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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Pickoff Moves

Minor Dodgers Trade

According to the New London, CT The Day, former Padre farmhand and outfielder Todd Donovan has been sent to the Dodgers. No word on the compensation back to the Pads, but this one looks like organizational filler.

Opinions Are Like Noses: Projections Here And There

Jay Jumps Ship

I pass along this Bronx Banter commentary upon Jay Jaffe's recent assessment of the Yanks' prospects at Baseball Prospectus. There certainly is a sense the Yankees have been left onstage a mite too long, and now the garbage needs taking out.

Angels, Dodgers Top Baseball America System Talent List

The Angels and Dodgers, respectively, rank number one and two in the Baseball America system talent list. For their respective division competitors:

        AL West                     NL West
Rank      Team             Rank        Team
=======================    ==========================
  8   Oakland Athletics      6   Colorado Rockies
 11   Seattle Mariners      13   Arizona Diamondbacks
 16   Texas Rangers         17   San Francisco Giants
                            27   San Diego Padres

What's amazing is how badly the Pads are doing. All indications are they're in "win now" mode with what they've got, and while I can see them taking the division, this team doesn't have enough to capture a pennant.

The One-Way Mirror

From the New York Times (registration required, you know the drill), a story about former Dodger Bubba Crosby and how the mean ol' Dodgers wouldn't give him a chance:
But instead of calling up Crosby, their former first-round pick, the Dodgers signed Henderson, who was 44 years old. Henderson batted .208. The Dodgers traded Crosby to the Yankees for Robin Ventura two weeks later, when he was batting .361 at Class AAA.

"Even though Rickey Henderson is one of the greatest baseball players ever, it was still, to me, kind of a slap in my face that I didn't get an opportunity," Crosby said. "I was a Dodger, and in that organization, that's all they talk about - breeding young talent, moving through the organization. It was kind of like, what else do I need to do?"

Crosby never expected the Yankees, of all teams, to offer him a chance at the majors. He had a few days of service with Los Angeles, but it was nothing like last season, when he spent nearly every day with the Yankees. This week, he made their opening-day roster for the second year in a row.

Which, of course, obscures the simple facts, well known to Dodger fans: What's amazing is that this relative hagiography should come on a .151/.196/.302 season with the Yanks in 2004 and a .276/.365/.379 line at AAA Columbus. Of course: I slap my forehead. This is about the future trade.

Newhan: Angels Pushed Out Eckstein

Times sportswriter emeritus Ross Newhan pens a column on Eckstein's transition to the Cardinals. Of particular interest:
Operating from Wisteria Lane in their desperation to replace Edgar Renteria as the well of available shortstops rapidly evaporated, the Cardinals signed Eckstein to a three-year, $10.25-million contract which, as he observed prior to a recent workout, "would never have happened in Anaheim."

In Anaheim, where he was the leadoff catalyst for the 2002 World Series winner, respected by teammates for his overachieving ethic and one of the most popular Angels ever among fans, his halo slowly deteriorated in the front office.

During a salary arbitration hearing in February 2004, club representatives denigrated Eckstein beyond the accepted scope of that often acrimonious process.

The Angels compared his range and arm to that of a triple-A shortstop, according to people who have read the transcript, and said that by recording only a .325 on-base percentage in 2003 he had nullified the ability of the club's No. 2 batter, Darin Erstad, to hit with runners on base.

Despite management's belittling, the arbitrators sided with Eckstein. He was awarded the $2.15-million salary he sought for 2004, but beyond his bank account it was largely a pyrrhic victory in that it jeopardized his future employment with the Angels, who were determined to upgrade while avoiding future arbitration with Eckstein.

So, the littlest Angel scampered off to join the Cardinals. (There's a Catholic image for you.) Lost in all that is Eckstein's increasing fragility, but I still maintain the answer to that was to find a relatively cheap part-time substitute and wait out that talent in the minors.

OT: Economics, The Par-tay Science

I don't normally mention my other blog, Peak Oil Optimist, here -- in fact, this may be the first time -- mainly because there's at least in theory no reason to do so. Though at times, I have wondered what the effects oil depletion would have upon baseball: one obvious thing would be scheduling changes as travel becomes more difficult and costly. As long-haul transport reverts to rail, that would tend to mean five- and six-day homestands, like they used to have in the 1940's. Also, it would have a staggering effect on salaries, and expansion might become contraction in short order. West coast teams like the Dodgers may wish to reconsider their dependence on parking revenue; teams like the Cubs may wish to reconsider their construction of a parking garage.

Well -- that aside aside, having the other blog has opened my reading up quite a bit. As a result, I had to admit I was utterly pleased to read that the economists, despite their "dismal" reputation, aren't all grim. Mahalanobis, which I discovered thanks to Lynne Kiesling at Knowledge Problem, has a delightful story on the business of data collection on the prices and kinds of services rendered by London prostitutes, by a UK website called PunterNet. Apparently this represents the first data of its kind anywhere, and economists are all a-twitter over its implications. I suppose it's just a matter of getting invited to the right parties...

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

THT Angels Preview

THT has its Five Questions style Angels preview, written by, like, this guy.

Oh, and the far more reputable Bryan Smith does the honors for the Cubs.

A's Players Plunked Hard

Starting A's shortstop Bobby Crosby and reserve outfielder Hiram Bocachica have been plunked hard in a spring training game. Both are due for X-rays, as the injuries occurred on their hands.

Owners Agree To A's Sale

AP and MLB.com both report the unanimous agreement of the owners to allow the sale of the Oakland Athletics franchise to Los Angeles developer Lewis Wolff, and John Fisher, son of Gap chairman and CEO Don Fisher; the Fishers family is estimated to have a personal net worth of $1.5 billion. According to the AP story, the new ownership group would be third-richest in the majors.

It was nice having a chance. Beane with money to spend? Ouch.

Roster Moves

Thanks to Jon and Friendly Fenway for some of these:

Ross Descends To Hell's Lowest Circle Traded To Pirates

Sadly, his trade became inevitable after it became obvious he wouldn't make the team. Traded for $75,000 in cash, the 28-year-old follows in the footsteps of another former Dodger, Daryle Ward. Ward apparently is having a nice little spring for himself, with a .310/.341/.571 line in spring training. Happy trails, Dave.

Pickoff Moves, Hairy Edge Of Blogger Stability Edition

Administrivia: Migration

So far, it looks like paying for hosting is the only way to settle the ongoing stability issues. aplus.net appears to be the most likely candidate, seeing as how there's an existing business relationship (they host the images I already have on this site). The technical direction after that remains a bit murky. Stay tuned.

THT On Snakes, Giants, And A's

THT runs its Five Questions format previews of the Diamondbacks, and the two northern California teams, the Giants and A's. The A's piece reflects a nervousness about Oakland's nerf-ous hitting ("the A’s 2005 offense is what it has been for the last three years: mediocre-to-below average, even when adjusted for their home ballpark"), and not much more optimistic about their pitching ("In a rotation featuring three unproven commodities, the A’s need [Zito] to regain his ace form.").

As to the Giants: "... the 2005 Giants might strongly contend in the National League West, or they might collapse into the cellar. Or they might plod along somewhere around .500. Mark my words!" Such certainty!

It could be worse, though; imagine the plight of the Diamondbacks fan: "... it’s very unlikely we will see this club in the playoffs for the rest of this decade." Ouch.

Dream? What Dream?

Aaron Gleeman notes in passing that Blez's spring training adventures represent "the dream of every baseball blogger." Speaking strictly for myself, I have to think that direct contact with gas-emitting stars (and general managers) would pretty quickly disabuse me of that "dream", not to mention the unremittingly low pay. If that's a dream, I'll keep my day job, thanks.

Royals 10, Angels 9

One of those late spring games that underscores the erosion of the Angels' bullpen, the Halos gave a start to Evan Thomas, who promptly got himself reassigned to minor league camp. The Angels' list of pitchers -- Thomas, Chris Bootcheck, Dusty Bergman, Von Stertzbach, and Bob Zimmerman -- are all contestants on the game show, "Who Wants To Be An Angel?", with Stertzbach, Zimmerman, and Bergman being semifinalists, Zimmerman despite his bad outing today.


Testing 1 2 3.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

OT: Spam, The Just Dessert

In the latest update to the sad and at times gruesome Schiavo case: Terri Schiavo's parents have sold the names and addresses of their financial contributors, thus assuring those same a ceaseless stream of junk mail. The rewards of "altruism", come home to roost.

OT: The Sacrificial Goat

The Supreme Court has decided that truthful reports recording the false utterances of politicians are not shielded by the First Amendment, and so the West Chester, Pa Daily Local News must pay on a libel suit.
... the justices let stand a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that a newspaper can be forced to pay damages for having reported that a city councilman called the mayor and the council president "liars," "queers" and "child molesters."

The case turned on whether the 1st Amendment's protection of the freedom of the press includes a "neutral reporting privilege." Most judges around the nation have said the press does not enjoy this privilege.


The case that reached the high court began 10 years ago when the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., printed a story titled "Slurs, Insults Drag Town Into Controversy." It reported that the city council in nearby Parkesburg had been torn apart by shouting matches and fistfights. The most outspoken councilman was William T. Glenn Sr.

In comments during a meeting and in an interview with a news reporter, Glenn referred to Mayor Alan Wolfe and Councilman James Norton as "liars" and a "bunch of draft dodgers." He also strongly suggested that they were homosexuals who had put themselves "in a position that gave them an opportunity to have access to children."

So the Court, abandoning reason, now makes the press responsible for reporting the facts when politician Smith slanders politician Jones.

Angels Acquire RHP Bret Prinz For C Wil Nieves

Halofan notes without attribution an event nearly as rare as the Red Sox beating the Yankees in the ALCS: Bill Stoneman made a trade, this time of journeyman reliever Bret Prinz for journeyman catcher Wil Nieves. On the surface, this isn't anything to write home about, but in fact, it says something fairly important about the Angels minor league system at this point in time. Over the course of the past three seasons, the Angels have been able to draw on their minors for all the relief pitching they needed. That appears to be no longer true. Looking at the 40-man roster, we see the names Tim Bittner, Matt Hensley and Dustin Moseley, all of whom have been demoted to the minor league camp. Hensley has been tried and found wanting, Moseley the Angels would likely want to keep as a starter, and Bittner hasn't pitched above AA.

Meaning, the Angels were looking for bullpen help when the season began and nobody pitched themselves onto the big club. It's questionable whether the Prinz represents anything other than mopup innings:

Season    ERA    IP    K   BB    K/9  K/BB
2004      5.08  28.1  22   14   6.99  1.57
2005 ST   8.44   5.1   6    5  10.13  1.20

Which is to say, the kid can throw strikes, but he can also walk guys; his career K/BB ratio is 1.32. I tend to agree with Halofan on this one, he's going to see action, but it won't be in close games in the eighth.

Jackie Robinson Biopic In Preproduction

A new biographical picture about Dodger Jackie Robinson is in preproduction, according to the Associated Press. Howard Baldwin, producer of the Oscar-winning Ray, has signed Robert Redford to play Branch Rickey; Redford will also help produce the picture. The part of Robinson has yet to be cast, but Ray star Jamie Foxx has been mentioned as a possibility.

The filmmakers have the blessings of Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel, and "will be working closely with major league baseball". Shooting is scheduled to start in 2006, with a completed film in 2007/2008.

Grumble: I knew about this this morning. Blogger has prevented me from publishing almost the whole damn day. This is gonna stop, real soon now.

Monday, March 28, 2005

2005 Angels Preview: Part 1, Rotation


The 2004 Angels just squeaked by with a division win, their first in 18 years. Success, goes the saw, has many fathers, and paternity of the 2004 season rested upon Now you might argue -- and the Baseball Prospectus crew does -- that the Angels were a bit lucky last year. If you look at their Pythagenport third-order adjusted win/loss record, they should have finished 88-74, with the A's winning the division again at 90-72. I have no doubt that this is the case, for which the Angels need to thank Arte's lucky wallet. I'm not convinced they'll do it again, and I'll explain why as we go through the lineup position-by-position.

To provide a different and sunnier view of the Angels' 2005 chances, I'm pleased as I can be to introduce Matt Welch. Matt is a columnist for Canada's National Post, and an associate editor at Reason. His fine Warblog has been a daily must-read of mine ever since I came across it late last year.

Matt: Hola! And thanks to Rob for having me. As for last year, the Angels would have waltzed to the playoffs had there not been major injuries to Glaus, Anderson, and El Gordo's first-half pitching mechanics. And obviously, Billy Beane's sh*t no longer works in the regular season.... One of my main reasons for optimism in 2005 is that the A's will almost certainly be weaker (unless the teenage pitching squad pulls a '69 Mets), and the Rangers and Mariners have too many glaring holes. The Angels, on the other hand -- and this will be my theme song -- are significantly deeper than they were a year ago, and will ride this depth to an easy division crown.

Rob: Thanks, Matt. After talking this over, we've decided to split this preview into multiple sections, one for each major part of the team, starting with the rotation, followed by infield, outfield, and the bullpen. Today, we'll start with the rotation.


Rob: This isn't a crew you have high hopes for. There's nobody even remotely Randy Johnsonesque to be found in the Anaheim Los Angeles rotation, though Escobar at times has come mighty close. The Angels' 2005 gang reminds me a lot of the Dodgers' 2004 starters: nobody especially good, nobody especially bad, but you'll have to resign yourself to a lot of ugly games here and there. In a weak division, it might be enough, but given the close finish last year, and the A's ability to seemingly pull quality starters out of their minor league top hat, I'm skeptical.

Matt: Au contraire! This is a group I have high hopes for. Not Schilling-and-Unit high hopes, or even Schilling-and-Pedro high hopes, but the kind of 4th-starter-will-have-an-ERA+-of-111 high hopes that seemed to work out just fine in 2002. The main sources of recent SP ugliness -- Ortiz and Sele -- have been replaced by a quality innings-muncher (for a fraction of the cost), and there is good reason to expect improvements from most of the other starters as well, especially in light of a sure-to-be-better defense.

Paul Byrd

1995 22.0 2.05 10.64 3.71 2.27 N/A 7.8
1996 46.2 4.24 5.98 1.48 1.44 N/A 7.8
1997 53.0 5.26 6.28 2.17 0.99 N/A -0.8
1998 57.0 2.68 6.16 1.51 0.95 N/A 18.7
1999 199.2 4.60 4.78 1.51 1.07 5.57 18.2
2000 83.0 6.51 5.75 1.51 0.89 5.81 -9.0
2001 103.1 4.44 4.53 2.00 0.99 4.48 15.3
2002 228.1 3.90 5.09 3.40 0.80 4.39 40.8
2004 114.1 3.94 6.22 4.16 0.77 4.25 16.2

PECOTA: VORP: 14.6, ERA: 4.87, IP: 137.2, Similarity: 34

Rob: I've already laid out the case for Byrd's ascent to something other than a tail-end-innings-eater based on the miles between him and a Tommy John surgery, improved velocity, a new sinkerball he couldn't previously throw, and increasing K/9 and K/BB rates. The 34 year old Byrd's not a guy you want to build a rotation around, but he represents the kind of roulette spin Bill Stoneman's made with castoffs (viz. David Eckstein, Ben Weber, etc.) in his shrewder moments. I'm going to suggest PECOTA's similarity score and his recovery from surgery means his projection's a little too conservative, and he'll be worth about two wins, ending the year with a 4.30 ERA or so.

Matt: I'm bullish on Byrd, too, but with one ulcer-inducing caveat -- the Mazzone effect. Since 1991, by my reckoning, 16 pitchers have left the womb of Leo Mazzone's starting rotation (and Andrew Jones' CF play) to pitch for another team the following year. Eleven of the 12 had their ERA+s plummet -- by an average of 30 points, which is pretty impressive considering the league average is 100 -- and the 12th retired after pitching two more innings (all but two saw their IPs drop, usually sharply). Of the four remaining, two performed at essentially the same level (Maddux and Mulholland), and only two of the whole damned lot of 16 showed any improvement at all -- a 24-year-old Jason Schmidt, and 25-year-old Odalis Perez. He's a great pickup, and a terrific upgrade on Ortiz/Sele, but my fingers are crossed.

Rob: Good point about Byrd and outfield defense; in the last couple years his G/F has been under unity by a sizeable amount. Now, some of that may be that he couldn't throw the sinker, in which case we can expect something closer to one, but that just shifts the concerns to the infield defense, about which, more later.

I asked Tom Meagher of The Fourth Outfielder about collecting the raw data needed to regress Byrd from Turner Field back to Angels Stadium, similar to what he did for Derek Lowe and Dodger Stadium. He couldn't get me the data directly, but did suggest that Byrd would be hurt by Angels Stadium's smaller foul territory, but helped significantly by the Angels' home park's tendency to give up few doubles and home runs.


1998 204.0 3.71 6.97 2.00 1.52 N/A 51.2
1999 205.0 3.95 7.07 2.12 1.52 N/A 53.8
2000 188.0 3.88 10.15 2.16 1.13 3.78 53.0
2001 222.1 4.09 8.14 2.23 1.15 3.93 43.7
2002 233.1 2.93 5.75 2.13 1.37 3.90 40.3
2003 242.0 3.87 6.43 2.58 0.92 4.05 56.9
2004 208.1 5.01 6.83 2.23 0.91 5.03 22.2

PECOTA: VORP: 14.6, ERA: 4.87, IP: 137.2, Similarity: 34

Rob: 2005 resolution: I will not make any stupid puns about the large Colon, er, colon. Now that that lie's out of the way, Bartolo's forgettable 2004 supposedly hinged on ankle problems, from which he recovered in July, but he only posted one sub-4.00 ERA month (July) all last year. Nobody's going to mistake him for core training obsessor Steve Finley; last year, Colon showed up to spring training overweight, and this year he dodged the lipo-police in the Dominican. There's plenty of reason for concern about Colon's ability to both stay healthy and pitch well. PECOTA thinks he peaked early, and I'm inclined to agree.

Matt: I expect Bart to revert to his second-half self last year (104 IP, 3.63 ERA, 82 Ks), which is exactly in line with his career numbers. He's pitched 200+ innings six out of seven years, with an ERA+ of at least 111 every but last, and his career year was as recent as 2002. That said, I have the impression that he makes pitching adjustments slower even then he walks on and off the field, which means entire two-month stretches where he's just crap, nibbling himself into hitter's counts, grooving 92-mph fastballs, and yielding fantastic numbers of homers. Last first half was indeed historically pukey, but check out the first halves of 1999 and 2000, and the second half of '98. Hopefully, Black knows how to talk to him now.


1997 31.0 2.90 10.45 1.90 1.81 N/A 9.3
1998 79.2 3.73 8.13 2.06 0.94 N/A 18.6
1999 174.0 5.69 6.67 1.59 1.11 N/A 10.1
2000 180.0 5.35 7.1 1.67 1.04 4.66 15.6
2001 126.0 3.50 8.64 2.33 1.36 3.34 33.9
2002 78.0 4.27 9.81 1.93 1.03 4.08 12.8
2003 180.1 4.29 7.94 2.04 1.54 3.89 28.2
2004 208.1 3.93 8.25 2.51 1.14 3.87 53.2

PECOTA: VORP: 30.8, ERA: 4.12, IP: 168.0, Similarity: 55

Rob: Another of Stoneman's shrewd signings, I liked Escobar going into last year principally because of his splits on grass; away from the turf, Esky was a pretty accomplished pitcher. Amazingly, he managed to keep that up; his ERA on grass this year was a very respectable 3.81, while his small-sample-sized turf ERA of 6.30 (10 IP) is consistent with his inconsistent old Toronto self. PECOTA's overly pessimistic on him in part because of managerial decisions by the Jays, who could never decide whether he belonged in the rotation or the bullpen. With comparables including Andy Messersmith, Chan Ho Park, Bartolo Colon, and John Smoltz, Escobar's direction could be anywhere, but I'm betting his decline is overstated, and his 60th percentile projection (3.76 ERA, 180.2 IP, 41.0 VORP) is likely.

Matt: All four of his pitches rank among the league's best; he's indeed off the grass and away from idiot Blue Jay management; last year he struck out 8.25 per 9 as a starter, and this year he'll probably enjoy luckier run support. I predict he'll make the All-Star team, and solidify his role as ace.


2002 108.1 3.66 5.73 2.09 1.31 4.24 20.0
2003 204.0 4.63 6.66 2.29 1.07 4.80 21.2
2004 198.1 4.67 6.53 2.40 1.11 4.16 29.3

PECOTA: VORP: 16.4, ERA: 4.77, IP: 155.0, Similarity: 63

Rob: Lackey's still cheap, which is why he remains in the rotation, but his is a story of unfulfilled promise, not unlike the next guy on this list, Jarrod Washburn. Baseball Prospectus is somewhat optimistic about his chances this year, noting the disparity between his home (3.48) and away (5.72) ERAs, and that he didn't give up a single home run in September. On the other hand, he only gave up three in August and September of his rookie 2002 campaign, so that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Unless something happens this year and Lackey figures out how to reliably make that third out, he'll find himself in Pirates spring training camp fighting for a relief job in three years or so.

Matt: Look at his IP/K/BB numbers from the last two years: 204/151/66, 198/144/60 (and those numbers from last year also include 87 Ks in 90 IP after the All-Star break). That's pretty damned good for a guy at ages 24-25. Especially considering that, at least according to David Pinto, Lackey had the seventh-worst defensive support of any AL starter last year. Given his youth, size, health, peripherals, and better D, I think he's the best bet on staff to improve by 10-20% this year.

Rob: Pinto's not the only one who thinks Lackey got screwed. Studes says he was just plain unlucky with line drives in 2004, along with Scot Shields, and is due for a bounceback season as his luck normalizes. So maybe I'm being a little harsh on Lack.


1998 74.0 4.62 5.84 1.78 0.65 N/A 11.6
1999 61.2 5.25 5.69 1.50 0.90 N/A 9.5
2000 84.1 3.74 5.23 1.32 0.62 5.72 24.4
2001 193.1 3.77 5.87 2.33 0.65 4.29 41.1
2002 206.0 3.15 6.07 2.36 0.60 4.10 61.9
2003 207.1 4.43 5.12 2.19 0.68 5.24 34.4
2004 149.1 4.64 5.18 2.15 0.96 4.70 22.4

PECOTA: VORP: 18.1, ERA: 4.56, IP: 136.1, Similarity: 56

Rob: The older, left-handed isomer of John Lackey, with less upside. Washburn served his purpose in 2002 and has declined ever since, though one interesting development from 2004 was the sudden increase in ground balls, a good thing considering how bad the Angels' outfield defense was last year. A Scott Boras client, he's certain to get too much money for the mound space he occupies after this season. Whether the Angels retain his "services" beyond 2005 will be a function of how terrible the free agency market is, and whether Ervin "The Other" Santana is ready for everyday use.

Matt: He's healthy (unlike last year), has a better defense to catch all those balls in play, is in his walk-year, and he knows the Angels probably won't bring him back. Even when hurt & crappy he was around league-average last year; I'd peg a motivated and healthy Wash for something like 14-12, 200 IP, and an ERA around 4.30. Nothing earth-shaking, but perhaps the best 5th starter in the league.

Depth: The Sixth Starter

Rob: When you say, "depth", you're talking about swingman Scot Shields, or relative newcomer, Kevin Gregg. Let's take a quick look at both their numbers, shall we?

2001 11.0 0.00 5.73 1.00 0.71 6.4
2002 49.0 2.20 5.51 1.43 1.92 4.59 19.5
2003 148.1 2.85 6.74 2.92 1.66 3.61 44.6
2004 105.1 3.33 9.31 2.73 1.93 3.03 31.5
2003 24.2 3.28 5.11 1.75 0.79 4.99 7.7
2004 87.2 4.28 8.62 3.00 1.03 3.10 18.2


Gregg: VORP: 14.3, ERA: 4.38, IP: 92.1, Similarity: 45
Shields: VORP: 22.2, ERA: 3.73, IP: 99.0, Similarity: 53
(Sorry, no graphs for Gregg; once he gets three years in the majors, maybe then.)

Rob: For a while last year, I thought sure Kevin Gregg would force his way into the rotation. Up through early June, he was arguably the best pitcher on the staff, ringing up an otherworldly 0.59 ERA in April and a still-pretty-damn-good 2.12 ERA in May, but he quickly fell back to earth, only notching one more month (July, 3.72) below 5.00 the rest of the way. As a result, Gregg has a lot to prove this year: first, that his 2004 April and May weren't a fluke; second, that he has some control. His 13 wild pitches placed second in the AL; only Yankee/Chisox starter Jose Contreras was worse (at 17). In a July 25th game at Seattle, he set an American League record for most wild pitches in a single inning. The boy's got some learnin' to do.

Like Shields, Gregg can handle starting. Coming up through Oakland's system at the same time as their former Big Three, Gregg trained as a starter. (Note: the Baseball Cube numbers appear to be wrong, in that they have him coming up through the Angels' system in the mid-90's.) Ultimately, Oakland released him, and he signed with the Angels in 2003. As the season wore on and his WHIP grew like Topsy, the Angels pushed him into mop-up duties. With only three pitches, he's not a complete package, but used somewhat more judiciously, and/or with improved stamina, he has a reasonable chance at improving on his 2004, and might even land a spot start or two.

Scot Shields attracts the phrase "rubber-armed", and no wonder: despite his workload dropping a third from 2003, he still threw more innings in relief in 2004 (105.1) than any other pitcher in the majors. One result: a rising strikeout rate, up almost three full points. Despite April and September struggles, Shields posted three months of 3.00 or below ERAs. With slightly better numbers against lefties than righties, he's one of the big reasons Scioscia has had the luxury of a LOOGYless pen the past two years.

In 2003, Shields started in thirteen games, not so much because the Angels liked him in that role, but because of injuries. Sporting a 4-6 record in 13 starts, Shields' early season starts were strong but they got rougher as the season went on. The Angels did not start him at all in 2004, perhaps due to his lack of a true "out" pitch. Moral: don't expect to see Shields start unless something goes truly, awfully wrong.

Conclusions, Anyone?

Rob: In isolation, this staff doesn't impress. Here's overall rank by ERA among AL starters who qualified for the ERA title in 2004:


In other words, a middling bunch. Adding VORP scores of the likely starters, I come up with 131.4 -- versus last year's actual of 140.5. I just don't see them being an improvement over last year's squad. Obviously, with improved health and slightly better defense behind them, this could change, but with Escobar possibly starting the season on the DL, and Colon already leaving a spring training game due to back spasms, it's hard to argue they'll get those kinds of breaks.

Matt: Good thing seasons aren't played "in isolation"!

Let's look at the four AL West starting rotations last year, ranked in order of ERA (unadjusted for park):

Team IPRERERA Lg. rank

The A's lost Mulder and Hudson and Redmond, the Mariners Freddy Garcia, and the Angels ... Sele and Ortiz, who combined for a 5.20 ERA in 38 starts across just 200 innings. I believe the Angels rotation will easily be better than Oakland's this year, by the mere fact of replacing Ortiz/Sele with Paul Byrd, and the A's losing Tim Hudson.

What's a reasonable projection for Byrd? In 2002, he had a 3.90 ERA in 228.1 innings for Kansas City; in 2004 it was 3.94 and 114.1 on a sore arm for Leo Mazzone. So, let's imagine he's good for a 3.96 in 200 innings. Further, let's imagine that the rest of the Angels' rotation is exactly as bad as last year, and the starts missed by an injured Washburn will only be 5-inning, 4.50 ERA jobs from Gregg/Shields. How does that affect the rotation? (And, for the sake of argument, let's assume Byrd will have a 4.37 ERA as well.)


Now let's replace Tim Hudson, generously, with a pitcher who takes his 27 starts, and fills them up with number that match the rest of Oakland's 2004 starters in IP per start, runs, and ERA:


Even if Byrd pulls a 4.37 ERA, the Angels have still narrowed the starters' ERA gap from 0.56 or a run to 0.13, and (more crucially?) cut down the IP gap from 66 to 14, giving us better opportunity to deploy our vastly superior bullpen. And that's assuming the best for Oakland, and the status quo for the Angels. I think Colon and Lackey will actually perform better than last year; even if we keep Escobar and Washburn the same, and assume a 4.37 ERA for Byrd, this is how the rotation would shake out:



That would be 21 runs fewer than last year, in 30 more innings, and would compete for the second-best starters' ERA in the league (behind Minnesota), while giving the league's best bullpen more breathing room. I think there's a 50-50 chance that these results will be even better. The rotation is a marked improvement, and a strength. My worry is only that it won't be dominant enough in the post-season.

Rob: Wow, Matt, no compensation for the fact that Escobar had a career year last year? Whatever, I think that about wraps it up for now. Coming up next: the infield.

Pickoff Moves, Too Much Time On My Hands Edition

Eli Wallach Returns To The Pads

The third part of an old western starring Clint Eastwood returns to Petco in the guises of Andy Ashby and Darrell May, according to Ducksnorts. The radar gun clocked May's heater at 84 MPH, explaining his 11-2 shelling by the Snakes. Pads fans hope he's a last resort to be used only when days off don't exist.

All-Baseball NL West Projections

All-Baseball projects the NL West race, with Tom Meagher doing the honors for the Dodgers. I won't say there's a concensus here, but I do think between the Padres, Giants, and Dodgers, anything could happen and any team could win this division; there's no clear frontrunner.

The Sorrowful Life Of The One-Man-Woman

Lookout Landing informs us that Benji Gil will not make the Mariners' roster this year, something that will warm the hearts of the U.S.S. Mariner crew. No doubt his fan is horrified, but nonetheless has signed up for tickets to whatever minor league club he ends up playing for.

Bringing Up Baby Felix Hernandez

Steve Nelson, formerly of Mariners Wheelhouse, writes a guest column at Lookout Landing suggesting that there is no evidence that holding a pitcher otherwise ready to play at the major league level will help his career (by imparting health). The import of this attaches directly to phenom Felix Hernandez, he of the Frankie-style slider-from-hell, the endurance to bring it through a whole game, and the babyfaced eighteen years of age.

Pinto's Defensive Graphs For The Angels

David Pinto presents defensive graphs for the Angels team defense.

Two Games

Apologies again for continued Blogspot problems, especially with comment posting. I have started the hunt for other blogging software/hosting/providers. Please bear with, and thank you. -- Rob.

Saturday: A's 8, Angels 6

I'm too lazy to answer the question of whether Bartolo Colon ranks among the worst free agency busts in history, though the contracts of Mo Vaughn (as a Met) and Mike Hampton (for Colorado) come to mind well ahead of him, obscuring (for now) Colon's so far dubious addition. Saturday's outing by Colon did nothing to change my mind about his likely ability in the regular season. Despite a still-glossy 2.35 ERA in 15.1 spring innings, El Ladrón remains suspect until he can prove his ace tall dollars, and Saturday's game merely confirmed my low opinion of him. Starting the game with a leadoff walk to Mark Kotsay, the walk turned into a run on Charles Thomas' single. In the fifth, a pair of doubles from 3B Marco Scutaro and Kotsay (again), and in the sixth, 1B Scott Hatteberg got aboard on a throwing error by third baseman Maicer Izturis, subsequently scoring when LF Eric Byrnes whacked another double off Colon. To his credit, Colon managed to get the A's in the second, third, and fourth innings, all in order, though not without the help of a 6-4-3 double play in the fourth.

The problem, overall, was Colon's weak command. Unable to locate his fastball, he sank into deep counts constantly. Though he only surrendered a single walk, he came near to doing so again on many at bats. This was Colon's problem all last year, too. Four strikeouts in six innings against our principle rivals also didn't encourage my hopes, either.

The Angels offensively looked much worse, going down in order in the first and fifth innings, and barely putting up a fight elseways against former Houston farmhand Kirk Saarloos. Some of this naturally can be attributed to inexperience (the Angels had seen him for but five innings prior to the game), but the Long Beach native's 4.93 ERA with the Astros didn't raise any confidence that the lad was about to break through. The 2005 Baseball Prospectus' positively thudding endorsement didn't help, either:

... when you do finally get a look from the one organization willing to look past your limitations, it probably isn't a good idea to hurt your elbow. He's a question mark after elbow surgery, so you can probably toss him into that same mental dustbin as other delightfully-monikered sometime A's, like Joe Slusarski, Will Schock, or Big Bird Birtsas.
Saarloos' 3.75 ERA in 12.0 IP, like all spring numbers, needs some explanation, but his strikeouts of Erstad, DaVanon, and Finley aren't smoke. He may not be the second coming, but in a second division like the AL West, he'll be plenty good to keep the A's in contention.

Other general notes about the game:

So, yeah, the Angels are ready.



Sunday: Padres 8, Cubs 6

I discovered Al's gripe about the Cubs' spring training park announcer giving incomplete or even nonexistant substitution announcement. Thanks to Blogger Buzz (which I was about to write off as useless, too), we know that announcer is named Tim, and that he has a blog. I left him a comment asking why 'twas so; perhaps he may respond someday.

Was the Cubs' loss to the Pads "dispirited"? Yes, but then, so did I feel watching the game, slathered in sunblock and slowly turning to a raisin in the dry, warm Arizona spring. I'll commend you to Al's delightful recap, and remind the reading audience here that if the Padres' acquisition of Tim Redding was a reaction to Darrell May and his inflatable ERAs, so, too was it in response to green rookies like Justin Germano, whose inexperience and lack of an out pitch is tempered with his age (22).

2005 Spring Training Photos

I finally have photos up for my spring training adventures. Woo hoo!

Pickoff Moves

A few things to make up for Sunday's absence...

Baseball Toaster Predicts The AL Division Races

... and the concensus is the Angels taking the AL West, the Red Sox taking the East, and a surprising 6-4 split on the Twins and Indians in the Central.

Fire Brand Of The American League Moves To All-Baseball

In case you hadn't noticed. I await an explanation for MVN's so far mostly inexplicable moves, but A-B even when it had Jon et al. could have done with a Red Sox blog; this is not a bad idea.

The Eternal Hope Of The Mosquito

Probably stale news, but this Times-Herald piece details the sad decline and sudden irrelevance of erstwhile prospect Joe Thurston -- along with the boosterism of those who hope to make a few bucks managing his fortunes should they reverse. Choice quote from his money manager, Steve Reed: "Joey's best abilities are his intense focus on the task at hand and his calmness." Ironic considering his lackadaisical 2003 spring training.

Duh: Ross Trade Rumors

David Ross might be the subject of a trade, says the Register. But given Ross's horrible spring training (.105 average), the article now tags him "as a backup in Triple-A." But what are you going to get for him now? A bag of balls?

Grabowski Extends His Versatility

And even if somebody were injured, the Dodgers have apparently started seeing Jason Grabowski as a possible emergency catcher. Grabowski, who batted .174 last year in a mainly pinch hitting role, looks to be the Dodgers' main left-handed pinch-hitter this year.

Alvarez To Open Season In Bullpen

In that same article, it looks like Wilson Alvarez won't begin the season in the rotation, but in the bullpen, thanks to shoulder tendinitis.

Decompression: Spring Training As Socratic Dialogue

Fair warning: as usual, links in this blog entry are not guaranteed to be work-safe. 6-4-2 thanks you for your patronage, and for your patience during the recent, brief outage. -- Rob
Did you find the female fans comely?

The metropolitan Los Angeles area leads the nation in the aesthetic arts as applied to the human canvas. The outlying areas, upon discovering some of plastic surgery's more esoteric forms, have been known to recoil in horror, but more often than not, they quickly line up at the airline counters for tickets to LAX -- or else send their own local sons to be tutored by the Angeleno geniuses who practice their craft while stirring up business with targeted national promotion.

Naturally, one side effect of this is the local presumption of physical perfection. This leads to all kinds of extremes, for instance, the sales rep for a colo service I encountered a half dozen years ago who looked as though she had exercised every last cubic centimeter of fat off her body, not to mention any resemblance to an actual woman. But if LA women have unreasonable expectations of their appearances, at the same time it often makes them modest in pleasing ways. For instance, no woman in her right mind overweight by thirty or more pounds would wear a bikini in public, and yet this kind of abandon was everywhere in evidence on the lawn at the Cubs' games we attended. Southern Californian ladies all but universally have a subconscious horror of becoming the "before" picture for liposuction ads, and indeed we did not see such at the Angels games. Women of Chicago, I beseech you: look in the mirror before putting on that halter top. The eyes you spare may be my own.

I do not entirely mean to spare the men in this, but since male beauty is a target of comedy rather than gross titillation, it seems redundant to lambaste that which others have already so successfully lambasted. I note in passing the large number of pendulous guts in attendance, but then, men seldom care, though they should. For myself, I hid my own gothic nudity, hoping only to avoid scaring the horses.

What was the effect of the late Easter Sunday upon your writing?

Sadly, 6-4-2 took an enforced holiday Sunday. I had intended to do a writeup of Saturday's game, but owing to the late hour we arrived back at our hotel, I couldn't, and then Easter Sunday had the unfortunate effect of closing Schlotsky's, where I used the free web access for blogging and other illicit purposes.

I'm not much on holidays I don't actually get off, and the only exceptions I'm willing to make are Mother's Day and Father's Day. But get religion involved and -- gag -- colored, hard-boiled eggs, and that's enough to make me sick. I hate hard-boiled eggs -- always have -- and so Easter was always about avoidance so far as I was concerned. I didn't have anything against the actual coloring of the eggs -- that part was fun -- but to the extent that someone, somehow, would actually have to also consume them made the whole process an eensy weensy bit like Itzhak Stern having to remand himself to the Nazis. Dress eight-year-old me in a shirt and tie, and you've got an apostate in the making. Keep me from my blog, shut down one of my favorite restaurants, and you have a full blown heretic on your hands.

How was the drive back? How were Arizona gas prices? Did you encounter any ruffians or traffic?

The price of gas in Arizona temporarily lags that in California, but only just; we paid $2.23 or so in Mesa, and $2.65 somewhere around the eastern outskirts of Moreno Valley. While unpleasant for us in our sedan, it will undoubtedly soar to the top of the list of indignities hurled at the Bush administration by the owners of the supersized, Rancho Suspension-raised trucks used for offroading. At some point between Moreno Valley and Palm Springs, this sort of truck forms the majority of vehicles on the road. Inevitably, they come with large-tread offroading tires, making them very loud on the street. But besides this offense, I level these two charges against them:

We reckon one such cretin may have caused an hour-long traffic jam in the eastbound direction, as an 18-wheel tractor burned to the ground along with the first trailer. The driver died in the incident, unfortunately, and so I can only speculate as to the cause. I certainly hope the miscreant -- if there is one -- is caught soon.

Well, spring training in Arizona sounds very unpleasant. Would you recommend going to others?

Oh, heavens yes. Despite the headaches, it's a great place to see the teams come together. Because the teams are at most only a couple hours' drive away from each other's parks (and more like 40 minutes or less), proximity means it's easy to see many different games. The atmosphere is very convivial. Even in the A's home park of Phoenix Muni, I only once encountered an SUV full of dimwits yelling, "Angels Suck!", and even then, they were safely ensconced in their large vehicle; once in the stands, no one bothered me, and this was universally true regardless of which park we were in. The small parks are a bargain relative to the regular season; to get views as good as we got in the regular season, you'd routinely pay quintuple or sextuple the price we paid for individual tickets. And it's easy to see many teams if you so choose.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Two Games

Dayside: Angels 6, Cubs 4

Escobar's status at the beginning of the year still has everyone wondering how effective he's going to be, or whether he'll even be on the team on opening day. Yesterday's game didn't give me any warm fuzzies that Esky's improved to the point where he's major league ready exactly yet, but he's close, much closer than I thought even a week ago. Giving up three runs (all earned) on six hits, and most importantly, no walks in six innings, Escobar showed signs of returning to 2004 form. However, he did surrender a home run to Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano, proving Zambrano is a pretty good hitting pitcher. By contrast, Z had his best stuff, and the Angels got three runs off him, including a two-run shot by Erstad (his first multi-base hit of the season). It was the first runs Z surrendered all spring training. I know, don't read too much into it.

Other than that: the boys in red were pretty sharp, and Robb Quinlan shows signs that maybe his 2004 wasn't a one-month fluke, going two for three and scoring a run. At the very least, he's a valuable bench player.

Overall, both clubs looked pretty close to regular-season ready, which isn't necessarily good news for either one, especially the Cubs. Speaking of the Tiny Bears, we hung out in the outfield berms with the voluable, jovial Al Yellon of SPORTSblogs' Bleed Cubbie Blue, his friends John (who draws cartoons at BCB), Jessica (from New York) and her friend Mike (who lives in Arizona), and our two Padre-lovin' friends Jen and Jo from San Diego. One of the great things about spring training is that the fans who show up for it are generally fans of the game, well informed, and almost never boorish. I only got harrassed once -- and then by someone safely in an SUV -- for wearing Angels garb to Phoenix Muni at the A's game last night. Once in the stadium, I saw a number of others so attired, and Giants, Mariners, and many Padres fans as well.

Northsiders continue to worry about the Cubs' bullpen, and with good reason; as Al wrote in his game recap,

Hendry's got to be burning up the cellphone lines after Chad Fox again had a not-so-good ninth inning; after whipping off what looked like a 95-MPH fastball to get Curtis Pride on strikes, the next batter whipped a ball just as fast up the middle for an RBI single -- this after Fox had wild-pitched David Matranga into scoring position after a walk. Fox is maddening -- you can see he has ability, but he drives you nuts with walks and ill-timed wild pitches like this.
Frankie's close, but he's back to his bad old tricks with runners on base. He never seems to do well once somebody gets on, so watching him surrender a run on two hits and a walk wasn't too surprising if you recall his 2003. You always want to cut pitchers in Arizona spring training some slack because of the slight elevation, the thin, dry air, and the heat, but yesterday only the elevation was in operation (it actually rained a bit yesterday morning). Frankie just couldn't locate his slider, and as often happens when that happens, he starts giving up runs. Of course, that balances with the three strikeouts he made to finish the ninth, but it's not a record you want for a closer.


Nightside: Padres 6, A's 1

Did 2004 ever end? That's the Groundhog Day question for the A's Barry Zito, who got knocked around for five runs, four earned, on five hits and five walks in four innings. Zito struggled with command (again), couldn't locate his curve (again), and generally was a mess on the mound. Woody Williams, by contrast, set the A's down with aplomb and speed, giving up a walk, four hits, and one run (earned).

At this point in spring training, you expect the fielding to actually be major league quality, but then I remembered -- Robert Fick is in camp. Fick is one of my least favorite players in the majors, mainly because he pulled an A-Rod style karate chop on Eric Karros in the 2003 postseason. The episode blew over quickly because, hey, he's not a Yankee. Anyway: Fick bobbled a routine groundball but managed to recover thanks in part to Williams' alert fielding, but it's pretty rare to see that level of ineptness this late in ST.

But the wacky fielding wasn't limited to the Pads' infield. Our season-ticket-holding friends, Jen and Jo, inform us that the Pads' outfield is stocked with players who create adventures where none should exist. For instance: Ryan Klesko. Klesko frequently takes bad routes to the ball, and looks like he has no idea where the ball is going. So with last night, where he kept alternated running and looking over his shoulder. Now, in some fairness, the wind was coming in hard straight down the left field side of Phoenix Municipal Stadium last night, and so balls hit to left would tend to curve back. But -- as this was a night game -- we could reasonably expect a lot of the problems Arizona gives fielders with its high, thin skies wouldn't happen. Uh uh. Still. Not. Too. Good.

The A's bullpen is improved over last year, but I can't decide whether Juan Cruz represents that much of an upgrade. Certainly, if he's found his niche in long relief, it's questionable whether he's learned anything, handing out four walks and one hit over three. Ricardo Rincon in particular had a rough outing, giving up a run on two walks and a hit.

As to the Pads' bullpen, they didn't need to be serious about it, as Williams cruised through six. Thus, in one-inning turns, did we watch Rudy Seanez, green newcomer Randy Williams (2004 ERA 5.79 in 6.0 IP), and Dodger castoff Brian Falkenborg pitch to a diminishing cast of A's regulars, and an increasing band of rookies and wannabes.

Former Dodger Dave Roberts managed two at bats, and accomplished nothing. As much as I like Dave, I have to think DePo made the right move unloading him. But, hey, based on the ads he made while a Dodger, I'd cheerfully predict he's got a real chance at a job behind the mike somewhere.


Friday, March 25, 2005

The Dry, Green Land, And The Trip Out

Last year, Arizona went straight into summer, bypassing any semblance of spring for our spring training adventures; every day game we went to was mid-90's to mid-100's. Not that we minded so much, but for the players, the heat must have been unbearable, especially the Padres with their navy blue jerseys. This year, not so much, and the sky managed only low 70's and diffident clouds.

So now we wait for the games. Yesterday, the trip in: the desert has seen rains as it hasn't seen rains in ages. Death Valley, normally remarkable mainly for its spectacular if alien geology, now erupts into wildflower displays unseen in fifty years. So with the desert ouside: the Sonoran is among the wettest deserts in the world, and we saw sprays of yellow and purple flora all along the drive in.

And with the flowers, the bugs. Of course, the car got pockmarked with bug splatter, but our friends coming from San Diego had it worse: they drove through a migrating swarm of Monarch butterflies, little orangey-red bodies squished in the hundreds on their windshield. At one gas station, they told me of a flat-faced RV just pasted with the bugs, top to bottom. Baseball demands sacrifice, but demolishing beauty of this kind so systematically seems criminal and tragic.

Our friends, Padres fans, are coming to spring training for the first time this year. They've had Pads season tickets for years, and this time, trumped me in the camera department: they've got a very snazzy new Canon, something I've started getting an itch for. So maybe this year I'll actually get some shots worth posting.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Pickoff Moves

Tech Rave: Firefox Google PageRank Toolbar

Google might not want you to know about this, but there's a Firefox extension that lets you pick up the Google Pagerank of a particular page. This is one of several factors, albeit the largest one, that Google uses to determine where a page turns up on one of their search results. The higher the page rank (on a scale of 0-10, where 10 is best and 0 is shunned), the higher the result appears on the page. In the high-school-locker-room contest comparing Pageranks, some sundry samplings:
Pearly Gates5I haven't been able to find a single blogspot.com blog with a Pagerank over 5, but I have been able to find some zero PR ones.
Athletics Nation5At least we know Richard and I aren't sucking off a base popularity for all blogger.com domains. It seems most blogs are pretty much middle-of-the-pack when it comes to Pagerank.
Lookout Landing0Amazing. Just amazing.
dodgerthoughts.baseballtoaster.com0See what happens when you change domains? It'll take a while for Dodger Thoughts to recover, and so for all these guys at all-baseball.com, and baseballtoaster.com, and MVN.com.
Hardball Times6Team blogs seem to do pretty well in general.
ESPN home page8Home pages do better than...
ESPN MLB home7... internal pages, which do better than ...
ESPN story about Barry BondsN/A... individual stories.
Baseball Reference6
Baseball Cube4Gary Cohen has his work cut out for him.
What's amazing is how little difference there is between the top websites in this area (ESPN at PR 8 on their home page, PR 7 on the MLB main) versus the mundane blogs (yours truly at PR 5) and the even exceptional ones such as the all-baseball.com stable.

Jeff Shaw's M's Preview On THT

Jeff Shaw of U.S.S. Mariner has his 2005 Mariners preview up at Hardball Times, via his trusty Magic 8-Ball.

Welcome Back, Sean

Purgatory Online is back in action, with three posts in one day, and a chronology of the Halosphere. Angels blogdom is a better, and funnier, place with Sean's keyboard engaged. Welcome back.

Ray Ratto On Barry

I already linked to it above, but I thought it would be useful to mention this Ray Ratto story on Barry Bonds explicitly. Like me, Ratto doesn't necessarily take Bonds' projection of his return date all that seriously, but the knees aren't the problem here. It's Barry's head that will make or break him:
He is athletically mortal now, a realization that must have hit him particularly hard. For the immediate and foreseeable future, he has lost the outlet that was both his identity and refuge, and now he has all the more time to think about his other problems.


The new, physically vulnerable Bonds is no longer a lock to just pick up where he left off last year. History, which he has been laughing at these past four years, suggests loudly that the end does not come gradually, but in one great rush, and with all the extra side dishes on Bonds' plate, that rush may be a headlong one.

In short, what we took as likely (Aaron) is now doubtful, and what we took as a given (Ruth) may be taken away.

Guest Analyst Eric Neel On Vin Scully

Eric Neel, who normally writes for ESPN's Page 2, today makes a guest appearance on Baseball Analysts, on the subject of growing up with Vin Scully. He even mentions this humble blog in passing.

Away To Arizona

And while my wife is pestering me (gently) to make sure she packed everything suitably in our suitcase, I mention now that I'm going to be in Arizona for the next five days, at the Angels' spring training camp. Reports to follow, as last year.


PECOTA Projects The AL

If you remember my simpleminded look at the western divisions, I should now mention that Nate Silver just published his results based on a little more rational use of PECOTA. A little late -- this was published on the 21st -- but the AL West results:
             W   L   PCT   RS   RA
A's         88  74  .544  834  760
Angels      83  79  .515  787  763
Rangers     79  83  .490  868  885
Mariners    77  85  .477  754  791
About the Angels in particular, Silver has this to say:

I don't quite understand the hype over the Angels. There are a several obvious soft spots in the lineup, like Ben Molina and Darin Erstad and Orlando Cabrera, who according to PECOTAs WARP projections, will be just the ninth-best shortstop among the 14 projected American League starters this year ....

PECOTA likes Dallas McPherson a whole bunch, and is relatively sympathetic to Steve Finley, but they're replacing positions that the Angels have generally gotten good production from in the past. Kelvim Escobar is a good breakout candidate, and Bartolo Colon should almost certainly better last year's numbers, but I don't see how you can get that excited about a pitching staff that will involve Paul Byrd taking his turn every fifth day. Yes, Vladimir Guerrero is very good, but it seems to me that the burden of proof lies with the folks that are making more optimistic projections than the one we have here.

I agree and disagree. D-Mac is certainly a worry, being a rookie, and the Angels have put a big burden on him to produce by plopping him at the hot corner. There's significant reason to think Byrd is going to much better than some people think (which I will get to presently in my preseason review) despite the Mazzone Affect. But I absolutely agree that the Angels' production at catcher will be the worst in years. And obviously, I agree that the Angels are going to have a tougher year than a lot of people think -- unless their rookies step up.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Gagne in a new Dodger uniform
Eric Gagné minus his name on the back. This is just wrong.

And I'll Bet Blez Isn't Even Gay

Billy Beane pulled rank to get Blez press credentials at spring training. Heh.

Alabama, Sweet Home Of The Differently Alphabeted

Thanks to Matt Welch at Reason's Hit and Run for providing this bit of lemony-fresh O's goodness: Baltimore pitcher Eric Dubose was recently arrested for having a .113 blood alcohol level. As usual, the cops applied a sobriety test on their detainee:
The report states DuBose informed [Sarasota County Sheriff's deputy David Clark, Jr.] he had "a couple" drinks at the Cafe Gardens and Daquiri Deck in Sarasota. When instructed to recite the alphabet, DuBose allegedly said, "I'm from Alabama, and they have a different alphabet."

All-Baseball's AL West Previews

All-Baseball has its 2005 AL West previews, and yours truly wrote the Angels bit. It looks like there's a pretty solid concensus among the bloggers that the division will go A's, Angels, Rangers, Mariners.

Thanks to Christian Ruzisch for inviting me.

Ducksnorts Joins All-Baseball

Man, it's just getting crazy around here with all the shifts in the blogging universe. Ducksnorts has moved to all-baseball.com. Adjust your links.

An impression: A-B just went from having blogs about the Yankees (Bronx Banter), Dodgers (Dodger Thoughts) to having blogs about the Chisox (Exile In Wrigleyville, a great name for a blog), one kinda, sorta Dodgers blog (no knock on TFO, but Tom didn't really want to write about the Dodgers, it just happened that was what he needed to acquire an audience), and the Padres. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but you'd think they'd want representatives more fully covering the Dodgers and somebody of quality writing about the Yanks. And then there's MVN itself: a blog following the game's hallmark franchise regularly has zero comments? Come to think of it, why isn't there a Red Sox blog at any of Baseball Toaster, All-Baseball, or SPORTSblogs? Come to think of it, how comes it that SPORTSblogs has no Yankees blog, either?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Halofan Moves To SPORTSblogs

... as in Halos Heaven. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Sox-strordinary Rendition

Thanks to long-time reader Bruce, who forwards this astonishing story. Via Daily Kos, stories appearing independently in the Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe indicate that an executive jet owned by Phillip H. Morse, a minority partner in the Boston Red Sox, was leased to the CIA and used for the "extraordinary rendition" of one Abu Omar. ("Extraordinary rendition" is the practice of shipping prisoners to other countries, generally those lacking civilized limits on the behavior of government agents, and generally for the explicit purpose of beating information out of individuals.) Omar, kidnapped from Italy, was then shipped to Egypt. The Milanese public prosecutor is preparing charges according to an anonymous Italian official.

Not only was the plane used to send Omar to Egypt (where, he claims, he was brutally tortured), but its log showed 51 flights to Guantanamo Bay, and 82 visits to Dulles International Airport. The plane also stopped at Andrews Air Force Base, the air bases at Ramstein and Rhein-Main in Germany, Afghanistan, Morocco, Dubai, Jordan, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic. Some of the itinerary came from

the worldwide cadre of aviation aficionados who call themselves "planespotters"--not because of its possible connection with the U.S. government, but because planespotters pride themselves on keeping meticulous records of every aircraft that comes and goes at their chosen airports.
Assembly Point Aviation, a "religious organization" according to Dun & Bradstreet, actually owns the plane; its sole officer and director is Phillip H. Morse. The CIA leased the plane through a third party, Richmor Aviation. Morse refused to answer questions regarding "the customer" who organized the Egyptian outing, and further said, "I don't ask my customers why they go anywhere, whether it's West Palm Beach or the moon."

Though we don't know what happened to Omar or any of the others who may have been rendered, the Tribune story recounts this version of one:

The only eyewitness account of how rendition targets are prepared for their journey comes from a veteran Swedish police inspector, Paul Forell, who was present when such a team arrived at Stockholm's Bromma airport on the night of Dec. 18, 2001.

Forell told Sweden's Channel 4 last year that those arriving at the airport included eight Americans wearing hoods and two others in business suits who introduced themselves only by their first names and said they were from the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm.

"They were very professional in their way of acting. They acted very deftly, swiftly and silently," Forell said, adding that he had the impression the team had carried out many previous renditions.

The two Egyptian-born suspects, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zery, who had been arrested earlier in the evening by Swedish security police, were handcuffed and their clothes cut from their bodies.

Suppositories apparently intended as a sedative were inserted into their anuses, and diapers were put on both men, followed by dark overalls, blindfolds and hoods that completely covered their heads.

The prisoners were put aboard an unmarked Gulfstream that had flown to Stockholm from Washington's Dulles airport.

The Stockholm Gulfstream, a later model 5 that bore the tail number N379P, also has been spotted in Karachi and Gambia during other renditions.

After the plane landed in Cairo at 2:35 a.m. the next day, al-Zery and Agiza were taken to Masra Tora prison. According to Swedish government documents made public by Channel 4, when the two men were visited by the Swedish ambassador five weeks later they told him they were being tortured.

Neither man was found to have any Al Qaeda connection, and al-Zery was released without charges. Agiza, who previously had been convicted in absentia of membership in an Egyptian Islamic radical organization, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Former Army Intelligence officer Phillip Carter has more on the subject of extraordinary rendition at his excellent blog, Intel Dump.

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