Thursday, December 11, 2008

Okay, now get Huston Street to pitch the seventh

There are a number of reasons to be less than ecstatic about the Mets’ acquisition of JJ Putz. Here are some of them. The Mets gave up seven players to get three players. They gave up perhaps the best defensive outfielder in the game and replaced him with a twenty-seven year old failed prospect who’s never hit at the major league level. They gave up a young reliever who owns right handed hitters in exchange for one who’s five years older and not quite as good against the righties. Putz missed time in early 2008 due to injuries including an elbow injury. And even if he’s healthy and great in 2009, the Mets will have to pay him $8.6 million in 2010 to be a setup man. This trade is far from a fleecing of the Mariners.

But the Mets did get the best player in the deal in Putz and I think this deal improves the team at least for 2009. If Putz is healthy, he is capable of being one of the best relievers in the league. Having such a pitcher who is not tied to the label of “closer” will be quite useful when a critical situation arises prior to the ninth inning. New closer Francisco Rodriguez was never going to be used in such a situation, but Putz could be leveraged to be the most valuable arm in the bullpen. But even if Putz is merely used to pitch the eighth as a bridge to Rodriguez, the two will give the Mets as dependable a game-ending duo as any in the game.

The most notable, if not the best, player the Mets gave up was Aaron Heilman, who had recently completed his worst season as a major leaguer and restated his desire to be used as a starter. He will probably bounce back somewhat and might even have been able to do so with the Mets, but he would have had to overcome a much more hostile environment than the one he’ll find in Seattle. The Mets could be criticized for selling low on a talented player. Perhaps if Heilman’s 2008 hadn’t been so disastrous, the Mets wouldn’t have had to load up this deal with prospects to get it done. But holding on to Heilman and trying to rehabilitate his reputation in 2009 would have been quite risky both in terms of the team’s fortunes and the chance that he might not rebound and thus become untradeable. Heilman may be a great reliever again, or even a good starter, but he wasn’t likely to be either with the Mets. Allowing them to acquire Putz was probably the most value he could provide to the team that drafted him in first round seven years ago.

No other player involved in the trade is likely to make a huge impact on his new team in 2009 or beyond, but the Mets did lose some nice complimentary players. In exchanging Joe Smith for Sean Green, the Mets get slightly worse at retiring right-handed hitters in the middle innings. If Green is used just as Smith was, this is a minor downgrade. But Green has been a bit better than Smith, though certainly not good, at retiring lefties in his career. This may make him a little more versatile than the young sidearmer.

The biggest loss in this trade is the great Endy Chavez. Endy is not much of a hitter, but he patrols the outfield like no other and probably spends his free time rescuing treed kittens and feeding nutritious meals to homeless orphans. He’ll be replaced in the role of fourth outfielder by Jeremy Reed, who used to be a highly touted prospect before it turned out he couldn’t hit. Reed has a good defensive reputation in some circles, but none of the advanced defensive stats seem to bear that out and in any case there’s no way he could be the equal of He Who Is Called Endy. This exchange won’t make or break the Mets season, particularly if they find a real left fielder in their foraging through the free agent forest (Raul Ibañez DOES NOT COUNT). But I am sad to see Endy go.

The rest of the deal really, really won’t alter the course of the 2009 Mets’ season. First baseman Mike Carp might be a decent bench player or mediocre DH in the major leagues some day, but he is not a future star. I don’t think I’d ever heard of outfielder Ezequiel Carrera or right-handed pitcher Maikel Cleto before last night but it doesn’t seem either is anywhere close to becoming a significant presence in the major leagues. The Mets gave up a bunch of bodies to get this job done and I don’t like to see that, but I don’t expect any of these players to be missed.

The Mets lost a good bench player and a solid young middle reliever but acquired a reliever who has been great for two and a half of the last three years. Having two relievers of the quality of JJ Putz and Rodriguez who can get both righties and lefties out is a major upgrade. The bullpen as it stands right now looks very good and could be great with some luck and/or shrewd lower profile acquisitions. We’ll see if Omar Minaya could make similarly wise additions to other parts of his team but right now I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the 2009 Mets.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In Rod We Trust

The Mets announced earlier today that they have come to an agreement with free agent Francisco Rodriguez. They will pay him $37 million to be their closer for the next three years. The bullpen was the most obvious hole in this team, both in the fantasy land where New York sportswriters and talk radio callers live and in the real world. So it didn't take a lot of imagination to guess what would happen when a young, obviously great reliever in possession of both the single season saves record and a catchy nickname became available. "K"-Rod will not be dramatically more useful to the Mets than Billy Wagner was at the beginning of this year or the end of last year. But he will be significantly more valuable to them than a one-armed Billy Wagner, so this move does a lot to improve the chances of the 2009 Mets. The fact that the deal is short and relatively reasonable in terms of dollars makes the decision even easier. Omar Minaya's job is far from over if he's going to get the Mets back to the playoffs, but this was a fine start to the offseason.

This move is trademark Minaya in that it involved finding a great player and giving him a lot of money. This strategy hasn't always worked out perfectly, as in the cases of Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner. And it took a good trade to get the process started in the case of Johan Santana. But, much like when Carlos Beltran hit the market in 2004, there was a guy out there who everyone agreed was great and the Yankees weren't bidding on him for one reason or another. Beltran's 7-year, $119 million deal seemed enormous at the time and has so far worked out great for the Mets. A closer like Rodriguez who pitches seventy innings a year can't have the sort of impact that Beltran has had on the Mets, but for this sort of contract, he doesn't need to.

Now that the easy part is over, Minaya needs to get a little more creative to fill some other holes in his roster. A common criticism of Minaya has been that he's much better at throwing Fred Wilpon's money around to attract stars than finding cheap but productive players to fill out his supporting cast. There have been a few good finds on the scrap heap like Jose Valentin in 2007 and Fernando Tatis in 2008. But Minaya's huge payroll teams have also given starts to the likes of Tony Armas Jr, Chan Ho Park and Jose Lima.

Minaya's tendency to err on the side of Guys You've Heard Of is especially dangerous when it comes to rebuilding a bullpen. The most predictable thing about great middle relievers is that they won't last very long. If you try to fill your bullpen with guys who have reputations for success at the big league level, you wind up giving the ball to Scott Schoeneweis 143 times in two years. Minaya could perhaps skirt this issue by getting Brian Fuentes or Huston Street to be his setup man. Those two aren't guaranteed to be great for years to come, but will probably be solid and able to get batters out from both sides of the plate. Even that would give the Mets a lot more certainty in the late innings than they have had in a while.

The Rodriguez signing in an excellent first step to rebuilding the Mets' pitching staff but there's a lot of work left to do. Maybe Minaya will throw more money at a closer to pitch his eighth innings. Maybe he'll give a few minor league veterans a chance to show what they can do at the major league level. Or maybe, just maybe, he'll find a starting pitcher or two who can pitch into the seventh inning once in a while.

Friday, October 10, 2008

NLCS Game 2 Pitching Matchup

Chad Billingsley has yielded an .880 OPS to the Phillies lineup in 83 PAs. Ryan Howard and Pedro Feliz have touched him for HRs. Philly has walked 12 times vs. Billingsley; could be a key. Their OBP is .402 against Billingsley. Giving out free passes in the Zen is a recipe for disaster.

Brett Myers has held LA to a .708 OPS in 194 PAs. Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent, and Matt Kemp each have 1 HR against him.

Philly got 3 R on 7 H in 6 IP off Billingsley earlier this year in their only meeting against him. Myers faced LA twice, striking out 8 both times. In the first outing, he gave up 3 R on 5 H in 7 IP. In the second, he tossed 7 IP of shutout ball.

Bang ... Zoom

Thursday, October 09, 2008

King Cole

The Dodgers have limited experience against Phillies Game 1 starter Cole Hamels. LA has posted a .498 OPS vs. Hamels in 64 PAs. Russell Martin has the Dodgers only HR. Hamels faced LA twice in the regular season and gave up 2 R and 5 H in 7 IP both times. The Dodgers were 31-21 vs. LHP this year; 53-57 vs. RHP.

Lowe down

The Phillies have had very little success vs. Dodgers Game 1 starter Derek Lowe. The Fightins have posted a .598 OPS in 163 PAs. Pedro Feliz (2), Matt Stairs (1) and Chris Coste (1) have the only HRs off Lowe. Chase Utley has 3 doubles and .971 OPS. He's the only regular with an OPS above .775 vs. Lowe.

Manny and LA

Much has been made of Manny Ramirez's impact on the Dodgers. Here are some numbers to consider:

LA hit 74 HR in 108 G prior to Manny's arrival; 63 HR in 54 G after. (Manny had 17 of them.)

The Dodgers' pre-Manny OPS was .697. Post-Manny .798.

Manny's OPS was 1.093 batting in the No. 4 spot. It was 1.367 in the No. 3 spot, which is where he ended the season.

Andre Ethier posted a 1.082 OPS after Manny's arrival. He was at .781 prior. He had a 1.251 OPS hitting in front of Manny in the No. 2 spot.

James Loney, conversely, had a rather poor .697 OPS after Manny's arrival. He was at .810 prior. Matt Kemp had a .768 OPS after Manny. Casey Blake was .753.

It seems Ethier most benefited from Manny. Of course, the Dodgers didn't have Rafael Furcal when Manny arrived. Furcal + a hot Ethier + Manny = trouble. But if the Phils can neutralize that part of the lineup, they have a good chance.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Phillies vs. Brewers

Thoughts looking ahead, as well as back, in the Phil-Brewers series.

Even with yesterday's victory, the presence of C.C. Sabathia makes Milwaukee scary. Sabathia will get 2 starts, which means the Phils need to steal a win today or go 2-0 in Milwaukee to end the series. I don't think you want to go to Game 5 and have to be Sabathia.

I would have started Jamie Moyer today because I think he'd be a tricky followup to Cole Hamels. I'm guessing Brett Myers gets the nod because Charlie Manuel wants him to start at home. This makes sense given that Myers has yielded only 7 ER in 44.1 IP at the Zen since his return from the minors. That's a 1.42 ERA and even includes his rather poor final start. Also, Myers tossed a 2-hit complete game, giving up 1 run, against the Brewers in Philly on September 14. Moyer, with his experience and poise, might be better suited for the road start, I suppose.

Manuel made the right move bringing in Brad Lidge in the 9th yesterday. The Brewers had the top of the order coming up and there was no sense taking a chance on Hamels getting into trouble. Some thought Manuel was dumb for taking out Hamels the way he pitched, but Manuel would have let far dumber if he let that game get away while his 41-for-41 reliever stood in the bullpen. Sure, Lidge made the Phils sweat, but it was the right move.

Chase Utley's double would have been an error on Mike Cameron if I was the official scorer.

Sabathia hasn't faced the Phils. If Philly fans want a reason to be optimistic, Sabathia's worst outings in the NL came against the Cubs, who were the only team to score more runs than the Phils this season.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thud

Good to see the Tigers playing with pride. Let's see, 1 win in the last 12 games and a move into the AL Central cellar behind KC. It's been a year to remember, but not for the reasons everyone (most everyone) predicted at the beginning of the season. Never could I have thought it would be this bad.

Never did the Tigers get higher than 3 games over .500. They were 15-24 in 1-run games. They lost 18 of 82 games in which they entered the 8th inning either with the lead or tied. (By comparison, KC lost 13 of 79). They were shutout 12 times (including last night) and yet managed to score 19 runs in a game three separate times! After Miguel Cabrera (125) and Magglio Ordonez (98), Curtis Granderson is third on the team with 61 RBI. Armando Galarraga ended up the ace of the staff.

Oh, the horror.

The end of the ride

Todd Jones, aka Roller-Coaster, announced his retirement, and kept his sense of humor.

“So this is it,” Jones wrote in his most recent Sporting News column. “If you’re a Tigers fan, I’ll never stress you out again. If you’re not a Tigers fan, you’ll never have me as your ace in the hole, convinced I’ll blow a lead against your team.”

Jones finished his career ranked No. 14 in saves, with 319. He ranks No. 1 in Tigers' history, with 235 saves for Detroit.

We wish you well, Jonesy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tim the Enchanter

Tim Lincecum is having an amazing season, and aside from a Sports Illustrated cover story, it seems to be largely overlooked.
Lincecum's win percentage is .810 on a team with a .445 win percentage (and the SF bullpen has blown five leads for him). He's got a 2.46 ERA and his ERA+ is 174, well ahead of No. 2 Johan Santana at 155. The only NL pitchers over the last 40 years to lead the NL with a better mark are Roger Clemens, Jason Schmidt, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Kevin Brown, Pedro Martinez, Dwight Gooden, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, and Bob Gibson.
His splits are incredible. Against RHB, Lincecum is .222/.289/.332 while against LHB he's .219/.299/.292. His BABIP is around .300 against both righties and lefties, which indicates his numbers are legit, not a fluke.
With men on base, he's .190/.243/.268 and with RISP he's .163/.234/.261. With a man on third and less than 2 outs, he's .125/.225/.156. Talk about rising to the occasion.
The third time (or more) through the batting order, he's .209/.292/.309.
Consider, Santana is .228/.277/.338 his first time through the order and .280/.332/.441 the third time (or more) through. Brandon Webb's splits for those situations are .205/.251/.260 and .263/.338/.386.
Lincecum, for the record, is .193/.261/.293 his first time through the order. Now, look again at his figures for the third time through. You don't solve a problem like Tim.
He's got 243 K in 215.2 IP.
To me, he's the NL Cy Young Award winner. It will be interesting.

Just so you know

Tonight is the final game ever at Yankee Stadium. In case you hadn't heard.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm sorry Ryan

Upon further review, I was too hard on Ryan Howard. I'm still not sure I would vote him MVP, but I can make a much better argument for him now.

Howard's low OPS can be mostly attributed to his lack of production with the bases empty. Howard is .192/.275/.440 with no one aboard. His BABIP is .212, which probably is a result of "the shift." With men on base, Howard's numbers are .306/.395/.637.

He has nearly the same number of PAs in both situations. But he has 20 fewer Ks with men on base, plus 10 more walks.

With RISP, Howard is .315/.436/.571.
With RISP and 2 outs, Howard is .318/.453/.541.

And he's been off the charts good the past month.

Overall, he's got 87 H and 115 RBI with men on base.

Is it enough to be awesome for only half the game and pretty much dreadful otherwise? Albert Pujols' OPS is the same whether the bases are empty or there are runners on base -- 1.104.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Everything's gonna be all right

If you're wondering why I haven't posted anything in a while, I assure you I have a very good excuse. Things had been going so well for the Mets since I last posted that I didn't want to do anything to jinx them. But now that the team's fortunes have taken a bit of a downturn in the last few days, I thought I'd come back and try to talk Mets fans off the ledge. With fourteen games left to play, the Mets have a one and a half game lead over the Phillies and a fanbase and media eager to remind them of last year's collapse. Instead of joining the chorus of naysayers, I will now give several reasons why September 2008 will not be a repeat of September 2007.

Johan Santana. In September 2007, the only Met starters with ERAs under 4.5 were Pedro Marintez at 2.57 and Oliver Perez at 4.45 and neither of them averaged even six innings per start. Tom Glavine, John Maine and Orlando Hernandez all had terrible months, Mike Pelfrey was still pitching like the 2007 Mike Pelfey and guys like Brian Lawrence and Philip Humber got key starts with disastrous results. This September, Santana has pitched 20.1 innings in three starts with a 2.66 ERA, 20 strikeouts and only six walks and one home run allowed. The 2.66 ERA is actually the highest he's had in any month since May and he's been averaging more than six innings per start all season long. Overall Met starters aren't having a great month, posting a 4.90 ERA in September, but both Jonathon Niese and Oliver Perez pitched well this weekend and Santana gives the team something they didn't have last year. He is someone they can depend on to go out every five days and pitch well deep into the game. That's not enough to seal up the division, but it should be a big help in avoiding the five-game losing streaks that befell the team twice last September.

Guillermo Mota. Guillermo Mota is pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers right now, which has been and should continue to be a big help to the Mets' bullpen. The 2007 Mets' pen ranked high on the list of reasons for the collapse, well ahead of the offense, posting an ERA of 4.40 in the second half an 4.63 in September after a 3.67 first half. This year they had another good first half at 3.81 and bad second half at 4.86, but they've turned things around with a 3.03 ERA 30:14 K:BB ratio and just 29 hits and three home runs in 35.2 innings. Sure, they blew two run leads with two innings to go in two of the last three games, but overall they've been dependable. Luis Ayala shouldn't be given too long of a leash as closer, but he has been solid with a 9:1 K:BB ratio and only one home run allowed in thirteen innings.

Daniel Murphy. The young infielder-turned-outfielder is hitting .360/.442/.528 in 89 at bats with the Mets and he is just the best example of a group of young players who are making an impact for the Mets in this pennant race. There's Jonathon Niese, who pitched eight shutout innings on Saturday. There's Nick Evans, who is mashing lefties to the tune of .338/.386/.508. These are the sort of players who would have been left to rot on Willie Randolph's bench. While I haven't agreed with every decision made during the Jerry Manuel regime, he has shown more willingness to play young, unproven rookies in important roles than Willie ever did and the team has benefited greatly from it.

Fernando Tatis. Thirty-three year old Fernando Tatis, who had all of 56 major league at bats from 2004 to 2007 is hitting .301/.375/.489 for the Mets this year. This continues to be ridiculous. I was genuinely surprised when he didn't hit a game-tying three-run home run in the ninth inning on Sunday. If Mr. Two Grand Slams In One Inning can hit .300 with walks and power in 2008, how can the Mets not win the division?

It's not going to be easy. The Mets have a slightly tougher schedule than the Phillies the rest of the way as the Mets have to play the Cubs four times while the Phillies have only the Marlins, Braves and Nationals standing in their way. But while they may have the best record in the league, the next time the Chicago Cubs are a force to be reckoned with in September would be the first. Fourteen games remain and the Mets' magic number sits at thirteen. Good thing I'm not superstitious.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

NL MVP

Surprisingly, many talking heads ARE putting Albert Pujols at the top of the MVP discussion. This is good. Unfortunately, I've also heard the names Carlos Delgado, Ryan Howard, and Ryan Braun tossed around. This is bad.

Delgado is understandable because of his second-half surge. But when measured by win shares, Carlos Beltran is the Mets' main man, followed closely by Jose Reyes.

Ryan Howard? Sure, he's got tons of dingers and RBI, but he has been lacking. It's hard to imagine calling someone with 42 HR and 126 RBI lacking, but it's true. He's got half the win shares of Lance Berkman, who leads the NL. Pujols is second, followed by Beltran. Howard's OPS is .845, which ranks between Mark DeRosa and Troy Glaus in the NL. His slugging percentage is tied for 17th in the league. You cannot discount he's driven in 126 runs, but given his opportunities, you get the feeling those numbers should be even better. Howard's RC/27 ranks 33rd in the NL, between Adam LaRoche and Cody Ross.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Keeping it close

I remember when the Tigers got off to their woeful start to the campaign all the commentators said the most important thing was for Detroit to stay close to Cleveland. That was all they needed to worry about because that was the team to beat in the division. Well, the Tigs are just 1 GB the Tribe as we head down the stretch! I can't wait to see the conclusion of this exciting race!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Prince Albert

I'm going to guess it's unlikely Albert Pujols wins this year's MVP Award in the NL, but as of right now, the man stands alone offensively. Pujols is batting .348/.456/.613 this season. He has 26 HR and 79 RBI and 77 R. He's got 82 BB and 44 K. (Aside from his rookie year, the man has never fanned more than 69 times in a season.)

His HR-RBI-R lines will probably prevent the MVP. But his OPS+ of 181 leads the NL and is the second best of his career. His 1.069 OPS leads the NL while he is also No. 1 in runs created, adjusted batting runs, batting wins, offensive win percentage, and times on base. His 28 intentional walks is double that of No. 2 Prince Fielder.

Now, I'll admit I don't know how some of those above-mentioned categories are calculated, but I'm relatively sure that leading in all of them is pretty darn good. Pujols is second to Lance Berkman in win shares, at least according to Hardball Times.

Not to mention he is arguably the best defensive 1B in the NL.

All with a bad elbow.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fair trade

Catching up with the players in the Tigers-Yankee deal:

Pudge Rodriguez is batting .229/.270/.343 in 35 AB in pinstripes. His OPS+ is 62. And from what was said on talk radio this morning, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte don't want to pitch to him.

Kyle Farnsworth has appeared in 7 games. He has a 7.36 ERA and no record. His ERA+ is 59.

Hard to find a more balanced deal.

Brandon Inge, who took over the catching duties upon Pudge's departure, is batting .211/.333/.423 in 71 AB since the trade.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Doing it right -- all wrong

Comcast did a good job being ready for Jimmy Rollins' first AB in Philly since his flap about the fans being "front-runners." Then, as Jimmy was preparing to be announced and head to the plate, the network played an interview with Rollins about the controversy. So instead of hearing the crowd's reaction, which presumably was the reason Comcast made a point to air this portion of the game, you had Jimmy's voice over pictures of the crowd. By the time Jimmy's interview ended, he was in the box and the crowd was mostly silent. Harry Kalas then was left to describe the crowd's reaction. Brilliant work! Maybe the producers used to work for the Outdoor Life Network.

Monday, August 18, 2008

No Mora

Melvin Mora probably never wants to leave Detroit after his weekend in Motown. Mora went 10-for-13 with 3 HR and 10 RBI in three games. He also had 2 doubles, a triple and 6 R. He walked twice, had a sacrifice fly, and no strikeouts.

Mora is one of those often underappreciated hitters. He could have been the MVP in 2004 when his OPS+ was 155 and he batted .340-27-104 with 111 R. He finished 18th in the MVP balloting despite an OPS that was fifth best in the AL. He was second in batting and first in OBP. He was fifth in slugging. His OPS+ was third best and he led the AL in offensive win percentage.

Lifetime, Mora has a 1.056 OPS at Comerica Park and he's got a .978 OPS against Detroit overall. That's his best career mark against any AL foe.

Fortunately, his outburst over the weekend did little to kill the Tigers' postseason hopes. It was Mora twist of the knife.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I got Jimmy's back

I've never been a huge fan of Jimmy Rollins, until now. His whole flap over the fans in Philly has put me forever in his corner simply for 1) stating the truth, and 2) refusing to back away from his comments with a response that he was misunderstood or sorry if he offended anyone.

I had many things to say on this subject, but Rich Hofmann addresses them all, and thoughtfully. Read here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rollin out of control

Philly fans are down on Jimmy Rollins.
Jimmy Rollins is down on Phillies fans.
This is unfortunate because this season is simply an example, statistically speaking, of Jimmy being Jimmy. He got an undeserved MVP Award last year, which overinflated his already overinflated value to a big league lineup.
Jimmy's OPS+ since fulltime status in 2001: 92, 85, 90, 102, 97, 101, 118, 100.
Take out the 118 last season (which is hardly worthy of MVP status) and Jimmy is right where he's been all along. Last year, Jimmy slugged .531. That's the biggest difference. It was the only year of his career in which he hit more flyballs than groundballs. So even though his HR/FB rate was a rather average 11%, he blasted 30 HR because he put more balls in the air.
I will point out, Jimmy probably deserves better than his .272 BA this season. His line-drive rate is 23.4%, which should translate into a BABIP better than his .285 mark. Historically, it's about 25 points below his BABIP in years with a similar LD rate.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Zoom boom

Detroit loses Joel Zumaya again and discovers Sheff's troubles this year were from him being too quiet. Here's the story.

We'd care, if we cared

Fans of the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies rank among the least loyal in baseball, according to a Forbes.com study. The No. 1 most loyal? The Texas Rangers' fans. Go figure.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Codificater

Alexander Cartwright codified the original rules for baseball in 1845. June 19, 1846 marks the first game, between the Knickerbockers and the New York nine, to be played under these rules.

  1. The bases shall be from "home" to second base, 42 paces; from first to third base, 42 paces - equidistant.
  2. The game to consist of 21 counts or aces, but at the conclusion an equal number of hands must be played.
  3. The ball must be pitched, and not thrown, for the bat.
  4. A ball knocked outside the range of the first or third base, is foul.
  5. Three balls being struck at and missed and the last one caught is a hand out; if not caught, is considered fair, the striker bound to run.
  6. A ball being struck or tipped and caught either flying or on the first bound is a hand out.
  7. A player, running the bases, shall be out if the ball is in the hands of an adversary on the base, or the runner is touched by it before he makes his base; it being understood, however, that in no instance is a ball to be thrown at him.
  8. A player running, who shall prevent an adversary from catching or getting the ball before making his base, is a hand out.
  9. If two hands are already out a player running home at the time a ball is struck, cannot make an ace if the striker is caught out.
  10. Three hands out, all out.
  11. Players must take their strike in regular turn.
  12. No ace or base can be made on a foul strike.
  13. A runner cannot be put out in making one base when a balk is made by the pitcher.
  14. But one base allowed when the ball bounds out of the field when struck.
- Baseball's Book of Firsts

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Woetown

Tuesday -- White Sox 10, Tigers 8: Kyle Farnsworth gives up tying HR in 8th; Joel Zumaya's first game as closer ends with a 4-run 14th. Edgar Renteria "E" fuels the fire.

Sunday -- Rays 6, Tigers 5: Tigers blow 3-1 lead in 8th, rally for 4-4 tie in 9th, blow 5-4 lead in 10th. Farnsworth and Fernando Rodney fail.

Saturday -- Rays 9, Tigers 3: Tigers simply stink, save fans from suffering through late-inning meltdown. Did I say "save?" Yes, finally.

Friday -- Rays 5, Tigers 2: Tigers get off to early 2-0 lead, for naught.

Thursday -- Indians 9, Tigers 4: Tigers give up 8 runs from 5th inning on; not even Justin Verlander is immune to meltdowns.

July 25 -- White Sox 6, Tigers 5: Todd Jones yields 2-run, 2-out HR in ninth.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bombs Away


The Baltimore Orioles are slugging. Flat out slugging. For the month of July, the O's rank, in the AL, 5th in Batting Average, 2nd in Home Runs, 3rd in Doubles, 3rd in Slugging Percentage and 1st in Runs Scored.

For the season, they are 8th, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th in the same categories.

The O's were 41-40 at the end of June and went 10-16 in the month of July to stand at 51-56.

I did not see this coming. In April, I suspected the O's would have trouble scoring enough runs to win games. I did not suspect it would be because the pitching is worse than last season. I did not think it could be worse.

I give the O's credit for not having tanked. It has been their custom to tank at some point in the 2nd half. Some seasons as early as June. Others as late as September. This team continues to play well and wins most of the games in which they get a quality start. Just this week, the O's sent one of their failing starters back to the minors and put another one in the bullpen.

I doubt that this will improve the starting pitching as the O's have nothing better to start games, but at least Manager Dave Trembley is not settling for failing performances.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Goodbye, Pudge

Pudge Rodriguez was the first high-profile player to sign with the Tigers several years ago, and one of the key reasons for the franchise's turnaround. But this is a business, and the business in Motown is finding help for the bullpen, so Detroit dealt Pudge to the Yankees for Kyle Farnsworth.

Farnsworth was despised in NY. He had the best year of his career in Detroit when he went 1-1 with 6 saves and a 2.32 ERA in 46 games before being traded to Atlanta for Roman Colon and Zach Miner. He is 32 and can strike out a batter an inning.

Pudge was having one his better seasons, batting .295/.338/.417. But he's 36 and this was going to be his final year in Detroit anyway. Brandon Inge, the AL's best defensive 3B, will be the everyday catcher now.

It's yet to be known whether Farnsworth will be the closer, but one would expect he will see at least some time in that role.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What a concept

Detroit salvaged the final game of the 3-game set against Chicago with a win today. When it came time to close, Todd Jones was NOT on the mound. The Tigers turned to Fernando Rodney, who struck out the side. A closer than fans hitters. Interesting.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sickening

The Tigers were 1 strike away from a 5-4 win over Chicago and a 4.4 game deficit in the Central. But Todd Jones gave up a groundball single and a 2-run jack to send Detroit 6.5 games back. I didn't see the whole game, but a Bengal bud says Jim Leyland erred by sending Nate Robertson out for the 7th and bringing in Joel Zumaya before he was ready. The White Sox scored 3 times in the frame.

Nonetheless, it was there for the taking. Jones has allowed at least 1 run in 15 of 43 appearances this season. He's gotten saves in 4 of the games he's allowed runs and blown 3 saves. He's got 13 strikeouts in 39.2 IP. He's got 1 K in his last 11 outings.

Every closer is going to blow some saves. I don't expect perfection. But Jones' numbers clearly indicate he must be removed from the role, even if the Tigers don't have a viable option at this point. Maybe it's time to find out what Zumaya can do. Maybe just mix and match. It can't be any worse, can it?

Must act now

Detroit hosts Chicago in a key 3-game set this weekend. The Tigers are 5.5 games behind the Sox in the AL Central and cannot afford any missteps. A sweep would be great, but 2 out of 3 is necessary.

Tonight, the Sox send Tiger-tamer Gavin Floyd (10-6, 3.52) against Nate Robertson (6-8, 5.69). This is it Nate. Step up. Robertson was last seen coughing up a 6-0 lead in Baltimore. Three of his last four have been atrocious.

On Saturday, Detroit gets Justin Verlander (8-9, 3.95) to the mound against John Danks (7-4, 3.03). Verlander is 6-0 with a 2.30 ERA over his last 8. He is 2-6 lifetime against Chicago, but tossed a complete game victory on June 11.

Sunday sees spot starter Zach Miner (4-3, 3.73) taking on Chicago's Javier Vazquez (7-8, 4.57).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Baseball songs

I'm not sure what to make of this, but the review sounds interesting.

It's about time

After bumbling around for weeks, the Phils finally got the Mets where they want them -- above them in first place.

Getting high

The Tigers swept the Royals in a 3-game set after going 0-6 vs. KC in their first two series.

Detroit is now 3 games over .500, the high water mark of the season so far, with 61 to play. The Tigs were 12 games under .500 on June 6 and 11 GB on June 9. They are 28-13 in their past 41 games and 5.5 GB. So it took them essentially six weeks of .683 ball to cut the deficit in half. There is no margin for error.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Overachieving?


The Orioles have the worst starting pitching in the AL.

O's starters have given up more earned runs, more home runs, hit more batters and walked more batters than any other starting staff in the league; all while pitching fewer innings per start than all but 3 teams (New York, Seattle, Texas).

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's gonna be the future soon

With the Mets in a first place tie, winners of eleven of their last thirteen games while the trade deadline looms like a mythical beast from the deep, lurking just below the surface, threatening to take a chunk out of the farm system at any moment, I thought I'd take this time to peer into the future of the 2008 New York Mets. The next sixty-three games seem likely to culminate in another photo finish atop the NL East, but a lot could change by the end of July, let alone the end of September. Here are a few scenarios that might come to pass and my thoughts on their relative likelihood.

Scenario One: The Marlins win the division.

Not gonna happen. Moving on...

Scenario Two: The Mets acquire Raul Ibanez and Jose Vidro from the Mariners in exchange for Fernando Martinez and Jon Niese.

The Mets are short a corner outfielder or two and Ibanez's name has come up in trade rumors. Martinez, now hitting .287/.331/.414 at Binghamton, is still nineteen years old and the Mets' most attractive trade commodity. The twenty-one year-old Niese has a 3.22 ERA and 104:43 K:BB ratio in 117 1/3 innings for the B-Mets. I just threw Vidro in because he's a former Expo and he can't play second base anymore, so I thought he'd fit right in on the Mets' bench.

If your only frames of reference for Omar Minaya as a GM and the Mets as a franchise are June 27, 2002 and July 30, 2004, respectively, this would seem like the mostly likely scenario. A move similar to this one would be disastrous for the Mets' still thin farm system and not much of a boon to the major league club. Ibanez is only hitting .278/.344/.454 and is reputed to be a terrible defender. Counting on Fernando Tatis, Endy Chavez and Marlon Anderson to man the outfield corners is far from an ideal solution, but the Mets shouldn't mortgage the future (again) for the likes of Ibanez or Xavier Nady.

Mets fans have seen too much to completely rule this out. But right now I feel like if the Mets are going to put too much faith in a mediocre veteran outfielder, it's going to be Tatis. The Mets may make a minor move or two in the next ten days, but I don't think Fernando is going anywhere.

Scenario Three: The Mets keep winning eleven out of every thirteen games and run away with the division.

Keeping up the pace of the last two weeks would give the Mets 106 wins on the season, more than enough to put away the division. If Mike Pelfrey (1.86 ERA, 20:3 K:BB, 29 IP in his last four starts), Oliver Perez (1.38 ERA, 27:11 K:BB, 26 IP in his last four starts), Carlos Delgado (.419/.500/.726 in July), Fernando Tatis (.378/.440/.733 in July) and Ramon Castro (.357/.379/.643 in July) stay hot all year, it might be possible. But that is about as likely as Ryan Church coming back next week and picking up where he left off.

Scenario Four: The Phillies edge the Mets in a close race.

Maybe a change of scenery will help Joe Blanton regain his reliable 2007 form. Maybe Jimmy Rollins will start to put some distance between himself and Cristian Guzman in the race to be the third best shortstop in the division. Maybe every Mets/Phillies game will come down to Billy Wagner pitching to Pat Burrell. If any or all of these things happen, the Phillies could once again narrowly defeat the Mets for the division crown. The Phillies have enough talent and the Mets enough flaws to make this a distinct possibility, but I don't think it's the most likely outcome.

Scenario Five: The Mets emerge victorious in a close race.

Despite the significant disparity in pitcher friendliness of Shea Stadium and Citizen's Bank Park, the Mets have only scored 11 fewer runs than the Phillies. The teams are almost even in OPS+, with the Mets at 105 and the Phillies at 104. After a slow start, the Mets' offense has turned out to be pretty good, thanks largely to a .308/.374/.473 month of July. They've been helped by Tatis's shocking resurgence and the rebounds of guys like Endy Chavez and Damion Easley who got off to terrible starts to the season. But while those gains may be fleeting, this team has the offensive core to keeping scoring all season long. Jose Reyes (.300/.364/.482), David Wright (.286/.386/.513) and Carlos Beltran (.271/.363/.477) aren't going anywhere and Carlos Delgado (.261/.343/.472) seems to have enough left in the tank to be an acceptable fourth best bat. With Ramon Castro healthy and getting the starts against lefty pitching, the lineup is even more solid. The Mets aren't going to be the top scoring offense in the league, but they can certainly remain in the top five.

As for pitching, there are certainly some areas of concern. Pedro Martinez has not been good and there's not a lot of reason to expect he will be. John Maine is having a lot of trouble locating the strike zone, as a result of which, he's lasted fewer than five innings in three of his last four starts. But given Oliver Perez's turnaround since the change in pitching coaches and Mike Pelfrey's apparent arrival as a serious major league starter, the news isn't all bad. And then there's Johan Santana, with a 3.10 ERA and 116:38 K:BB in 130 2/3 innings. He's been excellent though not dominant. If this is all he has, this year will be somewhat disappointing. But he is still Johan Santana and he still has twelve of thirteen starts to go. This could still be quite a formidable rotation by the time September or October rolls around.

Altogether, I think the Mets have a comparable offense to the Phillies and a superior starting rotation. I think the race will remain compelling for most if not all of the next two months, but in the end the Mets will prevail by two or three games. The Marlins will be a few games further back.

All of this action will get underway on Tuesday as the Mets host a three-game set with nem Phillies. Santana (8-7, 3.10, 116:38 K:BB) will take on Blanton (5-12, 4.96, 62:35) in game one. Maine (8-7, 4.22, 98:54) vs. Brett Myers (3-9, 5.84, 88:44) and Perez (6-6, 4.36, 95:63) vs. Jamie Moyer (9-6, 3.90, 73:34) will be the matchups in the final two games.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hope sinks

At this point, not even Barack Obama could feel optimistic about the Tigers chances to make the playoffs this year. Detroit salvaged a split in Baltimore, but should have taken 3 of 4. The pitching continues to be a point of concern, so it might not matter anyway.

I'd say the Tigs only hope of making the postseason lies with winning the AL Central. With two teams to chase down, this seems unlikely. Detroit has enough games against Chicago (9) to make a difference, but only 3 remaining with Minnesota. And the Tigers don't have a winning record against either this year.

Detroit needs to pass 5 teams in the wild card standings, including the Twins.

Blahton?

I've been busy with work, so I haven't had a chance to comment on the Joe Blanton trade to Philly. I can't assess what the Phils gave up, and from what I've read it's a mixed reaction. It seems they gave up some of the top potential talent in their system, although that might be faint praise.

So I'll focus simply on Blanton, who is 27. He was 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA last year and is 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA this season. The numbers indicate he might have greatly benefited from pitching in Oakland's spacious ballpark. That doesn't bode well with the change to the tiny Zen.

But why the struggles this season? I'm not a pitching coach, but I play one by misreading and speculating. (All the follow stats are from Fangraphs.com.) First, Blanton's K-BB ratio is worse. Last year, his K/9 and BB/9 were 5.48 and 1.57, respectively. This season, those numbers are 4.39 and 2.48. Last year, he threw 65% strikes, this year it's 63%, so there's not much difference there.

His line drive, groundball and flyball percentages all are similar to 2007. His BABIP was .306 last year and is .310 this season.

The only major difference I noticed was he is throwing more fastballs and fewer sliders. His curveball and change rates are virtually the same. His velocity on his fastball is right around 89, the same as last year. However, his average velocity on his curve is up (from 72.9 to 75) as well as on his slider (from 80.9 to 82.3).

So, has Blanton been overthrowing on those pitches? I have 2 theories here. First, the increase in velocity, particularly on the curve, is cause the pitch to flatten out a little and make it more hittable. My other idea is Blanton's increased velocity has hurt his control on those pitches, and maybe his confidence, and forced him to throw more fastballs. Perhaps his fastball is more hittable.

Anyway, it seems something worth exploring. Also worth noting was Blanton was 2-6 with a 3.69 ERA as of mid-May. He was 3-6 with a 6.44 ERA since then.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Delightful

The old English D never looked so good. Now, to use this inspiration to make a postseason run as the post All-Star break push gets under way.

It looks like it could take close to 94 wins to make the playoffs in the AL, and probably no fewer than 90. Detroit has 68 games remaining and 47 wins to date. That means going 43-25 at worst, but probably needing to go 47-21. In case you were wondering, 47-21 is .691 ball. That's pretty ridiculous. Winning 20 out of every 30 is only .667 ball.

The Tigers and Orioles are the only AL teams to get going tonight. Kenny Rogers (6-6, 4.55) faces Garrett Olson (6-4, 5.65). Olson has never faced Detroit.

Magglio is back. He will be in the No. 4 spot, as he has been all season. Marcus Thames will bat third. Brandon Inge gets a start at 3B because Carlos Guillen is in Detroit due to a family situation.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

All-Star break breakdown, Tigers pitching

Here are a few interesting tidbits about Detroit's pitching (and, in a way, defense) at the break.

One stat jumped out at me off the bat. (A pun!) Tigers' lefties have an OPS+ 134 vs. LHB. That's the least frequent situation faced, with 431 PAs, but it seems most of the time you're using a lefty to specifically get out a lefty. So that's troublesome.

Detroit's RHP is OPS+ 85 vs. RHB, its best situational stat as far as matchups.

The Tigers have a 4.41 ERA both at home and on the road. At least they're consistent.

Here's an oddity, it would appear: Detroit's OPS+ is 115 in wins and 90 in losses. That, to me, would indicate the hitting is carrying more of the load in victories and is also underperforming in losses.

Detroit has an OPS+ 107 with RISP. The number is 108 with RISP and 2 outs. The hitting, remember was particularly weak with RISP and 2 outs, so coupled with the pitching, that explains some of the Tigers' struggles.

As far as hit location, the OPS+ is 134 on balls to the infield. That would indicate some weak defensive range, perhaps? Not a surprise. Balls pulled by LHB (124) and balls hit the other way by RHB (120) might indicate trouble on the right side of the field, I'd say. The numbers for flyballs (72) and balls to the OF (90) are good, so the trouble is on the ground, again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

All-Star break breakdown, Tigers offense

Even though this isn't the official mid-point of the season, here is a look at the Tigers' offense at the All-Star break. First is Detroit's OPS+ by batting order position, compared against the AL average.

1st -- 111
2nd -- 107
3rd -- 76
4th -- 114
5th -- 103
6th -- 110
7th -- 98
8th -- 96
9th -- 178

So, the only spot in the order lighting it up is the No. 9 spot. The No. 3 spot is trouble and the remainder of the middle is above average, but nothing special.

I would like to see Magglio Ordonez, when he returns from the DL, move to the No. 3 spot. He's batting .307/.376/.490, all in the No. 4 spot, where his OPS+ vs. the league is 110. Overall, however, his OPS+ vs. the league is 134.

Miguel Cabrera needs to hit No. 4. He's only got 51 PAs in that spot, but his OPS+ vs. the AL is 142. Cabrera was brought here to be The Man. Let's make him so. His OPS+ vs. the league in the No. 5 spot is 107.

Carlos Guillen can bat No. 5 and Marcus Thames should see more time in the lineup, preferably in the No. 6 slot. Matt Joyce also can see time in the No. 6 hole, getting time from Thames against some righties.

The Tigers OPS+ is 122 at home and 91 on the road. This is a little surprising because Detroit was a good road team in the past (110 in 2007 and 112 in 2006).

Detroit has a 97 OPS+ with RISP, which is not good considering the potential in the lineup. The Tigers are 92 OPS+ with RISP and 2 outs. Their OPS+ is 82 in that situation when compared to their overall team value.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Twins killing

Minnesota is 9-4 vs. Tigers this season.

Detroit is 13-23 vs. AL Central.

Blech! That's the best I can do.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What goes around, comes around

Today, the Tigs were the ones to blow a comfortable lead. This one hurts. I don't want to dump on Todd Jones, but Detroit needs to find a better answer for the 9th inning.

Jonesy has blown only 2 saves this year (and his defense didn't help him today) but he's been ineffective in plenty of outings. You can't pitch to contact in the 9th, and that's all Jones can do. He's got 12 Ks in 36 IP.

By my count, he's allowed at least 1 run in 13 of 38 appearances. Jones' counterpart today, Joe Nathan, has allowed a run in 4 of 38 and today pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Springboard

The Tigers have some momentum going into a big 4-game set against Minnesota. They rallied from a 6-0 deficit tonight for an 8-6 win thanks to Casey Fossum pitching out of a bases-loaded jam, Carlos Guillen's defense in the ninth and Miguel Cabrera's walk-off 2-run tater.

Jim Leyland said recently he thought Cabrera was settling into a groove. Entering tonight, Cabrera was .319/.370/.537 in his last 50 games. He had 9 HR and 31 RBI. Over his last 25 games heading into tonight, he was .340/.379/.619 with 7 HR and 17 RBI.

Detroit is 22-8 in its last 30 games.

Seven and seven

Detroit smacked around Cleveland last night, with Miguel Cabrera hitting 2 HR. The Tigers are still 7 GB the White Sox in the AL Central. They also are 7 GB the Red Sox in the wild card.

Justin Verlander improved to 6-9 with the win last night. He is 5-3 with a 2.75 ERA in his last 11 starts. His BB/K is 28/58 in 72 IP compared to 21/30 in 49 IP during his 1-6 stretch to open the campaign.

Tonight, Eddie Bonine (2-1, 4.30) goes for the Tigers against Paul Byrd (3-10, 5.53), who baffled the kittens in June. Byrd's been awful lately (1-6,. 7.85). A Detroit victory means a sweep in the 2-game set.

Carlos Guillen owns Byrd: .444/.474/.833 in 38 PA.

Ahead are the Twins and the All-Star break. It would be nice to take 3 out of 4 against Minnesota. That would put the Tigers at 49-45 at the break.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

All-Stars by SABR

Joe mentioned a few statistical ways to pick the All-Star teams, so here are some NL numbers based on Hardball Times' win shares and runs created stats (with voted NL starter in parentheses). Win share leaders are shown first, followed by runs created.

C - McCann/Soto; Martin (Soto)
1B - Berkman; Berkman (Berkman)
2B - Uggla; Utley (Utley)
3B - Jones; Jones (Jones)
SS - Guzman/Ramirez; Ramirez (Ramirez)
OF - McLouth/Beltran/Bay; Burrell/Bay/McLouth
(Soriano/Fukudome/Braun)

The NL reserves at catcher are McCann and Martin, so all 3 stat leaders made the squad. Berkman was an easy pick as the starter; Pujols and Gonzales were selected as reserves. Uggla and Guzman were picked as reserves up the middle along with Tejada. Aramis Ramirez is the reserve 3B. The OF sees Holliday, Ludwick and McLouth join the team.

McLouth should be there, but probably with Burrell, Beltran, Hart and Bay. Reyes should get the nod over Tejada at SS. Pujols and Gonzales are OK at 1B. Wright probably gets a slight edge over Ramirez at 3B.

Miller time

Andrew Miller, one of the Tigers traded in the Miguel Cabrera-Dontrelle Willis deal, appears to be finding his way with the Marlins. After going 1-2 with a 9.12 ERA in his first 6 starts, Miller has gone 4-5 with a 3.42 ERA in his last 12 starts. Foes have a .632 OPS vs. Miller in those last dozen, compared to 1.082 in the first 6.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Democracy doesn't work

The All-Star rosters have been announced and, as usual, the fans, coaches and players have made some odd choices. The only Met on the National League roster is Billy Wagner. Johan Santana, top five in the league in ERA and strikeouts, didn't make the cut. David Wright (.288/.385/.508, 137 OPS+) couldn't beat out Aramis Ramirez (.280/.379/.493, 126 OPS+) for the backup third base spot, but at least Wright made the "Final Vote" ballot.

But the biggest Met snub is Jose Reyes. At .294/.355/.482 with 29 steals, Reyes's numbers are almost identical to those of his best season in 2006 and he's doing it in a year when the average National Leaguer is hitting .258/.329/.409 compared to .265/.334/.427 two years ago. Instead of Reyes, the NL bench will feature Miguel Tejada, who's hitting .282/.319/.437 in a much better park in which to hit.

Every year the All-Star selection process yields some inexplicable results. And given the important role the All-Star Game plays both in deciding where the World Series will be played and definitively separating Hall Of Famers from washed up nobodies, I think it's time something be done. Major League Baseball needs to take the decision out of the fat, fleshy hands of fans, coaches and players and put it in the shiny metal claws of a sophisticated computer program. Ideally this computer would calculate something similar to VORP while taking into account some slightly more nebulous factors to make sure the game is still "fun." It could determine numerical values for making sure the home team and city are well represented and stocking the rosters with big-name stars that the viewing public will want to watch. MLB should probably hire NASA to design this program but if that is cost prohibitive, Nate Silver will suffice. Once this system is in place, All-Star rosters will henceforth be perfect representations of the best each league has to offer. This will ensure the fans get the best game possible, the television networks get the highest ratings ever and the grizzled old sportswriters get something to complain about. Everybody wins!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Initial thoughts

Detroit faces Seattle pitcher R.A. Dickey tonight. Hopefully, the Tigers have more success against him than the Mets had last night against J.A. Happ, who took the place of R.J. Swindle on the Phils roster. WTF.

Of course, the Mets struggled against Dickey (7 scoreless IP) recently; the only worthwhile start by Dickey lately (1-6, 8.54 ERA in last seven games).

Armando Galarraga goes for the Tigers. Advantage good guys, who look to inch above .500 again. Detroit has a .973 OPS in 44 PA vs. Dickey in his career.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Joie de vivre

The Tigers started 3 rookies -- Clete Thomas, Matt Joyce and Michael Hollimon -- last night in their 8-4 win at Seattle, and all contributed. I don't believe it is a coincidence Detroit's season turned when injuries forced something of a youth movement. All 3 rooks from last night have posted an above-average OPS+ in their limited action, and have provided some clutch moments, too. Armando Galarraga has been, by far, the Tigs most consistent and best starter. Freddy Dolsi has provided a little spark in the pen.

When the Tigers won unexpectedly in 2006, there was a youthful exuberance on the field. Probably a lot like what's happening in Tampa this year. This year, the exuberance was replaced by a businesslike atmosphere. Compounded by the early-season losing, there seemed to be no joy in Mudville. The young guys bring back that life. And I've noticed it's seemed to spread. The winning helps, of course. But I think seeing guys out there with something to prove might have re-lit the fire in the veterans.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Chicks dig the long ball

I haven't heard much of anything about home runs this season, but I noticed in recent weeks that it seemed a number of players had a good number of homers. Since we're roughly at the halfway point of the season, I took a look at the figures and there are 37 players with at least 15 HR so far. If we double that number, it means 37 players would hit at least 30 for the year. That would be the most players with at least 30 since 2001.

Of course, that pace can be expected to drop off now that Brett Myers, who apparently misunderstood Nike's old ad, was sent to the minors.

Monday, June 30, 2008

This is scary

Yesterday on DTFT: Not even the news of Magglio Ordonez heading to the DL can spoil the feeling today. It's just a chance for Matt Joyce to join the fun.

Today, the Tigers' run continued. Matt Joyce's pinch-hit 3B drove in the tying run in the top of the eighth and Joyce scored the winning run on Curtis Granderson's single. Detroit rallied from 4-1 down heading into the seventh to win 5-4 in Minnesota, picking up its sixth in a row and 18th of 22.

Casey Fossum got the victory and Joel Zumaya got a five-out save.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tigers burning bright

So, this is how it turns around. The Tigers hit the official halfway point of the campaign at 41-40, a remarkable record considering they were a season-worst 12 games under .500 (24-36) on June 6. That makes them a rather mindboggling 17-4 since then.

As bad (and unlucky) as Detroit was early on, it's pretty much gone all the other way in the last 21 games. For your consideration:

Sunday's 4-3 win was fueled by Dane Sardinha's 2-run triple in the sixth inning. It was merely the backup catcher's first career hit.

Saturday's 8-7 win came on Miguel Cabrera's walkoff 2-RBI double. Oh, and Ryan Raburn hit the first grand slam of his life. Yep, going all the way back to first swinging a bat in Little League.

Friday's 7-1 victory was highlighted by Eddie Bonine's 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R gem. Yeah, Eddie Bonine. The guy who has given up only 11 H and 3 R in 15 IP since getting roughed up a bit in his big league debut.

Thursday's 3-2 triumph came on Clete Thomas' bases-loaded walk in the 1oth inning. It was Thomas' second bases-loaded walk of the game and it came an inning after Gary Sheffield tied the score with a solo HR.

And Wednesday's 8-7 win came on a Sheffield RBI knock in the ninth. Detroit fell behind 7-6 in the top of the eighth, but got a run in the bottom of the frame to tie it.

Damn, baseball is fun.

Not even the news of Magglio Ordonez heading to the DL can spoil the feeling today. It's just a chance for Matt Joyce to join the fun.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The climb continues

The Tigers beat the Rockies 7-1 tonight behind Eddie Bonine's sharp 8 IP and Curtis Granderson's 4 H (2 triples) and 3 R. Detroit is 39-40 and could reach .500 Saturday for the first time since being 0-0 on Opening Day.

Detroit is 15-4 in its last 19 games. That coincides with Jeremy Bonderman going on the DL and reliever Todd Jones proclaiming it just another chapter in the greatest comeback in baseball history. Jones is looking prophetic, for now.

Entering tonight's game, the Tigs staff had a 3.63 ERA during the previous 18 games. The pitchers were limiting hitters to .259/.325/.397 for a .722 OPS. They'd allowed 73 R.

Meanwhile, the Detroit batsmen were .306/.363/.500 for a .863 OPS during that span, with 97 R. Interestingly, they had almost the identical number of Ks and BBs (118/57 to 114/59) in the 18 games preceding their hot streak. During those previous 18 games, they batted just .254 and slugged .411 in going 8-10.

I'll repeat, the pitching is the biggest factor in this turnaround. Bonine has been good in his last 2 starts, much better than anything Dontrelle Willis provided and much better than anyone could have hoped. Getting back Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya might have been a bigger plus for the psyche than anything else at this point, but we'll take that for now.

Gary Sheffield appears to be healthy and Granderson has got his groove back. He might be the most vital piece of the offensive puzzle. During the Tigers' 14-4 run entering tonight, Granderson batted .387/.424/.581 for a 1.005 OPS. He had 2 HR, 7 RBI and 11 R. He has a 15-game hitting streak in the works. Detroit is 31-27 in games Grandy has appeared.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Latrell, meet Shawn

Observers say it was Chacon's best throw of the year.

Sheff cooking again

Gary Sheffield is back and appears to be healthy. The Tigers go for another series win today against the Cardinals. Todd Wellemeyer (7-2, 3.67) pitches for St. Louis and has done a decent job against Detroit in the past. Sheff has a HR against him and Curtis Granderson could be poised for a nice day. Nate Robertson (6-6, 5.60) counters. Troy Glaus has hit Robertson pretty well in the past, but that's about it.

The Tigers had a season-high 19 hits last night in their 8-7 win. Their previous high of 18 hits came in a 10-9 victory. They've also had 17 hits in a 12-8 win and 16 hits in an 11-9 win. Nothing like making those knocks count.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rally good

The Tigers got a 7-5 win in SD last night. The starting pitchers didn't figure much in the outcome, but Marcus Thames did. Thames hit a 2-run pinch HR to break a 5-5 tie in the seventh. Jeff Larish also had a pinch RBI single in the seventh. Magglio Ordonez gunned down a runner at the plate in the eighth and had a 2-run HR. Detroit overcame deficits of 3-1 and 5-4 to get the victory.

Curtis Granderson had two hits and two runs. He made a typical Granderson play in the third when he reached on an infield single and advanced to third when the ball was thrown away. I think many guys would have jogged into second on the play, but Grandy hustled around and then scored on a Placido Polanco sac fly.

Justin Verlander faces Randy Wolf today as the Tigers try to win their fourth consecutive series before returning home to tangle with the Cardinals and Rockies.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Oh, those bases on balls

Not much surprise the Tigers lost a game in which Eddie Bonine was matched against Greg Maddux. Except Bonine pitched well, giving up 2 solo HR in 7 IP. When Placido Polanco hit a 2-out HR in the eighth to tie the score at 2, Detroit had a chance to steal one.

Then Fernando Rodney missed the strike zone on 8 consecutive pitches and Casey Fossum wasn't much better, giving up a walk and two hits. Before the bottom of the eighth was over, it was 6-2 in favor of the bad guys.

Tonight, Nate Robertson (5-6, 5.46) faces Cha Seung Baek (1-2, 4.84). Robertson's ERA in his last 7 games is a run better than his season mark while Baek's is a run worse, althought he has pitched decent since joining SD from Seattle. Advantage Tigers. Detroit also has an edge in that many of its batters have seen Baek before with Seattle while few Padres have faced Robertson. Curtis Granderson has 2 HR off Baek and Edgar Renteria and Magglio Ordonez have one each.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Berkman in rare air

Lance Berkman is dominating the NL at a historic level, at least when using OPS+ as the measuring stick. Berkman's at 201. The only NL players to finish the season with a mark above 200 in recent years are Bonds, McGwire and Bagwell (and all three were linked to PEDs at some point in their careers).

Otherwise, you have to go back to Willie McCovey in 1969 to find a NL player to accomplish the feat. In addition to McCovey, the NL players since 1900 to reach 200 are Honus Wagner (1908), Rogers Hornsby (1922, 1924, 1925, 1928), and Stan Musial (1948). So, if Berkman can remain in that stratosphere, it's very impressive company.

And someone else finally realized Berkman shares an uncanny resemblance to Tony Stewart.

In the AL, players to reach 200 since 1900 are Frank Thomas, George Brett, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Nap Lajoie.

California trip continues

The Tigers (34-38) head to San Diego (31-43) and face the struggling Padres. SD has lost 4 in a row and sends Greg Maddux to the hill tonight. Maddux is 3-5 with a 3.31 ERA this season. Over his last 7 games, he's 0-2 with a 2.95 ERA. I'm thinking "hard luck" is being tossed around frequently when discussing his campaign.

Pudge Rodriguez has 2 hits off Maddux in 8 lifetime ABs, and both are HRs. Miguel Cabrera has 5 extra-base hits in 19 ABs in his career vs. Maddux.

Detroit send Eddie Bonine for his second big league start. He got a win over the Dodgers in his first outing, giving up 6 runs in 5.1 IP.

Tigs are 8-2 in last 10 games, 13-7 in last 20, and 18-12 in last 30. They are 6-3 in interleague.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hmmmm.....


The Orioles go for a series sweep tonite against the Houston Astros in Baltimore. The O's have not swept an inter-league series since 2005. That was in Baltimore. Against Houston.

Brad Ausmus is 9th all-time in Games Caught.

Darin Erstad is the only player to win Gold Glove awards as an infielder and an outfielder.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Marcus Homerunius

Marcus Thames just keeps launching bombs. Five consecutive games, which ties the Tigers record. The others to accomplish the feat aren't too bad: Hank Greenberg, Rudy York, Vic Wertz, and Willie Horton. Thames' last 8 hits have been HRs. He's got a 1.500 SLG during his 5-game tear. He's .288/.373/.915 in his last 20 games (11 HR - 22 RBI). Of his 30 H this season, 13 are taters. That's 43%. That's beyond even Ryan Howard territory (32%).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ecclesiastes 9:11

". . . the race is not to the swift . . ."

Last night in Philly, Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard both hit triples. Tonight, Sean Casey stole a base.

Truly, happenings of Biblical proportions.

Finally!

As you may have heard, Willie Randolph is no longer the manager of the New York Mets and Omar Minaya handled the firing with the sort of tact and professionalism we've come to expect from this organization. The bottom line is that Wilie is out, which I regard as a good thing, and Jerry Manuel is in, about which I don't really have an opinion. Manuel was 500-471 with one division title in six year as manager of the Chicago White Sox, which sounds decent, but then Willie has a pretty good career record as a manager, too. Based what I heard of Manuel's press conference today, he seems like a reasonably smart guy who is willing to buck conventional baseball wisdom, but we won't really know how good he is at the job until he starts doing it. I don't expect immediate and drastic changes to staring lineups and bullpen roles, but if Manuel could have a word with Omar about adding someone capable of a hitting a home run to his bench, that would be a nice start.

Also relieved of his duties today were pitching coach Rick Peterson and first base coach Tom Nieto. Peterson probably deserves some credit for the development of John Maine, Oliver Perez and the recently solid Mike Pelfrey, but he probably also deserves some blame for Willie's awful bullpen managing. The fact that Mets pitchers have walked more batters per nine innings than the league average each of that last two years also does not reflect well on the team's former "CEO of pitching." I don't know anything about Peterson's replacement, Dan Warthen, but I hope he will work with the staff on throwing strikes, thus getting starters to go deeper into games and taking some pressure off of a bullpen that already shows signs of cracking. As for Nieto, he will be replaced by Ken Oberkfell, who I imagine will do a fine job taking players' batting gloves when they get to first base and yelling "BACK!" on pickoff attempts.

These changes, which also include Sandy Alomar Sr. taking over as bench coach and being replaced as third base coach by Luis Aguayo, won't fix all that ails the Mets. The players still need to, in some cases, play better or, in other cases, be replaced on the roster by better players. But Willie wasn't an asset to the team either tactically or in terms of leadership, so removing him was the right move. Time will tell if it makes any difference.

So long Willie


Mr. Met will comment on the Willie Randolph firing. We expect his press release soon.

Wasted

Fernando Rodney's return to the bullpen didn't go smoothly last night and the Tigers coughed up a 4-3 lead in SF. At least Justin Verlander looked pretty good again, and outpitched Tim Lincecum.

Marcus Thames continued to rake.

Reports say the Tigers are interested in pitcher Freddy Garcia. Although Garcia was widely considered a bust in Philly last year, he could be a big help to Detroit if the team is still in the playoff hunt come September (when Garcia is aiming to return).

Garcia only pitched 11 times for Philly last year before his shoulder gave out. He finished with a 5.90 ERA, but for a 5-game stretch in May he posted a 3.69 ERA with 25 K and 9 BB in 31.2 IP. A healthy Garcia is worth a flier given the Tigers' situation.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Start me up

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the Tigers' 8-2 homestand was the starting pitching, outside of Dontrelle Willis and his Triple-A replacement Eddie Bonine. Here are some numbers heading into today's game, in which Nate Robertson fired 6 shutout innings of 4-hit, zero-walk ball.

Armando Galarraga: 2-0, 12.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 1.42 ERA, .430 OPS allowed.

Justin Verlander: 1-1, 16 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 11 K, 2.25 ERA, .431 OPS allowed.

Kenny Rogers: 0-0, 15 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 0.60 ERA, .479 OPS allowed.

Verlander has a 2.57 ERA over his last 6 games. Rogers has a 3.32 ERA over his last 9 games and it's 0.93 in his last 4. Galarraga has a 2.63 ERA in his last 4 games.

With Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya expected back this week, the pitching might be on the verge of becoming much better. That's provided Rodney and Zumaya can find something close to their 2006 form. If so, and the starters continue to be good more often than not, it will be very interesting to see what happens.

Detroit's ERA was 5.02 when its record was 16-26. Entering today, the Tigers were on a 15-11 run with a 3.96 ERA.

In April, when the Tigs went on a 12-5 run, the ERA was 4.08 and the OPS allowed was .685. In the 9 games leading into today, the ERA was 3.11 and OPS allowed was .602. So the pitching has been a much greater contributor.

Dead or alive

The Tigers completed their 10-game homestand with consecutive sweeps of the White Sox and Dodgers, ending 8-2. Exactly what the doctor ordered. So just when Sparky had that foot poised to kick dirt on them after Dontrelle Willis' start against the Indians, it's time to step back.

“People buried us, and they should have,” Tigs skipper Lazarus Leyland said after today's win. “Now we’ve got a chance to get them excited again.”

Detroit is 6 games out of first and heads to San Fran next. The Tigers got a bad draw and will have to face Tim Lincecum (8-1, 1.99 ERA) and Jonathan Sanchez (6-3, 4.26) in the first two games of the 3-game set. Those are pretty good numbers for a team that's 30-40.

The Tigers send Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers and Armando Galarraga in the series.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Time for Thames

The Detroit media is asking whether it's time for Marcus Thames to play every day. Given the Tigers' options and Thames power, I'd say the answer is yes.

Thames is reputed for bashing LHP, but a look at his splits from 2006, when he hit 26 HR in 348 AB and posted an .882 OPS (for OPS+ of 123), show he had a .904 OPS vs. RHP in 218 AB and an .846 OPS vs. LHP in 130 AB.

For his career, Thames' OPS is .764 vs. RHP and .853 vs. LHP. He probably will never hit for a high average (.241 lifetime) or walk a lot (.306 OBP) but he can slug (.494). His SLG is .510 this year and .549 and .498 in 2006 and 2007. His OPS+ is average to better-than-average.

His OPS with RISP lifetime is .916 and it's .888 with men on base. In 19 AB with the sacks full, he's got 5 HR and a 2.030 OPS.

Perhaps with regular playing time, Thames will hit RHP, as in 2006. He has seen more regular playing time since the middle of May, and his OPS is .930 during that stretch (despite batting .222). He's got 6 HR and 15 RBI in his last 19 games. For the year, he's got a 1.080 OPS in the No. 3 spot (25 AB), which is where the Tigers can use some punch (.699 team OPS from spot). Thames has half the 6 HR produced from the 3 hole.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

People, it's bad

Mets starting pitchers over the past seven games: 42 1/3 IP, 40 K, 14 BB, 2 HR, 2.34 ERA.

Games won by the Mets during this stretch: One.

First it was the offense going limp as the Mets lost three straight 2-1 games in San Diego. Once the bats came to life, the bullpen decided to pick up the slack, blowing leads of at least two runs in each of the next four games. Billy Wagner has now blown three saves in a row, including the last two games which featured two of the best Met starts of the year by Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey. Yes, that Mike Pelfrey.

These Mets keep finding new ways to lose and keep hovering around .500. They're currently three games under. I think it is time for them to accept that this roster, as currently constructed, is not that of a playoff team. Yes, if Moises Alou, Ryan Church and Orlando Hernandez were healthy and Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado were red hot, they might have a chance to dominate the National League. But those things are about as likely to happen at the same time as a bench featuring Fernando Tatis, Damion Easley, Marlon Anderson and Endy Chavez is to be an offensive asset. At least the Abraham Nuñez era only lasted a week.

If this team is going to contend this year, changes need to be made, not just in the coaching staff, but in the roster as well. The idea of Omar Minaya making trades to try to salvage this season with his job on the line is certainly a scary one, but at least he's not allowed to trade Reese Havens yet. The Mets still have an excellent core in David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana and John Maine, but they can only take the team so far given such a putrid supporting cast. The Mets entered the season without a reasonable backup plan at first base or left field, two positions where they'd pretty obviously need one. Sixty-five games later, they still don't have one. This has led to Tatis starting twelve games at corner outfield positions while hitting .232/.267/.321. Of course the Mets couldn't have predicted Ryan Church would suffer two concussions before the start of summer, but counting on him to be both durable and the team's best hitter wouldn't have made much sense either given his history.

I don't know what the Mets can do to reconfigure this roster that would make a big difference, short of signing a certain career home run leader who will remain nameless to play left field. But thinning the herd of thirty-somethings who aren't hitting on the bench and replacing them with some late twenty-somethings who are hitting in New Orleans is worth a shot. Dumping Nuñez and calling up Chris Aguila, who was hitting .308/.384/.584 at AAA, was a start. Sending Tatis packing and finding a spot for Valentino Pascucci, who's hitting .292/.405/.590, who be a fine second step. If you put enough younger guys on the roster, Willie's bound to start one of them eventually.

Just when I thought I was out ...

Oh, these maddening Tigers! Is this simply the sweet dance of seduction or something more? I remember the 8-2 stretch that got Detroit within a game of .500, only to see it followed by 2-11. Ahead for the Tigs: the Dodgers (31-34), the Giants (29-37), the Padres (29-38), the Cardinals (40-27) and the Rockies (26-39). Failure to take advantage of this good fortune in the interleague draw could be devastating.

When Mediocre Feels Good


In the AL, O's hitters are 12th worst in Hits and Caught Stealing, 11th worst in Average and Runs, 10th worst in On Base Percentage, 9th worst in Walks and 8th worst in Striking out. On the up side, they are 4th best in Home Runs, 6th in Slugging and 7th in Doubles and Stolen Bases.

O's pitching has hit more batsmen than any pitching staff in the AL, is 12th worst in Walks and K's, 11th worst in HR and 8th worst in ERA.

O's pitching is 6th in Hits Allowed and 7th in Runs Allowed.

O's defenders rank 8th in Fielding Percentage and 9th in Errors in the AL.

Roughly speaking, in a 14 team league the O's defense ranks 8th, the pitching ranks 8th and the offense ranks 11th, yet the O's are 32-32 through 64 games. I am excited to see a level of mediocrity in Baltimore that has not been present in years. I hope they can keep it up.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Morgan Ensberg released by the Yankees

It wasn't that long ago that I thought that Ensberg would have been a better third base option for the Phillies then Feliz.

Ensberg in 74 ABs had a splended line .203/.263/.243. Throw in 22 strikeouts while your at it.

Compared to Ensberg, Feliz is an Allstar .248/.295/.410. Feliz also has 22 strikeouts so far this season, but he's got 222 AB.

Once again it has been proven that I should not be a GM.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Preparing to kick dirt

Another walkfest from Dontrelle Willis has the Tigers in an 8-0 hole vs. Cleveland tonight. I realized that Detroit needs to go 64-36 over its final 100 games (most likely 64-35 over its final 99 after tonight) to reach 90 wins. The AL Central leading White Sox and wild card leading Rays need to go 52-47 to finish with 89 wins. Can it be expected a team 10-games under .500 can flip a switch and go 29 over .500 the rest of the way? Even that might not be enough the way Chicago and Tampa Bay are playing.

Here are the Tigers' offense leaders, by position against AL counterparts, according to Hardball Times' runs created formula.

C - Pudge Rodriguez: 16 RC. Rank: 14.
Leader: Joe Mauer, Minnesota, 37.

1B - Miguel Cabrera: 37 RC. Rank: 3.
Leader: Justin Morneau, Minnesota, 44.

2B - Placido Polanco: 31 RC. Rank: 5.
Leader: Ian Kinsler, Texas, 50.

3B - Carlos Guillen: 36 RC. Rank: 3.
Leader: Joe Crede, Chicago, 40.

SS - Edgar Renteria: 28 RC. Rank: 4.
Leader: Michael Young, Texas, 37.

LF - Marcus Thames: 18 RC. Rank: 15.
Leader: Johnny Damon, NY, 49.

CF - Curtis Granderson: 19 RC. Rank: 13.
Leader: Josh Hamilton, Texas, 52.

RF - Magglio Ordonez: 40 RC. Rank: T2.
Leader: Bobby Abreu, NY, 43.

DH - Gary Sheffield: 15 RC. Rank: 14.
Leader: Milton Bradley, Texas, 50.

Hardball Times has an equivalent stat for pitchers. Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman rank tied for 46th while Armando Galarraga is tied for 49th.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

How About That?


The O's have 14 one-run victories in 2008, 13 in all of 2007.
The O's have rallied from two-run (or more) deficits to win 13 times.
The O's are hitting 1.1 HR/game in 2008, .88 HR/game in all of 2007.
The O's are hitting .253 in 2008, .272 in all of 2007.
The O's are 31-31 through 62 games, 29-33 in 2007.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Even a win is tempered by a loss

The Tigers beat the Indians today, 8-4, but the big news was Jeremy Bonderman is likely done for the season because of a blood clot. I guess this means Dontrelle Willis and Armando Galarraga will both stay in the rotation now.

Maybe the adversity will ignite a spark in this team. The injury list is growing: Fernando Rodney, Joel Zumaya, Gary Sheffield, Vance Wilson, Ramon Santiago, Clete Thomas, Clay Rapada.

"One more chapter in the greatest comeback in baseball history," closer Todd Jones said on MLB.com, trying to put a positive spin on the news about Bonderman.

On Saturday, Detroit won for only the third time in 33 chances when trailing after 7 innings. The Tigs scored six runs in the eighth, highlighted by Miguel Cabrera's RBI single to put the Kitties ahead and Edgar Renteria's grand slam.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Leyland thinks: My finger stinks, too

The Tigers start a 10-game homestand tonight and they really need to go 7-3 at worst to avoid me kicking dirt on them.

Detroit plays Cleveland, the White Sox and Dodgers in the next three series. At this point, there is no reason to believe the Tigers are better than their 24-35 record other than the fact we perceive them to be capable of so much more.

Here are the facts: Detroit was 0-1 in March, 13-14 in April, 10-17 in May and is 1-3 so far in June. The Tigs are 4-10 in 1-run games and 8-12 in "blowouts" (5+ runs). Their OPS was .792 in March/April, .712 in May, and is .618 in June. Their ERA was 4.88 in March/April, 4.73 in May, and is 5.75 in June.

There is nothing in those numbers to suggest a turnaround. In fact, they seem to get progressively worse in most cases. Who knew? The Tigers were riding high in April, shot down in May.

One of Detroit's big problems is the middle innings, 5 through 7. The Tigers have given up at least one run in 37% of 5th innings, 29% of 6th innings and 36% of 7th innings. Detroit's best inning is the 7th, scoring 34% of the time. Maybe the returns of Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya can help? It might be too late by the time those guys are able to contribute.

The Tigers have hit better at home, where they are 12-14, so I guess there is a little hope for these 10 games. However, Detroit's OPS was .579 on its 3-6 road trip.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The good, the bad and the Nuñez

The Mets organization had some reason to smile entering Thursday, having won three straight series and holding three of the first thirty-three picks in the MLB draft. And Met fans could be forgiven for smiling too after the Mets didn't use any of those top picks on college relief pitchers. In fact, the Mets used only one of their eight picks today on a pitcher, taking right handed starter Bradley Holt from UNC Wilmington with the thirty-third overall pick. Six of their other seven picks were used on college hitters, headlined by Ike Davis, a first baseman/outfielder from Arizona State, at the 18th pick and Reese Havens, a shortstop from the University of South Carolina Columbia, at the 22nd pick. I don't know nearly enough about these guys to have any strong opinions about the Mets' draft thus far, but I do like to see the Mets restocking their barren farm system with hitters. I wouldn't have minded seeing them go for one or two more high risk/high reward high schoolers--Puerto Rican outfielder Javier Rodriguez at 68 was the only one they took out of high school--but I can't fault them for going for safer college players who are closer to being ready for the majors. Just for fun I will point out that Davis hit .355/.418/.612 for his college career and .394/.468/.778 this year. Havens hit .298/.396/.470 for his career and .359/.486/.645 this year.

While I'm cautiously optimistic about the Mets' draft, I can't say the same about their recent major league roster moves. Today they sent down Nick Evans, which is completely reasonable, and called up Abraham Nuñez, which is totally unfathomable. The Mets' roster already has three catchers and no backup outfielder or first baseman, unless you count Fernando Tatis and Damion Easley as either or both of those things, and to this they add the offensive cipher that is Nuñez. Nuñez got 574 at bats for the Phillies over the last two seasons (it's a wonder they didn't win any playoff games) and hit .221/.310/.277. All of these numbers are fairly consistent with a career in which he peaked at a .343 OBP and .361 SLG and had a batting average of .225 or lower in five different seasons. No amount of defense is going to make up for his Neifiesque offense, especially given that he only plays third base, where the Mets don't need a backup, shortstop, where the Mets don't need a backup, and second base, where the Mets already have a backup. Unless Nuñez's job is to boost the self esteem of Luis Castillo and Brian Schneider by comparison, his presence on a major league roster, especially that of a team that fancies itself a contender, is baffling.