AL v. NL
Why is the AL so much stronger than the NL? I think I’ve got it. When a dominant player rises through an organization, he still has to be able to field. If he can’t field, or there is nowhere for him to field, he can’t hit. At least not in the NL. Take Ryan Howard. Rookie of the Year last year. But he played first base, so the Phillies traded away Thome. Lyle Overbay, (who was actually just an average 1st basemen, despite all the run he gets from his doubles and OBP,) was traded away by the Brewers to make room for Prince Fielder. Within the NL, this makes no difference, as all the teams are handicapped equally. But when they play the AL, the teams that have traded away some of their valuable players because their positions forced them to are matched up against teams that have one overflow spot when it comes to hitting talent. Whenever you’re forced to trade away a player, you’re probably not gonna get the best value for him. NL teams are continuously put in this position because they don’t have the DH rule; AL teams can always DH someone. Yes, I understand that some teams have entrenched DH’s as well – Cleveland’s Travis Hafner, Oakland’s Frank Thomas, etc – but at least Oakland didn’t have to give up the rising Dan Johnson to acquire Thomas. See the point? It’s a little tough to wrap your arms around at first, because it has nothing to do with the lineup. But the bottom line is that the National League will always be trading away a hitter that is at least the 9th best hitter on the team, (likely higher, as 1B is probably a better hitter than the 2B you’re forced to bat because he has to field.) Additionally, did you know that while the DH usually hits for the pitcher, he doesn’t have to? During interleague/postseason play, I want to see St. Louis employ that little known fact with Jason Marquis, just for fun. I’m serious. Put a DH in for Junior Spivey, and have Jason Marquis bat. Has anyone ever actually done this?
In SI’s Baseball Preview ’06, Tom Verducci compares Felix Hernandez to the Hope Diamond. This is alluding to the fact that the Mariners want to show off Hernandez, but must be careful – he can’t be stolen, sold, or borrowed. However, if he just sticks around in the Smithsonian forever, he’ll be of no good to anyone. So, the Mariners have to find some sort of competitive equilibrium. He then notes that if Hernandez makes 32 starts this season, at 7 innings per start (which wont happen,) he’ll pitch 244 innings, including Spring Training. Verducci notes,
Jobe’s Law [a pitcher’s innings should max out at his age times 10] would confine Hernandez to about 180 regular-season innings this year, which for the desperate Mariners may be as difficult as counting calories in an ice-cream parlor. The team has lost more than 90 games for two straight years, and average attendance has dropped by more than half a million fans over that time… So, where do the Mariners cut out 40-plus innings? Do they pull him from games after six innings even if he is pitching well? Do they skip six of his starts at assorted times over the season? Do they shut him down for the year in August? And how difficult will that be if the Mariners are in contention? How hard will it be for a manager with somewhat shaky job security and a general manager on a year-to-year contract to intentionally not use their best pitcher?
Is this an April Fool’s Joke? The Mariners in contention in August? As I said in a previous post,
I saw on MLB.com that Ichiro
returned to the Mariners with ‘Classic-like’ intensity. Hold it right
there. Ichiro can hit .900, get 400 infield singles, and never make a
single error. Heck, he can be in the batting order three times for all
I care. The Mariners still aren’t gonna mean anything this year, and
that’s that. Welcome to West Coast Baseball,
(minus the Angels.) And yes, I know the Mariner’s aren’t in the NL
West. I’m trying to show a pattern, people. (Get it, NL West… AL
Have the Mariners done a single thing this offseason? Here’s your Seattle Mariners 2006 Team Overview:
The Mariners acquired lefty Jarrod Washburn, now their 3rd starter. They also acquired DH Carl "Fan is short for fanatic – he’s crazy about something he doesn’t know about. And it’s proven that 99 percent of baseball fans have no idea what they’re watching" Everett. Centerfielder Joe Borchard and his .263 average – from AAA – replaces Randy Winn. They also acquired catcher Kenji Johjima, who will become best buddies with Ichiro but not do much in the batter’s box. In short, the Mariners are still a very bad team. End of overview.
I’m watching the Nationals v. Orioles game, and Nationals SS Royce Clayton just bobbled a "tailor-made double play ball," and then went to toss it to Soriano Enemy Number One – Jose Vidro. Even though Royce just made the toss to avoid looking like a 3rd grader, it was a bad toss and Vidro missed the catch. Whichever Orioles prospect who was running to 2nd had already been safe for about 4 minutes, so the play was over. Anyway, the ball rolled a third of the way to 3rd base while Vidro – literally – sulked after it. For awhile it looked like the ball might out ‘run’ Vidro, but he eventually caught up with it. And did you know that Clayton has played for 8 teams in his career? And that the Nationals have made 48 errors in Spring Training so far? The team is already depressed and downtrodden. Looks like we need to send them to another city already, because the scenery change that lit up the whole team in the first two-thirds of last season seems to have dried up. That, or the entire clubhouse – including Frank Robinson – is so furious with GM Jim Bowden that they can’t breathe. What was Jim Bowden thinking? The National’s 2006 Overview? The entire team will land in psychotherapy before the close of the season. Jim Bowden will pull a Jimmy Hoffa, and Frank Robinson will announce that he can no longer deal with the stress of managing, and will become a 3rd base coach for a few years before another team offers him a gig.
More on SI’s Baseball Preview
Also, I know SI wants to be original and exciting, but when predicting the division winners, remember, this isn’t March Madness. In fact, a 162-game baseball season can’t be any further from a 65-team, single-elimination Battle Royale. The Oakland A’s probably aren’t the 2nd best team in Major League Baseball. Likewise, the Devil Rays are not likely to hop over the Orioles in the AL East, although this isn’t a total impossibility. And how can you try to sneak in the A’s as the 2nd best team in the game, yet rate the Tiger’s as the 18th best? You can’t make the bold prediction for the A’s and completely ignore the Tigers. By the same token, the Red’s may be bad, but they aren’t the 3rd worst team in Baseball. I’m the first guy to kick a bad team when it’s down, but the Red’s simply are not that bad. They haven’t really done anything bad to the team since they finished 73-89 last year. They’ve lost Sean Casey and Willy Mo Pena and placed Rich Aurilia into hiding. Casey was an average 1B, Aurilia is going the way of Frosty Bret Boone in more ways than one, and Pena didn’t really fit into the team’s lineup, (back to why the AL is better than the NL.) Then again, any guy who hits a HR every 16 times he steps up the plate should find a way into your lineup… whatever. Meanwhile, they acquired Tony Womack, Scott Hatteberg, Chris Hammond, Bronson Arroyo, and Dave Williams. And if Eric Milton pulls it together, they’ll be… a little better than last year.
Other than the above, there don’t seem to be too many weird ideas. I’m not gonna tell you all the predictions, but basically they’re the same any commoner would make, with the exception of the NL Central going Cards, Brewers, Cubs, Astros, Pirates, Reds. I would say Cards, Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Reds, Pirates. Big diff. Neither of those predictions will be correct, because as I’ve said before, preseason predictions are a crapshoot. And then they have White Sox over Cards in the World Series, which won’t happen. White Sox, maybe. Cardinals, no. You don’t get farther in the postseason by using ‘addition through subtraction’. And yes, losing Reggie Sanders, Larry Walker (basically worthless last season, but still,) and Mark Grudzielanek is subtraction.
Opening night is less than 24 hours away. Exciting!
Last year, on the day of Game 4 of the World Series, I cried in the middle of my psychology class. I couldn’t help it. I knew that I would be watching my last live baseball game for months and it made me terrified. Would I be able to survive The Void this year? Or would it take me before Baseball Season returned? I was scared, frightened, and downtrodden. But – I persevered through the winter months, survived The Void, and now Baseball has arrived. Every year, my routine is the same… grit my teeth, watch Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS (I’m serious, it’s saved on my computer,) and count down the days. As spring approaches, I start listening to Buck 65’s album "This Right Here is Buck 65" – baseball’s soundtrack – and start right into the swing of things. I was extremely busy (and sick) for the last month so it was difficult for me to devote as much time as I usually do, but it’s ok. I start wearing my autographed Andres Torres Fan Club T-Shirt, (see the story) and trying to get a game of catch going. Yesterday, Michigan decided to be about 65 degrees (???) so I spent some time outside throwing around. It was amazing.
In any case, baseball has arrived. The Void is pretty much over. Therefore, I think it’s only appropriate for us to declare us much. Out with the Void, bring on the baseball. One of the first things I’ll be doing when I get home from school around the 2nd week of May is going to a Tigers game. I’ll go alone if I have to. But I’m going. And then I’ll go to another… and hopefully about 15 more. I can say hi to all my usher-friends – I haven’t seen them since August – and make new friends with the Cops, since the last one – Famous Officer Diaz – got laid off by silly Detroit. How exciting is this? Think about it, genuine, real-life baseball. No more getting by on simple TV spring training games, or MVP 2004, and no more not wanting to wake up because your baseball dreams are better than real life. No more. Baseball Season has arrived, and (not coincidentally) the Sun has started shining in Michigan. I don’t think I’ve seen sunshine here since, say… early November.
In any case, the prep for the Season has been pretty strong here on BHGM. I encourage you to check out the team and divisional overviews – many of the teams can be found within their respective divisional overviews, obviously.
Cleveland Indians – A very detailed mailbag response.
Toronto Blue Jays – Brief, mostly pitching oriented look.
Detroit Tigers – Detailed look at the hometown team.
NL East – Mets and Phillies, with a smidge of Braves, Nats, and Marlins.
St. Louis Cardinals – Covering Sidney Ponson here.
New York Yankees – Focusing on the rotation… because we know how the offense will do.
Washington Nationals – Jim Bowden’s second fatality.
Cincinnati Reds – Not too many details… because they’re screwed up. See above.
NL West – Please, you’ve got to be kidding me. If you don’t know how I feel about them by now, you haven’t been paying attention.
Toronto Blue Jays/AL East – Just reminding the Jay’s what division they’re stuck in.
We’ll be seeing more excitement as the weekend continues. But for now, thanks for reading. Also, check out the new BHGM Site Search. You can find it on the bottom left toolbar.
Today I got an e-mail from Aaron in Mill Creek, Washington. He wanted to know what I thought about the Indian’s chances this year and for the future, since they’ve only lost Coco Crisp and gained much in the offseason. I decided the Indians are overdue for some coverage, so here we go. Most of you who have read my division/team overviews know that I don’t like making predictions on where teams will end up at the end of the year – I prefer to break down a team’s strength’s and ‘holes,’ because to be honest, predictions are a crapshoot anyway.
Since finishing 93-69 and just 6 games behind the White Sox in 2005, the Indians have re-signed Jhonny Peralta (5 years,) and Grady Sizemore (6 years,) to long term contracts. They’ve acquired Guillermo Mota and signed free agents Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson. Aaron wondered whether these gains, offset only by the loss of Coco Crisp, gave the team a chance to make a run this season. Aaron, you forgot to mention that the Indians let the pitcher with the best ERA in the AL walk away to free agency. He is currently playing for the Rangers. I’ll give everyone a couple seconds to think about who that might be, because it still amazes me that this guy had the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher in the AL and barely anyone knows it.
Alright, times up – it was Kevin Millwood. In any case, maybe people didn’t take note because he went 9-11 last year. How you can start 30 games and have a 2.86 ERA while playing for a team that won 93 games – but only win 9 games yourself – is beyond me. Oh well. On to Coco Crisp. Do you remember before the 2004 season, when the Indians shipped tinder-box Milton Bradley to the Dodgers so they could make room for Coco Crisp on the roster? Think about that for a minute, and it will become clear. If you still need help, think Monopoly and Breakfast. In any case, Coco is an average center fielder (his natural position), and the guy who’s playing in center instead – Grady Sizemore – is younger and more qualified for the job. I agree with Aaron that the loss of Coco Crisp isn’t a huge loss – more so since the Indians acquired a valuable defensive backup catcher in Kelly Shoppach, a quality reliever in Guillermo Mota, and a highly valued 3rd base prospect in Andy Marte. Marte is only 22 now, but he’s an amazing fielder and has great potential at the plate.
However, many Indian fans don’t like this trade because of the chemistry Coco brought to the team. I guess others feel that GM Mark Shapiro was trading away the present for the future, but nothing could be further from the truth, in my opinion. Crisp wasn’t playing in his natural position, and he wasn’t going to as long as Grady Sizemore is in town – which is going to be about 6 years. Power-hitting, quality fielding 3rd basemen are hard to come by, and Andy Marte will develop into one within the next couple years. Some people have even raised the idea of turning Victor Martinez into a 1st baseman and starting Kelly Shoppach at catcher, because he is defensively superior. This is a possibility, but not in the near future. Before I go further, let me say that I was almost done with this piece when my computer decided to restart. So I lost the last half. Oh well, here we go again. This is how the Indians line up on the depth chart for the 2006 Season:
Catcher – Victor Martinez
First Base – Ben Broussard
Second Base – Ronnie Belliard
Third Base – Aaron Boone (for now)
Shortstop – Jhonny Peralta
Right Field – Casey Blake
Center Field – Grady Sizemore
Left Field – Jason Michaels
DH – Travis Hafner
Many of you who have read my team overviews are familiar with the holes analogy. We see another good use for it right here; the Indians don’t have a lot of holes, provided the team plays like they did last year. Red Sox Killer Aaron Boone should be able to produce, as long as he doesn’t get any worse than he was last year. I don’t like Jason Michaels in Left, if only because he’s never played a full season. However, Todd Hollandsworth is there to back up any outfielders that go down, and I’m comfortable with that. The Indians are young, and that’s their greatest asset. V-Mart, Belliard, Peralta, Blake, and Sizemore are only getting better, and I don’t see any of them having huge off years that would ruin the team, (but Martinez always starts slow, so be weary.) Broussard and Hafner may improve a little, but Hafner is already a great DH to begin with. Remember, this lineup finished 93-69 last year. The only major thing offensively that’s changed with the Indians is the departure of Coco Crisp, which is not a big loss to the team offensively – some Indian fans will contend that it is a matter of chemistry, but that debate won’t be settled here. The most important thing to remember is that all the members are generally consistent performers – unlike the Mets, their season isn’t riding on the success of one or two guys.
As for the rotation, I like it and it tends to be fairly solid. C.C. Sabathia is one of my favorite pitchers, and he’ll be the ace again this year. The problem with C.C. is that he has a tendency to get hit around the yard a lot. His typical ERA hovers around 4, but most people forget that C.C. is only 25 years old. This could be the year that he pulls everything together. Apparently, I fell asleep and when I woke up, it became ok to start Jake Westbrook at the Major League level. I’m not gonna bash the guy too much, because frankly he doesn’t deserve it. Ok, maybe 2005 was an off year – I mean, 2004 was his good year, and all the others were just off years. My point is that 2004’s 3.38 ERA looks more like a statistical anomaly than a genuine, quality performance. But who knows, Westbrook is supposed to pull it together any year now, (he’s 28,) and this might be the year. Cliff Lee is next in line. Lee has really figured things out since his rocky full-time debut in 2004, when he had a 5.43 ERA but somehow managed to win 14 games. In 2005, he won 18 games with a 3.79 ERA, and I think he’s for real. Furthermore, I forgive Cliff for pitching his glove into the crowd after he exited a game in 2004, unhappy with his performance. And before you ask why anyone would ever start
Westbrook over Lee… Sabathia, Lee, and Jason Johnson (the #5) are all Lefties. Handedness aside, the rotation might fall to some variation of Sabathia, Lee, Byrd, Westbrook, and Johnson. The veteran of this young staff is Paul Byrd, at number 4. And hold it a minute, I’ll get to Johnson in a second. Byrd has had a good last couple of years. I’m not going to go into the hurricane that’s been his career, but basically it’s stabilized. If he can continue his sub-4.00 ERA ways and stay consistent, he’ll be a great #4. And then there’s Jason Johnson. I saw him start a few too many games for the Tigers last year, and I don’t like him. I’m convinced the guy is a fraud. He’s another one of those players I just don’t care for. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy or anything, his style of play just concerns me. And by style of play, I mean he’s only had two sub-4.50 ERA seasons – for the Orioles in 2001 and 2003, 4.09 and 4.18, respectfully. But, I do understand that guys that can go 200 innings with a 4.50 ERA are a little rarer than we typically think. If Johnson can stay healthy and stable, he’s doing his job as a number 5. Overall, this is a solid rotation if it stays healthy, which it has in the past. Neither Paul Byrd nor Jason Johnson strike out a lot of guys, and therefore the outfield defense which some people worry is a little shaky may be a problem – no one seems to be too sure how it will perform. Byrd caused some worries earlier in Spring Training when he was roughed up for 7 runs in 1.2 innings and said, "I need to get more zip on my fastball… it feels like I’m pitching underwater." That’s not a good feeling. The Indians are working on Fausto Carmona as well – Carmona is a 22-year-old prospect who allowed just 1 ER and recorded 8 K’s in 12 IP this spring. He’s set to spend the year in AAA Buffalo, but I think that if Byrd, Johnson, or Westbrook goes down for any length of time he may be called up, if he’s having a good year at AAA. Of course, this isn’t a long term solution because you risk pitching him too many innings and pulling a Mark Prior on him, but at least he provides a little bit of insurance.
The bullpen is a little bit shaky still, but it simply wasn’t the priority to be fixed during the off-season. Right now, the only reliable guy is one Rafael Betancourt, who still claims he wasn’t juiced up. But this guy is good. I actually drafted him last year because if Wickman goes down – not unlikely – he’s #2. Guillermo Mota, who was acquired when Coco Crisp departed, should be good, but there’s no telling for sure.
Ever since Mota was shipped to the Marlins in 2004 with Paul Lo Duca, he’s been a mess. His 2005 season was a total loss, but it did produce Todd Jones as a closer (again), and he’s in Detroit now. Relief pitchers aren’t something you want to bet on because they can be so fickle from year to year, but I think Mota can pull something out of his bag and get back to a serviceable condition this year. The car crash that is Danny Graves has also arrived at the Jake, and apparently won itself a roster spot. If Graves thinks Wickman’s gonna go down this year, and Eric Wedge will panic and hand him the closer spot, he needs to drop back down to planet Earth. Maybe, maybe, if the rest of the bullpen is assassinated he’ll have a shot. Do you remember when the Indians were on their bus to the Kansas City airport near the close of the 2004 Season, when all of the sudden reliever Kyle Denney was shot? The best part of this was that Denney was wearing a white cheerleader’s outfit as part of a hazing ritual, and the high white boots he was wearing may have saved him from further injury. Can you imagine how that must have gone?
"Skip, I’ve been shot!"
"Shut up Denney, you haven’t been shot."
"No, he’s serious! Reliever down! Reliever down!"
Too much. In any case, If Graves and Mota pull it together, you’ve got a decent bullpen. But any team who signs Danny Graves is grabbing at straws, and Mark Shapiro knows it. Bob Wickman, who saved 45 games last year, is fine if he stays healthy. I was at an Indians v. Tigers came last year, and I chanced into Bob Wickman by the dugout – I think it was just after we had gotten into the park. We asked Wickman if he could sign, and he said sure. He came on over, and then he dropped the bomb.
Do you care where I sign? Want it in the sweet spot?
Anyone (above the age of 15) who has ever gotten a player’s autograph know’s that this is just
absurd. Most of the time, the players will ignore your attempts to speak to them. You’ll say,
‘thanks,’ and they’ll give you a standard ‘no problem’ without looking up or making eye contact. Wickman looked me straight in the eye and treated Kevin and I respectfully, because he knew we’re the reason he has a salary. I’m not saying players who don’t do this are bad guys – I understand that a lot of fans are obnoxious, and the players don’t have time for everyone, etc – but anyone who takes time out like Bob Wickman gets an A+. Remember the Andres Torres Story? Additionally, anyone who has attended an Indian’s game has probably seen the old
T-Shirt lady. I won’t go into it now, but… screeching at players like
you’re their mother is not the way to go. In any case, the 37-year-old Wickman had one of his best years last year, dropping his ERA to a solid 2.47. Again, if he stays healthy he’s perfect – if not, start looking for a replacement. But Wickman is a good guy.
That said, I’m going to remind you that I like to break down teams and let you decide where they’ll end the year at. But, if I had to take a guess – and I think the AL Central is one of the easier divisions to predict, although everyone else will disagree with me – we’ll go Indians, White Sox, Tigers, Twins, Royals. The Indians and Sox may swap; the Tigers and Twins may swap. (Check out the Tiger’s Overview.) Again, there’s no way to know for sure. But the Indians have put together a great club recently and stand a good chance of running away with the division. Aaron, I hope I answered your question. Any other e-mails are welcome and I’ll do my best to address them and use your ideas.
Thanks for reading.
I haven’t been posting a lot lately because I’ve been absolutely swamped with work. It’s nuts. I had to talk to my advisor on Monday, and I walk in the door and he says, ‘wow, you look a little frazzled.’ Hmm, thanks. And today I had a great day in the Chemistry department; I cut my hand, got Hydrochloric acid on my finger (pH < 0,) and spilled some Chromium on my hands on top of that. Great. Well, that said… let’s get back to the baseball.
Few topics I want to cover tonight:
Where are the Blue Jays going this year?
The Blue Jays recently placed A.J. Burnett on the DL, but there’s more too it. See, medically, he can play, but they want to give the scar tissue which evidently tore loose some more time to get itself worked out before they throw him into a game. I’m gonna say this right now – smart move. Burnett is only missing two starts, and that’s a bargain. The Jays are paying this guy $55 million for 5 years. That means, if he develops a problem – Mark Prior or Kerry Wood like – they’re stuck with him. And worst case scenario, the Jay’s lose two games they may have otherwise won – again, worst case scenario. And that’s about 200 times better than having Burnett go down anytime during the season, because if he does it’ll be for much longer.
Burnett should have a great year. And as I’ve said time and time again, Halladay will be even better. If, disregarding any freak injuries, I had to pick one guy for the AL Cy Young this year, it would be Roy Halladay. Dude is lights out. I’ve talked about this before. But basically, take my word, Halladay is the man. However, I worry that the Jays are a lot of big names with not a lot behind them. Glaus, for example, is a big home run guy at 3rd base. However, he cannot hit well for an average. He’s been this way his whole career – the Blue Jays know it, obviously, and they don’t expect it to change. But, what does this do for the much-advertised,
"Vernon Wells gets protection in the lineup" scheme? Furthermore, upon close inspection of the rest of the Blue Jay’s team, you still see a lot of holes. The lineup is about average – which, of course, doesn’t win the AL East. The pitching was the problem last year. For example, the Jays scored 775 runs last year; the White Sox scored 741. However, the White Sox allowed 645 runs, (earned and otherwise,) for a 3.61 ERA. The Jays allowed 705 total runs for an ERA of 4.06. 60 runs may not seem like a huge difference, but it is about .37 runs per game. My point, however, is that you don’t win the AL East with lackluster pitching and an average lineup. B.J. Ryan, A.J. Burnett, and a healthy Roy Halladay may solve that problem. However, it is not often that a team can be in 3rd place one year, make a few trades, and contend for the division the following year. Winning has to be bred from within the organization.
I like the Blue Jays a lot, and I like what they’ve done as an organization. They’re on the rise as a club. And, if they were in the AL Central, or the AL West, they would have a serious shot at this thing. But as of now, they simply cannot compete with the Yankees or the Red Sox. Regardless of what the opening day lineup is for the Yankees, Steinbrenner would support the WBC before he allowed the Jays to go over him in the AL East. It won’t happen. And if you need more evidence, here you go.
Does Carl Pavano still play baseball?
He is listed as an active player, but I’m not so sure. If I have my facts straight, about a week ago he threw ‘for real’ for the first time since last August, although this is a really muddled situation. I know the guy isn’t milking the team for cash, but he’s still managing to make me upset. I feel like he’s standing there laughing at us, "Haha, yeah, you know, I’m just taking it slow. I’m primed for rebound season though. The difference between how I pitched last season and how I’m throwing now is amazing. I feel good. Blah Blah Blah.********." Great. Again, it seems inconceivable that a Major League baseball pitcher would just act like he had a sore back/shoulder so he didn’t have to pitch to earn his cash. I mean, it’s illogical for starters. That’s certainly is not going to make you any more money in the long run. So what’s this guy’s deal? Why is he so intent on taking his time to recover? Perhaps he just doesn’t know how to handle the media – I don’t know. I guess my point is that it seems like he’s taking his ‘rehab’ very slow. Don’t like that one bit.
Beantown is about to get pissed
I want to say something. There’s an article floating around MLB.com that notes that since 2001, four of the five teams that won the World Series didn’t even make the playoffs in the previous year. Diamondbacks in 2001, Angels in 2002, Marlins in 2003, White Sox in 2005. That’s right, the Red Sox aren’t included. Why? They might have made the playoffs in 2003… but they hadn’t won the World Series in 86 years. You know, that’s a really long time. You could conceivably be born the year after the Red Sox won the Series, fight in WWII, marry, have children, get grandchildren, retire, etc etc, and then die. And then, the Red Sox would win the World Series again. An entire lifetime! Do you understand how ridiculous that is? I’m just happy I got my two days of crying in already – I know I won’t have to do that ever again. With that, I introduce the following counter. It’s kind of like my garlic and cross against Beantown. E-mail me if you would like the code.
The Radio Show
Kevin and I are still working on the Radio Show and trying to line up some guests. So far, we’re still looking for George Will, Andres Torres, Jim Bunning, and anyone else. If you know any of these people, tell them we’d like to get in touch. Apparently my Dad, who does some work with public policy institutes, knows people who know George Will and Perfect Game Winner/U.S. Senator Jim Bunning. But again, if you’re close with these people – or anyone else who would want to be on a sweet show and talk about baseball – tell them to talk to us.
It’s been great. Talk to you tomorrow.
I think I owe the hometown team a little bit of love. I’m gonna throw a few years of Tiger thoughts into this, concluding with a full review of this year’s team.
The news out of Tiger Town today is that Carlos Pena is done, unconditionally released. I’m sure many of us are upset about this; Pena was only 27 and he was coming off a bad year, right? We should give him another chance. Besides, if Shelton flops (unlikely,) the only other option at 1st is Dmitri Young. And you don’t want to see that. Young is the sloppiest fielder I have ever seen. That said, losing Pena was bad, right?
Wrong. Let’s review the facts. Pena had a ‘bad year’ last year, so bad that he was sent down to AAA for about half the season. Because of that, he played half the games he typically would in a full season at the Major League level. Here are the numbers from Pena’s ‘bad year’: 260 AB, 18 HR, 44 RBI, 95 K’s, and a stellar .325 OBP and .235 AVG. That sounds like a bad year to me. But, check this out. Pena’s career OBP is .330, and his career average is .243, nearly identical to last year’s figures. And this isn’t a statistical fluke; he put up numbers right in that area every year. If you carefully compare Pena’s numbers in 2005 to his 2004 numbers by doubling all the categories, you’ll find that they’re pretty much identical. In 2004 Pena was the hero on a club that finished 72-90, and was just coming off a season where they lost 119 games and finished the season 47 games back of the division leader. Pena was good for this club when we were atrocious. No longer. 1st base is flooded with power talent, and besides the fact that there wasn’t much room for Pena on the roster, he simply wasn’t a good player. Moving on.
First you need to understand what it’s like rooting for the Tigers…
43-119 and 72-90, respectively. Awful. In 2003, the Tigers were on the verge of breaking the AL record for most losses in a season – 120 – as they played the last game of the season. But, miraculously, (for them,) they were able to pull off a win. It was probably the saddest day in Tiger history – I would’ve preferred a loss. Why, you ask? You avoided notoriety in the record books and the label of worst team in the history of the American League. Correct, but after the win the Tigers celebrated like they just won the World Series, no joke. Ok, there wasn’t any champagne, but the rest was still there. Chest bumps, high fives, the works. Embarrassing. You just avoided becoming one of the worst teams in history, (although nothing beats the infamous Cleveland Spiders,) and it’s clearly the best thing to happen to you all season. The kicker came the next year, in a 2004 double-header against the Royals, the other doormat of the AL Central.
The Royals piled on the Tigers in Game 1 of a double header, 26-5. 6th most runs scored in a single game since 1900. Then, they got SHUT OUT by the Tigers in Game 2, 8-0. Only two very bad teams can pull that off. It’s almost like they got together before the game and told each other, ‘alright, you play really crappy the first game, we’ll play really crappy the second game.’ The Royals’ Joe Randa was 6 for 7 in Game 1, scoring 6 runs. In Game 2, he didn’t play. Royals Manager Tony Pena explained, saying ‘he was tired from running the bases.’ That’s hilarious. And you know what else is hilarious? At the time, your team was 50-89, 29 games out of first place! There’s the real joke. Needless to say, Pena was canned next year, as was Tigers Manager Alan Trammel.
This year’s team
Well, without any more of the ado, let’s get a review of the hometown team. I know more about the Tigers and their organization than any other team, with the possible exception of the Yankees. But I see a lot more Tiger games than Yankee games, so I have a better feel for the players.
Now, Leyland has apparently settled on a lineup/batting order:
1) Curtis Granderson – CF. Nook… where are you…
2) Placido Palanco – 2B
3) Ivan Rodriguez – C. Leyland thinks he’ll bounce back this year.
4) Magglio Ordonez – RF
5) Dmitri Young – DH. Just don’t stick him on the field. Too hard to watch.
6) Craig Monroe – LF
7) Carlos Guillen – SS
8) Chris Shelton – 1B. He’ll work his way up if he keeps performing.
9) Brandon Inge – 3B. Guess we’re going with the ‘set the plate’ idea.
Look at how solid that lineup is. Going with the holes analogy again,
there really aren’t any big ones here. Everyone’s generally consistent, with the exception of Granderson, who hasn’t had a chance to prove himself. I guess Leyland just doesn’t think Nook deserves the leadoff job. That said, Granderson has had an exceptional spring, and Nook’s has been awful. Granderson is currently batting .413 to Logan’s .208. People are always talking about Nook’s ability to steal bases at will; whenever he gets on, he steals and it doesn’t matter that the opposing battery knows it, because they can’t stop him. However, Granderson is 5-5, and Logan is 6-6 in SB attempts. Furthermore, of Granderson’s 19 hits, 8 were for extra bases – including 5 HR. All of Nook’s 11 hits were singles. In short, In 7 fewer at bats, Granderson has produced 27 more total bases, (38 to 11.) But, Granderson hasn’t been able to prove himself as a consistent Major League performer. If he can hold on through the year we shouldn’t have any problems.
The rotation goes like this: Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, Mike Maroth, and Justin
Verlander. Again, mostly solid and consistent. Rogers and Bonderman are two solid starters, which is one more than we’ve had in the rotation in awhile. Rogers will have his typical pre-All Star Break fun, while 23-year-old Bonderman will hopefully become one of the better pitchers in the AL Central this year. He finished 2005 with an ERA of 4.57, but before he dropped the last 4 games of the season he stood at 4.02. Both Bonderman and Maroth won 14 games last year. Robertson is definitely improving, and is only 28 years old. Maroth – our former 21 game loser – seems to have hit his peak with an ERA around 4.50, but is also 28. If Maroth and Robertson can stay consistent, they’ll keep the rotation solid. At least Maroth isn’t our number 3 anymore, because it’s never ok to start a 21-game loser at #3.
23-year-old Justin Verlander has a whole season of professional ball under his belt, and he’s a
full-fledged #5 starter. Better than AAA-bound Wil Ledezma,
last year’s #5, I guess. I saw Verlander pitch once last year, and he didn’t seem like
anything special, although he obviously is. In 32.2 IP for
the AA Erie Seawolves, he allowed one run. That’s a 0.28 ERA. He then
allowed 9 ER in 11.1 IP for the Tigers last year, (2 starts,) but this
really doesn’t mean much. I guess I’m just not sure if we should be
breaking him in at the Major League level like this. If he’s ready,
fine, go ahead. But don’t set him up to fail just because we don’t have
anyone to start. Apparently Joel Zumaya,
even though he has more experience at the minor league level, isn’t
ready to start, so he’ll be in the pen. Eh, ok. He’s only 21, and
Verlander is 23, (college experience,) so I guess that’s cool. But look at the age of this rotation – Bonderman and Verlander, 23. Robertson and Maroth, 28. Zumaya, who will likely replace Rogers in a couple years, (or Robertson/Maroth, if they leave town,) is only 21. In three years, you’re looking at three possible stars and two mediocre pitchers who can hold their own. Not bad.
I reviewed the Tiger’s Bullpen a month ago.
I guess I’m happy with
what the Tigers have done lately; we might actually have a winning
season this year! That would be the first time since 1993. When asked what he thought about this, Leyland said,
Under normal circumstances, is .500 good? No, not at all.
But under the circumstances when you’re 20 games under and you haven’t
done it for 12 years, you have to start somewhere. I would not be
happy, but it would be better than being 20 games under. No, .500
basically means you kissed your sister.
Hmm. Basically, Leyland thinks cheering for .500 is pathetic, but he knows it means the world to Detroit – and he knows how pathetic that is. Leyland won’t be happy until we bring home a
championship. Far cry from Trammel,
who was content with letting Vance
Wilson bat in the bottom of the 9th with a
runner on 1st and 1 out
while we were behind one run. I remember this very well. I said, ‘Alan,
please, put in someone, anyone besides Vance. He’s currently batting
.091. Put in Pudge, I don’t care if it’s his day off. Wilson is gonna
ground into a double play.’ Sure enough, Wilson hits a hard grounder
right to the SS. Game over. The last five years in Detroit baseball have been an awful lot like that play – depressing. Every year, it’s the same thing – the Tigers win their first Spring Training game, or we win opening day, and everyone walks around talking about how this is our year, with a huge grin that says they know how hilarious it is. With the exception of 2003, when we lost our first 12 games in a row or something – no one didn’t know how that season would end up. But the problem has been that, year after year, no one within the organization seems to mind the perpetual losing. Every year, it’s the same. We trade away guys at the deadline, then call up a ton of minor leaguers to join in the misery for the rest of the season.
This year will be different, I hope. The White Sox are good, obviously. The Twins are rebuilding, (I don’t care what anyone says, they’re rebuilding,) and the Indians are finally coming into their own. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Indians come over on the White Sox this year; remember, the Tribe finished just 6 games back of the Sox last year, with 93 wins. The Tigers, of course, had only 71. But, on July 31st, we were only 4 games behind .500, at 50-54. So, I think this may be the year that we finally capture that elusive winning season. I know that half the League is laughing at us right now, but I don’t care. Baby steps, baby steps. At best, the Tigers finish ahead of the Twins but behind Cleveland and Chicago. The Royals, of course, end up dead last again, because that’s what they do.
Thanks for reading. I just started up my second fantasy league, which drafts on Thursday night, 10.15p Eastern. If you’re interested, e-mail me. The league is free but competitive.
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.
Big Guy Sidney Ponson is gonna be starting at #5 for the Cardinals this year. How wild is that? Ponson is currently 29 years old. To recap the last few years of his career: Baltimore: 4.09 ERA in 2002, 3.77 in part of 2003. San Fran: 3.71 for 10 remaining games of 2003. Now, follow me here because this is where it gets tricky. Back to Baltimore, 5.30 ERA in 2004. Then we really hit the ceiling with a 6.21 ERA in 2005. Why? How does this happen? I’ve always believed that off-field problems contribute significantly to performance on-field, which is why I talk about off-field problems so much.
Last year, Ponson had some trouble acquiring a visa to get back into the States. This was likely because he spent 11 days in jail after starting a fight on an Arubian beach – meaning, he punched a Judge. Back to the states, and this is where it (again) gets confusing. On Jan. 21 of 2005, he was pulled over for a DUI. However, he never told the team, who actually found out from the media in March. As it happened, news of the DUI broke the day after Ponson reported to camp with a swollen hand. Apparently he was dining with a friend when a random dude started, basically, heckling him. "Words never hurt," Ponson said, "but he touched me and then I had to draw the line." Ponson then ‘defended himself’ from the guy and that was that. Ponson said he did nothing wrong, but that when he does he’s the first to admit it. However, the next day the DUI story breaks, the club is upset because he never told them, and his response is:
I got [the DUI] because I didn’t blow in the thing. I
wasn’t drunk. The thing is going to go to court and my lawyer said to
be quiet. You have one beer and you can be over the limit. That doesn’t
mean I’m drunk. You guys are making such a big deal out of everything.
First, lets get the facts straight. Ponson is 255 lbs. The next time a 255-pounder blows .08 after one beer will be the first time. Other than that, I’m not even sure what Ponson is trying to say. Did he just have one beer? Was he not drunk? Was he drunk, but can’t say it because of pending legal action? In any case, two public altercations and one DUI got Ponson sent from #2 to #4 in the rotation, and it was a good thing too, as Ponson’s ERA was almost as big as he was. Cheap shot.
Back to the baseball. What does this mean for the Cards? Basically, it depends on whether Ponson can overcome whatever has been ailing him the last two years. Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder are obviously gonna be the workhorses this year. Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis will pitch in with their circa-4.00 ERA’s. Marquis scared the (heck) out of me last year with his string of terrible starts, but for the most part he’s reliable. Ponson in the 5 spot? He’s got a 3.60 ERA over 15 IP this Spring, which basically tells you nothing. But it does tell you that he’s not collapsing on the mound, and La Russa must have seen something he liked; I haven’t had the chance to personally see Ponson this year. If he does what he did prior to 2004, he’ll work out great as a #5. Plus, if the pen ever needs a rest coming off of a Suppan-Marquis roll, he can do it. The thing with big guys is that they eat up innings, and Ponson is no exception. And then after Ponson you have Carpenter and Mulder, so the pen should be fine.
I would like to briefly note that Carpenter has pitched 16 innings so far this Spring. 8 hits
(all singles) allowed, 1 walk, 13 K’s, no runs allowed, earned or otherwise. Talk about lights out. Either this guy has been facing all AA-er’s, or he’s pumped for another amazing season. Obviously, the Cards are going to be taking the NL Central again. The Cubs are gonna cry about it, the Red’s don’t know they’re in the Central, the Pirates don’t know they’re in MLB, and the Brewer’s aren’t quite there yet. The Astro’s… eh. They keep getting older. This is why everyone is proclaiming the demise of the NL – the Central is a collection of predictable and slow-moving teams and the East is too fiery for it’s own good, (minus the sellout Marlins.) If you’re asking about the NL West, I’ll direct you to carefully read this. Turns out, the NL West is no longer a part of Major League Baseball.
That’s all for now. I woke up at 7 this morning, got back from class at 11.30, wrote this, and now I’m off for more labs. I’ll be done at 8, I have a draft at 8.30, and then I’ll be back. Like I said earlier, school means class, work, and baseball. What a shame…