Thursday, April 30, 2009

Struggling With Runners In Scoring Position in April

As I was watching the Mets painful debacle yesterday, I couldn't help but notice just how bad this team is with runners in scoring position. I have yet to find a statistic that reflects just how bad this team is in scoring position, especially late in games. ESPN states that the Mets as a team hit .252 with runners in scoring position, but I'm sure late in games, that number goes way down. Trust me folks, it's ugly.

The one guy on the Mets that stuck out to me in particular was David Wright. Here was Wright, the face of the franchise, up yesterday with runners on first and second and no one out and I had absolutely no confidence that Wright could get a hit with a runner in scoring position. Wright has let me down far too many times this season, and hell, it's not even May.

But what surprised me is that Wright has not been nearly as bad as I thought with runners in scoring position this season. According to ESPN, Wright is hitting .226 in 31 ABs with runners in scoring position, which is not nearly as bad as I thought. Perhaps my mind was deceived by the number of times Wright failed to come through when the Mets ABSOLUTELY needed him too. Either way, the stats are pretty interesting.

And what I found most amazing is that there are tons of high profile players, who are struggling even more than Wright, hitting with runners in scoring position. Here is a list of some of the "names" and their batting average with runners in scoring position in April:
Cameron Maybin (18 ABs) .000
Felix Pie (12 ABs) .000
Chris Snyder (11 ABs) .000

Geovany Soto (14 ABs) .071
Miguel Olivo (14 ABs) .071
JJ Hardy (22 ABs) .091
Felipe Lopez (11 ABs) .091

Torii Hunter (20 ABs) .100
JD Drew (28 ABs) .107
Jermanine Dye (18 ABs) .111
Michael Young (17 ABs) .118
Jhonny Peralta (25 ABs) .120
Alfonso Soriano (16 ABs) . 125
Mike Fontenot (16 ABs) .125

Lance Berkman (22 ABs) .136
Jim Thome (14 ABs) .143
Brandon Phillips (19 ABs) .158
Chris Young (19 ABs) .158

Alexei Casilla (25 ABs) .160
Hunter Pence (18 ABs) .167
Travis Hafner (18 ABs) .167
Adam Dunn (18 ABs) .167
Ryan Church (18 ABs) .167
Want to know why the Cubs and Diamondbacks offenses are struggling this season? Look no further than this list, which shows that each team has three regulars hitting under .158 with runners in scoring position. The Cubs are only batting .241 with runners in scoring position this season while the Diamondbacks are hitting an anemic .208. Yikes.

And it is interest to note that there are guys on this list who are off to great starts at the dish: Adam Dunn, Michael Young, Torii Hunter, etc. I'll be honest, I did not expect to see any of those names on this list (well maybe Dunn given his terrible history hitting with runners in scoring position).

Note: How is there only one Met on this list?

So take these numbers for what they're worth because I'm sure these numbers are bound to go up. Keep in mind that statistics do not tell the whole story.

Perhaps it's just some strange solace for me knowing that yes, there are actually players worse with runners in scoring position than David Wright; and it's very true that my Mets fandom is cynical and ridiculous.

2009 April NL All Stars

Well ladies and gentlemen, today marks the last day of April. It seems like just yesterday that we were all eager to get the baseball season underway, but time flies when it's baseball seaso

With that said, some players are off to a fantastic start so far this season. While the results may look somewhat skewed right now, it's interesting to take a look at which players are producing for their clubs early on. Then again, come September, some of these numbers might seem ridiculous as players inevitably come down to Earth or struggle to maintain their current place.

I have assembled a roster of the 2009 April All Stars. While I expect some of these guys to be producting 2-3 months from now, it's obvious that some of these guys are playing out of their minds right now.

And for clarity, I am focusing on the national league today and the American League tomorrow.

Without further ado, here are your National League studs for April.

2009 April NL All Stars

C- Benjie Molina, Giants
Benjie Molina hit a triple last night...this is not a joke. For that reason alone (plus his production), Molina makes this roster over Yadier.

1B- Albert Pujols, Cardinals
"The Machine" is off to a ridiculous start with 7 HR, 26 RBI, and only 7 strikeouts

2B-Chase Utley, Phillies
Fully recovered from hip surgery and off to a flying start (.342, 7 HR, 20 RBI, .461 OBP). Lots of good choices to choose from at 2b.

3B-Pedro Feliz, Phillies
Gotta love April baseball: Pedro Feliz has a .395 OBP. Pure comedy.

SS-Miguel Tejada, Astros
Since Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes are not off to flying starts, I went with Tejada. The NL shortstops have been a disappointment thus far. They are almost like the anti-2b.

OF- Raul Ibanez, Phillies
Further proof that Raul Ibanez is not yet an old man yet: (.359, 7 HR, 17 RBI, .433 OBP)

OF- Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs
Is he just an April wonder? Let's hope not. (.358, 4 HR, 15 RBI, .482 OBP)

OF-Carlos Beltran, Mets
Sure Carlos is hitting .388, but can he hit in the clutch?

(How the hell did they not make the list: Adrian Gonzalez, Orlando Hudson, Manny Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, Adam Dunn, Ryan Braun, Yadier Molina)

SP-Johan Santana, Mets
Best pitcher on the planet right now. And no, I don't care what Sports Illustrated says.

SP-Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
Should be 5-0 right now if the Diamondbacks could give him some run support. 2-3 with a 1.54 ERA???? C'mon D-Backs.

SP-Chad Billingsley, Dodgers
One of the best young starting pitchers out there. When he's on, Billingsley is scary good.

SP-Wandy Rodriguez, Astros
Quietly developing as a solid #2 in Houston. 27 Ks in 32 innings with a 1.69 ERA is very promising.

SP-Jair Jurrjens, Braves
Boy, I'm sure the Tigers would love to have Jurrjens and his 1.72 ERA back...

RP-Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers
16 Ks in 10 innings is pretty dominant if you ask me

RP-Ryan Franklin, Cardinals
I think it's safe to say that the Jason Motte closer experiment is over in St. Louis...Franklin is 7-7 is save opportunities, which has prevented Tony La Russa's mental health from deteriorating because of the bullpen.

CL- Heath Bell, Padres
I still can't believe Omar Minaya traded Bell away for nothing...

(How the hell did they not make the list: Joel Pineiro, Kyle Lohse, Josh Johnson, Johny Cueto, Chris Volstad, Matt Capps)

So, who are the flukes? And who will keep it up?

Cecil Cooper Is Not Impressed By Edinson Volquez's Dominance

Apparently Cecil Cooper is not impressed by Reds starter Edinson Volquez, even though Volquez only gave up one hit over eight innings last night against Cooper's Astros.

"I didn't think he was all that sharp," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "It
looked like he had some life to his fastball. It looked like we had some pitches
to hit, but we just didn't swing it very well. You have to give him some credit,
but I didn't think he was like a one-hit performance tonight.

I saw some of this game in between studying for exams and I can honestly say that I thought Volquez was very sharp. He was as good as any pitcher I have seen this season and was in total control of the game. Volquez had great control (only 1 BB), struck out 6, and induced lots of ground balls that turned into easy outs. I was honestly just surprised that Dusty Baker did not leave Volquez out there for the 9th at 106 pitches given how much Dusty loves to ride young starters...(that's you, Mark Prior).

So what gives? Did Cecil Cooper watch a different game than I did? Or was this some sort of motivational tactic by the Astros manager?

Morning Photo: Bobby Jenks's Goatee Is Entertaining And Ridiculous

(...searching for something positive to say...)

I'm sure the blonde goatee is a huge hit with the ladies. Does this absurd patch of hair make him a more intimidating closer? I'd say so.

What's your take?

(photo: AP)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Matt Diaz: Takin' One For the Team

I'm sure there are many of us out there (myself included), who have screamed and yelled at players to let a very tight, inside pitch hit him when the bases are loaded so that a run will score. I vividly remember getting hit on arm in little league simply because I knew the run on third base would score. Hey, a run is a run is a run. And as a fan, I am naturally desperate for runs and I'll selfishly take them any way I can.

But never in my life would I ever expect to see a player openly advocate such a practice no matter how badly he is struggling. Well, not only did Matt Diaz hope he got hit with the bases loaded, he was willing to get hit in the head! CRAZY!
With St. Louis leading 1-0, McClellan (1-1) walked Omar Infante, Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur to set the stage for Diaz's go-ahead hit with two outs.

McClellan threw his 2-2 pitch behind Diaz's head. Diaz didn't exactly jump out of the way.

"I was hoping it would hit my head," Diaz said. "I could not believe it didn't hit my head. I guess I lost too much weight."
I don't care how much I struggled with baseball, I could never imagine wanting to get hit in the head. That would freakin' hurt.

Needless to say, Matt Diaz ia a braver man than I and without a doubt, a somewhat crazy outfielder, who is severely devoted to helping the Braves in whatever way he can.

Morning Photo(s): Let's Argue!

I'll be honest: I love watching managers argue. Whether he kicks dirt, throws his hat, acts like a baffoon, or even screams until his lungs give out; there is something remarkable about watching a manger argue. Even though there is little chance a manager will actually win his argument with the umpire, he still takes the time to scream, yell, and curse at a hopeless umpire all in the name of firing up the players and sometimes, the fans. Nevertheless, the spectacle is fantastic and amusing.

Luckily for us, we have three examples of managers gettin' into it with umpires from last night's games.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley giving the umpire "the business" before getting tossed. Good to see Trembley is on his toes. Epic stare down occurring here.

Royals manager Trey Hillman getting right in the umpire's face, screaming and yelling like a mad man. Great technique. I'm pretty sure Royals fans should be screaming at Hillman for his misuse of the bullpen thus far.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi demonstrating the "Yankee Way" by acting somewhat civil in his argument last night. I would absolutely love to see Girardi explode at an umpire a la Lou Piniella. That would complete my baseball life.

(photos: AP)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Morning Photo: Barry's Back

Hmmm...I wonder what Mr. Bonds and the Giants higher ups talked about during the Giants v. Dodgers game last night. I'm going to take a guess and say that asterisks and BALCO were not on the agenda.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Too Quick to Criticize: Gil Meche

(Everyone is a pundit these days. In the baseball world, people love to judge and criticize contracts because of their value, length, or just general stupidity. But every so often, the supposedly bad contract, actually turns out OK. I'll admit that the instances are rare, but it's important to highlight that every so often, the critics are NOT 100% correct.)

The numbers were staggering.

5 years/$55 million...for Gil Meche. What the hell?

Did the Royals know who exactly Gil Meche was? Was it the same Gil Meche that the rest of baseball saw? The Gil Meche, who had a 4.65 career ERA and in 2004, was sent down to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics?

Yes, that was the same Gil Meche, who GM Dayton Moore was investing so heavily in.

And for a small market club with only a $60-$70 million dollar payroll, the move seemed like a staggering commitment to a guy, who was anything but a sure thing. The Royals had many needs, more than Gil Meche would be able to fill in a lifetime.

The deal just didn't seem to add anyone besides Moore.

Why the Royals Signed Meche:

"What's important to us is accountability," says Moore, once the Braves' highly regarded player-development and scouting director whom the Royals hired last spring to replace Allard Baird. "We have 25 guys in that clubhouse, and all we heard was, 'Go get Gil Meche.' We have our players excited. Our fans are excited. And that's who you're accountable for.

"To me, this is the perfect signing for Kansas City."

"Everybody in baseball realizes that Gil Meche has an outstanding quality to his pitches," Moore says. "You can talk to people and they'll tell that this guy should win 15-plus games a year. I see this guys entering the prime years of his career. Guys just don't break into the major leagues as a No. 1 or No. 2 starter. Look at Johan Santana, Chris Carpenter, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz. It takes time.

"And to get pitchers like that, we'd have to give up (top prospects) Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. We can't afford to give them up. We looked at the free agent market in '07 and '08. We realized that if we're going to do something, we've got to do it now."
Basically, Moore justified the move because this was THE only way the Royals would be able to acquire a pitcher of Meche's ability without giving up the farm was to pay up. Plus, Moore believed that Meche was entering his prime and would be a front of the line pitcher for the Royals.

What the critics said:

Joe Posnanski:
"Wait a minute! The Royals gave Gil Meche what? Fifty-five million? Dollars? Eleven million a year? For Gil Meche? Hello? Is this a joke? Is that American money? Does he come with a chest of doubloons? Can he at least parallel park like those new Lexuses? Is there a doctor in the house?"
Jerry Crasnick:
"There's no getting around it: The signing received worse reviews than Eddie Murphy's performance in "Norbit.'' Media critics either characterized Meche as a payroll bandit-in-waiting or torched Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore for spending so extravagantly on a starter with a 55-44 career record and a 4.65 ERA in a pitcher-friendly ballpark.
The most cutting (and humorous) assessment came from Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman, who observed that "Gil Meche" may be French for "money thrown down a toilet.''
Scott Miller:
"Oh ... my ... goodness."
Why the deal has worked (maybe):

To put it plainly, Meche has established himself as the pitcher no one other than Dayton Moore thought he could become. Before Meche came to KC, he was an average pitcher. But since becoming a Royal, Meche's performance has dramatically improved by delivering two seasons with ERAs under 4. In addition, Meche has been "Steady Eddy" at the front of the rotation, as he is yet to miss a start related to injury.

So far, Gil Meche has proven the doubters wrong with his performance. Is he an ace? No. But what Meche has proven is that he is a more than capable front of the rotation starter, who is a very valuable building block for the Royals.

I don't know if Meche will ever be able to justify the 5 year/$55 million dollar contract, but as it stands right now, Meche is probably Dayton Moore's finest move to date, which in all honesty, is not saying too much. I am still a firm believer that the Royals need to show some dramatic improvement over the next few seasons for the Royals to actually be able to justify the parameters of the contract (length, money). Hopefully, the Royals success is right around the corner.

So let's be honest folks, this deal has NOT been a train wreck for the Royals even though everyone, including myself, thought this deal was doomed from the start.


Jose Lima and Hideki Irabu Have a Home

With these two phrases, I now pronounce the Long Beach Armada of the Golden Baseball League to be both ridiculous and entertaining.



That's right folks, the Armada have now officially signed Hideki Irabu and Jose Lima to be in their starting rotation. These two were good starters in 1999, but not so much in 2009.

If the Armada sign Rich Garces and Randall Simon, then I will officially declare them "the most ridiculous Independent League team." But for right now, the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League hold the title with Carl Everett, Michael Tucker, Armando Benitez, Alberto Castillo, Keith Foulke, and more.

But the Armada are going to be a fun bunch...or at least more entertaining than the Washington Nationals.

Roster of the Worst Free Agent Contracts (2000-2004)

It's a tough economy out there. We all know that by now. But it's obvious to note that baseball is completely different than the real world. I thought it would be fun to make a roster comprised solely of terrible free agent contracts. Contract extensions need not apply.

My original intention was to create a roster made up of the worst free agent contracts of the decade (2000-2009). But teams have given out so many horrific contracts over the years that the only way for me to comprise a 25 man roster was to limit the number of large contracts to choose from. This roster was more difficult to make up given the decrease in contractual information on the internets and those stupid "pay to read" subscription sites. Nevertheless, I did my best.

(Note: The way I sorted these contracts out goes as follows: if the player signed the contract for the 2000-2004 season, then he is on the roster. But for some, like Carl Pavano, they signed the contract in 2004, but first played on their new team (Yankees) in 2005.)

Guys like Pavano are not on this roster and can be found on the 2005-2009 roster

Without further ado (don't mind the 6 man rotation):

2000-2004 Worst Free Agent Contracts Roster

C: Todd Hundley, Cubs
(4 years/$23.5 million)
1B: Jason Giambi, Yankees
(7 years/$120 million)
2B: Ricky Gutierrez, Indians
(3 years/$11.5 million)
3B: Edgardo Alfonzo, Giants
(4 years/$26 million)
SS: Kaz Matsui, Mets
(3 years/$20 million)

OF: Juan Gonzalez, Rangers
(2 years/$24 million)
OF: Derek Bell, Pirates
(2 years/$9.5 million)
OF: Roger Cedeno, Mets
(4 years/$18 million)

Bench: Scott Spiezio, Mariners
(3 years/$9 million)
Bench: David Segui, Orioles
(4 years/$28 million)
Bench: Marty Cordova, Orioles
(3 years/$9 million)
Bench: Charles Johnson, Marlins
(5 years/$35 million)
Bench: David Bell, Phillies
(4 years/$18 million)
Bench: Jeffrey Hammonds, Brewers
(3 years/$21 million)

SP: Mike Hampton, Rockies
(8 years/$121 million)
SP: Denny Neagle, Rockies
(5 years/$51 million)
SP: Chan Ho Park, Rangers
(5 years/$65 million)
SP: Darren Driefort, Dodgers
(5 years/$55 million)
SP: Sidney Ponson, Orioles
(3 years/$22.5 million)
SP: Aaron Sele, Angels
(3 years/$21 million)

RP: Steve Karsay, Yankees
(4 years/$22.5 million)
RP: Darren Oliver, Rangers
(3 years/$19 million) *Not a true relief pitcher*
RP: Mike Stanton, Mets
(3 years/$9 million)
RP: Mark Petkovsek, Rangers
(2 years/$4.9 million)
RP: Todd Van Poppel, Rangers
(3 years/$7.5 million)

So where was I correct? And where was I wrong? Who did I miss?

(Note: Is it me, or did lots of Mets and Rangers make the list?)

Make your voice the comments.

(photo: Diamond Hoggers)

And There Goes The Bat

That bat toss has second row written all over it.

Viva la pine tar!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mark Sanchez: Hallelujah

This post has nothing to do with baseball, but as a Jets fan, I'm very, very excited. Good to see the Jets make another bold move. Hopefully, Sanchez is as good as advertised.

Random Video of the Week: You Gotta Have Heart!

The 1969 "Amazing Mets" classic. L. Nolan Ryan looks like he would rather be in hell than on stage singing with the rest of the Metropolitans.

Rock that belt, Tug.

Brian Tallet Has A Freakin' Sweet Mustache

I gotta be honest, I never really heard of Brian Tallet before tonight. But after seeing his mustache, he immediately became one of my favorite Toronto Blue Jays.

After seeing pictures of Tallet and Rick Ankiel, I'm thinking about starting the 2009 MLB Mustache Hall of Fame...any thoughts?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Perfect Player

Yesterday, Albert Pujols destroyed Mets pitching. Pujols hit two home runs, drove in four runs, scored four runs, and got on base four times. Performances like this have become commonplace for Pujols, who is one of the best players in all of baseball.

Obviously, Cardinals manager has many reasons to gush over his star first baseman. Without Pujols, the Cardinals are toast. But perhaps LaRussa's opinion of Pujols is even further elevated than I originally thought.

"Perfect player, in my opinion," manager Tony La Russa said. "We're lucky to
have him, believe me."
Pujols is a phenomenal player and probably the best hitter in baseball today. But by no means is he the perfect player because well, that's an impossible title.

Even in the face of impossibility, I thought it'd be interesting to create the "perfect player" using the various skills and talents of the best current ball players.

Here is my "perfect ballplayer", loaded with tons of intangibles:

SPEED: Jose Reyes
POWER: Adam Dunn
SWING: Albert Pujols
HEART: Aaron Rowand
HUSTLE: Dustin Pedroia
RAW TALENT: Josh Hamilton
DEFENSE: Torii Hunter
CLUTCH: David Oritz

Combine all those talents into one player, and that my friends, would be an amazing position player. I would pay big bucks to watch this guy play.

What makes up your "perfect player"? (position players only!)

Discuss in the comments.

Rick Ankiel's Mustache Gets A Free Pass

Who knew the Cardinals had a 1970's porn star on the roster.

Long live the 'stache!

(photo: yahoo)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Confidence Game

I always wonder about how managers deal with the various attitudes and personalities on a roster. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint; which means there are going to be lots of ups and downs. It's easy to deal with a player when he's going good, but what about when he's not going good?

For example, take look at the following quotes from Ozzie Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper regarding SP Jose Contreras. Contreras has had success in the majors before, but is struggling right now:

"It's not his velocity. ... It doesn't look like he has the confidence now to
let the ball go," Guillen said.
Chicago pitching coach Don Cooper said,
"We've got to get [his confidence] back. That's our focus," Cooper said. "He's
frustrated. Everyone wants better results."
How exactly will Cooper and Guillen bring back Contreras's confidence? Is that by working with him on his mechanics daily? Or how about giving him a pep talk? How about watching a previous game where Contreras pitched well? Or could it be as simple as doing nothing and letting Contreras build up his confidence naturally? Player personality should play a big role in determining how the coaches bring back his confidence.

In addition, should Guillen skip Contreras in the rotation to let him work on his stuff or keep throwing him out there hoping that he figures it out? Would removing Contreras from the rotation completely kill his confidence?

I imagine that dealing with struggling players like Contreras is somewhat of a balancing act. Knowing when to give the guy a pat on the back or a pep talk and at the same time, knowing when it's time to pull the plug. The White Sox don't think it's time to pull the plug on Contreras yet, so hopefully he can turn it around.

And one thing that I've wondered is, does a player's position matter in how a manager deals with him when he's struggling?

For example, Angels relief pitcher Scot Shields is off to a terrible start in 2009, which Mike Scioscia attributes to his confidence:

"Scotty's just not repeating pitches," Scioscia said. "What makes him so good is
that he's almost like a gunslinger out there. He's fearless and he goes after
hitters and finds a way to make pitches. Right now that confidence level isn't
there, and that presence on the mound isn't there. But he'll get it back."
Because Shields is a relief pitcher, will Scioscia try to bring his confidence back by throwing him out there in big spots as to say, "hey, I know you're struggling right now, but I believe in you." The hope there would be that Shields would follow up with a couple of good performances in a row, which could pull him out of his funk. Or maybe Scioscia would try to ease Shields back into the swing of things by having him pitch in a less pressure packed situation, such as the 6th or 7th inning in the hopes that Shields responds to less pressure by throwing the ball better.

If you had the choice, how would you handle Scot Shields?

It's fascinating to note how differently these two situations will be handled. The goal remains the same: bring back the player's confidence, but because Shields is a relief pitcher, he will have many more opportunities to pitch. Contreras, on the other hand, has four days in between starts to think about his poor outing and work on his mechanics for the next one.

Confidence is what you make of it. Some say it's acquired, while others say your born with it. Either way, we can see through Shields and Contreras the issues that might run through the mind of manager or coach as he tries to help a struggling player.

Are the Pirates for Real?

At 9-6, the Pittsburgh Pirates have gotten off to their best start since 2002. After sweeping the first place Florida Marlins this week, things are looking pretty good in Pirate-ville right now.

But the question remains: is this team for real, or a fluke?

First baseman Adam LaRoche chimes in:
"I feel like we took advantage of every mistake they made, every little thing, whether it's stealing a bag, scoring on a passed ball -- we took advantage of opportunities," Adam LaRoche said. "I think that proves we're a pretty good team and it's not just a fluke. You come in and play the best team in baseball and sweep them, that's saying something."
While I admit that it's encouraging to see the Pirates play so well against the Marlins, I'm very doubtful that this team is actually for real. There is simply not enough talent there right now, especially after the injury to star catcher Ryan Doumit. The Cubs, Cardinals, and even the Reds are far more talented than the Pirates right now.

But with that said, there are a number of pieces on this team that I am intrigued by. The starting pitching, led by Paul Maholm and Zack Duke, has been fantastic so far and has enabled the Pirates to win some close games early on. No one of the Pirates starting staff has an ERA above 4.25, so hell, if they can keep this pace up, the Pirates could actually remain competitive. But it remains to be seen as to what the Pirates can expect out of young guns like Jeff Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf over the course of the entire season.

And what's been most refreshing about the Pirates start so far has been the work of their bullpen, namely John Grabow and Matt Capps. These two have combined to give up zero earned runs in 13 IP, which has been a major stabilizing force for the young ballclub. The Pirates will go as far as their pitching will take them, which in years past has been the reason why the team has fallen apart.

As for the offense, there appears to be limited upside, especially after losing Doumit. Adam LaRoche has performed magnificently well this April, but when comes back down to Earth, who will pick up the slack outside of Nate McLouth? It remains to be seen what the Pirates will get out of Brandon Moss and Andy LaRoche, but there is no doubt that the pressure to produce rests solely on these two young guys.

Simply put, I don't think the Pirates will be able to maintain this pace all season. The real Pittsburgh Pirates are not close to being a playoff team-yet. The Pirates will have to do a lot more than sweep the Marlins to prove to me that they are a good team.

In the end, if the Pirates continue to play well, it'll be a major boost for Pittsburgh and Pirates fans, however many of them are still out there. It'd be nice to see the Pirates become buyers during the trade deadline instead of sellers, for once. More than likely, by the time July 31 rolls around, potential free agents like Adam LaRoche, John Grabow, Freddy Sanchez, and Jack Wilson will all be shopped as the Pirates continue to build for a bright future that still seems far away.

CC Sabathia: Only In New York

It only took 4 starts, but the honeymoon between CC Sabathia and Yankee fans is officially over. Sabathia lost his "boo-ginity" today, as Yankee fans paraded the large left hander with boos as he walked off the mound after his fourth consecutive average start.
"Sabathia feels much the same way. He allowed seven runs -- six earned -- six hits and four walks in 6 2/3 innings with two strikeouts, and he was booed by the crowd that seemed far smaller than the 43,342 announced on the rainy afternoon.In 24 1/3 innings, he's walked 14 while striking out just 12."I'm just trying to be too fine," he said, "trying to throw right to the corners."
Sabathia probably had a difficult time hearing a majority of the boos because the most expensive seats at the Stadium were once again, empty.

I know Yankee fans expect the world from this guy after giving him the biggest contract ever handed out to a starting pitcher, but can you please give him more than 4 starts before booing him? I understand fans want to express their displeasure, but booing your new ace after just four starts is stupid in my eyes.

But don't take it personally, CC, everybody gets booed in New York. Even Derek Jeter.

Yankee Stadium: Empty

Here is the major problem with the new Yankee Stadium: there is nobody sitting in the best seats. It seems almost incomprehensible because hey, these are the Yankees! They always sell out! That's the way it's always been!

But not this year. Not with this economy.

As a result, the New Yankee Stadium's best seats, which are also the most expensive, were consistently empty throughout the Yankees first homestand.

What a embarrassment.

For more on the empty seats at the New Yankee Stadium, check out these two fantastic blogs:

JASON at IIATMS: The embarrassment of the rich
Fack Youk: The Great Divide(rs)

(photo: AP)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brian McCann Cannot Believe The Braves Lost to the Nationals

Surgeon General's Warning: Losing to the 3-10 Washington Nationals may cause dilated pupils and a grave amount of shock.

And on a side note, Brian McCann went to the eye doctor yesterday to get new contacts for blurred vision!

(photo: AP)

At Least the Mets Can Hit .300

Sure, the Mets can't hit in scoring position to save my life, but wow, these guys can hit .300!

As of last night's game against the Cardinals, each position player on the Mets was hitting at least .300 with the exception of Ramon Castro (and Castro only has 20 at bats this season). Think about that: the Mets entire infield and outfield is hitting at least .300 right now. Crazy.


J Reyes SS 5 1 2 1 0 1 1 .339
D Murphy LF 3 0 1 1 1 0 2 .320
D Wright 3B 4 1 2 1 0 1 2 .306
C Delgado 1B 4 0 1 0 0 1 0 .300
C Beltran CF 3 0 2 1 1 0 0 .354
R Church RF 3 0 0 0 0 0 3 .350
R Castro C 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 .150
L Castillo 2B 4 1 2 0 0 1 0 .400

I know it's only 13 games into the season, but this is still very, very impressive. And somewhat weird.

When you consider that each of the seven guys hitting over .300 has at least 40 at bats, this feat seems somewhat astonishing.

(Note: Has this ever happened before? Seven starters, all hitting above .300 this "late" into the season.) *It seems as though the odds would be astronomical*

What's not impressive is the Mets record: 6-7. It's incredible to think that this team has not gotten off to a better start considering how hot their bats are.

In the end, hitting .300 doesn't matter when the team doesn't win. The Mets have to perform better with runners in scoring position if they are going to make a serious push in the NL East.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2009 Roster: Worst Contract Extensions

It's a tough economy out there. We all know that by now. But it's obvious to note that baseball is completely different than the real world. I thought it would be fun to make a roster comprised solely of terrible contract extensions.

First off, lemme explain how I classified an "extension" for this list. A extension could mean a number of different things:

1. Player was traded to new team and then signed a new contract with the club
(i.e Miguel Cabrera)

2. Player was under contract with a team, but signed a new, long term deal

3. Player signed a new contract with same club BEFORE he filed for free agency
(i.e Alex Rodriguez's 10 year/$275 contract is not an extension on this list...and neither is Luis Castillo's 4 year/$26 million dollar contract...both guys filed for free agnecy before they signed with their old team)

Please keep in mind that I am only dealing with contracts that are currently active, meaning that extensions that have expired (like Mark Mulder), are not eligible.

So there you have it. Maybe these extensions looked good at the time, but for whatever reason, these deals look excessive, and somewhat stupid, now.

2009 Roster of the Worst Contract Extensions

C-Kenji Johjima (3 years/$24 million), Mariners
1B- Todd Helton (9 years/$141 million), Rockies
2B- Bill Hall (4 years/$24 million), Brewers
*(I know Hall doesn't play second base anymore, but I had no one else!)*

SS- Michael Young (5 years/$80 million), Rangers
3B- Eric Chavez (6 years/$66 million), A's

OF- Vernon Wells (7 years/$126 million), Blue Jays
OF- Eric Byrnes (3 years/$30 million), Diamondbacks
OF-Gary Sheffield (2 years/$28 million), Tigers

DH- Travis Hafner (4 years/$57 million), Indians

Bench- Brandon Inge (4 years/$24 million), Tigers
Bench-Scott Rolen (8 years/$90 million), Cardinals/now with Blue Jays
Bench-Carlos Guillen (4 years/$48 million), Tigers *Debatable*
Bench- Hideki Matsui (4 years/$53 million), Yankees
Bench: Dmitri Young (2 years/$10 million), Nationals
Bench: Jack Wilson (3 years/$20 million), Pirates

SP- Chris Carpenter (5 years/$65 million), Cardinals
SP- Jake Westbrook (3 years/$33 million), Indians
SP- Dontrelle Willis (3 years/$29 million), Tigers
SP- Bronson Arroyo (2 years/$25 million), Reds
SP-Nate Robertson (3 years/$21 million), Tigers
SP-Jose Contreras (3 years/$29 million), White Sox

RP-Mike McDougal (3 years/$6.5 million), White Sox

So what does this list prove?

1. Teams rarely give out extensions to relief pitchers, especially middle relief pitchers. Given the unpredictability of middle relievers, this is expected.

2. What about the second basemen? Any feelings as to why there is/are virtually no second basemen on the list?

3. You'll notice that I was unable to fill out an entire 25 man roster. That surprised me.

Did I miss anyone?


Monday, April 20, 2009

2005-2009 Roster: Where's JD Drew?

As I continue to evaluate the 2005-2009 roster, a commenter made an interesting point over at River Ave Blues.
Tripp says:

No love for J.D. Drew? 5 years 80 million for an average right fielder?

I'm not gonna lie here, I thought about putting JD Drew on the roster. His injury history and horrible 2007 season seemed to make him somewhat of a worthwhile candidate.

However, I did not go with JD Drew for various reasons.

1. His 2008 season was fantastic (.280, 19 HR, .408 OBP)

2. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2007 in large part because of Drew (he hit .333 in the World Series)

3. Even when Drew was hurt in 2007, he still came up large with a grand slam in game 6 of the ALCS. Huge home run; no way around it.

4. The contract is actually 5 years/$70 million, not $80 million. If that makes any difference at all.

So in the end, it's quite laughable that JD Drew is the Red Sox highest paid player. There is no way that should be possible. But given his performance thus far, it's impossible to say the Drew has been a disaster. One bad season, one very good season. It's likely that the value of the duration of Drew's contract will come down to whether or not Drew can stay healthy.

Freddy Sez, "Let Me In!"

First the empty box seats, then the albatross of home runs, and now this:

Freddy "Sez" Schuman, the one-eyed, cookware-clanking octogenarian who's been an unofficial pinstripe mascot for 22 seasons was forced to panhandle for tickets at the new Yankee Stadium this past weekend.

In years past Schuman, who like Yogi Berra turns 84 next month, received free season tickets from sponsors such as Modell's, or was simply let through the press gate with a wink from a stadium official.

On Sunday he stood outside the stadium holding his frying pan and a sign that read, "Freddy Sez, Yankees say 'I can't go in. Must buy ticket!"

"The Yankees say I am a part of the stadium. What part am I, the toilet bowl?" Schuman said. "But the fans have come through. They gave me $40, and even $100 tickets."

The uncertainty about his future presence at the stadium has given him insomnia and indigestion, Schuman said.

What a travesty. Freddy is not only a Yankee icon, but a baseball legend as well. I vividly remember banging his pan at Yankee Stadium and hell, even my Mets loving heart was touched.

Well, at least the Yankees are attempting to rectify the situation...they claim:

Yankee officials insist that shutting out their superfan was just a "miscommunication." When Schuman first told the Post he was nervous about being shut out two weeks ago, a team spokeswoman said "We love Freddy and will accommodate him."

Accommodate him, they must. Or else.

Ryan Zimmerman Extension: Good or Bad?

Lots of Nationals talk here lately, and I for one, am loving it. There is nothing better than a 1-11 club getting all the pub.

Anyway, for those who missed it, the Nationals have locked up third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to a 5 year/$45 million dollar extension.

The fantastic David Pinto, from, weighs in:
Washington may be stuck with him, too. I’m just not that high on his offense, as he’s failed to build on his rookie season at an age when players should be improving. He is a good defender, but he gets a huge boost from one great defensive year. Given the price of players today, the contract seems appropriate given what he’s accomplished, but I would like to see a season where his offensive numbers improve before I lay out the big bucks. Zimmerman strikes me as the kind of player I’d wait a year on before going long term.
While I respect Pinto's opinion and completely understand it, I'm going to take the other side here.

If there was ever a time for the Nationals to sign Zimmerman to a team friendly contract, now was the time. Zimmerman is coming off an injury plagued season where the buzz surrounding him dissipated from "the next David Wright" to "let's hope to the baseball Gods that Zimmerman reaches his potential. If Zimmerman has a great season in 2009, then there is no doubt that Zimmerman's price tag would have gone up, probably closer to the Nick Markakis 6 year/$66 million dollar contract.

At worst, the Nationals have locked up a very good player and a possible rising star for a more than reasonable price. Zimmerman is a very valuable and useful building block to have on board. Is Zimmerman a franchise player? Right now, no; but Zimmerman, almost by default, is the Nationals franchise player.

Considering how much of a mess the Nationals are, this move brings some stability to management, now knowing that a possible Zimmerman extension does not have to be held over their heads.

In addition, Zimmerman is one of the few guys the Nationals have, who the fans actually want to come and see. For better or worse, Zimmerman is the face of the franchise and they have little else besides Zimmerman to get excited about (other than Strasburg!). Having Zimmerman around for the near future gives fans at least some glimmer of hope that better days are ahead and that talented Nationals will stay in Washington.

And finally, what good young player actually wants to be with the Nationals these days? By my count, the answer is only one: Zimmerman.

Should the Nationals Fire Manny Acta?

The Nationals are terrible. We all know that. At 1-10, the Nationals are an absolute mess and have been an embarrassment to watch thus far. While no one in their right mind expected the Nationals to compete this season, they were expected to be better than they were last season, which is just not happening right now.

As Manager Manny Acta stated today:
"I think it's embarrassing. I think it's unacceptable. I think our fans have every right to be mad, like we are right now."
And if you're a Nationals fan right now, you should be mad. This team, and namely this franchise, has been a mess and a disappointment since they came to Washington DC in 2005. We all know that the rebuilding process can take time, but at some point the Nationals need to show some legitimate progress on the field.

If the Nationals continue to struggle, the question will be raised: should the Nationals fire Manny Acta? By most accounts, Acta is a great guy and is considered to be one of the best young managers in baseball. But at what point is performance taken into account? The Nationals have finished in last place in each of Acta's first two seasons and they seem destined for the NL East cellar already in 2009.

Even with that in mind, I still think the Nationals should not can Manny Acta. While some of his in game decisions have been suspect, Acta has not been given a whole lot of talent to work with during his tenure with the Nationals, and many times, his options simply have not been that good. I really don't think having a manager other than Acta would have drastically changed the Nationals record. Let's face it, the Nationals teams in 2007 and 2008 were last place clubs, plain and simple.

I know management has spent the "big bucks" this offseason and expects better from the Nationals this season. Between Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, Scott Olson, and Joe Beimel; the talent level was expected to go way up.

And in some respects, it has. But there is no denying that this team is still far too flawed. The bullpen so far has an ERA of 6.48 and last year's closer, Joel Hanrahan, has a 9 ERA in 5 games. Once again, there was just not much for Acta to work with out there.

There is no doubt that the Nationals roster is in flux right now. Hell, just yesterday, 3/7ths of the Nationals roster was either sent to the minor leagues or designated for assignment. One can make the case that through the first two weeks of the season, Acta did not have the luxury of playing with his best 25 guys. Again, this statement is very debatable, but management needs to give Acta quality talent to work with.

And I'll say that the moves made today were a start. The Nationals need their players to be productive and solely preaching patience is unacceptable. Saul Rivera was horrible; Wil Ledezma was a waste; and Steven Shell showed nothing during his three outings. None of these three deserved to be in the majors and pulling the plug on each was the right move.

In the end, if the Nationals finish with 100+ losses yet again, those calling for Manny Acta's head will grow stronger. But until Acta gets some actual talent, I have a tough time evaluating his overall performance as manager. I think this team is better than they have shown so far, but the problem is pitching, not Manny Acta.

Ronny Cedeno Is Not Distracted By The Dancing Grounds Crew

Not only is this picture awkward, but it's fantastic at the same time. Perfectly out of rhythm and out of sync, yet beautifully strange. Nothing better than three dudes in sweat pants trying to dance in rhythm with each other at a baseball game.

Anyone in Seattle know exactly what these guys are dancing too? I know at Yankee Stadium the Grounds Crew dances to YMCA, but I have not the slightest idea about Seattle. Does anybody actually enjoy this at games?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Phil Humber: Baseball is a Cruel Game

When the Mets drafted Phil Humber back in 2004, I was thrilled. Even though my baseball knowledge was still in a prehistoric state, I had read enough about Humber to get excited about the prospects of the Mets drafting him. As a member of Rice University's "Big Three" along with Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend, there was quite a bit of buzz around Humber and I considered the Mets fortunate to have had the opportunity to draft Humber.

When I arrived at Mets spring training in 2005, I was eager to get the opportunity to meet Humber and get an autograph. Even though the Mets had just drafted Humber, they invited him to spring training and quickly shined with the Mets. The buzz surrounding Humber was building.

Like so many hyped up young pitchers before him, people, like me, were convinced that Humber was going to be the next big thing simply after scouring all the scouting reports and articles about the Mets 1st round pick. As soon as Humber finished his workout for the day and signed autographs, a massive amount of people surrounded him, hoping and pleading for an autograph or picture. You would have thought Humber was Roger Clemens or something.

Luckily for me, I was able to walk away from Mets camp that day with a Philip Humber autographed baseball....on the sweet spot! I immediately put the ball into a ball holder, firmly believing that this guy was the future ace of my beloved New York Mets.

But before I knew it, Humber was hurt. Just a few months into the 2005 season, Humber was forced to undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery. Just like that, Humber's season was over and his future was very much in question.

And then, something amazing happened. Humber's recovery from Tommy John surgery went quicker than anticipated and just one year later, Humber was back in AA. By the end of 2006, Humber made his major league debut with the Mets as a relief pitcher. The buzz was back!

Or so I thought. Even though Humber put up good numbers in 2007, he was not the same lights out kind of pitcher the Mets hoped for. It was clear that Humber was the not the same pitcher post surgery as he was prior to surgery. The Phil Humber ceiling was inevitably lowered.

By 2008, Humber was traded by the Mets in the Johan Santana deal. Just like that, the Mets had traded their "future ace", who just three years ago was their top draft pick and one of the best prospects in the Mets' system.

Even though Humber's velocity appears to have come back since his surgery, the results simply were not there this spring training. Humber did wind up making the Twins opening day roster, but once the Twins needed to make a roster move, there was no doubt who the Twins were going to designate for assignment: Philip Humber.

In just five years, Humber has gone from third overall pick to a guy struggling for his major league life. While Humber may never have piles of fans yearning for his autograph, I hope that Humber can simply maintain a major league career as a relief pitcher.