren19541965589.3630344.83285.171.8270
Billy Wagner19952003504.3694379.92314.081.8267
Nolan Ryan196619935386.057143177.672536.331.7982
Armando Benitez19942003584.3764427.23336.771.7883
Mark Clear19791990804.3804449.80354.201.7875
Randy Johnson198820033122.338712166.201704.801.7870
Troy Percival19952003537.0647374.02272.981.7299
Tom Henke19821995789.7861499.56361.441.7235
Toad Ramsey188518902100.71515885.57629.431.7108
Sandy Koufax195519662324.323961437.43958.571.6669
Dick Radatz19621969693.7745448.07296.931.6627
Bill Caudill19791987667.0620376.50243.501.6467
Duane Ward19861995666.7679414.68264.321.6374
Pedro Martinez199220032079.024261482.38943.621.6366
Amos Rusie188919013769.719341183.60750.401.6340
J.R. Richard197119801606.01493918.04574.961.6263
Doc McJames189519011361.3593367.81225.191.6122
Dizzy Dean193019471967.31163725.48437.521.6031
Van Mungo193119452113.01242775.84466.161.6008
Joe Page19441954790.0519325.14193.861.5962
Bob Feller193619563827.025811617.34963.661.5958
Lefty Grove192519413940.722661422.08843.921.5934
Ugueth Urbina19952003563.7661417.52243.481.5832
Mark Littell19731982532.0466295.53170.471.5768
Jeff Nelson19922003721.7771490.77280.231.5710
Kerry Wood19982003902.71065680.55384.451.5649
Johnny Vander Meer193719512104.71294833.77460.231.5520
Pat Malone192819371915.01024660.17363.831.5511
John Wetteland19892000765.0804518.75285.251.5499
Sam McDowell196119752492.324531586.30866.701.5464
Trevor Hoffman19932003710.0808524.00284.001.5420
Tom Hall19681977852.7797517.16279.841.5411
Lefty Gomez193019432503.01468954.57513.431.5379
Tommy Bridges193019462826.316741089.86584.141.5360
Jim Kern19741986793.3651425.38225.621.5304
Lee Smith198019971289.31251818.73432.271.5280
Orval Overall190519131535.3935612.59322.411.5263
Jakie May191719321562.3765503.09261.911.5206
Walter Johnson190719275914.735092317.701191.301.5140
Joe Wood190819201436.3989657.11331.891.5051

Now here are the lowest:

NameFirstLastIPSOExp KDiffRatio
Ted Wingfield19231927553.368170.14-102.140.3997
Benny Frey192919361160.0179415.84-236.840.4305
Ernie Wingard19241927688.3101210.06-109.060.4808
Jim Britt18721873816.72857.95-29.950.4831
Wild Bill Widner18871891522.0110224.23-114.230.4906
Jeff Ballard19871994773.3244486.08-242.080.5020
John Doherty19921996521.3177336.94-159.940.5253
Sandy Consuegra19501957809.3193366.22-173.220.5270
Patsy Flaherty189919111302.7271514.05-243.050.5272
Sam Zoldak19441952929.3207391.57-184.570.5286
Steve Kline19701977750.3240448.32-208.320.5353
Jimmy Anderson19992003559.0235424.45-189.450.5537
Johnny Couch19171925643.0112197.90-85.900.5659
Harry McCormick18791883884.0157277.07-120.070.5666
Bill Reidy18961904601.7109191.21-82.210.5700
Jack Russell192619402050.7418732.37-314.370.5708
Bill Hubbell19191925931.0167288.78-121.780.5783
Peaches Davis19361939542.0123212.64-89.640.5784
Heinie Meine19221934999.3199343.75-144.750.5789
Doug Sisk19821991523.3195330.57-135.570.5899
Chris Welsh19811986537.7192322.86-130.860.5947
Jack Dunn189719041076.7171286.49-115.490.5969
Brian Meadows19982003738.3329547.24-218.240.6012
Fernando Arroyo19751986535.7172286.04-114.040.6013
John Coleman18831890842.7224371.93-147.930.6023

Poor Ted Wingfield. By the way, if you're interested the most average strikeout pitcher all time, the only that best fit the expected strikeout value, was Rich Gale with a ratio of 1.0001 (518 actual, 517.95 expected).

I'll tell you I like both sets of tables, but I'm not pleased with the last set entirely. Either one, however, is preferable to the all-time K list.

Wealth And Fame He Ignores—Action Is His Reward
2004-05-07 00:28
by Mike Carminati

"Listen Bud He's got radioactive blood"
—"Cleveland" Spiderman TV Show Theme

Now that Spidey-Gate is behind us, it's time to reflect upon the fans' victory in this battle. As we cavort in triumph, the lords of baseball prepare for an onslaught that will inevitably bring us corporate sponsorship of player names and teletubby-esque uniforms that play commercials whenever the given player is in view. Baseball has backpedaled and decided not to emblazon their bases with the Spiderman logo to promote the release of the second film during a weekend in June. And all is right with the world again.

Of course the hypocrisy of the about-face is an added indictment of baseball's motives. Since they insisted that they were placing ads directly on the field "for the kids", are they now forgetting about the kids to bow to public pressure a day later? If they believed in what they were doing in the first place, then why change now? At least, they were planning to do it during the blight of interleague baseball not a Yanks-Red Sox series.

I explained Spidey-Gate to my wife and found my enthusiasm waning in the face of her blank stare. The sanctity of the field is something very difficult to convey to someone who asks, "Which one is the shortstop again?" every time she sees a game. I did put the whole situation in perspective for me though. What with everything else going on in the world from tortured prisoners to a farcical war in Iraq, from claims by the Bush administration that we went to war to bring freedoms to the people of Iraq to the story that Disney is muzzling Michael Moore because he made a film that is critical of the Bush administration, from the Bush administration criticizing John Kerry's Vietnam War record to the fact that no one can remember President Bush even finishing out his tour during Vietnam in the cushy stateside assignment that his connections procured for him. I don't mean to get political though with the sham our government has become it's difficult to be otherwise.

Anyway, I am more amused than upset over the whole Spidey-Gate affair, especially given the fact that I try to ignore interleague baseball as much as possible. I know this is odd for someone professes to rant on occasion. But I feel this is a war that we have already lost. Look at the mini billboards that the Yanks and D-Rays wore in their Japanese Series. And we are already used to referring to a major-league stadium as Petco Park(!). MLB won't give up after being rebuffed once. It will continue to make the easy grab for cash and milk its product for all its worth. Maybe I'm a bit jaded. Thank goodness there'll be a new Joe Morgan chat to dig into tomorrow. It'll be like a breath of fresh air.

The Politics Of Protest
2004-05-05 01:18
by Mike Carminati

While the solid curse and jeer never balk the waiting ear.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

And I fear that the politics of protest is shutting out the process of thought, so necessary to rational discussion.
—Spiro Theodore Agnew

Just the other day I wrote on the Phils' protest of a ground-rule double call in a one-run ballgame in the bottom of the ninth on a ball resting in a recess in the wall. The Phils lost and the protest was denied. I agreed with the rejection but felt that the game umpire had handled the play incorrectly by making the call too peremptorily.

Well, in all fairness, I have to point to the umpire Rick Reed's evenhandedness in Saturday's Pads-Mets game, which the Mets ended up playing under protest. With the Padres leading in the top of the eighth, major-league rookie but Japanese-league vet Akinori Otsuka threw one pitch to Shane Spencer which brought Mets manager Art Howe on to the field. He took exception with Otsuka's delivery, which consists of a high knee kick with his pitching hand in the glove, a hesitation during which his pitching hand separated from the glove, and then a normal follow through after the hands come back together (like Satchel Paige's legendary hesitation pitch). Some, including Howe apparently, would call that a balk. I see it as a timing thing and probably not the most efficient delivery. Howe apparently was chomping at the bit to contest the delivery after Otsuka registered his first major-league save the previous night against the Mets. There were no runners and the pitch was a called ball, so the balk call was moot.

However, very quietly and quickly Howe registered his complaint and then brought crew chief into the dugout to officially protest the game. The Mets lost and as far as I know the protest has yet to be reviewed by MLB. Typically, an unusual delivery (such as Luis Tiant's) is exempted from the balk rule because it is the normal delivery of the pitcher and therefore, not meant to deceive the hitter or runner. I can imagine that the delivery would throw off the hitter's timing, but I'm not sure that makes it a balk. I wanted to review the rule and determine if the delivery is illegal.

From the rulebook, the definition of a balk is as follows:

A BALK is an illegal act by the pitcher with a runner or runners on base, entitling all runners to advance one base.

And the following is the balk rule (8.05) in its entirety:

If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when (a) The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery; If a left-handed or right-handed pitcher swings his free foot past the back edge of the pitcher's rubber, he is required to pitch to the batter except to throw to second base on a pick off play. (b) The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to first base and fails to complete the throw; (c) The pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base; Requires the pitcher, while touching his plate, to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base. If a pitcher turns or spins off of his free foot without actually stepping or if he turns his body and throws before stepping, it is a balk. A pitcher is to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base but does not require him to throw (except to first base only) because he steps. It is possible, with runners on first and third, for the pitcher to step toward third and not throw, merely to bluff the runner back to third; then seeing the runner on first start for second, turn and step toward and throw to first base. This is legal. However, if, with runners on first and third, the pitcher, while in contact with the rubber, steps toward third and then immediately and in practically the same motion "wheels" and throws to first base, it is obviously an attempt to deceive the runner at first base, and in such a move it is practically impossible to step directly toward first base before the throw to first base, and such a move shall be called a balk. Of course, if the pitcher steps off the rubber and then makes such a move, it is not a balk. (d) The pitcher, while touching his plate, throws, or feints a throw to an unoccupied base, except for the purpose of making a play; (e) The pitcher makes an illegal pitch; A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter's box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted. (f) The pitcher delivers the ball to the batter while he is not facing the batter; (g) The pitcher makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch while he is not touching the pitcher's plate; (h) The pitcher unnecessarily delays the game; (i) The pitcher, without having the ball, stands on or astride the pitcher's plate or while off the plate, he feints a pitch; (j) The pitcher, after coming to a legal pitching position, removes one hand from the ball other than in an actual pitch, or in throwing to a base; (k) The pitcher, while touching his plate, accidentally or intentionally drops the ball; (l) The pitcher, while giving an intentional base on balls, pitches when the catcher is not in the catcher's box; (m)The pitcher delivers the pitch from Set Position without coming to a stop. PENALTY: The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out, unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk. APPROVED RULING: In cases where a pitcher balks and throws wild, either to a base or to home plate, a runner or runners may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled at his own risk. APPROVED RULING: A runner who misses the first base to which he is advancing and who is called out on appeal shall be considered as having advanced one base for the purpose of this rule. Umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner. If there is doubt in the umpire's mind, the "intent" of the pitcher should govern. However, certain specifics should be borne in mind: (a) Straddling the pitcher's rubber without the ball is to be interpreted as intent to deceive and ruled a balk. (b) With a runner on first base the pitcher may make a complete turn, without hesitating toward first, and throw to second. This is not to be interpreted as throwing to an unoccupied base.

There's nothing there about it. How about in the section on the pitching delivery (8.01):

Legal pitching delivery. There are two legal pitching positions, the Windup Position and the Set Position, and either position may be used at any time. Pitchers shall take signs from the catcher while standing on the rubber. Pitchers may disengage the rubber after taking their signs but may not step quickly onto the rubber and pitch. This may be judged a quick pitch by the umpire. When the pitcher disengages the rubber, he must drop his hands to his sides. Pitchers will not be allowed to disengage the rubber after taking each sign. (a) The Windup Position. The pitcher shall stand facing the batter, his entire pivot foot on, or in front of and touching and not off the end of the pitcher's plate, and the other foot free. From this position any natural movement associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter commits him to the pitch without interruption or alteration. He shall not raise either foot from the ground, except that in his actual delivery of the ball to the batter, he may take one step backward, and one step forward with his free foot. When a pitcher holds the ball with both hands in front of his body, with his entire pivot foot on, or in front of and touching but not off the end of the pitcher's plate, and his other foot free, he will be considered in the Windup Position. The pitcher may have one foot, not the pivot foot, off the rubber and any distance he may desire back of a line which is an extension to the back edge of the pitcher's plate, but not at either side of the pitcher's plate. With his "free" foot the pitcher may take one step backward and one step forward, but under no circumstances, to either side, that is to either the first base or third base side of the pitcher's rubber. If a pitcher holds the ball with both hands in front of his body, with his entire pivot foot on or in front of and touching but not off the end of the pitcher's plate, and his other foot free, he will be considered in a windup position. From this position he may: (1) deliver the ball to the batter, or (2) step and throw to a base in an attempt to pick off a runner, or (3) disengage the rubber (if he does he must drop his hand to his sides). In disengaging the rubber the pitcher must step off with his pivot foot and not his free foot first. He may not go into a set or stretch position if he does it is a balk. (b) The Set Position. Set Position shall be indicated by the pitcher when he stands facing the batter with his entire pivot foot on, or in front of, and in contact with, and not off the end of the pitcher's plate, and his other foot in front of the pitcher's plate, holding the ball in both hands in front of his body and coming to a complete stop. From such Set Position he may deliver the ball to the batter, throw to a base or step backward off the pitcher's plate with his pivot foot. Before assuming Set Position, the pitcher may elect to make any natural preliminary motion such as that known as "the stretch." But if he so elects, he shall come to Set Position before delivering the ball to the batter. After assuming Set Position, any natural motion associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter commits him to the pitch without alteration or interruption. Preparatory to coming to a set position, the pitcher shall have one hand on his side; from this position he shall go to his set position as defined in Rule 8.01 (b) without interruption and in one continuous motion. The whole width of the foot in contact with the rubber must be on the rubber. A pitcher cannot pitch from off the end of the rubber with just the side of his foot touching the rubber. The pitcher, following his stretch, must (a) hold the ball in both hands in front of his body and (b) come to a complete stop. This must be enforced. Umpires should watch this closely. Pitchers are constantly attempting to "beat the rule" in their efforts to hold runners on bases and in cases where the pitcher fails to make a complete "stop" called for in the rules, the umpire should immediately call a "Balk." (c) At any time during the pitcher's preliminary movements and until his natural pitching motion commits him to the pitch, he may throw to any base provided he steps directly toward such base before making the throw. The pitcher shall step "ahead of the throw." A snap throw followed by the step directly toward the base is a balk. (d) If the pitcher makes an illegal pitch with the bases unoccupied, it shall be called a ball unless the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter or otherwise. A ball which slips out of a pitcher's hand and crosses the foul line shall be called a ball; otherwise it will be called no pitch. This would be a balk with men on base. (e) If the pitcher removes his pivot foot from contact with the pitcher's plate by stepping backward with that foot, he thereby becomes an infielder and if he makes a wild throw from that position, it shall be considered the same as a wild throw by any other infielder. The pitcher, while off the rubber, may throw to any base. If he makes a wild throw, such throw is the throw of an infielder and what follows is governed by the rules covering a ball thrown by a fielder.

Ok, if you bothered to read both if those you have to agree that there is nothing that stipulates that you can't separate your hands in your normal delivery, unless you consider it going from a windup to a set position. I know that there is a great deal of interpretation involved in the balk rule as well as a heap of apocrypha. I don't know how MLB will rule, but I can’t imagine they will prohibit a pitcher from using his normal delivery based on an extremely loose interpretation of the rules.

Captain Joe Morgan Chat Day Was Here!
2004-05-02 00:39
by Mike Carminati

Major Strasser: What is your nationality?
Rick Blaine: I'm a drunkard.
Captain Renault: That makes Rick a citizen of the world.


I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.

—Philip "Roger" Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond "Happy" Chandler.

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.

— St. Paul "Saints", New Testament, 1 Timothy

I never drink…wine.

—Bela "Julio" Lugosi as Count "Montefusco" Dracula

There’s nought, no doubt, so much the spirit calms
As rum and true religion.

—Lord "Baltimore" Byron

Drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things ... nose-painting, sleep, and urine.

—William "Author" Shakespeare in Macbeth

You can't drink them all.

—"Billy" Barney Gumble

Billboards, billboards, drink this, eat that, use all manner of things, everyone, the best, the cheapest, the purest and most satisfying of all their available counterparts. Red lights flicker on every horizon, airplanes beware; cars flash by, more lights. Workers repair the gas main. Signs, signs, lights, lights, streets, streets.

—Neal "Raul" Cassady

Attractive woman make us buy beer. Ugly woman make us drink beer.

— Al "Sacrifice" Bundy

A sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity

—Benjamin "Orestes" Disraeli

"Drink thee not wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, lest ye die," Leviticus 10…Friends, let me tell you something, however compulsory it may be. There's no film. I'm live. Now back to where we were when you last heard from me. It was with Leviticus on the 10th I believe. Drink thee not nor thee thou sons, lest ye die. Nor congregate at the corner tabernacle. I'd like to take a short sabbatical. Or a cup of coffee. Or I wonder is there a doctor in the tent?

—Father "Hugh" Mulcahy delivering a sermon on temperance after getting drunk on holy wine on M*A*S*H

Remember when public drunkenness was the height of entertainment? From Charlie Chaplin's best friend in City Lights, who only recognizes Chaplin when he's drunk, to Otis the town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show, who would let himself into jail when he was on a bender, to Archie Bunker who made so many trips to the local bar that he finally bought it, inebriation was comedy at best.

That seemed to change on Cheers when Norm and Cliff went from the coolest and the smartest guys at the bar, respectively, to a couple of pathetic losers, one who couldn't keep a job and the other who lived with his mom and collected potato chips resembling famous people, respectively. Maybe it was the fact that they had to drink near beer on the set. Anyway, by the time The Simpsons rolled around, the town drunk, played brilliantly by Barney "Buuuuurrrp" Gumble was a self-parody and even the occasional drinker, Homer, bespoke a man whose brain cells could almost be counted as they died off.

All of which leads me to an unfortunate conclusion. The excuse for Joe Morgan the analyst is not that he is incompetent nor is he goofing on or experimenting on his audience. The man is half in the bag. He's snoggered. He's hammered, plastered, tight, zonked, two sheets to the wind. He's ready to pray to the porcelain god. There's no other rationale than Morgan is becoming drunk and, therefore, losing lucidity as he performs his analysis. If you don't believe me, witness the following chat session, or as I refer to it, my attempt at an intervention with Mr. Morgan. (Of course, if Mr. Morgan's lawyers are reading, I am, to quote Tony Montana, only kidding.):

The Good

chad (chi): don't you think kerry wood suspension was too much! how will they do against the cardnial,

The reason pitchers get five games is because they only pitch ever fifth day. So, technically, you're only causting him one start. If you suspend a pitcher for two games and he wasn't going to pitch that day anyway, you're not hurting him.

[Mike: The cardnial? Oh, the Cardinal. "Good god! It's The Bishop!"

Right you are, Joe. They usually suspend starting pitchers five games to ensure that they miss a turn. This round is on me.]

Josh (Miami): Why is it that Barry Bonds is getting so much positive press these days? Of course he's putting up monster numbers, but at the same time the allegations that he has used steroids seem to have tremendous circumstantial support. Shouldn't we all take a wait-and-see approach to Bonds? After all, if he has used steroids to generate extra power then his numbers are grossly exaggerated. He has great hand eye coordination, and a very quick bat, but minus the power that probably came from steroids, he's really closer career-wise to Paul Molitor. Still a great player, but clearly one that doesn't belong in the "greatest player ever" conversation.

I think you don't understand baseball at all if you are calling Bonds style similar to Paul Molitor. Bonds has one MVP awards six years ago. You've been reading the paper too much. Bonds has taken drug tests just like everybody else. To pinpoint Barry is not fair at this point until the allegations are proven, I"m going to reserve my judgement. Either way, to call Barry Bonds, Paul Molitor is not real knowledgable.

[Mike: Right, Joe! Let this ultra marron have it! What a gulli-bull! He probably believes every word the media is saying about Bonds' home run feats being directly attributable to steroids.

And the question…Bonds minus the power equals Paul Molitor??? As if that even makes sense. Ruth minus the power is Billy Hamilton (they both batted around .340 for their career). What does that mean? Besides even though their career batting averages are similar (Bonds .298 and Molitor .306), Bonds blows away Molitor when it comes to on-base (Bonds .436 over 100 points better than the park-adjusted league average; Molitor .369, 37 points better). Opponents changed their approach to the entire lineup because of Bonds' presence. Molitor was a feared hitter but never had the effect that Bonds has had. Molitor stole 500 bases but wasn't nearly the base runner that Bonds has been. Bonds was once a perennial Gold Glove left fielder with a world-class arm; Molitor was never much of a fielder and appeared mostly as a DH in the second half off his career.

The bottom line is that Molitor was a clear-cut first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, but Barry Bonds is arguably much better than Molitor in every facet of the game. Bonds is the best player that I have ever seen, and I've been watching since the mid-Seventies. Morgan is right on the money here.

Although you might want to put down that glass, Joe. You slurred your way through, "Bonds has one MVP awards six years ago," which I suppose was supposed to be, "Bonds has won the MVP award six times" or "Bonds has won the MVP three times in a row" or something.]

The Bad

Chris (Bowling Green, OH): With the solid start the Reds are off to, do you think they can keep playing well and have a shot at the central this year?!

Well, I think a lot will depend on the health of Griffy and Kearns and Dunn. But it's great to see the Reds off and running.

[Mike: No, it won't. If Griffey, Dunn, and Kearns are all healthy and presumably still playing for the Reds for the remainder of the season, maybe they'll challenge the Cards for third. More likely they will settle among the wretched refuse of the George W. Bush division: two upper class teams, one middle class team, and three doormats.

By the way, the Reds have just gotten swept by the Astros and have lost 5 in a row and are a half-game ahead of the Brewers for last in the NL Central, probably about where they'll end up for the season.]

Chris (Bowling Green, Ohio): Joe, what is with the amazing hitting of Sean Casey as of late?! He is on fire! Ted Williams once said that Sean Casey will win a batting title someday. Do you think this is his year?

Sean Casey has always been a pretty good hitter, he's had some big hitters to his hands, that's a tough injury to recover from. But he is off to a great start, none of this is a fluke, he is better and older and more mature at the plate. We'll see what happens.

[Mike: Chris from Bowling Green again? Or as Satchmo said, he's "Long Gone from Bowling Green." Well, it seems that Joe is mighty partial to those Reds questions, and I guess this guy is the last Reds fan on the planet.

To answer the question, "No". Casey's hottest month over the past three years has been April (.317 BA/.858 OPS), and his average dropped 32 points in the second half on average. Besides he's still 63 points behind Bonds, and look at the others in the top 10 in batting in the NL: Shane Spencer, Danny Bautista, Paul Lo Duca, Mssrs. Wilson from Pittsburgh. To quote a greater mind than mine, "It's May, pal!"

Oh, and, Joe, Casey hasn't been good hitter since 2001. He was horrific in 2002 and barely average last year playing in 147 games.]

Adam, Minnesota: Hey Joe whats crackin? The Twins are 14-7 and that is one of the top 5 records in the Majors but, no one ever talks about is always about the Red Sox, Cubs, or Yankees....How come my Twins aren't getting any love???

The Twins are not glamour team. They go out and get the job done year in and year out. The Twins have had low payrolls and they've won. I guess Billy Bean gets more credit than the GM in Minnesota, but really , they are very similar. I agree with you, the Twins deserve more credit for what they do each year.

[Mike: Where's the love? Maybe it's spent on teams that aren't playing in the worst division in baseball and who aren't just 2.5 games ahead of the Tigers.

And as far as the "love" society has for Billy Beane, the putative author of Moneyball, if Joe is to be believed, the A's have been in the playoffs in one of the tougher divisions in baseball for four straight years. The Twins have won their division, arguably the weakest in baseball, the past two years. Which is better, Joe? Maybe "Billy Bean gets more credit than the GM in Minnesota" because even when you do give Terry Ryan credit, you don't remember his name.]

Brian from Boston: With many of the Red Sox stars on the last year of their contracts, even if the Red Sox are on pace to make the play offs at the trade deadline, do you see the Red Sox trading one of their stars away?

Why are we worried about next year. Enjoy the fact that your Red Sox are in first place and probably the best team in the East. I think the Sox have a very good chance at going to the World Series. I'm only watching that right now, we're worried about next year after that. Things have a way of working themselves out over the course of a year.

[Mike: Joe, ATFQ (Answer the F'ing Question).

The answer is, "Who knows?" Nobody possibly can know. I'm sure they will have to look at the situation at the time. If they could trade Manny Ramirez for Barry Bonds, maybe they would consider it. Well, that's a bad example because Ramirez has five years left on his contact. How 'bout Nomah for A-Rod?

They're smart boys in Boston. They'll keep their options open. It does get complicated because they have some key players in the last year of their contracts and because winning a World Series would be so important to their rabid fans (or rather a perceived throwing in of the proverbial towel would be suicide. Isn't that right, Grady Little?). But if you want an answer at the end of April, you're behind in your Ritalin.

Eh, that's my answer. At least I answered the question.]

Dave (Houston): Hello Joe Did you see Andy Pettitte pithch yesterday. pitches 6 inning and only 1 hit. is this going to be Andy we will be watching for the rest of the season.

Well, you can't judge anything based on one performance. I mean, he got knocked around the first time. See how his arm holds up.

[Mike: Will Pettitte pitch one-hit ball every time out? In a word, no. If he's healthy, he's pretty much a known quantity with nine years already under his belt.]

Omaha, NE: Do the astros have enough firepower on offense and with their pitching to win the NL central over the cubs and cards? Kyle

They definitely have enough hitting -- Bagwell, Kent, Hidalgo! They have the bats. The will be relying heaving on production from their pitchers.

[Mike: "That's telekinesis, Kyle." I guess it's D time.

I have to point out Berkman of 1.031 OPS and Biggio of the .960 OPS, who were not on Joe's list.

However, I have to disagree with Joe. Yes, right now just about everyone in the lineup (Barring Ausmus and Ensberg) looks pretty good. However, Bagwell has been fading, is 36, and has seen his adjust OPS fall in each of the last 5 seasons (from 169 in 1999 to 152, 141, 137, and 127 last year). He hasn't had an OPS as high as his current (1.075) in a decade. Biggio had one season in the last four in which his OPS was over the adjusted league average. Kent had a severe dropoff last year, his first in Houston (from am adjusted OPS of 152 to 118), and seems to be hitting at the same clip this year. And all three of these guys is over 35 (Bagwell turn 36 on May 27).

Berkman has been great for them but has seen his adjusted OPS drop over the last three years as he went from 25 to 27. Those are the years that players are supposed to improve. Hidalgo is a complete wild card. He was great last year and in 2000, but also has had some pretty mediocre and even bad seasons mixed in.

Right now all but Kent are over-performing based on their history. It seems unlikely that that will continue.]

Ben Spinner (Bound Brook, NJ): The Phillies just don't seem to be flourishing the way people thought. Their offense seems to have a lot of holes and the starting pitching isn't playing as dominate as they can be. What do you think seems to be the missing key in the puzzle?

I haven't seen enough of Philly, but I think it's all consistancy, their hitters are hot, then all of a sudded their bats go to sleep. Same with their pitching, they will be hot and on top of their game, then go into a lull. But, if they find their groove, I think they will certainly do some damage in the East. They should anyway.

[Mike: The Ben Spinner? I loved you on Next Generation, man!

Oh, yah, if you re-pot the Phillies in a new stadium and add grass, they should really flourish. Isn't that right, Margie? Oh, yah.

Ben, starting pitcher is where you want to lay the blame for the Phils phlaccid start? The ERA for the starters is 3.88 (4th best in the NL) and for the staff overall, 3.40 (best in the NL).

The Phils trouble have been on offense and it's not a problem with consistency. Some players have been consistently bad. They are 13th in the NL in runs scored. Their OPS is 14th. The two players they have been using to lead off (Byrd and Rollins) have .210 and .198 batting averages and .281 and .267 on-base percentages. The number two batter (Polanco) has been sub-par but has a .336 OBP. Number three Abreu just started to come around. Thome and Burrell at four and five have been solid, but no one in the tail end of the lineup (Bell, Lieberthal, and usually Rollins) has an OPS over .688. The Phils seem to get one scoring opportunity every third inning. That's not going to score many runs and it hasn't.

Also, sudded? It sounds like you're a bit sudded, Joe.]

Kerry (boston, ma): Is Byung-Hyung-Kim going to be a legitimate starter for the sox? Arroyo has been doing really well so far, but is it a good move to put him in the bullpen and have Kim as the five?

If Kim is healthy, then I think he should be the starter. It all depends on his health. I think that is what they are basing their decision on at this point, too.

[Mike: Bronson Arroyo, I'm dying again!…Wait, I'm still laughing…OK, Arroyo? He of the 5.11 ERA and the 5.15 career ERA at age 27?

The Sox desperately need Kim to be a viable starter especially with Martinez having some uncharacteristic turns and in the middle of a contract situation. Arroyo is the best of the dreck that they could get their hand on. At least, he's not Casey Fossum.]

Jon Ny, Ny: What have you herd about the Giambi Hudson trade?

I read about it in the paper out here in the Oakland paper. I don't think the A's are looking to get Giambi back. I'm sure the Yankees would love to have Hudson, but I don't think the As would make that trade. I mean, they wouldn't pay Giambi before ... why now?

[Mike: Well, Joe. If you been keeping up with the sport over the last, say, two and one half years, you'll notice that teams are much more likely to eat a great deal of a player's contract just to trade him to a team that does not want to pay said contract. The A's would take Giambi back in a heartbeat but what's the cost? I soubt they'd trade Hudson.

Not that I think it will happen with Giambi. He takes over at first, Tony Clark? Travis Lee? What a great right side of the infield!

Hudson is signed through next year. I doubt that Beane will mess with the staff until he has to.

Joe, soubt? Maybe you've had enough.]

Seth (Boston): Why don't more teams play smallball? The glamour factor is down, but the last 3 Series have been won by teams that bunt, steal and rely on sacrifice flies to score runs. You'd think that more teams would catch on, but everybody just looks for power nowadays.

I've been saying that for three years. It's cyclical. Right now, things are leaning power hitters and homeruns. Eventually it will swing back to manufacturing runs through hitting and running and moving guys around the bases efficiently. l

[Mike: Actually, three years coincides nicely with the dropoff in power numbers in baseball. So why complain now? Why not complain in, say, 1998?

By the way, I ran the numbers and the correlation coefficients for a range of stats and I found that bunting is less likely to lead to scoring now than it was in the late Nineties. That is, on a per-team basis, if a team bunts more often it leads to fewer runs. It has for the last decade or so (I didn't run the historic numbers), but the negative correlation has been getting progressively stronger since 1999. The strongest correlation is between OPS (and there was much rejoicing) and runs. But slugging and batting average are getting stronger correlations in the last few years as well:


The bottom line? People who tend to bunt often don't score as often as those who do not. That's why so-called small ball hasn't take off as homer numbers drop off. And to respond to your last comment, Joe, "2".]

dave az: is the dback pretty much done for the season?? Are we going to lose the big unit to evil empire.

I have no idea where that started that Randy is headed to New York, but as I've said before, I wouldn't be surprised.

[Mike: "Here we see the diamondback relaxing peacefully in the shade in his natural habitat. But not for long. I have sent Jim Fowler to annoy the snake and there he goes. Look how he attaches to Jim's arm and pumps in the venom. After the commercial break we will see how the snake can dislocate its jaw and swallow Jim whole. This is Marlin Perkins for Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom." Cut to theme music: "Mutual of Omaha is people you can count on when the going's rou-ugh-ugh…"

ATFQ, Joe. No, they are not done for the season. They are in the most up-for-grabs division in the NL. I don't expect them to win it, but the Dodgers and Padres are far from secure. Please see "It's May, pal" reference earlier.

And as far as, Are we going to lose the big unit to evil empire, I think this is some euphemism for an act the FCC does not want me to address here.]

K-Dog (Deerfield Beach, FL): First of all, I am a HUGE fan... I know it's early in the season, but what do you think of the OTHER team in Chicago? Guillen appears to have this squad re-energized, and playing very similarly to his former squad, the World Champion Florida Marlins. Few "experts" had the Sox winning their division, but if they keep winning the one-run games (7-1 and best in the Bigs)how can you not like their chances? Also, what would you consider an area of need for their continued success? The bullpen still scares me, but so many teams can say that.

I think the White Sox are a very good team who needs a little more from their starting pitching and a little more consistancy from their hitting. Loiza is 4-0, but other than that. I guess I worry more about their hitting than anything else. It's not good to put up a ton of runs in one game and then not score for two days. But they do have all the other pieces.

[Mike: They're now 9-1 in one-run games, just ahead of the Dodgers (8-0), Padres (7-3), Pirates (6-1), and Cards (5-1). No one else has more than four one-run wins. I think that's a fine reason not to like their chances. Their expected winning percentage is .542 (13-11), which may be an indication that the one-run wins are nothing more than luck.

Also, their relievers have been good overall (3.42 ERA, 4th best in the AL), but they are led by major-league rookies Neal Cotts (1-0, 1.69 ERA), Shingo Takatsu (1-0, 3.00), and Jon Adkins (2-1, 3.86). Between Marte and Koch, it doesn't look like they have a viable closer. So once the rookies go 'round the league a couple of times, and without a reliable closer, those one-run leads will dry up pretty quickly.

Joe's worried about their hitting, but they are 5th in ther AL in runs scored and second in OPS. And looking at their individual numbers, only Juan Uribe's (1.013 OPS) seem uncharacteristically. Some actually are below the player's career average.

If Loaiza holds up, Buehrle comes around, and Schoeneweis can pitch reasonably, their rotation should be OK. And if they can keep the momentum in the pen and land on a reliable closer, they look like a solid contender in the AL Central. Keep in mind that it's a very weak division.

No, Joe, I really shouldn't. I'm driving…]

The Ugly

Matt (LA): Who do you think the best team in baseball is at the moment?

Right at this moment, in the AL I'd say the Boston Red Sox -- and they are probably the best overall too. I think the Angels, along with the Yankess have the abiltiy to be right there with them, but not right now. I don't think there are any teams in the NL right now who are better than any of those guys.

[Mike: Since this chat the Red Sox have gone 0-4, and every other division leader has at least as good a record as them. Way to jinx 'em, Joe.]

Al Morgan (Little Rock, AR): Good morning Joe! I really appreciate your expertise and precision on the game of baseball. What do you think the early struggles of the Giants are attributed to? I mean the scores seem to be competitive but never enough to win. Do you think that the organization is going to have to make some more moves this season in-terms of acquiring another bat and maybe a pitcher?

The Giants struggles ... they've lost Kent and Reggie Sanders and Renteria. Now it's a one horse team. It's all on Barry's shoulders. I think it's going to be a tough season for the Giants. I don't expect it to get much better.

[Mike: They've lost Renteria? Uh, do you mean Aurilia? Santiago? Ponson? Nen? Worrell? Kent? Baker? Mays? Ott? Mathewson? Who???

Besides Kent and Sanders didn't play in San Fran last year, and they were still 6th in runs scored per game.

Joe, maybe you should go easy on this stuff. And your brother Al— your expertise and precision on the game of baseball ?—no more for you.

Look, there may no longer by a Kent to be Salieri to Bonds' Mozart, Itchy to Bonds' Scratchy. However, Marquis Grissom continues his late-career renaissance. Pierzynski, Tucker, and Snow almost have to improve. When Durham returns, they can rest one more unproductive bat (probably Alfonzo's, who may be ready to have a fork stuck in him). The one place in the offense where I don't much room for improvement is at short. Neifi Perez has more at-bats than anyone else on the team and has a .526 OPS to show for it. Backup Deivi Cruz isn't much better but at least he is better.]

Gregg Conley(Jackson, MI): What do you think about the Tigers being over .500, and what do you think about the additions they made in the offseason?

For a team to lose as many games as the Tigers did last year, a lot of this is the "bounce of the ball" so to speak. Not only did they add a crop of new players with a winning attitude, but they were due. They were never as bad as their record was, and for all that, they are getting some better bounces of that ball this year.

[Mike: Now follow the bouncing ball as we ask the musical question, "What the frig is Joe talking about?" And a one-ah and a two-ah…

The Tigers were 43-119 last year. They were historically bad, among the worst of all time. Using any yardstick you choose, they were the queens of putrescence. "So bow down to her if you want, bow to the [2003 Tigers]. Bow to the Queens of Slime, the Queens of Filth, the Queens of Putrescence. Boo. Boo."

As for this bounce o'the ball theorem, their expected win total was just three wins better than actual. Was Brandon Inge (.605 OPS in 2003, .569 for his career) due? Was Warren Morris (.689 and .709)? Ramon Santiago (.576 and .608). The 2003 Tigers were a bad team with bad players. A very bad team. Wish it into the cornfield. The 2004 Tigers have replaced those players with a perennial All-star Catcher (Pudge) and two solid veterans (Guillen and Vina). The neglect that the management of the team practiced last year was particularly abhorrent, given that Detroit is a large market that very recently got a new stadium.

I can't imagine that the Tigers will remain above .500. If they win 75 games it will be an historic turnaround (I think I did some research on this). I don't care how their balls bounce, so to speak.]

Dan Milwaukee : hey enough with the reds and bout my brewers ? i think we got the best out of that sexton trade!

I've always been a fan of Junior Spivey, I'm shocked that Arizona let him go. I think he had so much potential, but I guess the D-Backs got what they wanted -- a power hitter to go along with luis.

[Mike: [I] think we got the best out of that sexton trade! Dan, have you ever even seen a baseball game? (By the way, his name is "Sexson")

The Brewers are treading water because they have played almost exclusively in their own, weak division. And at that they are just 1-5 against the Astros and have yet to play the Cubs.

Of course Joe loves Spivey. He's Morgan-lite, an homage to Joe and a reason for Joe to feel superior to the current players in one fell swoop. Spivey looks like he is back to his 2002 level, which is pretty good. But he is 29 and has just one decent major-league season under his belt. How much potential can he possibly have?

Sexson is the same age and has never had a bad season in his six-year career. He was the best player on the team and was just let loose to cut payroll from the already low $40 M to the bargain-basement $30 M so that Bud could sell the team without a lot of outstanding debt.

That Arizona was willing to part with Spivey, Lyle Overbay, Craig Counsell, and Chad Moeller, tells you either that the D-Backs thought very little of their talents or weren't very effective in evaluating talent. The truth probably is somewhere in between.

However, comparing this to another 5-for-1 trade, the one the Phils made for Von Hayes (I know there were others involved in the trade but I'm talking the principles). The Phils gave up young talent, which the D-Backs did not do (Overbay is 27). The Phils got a relatively unknown quantity; Arizona did not. The Brewers got quantity over quality and that will show over time.]

Shrevie Wonder (Mesa, AZ): Who was the best shortstop you ever played with?

Bailey Concepcion

[Mike: Little Shrevie Wonder, play us some of that "Won't You Come Home, Bailey Concepcion".

Quien es? Bob Bailey? Onix Concepcion? Sweetbreads Bailey? Get A Concepcion?

Of course, it's a beer-smeared reference to Dave Concepcion. But given that Joe's other choices were Craig Reynolds, Johnny LeMaster, Ivan DeJesus, and Roger Metzger, basically the recipe for an average shortstop, did he have much choice?

But remember Joe don't mix the grain with the grape.]

Sean (Washington): Joe, what's the worst hitting slump you ever went through? Did it reach 32 AB?

Yes it did. I went 0-35 once. Mine was different b/c I wasn't striking out. I had a lot of runs scored and walks missed in -- but I was still 0-35! I broke my streak with a home run off of Nolan Ryan. We won that game 1-0. I was fine after that.

[Mike: Joe scored runs while going 0-for-35 by walking? That's sacrilege! That's, that's like using OBP in baseball analysis. Horrors! And Joe, your speech is getting more slurred—"missed" instead of "mixed"? That's it, you're cut off. And I'm driving…]

This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
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