Quick note: you can now access the site at http://www.bihgm.com, (starting later on Saturday.) When you type in this address, you will automatically be directed here. Still waiting for all you regular readers, (and any others,) to leave your comment. So far, the reader inventory has racked up one new reader, Devovsky. Appreciate the kind words, man. Keep reading and keep leaving comments. Jason, you didn’t miss a whole lot the other night. And Kellia, thanks for being our alert reader of the day. You’re right. Ben Sheets does, indeed, pitch for the Brewers, not the Pirates. For some reason, I can’t get that into my head. Geoff – I was going to do a comparative analysis of Ferocious Lion replacements, but I’m going to save that for a few days. But, I will say I’m hearing that the Phillies GM is "expecting a call" from Brian Cashman. Anyway, we continue the call to all readers – leave a comment on this post if you’ve never done so, or, if you’re that against an MLB account, (and I can’t see why,) use the new chat box on the left sidebar. Tonight we’re going to talk about the National League. I don’t like the National League at all. It is, overall, boring. I mean, it certainly has it’s advantages. What would baseball be without Albert Pujols? You’ve also got more of a thinking game when you enter in the hitting pitcher. But in the end, the teams are worse, and the league is obviously worse for it.
Phillies v. Reds
Ever hear of Cole Hamels? Supposed to be the savior of the Phillies, and he made his MLB Debut tonight. He’s invincible, they say. Basically, the first five innings are empty, with the exception of a 2-run home run by the Phillies’ Ryan Howard. And Hamels has a no hitter right until 2 outs in the 5th, when the Reds’ Felipe Lopez breaks it up with a hit into right center. Interestingly, that new centerfielder (in for Rowand) tried to pass it off as a trap at first, but then realized that as he was doing so, Lopez was still running. Another fun time was had when the Phillies’ David Bell was up to the plate and the broadcasters noted that Royals Manager Buddy Bell was his father. They talked about how David is probably pretty proud of the Royals recent success, (three straight wins, prior to tonight’s loss to the Orioles,) but that he probably tells his Dad, "Look, I love you Dad, but please don’t trade for me." After sharing a good laugh, one of them says, "Aww, we’re just kidding, all you Royals fans out there." Seriously? First, you’re assuming that there are Royals fans out there, and that they really do exist. Next, you’re thinking that of all those Royals fans – figure there are a couple thousand in the whole country – are tuning in to the Reds v. Phillies game on Friday night. And, as if that wasn’t enough, you’re assuming that they don’t already know how terrible their team is. Judging by the Chad Carroll loyalty sale, I’m thinking they already know. So remember, assumptions are dangerous. In the bottom of the 6th, after the Phillies yanked Cole Hamels for a pinch hitter (who struck out) in the top of the 6th, Ryan Madsen is pitching to Austin Kearns. First, know that Hamels left his MLB Debut with a 2-0 lead, after allowing only one hit in five innings. Knowing that, Kearns absolutely rips Madsen out of the yard. Remember the Aaron Boone 2003 ALCS Game 7 Home Run off Tim Wakefield? Of course you do. It was exactly like that home run, right down the left field line, except that it went about 150 feet further. So now it’s 2-1, Phillies. Adam Dunn comes up, strikes out, and sits down. Next up, Edwin Encarnacion, who takes Madsen deep for another homer. Just like that, poof. Hamels, who left on top of his game, ends up losing his first win. By the way, the Hamels guy has nasty stuff. Check him out. Phillies beat Reds, 8-4.
Brewers v. Mets
When I saw that Lima Time was holding the Brewers to zero runs, (while my man Dave Bush had given up three,) I was surprised. The Phillies v. Reds game was getting boring, so I switched. Anyway, it’s 3-1 Mets in the bottom of the 5th, with the Brewers up. Here’s how it goes down. First, Damian Miller grounds out. Then Brady Clark gets hit by a pitch. Dave Bush sacrifices Clark to 2nd, then Rickie Weeks walks. So now it’s men on 1st and 2nd with two outs, not a huge jam for Lima. But you know the story of Lima, so you know it’s going to get bad, you just have no idea how bad. Bill Hall singles to left field. Now the bases are juiced, two outs, and it’s all on Lima’s shoulders. The game could go three ways now; either Lima reaches back and gets Geoff Jenkins out, he gets lucky and Jenkins gets himself out, or Lima buckles and the Brewers bust the game wide open. We’re going to go with option number three, and so did Lima. First he pitched Geoff three straight balls. And then Geoff hits a double all the way back to the center field wall – a base clearing double. Now it’s 4-3 Brewers, and Chad Bradford is in for Lima. The broadcasters provide a helpful, "And this call to the bullpen provided by Goodyear, who reminds you that it’s no longer Lima Time." Then Carlos Lee – All-Time Great – singles to center, scoring Jenkins. 5-3, Bradford replaced by Darren Oliver, Prince Fielder up. Fielder homers, knocking in Lee. Brewers up, 7-3. Then Corey "I’m… not so good" Koskie pops out. By the way, in 2004 Koskie was with the Twins. In 2005 it was the Blue Jays. Go Brewers, 6 runs in one inning.
Rickie Weeks made another simple defensive error later in the game. Trying to get a Web Gem, with a runner on 1st and a ground ball straight to him, he grabs the ball, jumps up and tucks his legs, (???) and makes a terrible throw to 2nd. There was really no play at 2nd, but who cares? Rickie – next time I’m going to have to direct you to 1st base on that kind of play. And don’t try to earn a Web Gem when you’ve made 11 errors already – more than anyone else in the league. Later in the inning, Carlos Lee (in left field) tried to make one of those sliding catches in foul territory, but collided with the tarp and missed the catch. He was ok, thankfully. But think. The game is at Miller Park, and Lee hit the tarp. You know that tarp is there to stop the rain, right? Apparently the fact that Miller Park has a roof doesn’t really matter. As a matter of fact, MLB rules dictate that all parks must have a tarp, just in case. Brewers beat Mets, 9-6.
Dodgers v. Giants
Boring. I mean, what can I say, I tried to watch some NL ball, but around the bottom of the sixth I was so bored that I decided I’d rather… do something else while I attempt to unpack from school. Anyway, here are my thoughts on this game – Brad Penny is a wimp. As the announcers said, this guy is a 100-pitch guy, and when he’s done his 100 pitches, he’s gone. He was even accused of "needing to have that wounded warrior attitude," by one of the broadcasters. In other words, "everything’s against me, I guess I’m just going to have to show them." Anyway, after every pitch, Penny picked one of the following motions: 1) Flailing off the mound, 2) Stretching shoulders and back out, 3) Limping around the mound, 4) Putting his hands on his knees and resting, 5) Rolling eyes, poor body language-type move. And, as the broadcasters also pointed out, no one on his team seemed to care. And the charade didn’t end when Penny reached the dugout. When he arrived, he grimaced as he sat down and reached for a hot cushion, then with a real monster of a grimace. Back to the broadcasters, who said, "that’s not a happy boy face there." Yet people continued to ignore him, while the broadcasters continued to accuse him of "trying to find ways out of the ballgame before the seventh." Listen, I’ll tell you when I know Brad Penny is hurt. In the 2004 season, just a few games after Penny was acquired from the Marlins, he threw a pitch and just went down. He was screaming, grabbing his elbow, running around the mound, the whole deal. The Dodger trainer runs out, but the Dodgers have never been known for their superior managing skills, certainly not at BHGM. So the trainer tells Penny, "hey, try throwing another pitch." And of course, Penny gets about halfway through his delivery before he’s felled. Did this guy work with NASA before the Dodgers hired him? "That rocket looks a little off… let’s shoot it up again, see if it’s still works…" No, bad idea. So after seeing the Giants roll around the field, I turned that off.
The New Chat Box
The observant among you will have noticed that yet another feature has been added to the BHGM sidebar. This has got to be among my favorites, along with the BHGM Search. I encourage you to try out both. The search is a valuable tool if you’re reading along, and you don’t know what I’m talking about. Just type in, "Dusty Baker clogging bases," and you’ll find out what I mean when I talk about that. Of course, I hope to have the "What you missed in BHGM" post up sometime soon, and that’s going to be detailing all of those obscure references we have here. It should be great. Anyway, the chat – the idea is that, for those of you who still don’t want to leave a comment, you can talk amongst yourselves in that little chat box. All you have to do is enter your name, (no email or URL is necessary, although it’s always welcome,) and a message. For example, "You’re wrong about the Royals, they’re not that bad." That’s the kind of thing that will earn you a full-post ripping here, for being wrong. Anyway, try it out. If no one uses it, I’ll just take it down.
Did someone whisper into the Padres’ ear?
Alright, it’s time to put an end to this. The Padres have won 12 of their last 13. This is just weird. I mean, they’re on fire. Remember last year when the Pirates won 10 straight? Maybe it was in 2004. Either way, no one panicked because hey, they’re still the Pirates. But I’m freaking out right now. In the NL West, winning 12 of 13 can put you up for a long time. Like, the rest of the year. Arizona and Colorado both lost tonight, and now the Padres are suddenly tied for first with the Rockies. They could then continue at a .500 clip for the next 125 games or so, and easily win the division. Again, I refer you to my NL West Solutions, which, according to Geoff, don’t take 15 minutes.
Pirates v. Marlins
In another Battle of the Titans, the Pirates beat the Marlins. By a score of 12-9. Those 12 runs are big for that team, which is second to last in runs scored with 144 – which, for all you math whizzes our there, means that exactly 1/12 of their season run total came tonight. ‘First place’ in that category goes to, you guessed it, the Royals, with 126. Right now, the Royals are on pace to lose 112 games and score 619 runs. Can’t think about it.
Thanks, as always, for reading. And leave comments, and check out the chat box.
I’ll focus on the two major threats to the Braves this year – the Mets and Phillies. I’m really not an expert on the NL East, so this is really uncharted territory for me. You’ll probably notice throughout the year that I root for the entire AL and the NL Central.
I was pretty sure before the last two seasons that the Braves were through. Uh, no. They’re like baseball’s version of a vampire. You think they’re dead, you start throwing dirt on the grave, and then they come back, again, and again, and again. Don’t get me wrong – there’s no other team in the NL East I would rather see win, with the possible exception of the Phillies, because I’m starting to like them. But how do they do it? I’m not gonna waste my time trying to answer that, so I’ll move on. I think that this may be the year the Braves end this insane run. I’m not sure if it will be the Mets or the Phillies, but… I don’t like the rise of those two teams, combined with the loss of Mazzone and Furcal. Maybe Mazzone was nothing special, and he just had good pitchers to work with – that’s certainly part of it, anyway. And maybe Renteria comes back and puts up some good numbers. I just think the Mets and Phillies are too good for it to matter. I don’t think that the Phillies will steal the division, although it’s certainly a possibility. However, the Braves have 38 games to play against the Mets and Phillies, and that will certainly make things difficult. But before we listen to everyone proclaim the Braves’ demise, let’s examine carefully the supposed threats coming from those two teams.
New York Mets
The Mets have done good things in the last two years, but that ship is still full of holes. It’s afloat, and it’s not sinking… yet. Such a hole can be found at 2B, where the Mets are fielding Kaz Matsui. Matsui used to be a pitcher until he was converted to a 2B by his former Japanese team. However, if you looked at his batting stats, you’d never guess! In 265 AB’s last year, he was able to produce 3 HR, 9 doubles, and 68 total hits. His average was .255, his OBP was .300, and his slugging percentage was .352. Grand. He did a little better in 2004 but not much. I know he’s kinda new to the whole America thing and all, but whatever. It’s possible to win a division with that. Now it’s time for me to include an excerpt from the Rabid Mets Fan, from MLB Radio’s Stayin’ Hot with Seth and Bone last year… or maybe Under the Lights with Casey Stern. Can’t remember.
Well I found this year’s Kaz Matsui trade. Danys Baez to the Mets. For Yusmeiro Petit! Don’t do it Omar! Don’t do it Omar! Why would you do that! I think Baez is the worst closer in baseball! Is he better than Braden Looper!? I dunno, I should, cuz I see him every night, but what, is he gonna take us to the World Series!? No… why would you trade him away for someone who’s working his way up through the system?!
There’s a lot of wasted words there, because that’s how the guy talks. The point is that Mets fans want Kaz out of there, for some reason. I don’t like ever saying that a team’s season depends on a few guys, but for the Met’s I think it’s true. If Beltran comes back to his old form, David Wright has another good year, and Peddy somehow manages to pull it together again, they have a good chance of overtaking the Braves this year. The biggest hole is the Met’s rotation. I still don’t understand it. Let’s lay it up:
1) Pedro Martinez – 5′ 11" dude that frankly, I don’t like. Pedro played Villain too long in Bean Town.
If the Universe turned on it’s skull and Pedro somehow landed in a Yankee uniform, I would go out back and hang myself. In any case, this run isn’t gonna last forever. I’m just waiting for the season to come when Pedro has a 4.20 ERA, strikes out 100, and wins 8 games. Mediocrity. Let’s see how he deals with that.
2) Tom Glavine – Turned 40 today. And he’s exactly 25 wins short of 300. His ERA was only 3.53 last year, but he just got 13 wins. That was a bullpen problem. If he can tough it out for another two years he’ll be good. I don’t see him breaking down too much more this year. One cause for concern is the fact that he’s a lefty, and left handers are batting .323 off him.
3-5) Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano, and Aaron Heilman? – As I said earlier, I’m really no expert on the NL East. I do know that Trachsel is not that good, Zambrano is worse and looks even goofier than Trachsel in his profile picture, and Heilman is a train wreck. The Mets have been trying to start Heilman for years and the experiment has never really worked out. Meanwhile they keep hiding him in the bullpen, but it looks like they won’t have that option this year.
This is what I don’t get. The Mets offense is strong, but let’s go back to the analogy of the Mets team as a ship with a bunch of leaky holes. The offense/defense has a few of the holes, but the ship is still afloat. Add the pitching to the mix and it’s like you just struck an iceberg. I can’t see the Mets making a reasonable run in the playoffs unless they can shore up that rotation and bullpen. The one bright spot is Billy Wagner, (courtesy of the Phillies, ironically enough.) Wagner might be a tiny and goofy looking dude, but he’s lights-out. Much better than Braden Looper. I remember writing this after the Met’s opened 2005 by having their bullpen sabotage their first few games.
The Mets bullpen is not good. They’re 0-2 now in holds and saves. Their bullpen consists of Manny Aybar, who said that parts of his family are unaware that he’s an MLB pitcher even though he’s been in the Majors 8 years. Felix Heredia is a lefty specialist who can’t get any lefties out and had an ERA of 6.28 in 39 innings last year. Mike DeJean is about 90 years old. Dae-Sung Koo is 36 and made his MLB Debut just this year. Roberto Hernandez is 41 years old. Mike Matthews had an ERA of 6.30 in 30 innings pitched last year. And Braden Looper, the one supposed bright spot, has yet to get a single batter out this season, although he has given up 3 runs. Bunch of firestarters.
But that was last year. This year, Chad Bradford and Duaner Sanchez will do their best to hide a bunch of 5.00+ ERA stars. Bradford and Sanchez are actually 3.50-.75 ERA gems themselves. All this team really has to do is make it to the 9th inning with a lead, and they’re good. The problem is, with that weak rotation and that 2-man pen, how many times will that happen? Last year, Pedro was terrified to leave any game before he had to because he knew that bullpen would screw it up. Hopefully – for the Mets – this year will be different. I doubt it. But if they were able to finish 83-79 last year – enough to beat that entire West Coast League – and they’ve only gotten better, it seems they have a legitimate chance, somehow.
The Phillies’ main if is their pitching. The Phillies are trying to re-tool Tom Gordon back into a closer. This is unlikely to work out. I’m making this statement based on one fact – Tom Gordon’s own admission. About two years ago, I was listening to an interview of him and he said he didn’t believe he could ever close games again, because he only had two pitches. I’ll tell you what’s happening here. He was sick of winning, I mean, playing for the Yankees. First, he obviously thinks he can close; he left because he wasn’t ever gonna close in New York unless a lighting bolt struck down Mo. He would not have taken a closing job if he thought he was just gonna make a fool out of himself. That being said, the last time I checked, age 38 wasn’t the best time to turn a guy back into a closer. Let us not forget, he has 116 career saves. But only 18 in the last 4 years. He’s been putting up great numbers; from 2002, his ERA has dropped per the following: 3.38, 3.16, 2.21, 2.57. But he’s been away from the job for too long, I think. I’m not sure what it is I don’t like, because if you just look at his numbers he almost checks out. But the numbers are all over the place. Of course, the craziest part is where he saved 46 games for Boston in 1998. That was 8 years ago. In any case, it doesn’t matter that he just isn’t as good as Wagner. What I’m concerned about is his ability not to totally flop. You know the Phillies would’ve preferred to sign someone a little more solid, but they couldn’t. They’re just as nervous about Gordon as I am.
Other than that, the Phillies have a lot in common with the Mets. A mostly-experimental infield, an
anchored (Bobby Abreu) outfield, and a shaky rotation. The Phillies rotation looks much more solid than the Mets’, but I’m not even sure I can break it down because I don’t even know that much about it. It looks like Ryan Franklin, Cory Lidle, Jon Leiber, Ryan Madsen and Brett Myers will form it up. With the exception of Madsen, all have career ERA’s between 4.20 and 4.50. This typically translates into a reliable, albeit not lights-out, rotation. Brett Myers appears to be the leader (read: opening day starter,) of this little band after he pulled together a reasonable 2005 campaign, but it’s likely that Leiber – 10 years older than Myers – will likely be doing most of the actual leading. Madsen has only started one MLB game; he made 51 appearances in relief for the Phillies in 2004 with a 2.34 ERA, and 78 in 2005 for a 4.14 ERA. In any case, he’s filling in for Randy Wolf, who’s out recovering from a Tommy John-er and will be back by the middle of the season, hopefully. The problem is that if any of these guys go down, there’s no one to fill in. The bullpen is already weak with the departure of Madsen to the rotation. And Arthur Rhodes, Robinson Tejeda, Aaron Fultz, and Tom Gordon are your big men. Tejeda and Fultz? Arthur Rhodes is one of the sketchiest guys in the league, and we already talked about Gordon. There’s simply no one there if a starter goes down or if (when) Rhodes/Gordon do something weird.
That said, if the Phillies somehow make it through 2006 with their fragile pitching intact, they too have a legitimate chance of overthrowing the Braves. I didn’t delve into their hitting because I don’t think that will be their problem; it’s average and you’ve been reading long enough.
Baseball in the District. Fantastic. Jim Bowden in the District – catastrophe. Frank Robinson will have a fun time battling through the trash that Bowden through in his lap – mainly, Alfonso Soriano. That said, the Nationals have too many holes in their ship to keep afloat for the entire season. As if that wasn’t enough, Tony Armas Jr., Pedro Astacio, and Ramon Ortiz comprise 3/5 of your rotation. At least they’ve got horse Livan Hernandez to anchor it; the Phillies have no such ace. Without stretching it out, the Nationals are still too much of a puzzle team for the big time. Too many ifs, and too many potential problems. I don’t see them playing through the entire season and ending on top. Furthermore, I think the NL Wild Card will likely go to a Central team, or the Phillies/Mets/Braves – not the Nats.
Someone needs to alert GM Larry Beinfest that he needs to field a Major League Baseball team in less than two weeks. 50% chance you’ll catch him unawares. After the Pokey Reese defection/escape, the Marlins line up like this, from the 1-9 spot on the defensive depth chart.
1) Dontrelle Willis will be leading this band of unknowns – SP
2) Josh Willingham? – C
3) Mike Jacobs? – 1B
4) Dan Uggla? – 2B
5) Miguel Cabrera – 3B? They finally shifted the bus to the infield.
6) Hanley Ramirez – SS. I know the name… but his MLB experience is 0-2, with 2 K’s.
7) Chris Uguila? – LF
8) Reggie Abercrombie? – CF
9) Jeremy Hermida – RF. Rookie of the Year candidate.
Manager – Joe Girardi. Rookie Manager.
The question marks are because, lets face it – six of those eight position players have less than 100 AB’s at the major league level. Chris Uguila has 123, and Miguel Cabrera has played 63 games at 3rd Base. The rotation is more of the same.
The Marlins aren’t a major league team. They’re a team of unknowns.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.