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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Post-Coital Cigarettes

Random thoughts on yesterday's games, after the afterglow's over:

A Not-So Meaningless Game For Adrian Beltre

Do you start Adrian "MVP" Beltre? Absolutely, and the first reason why is so he can pass Mike Schmidt in the single-season home run standings. The second reason is that if the Dodgers reach the postseason and the Giants don't -- an accomplished fact if we beat them today -- the same engine driving MVP voters in the direction of Vlad will also motor them towards Beltre -- and away from Bonds. If you say it, they will come...

Cy Santana, Thanks To The A's

Speaking of arbitrarily assigned titles, if Vlad can have a realistic shot at MVP, then Santana for Cy Young is no longer as remote as it once seemed. The A's staff, turning from gods to Joes, have not only eliminated themselves from contention, but their rotation from Mt. Olympus. Was Rick Peterson's exit from the club in the 2003/2004 offseason the reason for the late meltdown?

Who's The Sucker Now?

There's an ongoing thread on Dodger Thoughts about the market value of closers in the wake of this season and in particular, yesterday's game. Blez wrote yesterday
But I've had conversations with A's beat writers throughout the year and one point that kept coming up with one of the writers was the fact that the A's would've won the division easily had they resigned Keith Foulke.

You know what, he was right. The A's had eight games this year when they were three outs or less from a victory and they lost. Foulke would've made a huge difference in that number. As a matter of fact, Foulke would've started the eighth inning today.

So, you can blame Beane for his nonchalant philosophy about the importance of closing games or Schott for not ponying up to keep Foulke in green and gold. But to me, that was the difference in our team. If we have Foulke, this team is at least in the postseason right now, despite the team's notorious RISP numbers and poor September starting pitching.

Moneyball trumpeted that
Established closers were systematically overpriced, in large part because of the statistic by which closers were judged in the marketplace: 'saves'. The very word made the guy who achieved them sound vitally important. But the situation typically described by the save -- the bases empty in the ninth inning with the team leading -- was clearly far less critical than a lot of other situations pitchers faced. The closer's statistic did not have the power of language; it was just a number. You could take a slightly below average pitcher and drop him into the closer's role, let him accumulate some gaudy number of saves, and then sell him off. You could, in essence, buy a stock, pump it up with false publicity, and sell it off for much more than you'd paid for it [emphasis mine]. Billy Beane had already done it twice, and assumed he could do so over and over again.
So sayeth Michael Lewis: closers are fungible, to use the language of financial analysts, replaceable with any old Joe who can pitch the team through three outs with the bases cleared. You're a sucker -- a patsy, f'r crissakes -- if you pay market for an established closer.

Ask Blez and the AN gang if that's really the case now.

The Cubs' Doppelganger Season

The Cubs and Astros this year were a mirror image of each other in terms of their performance in September. The Cubs came in to September behind the Cards and the Astros in the division at the start of September 1, but by September 15, St. Louis had cratered to five games behind Houston, the Cubs in second place a game and a half back. The Astros would lose two consecutive series to the Cards and Giants, and only manage a split in the last four-game series of the year against the Brewers. This year was the Cubs' turn to lose, only they did it against some of the worst clubs in the National League, turning in losing series against the Mets, Expos, and Reds. In both seasons, the Cubs' fate -- last year for the division, this year for the Wild Card -- was determined on the penultimate game of the year.

Demolition Means Never Having To Hide From An Angry Mob

The Cubs might have lost due to the pressure of expectations from the offseason -- not a few clubs have succumbed to that -- but I begin to believe it is time to dynamite Wrigley and start over. The narrow foul grounds there, its extreme nature as a hitter's park, and, well, the goat curse all combine to cast shadows on any team, no matter how excellent the individual parts. Is Steve Bartman's foul ball catchable, without fan interference, at Dodger Stadium? How about Turner Field, Pro Player Stadium, or even Yankee Stadium? I would hazard that it was, and this was exactly what James was talking about. Cubs fans -- and Chicago -- love Wrigley, even unto the death of their team. But in the modern game, it's a beautiful old mausoleum for their hopes.

Update: Of course, now that I write that, Jon passes along a Daily News story indicating foul ground will be reduced. Thanks, Frank.

Man, Those Errors Kill Ya

Yesterday's games between the A's and Angels, and between the Giants and Dodgers, had more than just a bullpen collapse in common. Both games had critical errors; in the Giants' game, Cody Ransom booted a sure inning-ending double play ball, causing a run to score and setting up Finley's grand slam. In the case of the A's game, the effect of the error wasn't apparent at first; by one man's reckoning, Zito threw 14 extra pitches because of the errors by Crosby and Hatteberg. Those 14 pitches were the difference between leaving in the 7th and staying in the game in the 8th.

Jamie, It's Dodger Blue

Somebody needs to tell Jamie McCourt to stop wearing that damn orange sweater to Giants games. Second time this season she's done that. Orange is their color, blue is ours.

I have to think that Peterson leaving has hurt them a bit. He was the guy that knew exactly how to deal with the Big 3, and he knew how to fix their mechanics any time a problem showed up. I think the most telling thing is that once each guy started collapsing, they couldn't really get back on track. Let's make sure Peterson never rejoins the team.

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