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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

David Eckstein And The Alarming OBP Decline

Eckstein's .306 OBP is now ninth on the team, behind such non-walkers as Garrett Anderson and José Guillen. Jeff DaVanon last year went from being a surprise slugger to walking at a furious pace, garnering one walk for every nine plate appearances. This year, in 19 plate appearances, he has five walks, while Eckstein in 86 has only two. That the team has grown hacktastic over the last year is not surprising -- Guillen, Guerrero, and Anderson in particular are known to be free swingers -- but for this to affect Eckstein is alarming. Dismiss it if you want as a short season aberration, but consider that Eck's April 2002 OBP was .353. Erstad's was .288. Both are doing worse, and not by a little. I heard Eck dismiss it as a function of the quality of the lineup behind him, but -- isn't the theory of protection supposed to be that better hitters behind you results in better pitches to you? And, conversely, with less caution needed behind Eckstein thanks to Erstad's rotten year so far, shouldn't it be the case that Eckstein would tend to see more balls, not fewer?

Part 2

After looking at this a bit, his numbers have declined. With the month almost over, we can say his walk rate (defined as BB/TPA, or using traditional stats, BB/(AB+BB+HBP+SF)) is way down from his 2002 numbers -- or even last year:

YearBB%
2001.065
2002.064
2003.070
2004 (to 4/27).058

That's huge -- a .012 point decline from last year. Of course, in 2002 he had four games against not-quite-so-weak-as-in-recent-years Cleveland (remember they had Colón to pitch on opening day), but he had grand slams in back-to-back games against Toronto, too. But still, he had 11 walks on the month, more than twice what he's got now -- which looks like is all he will get now that he's almost a sure thing for the DL. Maybe PECOTA knows more about Eckstein's career trajectory than I thought -- or had hoped (against).


Monday, April 26, 2004

Pickoff Moves

Dang, I had a mess of little stories ... shoulda lumped 'em all here... oh well.

Beltre's New Nickname

"Chocolate Bunny"?

Note to Kathleen: you're scaring me.

Jamie Makes Dodgers Worst Dressed List

Jamie McCourt spotted wearing the enemy's colors. My, my.

Will Carroll: Angels Not In Outfield

Will Carroll's column today (subscription required) talks about GA's ongoing back issues, saying a decision about him going on the DL will be made later this week. He's not responding to any treatments so far. And, Vlad's right knee -- the pushoff and batting knee -- is also not getting better despite spending a bunch of time at DH.

Schoeneweis... And His 2.79 ERA

Despite consistent craptacularity with the Angels, Scott Schoeneweis may have found a team where he can excel -- the Chicago White Sox, writes BP today. He's got a 2.79 ERA, two acceptable if unspectacular starts against the Yanks, and a mess of zeros against the D-Rays. We'll see how he does after the team plays the other Sox, but it's good to hear that he's doing well.

Weaver Update

Another Friday, another 14-strikeout, one-earned-run win. Ho hum. Oh -- tragedy! -- his ERA is now 1.13. Will this disastrous slide spell the end of his career? The better -- serious -- question is, will it translate into major league success? The Padres, with the first draft pick this year and considered by most observers to be the team most likely to get "Dream", must hope so...

Alvarez In The Rotation? Maybe...

Like a few others, Arrive In The Third... calls for Alvarez to return to the rotation. I can understand why they haven't done it, for two reasons:
  1. Supposedly, Alvarez had a velocity drop in ST.
  2. How many innings has Alvarez missed due to injuries in the last five years? Uh huh. No sense taxing him as a starter unless you're forced into it.

The Dullest World Series Of The New Millennium

... has to be last year's. Just ask MLB.com, which doesn't even list a single game of that series in their "Baseball's Best" series.

The best? Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, of course, with my wife and our friend Becky dancing in the living room after Percy closed it out -- "We're going to the World Series! We're going to the World Series!"


Kriswell, Er, Dodgerkid Predicts

Jon links to Dodgerkid's 2004 projections today as part of an article on how surprising the early results from this season have been. Here's an interesting comment:
NL Central: The Astros. Outside of giving Ausmus a two year deal, this is a really well run team. They have a low payroll, but the roster is far more balanced than rival Cubs. Their pitching isn't as good as the Cubs, but they play in a pitcher's park [emphasis mine], and the staff is still decent.
Baseball-reference.com has Enron Field/Minute Maid Park as a hitter's park every single year of its existance. What park factors are you looking at, DK?

Sunday, April 25, 2004

The Best Team In The AL

... is the Angels, if you believe Eric Chavez (registration required):
"This team, if you ask me, is the best team in the American League," he said.

Considering what the Angels did to the A's over the weekend, Chavez may be on to something.

Anaheim defeated the A's 4-3 on Sunday in front of 33,567 at Network Associates Coliseum to complete a three-game sweep. It marked the first time the A's have been swept at home since the Boston Red Sox took three in May 2002.

Not only did the Angels sweep the series, they did so without arguably their best player, Garret Anderson (back stiffness). They also won Sunday without Vladimir Guerrero (knee tendinitis) and Friday minus Tim Salmon (sore knee).

That's great of him to say -- and very flattering to hear as a fan -- but September is a long ways away.

The Curse of A-Rod

Baseball historians recall that A-Rod played variously for the Mariners and the Rangers prior to his most recent move to the Yankees.

In 2001, their first A-Rodless year, the Mariners won 116 games and the AL West. That same year, the A-Rod "enhanced" Rangers went 73-89. They have had no winning seasons since.

And now the Yankees are 8-11, their worst start since... oh, I don't know, but the Boss can't be happy that April is nearly over and the team has a bigger number on the right than on the left.

Theorem: The other players knew it was all about A-Rod and resented him, negatively affecting team play even when he was in Seattle. Seattle loses A-Rod, team immediately springs to life and crushes all opposition... except in the postseason. And now, the Rangers are off to their best winning percentage ... since before they acquired A-Rod.

Corollary: A-Rod is now an anchor around the Yankees' necks.

The proof of this will be in September.

Please to note, I'm not commending this as anything other than superstition. But.


A Waking Dream, The Perfect Day

The Magic Tickets

The father of a friend of mine at work has had season tickets at Dodger Stadium since, roughly, the beginning of time (i.e., Walter Alston). Some days, when he can't use them, we inherit them. These are magic tickets, we've decided; in previous games where we got these tickets, the Dodgers They couldn't be in town this weekend -- something about a family friend's bat mitzvah in San Diego -- and so we inherited yet another set of tickets. They are amazing seats: first base, loge level, between home plate and first base -- an ideal view of the game, with many opportunities for foul ball collection. It is the perfect vantage for the Beautiful Game, in the most beautiful park in baseball.

Small Ball

We arrived at Dodger Stadium, Blue Heaven on Earth, one half hour before the game started. On the field, a clutch of kids milled about, anonymously. The announcer said they were all Little Leaguers and various schoolkids who had done something or other noteworthy. Some of the players signed balls for them, which must have been quite a thrill. As Helen noted, they don't do that for football. But the stands were still mostly empty; one blog doesn't have to worry about its title becoming obsolescent, at least, not yet.

Showtime

The Giants roster was peculiar today. There's a saying, play to win on the road, tie at home. I've never understood that, but maybe it's because of the home field advantage. Dustin Hermanson, we learned later, was a late scratch, to be replaced by AAA callup Brian Cooper. Backup catcher Yorvit Torrealba filled in for A. J. Pierzynski. Dustan Mohr manned center, and Pedro Feliz started at first.

This is not a group you have high hopes for if you're a Giants fan.

The game began uneventfully: three straight flyouts, though the Giants managed to work the count full each time. Roberts scratched out a single, Izturis got aboard on a fielders' choice, Bradley flew out to center. Green grounded out to first to end a fairly fast inning.

Then Ishii got three more, inducing a pop fly from Bonds to second. Alfonso lined out on a magnificant play by Alex Cora, and Ishii struck out Pedro Feliz to end the inning.

Deluge

Beltre took a pitch on what looked like his pelvis -- ouch. Encarnacion reaches on an error. Ross struck out (will we ever see his 2003 again?) And then Alex Cora came to bat, fouling off a mess of pitches, working a full count, with Cooper throwing far too many idle pickoffs:
Rob (to Cooper): Pitch already!
Becky: C'mon, it's only Cora!
Helen: I'm off to the concession stands. Anybody want anything?
Immediately after she left, he dumped one into the right field bleachers.

54,000 people simultaneously went nuts.

Skipping ahead to the third -- say, Ishii's having a remarkably good game today, there's another three straight he's retired -- Izzy comes up and whang the world is turned upside down as the team's two worst hitters suddenly become human dynamite. So does Milton Bradley, the angriest man in baseball, dropping one in to the right center bleachers.

It is no longer a game; it is a dream, the kind of dream where you can describe everything, lucid, clear, vivid, concrete.

Cora: Is this heaven?
Rob: No, it's Dodger Stadium.
But they aren't done yet.

Encarnacion gets aboard on a fielder's choice after Green walks and Beltre singles. Ross sac flies one home.

We know we are dreaming, for they intentionally walk Alex Cora. This is his first intentional walk this year, only the eighteenth of his career.

Ishii, appropriately, bursts the delirium with a 4-3 groundout.

Finis

In the fourth, Roberts scores again on a single by Green, and in the sixth, another Bradley homer. Two in one day, and the first time in his career for that. He's come back strong from yesterday's incident. And again the eighth... Roberts goes round and round, whoa-ohh, and he comes out here.

In the seventh, we look up: nobody in the bullpen.

Bottom of the eighth: still nobody. Surely they're going to give him the hook?

But no. No Gagné, no wires, nobody helping. And he does it, a complete game shutout in 128 pitches, the best game of his major league career, this from the man who's been a winning pitcher in five Japan Series. We beat the Giants at home, taking the series and sending a reeling team even further into the cellar. Wow.

The Perfect Day

Thank Verizon Wireless for their Internet connectivity at the park, for we are able to find out that Every one of the teams we root for won. All of them are on top of their respective divisions at the moment. You enjoy moments like this, because they're rare. Tomorrow the Angels might fall back down to .500, tomorrow the Giants may whup up on the Dodgers and send them reeling.

But now, bliss.

Update 11/25/07: B-Ref box

Labels: , ,


Pickoff Moves

The Princess In Centerfield

So a mattress caused Anderson's downtime? Okay, I guess it could be true, but doesn't anyone else think it's, um, unusual that, having been given the big bucks contract, Anderson's now hitting -- and sleeping -- badly? Especially, now that the Times reports he could be out for another week? Hint: GA, take the pea out.

Back To Tempe

Having a taste of what a good crowd can bring in revenue, Tempe's decided they want the Angels to stay at Tempe Diablo Stadium after all. It might work for both parties, as Arte's ability to get a Goodyear facility going may be delayed until 2006 or 2007. But at least Tempe recognizes there's room to improve:
"We're excited with what Arte is doing with the team and the amount of fan interest he has generated," Tempe City Manager Will Manley said. "We can have as good a practice facility as any team has in the Cactus League."
Hopefully, that means they lose the oven rack seating that just roasts spectators.

Scioscia Almost Says "Gregg" To Times

Scioscia almost said the words "Kevin Gregg" in a complete sentence to Times staff writer Ben Bolch today:
"He's got the stuff, the makeup, the command," Scioscia said. "The way he's throwing, he's definitely showing he could be part of a championship-caliber staff."
But does that mean Ortiz won't be given a fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh chance? Of course not! Heaven forbid the Angels should put someone on the mound who's actually producing. I'd like to think they share, for whatever reasons, the skepticism of Baseball Prospectus:
Every year, a few guys make the book because their major league performance warrants it, even though that performance doesn't really reflect their status. Gregg is one of those guys; called up in September, he posted a low ERA in enough innings that he really has to be included here. He's a journeyman, and despite good command of mediocre stuff, isn't likely to be back in the majors in 2004. [emphasis mine]
Gregg's done well in limited outings, true, but he keeps doing well. Maybe he's one of those guys that Chavez or Nix or the entire AL West will figure out if they see him often enough. But his 9.42 K/9 is now third on the team, and he has more innings under his belt than Ortiz, a starter. He's getting the job done, and Ortiz isn't. Maybe it's time to send Scioscia a membership application to the Kevin Gregg Marching and Chowder Society.

Angels 6, A's 3

Hubris is a terrible thing, and one of the most annoying aspects of following pro sports of any kind. It's why so many Yankees fans are so insufferable: they believe it is their right and destiny to be atop the heap, every single year. About the closest you'll find to it here at 6-4-2 is the feeling -- wholly unjustified, I confess -- that the Texas Rangers' natural place is in the cellar. With that in mind, I announce my utter surprise to find them in a three-way tie for first in the AL West, which includes the A's and Angels.

Now, since the ice-cold M's are playing the red-hot Rangers, and the A's are playing the Angels, I expect the standings to break out as follows by the end of the day:

TeamRecordWPCT
Oakland11-8.578
Texas11-8.578
Anaheim10-9.526
Seattle6-13.230

So, you won't hear from this quarter anything like Tyler's antiprophetical comment about today's game, much as I hope we can win it. Not with Ramon still in the rotation.

With that, I confess amazement that Escobar -- he of the up-and-down nature -- managed to squeak out a win against Oakland number four starter Mark Redman. Eckstein goes three for five? And Vlad finds his swing, even though his swing didn't find a man on base in front of him? Break out the bubbly.


Giants 5, Dodgers 3

Somewhere, Milton Bradley is chewing himself out. Maybe Jim Tracy is helping him with that job. It's altogether possible his first inning ejection cost the team this game. I hope he's learned something from this, but I sort of doubt it.

I bet the Giants fans asking for Milton Bradley in centerfield are glad they don't have him on their team tonight. It gives us some insight, also, as to what the offense might look like without the game board guy in the lineup. The magic carpet ride comes to an abrupt halt minus only a couple key guys, and that can't be a good thing.

Williams was pitching, and doing so brilliantly. Weaver was good for four innings, great for one, and miserable for two more. He's got good movement on his pitches -- mostly -- but rotten control. Did he pitch to Bonds? Well, sure, if you can call intentional/unintentional walks an at bat. Herges, for once, did okay in the closer role, but the Dodgers' bats were well silenced by the time he got to them.

Recap


Saturday, April 24, 2004

OT: Worst. Movies. Ever.

Okay, thanks to Will Carroll's discussion of the 50 worst songs ever, an abbreviated list if ever there was one, and then TwinsFanDan's logical continuation of that to films made me want to get my own thread on this topic going. The only qualification for this list is that I had to have seen it. In no particular order: Discuss amongst yourselves, and feel free to add to the list!

Everybody Limbo!

The standings as of today have the Dodgers still in first place with an 11-5 record, 2.5 games ahead of second-place... San Diego? The Giants -- the Giants! -- are in the cellar now, 5.5 games back of the Dodgers, a position I don't expect them to occupy for very long. In the AL West, the Angels and Rangers are tied for second for third with 9-8 records, 1.0 games out of first. Sure, the M's are in the cellar. But is the ceiling coming down? Or is it a limbo contest?


Dodgers 5, Giants 4

What a finish. Gagné strikes out three in two innings, doesn't fall apart, Dreif looks brilliant, and Izturis -- Izzy? -- sets up a run on a game-winning single from the game board guy.

The second Herges got on the mound I knew we had a chance.

Sweet to come back and win it.

Recap


Friday, April 23, 2004

Angels 12, Oakland 2

Top 1st

Okay, so putting Benjie at the top of the order wouldn't have helped tonight. But... Troyyyyy!!! Yowsah. Maybe we should put Guillen in the 2-spot. He seems to keep getting hit. I'll take it.

Bottom 1st

Washburn throws 2,048 pitches to Kotsay. Kotsay walks. That does it, I'm renaming him Ishii.

Top 2nd

Halter wails one down the third base line into the corner, Figgy bunts him to third in a play that sounds like Karros decided, hey, why not tag the runner? He's headed my way anyway, and hey did I shave today? Look ruggedly handsome without shaving -- chicks dig. Oh, here comes the runner. Tag!

Note to Adam Kennedy: if you're going to bunt, don't gift wrap it back to the pitcher!

Eck walks. Go .. uh, er, Erstad. Boy, there's a rally-killer there. Oh, wait, Zito's zigzagging his pitches all over the plate. 3-1 to Erstad? Plate discipline? Or alien abduction? Erstad... doubles? My dog... it's full of rats!

Now Vladski whangs! to right field along the first base line, and we're still on two outs? Okay, here's Troy for a sure -- out? No, a run-scoring single! Whoosh!

Okay, now Guillen. Come on, Barry, hit him on the left wrist. I dare you. You've only thrown ... 45 pitches? Bang into left center, and here comes Benjie. Okay, he's gotta be the guy who finishes the inning. Yup.

6-0 Angels. Hey, Tyler, who's the bitch now?

Bottom 2nd

Damn that was a long inning. So of course, Wash comes up and immediately walks Dye on four straight pitches. Then Karros fouls off about 20 pitches and somehow flies out to Figgy. One popout and a -- the hell?? -- strikeout? later, it's over. Wash's up to 38 pitches. You never can tell with Wash, but hey, the A's don't have a hit yet.

In the second inning.

Top 3rd

Remind Zito to send Halter, Figgins, and Kennedy a thank you note for this inning. What was that, six pitches?

Bottom 3rd

New nickname: Walkin' Washburn. Huh? Ishii Lite. Triple play unlikely. How many full counts is that tonight? About thirty? Okay, I'll take the double play... pant pant pant. 3-0 to Byrnes? Pitch dammit! I said pitch, not... walk the batter. You eeeediot! And he walks Chavez, bases full of A's... pant pant pant... and Dye laces it straight at Kennedy.

Washburn you are one lucky SOB.

Top 4th

Eck flies out, Ersty singles, Vlad singles, Glaus flies out, and Guillen finally -- finally! -- gets his first home run, just barely over the left field fence. Now maybe Scioscia can stop feeding him saltpeter.

Now we have to watch Wash again. Hoo boy. But it's the most runs Zito's ever given up in a single game. And he's out of the game. Woot!

Bottom 4th

An inning where Wash throws, what, a dozen pitches? If that? Somebody teach this guy to throw more sinkerballs. And yeah, how cool to strand Menechino at third?

Top 5th

They've given up. Zito's out. Kotsay's out. I'm heading home.

Bottom 8th, Somewhere On The 405

The A's are on the board, but -- huh? Two more?

Tomorrow they forget their bats. Sheesh.

Bottom 9th

Gregg gets his first save. Go Gregg! And against the A's, the team that threw him out. Applications for the Kevin Gregg Marching and Chowder Society will be taken here starting immediately. Update: Richard points out that Gregg now has more innings pitched with a lower ERA than... starter Ramon Ortiz. That would be a good thing, except for the Angels' famous stubbornness with starting pitchers.

The Official recap says "Of the 93 runs they've scored this season, 45 have come with two outs." Well, duh -- with Eck slumping and Erstad in permaslump, no wonder.


Name This Angel

Who is the rightmost guy here? He looks like Spiezio to me, but maybe it's supposed to be Washburn. I dunno.

mystery dude


Pickoff Moves

The Whistling Sound Of Doom

In today's Long Beach Press-Telegram, Doug Krikorian fires at the Angels with this pistol shot: "If the Dodgers wind up with a better record this season than the Angels, as they did last season, I wouldn't feel comfortable if I were Mike Scioscia. Arte Moreno didn't invest more than $140 million in the offseason to field another disappointing team." I'm tempted to agree, but with the caveat that it's as least as much Stoneman's fault for handing out ridiculous contracts to guys unlikely to earn the big bucks they've been given, as well as failing to get the best available talent. One thing that worried me about Bill was that, absent the need to be frugal, he'd lose some sense. It looks like that's happened; I'd certainly hate to see Scioscia fired for what was essentially a front office failing. It's not like Scioscia's a terrible manager -- he does make some crazy moves from time to time (José pinch running for Benjie?). But when Anderson goes .286/.375/.357 and promptly gets himself a game off because of an upper back problem since he signed his big dollar contract on the 13th, you have to wonder whether Stoneman isn't at least part of the problem here.

Tomato Nation's Nine Reasons To Love Baseball

I don't need nine, but Sarah Bunting comes up with 'em anyway. Although she is a Yankee fan, I don't hold it against her -- her writing's good, and fun.

Bottom of the Heap Awards

Al Yellon's Baseball Page has a "Bottom of the Heap Awards", obviously for worst hitter, pitcher, etc. Those impressed by Bobby Crosby's early start need only recall to last year, when he went 0-12 and garnered the Bob Buhl Award for the most at bats without hits in the American League.

Angels 7, Rangers 5

As I mentioned earlier, Anderson was a late scratch for yesterday's game, so I was more than a little nervous watching Jeff DaVanon go up against the Rangers. The outfield sans Guillen looked like the 2003 edition Angels, which didn't do anything to assuage my fears. But no matter: they managed to make a win of it anyway, despite Colón's weak outing. He still doesn't impress me that much as a true ace, and his outing yesterday is a good example of why. Three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, throwing 100 pitches? That's a line from Ishii, f'r chrissakes. At least he's not Chan Ho Park, though we haven't had him long enough for him to start breaking down. But -- great news -- Weber looked back to form. I told you you should have shaved that beard, Ben. Welcome back to the West!

Final score, 7-5.

Rockies 7, Dodgers 1

Lima time was loss time for the Dodgers in a rain-shortened game. The sooner we get out of Colorado the better. It was cold and giving our pitching fits. Jim Tracy gave "how not to make a lineup card" lessons again, putting Alex Cora in the leadoff spot, inexplicably leaving Dave Roberts off the field. The official recap questions leaving Alvarez out of the rotation, but his questionable health makes me think Tracy's doing the right thing by keeping him as a swingman. The Dodgers lost this series, but IMO it came down to luck of the weather.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Lost In A Dream

"Let's go, Dream," Weathers, the coach, called. "Let's not stay out here all night."

Later still, Weaver signed autograph after autograph for the Long Beach faithful.

Watching from a distance, Weathers' impatience melted and the coach smiled.

"Look at that guy," he said. "He's unbelievable."

Jered Weaver's amazing season continues, piling on honor after honor, strikeout after strikeout, and win after win. His most recent, a brilliant 12-strikeout 3-0 shutout of UCI, gives him a 11-0 record with a 1.00 ERA in 80 2/3 innings pitched. Richard Lederer pointed out a nifty USA Today feature article on the dreamier Weaver, whose nickname is indeed "Dream".

Yet, despite the attention from the pro scouts, despite his connection to the man who tends the burning lake, he still wants to help power the Dirtbags, the former home of such big leaguers as Jason Giambi, Rocky Biddle, and Bobby Crosby. And if his brilliance has triggered an avalanche of comparisons to the greatest season ever by any college pitcher -- USC's Mark Prior -- buried in that praise is the fact that CSULB's team ERA stands at a breathtaking 2.37.

Baseball Prospectus contributor Boyd Nation (is that the moniker for the Orioles' national fan base?) writes a column today (subscription required) in which he translates, roughly, college stats to the pros at varying levels. For instance, a collegiate hitter's average of .300 gets multiplied by 0.69 in single-A ball; "... your .440 OBP college stud is actually on track at .330 in Mahoning Valley". Boyd doesn't talk about translating ERAs, but when you consider that Weaver's got four teammates with 0.00 ERAs, and one with a 2.00 ERA in 76.1 innings -- well, how does that line up? And how would you like being Cesar Ramos, the guy owning those numbers, overshadowed by Jeff and his amazing run of K's? Woosh.

We're just down the road a little ways from CSULB. I've gotta go before the season's up.


Out, Out Damned (Two) Spot

Here's last night's lineup, which, with the exception of DaVanon, is pretty much the everyday lineup the team has had for the year thus far:

PlayerOBP
Eckstein.308
Erstad.261
Guerrero.328
Anderson.391
Glaus.378
Guillen.339
DaVanon.400
Molina, B..364
Kennedy.291

What's wrong with this picture?

At the least -- at the very least -- move Benjie to the two spot. Sure, it might create a logjam on the bases. But at least he's less likely to make an out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

TMI

From today's Times, regarding his poor showing thus far:
"I wouldn't call this a slow start, I'd call it a bad start," Weber said. "My arm feels good, my stuff looks good, and it's not like I'm getting crushed or anything…. Oh, great, now that I said that, I'll probably get crushed. And I've got nothing left to shave."
Not... going... to ... go ... there... please, for the love of God, no...

Nofuey

Sean at Purgatory Online has had the same problem I've had watching the Angels lately: their roster moves don't make much sense, let alone some of their lineup moves. (Okay, Erstad, you've had too much time in front of Vlad. Down to the seven hole you go.) He puts it, hilariously, this way:
But, like all disagreements between parties where the decisions are being made by one side alone, a simple explanation can go a long way. Say you give your unemployed brother-in-law fifty grand to start a business marketing a meat-based tofu substitute called "Nofu." And say that after two months he's sold $6.50 worth of product, all to the Army for use in the Guantanamo Bay confinement camp. You'd be a little annoyed, right? But what if your brother-in-law showed you evidence that a new species of bean curd weevil was poised to wipe out traditional sources of tofu, and that everyone who loves the freakish texture and disturbing cubism of tofu will be forced to buy his product at a premium in a month?
Naturally, adopting the pseudo-wisdom gibberish of The Matrix, the truth is that there are no tofu weevils, just as there is no reason for Erstad to be batting second, or for Ortiz to be in the rotation. Lackey, on the other hand, tonight gave those of us watching the games a little hope -- for the first time this year, he collected a strikeout, no, make that two strikeouts, making a grand total of... lessee here ... carry the one ... that's three, three strikeouts! Ha ha ha! Okay, Sesame Street Count imitations aside, it was easily John's* best outing this year, giving up only (!) three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. In fact, except for the seven strikeouts Ranger starter R. A. Dickey collected, both had remarkably similar lines:

StarterIPHRERBBSOHR
Dickey7611170
Lackey6.2733220

Even their last names are only off by a syllable. For a guy born without his ulnar collateral ligament -- i.e., the thing they replace in Tommy John surgery -- the guy did amazingly well.

But.

It's clear some things need to change. The Angels won't make those changes. We'll keep hearing about those tofu weevils. And the Angels will keep losing, just like they did tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, I present your third-place Angels.

I remember a time when I was really optimistic about this team. Honest. And now, Bobby Jenks has injured his pitching elbow for the second time in two years. Jenks was one of those guys who Arte was counting on to offset some of the expensive free agents he's been buying lately. I've been high on Jenks for a while, but between him and Keystone Kop Casey Kotchman, it's looking like injuries are going to eat this team's best prospects alive.

Update: Oh, yeah, and Scioscia -- pinch running José for Benjie?? No, doofus, you use Figgy for that. Yeah, Kennedy GIDPs immediately thanks to that move. Sheesh.


*Did anybody else notice the homepage screwup where he's been renamed "Robert Lackey"? Maybe he's been replaced with somebody else all this time. Whatever, can we just get the guy who can make his outs back?

Dodgers 9, Rockies 4

The Dodgers website reminds us that Duaner Sanchez wasn't even supposed to be on the team this year, but thanks to a bunch of fluke bench moves, he is. What's more, he leads the team in games pitched, and is third in ERA (2.08), after Mota (0.00) and Alvarez (1.00). This by itself would qualify as a career year for him, as he's already set career marks for appearances, innings pitched, and ERA. But he's not the only fluke bench player doing exceptionally well for the Dodgers: no, they can also look to José Hernandez, whose .467/.529/.600 line is a piece of his mighty 15 at bats. It's something to consider when looking at the standings right now: this team has had some unusal luck going into the start of the season. But no mind, as we slip into tonight's game, where the regulars had a romp...

Tonight it was Dave Roberts all over again, stealing, stealing, and stealing again for his twelfth of the year, sparking a Dodgers lineup that even included yet another Beltre home run and a single. Green's less-than-encouraging lack of extra-base hits was almost made up for by his two walks and a single. Was Nomo less-than-stellar, allowing four earned runs? Well, he got the win, and Dreifort looked pretty sharp. It seemed to me that a lot of pitches were thrown by both sides, possibly a side effect of the weather being so extremely cold (it snowed lightly at one point). "First place Dodgers" -- well, I certainly didn't think it would happen this year.

Official score


Roster Moves

Some stuff from The Transaction Guy. First, Jason Romano has been sent to the D-Rays' minors, which means he's gonna move yet again unless he clears waivers. Amazingly, Transaction Guy says "I don’t see Romano clearing waivers — he hasn’t yet turned 25 and can play a number of positions. The Dodgers don’t have room for him, but teams like the Giants or Cardinals might be wise to grab him." Romanofan, you may have to commit suicide now for sure.

Arizona Diamondback Roberto Alomar will miss two months thanks to an HBP on the hand. His career is in twilight now, but baseball-reference.com's Jamesian HoF Monitor ranks him as a should-be-a-first-ballot-Hall-of-Fame kinda guy.

Lastly, it looks like Japanese longshot Yoshitaka Mizuo will join Salt Lake soon. Not a big deal -- he's a fairly old guy (35) with middling stuff, but the Angels figured they could use the pitching depth. Good luck...


Schadenfreude

Loss? What loss? Oh, yeah, that 7-1 shelling the Dodgers took at altitude yesterday. But when you read the Giants bloggers, you realize that karma has made its way around the universe, and even a little thing like losing to the Rocks isn't really all that important when your team's in first place and got there by sweeping their division rivals on the road. Oh, sure, it's baseball, and these are the Dodgers, so I expect things to come unraveling this weekend when the Giants show up at Chavez, but -- sweet music! -- (Thanks to Raul for that idea.) A friend whose dad has had season tickets since Walter Alston is kindly donating his to me on Sunday, and we plan on making a romp of it; hopefully the Giants will still be in Barry-and-the-Eight-Dwarves mode by then.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Buenas Noches, Ramon*

¿Ramon, dónde es la goma?

Kevin Gregg escapes without allowing an earned run, while Ortiz melts down again. Ortiz has a cheap contract; it might be eatin' time again. Gregg, you're promoted. Welcome to the rotation.

Or at least, that's what I'd do, or Shields. But the Angels won't do it, just like they won't move Erstad, just like they won't stick a fork in Salmon. Well, he gets another few days at least -- his history of awful Aprils gives one reason to think he's gonna come around.

At least Osama shaved his beard; perhaps its mass was slowing his delivery. But -- Kenny Rogers? The Angels lose to the chicken man? Twice? Ugh.

And how embarrassing is it that Lackey (11.00) has nearly twice the ERA as the Rangers' starter in tomorrow's game, R. A. Dickey (6.94)? Ugh, and ugh again.


*My apologies for the fractured Spanish.

Beane Counters

The daughter already had skipped west, seduced by dreams of Hollywood. Now the son approached the father, thanking him for that Harvard education but explaining that he would pursue a career in professional sports.

He resisted the lure of proper jobs for the Ivy League graduate, the ones with six-figure salaries — investment banker, management consultant and the like.

John DePodesta — a Harvard grad himself, lawyer, and co-founder of an international telecommunications company — listened as his son Paul declared he would work for no salary, throwing T-shirts into the stands as an intern for a Canadian Football League team.

"I told him to go for it," John DePodesta said. "Having spent much of my life dealing with lawyers, investment bankers and consultants, and hearing how frustrated they were in midcareer by not following their passions, I could not foreclose an opportunity for my son to pursue that."

"Foreclose" -- it's a funny, lawyerly choice of words introducing a story in today's Times about the "new" generation of statistics-based GMs in the business. While the Times previously has made idiotic comments as if guys like Branch Rickey weren't paying attention to this back in the day, this time they manage to get it right:
Branch Rickey, the Dodgers' legendary general manager, wrote about the importance of reaching base half a century before the term "on-base percentage" crept into the vernacular. Earl Weaver, the Baltimore Orioles' Hall of Fame manager, sat back and waited for a three-run homer three decades before anyone had calculated the value of playing for one run against the chance of scoring three.
When DePodesta thinks about the additional resources the Dodgers (supposedly) have versus the A's,
... he doesn't necessarily mean pumping money into the pockets of free agents.

"You can spend more on player payroll, which is great," he said. "You can actually spend more off the field too, whether it be on scouts or systems or video or software. I'm actually as excited, if not more excited, about that kind of stuff than I am about having the player payroll."

Interesting, then that in Anaheim, they're feeling threatened by all of this:
"Our guys can use a computer too, but there's a lot more to it," Angel scouting director Eddie Bane said last fall. "There are computer teams out there, trying to take a hit at scouts. Myself and some of the other guys are trying to prove them wrong. It's really a threat to our industry."
Well, I wish them all the luck in the world. I've said in the past that Moneyball isn't enough information to run a ballclub with; if Beane and company were smart, they'd keep their mouths shut, or let Michael Lewis paint an incomplete, inaccurate picture. I still think that's true. It doesn't erase gleaned wisdom like Voros' work that K/9 and BB/9 are more important than ERA or win-loss numbers when evaluating pitchers, but it does mean that subjective evaluations are decidedly under the gun to produce -- as they should be.

Let me give you an example from my own life. I work for a company that specializes in comparison shopping. It's a free service we provide to our site visitors, but our customers are the retailers who sell the products. To them, we're a kind of advertising -- a new and different kind in that they can look (if they choose, and the better among them do) to see exactly how many prospects we referred to them become customers. One reason we've prospered is because potential buyers leaving our site become actual buyers at a higher rate than most others in our business. There's an old saying regarding advertising: "I'm wasting half my ad budget, but I don't know which half." And that's always been true in traditional media, because it's so difficult to tell the effect an ad had on a particular customer. Well, for on-line advertising, that saw is absolutely untrue: you can tell almost immediately where you're wasting your money. Does our success mean that billboards, print, radio, and TV are suddenly obsolete? No, but it might inspire some ad buyers to get more scientific about understanding the results of their spending.

And that's the point, I think, of Moneyball: you have to be able to back up assertions. That doesn't obsolete the presence of a traditional scouting staff; the A's certainly have one. But you can bet they're run differently than most of the other scouting staffs in baseball.


Monday, April 19, 2004

Pickoff Moves

OT: Corporate Shenanigans

In case you missed it, McDonald's CEO died of an apparent heart attack, news that will come no doubt as welcome to that company's many detractors. Look out, hot dog vendors, you might be next on their list. And the Angels' old CEO, Michael Eisner, is about to get booted, with a flurry of no-confidence votes, the latest being a 72.5% vote rejecting the Disney President by the company's 401k shareholders. Well, there's a drawback of 401k plans.

Weber Missing A Few MPH?

Ken Rosenthal relays a report that Ben Weber's lost some velocity which he could ill-afford to lose:
A scout says of Angels RHP Ben Weber, "He has certainly gone backward. He's not nearly as sharp. He got away with some command mistakes in the past because he had a little extra something that last 10 to 15 feet. He doesn't have it now." Another scout says Weber's fastball is 87-88 mph, down from 90 to 92, giving him little separation from his slider. Angels pitching coach Bud Black says Weber's velocity is fine. . . .
Whatever, but his early outings sure make it look like he's out of gas.

Joe Torres, Meet Tommy John

An ulnar collateral ligament repair by any other name is spelled Tommy John, and Angel first-round draft pick Joe Torres will get very familiar with it, as he's taking the rest of the season off to recover from it.
"In Boise, his velocity was fine, 92-93 (mph)," farm director Tony Reagins said. "The following offseason, he lifted a lot, got bulkier and a lot less fluid. I think that's when his velocity kind of went away. He never got back to 91 or 92."

Reagins said Torres hit 89-90 mph at times last season, before the injury that now threatens his stalled career. But some pitchers recover velocity after surgery, and for all his troubles, he's still just 21. "If he's right, he's still a guy," Reagins said. "Health is always a question. For me, yeah, he's still a prospect."

Um, okay, but if it's true that Tommy John surgery ages a prospect five years without gaining him any experience, that's gotta be a bad sign.

Selig? Or Circus Freak?

You decide:

Thanks to Baseball Primer's Clutch Hits for the link.


Vlad Rumor Mill

Terry over at The Bench Coach passes along the following from his source "Sandy" in the Dodger organization:
Dr. Podesta, the Dodger orthopedic surgeon, but who also sees Vladimir Guerrero, told me that Guerrero's back is as bad or worse than Hundley's. He said that given the all out way Guerrero plays coupled with his condition, there is no way he will play a full season. He went on to say that it wasn't even a dice roll that the Angels signed him long term, but more like a dice roll with blank dice.
Well, aren't they all. And who's this "Podesta" character? Does he mean Frank Jobe? Eh, whatever, but for my money, I'd just as soon see them give Vlad a couple actual days off. He hasn't been swinging the bat too well against Oakland (Saturday's game excepted) and I'm wondering that his knees aren't the reason why.

Update: Well, there is a Dr. Podesta on staff at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic where team physician Dr. Jobe operates, so that's plausible. But take it all with a grain of salt. A big one.


Kick 'Em When They're Down

I've been trying to collect my thoughts on yesterday's road sweep -- yeah, I'm still dragging my jaw off the floor on that one, too -- of the Giants. General thoughts: Woot!

Official score


Sunday, April 18, 2004

The Lion That Squeaked

Barry Zito has shut down the Angels' offense, as Tim Hudson did Friday. The team is second the league in runs scored, but 12th in OBP, 13th in walks, 8th in strikeouts.

That's the "good news".

The bad news is the team is 12th in ERA (5.40 team average), and second in runs allowed (68, a four-way tie with the Twins, Tigers, and Indians).

Okay, it's early. Really, I'm not panicing.

But it's looking like the BP analysts are sadly on the mark here.


Saturday, April 17, 2004

Pickoff Moves

Vote For Lou Bites The Dust

Not that anyone cared -- it became a cobweblog at some point in the last two months, really just as it got started -- but Vote For Lou is gone.

Dodgers 5, Giants 4

Lima time? Jeez, well, I guess. I have to now eat some crow over my early prognostication on the team's fortunes. The Dodgers might not tear up the world, but they stand a fighting chance in the division, if this week's returns are to be believed. Taking a series from the Giants on their turf is surely the best of all possible signs, and for José Lima -- the Dodgers' fifth, and emergency, starter -- to be the one to do it is especially sweet. This was another one we missed, ironically because the wife and I were out looking for TVs, our present model being fifteen years old and slightly gimpy.

Bradley goes yard in the enemy's house? Good sign, too, says Dave Roberts:

"For the second straight game, we got an insurance run in the ninth inning and it was the difference," noticed Dave Roberts. "We can play little ball, we can hit home runs, we can situational-hit. We're winning a lot of games while showing different ways to win."
Yeah, well don't get cocky kid. It's not like the game board man's Pujols or anybody. Gagné turned in yet another shaky performance, and while I've maybe been too harsh on the guy lately -- was he this shaky last year at this time? -- I'm still nervous that the streak is over and he's unraveling in front of us.

But. Hot damn!

Official wrapup

Angels 6, A's 4

Dear Mike,

Next time there's a save situation, leave Frankie in.

That is all.

Love,

Rob.

This game was amazing principally because Washburn actually won it. He should have lost it, for two reasons:
  1. He was at home. Wash at the A has a losing record (okay, not by much -- 20-21, but with an amazing 21 no decisions, since 1999) at home.
  2. He was pitching against the A's, against whom he also has a losing record (4-6, 3.48 ERA in 15 starts).
Despite this, he somehow managed to keep the team in the game, and not only that, but put up a mess of zeros. That isn't to say it was an easy game to listen to or watch (we were at dinner for most of it, listened to the sixth on the way back and watched the rest at home), but imagine my surprise when I looked up the game score on my phone and found it was 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth. Vlad's earning his keep, that's for sure, as is bullpen stud Scot Shields.

Final score, 6-3.


Walking The Birds

A few weeks ago, I was out walking my dogs on a long walk to a large park near our house. We don't normally go this way, so it was a treat for them. One Sunday morning, I spied a number of Vietnamese men with bamboo bird cages, and birds contained therein:

I asked them why they would do such a thing -- what was the point? The birds were still caged, even though they could sing, they got no special enjoyment from their prison being moved, even if temporarily, into the park. Naturally, none of the men professed to speak English, and so I went away as puzzled as when I first set eyes on the scene.

Such is the case with the Angels' use of Darin Erstad. I mean, I understand at some level the desire to keep him healthy by playing him at first base, but his defensive star shines brightest in centerfield. As well, there's no compelling evidence that Erstad hits better or stays healthier when playing first. But thanks to a communication gap between myself and the Angels organization, I'm stuck writing this blog instead of fixing the team so we have an actual chance of being something besides a .500 team -- where we almost are now and will be today if the A's win, a not unlikely scenario. Were I Stoneman, here's what I'd do:

  1. Move Guillen for a quality 1B. His contract and its duration is actually quite reasonable. It's not like his contract will weigh down the team for too many years.
  2. Move Erstad back to CF.
  3. Put Scot Shields in the rotation. He proved he's got the arm and the pitches last year. Instead of pitching in relief in ST, he should have been working on a third and fourth pitch and increasing his stamina.
  4. Move Anderson back to LF.
  5. If you can't stand Shields in the rotation, put Sele there. Sele had a better ST than Ortiz, and not by a little, posting a 4.24 ERA versus Ortiz's 6.66. (Is that an omen or what?) Why isn't he in the rotation?
  6. If possible, move one or both of Sele and Ortiz, possibly as part of the 1B trade mentioned earlier.
Crazy, I know, but I guess rational use of your players is for the birds.

New Angels Wallpapers

Some sweet new Angels wallpapers from halofan1983 on the Angels fan forum. Go here to see the whole selection, but he's got some very nice shaded pics of Vlad, Bartolo, the Angels logos, and even the old Wrigley Field era Angels. Great stuff, and thanks for putting it up!

Dodgers 3, Giants 2

Well, that's one way to win a ballgame. The offense, driven by only a few players, is alive, but on life support. Still, it was good to get a win against a guy who last year was 3-0 with one no-decision against the Dodgers -- their very, very legitimate ace, a guy who came in second to Gagné in the Cy Young voting. But OP shook off his demons and pitched an absolute gem, collecting ten strikeouts including one on Bonds. Not to toot my own horn too much, but my early prediction that OP would end up the staff stopper is looking right on the mark. Go Dodgers, and congratulations OP on a very special win.

Angels 0, A's 3

Colón is an overpaid number two.

Colón gave up a home run in the third to Oakland's backup catcher. And here in the top of the fifth, the Angels are being outhit 5-1.

Hudson breezes through the lineup.

Colón gets in jams.

Okay, Vlad's got knee problems. And if I poked around long enough, I could find some other things that would justify the offense's lousy outing against Hudson. (He's typically had Glaus locked up his whole career. 0-4 with three strikeouts is pretty much what you'd call dominant.) But this looks way too familiar.


Friday, April 16, 2004

Dogging It

Jon today went to the dogs -- hot dogs, that is, the ancient, noble chow of the ballpark. Google News, in its empirical and catholic wisdom, stumbled across similar thoughts by Steve Getzug in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles:
If you keep kosher and you’re a Dodger fan, enjoying a hot dog in Chavez Ravine is about as remote as right field, about as unlikely as a championship pennant or of even harboring thoughts of baseball in October in Los Angeles. And that’s too bad.

... It’s the right time for the Dodger front office to acknowledge the significant Jewish fan base in Los Angeles and make plans to consistently link us up with a kosher product that we can put in a bun of our own — every game, not just on Jewish Community Night.

I can not only sympathize with Steve, I second the notion. Many years ago as a tike, at a school fair I wolfed down a regular hot dog of some uncertain pedigree. Later that evening, my stomach rejected it in colorful, bile-laden glory, leaving me feeling quite the worse for it. Ever since that discovery, I've found I can't eat conventional hot dogs without feeling extremely queasy, and in fact prefer kosher dogs. Dodger Dogs are fine, but as they say, not quite what they used ta be. As I'm a client for any gustatory improvement, I relish the idea and give it my hearty approval.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Invincible No More?

It's hard to see clearly this early in the season -- there just aren't enough innings yet. But my Dodger-sense is whispering: Gagné isn't the same guy who took the mound last year or even the year before. His K/9 is down -- way down -- from last year's 14.98, only posting 8.31 so far this year. This is consistent with my memory of recent games he's pitched: getting a lot more flyballs and ground outs, and few -- compared to last year -- strikeouts. That's only good enough for third on the team, after Sanchez and Perez. And again tonight: a four-out outing, and nary a strikeout.

Dodger fans are often quick to mention steroids in conjunction with Barry Bonds. Though I hesitate to say it -- could Gagné be settling back to earth after a superhuman ride with performance enhancing drugs?


Pickoff Moves

Rocky Mountain Lie

Via Will Carroll, a great piece in Slate about why the Rocks are so awful, blaming altitude obsession -- which spawned that infamous humidor as well as poor spending habits (uh, Arte, are you listening?)-- and an inability to discern from real talent for their failures. A good read.

OT: In The CD Player

At work, at least, for months, on and off: Tift Merritt's "Bramble Rose". I haven't encountered a singer-songwriter who came out as strongly and fully-formed since... oh, Carole King? Fantastic alt-country chops with a voice to die for.

Prior Throwing On The Mound

I forgot to mention that Mark Prior is throwing off the mound, though there's still no official timetable for his return. Will Caroll in yesterday's BP "Under the Knife" column estimates "between four and six weeks to get ready once the Achilles tendon is asymptomatic" (emphasis mine). Dusty, start thinking about why and how you can get your top guys off BP's pitcher abuse points leaderboard.

Grudz Down

For those few who still wish we had kept Grudzielanek, in that same BP column, it looks like the man with the unspellable name is out for three weeks with a frayed Achilles tendon. I, for one, liked the Grudz/Karros/Hundley trade; it dragged out the pain for the Dodgers, but it took two bad contracts off the team's hands, and in a less pitcher-friendly park, Grudz actually blossomed.

Dodgers Bash Wells, Padres, 11-4

One of the problems of covering two teams is that sometimes you miss good games -- like last night's 11-4 victory over the Pads at Petco. Wells wasn't sharp, it seems, but Ishii was, going into the seventh inning for the first time in memory; his tank usually runs out at five or six innings. But the big story was Green going 4-4 with a walk -- an OBP of 1.000 -- and two doubles. He's the most overpaid doubles hitter in the league, but at least he's still productive. Having Bradley in the lineup seems to have added life to him. And heck, even Duaner Sanchez -- I'm still giggling about that name -- got an inning in with no harm done.

New MLB.com Stuff

I've already commented in passing about the changes to MLB.com's Gameday product (which still doesn't work on the Mac, grumble, grumble). But has anyone noticed the new improved player biographies? Typically, the Dodgers and Angels both pay attention to this, but it has been spotty for other teams; no more. Here's the bio for Encarnacion, containing recent news, splits-at-a-glance, a last-ten-games summary, fantasy comparisons, expanded stats, and more. The jury's still out on the home page slideshow, though; it's kind of distracting when you're trying to find a particular story.

Daily News: Bott To The Reds?

This has got to be a typo:
This time, the Reds got minor-league left-hander Glenn Bott, who was assigned to Double-A Jacksonville (Fla.) and not added to the 40-man roster. That was the key, because Looper was taking up a 40-man spot and had to be designated for assignment on opening day when the Reds purchased the contracts of spring training invitees Jose Lima, Jose Hernandez and Olmedo Saenz.
Huh? Nothing about that on Transaction Guy, to whose site I added a link today.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Repeat After Me: An Ugly Win Is Still A Win

The great thing about ugly is its diversity. For instance, here's a new kinda ugly I came across today, the 10 worst album covers of all time. Then there's James Lileks' discoveries in the cookbooks of yore, The Gallery of Regrettable Food. As a kid growing up in the 60's, I can vouch that my mom not only made dinner from some of these recipes, but they actually looked like the pictures included therein. It's a wonder I didn't run away to become some kind of skinny aesthete who only eats tofu and string beans.

And then there's tonight's game.

Let's face it: Ortiz is never going to be anything beyond a number four. Four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings? At this rate, I'll be happy if he gets his ERA below 5.00. While it wasn't a blowout, this is beginning to look like the upper limit of Ortiz's ability. Fortunately, he managed to get reasonable run support, even though he gave up a two-run tater -- would it be an Ortiz outing without one? Ask for the opposition's ball in the stands -- it's the Ramon Ortiz sign of quality! But all carping aside, the offense didn't stink for most of the game, considering the team was up against historic Angel-killer Freddy Garcia.

If there was any theme to this game, though, it had to be the Moneyball saw closers are overrated. I would have felt a lot better leaving Frankie in the game, but stupid rules are stupid rules, and in went Flyball Percy. One half-inning later, the M's tied it up, 5-5. Mercifully, the Mariners' bullpen obliged us in return and coughed up a walk to Guerrero and two stolen bases to Figgy. Inbetween, Myers managed to peg Guillen on the same damn hand he got hit on earlier in the season. Expect fireworks tomorrow if Guillen's still in the lineup. Jeffy sent one deep to Ichiro!, who, arm or no, wasn't able to keep up with DeChone's legs, and the Angels won, 6-5.

A few additional thoughts:

Update: corrected Ramon's and Ersty's numbers after the box score was finally published.

Bonds To Retire This Year?

Thanks to Baseball Primer's "Clutch Hits" column for this link: ESPN's Rick Sutcliffe interviewed Barry Bonds recently, with Sutcliff surmising Bonds might retire this year if his career numbers surpass Babe Ruth's:
Joey, Nj: Do you think Barry could possibly reach the Hammer by the end of next season?

Rick Sutcliffe: I had a long talk with him on Opening Day. We talked for about 30 minutes and we ran some of it on TV. The feeling I get is he will pass Babe Ruth and go to the house. If he passes Ruth this year, I'd be suprised if he came back next year. I sensed he had a void in his life. He doesn't like being away from his kids. He felt that void growing up. He knows his kids feel the same thing. I think he'll be happy with No. 2. That's what Clemens is doing now. Along with playing at home and all the consessions the Astros made, he wanted to be No. 2 behind Nolan Ryan and I have no doubt he will do that this year.


Jackson Shelled in Vegas, Chased After 4 1/3

Edwin Jackson proved he still has a few things to learn, getting shelled for eight hits and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work, including a grand slam to the Tacoma Raniers. Word is José Lima will replace him in the rotation starting this weekend. Okaaayyy...

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Mariners 5, Angels 7

Despite a less-than-brilliant performance, Escobar managed to keep the team in it. Anderson celebrated signing a one-sided contract by going 0-4 with no walks and no RBIs. Shields pitched his way into and out of a jam, but no harm was done, and he managed to pick up the win as well. Erstad went 3-3 with a walk -- boosting his average to .270 -- and even slumping Salmon collected a hit and an RBI, though he did look lost in right field. Guillen smacked a double down the third base line and drove in the winning runs. Heck, even Percy had a good night, retiring all three batters faced (albeit on a remarkably large number of pitches). But the crowning moment in tonight's game had to go to Benjie, who slammed one into the Angels' bullpen to tie the game in the sixth.

Final score, Mariners 5, Angels 7.


Shaft Resigned

The man Athletics Nation calls the "Shaft of baseball" has been resigned for four years with a club option for a fifth. No doubt but this will be a hefty contract, one Purgatory Online estimates is around $11-$13M/year. Here at 6-4-2, we take this as good news that the aliens have returned him, and hopefully none the worse for wear. Thanks for the link, Sean!

Update: on the money, $48M over four years. That's one heck of a big gamble.

Update: The more I think about this, the less I like the deal. GA took advantage of Arte's neck-sticking and got far more in dollars and years than he should have been given. What this comes down to is Stoneman betting that the 37-year-old version of Anderson will hit as well as the 32-year-old version. It's about as bad as the Salmon deal, and will be coincident with it for a couple years. PECOTA (subscription required) projects Anderson to take a substantial dip in value starting this year, with an eye-popping 36.4% collapse rate this year alone. Many of his comps (Tony Oliva 1972, Joe Pepitone 1972, Ted Kluszewski 1956, George Bell 1991, Orlando Cepeda 1969, and Dante Bichette 1995) started or were in the midst of substantial declines. It looks startlingly like another move based more on sentiment than sense. The major caveat with PECOTA is that Anderson only picks up 35 comps, so as crystal balls go, it's a pretty foggy one. Chalk it up to Stoneman's inability to discern from career years, a flaw that got Scott Spiezio resigned as a starting first baseman in 2003.

Update yet again: U.S.S. Mariner agrees with me, and even goes so far as to say Arte could prove to be another Tom Hicks. All that, of course, predicated on PECOTA's accuracy. For sure, I wouldn't have given GA that much dough for that many years.


Pickoff Moves

Weaver = Brown?

Does Baseball Prospectus like the Dodgers' chances this year? Well, maybe. The magazine seems to have a bad case of schizophrenia. One day, they're picking them to finish fourth, and the next they're heaping praise on Paul DePodesta for picking up outfielder/petty criminal Milton Bradley. (As usual, some or all of these links require a BP subscription.) While BP hasn't recalibrated their standings, the news is mostly good on the Dodgers' chances, with Hideo Nomo remaining a big question mark. Joe Sheehan is even more optimistic (Nomo aside), declaring Weaver might be Brown's equal this year:
Jeff Weaver, Dodgers. Part hunch, part context, and his brutal spring doesn't make me feel any better about this selection. While Kevin Brown is the better pitcher of the two, much of the differences between the ERAs of Weaver and Brown last year was context: ballpark, league and defense. You can't make a more extreme move right now than going from Yankee Stadium and their middle infield to Dodger Stadium and theirs. That alone moves the two pitchers to within a run of ERA of each other. I think Weaver takes advantage of the context to get his command back, and ends up having comparable value--within a win, in Support-Neutral or VORP terms--of Brown.
I like Weaver's chances to improve, but I'm not that convinced. As I said earlier, he looks to improve a lot, but a 4.07 ERA is nothing like Kevin Brown's nasty sub-3.00's he regularly posts when healthy. Still, it didn't hurt that his first outing ended in the "W" column.

"Party Arte" All Business

In case you missed it, today's Times carries an article about the Angels under Arte Moreno. Arte's clearly got a game plan: winning breeds financial success. Whether he can pull that off with an unimaginative GM remains to be seen, but he's got a long way to go. TV revenue still "lags far behind the Dodgers'", but this could merely be the prelude to something I've speculated on previously, the opening of a new cable channel:
The Angels' contract with Channel 9 expires next year, and the contract with Fox Sports Net expires in 2008. The Fox contracts with the Lakers, Mighty Ducks and Clippers all expire by 2008, and the Angels have considered the possibility of starting their own cable channel — or threatening to — in partnership with other local pro teams. Disney lost interest in owning the Angels and Ducks after its plans for an ESPN West cable channel collapsed.

"We are exploring everything," Moreno said. "There are some great teams in L.A. You've got showtime there."

And HBO, and Cinemax, etc. The point is, even if this year is less-than-stellar, Arte could spin off his own cable network four years from now, something the Dodgers won't be able to do for years.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Bott to the Looper

The Dodgers traded minor league prospect RHP Aaron Looper back to Seattle for LHP Glen Bott.
Bott, a 22-year-old left-hander, was 7-7 with a 3.16 ERA, 143 strikeouts and 38 walks last year at Single-A. He will report to the Dodgers' Double-A Jacksonville club.
Mariners Wheelhouse has a bit more on this trade, saying that this makes things more even, though I disagree; getting Ketchner was a steal, and if Bott's K/BB ratio is 3.76, I'll take that as a huge positive, even though he's untested above single-A. Score another one for DePodesta.

Angels 6, Rangers 7

Bottom of the 3rd

This game is pure vivisection. Wash is shaky against this lineup, not a big surprise; he hasn't had a 1-2-3 inning yet. Colby Lewis is worse, with hideous control problems, but the Angels' offense isn't taking advantage. All tied, 2-2, but the Rangers are outhitting us, 5-2. Wash loses confidence, tries to make a buncha pickoffs with Soriano at first and Teixeira at the plate. Pitch, already. One bona fide strikeout and a popup to Erstad later, the inning's over.

Top of the 4th

Halter unexpectedly doubles, and Molina dribbles him in on a weakly hit single. Molina's batting ninth? Kennedy's moved up to the seven hole. Note to MLB.com: please... fix... Gameday... The batter view is wrong about a quarter of the time, so it looks like Eckstein flied out to center, when it was really Erstad. Man, the E-team is definitely not an E-ticket so far this year -- at least, Ersty isn't.

Top of the 5th

After an uneventful bottom of the third -- good for Wash for finally collecting another K -- Vlad grounds out, but then GA strokes one into center for a single, and Guillen walks. The charge that he's a free swinger is a strong one, so it's nice to see him get a free pass, especially against a pitcher as shaky as Lewis. Grr. Salmon flies out. C'mon, AK, do something. Please to note, "something" does not equal "popping up to the shortstop". Grr.

Bottom of the 6th

Wash gets shaky, and now Blalock singles in two. Enter Osama Ben Weber, with a predictable result: Fullmer clears the bases with a double. Note to self: see if we can get Weber listed in FAA's TIA system so we won't see him in road games. Ha, ha, Brad, very funny. The ironic part is we would be better off having kept him (at 1B, anyway), not signing Guillen, and leave Erstad at center. Oh well. Those uncashed baserunners in the early innings are starting to look expensive now.

Top of the 8th

Angels get on base, Shane Halter (subbing for Troy Glaus, who "tweaked a hamstring" in the wet infield running the bases Sunday) drives one in. 7-4.

Top of the 9th

You call that a closer? But, close it he does, even after two runs score. Final score, 7-6.


I want a recount. I want better pitching. Wash did okay -- by his usual nailbiter flyballer standards -- until he ran out of gas in the sixth, but the team has too much invested in guys who aren't enough at their positions, whether on the mound, at the plate, or in the outfield. CoTL observes -- again, read into this at your own risk because of sample size issues -- that the Angels are dead last in the majors in fielded fly ball percentages. I agree with him that if there are in fact defensive problems in centerfield, that will not be recognized and/or dealt with. But it's been obvious to anyone watching the games: Anderson is overmatched in centerfield.

National Disgrace, Part 2

I hate the X-Nation sobriquet. It speaks of chutzpah to me, and the idiot fan's pathetic, hyperinflated sense of collective self.

It started with the Red Sox, who, as far as I am concerned, may keep it for their own.

It moved on, thanks to Frank's greasy ownership, to the Dodgers, though mercifully the expression has not found wide currency of yet. Now, improbably, the Yankees have become infected with this peculiar disease. The latest superstar du jour, ex-Dodger Bubba Crosby, has become an instant hit in his last several at bats, slamming a three run shot out of the park and holding on to a win for Mike Mussina, as well as making a number of sterling defensive plays. These were skills he never displayed in Chavez Ravine. Crosby, moved in the Ventura trade, may have given Yankee fans quite the thrill, the throng at the Bronx being unaccustomed to actual rookies. What many may not realize is they may have also unwittingly witnessed Bubba's best half-dozen or so at bats of his career. While I'm quite happy for Crosby -- who, had he failed, would no doubt find himself on the business end of New York's heavy flensing machinery -- also bears the burden of, for the first time to my memory, appearing coincidentally with the expression "Yankee Nation":

"I'm sure [Steinbrenner] knows everything that's going on," Crosby said. "I haven't really met him other than to shake his hand the other day. But I'm sure he knows there's a Bubba on this team."

All of Yankee Nation knows now, and if Bubba still has to go when Lee is activated, we know something else too: He'll be leaving us dirty.

The curse spreads, and so now we know that it is the Orioles' or the Blue Jays' year. But, whoever it may be, please, let us hear of this abomination no more.

For The Angels, Is It "Wait 'Til Next Year", Already?

Over at the Long Beach Press-Telegram, columnist Bob Keisser is already thinking about next year, and in particular, the meaning of the horrible outings against Texas had by Lackey, Ortiz, and Sele:
The back of the pitching staff was ripped by Texas' lively bats and lively ball park, which just proves you can never have too much pitching. I'm confident Mike Scioscia and Bud Black will get something out of the Ramon Ortiz-John Lackey- Aaron Sele mix, and maybe add a prospect like Bobby Jenks around mid-season.

The big worry for Angel fans is the prospect of Arte Moreno having to settle on signing one of their two stars eligible for free agency next season, Troy Glaus and Garret Anderson. They're both indispensable, but having spent heavily in the offseason, he may have only enough payroll for one.

Such has been theorized previously. No matter how much of a fan an owner appears to be, they usually -- unless the owner in question is George Steinbrenner -- have limits to their spending. (Sometimes the limits are ridiculously low, as in the case of the Devil Rays.) There's no way of knowing what Arte's real payroll ceiling is, but a closer analysis certainly indicates that both Sele and Appier -- yes, Kevin Appier is still on the payroll in 2004 -- will be gone next year. That's a total of $20 million right there. Arte's already spent a lot of that money on Vlad, Colón and Escobar -- more than that, in fact. In 2004, he'll spend $14M for Vlad and Colón, and $6.25M for Escobar, or $34.25M on three players.

Sele we know is done, or likely so; it's possible we could get a final year out of him before he completely falls apart. But Ortiz has had chance after chance, and still isn't reliably producing, and of course has Agegate issues as well. Both have declining K/9 rates; both posted career lows, Sele 3.92 and Ortiz 4.70, last year. And then there's Lackey, whose excuse of having a sophomore slump ran out last year. If the team has to replace Sele, Ortiz, and possibly Lackey by the end of the year, Arte's wallet could indeed be tapped already. Combined with the near certainty of Darin Erstad having an unproductive year at the plate, and the strong possibility that Salmon will also, that's a lot of hitting to replace. If Baseball Prospectus is right and the Angels finish third, the team will have spent a lot of money for nothing -- and won't have enough in the farm to fix either the rotation or the DH position any time soon. Jenks might be able to help this year, but you certainly can't count on rookies to pull a Fernando Valenzuela.


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