Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 Stories To Watch, Part VI

  • I may have to start doing these sequels in 3D:

I had some prime stuff ready to go yesterday when a surprise zombie attack had to be repelled. But, I'm still in charge; I took 'em out; and my power base is expanding.

It was a good day.

For me.

Not for the Minnesota Twins.

Joe Nathan may need Tommy John surgery:

I don't think Nathan has ever gotten the attention he's deserved for being the elite closer (in the regular season anyway) that he's been. Every year he's put up massive strikeout numbers per innings pitched; posted ERAs under 2; given up very few hits and homers; threw strikes; and racked up the saves.

That trade the Twins made in dumping A.J. Pierzynski turned out to be one of the best of the past decade as they received Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser from the Giants for the abrasive catcher. Pierzynski's personality didn't fit in with the Giants and he was dumped after one season.

Nathan was installed as the Twins closer and has been just a notch below the top tier stoppers Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon, about on a level with Francisco Rodriguez and Trevor Hoffman. Of course, he's failed miserably in the post-season; most recently in the 2009 ALDS proved when Alex Rodriguez took him deep in the bottom of the 9th to tie game 2. The Twins lost in the 11th inning, thereby costing them any small chance they had at being competitive in the series.

Nathan also gacked up game 2 of the 2004 ALDS against the Yankees, so it wasn't just one bad game or bad series. The difference between the truly big time closers like Rivera and Papelbon (and you can throw Bobby Jenks in there too because he's done it in the post-season) is their ability to get the big outs. You can find someone to rack up the saves, but when it gets to crunch time, you can't sit and worry whether the supposed "ace" in the bullpen is going to fall apart.

All that aside, Nathan's been great during the regular season and any manager will tell you the less that he has to worry about the better. The decision to bring in Nathan for the 9th inning was never in question and he almost always got the job done. Now, he's got a tear in his elbow that is likely to require Tommy John surgery and the Twins have to deal with this.

Before the news, they were the trendy pick in the AL Central because of their under-the-radar acquisitions Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome to join an already formidable lineup; serviceable starting rotation; and deep bullpen. Now they have to find a closer. Somewhere.

The have a few options. One, they could use Jon Rauch; Two, they could use Matt Guerrier; or three, they could make a trade for someone now or wait and see what happens at mid-season when names like Heath Bell will be available.

There's been talk that they should use underarming righty Pat Neshek to close.

This is plain stupid.

Neshek as a set-up man or 6th and 7th inning arm out of the bullpen----a cog in the machine----is fine; but as the closer, he'd get blasted; he's handled lefties well enough in his career, but there's something different about pitching the 9th and it wouldn't work. Plus, he didn't pitch last year!! Neshek was recovering from Tommy John surgery himself; so the idea is to bring him back and stick him into a 1000 degree oven replacing an All Star for a team with realistic championship aspirations is lunacy.


The easiest thing to do would be to use Rauch. He's done the job before and handled it. His fastball isn't what it was (possibly due to overwork with the Nationals when he pitched in 85 games in 2006; and 88 games in 2007), but he can close; plus he's mean.

Personally, I'd use Guerrier. He's durable (over 70 games in each of the last three seasons); he throws strikes; handles lefties and righties about equally; and has been reliable despite giving up too many homers.

As the season moves along, Bell will be available from the Padres; other possibilities will be Kerry Wood; Octavio Dotel; Chad Qualls; Francisco Cordero; and Matt Capps. The Twins aren't going to be devastated by this news if Nathan's unable to pitch; and truthfully, if they make the playoffs, Nathan wasn't exactly reliable in October to begin with. This hurts the club, but isn't half as devastating as it would be if they lost Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau. They'll be fine.

Jose Reyes's thyroid:

The Mets bashing is reaching new levels of absurdity. Mining for reasons to unload on the club, people are blowing this whole Jose Reyes thyroid issue out of proportion. The club has had numerous doctors check Reyes's test results and all seem to be in agreement that it's real; it's treatable; and isn't a big problem. Much is being made of Reyes saying that he doesn't have anything wrong with his thyroid----ESPN Story.


What Reyes says matters, why?

The Mets get bashed when they seemingly fail to perform their due diligence with their players; now they're erring on the side of caution with one of their key players and are getting shredded for that as well.

It's a farce and a non-story. Reyes is going to be fine and ready to play. What's the issue aside from a weaselly hit squad looking to attack the Mets and/or writers with no skill or imagination to find something engaging to say.

  • Nomar Garciaparra retires as a Red Sox:


My question is whether Julio Lugo will also retire as a Red Sox.

Who cares?

I find it fascinating that a player who was run out of town by the club----in a brilliant, gutsy and necessary Theo Epstein move because of the player's poor attitude; physical breakdown; and performance that was falling off the planet----is receiving a career send-off befitting a key to the club's two World Series titles.

In a way he was a key component since the first championship was cemented when they dumped Garciaparra.

Red Sox fans can weep and wave banners to Nomar, but they'd better remember that it was his departure that was a massive part of what was built.

  • The Prince vs the Zombies----the aftermath of the latest scrap:

I generally avoid reading the comments on Baseball Think Factory when something I've written is linked because, as I said yesterday, they generally devolve into a personal attack followed by the commenters attacking one another. In short, it's not worth getting into a twist.

The ones that come at me on my site(s) are dealt with. Swiftly, brutally and without remorse.

But I couldn't resist and looked at the comments following the linked posting and I found something in stark contrast to what usually occurs when they come after me----they were almost (albeit grudgingly) agreeing with me.

This happened the last time I was linked as well. (To the best of my recollection it was when I railed against another writer defending Paul DePodesta's tenure as GM of the Dodgers by claiming that he was "railroaded out of Los Angeles".)

I'm sensing a shift.

And I'm here to tell you I'm willing to accept any and all who are willing to join my cause of ignoring the pure stat based analysis for intelligence and well-roundedness in seeking a full understanding of the game.

This fear, evidenced by the anonymous commenters, is mystifying. Those that agree with me appear to be adding excuses or almost apologizing as if I'm some deranged lunatic (quiet you!!!) who's almost totally of of control without reason for anything he says and does. It is not betraying your cult to say what you believe and I'm getting the sense that some want to break free from the shackles of Moneyball.

There's no reason to fear.

All are welcome.

Those that think I have some vendetta against Billy Beane, Michael Lewis, Paul DePodesta need to understand that there's no agenda and it's nothing personal.

It's strictly business.

Join me. And I will complete your training.

  • Viewer Mail 3.10.2010:

Anonymous writes RE Moneyball:

Very enjoyable article even though I strongly disagree with your basic premise. Beane prospered when he had the statistical advantage but now the A's have little chance. Teams with both money and stats are going to beat teams without both. Boston for example did very well recently but only after bringing in Bill James the absolute king of stat geeks. And the Yankee's ultimately purchased enough talent to win again. Oakland is still fun to watch because they still find outliers, but since they lack money and because everyone else is now using stats they just can't compete. That's the true lesson of Moneyball. If everyone can identify talent, only those with money enough to buy it will win.

I almost understand when someone comments anonymously if they're coming after me, but it's baffling when a clearly intelligent mind comments and doesn't leave a name----any name.

You can't credit Bill James for the Red Sox success. The Red Sox used stats, scouting, money and balls to build the foundation for their current club. That had nothing to do with Bill James; in fact, if you read some of James's stuff in recent years, he's appeared increasingly detached and contrary for the sake of looking quirky (his article on steroids was a prime example of this as it was peppered with silliness).

The wrench in the argument of the financial value of the heretofore unknown stats being appreciated and therefore no longer being in play for teams like the Athletics lies in the following three words: The Florida Marlins.

If there wasn't a team like the Marlins in MLB; if they didn't have the unprecedented success of putting a winning club on the field every year despite a bargain basement payroll, there'd be no defense for the argument of Beane/Lewis/Moneyball being made obsolete by the prevalence of stats.

The Marlins are the wrench in the stat zombie machine and they choose to denigrate them by picking them to lose 90 games every year; find ways to negate their success by faulty means; or simply ignore them.

The Marlins find players who other organizations didn't appreciate (Dan Uggla); acquire top tier talent for their own high-priced veterans (Hanley Ramirez; Cameron Maybin; Andrew Miller); scout masterfully (Chris Coghlan, Josh Johnson); find scrapheap pickups (Dan Meyer; Cody Ross); make astute signings/trades (John Baker; Wes Helms; Leo Nunez); and go for it when they're contending (they tried to get Roy Halladay and Heath Bell; and did get Nick Jonhson).

They use their eyes; their guts and stats to formulate the best run organization in baseball. There's no way for the stat zombies to counteract this, so they don't, but ignoring it doesn't make it go away.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the zombie attack:

I just wanted to report that Anonymous and Anonymous have been eaten... by each other.

Also, Jane Heller at Confessions of a She Fan writes RE the zombie attack:

You must be enjoying this!!!!

I love every minute of it!!!!

They don't have an answer for me and haven't the faintest clue what to do next; this provides endless entertainment----and has me winning this fight.

It must be a comfort to my troops that the Boss handles this stuff with such vicious and precision efficiency that I laid waste to the attack within such a brief time and did it singlehandedly.

John Seal (West Coast Spiritual Adviser) writes RE Moneyball and David Forst:

You set me up for a 'may the Forst be with you' joke, but didn't deliver the punchline!
Forst is the presumptive heir apparent, though it's true Billy wasn't best man at his wedding or anything.

John, I saw this comment and literally punched myself in the jaw for missing on the hanger that was "May the Forst be with you". I might've been a little more spent from the attack and subsequent skirmish than I realized. It will not happen again.


Joe said...

Joe Nathan is better than Bobby Jenks.

She-Fan said...

Julio Lugo retiring as a Red Sock. That cracked me up.