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Monday, May 03, 2004

Angels Re-up Salt Lake Contract

The Angels renewed their contract with minor league affiliate Salt Lake, but why? Was it a business decision? It couldn't have had anything to do with aligning park effects to the big club's park.

OT: The Blog CD Game!

Okay, now that I'm heading off to Arkansas for a week to visit the inlaws and catch a couple Travs games, here's a CD game I picked up from Mariners Wheelhouse. Here are the rules:
  1. Grab the nearest CD.
  2. Put it in your CD-Player (or start your mp3-player, I-tunes, etc.).
  3. Skip to Song 3 (or load the 3rd song in your 3rd playlist)
  4. Post the first verse in your journal along with these instructions. Don’t name the band, nor the album-title.
Okay:
Way down yonder on the bayou
There lives a little girl-o
Skin so pale
Six feet high
Skinny as a rail
Just one eye
Go! And of course, add your own to the comments section. And of course, I'll continue blogging, though I doubt as often or with as much attention to the Angels or Dodgers during that time.

Colón Cancer: Angels 11, Tigers 9

Colón is an overpaid number two. (Sorry, Richard, I hadda do it.) It makes you wonder, did they evaluate talent based on asking price? If that's true, I'll start telling the Angels' front office about my $12 million price tag. Two rotten starts in a row against a weak AL Central team, and this time with no excuse about temperature.

And we now have two guys who can't hit at the top of the lineup. God, Mike, get it over with and move Eckstein to the seven hole or something. But -- definitely encouraging -- two walks by the Eck and two by Figgins, neither of whom walk a lot. Eck's going to have to get a bunch more of those if he wants to stay in the leadoff spot. At least we got to see Troy hit one out, which made up for some awful defensive plays -- what was with Vlad's buttery-bad glove? Figgins isn't a centerfielder (where's the hat, Chone?), and all I can say about Amezega is that I'm glad we didn't get to see him play third.

Shields: blecch. One of his worst appearances this year. Why wasn't Gregg allowed to pitch more? And by the way, that was a passed ball and an error -- Shields was covering the plate when the run scored. They just didn't score it that way.

Somebody tell Hud that the Angels winning in Garret's absence is due to (a) the schedule's weakness (hey, we ain't playing the Yanks), and (b) the plain fact that durability and reliability aren't the same thing as greatness.

Wrapup


Richard is dancing in the aisles: Ramon has finally earned a demotion to the bullpen, says the Times, with Sele taking his place. Jeez, it took three losses in five starts to figure that out?

The Best Trades

Say what you will about Dan Evans: at least didn't get bamboozled in the offseason. Kaz Matsui, who I would not have minded on the Dodgers, is struggling in early season play with the Mets. Sexson and Ordoñez are good but not worth giving up top prospects. Vlad is doing well, but thanks to Frank, not on the Dodgers.

Game Over, Before He Began

A good AP article on Gagné and his start at Seminole JC:
Gagne considers his year in Seminole -- a town of some 6,900 about 58 miles east of Oklahoma City -- a turning point.

"I think that made me who I am. I learned a lot about myself," he said. "That's the thing that told me, `Hey, I really want to be a baseball player because I'm going to make every sacrifice.' I knew then that I loved the game so much, I was going to fight for it, keep trying to get better at it -- and better at English."


Not All Dodger Ads Suck

Just a quick thoughtlet: Both Jon and Dodger Blues have gone off on the Dodger bobblehead ads, a product of Seattle-based WongDoody. But if the TV ads are miserable and uninspired, the radio ads were a real treat -- and a stroke of brilliance -- in asking Vinny to do a couple in an interview format, as with the rest. Who else knows about the varied history of the team so well? Who else knows its rivalries as intimately? More of those, please, and if you can boot the bobbles for Vinny, so much the better.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Pickoff Moves

Rubber Dickey

R.A. Dickey, the Rangers' newfound Cy Young winner, halted the Bosox 4-1 tonight in 8 2/3 innings to sweep the Rangers' homestand. I mention this because his last time facing the Angels, he held the team down to only one earned run. His present line of 4.32 ERA, 5.08 K/9, 1.73 K/BB doesn't seem to me to be ace stuff -- but he's pulled the plug on the hottest lineup in baseball tonight. In short, he's living off his WHIP of 1.33, a number well below his career norms. He'll get eaten alive eventually and descend to earth as the pitcher we all knew and blasted.

Expos 6, Dodgers 4

The Dodgers had to lose eventually, but to the Expos? There were several moments in yesterday's game when the Dodgers could have blown it, but stubbornly refused to do so. However, the big problem today was the empty hits and a lack of timely hitting. Today, while the team hit reasonably well, they miss Milton Bradley's bat... and, to some degree, Shawn Green's, whose shoulder continues to give him trouble.

Recap

Angels 3, Twins 1

There was a short reliever
Who made me a believer...
... but his name was not Troy Percival. If yesterday's save was a gem, today's was a total mess, with Percy loading the bases. Though he claims that was what he wanted to do, you'll have to color me skeptical as I'd just as soon he ... uh ... strike the guy out. Or get an out some other way. Jeez.

Update: Richard suggests that back-to-back starts may not be agreeing with Percy's arm, and it sounds like a reasonable theory, especially considering his recent injury history.

Now then. Lack. 5 K's, 7 innings, 1 earned run. Damn good work. Ramon, your situation's getting increasingly dire.

Guillen: .263/.333/.379. Two RBIs won't make up for that, but it helps.

Figgins: .348/.400/.565. How impressive is that? He's got a higher SLG than our alleged left-field slugger? Eckstein: you've got your work cut out for you. Your mission is to boot Figgy from the starting shortstop position, despite your belief that you'll start Monday.

God, this team's spending way too much time on the bench; now Salmon's going to take a mini-vacation. Some reliever named Hensley just got called up to the big club to take his spot for 15 days. Guess that means Sele's going to be on a short leash if he gets any "spot starts", eh?

Update: Richard's pretty impressed with Hensley's 17 K's, 3 BB's, and 0.59 ERA in 15 1/3 innings at altitude in Salt Lake. No question that's good, but the statheads at BP think he's more like a 3.29 EqERA, 5.8 EqK/9, 2.9 EqBB/9 kinda guy -- in other words, not really that impressive. We'll get to see which guy shows up presently, though it should be noted for the record that they didn't think Gregg would go anywhere, either. (Whether this is because his name never appeared in Moneyball or for other reasons is best left to the authors to decide.)

Recap


Pedro To The Dodgers?

DePo, think carefully about this one. Pedro won't rule out a return to the Dodgers. I dunno. He's fragile. He's brilliant. He is the best pitcher of our generation.
"The Dodgers don't have the same people that were there when I was mistreated," he said. "I'm open to anybody, just as I am open to anybody in the future."
Note to Pedro: Tommy Lasorda?

I didn't have time yesterday to look much at this, but the reaction in Red Sox Nation, despite my alarums yesterday, has been surprisingly muted:

Bambino's Curse:

Pedro [says],

I'm just really sad for the fans in New England who had high hopes that at this time I could say, truly, that I was going to stay in Boston, but now they're going to have to compete with the rest of the league.

I can't speak of all fans, but don't worry about me. No need to be sad because, the way I see, this is actually a good thing for me: Now all the pressure is on Pedro Martinez to pitch so well every outing that he attracts the interests of other teams who may wish to sign him as a free agent.

I'm fine with that. Win the World Series and losing Pedro afterwards isn't the end of the world. Falling short of that, I'm imagining the roster will be seriously overhauled anyway.

And, sorry to say it, but there are legitimate questions about the health of Pedro's shoulder. If management were to sign him right now, I'd lose a lot of faith in their long range plans for the club.

Portland Sox Fan:

I love Pedro to death, and I want to see him finish his career in Boston (because the way I see it, the only other place he's going is New York)...but this kind of crap just makes me shrug my shoulders. A buddy of mine summed it up best in an email to me this morning:

You know guys, I love all of these players with cotracts coming up this season, especially varitek. But after seriously thinking about it for a while, I really could care less what the hell they do with all of the players, as long as they win the G.D. world series.

Just give me 365 days to be able to ask every yankee fan I know... " Who won the world series last year "? , and we'll work on the next 20 from there.

That's pretty levelheaded, considering how famously hateful the Boston sports press is.

Would Pedro be a plus on the Dodgers staff? Sure. But if he thinks he's getting a multimillion dollar, multiyear contract out of Frank's empty pockets, he's out of his mind.


Dodgers 5, Expos 4

Introductory thought: What was up with those gnats on the field? Everyone on the infield, at least, was shooing them away.

Secondary thought: Okay, we knew Lima wasn't a suitable replacement for Kevin Brown. But nobody, and I mean nobody -- myself especially -- would have told you even three months ago that Adrian Beltre's uniform might have to change to a cape-and-tights ensemble. It's finally happened, and as Jon says, he is a star. He's earning that money. I wonder what the people who questioned giving him $5 million are thinking now.

Tertiary thoughts: Do the Giants miss Livan Hernandez? Sure, he was the goat of the 2002 Series in Game 7, but he continues to pitch well -- 3.38 ERA, 6.79 K/9, 2.14 K/BB -- on a Montreal club whose very existence is in question. Now he's doing it for even less, for three years (why?). Show me another pitcher -- I was about to say, "besides Jason Schmidt", but he's not even doing that well -- with that line on the Giants. But the time for pitying San Francisco seems to be over. They won last night, 6-3 over the Marlins, they're out of the cellar, in third place, and coming up fast.

It's gonna be a race again.

This is gonna be good.

Official recap


Saturday, May 01, 2004

The Love, The Love: Angels 1, Twins 0

After yesterday's horrible outing (is there another kind) by Ramon Ortiz, the Angels needed a good start by somebody, and unfortunately, Escobar having buggered up his fingernail, left Sele to start.

Over at Pearly Gates, Richard is fulminating, but after watching Figgy slap in the winning run, I don't care. Sure, Mike could have let Sele go longer, but I'm happy with the outcome, and besides, I'm worried about Sele's shoulder. And yes, bonehead maneuver letting Figgy face a lefty.

And how about Percy's save?

Yeah, baby! The last two outs were pitch palindromes!


May Day For Red Sox Nation: Pedro To Test Free Agency

Negotiations between Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox have broken down, and the Hall of Fame-bound pitcher has announced he will file for free agency. Negotiating ploy? Perhaps. But a very cutthroat one:
But he made clear he was irked by the team, in his view, misleading the public about the degree of its commitment to signing him, and playing "dirty" by unfairly raising questions about the condition of his shoulder.

... He said the team never made solid final offers to him or the other free agents. Nor, he said, would they entertain offers from him.

Amazing. It's certainly possible that Pedro's shoulder has started to decline. And he's famous for last year's gaffe prompting Grady Little to keep him in the deciding ALCS Game 7 only to give up the winning runs. Is his time over? Or is this a repeat of Roger Clemens?

Fire In The Three Hole? Dodgers 13, Expos 4

We gotta get out while we're young
'Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run
   -- Bruce Springsteen
Last night was the first time I finally decided to watch Beltre and his new power generation at the plate with the same criticality Jon has. In some ways it was a disappointment, Belly's line being

Los AngelesABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Beltre, 3B5111001.353

But -- if he hit .200 on the night, at least we got to see him lay off a pitch down and away, as if Day were testing the v1.0 Adrian. It wasn't much, but it's hard to complain when the guy ends the day still hitting .353 and driving in one. Sure, there were a couple errors, but like the guy who changes his order after it's been sent to the kitchen, it's easy to get overcharged at the hot corner.

And then, yeah, Beltre in the three hole.

Tracy has finally awakened.


This game was like watching the mean kid on the block pull wings off butterflies. The Expos are that bad, that lost, and probably, in the clubhouse, that demoralized. You can't tell: did Ishii pitch another brilliant game, or did he encounter an awful Montreal lineup? But, yeah, you have to get your wins against the bad teams. The problem is, this is a bad AAA team.

Dodgers 13, Expos 4


Friday, April 30, 2004

Taking A Long Walk Off A Short Pierzynski

Thanks to Pearly Gates for this story in the Oakland Tribune about loudmouth, boor, and now apparent clubhouse cancer A. J. Pierzynski. Not only is his work ethic suspect -- he refused to watch videos of opposing pitchers prior to a game in the Florida series -- but word got back from Padres outfielder Phil Nevin that A.J. was badmouthing the team's pitching staff to Padre hitters.
"You know he's an abrasive person, and you tolerate it," a Giants pitcher said, "but when you're around it this long, it starts to wear you out."
You can say that again, especially when the team's having trouble scoring runs to begin with, your catcher's OPS is one of the worst on the team, his average is nearly 100 points off his career number, and he calls for the wrong pitch (Lowell homered in the 9th to win the game last night).

Chemistry doesn't matter if you're winning, but its absence sure makes losing unbearable.


Pickoff Moves

Some random links culled from Baseball Primer's Clutch section:

How Texas Could Win The West

Tom Tippett of Diamond Mind goes over, in some detail, how the Rangers could win the AL West. It's not likely -- only about a 1 in 100 shot -- but it could happen, and some of the key things required for his analysis are happening already (all the kids hitting well, the starters having okay but not stellar seasons, among other things).

Bavasi Has Faith

Maybe this was why Gillick resigned: he knew it would be impossible to avoid the coming train wreck this year and didn't want to be at the helm when it happened. If that's true, then management has a problem because they hired a guy who quits when the going gets tough. (My take on it is he's getting on in years, but what do I know.) Anyway, Bavasi still has faith the Mariners can lift themselves from the cellar. Of course, the East Coast media hasn't taken notice of this projection yet; they're already declaring the M's "bottom feeders". Knowing nothing else about the team besides the standings, you'd be tempted to say that, too.

Sabean Offers No Hope To Giants Fans

"We've earned the record" (registration required) says Sabean, and sadly he's right. Two years ago -- two! -- this was a championship caliber team. Now it's a ghost; Ray Durham is sidelined with patellar problems, Robb Nen is out indefinitely due to shoulder issues, Gallarraga is fighting cancer. That's not a DL, it's a casualties list.
``The cavalry's not coming in April or probably in May, rarely in June or most of the time in July,'' Sabean said of a possible big trade. ``You've got to take your licks. You've got to take the bad with the good.
The Padres in first place by June? It could happen, just as the Dodgers are a five-game slide away from the cellar. Check this, though: the Pads have only 14 homers as a team, making them the worst NL West team in that regard. Subtracting Barry's 10 so far this year, that leaves San Francisco with nine homers total. Sabean even admits that the Giants could be sellers at the trade deadline, but who, in this motley group, would they sell? Marquis Grissom? Pierzynski?

Squiggy The Scout

David Lander, famous as Squiggy in TV's Laverne & Shirley, has signed as an associate scout for the Mariners. No word on whether the M's bloggers will take this to mean their scouting is on the level of a TV sitcom.

More Laughable Trade Ideas

The East Coast media's sense of self-importance is staggering; aren't the other teams in baseball, after all, only farm teams for the Yankees? Without saying who made the comment, the San Francisco Chronicle reports the hot rumor is Hudson for Giambi. Okay, that made my day.

Mets 6, Dodgers 1

When you have a box score like this

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York
0 1 2 0 0 0 0 2 1 6 10 0
Los Angeles
0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 8 0

you have to start asking yourself important questions like

Why did this happen?
And then you look at the player lineup:

Los AngelesABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Roberts, LF-CF3000101.269
Izturis, SS4030002.321
Bradley, CF3000023.266
Grabowski, LF1000001.063
Green, 1B3000112.264
Lo Duca, C4010001.411
Encarnacion, RF4110003.241
Beltre, 3B4021000.363
Cora, 2B4000002.190
Weaver, P2010010.300
a-Ventura, PH0000000.385
b-Saenz, PH1000001.143
Alvarez, P0000000.000
c-Ross, D, PH1000000.200

And then you realize:

That is, Tracy lost this game, because the team had enough hits to win it, just not consecutively. If there's a valid criticism of Tracy, it's that he can be stubborn and irrational about building lineup cards. Today was one of those days. Weaver kept the team in the game, but it wasn't to be. In Tracy's defense, there was no predicting that the top of the order would go 3-13, but there's no reason to think that Beltre didn't deserve a promotion to at least the five spot, if not the four spot.

Official recap


Update: let me amend that. Tracy didn't lose this game, the players did. But that said, the loss didn't need to be so lopsided.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Now That's More Like It: Angels 12, Detroit 3

Wash had one heck of a game today, with a quality start: three runs in eight innings, as close to a complete game as I've ever seen him pitch. I had a feeling we wouldn't get two bad pitching performances in a row, and Wash delivered. His 113 pitches by the end of the eighth was a fine, low count. Homers by Guillen and Guerrero give all surviving members of the G-force dingers on this swing through Motown, and even my favorite whipping boy Erstad went 2-6, driving in four runs. He's gone from being simply horrific to merely bad, but then, maybe I've been too mean to begin with. After all, I cut Salmon some slack for having bad Aprils, but maybe we should do the same with Ersty:

YearABAvgOBPSLG
200491.264.292.341
200366.333.416.439
200274.243.288.311
200191.242.303.341
2000107.449.512.607
199992.261.355.402

And that's as far back as the situational splits on mlb.com go. Nope, he's just up and down, so this year he's darn close to having the worst April OBP of his career. Speaking of Salmon, though -- .188? Dude -- time to right that ship.

Meantime, Figgy goes 2-5 with a walk in the leadoff spot. Mike, are you taking notes? Heck, there's a lot of two-fers in this lineup: Figgins, Erstad, Vlad (4-5!), Guillen, and Molina (2-4) all got two hits or more today. Nice to see the boys hitting well after yesterday's perplexing power outage.


OT: 10,000

For a vanity site, I'm amazed at how quickly everything has taken off around here. This not-very-old blog has already clicked over to 9,500 visits, which means 10,000 should hit some time this weekend if not sooner. While I'll attribute this level of limited "success" to the AAA Plumbing effect (i.e., because the blog name is numeric, it alphabetizes first in an ASCII sort, thus appearing on the top of a lot of lists), I'd also like to think that, because I cover more than one team, I get some bleedthrough on that as well. I know I have regular readers from various newspapers and other media outlets, and while that tickles me as a "writer" -- I certainly don't hold myself to the same standards Jon or Jay Jaffe do (Jay won't write something up unless he can publish a minimum of four paragraphs) -- I mostly appreciate the sheer number of folks who've thought enough to come by and visit, and sometimes, chat. Thank you everyone -- it's been surprising and a lot of fun.

What M's Fans Will Do To Get Tickets

Even with the Mariners' slow start, it must be awful hard to get tickets. Just ask this guy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Neyer-Do-Well

I've already commented on Rob Neyer's facility with statistical analysis; now we get to the point about his trade analysis as well. Sean at Purgatory Online pokes a couple holes in Neyer's belief that Glaus will be long-termed this year. (Hey, Sean, you forgot to bag on him for not picking up on Salmon's classic "April? Isn't that part of Spring Training?" hitting approach.) But while we're taking our licks out on Neyer, let's not forget this one:
Player: Carlos Beltran
Team, Position: Royals, CF
Replacement: David DeJesus

Beltran's probably going to wind up with the Yankees, and the only real question is when; if the Royals turn things around this season, Beltran signs the five-year, $75 million contract next November. If the Royals continue to struggle, Beltran gets traded in July to the Yankees for Dioner Navarro and a Grade B pitching prospect.

In the short-term, Beltran's place in center field will be taken by David DeJesus, who recently has been installed as the regular left fielder. Long-term, the Royals are hopeful that Chris Lubanski, their No. 1 draft pick last June, will take over in the center field, with DeJesus moving back to left.

Rob -- you're completely forgetting:
  1. The Dodgers have actual talent in their minors -- not just junk thrown in for the purposes of making trades later (cf Nick Johnson).
  2. The Dodgers have DePodesta running the show.
Somehow, I think DePo can pull this one off -- we have the payroll space (possibly), we have the talent in the minors (one would hope), and the GM who can make it happen. Midseason? Maybe, but in any event, Neyer failing to think about the Dodgers is maybe excusable; after years of mismanagement, I'd probably write them off mentally, too.

Colón Catechism

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Colón is an overpaid number two. His previous years' ERAs document this; he's good, but he'll blow up on you unpredictably, just like he did in today's exercise in running the sewers backwards. No hitting, weak pitching -- well, almost none, unless you count Sele's (hello, Mike) quality outs. This is a fragile club, and not just as far as the DL is concerned; with Colón as an "ace", the team's ability to stop the other guys will be in question all season.

In fact, just about the only good news came on the heels of a Glaus two-run homer, and the announcement that Eckstein's recovery is remarkably rapid, and he may not need to hit the DL. Anderson, on the other hand, did get some DL time, a not unexpected event. This robs the team of a legitimate excuse to put Figgins in leadoff -- which they actually did today -- on a more permanent basis. But is Eckstein coming back in his current state really a positive? While I loved Sean's creative suggestions about what the Angels should do on the 25-man roster, the fact that (a) Amezega got the callup, and -- gulp -- actual playing time today, (b) the possibility that Eckstein's groin injury might further degrade his already rank OBP, and (c) his propensity from coming back from injury half-repaired (recall last year's nerve problem, which dogged him at the plate the rest of the year) leads me to think the fish has left the frying pan and has made its way into the fire.


OT: Happy Anniversary*

Nothing Is Plumb, Level Or Square:

the studs are bowed, the joists
are shaky by nature, no piece fits
any other piece without a gap
or pinch, and bent nails
dance all over the surfacing
like maggots. By Christ
I am no carpenter. I built
the roof for myself, the walls
for myself, the floors
for myself, and got
hung up in it myself. I
danced with a purple thumb
at this house-warming, drunk
with my prime whiskey: rage.
Oh I spat rage's nails
into the frame-up of my work:
It held. It settled plumb.
level, solid, square and true
for that one great moment. Then
it screamed and went on through,
skewing as wrong the other way.
God damned it. This is hell,
but I planned it I sawed it
I nailed it and I
will live in it until it kills me.
I can nail my left palm
to the left-hand cross-piece but
I can't do everything myself.
I need a hand to nail the right,
a help, a love, a you, a wife.

-- Alan Dugan


*a few days early. Thanks to the Blair Chronicles for providing the text so I wouldn't have to type this one in.

Angels 10, Tigers 4

You might be tempted to think Lackey had figured something out in yesterday's 10-4 subduing of the AL Central's 2004 surprise team, the Tigers. But for my taste, there were too many circumstances surrounding the win that made it less than a cause for celebration:
  1. Lackey continues to struggle to get the last out. Even against the Tigers, he couldn't close the seventh. And while he did put up a brilliant 6 2/3 frames prior to his exit...
  2. ... It wasn't against the best team in the division, either. Even on Pudge-roids, this is not a team that's going to be anything better than .500.
  3. Lackey's strikeout drought is very worrying. Voros taught us that strikeouts, strikeouts, and strikeouts are what make a pitcher consistently great, and Lack's failure to collect some K's from even this weak lineup is cause for still more concern. Given that John's prior appearances have all been against good-hitting AL West teams, you might let Lackey slide, but I'm not so sure that excuse holds anymore. His K/9 is now a dangerously low 2.01; he'd better get that up there soon or he might find himself on the wrong side of a demotion to the bullpen. (Kevin Gregg, your 9.42 K/9 is calling to me...)
  4. Likewise, the schedule has hidden the injuries. That is, the team's struggles against Oakland in the first series are more representative of their general level of play than the recent road sweep, which, as Sean put it, "seems to have exposed their weaknesses more than our strengths." Are the Angels' bats coming alive? Well, not against Mulder and Hudson they aren't, and not consistently against Zito, either. If we can somehow hypnotize Billy Beane into thinking Nate Cornejo is the answer to their five spot problems, we'd be all set... We'll need a completely healthy lineup to play well against the A's. Anderson's back, Vlad's knee, Eck's groin, and on occaision, Troy's hamstrings haven't cooperated.
  5. The bullpen misses Donnelly something fierce. Of course, in defense of Shields, he was pitching in some awful conditions -- well below 40F on field at the time, and according to the announcers, around freezing with wind chill. The Tigers pen, facing the same conditions, had similar problems. But that's the Tigers, you might think, and I'd be inclined to agree.
Nonetheless, a win's a win, and the Angels got to the postseason in 2002 by whupping up hard on the weak teams and taking their licks from the strong ones. The bad news is it's not at all clear anymore whether there are any bad teams in the AL West, not with Texas roaring out of the gate the way they have, and Seattle still having a strong if not dominant pitching staff. 95 wins could take the division this year.
Addendum: for what it's worth, Lackey's average on balls in play (BABIP in DIPS-speak) has risen to a remarkable .242, much higher than the .222 and .217 he posted in 2002 and 2003 respectively. It's a sign he's pitching in bad luck, but as we also know from Voros' work, pitchers in bad luck seldom get to stick around very long, so we infrequently get to see whether the bad luck evens out.

My Kingdom For A Utilityman

With yesterday's announcement that Eckstein will likely be on the DL for a couple weeks, the Angels once again find themselves staring at their depth chart with disquietude. Even though it doesn't list him in the shortstop position, given the rickety health of the Angels this year so far, you have to wonder whether Shane Halter's ability to play third makes him more valuable there in the event of another Troy Glaus hamstring pull. Point is, the Angels are dangerously close to giving Alfredo Amezega playing time again. How long will it be before we find another Wilson Delgado to man the middle infield if, say, Kennedy trips over a shoelace?

But if the Angels' starters' health is giving too much playing time to bench guys, the Dodgers have something of the reverse problem: DePodesta's revamped bench has spent more time on the DL than the starters. This could lead to a double whammy (i.e., Chin Feng "Lead Glove" Chen playing first?) eventually, but however it breaks out, the thinness of the starting rotation is starting to show in a frayed bench. In today's Times, Tracy says they might use Dreifort as a pinch hitter, but how close to a desperation move is that? And with Jayson Werth sidelined, who goes down -- if anyone -- when he's ready to return to the big club?


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.


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