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Saturday, March 20, 2004

OT: Unlost

... and, we think, in a good home, the little black dachshund or whatever he was. The lady who took him said "Oooh, he's an angel!" and he really is. Thanks to everyone who wrote in about him.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Beware The Man of One Book

Those claiming to be sabermetricians sans understanding of actual statistical principles amuse me. It reminds me of this Emo Phillips bit:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!"

"Why shouldn't I?" he said.

I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"

He said, "Like what?"

I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?"

He said, "Religious."

I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?"

He said, "Christian."

I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"

He said, "Protestant."

I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"

He said, "Baptist!"

I said,"Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"

He said, "Baptist Church of God!"

I said, "Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"

He said,"Reformed Baptist Church of God!"

I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?"

He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!"

I said, "Die, heretic scum", and pushed him off.

The point being that owning exactly one book leads to interpretive zealotry, and this is what we've seen with Moneyball. What makes me laugh -- or gets under my skin, depending on who's doing it and whether or not they're wishing I would just die or just accusing me of simple illiteracy because I did, in fact read the book without coming to the same conclusions they did -- is that book is nowhere near a complete guide to running a baseball team. In fact, even Beane himself says in this Baseball America roundtable that he would probably operate differently if he were running the Braves, say:

TOWERS: I always used John and the Braves as the model organization. They could develop a Rafael Furcal or a Javy Lopez or a Chipper Jones every year. They got to the point where they could draft high school players and wait. We’ve been in the mode now we needed to build our system up and have more of an instant return. If we get good, by God, if people are taking college players, I’m going to go pop some high school guys.

BEANE: Don’t kid yourself—we were waiting for some of those high school guys this year to fall down to us. There’s a few we were going to take.

BA: Not pitchers, though.

BEANE: Well, yeah—but that’s because of the business we’re in.

TOWERS: The risk.

BEANE: If I’m in Atlanta, I might operate differently. I’m looking at Baseball America today, seeing all the prospects the Braves have, a lot of them high school pitchers. The fact of the matter is, it’s the risk that you’re allowed to absorb. They’ve been very good for a long time. They can wait four-to-five years. I know I’m going to lose a player once a year, a premium player. My feeder system has to be a little quicker.

But don't let that mislead you, DK. Beane's fired all his scouts. It's just him and a laptop. Yeah, that's it. Dang, they're efficient!

Bill James Interview

One of the minor tragedies of recent years has been the silencing of Bill James' most excellent pen by the Boston Red Sox. Now that they have him all to themselves, his publishing has, to my knowledge, all but ceased. But that doesn't prevent him from giving an interview to Ian Browne. Even off-the-cuff, James has a way of tweaking your expectations:
What stats does James first look at when he evaluates players?

"Well, I think the more critical question is what do you look at second. I think the things I look at first are the same things everybody else does. Won-loss record and ERA for a pitcher and home runs, RBIs and batting average for a batter," said James. "Those are the first things you see and the first things you look at. The real question is what do you look at second."

Well, of course. And it's no surprise that he looks at the difference between OBP and average for hitters, and K/BB for pitchers. But those are things I now look at first, thanks to the work of Voros McCracken. A lot of ERA is really luck.

It's ironic to me that James is principally known as some kind of propellerhead über-accountant, when he's -- not incidentally -- one of the best writers about baseball since John Updike. DePodesta, in his infamous white paper, says he's interested in always asking "the naïve question". But Harvard damaged him materially. Listen to the unsonorous way he closes:

Thomas Kuhn wrote, "the proliferation of competing articulations, the willingness to try anything, the expression of explicit discontent, the recourse to philosophy and to debate over fundamentals, all these are symptoms of a transition from normal to extraordinary research."
That clumsy, larded bit was worthy of quoting? Uh, Paul... about that book deal... Anyway, James, ever the prose stylist, summarizes his interview this way:
"There's a universe of unknowns and a little cigar box of information," James said. "We're so far away from reaching the end of the task that it's laughable. We don't know anything, really."
Night and day, really, isn't it? No management duckspeak for the MBAs in the audience -- concrete and comprehensible, with awe for the immense task before him thrown in for free. We miss you, Bill.

VORPal Swords, Part 2

Jon links to a David Cameron article on Baseball Prospectus about Dodger prospect James Loney. Cameron makes a good point, one I was pleased to make yesterday about Eckstein, namely PECOTA goes down hard on any player who's been injured. Trouble is, it doesn't do so selectively and seems to assume the worst...
At the end of his professional debut in 2002, Loney's left wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch, ending his season. Wrist injuries are notorious for lingering, and Loney was clearly bothered by the recovery during the early part of 2003. After his first 45 games in the Florida State League, his line was .233/.283/.337. From game 46 through the end of the season, he hit .301/.369/.436, a much more impressive performance than his final totals would indicate. As Clay Davenport noted, that is the difference between a projected peak EqA of .289 versus .316, or roughly the difference between the 2003 versions of J.T. Snow and Nick Johnson. Usually, selective sampling is frowned upon, but the injury provides a legitimate reason for the dramatic improvement as the season goes along. At full health, he returned to his prior levels of ball-whacking, finishing the year as one of the best hitters in the lower minors at the tender age of 19.

Youth is certainly one of the main factors on Loney's side. He will spend 2004 in Double-A at the age of 20, putting him squarely on the fast track to the major leagues. Looking through his list of comparable players provided by PECOTA yields names like Hank Blalock, Miguel Cabrera, Sean Burroughs, and Adrian Beltre, who all arrived in the majors before their 22nd birthdays. It also includes players who have stalled in Double-A-- Adrian Gonzalez being the most notable--or have yet to establish themselves, and PECOTA is clearly picking up on the risk of getting too excited about players on the wrong side of the defensive spectrum who haven't tasted Double-A pitching yet. However, Loney gives a plethora of reasons for excitement beyond his age.

Given Eckstein's relative youth (well, maybe 29 is pushing the extent of that word), the same issues PECOTA has with Loney -- and IMO are being overstated -- are going to be present with young master David as well.

Pickoff Moves

Tommy On The Bench?

An interesting observation from the Dodgers fan forum: Tommy's on the bench and managing. As usual when I pass this sort of stuff along, it's with the largest possible grain of salt, but I could completely believe McCourt going over the head of DePodesta and pulling a stunt like this.

$10 Parking

Concession and parking price hikes will go into effect this year, starting with a $2 parking fee increase. In what other business do you get away with charging more for the same lousy product?

Goin' Down, Down, Down, Down

I'm heading to Arizona for spring training, mostly for the Cubs (as a Christmas present to my wife) and also the Angels. Don't look for too many updates after tomorrow. Yahoo Weather says it's gonna be roasty toasty in Mesa, in the low to mid-90's, so I'm bringing plenty of sunblock. I'll be back on the 27th, so play ball!

A Two-Edged, VORPal Sword

Chronicles of the Lads points to Baseball Prospectus' AL West projections, and they aren't pretty, with essentially the same finish this year as last year, though the Angels will end up with a winning record of 83-79. It boils down to declines from nearly every player on the 2002 squad, with Anderson, Eckstein, Erstad, Glaus, Kennedy, Molina, and Salmon collectively erasing gains made by signing Vlad. (Guillen is so speculative I can't believe he'll pan out.) This just drives me nuts. Let's take a peek at the projected 2004 VORPs for all the published values prior to that year.

Year AndersonEcksteinErstadGlausKennedy MolinaSalmon
2001 20.8 28.5 8.7 52.7 6 6.6 3
2002 37.5 29.2 11.2 30.7 31.5 -9.8 31.7
2003 40.6 1.5 -3.7 17.6 31.5 12.4 27.6
2004 26.2 20.7 1.5 39.1 23.4 4.9 21.9

And now for a brief explanation of why PECOTA is wrong and I'm right:

Overall, I just wonder about these guys. From what I can tell VORP is something of a black box, as is PECOTA. They sure as heck didn't predict the Angels to win it all in 2002.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Vanity

At some point in the last 24 hours the site ticked over the 1,000 visits mark, not bad considering I put up a counter about a week ago. Most of those have come from Jon's Dodger Thoughts blog. Thanks to everyone who's come to read my hopefully reasonably well-informed rants, and the other ones, too. I would probably do this even if I didn't have a readership, but it's encouraging to think others believe I've got something worthwhile to say.

Busted

My bills are all due and the baby needs shoes and I'm busted
Cotton is down to a quarter a pound, but I'm busted
I got a cow that went dry and a hen that won't lay
A big stack of bills that gets bigger each day
The county's gonna haul my belongings away cause I'm busted.
Ray Charles
Aside from intellectual and possible moral bankruptcy, the Boston Herald reports that the McCourts might face the actual kind presently, as the terms of the sale allow Fox to swipe their Southie property if he can't sell it at a sufficiently high price within two years:
Under the terms of the Dodgers sale, McCourt now has two years to repay [Fox's $145 million loan], plus interest, or risk losing his land to News Corp., a spokesman for the new Dodgers owner confirmed. [Excuse me, but who can the writer be talking about here?]

... [S]ome real estate executives say [$205 million] is a rich number for raw land in a still hard hit real estate market. Longtime local developer Thomas Flatley told the Herald that he offered McCourt $150 million in cash for his land, a deal that was rejected.``I think it's going to be challenging,'' said Gary Lemire, an executive with commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis/Whittier Partners. ``He has some nice stuff (land) there, but the timing is not that great.''

The article goes on to mention that all's not gloom and doom for my favorite Southie couple: the market, in small doses, seems to be picking up, as a one-acre parcel has entertained bids for $30M, and that in any case, the sell-it-or-we'll-sell-it-for-you clause doesn't kick in for a couple years yet. But one can hope.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Meantime, Back In Mesa...

What A Difference A Spring Makes

... as Mike Scioscia forgets his earlier comments about Bobby Jenks being not quite ready-for-prime-time.
Bobby Jenks' nine scoreless innings this spring might have earned him a trip to Triple-A Salt Lake next month, but the Angels acknowledge he could push for major-league time this season. "When you're a young guy like him, you hope to pitch well enough to put yourself on the depth chart and he's definitely done that," Scioscia said.
Booya, Bobby!

Please Don't Talk About Respect, Bartolo

Thank God Bartolo Colón isn't a Scott Boras client -- at least, I hope he isn't. The Orange County Register (in the same story linked above) sure makes it sound like his move to the Angels was all about the tall dollars:
White Sox general manager Kenny Williams thought he might be able to re-sign ace Bartolo Colon, offering him a three-year deal worth $36 million. Colon gave Chicago hope by telling his friends on the team he would like to come back.

Instead, Colon got a far richer deal - four years, $51 million - in Anaheim.

"I told a lot of the pitchers I would like to come back, but it didn't work out," Colon said. "I don't want to talk about it."

At least we don't have to listen to him parrot some balderdash about respect. Arte'd have to start selling Rolaids at the stadium by the pallet.

McCourt Goes To Hall

... in a handbasket or other convenient vessel, so as to reacquire his services and ensure Jamie McCourt never, ever speaks to the press again. Timeline on this one, folks: As Dorothy observed, people come and go so quickly around here! Meantime, David Walkley, vice president of human resources has tendered his resignation, because "because his job duties had changed." I've gotta give Walkley credit for the creativity involved in the reason for his walk letter -- at least he didn't cite "philosophical differences". At this rate, it'll be Frank on the mound, taking the tickets, and selling the popcorn. I tell you, folks, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!

Finally, by way of answering Richard's question as to whether I should give McCourt a chance -- why, yes, I have, and he has blown it, repeatedly. The prosecution offers exhibit A.

Update: Terry's got a far more readable commentary about this on his website.


Happier Than You Or Me

things-to-fix-dep't

Casey Kotchman, stud-in-trainingthat Devo guy

Casey Kotchman and the Devo guy: mirror twins?

Are you winking, Casey, or are your eyes hella asymmetric? Or maybe...

a better pic of Casey

... it's just a lousy picture. Somebody, please, update this guy's portrait. It's Just Wrong.


On Losing Kenny

This year for the Cubs
Dusty Baker will sub-
stitute someone for Kenny Lofton.
Though Patterson's fast
The others just blast
Or don't get on base quite as often.

Survivor: Chavez Ravine

The Bench Coach has a great piece on the Times articles published earlier today. Terry asks
Think DePodesta wonders what he got himself into? With the long-term security that comes with a five-year contract, DePodesta may have signed up for a half-decade of boiling-point stress, toiling for incompetent bosses with impossible expectations. He may be 31 coming in, but DePodesta figures to age in dog years while with the Dodgers.
Color me a trifle naive, but I don't think so. For me, this is a win-win situation if I'm DePodesta. First, I come in already the behind-the-scenes hero thanks to Moneyball. Second, if things go sour, everyone in baseball knows how harebrained the McCourts are -- the ownership read, or should have read, the sale package they voted on. They've got as much credibility as Clinton did, post stained dress. If I win, so much the better. And, thanks to the efforts of the previous GM and Logan White, I've got a farm stocked with goodies -- a good thing because the $100 million payroll McCourt promised the fans is a crock. And -- here's the beauty part -- with a five-year contract, if I even catch the smell of a playoff run in the next two years, I'm golden for the long term. With a weak NL West, 90 to 92 wins ought to do it. Simply put, I'll outlast my boss. McCourt simply can't run this team without an infusion of cash, and his does-not-play-well-with-others personality sort of limits access to that. I had my doubts at first, too, but on some reflection, the positives for DePodesta outweigh the negatives.

Pickoff Moves

As usual when I don't have anything important to say, a bunch of small stuff --

Junior Rumors Gain Steam

Thanks to U.S.S. Mariner for this story indicating there may be some fire under the Griffey-from-Cincy-to-Safe smoke.

No BaLoney

And again from U.S.S. Mariner, freshly returned from spring training, David Cameron writes about Dodger prospect James Loney:
James Loney is awesome and-short of a catastrophic event similar to the flood-is going to be a tremendous major league hitter. Watching him and Robin Ventura play next to each other made one thing obviously clear; as of today, Robin Ventura is half the player Loney is, and Loney's getting better. This kid is scary good. I was really high on him before. After watching him this weekend, I'm running low on superlatives.
If only we could work on that time machine... we need you now, dude...

Angels 2004 Bullpen Preview

Fire Bavasi has their 2004 Angels bullpen preview up. He was much more thorough about the matter than I was, so it's worth a read. In particular, his comments about Ben Weber's lack of strikeouts are interesting; is he lucky with that career 5.16 K/9, or is it that he induces ground ball after ground ball? And as for Percy, what he forgot to mention was his blown out hip that cost him a mess of runs. While I don't think he'll be the closer he was before 2003, he'll still be effective and possibly better than last year, but not by much. That is to say, I don't disagree with his assessments much (as usual). And, just to round things out and prove to my wife that I can, in fleeting moments, cling to a naive kind of optimism, Frankie will actually do better than last year, simply because he's young and his second half last year was that much better (his K/9 ramped up to 11.61 from 8.63, and his K/BB rate improved from 1.90 to 3.90).

The Score Bard's NL Central Preview

The Score Bard's Humbug previews the NL Central. For my wife's beloved Cubbies:

Cubs
If you trust that my dreams can foresee,
A wild card contender they'll be.
Why not in first?
Perhaps they are cursed,
Despite adding Hawkins and Lee.


English Test

1. Newhan is to Evans as Plaschke is to...

No, not really. Evans at least had a plan.

Go read today's shotgun blast about McCourt's pratfalls. And, thank you sir, may I have another? I can't add much to it, except to say -- Dodgerkid, you may get your wish.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Blog Notes

YAAB -- "Chronicles of the Lads"

Today, I introduce Yet Another Angels Blog. Revisiting the comments from the Baseball Primer Angels preview I found a link to Chronicles of the Lads. The name comes from an expression the late Angels announcer Bob Starr used when the Angels were behind in late innings. He opens, as seems to be the custom for a lot of new bloggers, with a preview of the 2004 lineup. Welcome aboard!

Good Stuff At The Pearly Gates

Richard over at The Pearly Gates has introduced some nifty new features to his blog: a stock-market style ticker for a featured Angel prospect-du-jour and Angels spring training standings. Also, he points at Aaron Gleeman's latest project, The Hardball Times. Gleeman is working with Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, and Matthew Namee, research assistant to Bill James (all hail). It looks like a promising venture, and I'll second that link.

... And At Purgatory Online

Sean has been paying much more attention to spring training and its effects upon the Halos than I have; but then, I'm not all that interested in ST to begin with. It's kinda dull watching guys you know won't be on the 25-man roster come April. But Sean's attention to these kinds of details proves once more that he's still the premiere Angels blogger out there.

Aaron's Prospecting

Update: Also on The Hardball Times, Aaron ranks the top 25 prospects in baseball. (You can read his list of 26-50 here.) If you've read other prospect lists, you won't be surprised to see Angels prospects like Jeff Mathis, Casey Kotchman, Ervin Santana, and Dallas McPherson; but you will be surprised -- maybe -- to see he's left off Dodgers prospect Greg Miller, principally because of the shoulder problems he's had at the end of last season and again in spring training.

Baseball Primer Looks At The Angels

David Peng at Baseball Primer looks at the 2004 Angels. Best lines: Good stuff, all. He predicts a 96-66 season if things go right, and if they go really right, 100-62.

More From Backstop Bob on Team McCourt

Oh, my God in Heaven, I shouldn't be having this kind of fun. Today in Baseball Primer's "Clutch Hits" section, Backstop Bob, author of the wonderful piece about his direct experience with Team McCourt, comes back for a second helping:
Jamie came up with most of the really air-headed ideas in brainstorming meetings concerning the Baltimore project. Our GM once came around to all the director's offices before a meeting to remind us "not to make any visible signs of distress or incredulity at any of Jamie's suggestions", which included (my personal favorite) having the ticket takers in "famous Baltimoreans" costume and working in character (Babe Ruth, Edgar Allen Poe, Barry Levinson, H. L. Mentken insulting all the Jewish guests, etc) as people were coming into the facility, when our primary concern was just getting 5000 people inside, and getting their coats taken, in a typical two-hour period.

I had to explain in detail how we didn't want any more interaction with ticket taking other than a smile and "have a great time", so as not to jam up the lines. And, as I expected, lines were a problem all the time on weekends, as we couldn't get people in fast enough. I imagine if we had hired actors to do the ticket-taking, it would have lasted, about a day. (Maybe she could try it again at Dodger Stadium...they do have more turnstyles. It'd be interesting to go through "Steve Garvey"'s line with your wife or girlfriend, perhaps.)

I shake my head reading the story. It sounds like Jamie and Frank are going to "clean up that one horse town", when nothing more really needs to be done than to improve the product on the field.

Jamie's dad is an early mass-merchandising appliance-electronics guy in Baltimore naked Frank Luskin, who was a contemporary of "Crazy Eddie" and "The Wizard", except he went out of business some ten years ago, run out of town by Curcuit City. As far as I can tell, none of his business acumen has rubbed off on her.

He goes on to say in a later post that "if the O's can pry Edwin Jackson away from them so they can have the "big bat" of Jay Gibbons, then I am all for the McCourts", as should all right-thinking Orioles fans. Heck, at this point, I'd be happy to let the Angels lose Erstad's bat in trade for same. To think, I'd only have to change the color and logo on my home computer's desktop picture...

Chavez: $66M, 6 years

Athletics Nation and the A's homepage both report that Eric Chavez will remain an A for the forseeable future, thus putting to rest the Score Bard's speculation.

The Score Bard's NL West Preview

The Score Bard previews the NL West. For the Dodgers:

Dodgers
This team is on loan, not invested,
But at least it has been dePodested.
From L.A. to the farms
They've been crawling with arms
But with bats they have been uninfested.

Hopefully this will be sufficient to counter the stink I made with my most recent attempt at rhyme. It's a dog and doggerel, all at once!

Jamie Lacks The Write Stuff

More howlers from today's Times, reminding one of the Robert McNamara-era pronounciamentos about Vietnam. The McCourts just aren't worried about high-level defections in recent weeks:
Speaking on behalf of her husband, Frank, Jamie McCourt said they were not concerned about the high-level defections that have occurred in their first month in charge. The McCourts have not addressed the club's approximately 250 full-time staff members about the resignations of Bob Graziano, team president; Kris Rone, executive vice president of business; and Derrick Hall, senior vice president of communications, and they won't dwell on them when meeting with employees sometime before opening day at Dodger Stadium.

The McCourts said change is simply part of the transition process and they expect more from everyone.

"We expect an enormous amount of accountability," said Jamie, the vice chairman. "We're going to try to change the culture of the Dodgers, because this should be a team that's in the playoffs every year. To not be in the playoffs is crazy. They should have been drawing 4 million fans, not 3 million fans. They should be making money, not losing $50 million [a year].

"The Dream Foundation, for example, should be doing even more in the community than it's doing. The Dodgers can do better. We're not nervous, because it's our intention to have better baseball, do better for the fans, do better for the employees and do better for the players. Whatever it takes to assemble that team, that's what we're going to do."

The team doesn't have a CEO, a head of communications, a business manager, and they're worried about the Dodger Dream Foundation? And they haven't even spoken with the remaining employees about upper-level vacancies? What color is the sky in that little world of yours, Jamie? In the playoffs? Hah! They'll be lucky if they're in the division! The article goes on to mention that Dodgers employees found out their bosses were no longer working there from the Times, not the McCourts, of which the Wicked Witch of the National League West said:
"I hope we can talk [to the staff] because I think it's very important," Jamie said. "I hope it's soon. Everything is just a little bit awkward in terms of timing because of when the purchase was approved, and now it's spring training. Certainly, we would hope to do so before opening day, but I don't think we're going to focus so much on resignations.
"Surrender, Dorothy" might not appear in the skies over Dodger Stadium, but management-by-press-release doesn't sound like a strategy you'll be reading about in the latest fad business book, either. Now, where did I leave that bucket of water?
She said the Dodgers, sold to the McCourts by News Corp. this winter, operated in a "silo for business, a silo for baseball and a silo for [public relations]"
At the rate upper management ranks have been launched out of the Ravine, can we expect a counterstrike from Russia or China at any moment?
"What we'll focus on is what our expectations are and how we hope everybody who wants to be here will stay involved with the turnaround.
A number dwindling by the hour, no doubt. But that's okay, because at least Jamie recognizes her shortcomings:
"I can't speak for Frank. No one asked me if I thought we should get a hitter or not," she said. "You probably have to talk to Frank. This is bad because you guys remember everything and you write everything down."
Because, yeah, illiteracy is probably, for a lawyer, like, a bad thing. And to think, before this revelation, I thought they had a shining career opportunity writing sitcoms. So, if you can, write this one down, Jamie: get some bats. Oops, scratch that. Try: sell the team.

Update: I suppose I should have seen this one coming: they fire the communications guy and immediately one of the McCourts steps in it. Call it the revenge of the press. Some years ago, there was a story circulating about the early days of the Clinton White House that the staff wasn't maintaining its little touches for the press covering the Washington "beat" (if you can call the usual press release journalism that goes on there a "beat") that the Bushes did, including remembering which candy bars they preferred in the box lunches. So the story went, it was this lack of attention to detail that caused much of the press -- from that day hence -- to be anti-Clinton. I don't know for sure, but I bet Ross Newhan likes Snickers.


Monday, March 15, 2004

The Difference Between A DH And A Dog

Much is being made on the Angels forums of Brad Fullmer's comments regarding his playing time that "There was some stuff regarding me that was set in stone, and no matter how I swung the bat or how well I played, it wasn't going to change, no matter how hot I got." At issue is Fullmer's at-bats versus lefties, with some accusing Mike Scioscia of a conspiracy to take away Fullmer at-bats. Well, let's look at this a mite closer, shall we?

vs. leftiesvs. all
YearTeamManager ABAvg.OBPSLG ABAvg.OBPSLG left%
2003AngelsMike Scioscia 30.267.324.400 206.306.387.500 .146
2002AngelsMike Scioscia 63.221.231.365 429.289.357.531 .147
2001Blue JaysBuck Martinez 119.202.233.286 522.274.326.444 .228
2000Blue JaysJim Fregosi 93.226.279.430 482.295.340.558 .193
1999ExposFelipe Alou 50.240.264.480 347.277.321.464 .144

And there ends the splits data on mlb.com. I liked Brad as a player, but I have to wonder whether he didn't say the same things about Alou, who also benched Brad versus lefties. When he played for Toronto, his large numbers of LH at-bats dragged down his average and certainly his slugging percentage. In any case, his outburst would explain why management released him shortly after he injured himself. What's funny, though, is that Scioscia used him exactly for his strengths, and Fullmer proceeded to set career records for OBP and average, not to mention picking up a championship ring. And for this, Fullmer is angry? It reminds me of the old Mark Twain quote, "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."


How Good Is Jered Weaver?

As good as Mark Prior was at the same stage of the game:
The two pitchers had similar freshman seasons, the Long Beach State 49er eclipsed the USC Trojan in their sophomore campaigns, and Jered is on pace to equal or better Mark’s outstanding junior year.
So much for the Angels getting him. Tigers'll pick him up and ruin him, I bet.

Update: Looks like I should have read the previous day's entry, which says the Padres are following young Master Weaver's progress closely; here's his Team USA numbers:

           IP   H    R   ER   BB    K    ERA    W-L
Weaver     48   21   2   2    11    36   0.38   4-1
Yowzah.

Well, Something's Being Shoveled

The Boston Herald reports that Frank, in his efforts to sell his Fan Pier-adjacent property, has been telling folks that it's pre-permitted for the projects he envisions. Trouble is, it isn't:
And McCourt's pitch appears to go awry when he claims the land is ``shovel ready'' and has a special City Hall development designation needed to undertake major development projects, contends one local real estate executive.

McCourt, who for years has operated a lucrative parking empire on his Southie land, does not have any city or state permits to build the projects detailed in his property sales prospectus, city officials confirmed.

"There is a very, very specific process you have to go through before you can build anything,'' noted Bill Collins, senior vice president at Spaulding & Slye Colliers International. Collins' firm spent years obtaining permits for a $1.2 billion project on the neighboring Fan Pier site.

Looks like Frank's been shoveling something back in Boston, but it ain't dirt. I wonder if this will have a negative effect on the value of his property since it seems he doesn't have any of the permitting done?

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Pickoff Moves

Gibbons Has A Role In Dodgers Decline And Fall?

The Dodgers are interested in Jay Gibbons in exchange for a pitcher, the Times says today.

No Giambis In This Lineup

And in the same story, it looks like Jeremy Giambi's back will keep him out of the Dodgers, or any other lineup, as he's due for surgery to "stabilize" it.

Vinny Through 2006

Vinny plans on fulfilling his contract through 2006. Vinny, whose prose we have been privileged to hear, says this of the McCourts:
"The new owner has borrowed a lot of money. We all know that," Scully said. "He has a tremendous passion to succeed. My only feeling is a simple one: Give him a chance. He's the one with everything at stake."
Well, Vinny, we did, and now lots of folks in the front office have either been fired or are quitting. But it's good to see you're a trouper, still, just like Alvarez. Of course, who knows if the Dodgers' other broadcasters are around much longer. It's not like there aren't those who want to see Monday or Porter go away. As Dodger Blues put it,
At some point, however—probably in the not too distant future—Vin Scully will retire. And at that time, there will be absolutely nothing that is consistently good about Dodger baseball.

OT: Found

Found, in our front yard this afternoon: one long-haired dachshund. No collar. Sweet-natured.

... and very, very tired, especially after a long walk around the neighborhood looking for possible owners. Our two dogs, a husky-shephard mix and an Australian Shephard/Keeshond mix, nearly killed him when we took him in our backyard, even after we did everything we were supposed to. We're not sure what we're going to do, but first we're putting up "found" posters around the neighborhood. After that, he probably will go to the Seal Beach or Huntington Beach shelters. ("Doosie", as my wife has taken to calling him, is curled up under my feet beneath my desk.) We're going to spring training in a week, and this dog just can't be here.

We find too many dogs like this one, really. A year and a half ago in October, while the Angels were busy winning their first championship, I found a little white mop of a dog in the elementary school behind our house. Like an idiot, I conned my parents into taking it, and it has subsequently proven to be a complete bust -- one of the few mean-tempered dogs I've ever known. And then there was another dog I found on one of our walks in the neighborhood, a sweet Lab mix we took to the shelter. That one was tough. Sometimes it works out okay, like the time the guy came and retrieved his dog from us.

Once, when I was in Arkansas visiting my in-laws a few years ago, the power went out in the middle of the worst ice storms in a decade. A sad, short-haired, liver-colored retriever of some kind -- maybe a Springer Spaniel or some kind of coon dog -- came up to my in-laws' house, naturally, wearing no tags. He was freezing -- literally, he had icicles hanging from his belly. With no time to observe formalities with my in-laws' dog, no place to put him besides a downstairs bathroom, and no real heat, we took turns watching him. The next morning, after I left for home (and of course the power came on -- I have a knack for causing natural disasters, a subject of some amusement), his real owner showed up. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, because my sister-in-law's kids had given him a name already.

I hope this little guy has a home. He sure deserves better than to be abandoned.

Update: We washed him and gave him a flea treatment or two. We forget, having used Advantage for years, that dogs really do have fleas, and they need to be kept in check. We hadn't seen a flea for ages, but caught sight of a bunch in the bathroom after we gave J. Random Dog his bath.


U.S. Out Of Baseball!

Raul apologizes for writing about non-baseball related issues, but it's really not. The government of the Dominican Republic is as advanced as any in the art of voting itself rich on the backs of everyone else. That is to say, their ruling class consists of parasites and nuisances who have no other talents than getting re-elected. This is no different than things in the United States, except that in the U.S.
  1. occaisionally, someone, frequently a judge, takes the rule of law seriously, and
  2. naked vote-buying is generally frowned upon.
But this has not stopped the likes of FDR and Johnson, who engineered schemes so enormous and expensive that their true costs must be hid from the public for fear of backlash. And, as senior citizens have nothing to occupy their time so much as voting down those who don't vote them enough largesse, we now have the spectre of intergenerational machine politics.

The government of the Dominican threatens baseball, and worse, the pocketbooks of their already poor citizens, by buying nearly a million dollars in tickets to give away to their friends, thereby associating the game with the Republic's native criminal class. In the U.S., the McCainiacs now threaten baseball with more anti-drug hysteria, when it is crystal clear that all the hype about steroids is election-year humbug on the order of Tell Your Children, aka Reefer Madness. Probably the biggest risk is for reporters, who must brave interviews with surly players, and it is for this reason we hear endless tirades against the stuff. No wonder the Senators left Washington -- twice.


You Could Look It Up

Now, at the very bottom of this here blog, a Google search box, for searching the contents of this fine blog. Enjoy.

Pickoff Moves

A Slippery Scale

"Monkey see, monkey do", goes the old saw, and if you''ve spent any time at all watching this offseason, you'd know that Frank's been watching the Red Sox a lot. Do the Sox have a young stathead brainiac in the GM's chair? Well, time for the Dodgers to pick up one, too. And when it came time to pick a new CEO, McCourt tried to raid the Sox front office by getting Mike Dee. In fact, I'm not sure he even understands he owns the Dodgers. So it is with some trepidation I present this Boston Globe news item about the Red Sox introducing variable pricing:
The right-field seats, which went on sale last week, are priced according to whom the Sox are playing. Tickets for Opening Day, for games against the Blue Jays, games against the Yankees, plus the interleague opponents (Dodgers and Phillies), will sell for $100 apiece. All other games will be for $75. Monster seats, which went for $50 apiece for every game last season, will have a new pricing scale, expected to be announced this week.

"There are about 14 or 15 teams in Major League Baseball that are engaged in some kind of variable pricing," Dee said. "Some are as simple as this. Others are crazy: day of the week, opponents. There's sort of a general migration toward the airline model: You fly on a Tuesday during the peak time on a 14-day advance ticket, you pay less than you would on a Saturday during a peak time, with a two-day advance.

We should look forward to $12 "cheap seats" in Giants matchups presently in Chavez Ravine. Update: should the Orioles take offense that their away games at Fenway aren't selling for a premium?

Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah

Also in that same article, McCourt denies earlier reports in the Times that he vetoed the Vlad acquisition.
Eleven years ago, when the Giants were being sold by Bob Lurie to the current ownership group headed by Peter Magowan, Magowan was given the go-ahead by Lurie to sign Barry Bonds to what was then the game's biggest contract, a six-year, $43 million deal. Why couldn't McCourt have done something similar during his transition stage? "Baseball feels very, very strongly that prospective owners not act like presumptive owners," McCourt said. "They feel very, very strongly about that. I am familiar with the Giants situation. That caused a lot of consternation. That was not something we felt any need to replicate in this particular situation. We've already made a very big move here. The big move we made was to bring in Paul DePodesta [as GM].
Unfortunately, Paul cannot hit. I think it's altogether possible to draw two valid conclusions here:
  1. The Dodgers' 2004 is over. There will be no bats added one way or another.
  2. Frank is a pathological liar. Or, who do we believe more: McCourt, who's already broken several promises, or Bill Stoneman?

Hall of Shame

And speaking of the front office, Jason Reid in the Times reports that Director of Communications Derrick Hall has resigned due to "philosophical differences" with the McCourts:
The news disturbed All-Star right fielder Shawn Green.

"He's one of the unsung heroes in the organization," Green said. "He's the best in the business at what he does. I don't know all the dynamics of the situation, but I have a lot of respect for Derrick. I know he would only do this if he felt he had to."

Hall, who had left briefly in 1999 to become a sports radio talk-show host, declined to elaborate on the philosophical differences that drove him from the organization he joined in 1992 as a member of the Vero Beach Dodgers.

However, multiple team sources said Saturday that Hall was concerned about the new owners' handling of many situations and apparently feared his credibility would be called into question.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense: a man can only be so creative, and maybe he figured the position would go to the Coen brothers or somebody else with extensive screenwriting experience. (Update: Jon, I know you don't have extensive experience in Hollywood's tarpits, but think of the tongue-in-cheek fun you could have with official press releases!) God knows the truth is going to be pretty harsh in the upcoming weeks and years. I wonder how long it'll take before the peanut vendors develop "philosophical differences" with Frank-n-Jamie? Heck, forget the peanut guys -- what about Vinny?

"In Oakland, They Really Don't Karros"

Ross Newhan, with a brain as thick as a rhinoceros tusk (and, thanks to the Times circulation rates, nearly as deadly), goes back to beating dead horse Dan Evans, whom he today wails upon for not picking up an idled Eric Karros:
Deprived of first base in Chicago, Karros scanned the market, saw an opening with the Dodgers, thought about how it might be to possibly end his career where it started, and was relieved to learn over lunch with Tracy that their sometimes heated and closed-door talks involving playing time and other issues in 2002 had left no scars.

Ultimately, Karros said, he also talked with Evans and Chairman Bob Daly and came away thinking an offer was imminent, although he laughed in reflection and said:

"It's just that Daly would say he had to clear it with Evans, and Evans would say he had to make sure Trace was on board, and it obviously took Dan about three months to walk downstairs to check with Trace because that's about how long it was before I decided that I'd better find work. In the end, I guess, Dan felt he could go in another direction and there were other things he could do, although I don't know what they were."

Neither does anyone else.

Nothing like twisting the knife a little, eh Ross? Maybe you could have made it clear whether this was before or after the Vlad revelation, when it became crystal clear that Evans was unable to lift a finger? Update: ... and would Karros have been the answer to any offensive question in a full-time role anyway? I dunno. He might have made a decent acquisition as a bench player, especially now that the Dodgers don't have a full-time solid first baseman.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

One Big Bat, Revisited: Inserting Vlad

In the NL West roundup at All-Baseball.com, Jon has some interesting things to say about the one- (or two-) big-bat theory:
Jon: Regarding the Dodgers (and by the way, I don't know that a good year from Jeff Weaver is the key to their success any more than a good year from Neifi Perez is for the Giants), here are the questions:

* If the Dodgers add one legitimate bat, do they not become a division contender?
* If the Dodgers add two legitimate bats, do they not become division favorites?

I say yes to both.

Let's take a closer look at those contentions. Using Rob's New Favorite Toy, VORP, let's subtract Burnitz (-7.8), Jordan (11.3), and Henderson (-2.1) from the Dodgers' 2003 lineup and replace them with the 2002, uninjured version of Vlad (71.3). That is a difference of 70 runs, approximately. Plugging this in to last year's stats using Pythagorean projections, that would equate to a WPCT of .573 or a final record of 93-69, not enough to eclipse the Giants but enough to get into the postseason.

But that was last year.

I don't have time right now to do a 2004 projection justice, but it's conceivable that this might have worked. But I would be willing to bet that we'd have to keep Brown around.


Angels' 2004 Bullpen Preview

Tyler Bleszinski at Athletics Nation has released his 2004 bullpen preview for Oakland, and while that's fine, normally Fire Bavasi would have something going for the Halos. Since not, I'll just do it for him. First, I'll start off with links to the usual commentary about the ground rules: Now, on to the pitchers:

Brendan Donnelly

This one's easy: he's about to decline. You don't just step up, deliver a pre-All-Star-Break ERA of 0.36, and expect to repeat that the next year. Heck, he didn't even deliver that in the second half, once his elbow started breaking apart, he came back down to earth to finish the season with a 1.58 ERA. His age of 32 says he's on the downward slope.

Troy Percival

Another year of age-related decline as his K/9 took a big hit last year. Last year's degenerative hip condition isn't going away, and he'll continue to make me nervous. Of course, a lot of that nervousness is due to watching Misseur Gagné on the mound, as automatic a closer as I've ever seen.

Francisco Rodriguez

Frankie's going to bounce back this year with a terriffic year. Like Lackey in the starting rotation, he had an awful sophomore year, but Rodriguez's K/9 went through the roof in the last three months of 2003 even though his ERA took a hit. I see him a big candidate to improve substantially even if he doesn't become Mariano Rivera.

Scot Shields

Shields name, IMO, shouldn't even be on this list -- he should be in spring training working on a third or fourth pitch, working on pitch sequences so he can start. He's better than Lackey was last year. He's got very, very good stuff for five innings, and with some training, I think he could be extended to even more. That said, I'm going to suggest he'll decline a little as his K/9 regresses to his career average.

Ben Weber

Weber's 2003 and 2002 K/9 rates are nearly identical, but trending slightly down, and that's where I'm headed with Weber: decline.

The Rest

My guess is that Sele's most likely to enter the bullpen, which actually might solidify it further. Scioscia's plan to keep Aaron on a five-inning leash worked for a while, and I tend to think a bullpen job would help him out. If not Sele, then Ortiz, and if it is Ortiz, watch out; his walks ramped up while his strikeouts nosedived. Ortiz in the pen could be gasoline to the fire. I see once-highly-regarded Chris Bootcheck as a longshot to make the pen. Last year's spot starter Kevin Gregg is more likely to supplant Shields as a swingman if it comes to that, though it has been said he's liable to spend his days in AAA. Derrick Turnbow has one option left, and the Angels may deal him a similar fate. Too much depends on who actually ends up here, so I decline judgement until Scioscia and Stoneman make their picks.

Sele Released If He Has A Bad ST?

First I've heard of this: Doug Miller today says Aaron Sele could be released if he doesn't have a good spring training:
The good news for Sele is that he's finally healthy and ready to regain the form that helped him win 69 games from 1998 through 2001, the most in the American League in that span.

The bad news is that the offseason bolstering of the Angels' pitching rotation with flamethrowers Bartolo Colon has put the heat on Sele this spring. If he doesn't pitch well, he might not be on the team come Opening Day.

That's a lot of dough to be eating, Arte.

Testing 1 2 3

A stylesheet test.
Italicized words go here. Normal font words go here.

Pickoff Moves

Spiezio Wearing Cape And Tights In Seattle?

Strange and murky are the fever dreams of statheads and fantasy baseball players, projecting performance with statistical gimcrack and mudflap. Its mystics now divine a new superhero playing third base at Safeco. So read the Optimist's tea leaves. If true, Scott, we are so sorry.

Bonds Flat On His Back Through Monday

Barry's horizontal posture is likely to continue through the weekend. How will the curses flow, if Bonds misses large chunks of 2004? Especially since Sabean has gone into full savage-the-farm-win-at-all-costs mode over the last year?

Angels Could Use A Guardian Angel Themselves

As if to prove that aging superstars aren't the only ones who get injured in spring training, the Angels have absorbed quite a beating this year. Aside from Donnelly's nasal adventure, third baseman Glaus sprained an ankle, Guillen fouled a ball off his ankle, Anderson still hasn't played in ST thanks to biceps tendonitis, Benji Molina's got stiffness in his legs, and Vlad took a pitch on the hands. It already sounds horribly familiar...

Weaver... 15 K's... Zzzz

One hit. 8.0 innings, 15 K's. No big deal. Wake me when he's in the bigs, will ya?

Friday, March 12, 2004

Manifesto

Every blog must have a purpose, as a dog must have fleas. This one's is If I amuse, instruct, or edify in the process, well, so much the better.

Oh, Frank, You Slay Me!

Another unintentional humor moment courtesy of the Frankster. McCourt, on keeping the front office staff now that he's decided to be interim CEO:
McCourt also said he hasn't decided to bring in an entirely new front office staff.

"Everybody here is going to be given a chance," he said.

Just like Dan. I'm sure they all have their resumés faxed off to the Angels, Giants, A's, Diamondbacks, etc. by now.

Frank, on priorities:

"Spring training is great, but, really, what we're focused on is June 11, 12 and 13 in Fenway," McCourt said, "and, of course, playing in October is as good as it gets."
Apparently, the other games don't count for much. Or are you just going to the games you live close to?

On the life expectancy of Dodger players:

"I have a lot of confidence in the players on the squad," McCourt said. "This team is a lot better than people give them credit for. That said, we're going to plug holes."
Hah! I knew it! He's going to finally plug Dreifort! I envision a scene like that from The Untouchables where Sean Connery has a violent staged argument with a corpse -- which he promptly and bloodily re-kills, the better to extract information from the live gangsters unaware of the street theater in their presence. After Dreifort, Hundley... and Beltre...

Update: As if that weren't enough, get this Ken Gurnick article. On the Dodgers picking up a hitter before opening day:

Continuing the general feeling around the club that a major acquisition is unlikely, McCourt lowered expectations on player movement.

"I promise to do what is necessary to win on the field," he said. "The emphasis on one bat, a fix-all and cure-all, is a little misguided.

Especially when you can't get one, right, Frank? Just as I suspected: firing Dan Evans had the same atavistic motivation as a dog peeing on a fire hydrant, and so far, with the same results. The lies, the brittle promises, they're all here on display, in as big a showcase as Fox Sports West has for 162 games -- or however many actually get televised. Oops -- there goes another blown promise. But that's okay, we can count on Frank to at least know which team he owns, right?
McCourt spoke to reporters before watching his old favorite team play his new favorite team Friday.

"I wouldn't say I have divided loyalties," McCourt said before the game between the Dodgers and Red Sox. "I have 430 million reasons to root for one team and not the other."

And just how many of those reasons are really yours, Frank? Go home, Frank. Just sell the team and go home.

OT: Atarimaggeddon

Thanks to Slashdot for this great read on the coming crash in the video game industry. While semi-satirical, David Wong makes some excellent points as to why video games are heading towards another mid-80's-like meltdown, fueled by many of the same problems that afflicted Atari, et al.
It's the Atari 2600 all over again. We didn't buy Sky Worm Attack once we realized it was just Missile Command in a different box. Will we line up for Grand Theft Auto 5 if it's the exact same thing, only with prettier texture-mapped bruises on the whores? What's the difference? Would the NES have taken off if it turned out to be just an Atari, only with eight colors of square blocks instead of four?

All it will take is some other fad, some toy, some other hobby to come along, and interest will fade. It's out there, on somebody's drawing board. Something truly new and different and novel, dammit. The market is ripe for it.

And, while the future crash he predicts provides little comfort now to the TV industry execs who are finding out that video gamers aren't watching TV during prime time these days, it might mean a wave of more folks looking for something else to do with their spare time in a few years. Something like... baseball? Nah, that'll never catch on.

Newest Dodger

The Dodgers hired Paul Depodesta
To bolster their woeful offensa
So far it's just Flores
And nobody mores
But he can't hit it over the fencea.

Update: Okay, never again.


Thursday, March 11, 2004

Joe Mauer, Joe Mauer, Let Mathis Come Over

Joe Mauer has had writers drooling over him for some time now. Baseball America ranked him the top prospect in baseball this year, and while Minnesota fans must be kicking themselves for missing out on drafting Mark Prior (by one pick), that's not a bad consolation prize. Still, it comes as something of a shock to read Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus take a contrarian view because of Joe Mauer's height (subscription required). Sheehan compares him against other 6'4" catchers, and concludes that Mauer's bat -- and the wear and tear of moving a large body combined with dish duties -- will ultimately eject him out of the catcher position, moving him to 1B. But, as Sheehan notes, "a .300/.370/.490 hitter has a much different value as a first baseman than as a catcher." Fair enough -- so you're talking about a plus version of Scott Spiezio: not much pop but good average.

Assume, then, that Mauer isn't the best catching prospect in the minors now. That means Jeff Mathis is, which, as an Angels fan, has got to make you feel pretty good.


In Mauer's defense, Aaron Gleeman deconstructs Sheehan's argument by looking at others of similar height, just one inch shorter. The bottom line is that anybody 6'4" in baseball is substantially far to the right on the bell curve, and you'd be lucky to find a decent number of comparables, period.

KNBR Interviews DePodesta

KNBR interviews Paul DePodesta. Highlights:

Vetting The NL Central

With my apologies to the Score Bard:

It's hard in lines so very terse
To say whether the Cubs are still cursed.
With Clemens and Pettitte
The Astros might get it
Is Maddux enough to take first?


Score One For The Bard

Regarding The Wars Between Sabremetrics And Scouting:
To rely on the wisdom of scouts
For projecting who hits or makes outs,
And just eyeball at-bats
Without using stats--
Well, that's like trying to write a poem without knowing anything about meter--you might write a good one if you're lucky, but I have my doubts.

Invitation: Blog At The Park

Many of the other Dodger bloggers, it seems to me, are busy with baby plans, meaning less blogging and more diapering in the weeks ahead. So: to all, an open invitation to one last game at the Ravine before the duties of fatherhood absorb all your free time. Allow me to suggest April 10th, Dodgers vs. Rockies, as the game, but I'm flexible on such details. Any others wishing to show up, why, sure. I'll even go so far as to purchase the tickets so we can all sit in one block. (That was not an offer of a gift, BTW. :-) Reply by e-mail if interested. Play ball!

The Good Soldier

Wilson, you deserved better. That's what I thought when I read that the Dodgers would put him back in the bullpen in order to keep rookie Jackson in the lineup. The stupidity of this decision seems to me compounded by Ishii's struggles, Weaver's annual gifts to the opposition hitters, and Dreifort's chronic injuries. And yet, here he is, talking about World Series rings as if that could happen now:
"It's about the ring on the finger," he said of that elusive championship. "It's more valuable than whatever money you make in your whole career. Family, friends, everybody remembers when they see the ring. When you're done playing, they don't talk about how much money you made. They talk about how many rings you won. That's what it's all about.

"That's all that matters to me now, is to win. I've done everything else in the game. But before I go home, I want a ring. Some guys don't see it that way. But when they get older, they'll know. When I was younger, I just wanted to play and have fun. Now I know you don't feel complete without winning. Thank God, I've got everything else in life. But for a baseball player, there's something else bigger than the money and the personal success."

God bless you, Wilson. After all the long injury-plagued years at Tampa Bay and the vain, hopeless offseason, after a clumsy and foolish new owner inhumanely fired the friend who brought you here, you're still ready to go, and at least, for the public, putting on a brave face.

One Big Bat, One Big Lie

I hear so much that the Dodgers neglect their offense and don't win with hitting that it seems meet to counter this with a few statistics. Following, the regular season OBP and OPS for the Dodgers in championship years:

Year# TeamsOPSRankOBPRank
198812.6579th.30511th
198112.6974th.3234th
196510.6478th.3126th
196310.6667th.3095th
19558.8041st.3561st

Now, if the outlier 1955 season is unusual, so is the magical year 1988, with it's woefully underperforming offense. Most Dodger championships are right in the middle offensively. One bat, by itself, couldn't have fixed the Dodgers last year, and it won't fix the team this year, either.


Wednesday, March 10, 2004

A-Mays-ing: Bonds Won't Set Record Against Dodgers -- Maybe

Baseball Guru reminds us that Barry Bonds is about to surpass his godfather's career home run record. Since he's only two jacks away from tying and three from breaking, I checked the Giants schedule, knowing how Bonds likes to break records whenever he's playing the Dodgers. Mercifully, he'd have to go on a drought for a week and a half where he hits only one or two homers. Three of these games will be played in the Juice Box, making it even more unlikely he heads up the all-time HR chart against the Blue.

Or, he'd have to start the season on the DL. Kinda like he is now.


Grumpy Old Pitchers

The 2004 offseason has been a banner year for older pitchers. With more senior marquee pitchers moved than in any previous hot stove I can think of, the question has to be, qui bono? Who benefits? Let us first state a few ground rules: This leaves us with the following names:

2004 Projected
PitcherAgeTeamVORPERA
Kevin Brown39Yankees38.93.58
Roger Clemens39Astros32.83.58
Greg Maddux38Cubs33.83.56
Kenny Rogers39Rangers16.35.32
Curt Schilling37Red Sox55.83.35
David Wells41Padres29.54.05

So, the question is, which of these guys is most likely to help his team the most? Based on VORP alone, the answer is Schilling, who towers over the rest. But that doesn't consider the replacement guys. Let's look at whose innings these guys will be eating:

Brown

Brown replaces, depending on how you look at it, either David Wells or Andy Pettite. Javier Vazquez and his 61.7 projected 2004 VORP will replace Clemens, essentially functioning as the staff ace. Looking at both pitchers' 2003 actual and 2004 VORP brings an interesting picture to bear:

2003 actual2004 Proj.
PitcherERAVORPERAVORP
Andy Pettitte4.0224.73.7934.6
David Wells4.1436.13.6829.5

Brown clearly marks a step up from the 2003 version of either of these guys, Wells especially so. But it's not a huge step up, and it has to come with the caveat that Brown has substantial injury risk at this point, as the Dodgers well know. Brown 2004 represents, essentially, David Wells 2003. If you're the Yankees, though, you're kicking yourself for not re-signing Pettitte, as Brown is done after 2005, but Pettitte still has a lot of gas left in the tank. I'm going to say Brown replaces Pettitte, as they are the most similar.

Clemens

Clemens' unretirement was something of a surprise to me, though Bosox fans might have a different opinion given his rancorous exit from that club. He replaces Ron Villone, for whom PECOTA projects a 7.9 VORP, one of the lowest in these ratings. Clemens should upgrade the rotation by nearly 25 runs, provided he actually pitches similar numbers of innings.

Maddux

The Cubs situation with Maddux bears startling resemblance to the Astros, except that Maddux is a year younger than Clemens, and he replaces Shawn Estes as the ERA-challenged pitcher getting the boot. As Estes projects to a VORP of only 1.8, though, the 2004 improvement is even bigger, 32 runs.

Rogers

Which awful pitcher does Kenny Rogers replace? Judging by the roster, I'll say it was John Thomson, he of the 22.1 2003 VORP. Thomson's projected 2004 VORP is 24.0; of everyone on this list, he actually represents a step down from what he replaced, leading me to question whether anyone in the Rangers organization can recognize quality pitching (or whether PECOTA has lost its mind on this one). This is a -7.7 run "improvement", or a drop of 7.7 runs.

Schilling

Curt replaces John Burkett, whose 13.7 2003 VORP got frighteningly close to zero. With the hitter-happy AL East, that just won't cut it, and the Sox wisely let him go. Burkett's 17.8 2004 projected VORP represents a bounceback, but with Schilling so much higher at 55.8, the run gap of 38 is insurmountable.

Wells

Of all the pitchers on this list, Wells' standalone effect on the team is most difficult to gauge, because he's actually going to replace not one but one and a quarter other pitchers, specifically, innings eaten in 2003 by Kevin Jarvis, and possibly, one of their 1-3 rotation guys, Lawrence, Peavy, and Eaton, the latter three returning in 2004. The Padres suffered mightily from injury last year, and it shows in their rotation's innings pitched. There's a steep cutoff after Eaton, whose 183 IP ranked third. Wells went the distance last year with 213 IP, but given his injury history, whether he gets that far in 2004 is a big question mark. His projected 29.5 VORP still towers over Jarvis' 10.4 2004 projection, for a 19.1 run improvement. But that has to be watered down with the knowledge that the gain won't, in practice be so large because Wells isn't going to replace just one player.

Conclusion

In short, the Sox accomplished the most by their offseason acquisition, followed by the Cubs, Astros, Padres, Yankees, and Rangers, the latter actually managing to make their pitching worse. That the Yanks pitching turns into a wash (at least, so far as Brown is concerned) shows how far down their player development has gone, and how foolish it was to let Pettitte go.

Bad Swing Shift For Barry

Age, claimer of ballplayers, punches Barry's ticket in a spring training incident:
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Bonds hurt his back during batting practice Wednesday and was taken out of the lineup for the San Francisco Giants' game against Texas.

Bonds swung at a pitch, then walked out of the batting cage and threw his bat down.

He was flat on the grass behind cage as Giants assistant trainer Barney Nugent worked on his back. Several minutes later, Bonds stood up, walked back into the cage, swung at another pitch, then walked off the field.

Giants fans jitter. This is not serious, they murmur amongst themselves. He will return. He will hit. Won't he?

Portrait of the Pitcher As A Young Stud


Gagné avant Dodger uniform.

Thanks to the Texas League website for this one.


Fast, Fast, Fast Relief

Chad Cordero doesn't worry much about Montreal's financial instability, or its relocation to a city-to-be-named-later. No, he's just just glad to be playing in the majors. He should be: he was only drafted last year:
"It gives me an opportunity to play," he said. "All that stuff is going to be a little different, but the city is awesome and Frank [Robinson, the manager] is a great guy."

This time last year, Cordero was the closer for Cal State Fullerton. The Expos drafted him in June and called him up in August, and he posted a 1.64 earned-run average in 12 games.

And people worry about rushing Edwin Jackson! That's gotta be some special stuff. I hope his quick ascent to the show doesn't eventually ruin him.

Replacing Donnelly

Brendan Donnelly, bullpen stud, broke his nose shagging a fly ball, and while that's funnier than Odalis Perez's blistered finger in 2003 as an excuse for not pitching, it brings to mind something serious that Angels fans ought to be thinking about now: just how long we're going to have him around. As Jon observed with Eric Gagné, bullpen studs wither quickly, and at his age, 32, he's at the point where non-nose-related injury will likely sideline him for a substantial period of time. Looking at Baseball Prospectus' VORP for pitchers by team list for 2003, it becomes obvious who's in line to replace him: swingman Scot Shields. But that just opens another question, namely, who replaces him as swingman? In 2005, the answer might be a rookie Bobby Jenks, but this is 2004. For now, we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope Donnelly doesn't break anything more serious than his nose.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

A Challenge to M's Bloggers

Which is worse? A rotten GM who can't even see the problems the team has, and acquires inappropriate players, alongside ownership with sufficient riches to be mentioned in the same breath as George Steinbrenner? Or ownership so poor the sale of the team stalled until the very last minute of the offseason, acquiring a supposedly great but untested GM -- who, thanks to that same ownership, now has no financial flexibility?

Start writing. You have thirty minutes. At the end of the period, please fold your blue books and hand them to the person on your right.

Update: The answer should be obvious. I'll take the Mariners' situation any day. A bad GM can be fired. Bad ownership cannot, save by the courts.


A National Disgrace

I'm not sure what to make of this, but according to a report on the Angels fan forum, McCourt has sent out a memo insisting that the team's fanbase be referred to as "Dodger Nation". (The poster said the team itself, but that's never been true, even among Bosox fans where it seems to have originated.) If true, it's more indication that McCourt doesn't know which team he really owns.

Even Nixon Had Pat

I had originally started this post as the straightforward excerpt of still more whistling-sounds-of-doom that keep eminating from Dodger Stadium lately. I'll start off with that, but I want to make it very, very clear that this is just one part of the McCourt Show that desperately needs the attention of all Dodger fans. If you haven't already, read this account of one Baltimorean's interactions with Frank-n-Jamie, forwarded by Jon. McCourt and Opryland were to join together to form a new operation in Baltimore, in what was the old fish market.
As the Director of Operations for the facility, I attended a number of meetings with Frank, and his lovely wife Jamie, and found them to be earnest, but totally incompetent people. Their ideas were useless...

Imagine my surprise when we began to have delays because, among other things, the diner for the building was sitting on a flatcar in New Jersey because Frank didn't have the money to pay for it. ... The $23M project could not even place the electronic signage for the main entrance into place, because the money wasn't available to get it delivered.

... I was pulled aside one day by the controller, a personal friend who had originally called me in Ohio to tell me about the job. He was ashen. He told me he had just finished a meeting with the McCourts and their financial people, and that the project was doomed.

I asked how he could know that, when we hadn't even yet opened the doors (the delayed opening, which had finally been settled when we informed Frank that he could not open the facility without the diner, since the liquor laws were going to require the eatery for us to get our license, was still about a month away)...and he said "for us to make this work, everything's going to have to be perfect. We're going to have to turn a profit within six months, and we told Frank that this was not realistic; our people had projected it would take 12 to 18 months. This place has to be a cash cow right off the bat, because the debt load is huge. I'd never seen those numbers before, I'd only seen Opryland's numbers. I swear that if I had seen McCourt's, I'd have never called you to fly in here for that interview."

And so the McCourts went down with the ship, with predictable lawsuits and countersuits, with Opryland (the employer of the individual writing this piece) settling for a fraction of its losses.

Back to the present, or something like it. In January, the Daily News ran an article including one anonymous baseball insider's estimate of McCourt's financial leash to be no more than three years. In October 2003, the Boston Globe interviewed Sportscorp's Marc Ganis, who said "The Dodgers are losing money. There is not the cash flow to support debt." Despite these reports, despite the litany of actual problems (as opposed to anonymous reports) associated with McCourt ownership, somehow, there are those who still insist that this guy is going to get us to the promised land. The arguments against skepticism all have the qualities of extreme naifdom swirling about them, as flies circle Pigpen. Consider one Tommy Naccarato's words:

Lets [sic] get behind McCourt for a couple of years; help him make the team a winner and hipefully [sic] we can enjoy winning again in Chaves [sic] Ravine. I know for a fact that I certainly miss it.

Oh yes, and about Kris Rone, well her job has nothing to do with the team's performance. I'm sorry she isn't going to be getting the chance to NOT stock my size of shirt at the Top of the Park this upcoming season--as if she ever intended too.

In other words, as he put it earlier, "this is a new era" and we should all close our eyes.

Right. I bet that works great if you're a wildebeest amidst lions.

And I've got some news for you, dude. Rone's job has plenty to do with the team's performance: she's the gal who gets the cash that the team plows back into player salaries, scouting operations, and the minor leagues. Losing somebody with her track record is no small matter.

But in the end, results don't -- or won't -- matter. When spring turns to summer and the Dodgers still don't have a hitter (or five, which is more like the number they need), the McCourt apologists will be back at it with their Pollyanna stories about how we all need to get behind the team, and so forth. Everybody needs a supporter come what may, no matter how slimy, or in this case, blatently stupid they might be. Even Nixon had Pat.


Don't Worry, Terry, They're Just Makin' It Up As They Go

Terry over at The Bench Coach wonders whether an overpaid Jason Kendall is headed for Chavez Ravine in Dodger Blue. I give that one about as much credibility as the noise from Ken Rosenthal that DePodesta is talking to other teams about moving Jackson. No meaningful games go on, and this is what the sportswriters do to amuse themselves -- stir up the animals.

Will The Yankees Bail Frank Out?

Yesterday we observed the first signs of spring, like robins or swarming termites, now include Frank's Götterdammerung maneuvers, pasted over with an oblivious smile and a barrel of Rotarian gee-whiz optimism. I expect him to add "I am not a crook" to his PR recitations any day now, immediately following substantial price hikes for the weak team he's about to field. Yet, Dodger fans roar up to the gate. As T.J. Simers asks today -- why?
The Angels added big-time attractions in Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon this off-season, and on Saturday, the first day that fans could purchase single-game tickets, the team sold 58,828.

The Dodgers did nothing this off-season, and continue to do nothing, and on Saturday, the first day that fans could purchase single-game tickets, the team sold more than 87,000, and close to 100,000 when including package deals. "This will be our biggest year in memory," ticket manager Billy Hunter told The Times.

Ah, later on, he clues us in:
In fact, 33,000 of the 87,000 single-game Dodger tickets sold Saturday were to just the Yankee series, and "I would imagine a number of people were turned away after the Yankee series was sold out," Hall said, "so rather than leave with nothing, they bought tickets for other games with the Giants, or maybe for July 4th."

It appears we're getting closer and closer to that time when the Dodgers, like the Clippers have been doing for years, begin urging fans to buy tickets for the chance to watch some of the game's greatest players — none, of course, who play for the Dodgers.

No kidding, T.J. Who knew that interleague play would bail out the Parking Lot Attendant this year? Well, that's only a few games. We've yet to see whether he's going to get an attendance drop over the course of 81 home games. But maybe it's not the Yanks the fans want to see. Maybe they want to see whether Sheffield even shows up ("Gaaaaryyyyyy..." as they used to chant over the Braves dugout when he was in town.)

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