Friday, March 23, 2007

'07 Yanks-Sox Matchups: DH

PF: Jason Giambi has bounced back from the steroids scandal and a big decline in production to re-establish himself as one of the most complete hitters and best run producers in the game. After a solid season in '05 when he was named Comeback Player of the Year, he turned in a huge '06. With injuries to Sheffield, Matsui, and Cano, and with A-Rod struggling, Giambi took the Yankees on his back for a big stretch of the season with help from Jeter and Posada. His numbers of 37 HR, 113 RBI, 110 walks, and a .413 OBP are even more impressive when you consider he was out with a partially torn wrist ligament from right after the series in Fenway (mid August) until right before the playoffs. If he continued on pace from mid-August through the end of the season, we are probably talking about 45+ homers and close to 140 RBI. That would have been MVP talk. Giambi continues to be as selective and efficient a hitter as there is in baseball. He spits at pitches an inch off the plate and crushes pitches that are an inch on it. He is an on-base machine. Punishes mistakes, especially on the inner-half. While he is still more pull happy, especially for power, than he was early in his career, more of that full-field power came back last year, especially to center and left-center. Will be seeing very limited action at first in '07, so his butchery in the field won't be too much of an issue. At age 36, the added rest of DHing full time will only help Giambi continue to be a force in the middle of the Yankees line-up. Along with Damon and Jeter, is changing the corporate Yankees into a more relaxed and upbeat club. He is a big part of the Yankees success.

But David Ortiz is David Ortiz. He is as scary a hitter as there is in baseball. His last three seasons have been absolutely massive. More of the same is on the way. He has the total package at the plate. He can beat you in almost every way, with power to every field, on any pitch, in any location. And when you think you finally have him beat and he is off balance or out of whack with a swing, he is so strong with his arms and wrists that you will be watching the ball sail into the Red Sox bullpen five seconds later. Can just flat out hit in any circumstance. The most clutch player in the game. Smacks the Yankees. He's only 31. Manny is still protecting him. He is a great leader. The list goes on, and its disgusting, I'm stopping.

EDGE: RED SOX

DV: GiamBALCO (Credit to DC) never got the heat he deserved because of the steroid scandal, if you ask me. I have said this many times, but as far as I'm concerned, every time this guy is introduced, they should introduce him as a caught steroid cheat.

It's okay though. He's sorry. For something. We still don't know what.

Still doesn't change the fact that he's one of the elite hitters in the league. Just reading the stats that Pat just cited make me a little more scared of the guy. Sick numbers. He doesn't really peppper the field very well, but he can whack the ball in a huge way. As Pat said, he draws many walks, and as Pat didn't say, he leans into a lot of pitches. I have never seen a guy try less to get out of the way of a pitch. He's the ultimate anti-Jeter in this respect, who always pretends that balls on the inside corner are millimeters away from hitting him. Drama queen. If I were a pitcher, I'd throw one at Giambi for a few reasons: 1) it gives him a reason to actually move and 2) steroids are illegal. What a scumbag.

Anyway, Giambi is in the same boat as way too many Yankees and Sox: He's an aging superstar and each year will presumably be worse than the year before. But as Pat pointed out, if Giambi stays healthy, he's still capable of putting up MVP numbers. But when was the last time he was capable of playing an entire season? Looking back, it must have been 2003, back before he was sorry. A minor miracle would ensure that Giambi will produce better than Ortiz.

I think Pat has a bit of a skewed perception of David Ortiz, as he says Papi hits to all fields. Might be because This is not entirely true. The Joe Maddon shift from last year was largely effective in preventing many extra hits for Ortiz, and there were some frustrating times last year when many American League teams seemed to have him figured out: His 2006 batting average was his lowest in a Red Sox uniform (though his OBP was a career high) and in May, once the shift thing started to happen, he only hit .255.

Then, as great players do, he adapted. That's why he still posted that .287 average. Plus career highs in walks, slugging percentage, and home runs. His OPS was above 1.000 for the second straight year, he drew 23 intentional walks, and his runs created per game statistic was nine and a half. His strikeout totals are also down two years in a row, and he's never grounded into more than 13 double plays in a season.

(You can tell I had a lot of fun on Baseball Reference today.)

Papi's better than he's ever been, and he's only gonna be 31 this year. Scary. You can listen to Pat or WEEI talking about how important it is to have Manny behind him in the lineup, and that is true. But I think my dad said it the best when he singlehandedly kept the Red Sox in the playoff race during the middle of the season: Every night the rest of the stiffs on the team ask Ortiz to do something special in the clutch. You'd think sometimes he wouldn't come through. But he always did.

And he's got a great smile.

EDGE: RED SOX.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

'07 Yanks-Sox Matchups: Right Field

PF: A very interesting matchup, as neither right fielder is their respective team's star, but both the Yankees and the Red Sox need big production from the position.

JD Drew is a classic has a lot of talent guy, but can never stay healthy and put together a full-season of bigtime production together. His new contract is a gross overpay for a guy with career highs of 100 RBI and 31 HR, those numbers coming in different seasons no less, and a long injury history. But the fact that the Sox shelled out so much money to get him shows that he has value when healthy. And this is certainly true. He is a great fastball hitter with a good approach at the plate. Has a great ability to get on base. Struggles with off-speed pitches but again, really makes up for that with the way he punishes fastballs. All around a great defender. When he is healthy he is still not a top tier guy, but he really is very good. His problem is staying healthy and getting on the field consistently to help his team, something he does with zero regularity.

Bobby Abreu was a big difference maker for the Yankees last year. When they acquired him at the trade deadline last year (for next to nothing prospect-wise, just salary pick up. Good look Brian Cashman), the Yanks were a few games back in the AL East, and his .330 AVG, .419 OBP, 42 RBI, and 7 HR over the last two months went a long way to that changing not too long later. He is an on base machine (OBP of .400+ in 9 of last 10 seasons). Is consistently amongst the lead leaders in walks and pitches seen per AB. He just wears pitchers out. A true line drive hitter who sprays the ball to all fields. Bob is not the Gold Glove defender he once was jump/range-wise, but is still solid. Has lost nothing on his cannon of an arm, and this helps make up for his decline in other areas defensively. A true all-around player who does everything at least well, and a few things really well. He was a perfect fit for the Yankees last year in the 3 spot, and could be even better in his first full season with them because he is so perfectly built to be a contributor on a team with a lot of other great guys around him, rather than being the #1 guy.

EDGE: YANKEES.

DV: Again, let me first talk about what Pat already wrote: "But the fact that the Sox shelled out so much money to get him shows that he has value when healthy." Wrong. The fact that the Sox shelled out so much money to get him shows that they are absolutely insane. It shows that they are willing to do anything to appease Scott Boras during the pursuit of Matsuzaka--or, as I like to say, Boras had them by the balls. And that they'd pay over three times as much for a slight upgrade over Trot Nixon. Much more about this later.

"Struggles with off-speed pitches." How do you possibly make $70 million as a baseball player without being able to hit a curveball?

It is true that Nancy walks a lot. He has a terrific lifetime OBP of .393 and has eclipsed the .400 mark three times during his career. His season that was so terrific that he should opt out of $11 per year for three years was not one of these years. He also doesn't strike out often nor does he hit into double plays. He's got a little bit of speed too. Let's just say he'd be a better leadoff hitter than Coco Crisp.

But for some reason this guy has a reputation of being an elite baseball player. He has never posted numbers that have indicated that. Thirty-one home runs isn't a "holy crap, let's pay this guy $70 million" kind of number, nor is 100 RBIs. Let's just say John Valentin has a higher career high in RBIs than JD Drew. Drew is 31 years old, so he isn't that top prospect that everyone talked about in the late 1990s. He is what he is: A glorified Trot Nixon. Let's look at the similarities.

Spotted injury history? Check. Two years out of their entire careers over 25 home runs? Check (Drew 27 in '01 and 31 in '04. Nixon 27 in '01 and 28 in '03. Struggles against lefties? Sure thing for both of them. Good arms in right field? Yup, but don't expect Drew to play as hard as Nixon did. Just ask Tony La Russa in his book. Nancy Drew is not that good of a baseball player. Barely better than the guy currently platooning in right field in Cleveland for 1 year and $3 million in guaranteed money. Not as good as Bobby Abreu. Certainly not worth $14 million a year.

Bobby Abreu is that good of a baseball player. I believe this is the guy responsible for the term "five-tool player" becoming a commonplace baseball term. I complimented Nancy because his OBP was over .400 three times in his career. Abreu, as Pat pointed out, has triple that. He's much better than the league average in the field, and among the best when it comes to throwing guys out. Not bad for an emergency Sheffield replacement last summer, Abreu somewhat quietly is one of the best players in the major leagues. And as Pat said, there should be no pressure for him to get the big hit this year as he'll have plenty of all-stars behind him in the order. He's my favorite for leading the league in walks in 2007.

I agreed with Boston last summer when they decided it wasn't worth giving up a bunch of prospects for Abreu. They were rebuilding for a better future, especially with the constant improvement of Wily Mo Pena and a whole bunch of outfield prospects.

Of course, as far as the rebuilding process goes, the Red Sox showed the patience of a five-year-old waiting in line for Mickey's PhilharMagic (yup, 7 days until Disney). They signed Nancy Drew.

HUGE edge: Yankees.

Virus rehab

Well, it's now been six days without full capacity of my dorm room computer. I have a bit more access than I did earlier, but Internet Explorer keeps crashing if I go to certain sites. My Colby homepage would be one of those sites, but Boston Dirt Dogs, NoMaas.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and How Youz Doin Baseball don't cause my computer to crash.

I have a lot more to talk about, and it will be a great way to procrastinate for my big econ exam Wednesday night. There's a good NY Times article that my boyJeff sent me about Manny Being Manny, about ninety articles on Doug Mientkiewicz's second hit of the spring, and plenty more.

I also have a thing or two to say about A-Rod's job security.

As for Colby ITS, a guy is supposed to make a second attempt at fixing my computer tomorrow morning. Hopefully after that I will be back up to full blogging capacity. In the meantime, enjoy the two new matchups I finally finished.

'07 Yanks-Sox Matchups: Center Field

PF: I probably don't need to say too much about this one, because DV will more than take care of it as these are two guys he loves to talk about. But I'll put up a little scout anyway.

I would never have traded Andy Marte for Coco Crisp. A big reason for this is that anytime Mark Shapiro (or Billy Beane) are willing to make a trade, I'm going to pass, because they don't lose on trades. And Shapiro didn't with this one, Theo did. But it happened, and I'm not a Red Sox fan so I really don't have to spend much time worrying about not having Andy Marte and Hanley Ramirez on the left side of the infield for the next 10 years (sorry, its just too much fun to write that sentence).

As far as Coco goes, the potential is definitely there from a tools standpoint. He has bigtime speed in the field and on the bases, and is a slap hitter who hits from both sides. But at some point he has to turn that potential into production, and hasn't done so to date. Even his two good seasons in Cleveland were just average considering that for every good stat he had he also had a bad one. And last year was just an absolute disaster, but he had the nagging injuries and the pressure of his first season in Boston. He is better suited to play a corner spot in the outfield and not lead off, and I think at least one of those will happen this year so that should help. If healthy he could get back to his '04/'05 production, and while you would ultimately like to see a guy you gave up Andy Marte for do more than that at some point, at least it will be better than '06.

It was very difficult for me, as it was for many Yankees fans, to have Johnny Damon come play for the Yankees...at first. From a baseball standpoint it was clear he bettered the club in a big way, but it was tough to see someone who killed us so many times with our rivals wearing our uniform. It was just wierd. This lasted about two games into the season when I, as well as probably 95% of Yankees fans, were forced to get over it because of the total package he brings. The way he plays is why it was so easy to dislike him, and the way he plays is why it was now so easy to love him. Plays hard. Plays injured. Never gives away at bats (top 5 in the majors in pitches seen per AB in '06). Great clubhouse guy. An annoyance at the plate and on the bases. Scrappy. Fearless going after the baseball. And most importantly, he has that "it" factor that you love. He just does things at the right time, and absolutely lives for the big spots (Many would point to the '04 ALCS, and rightfully so. For obvious reasons I won't go that route, and I'll point out the 47 extra base hits he had in the five game sweep of Boston last August). He just plays bigger than he is, and that goes a long way in my book, especially for a 33 year old whose legs are not getting younger for his game, which is very reliant upon speed. That said, he turned in an '06 that included power numbers of 24 homers and 80 RBI to go along with speed numbers of 25 steals and 35 doubles. His average was down at .285, and weather or not he boucnes back from that could be key. Has perhaps the worst outfield arm in baseball, but is still as good as they come when it comes to his jump, tracking it, and doing whatever it takes to go get it. I'd look for an '07 from Damon that will be very similar to '06 across the board, and that is a good thing for the Yankees.

EDGE: YANKEES

DV: First, to clear things up, Pat has a few very important inaccuracies in his section of this post: Crisp's arm is worse than Damon's and Damon did not have 47 extra base hits during the five-game sweep of Boston in 2006. He was 10-23 with only six extra-base hits.

Second, I gave up bashing Coco Crisp for Lent, so bear with me here. I will ignore his ice-cold spring so far because, after all, they're spring training games.

As far as trading Marte goes, I agreed whole-heartedly on this assessment from Bostondirtdogs.com last January. Looks like both me and Rotoworld were right. A frantic Boston organization couldn't plug in Jeremy Reed and then wait a few years for an Ellsbury or a Murphy to take the job, so they got Coco until 2009. Coco was a disaster and Marte is continuing to develop into one of the best prospects in baseball, winning the International League Player of the Month in June before missing almost the entire second half of the season with an injury. But this is not about Marte, it's about Crisp. So let's talk about him.

To answer the question posed 24995 times on NESN last April and May, I saw that catch Coco made. I feel bad about the fact that he's basically living his life in the shadow of cult hero Johnny Damon and that if he walks into a convenience store to buy a gallon of self-endorsed Hood milk, people are wondering where Johnny is. Poor guy sold his house in Middleton. He hurt his finger and never really recovered from that. Maybe he has the potential to steal a whole bunch of bases and hit .300 like he did in 2005 if healthy. We didn't see that last year, obviously, and people jumped on him, myself included.

That said, Coco is not a superstar and never will be. There's a reason he got bumped from the CF position and leadoff spot in Cleveland: Because a guy was better. There's a reason he was traded from Cleveland: Because he was expendable and could be traded for a team who was acting absolutely desperate. What I'm trying to say is that Coco is okay, but is far from good. People hailed him as a carbon copy of Johnny Damon, but he is a poor leadoff hitter. His career high OBP was .345 in 2005. This is lower than the league average for leadoff hitters. His plate patience is more reminiscient of Nomar's than Damon's, and those who remember Nomar as a leadoff hitter remember bashing him for always swinging at the first pitch. Maybe PF can help me out with a "pitches seen" statistic for Coco, but I guarantee you it is a low number. He hits a lot of doubles, as evidenced by coming in fifth in the AL in 2005, but otherwise, he does nothing spectacular at the plate.

In the field, he tracks down a lot of balls, including That Catch Coco Made. His arm is weaker than Damon's was last year (but who knows, Damon's could be worse this year as his body continues to break down. But either way, neither arm is any less than pathetic). Coco has a funny name, but you can't intangible first base nor can you funny-name first base. His potential is not as good as Johnny Damon in 2003, 2004, 2005, or 2006.

Damon in 2007 is slightly worse than Damon in 2006, as I wrote in my first post. He runs his mouth big time still about how much Boston disrespected him, and that makes me want to kill him. But when it counts, he still performs. Like many of the other guys already addressed, Damon is an aging superstar who will still get the job done. He'll still battle his butt off, he'll still track down balls, he'll still foul off 10 pitches in a row against Josh Beckett until Beckett serves him a meatball or goes down with a blister problem. He'll also still track down balls in the outfield like few others. He isn't going to steal as many bases as he did back in Kansas City, but then again, Coco will not steal as many bases as he did in Cleveland.

As I wrote before, I think Damon will hit the critical crap-out point soon, but not this year. In 2007, he's still better than the potential Coco has.

Edge: Yankees.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Jeff Karstens Question

Sorry for the lack of posting on my part lately. Between my being buried with work and DV's computer issues we haven't been able to post as regularly as we would like. But look for a flurry of matchup posts soon (left field is below), and we will get them all in and then some before the season. Once the season starts things should get even better.

One quick question. Should Jeff Karstens be getting more of a look to make the team out of camp, not just as a long reliever, but as the fourth or fifth starter? His performance thus far in spring would warrant such.

Pavano has been OK, and looks like he is on the road back to effectiveness, but he hasn't pitched consistently in a year and a half, so who really knows what he is going to bring early on.

Iggy looks great one minute and awful the next. It seems like every out he has recorded this spring has been on a strikeout, which is a great sign that he can get major league hitters out. At the same time he walks guys at the same rate and appears not to have a feel for pitching on this level yet, so he could proably use some time in Triple-A to get comfortable.

Then there is Karstens, who was servicable last year in his first ML call-up (2-1 with a 3.80 in 8 games, 6 starts). This spring he didn't give up a run for his first 10 innings, even though he got knocked around a little bit today. He is a soft tosser, but he is very comfortable with his curve and his change and seems steady on the mound. He is nothing spectacular, clearly, but considering Pavano's recent injury history and Iggy coming over from Japan, and both therefore needing time to adjust, is Karstens the best option in the fourth/fifth spot, at least early? I think he at least deserves a serious look, which he appears to be getting. It will be interesting to see what happens here.

'07 Yanks-Sox Matchups: Left Field

PF: I love Hideki Matsui. I love his approach, his unflappable nature, his line drive swing, his ability to handle pitches anywhere and spray the ball to all fields, as well as his penchant for stepping up in the big spots (in the last 4 years, only Big Papi has better numbers in the clutch). Matsui is one of those quiet producers who goes unnoticed by many but at the end of the season the numbers are big. He is one of only three players in baseball history to have 100+ RBI in his first three major league seasons (Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire are the other two). He is coming off a broken wrist and the ensuing surgery that cost him much of '06, but based on how he looked when he came back in Sept. as well as his work ethic and desire to help his team, I think he will be right back to his consistently productive self. It would be nice if his 31 homer power from '04 reappeared, but I am not overly hopeful. He is not a spectacular defender, with a weak arm and sometimes questionable jumps/routes. But he has good insticts and is absolutely fearless going after balls (See May '06: completely severs his wrist diving for a ball, and instead of rolling around screaming, picks the ball up and throws it into second base. For a game in May. He's tough as s#%t). The Yankees won the division without him last year, but they need his 100+ RBI plus production back this year in the even more competitive AL East.

No matter how many good things I or anybody says about Hideki Matsui, Manny Ramirez is a better baseball player. They could not be more different in terms of their attitude or approach, with Manny being Manny!, but Ramirez is still, along with A-Rod, a top-two natural hitter of this era. There are absolutely no holes in his swing. He has power from foul pole to foul pole, and there is not a pitch or a location you can consistently beat him with. Has great balance at the plate and an incredibly fundamental swing. The combination of his swing and his patience allow him to let the ball get very deep in the zone before deciding to swing, making him very selective and frustrating to pitch to. Not to take anything away from David Ortiz, but Manny is a better hitter, and he relies on Manny way more than Manny relies on him. And that says something. He is an absolutely terrible fielder with multiple defensive flaws, namely concentration and the ability to run without falling down. Does have a strong and accurate arm. As has been more than well documented, he does not show up to play everyday. He usually doesn't even really start hitting until he decides he wants to sometime in late May or early June. Didn't even wait until the five-game sweep in August was over to totally bail on the rest of the season, sitting out all or part of the last three games of the series. But lets be serious, defense and lack of daily foucs aside, when the Sox need him either in a late season race or the playoffs, Manny will be there producing like crazy.

EDGE: RED SOX

DV: Pat already took care of basically all I have to say on this one. I was gonna hope that we'd have a disagreement on this one, but we don't.

Matsui plays baseball like everyone should play their sport. He shuts the hell up (probably because he doesn't speak English), plays 100%, doesn't make headlines, and plays his ass off. He won't win any Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, or anything like that, but he will get the big hit and put up huge numbers that will help the Yankees win ballgames.

As far as Manny goes, the extent to which Manny shows up this season actually does determine who does have an edge in this matchup. Last year I think we saw a whole new level of Manny Being Manny, with him totally shutting it down with patellar tendonitis at the end of the season. The weird thing about it, though, is that he never actually went on the DL. He just didn't play.

A big part of me thinks there's something else behind this that not even the papers are talking about.

If Manny really doesn't show up for a significant amount of this season and the Red Sox have to move around Kevin Youkilis, Nancy Drew, and David Murphy to play Manny's position, I would give the Yankees the edge. The way everyone says it is that Manny will be Manny all year, but then still end up hitting .300 with 40 home runs and 120 RBI. It's pretty true. But if Manny only plays 2/3 of the season just because he would prefer to be Manny, it turns into .300/27/90. Add that in to the other unavoidable WEEI debate topic, the fact that nobody's going to protect Ortiz in this lineup (Nancy doesn't count), and the Yankees have the edge.

EDGE: Red Sox

Colby ITS vs. HYD Baseball

I have a computer virus that is generally preventing me from using Internet Explorer in my room. It's hard to post on a blog when you have no Internet access. I barely have an idea what's going on in the world of baseball right now, and that's sad.

Colby's Info Tech Services and Student Computer Services are very slow in trying to fix my computer, so I don't know how much longer I'm going to have to deal with this crap. But I apologize in advance.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Ace"

This does not help the rumors that I am moonlighting at the Yankee fan site NoMaas.org.

The NoMaas crew sponsored Josh Beckett's Baseball-Reference page and wrote basically what I've been saying on How Youz Doin Baseball ever since it started:

"Josh Beckett: 5.01 ERA, 92 ERA+, 36 HRs allowed -- Ace."

I wish I were moonlighting for NoMaas: I love their sarcasm and baseball analysis. I think I like their blog better than any of the Red Sox ones I see.

Look for the left field matchup some time today or tonight.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Don't underestimate the small-town newspapers

I saw "Francona still optimistic about pitching rotation" on the front page of the Bangor Daily news as I walked by the newsstand outside of the Waterville Dunkin Donuts this morning. Of course, I disagreed with this so much that I had to put sixty cents in to read the article. My conclusion: Gotta read the local Maine papers for good Red Sox scoops that don't have to do with Daisuke Matsuzaka scratching his butt at practice.

Andrew Neff of the Bangor Daily News provided an article that didn't really break that much ground, but at least it wasn't about Curt Schilling's weight, Manny's new hair color, or Jason Varitek's intangibles (well--a little bit, but not that much). It dissected the likely starting rotation of the 2007 Red Sox...and it had NUMBERS and stuff!

Boston's overall ERA is 4.24 and the collective ERAs of Beckett, Matsuzaka, Papelbon, Schilling, and Wakefield are a mere 2.18 through Sunday, according to the article. This was including the night Matsuzaka got shelled but didn't include the night Wakefield got shelled.

I'll admit that those are pretty promising statistics, especially as the 4.24 mark is the 4th-lowest in the American League so far during the exhibition season. But I think that the optimism, expressed by Francona, Wakefield ("I think we have the best rotation in the major leagues") as well as the optimism from ESPN's Tim Kurkjian is about as rational as being confident you'll roll a pair of dice (no pun intended) and get a seven.

The Red Sox do have insurance in Jon Lester and Julian Tavarez, and the Herald reported last week that Matt Clement is throwing baseballs again during the last year of his disastrous contract, but those guys are as much of question marks as the front-line guys.

You've read all about the positives and the "what ifs" if you're a Boston guy...or even if you're a guy who hasn't been living in a cave. Let's go step-by-step with the "what if nots:"

1. Matsuzaka, according to Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla, is throwing some crazy junk. He might be unhittable. He might also not be unhittable. (edit:) He went 14-13 in the Japanese 4-A league a mere 2 years ago, and he got smacked around by the Baltimore Orioles. It will also be interesting (and not exactly in a "woo-hoo, I can't wait" kind of way) to see how he reacts to more frequent appearances.
2. Schilling, for some reason, has people thinking he's going to be a Cy Young Award candidate. These people have probably not seen him pitch since 2004. It's true that he does have the motivations of being in a contract year and, according to Kurkjian, "two more good years would really help his chances" at the Hall of Fame. But Schilling is 40 years old, was decent but far from great last year--especially after the All-Star break--and (I am falling into the trap) it looked like he spent way too much time in front of a computer screen drinking Mountain Dew Code Red this offseason. Get off your blog and run a few miles.

Though the same could be said for me.

3. Beckett. Yes, he won 16 games. But the HRs, the ERA, and the lack of the curveball last year (the Providence Journal also noticed this in an article written last week) are very ominous signs that he's not as good as those occasional flashes of brilliance would indicate.
4. Papelbon. He is so intense on the mound and has been working on a new pitch, but he is unproven as a starter. Don't get me wrong, I think he'll be very good this year. But not one of the best starters in the American League.
5. Wakefield. Everyone knows what Wakefield is. He's a quality ballplayer, but there is no way anyone can prove he is the best #5 starter in the Major Leagues. He's also a year older.

The Red Sox' rotation is a total gamble. If everything works, sure, they might be among the best. But the chances that everything will happen perfectly with this staff are very slim. Just as they were last year, the Red Sox are a team with "too many pitching ifs."

The exuberance about these guys is a little too much to handle some days.

On a side note, the Bangor Daily News (I guess it was only in the print edition) also had something about Jacoby Ellsbury worth reading, quoting an instructor as saying "the sky's the limit" for Ellsbury's potential, projecting him as a player similar to Johnny Damon. With Coco Crisp and Nancy Drew stuck at his positions for the next three years, I look forward to seeing him star as a center fielder on another team that has a little more patience.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Scouting Carl Pavano

Had my first chance of the year...check that, my first chance since June 17, 2005, to see Carl Pavano pitch in an actual, live baseball game against the Sox tonight in Spring Training action.

The guy is an interesting case. He has become a laughing stock from a baseball standpoint, and the continued injuries plus the contract make it all justified. But the talent is definitely there. That is what is interesting.

If he can stay healthy, he can help the Yankees. Two years ago teams were lining up to pay him to be their ace. The Yankees signed him to be a #2. I don't see any reason now, at age 30 and even after the injuries, why he can't be a servicable #4.

The problem is he has to stay healthy.

Anyway, I thought he looked pretty good in his three innings tonight. He gave up two runs in the second inning off balls that were well hit, and also caught a couple of breaks on balls that were hit hard right at people. All of the hard hit balls were on fastballs catching too much plate, which is something I can deal with for now. Other than that one stretch both the four-seamer, and most importantly, the two-seamer were good. On the black inside and out. Consistently 88-92. Back in '05 when the shoulder problems began he lost velocity on both of his fastballs, and his two-seamer, which he lived off in Florida, had lost its bite. It was dancing again a little bit tonight, and he was definitely able to start it inside against lefties and run it back ( one nasty vs. Papi) and get it in on righties (one nasty vs. Manny). He has to get back to consistently jamming righties with his two-seam, which is his MO. He threw a couple of nice changes, a pitch he never lost and was perhaps his only effective pitch throughout in '05. The slider looked good, and he has to start trusting it. Throughout his entire career he has never realized the potential of his own slider, and he should start. It has good tight rotation and its good enough that he should be able to run it away from righties and backdoor it on lefties. The other pitch Pavano had success with in Florida but lost in New York in '05 was the split, and he needs it. He threw a bunch tonight and it looked like it used to with that good downward action. It is a pitch that puts a lot of stress on the shoulder, and I'm hoping that the fact that he has had shoulder woes had a lot to do with him losing the pitch slightly in the first place. It was good to see him throwing it again, especially with two strikes which he did on at least two occassions, as it is his out pitch.

You might read that and think its incredibly favorable and optimistic sounding scout for a guy who has had the track record of injuries that Carl Pavano has had the last two years. But the fact is, his stuff is pretty favorable. He's a good pitcher when he's on the mound. He just has to find a way to get there every five days.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Yanks/Sox Matchup: Third Base

DV: There's a lot to be said about this one on both sides. And seeing that I'm typing this from my computer instead of writing it on a notebook at Wesleyan, I have all the resources necessary to make this one worthwhile.

Let's start with Mike Lowell. I ripped this guy pretty hard as he came as the $18-million throw-in to the Josh Beckett trade. I cited his offensive disaster that was 2005, and I can still remember with lots of confidence that he hit .236 with eight home runs in that year. I was so pessimistic about his place in the Red Sox' lineup that I started offering to shell out money for each home run he hit over eight during the 2006 season. I thought Andy Marte would straight-up be a better third baseman than Lowell in 2006, and cited the fact that Lowell would be taking up both salary and a lineup spot for the next two years as the worst part of the Beckett trade.

I was a bit wrong about all of those things. Lowell was actually the best part of the Beckett trade. The worst parts have to include Beckett's 5.01 ERA, his 36 home runs allowed, Hanley Ramirez's 2006 season, and Anibal Sanchez's 2006 season. Lowell hit a respectable .285, though that mark is well off of his first-half pace. He hit a crapload of doubles during the first half of the season, and everyone I knew (and some people I didn't know) told me to recant all the negative things I said about Lowell and Beckett. I'll admit I came around for a while: I like the way Lowell plays and I'm a big fan of his excellent glove and of his constant look of "I'm just a little bit dismayed by everything that's going on here." I became a Lowell fan and tried to ignore Hanley Ramirez's stats all season.

Here comes the "but" in the form of a riddle: What do each day between July 30 and August 25, 2006 have in common?

Mike Lowell didn't have a double. He had one double in the entire month of August, and this is another forgotten reason why the team went south during that month. Lowell hit .250 with one home run and six RBIs. It is notable that he walked so often that his OBP was still .344, but ouch. The Mike Lowell from that stretch looked a lot like the 2005 Mike Lowell that KILLED my fantasy team and the Mike Lowell who I shamelessly bashed nonstop between Thanksgiving 2005 to mid-April 2006.

They (and I) say that baseball always evens itself out, and the 2006 season evened itself out to a pretty decent one for Lowell. Maybe not a $9 million season, but decent. This year he's another year older and another year removed from those glory days back in Florida. As a Lowell fan, I am hoping the good stretches will resemble the good stretches of 2006, and I'm hoping that the bad stretches are shorter than the August 2006 one. As a realist, I am expecting neither to be true.

As far as A-Rod goes, I love how much he's hated. The guy is an absolute idiot and, as I read a few weeks ago, he's a guy who's very image-conscious, but "sucks at PR." He lets the crap get to him and it turns him from the best baseball player around to maybe the fifth best.

Let's put it this way: When everyone was whining about A-Rod's production, an article compared the stats of two shortstops. They were very similar. One was A-Rod's and one was David Wright's. At the time, Wright was being hailed as the best thing to ever happen to the Mets. Sure, in 2006 he wasn't playing up to his $252 million expectations. And he might or might not play up to those expectations in 2007. After all, I'm sure he got up early in the morning to work out because he's the most special player in the major leagues. But still, a disastrous season for A-Rod is still leagues better than a career year for Lowell--or 97% of any Major League Baseball players.

EDGE: YANKEES

PF: Mike Lowell had a solid campaign in '06. He is a plus plus defender who makes up for his lack of athleticism with his incredible feel for the position. Makes the tough play on a routine basis. Offensively he is not the player he was three years ago, but he still put up rock solid numbers last year. He is strictly a pull hitter and likes the ball in, and has no ability to go the other way or work with pitches on the outer half. Makes Fenway an ideal park for him and playing there last year resulted in a career high 47 doubles. Struggles with lefties in total, as well as righties who are able to keep the ball away from him. I see more solid production again this year.

Love him or hate him, Alex Rodriguez is the most talented all around baseball player of this era. In a season that was labeled a "collosal failure" and "the worst of his career", A-Rod hung numbers that look like this: .290 AVG, 121 RBI, 35 HR, and a .392 OBP. I'd like to have some failures like that. But all the expectations of having .330 AVG/150 RBI/50 HR plus hitting a grand slam in every big spot against the Red Sox plus the contract gets to him, and that is his own personal problem.

He may or may not ever shake those pressures, but he has shed 12 pounds in an effort to get the fluidity and range that he had when he was a shortstop back in his swing. I've been talking since the beginning of last year how tight his swing had become because he looked like a linebacker instead of a baseball player, and I think dropping the weight will allow him to have that ultra-athetic and balanced swing again that enables him to go get the ball on the outer half and drive it better than anybody. I think it is all going to lead to a monster '07.

But bulked up or trimmed down, pressure or no pressure, monster season or "collosal failure", A-Rod is better than Mike Lowell, by a lot.

EDGE: YANKEES.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

I am the Scott Proctor of Eustis

My boys at the Eustis mailroom gave the signal for the lefty and I'm being called in from the bullpen. This happens about as often as the Yankees call for Scott Proctor. The poor guy: Joe Torre decided that almost tripling his career high in appearances would be a good thing for his career. Tom Gordon and Paul Quantrill would probably disagree with that, as they have watched their arms fall off as overworked Yankee bullpen pitchers.

Basic theory would say that his stats would have gone into the toilet by the end of the season in 2006, but his post-All-Star Break numbers are better than his pre-numbers. There will be a point that he breaks down, and the Yankees just gotta hope it's later rather than sooner.

As the Scott Proctor of Eustis, my arm hasn't fallen off, but my numbers are probably down. After all, I am blogging at work:

>Mike Timlin is recovering from an oblique injury. The guy's older than dirt. Whoever thinks he should be a candidate for the closer job is so blinded by nostalgia that they also think the Sox would shell out $25 million for Roger Clemens. (Come to think of it, though, they did throw $70 million at a glorified Trot Nixon...)

>Papelbon is going to be so intense on the mound as a starter. There's a story about this in every paper. They've been saying this for a year now. The closer candidates are a mix of good and bad, with Craig Hansen being the "bad" part. I still find it hard to believe that a team with such a shaky bullpen overall can contend for a World Series championship.

>The Red Sox played the Mets yesterday. Let me just say that I'm glad that the Sox have a shaky bullpen. I could be a Mets fan like my boys Bob and Drew. Their rotation is shakier than the Sox' bullpen. If I ever get around to it, I'm going to address them as the #3 most interesting team in the MLB this year. Chan Ho Park? Woof. By the way, the Josh Johnson injury is terrible news for the #4 most interesting team.

>According to Grady Little, Captain Intangible is the best catcher in the major leagues. Good to know that he still doesn't like to go with the numbers.

>I was going to write a blog totally ripping Nancy Drew for his "I want job security" whining the other day. But NESN's Eric Wilbur seriously said everything I was going to say.

>That said, I might still write it.

>Wilbur, though some of his older posts are shining beacons of idiocy, has also written some great stuff about the DirecTV/MLB deal. HYD Baseball all-star Tom Nale might think he's a "stain," but Wilbur's becoming one of the very best.

Scott Proctor has a class to go to. Enjoy the day.

'07 Yanks-Sox Matchups: Shortstop

DV: Not much is necessary for this one. The Sox have Julio Lugo. I'm psyched. Lugo (as you can see after his Dodger performance in the second half of last year) has a scouting report as a guy who will make a decent amount of errors on routine plays. I think someone wrote about this in yesterday's Globe, but I'm not sure. I'm at Wesleyan for a track meet right now and I don't have ready access to the Internet, unfortunately. Anyway, the Sox had wood for the "pop" in Lugo' s bat for years and years now. That pop, as I wrote earlier, has yielded a career high of 15 home runs and an un-stunning .362 career high in OBP. Thanks to baseball-reference.com, I can see that his career OPS is lower than the league average. The guy might be an Orlando Cabrera-type presence in the clubhouse (at least nineteen articles were written about that during the first week of spring training), but just as you can't steal first base, you can't intangible first base either. I love how people herald guys as OC-type guys while Boston could have had OC himself for less money. I will write more about the 04-05 offseason later.

Bottom line on Lugo: He's no Hanley Ramirez. Way to be patient, Sox front office.

The Yankees have Jeter. He should have won MVP last year. It was the best year of his career, hands down. And this is coming from a Jeter hater.

EDGE: Yankees

PF: There is nothing really to say here. It would be a great opportunity for me to do something I love to do, and bring up sabermetric statistics, like VORP for example, that sing Jeter's praises as one of the best in the game, but I am not going to do it. While I agree with DV that Jeter should have won the MVP in '06, and that it was a great year for him, I would disagree that it was his best year, citing '99 as a better one.

Derek Jeter is Derek Jeter. Julio Lugo has some solid tools, but overall projects to probably be league average at best.

BIG EDGE: Yankees.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

"Two Minutes: Well Worth It"

I'll be honest, I haven't been following the Signature Pharmacy steroid scandal of the last week, until my boy Jeff told me that Gary Matthews Jr. hired Robert Shapiro (one of OJ's lawyers) to defend him in this case.

This is going to be the first, and probably not last, reference to steroids in the How Youz Doin Baseball blog. And the saga surrounding Matthews is also a perfect example of why the MLB steroid policy is largely ineffective.

The Shapiro article linked above describes the 32-year-old Matthews as a "longtime major league journeyman" with years and years of unimpressive stats, being put on waivers, and losing his job. His career finally found some geographic stability when he started to produce at a decent level the last three years with Texas. However, according to Baseball-Reference.com, Matthews only made $2.4 million in his career year of 2006.

During that first year with Texas, according to Sports Illustrated, Matthews got a package of human growth hormone in the mail from this steroids ring. As you can read in that link, he didn't necessarily take it; instead he may have shipped it! But assuming he was somehow involved in taking performance enhancers himself, would it be worthwhile?

The guy was a borderline major leaguer for years and years before 2004. Starting the year he got that package, he solidified himself as a major league ballplayer. He had a breakout season (which, as Sabernomics points out, may have nothing to do with steroids, but with luck) in 2006, which happened to be a contract year.

So the guy is on the verge of the minor leagues, he's making $2.4 million, he takes the 'roids, and BANG-he gets a deal for $10 million a year. Even if he gets busted and gets the fifty games, it would be just like the Icelandic guy on Mighty Ducks II who hacked one of the Ducks: "Fifty games: Well worth it." Even if he doesn't get the pay during the suspension, he gets over $6 million for the season, which is more than his "holding everything else equal" salary.

And seeing that the media isn't making pariahs of users (seriously: why is Jason Giambi no longer a laughingstock?), there isn't even that much of a moral/PR toll for taking steroids. People will still remember him more for that catch last year than the scandal this March.

So why wouldn't a guy like Matthews take steroids? Hypothetically, if the drugs did contribute to his terrific 2006 campaign, what benefits does he get? He has a solid job with a contender, a brand-new lucrative contract, and he will now be able to live comfortably for the rest of his life.

The current policy is not nearly enough to dissuade players in similar roles to Matthews from taking steroids. Baseball and the media alike are way too soft on this issue.

Did I miss this offensive liability?

Now it's very well-documented that I am not a Julio Lugo fan and I never have been. The Red Sox' overwhelming wood for this guy over the past few years is puzzling and agonizing. I'm trying to figure out if they've paid off the Boston media to write good things about this guy.

Some things written just piss me off. For example, Michael Silverman of the Herald wrote an article Monday about Lugo and all the adjustments he's making. Silverman also chronicled Lugo's wacky Sunday, when he ran into two outs and committed yet another error in the field. I will not rip Lugo for this: It's spring training. If he did that during a regular season game, I would probably flip out.

(By the way, the over-under on number of times Lugo is picked off of second base Scott Cooper-style is 0.5. I'm picking the over.)

But here's the part that made me upset: "The offensive upgrade of Lugo over last year’s shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, is going to become apparent almost immediately once the regular season begins." This is not the first time I have read this kind of stuff, running the defensively brilliant Gonzalez out of town. It seems like every pro-Lugo article has trashed Gonzalez's bat. And this doesn't make sense to me.

It's true that Gonzalez didn't have a bat reminiscent of Nomar Garciaparra's circa 1999. But was he that bad at the plate? The answer is a very solid no!

Gonzalez played 111 games, battling injuries for the vast majority of the second half. When he was activated from the DL at the beginning of September (he was sidelined by a "side muscle" injury), he was hitting .270!

Is .270 that bad? Is Julio Lugo definitely gonna be hitting better than .270?

Furthermore, delving a bit deeper into the the so-called offensive liability Gonzalez's 2006 numbers reveals that he hit .285 before the All-Star Break (before the injuries happened) and .352 and .325 in June and July respectively. Everyone points to the absence of Varitek et. al. for the Red Sox' embarrassing slide in August, but everyone ignores the absence of the guy who hit well over .300 for a third of the season. They instead label him a defensive liability.

A few more quick hits about the offensive liability: The 31-year-old Lugo's career highs are 15 home runs and 75 RBIs (in 2003 and 2004 respectively). In BOTH of those years, the 30-year-old Gonzalez exceeded both of those numbers (18/77 in 2003, 24/79 in 2004). It's very true that Lugo's career average, OBP, and OPS exceed Gonzalez's significantly. The Sox are paying Lugo an average of $9 million over the next four years. The Reds are paying Gonzalez just over half of that. This asinine market has dictated that Julio Lugo is twice as valuable as Alex Gonzalez.

If I believed everything I've been reading in the past month, I would be led to believe that Alex Gonzalez was an automatic out all year last year.

He wasn't.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Igawa's First Spring Start

Just like Matsuzaka did with the Sox last Friday, the "other" Japanese import of the off-season, Kei Igawa, got his first taste of live action today for the Yankees. And let's just say one thing was made clear: there is a reason he is the "other".

But Igawa is not Matsuzaka, we knew that already, he's a middle of the rotation guy at best. But you need to have a good back of the rotation to win (for a negative example see: Wright, Jaret in '06 ALDS Game 4) and it was nice to get a look at the 27-year old lefty for the first time today against the Tigers at Legends Field.

Igawa was all over the place from the start, and walked three guys in addition to giving up two hits in his inning plus of work (he gave up a hit to the leadoff guy to start the second and got pulled because of pitch count). I'm not too concerned about the control issues, as spending TOO much time in the strike zone has been a problem for him in the past, so it was probably just nerves. All three outs he recorded were on strikeouts, which was his thing in Japan and something he needs to continue to do to be successful here, so that was encouraging.

As for his stuff, it was exactly what I had seen and read about. He is poor-man's-Tom Glavinish. A consistently good and smooth over the top delivery. Works at 88-90 with his four-seamer, and dialed it up to 91-92 a few times, which is his max. It isn't overwhelming and is strait as could be, but like Glavine he isn't afraid to throw it inside and out despite the lack of life, and it is a little sneaky with some late pop. He has to spot it better than today, when he was up in the zone WAY too much. Threw his slurve a decent amount and it didn't look great. He was rolling it every time minus one good one that he finally snapped off. Threw the change a few times too, and I liked it better than the slurve, had good deception and a little late tailing action. The change was his go to in Japan, but he'll need both to be good in the AL.

Overall he was just okay today. The walks can't continue and they shouldn't, it was only one game. He has to get his ball down in the zone more. But I like the confidence to throw the average fastball like it's better than average, I like the strikouts, and I like that people say he is a bigtime competitor with a great personality. I think Igawa can be just plain good in the AL, and if he can consistently be that, that's what the Yankees need out of the 4-5 rotation spots.

'07 Yanks/Sox Matchups: Second Base

DV: Dustin Pedroia is in a similar situation as Andy Phillips. He's a young guy, doesn't project to be a superstar or even a semistar, but he is kind of thrust into the starting role. He's a little guy with a big swing. Doesn't hit for too much power (if anyone saw him swing last year, you saw him swing too hard. THAT was the reason for his .191 average late last year), but he's a decent contact hitter. Plus, he's only 23. He'll hit a lot of singles, a couple doubles and--at least for this year--he'll make a lot of outs. He'll also be average in the field: Let's say he's no Hanley Ramirez.

On the other hand, Robinson Cano already flirted with a batting title at age 23 and, like Pedroia, he's only getting better. I see him as a potential second-tier franchise player. And he hit 9th in the lineup last year. Wow.

EDGE: Yankees

PF: Pedroia projects as a solid major league second baseman, with a combination of above-average tools that he has been able to highlight and below-average tools that he has been able to hide. Very good contact hitter who doesn't have any home run power but can put the ball in the gaps and down the lines. Never strikes out, proving this both in the minors when he was hitting and in the majors when he wasn't, which is a good sign. Despite a lack of physical tools in the field, he finds ways to get the job done, making only 17 errors in 301 professional games.

Then there is Robbie Cano, who has emerged as one of the premier young stars in the game. Followed up a very good rookie debut in '05 with a monster coming out part in '06 that saw him named the starting AL 2B in the All-Star game and finish 3rd in the AL batting race. His line of .342 AVG./78 RBI/15 HR is impressive, especially considering that he missed over 40 games with a hamstring injury. He came back at the beginning of August with a bang, and his 52 RBI in Aug. and Sept. (not a typo) were the most in the majors over that span. He still doesn't walk, and may never, but he did raise his OBP from .320 to .365 last year. He makes up for his lack of patience and plate discipline with his near flawless, level, consistent, lighting quick inside-out swing that enables him to get his bat on everything. Already a doubles machine (41 in '06 despite the missed games), projects to have consistent 20+ homer power. Attrocious in the field in '05, regular early morning workouts with Larry Bowa in the spring cut his error total from 17 to 9, and turned him into one of the top second basemen in the AL fueled by newly found great range to go along with the solid footwork, soft hands, and strong arm he already posessed.

Both guys are still going to get better, no question. But where I would say Pedroia has a definite ceiling at some point, Cano probably does not. Instead of having a sophomore slump he improved immensly and had the big year that he had, showing himself to be one of the top young talents in baseball with the potential to have an elite career.

EDGE: YANKEES

Sunday, March 4, 2007

07 Yanks/Sox Matchup: First Base

DV: The Yankees are trucking Andy Phillips out there, but acquired Doug Mientkiewicz for perhaps defensive or platoon insurance. (They're also giving Mientkiewicz a lot of face time on the YES Network this morning. The joys of staying at Wesleyan.) I don't know too too much about Phillips (Pat will fill you in on it), but it's pretty obvious that Cash-Money doesn't have too much faith in the guy if he went out to get Doug M. Phillips seems like he's gonna be a player who will develop to be okay, but not a star.

Meanwhile, in Boston, "With Youk on the corners, we got some depth." The guy's a solid player, and at the age of 28, he is what he is. A .381 OBP in 2006, walks a lot, plays the field well enough to really surprise Boston fans last year, and as far as I'm concerned, he was a solid (but not stunning) leadoff hitter in 2006. I assume he'll probably bat second in this order, and while he won't win any awards, he won't be anything close to an automatic out.

The Sox have a "solid" guy at first base and the Yankees are platooning between a glove guy and a prospect.

EDGE: Red Sox.

PF: First base is the only positional battle the Yankees have going on in camp. Doug Mientkiewicz will be the Opening Day starter, but Andy Phillips and Rule 5 pick up Josh Phelps competing to get the back-up job. My guess is Phillips gets it and platoons with Mientkiewicz. Phillips got a lot of light at first early last year due to injuries, and made good on his opportunity batting .306 in May and .333 in June. However he was unproductive the rest of the way. Mientkiewicz was clearly signed for his glove as he is one of the best in the game at first, and is a massive upgrade over Giambi in the field. He has had some average offensive seasons and some really bad ones, so it will be wait and see. Phillips also plays very good D keyed by soft hands and solid feet. The ideal situation would be a lefty-righty platoon based on the opposing pitcher, but as a righty Phillips is abysmal against left-handed pitching. The most probably scenario is that the Yanks get great D out of first base and nothing spectacular out of the 9 hole on offense, which is fine.

I like Kevin Youkilis a lot, mostly because of his consistent ability to get on base. He will be a much more valuable offensive player in the second slot than anywhere else, as he doesn't have the speed of a true leadoff hitter and lacks the power (especially for a first baseman) to bat anywhere in the middle of a lineup. However he does get on base a ton, and no quality could be more significant when you are sitting right in front of Papi and Manny. Only real issue offensively is the high number of strikeouts (120 in '06), which is a result of looking at too many strikes while trying too hard to get on base and work the count. Look for him to be more agressive this year. Looked comfortable in the field last year, and he is only going to get better.

Youkilis is a better player than both Mientkiewicz and Phillips. He is also more valuable in that the Yankees are only looking to get great D (with any offense being a plus) out of their platoon, while the Red Sox have a lot more riding on their first baseman's performance out of the second spot in the lineup.

EDGE: RED SOX

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Preteens should wear seat belts at baseball games

Greetings from Wesleyan University, where I just finished writing drafts of three Sox-Yanks matchups. I have full confidence in Pat to publish them one he comes up with his response.

I am writing this from the Wesleyan library, and to the right of me is a large window overlooking the Wesleyan baseball field. There had been no less than one hundred and twelve articles written about Wesleyan's center fielder who graduated last year: That guy's name is Jeff Maier. I was reminded of this once again in the field house, where they have some plaque with his name on it.

(I am assuming that any How Youz Doin Baseball reader knows exactly who Jeffrey Maier is. If not, Wikipedia the guy.)

Just a reminder: The guy sucks at life. I hope my boy Appel or anyone else from Baltimore is reading this post, just so they can reply with their own Jeff Maier memories.

Bottom line: If you're 11 years old and are at a Yankee playoff game, your parents should make you stay in your seat.

What a dirtbag.

Friday, March 2, 2007

First look at Daisuke

Matsuzaka saw his first game action of spring training today. I watched the whole thing and it was what you expected. After giving up a leadoff double he retired the next and final 6 hitters that he faced in his two innings of work. Couple strikeouts. Nothing hit hard. He's pitching against college kids and he was just getting his work in.

But he did use five of his six primary pitches, which gives us something to talk about. Everything is pretty much as advertized. Four-seamer sits consistently at 91-92. It has that late jump everyone talks about. Slider is absolutely filthy, and looks like it is his best pitch as well as the one he wants to go to as his out pitch. It was swing and miss for BC against his slider every time. Curve is good, spotted it for a couple of called strikes and one nasty swing and miss when he buried it in the dirt. Tough to tell sometimes if he is throwing the slider or the curve because he has SO many variations on the slider (at least three that I saw, and definitely why people have talked about him having 9-10 pitches, because he changes the tilt/action on his slider in a few different ways). For that matter, the slider has such impressive downward action sometimes that on one it was tough to tell if it was a splitter or not (it was a slider). Might have thrown one change-up and one split so not much to work with there, although the one change he threw absolutely had the screwballish tailing action it was said to have. He spots everything where he wants to inside, out, up, or down.

A point worth noting is that the one pitch he has but didn't throw is his two-seam fastball. Haven't really ever seen him throw it actually. He obviously loves his four-seam (why not, its good), but it will be interesting to see if he goes to the two-seam at all once he gets a taste of how tough it is to face major leaguers every fifth day and get them out just using a four-seamer. The pitch has become such a big part of being a successful major league hurler, and can make life so much easier on a pitcher because of its movement and ability to get the ball on the ground and keep hitters in the park.

All in all he looked good. He reminds me a lot of Pedro Martinez. All but a few times a game does he throw his fastball as hard as he can (he works at 91-92 but can dial it up to 95-97). He has at least four plus offspeed pitches and breaking balls, and he is totally comfortable and confident with all of them. But the strongest resemblance he has to Pedro is the way he constantly wrinkles the action on those pitches throughout the course of the game, essentially inventing pitches to enhance effectiveness based on the team, players, game, etc. Plus attribute to have.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Wise-Ass Comment of the Day

Josh Beckett let up zero home runs and his spring training ERA is 0.00. Granted, it was against a bunch of college kids, but it's at least a little bit of good news.

I'm off to Wesleyan (alma mater of Pat's BOY Jeff Maier) for the weekend for a race. Enjoy Pat's comments.

DV