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Monday, July 27, 2009
And That HappenedPhillies 9, Cardinals 2: Trading for Matt Holliday is all Wellemeyer and good, but you gotta pitch too. Despite their new bauble, the Cards drop two of three to the Phils, and find themselves knocked out of first place because . . .
Cubs 5, Reds 2: The Cubbies are on fire. I was a guest on WDWS radio in Champaign, Illinois last month, and host Brian Moline asked me how I liked the Cardinals chances. My answer boiled down to "with Albert, all things are possible." I noted, however, that at the time just about every single thing you can imagine had gone wrong for the Cubs yet (a) they were still only two games out and; (b) some things would stop going wrong for them eventually. That seems to have happened (or stopped happening depending on your point of view), and it's now a very real race. I'm going to be on WDWS again on Tuesday, and I suspect I will gloat a bit. I may even mention that I'm an Ohio State fan too, which should really make me popular in Cardinals/Illini country.
Yankees 7, A's 5: The Yankees are 9-1 out of the break. Sure, seven of those ten games have come against last place teams (Baltimore and Oakland) but they still count and there's something to be said about winning the ones you're supposed to. Apropos of nothing, I'm reading this box score as I watch the Tigers-White Sox game, and I'm realizing that, all year, I thought that Adam Kennedy was playing for the Tigers and Adam Everett was playing for the A's instead of the other way around. Not sure if that says more about those guys or me as a writer. Either way, I'm sure I could have gone with that misconception all season and never once had it really matter for bloggy purposes.
Orioles 6, Red Sox 2: Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Red Sox and their use of John Smoltz. Smoltzie, who won't get too many cheers from me until he's back in Atlanta for his number retiring ceremony next summer, gave up another six runs on nine hits in five innings. As predicted, he's really becoming a difference maker in the AL East race.
Blue Jays 5, Rays 1: A bit of a letdown for the Rays after mounting an eight-run comeback in twelve innings on Saturday night. Which itself came a couple of days after getting blanked by Mark Buehrle. Maybe the Rays were just tired of talking to the media about big doings. Tampa Bay now has a series against the Yankees, a breather against the Royals, and then a short series against the Red Sox. Anytime is a good time, but now would be a particularly good time to make a move and get off the fringes and into the, well, whatever the opposite of "fringes" are of the AL East race. Is "fringes" a blanket metaphor? What the hell do you call the middle of a blanket?
Braves 10, Brewers 2: A day off for Chipper meant a rare start for Kelly Johnson, with Martin Prado sliding over to third. Johnson responded by going 3-4 with a double, a homer and two RBI. Though it makes sense that Prado has the job from here on out, I haven't yet given up on Kelly Johnson, and I believe that he can still be an important part of this nutritious breakfast. Atlanta is making up no ground on the Phillies these days because the Phillies don't fell much like losing anymore, but they're only 3.5 back in the wild card race, tied with an inferior Marlins team, and trailing the flailing Cards and Giants. The Rockies sit at the top of that heap, however, and since their turnaround this year seems to have been caused by one of these, they may be tough to catch.
Nationals 3, Padres 2: Without looking at official attendance, I'm going to wager that tens and tens of people watched this one. Probably fair to say that, overall records aside, the Padres are a worse team than the Nats are. Royals too, for that matter. And speaking of the Royals . . .
Rangers 7, Royals 2: You have to figure that the Royals are going to win the game when Sidney frickin' Ponson of all people throws six scoreless innings, but it wasn't to be. Another day, another bullpen implosion, another loss. Can't really blame Hillman for not sending out Soria this time as he threw two innings and 37 pitches on Saturday. You can blame Alberto Callaspo, however, who dropped a pop fly that would have ended the seventh inning with no runs scoring instead of the three that did, and Juan Cruz who got shellacked once again. What's with Cruz, anyway? After ending April with a 1.69 ERA, he threw up a 6.00 for May, a 6.97 for June, and an 8.22 so far in July. I'm no mathematician, but I think that puts him on pace to, um [carry the two . . .] be really, really awful for August and September.
Mets 8, Astros 3: Ponson and Livan Hernandez (7 IP, 8 H, 3 ER) each pitched well yesterday. In other news, I started to dig a bunker in the backyard. You can never be too careful with sings and portents and whatnot.
Rockies 4, Giants 2: As mentioned in the Braves recap, the Giants are in near free fall and the Rockies are bulletproof. Colorado now goes on the road for ten games. In years past I'd say something like "now's the time when the competition can make their move," but this Rockies team isn't like the Rockies teams of old. They have 54 wins this year. 27 of them came at home. 27 have come on the road.
Twins 10, Angels 1: Justin Morneau now leads the AL in both homers and RBI. If he keeps that up, he may very well lead all of baseball in the category of most undeserved MVP awards, lifetime. Though to be fair to him, if the music stopped right now, a 2009 MVP award would be less egregious than his 2006 award and his second place finish in 2008. He's having a good season. If either he or Mauer are gonna get voter love, though, the Twins have to do better than this, as they're just 4-6 since the break.
Marlins 8, Dodgers 6: Jason Schmidt pitches again, is bad again, but this time he doesn't dodge the bullets he did against the Reds on Monday. Will he get another start? If he does, this business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it.
Indians 12, Mariners 3: Break up the Tribe! They sweep a good Mariners team and are riding a four game winning streak. And they really bombed out the Ms, outscoring them 31-6 in the three game series. The Mariners fall to 7.5 games back of the Angels and 6.5 back in the wild card race. Which sucks, but may make it easier for Jack Zduriencik to do some deals that need doing rather than go through the motions of being in a playoff race.
White Sox 5, Tigers 1: This one was over quick, as Rick Porcello pitched the first inning like he was 20 years-old or somethin': nibbling, worrying about the runners too much, then making a mental error on defense when he didn't cover first like he should have, then giving up a howitzer shot to Paul Konerko. Down 4-0 before even getting to bat, The Tigers couldn't muster much of anything against Clayton Richard (8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER). Not even Adam EVERETT could get a hit. Still a good weekend for Detroit, which beat back the Sox, taking three of four as soon as they got really close at the end of last week.
Diamondbacks 9, Pirates 0: I wonder if pitchers watched Mark Buehrle throw that perfecto the other day and thought "hey, why don't I work quickly, trust my stuff, and throw strikes more often?" Max Scherzer may have, because he was down to bidness yesterday, throwing 85 of his 109 pitches for strikes, didn't walk anyone, which is rare for him, and reached a three-ball count only twice. Gerardo Parra finished a triple short of the cycle. Story of my life, man.
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 12:01am
mike in brooklyn said...
Posted 07/27 at 01:04 AM
“Justin Morneau now leads the AL in both homers and RBI. If he keeps that up, he may very well lead all of baseball in the category of most undeserved MVP awards, lifetime.”
At best, he’d only be tied with Juan Gonzalez.
Posted 07/27 at 01:54 AM
Craig Calcaterra said...
Mike: eh, it’s still dumb to keep running Smoltz out there.
Gerry: good point.
Posted 07/27 at 05:25 AM
Adam Everett is a man who always needed a nickname. To separate him from the rest of the no hit, good glove middle infield pack.
Posted 07/27 at 05:47 AM
As a Red Sox fan, I hate seeing Smoltz go the mound every five days and get rocked. I really think that he’d best serve the team in the bullpen, but at this point who do you remove from their bullpen? Unless they use either Saito and/or Delcarman in a trade (which has been rumored this year), I don’t see a spot for him anywhere but the rotation. The bigger questions are what happens when Matsuzaka and Wakefield come back? What happens if Buchholz starts pitching up to his potential? What then? Do they keep throwing him out there?
As for Rick Porcello, are the Tigers going to rest him at all this year, or are they going to use Dusty Baker’s “Mark Prior plan,” and watch his shoulder liquify by the time he’s 24? He’s already pitched almost 100 innings, and his ERA has jumped from 3.48 to 4.62 (with a K/BB rate of almost 1:1) since 5/27.
Posted 07/27 at 07:19 AM
“I’m going to be on WDWS again on Tuesday, and I suspect I will gloat a bit. I may even mention that I’m an Ohio State fan too, which should really make me popular in Cardinals/Illini country.”
Being from the greater Champaign area (grew up 45 miles north of there), I can tell you that you have the Illini part of it right. It’s not the nearly the same as Michigan/OSU though. Now if you said you were an Iowa or Indiana fan, that would be bad for you. OSU is a little more neutral.
As for the Cardinals part of it…well…it’s more like 50/50 Cubs/Cardinals. Champaign may lean slightly closer to the Cubs though, being about an hour closer to Chicago than St. Louis.
Posted 07/27 at 08:13 AM
Kevin S. said...
You could make it a golf metaphor, moving off of the fringe and onto the green.
Posted 07/27 at 09:22 AM
If the Red Sox miss the playoffs by a game or two then the Smoltz Project will be one very big reason as Michael Bowden or Justion Masterson would be at least .500 had either been given the slot.
Posted 07/27 at 09:40 AM
“Justin Morneau…may very well lead all of baseball in the category of most undeserved MVP awards, lifetime.”
Craig, please tell me that you think Mauer, not Morneau, should have won the 2006 MVP. Please tell me you weren’t pining for Derrick “Intangibles” Jeter. I can hear an argument that Moreanu wasn’t even the MVP of his team. I can’t stomach one about The Captain’s hustle.
Posted 07/27 at 10:30 AM
Craig Calcaterra said...
Ben—Jeter was a better pick than Morneau, but I agree that Mauer was a better pick than both of them once you account for defense.
I say this even though I kinda like Justin Morneau for some reason.
Posted 07/27 at 10:34 AM
You know, Craig, when the weekend started, I was excited about the prospect of talking a little crap your way about the Braves-Brewers series. I’m no longer excited about that. Other than Saturday - which was a great game from both pitchers - things did not go well. I was at the game yesterday, and it was easily the worst game I’ve been to this year. The pitching was bad, the defense was bad (I swear I saw Corey Hart give up on at least 2 balls yesterday), and no one seemed to care. At least Braun had a couple of hits and Prince put some power behind his outs, but it was just bad.
And the Thunderbirds were giving a free show over the lake at 3:30pm, but they closed the roof right before that started. I guess it was to keep the planes from distracting the players (it definitely wasn’t on account of weather) since it would’ve been easily seen from the stadium, but, I tell you, that show would’ve been a heckuva lot better than the one the Brewers were putting on…
Posted 07/27 at 11:06 AM
Andy H said...
For all the drama, the Braves decision to let Glavine and Smoltz go looks to have been a good one.
Posted 07/27 at 11:06 AM
mike in brooklyn said...
I agree Craig. I just thought that blog was funny.
Posted 07/27 at 11:34 AM
APBA Guy said...
Wow Craig, a “Hunt for Red October” reference. Glad that wasn’t in the A’s/Yankees recap, I would have had to go all Pelosi on you.
You noticed that the Giants are in free-fall. More like, their lack of offense is causing a regression. They played absurdly well in June, but they only have one Panda, and when you back him up with Fred Lewis and Nate Schierholtz, in a long season like baseball eventually a team’s quality is reflected in their record.
It was fun, and they are better than the A’s, sadly, but I don’t see them playing with the Braves and Rockies for the wild card from here on out.
Posted 07/27 at 11:38 AM
Looking forward to our conversation tomorrow. Ross has it just about right. If you were a fan of a border state team (Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana), you’d hear about it. Illinois and Ohio State just don’t seem to have too much venom for one another. You’ll also appreciate that Illini fans hate Michigan. Not sure why, as Michigan doesn’t really care about the Illini, but it’s something that both fan bases have in common.
Posted 07/27 at 12:35 PM
Morneau beat Jeter in HR, RBI, SLG, OPS, and UZR in 2006. His BA was .321 - less than Jeter’s .343, but still perfectly appropriate for MVP. Jeter scored just 21 more runs and had a negative UZR. And as far as intangibles go, Morneau’s presnece as the only true power-hitting force in the Twins lineup in 2006 meant as much to them making the playoffs that year as whatever leadership intangibles Jeter brought to the Yankees.
Morneau earned than MVP. He certainly earned it more than Jeter did.
Posted 07/27 at 12:41 PM
“You’ll also appreciate that Illini fans hate Michigan.”
I don’t know why that is either, but my best guess is that it probably stems from the 1988-1989 season when Illinois lost to Michigan in The Final Four. It’s either that or [insert terrible Illini football season here when Michigan was way better].
Posted 07/27 at 01:05 PM
Kevin S. said...
Ben, did you really just compare to players by UZR, then not adjust for the position they played? Morneau’s a first baseman. Jeter’s a shortstop. Morneau would have to have been more than fifteen runs above average better than Jeter to have been a more valuable fielder; he wasn’t. Jeter’s 42-point OBP lead is massive; given that rough consensus has OBP at about 1.75 times as valuable as SLG (I think; I know Bill James says it’s 4-to-1), it almost completely negates Morneau’s edge in the latter category. You’ve also ignored Jeter’s exemplary base-stealing; 34 swipes at an 87% success rate? Outstanding.
By Fangraphs’ WAR (which you should be able to find, since you cite UZR), Jeter and Mauer were nearly identical, with Jeter having a slight edge, 6.3 to 6.1. I’d give it to Mauer, since Fangraphs doesn’t attempt to quantify catcher defense, only provide a positional adjustment; Mauer’s an above-average catcher, so he moves past Jeter. Morneau’s nearly two WAR behind both of them.
Incidentally, Grady Sizemore and Johan Santana were both a win above Jeter/Mauer, but Sizemore got ignored because he was on a crappy team, and Santana because he’s a pitcher.
Posted 07/27 at 01:52 PM
Kevin S. said...
Think I abused the semicolon a bit in that first paragraph?
Posted 07/27 at 01:53 PM
Kevin - Color me schooled on the UZR issue. But you’ve completely ignored Morneau’s massive lead in HRs, RBI, and OPS (which I think is Bill James’ favorite stat, but I could be wrong).
I could stomach a statistical argument for Jeter. What I can’t stand is the suckathon about his leadership, presence, etc. That stuff was just code for “he got lucky enough to have been drafted by the Yankees, he got lucky that they didn’t trade him for Ken Phelps, and we in the press like him.”
Posted 07/27 at 09:01 PM