Busy, Busy, Busy

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

As I’m sure that my legions of followers are worried about this blog, fear not! It is not dead, simply in hibernation during paper season.I plan to resume writing this blog when the regular season starts

Categories: Uncategorized

What is in your head Billy Bean?

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the more active teams this off-season has been, surprisingly, the Oakland Athletics. Now it makes sense that the A’s want to make some moves, but the moves they have made have me seriously confused. The AL west has recently become the most competitive division in the America League. Both the Rangers and Angels are play-off quality teams but the fact remains that,more than likely, only one of those teams will be able to make the  playoffs under the current system. But those teams only make up half of the AL west. Whereas the Rangers and Angels are on the upswing, the Mariners and A’s are stuck down in the dumps. The A’s haven’t made the playoffs since 2006 and the Mariner’s haven’t made it since their record setting 2001 season. To me, it seams that the long term approach hasn’t worked for either of those teams. The AL West is a division where you have to win the division to get into the playoffs; over the last 11 seasons the AL West has had 2 wild card winners, the Central has had one, and the East has had eight. The  AL Wild Card Teams since 2001 are as follows: the A’s (2001), the Angels (2002), the Redsox (2003-2005), the Tigers (2006), the Yankees (2007), the Redsox (2008-2009), The Yankees (2010) and the Rays (2011).  Unless something drastically changes (0r a second wild card is added), there is slim chance of this trend changing over the next few seasons. So when it comes to the A’s, I’m left asking questions.

I am certainly not the first person to question Billy Bean; the book/movie Moneyball  is evidence enough for that. But his recent moves have got to have A’s fan scratching their heads. As I have mentioned, perhaps one too many times, the outfield at the Overstock.com Coliseum is cavernous; that and the massive amount of foul ground combines to make the home of the A’s a veritable pitchers haven. It is then logical that Oakland’s strength over the last decade has been good pitching. I ma then puzzled as to why the A’s have preceded to trade most of their viable starting pitchers for outfielders. I know Oakland needs outfielders, but I doubt they needed them  this desperately. Out of their starting pitchers last year, four have been traded:  Trevor Cahill is now a Diamondback, Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman are now a Rockies, and Gio Gonzalez is a National. Out of their bullpen, the A’s lost Craig Breslow to the Diamondbacks and Andrew Bailey to the Redsox. In return the A’s have got a new set of Outfielders, acquiring Josh Redick from the Redsox, Seth Smith from the Rockies,  and Collin Cowgill from the Diamondbacks.  All is not lost, however, for the pitching saff for the A’s as they acquired both RHP Jarrod Parker and RHP Ryan Cook for the Diamondbacks in the Cahill deal. The A’s also signed RHP Bartolo Colon. It is quite clear the Billy Bean has entered re-building mode, but unless the rumored move to San Jose is a lot sooner than we think, getting all those outfielders wont improve the A’s hitting much. The A’s still have pitching, but the loss of Cahill, Outman, and Moscoso is a serious blow. I think their rotations will shape up like this:

1.LHP Brett Anderson

2/3. RHP Bartolo Colon

2/3. LHP Dallas Braden

4.RHP Brandon McCarthy

5. RHP Jarrod Parker/ RHP Ryan Cook

This may look like a good rotation on paper but excluding Colon, their combined record is 76-103 with a 3.99 ERA.  In all I think that these moves might pay off in a few years for the A’s but in a division where you have to win your division to get into the playoffs, the A’s will probably be on the outside looking in for a few more seasons.

Categories: Off-season

A Tale of Two Cities

January 14, 2012 Leave a comment

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….sort of.  I have mixed feelings over the deals that the Yankees were able yesterday. As a fan of the game, I cannot help but admire the gutsy moves that GM Brian Cashman made yesterday; as a Redsox fan, I am forced to let out a string of unrepeatable expletives for the hearing pleasure of everyone within a six mile radius of my current location. In one fell swoop the Yankees were able stun the baseball world and fix all their major problems. In the deal, the Yankees sent young catching prospect Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi in return for RHP Michael Pineda and minor league pitcher Jose Campos. They also signed RHP Hiroki Kuroda to a one year 10 million deal. In one day the Yankees ended the speculation that they would have a quiet off-season and managed to also address their on field needs. With their additions yesterday the Yankeees now have flexibility in the starting rotation, an obvious weakness last season. Right now the Yankees are carrying seven major league ready starting pitcher. Unless the Yankees plan on using a seven man rotation, a highly unlikely occurrence, than two of these pitchers will either be moved to the bullpen or traded. I’m betting that Yankees are counting on this to pressure their erstwhile starter, AJ Burnett. In the three seasons joining the Yankees Burnett has posted a 34-35 record with a cumulative ERA of 4.81, and a cumulative ERA + of 94 ( the league average is set at 100). By signing Kuroda, Garcia, and  Pineda, Burnett has become expendable and a possible trade chip. While his numbers might scare off some, he is still attractive to teams that are in desperate need of pitching. Even though he has won no more than 13 games for the Yankees, he has provided at least 32 starts in those three years.This makes him ideal as a middle of the rotation starter for a lot of ball clubs.Then there is also the problem of Phil Hughes. After a breakout 2010, Hughes suffered a severe set back in 2011 pitching only 74.2 innings to the tune of a 5.79 ERA. I’m sure that the Yankees are not ready to give up on Hughes (he is only 25), but he needs to have a rebound 2012 to put himself back in the good graces of the Yankee organization; he must certainly feel the pressure with the addition of two potential starting pitchers.

While Kuroda’s is a steal by  himself ( I talked about his numbers in an earlier blog http://thebullpenband.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/bosox-targets-part-2/), the real prize  that the Yankees got yesterday is  Michael Pineda. The 6 foot 7, 260lb Pineda is coming of a stellar rookie season, posting a 9-10 record, a 3.74 ERA, and 173 SO over 171 IP. He still needs some work but his upside is massive and he could round out to be a top of the rotation stud in the years to come. And time is one element that the Yankees have on their side in this matter; Pineda turns just 23 in four days, and is under contract through the 2016 season.

As it stands now, this is my prediction for the Yankee Starting rotation as of opening day:

LHP CC. Sabathia

RHP Hiroki Kuroda

RHP Ivan Nova

RHP Michael Pineda

RHP AJ Burnett

I think that the Yankees will break camp with Burnett in the rotation but I bet he’ll be on a pretty short leash. If he cannot perform, or either Freddy Garcia or Phil Hughes start to pitch well, he’ll be on the trade block.

While the Yankees came away from good pitching, the Mariners’ side of the deal is mainly about power. Long gone are the days of Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez. The Mariners were the worst offensive team in the AL last year with a  team average of .233 BA,  a .292 OBP, 109 HR, .348 SLG. In comparison, the 1-4 hitters of the Red Sox hit 97 HRs last season. The Yankees had no such offensive problems hitting .263 (5th), having a .343 OBP(2nd), a .444 SLG (3rd), and clubbed 222 HR (1st). So when the Yankees dangled the young catching prospect Jesus Montero, its hard to see the reason why they jumped at the chance. In a small sampling of 18 games, he hit .328 and 4 homers. While projections don’t mean much, its hard to ignore that the season extrapolation for Montero has him  hitting .328 with 36 homers and 108 RBI. Again this doesn’t really mean anything, but for a team that struggled like the Mariners  the possibility of having a truly offensive powerhouse in the middle of the line-up again is just too tempting. I think Ichiro will have a bounce back year, but not even he can carry a team on his own. I don’t see Montero displacing Olivo as the full time catcher, but he will certainly get significant playing time at DH. The other player that the Mariners got is RHP Hector Noesi. Noesi is mainly untested, only pitching 56.1 IP in 2011, and he was mainly used as a mid-reliever by the Yankess. He also started two games but I don’t see him becoming a full time starter in 2012.

In all, I think that the Yankees got the best of this deal.  I understand why the Mariners wanted Montero so bad, but I think they gave up too much. Montero will probably provide the punch the Mariners are looking for, but it leave them with one less solid starting pitcher. After Felix Hernandez, the rest of the rotation is all question marks. Only time will tell how this deal ends up but right now it looks like the Yankees came out on top.

 

Categories: Off-season

Baseball in Review: For the Love of the Game

January 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Baseball is not just a sport, its a part of American culture. While it may be true that Baseball may no longer be America’s past-time as it once was it still has a mysterious hold on the public consciousness; an great victory is not just a great success, its a homerun. As long as this is true, Hollywood will continue to make baseball movies. The recent success of the movie Moneyball  has reminded the American public that a baseball game can make also serve as the basis for a damn good movie. With that in mind, I present my evaluation of the movie  For the Love of the Game (1999).

In my experience there are two distinctly different types of baseball movies. There is the serious drama of which a baseball game/team/season/player is a huge part and then there is the over-the-top screwball comedy. Movies like Pride of the Yankees (1942),  The Pride of St.Louis (1952), Bang the Drum Slowly (1973), Eight Men Out (1988),  and For the Love of the Game (1999) fall into the first category while movies like It Happens Every Spring (1949), Major League (1989), Rookie of the Year (1993), Major League II (1994) and The Badnews Bears  (1976,2005) fall into the latter category. Another thing about baseball movies is they tend to be on the sappy side. I would estimate that about 99% of the baseball movies that have been produced in the United States have improbable happy endings. while this can be a detract from the overall quality of the movie, it does not necessarily ruin a movie. At the same time, sappiness can absolutely ruin a movie if it is used inappropriately. The ending of The Natural (1984) completely changed the message from the book it had been based on, changing the character of Roy Hobbs from a tragic hero to a morally superior super human who is hard to relate to. For the Love of the Game is no different than any other baseball movie in the sappiness factor, but that factor does not over-power the positive qualities of the movie. I will judge the movie in four categories: Sappiness/cornball,  baseball realism, overall quality, and appeal to non-baseball fans

Sappiness/Cornball: 7/10

The set-up of the movie has Pitcher Billy Chapel, played by Kevin Costner,  pitching the game of his life in his last career start. While doing so  memories of his relationship with magazine writer Jane Aubrey, played by Kelly Preston, flash through his mind and help him not focus on the fact that he is indeed pitching a perfect game.  Almost all of the 137 minute movie takes place during one game so the flashback games are lengthy and might be a turn-off to some movie goers. SPOILER: The end of the movie is, unsurprisingly, happy with Chapel finishing his 19 year career by pitching a perfect game on the last day of the 1999 season and then he is able to re-unite with Jane before she leaves for a new writing job in London.

Baseball Realism: 8/10

While many baseball movies have been made over the years, few are actually successful in emulating actual baseball. more often than not, the actors that are hired to play baseball players don’t have the slightest clue what they are doing. This is especially true when actors play pitchers. For the Love of the Game does an excellent job in portraying how baseball is actually played. A large reason for this is that baseball personal were heavily involved in the filming of this movie.May of the Yankee hitters that Chapel faces are played by Yankee minor leaguers and all of the stats portrayed for the fictional Yankee players are the actual stats of Yankee players from that year (courtesy of IMDB’s entry for this movie). The only major flaw that I would say this movie has is that there are times when it becomes obvious that sound and visual effects have been added to Costner’s pitches; while this is to be expected, some cases completely shattered the suspension of belief for me.

Baseball realism A: above and beyond

Because I am a baseball nerd I feel it is necessary to break down the fictional Billy Chapel’s 1999 season, his pitching mechanics, and extrapolate his career numbers from then. I’ll start with his mechanics. From the scenes in which he is pitching,  Chapel seems to have a high 3/4 and sometimes a high sidearm delivery. He also brings his hands together above his head and has a high leg kick with a solid follow through. While these arm angles might not allow him to get as much velocity on the ball as someone with a regular over-hand delivery, it would give his pitchers significantly more movement. From what I can tell, Chapel is supposed to be four pitch pitcher. At time it appears that he throws a 2-seam fastball, a sinker, a 12-6 curveball, and a changeup.These pitches point to Chapel being a finesse pitcher rather than a power pitcher which was more common for an ace in 1999. This could be explained by the fact that Chapel’s career is said in the movie to have started in 1981. This would also seem to agree with the stats that are shwon on screen in the beginning of the.

According to the movie, Chapel’s stats for 1999 are as follows:

8-11, 3.55 ERA, 30 GM, 30 GS, 2 CG, 1 SHO, 211 IP, 98 BB, 111 SO

For someone who is forty years old, this is  a damn good stat line. In fact, only a freak like Phil Niekro or Satchel Paige would have a better season at that age. But I digress. During one flashback that dates to apprx. 1994, Chapel mentions that he has 134 career losses; with that number plus the losses from 1999 we can reasonably assume that Chapel had a career loss record somewhere between 180 and 200.  This also works grafts with the fact that Chapel is finesses pitcher and probably gave up a lot of hits over the years. Trying to calculate his career wins number is a little bit trickie. In one scene at Chapel’s home, three Cy-young award plaques are visible; given that he pitched in the eighties and nineties, we can give reasonably give him 18-24 wins in those three years giving him at least 54-75 wins. Obviously one does not pitch in the MLB for nineteen years with only 75 wins. If he “has a space in coopers town reserved for him” as the movie claims, than he has has at least 254 wins meaning that he probably averaged between 13-17 wins in the fifteen years he did not win the cy young (and 1999). In my estimation he had at least 265 wins with an absolute maximum of 338 wins; this is obviously an in-exact science that gives us a wide discrepancy. This either makes him numbers 11 on the all-times win list (between Steve Carlton and Tim Keefe) or tied f0r number 39 on the list with Jim McCormick. Strike-outs, WHIP and ERA are even harder to extrapolate so my guess are pure speculation. I did however use a very similar real Life pitcher of the era (Tom Glavine) as a basis for my guesses. So, my guess for stat line is:

304-200, 3.47 ERA,  2, 487 SO, 1. 35 WHIP

Add to this that he also won a WS ring in 84 and he is an undoubtedly a  hall of famer. I will now resume my slightly less nerdy review

Overall Quality: 7/10

Pan Kevin Costner all you want for his acting  and his career decision, but dammit he knows how to play a baseball player better than any other actor I can think of. While it may not be oscar worthy material, Costner’s depiction of an aging and down on his luck pitcher is well done and just feels completely genuine. The supporting cast isn’t to bad either. Kelly Preston plays her role as the concerned and caring lover quite well and J.K. Simmons does a good job as Chapel’s manager; his portrayal actually reminded me a lot of the mannerisms of now Tiger’s manager Jim Leyland.

(I’m not crazy, right?)

John C. Reilly is well…John C. Reilly; he is one of those actors that I feel like they are playing themselves in every movie.  The extras are generally pretty good, but the trad off for having minor leaguers play speaking roles is that sometimes they are really bad actors.

Appeal to Non-baseball fans: 7/10

This scores higher than expected because even though the focus of the movie is a perfect game, a large portion of the movie is devoted to the human relationship between Billy Chapel and Jane Aubrey. The movie also benefits from being based on a solid book by Michael Sharra (of Killer Angels fame). This movie would also likely hold little to no appeal for kids.

Final Verdict: 7/10

Worth a watching, but there are better baseball movies out there.

 

Categories: Baseball in review, Off-season Tags:

Playoff Malarkey

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Sorry I couldn’t help my self.  Anyways, to business!

When we look back at this off-season we might find ourselves at a year that completely changed the competitive balance of baseball. I like the wild card system and I think that it is a good system for baseball; I also like that there is a great chance that another wild card could be added either this year or next year. That being said, I have some serious problem with Bud Selig’s proposal. In Selig’s plan, one wild card would be added to each league and the two wild card teams would play their respective division opponents in a one-game playoff; this idea just makes every competitive fiber in my being cringe. While I understand what Bud Selig is trying to do, this system simply would not be good for baseball. The motives are simply too financial, even for the money driven world of professional baseball. They are trying to create the type of excitement that we witnessed on the last day of the season every year. I think that Keith Olbermann put it best when he appeared on the MLB Network’s Clubhouse Confidential . Olbermann compared the prospect of a one game playoff every season to eating ice-cream for every meal, it just loses its magical appeal after a few too many bowls of mint chocolate chip  weeks. The standard justification for this addition claims that it will make teams play more competitively down the stretch to avoid playing that one game playoff. While this may be true it will also undoubtedly end up with some under-qualified teams upsetting a team in the one game playoff and then being steamrolled in the LDS, in essence ruining the competitive balance of the playoffs. I agree that the playoffs need work, but think there are better ways to do it. Thus, I present my humble opinion.

My plan would ideally be installed before the 2013 season, after the Astros make the move to the AL West. Anyone I know in FB might recognize this plan, albeit with slight modifications

Reduce the regular season back to 154 games.

If the post-season is truly the best part of baseball, then why not allow more time for it. Baseball originally had 154 games and I think that it teams that are 40 games out of first can deal with eight less games of pain. The 162 game system made sense when it implemented in 1962, before wild cards and divisions. it gave teams a better chance to catch their league rivals to get into the LCS but now it season with exciting ends such as least year are becoming more and more rare.

Increase the number of teams in the playoffs

Out of the four major sports, baseball has the fewest number of playoff team. While having half the league in the playoff may seem less than ideal, it would serve the same  financial purpose that Selig’s plan does. When the MLB balances the divisions in 2013, professional baseball will be perfectly set up for  sixteen team play off tournament. Have the top two teams from each division and two wild cards from each league.

Adding another round and seeding

If all the other sports use a seeding system, why not baseball?  rank the eight playoff teams in each league 1-8 based on their records and have those teams play their respective opponents (1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6, 4 v 5) regardless of their division; if teams have identical records, use their head-to-head records to decide their seeds. Also, make every round of playoffs best of sevens as they should be; no teams playoff run should come down to a five game series. While this may seem like a lot of games, it actually results in only one more possible game for a team that wins the World Series. Currently a team can play up to 181 total games (162 regular season+19 playoff games); under my proposed system a team can play up to  182 games (154 regular season+28 playoff games).

I understand that this could make the September stretch run even less competitive but if the playoffs continue to be valued over the regular season as they are today, then my system could result in better playoff play across the board. Or it could do nothing to change the quality of playoff  baseball but we wont know unless we try.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

On disappointment

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

There is something about the term disappointment that is inadequate to describe what happened to the Texas Rangers last season. Disappointment is a word you use to describe what you feel when you drop your ice cream or when you don’t get what you want for Christmas; what happened to the Rangers was absolutely Soul Crushing. And honestly, I feel bad for Nelson Cruz. Its not just that he botched the World Series catch, its that that catch was so much more than just a fancy ring.If Nelson Cruz catches that ball instead of letting it turn into a game tying triple, the whole off-season starts to look different. Pujols signing with Anaheim looks more selfish, signing Yu Darvish looks more like a a game changing addition instead of a necessary sterp, and losing CJ Wilson looks slightly less devastating. Instead Nelson Cruz will have to watch that clip of him misjudging that catch for the rest of his life.

The Baseball gods a cruel bunch. While the Rangers could easily go to the World Series again this coming season, they could just as easily fall of the face of the map and not make the postseason for the next 10 years. Nelson Cruz’s gaffe brings to mind images that have been seared in the collective memory of baseball fan.

Of all sports franchises in the United States perhaps only the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Browns more about disappointment than the Boston Redsox. Whether it be the impossible dream coming crashing down in ’67, being chewed up by the Big Red Machine in ’75, Bucky bleepin Dent in ’78, or the event that should not be named in the image above in ’86, or Aaron bleepin Boone in ’03, Redsox nation knows a little about disappointment; you can even add in the recent September meltdown of 2011. There are some memories that seems to be hereditary. I never saw Bill Buckner play first base nor did I ever see him take a swing but I know who he is. But the Bill Buckner I know is not the guy who played for 22 season for five different teams and was .289 career hitter who had 2,715 hits and 174 hr; the Bill Buckner I know is the guy that caused Red Sox Nation to wait another 18 years before even making another world series. It may be the Boston Sport Culture, but Buckner has only recently been begrudgingly forgiven by the nation and its doubtful that he could ever be given the respect he deserves in the Boston area. To put it in perspective, Buckner plays his last out nearly a year before I was born and game six of the ‘856 world was nearly five years before I was even a twinkle in my father’s eye but I know who Bill Buckner is.

I wish the best to Nelson Cruz and I honestly hope that he will be remembered for more than just his botched catch this past season. I would offer him this advice, take the chip that is undoubtedly on your shoulder and play baseball like you did before. You have two advantages over Buckner: 1.) You don’t play in the bitterness that is Boston and 2.) you have years of baseball ahead of you (Bill Buckner was 36 and played for only three more full seasons).

Categories: Off-season

The Beauty of baseball

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

As we enter yet another new year, my resolution is simple. and While i may not be able to fulfill it as quickly as some other members of my family (honestly, who would have thought we would have seen a manatee in the wild on January 2nd?), I expect to enjoy doing  just the same. Frankly, I just want to watch more baseball. And as I ready myself to embark upon this  staggering goal I must also prepare to answer an important question; why baseball?

Out of the four major professional sports in America, baseball is the only one that is completely in the hands of its players. When they walk off the field there is no doubt that the result was of the collective productive out put of the team. And while officiating may sometimes directly effect the outcome, it occurs much less often in baseball than in the other sports. Baseball is played until there is a winner and a loser; there is no shot clock, there is no sudden death overtime and there inning limit. There is a tension to the end of a baseball game that simply doesn’t exist in other sports. In Basketball and Football, the outcome of the game can sometimes be decided by half time. Even if a team gets the ball back with time, some deficits in those sports cannot be erased. In baseball, no lead is safe. The game is not over until the winning teams records at least 27 outs. To quote Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till its over”. If you need examples, see game 162 for the Rays and Orioles and also Game six of this past season’s world series. And nothing can touch the excitement of  walk off homer to end a hard fought game. I love watching a good basketball, football, or hockey game as much as the next guy, but nothing is like a good baseball game.

Categories: Uncategorized
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.