Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ruben Amaro on the subtleties of roster construction

Ruben: "Where is it written that a baseball team has to have a bullpen? Why not have our starters throw 128 pitches in meaningless April games? Lee wanted to stay in the game. That's good enough for me!"

Of course it was Ryne Sandberg who left Cliff Lee in last night's loss to the Braves, not RAJ. But the speculation on not really needing a pen seems apt, since the Fightins don't have one.

What is it with managers and veteran pitchers, anyway? If one of these oldheads wants to stay in a game, as many pitches as he may have thrown, and no matter how unimportant the game, the manager (undermining his own authority?) will do it. Why? It's not like there's some carryover effect, in which we are now guaranteed a kickass performance the next time Cliff pitches.

"He's earned it" is the usual rationale. Well, no. There's too much emotion in the mix for it to be the pitcher's call.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chase Utley wants to be your best man

It'll cost you $450 to propose to your beloved at a Phillies' game this year. Considering the quality of the team (yes, Ruben, major league clubs really do need bullpens), there are probably better venues in which to pop the question. Jack in the Box comes to mind.
In any case, should you be determined to risk rejection of all your life's hopes in front of 30,000 strangers, I'd suggest that for $450 Chase Utley should agree to be your best man, Larry Andersen should offer toasts at the reception, and new TV announcer and solid citizen Jamie Moyer should agree to be godfather of any children issuing from the union.
For another $4000, I understand Chase will agree to be father of your kids (with your wife's written consent, which should be easy to obtain), so your lil sluggers have a better shot at MLB careers. Hell of a return on your investment if it works out. 
The most expensive ballpark for proposing is, not surprisingly, Dodger Stadium, where it'll run you $2500. No verification on rumor that this includes a lap dance with Tommy Lasorda (sorry).

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Curl this!

Let's see if I've got this straight-curling is now an established Winter Olympics sport. 

Curling is semi-popular in Canada, a country with few entertainment options, and one about as populous as California. It does have its adherents in Scotland, its "country" of origin. Basically, though, curling is not a sport with a big world-wide fan base. 

Baseball is popular in the US, Canada, Mexico, much of the Caribbean (the Spanish speaking part), Japan, S Korea, Taiwan, and Venezuela; and has an increasing presence in Australia, Brazil, and much of Europe. But baseball is no longer a Summer Olympics sport. Why?

UPDATE: I posted this on Facebook and got a snotty response from a Scottish guy, who asked me why the World Series only includes North American teams.  Well, a curling world series might have somewhat limited appeal. But you could have teams from Canada and Scotland. Woo-hoo.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Darwin and the Mets fan

Have finally figured out how the evolution of man came to pass. First there were small mammals, like chipmunks and moles. Then there were somewhat larger, somewhat more intelligent mammals, such as foxes and wolves. All was good.

Then, tragically, evolution hit a rut, and the Mets fan came to occupy dark corners of the northeastern US. The collective IQ of the world fell precipitously, and weeping and gnashing of teeth were heard everywhere. But God, in His mercy, soon prompted a resumption of evolutionary progress, and Modern Man, with a soul and an intellect, arose.

The Mets fans booed him, of course.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

This means WAR: Jeter vs. Ripken. Ripken was better-including "in the clutch".

Had a bit of a dispute with a friend the other day about Derek Jeter. Yes, I agree that Jeter has had a wonderful career, and that he will deserve the HOF slot he will get in a few years' time.

Still, Cal Ripken Jr. was the better player. Better defense, more power. This is a view that drives a lot of people crazy. Why, Jeter is "Mr. Clutch"! He's "Mr. Yankee"! Nobody has been the hitter at SS that Jeter has been, year after year!

Well, as someone who's not a Yankee fan, calling him Mr. Yankee is hardly a compliment.  But I digress. The question has to be settled by the numbers. How else can you do it? Otherwise it's just opinions backed up by air. And when you put the facts forward, you see there's really no comparison-Ripken had a far more impressive career.

First, let's look at fielding. Jeter has always been a weak shortstop defensively. In all but three years of his 18 season career, he's had a negative defensive WAR, totaling up to -8.7 over those years. (In retrospect, it was foolish not to have moved Jeter to third when A-Rod was acquired).

By contrast, over his 21 year career, Ripken never had a negative defensive WAR. Some might say,  "I saw Ripken at the end of his career, after he'd been moved to third, and he wasn't very good." Maybe, but he still didn't lapse into negative territory, and at their peaks, when Jeter was a mediocrity defensively, Cal was worth 2-3 wins a year with his glove.

Next, compare them with the stick. While Rip was hitting 20-some HR's a year on average, with a peak of 34 in 1991, Derek was averaging in the teens, with a high of 24 in 1999. Jeter did have a higher career OPS (.838 to .788), and his offensive WAR is higher, 91.5 to 72.8.

But throw offense and defense together, and you see Ripken's edge-Cal's at 107.3 WAR total, Derek at 82.8. That's almost twenty five wins.

Before you say, "But Cal played longer!", yes, his career now exceeds Jeter's by about 500 games. But that means it includes more of the Oriole's decline phase. Certainly Jeter, if at all possible, will play a year or two more, which will equalize things a bit.

And on that clutch stuff-Cal still has the edge. Mr. Oriole had a .866 OPS in post-season play, compared with his .788 in regular season play (though it's true he didn't do much against the Phillies in the 1983 World Series). Mr. Clutch had a lower OPS in the playoffs than Cal, at .838, compared with his .829 regular season figure.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Philadelphia-a baseball or a football town?

There's been some controversy over whether Philadelphia is a "baseball town" or a "football town". Some guy named "guapo", in a Baseball Think Factory discusion of whether Boston is a baseball town (you have to be a true helmet-head to think otherwise), does a nice job in looking at various cities' loyalties.

This is how guapo sees it:

Anaheim: Disney town

Atlanta: Football town

Phoenix: Basketball town

Baltimore: Football town

Boston: Baseball town

Chicago: Basketball town

Cincinnati: Baseball town

Cleveland: Football town

Dallas: Football town

Denver: Football town

Detroit: Hockey town

Miami: Football town

Houston: Football town

Kansas City: Football town

Los Angeles: Basketball town

Milwaukee: Baseball town

Minneapolis: Hockey town

New York: Basketball town

Oakland: Football town

Philadelphia: Football town

Pittsburgh: Football town

San Diego: Baseball town

San Francisco: Football town

Seattle: Football town

St. Louis: Baseball town

Tampa: Football town

Toronto: Hockey town

Washington: Football town

Now, being Philadelphia born and bred, I can only weigh in on my city, although I think SF is more of a baseball town than guapo would claim. As to whether we're more partial to baseball or football, I can honestly say: Nether.

Philadelphia's favorite sport, a (well-informed) cynic would say, is to dump on the athletes it claims to love. It is sick, I tell you. Sick, sick, sick! An awful lot of fans seem to have a better time dumping on the "bums" when they lose than they have fun with winning teams, which, in all honesty, have been all too rare here. And there always has to be a scapegoat: Think, Von Hayes, Tom Bladon, and Norm Snead, for the Phillies, Flyers, and Eagles respectively.

And the guys who get it the worst are those from Philly themselves, like Del Ennis, who was a hell of a player for the Phils in the fifties. And Dick Allen, not from here but a guy with HOF talent, was essentially booed out of town.

For the region overall I guess the Eagles are number one-these are dumb, violent times and people enjoy their dumb, violent sport. Where I live, in Delaware County, I think the Phillies (and maybe the Flyers too) are bigger than the Eagles. I'm basing this on bumper stickers, clothes, etc. seen on the denizens of my fair county, or their vehicles.

My personal preference is for Australian Rules Football, or, in a pinch, New Zealand RF. No, of course baseball's my first love. It is the great American sport. The NFL, as I've written elsewhere, isn't a sport at all.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tim Lincecum-virtually hairless

My man Timmy Lincecum-with short hair! Tim with short hair is as disconcerting, as, I don't know, John Wayne with dreads. But I guess I'll get used to it. (It's all totally innocent-just a man crush!)

Anyway, BASEBALL IS ALMOST HERE! As we all know, the year begins on Opening Day!

Let Timmy Smoke!, as they say in the Bay Area-blazing fastballs, that is, not the stuff that got him in trouble.

Not sure it was a good move for Timmy, by the by, to appear on the cover of High Times. Just sayin'. But I guess it's good for a player to be known for drugs that aren't PED's.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fenway at 100

The Yankees visit the Red Sox tonight as Fenway Park celebrates its 100th anniversary. I hear the Yanks' gift will be a 1/8th size model of the Titanic, which had a similar launch, also in April 1912.

Meanwhile, the Soxaholix grieve the Sox' 4-8 start, with yet another Titanic analogy. But, you know, there's really nothing wrong with the Sox that better pitching, hitting, and fielding wouldn't fix.

I guess I should say better managing, too, as Bobby Valentine is having his own set of issues, which are pretty much predictable, given his "quirky" personality.

UPDATE: Charlie Brown's favorite player, Joe Shlabotnik, never played for Boston, but he really should have.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Utley on the half shell

Sign seen outside Delaware County, PA sporting goods store yesterday:

                                                            All Utley half off

Which makes me think of a few whimsical notions of what that sign could portend. Is Chase half the man he used to be? Half the player? Has his enormous fan base lost half its interest in him? (He does have one apparently good knee, so, you could call say half of his allotment of his legs are functional at present).

Anyway, I doubt the answer to the first question is yes-Chase is a nice guy, if a bit overly secretive. But the answer to the second question looks like a sure "yes"-his WAR last year was 3.6, almost exactly half his 2009 peak WAR of 7.3. That '09 figure is HOF-pace, but even half of it is a damned good number. Freddie Galvis won't give the Phils that, assuming the team doesn't make a move for another second baseman.

Speaking of going halfsies: I wish the team had moved Utley from second to first a few years ago, as it seemed to be toying with doing (Chase occasionally used to fill in there.) That might've preserved his health, and the club could've moved the now falling-fast Ryan Howard at peak value, and avoided signing Ryan to that albatross of a long-term deal.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Perhaps the oddest stat seen so far this year

Albert Pujols doesn't lead the Cardinals in HR-Lance Berkman does (17-15). If you'd predicted that this spring, people would've called you nuts.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

J-Roll-better leadoff guy hitting third than first?

The Phils are defying expectations, I suppose you could say, scoring runs like crazy (2nd in the NL so far, with 6.3 RPG) while exhibiting so-so pitching (14th, 4.80 ERA). Of course, they're not exactly facing the cream of the league in the Astros and Mets, but still...the run production has to be a pleasant surprise, even if the pitching, especially Cole Hamels' first start, hasn't been.

But perhaps the most heartening thing about the early season results is how well Jimmy Rollins is playing. J-Roll is sporting a .478 OBP, good for 16th in the league among qualifiers. He's actually taking pitches-he's 11th in the league in P/PA, at 4.35. In the past Jimmy might see 4 pitches in three or four times up. He's looking like a better one hole hitter hitting third than his usual first!

In truth, though, this could be seen as a continuation of last year's pattern, where, despite an OBP of only .320, Jimmy had more walks (40) than strikeouts (32), putting him in an elite club typically occupied by the likes of Chipper Jones and Carlos Ruiz.

So, it looks like Jimmy is maturing as a hitter (finally). It also looks like he wants at least one more big contract. More power to him.

I don't know Amaro plans to do-the organization has at least two big glove/no hit guys to play SS, in current rosteree Michael Martinez, and Reading's Freddy Galvis. Neither of these two can touch Rollins' combination of strong SS play, great base-running, and elite power for his position. The key may well be whether the last great "tool" Rollins had typically shown-great durability-returns this year, along with the power. This will leave Reuben with a very tough call come this winter. My guess is that the brass will cut costs and go with Martinez or Galvis, but an outstanding year from Jimmy might well change some minds.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The rumors of Dominic's Brown's death are premature

Funny piece by "wet luzinski" at the Good Phight about Dominic Brown's struggles and how fast people are writing him off- Bang the Dom Slowly: Domonic Brown's Baseball Obituary.

Yes, Dominic is totally lost right now-he doesn't know what his stance is, where the ball is coming from, or maybe even his own name. And yes, he did poorly in winter ball, and in his (few) PA's with the Phils last year. But Dom is an uber-prospect for a reason-he can hit. And he is just 23 years old.

Late last year, Amaro and Manuel probably figured that keeping Dom on the bench in Philly was better than having him "prove" he could hit AAA pitching-an already settled question. Sure, this is not the typical strategy, and maybe it backfired here. But Brown will be fine. It might be a different story if he was 27. He may need a few months at LV to re-establish his swing, and identity, though.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Welcome to spring!/NL East predictions

Last year I had the order in the NL East exactly right in my March prognostications: Phillies-Braves-Marlins-Mets-Nationals.

While it may be a bit much to get things spot on two years in a row, I'm going to try again.

I basically see the East as running pretty much as it did last year, with the Nationals as the only team with a big change in its talent (major improvement). The Phils will miss (the Nats') Jason Werth, obviously, but I expect several players to have improved offensive years-Utley, Rollins, Howard-to make up for much of the loss. The Phils 'pen looks shallow as hell (beyond Ryan Madson, the setup guy but really the team's elite reliever, and closer Brad Lidge), but club GM Reuben Amaro (MLB's first really great Jewish/Hispanic executive!) has made a change or two in the rotation that you may've heard about recently, so bullpen depth won't be a huge issue, likely.

The Mets are still the Mets, a study in high-priced mediocrity, and, possibly, criminal malfeasance-team ownership is mixed up in the Bernie Madoff mess. The Marlins are finally behaving like a small-market team-I guess conserving cash till they finally get their new park built-so they don't figure to make much of an impact in '11.

The team to talk about in the East is the Braves-the Heyward-Freeman-Prado-Chipper-Hudson juggernaut. The Braves may well be good enough to knock the Fightins off their NL East perch. Consider that Jason Heyward will only get better-he was actually too patient a hitter last year, if you can believe that from a rookie-and arguably should've won the ROY. Freddie Freeman, the team's smokin' new first baseman, may win the ROY this year.

Craig Kimbrel (sounds like a late night talk show guy, doesn't he?) is the new closer, replacing the now-retired (and much-loathed in Philly) Billy Wagner (pronounced Vagner). Kimbrel pitched a bit last year in The Show, and you wouldn't exactly say he failed to impress-he struck out 40 in 20 IP. Still, not to sound excessively old school, you do have to wonder at trusting the closer job to a rookie, no matter how talented.

Anyway, I see the Phils just barely hangin' on to the East, very possibly for the last year in this cycle:

Phils 95-67

Braves 94-68

Mets 83-79

Nationals 75-87

Marlins 74-88


Baseball Prospectus has the division Phils (91 w), Braves (87), Marlins (84), Mets (79), Nats (69). I'll add those projections to the sidebar.

Monday, October 4, 2010

NL East predictions-not bad

Well, as you can see from the sidebar, I had the NL East teams in the proper order-Phillies/Braves/Marlins/Mets/Nationals, and was pretty close on records. In fact I got the Mets exactly right-79-83-and only missed by one win for the Nats.

The average discrepancy between actual wins and predicted wins was just 2.6 wins (in absolute value, that is-simply totalling wins above or below projection as positive numbers and dividing by the five teams in the division.)

I was very happy to see Bobby Cox make the playoffs one last time. Bobby's a class act-one of baseball's good guys, even if he is the ultimate bane of the umpiring crews. Bobby's split personality-nice guy to everyone not an umpire-may call for some fancy Freudian footwork, but he'll be missed. I haven't heard a word about who will manage the Braves next year.  Would Joe Torre be interested? Sounds like Joe wants to manage somewhere next year.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Burrell excelling with Giants

Despite what one foolish blogger wrote a few months back (who was that blogger, anyway?), Pat the Bat has played exceptionally well with the Jints, assuming you don't need a fly ball caught, that is-his .262/.370./.512 line betters his career numbers in all particulars (.254/.362/.475).

In fact PTB's 133 OPS+ with SF this year would be his best since 2002, if extended for a full season. We are, of course, ignoring Pat's disastrous final few months with the Rays.

I think Brian Sabean haters like John Perricone don't really understand modern baseball-player talent is so expensive now that nobody who doesn't play in the AL East can seriously strive for a great 25 man roster-you shoot for 90 wins and hope like hell that's enough to make the playoffs. The Giants have hellacious pitching and mediocre (if that) hitting-and that probably will get them to the post season.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nyjer Morgan is my hero

All that personality, and the NL's lowest OPS (among qualifiers), .634?

What more could you ask for? The Nats sure seem to draw this type of player.

Then again, "character guy" Raul Ibanez is 43rd, among 73 qualifiers in the senior circuit, at .779. People are talking about Raulllll! as if he's had a good year, when it's just somewhat less miserable than you'd expect for a corner OF, since his second half has been a good deal better than the first, and because Raul is now older than infield dirt. But damn, what a good guy!

The soft bigotry of low expectations, I'd call it.