Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Judgment Calls

  • They swung at what they heard:

Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds exploded onto the big league scene last night with a fastball clocked at 103 mph.

It's not the sheer velocity of the fastball itself----we've seen power fastballers before; any big league hitter can stand in and adjust his strategy to catch up to a fastball----but it was the look of bewilderment, "let me just make contact", along with a pleading for divine intervention to the tune of "please don't let that thing hit me" that was most striking among the Brewers hitters.

Any lefty called on to face Chapman with his slinging, herky-jerky motion has as much of a chance to get a hit as lefties did against Randy Johnson when Johnson was in his prime. And Chapman throws harder.

You can get an analysis of Chapman anywhere from voices both credible and not; when I first saw the clips of him in the spring, he looked like failed Yankees prospect Brien Taylor; now, having seen him pitch, he's unlike anyone I've seen. His mechanics bring to the forefront the cultural aspects that are inherent with pitchers who come to North America and are established enough not to be mucked with by organizational pitching coaches. You see it with the Japanese pitchers who----almost to a man----have a uniqueness about their deliveries that includes a pause, ostensibly to "load up" and increase bodily force toward the plate. The Cubans have a quirkiness exemplified by Orlando Hernandez in which he brought his hands over his head, raised them up and down at his leg kick and brought an array of pitches and arm angles.

Chapman's motion was deceptively simple while still being personal. He didn't make any histrionic hand movements, instead he had his hands relatively stationary in front of his face; stepping back and turning, he folded himself up with his back to the hitter and unloaded in a free and easy delivery throwing slightly across his body and unleashing that blast of power. Combined with the deception of not seeing the ball coming out of his hand, the 3/4 angle, the speed (he's the combination of being sneaky fast and fast); and the slider, I don't see how anyone's going to hit him unless he makes a mistake.

None of that is the point.

The point is how the Reds got Chapman in the first place.

Did the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Orioles, White Sox or any other larger market team you could name not see this? Did they not realize how much of a weapon he could be?

Not to pick on any team or GM in particular, but the Red Sox spent all that money on Daisuke Matsuzaka and lamented the loss of Jose Contreras, but didn't recognize Chapman?

The Yankees threw money into the toilet with Kei Igawa, but weren't savvy to Chapman?

The Mets signed Ryota Igarashi and came in second in the bidding for Matsuzaka, but didn't make a bold move for Chapman?

How could they not see it?

The Reds spent a fair amount of money on Chapman and it was a gamble, especially for a mid-market team with a budget; but look at what they got. The Cuban pitchers are generally durable, fearless and love to compete. Contreras and Hideki Irabu were disasters for the Yankees, but that shouldn't dissuade them from separating people for reasons other than past mistakes. Rather than spending money on the likes of Stephen Strasburg or any of the above pitchers, wouldn't Chapman's 6-year, $30 million contract been a better investment in every possible permutation? The buzz; his (reported) age; that he's lefty; and the Cuban history of health all make him a no-brainer.

Maybe teams need to not only re-think their spending/scouting practices, but perhaps ask El Duque, Chapman, Livan Hernandez, Luis Tiant or any other Cuban pitcher what it is they did that made them able to pitch so effectively and deeply into games with few arm injuries. Considering the number of injuries that pop up due to the "expertise" and "optimal mechanics" taught today, how much worse would it be to copy what works rather than what pops up on a computer?

  • He's gone. Let it go:

Why is it that people despise Jeff Francoeur to this degree?

You saw it with the Braves and their fans after he was dumped on the Mets for Ryan Church and now it's happening again with Francoeur having been traded to the Rangers for Joaquin Arias.

Francoeur is a player who his detractors love to flog for reasons that are very difficult to understand. He is what he is. He could be more than that; he could be a very solid to star player if he ever hooks up with a hitting coach or psychiatrist or someone who can alter his mindset from the aggressive, hack-hack-hack away hitter he's been since forever. He's still salvageable. Naysayers don't want to hear that, but it's true. Of course there's a difference between him being fixed and his potential for being fixed, but the talent is there.

He's with the Rangers now. The hitting heaven of Texas might make him look better as it has with about every hitter whose gone there. He's gone. Mets fans wanted him gone just like Braves fans wanted him gone. Some are saying they appreciated his hustle, smile and attitude while being pleased he's out the door; others are savaging him.

I don't get it.

The Braves are responsible for Francoeur just much as Francoeur himself. Rather than try to wean him from his penchant for swinging at everything, they looked at the fact he was getting hits and producing runs, shrugged and kept promoting him; naturally the flaws were exploited in the big leagues (as flaws always are) and he struggled to the point where they dispatched him. The same thing happened with the Mets. Francoeur will be shielded in a better lineup in Texas; they'll be able to bat him lower in the lineup and not worry about his rally-killing double-plays, strikeouts, absence of walks, and streakiness.

Now we're hearing complaints on what the Mets got back for him. Joaquin Arias has nothing to do with anything. He's a live body. He can play the infield. What's the difference? Francoeur is gone just like they wanted, so who cares what they got for him? One ridiculous suggestion is that the Mets acquired Arias because he's Latin and GM Omar Minaya prefers bringing in Latin players.


I'm wondering if the complaints would be the same had the Mets traded Francoeur for a ballbag or a clipboard and the ballbag or clipboard weren't white.

Francoeur is not a Met any longer.

Get over it.

  • Viewer Mail 9.1.2010:

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE the Mets, Blue Jays, Alex Anthopoulos and Kenny Williams:

I also enjoy Kenny Williams' style, even if I don't like the White Sox.

Vernon Wells for K-Rod and Castillo might make some sense, but I think Anthopoulos might want to swap some prospects in the process.

It's not only his style, but Williams is totally disinterested in what people say and think about him. Or to put it in better terms, "You may hate me, but you will respect me!!!"

Regarding Wells, the only way that would make financial sense for the Mets is if the Blue Jays took Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez and threw in one of their young pitchers (I like Marc Rzepczynski) to sweeten the deal. That's the only way I'd do it.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Billy Beane:

Your analysis is accurate, leaving me to think Beane is even more un-Brad Pitt like than I originally thought.

I gotta see that movie if and when it comes out. My guess is the stat zombies will have a fit at the way it's altered from what they wanted; people like us will laugh and laugh and laugh at how ludicrous it is; and there will be a segment who have a fanboy appreciation to the tune of that awful "Kick-Ass" in which it's a non-existent fantasy of the loser hitting it big with the hot chick and fame.

Now that I think about it, maybe they should put a rush on it. Beane's going to want to hide someplace when his portrayal is on the big screen; in fact, don't be surprised if he does what Paul DePodesta did recently and refuse to let his name be associated with the project as it comes closer to fruition----if it comes closer to fruition.

Aaron Weiner writes RE Billy Beane and the Athletics:

As an A's fan, I actually enjoy reading your description of Billy Beane's career. I only have one small gripe at what you said about the draft picks. You called them all "negligible contributors." I disagree at this assessment, since several of those names are currently manning the starting rotation that is part of a pitching staff that has the lowest ERA in the AL! Yes they're still young, but they're getting better and may have a couple potential Cy Young candidates in the near future! I think Beane has done a great job at acquiring pitching and if he did even an adequate job at acquiring any hitting, the A's could be in contention for the AL West. Even so, we A's fans are (seemingly always) looking forward to the future of this team and think we may have a shot in 2011 or 2012!

It's a fair point as to the young pitchers. He also loaded up on volume in trading Joe Blanton, Rich Harden and Huston Street despite some of the arms not working out.

The Athletics offense is embarrassingly bad and their near .500 record this season is a byproduct of beating up on the Royals, Orioles, Indians and Pirates. The Yankees and Twins have specifically abused them. They don't make the schedule, but it's "objective analysis" at its height in coming to a realistic assessment of what the A's are. If they were in the AL East, they'd be 12 games under .500.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE me, Billy Beane and Moneyball:

So when's the book coming out on this subject? You've already written most of it!

Ah, publishing.

The book would sell; I'd be nothing if not entertaining on a book tour (in every conceivable sense); and it would create a buzz about both my stuff, Moneyball and their ridiculous movie. There's no such thing as bad press; so what if my book would rip Michael Lewis's trip to baseball Narnia and Billy Beane's faux genius to shreds? The fallacy of Moneyball is self-evident now!

I don't want to self-publish this, but will if I have to. I have some ideas on how to create a sensation on the interwebs to benefit everyone connected with it and me by choice or circumstance.

Possibly the prevailing perception of me as an uncontrollable loose cannon is part of the problem. You know that it's totally off the wall. Anyone----from the people at McFarland who published the novel, to I-Universe----will tell you that while I have my quirks and say and do what I want, I am the easiest writer they could ever deal with anywhere. Very little editing is required and they get the stuff when I say they're going to get the stuff or earlier.

Contrary to popular belief, I am never out of control.

I'll keep kicking at the door if they don't want to open it, but it'd be mutually beneficial for everyone if they really looked at me and what I do and opened the door willingly. It's a smart business move if nothing else.

John Seal (West Coast Spiritual Advisor) writes RE Billy Beane and the Athletics:

Thanks for your excellent, fair, and accurate analysis of The Emperor of Hegenberger Road, Billy Beane. Regardless of his successes and failures with the A's, I think he'd be a bad fit for the Mets. And knowing the A's luck, they'd probably send us Ollie Perez as 'compensation' for Beane.

Thank you, John.

I cannot imagine the Mets going there anyway. It's a silly idea advanced by people who have no idea what they're talking about in any context on the twin-matters of Beane and the Mets.

You can have Ollie and keep Beane too!!! I'm just that kinda guy.

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

I'm scheduled to be on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz tomorrow.

That's right.

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.


Fragile Freddy said...

While Chapman looks very good don't forget that Daisuke, Irabu, and others have exploded on their debut only to fade quickly.

I'm surprised to see a guy who reasonably recommended caution re: Strasburg gush so enthusastically after one appearance by Aroldis.

She-Fan said...

Maybe the Yankees and other big market teams didn't open their wallets for Chapman precisely because of Irabu, Contreras, Dice K, etc. He was a gamble, but good for the Reds for taking the risk.

Jeff said...

Whether he be a Met, Ranger or Brave, Frenchie will always be one of those loud-mouthed, illogical, uninformed right-wing Christians.

For that, he gets no sympathy from me.