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Thursday, September 03, 2009
And That HappenedGiants 4, Phillies 0: See a Penny, pick it up, and all the day you'll have good luck (8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER).
Padres 7, Nationals 0: The Nats hit two first-inning singles off Kevin Correia, but then he set down 19 in a row. This awful stretch the Nats are in has likely stomped on whatever budding sentiment there was to give Jim Riggleman the full time gig.
Tigers 4, Indians 2; White Sox 4, Twins 2: There's a thin line between a race and the lack of one. A bunch of Indians errors -- two on Jhonny Peralta on one play -- in the Tigers-Indians game and a rare, rare, rare Joe Nathan implosion in the Twins-White Sox game was the difference between a doable-sounding 2.5 game deficit and a depressing-sounding 4.5 game hole. The Nathan thing was just brutal. Two outs in the ninth, two strikes on the batter and a two run lead, and he can't lock it down.
Cubs 2, Astros 0: Seeing Aaron Boone play in a real major league baseball game had to outweigh whatever doldrums an otherwise uninspiring loss to the Cubs caused.
Mariners 3, Angels 0: Scott Kazmir strikes out eight and only gives up two runs -- one earned -- in six and third in his Angels debut. Unfortunately for him, Felix Hernandez Felix Hernandez gave up bupkis. Bill Hall had an RBI double, then stole third and scored himself when Mike Napoli threw the ball away.
Rangers 6, Blue Jays 4: With the Angels loss and this win, the Rangers are only 3.5 back of Anaheim now. Interesting. It'd be more interesting if they hadn't just lost Michael Young for at least two weeks, but man, it would be neat to see that one come down to the wire.
Marlins 8, Braves 7: This one hurt. The Braves were down 7-3 at one point, tied it in the ninth, and then loss on a WES HELMS home run. Wes frickin' Helms. Wes .234/.287/.423 in nearly 500 PAs for the Braves Helms. Ugh.
Rays 8, Red Sox 5: The Rays led 5-1, the Sox came back, and then Pat Burrell and Evan Longoria put the Rays up to stay in the eighth against a Red Sox pen that was, for last night anyway, Papelbon and Wagner-free.
Reds 5, Pirates 3: Another good start for Homer Bailey, who allowed three runs and struck out eight in six and a third innings. Another terrible performance by Pittsburgh, who has now lost seven straight. John Russell after the game: "We'll be all right. We play good at home. Turn the page." I was going to mock that, but he's actually right: the Pirates are 35-29 at home, which is rather surprising to me.
Athletics 10, Royals 4: A's backup catcher Landon Powell hit a grand slam in the second inning that effectively put this one away. Brian Bannister left the game early with what is being called shoulder fatigue.
Yankees 10, Orioles 2: Sabathia, as he tends to do, is getting stronger as the season comes to a close (7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 9K). A-Rod hit two, two-run singles and was 3-5 overall, collecting his 2,500th career hit along the way. Because he pitched a third of an inning before the Yankees exploded for seven in the ninth, Phil Hughes gets a "save." A save in a 10-2 game. Yeah, that makes sense.
Cardinals 10, Brewers 3: Chris Carpenter makes it ten straight, though he didn't exactly cruise in this one. Skip Schumaker was 4 for 4 with two RBI. The Cards have a 10.5 game lead now.
Rockies 5, Mets 2: Welcome Jason Giambi! One of the NL West's two pinch-hit only former superstars hits a two-run pinch hit single in the eighth which broke the tie and put Colorado in the lead to stay.
Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 1: Chad Billingsley loses his third in a row. Doug Mientkiewicz made his return after being out since April. He had a pinch it single, so I guess that means that he and Thome will be battling for the pinch hitter slot? Does LA have a 28 man roster or something? UPDATE: OK, that was stupid. I had forgotten that we're past September 1. So yes, they have all the roster space they need. I hafta stop writing these things at 5:30 in the morning.
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 5:52am
I believe they have a 40-man roster if they so desire.
Posted 09/03 at 07:49 AM
What should be made of the NL performances of John Smoltz and Brad Penny - is the AL that much more challenging to pitch in? Granted both had some extra rest between starts as they had to clear waivers but I do not believe that some extra rest alone is the only difference.
I know of the argument about how the deeper lineups of the AL make it harder to pitch in the AL and that ERA statistics indicate a pitcher going from the NL to the AL will have their ERA rise by a full run. However something else has to be going on - the AL owns the NL in the All-Star Game and have won 12 of the last 20 World Series.
I know I only present a small amount of anecdotal evidence but it appears that there may be a real competitive imbalance between the leagues. As an AL fan I appreciate being on the what may be the right side of the imbalance but as a baseball fan I would hate to think one league has a real advantage over the other.
I know this may be considered heresy for many NL fans but maybe it’s time to embrace the DH as I very much doubt the AL (or the MLBPA) will be go back to the days of pitchers hitting.
Posted 09/03 at 09:26 AM
I don’t think there’s much doubt that the level of play in the AL is significantly higher than in the NL. Some of Penny’s and Smoltz’s success may be attributed to small sample sizes and regression to the mean, but the larger point remains that the AL is a better league.
That isn’t to say that the Cardinals, Phillies, or Dodgers can’t or won’t win the World Series. After all, that’s only 7 games. But over the long haul the AL is better. And since I’m an AL guy I wouldn’t mind seeing the DH become an MLB-wide thing, but I’m guessing it won’t happen any time soon.
Posted 09/03 at 09:31 AM
Craig Calcaterra said...
I read somewhere yesterday—Law? Neyer?—that when adjusted to a 162 game schedule, the AL is the equivalent of 93-69 against the NL. Not sure if that was in the past few years or since the advent of interleague play, but it was certainly over a significant enough number of games to leave one with the impression that there is real dominance going on here.
There was certainly a time—the 60s-late 80s, I’d say—when the NL was considered to be much stronger than the AL from top to bottom. Of course, since we have no statistically significant sample with which to test this assessment, we can’t really know if what was going on then was more pronounced than what is happening now.
For what it’s worth, I’m an NL guy and this bothers me.
Posted 09/03 at 09:39 AM
mike in brooklyn said...
They make a 5:30 in the morning too?
Posted 09/03 at 09:54 AM
indy ralph said...
Craig, I’m sure this isn’t where you read it, but I posted this at an ignoramus on Yahoo last week who was spouting off about the NL winning 2 of the last 3 world series: The NL has a .431 winning percentage over their last 500 regular season games vs the AL. That means that against the AL, the NL is slightly better than this year’s Padres and slightly worse than this year’s Oakland A’s. I’m a Cardinals fan and like NL baseball, so it pains me too. But you can’t really argue with that.
Posted 09/03 at 10:10 AM
Jack Marshall said...
The supposed inferiority of the NL vs. the AL doesn’t explain how both Penny and Smoltz pitched their best games of the year—-by far—-the second they left Boston. Is John Farrell really incompetent? Is Boston really that much of a pressure cooker? Is it possible that in both cases Theo gave up juuust as his gamble was about to pay off? Or is this just another one of the unpredictable, inexplicable occurrences that make baseball so fascinating? I’m tending to the latter explanation.
Posted 09/03 at 10:30 AM
As Iracane at Walkoff Walk pointed out (http://www.walkoffwalk.com/2009/09/brad-penny-came-to-kick-ass-an.html), Boston in 23rd in baseball in UZR, while San Fran is 3rd. So, defense could play a part. I don’t know how good St. Louis’s defense is, but just getting away from Boston’s bad defense could have helped out as well.
Still there’s a small sample size and regression. I think that explains as much as anything, though I do think the AL is noticeably better.
Posted 09/03 at 11:40 AM
Jack - Like you I wonder why Smoltz and Penny seem like different pitchers now that they are back in the NL. Penny pitched well for his first few months in the AL but I think once teams saw him for the second/third time they had a book on how to face him. Smoltz never really pitched well at all though he did positive signs that he still was a capable big league pitcher.
I do not believe Farrell is a bad pitching coach and have read that he is considered in fairly decent regard. While I believe Duncan in St Louis may be one of the best I doubt he was able to make major improvements (based on the statistics of Smoltz’s outings with the Cards) in few weeks Smoltz whas been on his pitching staff.
However I do believe there is a difference in the two leagues with the AL being a more challenging league to pitch in. Exactly what that difference is I do not know but I think it is more than just happenstance. There is enough evidence in various forms (some referenced here) to indicate that there is some type of difference between the leagues. For example, the AL is statistically better, over a period of years, in interleague play with essentially an equal number of games played under AL and NL rules (i.e. the use of a DH).
Essentially what I would like to know, beyond the purity of the game and beauty of the pitcher batting arguments is - does the DH provide the AL with a competitive advantage as evidence is seeming to indicate?
Posted 09/03 at 11:46 AM
Jay Jaffe for BP wrote an article for espn (insider only, sorry) about how much better the AL has been than the NL the last few years. here’s the best quote:
Posted 09/03 at 12:24 PM
I’m not convinced of the alleged superiority of the AL being solely based on the DH rule. The NL in the 70’s and 80’s was very strong, with an 11-game All-Star win streak thrown in.
I suspect that the main driver of this is the inarguable strength of the Yankees and Red Sox, which has encouraged a higher level of play throughout the league. If you want to get to the postseason in the AL, you have to get past them.
The NL doesn’t seem to have this same phenomenon.
Certainly the DH rule encourages a different style of play, with more emphasis on heavy hitting than in the DL.
As for me, I much prefer to see small ball and squeeze plays. And I’m philosophically opposed to non-hitting pitchers and hitters that don’t field.
Posted 09/03 at 12:36 PM
Rob C said...
Does the article take into account that the rules are determined by which park the team plays, i.e. AL v. NL? Do AL teams play better in NL parks or vice versa?
Posted 09/03 at 12:49 PM
It doesn’t make any mention of HvA, just takes overall records into account.
Posted 09/03 at 01:03 PM
indy ralph said...
here’s a good way (I think) to put the DH difference argument into perspective. The NL has a .438 (Jaffe’s number) winning percentage against the AL. That means the NL is approximately the Padres (.437), while the AL is approximately the Rockies (.556). If you took the best DH (maybe Adam Lind?) and put him on the Padres, then let the Rockies use a DH from anyone off of their bench, do you think the Padres would be as good as the Rockies? It’s not a solid data-based argument, but it does lend some perspective.
Posted 09/03 at 02:03 PM
Jack Marshall said...
It has been posited that the NL is at less of a disadvantage when it has to use the DH than the AL team is when it can’t use it, since the AL team’s offense is losing an element that is key to its construction, while an NL team is ADDING an extra bat. This has always made intuitive sense to me…the AL plays a weaker team than usual when it plays in NL parks, while the NL plays a stronger team than usual in AL parks—-but the effect doesn’t seem to register on the W-L records. Bill James once suggested that the DH might have less offensive impact than it might because the teams are more willing to start sub-par bats in other positions without the pitcher batting. That also doesn’t seem to be the case, though maybe the Red Sox would be less likely to stick with Jason Varitek if they had to bat the pitcher.
I like Will’s theory above a lot.
Posted 09/03 at 02:20 PM
Maybe, Jack. But the Brewers still bat Jason Kendall everyday even though they also have to bat the pitcher… then again, the Brewers are not in the playoff chase and the Red Sox are…
Posted 09/03 at 02:33 PM