Sure, we’re not to the All Star Break quite yet, but we’re halfway through. Over the next couple of days, we’re going to take a look at the best
players in each league thus far.
Dan Haren has quietly become one of the most outstanding pitchers in the
game. He had a good year in 2005, his first with Oakland. He finished with an
ERA of 3.73 in his first full year as a starter. He followed up in 2006 with
similar numbers, albeit a slightly higher (4.12) ERA. He did, however, increase
his strikeouts from 163 to 176, and knocked his walks down from 53 to 45. Home
Runs remained a problem, as Haren gave up 31 shots in 34 starts.
But this year, Haren is really doing special things, and he’s been the model
of consistency. He leads the majors with a 1.78 ERA, and at no point has his ERA
been higher than 2.00. He is 9-2; however, his two loses came in the first two
games of the year, where he gave up a combined 1 ER in 13 innings, (in an interesting
turn of events, Haren managed to give up a 3-run HR which was wholly
‘unearned.’) Haren has not lost since April 7th, and has gone 6+ innings in all
but one of his starts. He has only allowed 3 ER twice, and never more. His
‘worst start’ was his 3rd start of the year against the Yankees, where he gave
up 3 ER on 4 hits and 4 BB over 5 innings. He is 7th in the AL with 89 K’s
and 2nd with a WHIP of 0.90. And the best part is that he’s only 26 years old.
Haren, unlike some pitchers, has been remarkably consistent this year as we
saw above. He keeps his team in the game every time he starts, and that’s what
you need from your ace. Haren, as you may recall, was acquired in a trade
with the Cardinals in which the A’s shipped of Mark Mulder. And, of course, we
haven’t seen much of him lately. For those who are curious, Mulder is currently
rehabbing after rotator cuff surgery and has almost no timetable for return.
Barry Zito has gone arsonist after landing the richest free agent
pitching contract ever with San Francisco, and Tim Hudson has been a strange guy
for the Braves as well. Has anyone ever considered the possibility that the A’s
burn through young arms, as they have no hope of resigning them? Note that Haren
averaged 220 IP in’05 and ’06 and is on pace for 243 this year.
Haren, who supposedly pitches for a ‘small market team’ – and by that, we
mean a team that plays on the West Coast and rarely meets expectations come
October – has not gotten a lot of credit for his outstanding play. So here you
are Dan. And I would suggest a haircut, but apparently the birds nest is working
out well, so just leave it alone.
Also – thanks go out to Deadspin for the link to this weekend’s "Milton Bradley – Looking for work" post. Brought the site a couple thousand extra hits. Regarding those comments, you guys are going to have to take up those issues with the Royals; they’re the ones that traded for the guy. So, you’re kind of arguing with facts by stating they don’t need him. Additionally, if their prospects are so talented, why are they in last place?
Also, another note. Our new site, Ballhouse, is pretty much up and running. We don’t have the tools all in order, and the formating isn’t nailed down yet. Heck, we’re not even sure we’re sticking with the name. However, you can start reading the stuff over there and changing your bookmarks. If you’re using any RSS Feeds, those are all set up as well. Furthermore, the domain name BIHGM is back online. So if you go there, it will automatically direct you to whichever site we find ourselves then.
Been gone for awhile, no doubt. But, I’m back now because I’m waiting for the library to open – 11am – and don’t have much else to do until that time. Just because I know everyone wants to know, it’s been a busy semester. Right now I’m completing a research study on the differences between male and female study group formation, its relationship to the choice of studying alone, and hopefully the consequences of this behavior as it can be applied to different learning strategies. Meanwhile, my Organic Chemistry exam was moved up by a week because, "I wanted the exam to be before the drop date." Both research report and exam are now due on the same day; Tuesday. I just got back from a Writing Competence Exam that I’m required to take in order to graduate college. You pick one of 10 questions presented to you. I chose the question asking if, since the two teams with the best record in the AL were eliminated in the first round, should we increase the series to a seven-game format from the current five-game format? Let’s get something straight – these ten questions were all current event questions to be answered in typical, five-page, persuasive format. There were questions asking about the college’s upcoming ‘Coming Out’ week. There was a question asking about Congressman Foley’s "deplorable" behavior. Questions of great and worldly importance. And a question about baseball. Well, I think I passed.
Now, look where we are? The Tigers are up 3-0 on an Oakland team that I berated SI for rating as the "2nd best" in all of baseball. Looks like they weren’t that far off the mark. Actually, Oakland beat the Twins because, in the all-important Game 3, the Twins sent out tough guy Brad Radke. When your very existence in the post season is on the line, you don’t send out a guy with so many physical problems that, less than halfway through the season, he says "screw it, I’m retiring after this." If he’s you’re Game 3 stopper, you have no business in the post season anyway. Taking one step back, the A’s made it into the playoffs because, heck, they’re in the AL West. If you can take out the pitching-deprived Rangers, the talent-deprived Mariners, and the offensively-deprived Angels, you win. And I know the A’s finished with 93 wins, and the Angels with 89. Toronto had 87 wins in a heck of a lot tougher division. If Toronto had played say, eight games, against the Mariners instead of the Yankees, they might have 95 wins. But good job Oakland, I’m sure it means a lot to you guys, even after you get your brains beat in by a very good Tigers team.
This Detroit team is, quite simply, a team that is not going to be beaten right now. This is the kind of team that I play in MVP Baseball 2004, and they make every play. The pitcher will spot every pitch on the corner. The outfielders catch up to every ball. It’s like the team is playing on god mode. Now, I’m not saying that the Tigers aren’t a good team. They’re great. But they’re also hot right now, and the postseason is the right time to get hot.
Now, who saw last night’s Game 2 of the NLCS? First, let it be known that, in every conceivable way, the NL is a wreck of a league. I simply cannot find the entertainment in any NL Game. There’s something about it that just is not exciting. I know it’s crazy, but I feel like the parks are darker, the players are more formal, and the excitement level just isn’t there. I feel like I’m watching a golf match. I don’t expect anything exciting to happen. But when I watch an AL game, I never know what to expect. It’s like getting together the 2004-2005 Pacers team; some idiot is going to throw a punch, or fire a gun, or scream at Rick, or freak out at the media. You don’t know what will happen, but you know it will be big. In the AL, we have all the drama of Kenny Rogers and the Tiger’s bullpen limiting the A’s to two hits to go up 3-0 on them and on the brink of a World Series. Meanwhile, in the NL, we have Chris Carpenter pitching as well as John Maine; actually, worse, but only because he was in for one more inning. And then we have a tie game, broken up when the great So Taguchi – who didn’t even start – hits a home run. The Cardinals score twice more, and the Mets respond – as their own stadium empties – by striking out, and then grounding out twice more to end the game. Fabulous. Did you actually listen to So’s Home Run? It was morbid. Shea was silent. The announcers were mildly excited. Now the series is tied 1-1, while the Tigers are about to enter the World Series. It’s just boring. However, I won’t deny the fact that, since the only NL team I even come close to caring about is the Cardinals, maybe I just don’t like it because I don’t follow it. Oh yeah, and because every team is awful.
So where do we go from here? Is a well-rested Tiger team better off than a down-trodden, pitching deprived Cardinals or Mets team? The writing is on the wall, people. I just have one question – when is the parade?
Well, this wasn’t the summer I was expecting. I don’t mean to complain – because, certainly, there are worse things that could happen to people – but I’ve been working too much. 50 hours in seven days. Which is exactly why we haven’t been seeing all-star caliber writing on here of late. I apologize. Anyway, I caught the last 5 innings or so of the Red Sox at Blue Jays tonight, after I got home from work and a nice BBQ. Anyway, some thoughts on that game – Roy Halladay didn’t get the win, but he deserved it. He went 7 innings, giving up only 3 runs (all on 2 HR,) and left the game 6-3. Then the bullpen came in and blew it for him, only to come back and win the game 7-6. So, technicalities aside, Halladay would have his 7th win right now. See, I’ve never liked that rule. I feel like, if the pitcher leaves the game – especially in the 7th inning – with a 3-run lead, and his team still wins the game, he should get the win. Especially when the opposing team only ties the game, instead of taking the lead and giving it back up. For this, I’m suggesting a new statistical category – Starter Wins. Call it whatever you want. But whenever a pitcher leaves the game in the 6th inning or later with the lead, he earns a starter win, regardless of the outcome of the game. Of course, if a pitcher leaves the game 6-5, with three runners on, and they score, he doesn’t earn the Starter Win because those were his runners. Well, that’s just what I think.
Remember when the Reds were good? There was that brief period earlier in the year when they were considered the surprise team of the NL. Then they went out and starting losing games again. Bronson Arroyo stopped pitching 7 innings and giving up one run. He stopped hitting Home Runs. Brandon Phillips cooled off. The list goes on. Either way, it resulted in some more losses. Since getting swept by Philly on May 12, the Reds are a typical Red-like 5-11. What, you didn’t see it coming? They’re now 5 games back of the Albert Pujol’s and just 2 games up of the Brewers.
What do you think of SI’s "2nd best team" getting beat by the Royals? That’s right, one of my beefs with SI – besides the fact that, despite the address change I delivered to them, I’m still (apparently) receiving my issues at school, where, since it’s summer, I no longer reside – is that they called the A’s the 2nd best team in baseball in their annual baseball preview edition. They called the Reds the 3rd worst team, and that’s another problem I had at the time. Anyway, they A’s lost 7 in a row, beat the Rangers 6-3, lost again to the Rangers, and then lost to the Royals tonight. Certainly not a way for alleged the 2nd best team in the league to go about acquiring their championship. They’re now 23-28. But, good news, they’re still in the AL West, and only 4 games back of Texas, the division leader. Somehow, don’t ask me how. Weird.
Alright, I’ll be heading to the Yankees game tonight (Tuesday) and tomorrow. I’ll be taking pictures and writing detailed gameday-style accounts. Now, I need to be up for work at 6.50am tomorrow – see you all tomorrow night.
Well, BHGM returns. You thought we were dead? I know, me too. But I’m finally done with what they call ‘higher education’ and I’m back to the real world. At least until next August. Now don’t get me wrong, college is great. I love it. But when it’s the end of the school year and you’ve got chemistry, psych, bio, and calc finals – you just want to go home. Anyway, this will be the last post that fails to focus on much baseball, because starting now I’ll be able to watch games again and make those nightly posts. Actually, I’m watching the Jays – A’s game now. But before I dig in, there are a few questions I have. There’s someone who visits the site multiple times a day from Rutgers University, but they never leave comments. Dude – get an MLB account, sign in, and leave a comment – just so I know how you are. Same goes for the people from ‘Ames, Iowa’, ‘Corinth, Mississippi’, Uruguay, Spain, a bunch of you New Yorkers, and ‘Reston, Virginia’. Actually, I’d like if everyone who’s a regular reader could comment on this post, even if it’s just a "yo, I’m the dude from Rutgers," just so we can actually see who you are. Just do it. Thanks.
Biology: Ecology, Evolution, Biodiversity – Calculus I
So, how do we tie this into baseball? It’s another weak link, really. I’m starting to think that this wasn’t such a good idea after all. But here. If solving baseball calculus problems is your thing, check this out. As for the biology portion, there a few quick hits. By the way, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or ALS, is not primarily a genetically inherited condition. That is to say, an inherited genetic defect accounts for only 5-10% of cases of Familial ALS. For more information on ALS, check here. Well, that concludes our finals edition. It will be a lot more exciting in December, when we’ll be doing Organic Chemistry, Intro to Theater, Research Design and Analysis, and Developmental Psychology. What can I say, I’m a slacker.
Red Sox v. Yankees, (Wednesday Night)
Well, this game was basically the only contact I had with baseball all day, as I was moving back home and all. So I caught everything until the bottom of the 5th, when we busted it open. That is to say that I saw Alex jerk Curt way out of the yard. Anyway, between the fact that I was about to fall asleep and the game was being carried on ESPN, (albeit ESPNHD,) it wasn’t a terribly exciting game. I mean, it was pretty predictable. ESPN blabs about how awesome Curt is and how the Yankees can’t touch him, and then the Yankees touch him up for a few deep bombs. And that’s that.
Blue Jays v. A’s, (Thursday Afternoon)
Nothing like waking up to find a baseball game already starting. Being as the Jays/A’s were "the only game in town," that’s what I was watching. And really, they’re both two of my favorite teams. And a short memo – the Jay’s announcers, (radio and TV,) are some of the best. They’re not annoying and they don’t digress so far that you think you’re just listening to two people talk about baseball, as ESPN does. Anyway, the game. The Jays basically made the A’s look like the Washington Generals. That is, the Jays would keep going up on the A’s, leaving them with this impressive look of, ‘wow, I just got burned.’ And although the Box Score says that Glaus only had two home runs, I’m pretty sure I watched him leave the building about five times. Zaun also had a solo shot. Swisher went deep twice for the A’s with two solo shots. For those of you tracking RBI’s for the Jays: Glaus – 4. Adams, Johnson, Zaun, and Catalanotto – 1. Glaus might be a lock to finish the year below .260, (he’s only finished higher once, in 2000 with the Angels,) but he’s got some pop. And Alex Rios, breakaway star, is currently batting in the 3-hole for the Jays. For those of you who don’t know Alex’s story, it goes like this. In 2004 and 2005, he hit .286 and .262, respectivly. He now leads the league with a .379 average. He’s also on both of my fantasy teams. Despite the fact that Rios’ average is so high, his all-important OBP is an average .389. Alright, that’s on the high end of average, but not really, considering that it’s only 10 points higher than his batting average – that’s what happens when you walk four times. But it’s good for #41 in the league. Meanwhile, Giambi is walking around with a .531 OBP, while everyone’s favorite player – Barry Bonds – shows off his .495. Albert Pujols follows with a .466. Take away all the intentional walks Barry gets, and Giambi’s OBP is 65 points higher than the league’s #2 man. He’s back, people.
What’d you do with the Royals, and who are these people?
Here’s a tough one. The Royals just swept the Indians. On Monday, it was 4-3, Royals. Tuesday, it was 10-7, Royals. Wednesday, it was 10-8, Royals. I mean, keep in mind that they came away with the slimmest margin ever, 1, 2, and 3 runs. But the Royals are now 10-22, which means that they’ve gone 5-2 after we chewed them out bigtime. Are you kidding me? Not only is it beyond our comprehension for the Royals to have won 5 of 7, but it seems that we’ve got some freaky curse/blessing going on here. First, we had the Padres. The Padres scored 6 runs in 2 innings to get a miracle win over the Dodgers, and we wrote a whole post about it. And then what? The Padres win 9 straight games, with win #1 being the previously mentioned. I don’t think I can take credit for the Tigers getting off to a great start after I said they would about 700 times, that was just too big. Then there was the Santana-Halladay matchup in the beginning of the season where I said, ‘Halladay, your future Cy Young winner, will out-duel Santana.’ Just in case you doubt that those blanks really did mean ‘Roy Halladay,’ know that I’ve been calling him our Cy Young winner since February. How about when, on April 26th, I talked about Dusty Baker being crazy. Then, the Cubs have gone 3-11 since that post. That’s about all I can come up with for now. But how crazy is that?
And that’s gonna close us out for now, but we will be back tonight, which will start us off on our nightly post routine again. Plus a few during the day when we have a chance. Basically, we’ll be back in our prime. As for the comments, thanks Rob. I did know that David had been in the tank for awhile, but I didn’t know about what the divers were really doing down there. Thanks for being an alert reader. (Check out Rob at http://robpage.mlblogs.com/.) Lucky Leftie, good to see you here from the BPS. And Jason, your excuse is understood and accepted. If there is one person who will understand the ‘no free time’ argument, it’s got to be me, lately. Anyway, remember – I want to see one comment from every regular reader, to this post or the one that follows tonight. That’s all of you. If you don’t have an MLB account, get one. It’s not a big deal, and they’re not going to bother you with junk mail as long as you uncheck that small box at the bottom. In the two years I’ve had my MLB account, I haven’t gotten one spam e-mail on that address. Plus, after you sign up for an MLB account, you can just sign up for your own team email. Since you’re not gonna tell any of your friends to email you at "email@example.com," you don’t really have to worry about getting any unwanted email, since you won’t even need to check that address. Have a good rest of the day, folks.
This is Part I of the original post… you can see Part II here.
Detroit at Oakland, (including Pitching Tactics)
like the Tigers are back, and right now they seem to be playing at
their level – not above (first five games,) or below (next four games.)
Now, I’m not saying the Tiger’s aren’t going to win five games in a row
for the rest of the year against ho-hum teams like the Royals and
Rangers. Obviously, teams get hot and cold through the course of the
year and the Tigers will certainly get hot again. That said, they’ve
shown some great effort – and results – in their series against the
team SI claims is the 2nd best in the league – Oakland. Now, before I
talk about this, let me explain that I have been unable to actually see
any of these games (blackout/time restrictions,) and the Tigers hit
against the 4, 5, and 1 spots in the A’s rotation.
Well, for a team lauded as the 2nd best in the game, it shouldn’t
matter if you’re up against 4-5-1 or 1-2-3. The point is that we didn’t
have to go up against Harden, who’s practically ‘unhittable’. In this
week’s SI, an unidentified AL advance scout says this of Rich Harden:
even bother sitting on his splitter or changeup, because even if you
do, you won’t hit it. Try to hit his fastball. Emphasis on try.
Ok, Harden isn’t that unhittable. I’m sure many of you guys will
disagree with me here, but overall, the fastball alone is the easiest
pitch to hit – yet it’s still the best. I’ve never hit at the Major
League level, but from experience (and from somewhat ‘popular
knowledge,’) I can tell you that it’s possible to hit a fastball
regardless of how fast it’s thrown. Sure, it’s a lot tougher to hit
100mph than 85mph heat – a lot – but here’s the thing. If you know
you’ve got 100mph heat headed your way, you’re ready and there’s a good
chance you’ll make contact in the course of the at bat. Obviously, in a
Major League ballgame, you don’t know what pitch you’re gonna get. And
when you’re up at the plate, you’ve got to be prepared for any pitch
that pitcher can throw. If he’s got a weak splitter and a limp cutter
and not much control over either, and you’re up 3-0, you can bet you’ll
see a fastball. However – and this doesn’t apply to all situations – if
the pitcher has another off-speed pitch that he has excellent control
over, (Tim Hudson says he’s comfortable throwing his slider on a 3-2,
and rightfully so,) he might throw that across. So, your at bat just
got a lot more complicated. You can’t come out of the gate expecting a
fastball, because if you do, you’re swinging at that ball when it’s
headed straight through the heart of the plate. If Huddy just threw his
slider, however, that ball is gonna dive and cut away about 4 feet from
the plate, and then you look like a fool swinging at a pitch in the
dirt. That’s how it’s done. Now, there’s a lot more to it – for
example, batters read the seams, and you’re not gonna swing at a 3-0
95% of the time anyway – but in a nutshell, that’s how a pitcher’s
off-speed stuff makes his fastball even better.
And I’m going to talk about Loaiza now so I don’t get sidetracked
later. First, Tiger’s starter Justin Verlander had a solid outing in
Game 1; 7IP, 5 hits, 7 K’s. Downside – 3ER (and 1 unearned,) 3 walks,
and 2 bombs (both from Nick Swisher.) Additionally, he made 121
pitches, which I think is berserk, and he apparently hit 101mph on the
gun. Now, Loaiza. Loaiza (v7.0,) finished in 6IP, 6 hits, 3 ER, 3 K’s,
1 walk. Pretty much the definition of a quality start, and it brought
his ERA down to a solid 8.59, or 14 runs in 14.2 innings through 3
games. Now, did the White Sox bail out of that train at the right time
or what? In 2003, Loaiza went 21-9, (30 decisions – that alone is
nuts,) with a 2.90 ERA, 226 IP and 207 K’s. In 2004, before he was
traded away to the Yankees, he was 9-5 with a 4.86 ERA over 140.2 IP.
Ken Williams evidently saw the writing on the wall and served him up to
New York for one Jose Contreras. Loaiza continued being bad in New
York, and ended up in a Nat’s uni for the 2005 season. After putting up
decent numbers there, (12-10, 3.77 ERA, 217IP,) he migrated to Oakland.
Where he has continued being bad, so far. ERA’s are one of the
sketchiest stats around the beginning of the year, but when you’ve
allowed 14 runs in 14 innings, there isn’t a lot of statistical
padding. In any case, the rest of the game was unremarkable, with the
A’s winning 3-4; Verlander’s 1 unearned run and 3 earned were worse
than Loaiza’s 3 earned. Oh well.
Game 2 was a blowout – you know, the kind of game you expect when
the little league team with all the fancy uniforms and die-hard coaches
plays the kids who were conscripted into the game by their parent or
legal guardian. Not that there isn’t something significantly wrong with
a child who wouldn’t give his left arm to play baseball, but still. The
surprise here was that it was the Tigers going over the A’s, and
neither team really fit the previous analogy very well at all. Tigers
win, 11-4. Rogers repeats Verlander’s textbook quality start, going 7.1
innings and only giving up 3 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, and 1 K. A’s
starter Joe Blanton, on the other hand, got blown out of the water.
Eerily similar to Jeff Suppan’s implosion
the other night. 4.1 innings, 7 ER, 10 hits, 3 walks, and a surprising
3 K’s. Remarkable that he found the time to strike out that many guys
while he was so busy connecting with their bats. It was nice that, in
the end, the Tigers didn’t need to hit a single home run to win the
game. That’s another thing I like about Jim Leyland – call it luck, but
I think he makes a better lineup. It feels less top-heavy and more
balanced, with Inge back in the 9-spot and rally-killer Monroe out in
the 8. That said, was the entire Oakland grounds crew on drugs? The two
teams combined to commit 7 errors. I don’t usually look at errors when
I look at a box score, but I was drawn to them in this case because
Oakland allowed 3 unearned runs on their 4 errors. I think it’s
extremely rare for teams to commit 7 errors in a game, especially when
one (Detroit,) had a nearly spotless defensive record prior to the
game. Oh well.
In Game 3 (today,) Bonderman went 7 innings, gave up (you guessed
3 earned runs, and allowed 5 hits. He also gave up 2 walks while only
striking out 1. Odd. Bonderman has been off his game lately, with a
5.55 ERA in 24.1 innings. I assume he’ll warm up as the season
progresses – again, teams get hot and cold, as do players. It just so
happens that Bonderman started out the year cold. Bonderman allowed
his 3 runs in the first, and Zito allowed his 1 run in the first as
well. The game remained that way until the Tigers rallied in the top of
the ninth to get up 4-3. Fernando Rodney went 2 innings, giving up only
1 hit and 2 walks. His ERA is currently 0.00. I said this about him in
February in my Tiger’s bullpen review.
Rodney, in his second year back from Tommy
John surgery, is the most likely to improve tremendously this year.
Rodney can consistently throw his fastball in the mid-90’s and has one
of the nastiest low-80’s changeups in the league. In addition, he turns
29 in March – another sign that he may in for a great season this year.
Again, his 2.86 ERA in 44 innings, along with 42 Ks and just 17 walks
[last year] is excellent, and the fact that he will be even better and stronger
this year as a setup man is very encouraging.
Well, it’s happening. Rodney has gone 7.2 innings, given up 4 hits and
no runs, and is 3-3 in save opportunities so far this year, (as Todd Jones went down before the season started.) As statistical analysis
has proved, the Tigers have a thing for destroying closers. Todd Jones
was the last closer that made it out of Detroit alive, (in 2000,) and
so he’s the only one that the Tigers still need to get at. It doesn’t
look like he’ll last the season with that kind of luck. As for Barry
Zito, he finally had a good game. He went 7.0IP, giving up 3 hits, 1
run, and a Zito-typical 4 walks. I’m surprised that Billy Beane allows
Zito to stick around in a camp where there is a clear aversion – at
least in theory – to giving up free base runners, which according to The Beane Teachings,
invariably result in free runs. The Billy Beane thing is typical of so
many bandwagons – when Beane was making the playoffs, he looked like a
genius and everyone was aboard the small ball caravan. The A’s miss the
playoffs, (not because the ideas are bad, just because they didn’t win
enough games,) and all of the former supporters are now raiding
detractors. Interesting. So I won’t be voicing my opinion on that, but
lets just say that it’s a bad idea to waste money on a bad player.
That’s going to conclude an extremely ADD recap of the Tigers/A’s
series. Note that the Tigers end the series 9-7, while the A’s head out
7-9. Now, finish this post with Part II.