Monday, May 31, 2010

From the Sublime To The Ridiculous

Being it's Memorial Day and the season is not far out from being a third of the way over, let's have a look at the season so far with the good; the bad; and the absurd. Comments are welcome to add to that which you think I missed.

There's much to do.

  • The Good:

Ubaldo Jimenez

It's not the no-hitter; it's not that he's carried the Rockies on his back while they're struggling with injuries; it's not that he's been almost literally unhittable; it's the totality of what Jimenez has done so far this season.

If anyone doubts that a pitcher should be a candidate for league MVP, they need only look at what Jimenez has done so far this year overall; on a game-by-game basis; the way the Rockies starting rotation has been ravaged by injuries and inconsistency and think about where they'd be without Jimenez.


Perfection from divergent personalities

Does anyone even know Roy Halladay's area code when he was growing up? Were the survival rates as hit-or-miss as implied by Dallas Braden's yammering about growing up in the dreaded 209?

You couldn't find two more different people achieving perfection at any time, let alone three weeks apart.

Dallas Braden of the Athletics became a public figure (and eventually a public spectacle) as he took on Alex Rodriguez for ARod's habitual mound stepping and gamesmanship and took an issue about which he was right and made himself look like a fool with his relentless rambling about "the 209". He made threats and endlessly jabbered to the point that A's boss Billy Beane told him to shut up. Braden was able to put all of that aside days later and achieve perfection against the Rays.

Roy Halladay of the Phillies is the epitome of lunch-pail greatness. He shows up to work and does his talking on the mound like the quiet gunslinger his nickname----Doc Halladay----implies. The perfect game on Saturday against the Marlins was a study in efficiency, calm and class.

And area codes were never mentioned in any context.

The Padres

It's silly if people give new GM Jed Hoyer credit for the Padres 30-20 start and that the young players----especially the pitchers---are developing nicely. The credit for that should go to manager Bud Black (who I thought should've been replaced and has done a Manager of the Year-quality job); pitching coach Darren Balsley; and former GM Kevin Towers.

The Padres have parlayed a deep pitching staff and some luck (Jon Garland is 6-2 with across-the-board stats that are not going to continue); to a surprisingly hot start and rapid maturity into realistic contention. They're going to hang around all year too.

Hoyer did almost nothing this past off-season and he was clearly setting the stage to trade both Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell before the hot start; we'll see what he's got as an executive when he looks to add rather than subtract at mid-season. They desperately need a bat if they want to be taken seriously, but for right now? They're a terrific story.

Matt Capps:

Should anything done by the Pirates be surprising?

As cynical as I am, even I was shocked that the Pirates non-tendered Capps this past off-season. Even though he was eligible for arbitration, the move didn't make sense. Capps's struggles last season as the Pirates closer were no reason to toss him out the window for nothing.

Capps was a player they could've traded for something useful; instead, they dumped him...and compounded the mistake as they turned around to sign Octavio Dotel and Brendan Donnelly. Both have been predictably atrocious----as expected by any organization that has the ability to analyze players and judge them accordingly which automatically eliminates the Pirates from the discussion.

Apart from a hiccup here and there, Capps has been excellent and, most importantly, his biggest bugaboo----the home run ball----has been a non-factor with the Nats as he's only allowed 2.

Ah, the Pirates...

  • The Bad:

The Mariners

I find it laughable that the same organization, saddled with similarly high expectations two years ago, but run by Bill Bavasi rather than Jack Zduriencik----and whose record after 49 games was only one game worse than this current group----has yet to be criticized with the same venom as that Mariners team was.

That team actually had an excuse as closer J.J. Putz and Erik Bedard both got hurt and things snowballed beyond repair.

What about this Mariners team?

Because Zduriencik is well-versed in stats and scouting, he's getting a pass that the likes of Omar Minaya and Dayton Moore don't----and it's not fair. It's cherry-picking criticism for a team that is poorly put together and had unrealistically high expectations based on the reputation of the GM rather than what he built.

Add in the Ken Griffey Jr. nap/performance disaster; Milton Bradley; and Chone Figgins (possibly the worst free agent signing so far this year); and baseball's worst overall lineup and you see a Mariners team floating off to sea.

The GM gets the credit? He gets the blame as well; and it can't be ignored due to agenda and/or convenience to an argument.

The Indians

Who looked at this team and expected them to contend?

They're awful. And I don't want to hear the "rebuilding" excuse as GM Mark Shapiro is considered another brilliant tactician who reloads by trading his veterans in for top prospects. They horribly mishandled the Eric Wedge firing last year and things didn't get much better in the off-season when their "big" additions were Mike Redmond and Russell Branyan.

A complete team, the Indians can't pitch, hit or field and have a series of immovable contracts in Kerry Wood, Travis Hafter and Grady Sizemore.

Oliver Perez

He's been about as bad as a pitcher can possibly be over the past season-and-a-third. Never reliable to throw strikes, at the very least in his first 2 1/2 seasons with the Mets, he was durable and mostly competitive. Now, he's providing nothing at $12 million annually. He's refusing a minor league assignment and it doesn't appear as if the Mets are going to try anything outside the box as I suggested weeks ago by sending him to work with Tom Seaver.

Now it's turning into a clubhouse issue as the NY Post is reporting (have a bucket of salt handy) that the players want Perez to go and work out his problems in the minors or leave entirely----NY Post Story----and not come back.

Bottom line, he's been awful; it doesn't appear as if he's ever going to be of any use whatsoever, so cutting him and accepting the sunk cost may be the best bet at this point to get someone in to help the club. The National League is so bunched together that the one or two games that might be blown by using Perez could cost the Mets a playoff spot.

The Diamondbacks

Like the Indians, they can't hit, field or pitch.

Built on the basis of two Cy Young Award contending starting pitchers in Brandon Webb and Dan Haren and a power-laden lineup, things have gone horribly awry.

Webb is still hurt and there's no timetable on his return; Haren is getting shelled; the lineup strikes out too much; the rest of the rotation is short; the bullpen is an arson consortium; the defense is heinous; the manager is intelligent and woefully inexperienced; and the GM is under scrutiny.

That just about covers it. I'd say it couldn't get much worse, but I think it might get much worse.

  • The Absurd:

Hanley Ramirez

Just like anything else, you can look at this situation as a positive or a negative. The negative was the Ramirez kicked ball and light jog in retrieval; the positive is the "last straw" reaction from manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Because Ramirez's disinterest, diva-like behavior and lackadaisical play had been an unhidden secret for years, it was great that the infection was salved by the Ramirez-Gonzalez confrontation.

The players all stood squarely behind their manager and Ramirez's defiance and disrespect was handled by the intimidating Andre Dawson and placid Tony Perez. Because of the way this was dealt with, Ramirez will undoubtedly play like a maniac for the rest of the year.

Kendry Morales's broken leg

I've never been a fan of the roughhousing in celebration of a walk-off win and knew it was only a matter of time before someone got hurt. I hate sounding like a disapproving parent ruining the players' fun, but there are times to limit the amount of fun the children have and this is one of those cases. The Angels were offensively challenged before. Now? They've got a big problem where there shouldn't have been one.

Joe Buck and Tim McCarver

Does anyone take these two seriously?

McCarver's time as a top-flight analyst ended fifteen years ago and he's been declining rapidly and increasingly out of touch as he parachutes in with his familiar laments in an attempt to provide blanket coverage without in-depth team-to-team knowledge because he doesn't have the inside information to accurately analyze. It's lazy broadcasting based on a reputation.

Buck? I haven't found anyone who likes him; who thinks he's either a talented broadcaster or engaging personality. He's smarmy and obnoxious and it occasionally appears as if Fox is forcing him down viewers' throats simply because they believe any reaction is a positive reaction.

It's not.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Thursday. Listen here. You can say I'm insane or a genius. And you might be right in both cases. Or you might not.2010BaseballGuideCover.gif

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

What goes around....really goes around.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Lightning 5.30.2010

  • Live by the stats, die by the stats:

Look at the following unnamed pitcher. Let's call him "Pitcher X".

Pitcher X had a humongous splash in which he became an instant folk hero because of his personality and obvious skills; a power fastball and a joy for the game that was infectious; and he showed the ability to be a dominant force for long stretches. An engaging personal story added to the package and he wasn't simply style----he was substance.

Then he started slumping.

Shifted here and there; the subject of debate on proper utilization; and treated as a breakable object whose safety was more important than performance, he unraveled before our eyes. His numbers, impressive at the start, have fallen off the cliff and there are increasingly legitimate questions as to what his future is and whether he can regain that which he lost.

Given the news that he's just been designated for assignment, some of you may think I'm talking about Dontrelle Willis.

I'm not.

I will discuss Willis shortly, but right now I'm talking about Joba Chamberlain.

Amid all the debate of what to do with Chamberlain; how gifted he is; what a superstar he's shown the potential of being, it easily gets lost that the simplest barometer on which to judge any player is his performance.

And Chamberlain's performance over the past two seasons has not been good.

Yesterday was the first time that I watched him and thought to myself that it's quite possible that he's simply not what was advertised.

Chamberlain exploded onto the scene as a nuclear weapon out of the bullpen for the 2007 Yankees. The babyface; the enthusiasm; the power fastball that made big league hitters look inept; the sweet story of the relationship with his polio-stricken father; the nickname; and the much repeated "Joba Rules" which became a T-shirt slogan and a laudable method of protection were all components in the creation of this marketable monster.

Naturally, the "Joba Rules" became an entity unto itself. Protecting Chamberlain became more important than developing his skills and there's been a decline in his fastball; his mental acuity (never all that great to begin with) has been sabotaged by the special treatment he's received; he wasn't good as a starter; and he's pitching poorly as a reliever. The debate on what he "should" be is becoming secondary to his results.

Their plans torn asunder by cruel reality, again the Yankees are reaching a crossroads with their overpackaged and overprotected man-child. Even those that said he should be in the bullpen (and I was one) have to watch his performance and ask, "what should be done with this guy?"

2009 was a lost year in his development. Because of the way they limited his innings based on a floating set of "rules" that were instituted more as a device for self-protection to prevent criticism of the organization than a conduit to his maximization, he was unable to gain any traction as a starting pitcher, so we still don't know whether or not he can be an effective starter; we did know he could be an effective reliever based on his domination in 2007 and how well he pitched in 2008 out of the bullpen; but now? I have no idea.

The strategy in 2007 to use him out of the bullpen as a power fastballing set-up man was working; but, as life has shown us so many times, the greatest and most well-thought-out plans can be demolished by the unforeseen. In the 2007 ALDS, it was the Cleveland midges; since then, it's been the organization and the pitcher.

Of course it's easy to blame the Yankees for his dismantling----and their ridiculous usage of Chamberlain has played a major part; we'll never know what would've happened had they treated him as an athlete and let him ply his trade. But at some point, his numbers will be seen for what they are. There won't be any questions as to where and how to use him; the Joba Rules will be a distant memory and he'll just be "number 62" and "Chamberlain" rather than "Joba" and they'll stick him someplace and hope for the best.

ESPN the Magazine had a feature called "MLB Confidential" in which players were polled on a variety of subjects, it was revealed in the "Most Overrated" category that the winner was Chamberlain. Here's the quote:

In the MOST OVERRATED category, Joba rules, as the Yanks reliever edged teammate A-Rod 17% to 9%. "I'm not sure what Chamberlain has done to have people still saying he's going to be great," says one AL reliever.

So, which is it?

Is he a star in waiting who has to regain his 2007 form?

Has he been ruined by the Yankees' treatment?

Is he overrated?

Was he a product of raw talent, a catchy nickname and a crafted image like that of a talented boy band?

Or is it a combination of all of the above?

As much as Chamberlain has been bolstered by the image, eventually he has to be taken for what he is, and as of right now, what he is is mediocre at best.

It's been a rapid fall for Dontrelle Willis from what he was in 2005 when he was dominant winning 22 games and finishing second in the NL Cy Young Award voting. The Marlins penchant for dealing expensive veterans resulted in his trade to the Tigers after the 2007 season; with the Tigers, he signed a 3-year, $29 million extension to avoid arbitration.

In 2008, his downfall was precipitous; his control deserted him; his inability to deal with adversity led to his public battle with "anxiety" issues; and he wound up back in the minor leagues. After a solid spring training, Willis was serviceable early this season and even good at times, but the Tigers are a team that's trying to win and they can't continue putting Willis out on the mound if he's non-competitive. Cutting the cost and accepting the failure is better than blowing games trying to get something from a pitcher who won't help them.

Once he clears waivers, someone will take a chance on Willis. The obvious landing spot will have him heading back to Florida to rejoin the Marlins, but I believe a better option for him would be the Cardinals to come under the tutelage of the miracle-worker/pitching coach Dave Duncan.

At age 28 and with his resume, Willis is salvageable in the right situation and that is back in the National League with the Cardinals.

  • Kendry Morales's ridiculous injury:

Without sounding like a disapproving parent trying to put the kibosh on team roughhousing, I've never been a fan of the trend in which players who win a game with a walk-off hit are bonked on the head and knocked around. The only injuries I've heard of coming from the practice are a bloody nose here and there; but yesterday, the Angels' Kendry Morales hit a game-winning grand slam against the Mariners and, as he leaped onto home plate, he broke his leg.


There's no commentary needed for this.

It's just stupid. Plain and simple.

Like a parent, a manager's job to keep the children from hurting themselves and if I'm any manager with a semblance of control over his players, I say the following: "No roughhousing celebrations, period."

  • Roy Halladay is awesome:

Um. That's pretty much it.

  • Viewer Mail 5.30.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman:

The problem I have with the Cashman-Girardi partnership is the disconnect that has developed regarding injuries. One says one thing; the other another. It's hard to know what's going on sometimes.

You have to wonder if the World Series win has allowed Girardi to rattle his cage more than we know. I get the same feeling of disconnect and I don't pay nearly as close attention to the Yankees as you do. This could be a burgeoning problem between the GM and his manager.

Jennifer at The Simple Dish writes RE babying pitchers:

I played softball throughout high school and college and I play in a league now (granted, I own my position at 3b). Call me dumb, but I never once heard the term "high stress inning" until now. What exactly makes an inning high stress? To me, the term sounds incredibly subjective which means some stat zombie will come up with a nice little equation to determine a high stress inning.

Additionally, if you're brought to a team to pitch and the team places a pitch count on you (but then how does one develop experience?!), that's one thing; what Cashman is doing is essentially washing his hands of a Hughes implosion and is preemptively hanging Girardi and Eiland out to dry.

It used to be called "pitching in a pinch" back in the dead ball era where pitchers would pump up the volume on their stuff only when they got into trouble. Zack Grenike has shown the ability to increase his velocity from 93-94 to 97 when he needs it.

If a pitcher has to work harder in a particular inning, it's not only takes a physical toll, but a mental one as well. My issue with the series of rules that Cashman and the stat zombies have attached to every pitcher is that they're altering them when others----like Nolan Ryan and Mike Maddux----try something different. It's not innovative and it's not management; it's mimicking and that's not how the 1990s Yankees championship teams were built under Gene Michael.

We know the corporate culture isn't about success; it's about having someone to blame in failure. Cashman has designs on being the ruthless CEO and that falls in with leaving the responsibility to others if and when things come apart.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE The Hughes Rules:

The Hughes rules? Seriously?

Didn't they learn ANYTHING?

For being the winningest franchise in the history of sports, the Yankees sure do know how to make asses of themselves in the media. Jesus christ...

It's times like this that George Steinbrenner is missed. They're not content with having demolished Chamberlain, but the limitations are being placed on the last of the three "hot prospects" along with Chamberlain, the dispatched Ian Kennedy, and now Phil Hughes.

They deserve whatever they get from this practically and publicly.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE The Hughes Rules:

Billy Connors must be somewhere in Tampa laughing his head off.

I was never on-board with the image of Connors as this "pitching guru", but he was a competent pitching coach who would never have been in line with the way the young pitchers are babied nowadays.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Thursday. Listen here. You can't handle the truth!!!

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

You Have All These Rules And You Think They'll Save You

  • The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules...

Well, it appears that Yankees GM Brian Cashman is at it again with...The...Hughes....Rules...





Led by GM Brian Cashman, the Yankees are implementing more "rules" with another young pitcher----Phil Hughes----ostensibly to "protect" him and the club's investment; and are simultaneously shoving them down manager Joe Girardi's and pitching coach Dave Eiland's throats.

Details of the floating series of rules which no one can define and have worked so well with Joba Chamberlain are available in this ESPN New York Story by Andrew Marchand.

Here are the relevant clips:

The Yankees have the guidelines for a plan that could give Hughes nearly two weeks of extra days off from now until July 20. The days off would be spread out over the next six weeks and would not be nearly as noticeable as the ones that were implemented for Joba Chamberlain last season.

Girardi and Eiland will make their decisions based on how many innings -- especially high-stress innings -- and pitches that Hughes has thrown thus far.

They are very hesitant to speak about the plans, because they don't want the Hughes Rules to draw the same fanfare as the Joba Rules.

"That is all up to Joe and Dave," GM Brian Cashman said. "They know just like last year with Joba what the limits are."


To quote Mr. Spock in logician's tone and unsaid bewilderment, "Fascinating".

You'll notice a slight alteration in the way the rules are being defined (as much as such stupidity can be defined while trying to "protect" the unprotectable; the inexplicable nature of an individual's arm; his variation of motion; and his future.

Eiland and Girardi (and presumably Cashman) are paying close attention to the newest phraseology "innings and high-stress innings" that are being used by the Rangers and Nolan Ryan as they alter the "delicate flower" approach to pitchers that has come into vogue and are instead choosing to do something novel----let them pitch----from the minor league system on up. (I discussed this in my my podcast appearance on Thursday.)

So first it was a simple limitation of innings/pitches based on history and the injury rates of pitchers whose innings have been radically increased too quickly; now, they're incorporating some nuance into the equation.

I see.

What's next in the mad scientist la-bor-a-tory of Cashman as he waits for the lightning strike to bring to life his vision of a Stat Zombie monster of world domination, ably assisted by his personal Igor, Girardi?

I especially love the way Cashman is being so condescending with the implied and unsaid threat while giving tactical freedom to his manager and pitching coach to get the job done however they see fit...but "you're in trouble if he gets hurt".

No one has any idea whether this is the "best" way to develop young pitchers, but the Yankees have become so immersed in this culture that they're going down with the ship one way or the other. It's somewhat embarrassing to the point of anger-inducing to see someone with Joe Girardi's baseball experience and intelligence (the guy went to Northwestern) treated like a child who can't be relied upon to handle his players with caution and care.

It again comes down to the blame game and the necessity to have a partnership of trust between a GM and his manager. If Cashman truly believes Girardi is the man for the job, then he should give him the room to handle the players as he sees fit without the edicts coming down from the front office.

Said edicts are markedly different in tone and haphazardness from the missives that George Steinbrenner used to toss out as a way of instilling fear in his employees. Cashman is in charge now; everyone knows it. It's his baby and he's getting the credit and the blame with no one else at whom to point as a way of deflecting said responsibility. So why is it necessary to emasculate his manager and pitching coach to justify how pitchers are being limited and deployed?

I have my feelings on the pitch counts and babying that is prevalent in baseball today and I've gone on about it repeatedly; if clubs want to place limits on their pitchers, it's fine; they're the ones who are paying them; they're the ones who have to deal with the consequences; but is the parsing necessary to compartmentalize who's at fault when something goes wrong? No.

In fact, it can be detrimental to the respect given----inside and outside the clubhouse----to good baseball people like Girardi and Eiland and it's not right in practice or in theory.

  • Viewer Mail 5.29.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Shin-Soo Choo:

Choo always kills the Yankees ...sort of like Jason Bay. Not looking forward to facing him this weekend in the Bronx.

The Indians are atrocious. You have nothing to worry about. The Indians are throwing Justin Masterson today which should mean some crooked numbers on the board; Mitch Talbot's pitching tomorrow and he's been quite good; if the Indians get a game, it'll be tomorrow.

Then again, "you just can't predict baseball!"

But I do better than most.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Dan Haren and my podcast appearance:

I like the Haren in St. Louis idea. In fact, I love it.

The podcast was great. I wanna hear one where Sal lets you go off.

The money could be an issue with Haren to the Cardinals.

I need to mention that I haven't heard anyone suggest that Haren could be had in a trade; it's my suggestion that teams (the Mets) start calling Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes and lay the groundwork for a possible deal. The Diamondbacks are spinning into the sea and have few options aside from riding it out or starting a rebuild.

They'd get a lot for Haren. And I'd give it to them if I were an interested team.

Sal does a great job and he lets me go while keeping me within a framework of sanity. Speaking of spiraling, that would happen if I started truly teeing off. I need some parameters from people I respect. Everyone else? Watch out.

As mentioned, I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Thursday and it's----I'm not gonna mince words----awesome destruction. Listen here or download or do something. Just2010BaseballGuideCover.gif listen. Immediately.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

No one's gonna tell you nothin'. They're wise to your act. You got rules. Me? I got no rules. No one's gonna cross me for you.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Under The Radar Inquiries

  • It doesn't hurt to ask...

Trading season is going to heat up sooner rather than later especially with the entire National League all stuck together like Michael Kay's dirty laundry (literally and figuratively); with that in mind (apologies for the image if you were eating) it's time to have a look at players who----unlike Prince Fielder, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt----haven't been bandied about in the media as the obvious targets for contenders to bolster their rosters.

Some names may not even be available, but given their team and individual struggles, it never hurts to ask; and asking can sometimes lead to dialogue which takes on a life of its own and evolves from the outlandish, to the possible, to the realistic, to the blockbuster that shocks the world.

Here are the players about whom to ask, along with the teams that should do that asking:

Dan Haren, Arizona Diamondbacks

Even in the mishmash of the National League, the Diamondbacks are going nowhere. Their starting pitching is short; the bullpen is terrible; the lineup is streaky and strikeout-laden; and their defense reprehensible. The foundation of a power-hitting lineup bolstered by two aces at the top of the starting rotation with Dan Haren and Brandon Webb has been detonated by Webb's shoulder injury and Haren's struggles.

Haren's been terrible for the most part this year----stats----and he's giving up an unsightly number of homers (16 so far); his contract is long-term and moderately agreeable if you think he'll rebound ($8.25 million this year; $12.75 million for 2011-2012; and a $15.5 million club option for 2013 with a $3.5 million buyout); his control and strikeouts are solid.

He'll be 30 in September and doesn't have a no-trade clause.

Ordinarily, Webb would be the trade target and if he were healthy and pitching, that's who'd be dealt; but he's not. He's still on the disabled list, has just changed his arm angle for one reason or another and his return is uncertain.

So why not call GM Josh Byrnes about Haren?

Haren came up with the Cardinals and would benefit from the tutelage of Dave Duncan to get back on track; plus the Cardinals just lost both Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse to injuries; they need a starter.

The Mets play in a park in which Haren's penchant for giving up homers would not be a factor and he'd be a member of the club for the long-term; the Yankees need pitching; as do the Angels.

Will the Diamondbacks listen if teams come calling about Haren? Maybe.

Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians

I mentioned him in passing during my podcast appearance yesterday with Sal at SportsFan Buzz as a player about whom a surprise contender like the Padres might want to ask.

That was before reading today's profile of Choo in today's NY Times by Tyler Kepner.

After getting past that Choo is blossoming into a five-tool star at age 28 who's going to be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season, he has one issue that could spur the Indians to listen to offers for him----compulsory service in the South Korean military that must begin before age 30.

Choo has options to avoid the mandatory service. As is stated in the article, he could apply for U.S. citizenship; or he could help South Korea win the Gold Medal in the Asian games and be exempted from service entirely.

Choo's agent is Scott Boras, so you have to figure they're going to cook something up to let him play those prime years and earn a lot of money.

The Indians are penny-pinching and terrible. Can they risk losing Choo for two years as they rebuild? Would an offense-hungry team in the middle of a race be willing to give up some quality bulk for Choo?

The Athletics, Padres and Giants are three teams to look at; teams with prospects to deal and an offensive hole to fill; and if they called, the Indians might be willing to make the move for the known young players in exchange for a burgeoning star who may or may not be available to play for two full years.

Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles Angels

Here's a thought for a team with a bullpen issue----why not trade for Kazmir and make him a reliever?

Kazmir will never be durable enough to be a reliable starter; he racks up pitch counts into the 100s by the fifth or (if his team is lucky) sixth inning; he's very expensive ($8 million this year; $12 million in 2011; a $13.5 million club option for 2012 with a $2.5 million buyout); and the Angels would move him.

How about a team like the Braves, who could use starting pitching help now, and a replacement closer for Billy Wagner next year?

The Phillies are desperately in need of pitching and using Kazmir as a reliever would reduce the sting and criticism of trading prospects for pitching after dealing the Stone Cold Killer, Lee, for Roy Halladay.

How about the Brewers if they still think they've got enough to climb back into contention (why not in the NL?) and want to replace Trevor Hoffman with Kazmir?

The Rockies need bullpen help and have the prospects to deal. The Nationals are playing aggressively in the market.

It's outside the box and Kazmir might not like the switch to the bullpen, but it's where he belongs and it might be the best thing for the acquiring club and the pitcher for the short and long term.

Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

I'd just ask because the Pirates are so stupid that they might listen. McCutchen will be a perennial MVP candidate one day.

  • Viewer Mail 5.28.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Mets and Cliff Lee:

How come you don't want Lee on the Mets? Wouldn't the Stone Cold Killer have fun in New York?

Are you kidding? All I want for Hanukkah is the Stone Cold Killer.

But I'm not giving up the house for him now unless the Mets get a window to negotiate a contract extension and he's definitely staying long-term. If he's a rental, I'd just as soon look elsewhere for pitching help now and wait until after the season to make an all-out effort to sign Lee. I guarantee he'd love nothing better than to shove it to the Phillies for trading him.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Japanese players; and the Padres:

To my eye, all the Japanese players tend to have a certain calmness about them, whether they're good (Ichiro) or not (Irabu). I caught a few innings of that game last night and I was impressed with how Takahashi picked away.

Unrelated question:

The Padres. Seriously. Is this happening? Their entire pitching staff is beyond stellar right now. Is this gonna last? Watching them dissect the Cardinals the last couple days has given me indigestion. Are they gonna be buyers at the trade deadline? Hard to believe... but it's possible, right?

Agreed about the Japanese players; it's cultural.

The Padres pitching is very young and deep; because of that, they're going to hang around in contention all year long and have a bright future. I do think they're going to be looking for reasonably priced upgrades at mid-season which is one of the reasons I mentioned the Lance Berkman and Shin-Soo Choo possibilities on my Podcast appearance. The Padres are for real.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz yesterday on his podcast and it's me in all my glory with Sal somehow turning the trick of keeping me from flying into space.

Click here and dig it.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's availab2010BaseballGuideCover.gifle for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

A voice honed for radio.

A face made for movies.

A psychosis best-suited for an asylum.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Kid Stays In The Picture

  • Mets 5-Phillies 0:

He's only a kid to the big leagues as a rookie at age 35, but it's a safe bet to assume that Hisanori Takahashi is staying in the Mets rotation for the foreseeable future.

You know you've made it as a Japanese player in North America and New York in particular when Mike Francesa deigns to referring to you by your name rather than using 1950s era, old-school political incorrectness and arrogance indicative of "I don't hafta learn his name" by calling you "The Japanese Guy".

Francesa would've fit right in with the Rat the guy who went and got stuff for Frank whenever and wherever he might be.

But I digress.

It's a pleasure to watch Takahashi work both sides of the plate with a confident, commanding and peaceful air about him that screams, "don't worry, I know what I'm doing" not in the classic 1980s cop spoof Sledge Hammer that eventually resulted in a catastrophic explosion, but in a truly "I know what I'm doing" sense of Jamie Moyer/Tom Glavine/Tommy John-way.

And Takahashi throws harder than those guys did.

There's never a genuine way to gauge whether a player coming over from the Far East is going to translate to North America regardless of his prior success. Sometimes you get a Hideki Irabu----much hype, little substance; you get a Hideki Matsui----a quiet warrior with a thirst for big moments; a Daisuke Matsuzaka----overrated beyond belief; an Ichiro Suzuki----a stat machine and player with whom any team is destined to lose; and (so far) Takahashi----a professional.

It's doubtful that the Mets knew what they had in Takahashi when they signed him. He was lefty; a veteran who'd pitched well in Japan; but then again, the Yankees could say the same thing about Kei Igawa. As spring training went along and he continually baffled the hitters, the caveat "it's only spring training" was accurate. How many times have pitchers looked great in spring training and gotten bashed once the money was on the line in the regular season? (Remember Doug Simons?)

Once the season started, though, the Mets put Takahashi into games where he wasn't a danger to blow them up or they were already safely out of reach for him to do much damage----and he pitched well; in fact, he did the under-appreciated job of keeping games close, calming things down and giving the offense a chance to score and get the club back into the game and win a couple of games they had no right winning.

Now, in consecutive starts, he's held two of the most devastating lineups in baseball---the Yankees and Phillies----to zero runs in 12 innings.

It's hard to imagine him continuing to pitch this well, but Takahashi has scaled every obstacle placed in front of him and landed right on his feet with a flourish. The Mets should ride it out.

  • The value of the long man:

Speaking of the work Takahashi did as a long man before entering the Mets starting rotation out of necessity, it's an unrecognized and important job that he was doing while serving that purpose. The Yankees have just lost their long man----Alfredo Aceves----to a bulging disc in his back, possibly for the season.

This shines a light on the lack of depth throughout baseball, even with the wealthier teams; and the importance of that job. For a team with the offense of the Yankees or Phillies, no game is out of reach; because of that if the starter gets knocked out early, it's imperative to have a pitcher like Aceves or Takahashi to enter the game and settle it down to give the offense a chance to do some damage.

Successful teams have to have it. The Yankees signed Chad Gaudin to replace Aceves and Gaudin's a useful pitcher to have around, but he's not Aceves and the Yankees are going to miss that weapon greatly.

  • How much do the Phillies miss Jimmy Rollins?

I've discussed Jimmy Rollins's decline ad nauseam in the last couple of years, but his absence has shown how important he is as the catalyst to the Phillies. The current club isn't stealing any bases at all (they have 16 through 45 games); last season, they stole 119 bases----it was an important part of their offense. Rollins's injury will naturally diminish the stolen bases, but why aren't Chase Utley and Jayson Werth running? Shane Victorino only has 8 steals so far this year.

The Phillies home/away batting splits were almost identical in both 2008 and 2009; not so this year. They've hit 14 fewer homers on the road so far; and have 15 more doubles. They've scored the same number of runs home and away, so it's somewhat irrelevant, but the home run was how they got themselves back into games when they were behind; and if they're hitting fewer homers, you'll see fewer comebacks when games appeared lost.

Have they consciously chosen to shun the running game?

And if so, why?

  • The market for the Stone Cold Killer:

It's only a matter of when Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik starts fielding offers for The Stone Cold Killer, Cliff Lee; but with Lee's pending free agency and the amount of money he's going to want, how much can Zduriencik realistically expect to get for him and will it be worth more to hang onto Lee and take the draft picks for him leaving as a free agent than to trade him for less talent than the draft picks will yield?

Despite the burgeoning fact that Zduriencik isn't the "genius" he was portrayed to be by a lovestruck media, he's still smart and a keen judge of talent; if he looks at the 2011 draft and says that he's not getting offers that are commensurate with what he's sure to get in the draft, it makes no sense to do a deal.

And what of Lee?

Will the team trading for him want a window to negotiate a long-term contract? That could be the difference between the Mariners getting two or three blue chip prospects for him or one blue chipper and a couple of useful pieces. Lee wants to get paid; so if a team antes up the players and gets a window to sign him long-term, it would behoove Zduriencik and Lee to listen very carefully. If he's a known rental, they're not going to get nearly as much for him.

Given Lee's abdominal strain earlier this season and the struggles of the Mariners on the whole, we're not too far away from Lee being out there and available----I'd say mid-June if the Mariners don't have a drastic turnaround.

One team I'd watch with Lee is the Marlins. They've got the prospects even if Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton are off limits; they certainly have the balls to go for it now in a wide-open National League.

The Stone Cold Killer joining Murder Inc. (the Marlins) has a nice ring to it from a marketing standpoint.

  • Viewer Mail 5.27.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Mets:

So much for everybody calling for Manuel to be fired. If the Mets keep playing like this, he'll end up manager of the year.

I picked Jerry for Manager of the Year too!!!

But then, I picked Jose Reyes for MVP (unlikely); Madison Bumgarner for Rookie of the Year (he's in the minors); and Clayton Kershaw for CYA (he's pitching great after a slow start, but forget it in a league with Roy Halladay and Ubaldo Jimenez).

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Francisco Rodriguez; Vicente Padilla; and Jason Bay:

Nah, K-Rod isn't anywhere near as oogly as Vicente "Flopsweat" Padilla. But he is ugly. I think anyway.

"Jason Bay is telling UZR where to shove their numbers"

Boo yeah!

I'd like to see the Red State Blue State categories of unattractiveness. You can get a good posting from that.

Bay is a much better athlete than anyone thought; the implication was that he was a slightly faster than plodding slugger who needed to be a DH, but he can run and his defense hasn't been average, it's been good!

Jennifer at The Simple Dish writes RE plagiarism, Joel Sherman and me:

In my non-editorial experience, his article is very similar to yours (as in nearly mirror images of one another) and it doesn't speak too highly of Sherman's writing abilities or of the Post's cross checking abilities. And in full disclosure, I don't read the Post on any type of basis.

I still don't have a clear team to go all the way in the NL.

People I respect have said that while the postings appear similar, they don't think he outright robbed me. I guess I lean that way as well; and judging from their daily content, I doubt the New York Post editors spend a lot of time on fact-checking or are all that concerned about plagiarism.

Had Sherman referred to Lee as "The Stone Cold Killer", I'd have him, well, cold. But he didn't.

The fact remains that I wrote it first and I wrote it better. Period.

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

I have a Podcast appearance scheduled with Sal at SportsFanBuzz today. Are you ready to rock? I am. (I'm getting over a slight cold, so my voice may sound a bit funny. Laugh at your own risk.)

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via dow2010BaseballGuideCover.gifnload here.

Some men aren't looking for anything logical like money.

They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with.

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Playing To The Park, Playing To the Position

  • How much will the ballparks, money and holes affect the races?

The Mets are a different team at home than they are on the road and you have to believe that the confidence the pitchers have in the ballpark holding fly balls in the yard and the solid defense they've shown all year long----especially in the outfield (Jason Bay is telling UZR where to shove their numbers)----is helping them accumulate their 17-9 home record. They're still walking too many hitters at home and on the road, but there's a difference between saying, "here it is, hit it" at Citi Field and at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

The Phillies bashers have no problem getting the ball out of any park, but there's a big difference between a fly ball that would leave the yard with plenty of room to spare in their bandbox and in a cavernous outfield like the ones at Citi Field or Petco Park in San Diego.

How is the National League fuster cluck going to be affected by the ballparks as the season moves along?

It certainly depends on the division and how well teams have been constructed to thrive at home and survive on the road. Up until now, the Mets have been embarrassing on the road (6-14); the wildness of the pitching staff has run up high pitch-counts and necessitated the overuse of the reliable relievers Fernando Nieve; Pedro Feliciano; and Francisco Rodriguez. Unless they can translate the home success and gap-to-gap terror for which their lineup is essentially built to any degree on the road, they're going to have trouble.

People are wondering aloud whether the Padres are for real. I say they are because they have a deep young starting rotation; a well-stocked bullpen; fine defense; and enough hitting with Adrian Gonzalez to win close games. They're going to need a power bat if they're serious about making a run, but the pitching will let them hang around in the Western Division and Wild Card races.

Although they've slumped lately, the Braves are loaded with pitching and their offense is still a question. The Cardinals slump has coincided----here's a shock----with Albert Pujols having an awful month of May. It's safe to say that Pujols has a blazing hot streak on the way and the Cardinals will be fine. The Reds have been a thousand times better offensively than I thought they would, but their pitching is a problem when you look at Aaron Harang's continued descent; the injury to Homer Bailey; and a bullpen that totes gasoline cans into games.

It's going to be an interesting summer for teams that have differing philosophies on building to their ballpark. The Phillies smartly brought in players who can hit the ball out of the park; they have the speed in the lineup to account for away games and this, more than any other area, is where they miss Jimmy Rollins.

These issues will dictate team strategy as all determine whether they're in the race or not (and the only teams that should legitimately bail on the season are the Pirates and Astros) and how they try to upgrade.

Which teams will chase Roy Oswalt and the Stone Cold Killer, Cliff Lee?

Would anyone look at the back of Carlos Lee's baseball card and say his awful start has more to do with the way the Astros have crashed and hope that a change-of-scenery will wake up his bat? He's making a lot of money ($18.5 million annually through 2012) and a team would presumably get him for nothing in terms of players just by agreeing to take the contract. Lee's going to hit.

What about Jose Guillen? He's in the last year of his contract and has 11 homers.

Ty Wigginton and Luke Scott of the Orioles? They're cheap and useful.

Is Kenny Williams going to blow up the White Sox? Would that make Paul Konerko available? Don't you think the Braves would love to have Konerko, who's in the last year of his contract?

With the National League all over the place and so many teams in the middle of everything, trading will be competitive and rumors will be wild as the summer hits. It's wide open; the ballparks; team holes; money; and how far they're willing to go to win immediately will be taken into account as moves are made----and there's a lot of help a price.

  • I think I'm paranoid and complicated...

...but that doesn't make me wrong.

Ken Davidoff of Newsday called me "delusional".

Jane Heller said I'm not delusional, that there were similarities, but it wasn't, in her opinion, lifted or plagiarized.

Others felt it was clearly obvious that it was nearly identical in gist and content. (And there actually are others----some need to be kept nameless because of their position; others with whom I have a love/hate relationship and won't tell me I'm right just to agree with me.)

I report, you decide.

Compare my posting from Saturday regarding Roy Oswalt (and Cliff Lee)----link----to that of Joel Sherman in his blog post yesterday----link.

I'm not a regular reader of Sherman----I think he's a cheap shot artist; nor do I read the rag for which he writes. You can decide on your own whether you think I have a case of having been, at the very least, a helpful element for his conclusions.

I honestly don't know and, in a dual-pronged bottom line: one, there's nothing I can do about it; and two, mine was posted first.

On that, there's no dispute and no argument.

Even those who hate me or are too dumb to understand what I'm saying know that Saturday comes before Tuesday...or do they?

Any and all opinions on this matter will be printed and considered without prejudice.

  • Viewer Mail 5.26.2010:

Matt writes RE Red Sox bench players and Jeremy Hermida:

Paul, I think you left Hermida off the Sox list of bench guys, and he's actually come up with quite a few very big hits for them. Don't get me wrong, he's no world beater but the guy deserves some credit.

Matt's right; Hermida has gotten some big hits. He's struggled overall in Boston and has never lived up to the status of a first round pick as he was with the Marlins in 2002, but he's got some pop and is better than his currently weak batting average--.231; and OBP--.289. He does have 24 RBI.

The Red Sox have played very well lately, carried on their backs by the hot streak of Kevin Youkilis and good pitching.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Francisco Rodriguez:

Does K-Rod's fights with people mean he cares? Or does it mean he's as annoying as I thought?

K-Rod's feisty and quirky.

Due to the public nature of the scuffle (and other memorable ones in recent years like Prince Fielder flinging Manny Parra around like a rag-doll; Miguel Cabrera and Scott Olsen; Joe Girardi and Olsen; and John Gibbons and Ted Lilly) is that these things happen with every team probably 50 times a year; they just happen out of the public eye and are either kept from the media or unreported. To me, this is a non-issue. They're children. They fight. Sometimes over toys; sometimes over tantrums.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE K-Rod and the NY Post:

K-Rod's fierceness is what I like about him... that and that nasty awkward motion.

Still, he makes a good case for NOT having HD-TV. I hate to hate on anyone, but dude is so ugly he's ooogly.

As for the plagiarism... do you really expect anything else from the NY Post?

If anything, the Mets could use more of what K-Rod's got.

"Ooogly"? Is he worse that Vicente Padilla in your eyes, Jeff?

I know it's the Post and I don't even know if Sherman did anything untoward, but I'm not going to sit quietly if there's such a striking similarity to what I wrote to what Sherman wrote three days later. I innovate, not imitate. I win one way or the other.

Joe writes RE Mark Shapiro:

Shapiro shouldn't be criticized for 2010, because they are rebuilding. Small market teams have to go through this much more so than large market teams. I picked them to finish poorly, understanding what they were doing. Shapiro shouldn't simply get a free pass just because, he should get it because they are exercising the plan they intended on going with, once they traded Lee and V-Mart. And again, it is the plan to rebuild for the future.

I have a problem someone getting credit when they do well, but a pass when they do poorly. You can take into account the intent before the season started and the payroll issues, but if they knew this was going to be a rebuilding year, then why sign Russell Branyan? Why not play Matt LaPorta every day to see what they've got?

While you and I may have picked them to finish poorly, there were many people in the media that had them as darkhorse contenders in the AL Central. I'm not giving a fan of him a break when others have been savaged based on divergent philosophies rather than results. The Indians are awful and Shapiro is their boss----he's responsible and warrants criticism.

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

I have a Podcast appearance scheduled with Sal at SportsFanBuzz tomorrow. He keeps me on the reservation, but simultaneously lets me go off----it's the best of both worlds!!!

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

The Prince of New York.




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