Monday, May 3, 2010

Stuff That CANNOT Happen, Part I

  • No excuses, please:

The addendum to the title of this posting isn't some fading action hero's attempt to milk endless sequels from a long-lost and antiquated concept. It's more of a cold reality that I know it will be a recurring theme out of necessity as opposed to mining for topics about which to write.

Leave it to that wizened baseball philosopher Sparky Anderson to deliver a memorable quote that will apply forever. In summing up a closed door meeting he had with his struggling Tigers in late August of 1985, Anderson said the following:

"Don't tell me it's a lack of concentration. Don't tell me you're struggling at the plate. Don't tell me it's a lack of preparation. Just tell me you're terrible."

Truer words were never spoken.

With that in mind, let's have a look at events from over the weekend; games that were peppered with stuff that cannot happen.

Johan Santana cannot come up that small.

You can provide some legitimate caveats to the Santana performance in the Phillies 11-5 rubber-game win over the Mets last night.

The Phillies had been slumping at the plate and were bound to bust out eventually as they did on both Saturday and Sunday. No pitcher----regardless of his resume----would be able to handle that lineup if they're running on all cylinders; but while Mike Pelfrey had a couple of instances of defensive misfortune sabotage him on Saturday, what's Santana's excuse for walking opposing pitcher Jamie Moyer with the bases loaded?

That's a situation where it's almost as if you want to grab Santana and exclaim, "How dare you?!?" Moyer's not clueless at the plate, but he's not a good hitter either. Once it gets to two-and-oh, throw a meatball down the middle of the plate and hope he pops it up. It's not Josh Johnson or Dontrelle Willis up there; it's Jamie Moyer. Throw a strike.

Johan Santana is well-known as a second-half pitcher; but if he's still to be regarded as one of the top-five pitchers in baseball, he has to battle his way through a game vs an arch-rival and get to the 5th or 6th inning having given up four or fewer runs.

What happened last night cannot happen.

An ancillary note regarding the Mets, the crisis-a-day feel of baseball in the age of information at the click of a button makes it feel like it's September and another swoon is underway; and it's not just the Mets----it's prevalent everywhere. It's gotten to the point where the hysteria is pitch-by-pitch rather than day-to-day; week-to-week; or month-to-month.

Considering the way things have gone for the Mets over the past few years and the savage attacks they've endured from all sides, if someone had said the following to any Mets fan----"Would you take a 14-11 record after the first 25 games?"----how many would've said no?

None. That's how many.

None would've said no. Everything has to be put into its proper perspective.

The Red Sox cannot get swept by the Orioles.

It's a contextualized series of stats, but the Red Sox are second in the American League in errors; and 13th in fielding percentage. Yes, they've got a bunch of players with range to get to balls, but that range is also presuming that they'll make the plays when they catch the ball.

Their pitching has been terrible too.

Are 25 games enough to start to wonder when the vaunted switch from power to pitching and defense is going to manifest itself into results?

If you're the Red Sox and you're already falling far behind not only the Rays but the Yankees as well, you cannot walk into Baltimore against a team that was 4-18 coming in and get swept. The Orioles are not that bad; but the Red Sox have designs on winning another World Series.

The Red Sox schedule for May goes as follows:

4 games in Fenway vs the Angels.

3 games in Fenway vs the Yankees.

3 games in Fenway vs the Blue Jays.

3 games in Detroit vs the Tigers.

2 games in New York vs the Yankees.

2 games in Fenway vs the Twins.

3 games in Philadelphia vs the Phillies.

3 games in Tampa vs the Rays.

And ending the month with 4 games in Fenway vs the Royals.

They're playing poorly and the schedule makers haven't helped them in the hopes for a recovery. There's every possibility that the Red Sox will be hopelessly buried by June.

The Brewers cannot misplace their bats on such a regular basis.

The Padres are playing and pitching very well, but for a team like the Brewers----with such a crew of power bats led by Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun----you cannot get shutout in 3 of 4 games after assaulting the Pirates for 17 runs only a week ago; and for 20 runs four days prior to that.

What that tells me about the Brewers is that if you send 4-A pitchers against them, they'll bash; if you send average-to-above-average quality against them, they don't hit.

The Brewers are a flawed team with unrealistically high expectations. Sooner or later those expectations are going to cost manager Ken Macha his job, but Connie Mack couldn't have done much better than Macha has with this group. Even with that, there's no reason that this Brewers roster can't hang around Wild Card contention. (Considering the way the Cardinals are playing, it's looking like the NL Central will be decided by July.)

The National League is rife with teams that have glaring holes. Even the two-time defending NL champion Phillies have massive issues in the back of the rotation and their bullpen. By the time September rolls around, there may be a cluster of teams jockeying for the Wild Card and supremacy in their respective divisions; the Brewers have enough to be on the outskirts of that race despite their mediocrity.

But they have to score.

Ben Sheets, um....Ben Sheets simply cannot...


The Athletics rolled the dice on Sheets to the tune of a guaranteed $10 million and he's been awful over his past two starts allowing 17 earned runs in 7.1 innings. He'd pitched well in his four starts prior to those performances.

If you're Athletics boss Billy Beane, you're straddling the line between hoping something's bothering Sheets and that it's just a small slump. If he's achy, there's an excuse for those rancid results; if this is the way he's going to pitch, the A's aren't even going to be able to move him to a contender and get something for him when----not if, when----they fall out the race by mid-summer or sooner.

Oh, and Justin Duchscherer is going to miss his scheduled start tomorrow with a right hip injury. The same hip upon which he's had two surgeries.

13-13 record or not, the Athletics are in trouble.

  • Viewer Mail 5.3.2010:

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Roy Halladay:

Halladay knows how to close the deal. He knows how to finish. He pounded the strike zone hard with 88 strikes in 118 pitches. Did you see the curve ball that almost caused David Wright to need hip replacement surgery that dropped in for a called strike three? Yikes! David flat out looked scared and almost broke his ankles ducking away. Getting beaned still messes with him.

Halladay is like any of the greats like Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, et al----if you're going to get them, get them early. Once they get into a groove, you might as well forget it.

With Wright, I don't think he's affected by the beaning anymore. That's a natural reflex if a pitch is heading for the batter's head; it just so happened to break into the zone. My guess is he misread the seams coming out of Halladay's hand and didn't realize it was a curve.

That's another reason for Halladay's greatness: the hitters don't get a good read on his pitches until he's late in his motion so they can't read the seams before it's too late.

You're making me miss Wright's MEMONGOUS HELMET from last year's return after the beaning when he was 'Lil Davey.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Tim McCarver:

As for the McCarver/Buck duo, you couldn't be more right, Prince.

Which leads me to share this anecdote:

On my coffee table I have McCarver's "Baseball for Brain Surgeons", still one of my favorite baseball books for its intricate scenario based pleasure ride of valuable, strategic information. But a friend of mine saw it the other day and chastised me for owning ANYTHING written by that "lazy McCarver" (his words, not mine). My defense of that 1998 published book fell on deaf ears. My buddy was so tired of McCarver's "shit he says just to say it" that I had no shot of convincing him there was great value in it.


It's a shame because he was so good, but it's a function of arrogance and laziness that he's degenerated into a joke. There's something to be said for someone who takes such strong stands and is undeterred by criticism for that fact, but he can't back it up with anything sensible anymore.

The criticism is no longer based on his baseball opinions, but due to the reasons I listed yesterday. He's skating through and it shows; if he no longer has the energy to put in the effort, then he should admit it and either cut back or take an ancillary or different role in the game like Peter Gammons.

It's nothing to be embarrassed about, but if he continues down his current road, there'll be plenty to be embarrassed about. Well, maybe I should say plenty more to be embarrassed about.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE Halladay:

I disagree with you on Halladay. When a guy has a masterpiece going, you let him finish it. 118 pitches ain't nothing for Doc, because he's THAT good. Would you yank a pitcher with a no-hitter going into the ninth when he's thrown 140 pitches? I'd say no.

I didn't have a problem with leaving Halladay in; my problem was with McCarver's garbage as to why it was important to leave him in. In the long run, the 118 pitches won't hurt Halladay one way or the other.

Once you get to 140 pitches, you're talking danger zone----even for someone like me who's had his fill of pitch counts. Looseness with floating rules shouldn't include doing damage to team hopes questing for individual glory. At 115-120, give him a chance to finish the no-no; but 140? Some prudence is necessary.

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

Listen to my Podcast appearance with Sal at SportsFanBuzz from Friday----Prince on the Podcast link. It's a thrill-ride from start to finish.

Also, my book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here.

25 games in and I called it with an accuracy almost to the point of creepiness with what's happened to the Red Sox so far.



She-Fan said...

I was shocked when I read about Santana. But how many times has he given up that many runs in his career? None, right? So I'd just chalk it up to the proverbial bad day at the office. Sure, he shouldn't have walked Moyer. But now the Mets need to bounce back, end of story.

Jeff said...

That was Johan Santana? Looked more like Ollie Perez.


the Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Could you imagine if Omar had signed Sheets and/or Jason Marquis this past winter?
The villagers would be looking for Omar with pitch forks and torches. Speaking of the winter;- Did you hear about Omar's big signing - R.A. Dickey? He gave up a hit in the first inning and retired the next 27 batters in a AAA game in Buffalo last week.