Monthly archives: August 2004
Wherever you might look tonight you might see this wanted man (Like Fox Sports Net)
Wanted man in California,
Wanted man in Buffalo
Wanted man in Kansas City,
Wanted man in Ohio
—Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, "Wanted Man"
The man that caught Adam Dunn's fortieth home run ball and was interviewed on TV because of that feat, was evidently a man wanted by the police. He identified himself as "Dave Smith" (maybe he's an Astros fan) but police who were watching the game and helping themselves to doughnuts, no doubt, recognized him as a wanted man.
Now, given his ingenious "Dave Smith" ruse, this man is clearly a crafty underworld figure who will allude the authorities for years (like the soccer game stripper in that Nike ad).
Chipper off the Old Block
Chipper Jones has a new son and he's named after a stadium, Shea. Maybe he meant "Chez" and just couldn't spell it. Then again, it sure beats Larry Jr.
Adrian Beltre currently leads the majors in home runs with 42, two ahead of Albert Pujols and Adam Dunn. Curiously, there are no American Leaguers in the top six (Carlos Beltran, who spent times in both leagues, is seventh with 35 and Boston’s Manny Ramirez is eighth with 34).
Beltre’s season totals project to 52. If so, it would more than double his previous high of 23 last year. Even though Beltre had played about five and one-half years prior to 2004, he could increase his career homer totals by more than fifty percent: he had 99 at the start of the season and projects to 151.
What’s even more remarkable is that Beltre has been shackled with Dodger Stadium as his home park. Although it has seemed to hurt him one bit. He has 21 homers on the road and 21 homers at home, in 24 fewer at-bats.
If Beltre breaks 50, he will be the first Dodger to ever do so. Shawn Green holds the franchise record with 49 in 2001. Beltre is already tied for fourth on the Dodgers’ list with a month to go. Here are all the Dodgers who have hit at least 40 in a season:
Even if Beltre does not break Green’s team record, he may do something that no Dodger has done in 96 years, lead the majors in home runs. The last and only Dodger to do so was Tim Jordan in 1906 and 1908, with 12 home runs both years. Actually, in 1906 Jordan tied with the Philly A’s Harry Davis for 12 to lead the majors, so the only year in the major-league history that a Dodger was the sole home run leader was in 1906. But Beltre is doing it this year.
As a matter of fact, no Dodger has even led the NL in home runs since the franchise headed west and broke the hearts of Brooklynites everywhere. Here are the Dodgers who led the NL in homers:
(*=tied for league lead)
A day after rumors circulated that manager Larry Bowa will be fired at season's end, the Phils gave a good illustration why Bowa deserves the fate, possibly as much as GM Ed Wade does.
The Phils lost 9-8 today to the White Sox at home in a make-up interleague game. Again did Larry Bowa go to Roberto Horrendous with a slim, 6-5, lead in the sixth, which he quickly relinquished. How can he possibly have just five losses? I guess he mostly helps other, previous pitchers accumulate losses.
The fifth was a catastrophe. With the Phils leading 6-3, men at first and third and no outs, Timo Perez hit a ball back to the pitcher. The runner at third broke for home to avoid the double play. As catcher Lieberthal was running the runner back to third, third baseman David Bell inexplicably came up the line toward home, allowing the runners to move up. They finally got the runner out, but not until they had allowed the runners to get to second and third instead of a possible double play.
After Myers walked the bases full by passing Gload for the second time, the Phils made a play that was their season in microcosm. Myers left a ball on the plate for a 1-2 pitch, which Carl Everett hit for a single to right, scoring one run. A strong throw by Abreu was cut off and they got Everett slipping rounding third, but Placido Polanco in missing the tag saw the runner at third breaking for home. He threw to Lieberthal, who again ran the runner back to third as Bell again left the bag. Lieberthal threw a bit high to avoid the runner and Bell, after receiving the throw, allowed the runner Perez to knock the ball out of his glove. Perez scored and Bell was charged with an error. Meanwhile Bell made at least two mistakes on the play and Myers' pitch was a mistake. Abreu made a nice throw and Polanco snuck in behind Everett to create the rundown. Somehow they got no outs and allowed two runs.
Abreu also made a nice throw, his third of the inning, on the hitter, Jose Valentin's, single to right, getting the runner Gload at home. I don’t ever want to hear that airhead Howard Eskin ever dis Abreu's defense or any other facet of his game again. Abreu has been the best player on the team all year on this dead from the neck up team.
The Phils started the next half inning with a single by Lieberthal but he was doubled up by Marlon Byrd. Then came the fateful call for Horrendous. With a man on first, David Bell made a great play to get Crede, possibly saving a run. Then a grounder that got through to left allowed the runner to score from second as Michaels lollipopped the threw to home, allowing the runner to advance to second. A wild pitch got the runner to third. Perez then put down a bunt and Horrendous and Bell collided as the runner scored the go-ahead run. Then Horrendous was pulled for Cormier.
Cormier held the Sox scoreless for an inning and a third. But then Bowa went to the Todd Jones, who served as Horrendous' stand-in after being acquired at the trade deadline. Jones gave up a single, a sac bunt, and then a home run to out the Sox up 9-6 in the eighth. The Phils scored two on a two-out Jim Thome homer in the ninth, but somehow their last at-bat was entrusted to Doug Glanville, who promptly struck out.
This is a bad team, a very bad team. I can't wait to wish this team, or at least certain members of it, to the cornfield.
The other day Reggie Sanders hit his 20th home run of the season in the Cardinals 6-4 win over the Pirates. It was the seventh time Sanders had hit 20 homers in a season and assures him of his fourth straight 20-homer season. That's nice, but what's more impressive is that he has hit 20 homers a season with six different teams. He is the first man in baseball history to have achieved that dubious honor. He has also hit 20 per season in each of the last four seasons, each with a different team (Arizona, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and now St. Louis).
Consider that as of today, there have been just 191 players in baseball history who have even hit 20 homers in six seasons, let alone with multiple teams.
By the way, here are the players who have hit 20 homers in a season for four or more teams (including 2004):
Jeff Kent-Walt Weiss Memorial Baseball Darwin Awards, VII
"You wish you could have handled your frustration differently because it affects not just yourself but everyone else. This game is tough enough to keep everybody healthy and you hate to have injuries that cost DL time that weren't done on the field."
With those immortal words the Cubs' Kyle Farnsworth was placed on the DL. He is expected to miss at least three weeks.
You see, after giving up six runs in the ninth against the Astros on Friday, Farnsworth took his frustrations on an electric fan in the runway from the dugout in an incident that Dusty Baker called, "a valuable lesson here, an expensive one."
Of course, the Cubs are fighting for their playoff lives. They are in a three-way race for the wild card in the NL. Now they will probably have to fight on without the mercurial Farnsworth. Nicely done, Kyle!
The Hundred Million Dollar Infield, Pt VI
So far we have been ranking infields by three main criteria: adjusted OPS for offense, Fielding Win Shares per 162 games for defense, and Total Win Shares per game for the total package. However, how important are those categories anyway? Do infields that hit well win or is fielding more important?
I ran a correlation between team winning percentage and the three criteria above for every season of every team all time. Here are the results for all infields (excluding catchers):
Adjusted OPS/winning percentage correlation coefficient: 44.79%
Here are the results for all infields (including catchers):
Adjusted OPS/winning percentage correlation coefficient: 47.99%
First, the second set of correlations are all higher since all three criteria correlate better to winning percentage as more players are added. However, in both sets Fielding Win Shares correlate to winning percentage much better than OPS does. Of course, Total Win Shares correlates the best because it takes in both facets of the game, offense and defense, but Fielding Win Shares are not that far behind.
Apparently, where infields are concerned a good defense is more important than good offense. Or at least winning teams tend to have better defensive infields than offensive infields.
To Be Continued…
A few weeks ago the Twins signed a deal to keep their training facility in Fort Myers, Florida through 2020. As a byproduct of this deal, the Twins will likely keep their Florida League affiliate, the Fort Myers Miracle, in Fort Myers. Minnesota and Ft. Myers have had an affiliation since 1993, so they will be wed for at least 28 years if they ever do divorce.
That seems like a long time, but given that their Florida State colleagues, the Lakeland Tigers, have had an affiliation with the Detroit Tigers since 1967, it may not even make their affiliation the longest in their own league by the time their long-term deal ends. It also gives one pause when one considers two other long-time affiliations.
Last year the Twins themselves took on a new Triple-A affiliation with the Rochester (NY) Red Wings, the longest-standing minor league team in baseball history (and Lou Gramm's favorite team). Rochester has been in the International League since 1895, when it was still called the (old) Eastern League and they were the Browns (Note: They did move to Ottawa briefly in 1897). The Red Wings had a long-standing partnership with the Orioles going back to 1961 (42 years in total).
Rochester's and Baltimore's baseball histories had been entangled before. In 1890, the Orioles abandoned the major-league American Association for the Atlantic Association, a new league with designs on becoming a third major league. The Rochester Hop-Bitters replaced them in the AA. At the same time the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, who would later be renamed the Dodgers, moved from the AA to the National League. A new Brooklyn team, the short-lived Gladiators, was added to the American Association.
By July the Atlantic Association had replaced one disbanded team and had shifted another to a new city. When two more teams folded in August, the Orioles decided to move back to the American Association on August 27, replacing the 26-73 makeshift Brooklyn team. The O's went 15-19 the rest of the year but were shackled with the Gladiators abysmal record compiling an overall record of 41-92.
The Orioles eventually moved on to the National League and became the most famous team of the 1890s. The Hop-Bitters moved to the minor-league Eastern League in 1891 and stumbled through two more seasons.
Finally, no mention of Oriole affiliates would be complete without bringing up the Bluefield Orioles of the Appalachian League. The Bluefield O's, a.k.a. the "Baby Birds", have been affiliated with Baltimore since 1958, going on 47 seasons. That is the longest continuous affiliation among current teams and the longest that I have been able to find in major-league history.
Like the Twins, the team that started this dissertation, the Bluefield Orioles represent the twin cities of Bluefield, West Virginia, and Bluefield, Virginia. Their ballpark, Bowen Field (opened 1939), lies exactly on the Virginia-West Virginia border. West Virginia maintains the park even though technically it lies in Virginia.
Joe Morgan Chat Vacation Day II
The Ugly: Part III—Beane-Oh!
Dan (Miami): Joe, I know you're tried of answering questions about Billy Beane, but two weeks ago you opened the chat with this: "Anyone that makes the postseason can make it to the WS, you just have to get hot at the right time in the short series. Getting to the playoffs is the priority." With that in mind, how you can not respect a man who has taken a team with a shoestring budget to the playoffs four (soon to be five) straight years?
Who said I didn't respect Billy Beane. I said we have a different philosophy on how to win in the postseason. They haven't won in the post season. We've had two teams in the last two years win the championship that were wild card teams. That tells me anyone in the playoffs can win. Just b/c I don't kneel down at Billy's feet, doesn't mean i don't like him. I like Billy personally very much, but until he can manufacture runs in the post season by playing some small ball and bunt and steal and hit and run -- produce and score runs -- I am not going to agree with his philosophy. Look at the history. There's only one way to win. I don't know what you want from me. You should think about how teams have won and realize THAT is the way to do it. SO for the final time. I don't dislike or disrespect Billy Beane, I disagree with his philosophy. .... Second, the Minnesota Twins have had a lower payroll and they've been in the playoffs 3-straight years. The Marlins have a low budget, they won a championship. THe Angles had a lower payroll at the time THEY won a championship. It's not about money. It's about other teams winning World Series and his falling short. Call me back when he wins the title playing with that philosophy and then I'll change my mind.
[Mike: ATFQ! Who cares if Joe respects Beane? The point of the question was that Beane has gotten his team to the postseason and by Joe's own admission that's the goal, "the priority"; everything else is a crapshoot. He also said last week that all you need are two good starters and a closer to win in the postseason. That's what the A's have had in spades. It sounds like Beane is following his "philosophy to win in the postseason" to me, the worst indictment of Billy Beane that I've ever heard.
Now, as far as "There's only one way to win", that's quite a change from last week's chat. Joe said, "Anyone that makes the postseason can make it to the WS, you just have to get hot at the right time in the short series." I guess that doesn't apply to Billy Beane and the A's.
As far as payroll (from Doug Pappas research), the A's had the 25th highest in 2000, 29th in 2001, 28th in 2002, and 23rrd in 2003. They made the playoffs each year. That's pretty good.
The Twins actually have made the playoffs just two straight years but stand a very good chance this year pf making it. In 2002, the Twins had a payroll slightly higher than the A's. In 2003, the Twins were actually 18th in payroll, five places ahead of the A's.
The Marlins did have a payroll slightly lower than the A's in 2003. However the Angels had a payroll 50% higher than the A's in 2002.]
Ryan (Albany NY): It's ironic that you don't believe in Beane's theories when you were a perfect player for his system.
Well, first of all, I'm not a perfect player in his system. I stole bases, I bunted, I did the little things -- and so did my teammates at the Big Red Machine -- to score runs. When you start with Zito, Mulder and Hudson and you lose in the post season time after time, that HAS to tell you something is wrong. I am not a perfect player in that system -- don't ever accuse me of that. I was a complete player, I did NOT wait for the three run homer. Now, Ken Macha has instituted some changes on the A's offense. I give him credit. But somebody has to do something to figure out why they have lost in the first round 5-straight years and more importantly how to change that. Bottom line of all this is I respect Billy Beane, I respect Billy Beane, I respect Billy Beane. I don't like his philosophy. End of discussion.
Let's understand one thing, what you do in the regular season, you are often playing against mediocre teams so you can walk and hit home runs. In the playoffs, good teams aren't going to walk you and they are not going to give up a lot of homers. If you are counting on that -- even if you have the best pitching in baseball -- you're going to lose. It's that simple. I can't see what's not to understand. The problem is obviously coming from the offensive side. You must make adjustments in October.
[Mike: Joe was the perfect player for Beane's system. It's just that Joe doesn't get Beane's system. Beane realized that he had a limited budget so he invested his funds in players who get on base by any means possible. That is his main criterion to produce runs: OBP.
Morgan had a .392 OBP in a pitcher's era. He also stole bases at an 81% successful clip. Beane doesn't want players to attempt to steal unless he has an excellent chance to be successful.
Also, Joe repeatedly says that the A's lost in the first round five straight years. It's actually four unless Joe knows something about this October that we don't know yet.
As far as Ken Macha changing things, I think Morgan gives him way too much credit. He spreads more of this malarkey in his article this week:
Most of the credit for that should go to the manager, Ken Macha. He's done an excellent job getting the most out of the players he has and making them believe in themselves. Oakland was built around pitching and has been for the past few years, but the keys to the team are that the A's play good defense, they've been more aggressive on the bases and they've even bunted in some situations.
I like that approach because it uses all the strengths of the team rather than just waiting for players to get base hits. Oakland is doing a lot of different things to score runs.
[Mike: Here are the bunt-per-total plate appearance ratios for the A's from 2000 on including a 162-game projection for 2004 (TPA= AB+ BB+ HBP + SF+ SH):
Note that not only has bunting NOT gone up for the A's, but it's actually at its lowest ebb in their current successful run. However, they are scoring more runs than they have since 2001. Also, note that they are projected to steal as many bases as last year, but get caught 11 more times. The stole more bases in 2001 and many more in 2000.
Finally, is Joe's assertion that Oakland's postseason woes are on the offensive side accurate: "The problem is obviously coming from the offensive side." They have lost four series that went 5 full games. They actually outscored their opponents twice, 23-19 against the Yankees in 2000 and 18-17 vs. the Red Sox last year. They also scored over five runs per game in 2002 but allowed almost five and one half. The only year that their offense was to blame was in 2001 (2.4 runs per game). If you'll remember the umps helped hand the division series to the Sox last year, and it took an unbelievable play by Derek Jeter to defeat them in 2001. They have been outscored by a grand total of two runs in those four years. Remember what Joe said about anything happening in a short series?]
Joe Morgan Chat Vacation Day
The transcendental promises a vacation from history.
—Mason "Mel" Cooley
Orlando. Who stays it still withal?
Rosalind. With lawyers in the vacation; for they sleep
—William "Author" Shakespeare As You Like It
I envy people who can just look at a sunset. I wonder how you can shoot it. There is nothing more grotesque to me than a vacation.
—Dustin "Don't Call Me Trevor" Hoffman
Oh, Margie, you came and you found me a turkey on my vacation away from workey.
—Sung to the tune of "Mandy" by the great "Dancin'" Homer Simpson
Your wife's on my Wham-O
—The great John Candy "Maldonado" in "Summer Rental" trying to retrieve an errantly thrown Frisbee
Hey guys! I'm back!
—Steve "The Big Frank" Frankel, said often in public places to no one in particular for no particular reason.
I have just returned from four days at the beach, and boy, are my arms tired. But seriously, I was without any news from the outside world even through "telephones, faxes…" by which the president admittedly runs the country while on his many vacations. Imagine four days with no news on Amber Frey, Paris Hilton, Swift Boats, or baseball! It seems unimaginable, but to quote Lili Von Shtupp, "it's twue."
And the baseball world of course fell into complete chaos while I was gone. As you remember the Phils were the juggernaut of the NL a mere four days ago. Led by the capable management team of Ed Wade and Larry Bowa and owned by Judge "You'll get nothing and like it" Smails, the 2004 Phillies sliced through the National League like a knife through a schmear of schmaltz. Even with the many injuries they endured, their capable management team plugged every hole with top-tier talent like Steve Finley, Freddy Gracia, and Anna Benson. Then in four short days they fell to 75th in the NL East alone.
Meanwhile, those media darlings and heroes to everyone in the commissioner's office heck-bent on trampling on the remains of the players' union, the Texas Rangers sans A-Rod, owned the AL. They had three dozen MVP candidates, and that was in the bullpen alone. You see, their skills were just held in abeyance when the evil A-Rod controlled the team. They were just waiting for their chance and got it when the evil dictator was deposed, kind of like the Ents in the Lord of the Rings but not as tall. However, they have now fallen to second to last in their division, just one spot ahead of their lowly A-Rod infested days. Never mind that they are just a game and a half out of the lead and one game out of the wild card: like Senator John Blutarsky, I'm on a roll.
Taking even a short vacation, gives one pause to consider many things, most of which stem from the living hell that is work itself, something that Scott Adams has turned into a cottage industry. We return to work the full vessel of humanity, which work drains with an unerring yet subtle constancy like some sort of metaphysical, Kafka-esque water torture.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's good to be back. And yet one has to wonder what it's like to never have to work, to be on a constant vacation, either due to virtually unlimited funds or via connections. But enough about the president, I'm here to speechify on one Joe Morgan, a man whose baseballian analytical skills reside in his Hall-of-Fame pedigree. But Joe has been left pristinely innocent and unchanged by the burden of facts and evidentiary experience, like a rock bravely turning back unkind waves for aeons. But enough about Joe's head, I've noticed that Joe has been on vacation since the day he retired, and I don't just mean the four-month golf tournament that Joe seems to play in the off-season.
Joe Morgan hearkens back to the halcyon days with the Big Red Machine to answer or at least inform every issue. What I wonder is if there are negative consequences for such defiance of, well, reality. What we seemed to learn in almost every Star Trek episode was that, contrary to the media's response to the current administration, human beings need to be challenged to exist, oh, and that Jim Kirk likes to tumble unnecessarily when he fights. Otherwise, we turn into the slow-moving but incredibly strong lizard men, one of whom Kirk was forced to fight instead of just outrun in one episode, and we'd just sit around and drink tranya all day with Ron Howard's brother. Remember when a transporter malfunction split Kirk into two separate entities, one his good self and the other his evil self (sans beard), and the good Kirk couldn't make decisions? He needed the evil half to survive. That was awesome!
Oh, what was I talking about? You weren't listening either? Oh, well, without further ado, here's this week's Joe Morgan chat review and water treatment plan:
Ari (Newark, DE): If San Fran. claims the wild card position to make it into the playoffs, does Barry Bonds get another MVP? or do you think the MVP comes directly from the big three in St. Louis : Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds?
Over the years I've watched Barry Bonds and I know that he has more impact on a game than any other player. I think this year St. Louis will have the best record, and that is directly related to the big three that you talk about. I think Rolen and Pujols are the two most likely MVP candidates at this point, but Barry Bonds is always the most valuable to me simply based on the impact he has on a game.
[Mike: Right you are, Joe. Bonds is the most valuable, but Rolen and Pujols will get more attention from the voters. Of course, using the voters' logic, Bonds will have the most impact on a playoff team, if the Giants make it. Without any one player the Cards would still have won their division; without Bonds, the Giants would be a pretty poor team.]
Dennis (NY, NY): Good morning, Do you the Cleveland Indians get too good to quick? I mean I think they were so successful b/c they played w/no pressure and just played hard. Then being just 1 game back, it looks like they didn't let the game come to them and lost that innocence that made them successful.
It sounds like you've hit the nail on the head, Dennis. I haven't seen too much of the Indians, but I think you're right. Things are different when you are expected to win. They are a young team and they may not be ready for that yet. It's a lot of pressure to handle. We'll have to see how they respond.
[Mike: Yeah, they should have sucked longer. Whence comes many a dynasty has been spawned, from the festering cesspool of putrescence. Look how many dynasties the lowly Phils have had.]
Henry, CA: Hey Joe, do you think Ichiro could have got MVP if he gets 257+ hits and the M's were little better?
Well, I think the latter is the key -- if the Mariners were a little better. I'm a big Ichiro fan but the Ms aren't really in the race so the award will probably go to one of those other candidates who are running right up there in the standings.
[Mike: This is like when Homer Simpson finds his long lost twin, Unkie Herb (played by Danny DeVito), the owner of a successful automobile company, who let's Homer run the place while Herb hangs out with the rest of the family. One day, an engineer calls to complain about Homer's ideas. Herb tells him to hang up, call back, and say the exact opposite of everything he just said. Herb plays the second completely complimentary phone call on speaker phone for Bart and Lisa. I don't remember the entire litany of complaints cum praise but it ends: "And his personal hygiene is beyond reproach."
Well, Joe's answer is the complete opposite of everything I would say on the topic. It's like when my five-year-old says it's opposite day and everything we say is the opposite of reality. Take his answers and reverse them. It's fun! Just like using that ibby-dibby language on "Zoom".]
Wes(Atlanta): Joe, Do you think this years Braves team has the best chance since 95 to win the world series since they seem to play with more heart and desire than the past business type mentality type teams?
I'm a big fan of Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone. Both of them over the years have done a great job to get Atlanta those 12-straight division titles. I'm a big fan of their coaching staff, but I don't think this is the best team they've had there. They ARE playing great. Agreed. If you got back to my first column of the year, I said that the Braves would still win their division -- a statement a lot of people disagreed with. We'll see what happens when October rolls around. ... On a side note, I DO NOT agree with Bobby Cox -- or anyone else-- who says the post season is just a crap shoot. You are not respecting or giving credit to those teams who consistantly play "October baseball" -- which is very different than regular season baseball. Realinzing that is what brings success in the post season.
[Mike: I agree with Joe's assessment of the 2004 Braves. However, I have to point out that Joe did not, in fact, pick them to win the division in his first column of the year. As a matter of fact he refused to pick anyone. Let's watch: "Every year people want me to predict who will win the division titles and the World Series, but I refuse to get sucked into that." This is from his April 2 article in the section titled "Predictions? No Thanks".
Joe refuses to go out on a limb and pick any teams at the beginning of the year, a pointless exercise, true, but something usually expected of baseball analysts. But then he just waits for the frontrunners to, well, run in front (ergo the name). Then he bounces saying he picked them the entire way. Sheer genius!
Of course, I made predictions at the beginning of the year and that's why I can state emphatically that I picked the Braves to win the NL East. I can state it, but it would be a lie. I picked my underachieving, hometown Phils, of course. From now on I will emulate Joe, not pick anyone, and then say that I picked the teams that came out on top. Never fails.
CORRECTION: This article was mislabeled in Joe's column index. It's actually from last year. Joe's first article this year was about Hank Aaron and contained no predictions. He made no predictions that I could find for 2004. He did however have this to say about the Braves in his first chat session in 2004:
That's close enough in my book.]
Jason Quincy Illinois: Can the Cardinals win 110 games?
I don't know about numbers. I know they are the best team in the league. Their line-up is awesome. They are good hitters, they hit for average, they hit for power and they have speed. It's a combination of all good things on offense. 110 wins won't mean anything once the post season starts ... but that lineup will.
[Mike: Is that Jason from Quincy, IL or Jason Quincy from Illinois?
Anyway, Joe's "I don't know about numbers" reminds me of Han Solo's "Never quote me the odds!" Joe is such a swashbuckler, flying by the seat of his pants. Sheez, Joe lauds the team but refuses to go out on a limb and answer the question.
Mr. Quincy-Illinois Jacquet, the answer is no. The Cards are on a pace to win 106-107 (106.71 to be exact) now. They were on a pace to win 105 at the time of the chat. This team will be way up coming down the stretch and I expect Tony LaRussa to rest his starters to get them ready for the postseason. Besides down the stretch they will be playing teams like the Astros, Dodgers, and Padres (but not the Cubs), who may be in the playoff hunt or at least be jockeying for a better playoff position.]
Robert (Wash, D.C.): Hey Joe, is Major League Baseball dragging the move of the Expos because they are trying to find any other choice option other than D.C. to move them?
They've been dragging their feet for three years. The Expos should have been out of Monteal years ago. I hear Washington is the number one choice, but their must be some roadblocks that we don't know about that are holding up the selection process b/c everybody wants them to go there.
[Mike: Everybody? Everybody wants the Expos in DC?!?
Joe, it's been pretty public that Peter Angelos does not want anyone infringing on his territory.
Some examples, from a local TV news station:
Angelos told WBAL's Sportsline another team in Washington or Northern Virginia would hurt the team. He says quote -- "There are no real baseball fans in DC." Angelos says the fans are mainly in the Maryland suburbs, and those pushing for a DC or Northern Virginia team are trying to steal Orioles' fans.
From Business Week:
The wild card in any relocation to the nation's capital is, of course, Baltimore attorney Angelos. Only 37 miles separate Camden Yards, the Orioles' downtown stadium, from Washington, and Angelos has spent most of the 10 years he has owned the club fending off the threat of new competition. The Orioles claim 25% of their fans hail from D.C. suburbs. "I don't believe a franchise--any franchise--should be confronted with competition 25 miles away," says Angelos.
That's not exactly rolling out the red carpet. Oh, and the few remaining Expos fans aren't too excited about it, I bet.]
Andrew (Tucson): Do you find the current trend of mound charging ridiculous? Why not just take your base and let your pitcher settle the score?
First of all, the pitchers do not get a chance to settle the score. There is a warning issued immediately and the pitcher may not get a chance to even things out. I don't believe in charging the mound -- i never did but I think that's b/c I was too small -- but I can understand why guys do it. If you think somebody threw at you and could have seriously injured you or injured you or worse -- end your carreer-- you want to retaliate. You want to get after the pitcher, I mean, they are the one that hit you. Not the second baseman or the shortstop who your pitcher could hit next inning. I understand why guys do it.
[Mike: If I've said it once, I've said it at least two or three times: Enforce the batter's box. Do that and you eliminate the high strikes that enrage batters by being "too close", a la Manny Ramirez in the ALCS last year. You eliminate the wide, flat strike zone that the umps ceded to the pitchers in the Eighties to compensate for batters sitting on top of the plate. I documented all of this in a study last year called "Zoning Out?" You no longer need QuesTec, which somehow became a non-issue this season.]
Oh by the way, someone explain this passage to me: If you think somebody threw at you and could have seriously injured you or injured you or worse -- end your carreer… It reminds me of the line in "Blazing Saddles" in which Hedley LaMarr is interviewing bad guys and an applicant lists his qualifications as "Rape, murder, arson, and rape." LaMarr says, "You said 'Rape' twice," and he responds, "I like rape."]
Nick (Greensboro, NC): Hey Joe!! What's your opinion of a World Cup of Baseball? Thanks
I think it's a great idea ... with a lot of drawbacks. I'm not sure if they are going to be able to remedy those in order to make it the fun and successful event that they hope for. Any time you can put your sport on a world stage, it really helps the marketing. I really hope this comes together.
[Mike: Now that the "Dream Team" has tanked, we need a sport with which we can still beat up on the rest of the world. I don't think baseball has promoted itself well enough internationally to make this more than a curiosity. There is plenty of talent in what used to be called Latin America and the Pacific Rim—I don't know what we call them today in the PC world. And Australia used to be a hot spot for young players, though it seems to have cooled off of late. Besides that, I don't see where else the talent will come from.]
Pete, NY: Joe, can you give a "baseball for dummies" definition of a balk? I can identify the obvious ones, but most of the time I have no idea what just happened. Thanks.
Well, there are so many different ways to balk. One of the keyes is from the wind-up, starting your motion and then stopping. Another way is not pausing at the belt in your stretch. In general, it's a start-and-stop without stepping off the wind up. There are many ways to balk. Throwing to an un-occupied base is also one of the many.
[Mike: Nice simple explanation, Joe. The definition of a balk is an "illegal act" meant to deceive a runner. If he stops or hesitates in his motion while on the rubber to catch a runner off base, if feigns a throw to a base but throws to another or throws to an empty base just to deceive the runner(s), if he sneaks a "quick pitch" or doesn't face the batter or starts a funky delivery to get a trick pitch in, if he pretends to throw the ball without actually having the ball or he drops the ball, all of these things are deceptive.
By the way, Joe's "Throwing to an un-occupied base is also one of the many" is much too facile. A pitcher can throw to first after a double on an appeal play. That's legal. It's when he throws to a base without actually making a play.]
The Ugly: Part I—Phillies
Noonan (Philly, PA): Big Joe, Is there a bigger disappointment in baseball than the Phillies? They're killing us here in Philly! What changes should they make this off season to improve?
I haven't seen the Phillies enough to say whether Larry Bowa should be fired, which I know is a hot topic. What I see is the injuries in Philly. That takes its toll. (That's why I have such respect for the Angels). The Phillies have gone through a lot. I haven't seen the atmosphere in the clubhouse first hand, so I'm not sure what else is going on over there. They need their guys healthy.
[Mike: Miss it, Noonan! Sorry, I had to.
Way to take a stand, Joe. They just need to get healthier. Oh, that explains it. Take your vitamins and you win a pennant. An apple a day, keeps the Marlins at bay.
But even when the team was pretty healthy (prior to the Burrell, Wagner, and Madson injuries around the end of July), the Phils had played .500 ball for the better part of three months. They had had some injuries to the rotation (Padilla and Wolf) and management had failed to get a viable replacement (Paul Abbott?). Bowa had gaslighted leadoff hitter/center fielder Marlon Byrd down to Triple-A without a viable replacement. Byrd then became his own replacement at the trade deadline after an unremarkable tour of the minors.
Besides, Joe, you are a professional baseball analyst and can't follow all 30 teams? How about just those who, like the Phils for some time, are in contention? That's probably only about half of the thirty. Why even have a chat if you can't offer opinions on any but a handful of teams?]
Eric, MD: Hey Joe. If you could change one thing about modern day baseball, what would it be?
Probably the practice of building smaller and smaller ball parks. I think that's one of the problems Philly has. The other teams come in and it feels like they have an advantage rather than playing on the road. The balls are just flying out of the stadium.
[Mike: Joe knows nothing about the Phils but he thinks that their new stadium is their problem. I wonder why they hadn't won in the last decade in the Vet?
Somehow the opposition feels like they have an advantage playing at CB Park even though the Phils have guys like Thome and Abreu who can hit one out once in a while themselves? Maybe the opposition thinks they have an advantage because of the Phillies' pitching. Here's a home/road breakdown for the team with runs and home runs for and against:
Note that the Phils are getting beaten up at home, but it's not because of the long ball. Yes, they are out-homered at home but by not as much as on the road (.11 vs. .13 per game). The difference is that their pitching has given up an addition .38 runs per game at home while their offense has only created an additional .11 runs per game.
By the way, how are smaller ballparks a problem? That's more of an aesthetic preference, isn't it?
As I said before, the biggest problem in the game is the lack of enforcement of the batter's box. It affects everything else on the field.]
The Ugly: Part II—Griffey
Tom(Huntsville, AL): Joe, that was a great article you wrote about Ken Griffey, Jr. Part of me agrees with you that Junior needs to move on for his sake and the Reds. Junior would make a great DH in the AL, but if I were the Reds I would ask a lot for him because he's still very valuable, especially at the DH position. He's proven he can still hit. Do you think the Reds could get some top-quality pitchers in return for Junior going to an AL team?
I'm trying to figure out which part you don't agree with, Tom. Except, you can't get too much for him if he's not healthy. My point about Griffey is, you can't wait till he's healthy. AL, NL, whatever. I think he needs to be out of Cincinnati and everybody needs to just move on.
[Mike: First let's go to that article. Joe's two point are:
If he has a change of scenery, maybe his luck will change -- you never know.
And from the Reds' perspective, Wily Mo Pena has done a good job filling in while Griffey has been hurt.
[Mike: But then Joe says:
If not for the injuries, Griffey might still be the best player in the game.
[Mike: That's a patently ridiculous statement—Bonds was a better player in the Nineties and got better in the 2000s while Griffey declined prior to the injuries. However, what about the two points in favor of trading Griffey.
Pena has hit for power but has just a .307 OBP. He's 22 and deserves a spot in the lineup, but who's to say that Griffey and Pena couldn't inhabit the same outfield? Who'll play right for the Reds next year anyway?
And why would Griffey's luck with injuries improve outside of Cincinnati? Is Joe an actuary whose run the data for personal injury in all major US cities?
What Joe leaves out is what other team would take him if he is so severely damaged that he can no longer play in Cincinnati even though he is the "best player in the game" when healthy? How much are they going to get for him if they are just going to up and cut bait now, especially with his healthy contract?
Besides, the Reds were 46-41 when Griffey went down July 10 and are now 60-65. That's a 14-24 record while he was out (actually, he returned briefly and they went 2-1 in his return, meaning that they are 12-23 without him). Aren't they better off by having him in the lineup? Joe can't tell you one thing wrong with the Phils themselves, and yet he believes Griffey must go in Cincy. Huh?
Oh, by the way, Joe said this in a chat last August about Griffey:
My feeling, just a personal feeling, is that they need to sever that relationship for Griffey and for the Reds. It just has not worked. Sometimes you just need a change. The Reds need a change from Griffey and Griffey definately needs a change from the Reds. They need to sever that relationship.
Sound familiar? Then he spent this entire season jumping on the Griffey Bandwagon. Now, he's off again after another setback. He's more mercurial than Randy Quaid in "Major League II". In fact, isn't this just a peeved fan whose team didn't make the playoffs after a promising start rather than an informed baseball alayst?]
Jeff (St. Louis): Joe - agree with your assessment of Griffey Jr needing a change of scenery. (Anything to get him out of the division!) With Edgar Martinez retiring and Junior still beloved in Seattle, would he be a perfect fit to DH for the Mariners? Less stress on his body not having to roam CF, perhaps?
There was a time during the early part of the season that they were talking about trading him back to Seattle, I thought that was a pretty good idea -- at the time. But now, it looks like Seattle is not going to have a good team for awhile. I think he needs to go to somewhere in contention to be his best, but, you're right, Seattle is not a bad fit for Jr.
[Mike: Ooh, the precious Junior can't bother to put his best effort forward unless he plays for a contender. So the Reds have to trade him and to a contender? Talk about limiting yourself.
And by the way: I thought that was a pretty good idea -- at the time Joe, the Reds fan salivated all over Griffey all season, writing homages aplenty. Why would he think a midseason trade of the player he calls the Reds' best would be a pretty good idea? Again, some revisionist history from an embittered fan.]
The Ugly: Part III—Beane-Oh!
To be continued...
The Hundred Million Dollar Infield, Pt V
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
To Be Continued…
The Hundred Million Dollar Infield, Pt IV
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
To Be Continued…
The Hundred Million Dollar Infield, Pt III
Given that the infield roles have changed over time, I thought it would be edifying to look at the key stats—adjusted OPS for offense, Fielding Win Shares per 162 games for defense, and Total Win Shares per game for the total package—and take the top ten per decade. (Keep in mind that Win Shares are not available for the 1871-75 seasons.)
Also, I have dropped Joe Morgan's definition of infield, i.e., to include catchers. Let's stick to the convention description—first, second, third, and short—given that we don’t need to include Johnny Bench in the equation to validate our arguments.
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
Sorted by Adjusted OPS:
Sorted by Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Sorted by Win Shares by game:
To Be Continued…
I will be on vacation from Saturday to Tuesday but have pre-loaded a few more entries in the Million Dollar Infield series in an effort to drive it completely into the ground. Peter White of Mariner Musings has graciously agreed to help me out by publishing them.
The Hundred Million Dollar Infield, Pt II
Next, in our historical analysis of the best infields, I would like to take a look at the best defensive infield. This is somewhat problematic given that the traditional fielding stats are so dependent on the era from which they were spawned to be almost useless for this analysis as Bill James showed in Win Shares. So instead I will use James's Fielding Win Shares stat as the basis.
First, let's look at the best based on total Fielding Win Shares (Catchers included):
Now, Total Fielding Win Shares (excluding catchers):
Now let's prorate the Fielding Win Shares per 162 games:
Well, that's heavily weighted to the nineteenth century probably because the difference between good and poor defenses was greater back then. Now the same data sans catchers:
To Be Continued…
The Hundred Million Dollar Infield
Thanks, Pop. Mine's full of more holes than the Pittsburgh infield.
—Kayo in "On the Waterfront" accepting a loaned jacket
The other day, my friends and I were deriding an old Joe Morgan article on the Rangers infield that basically devolved into an homage to his old Reds teammates.
Amid the claims that he and Dave Concepcion were the first doubleplay combo ever to attempt to speed up turning the doubleplay and Joe's dubious choice of adding catcher to the mix so that he could buttress his argument with potentially the best catcher of all time in Johnny Bench, the Big Red Morgan selected the mid-Seventies Reds as the best infield ever, a quite unbiased appraisal. Surprise!
Sure, the Reds had a great infield (Rose, Morgan, Perez, and Concepcion), but was it much better than that of their division rival, the Dodgers (Garvey, Cey, Lopes, and Russell), let alone the best all-time?
I mean there's Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance. There's the "Hundred Thousand Dollar Infield". There's the Steve Jeltz-era Phillies.
Well, I decided to put Morgan's claims to the test. After deriving the starters at all positions (most games at each position), I created a ranking of the best infields by OPS, OPS above the park-adjusted average, and Win Shares per game. I also ran the numbers with and without catchers. Here are the results.
Here are the top infields (including catcher) based on OPS:
Here are the top infields (excluding catcher) based on OPS:
That's great, but you may notice that the two eras with the most offensive in baseball history (the last 12 years and the late 1920s/early 1930s) get over-represented. What if we adjust for era and ballpark by added in the league's average OPS and the team's ballpark factor? Here are the results (including catcher) based on adjusted OPS:
Here are the results (excluding catcher) based on adjusted OPS:
Of course, that ignores defense and a lot of what infields do is play defense. The best way that I know of to weigh a player's offense and defense is Win Shares. Here are the results based on total Win Shares (including catchers; Note: Players from the NA, 1871-75, have no Win Shares associated with them, at least none to which I have access.):
Now, here are the results for total Win Shares for an infield (excluding catcher):
The '76 Reds do extremely well here, but drop a bit when Bench is out of the equation. They also played a 162-game schedule. What if we prorate the Win Shares by team game. Here are the best seasonal Win Shares per game (including catchers):
Now, excluding catchers:
I have about, as Dr. Evil would say, a million comments on these teams and the ones that finished lower. Also, I want to look at these per decade. I am fascinated with these lists and given that the only thing going on with the Phils is the Larry Bowa deathwatch, I want to look at them in depth. I just hope I can get it rolling given that I'll be on vacation for four days starting Saturday.
To be continued…
Gaylord, Lefty, and Big Unit (Say Hey)
One thing that I should have mentioned about the floundering Diamondbacks is that Randy Johnson is on pace to win one third of their games. Right now they have 36 wins and Johnson has 12 of them.
No one has won that large a percentage of their team's wins since Steve Carlton and Gaylord Perry both did it in 1972. Before those two, no one had accomplished this "feat" since 1952. Johnson would be the first man to do it since the advent of the five-man rotation (or at least since it became de rigueur). Of course, if he does get traded that puts the kibosh on this dubious mark, but then again, if he does stick with the D-Backs, they don't seem to be doing much when Johnson is not on the mound.
Below are all the pitchers who have done it since 1900. Note that four-man rotations did not become commonplace until the late 1890s, so 379 men did it in the 19th century.
The Baseball Crank takes an in-depth look at the 1994 Montreal Expos, the Lyman Bostock of baseball teams.
Kill Two Hurlers with One Stone
Both starters in the Astros-Phils game tonight have just been knocked out on the same play.
With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the fourth, the 'Stros had pitcher Roger Clemens up, trailing 4-3. Clemens hit a bullet the opposite way down the right field line scoring two and giving the Astros the lead. This brought the axe for Phils starter Corey Lidle, who had started the inning with a 4-1 lead. While Lidle was leaving the mound, Clemens, who had pulled up lame at first, was being looked over and was eventually pulled for a pinch-runner. Oddly, that pinch-rummer was pitcher Pete Munro who scored (giving the Astros a 7-4 lead) but did not come in to pitch. David Weathers started the bottom of the fourth.
The Phils are sinking so fast that floundering teams pummel them but thank goodness Ed Wade got Lidle to shore up that rotation.
D-Backs to where you once belonged
Did anyone notice that the D-Backs are becoming historically bad? They are 36-84 but 8-34 in their last 42 games. Add those together and you get 44-118 over a 162-game schedule for a .272 winning percentage. Another way to look at it is that they would be one game worse than the Tigers were last year. Wow! And some picked them to win the division?
Their projected record would be the 47th worst record all-time and just the eleventh worst since the majors went to a 154-game schedule. Here are the other ten:
I guess that's what happens when you trade one of the best starting pitchers in the game (Curt Schilling), your starting first baseman (Lyle Overbay), your starting second baseman (Junior Spivey), your starting third baseman (Craig Counsell), and a lefty reliever (Chris Capuano) within a three-day period and all you get in return is an injured first baseman (Richie Sexson), a young perennial prospect who’s 2-12 with a 7.64 ERA this year (Casey Fossum), and a young pitcher who lost the closer's job in the punch-and-judy Red Sox bullpen last year and has yet to pitch this year (Brandon Lyon). They also lost serviceable number-three starter Miguel Batista a few days later to free agency.
Whatever happens this will almost definitely be the worst Diamondbacks season in their short history. It will also be only their second sub-.500 season in their seven seasons so far.
The Peasants Are Revolting
"You're telling me? They stink on ice."
—Mel Brooks in The History of the World, Part I
Last week, two Japanes teams, the Orix BlueWave and Kintetsu Buffaloes, signed a basic agreement to merge, a move that still must be approved at the owners' meeting on September 8. Speculation is swirling that the Japanese Central and Pacific Leagues will merge into one ten-team league. The leagues now have six teams each and the proposed merger would reduce the total to an unmanageable eleven teams.
The players then voted to authorize a strike should the merger go through. The 98% players voted in the affirmative.
Teams contracted? Players threatening to strike? Sound familiar?
When MLB had similar problems two seasons ago, many theorized that the sport would not survive. Those prophesies may hold true for Japan, where the teams are reeling supposedly due to defections to the majors and to economic problems in the country in general.
Whatever the results, it should be a boon for the majors. If the Japanese leagues fold, there should be an influx of major-league and near major-league talent. If the players strike, it may prompt more veterans to immigrate to our friendly shores. If the owners nix the merger fearing a potentially costly strike, they may be permanently damaged, leaving themselves open to a partial or full buyout by MLB. The same thing happened with the Canadian Football League a few years ago when they were helped out by the NFL. I'm sure that MLB would then use their influence to free up more free agents for major-league consumption.
Then again, given the mixed results for the transplanted Japanese players—is Little Matsui considered a success?—the best that adding the Japanese players to the major-league pool may do is to expand Triple-A and bring back the American Association.
The Phils are well on their way to losing tonight and falling under .500 for the first time in over three months. The already fell into third behind the Marlins, who started the day tied with the Phillies but won last night while the Phils were idle.
Wolf gave up five runs in the top of the fourth. The Astros now lead 5-0 with Roy Oswalt pitching.
Even if they fall under .500, even if they fall behind the Mets (who are just two games back), no axe will fall. There is no bottom for this team. There is no accountability. I doubt Larry Bowa will be pulling a George Tenet any time soon.
As the Phils embark on the last third of the season, the only questions are who will be back next year and who won't. Phils fans' best hope seems to be that the team pulls a Cleveland Cavaliers and hits bottom as hard as possible to ensure that management is finally spurred to make the changes that have been needed for the most of the season, i.e., that Bowa and Wade are both gone.
Well, they said that they got him for his defense. They just didn't say what position he'd play.
In an odd move, Boston's Gold Glove first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz started at second base tonight. It was only his second major-league at second and his first start there in 2185 career games. Red Sox manager Terry Francona claims that the move is just for tonight given that he wanted to load the lineup with left-handers and the Sox have so many injuries in the infield.
Mientkiewicz got no special treatment. He got into an altercation with Carlos Delgado, who was trying to break up a double play, in the second. He has completed one double play successfully, but his double play partner, Orlando Cabrera, the other defensive replacement that the Sox acquired, has two errors on the night.
By the way, Mientkiewicz is only the 36th man to play at least 500 games at first base and at least two at second. Here are the rest. There are some surprises on the list:
Taking a Three-Month Mulligan
On May 8, the Phils' Ryan Madson established a team rookie record for consecutive scoreless innings at 21. The Phils beat the Diamondbacks on the road that night, 8-7, to even their record at 14-14. Eric Milton ran his record to 3-0. Doug Glanville led off for just the third time on the year and reached on a throwing error by the third baseman in the first and eventually came around to score the go-ahead run. Super-sub Tomas Perez had a big night with a homer and four RBI.
The next night they won 7-1 as Brett Myers won his first game of the year. Marlon Byrd returned as the leadoff hitter, led off the game with a home run, and went 2-for-2 with two walks, one RBI, and three runs scored. Jimmy Rollins went 4-for-5.
All of the pieces seemed to be falling into place. The Phils were finally above .500 for the first time all year after starting 1-6. They were still two games behind division-leading Florida, and the division was very tight (Braves 3.5 games back and the Mets 4), but they finally seemed to be fulfilling the potential that everyone had seen for them at the start of the season.
It's now over three months later, and the Phils have had many ups and downs, but they always stayed over .500, until now. After being swept by the Giants in a three game series including a 16-6 shellacking and suffering through a 1-6 stretch, the Phillies are now 59-59. They are 8-1/2 games behind the Braves in the East and are 4-1/2 games out of the wild card with three teams ahead of and one tied with them.
They have exactly one-third of the season remaining. Madson, who has been the anchor of their staff, is on the DL. Putative number-one starter Kevin Millwood, starting left fielder Pat Burrell, and closer and supposed "final piece to the puzzle" Bill Wagner are also on the DL. All-Star first baseman has missed to games and remains questionable.
The Phils play host now to the Astros, who have their own problems, but do have Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens going in the first two games. If the Phils should fall below .500 it would just be the latest blow to a seemingly anaesthetized team.
But the good news is that they did make up those two games on the Marlins. Both teams are tied for second in the NL East.
El Grande Duque
If you've got them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow.
—The Duke, John Wayne "Gomes"
Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn’t want me to be too famous too young
—Duke Ellington on being passed up for the 1965 Pulitzer Prize
Right now Mark Mulder has the inside track to the AL Cy Young award with two more wins than anyone else in the league and a projected win total of 21. His 3.49 ERA is not in and of itself an overwhelming figure but does rank fourth in the league. He is also on a division leader so he should have his fair share of win opportunities. Hey, I'm glad since I picked him to win the award and given my other predictions (the Royals winning the AL Central) and I need to get one right.
But let's say the wheels come off Mulder's season or he pulls a Junior Griffey, the what? Well, then the field's pretty open. It looks unlikely that anyone else will win 20, a sure vote-getter. And the pitchers with low ERAs don't have the wins. The winner would probably be determined by who of a group of pitchers excels down the stretch. That group is Tim Hudson, Johan Santana, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Ryan Drese, Jake Westbrook, and Javier Vazquez. Then again Mariano Rivera projects to 55 saves and has registered a 1.55, so maybe the voters would ignore recent history and give the award to a closer.
However, I'd like to suggest something that seems, and may even be, completely nuts.
Could El Duque Win the Cy Young?
Orlando Hernandez wasn't even on a major-league roster at the start of spring training camp. He was signed by the Yankees on March 10 after sitting out all of last year with a rotator cuff injury.
Hernandez didn't make his first start this season until the game before the All-Star game. In the past month, El Duque has gone 5-0 in seven starts with a 2.08 ERA. He is striking out 10.85 men per nine innings, has a 1.26 WHIP, and opponents are batting .226 against him with a .659 OPS.
The Yankees have 48 games left, meaning that he will probably get 8 or 9 more starts. Let's say that Hernandez can continue to pitch as well as he has and wins all of those starts. That would give him, say, a 14-0 record and an ERA that is over a run better than anyone else in the league (if he qualifies for the title). If Mulder stumbles, those numbers could look hard to pass up.
I wondered if anyone ever had that kind of success without pitching an entire season. I searched for all pitchers who pitched in and started between 10 and twenty games, won at least 10, threw at least 88 innings (Hernandez's projected total if he pitches 9 more games), and had an ERA under 3.00. Here's what I got:
If you add in the criterion of striking out a at least a man an inning, then the list is reduced to just J.R. Richard in 1980. If you remember, that year Richard suffered a stroke on the mound at the age of 30 and never pitched in the majors again.
So on one hand one would say that Hernandez is having quite a unique season. But on the other hand, Hernandez's streak looks very much like a fluke. He is 34 and hadn't pitched for a year and a half. He is averaging just 5.5 innings per start (though he did throw 7 and 8 innings in his last two starts). If Hernandez keeps up that average and starts just nine more games, he would amass no more than 100 innings and would fall well short of qualifying for the ERA title even if he does keep up his "lead". Besides, he has never come close to a 2.08 ERA or striking out one man per inning. His career best ERA was 3.13 and is best strikeouts-per-nine-innings was 8.36 and both those stats came in 1998.
So maybe I am nuts but the thought that someone who pitched half a season plus one game could win the Cy Young is a compelling one. Although the Yankees would be happy if Hernandez remains a viable option as a postseason starter.
Pretty Singles All Ichiro
A single fiber does not make a thread, nor a single tree a forest.
—Ancient Chinese proverb, huh?
Single-mindedness is all very well in cows or baboons; in an animal claiming to belong to the same species as Shakespeare it is simply disgraceful.
—Aldous "Braves New World" Huxley
Mr. Spock: Were I to invoke logic, however, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Capt. Kirk: Or the one.
—The first time that Spock died ("I got better!"), in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Mr. Roarke
Steve Bonner's statistical look at Ichiro Suzuki's overreliance on singles that was inspired by my comments in the Joe Morgan chat, inspired me to take an historical look at the subject. Specifically, where does Ichiro fall in the litany of singles hitters? Were the players similar to him productive hitters?
I took the stats that Steve used and tweaked them somewhat. First, I took a look at the players with the highest percentage of hits that were singles. Here are the seasonal highs (based on 250 ABs):
So where are the players from today? OK (highest since 1990):
Not a great group of hitters. So where's Ichiro? He didn't make it:
Well, obviously something is lost when you compare across eras. Let's normalize by the seasonal average and re-run the numbers.
Oh, but first, here are the all-time lowest seasonal averages (singles per hits):
That's a considerably better group, though definitely not perfect one.
Now, here are the all-time highest adjusted seasonal totals:
Oopha, that's a considerably worse list. Any list headed by Wayne Tolleson is truly mining anemic offensive skills across eras well, at least in my book. By the way, the Pee Wee Reese season was his last full one and he registered an adjusted OPS of 46(!).
Yet again Ichiro just missed it.
By the way, here are the adjusted lowest singles to hits seasons:
Again, I'd say that this list is stronger than the previous one.
Anyway, let's next look at the career singles-to-hits ratios Min. 2000 ABs):
That's a pretty bad list—at least the recognizable names are pretty bad. What was saying before about Maury Wills not being a Hall-of-Famer? However, Ichiro is still better than the group (all stats through 2003):
By the way here are the lowest career-wise:
Now let's look at the adjusted career averages:
Ah, we have an Ichiro sighting, along with a pretty putrid batch of hitters. Here are the adjusted lows for comparison's sake:
So Ichiro is historically speaking extremely dependent on getting singles. However, I think there's one thing missing. Ichiro also is extremely reluctant to take a walk, a horrific combination. What if we took the portion of each player's on-base percentage represented by singles and compared it to the portion represented by everything else (extra base hits, walks, and times hit by a pitch)?
Well, here are the career worst according to that stat:
Again, this is peopled by lots of ye olde tyme players. Let's adjust for the era, but first the all-time best:
The adjusted career averages:
Now, that's a monumentally wretched list. Extra props to Neifi Perez for making it while playing the bulk of his career in cavernous Coors Field. That's giving 110%!
Next, the all-time best and then some final comments:
By the way, Bill Joyce was a power hitter at the turn of the last century, and Yank Robinson and Max Bishop were walk artists from years gone by.
OK, back to the previous list. Ichiro is 11th all-time. That means that only ten other men had substantial careers in the game and hit fewer extra base hits and walks (and HBP). Ichiro has cobbled together a career with singles, steals, and a great arm in right and basically nothing else. He has been just above water for most of the season. Should he lose any one of those skills as he ages, he is going to have a hard time keeping his job. Then again, he could always return to the Japanese leagues if they are still around.
Got A Flame In My Heart, Can't Get My Phil
Didn't take too long 'fore I found out, what people mean my down and out.
—Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog"
Jolted Joe weighs in on what is ailing the Phils. Surprise! It's typical Joe aphorisms: "Their dependence on the home run", they "strike out a lot", and "a lack of consistency, both at the plate and on the mound."
Those are far from what ails this team. Yes, the Phils are second in the NL in home runs to runs ratio, 27.1% which is behind the Cubs (29.8%). They are fourth in the NL in runs per games (5.04). However, that is all attributable to the home performance in their new band box. They are second in HR/R at home (29.3%) again behind the Cubs (32.7%). They are fifth in R/G at home (4.91). On the road the story is much different. They fall to eighth in road HR/R (24.3%) and sixth in R/G (4.90).
Note that the have scored about the same at home (4.91) as on the road (4.90) even though they have nine more home runs at home (78 to 69). So their offense must be more effective on the road, and yet they are three games better at home. Did Joe notice that they have been out-homered at home (78 to 82) and on the road (69 to 74)?
The real problem with the Phils offense is that they have some players not perform. They have a .319 OBP in the leadoff spot (13th in the NL) and .339 in the number 2 hole (9th). And the bottom of the order has been horrible (.716 OPS for number 7 hitters, 9th in the NL, and .684 for #8, also ninth). If the Phillies don't score in the middle of the order they may have to wait another three innings to get another chance.
As far as their pitching, they are twelfth in ERA (4.46) in the NL. And that's after leading the league the first month. If you think it's due to their ballpark, consider that they are 12th at home in ERA (4.21) but 14th on the road (4.73). Their pitching has been consistent, consistently bad. A lot of that is due to injured pitchers that were never replaced with decent pitching. A lot is due to Larry Bowa's reliance on pitchers that didn't deserve it (Roberto Horrendous and, sadly, Rheal Cormier).
The Phils real problem is that their management could not (or at least did not) go out and get help when they needed and that Larry Bowa misused the talent that he did have.
No worries though, the point of the piece was for Joe to rant on about the 1983 Phils, of which he was a member. The bulk of the team is on the so-called Wheeze Kids even though the only tie is that Pat Corrales was fired while in the pennant race, a tenuous one at best since Larry Bowa has yet to be fired (and even if he is, Corrales was fired with his team in first).
Joe still puzzles as to why Corrales was fired. The Phils were one game over .500 and were more than half-way through the season that's why. Corrales was also overusing the superannuated Pete Rose and Tony Perez at first, and Owens wanted to use young Len Matuszek more among other personnel issues.
Anyway, after this Joe starts talking about how managers influence young teams more than old and that's why Jack McKeon had such an influence over the Marlins last year. However, he has no explanation for why McKeon couldn't work his magic as the Marlins got younger this year.
He ends up devoting almost as much time on the 2004 Marlins as he does on the 2004 Phils, the putative subject of the piece. Besides, what is he saying, that the Phils should get older to be influenced less by Bowa? Or that firing Bowa wouldn't have mattered because they are a veteran team? Or is he just reminiscing? It would've been nice if he knew about the 2004 Phils at least a fraction of what he misremembers about the '83 Phils. But then again there are very few members of the Big Red Machine on the 2004 team, so why bother?
Burning the Midnight Hour
Steve Bonner over at The Midnight Hour took a closer look at Ichiro's numbers, a topic that cropped up at Joe Morgan's chat. Steve comes up with some great insights into how dependent Ichiro is on his ability to beat out groundball singles.
He compares Ichiro to a number of other batters based on batting average to percent of the "lift" above on-base percentage and by expressing each players hits as a percentage of extra base hits. I won't ruin Steve's final analysis but let's just say that Scratchiro may have a better future ahead of him in the game than the post-30 Ichiro.
Joe Fata Morgana Chat Day
The heaping together of paintings by Old Masters in museums is a catastrophe; likewise, a collection of a hundred Great Brains makes one big fathead.
—Carl "Don't Call Me Matt" Jung
Unemployment Office Clerk: Occupation?
Comicus: Stand up philosopher.
Comicus: Stand up philosopher. I coalesce the vapors of human existence into a viable and meaningful comprehension.
Clerk: Oh,a Bullshit artist.
—The great Mel "Hubie" Brooks' History of the World, Part One
Starting in the fifth century BC a group of teachers called Sophists who were weak on education and heavy on politics and fee-gathering—they were actually the first to accept payment for their wisdom—wondered Greece, taught rhetoric to would-be politicians, became celebrities, and hung out with Socrates and Euripides. They were sort of the political pundits of their time though they dabbled in philosophy since philosophers were the rock stars of their era. Witness So-crates in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure—"Much of the world looked like the cover of the Led Zeppelin album Houses of the Holy…It's was most Tranquil." I guess they were rat pack of their day with the emphasis on the Peter Lawford end of the spectrum.
One concept that was central to the sophists' pseudo-philosophy was not the search for truth, the muse of most philosophers of the day, but rather cognitive relativism. That is, the idea that truth is all relative, and not only is it open to interpretation but it allows even for spurious information. The sophists rather than being a school of philosophers were a class of professionals, who provided their pupils with their own brand of knowledge, like Oprah, Dr. Phil, or the Fox News Channel.
Not surprisingly, the Sophists were sought out by young would-be politicians seeking skills in persuading the masses through rhetoric. Sophists prided themselves in taking the worst option in a scenario and convincing their audience that it was the best. They taught convincingly that black was white and weren't you a ninny for thinking otherwise? They also taught that actual knowledge of the topic being discussed was not necessary. Just win the argument, baby! To that end, catching one's opponent in minor contradiction, confusing him with unrelated or false information, or even lowering oneself to verbal or physical abuse, so long as it won the argument, were all tools at a Sophist's disposal. They used metaphors and paradoxes that were inappropriate or misleading for the argument at hand and were just over-the-top smarmy, smug, and clever, which seemed to play well in the Peoria of the day.
The term Sophist was resurrected centuries later when it was applied to a class of eloquent professional orators. This dual role lives on in the legacy that they bequeathed to us. We are left with the word "sophistry", which means the "subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation" or "an argument apparently correct in form but actually invalid" (from Merriam-Webster online). But we also have "sophisticated" which "often implies refinement, urbanity, cleverness, and cultivation" though a loss of innocence or idealism is at its root.
Now, I am trying to avoid any parallels to things political, especially to any one party in particular, in this narrative even in this, an election year, no matter how apparent they might be, since I have raised the hackles of a few who would rather talk baseball (even as the country goes to heck in handbasket, whatever that means). Instead, let's apply the parallels aplenty to Joe Morgan and his last scatological chat.
Joe has gone over the edge. His elevator no longer goes to the top floor. He's non compus mentus. There's no other excuse for his latest spewings. Joe argues both ends of an argument against the middle in utter sophistry. I just hope that I can do him justice without having my head explode like that guy in Scanners. He blowed up real good! Well, at risk of personal injury, here we go:
Brian (Long Beach): Hi Joe -- I don't understand guys like Randy Johnson, Larry Walker, Charles Johnson, enforcing their no-trade clauses to remain on teams going nowhere. Don't they play this game to win? To win it all? Is moving teams that much of a deterrant to playing meaningful games?
Is that the only reason you play or do you play for the competition? If your theory is true, everyone should play for the Yankees. Randy thought he would finish his career in Arizona when he signed the contract. A couple years late they tell him maybe he should leave. He did not ask for a trade so we shouldn't be criticizing him. They asked him where he would want to go and he said the Yankees. You can't fault him for that. It was Arizona that changed their mind, not Randy.
[Mike: Way to support the players, Joe. Brian, how would you like it if you employer in Long Beach traded you to, say, Milwaukee, and oh, you start tomorrow. You work practically every day so you won't have much time to settle in. You can't meet you employers or colleagues beforehand. And you have no say in the matter.
And as far as the "If I made as much money as them, I wouldn't be a crybaby about it" argument, A) you will never be burdened with such a difficult decision since you will never command their salary, and B) they have the money AND the no-trade contract. That was something that was negotiated; otherwise, the salary could have been more. These players just want to stay with the horse that brought them. If they demanded a trade, they'd be criticized for that, too.]
Andrew (Tucson): Hey Joe, I know Nomar has been one of the top ballplayers since the mid-90's, but is he HOF material? Comparing the the big three shortstops: A-Rod, Jeter and Nomar; Jeter seems to be a lock as does A-Rod, but I'm not totally sold on Nomar. Is he more hype than reality due to playing in Boston for years?
You shouldn't be sold on any of the yet until they finish their career. I think you have to look at Nomar who has won a batting championship and his offense has been as good or better than Jeter. I think it's too early to say he is not a HOFer.
[Mike: Nomar owns an adjusted OPS 35% than the league average. Jeter, 22% better. Nomar is in just his 9th season and ten are required for Hall eligibility, so he's by no means a lock. Given a normal career path, they will both be Hall-of-Famers but let's let them finish up their careers before we vote.
If you had this argument re. Fred McGriff and Rafael Palmeiro eight years ago, who do you think would have won? McGriff, hands down. Today, the result would be completely different.]
Jake Fields (Los Angeles, CA): Joe, did the Mets make a mistake by trading their top prospects for guys like Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson? Or is it a plus for the Mets? I am a depressed Mets fan, how should I be feeling Joe about this??!!??
I can only give you my opinion and that's that I would not have made the trade.
[Mike: Right, and next time, Joe, no preamble is required. Of course, it's your opinion. There are no absolutes in trade evaluations, or at least they won't be for another 10-20 years.]
Mitch (Chicago, IL): In your recent column, you mentioned players get mentally down during the season. Sorry, but if I were making millions of dollars (thousands of dollar/plate appearance), there would be no way I'd be "mentally drowsy".
Well, if we are only going to decide on whether we get tired based on money, I'm not sure I see the correlation. When you are on the field, you aren't thinking about money. At least you shouldn't be. I'm not sure if you work 7 days a week or not, but no matter what you make, you would wear down at some point. Playing major league ball takes a toll on you mentally. Just the travel alone can wear you down.
[Mike: Again with the player bashing. Mitch, if you detest the players that much, then stop supporting the sport that pays them "millions of dollars (thousands of dollar/plate appearance)". It's entertainment. I'd rather pay money to see Barry Bonds perform than Julia Roberts. Guess who makes more money of the two.
Joe's right: the players are just human. I get tired after going away for the weekend.]
Juan (San Antonio): Hey Joe, I loved the episode of "Married...With Children" you did (where you kept referring to Al Bundy as "Al Birdie"). Anyway, did you have fun doing that spot? Also, how did you feel about the show parodying the 1994 baseball strike?
I loved doing the show. I wish I had a copy. I'm not sure what happened to mine. All the cast was great. I was there for almost a week and had a great time with all of them. I've done a few shows here and there but that was the most fun.
[Mike: I missed that one—must have been the Ted McGinley years. Anyway, here is Joe's illustrious acting career. It's not quite as impressive as Keith Hernandez's, Don Drysdale, or Barry Bonds, but what the hey.]
Kevin Maloney Yelm, WA: Ichiro is quietly putting together one of the best 2nd halfs in baseball histroy and is now a threat to break the single season hits record. I'm wondering how come no one is making a big deal out of this. The man went 3-6 yesterday and you don't even know that it happened. He is hitting .359 and nobody really knows. So are poeple gonna catch on?
Ichiro has always been one of my favorite players so I've noticed. But Seattle is 40-68 and that is why no one is noticing. What he is doing is not turning the team's situation around. He is just a great player.
[Mike: Ichiro is batting .474 since the break with a .496 OPS, 1.065 OPS in 116 ABs and has five stolen bases to two times caught stealing. The batting average is tremendous but he has had very little power and is too impatient to talk a BB. Therefore, his numbers look good but once the hacked singles stop dropping, so will his ratios. Witness the poor second-half splits over his career. His career second-half average is 52 points lower than in the first half. When Ichiro can keep it up for an entire season or learns to broaden his game, I'll be impressed.]
Eric, Freehold NJ: Joe, Do you think that an asterisk should be placed next to a player's record who has tested positive for steroids?
[Mike: Eric from Freehold? Didn't I see you in Federici's last week?
Anyway, Joe doesn't want to smear a player by placing an asterisk next to his name in the record books. Great. So why has he been trying to get the Hall of Fame board to ban them?]
Craig (Tucson, AZ): Hi Joe love your work. Hey I've heard of guys like Terry Pendleton moving up in the batters box when facing sinker-ball pitchers in order to get to the ball before it breaks. Why don't more guys move up in the batter's box on Mariano Rivera? Seems like that would be the perfect way to guard against that quick cutter.
Moving up on Rivera would not work. His cut fastball sinks right over the plate. You should move up on sinker, curve ball and change up. You cant move up on a cutter because it just cuts too late. People have tried everything against Rivera's cutter but he is just the best at what he does. You have to hope he makes a mistake.
[Mike: So how about moving back in the box? The batter's box is basically obliterated after the leadoff hitter has his hacks anyway.]
Rob (chicago): With the ChiSox getting Roberto Alomar, is that really going to help them. Do you think that they can still make a push for the Division?
He can't hurt! He knows how to play and has been on winning teams before. He brings experience and knowledge. But they did the same thing last year and then let him go. I think his winning attitude will certainly help.
[Mike: Yeah, it sure helped the Mets. Getting Alomar is déjà vu all over again for the Pale Hose. Between Juan Uribe and Willie Harris, the Sox had second base pretty well covered. Their OPS at second base (.768) is fifth in the AL, not great but not bad either. It just seemed like a move for the sake of making a move. Sure, the Sox were 45-34 after getting Alomar last year, but he had very little to do with it (.253/.330/.340/.670 in 253 at-bats). Don't be fooled by his D-Backs stats: Almoar is a very different player than he was three years ago.]
Craig: London, England: Joe: Long time fan of yours. Regarding Barry Bonds, do you think his OBP over the last 3.5 years is even more impressive than his career HR totals?
Offhand, I would say no. The HRs create his on-base percentage because he gets walked so much. They go hand in hand. As a player you think OBP is more important but they do go hand in hand. He wouldn't be getting walked so much without those HRs.
[Mike: To quote Hugh Grant in About a Boy, "London, England, the World, the Universe."
Joe, how can you not be more impressed by the OBPs? Three in the top 10 all-time, including the single-season record (.582 in 2002). And now he is looking to obliterate that with the first qualifying .600 OBP on record, oh my god! Yes, 73 home runs are quite impressive, but his other season totals have not been as impressive. That is mostly due to pitches avoiding throwing strikes to him which results in more walks and therefore, a higher OBP. The amazing story of Bonds over the last few years is told in his record-setting OBP.]
Eric Belin, New Orleans: Can the Rangers win the AL West on the back of their bullpen?
At the beginning of the season I thought the Angels were the best in the West. But they don't have the same confidence now. The As have been impressive of late. It's somebody different everyday getting it done. You have to like Oakland right now. I think they will win the division. It should be a good race though. I'm proud of what Texas has done because they really picked themselves up after A-Rod and have played great ball.
[Mike: Joe, ATFQ! Can the Rangers win the AL West on the back of their bullpen? No, their pen is very important, but really when they are used less than half the innings, don't you think offense and starting pitching are inhrently more important?
The team has a collective .697 OPS so far in the second half (221/.292/.405). Since the break, Young has a .690 OPS, Blalock has a .508 OPS and is batting .161. Meanwhile, their opponents are batting .288 and have an OPS 100 points higher than the Rangers.
The Rangers starting rotation is reeling in the second half. Kenny Rogers has an ERA (6.21) that is exactly two runs higher than in the first half and has gone from a 12-3 to a 1-2 record. Ryan Drese has been great (4-1 2.61), but no one else has been on the rotation consistently. Their pen has been good, but how much can it do?]
Jeff (Cleveland): I read the recent articles on ESPN.com regarding the umpiring. Do you feel the umpires have become to "visible" during the games, or is this more a factor of an increase in complaining by the players and managers. Also, what is the accountablility for umpires. The other night in the Indians game v. the Blue Jays, an umpire called a ball that was clearly a strike. Are they reprimanded for costing a team the game with a bad call? Thanks!
I don't think you can ever lump all umpires together. Some are more confrontational than others and some are more visible. I have a problem with umps at times but other times I think they are doing a great job. It's a tough profession so that's just natural. It's not easy to be an umpire.
[Mike: These sorts of things are cyclical. The umps got uppity when they were headed by Richie Phillips, but after his disastrous downfall, they were quite humbled and seemed happy just to have the job (actually some didn't for a while). Now, the pendulum has swung back. They are sick of being stuck between the players and QuesTec. The commissioner's office, having gotten rid of the league presidents, now oversees them. Expect them to keep the umps in line. All umps are graded by their performance including calling balls and strikes by the way.]
Samar (Philadelphia PA): Page 2 has a list of songs PA announcers play for current players before at bats. What would your song be?
You know what, I think I would use Start It Up.
[Mike: A Tribe Called QuestA Tribe Called Quest, eh? I would've thought you'd like "Da Booty" from them, but then again, what do I know?
My song would be an old Dead Kennedys number called "Too Drunk to…"—Never mind.]
Dave (Houston): Good morning Joe, what exacly is wrong with marlins this year??? the major injury they have is the josh beckett and they only lost urbina and putde to free agency. they still have most of the team from last year. it looks like they wont even be in the playoffs this year?? whats your thought on the fish??
I guess you need to look a little closer. They lost Ivan Rodriguez, a leader, they lost Lee who was a big RBI guy, they lost Encarnacion who drove in 90 runs. Their problem has been scoring runs.
[Mike: Even when Joe's right, he's wrong. Yes, the Marlins are way down in runs scored. They are twelve in the NL in runs scored this year. They were an unspectacular eighth in 2003. They were tied for tenth in ERA last year; this year they are 11th. Not great, but at least consistent.
Joe rightly points to the void at catcher when Pudge left or rather was forced to leave Florida. But they don't miss him as a leader. They miss his bat. Florida catchers produced an .808 OPS last year; this year they are almost 200 points below that at .618.
Without Lee the OPS for Marlin first basemen dropped slightly from .867 to .807. But you can’t blame the his replacement Choi. Compare their numbers: Lee .271/.379/.508/.887 and Choi .270/.388/.495/.883. They are remarkable similar. Blame the Marlin bench. Consider that the Marlin pinch-hitters batted .250 with a .704 OPS last year and are batting .167 with a .529(!) OPS this year.
As for Encarnacion, he's back, Joe. And he was the one Marlin last year who really deserved to go this year. Marlin right fielders had a .748 OPS last year and with the Miguel Cabrera upgrade this year, they have registered a .897 OPS this year.
The problem with the Marlins is that they just weren't all that good last year. They were good enough to sneak into the playoffs and had a balanced enough team that good hot for the playoffs. They have gotten slightly worse this year in enough positions and fell off the face of the earth. Last year, they beat their opponents in OPS in seven out of eight positions in the batting order (all but #2); that is, take the Marlins cumulative number 5 batter and compare their stats against the cumulative opponents' #5. This year they win just four out of eight and the bottom of the order is killing them (they lose at 2, 5, 7, and 8).]
Mark, CT: Mr. Morgan: Thanks for considering this question. As your Reds teams were one of the all-time greats, do you (and your former teammates) ever feel regret about not having won more World Series titles? Are there certain years you look back on as years you perhaps should have won?
You always wish you would have won more. But it's hard to regret winning two when guys like Ernie Banks never won any. There are many guys in the HOF who never won. So yes, I think we were good enough to win more but two is pretty good. I'm happy.
I would have been very disappointed with just one. We were the best team for a long time and we lost two and won two. To win just one would have been very disappointing.
Correction, with the Reds I won 2 out of 3 .. lost one with Philadelphia.
[Mike: So two are OK, but one would suck. Who doesn't believe that if Joe won three, that would be OK and two would suck.
As for We were the best team for a long time, Joe joined the Reds in 1972. They lost the World Series that year to a pretty good team, the A's. The Reds were two games better than the A's but one game worse that the Pirates and three worse than the A's in Pythagorean record. In 1973, they were two games better than the O's and five better than the A's, but were considerably worse than both teams in Pythagorean record, and of course, lost to the pathetically mediocre Mets that year. In 1974, they were four games behind the Dodgers in the actual standings and 10 in the Pythagorean standings. They won in 1975 and '76. However, in '76 they led the Phils by just one game in the actual standings and trailed them by one in the Pythagorean standings. They finished second in 1977-78. In 1979, they again won the division, but were 8 games worse than the Pirates. And then Joe returned to the Astros.
To sum up, the Reds have a very good case that they were the best team in 1975 and 76, their two championship years. They have a decent argument in 1973 if you ignore the Pythagorean standings. That doesn’t really support the "best for a long time" argument, however.]
Charlie (Hickory, NC: Hey Joe, Can you tell what is wrong with Barry Zito? Where has the swagger gone? Thanks
Ray Fosse is the A's radio guy and a good friend of mine. His opinion is that he is making bad pitches with the fastball. He is getting it in the hitters zone instead of the pitchers zone. He looks good but he's just making mistakes. I've seen him hanging the curveball of late. Pitch location is the problem right now.
[Mike: It's great that a baseball analyst can't formulate his own opinions but rather has to co-opt someone else's. Can't he analyze Zito's swagger.
Zito's problems actually go back two years. Last year, his stats look good on the service (14-12, 3.30 ERA), but if you dig deeper, you'll find that his strikeout ratio fell considerably from 7.14 to 5.67 per nine innings. His strikeout to walk ratio fell from 2.33 to 1.66. His ratios have actually improved this year (6.49 and 1.78) though they are still not great. His problem is that he is giving up an ungodly number of hits now. Last year his WHIP was his usual low (1.18) even with the extra walks, but this year it's an uncharacteristic 1.52.
So Zito's problems started when Peterson was still around. And aren't so straight forward. I think that batters stopped swinging at the big curve altogether because they realized that it was completely unhittable. The strikeouts dropped and the walks went up slightly. He then tried to force the change and fastball in more, neither of which is nearly as impressive as his curveball and are considerably less effective if the curveball isn't getting men out. He hangs a few curveballs or can't place the slow fastball, and then he gives up homers and hits aplenty. I, also, think that's why he's been wildly streaky this year. Witness his monthly ERAs: 6.83 in April, 3.18 in May, 3.65 in June, 5.97 in July, and 5.40 in one August start.]
Rick(Pierre): During the last game of the '76 season, Ken Griffy Sr. was 3 points ahead of Bill Matlock for the batting crown. Rumor is that you suggested that he sit during the game (which eventually lost him the batting title). Any truth to that?
That is correct. Matlock sat on Saturday and didn't play in hopes that Griffey would go 0-4 and he did. I suggested he not play on Saturday since Matlock wasn't playing. I felt if Matlock wasn't playing then he shouldn't play. Griffey played a lot more games that season than Matlock. But then I felt he should have played the last day!
That's one of the things that bothers me still. Griffey deserved to be the batting champ that year. I wish I would have exerted more energy to get him to sit that Saturday that Matlock didn't play.
[Mike: Boy, that's a great story. It would be even better if there were a shred of truth to it. First, it was "Madlock" as in Bill Madlock, not "Matlock" as in John Matlack.
Second, Madlock didn't miss any time in the final weekend. He did take a week off after getting mugged September 24 and suffering a concussion. He was ahead of Griffey .336 to .332 at the time. When he returned October 1, he was behind .339 to .336.
On Friday, October 1, Madlock went 1-for-4 againts the Expos to drop to .335. Griffey stayed at .339 with a 1-for-3 day agiants Dick Ruthven and the Braves. Griffey 4 points ahead.
Madlock not only played Saturday (October 2), he went 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI against Dan Warthen and the 'Spos, dropping to .333. Madlock started the game at third and batted his usual third. Joe is talking out of some orifice other than his mouth when he says otherwise. Meanwhile, Griffey similarly went 0-for-3 with a walk as Phil Niekro shut out the Reds, not 0-4 as Joe reported. He dropped to .338. Griffey was now five points ahead.
On the final day of the season (Sunday, October 3), Griffey did sit with the five-point lead, but was enlisted as a pinch-hitter and right fielder in the 11-1 pasting. He struck out both times up and ended up the season at .336. Meanwhile, Madlock went 4-for-4 with two runs and an RBI, raising his average to .339, as the Cubs beat the Expos 8-2. Had Griffey sat out the entire game, he still would have lost (.339 to .338).
I'm actually curious as to why Griffey entered the game at all. He pinch-hit for Driessen with Rose at first and no outs in the seventh. The Reds were leading 3-0 at the time. Frank LaCorte, the starter, was still in. He was a right-hander. Driessen was a left-handed batter as was Griffey. Rose scored on a Perez triple after Griffey struck out. The Reds led 4-0 in a meaningless game. Griffey stayed in the game in right field, bumping Ed Armbrister to left to replace Driessen. The Reds had regular left fielder George Foster on the bench still. He would be used in the bottom of the ninth to pinch-hit for Joe Morgan himself. Morgan had entered the game earlier that inning as a pinch-runner for Mike Lum, but the Reds batted around scoring 7 runs in the inning and when Joe's spot was due up Foster went in. Foster then played center field in the ninth and caught two balls in the inning.
The Reds game took 2:33 and was played in Cincinnati. The Pirates were in Montreal and their game took 1:57. Both cities are in the Eastern time zone. Let's assume Madlock got his fourth hit in the sixth, passing Griffey. Rob Sperring then pinch-hit for Madlock in the eighth and replaced him at third base.
Now, let's break this down by at-bat. When the day started Griffey led Madlock .3375 to .33333. After Madlock singled (on a bunt) in the first, Madlock trailed by three points at .335 (actually .334637965). Madlock singled again in the third and trailed by two points (actually, Griffey led by .0012
It's difficult to say when Griffey got into the game. Was it at this point or after Madlock collected his last hit? Either way, Griffey had sat out the day thinking he had the batting title won. It wasn't until losing the title became a real possibility that he entered the game. Meanwhile, Madlock bunted his first time up with men on first and second and none out to get an infield single. I don't know if Mad Dog meant to sacrifice himself or was trying to get a hit. It seems odd to sacrifice in the first with no outs, but they did that back then. Had Madlock sacrificed and then gone 3-for-3 and Griffey had sat out the game, he would have lost the title by .000268.
By the way, Griffey played 148 games (including the cameo in the final game) and Madlock, 142. I wouldn't call 6 games a lot more.
Both Griffey and Madlock sat out part of the final game after they thought they had the title sewn up. Griffey miscalculated clearly, but if Madlock left prior to Griffey's final at-bat (keep in mind he was the sixth batter due up in the 8th with a 4-0 Red lead), then he misjudged as well. But to say that "Griffey deserved to be the batting champ that year", you either have to have absolutely no credibility or be on drugs or both. I can't say which applies to Joe, but he screwed up every detail except that he was teammates with Ken Griffey at the time. Good job, Joe!]
Elaine (San Diego): So Joe, you are admitting that you were concerned about an individual record instead of what was good for the team? Wow.
We had already won the championship. We had cinched the division and were getting ready for the playoffs. I took that Sat. off as well so we would be fresh for the playoffs.
[Mike: Hey, empty titles don't bother Joe even if he has to create a slew of lies that would make Karl Rove blush to posthumously give the title to his friend.]
Dennis, Santa Clarita, CA: Well, the Dodgers "chemistry" seems to be in tact after the trade (5-1) and now starting to put some distance between themselves and San Francisco (who seem to be in real trouble) and San Diego. D you still think the trade was ultimately bad or could we see the return of Dodgers-Yankees in the series?
I never said the trade was bad. I thought they were a better team before the trade than after. They got some good players but I just thought they were a better team before. We'll have to wait and see but I still feel the same way. I"m not hung up on chemistry as much as leadership.
[Mike: I know that this is an election year Joe, but what the hex does that doublespeak mean? It wasn't a bad trade but they were worse afterward, huh? There's nothing positive in what you've said about it. For crissake, the article you wrote about it was titled, "Low Trade Grade for LA". What am I missing? Pure sophistry, through and through.
And as far as your not being "hung up on chemistry as much as leadership", for the record here's what you said about the trade:
"I was surprised at the moves made by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their trades were the most questionable. I don't think the Dodgers are a better team today than they were before the deadline…Many observers are questioning how the Dodgers' chemistry will be affected now that the team leader, catcher Paul Lo Duca, has been dealt away… I spoke with some of the San Francisco Giants players after the trades, and they're happy with LA's moves… DePodesta's deals are a calculated risk, because they disturb something that was going well. "
You mentioned chemistry not leadership in the article. More sophistry. By the way the Dodgers are 7-3 since the trade. They were 2-1/2 games ahead when the trade was made and are now 6-1/2 ahead.]
Joel Rivera Moca Puerto Rico: Do u think Roberto Alomar is has three or four years to play?
I can't make that judgement, it's up to the player to decide that. One of the most difficult things to do is decide when enough is enough. Players make so much more money now and it's hard to walk away from that. I'm not sure what his thought is on that right now. But he's been a great player for a long time.
[Mike: It all depends on how desperate teams are for once-great second basemen. It most certainly is not "up to the player to decide that." Not when said player has had as many bad years (two) in a row as Alomar has at his age (36).]
Humor In Multiform: The Hall of Fame
Joe, Maryland: Do you consider Rafael Palmerio a HOFer? Also Do think 550 homers is the new 500?
500 is 500. No matter what we say about it being easier, it's still not easy. You have to be really consistent to hit 500 HRs. I try to avoid the HOF question when I guy is still playing. I am Vice Chairman of the Board so I try not to give my opinion too often. Other than Maury Wills, who should already be in the Hall. He has left the Writers's Ballot and is on the Veteran's Ballot so I can talk about him.
[Mike: Do think 550 homers is the new 500? No, but green is the new pink.
Anyway, I've finally discovered why Joe cannot answer a straight question: I am Vice Chairman of the Board so I try not to give my opinion too often. That's rich. I'm going to use it. Everyone try it at your place of work:
"Johnson, the generator is going to blow! What do you think we should do?"
"Well, as the chairman of the board, I try not to give my opinion too often. Aaaaaagghh!"
And Maury Wills is the new Dave Concepcion. I guess the opinion poll on Concepcion wasn't very favorable so now Joe is mentioning Wills whenever the topic of the Hall arises. There are literally dozens of better candidates for the Hall than Wills (I covered this last time). I'm not even sure if he's better than Concepcion.]
Tony (Macon): Do you think Leo Mazzone deserves to get in the Hall of Fame?
That's an interesting question. Coaches don't get much consideration. I don't get to vote for the HOF, that's writers. Leo, as I said a lot of times, is the best pitching coach I've ever had the chance to sit and talk with. He's proven it time and time again. But I'm not sure how much weight he carries with the writers.
I try not to comment on the players because if I say one guy belongs people think that means another guy doesn't. And that's not what I'm saying.
[Mike: I don't get to vote for the HOF, that's writers . What?!? Joe, you are, as you often remind us the vice chairman of the board at Cooperstown, and you don’t know the voting rules?!? The baseball writers don't vote for non-players. The vets do, and you yourself voted in the last go-round using a veterans committee ballot with many non-players on it.]
Humor In Multiform: The Postseason
John (Cubs): With the Cubs getting Nomar, what do you think their chances are to make it to the post season? If so, can they make the World Series?
Anyone that makes the postseason can make it to the WS, you just have to get hot at the right time in the short series. Getting to the playoffs is the priority. With that staff, assuming they are all healthy, can go far. Nomar is important because they need offense. But it's still about the health of Sammy and those pitchers.
[Mike: Ok, Remember what Joe said: Anyone that makes the postseason can make it to the WS, you just have to get hot at the right time in the short series.
(Oh, and Sosa is still a great player but aren't Nomar, Ramirez, Lee, and even Todd Walker more important to the offense this year?). But to quote Nigel Tufnel, "That's nitpicking, isn’t it?"]
Chris, NY: Joe - Should the Yankees be concerned come October about starting pitching?
Yes, because the Yankees won championships with dominant pitching and good offense and defense. Their pitching is not as dominant, the offense isn't quite as good, etc. They don't have guys like Clemens, Pettitte, that dominant guy.
[Mike: OK, here's what Joe had to say about Torre last week:
I would never, and I mean never, question Torre's handling of his team. He knows them better than I do. He has won four championships so it's hard to question him.
The Yankees have had plenty of injuries to their staff this year. But if they have Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, and Javier Vazquez healthy, they are OK. By the way, their offense is third in runs in the league and second in OPS. And that's without Jason Giambi most of the year.
But, OK, their pitching is just sixth in ERA in the AL. But didn't Joe just say, "Anyone that makes the postseason can make it to the WS..."?
Wait, he contradicts himself again…]
Matt (Houston): If the Cubs make it in the post season, do they become the instant favorites regardless of the Cardinals record? To me, the Cardinals mirror the 116 win Mariners in which it looks like they were built for the long haul and not a short series, whereas the Cubs look like the opposite.
That is some kind of philosophy that has come up lately, being built for the long haul. I'm not sure I understand that. If you have dominant pitching in a short series you will be successful. But if you don't have that it doesn't mean you can't win. The Angels did it.
Many people said the Yankees were built for the postseason because of their No. 1 and 2 pitchers and Rivera in the bullpen. But the Marlins won it without have a really dominant guy during the season. There isn't any perfect scenario for postseason. Ideally you want to have two dominant starters like the D-Backs had and a good closer. That is a great situation but you can still win without it.
[Mike: So now he says that if you don't have dominant pitching "it doesn't mean you can't win." But didn’t he just say that the Yankees have to be concerned because of their pitching?
[T]he Marlins won it without have a really dominant guy during the season? Josh Beckett had a 3.04 ERA in 24 starts and struck out 152 in 142 innings. That's pretty dominant.
Joe finally admits, "There isn't any perfect scenario for postseason." That's the intelligent thing he said on the topic in three entries.]
Humor In Multiform: Joe and Billy, Billy Beane, Billy Beane. They got a thing goin' on…
Roger: Why do you dislike and misrepresent Billy Beane so often?
I don't dislike Billy. He wrote his thoughts, not me, in that book. My only thought on the A's is they have never won anything other than the division. They have lost five years now in the first round. That is my only concern.
[Mike: Anyone reading this should know that a) Billy Beane did not write Moneyball. Michael Lewis did. And b) Joe Morgan had accused Beane of writing it on numerous occasions last year. That would constitute a misrepresntation.
Also, the A's have lost four, not five, times in a row in the first round. How many times has Bobby Cox lost in the first round, and he's your idol. Cox has lost in the first round for the past four straight seasons and eight times in total with the Braves and Jays.]
Jimmy (West Allis, WI): Joe- Billy Beane did NOT write his thoughts in any book. He did not write Moneyball! He cannot be responsible for Michael Lewis (the author) and what he writes. I bet over the years your thoughts and quotes haven't always been presented by writers exactly as you've wanted. Please reconsider your response about Billy Beane.
First of all, the quotes in there were of Billy Beane talking to other GMs with Lewis in the room. That is a baseball no-no. I talked to some of the GMs he talked to and they didn't know Lewis was in the room. I don't have a problem with Billy it's just my philosophy differs. We are on opposite ends but that doesn't mean I don't like him. I said you can't win the postseason unless you can manufacture runs. You can't wait for the 3-run homer. The teams that have won like the Angels, Yankees, D-Backs, Marlins, they are all as I described. They can steal bases, bunt guys over, hit and run, do something to create runs. Billy's philosphy is to not bunt, not steal, all those things. We just differ. I don't have anything against him though. I just don't think his way works. If Billy's way turns out to win the next couple WS's, then that would be great. Tony La Russa told me the other day that nothing has changed in this game in over 100 years. He's right. That just doesn't seem to be Billy's philosophy. He obviously doesn't agree with me, does that mean he doesn't like me?
[Mike: Note how Joe simply glosses over the question avoiding the fact that Beane "did not write Moneyball!" by bringing up an unrelated topic, that he allowed sacrosanct quotes from other GMs to be heard by the distinctly non-GM-ish ears of Michael Lewis. Egads! Pure sophistry. Joe even gives a clue with, "[I]t's just my philosophy differs." He's laughing at us, isn't he? Curse you, Joe Morgan!
Going back to our postseason discussion, Joe now adds this gem, his fourth contradictory postseason aphorism, to the mix, "[Y]ou can't win the postseason unless you can manufacture runs." It's Billy Beane defense. He uses it like kryptonite to thwart Beane at every turn. Of course, you can't get shut out and win in the postseason, but what happened to his ideal of two dominant starters and a closer? Isn't that what the A's having been doing aplenty? So what else is there but Beane, who Joe clearly does not respect, if he doesn't dislike, to set the A's apart?
But he'll let Billy Beane off the hook if the A's win the next couple of World Series. How magnanimous!
And then there's this: Tony La Russa told me the other day that nothing has changed in this game in over 100 years. What is he talking about?!? In 1904, there were eight teams and no divisions in each league. There was no wild card, interleague baseball nor DH. Attendance was under 10,000 per game. A trip to Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati was a road trip into the west. The mound was 15 inches high. Pitchers could throw all sorts of spit and scuff balls. Baseballs did not yet have a cork in them. There was no sac fly rule. Interference was only called on catchers. The strike zone was much bigger. Fielders left their gloves on the field when they were at bat. Triple- and Double-A did not exist. And batters did not wear helmets.
In 1904 Harry Lumley led the NL in homers with nine and Kid Gleason led the NL with 35 sacrifice bunts. In the AL Harry Davis (10) and Fielder Jones (36) led in those categories. Christy Mathewson started 46 games to lead the NL; Jack Chesbro led the AL with 51. He also led the majors with 48 complete games. There were 12 saves awarded in the AL posthumously in 1904. The league leader had 3. Iron Joe McGinnity led the NL with 35 wins AND 5 saves. He also led with 408 innings pitched. Chesbro tops that with 454.2.]
In closing, I just want to say again that I have nothing against Billy Beane personally. I've never disliked anyone ... well, I take that back, one of my managers with the Astros I disliked .. but I can disagree without disliking someone. I will continue to disagree with his philosophy until he wins more than 1 championship and shows that there is a new way of winning championships. I would build a team differently than Billy. That's all.
[Mike: Well, it's easy to disagree with someone's philosophy when you espouse four or five contradictory believes at the same time.
So again, Joe won't respect Beane until he has as many rings as Joe: 2 championships. Of course, building a contender with considerably less money then the Red Sox and the Yankees in one of the tougher divisions in baseball and staying a contender for five years earns Beane no points with Joe.
Joe ends on a deliciously ironic note: I would build a team differently than Billy. That's all. That's great! We all know Joe would build a team on chemistry, leadership, truth, justice, and the American way.
By the way, his Houston Astros managers were: Bill Virdon, Harry Craft (technically they were the Colt .45s), Lum Harris, Grady Hatton, and Harry "The Hat" Walker. I wonder which one he hated.]
Humor In Multiform: Epliogue (A Quinn Martin Production)
Laura, Mineola NY: Joe, as always you are my baseball idol. Your color commentary on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball is excellent. But I'm curious, could you ever see yourself doing the play-by-play? Is it more difficult or not as fun? And why is it that a lot of play-by-play guys are people who never played professionally? Just wondering...thanks!
I did play by play for the GiantsVision for about five years. I enjoy being an analyst more than play by play. You get a chance to see more as an analyst and try to help bring the fans closer to the game.
[Mike: Oh my, Socrates was poisoned for corrupting the youth far less than Joe's analysis does. Bring those fans closer to the game. Closer! Closer! "Any closer and I'd be in back of you." (Groucho Marx).
Good night and god bless.]
Jones Blows Lead On Gay Night
I just have to say that I find it hilarious that Todd Jones, the man who came out against openly homosexual teammates, gave up the winning runs tonight (his first as a Phillie) on "Gay Community Night with the Phillies". Of the eight men Jones faced, three got hits, including a homer, one was hit by a pitch, one was intentionally walked, and three scored.
I wonder if his excuse will be that he felt a bit uncomfortable given the circumstances and that caused his poor performance. Maybe they were the ones booing him off the mound in his first appearance at home.
The Phils replaced the injured mediocrity of Kevin Millwood with the healthy putrescence of Cory Lidle, whom they acquired from the Reds, happily, for two Single-A prospects. The Phils must have felt lucky because on Sunday Lidle won his first game since June 30. Of course his 7.48 ERA in five starts since the break isn't all that awe-inspiring.
Then again, the Phils have had the estimable Paul Abbott in their rotation for quite some time, he of the 9.16 second-half ERA. Millwood actually had started to turn his year around in the second half with a 3-1 record and 3.77 ERA. Vincente Padilla is set to come off the DL for the first time since May 29, so I guess one has to assume that the Phils are better off with Padilla and Lidle or with Millwood and Abbott. Millwood and Padilla would probably be the best option, but that's not a possibility now.
The Phils' season is rapidly unwinding even as they successfully finish up their longest road trip of the season. After starting the trip 1-6 including a four-game by sweep at the hands of the Marlins and with Larry Bowa's job supposedly on the line, the Phils screwed up and finished up the trip 5-1. However, the didn’t gain any ground on the Braves in the NL East though they did gain a game and a half and one place in the wild card standings.
So a hot streak that got them to fourth, three games out in the wild card, the Phils are left with the estimable Bowa as manager and have now have lost Burrell for the year and Millwood and have replaced them with Lou Collier (really) and now Cory Lidle. I can't wait for the offseason housecleaning to commence.
On Saturday the Devil Rays beat the Mariners 2-1 in ten innings on a walk-off obstruction call, and even for an obstruction call, it was an odd one.
With one out, the Rays had the bases loaded. Carl Crawford, who had singled, was on third. Aubrey Huff, who had been walked intentionally after a Julio Lugo sacrifice, was on second. Rico Baldelli, who had walked on four pitches, was on first. Tino Martinez was at the plate. Clint Nageotte, who came in with two outs in the ninth, was pitching. Martinez hit a 2-2 pitch to left. The ball wasn't particularly deep, and Crawford returned quickly to third after feinting a run at the plate. It seemed that play would continue with Jose Cruz, the next batter, coming to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded.
However, Paul Emmel, the third base umpire, signaled Crawford home. Apparently, shortstop Jose Lopez ran over to third and started to lean in front of Crawford, obscuring his view of the catch so that he wouldn't know when to start for home. I say "apparently" because only one of the replay angles even caught a glimpse of Lopez. But that one did show him listed for to his left.
It's difficult to say whether Lopez's lindy had any effect on the play. Sure, he had no business going near third on the play, but it certainly seemed that Crawford scoring was a low-percentage play. But the Rays got the win. Seattle manager Bob Melvin came out and argued but to no avail. He even argued the call when he came out to exchange lineup cards in the next day's game, drawing an ejection before the game even started.
OK, let's set aside whether Lopez was trying to obscure Crawford's view and whether Crawford would have been able to score. Or even if Crawford could have just turned to his third-base coach to determine when and if to go. My question is whether it qualified as obstruction.
Here's the definition of obstruction and the rule concerning its use:
OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner. If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.
It boils down to whether Lopez "impede[d] the progress of any runner". I don't think you can say that he impeded Crawford. That's not to say that calling it obstruction was out of line with the intent of the rule. Nor am I saying that there is no precedent for the call. I just couldn't find one. I am also not saying that even without precedent, the interpretation of the rule was outside the ump's purview. It was at worst a creative interpretation.
What I am saying is that the obstruction rule doesn't work as was made eminently clear in the Red Sox-A's series last year. It's high time for the rule to be re-written in a way that actually makes sense, but baseball is more concerned with things like Barry Bonds' steroid use and determining homefield advantage in the World Series based on an exhibition than with actually straightening out their own rules.
Who Wins, Part 3—Let's Get Small: Does Small Ball Help Teams Win?
Chris Beatty (Denver): Joe, I hope this isn't too sensitive, but you seem to be disgruntled about the way the game is played today. I notice during your broadcasts you refer often to the way the game used to be and seem let down by modern "changes," such as the overattention paid to the almighty home run, the lack of teams playing "small ball," etc. You compare the present players to the old-timers in an almost distainful [sic] way, as if the present-day players contribute less in some way to the ever evolving world of baseball (with few of your personal favorites excepted, such as Bonds, Griffey, etc.). Can you please respond to this and straighen me out if i'm "off-base?" Thanks a bunch.
Joe Morgan: The game is different today, Chris. IF baseball would have started in 1920 and only cared about the home run. It wouldn't be the great sport it is today. One of the reasons the fans love the game, is because they like to think along with the manager, play the manager, second guess the manager. When you just stand the big guys in the batter's box there is no thinking along with the manager. It's just a home run contest.
I've said it before. I will say it again -- Willie Mays is the greatest player ever. I enjoy a lot of the players today. But the game is different. IF this is the way you like it, great. But in my opinion, there is much more to the game than hitting the ball out of the park.
—May 16, 2003
Next in our ongoing quest for what winning teams do well, I would like to sift through the fossil record and evaluate the case for "Small Ball".
That's sound great, but it's not as straightforward as it sounds. For example, how can you measure how well a team plays hit-and-run? How about moving a runner from first to second by hitting behind him? And what the heck is small ball anyway?
Baseball statistics are just not kept for such things. This makes studying small ball a rather abstract and subjective evaluation. There is some evidence that remains in the statistical record: sacrifice bunts (but not bunt attempts), sacrifice flies, stolen bases and times caught stealing. And how well teams move runners along and play hit-and-run can be evaluated by the number of times they ground into a double play.
Of course, there are some things that aren't measured very well: how often a runner goes from first to third on a single, when a batter fails to move a runner along and instead forces him out, etc. And given that the term "small ball" is a catchall that means different things to different people, how do we even define our weigh our terms.
Well, given the rough terrain, I still decided to forge ahead. First, I defined a new, derived stat that I'll call the "small ball" factor. It will consist of total bunts, sac flies, and stolen bases minus GIDP and caught stealing. The stat is made more problematic because baseball hasn't consistently recorded all of these stats until relatively recently. I'll agree this isn't a perfect solution but it does measure many of the components usually discussed when the topic of "small ball" is mentioned.
Next, we will take this new stat normalized by total plate appearance for a given team and compare it against the team's winning percentage. Does doing these things well spell victory? Let's see.
Here are the correlation coefficients for the small ball percentage for all time and per decade:
That's not very encouraging. There appears to be very little correlation between playing small ball well and winning.
OK, maybe we're shortchanging our new stat by lumping all years together. Maybe we need to adjust for era. Next, we'll adjust the small ball stat by the major-league average for the given year. Here are the results:
That's not much better.
However, it could be that small ball's advantages are not apparent when one looks at a team's entire record. Perhaps small ball's affect only shows up in very circumscribed scenarios. To quote Mel Bernstein in Scarface, "There's an answer to that, too, Tony."
Let's take our adjusted small ball stat and compare it against the team records in various situations that Baseball-Reference.com has conveniently summarized for us. Those scenarios are one-run ballgames in general, low-scoring games (five or fewer total runs), one-run games with low overall scores, and "save" situations (won by three or fewer runs) with low overall scores. I also calculated the expected winning percentage for the above situations based on runs for and against run through the Pythagorean formula and compared those with the small ball stat.
Here are the results:
Those situations correlate worse to playing small ball than overall team record do. This probably is due to the variability in the smaller sample size, but it sure does not support small ball's correlation to winning in those situations.
So what does this tell us about small ball? I see no correlation between successfully employing strategies generally considered to be part of small ball and winning ballgames. That does not mean that bunting in the ninth inning of a tie ballgame is a bad thing. In-game situations may call for certain strategies. However, excessive use of these strategies apparently does not guarantee success.
Now, maybe my definition for small ball and the small ball factor is flawed. If you can devise a better definition, I’ll run the numbers. Maybe the statistical record is too inherently flawed to support any real conclusions.
However, I think there is some solid evidence that we baseball fans have been sold a bill of goods for years where "small ball" is concerned. And it's time to use what evidence we have to defend ourselves.
Selig Him Short?
Apparently, the owners are ready to offer Bud Selig an extension. My first thought was, who'll reset Doug Pappas counter.
Not so long ago, it seemed ludicrous that he would even fulfill his current contract let alone get an extension. This is the man whose watch witnessed a season-ending strike and the only year without a World Series since 1904. He in essence disobeyed his own rules by accepting a personal loan from Minnesota owner Carl Pohlad. He threatened to disband two major-league teams for the first time one hundred years. He orchestrated a ring-around-the-rosey series of franchise sales that resulted in the charitable fund that had owned the Red Sox getting less than the best possible deal and in orphaning one franchise for going on four seasons. Oh, and he's toyed with the rules of the game in a way that evinces total disrespect for its traditions.
Well, not from the owners' point of view. Selig avoided a work stoppage at the end of a collective bargaining agreement for the first. He was able to institute a soft salary cap by which all but the Yankees have since abided. He was the first commissioner who was able to get any concessions from the players since Marvin Miller started twisting them around his little finger. Selig improved the lot of three of the said owners and helped get those pesky minority owners off Jeffery Loria's back. He tried to help Pohlad out of his Twins deal and was only stopped by those annoying courts and their laws. And sure, attendance isn't up to pre-strike levels, but it's pretty high and given the sweet deals that the owners have gotten in all the new stadiums, the owners must be making out better than ever (though we'll never know since they won't open their books).
So could the seemingly ludicrous, Selig getting a contract extension, become logical? Hey, anything's possible when George Bush can run on his record and actually be re-electable.
This Is Getting Ugly
I once called the Red Sox a pathetic franchise in the truest sense of the word:
Etymology: Middle French or Late Latin; Middle French pathetique, from Late Latin patheticus, from Greek pathEtikos capable of feeling, pathetic, from paschein (aorist pathein) to experience, suffer -- more at PATHOS
John Henry is now bordering on stalking when it comes to his ex-player, Nomar Garciaparra. First, he leaked a story that Garciaparra not only turned down a lucrative contract prior to this season but that his agent had to prevent him from demanding a trade, a story his agent denies.
Now, some Red Sox officials have been cited in a Boston Globe story that Garciaparra showed up to spring training this year already injured. Nomar foolishly, is concentrating on his new team, but his agent offers that the story is "absolutely, positively [expletive]. Totally, unequivocally, positively false." What do you really think?
Apparently, the Red Sox officials have forgotten that their club is in the wild card chase. They are totally preoccupied with their ex-player, the one that got away apparently. I get the feeling that John Henry regrets jettisoning his former franchise player.
But what is to be done? Can't the Red Sox turn the page and focus on what is ahead of them? I get the feeling that they feel that they inadvertently threw in the towel, that they will inevitably come up short again this fall. I agree that it is now a harder row to hoe, but the Red Sox are right in the thick of things.
However, this franchise and the media that follow it are occupied in suffering, the pathos, therefore the tag pathetic. I can see why Henry's upset. He was awarded the team even though a higher offer was on the table. That was Bud Selig's first welfare payment to Henry. Next, Cliff Floyd was laundered for a couple of weeks in Montreal, Selig's personal slush fund, before being presented to the Red Sox. Last year, Kevin Millar was pried from the Japanese leagues even though he had already signed a contract with the Chunichi Dragons. Now, Henry has gone over a year since his last welfare payment. It's no wonder he's upset. Those corporate welfare mothers become accustomed to suckling at the corporate teat.
But don't worry. I'm sure that Bud will pry loose a starting pitcher for the Red Sox stretch drive once his contract extension goes through. How difficult would it be to get Randy Johnson through waivers anyway?
The Interminably Slow Hook
There is widespread speculation that Larry Bowa's job is in danger if the Phils don't fair well in the remainder of their road trip. They are 2-6 so far on the trip and have two games in San Diego and three in LA.
Bowa's response to this was in his typical idiom, idiocy:
"I couldn't care less about the talk," he said. "I couldn't care less about it. We're the only team in the history of baseball where you lose four or five games and the manager gets fired. I couldn't care less about it. I just go out and do the best I can."
If he really thinks this all boils down to potentially losing four or five games, then he's even dumber than I that, and that's saying quite a bit.
He goes on in the same vein:
"It's out of my hands. I make out a lineup, I prepare them, tell them what to try to do. If the players do it, you're a genius. If they don't do it, you're gone. That's the way it is. That's the way it's always been.
"It's a little more magnified in Philadelphia, but that's the way it is. That's part of the action."
No wonder Bowa has been such an atrocious manager: he thinks that all his job entails is making out a lineup card. Oh, and then there's preparing them, like he did against the Marlins, the team against which the Phils have a 1-11 record this year and to whom they have lost 14 straight road games. I guess he never realized that throwing dozens of good innings at Roberto Horrendous or gaslighting Marlon Byrd in and out, up and down the lineup and then replacing Byrd superannuated Doug Glanville would have a negative affect on the team's record.
And he thinks things are more magnified in Philadelphia?!? He should try managing in New York, Boston, or Chicago. The stultified masses in Philadelphia still actually think that he was a decent player and that Bill Wagner and Kevin Millwood were bigger acquisitions than Bobby Abreu. How the city did not revolt en masse when he was not fired after being ineptly swept in Miami last Thursday.
Bowa blames the Phils injury bug. Sure, they have been without Vicente Padilla's services for over two months, Bill Wagner is yo-yoing on and off the DL, and a number of veterans have had stints on the DL. But that's no excuse. Look at the Yankees: their All-Star first baseman has been much less than healthy all season and they lost their top two pitchers to injury. Every team has injuries though, in Bowa's defense, most teams do acquire major-league caliber players to replace those injured (not Paul Abbott).
He also blames the Phils pitching which is 13th (lucky, eh?) in ERA in the NL. Of course, that does not take into account the fact that Phils' new ballpark is a hitter's park, but consider that they are 14th in road ERA. Also, consider that even after a shaky April (10-11), the Phils had the best ERA in the league. They have been sucking overtime.
OK, it's a given that the staff has been bad, but how can Bowa just admit that and wash his hands of it. He certainly was given more starting pitching than Tony LaRussa had in St. Louis to start the year and look what's he's done.
As a quietude settles on the dyspeptic former shortstop, he can find some solace in the fact that not only did he do a horrific job this year, the entire organization let down their fans. He may be proving that the organization is even worse than its horrible manager when his newfound insouciance ("He chilled at the pool. Got a massage. Had a nice dinner."—not quite Veni, Vidi, Vinci, is it?) isn’t taken for the incompetent indifference that it really is.
Now, does this rumor incentivize the players to lose or win? Last year, after a particularly unpleasant Bowa tantrum, the players had their own meeting in which vet Dan Plesac advised the team to win in spite of Bowa and the coaching staff. What would Plesac do today if he knew that a couple of losses would have ensured Bowa's dismissal. I'm sure that none of the players would try to lose on purpose but by the same token, they may not have gone out on a limb to rally the troops. And if Pat Burrell hits a home run on this trip and does not shake Bowa's hand, will he blame Tyler Houston again?
Wake Up and Smell the Mediocrity
Boston owner John Henry, in a definite PR move to counter the negative press that the Red Sox have received over the trade deadline dumping of one-time favorite son Nomar Garciaparra, is starting to leak stories about his ex-shortstop.
Hey, it's not Henry's fault. He offered the shirker a $60 M contract over four years back in March.
"We were trying to find a way to sign him, and we never received a counter to any of the proposals we made. We knew from that that he didn't want to be here."
Oh, Henry also let leak the story that Nomar's agent had to talk him out of demanding a trade, a claim that the agent "categorically" denied. Henry also forgot to mention that a portion of the sixty mil would have been deferred in his final offer.
Pretty soon he'll start claiming that Garciaparra's Senate career was unremarkable.
I guess we won't be getting many more warm and fuzzy stories about Henry playing APBA baseball when he was kid.
The Son of Who Wins?
In our ongoing struggle to understand how teams win. Well, maybe it's not the causal connection to winning but rather the fossil record, the physical evidence that is left behind in the statistical record.
In this leg of that struggle I would like to look at a few items in response to the comments I got at the time as well as some items that are new to the study or had been inadvertently overlooked in the first go-round.
I wasn't satisfied by the lack of correlation between a team's record in one-run games and its overall winning percentage. A one-run game could be a 2-1 pitchers' duel or a 10-9 slugfest. I thought putting a finer point on what sort of one-run game the study should be concerned with. Maybe teams that won low-scoring, one-run games were more likely to be winning teams.
I divided the one-run game population into three groups: low-scoring games (total score no higher than five runs, designated "LS"), high-scoring games (10 runs or higher in total, designated "HS"), and then everything in between (9-9 total runs, designated the "Rest"). Here are the correlation coefficients for each group based on actual and expected winning percentage:
So what does this tell us? Well, that the splitouts correlate even worse to winning percentage than the overall one-run gestalt. So clearly, team records in one-run games are a dead end.
What about what we called "save situations", games decided by three or less runs? Could they give us a clearer picture if we split them out in a similar fashion (i.e., the groups above)? Here are those splitouts:
Again, the breakdowns correlate more poorly than the larger group (i.e., "save situations"). This is probably due to the greater variability as the groups get smaller.
The last thing I would like to look at in respects to team situational records is inter-league record, which I referred to earlier today. Are inter-league games complete crapshoots or does a team's overall winning percentage have some bearing on how well they perform? Unfortunately, we only have seven years' worth of data to look at, but let's see what we get:
As I expected, inter-league record correlates somewhat poorly to overall record. However, this decade its correlation has improved immensely. Perhaps this is due to how inter-league play has been changed, i.e., so that it is completed in the first half and that the rivals now rotate. Or perhaps it's all just luck, variability in the small sample size.
Next, I would like to turn to some other batting statistics to see how well they correlate to winning percentage. In the first part of the study, we looked at the standard batting ratios. Now, I would like to look at home runs, walks, and strikeouts. All of them will be taken as a ratio of the total team plate appearances adjusted for the league average.
We'll also examine a new, derived stat that I'll call the "small ball" factor. It's designed to calculate how well a team plays "small ball". This is a rather abstract and subjective evaluation. For example, how can you measure how well a team plays hit-and-run? Move a runner from first to second by hitting behind him? My solution was to base the stat on what statistical evidence we do have: bunts, sac flies, stolen bases, caught stealing, and grounded into a double play (evidence of good hit-and-run skills). The "small ball" stat will consist of total bunts, sac flies, and stolen bases minus GIDP and caught stealing. The stat is made more problematic because baseball hasn't consistently recorded all of these stats until relatively recently.
To be continued…
First at the Break
Rules for Staying Young:
—Satchel Paige's Maybe I'll Pitch Forever
When I was a kid being in first at the All-Star break was tantamount to winning the pennant or so we were told. Teams were said to be striving for an edge heading into the break, thereby almost guaranteeing them a spot in the postseason. It was gospel.
Well, that's not so today. Here we are a scant three weeks after the All-Star game and already all but one playoff spot in the American League has changed hands. Of the eight teams with claims to playoff spots at the break, only three are still in possession of them (the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cardinals). Well, I guess there are four since the Rangers lost the AL West lead but now are in possession of the wild card lead.
In the AL, the Rangers led the A's by two games and the Angels by 2-1/2 at the break. Today, the A's, with their typical second-half surge, are in first by 1-1/2 games over the Rangers with the Angels still at 2-1/2 back.
The White Sox owned a scant half-game lead at the break over the Twins. Today, the Twins lead the Sox by five full games.
The Red Sox ended the first half seven games behind the Yankees in the AL East, but they had a one game lead over the A's in the wild card race with the Angels and Twins 1-1/2 games behind. Today, the wild card is the rangers to lose with the Red Sox one-half game back, the Angels one game back and the White Sox 3-1/2 back.
In the NL, the Phils were one game up on the Braves at the break (with the Marlins 1.5 and the Mets 2 back). In just three weeks, they are already 5-1/2 game behind Atlanta.
At the break, the Giants owned a one-game lead in the wild card race over the Cubs, with the Padres and Reds 1-1/2 back, Brewers 2-1/2 back, and Braves three back. Today, the Padres lead by one game over the Cubs, with the Giants two back. There are seven other clubs that are between five and eight and one-half games back in the NL wild card race.
And there's reason to believe that a few of the playoff spots won't change hands before the end of the season. The Yankes (9 game-lead) and Cardinals (10.5) appear set barring an impersonation of the '64 Phils. The Braves and Twins have leads of at least five games and have second-place teams headed in the wrong direction. The two western divisions and both wild cards should be interesting down the stretch.
It also makes me wonder when, if ever, the "first at the break" adage actually rang true. It seemed to be self-evidently true when I was a kid. However, I've never studied nor have I seen a study on it. (If anyone knows were I can get that data, I'd love to conduct that one.)
One thing leads me to believe that it was at least a bit more accurate in the old days, that we didn't have to monkey around with any silly old inter-league games back then (boy, I sound like Joe Morgan). Now, we get rid of those games in the first half, but maybe that leads to less accuracy in the division leaders at the break (more randomness in inter-league games and fewer games with division rivals). One interesting study would be to determine if inter-league record accurately reflects a team's overall record. But that's for another day or at least another article.
Gross National Product
By Gregor Gross
Regarding the other day's ground-breaking scientific work, I have something to say for the record:
There is no way I can continue with data for the National League. As a matter of fact, there is really no team in the National League that I do care the least bit about. I am, by definition, an Indians fan. And I will not allow any other team to draw my attention from them. I mean, except this one, this one, this one and especially this one. And maybe this one. And this one. Beyond that, no teams from the National League as you can see.
There is some other thing. One of those National League teams thought it would be funny to obtain my most beloved baseball player. He does it all: walking, hitting the ball out of the yard, doing funny things with his stockings. I love him. The thing is, of course, he doesn't play for the Indians anymore. So you guess right, I'm really ****ed at the National League and especially at one of its teams.
So the solution is? I tell you: There will be no ranking of the National League team. Nada. Not with me. Not after this.
Come to think of it, I know someone who follows that team. As a real strange coincidence, this is a fellow I like to work together with. Especially doing some baseball related stuff. Like ... this one here. OK, I changed my mind. Here we go, starting with pitching (the higher the number, the better the team, by the way):
And super duper wise?
What do we see? Not much, except the Rockies hit like Pros and pitch like Cons. The Cardinals are strong in almost all categories and the National League Central is really the best division here. What else? Atlanta is truly mediocre so why they should lead their division no one knows. Also, the times have gone by when they would beat you with pitching. The Giants have Schmidt and no one else on the mound and no one told the Expos which end of the bat they should grip. Come to think of it, they probably haven't learned of this entire bat thing anyway.
So that's it. We are all a bit wiser now, I hope. And if it's only for knowledge of the number of teams I enjoy.
The Gauntlet or the Towel?
You probably don't think that I can force this towel down your throat. But trust me, I can. All the way. Except I'd hold onto this one little bit at the end. When your stomach starts to digest it, I pull it out. Taking your stomach lining with it. For most people it would take about a week to die. It's very painful.
—Jack "Don't Call Me Hank" Bauer in "24"
A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have
—Douglas "Babe" Adams, The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy
Felix: I'm going to the studio to pick up the gauntlet he threw down.
Murray the Cop: You're so tidy.
—"The Oddibe McDowell Couple"
Yet, if the pupil be of a texture to bear it, the best university that can be recommended to a man of ideas is the gauntlet of the mobs.
Ralph "Garr" Waldo Emerson
Add it all up and it spells Wold Series glory, baby!
I had already set my expectations to an all-time low, and yet the Phils failed to reach even them. There's no other way to see it than that the Phils threw in the towel. They are now in the midst of a 1-6 road trip and are now five and one-half games behind the Braves. They are also five games out of the wild card hunt with three teams ahead of them.
Yes, they filled one need by adding two warm bodies to a bullpen that had lost long reliever and staff leader Ryan Madson (with a team best 21.2 VORP) and the newly fragile closer Bill Wagner.
Jones is the personification of the replacement-level, right-handed middle reliever. Rodriguez had been one of the best setup men in the game with the Giants around 2000-01. However, his strikeouts and, thereby, his effectiveness have dropped severely since. His strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio is at a career low (6.25), more than four strikeouts per game behind his career high (10.47 in 2000). If adding these two less than stellar pen man allows the Phils to use staff albatross Roberto Horrendous (team worst –6.8 VORP) and the even worse Geoff Geary less often, then it is a major plus.
Expect Horrendous to be given fewer innings after telling the press that he's since a more uptight clubhouse. Incompetence on the mound is meaningless to Bowa, but rundown his organization and you're out. (Witness this from last year's pariah Tyler Houston.)
However, the Phils have had three gapping holes, large enough for Bobby Cox to drive a busload of stiffs through. They are, in no particular order, center fielder, leadoff hitter, and starting pitcher. Two of them were due to Marlon Byrd's sophomore slump. If you've forgotten, Byrd, the center fielder and leadoff hitter, had started off slowly and was dropped in the order in favor of Jimmy Rollins, who then had worse ratios. Manager Larry Bowa then conducted a psychological experiment on Byrd, pinch-hitting for him, moving him up and down the order on a whim, and spot-starting the likes of Doug Glanville in his stead. All of this was done allegedly for Byrd's sake, as if he would be seeing better pitches batting right in front of the pitcher.
So what did the Phils do? They traded Ricky Ledee, the best option that they had in center, to bring in Rodriguez. That would be fine if they had been able to nab Steve Finley or Kenny Lofton, but they didn't. So what did they do instead? They promoted Marlon Byrd and ostensibly gave him his starting center field job, if not the leadoff hitter role.
Yes, Byrd should have been able to keep the job since day one. However, his trip to Triple-A was far from a resounding success. In 37 games and 152 at-bats, he batted .263 with a .309 OBP, .388 slugging percentage, and .697 OPS. He had 2 homers, 13 runs scored, 17 RBI, 2 stolen bases and three caught stealing. The two homers, the Phils are likely to point out, are in the last week.
So what has Byrd done in the minors that merit another trial? If he was not the right man to start in center a month and a half ago, why is he now? That is, unless the Phils admit that they made a mistake and have been perpetuating it over the last seven weeks. Or if they had given up on 2004 and are getting him ready for 2005.
The Phils will point out that they pursued other options, but there are a few things of interest to note. First, Finley was had by the Dodgers in exchange for some marginal prospects. The Lofton-for-Polanco deal should have been a layup since the Yankees need a second baseman and Lofton has been used sparingly in center (38 games). Besides, a couple of days after Byrd was sent down, the Astros acquired arguably the best center fielder in the game in Carlos Beltran.
As far as starting pitching, the Phils have been without Vincente Padilla for over two months. The spot devolved to journeyman Paul Abbott, who's been worse than replacement level (-5.5 VORP, second worst on the team). Aside from Eric Milton, the rest of the rotation has had extremely disappointing seasons due to a fierce combination of ineffectiveness (Myers and Millwood) and injury (Byrd and Padilla).
While the trade deadline plum, Randy Johnson, stayed put in Arizona, Kris Benson, who was the second-best flavor of the season, was dealt to the Mets for, basically, their future. I'm not saying that a perennial number-three starter (Benson) deserved as much from the Phils. However, where were they when Freddy Garcia went to the White Sox over a month ago?
So the towel was thrown. The Phils could surge back and win the division—I have no confidence in Atlanta. Anything could happen, but they certainly did nothing to improve their postseason odds. The also seemed to lose Wagner who is a free agent at the end of the year and has been floating balloons like, "What they do as the trading deadline gets closer will weigh as part of my decision."
The Phils weren't the worst participant in the trade deadline sweepstakes. It seems more than ever that teams are picking the wrong sides when they choose to throw in the towel or pick up the gauntlet. While the Phils curiously opted for the "towel", the Mets even more curiously picked the "gauntlet".
The Mets filled their biggest need, to fill in the rotation between Leiter, Glavine, and Trachsel with Benson and Zambrano. However, in order to do that they gave up three pitching prospects including highly touted Scott Kazmir and their erstwhile starting third baseman Ty Wigginton, who had no future with the organization. Kazmir is a good bet to be a bust like the vast majority of New York media-inspired prospects, but he was their best pitching prospect and Zambrano is no better than a number three starter. And the Mets are closer to the Expos than they are to the NL East lead or the wild card spot. It's an odd move for a team promoting their youth (Reyes, Wright). The Mets were obviously the biggest losers of the deadline.
The Marlins didn't do much better. They acquired a decent starting catcher (something that they needed since they foolishly let Pudge Rodriguez walk) who is 32 years old in LoDuca, a very good setup man in Mota (I guess Koch hasn't worked out), a marginal starting pitcher in Valdez, a superfluous right fielder that they gave up on last year in Encarnacion, and a relief pitcher who can't really pitch but strikes out a lot of guys in Seanez. Oh and Jayson Stark's undying love expressed in this homage to pre-Beaneball player evaluations.
What the Marlins gave up was a decent young first baseman (Choi), who had cooled since his hot start but was far more than the platoon player that Stark describes him as being and a good young arm (Penny) who is sure to turn into a monster in Dodgers Stadium. The Marlins are a .500 team that would 41-51 were it not for their 11-1 dominance of the Phils. Florida is also just 7-9 since the break despite a four-game sweep of Philadelphia. They are a longshot at best for the division or wild card spots.
The Dodgers moves can be viewed as daring to unwise depending on your point of view. Stark picked them as the biggest losers of the trading season, which is as good as omen as you can probably get. The did make changes at basically five positions, including the entire outfield. Finley takes over in center, an upgrade. Bradley replaces the useless Encarnacion in right, a major upgrade. Young Werth had already replaced Dave Roberts, whom they traded at the deadline, potentially a very big upgrade. Choi is a curious pickup given that struggling incumbent Shawn Green is also left-handed and has one year left on his huge contract. Green may move back to right field and Bradley to left with Werth spot starting. And LoDuca was at worst serviceable and his replacement, Dave Ross, is largely untried although newly acquired Brent Mayne mitigates the risk. They also failed to pull off a deal to bring Charles Johnson to LA. Losing Mota and Martin may be risky as well, but the Dodgers probably felt (rightly) that they had the depth and that adding Penny outweighs the minuses (though Dreifort's efforts in the first post-Mota game won't help instill confidence).
Overall, I think the Dodgers were attempting to pull off a Beane-like redesign of the team for the postseason and for the future. I view it as a success on both counts, especially the future. Now, they'll have to play 'em to see if that assessment holds true.
Oh, I should have mentioned the Red Sox in the biggest losers. They gave up arguably their best player and one-time franchise player in Nomah (who'll have to go back to his other ridiculous name of Nomar henceforth). Yes, they got a competent replacement in Cabrera, who hit a home run in his first game as a Red Sock so therefore, will be considered one of their own by the fans. The Red Sox basically bowed to fan and media pressure to cure their two "biggest problems". Garciaparra has been seen as a non-team player and a liability since not playing due to injury in the 5-4 loss to the Yankees a month ago (the game in which Derek Jeter dove in the stands apparently to attack Billy Crystal) and drawing the ire of the Red Sox Nation. The rail to ride him out of town was ready and waiting; the Sox management at least made sure they got a competent shortstop in the deal.
The other embarrassment for the Red Sox has been their defense epitomized by David Ortiz's immaculate glove in the Yankees series. So bring in Doug Mientkiewicz, a stellar defensive first baseman though light hitter, and move Ortiz to his natural position of DH.
Well, that's all good and well. But Theo fiddled while the red Sox rotation burned. While Pedro Martinez could see his first ERA over 4.00 for his career (currently 4.07), the Sox plan to keep a rotation that is people by the highly iffy Bronson Arroyo and Tim Wakefield and the downright awful Derrek Lowe. Schilling has been great, but if Martinez continues to pitch like he did in July (5.45 despite a 3-1 record), they will have problems in the playoffs if they even make it there.
Some will point to the Yankees—Stark did—as losers in the trade wars. However, they did get the runner-up in the Cy Young vote last year for a player whose pitching and contract were a liability. Loaiza has been far from stellar this year and is reminding us more each day that 2003 was just a Stev Stone-esque career year. But the Yankees could no longer wait for the Irabu-esque Contreras to blossom. Loaiza was the better of two evils.
The Twins will be questioned because they didn't get Benson and did let their unofficial team mascot, Mientkiewicz, go. But he was already superfluous with youngster Justin Morneau already surpassing him. Then again, they are five games up on the White Sox, who picked up Contreras, a 32-year-old still with a potential tag for their 2003 #1 starter, have apparently lost their two best hitters (Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez) for the season, and just came out of a seven-game losing streak.
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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