Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why Talent Evaluators ARE Talent Evaluators And Guys Sitting In Booths Are...Well, Guys Sitting In Booths

  • Mets 9-Astros 1; the non-expertise of the non-experts:
I don't know if anyone----including anyone with the Mets----could possibly have predicted
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that Mike Pelfrey would become the consistent, strike-throwing, winning machine he's become. If he didn't have any ability, the Mets wouldn't have taken him with the ninth pick in the draft in 2005, but it would've been considered ludicrous to think that he'd be on track to winning a possible 17-18 games in his first full big league season after his struggles in the brief chances he received in 2006 and 2007. The geniuses on sports talk radio would have scoffed and shouted down any caller that even dared suggest such a thing; and if anyone did call with that opinion, and called back now, they'd be dismissed as guessing and being lucky as if they were at a roulette table. That Pelfrey's doing it throwing little more than a hard sinking fastball and when his team so desperately needed him to step into the breech left by the injury to John Maine makes it even more impressive.
Pelfrey always had the physical goods to succeed in this way----he stands 6'7"; throws in the mid-90s; has a hard sinking fastball; and a clean motion----but to make it this quickly is
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stunning and I wouldn't expect to hear any of these self-styled experts admit that they were wrong when they were "evaluating" Pelfrey based on nothing more than his results; and even if they do admit they were wrong (usually in an unapologetic aside while maintaining their arrogant, all-knowing tone), they still succeeded in riling up the gullible fan base whose opinions change with every pitch.
The credit for Pelfrey's rise will undoubtedly go to new pitching coach Dan Warthen and manager Jerry Manuel; the truth is that Pelfrey started turning the corner under the loquacious former pitching coach Rick Peterson and manager Willie Randolph. For all of his blather, Peterson is a fine and astute pitching coach whose shelf-life working with the same pitchers is a short one. He does his research;
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knows the science and psychology of working with pitchers young and old and has a track record of success. His problem is that his message is eventually lost because pitchers tune him out.
Years ago, I was watching a televised Mets spring training throwing session with a friend, a former professional player whose experiences had left him cynical about baseball and it's machinations; in the session, former pitching coach Bob Apodaca was talking to veteran Al Leiter as he did his work; Apodaca was rambling about the effectiveness of a change-up, blah, blah, blah as Leiter politely nodded while looking down and kicking at the dirt in front of the rubber. Turning to my friend I said, "You do know that Leiter did not listen to one word Apodaca just said," to which he twisted him mouth and shrugged an acknowledging laugh. It's the same thing with most coaches, but more so with the more cerebral and long-winded ones like Peterson.
If I had to give an expiration date to an organization that was thinking of bringing Peterson in and intends to have the same nucleus of a pitching staff, I'd say it would be 2 1/2 to three years before the pitchers start tuning him out. It gets tiresome to have someone always...in...your...face repeating the same things over and over again with numbers that pitchers don't want to hear and advice that they could (and probably do) recite to one another when in private and goofing on the coach and his well-intentioned advice. Sometimes a different voice isn't even needed; the pitchers on the Mets staff who seem to have improved since Peterson's departure may have done just as well without any pitching coach at all
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because they would've been perfectly happy to have been left alone.
There are plenty of talent evaluators in baseball who don't know much more than the broadcasters do; but there are plenty who know what they're looking at and can analyze a player's potential. The criticism is one thing, but it's the complete inability to admit when one is wrong and that they don't realize that they know literally nothing about baseball that is the most irritating thing. That they still have some credibility despite their obvious stupidity, and the hypocrisy they're going to show as they discuss the rise of Mike Pelfrey makes it all the worse because they're still clueless and are too clueless to even realize that they're clueless and if they do realize it, they're still arrogant enough to refuse to admit it.
  • Rangers 9-Royals 4; Nelson Cruz's latest chance:
The last month of the season should be interesting to get a gauge on whether or not Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz is ever going to be able to translate his minor league production to the majors. He got off to a great start last night by going 3 for 5 with a homer
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and a double, but at age 28, it's time for him to prove he can do it in the majors.
The thing about Cruz that's so aggravating is that he murders Triple A pitching. His numbers this year alone playing in Oklahoma are mind boggling: AVG-.342; OBP-.429; Runs-93; RBI-99; Home Runs-37; Slugging-.695; OPS-1.124; Stolen Bases-24. And this isn't just one career year; the guy's done this before in the minors----Cruz minor league stats. The one thing I have to ask is why the Rangers left him in the minors for so long? He at least deserved another opportunity to play at least part-time in the majors even though he's failed before.
Cruz is always going to get chances with other organizations even if he doesn't make it with the Rangers because those other organizations are going to look at those numbers and sign him just to see if he can fulfill that potential for them. With the Rangers out of contention, they should put him out there every day and see if he can perform for at least a brief time in the majors and deliver those results; worst case scenario, they'll showcase him for another organization and trade him because the talent is there and those numbers are accrued by that talent and not just a player feasting on Triple A pitching.
  • More little league nonsense:
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There's more to this story----Yahoo Sports----than just a kid who can throw too hard for the other kids. I'm no fan of little league; the oft-repeated cliches that it's about oneupsmanship and selfishness among the parents, among other things, are all true; but if this is such a big problem, why don't they solve it by putting the kid in a higher league? He'll advance faster if he's dealing with better competition and the other kids won't have to deal with his fastball. I wouldn't be surprised if other issues start to leak out about this and it won't be that the kid's simply too good.

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