Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ode to the NESN Commercial 2010

Bridge to...an early retirement (JD Drew)
Bridge to...a forced retirement (Tim Wakefield)
Bridge to...a duet with Bronson Arroyo (Mike Lowell)
Bridge to...a roller coaster ninth inning with Papelbon (Daniel Bard)
Bridge to...being the next Jurgis Rudkus (Jonathan Papelbon)
Bridge to...a third amphetamine bust (Mike Cameron)
Bridge to...a second steroid bust (David Ortiz)
Bridge to...bases-empty doubles (Pedroia)
Bridge to...proving the world that RBIs matter (Youkilis)
Bridge to...2004 (Adrian Beltre)
Bridge to...2004 (Theo Epstein)
Bridge to...2004 (William Hung)
Bridge to...2004 (Larry Lucchino)
Bridge to...2009 (Marco Scutaro)
Bridge to...my first Emmy award with the reincarnation of Sox Appeal (Tom Werner)
Bridge to...a better ROI on my $170 payroll (John Henry)
Bridge to...my next overtraining injury (Daisuke Matsuzaka)
Bridge to...my next overtraining injury (DV)
Bridge to...the weekend by never writing on Friday nights (Pat F)
Bridge to...a coherent comment (Kaplan)
Bridge to...my second tour in the National League (Josh Beckett)
Bridge to...saying goodnight to the bad guy (Bill Hall--Wikipedia lists his favorite movie as Scarface)
Bridge to...another leadoff walk (Hideki Okajima)
Bridge to...an ERA over five (Delcarmen)
Bridge to...getting DFAed (Brian Shouse)
Bridge to...a beef with Francona the first time I'm pulled in the sixth just to watch Delcarmen or Shouse blow my two-run lead (John Lackey)
Bridge to...an ERA under 3.70 but still ten losses (Jon Lester)
Bridge to...at least fifty games in right field (Jeremy Hermida)
Bridge to...drinking wheatgrass instead of Bigelow Green Tea (Terry Francona)
Bridge to...a commercial for the Villanova Executive MBA Program (Clay Buchholz...if cell phone thief Kerry Kittles can do it, so can he)
Bridge to...a big contract extension because Jason Varitek is the second-best option (Victor Martinez)
Bridge to...a big contract extension because my .185 batting average and huge intangibles are more important than Victor Martinez's production (Jason Varitek)
Bridge to...a full year in San Diego (Adrian Gonzalez)
Bridge to...wondering who Number Two will work for after this contract (Number Two)
Bridge to...alienating Red Sox fans by telling it like it is and insulting their nonexistent intelligence (Peter Abraham)
Bridge to...finally openly rooting for the Red Sox in a borderline-professional manner for the first time in my career...oh, wait... (Peter Gammons)

Catch another season of sarcasm, Scarface references, posts about steroids that nobody cares about, occasional conservative comments, and reminders of why spell-check is important on How Youz Doin Baseball. It's why we watch. I can't wait. Papelbon is so intense on the mound. He's got a great smile. One nation, one network.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

JD Patrick Drew

Before 3:00 this afternoon, I had always felt at least slightly bad about all the guff I give JD Drew on this website. It comes and goes. I mean, it's not like he's really that bad of a guy, it seems. He hasn't killed anyone like Ray Lewis, and he hasn't raped anyone like Kobe Bryant. Then I remember the fact that he holds out for more money and gives a completely half-assed job at his occupation. Guy wouldn't play baseball with "sore glove hand," but he's out there bowhunting days after he has shoulder surgery. Good to know that JD cares.

Actually, we found out how much JD cares. With two (2) seasons left to go until October 2, 2011, it seems that JD is looking forward to 10-2-11 as much as I am. That's right, the big guy is retiring. He said he'd be open to staying with Boston, but read the article and you can tell that he's going to spend more time hunting. I feel a little better about the chances that he's going to be signed to an extension past 10-2-11.

But this post is not about his retirement, it's about how JD actually believes he's "absolutely" worth the money he's being paid. Tank, Pat, and I all stumbled across the highlight of Drew's annual media tour late Thursday afternoon. Some tidbits and my response:

"In this game, you battle yourself to get in a position to explore the free agent market." Yes, JD battled himself. JD battled through his own desire to sit down after Francona used Buchholz to pinch run. He's battled through similar things his whole career.

"I think any time you sign a contract the nature that I did, there are going to be critics at every level." Especially if you have a reputation of an apathetic loafer that exaggerates injuries and doesn't play. And doubly especially if you had previously held out for three times the previous bonus offered to any amateur player. Or if you signed an already-generous contract with LA, just to opt out after your only good season there. He might be a God-fearing family man, but professionally he's done fishy things since he was twenty-two years old.

"People ask me what I want to do every year, whether I want to hit this or hit that. I never look at batting average or anything like that on a daily basis. I try to take good, quality at-bats every day." Baseball is a job where your job performance can be quantified perhaps unlike any other job. Could you imagine a sales guy not looking at his sales figures at the end of the month? A controller not looking at the outcome of his financial decisions? Well, maybe, but that's a good indication that you don't really care too much about your job except for the paycheck.

"I get criticized for not swinging." Well, yes, that tends to happen when you are a talented guy (which Drew is) but you take pitches right down the middle, often for strike three.

"If I felt like I've given four or five quality at-bats in a game, if I've gotten hits, that's what I'm supposed to do. If I haven't, unfortunately it didn't work out that day." It doesn't work out often. It works out occasionally, but the guy puts together way too many bad at-bats for someone with his skill set. And walking with a man on second and one out with Varitek and Nick Green on deck is not a good at-bat.

I will agree with Drew's comments about being pretty good the second half of last year. Last year was definitely his best with the Red Sox, despite the Manny Ramirez stuff he pulled the day Buchholz pinch ran. But we're talking about a player who misssed at least part of 56 games last year, not to mention the last two years or all the games when he played but really didn't play. We're talking about a guy who had a big hit in the ALCS, but regularly showed no preferences whether he would be the one knocking the runs in whether he could pass the bat over to Varitek or Nick Green to strand the runners on base. I'm sorry, when it comes to that kind of money, you have to take some responsibility. The fact that this happens so often, and Drew still claims he's "DEFINITELY" worth the money is nauseating.

Drew's approach to the game and his attitude toward playing it and getting paid for it is becoming more and more evident the more we see him play and the more we hear from him. The fact that he was bowhunting in New Mexico by Christmas tells you all you need to know.

He is not worth the $14 million a year. JD landed the contract, as well as the last one with LA, because of his potential. He has remained largely untapped talent, despte the fact that two years from now it will be all over. Maybe the criticism this offseason, or the vote of confidence from the general manager has lit a fire under JD Drew's ass. I mean, we've never seen him talk like this before. Maybe, just maybe, JD Drew will actually live up to the potential that had him billed as the next Mickey Mantle not too long ago.

Maybe not.

Upgrade?

The only thing being talked about regarding Red Sox spring training right now is Mike Lowell. So I'll bite. We've already talked about eating his contract, the way the Red Sox are treating him, and all that nonsense. Today, I'll be addressing whether Adrian Beltre is even an upgrade over Lowell.

If you look at the overall offensive statistics, even if you don't consider that Lowell couldn't freaking walk last year, the old third baseman whom the Red Sox will be paying anyway has a lot better numbers than the new third baseman they will also be paying. I hate to use this statistic, but Adrian Beltre's OPS last year was lower than Coco Crisp's during his time in Boston. Over his entire tenure in Seattle, he has been not much better than an average player. Career OPS might actually be under league average if you take 2004 out of the equation. Meanwhile, Lowell has recorded a significantly-higher batting average (even after taking out 2007).

However, another knock against sabermetrics can be taken from here, as Lowell's home run and double averages have been lower. Basically, Lowell's rate statistics are more favorable, but his other numbers have been unfavorable compared to Beltre. This is largely a product of walks and singles. You will not see Adrian Beltre hit a lot of singles, nor will you see him walk a lot. He'll be spending a lot of innings on the bench.

Another aspect to consider is the ballpark. Beltre's numbers at home are awful (and he's complained about the ballpark). Lowell's numbers at home are keeping him in the major leagues. Beltre's road batting average has not been under .279 over the last four years, so maybe his gripes about the ballpark are legitimate. Baseball Reference gives Safeco Field a 96-rating (under 100 favors pitchers--you'd think this means hitters only put up stats 96% as generous as an average ballpark. Fenway Park's rating is a staggering 106. And, as we have talked about several times before, most notably during Lowell's most recent contract negotiations, he has no value unless he plays in Fenway or maybe Philadelphia.

This can not be ignored, however, because these players would be playing in Fenway Park 81 times.

I don't anticipate Lowell being worse than he was in 2009, which still wasn't bad. It is reasonable to expect that Beltre's stats might be similar to his time in Seattle, as he is allegedly in the prime of his career and he is playing for a contract again. Defensively, Beltre might be better. But how important is defense to winning World Series? I am still very skeptical.

We can revisit the value thing. If they do jettison Lowell, the Red Sox are spending a lot of money for an average third baseman with one good year in 2004. Bad value, bad ROI. However, if you take out the money, you don't get a night-and-day difference, but you do get a sizeable difference, especially if you put a lot of weight in home and away splits. Adrian Beltre projects to be a better baseball player.

I hope.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Easing The Workload

One of the biggest things to come out of Yankee Camp thus far is that the team is putting an emphasis on reducing the workload of their top four starters early this spring. This is a good thing. I've already talked about the effects that World Series runs have had on pitchers and rotations in recent years. In addition, Sabathia and Burnett are both coming off career highs in innings pitched (which for Sabathia is no small feat), Pettitte is 37 and coming off of his fifth consecutive season of 200+ innings pitched including postseason, and Vazquez is coming off his highest innings total since 2003.

All of this should and is lending itself to the Yankees easing these pitchers into the spring and being stricter schedules than usual. Fantastic. Particularly for Joe Girardi, for whom a major weakness his first two seasons was probably leaning on guys too much and playing them too much. I'm not railing on Girardi here. I questioned a lot of his tactics early, and rightfully so, he showed some major deficiencies mixed in with some promise in year one. But he's showed a willingness to work at it and get better and in general has just gotten more comfortable. That much was obvious last year. He's quickly turned into a very good manager with a chance to become excellent very quickly. The progress from year one to last year was incredible. And I think that is true of this entire coaching staff. Pena, Eiland, Long, Thompson, and Kelleher have all shown themselves to be hard workers that want to get better and be the best. The staff as a whole has really come together and is rising to an elite level, which is great to see.

It can't stop there, especially for Girardi who is the primary decision maker. The fact remains that Sabathia threw 123 pitches on Opening Day in Yankee Stadium last year. Not in a complete game. In 5.2 innings. This is unacceptable on every level. A few games into the season with a guy that is that critical to everything you are trying to do that season, you just can't do things like that.

The hope is that Girardi has learned from that, or even if he hasn't, just changed in that regard. Because this year, with the workloads not just Sabathia but all of his pitchers are coming off of, with one month less of rest, it is absolutely critical that these guys are handled with immense care.

With that in mind, the fact that Girardi and Eiland have devised a plan this spring that they feel protects them a bit is a massive step. This is not at all surprising, because again this coaching staff is continually proving itself to be one that wants to constantly improve and be on the cutting edge of everything and anything, which I absolutely love. I just think they need to take it a step further than just the spring. For all I know, that is their plan. Since I don't know, I will just say that I don't think once the regular season hits the gloves should come off like they did last year.

The Yankees have a chance to have a great rotation, one of the best if not the best in baseball. They won't be able to do that if they aren't healthy. They have a great offense. They have a great bullpen. There shouldn't be a whole lot of risk in easing these guys into the season with 6-7 inning and/or approximately 100 pitch starts. I'm not talking about doing this until the middle of May. I'm talking about the first few weeks. Just shave a little bit off the beginning of the season. Then, where it permits like in blowouts, limit their workload a bit more there. Things like that. None of this will guarantee anything. They could take these measures and guys could still get hurt or be ineffective. They could take no measures and everyone could stay healthy and effective. I just think this is the best approach to take for both the players and the team, and I'm glad the Yankees seem to agree right from the start.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thanks, Johnny

Johnny Damon’s tenure with the Yankees officially came to a close Saturday when he signed with the Tigers for one year and $8 million. Without question, it is disappointing that he will not be playing for the Yankees next year. He’s a great fit for the team, and the team is a great fit for him. It is especially disappointing given the price. That is a great deal for the Tigers, and I’d like to think Damon and the Yankees could have worked something out in that range given the mutually beneficial nature of their relationship. At the beginning of the winter, before the market came down from the Abreu deal, I’m pretty sure they could have settled on something close to the Abreu deal (2 years/$19 million), particularly because the Yankees apparently offered 2 years/$14 million. Depending on what Damon gets next year, that deal might be better than the one he ended up settling on despite the lesser annual value.

With all of that said, his departure is not what I’m going to primarily think about when I think about Damon’s time in New York. Not even close. I find it slightly bizarre, but not something to get worked up about. A lot of other people get way more hung up on that stuff than I do. Also, given the circumstances surrounding his departure from Boston, this seems like nothing.

What I’m going to remember about Damon is a guy who played his tail off for four years. Played hard, played hurt, and played to win. For his four years with the Yankees, he put up a .285/.363/.458/.821 stat line, averaging 19 homers, 31 doubles, 74 RBI, 102 runs scored, and 23 stolen bases, all out of the leadoff and 2nd spots in the lineup. Outside of his poor first half of the 2007 season, the guy was just awesome for the Yankees.

Even that, though, isn’t what I’ll remember most about Damon. What I’ll remember about Damon is his being a key player on the 2009 World Series Championship team. Sure, he had tons of big hits/plays – as he has done throughout his entire career, the guy is just a postseason player, had 5 home runs in 5 postseason series with the Yankees – but without even getting into anything specific, you just know he was a big part of it. And since winning World Series is really what I care about, this is what I will remember about Damon and thank him for.

And that is where certain Red Sox fans lose me. Listen, I understand that a star player and a team leader, who helped bring a championship to Boston, still in his prime leaving for the rival Yankees is a big deal. But Johnny Damon was critical – if not essential – to the Red Sox winning it all in 2004 and effectively ending an 86 year World Series drought. I’m not just saying this to remind everyone of those facts. I’m saying this to objectively highlight how big a thing Damon was a part of, and to point out how much I don’t understand the treatment Damon got upon his departure. I was shocked when there were a lot more boos than cheers in his first at bat back in Fenway. Gunn, I know you were one who was with me on this – I remember you telling me you were going to stand in your living room and clap, which is what I would think would happen. Is going to the Yankees really bigger than bringing a championship to Boston?

Because the bottom line is, who really cares where he goes to play afterwards, or what he says to the media? Would you rather have him stay with your team and not say dumb stuff to the media, and give back the World Series? Basically, is anything he's done since Boston really more important than what he did in Boston? He plays the game the right way, is a generous person with his time and money, and he wins. That’s all I can ask for from a player. He won with the Red Sox in 2004. He won with the Yankees in 2009. That’s both teams on this site. Everyone should be pretty happy with Johnny Damon here. I’m certainly not going to primarily remember him leaving the Yankees over a few million bucks. I’d rather have that happen and get my World Series than not get my World Series at all. Getting the World Series is what is most important to me in baseball, and Johnny Damon was a big part of that for the Yankees. Which is why I'll be standing and clapping for Johnny Damon whenever the Tigers first play the Yankees this season. Thanks for playing hard for four years, and thanks for contributing to the World series, Johnny.

Employee of the Year

Quote of the day (and I don't have time to do this everyday, so don't expect it): "I did not personally see him, but Terry Francona reported that J.D. Drew had arrived at camp. That leaves Marco Scutaro and Mike Lowell as the lone players yet to show up. Today was only report day and players can do that by phone. Tomorrow is when they have physicals and go through the conditioning test."

Source: Peter Abraham, who sees everything. If PeteAbe didn't see JD, then he either didn't really show up and Francona is covering for him, or he showed up, dropped his bags off, told Francona he had a sore gun hand, scheduled an appointment with the trainer, looked longingly at the schedule, wishing November were here, and ran the F out of there as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, seems like Pedroia has been there since Groundhog Day.

One of my boys said he likes Drew because he treats his job like everyone in corporate America treats their job. Which leads to the question: If Drew were required to do 40 hours a week, how often would he log the 41st? I'd say almost never. The guy must have shown up because if he didn't, he'd hear it from seven different bosses (not Theo, of course, because of his OPS). All he wants is to not get hassled. Between that and the fear of losing his job, apparently $70 million would make a man work just hard enough to not get fired.

Thoughts on the Red Sox Lineup

First and foremost, my sincerest sympathy to JD Drew. Today he has to show up to work, and he has to do that almost every day until October.


Now that we have that out of the way, I put together what I think the Red Sox lineup should look like this year. There are a lot of new additions, and therefore the lineup could look a lot different. I'm well aware it's not going to be this way, but it should.


RF Drew
2B Pedroia
1B Youkilis
C Martinez
CF Cameron
DH Ortiz
3B Beltre
SS Scutaro
CF Number Two


Drew should lead off because, I don't know if you've heard this from either the self-congratulating general manager or here on HYD Baseball, he had the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders. This was not because of his slugging percentage. Guy has a very high OBP because he walks a lot. He'll be able to play like he wants to because he's supposed to look for walks. And with Beltre, Scutaro, and Number Two hitting in front of him, he can go up looking for walks instead of worrying about hitting the ball and getting RBIs. Plus, if Number Two gets on base and then steals second, this minimizes the effects of weak ground balls to the right side. In fact, that sets Pedroia up for a sacrifice fly.


Pedroia is second because doubles score Drew. I was thinking about putting Youkilis at cleanup, but I want him as close as possible to the guy who walks all the time so he can get some RBIs and so that the team can score some runs. I feel like there will be a man on first half the time Youkilis is up. A double from Youkilis has a better chance to score the guy than a single from Martinez. Martinez is fourth. Should get a lot of RBI singles and doubles.


Cameron is fifth. Whiffs a lot, but won't ground into double plays, hopefully. Martinez is on first base a lot. Ortiz sixth. We just hope he can hit instead of starting a 1-2-3 inning. Beltre is seventh, as he very rarely gets on base. But why have guys on base if Scutaro and Number Two are just going to make outs anyway?


Scutaro's eighth because I will go by his non-2009 performance instead of his 2009 performance. Fewer at-bats for Scutaro and if he will not get hits, he won't get in Number Two's way on the basepaths. I have Number Two ninth instead of leading off because he'll probably start a lot of innings after Ortiz-Beltre-Scutaro go 1-2-3. But he also gets fewer plate appearances, which is fine because he has a low OBP. If Number Two walks and steals second, they might pitch around Drew, starting a chance of a big inning with the good baseball players in Pedroia, Youkilis, and Martinez coming up. If they don't walk him, he scores on a Drew hit or he moves to third on a Drew weak ground ball to second, still increasing the chances that they'll score a run.


Thoughts?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ironic Quote of the Year

"Taking one number you found online and calling it gospel can be a dangerous thing."

-Theo Epstein (Source: Boston Herald)

Tomorrow is the worst day of JD Drew's year.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In Defense of the Run Batted In

The RBI is the new Emmanuel Goldstein. The RBI is the new Osama bin Laden. The RBI is Lumbergh, the one thing that represents everything that is wrong with the world. Especially in the city of Boston after December 6, 2006 (the day they signed Drew and Lugo), we have heard all about how the RBI is overvalued, the RBI is an antiquated stat, the RBI is not taken into consideration by the front office, and, according to Keith Law the other day, the RBI is "totally useless."

Not true, and the anti-RBI crusade is just the latest example of sabermetricians, both professional and amateur, taking numbers too far and using them irresponsibly. It's not completely unlike the global warming activists, who have their hands on data for the first time so they will blow the data they have completely out of proportion. Now that I have the weekly How Youz Doin Baseball overt conservative comment out of the way, here's why the sabermetrians are missing the mark and are acting irresponsibly by going execution-style on the RBI.

We are always hearing about the "sample size police," and how people are discounting playoff, clutch, and early-season statistics because of the small sample size. Pat and I are both guilty of that, and the sample size police is now like the Gestapo. We are now looking at everything in the aggregate, and it's going too far. The two most glaring examples are the romanticization of OPS and the Pythagorean Win-Loss Record.

It is true that when zooming way, way out over the course of a season or especially several seasons, Pythagorean W-L and OPS are good indicators of (respectively) what the team's won-loss is going to be and what the team's run production is going to be. I'm not going to deny that at all. But despite the pleadings of guys like Billy Beane, Nate Silver, and Law, the MLB standings this year are going to be determined by the number of games a team wins. Go tell Jeremy Shockey, he'll love that. It will not be determined by run differential in the first or second power, so Pythagorean W-L is just a stat that indicates a pattern, not a stat that indicates how many games a team should win.

Have an underwhelming offense and/or a good closer (hello 2008 Angels) means you will outperform your Pythagorean. It's not an indication that you're "lucky." It's an indication that you don't win blowouts as often as most teams who have your record do. Deal with it.

And just because you have the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders doesn't mean you're a good player. We said on this blog this week that the non-JD Drew players with a high OPS also--surprise!--had a lot of RBIs. As in they go up to the plate and hack, and that's why pitchers walk them. Because they're afraid of them. A high OPS is often an indicator that you're responsible for a lot of run creation. And in most cases, even in Drew's case more often than not, it tells a lot of the story.

OPS is an aggregate (I'll call it "macrosabermetric") stat that is useful across the entire season or longer, and those with high OPSes are oftentimes also responsible for a lot of runs being produced. But once again, it does not tell the whole story. Baseball games are being played nine innings at a time, not 1458 innings at a time. Looking at aggregate stats makes general managers execute stuff like the 2003 "closer by committee" experiment. And while theoretically it makes sense because of macro trends, it does not tell the whole story. That's why a few years after reading the book, I have a big problem with VORP, WARP, and player value calculations (like the ones in JC Bradbury's The Baseball Economist). They are based on macro stats in what can sometimes be a micro game.

Macrosabermetrics fail to tell the whole story. Macrosabermetrics will tell us that if there is a runner on third base and one out, and the batter walks, in aggregate situations, the team will score more runs. However, what if that batter is Drew? What if that on-deck hitter is Jason Varitek or Mike Lowell? Drew's walk probably decreases the chances that the run scores due to the high probability that the next batter will ground into a double play. If Drew goes out there and hacks, he could get a hit (scoring the run), fly out (scoring the run), or even possibly score the run on a weak ground ball on his 281st weak ground ball to the right side. What about a .300 hitter up with a man on second, two outs, and a guy hitting .219 on deck? Walking enhances his OPS, it enhances sabermetricians' adoration of the player, but does not enhance the team's ability to score that run. RBI GUYS GET THAT RUN IN.

I will not deny that this school of thought is counterproductive if you're trying to construct a big inning, because going for one run instead of getting guys on base will result in one-run innings instead of six-run innings when terrible Baltimore relievers give up six walks in a row. But guess what? This Red Sox team is probably not going to put up many big innings because many of their hitters suck. Guys like Youkilis, Pedroia, and even the departed Alex Gonzalez know they need to put the game in their own hands because the other guys can't hit. Walking means the end of the inning is delayed one more batter, and you have to go around the order one more time before you can see the guy who can hit again. Guys like Youkilis, the former Greek God of Walks, is going up there and hacking. This is evident by looking at his --gasp!--RBI totals.

Especially with the Red Sox pitching staff this year. Theoretically, the staff will not give up many runs, so every one run scored counts that much more. This team might win a lot of one-run games and Pythagoras will jump out of his bathtub naked and ruin the World Series. (I'm sorry, was that Archimedes? I don't care.) But once again, you make it to the top of the standings with your wins and losses. Not your Pythagorean wins and losses. And that's why RBIs, while they're certainly not THAT useful of a stat, are important.

This Is A Baseball Blog...

But the stage has been set for the New York Knicks to go worst to first - or thereabouts - Boston Celtics 2007 style. Best day in New York basketball in a decade. A max contract plus retaining David Lee or adding a player like Carlos Boozer is now on the table, and the stage has been further set for Lebron James to wear the blue and orange.

Hip Rehab With Dr. Drew

For those of you who were not aware of this already, a month ago I ran an embarrassing marathon in Houston. It was essentially twenty months of training right down the toilet. I did mention in passing in a post on this blog that I was running this marathon hurt. Now that the marathon's over and missing training time is not as much of a catastrophe, I am trying my best to rest and figure out what the problem is with my hip, groin, and lower abdomen. I found out today that I probably have a sports hernia. Whatever, that's not the important part of this post.

The important part of the post is the fact that going through the labyrinth of medical red tape to actually see a specialist is a great opportunity to expand the Death of Sabermetrics series.

I don't really like to see doctors, mainly because like most of the population, they don't know the difference between elite runners and four-hour joggers, nor do they understand the premium put on training. Doctors basically like to tell me not to run. By contrast, JD Drew loves doctors because they like to tell him not to play baseball yet still get paid for it. I had not seen my primary care physician for five years, and I saw him shortly after Houston. This is reasonably-miraculous, becaue his office takes more time off than JD himself: The referral line literally works 21 hours a week. They get in at 10, take a 90-minute lunch break, and don't work Fridays. Sweet life. But I did get an appointment, burning two hours of company time.

My doctor had the same interest level of my maladies as a professional athlete as Drew has of playing baseball to his potential. He treated me me as if I were some jogger who ran on Wednesday and felt a dull pain in my hip, instead of someone who has been playing through pain for two and a half years. Seemingly in a hurry the whole time, he barely took a look at my hip. He did, however, take my blood pressure. And despite my horrific diet, my blood pressure was stellar.

So my doctor basically shrugged off my injury after taking my blood pressure and enjoyed the smug satisfaction that I was healthy because the one number (my blood pressure) indicated that one part of my health was adequate for a 24-year-old. Apparently his office doesn't evaluate health by investigating the affected area, instead relying on one number, drawing the conclusion that I don't need further medical attention, and telling me to stop wasting his time.

So basically he treated my blood pressure metric the same way Theo Epstein treats OPS. And I guess I had the second-best blood pressure statistic of all my doctor's patients. Like those people in the "buzzed driving" commercial, I guess it's time for me to act okay, spring up as if I'm not injured, and start pounding 130 miles a week again.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Joba Chamberlain 2010

Every year there are usually 1-2 Yankees whose performance am I particularly interested to see play out. Typically it's a player who is new, coming off an injury year, or could be an x-factor of sorts. Last year it was A.J. Burnett. This year, it's Joba Chamberlain and Javier Vazquez. I'm slightly more interested in Chamberlain because he is a definite part of the Yankees' future plans - or at least they'd like him to be - and this is a huge season for him. The innings limits are off, the Joba Rules are done, and his developmental process is essentially complete in terms of being at least prepared to start for a full season. He also has the ability to take the Yankees' rotation to another planet if he pitches anywhere near where he's capable.

Joba - and Hughes - sort of represent the culmination of the roller coaster ride that was general sentiment towards Yankees' prospects this decade. When the Yankees started spending and trading like crazy, losing draft picks and prospects in the process, there was an awareness that the farm system was barren but it wasn't a primary concern as the team just kept winning. As other teams put more and more emphasis on building their organizations from within, and the Yankees' roster got older, a want for more youth began. Cano and Wang gave the fanbase a taste in 2005, and also a want for more given their cost-effective success. As the focus on prospects began exploding amongst Yankees fans, Phil Hughes broke out in 2006, and was rated by some as the best prospect in baseball entering 2007. With Hughes seeing success early, Wang putting together his second consecutive 19 win season, and Cano putting together his third consecutive big offensive year, a 21 year old Joba Chamberlain was sped to the majors tossing 100 mph bullets and allowed one run in his first 24 innings while locking down games late. Joba in particular arrived at a time that was just a perfect storm for Yankees' fans. It was the height of a successful rebuilding period, and the Yankees could do no wrong with prospects. It seemed that everyone they brought up performed, and that just fed the hype machine even more.

2008 was more of the same. Joba successfully transitioned from reliever to starter mid-season, and posted a 2.60 ERA across 100.1 innings. Doing that in his first full season in the American League East, as a 22 year old, it seemed like the Yankees' had a no doubt star.

2009 was not at smooth. It was neither a success nor a failure in terms of production; rather, it was inconsistent. The one major plus was that Chamberlain made 30 starts and pitched 157.1 regular season innings 6.1 postseason innings, staying healthy and getting to a point where, after three years of Joba Rules, he could be a starter with no limitations. That is where he stands on paper entering 2010. From that standpoint, the season was a success.

However for many, the prospect cycle for the Yankees has now reached a point where everything is doubted, scrutinized, or second-guessed. What was once a hype machine where every prospect was the next star is now somewhat a situation where faults are highlighted more than ignored. There are plenty who believe, after one inconsistent season, that Joba is not capable of being a consistent starter. While that is certainly possible, and while it is also true that even if he can be a consistent starter he may better serve the team in the bullpen, the reality is we just don't know. Despite the move from prospect hype to prospect doubt, we still have to just wait and see.

Which is the major reason why 2010 is so big for Joba. For the first time the kid gloves are totally off. He just has to go out and pitch. We've seen a Joba that can absolutely dominate, that can potentially be a #1 starter. We've also seen one that can't consistently provide five innings. Either one remains a possibility, and while the Yankees clearly want the best they can get, I would imagine they'd be extremely pleased with something directly in between those two things: a #3 starter. If Joba pitches in that range this year he takes the rotation to another level.

In terms of arriving there, the keys for Joba are largely trusting his stuff and attacking with his fastball. He walked batters at a much higher rate than previously last year and there just isn't a whole lot of reason for it. His velocity was down about 2 mph, and while that got a ton of attention, his location wasn't right either. Not just the walks. Within the zone, he wasn't getting the ball to corners consistently enough. One of the most impressive things about Chamberlain when he first came up was his ability to put the ball where he wanted it despite the big velocity and movement. Last year that wasn't there.

I obviously have no idea, but to me these things are all potentially related. Joba seemed to his natural abilities enough at times. When he did, he seemed to have success. When he didn't - shaking off the catcher too much, throwing breaking balls out of the zone when he could have pounded the zone with a fastball, slowing his pace down too much - he seemed to struggle. Joba has been at his best when he's confident bordering on arrogant, aggressive, and animated. He went back to that approach in October and had success, and I think it was the approach more than the switch to the bullpen that resulted in that success. If that's what works for him, he should get after it that way all of the time. I certainly have the confidence in him to do so. He has the natural ability to just go out and pitch, and the extent to which he does that will impact both the Yankees' and where Joba goes from here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Real Pedroia

Over the weekend or sometime late last week, I saw that Pedroia was talking about the Red Sox 2010 offense. Basically it seemed like he didn't think the concerns were warranted and definitely said the 2010 offense could be better than 2009. While that is definitely true in that it is possible, conventional wisdom is that it won't happen. You don't lose your best offensive player in Jason Bay, not really replace him, and just get better unless guys play above their norm or at least at the highest level of their norm.

Which brings us to Pedroia. For the record, I have no problem with a guy talking like this. Pedroia is clearly a leader in that clubhouse. There is no real reason for him to be talking any way but in this confident fashion. While I think Pedroia takes the whole I'm short so I need to compensate by being confident bordering on arrogant thing too far (mostly because it's just such an obvious and uncreative tactic), this is not an example of that. He's doing what he's supposed to do, projecting confidence. However, that needs to be backed up by performance.

Which brings us to the real point in all of this. Which Dustin Pedroia is going to show up for the Red Sox in 2010? In a lot of ways I think the answer to that question will go a long way towards deciding what type of offense the Red Sox are going to have - regardless of whether or not they are better than in 2009.

We have seen two Pedroias. 2007/2009 and 2008. It is important to note that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the 2007/2009 version. Most offenses would take those numbers from second base every day of the week, and I'm sure the Red would like to as well. Unfortunately that doesn't happen in a vacuum. This particular Red Sox team, as constructed, needs something closer to 2008. Asking him to get all the way to 2008 is probably a little much. A 122 OPS+ is likely (but not definitely) a shade above his tools, especially considering the consistency in the 112 and 110 OPS+'s of 2007 and 2009. But there is enough separation between 2007/2009 and 2008 that if he can get somewhere in between he's helping his team big.

There are three players the Red Sox have to have in 2010: Youkilis, Martinez, and Pedroia. They are going to have a tough time hanging without any one of them playing consistently and at a high level. I single out Pedroia for two reasons. First, both Youkilis and Martinez are somewhat more established in terms of what type of production they are going to provide. They have been pretty consistent (and consistently great) for at least the last two seasons, where as Pedroia has had both good and very good seasons. Second, they are likely to bat right in the middle of the order, probably 3rd and 4th. While the Red Sox scored a lot of runs last year in total, it seemed like they sometimes had trouble getting jump started at the top of the order against good pitching. A lot of that falls on Pedroia's shoulders. Again, I'm not saying he didn't do this last year. But he didn't do it with the same dynamic he did the year before. While this isn't totally fair because he was essentially doing his job in large part, he has show he can give more, and I think the Red Sox need more from him.

Looking at the statistical side of it, two things immediately jump out at you: Pedroia walked 24 more times from '08 to '09 and slugged .046 points less. Digging a little deeper, his home road splits are off the charts. He's basically an All-Star in Fenway and a below average player on the road. What's concerning here is that this was also the case in 2007, although not in 2008. While the overall production was still very good to excellent in all three years, 2008 was the only season that he put together numbers on the road. A lot of very good players put together good overall seasons and thus major production for their team despite imbalanced splits. But again I'm just not sure the Red Sox can deal with that from Pedroia. The Yankees can likely deal with Granderson's pronounced splits vs. lefties because they don't absolutely have to have him. They have Jeter, Rodriguez, and Teixeira for that. While the Red Sox undoubtedly love the Pedroia they are getting at home (and with good reason), they need more on the road, especially with the loss of Bay.

Combining these numbers with a more scouting driven analysis, the issue is I'm just not sure how you make up a .167 difference between home and road OPS. More importantly, I'm not sure how you bring a .736 road OPS up to a more passable level, let along a more productive one. I was sort of laughed at when I mentioned for the second consecutive year that Pedroia would have to adjust to pitchers adjusting to him. But it is true. In 2008, he had to deal with pitchers taking him seriously after 2007. In 2009, he had to deal with pitchers treating him like one of the few players in the lineup they didn't want beating them. By the numbers, an increase in walks accompanied by a sharp decrease in power could (but not definitely) mean that pitchers were absolutely forcing Pedroia to hit their pitch. They'd avoid challenging him, throwing to corners. If he puts it in play it's more likely to be a single and if he doesn't he takes his walk. Part of the problem is the hitters behind Pedroia not forcing pitchers to challenge him more. If not, there just isn't a ton you can do. Watching Pedroia for probably 150-200 at bats per year over the last three years (I watch a lot of baseball, especially the AL East), one thing that is plainly obvious is that he flat punishes mistakes. In 2009 he didn't seem to get as many mistakes because of the care he was being handled with. So the question becomes if that is the case, and it repeats itself in 2010, what to do?

The most obvious thing is to do more with pitches on the plate that aren't as fat. The inherent issue here, as I mentioned before, is that I'm not sure how equipped Pedroia is to do this consistently, especially away from Fenway. Beyond that, I'm not totally sure. But there are ways and I think Pedroia needs to figure it out. He collected 28 less hits and 9 less extra base hits last year in comparison to the year before. He went from great to merely good. More than at any point in his career, I don't think the Red Sox can afford to get just good from Pedroia this coming season. They need great, like it 2008, or at least something closer to it than the just good they got in 2007 and 2009.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Short Commentary on Two Pitchers

Some news over the weekend that I found to be particularly interesting (though they will probably not get any comments because they're from away from Boston or New York) involve Tim Lincecum and Kyle Farnsworthless. Lincecum signed a two-year deal with the Giants, avoiding arbitration at the last minute, and Farnsworth is going to give it a go with the Royals...as a starter!

Let's start with Lincecum. This has been quite a situation all offseason, and knowing Brian Sabean, I had a feeling that the Giants would really F up the whole situation, offering like two million dollars and losing arbitration. But credit where credit's due for both sides. Lincecum will earn $8 million this year and $13 million next year. Knowing Lincecum's dominance, risk involved because of his Pedro Martinez-type build, and major league experience, this is extremely reasonable.

A botched arbitration process, like if the Giants offered like two million and Lincecum demanded $23 million, would have effectively destroyed the reserve clause. It would have irreparably set a precedent, and all three-year veterans would be looking for free agent-type money, citing Lincecum's deal.

But that did not happen. Players will now continue to have to pay their dues and exhibit some staying power before cashing in on free agency. This is good news for players who have already proven themselves, and good news for small-market teams who can really only afford to retain stars before they hit free agency. It would be a shame to see a team like the Padres have to torch their finances for Adrian Gonzalez for three years.

Lincecum's response to the deal: "Whatever." Hey hey hey hey.

I have a little less to say about Farnsworth. But the Royals are letting the "project" (according to Newsday) make his 27th major league start. This says a lot of things. First, nobody knows what to do with Farnsworth, who--according to more people than just From the Bronx--has the physical tools to be a good pitcher. Transitioning this short guy into a starter seems to be a gesture of "I don't know what the F else to do." It's also a further indication that the Royals are running their business as if they have nothing to lose. What a disaster of an organization. I mean, I feel like any organization that moves on from Coco Crisp is making a big mistake, but this is less subjective: leaving the team prone to 6-7 Farnsworth innings a week instead of 2-3 innings a week does not demonstrate a commitment to winning.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Thought You Were Gonna Ask Me (Vol. 1)

1. It's February 11th, which means How Youz Doin Baseball is in its fourth year of operation (we are now three years and four days old). In that time, there have been 1162 posts, probably 10,000 comments, and countless more posts that have died in draft or have gotten deleted in Pat's image-sanitizing raid last summer as he was looking for a job. The fourth year means the periodic series that I put out needs a new name. For a recap:

2007: 38 Bitches (making fun of Schilling running his mouth online)
2008: It's Why We Watch (making fun of the Red Sox' second-worst marketing campaign ever)
2009: Sore Glove Hand (making fun of JD Drew's injury...Google "Sore Glove Hand," by the way)
2010: I Thought You Were Gonna Ask Me (making fun of Theo Epstein's famous quote of "I thought you were gonna ask me about JD Drew having the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders...you guys usually crush him, so I thought you were gonna ask me about that").

2. While we talk about dates, today, at least in some countries, is 10-2-11 (as in 2010, second month, 11th day). If today were 10/2/11 in the United States, well, that would be pretty awesome. If you don't know why, you need to read more How Youz Doin Baseball.

3. And while we're still talking about dates, How Youz Doin Baseball was really an awesome Valentine's Day present for our girlfriends back in 2007. Somehow, through college graduation, broken Swiffers, emotional breakdowns regarding Coco Crisp's batting average, irrational man-crushes on Mark Teixeira, and hours of being ignored in favor of the blog, our girlfriends have stayed with us.

4. We talked about it a few times this offseason, and Pat's post last night emphasized it more: The better rotation is the one that stays healthy and minimizes starts made by guys like Aaron Small, Shawn Chacon, Paul Byrd, Junichi Tazawa, Kason Gabbard, or pre-steroids Eric Gagne. If a lot of starts are made by the five guys who are SUPPOSED to make the starts, you're in good shape. Because I don't care who you are, your team's sixth starter is a sixth starter because he's not good enough to be a 3rd, 4th, or 5th starter anywhere else. If he was, he'd be traded to address one of your team's needs. So those guys are not going to pitch well unless we're talking about Tim Wakefield with the Pirates in 1992. They are going to cost you games.

Stats that have previously been cited on this website include the fact that 139 of the Yankees' games were started by five guys (CC, Burnout, Pettitte, Joba, Wang). The 2008 Devil Rays had an astonishing 153! By contrast, the 2009 Rays had 139 (still high, but the fact that Kazmir sucked and Sonnanstine spent half of the year in AAA was a setback), the 2008 Red Sox had 134, the 2009 Red Sox had 125, and the 2008 Yankees had 117. I feel like a more detailed number crunch will be in the works over the weekend. Maybe I can put a spreadsheet into here. But my thesis is that if you have 45 starts thrown by patchwork guys, you're not going to win as many games than if you have nine starts thrown by those guys.

5. News out of Detroit?

Dear Johnny, I meant to write you sooner, but I just been busy.
I went out with Cabrera last night, so I feel sick and dizzy.
Look, I'm really happy that you still have fight like that
So send me your autograph and I'll give you this Tiger cap.
I'm sorry I didn't see you at the Winter Meetings, I must have missed you.
Don't think I did that s*** intentionally just to diss you...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Better Rotation: Yankees or Red Sox?

It is my opinion that these are the two best rotations in baseball. The Angels, White Sox, Cardinals, and Giants, to name a few, all have excellent rotations on paper and could end up being the best. But I don't feel like analyzing all of them, this is primarily a Yankees-Red Sox blog, and again, I think discussing just these two is essentially discussing the best rotations in baseball. I'm just limiting the title to be fair to other good rotations.

There are three important points to make before getting started. First, both rotations got better from 2009, and that's the most important thing. I don't think either rotation expanded or closed the gap in terms of overall team ability. Second, the Yankees rotation had a better ERA than the Red Sox in 2009. I point this out not only because it is something to consider in this analysis (it doesn't mean everything, obviously), but because I think there is a general perception that the Red Sox had better pitching than the Yankees last year. Not true. Third, I ordered the pitchers in their respective rotations not based on how I think their managers will order them, but based on how I would order them in terms of production. So I don't care if Beckett pitches Opening Day because there is not an iota of data that points to Beckett being in Lester's arena as a pitcher. Lester's last two seasons were Beckett's one good season, and he did it back to back despite being four years younger. He's not just Boston's best pitcher, he's their best player, so it makes sense to compare him to the Yankees' best despite however they may be ordered to start the season. Beckett/Lackey is a toss up, and I put Lackey second because while he's not as good as Beckett at their highest ends, he's more consistent. Matsuzaka gets the edge over Buchholz because he's put together a full season. Hughes/Chamberlain are toss ups so I just included them together. You could reasonably order Burnett/Pettitte/Vazquez in any order, so I just went with that one because it seems to be the standard for now.

#1) Sabathia/Lester - Tough break for Boston here, but across the last three seasons - Cy Young, one of the best half season pitching performances we've seen in a while, World Series - Sabathia's been the best pitcher in all of baseball. Lester does Boston a major solid here, because he doesn't allow the gap to be very big because he's a legitimate #1 as well. Sabathia would give the Yankees a bigger competitive edge over most rotations at the top than he does here. But still an edge, especially with Sabathia proven in the clutch, something Lester is still looking to solidify on his resume. Yankees.

#2) Burnett/Lackey - If Lackey had put together innings totals in the last two seasons the way he had the previous five, this would be a runaway. So that is largely what this one will likely come down to. Burnett is more unhittable when they are both at their best, but Lackey is still very good and is just so consistent in terms of results. However, say what you will about Burnett, he's thrown 89.2 more innings than Lackey the last two seasons. That is not a small number, and as we talked about with Vazquez the other day, pitchers who pitch less innings have to be better and pitchers who pitch more innings don't have to be as good to provide the same value to their respective teams. This puts Lackey in a tough spot and Burnett in a good spot the last two years. I'm still taking Lackey because Burnett has been an injury concern in the past and Lackey could always have a healthy season. But this is a lot closer than it would be based on results along due to the difference in their ability to take the mound the last two seasons. Red Sox.

#3) Pettitte/Beckett - Beckett is a more talented pitcher than Pettitte at this stage in their respective careers. In the three years since Pettitte has been back in the AL East, Beckett is better in almost every regard from a 162 standpoint save that Pettitte pitches more innings and allows a few less home runs. That's no small deal. However I point out 162 here because you never have any idea what you are going to get from Josh Beckett, and recently he has failed the Red Sox when they've needed him most. In 2008, he pitched 42 innings after August 1st, which is pace for 126 over a full season. In 2009, over his last 9 starts with the Red Sox in the middle of a pennant race he pitched to a 6.02 ERA. In those respective postseasons, he pitched in three series posting ERA's of 7.20, 9.64, and 5.40. Just because you have two good postseasons doesn't mean you are a good postseason pitcher if you don't keep pitching well in the postseason. Andy Pettitte has his shortcomings, but he's not going to do that to you, or at least he hasn't show himself to recently. In the same pennant race he went 6-2 with a 3.49 ERA and went 4-0 for the Yankees in the playoffs. This will be an unpopular pick because everyone likes to look at who is better at their high end, which Beckett clearly is. But Andy Pettitte's ability to be a rock counteracts Beckett being a better pitcher for me, so I'm going to wash them. No way I would trade Pettitte for Beckett for this next season, and I would totally understand a Red Sox fan feeling the same way in the other direction. Even.

#4) Vazquez/Matsuzaka - It's very tough to call this one because you don't know how Vazquez is going to respond to the AL East and you simply have no idea which Matsuzaka is going to show up. In three years in the United States he's had a decent year, a great year, and a terrible year. I don't think anybody who claims to know which one 2010 will closest resemble has any idea what they are talking about, just like I don't think anybody who claims to know exactly how Vazquez will adjust to the AL East the second time around has any idea what they are talking about. The best we can do is make reasonable estimates based on the available data, and it would not surprise me to see these two have very similar numbers in 2010. The one place you can draw a real distinction is innings. Vazquez has pitched less than Daisuke's MLB career high (204.2) just twice in the last 10 years, and they were 198 and 202.2. This gives Vazquez an edge over most pitchers, and does so with Daisuke here. Yankees.

#5) Hughes/Chamberlain/Buchholz - Really easy wash. Hughes had the best season out of any of them, but did so in the bullpen and has yet to put together any extended stretch of successful starting in the majors. Chamberlain was putting together a great season before falling apart. Buchholz really struggled before putting it together. 2010 will be a critical year for each of these pitchers, but none has an edge in terms of what they look like they'll give their team on paper. They are basically in the same boat. Even.

It is worth noting that both teams have good depth. Wakefield will be ready for the Sox, and Gaudin will be so for the Yankees. The Yankees might have a slight edge here if they stashed the loser of the Hughes/Chamberlain competition for the 5th spot in AAA for a little - which as I've outlined I think is the right play - but I fully expect them to send the other to the bullpen.

So where does this all leave us? It's clearly very close as both rotations are very good. You could ask 100 people who had pretty good knowledge and I bet it would be close to 50/50. In this analysis the Lackey and Vazquez edge's cancel each other, and that gives the Yankees the W because of Sabathia. And that's fitting for me, because that is the main reason I prefer the Yankees rotation, Sabathia. He gives them something that no pitcher on the Red Sox has yet proven to give their team, that absolute force every fifth day.

As always, it will probably come down to health. Both rotations looked stacked and deep last year too and each ended up going through a substantial amount of ineffective Wang/Chamberlain/Mitre/Matzuzaka/Smoltz/Penny starts. Both rotations look more stacked and even deeper this year, so we will see how it plays out. If we weren't to consider injuries - which we can't right now - as I said at the beginning of this post I don't see either rotation, no matter which one you think is better, as better or worse than the other to the point where it decides the division. That's probably the most important point.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Abe Tells It Like It Is, Spars With Schilling

It is a good thing that Curt Schilling is not the general manager of the Boston Red Sox. Probably for many reasons. He's loud, emotional, outspoken, and would probably hold a bigger multimedia tour to show off how right he is than the ones Barack Obama and Theo Epstein did in the year 2009. Back on 38pitches.com, and now unaffiliated with WEEI (he is justifiably protesting the layoff of Pete Sheppard), Schilling wrote a post explaining why the Red Sox should sign Josh Beckett "today."

There's been a lot of talk this winter about Beckett's impending free agency next year, and they say the barometer would be the deals that John Lackey, Felix Hernandez, and Justin Verlander landed in the past two months. All there is to say about that is, yikes. For a guy who can rarely stay either healthy or effective for a complete season? For a guy who surrendered thirty-six (36) home runs in 2006 and an additional twenty-five (25) last year? Look, Beckett certainly has his days when he looks like the best pitcher you've ever seen. But he falls short of the consistency that Lackey has enjoyed, falls short of the durability/firepower combination that Verlander enjoys, and falls short of the upside that both Verlander and Hernandez have. Beckett's turning 30 this spring, so it's unlikely we're going to see Beckett find himself and drop five straight years of 2007.

Not to say the Red Sox shouldn't sign him at all. I wouldn't even be angry if he were signed to a Lackey-type deal ten months from now. He would address a need in an aggressive, satisfactory way. And that would be because he is largely an effective, reliable pitcher who shows up in big spots most of the time. No, Schilling, it's not because he's a workout hero, because he works hard, and because he cares. Matsuzaka works hard, too--that doesn't mean he is worth $80 million. But enjoying Beckett in a contract year, when he has a little added incentive, is a good thing. Plus, one more year of data can paint a fuller picture of what a long-term agreement with Josh Beckett is worth. It's like when it's free to check in a game of poker and you're not necessarily confident with your hand. Take a look at the extra card. It could save you money or it could give you more of an idea of whether you should cut bait and run.

The other half of this story has 100% to do with Peter Abraham, the Boston Globe's newest addition. Abraham's career has been of interest to both Pat and me for a long time, especially as he is a Massachusetts native who will have played on both sides of the Boston-NY media baseball game. He's one of the first beat writers to really leverage blogging as a valuable tool to break news, and he's done it in a way that's head and shoulders better than the rest of the field. He seems to keep the 24-hour workday intact, and he'a slao very clever and unafraid to present a controversial opinion instead of chugging the Kool-Aid like way too many writers in this city.

Sometimes Abraham, in his time in Jersey, had gone beyond controversial, posting an occasional comment that borders on condescending and inflammatory. He openly questioned executives' moves, poked fun at other bloggers, ragged on opposing players, and even picked on Yankee players. This flies in New York for the most part, and when he switched to a Boston environment that is more full of fanboys than NY, both Pat and I wondered in this space whether his hard work and writing quality would be received well here.

Well, yesterday was the first test. In a blog post very similar to many of the other half-sarcastic posts he wrote in New York (and many of the ones he has written in Boston, too), he broke the story of Curt Schilling's opinion on Beckett. He reported that Schilling believes the Red Sox should sign Beckett because he works hard. There's a sarcasm toward it, as Pete Abe suggested the Red Sox should evaluate other factors than the one factor Schilling devoted seven paragraphs towards.

Well, Schilling was pissed off enough about this criticism of his literary work that he decided to edit the post and call out "expert" Pete Abraham. Surely Schilling is used to reporters other than Shaughnessy kissing his feet and thanking him for the bloody sock, and he has quite a following of people who won't question his writing skills, points, or opinions in general. It's pretty likely that Abraham lost quite a few fans this week. Just wait until he says Manny Delcarmen sucks or says 46 won't take a hometown discount.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Javier Vazquez

When the Yankees traded for Javier Vazquez we spent a lot of time here talking about the merits of the trade from a value given up vs. value received in return perspective. Fair enough. Even though a vast majority of fans and analysts alike thought it was a great trade for the Yankees, he's on the team no matter what anyone things, so it's important to take a look at him separate of the trade. With only nine days to go until pitchers and catchers (how youz doin!) this seems like a good time to do so.

I've always been a big fan of Javier Vazquez for two reasons: he devours innings and misses bats. In the last 10 years only one pitcher has accumulated more innings than Vazquez - who averaged a whopping 216 per in that period - and that's Randy Johnson. In 2009, no pitcher missed more bats, and in the last 10 years he's averaged exactly 200 strikeouts per season. This combination gets me excited. Because even if the results are just above average-ish (likely in the AL East - let's say 12-14 wins and an ERA between 3.80-4.40 with 180 punchouts), this combination makes him play up.

Why?

First, the innings he pitches at his level is better than probably every middle reliever in baseball. It's great when a pitcher has a 3.40 ERA. But if that guy can only give you 180 innings - which is good but not great - that's 35 innings a team has to give largely to non late inning relievers. That might not seem like much, but it is. It's one inning per start. If a middle reliever is averaging one extra inning per start, that reliever is likely to give more away than is Javier Vazquez. This is not speculation on my part, it's a statistical fact.

Second, because of the amount of bats he misses, when he has it going he has it going. A major addition to the internet for me is mlb.com's highlight archive. You can basically see every pitcher's start of the entire season. A clear defect here is that you are mostly only going to see the good stuff, but you take it for what it's worth. Looking back at a number of Vazquez's starts, there are times when good lineups (back to backs against St. Louis and Philly in September) just couldn't touch him. It's great to have consistent pitchers, but having guys that can take games over for you from time to time is huge, and not many pitchers have that ability. Vazquez's ability to do that puts him in that category.

With those two things considered, I always felt Vazquez got a bad rap his one season in New York. At the All-Star break he was 10-5 with a 3.56 in 18 starts and was, guess what, an All-Star. He then pitched through what was the only injury of his career in the second half, and got lit. Noted. Then, after 1427.1 innings, making the third relief appearance of his entire career (one of which was three games earlier) he came in to clean up Kevin Brown's bases loaded mess, and Johnny Damon hit the first pitch he threw for a grand slam. Ideal? No. Blameless? No. As my buddy says, he didn't need to let Damon hit it into the upper deck. But you'll have to excuse me if I choose to look at other things besides one pitch thrown by a guy who was making his second relief appearance in 6 years since the only prior one he made in his rookie season, with the bases loaded, in one of the biggest Game 7's in baseball history. But why look at the biggest set of data when you can look at one pitch.

That said, there is an important point related to that pitch to Damon. It was a fastball. I remember Damon saying after the game he knew Vazquez liked to throw first pitch fastballs to set up his change up, which though it was a devastating pitch, was really his only serious off-speed pitch at the time. So Damon said he was sitting fastball, and he was right to do so. That year Vazquez threw change ups 23.6% of the time, curveballs 15% of the time, and sliders only 4.6% of the time. In 2009, Vazquez threw change ups 13.2% of the time, curveballs 16.7% of the time, and sliders 20.2% of the time. Going from only 20 breaking balls out of 100 pitches in 2004 to 37 out of 100 in 2009, nearly a 100% increase, is massive. Scouts agree with this decision, as his slider, almost non-existent in 2004, is now his best pitch in the opinion of some. From what I've seen, I can't say I disagree, though the change up is still plus with that great fade and speed differential and he can still throw his fastball by you. All that aside, just the fact that he has the ability to mix it up more is a huge plus.

The catch 22 here is that more breaking balls often elevates injury risk, and as I mentioned earlier Vazquez's durability is one of his biggest assets. Hopefully this won't be the case with . One more thing on the plus side, Vazquez has incredible control. He has a career 2.3 BB/9 and a 3.5 K/BB, both of which are outstanding. On the down side, he gives up way too many home runs. As a flyball pitcher, I think the hope is that what should be an excellent defensive outfield for the Yankees in 2010 will be able to save some runs for him. But there isn't anything you can do about balls that leave the yard. This is a legitimate concern as a right-handed pitcher in Yankee Stadium and this division.

Overall though this is a great pickup. I agree with most that this is the Yankees' most significant move this winter. Granderson and Johnson will likely be about a wash with Matsui and Damon. The innings Vazquez takes from the Yankees' 5th starter last year (yes, he's the #4 but he's bumping the #5, so that's the comparison) is not even close in terms of what he can provide. It's a major win upgrade if he can stay healthy and pitch near his career averages (or even his AL averages), and that's what you are looking to do.

The Marcus Thames pick-up is a good one. No risk as he doesn't get paid unless he makes the team, and even if he does it's only 900 K, and he can absolute mash lefties (career .516 SLG against left-handers). Nice insurance in case Jamie Hoffman doesn't look like the answer as a right-handed outfield bench option. With Winn's deal turning out to be only 1.1 million, a potential combination of Winn and Thames for $2 million, with Garnder in the mix, could be a nice LF/4th OF/5th OF combination, especially with the pinch-hit, pinch-run, defensive replacement potential between the three.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Come At Me, Bro. Come At Me, Bud.

This is something that we have concluded in several different offline conversations, and I think after this weekend, it's time to call out both of these individuals for their hideous incompetence and stunning similarities. Commissioner Allan H. Selig of Major League Baseball and President William D. Adams of Colby College are the same person. In the wake of the track team scoring 28.5 points at the state meet this weekend, finishing fourth behind USM (169.5), Bowdoin (164.5), and Bates (144.5), I find it necessary to say something about it.

Think about these similarities: Commissioner Selig and President Adams both have cheesy nicknames to hide the fact that they're completely uncharismatic old mummies. Selig, of course, calls himself "Bud," and many people who read this know President Adams as "Bro." These two things are very true: Selig is not my bud and Adams is not my bro. Maybe some people find these leaders charismatic, like Adams's special friend from the English department a few years ago. And I'm sure Steve Harvey, whose television show was played when people were looking for the 2008 ALCS on TBS, likes Selig because he got some free publicity.

Second, neither care about their athletes. If Adams had cared about his athletes, the field house would not have remained a 1960s-era relic. Colby is the only track team in Maine that cannot host indoor meets because the track is in such heinous disrepair. Athletes have been injured on that surface for years and years. When a big rainstorm wiped out the basketball court in 2007, it took nearly a year before it was rebuilt. Recruiting practices have gone completely to crap, as every other team in the conference lowers their standards slightly to get some good athletes to the school. The fact that seasons like Colby Baseball 2005 (0-27) and the XC and track seasons the last two years have happened show management's commitment to sports. Over the last decade, more Colby teams have finished last in the conference than first in the conference. This is an effective way to piss off alumni.

Meanwhile, Selig's commitment to his athletes is evident as he is continuing to let them shoot up with illegal substances that may ultimately jeopardize their health significantly. The fact that he sat with his thumb up his rear end for a freaking decade, and couldn't read the Mitchell Report in three days, speaks for itself.

A third stunning similarity is that President William D. Adams and Commissioner Allan H. Selig always talk about how right now is the golden age. They pat themselves on the back when they talk about the state of the game, the college, etc. Like Theo Epstein, they often look at one metric (revenue, number of buildings built) to measure their success. It's like they drive with a blindfold on, relying on their own delusional arrogance, knowing that they know exactly what to do.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, both Bro Adams and Bud Selig are undermining the traditions and overall well-being of their respective institutions to sell out to small numbers of stakeholders. Some of Adams's boys are whispering in his ear to cut down on a partying culture at the school. "Brohibition," the outlawing of hard alcohol on campus, is going into effect next year amid much less controversy than when it was originally posed by President Adams. Their security guards gained national attention last year when they were characteristically combative, overreactionary, and aggressive, beating two students to bloody pulps. There is a corrupt room draw system when the administrators make rooms "unavailable" until their friends' lottery numbers come up. Senior Steps is a thing of the past. Donations by recent alumni are plummeting because they don't like what's going on there. But some of Adams's boys are happy, so Adams thinks he's progressive.

Meanwhile, baseball has a World Classic to appease idiots who think the World Series isn't "world" enough. The World Series lasts until the second week of November in cities like Philadelphia, Cleveland, and New York so that fans suffer but the television networks are happy. Games are played in 33-degree rainstorms so that the schedule of "So You Think You Can Dance" is not interrupted on FOX. No aggressive action has been taken against steroids unless the United States Congress starts getting on Selig's case.

And most importantly, ticket prices keep on rising while quality (as outlined above) continues to fall. Some tickets in baseball (we know, we know) are over $1000 apiece. The Franchise's family is paying $51,000 or so this year so that their daughter can live in a 97-square-foot closet and only have one choice for food on the weekends due to cost-cutting measures. The most important part at each institution is that the classes are still brilliant and baseball is still baseball. But everything surrounding that most important part is falling apart at the seams. More coverage is given to the NFL Draft than the first month of the baseball season. And my degree and Pat's degree are depreciating rapidly.

This is thanks to the uncharismatic, ineffective leaders with goofy nicknames: Bud Selig and Bro Adams, who are essentially the same person.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sincerely Yours, Johnny, P.S. We should be together too

You've reached Dave Dombrowski of the Detroit Tigers. Please leave a message.

Um, um,
Dear Dave, you still ain't called or wrote like I expected.
I ain't mad, I just think it's f***ed up that I'm disrespected.
If you don't want to talk to me and give me 13 million bucks
You don't have to, but without me your team is gonna suck.
I'm a franchise player man. I'm 36 years old.
My agent says I got a body of gold. If you don't believe him you just don't know.
That's pretty s***ty, man. I'ma make your team a winner.
I've been disrespected all winter and you better reconsider.
I ain't that mad, but I gotta feed my family dinner.
Remember when I said that stuff about Boston? I wasn't bitter
But I feel like that. It's like this year in a way. The Yankees don't respect me either.
They like Alex, Mark, and Jeter.
See, I can relate to Chrysler, GM, and Ford
So when I'm not the biggest star I will admit that I get bored
But you don't really got s*** else so I'ma bring you to October
And I'ma win it singlehandedly if Cabrera is hung over.
Sometimes I play so hard, I hit a wall, it makes me bleed
Because almost as much as money, I'ma play hard for the team.
The Yankees disrespected me 'cause all my words are real
And they just hate when they say I can't still play center field
But they don't know me like you can know me, Dave. No one does.
They don't like what it's like to take a big pay cut.
You gotta call me man. I'ma be the Tigers' savior.
You should give me thirteen million or I'ma rip you in the paper.

The Grammys probably haven't been worth watching since 2001.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Got, Um, Disrespected

Hi Dave, um, it's, um, Johnny Damon again. Spring training starts in two weeks, and, um, I still don't have a team to play for, and I'd like to play for your Tigers. I don't know why because, um, I have a, um, body of a 30-year-old and I made the Yankees a winner. Sure, um, the Yankees didn't win anything, um, in the first three years I was on the team, um, and they didn't even make the playoffs, um, in 2008, but when they won the World Series, um, I'm pretty sure it's because of me. I had, um, a career high in home runs, um, because I'm in the prime of my career. I guess by offering me a 45% pay cut, the Yankees decided they didn't want to win this year. I know you gave Miguel Cabrera a big paycheck, so I know you know that $13 million a year for me is like, um, a bargain. I'm in the prime of my career.

The last four years I had more home runs than in any four years of my career. That's, um, because I'm a rare physical specimen and I have, um, a great work ethic. Other than that year that I was thinking about retiring and, um, sat on my ass all winter and hit .230 in the first half of the year, um, um, I work out a lot. I don't come in as early as, um, Alex, but I still work out really hard. At, um, New Tiger Stadium, I can probably, um, hit 30 home runs a year. And I also work a lot of counts.

Do you read the New York Post? I hope so. My dad is trying to get the phone number of the New York Post, um, so he can say that the, um, Yankees are making the biggest, um, mistake in the history of the franchise. Move over Hideki Irabu and Carl Pavano. Letting Johnny f***ing Damon go will go down in history, um, as the worst move ever made. Look at Boston. After they, um, let me go, they only won the World Series once. Plus, um, I kept the Boston Globe, um, in business by providing all those quotes about how disrespected I was for four years. Between that and, um, Bill Ryan, and Jackie McMillan, and Dan Sean, um, um, the curly haired boyfriend guy, all writing about how great I am, um, I made sure there was always something, um, to write about. I am in the prime of my career and I don't only singlehandedly turn baseball teams into winners, but I keep the entire local economy alive. I can probably save GM, Ford, and Chrysler. So instead of putting up their logos for free again, you can just sign me.

I was the Derek Jeter of the Yankees, even though, um, Derek Jeter plays on the Yankees. I have been a great player all my career, um, and I'm in the prime of my career. I'm the Greg Maddux of position players. I hope, um, the other Derek Jeter is, um, paying attention. Because if I get disrespected with the body of a 30-year-old with a smaller contract offer, then Derek Jeter is also going to, um, get disrespected. I was the face of the franchise and a great fit and everyone loved me, so I hope Derek Jeter is getting ready to go to another team. Hopefully he joins me, um, in Detroit. Signing me doesn't even mean the Tigers will win the World Series next year, but it also means, um, Derek Jeter will come here too because, um, he loves me.

I can turn the Tigers into winners, because upgrading the outfield with me instead of, um, Curtis Anderson, the Tigers are going to be, um, a lot better. Plus, I'll get along with the team really well. I like to go out and chase girls, um, so me and, um, Miguel Cabrera are going to get after it every night. Rick Porcello doesn't like Kevin Youkilis, and, um, I don't like Theo Epstein because he disrespected me by only offering me $40 million, so we're going to, um, be like best friends. I am really a huge clubhouse guy, and though my birth certificate says that I'm 36 years old, my agent says I play like I'm 30. I'm like one of those Dominicans. Therefore, you should listen to my agent instead of my birth certificate and medical records. He's, um, really trustworthy. And by trustworthy, he's the only person nowadays who isn't disrespecting me by thinking I'm worth less than $13 million a year.

I'm the, um, best leadoff hitter of all time. I could make the Pittsburgh Pirates a winner, because my presence is really the only reason Oakland, Boston, and New York were winners when I was there. So anyway, Mr. Drom, Mr., um, um, Tigers Guy, I know I have been calling you every five minutes for the last week, but I hope you call me back. If you don't, I will call the Detroit Free Press and talk about how you are disrespecting me. I'm the best thing that could happen to any franchise in baseball. But the Yankees don't realize that, despite the fact that I was the heart and soul of the team, and the biggest, um, superstar on theat team. The Red Sox didn't realize it either, so I let them know about it by talking, um, more about them than about my current team, for, um, four years.

So anyway, Dave Tigers Guy, I hope you call me back. I know I've been talking about the Yankees and the Red Sox for most of this voicemail, um, but I really want to play for the Pirates, um, oh, I mean, um, the Tigers this year. You know what I'm going to like about the Tigers? Winning the World Series.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Something to Root For

The latest in the Joe Mauer contract extension situation is that nothing is imminent. This is too bad, as a few days ago, reports were saying that Mauer and the Minnesota Twins were close to signing a 10-year contract extension. Count me into the legions who think this is good for baseball if it happens. I mean, Peter Abraham already said almost everything there is to say about it:

-It's good that a small-market team is close to signing a big player instead of the player jumping ship upon free agency to go to a big-market team on the East Coast.
-It's a very important thing for the Twins to do, because if this St. Paul native leaves, there is probably no reason for the team to even exist anymore. This guy is more "face of the franchise" than San Diego native Adrian Gonzalez is to the Padres. They are making more pushes to actually spend some money to look like a legitimate franchise as of late. They signed Justin Morneau to a long-term deal and they invested in a new stadium to open next year.

Going a little bit further, here are two more key observations to think about:

-This move may at least slow the momentum of the disturbing trend of the minor league-ization of small-market teams. It's become pretty clear that a lot of the small market teams are in essence becoming farm teams for teams like Boston, New York, LA, Philadelphia, etc. Johnny Damon went from the AA Royals to the AAA Athletics to the MLB Red Sox. Big acquisions for the Royals nowadays are Gil Meche and Coco Crisp. People are waiting for Carl Crawford to hit free agency and they've been talking about him leaving Tampa Bay for a big-market team forever. Some of the dumber baseball fans just think that San Diego will give away Gonzalez. And the same can be said for the Twins. They're a minor league system producing guys like Mauer and Santana, who will go to the big market teams once they're free. Mauer (and Morneau) sticking around shows that Minnesota is committed to winning instead of being a farm team. I had previously criticized this organization for being a farm team by offering Santana instead of going for a championship in the last year of his contract.

-This also might continue a trend that Major League Baseball, either intentionally or unintentionally, is starting to head back to a team spending the majority of his career with one team. Teams are understanding the free agent market better and many are shying away from free agents, instead trying to keep labor costs lower (I didn't say low) and preventing their franchise players from hitting free agency in the first place. Another big aspect of this trend is St. Louis's efforts to keep Albert Pujols in a Cardinals uniform. But it seems like there are fewer players jumping from team to team, and I think this is good for baseball, as fans of teams can start to become fans of players again, too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Filling The Two Hole: Granderson or Johnson?

As you can tell I've been thinking a lot about the Yankees' lineup lately. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that they haven't had this much turnover at key spots for a few years, with the exception of M-WEPT taking Abreu's spot, a big upgrade. For the last four years, Jeter and Damon have batted 1 and 2 in some order, Rodriguez has cleaned up, and Matsui and Posada have been there to follow him. Now the Yankees have to fill both the 2 and 5 spots in the order that were so productively filled by Damon and Matsui during the Yankees' 2009 championship campaign.

The Yankees have multiple people who can fill both spots. The question is can they do it better than Damon and Matsui? The five hole is actually more of a concern as there is no one guy who jumps out as you as being able to slide in and do what Matsui did. You need to have someone who scares you enough so that they don't work around Rodriguez, ostensibly providing protection for him, and having the ability to collect RBI's when M-WEPT and Rodriguez don't pick them up. Matsui was perfect for this role. It will probably be more of a rotation, which probably isn't the worst thing based on the Yankees' personnel. Posada and Cano will certainly get their chances, but again, I just don't know if either of them can strike fear in pitchers staff the way Matsui did, nor consistently collect big RBI's and launch big home runs the way Matsui did. I'm pretty sure Matsui scared people. I don't think Posada and Cano do as much.

The second spot in the order is different in that they have two good candidates in Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson. For the Yankees the two spot is a critical spot in the order. You need a player that can both be a table setter in front of M-WEPT and Rodriguez and also be an RBI guy behind Jeter. Dynamic is the key word, and Damon personified it.

With that in mind my concern here is that when you hear Yankee officials talk it seems like Nick Johnson is the incumbent. While he is a very nice option because of his on-base and count working abilities, he's more of a traditional #2 guy. That is, he's a table setter, he wants to walk. The Yankees #2 spot, behind Jeter and in front of M-WEPT and Rodriguez, is not a tradtional #2 spot. There are two things that you are going to see a lot of batting in front of M-WEPT and Rodriguez: strikes and fastballs. Pitchers are not going to nibble to the guy in front of those two guys. So you need a guy who is going to take most advantage of that. It's not an ideal spot for a guy whose best skill is getting on base. You need to have that ability and not sacrifice it so you can continue the set the table, but you also need to be able to punish a pitcher for challenging you. Again, Damon was perfect in this regard. He always knew how to handle inside fastballs and that skill shined batting in front of M-WEPT and Rodriguez where he saw a lot of them.

I'm just not sure if this maximizes Nick Johnson's abilities. It seems to me like he'd be better batting in a more neutral spot in the order, where pitchers are going to pitch him straight up and he can do what he does. Conversely, it seems like this situation would be a perfect marriage for both Granderson and the Yankees. Granderson strikes out a lot. Batting in front of M-WEPT and Rodriguez, he'll see a lot more fastball strikes and that may cut down on that, especially against lefties. Certainly, as a 30 home run guy in 2009 Granderson knows how to take care of business when he's challenged to put the ball in play, and batting second for the Yankees may even take that a step further. He's also much, much faster than Johnson, and has good plate discipline so he could continue to be a table setter with Jeter while also having the ability to drive people in front of him in. Basically, he could be a lot closer to what Damon was than Johnson can in my opinion.

You could make a case that Granderson should bat 5th against righties since he is a borderline cleanup hitter against them in his career (.894 OPS). But that just seems like an awkward spot for someone with his varied abilities to me. I'm just not sure if he'd be comfortable there. And don't get me wrong, if they were to do that, or just bat Granderson elsewhere, Johnson is a solid choice to bat second. I just think Granderson batting there and Johnson batting in a more neutral spot in the order maximizes both of their abilities, and also puts a better lineup on the field for the Yankees. I don't think there lineup is going to be as certain or scary as it was last year, especially considering the health the got. They need to find a way to get the most out of everyone and I think this might be a good start.

For those who don't want to read and talk about the Yankees on back to back days to start the week, it is worth noting that the Red Sox are and have been in a similar predicament. In fact there's is worse. They only have one reliable guy to fill the first two spots in the order in Dustin Pedroia, and as we saw in 2009 he's not a lock for elite production. Whichever spot he slots into, be it leading off or batting second, the Red Sox have not been able to find someone to consistently perform for them in the other spot. The same will be the case to start 2009. While someone could always emerge, if one doesn't the Red Sox are going to have to figure out how they want to work their lineup. Losing Bay, they have even less length and thump than they did last year, which as we discussed multiple times last year hasn't really been a problem at hitter friendly Fenway but has been on the road. The Sox probably need to consider bagging lineup length and try to get their best hitters strung in a row at the very top of the order starting with Pedroia and then hope they can turn it over as much as possible. I'd be interested to hear what you guys think.