Thursday, July 30, 2009

They might not be giants

Don't you wish Brian Sabean was in your fantasy league? Especially at the trade deadline? Sabean traded one of the Giants top pitching prospects in Tim Alderson for, at best, a slightly better than league average hitting 2B in Freddy Sanchez.

Sabean also gave up another highly regarded pitching prospect for Ryan Garko.

Remember Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser for A.J. Pierzynski? How about that Barry Zito contract?

The Phillies should immediately offer Eric Bruntlett for Madison Bumgarner. And the Tigers should offer Ryan Raburn.


More on Lee trade

More than simply adding the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, the Phillies added the talent at a very minimal cost. Philadelphia gave up pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp along with infielder Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson. Sure, these were four of the Phils top-rated prospects, but that might be an indictment of their system rather than praise.

Carrasco is regarded as a good prospect, but hasn't been tearing it up in Triple-A. He has not pitched as poorly as his 5.18 ERA would suggest, but some have questioned whether he has the makeup to be a top starter.

Knapp is regarded as a very good prospect, but he's pretty much just out of high school and currently on the DL with a sore shoulder. Sure, he might turn into the next John Smoltz, but he was years from helping the Phils, who want to win now.

Donald is a decent prospect, but a man without a place in Philly, stuck behind Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. He was perfect trade fodder. He, too, has struggled at Triple-A.

Marson is regarded as a decent hitter, less than great defensive catcher. It seems catching prospects rarely live up to expectations, so I'm always for trading them.

Now, factor in that the Phils also got OF Ben Francisco to add some bench depth, and this deal swings even more in the Fightins direction. Francisco is probably not much more than league average, but he's got a little pop. Plus, the Phils can keep Lee at a reasonable price for next season.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Real-Lee good move

Philadelphia added Cliff Lee to its starting rotation for 4 minor leaguers. The Phillies also got OF Ben Francisco, who will provide a right-handed bat off the bench.

Lee, whose middle name is Phifer, immediately becomes Philly's best starter. Using the Game Score method, Lee has tossed 7 "gems" this year in 22 starts (nearly 32 percent). He has 14 starts with scores of 55 or better. Teams last year won at a .683 clip when starters had scores of 50 or better; the Indians were 7-7 in Lee's 14 games of 55 or better. (The Phils are 32-12, .727, when getting a 55 or better.)

The Phillies have had 19 starts this season in 98 games that qualify as gems. Joe Blanton has 6, Cole Hamels 5, J.A. Happ 4, Jamie Moyer has 2, Chan Ho Park 1, Brett Myers 1. Park is now in the bullpen and Myers is on the DL. The Phils were 16-3 in those 19 gems.

Philadelphia has won in large part thanks to its offense. In the 25 worst starts by Phils' pitchers, the Fightins were 12-13. That's pretty remarkable. Last year, the Angels were 14-29 when their starters had a Game Score under 40. That record led MLB. The Phils are 14-16 in such games this season.

Lee has 3 complete games this season; Phillies starters have 2.

The only troubling component of Lee's game is he is not a groundball pitcher and over the past two seasons only 6 percent of his flyballs have turned into homers. That is a very low number, below the average of 10-11 percent. Pitching in the Zen might change that.

On the bright side, Philadelphia is a much better defensive team than Cleveland, which should benefit Lee.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dead GM Walking

I wasn't all that upset with the manner in which the Mets fired Willie Randolph last June. The New York media was up in arms about the Mets flying Randolph across the country to fire him in the middle of the night and while I agreed that it wasn't the ideal way to deliver the news, I didn't dwell on it. The Mets had fired a bad manager and that was good enough for me. Improving the quality of baseball on the field was more important to me than the team's public relations strategies. Today that balance has shifted.

Obviously the Mets needed to fire Tony Bernazard. If various media reports are to believed, he acted in an extremely unprofessional manner on numerous occasions. Explaining as much to the New York media should have been the easiest thing in the world. But somehow Omar Minaya and the Mets managed to screw that up, too.

Minaya, either through an impromptu bad decision, or a poorly-conceived, Wilpon-approved plot, subtly questioned the motives of Daily News reporter Adam Rubin. Minaya apparently thought that he could insinuate that Rubin was out to get Bernazard fired and take his job and get away with it. The only conclusions that can be drawn from this are that either Minaya doesn't think before he speaks or he's terrible at predicting a media reaction. Given that recent events and the current state of the major league team already bring into question his talent evaluation skills, he's running low on job responsibilities that I could say he executes competently.

It's certainly possible that Minaya is merely a puppet of ownership in this incident. Even if he acted on his own, the whole Bernazard episode raises new questions about the Wilpons' ability to run this organization. I would not be at all upset if they decided in the near future to sell the team. But for now, I think the very least they can do is fire Minaya. He's assembled a bad team and now he's put himself squarely in the crosshairs of the local media. This is far too deep a hole for Minaya to dig himself out of. Now is as good a time as any to make a fresh start with this team with an eye toward next year.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Take two

Detroit swept the White Sox in today's double dip, giving the Tigers a 2-game cushion in the AL Central. Justin Verlander got the job done in the opener with a complete game and a bases-loaded walk by Clete Thomas in the eighth inning gave the Tigs a 4-3 victory in the nightcap.

Good news: Carlos Guillen is back. He was 2-for-3 with a solo HR in the second game.

Edwin Jackson faces Tiger killer Gavin Floyd on Saturday. Rick Porcello pitches for Detroit on Sunday.

Porcello has struggled lately. His ERA is 9.45 in his last 3 starts. His Game Scores are 23-29-32 in those outings. Foes have an OPS of 1.127 in those starts. He does not have a Game Score better than 46 in his last 5 starts. He has pitched 92 innings this year; he tossed 125 innings at Class A Lakeland last season.

The Tigers have tried to limit his workload (99 is the most pitches he's thrown in a game and he's been below 90 in 12 of 17 starts) so it might be too early to think Porcello is hitting the wall. Maybe it's just a slump. Maybe not.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Today, the Tigers lost 2-1 for the fourth time in their last five games. Meanwhile, the White Sox get a perfect game from Mark Buehrle to move into a first-place tie with Detroit.

Now the kitties get 4 games against Chicago.

Meanwhile, had a report about Dontrelle Willis working out in Toledo. At this point, the Tigs might want to consider bringing back Willis for his bat. He had an OPS of .856 in 2007.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A vote for Pedro

The Phillies signed Pedro Martinez to a 1-year, $1-million deal, which to me seems like a low-risk, high-reward move (much like the Mets signing Gary Sheffield this season). The biggest questions are whether Pedro is healthy enough to start regularly and how long it will be before he's ready for action.

Last season, Martinez was 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts for the Mets. But he had a 9-game stretch in the middle of his year in which he posted a 3.48 ERA and struck out 42 in 51.2 IP. He was not very good in September, but it is likely because his arm was ailing.

A trip to reveals some interesting data. First, Pedro's fastball averaged 87.7 mph last year, which is not far from his 2005 average (88.0) when he went 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA and fanned 208 in 217 IP.

One problem he had in 2008 was he had a career-worst 1.98 K/BB ratio. His K/9 was a career-low 7.18 and his BB/9 of 3.63 was his worst since 1993 (when he was primarily a reliever).

Obviously, his chances of be successful drop if he doesn't have command. According to Fangraphs data, he used his fastball and changeup more than usual last season and barely used his slider. I would guess a sore shoulder might have reduced his ability to throw the slider; he used it 1.6% in 2008 compared to 12.3% in 2005. (It's also possible his sliders were reclassified as cutters, because his cutter percentage was an unusually high 7.3.)

Assuming the slider data is correct, it might hold the biggest key to Pedro being successful. If his arm is good, and he can throw his slider, he might be able to regain his form. Pedro is a smart pitcher at this point in his career, not unlikely Jamie Moyer. Even as Pedro's fastball diminished, he still got hitters out with regularity.

If anywhere near healthy, this might be interesting.

Then Along Came Jones

Adam Jones, the Orioles lone representative in last nights All-Star game, delivered the game winning RBI in the 8th inning with a sacrifice fly to right field scoring the Tigers Curtis Granderson from 3rd base.

Monday, July 13, 2009

At the break

The Tigers are 48-39 and hold a 3.5-game lead over the White Sox and 4-game lead over the Twins. With KC falling 11.5 back, it looks safe to call this a three-horse race for the title.

Detroit is averaging 4.8 runs while giving up 4.4. Chicago is averaging 4.6 runs and giving up 4.6. Minnesota is averaging 4.9 runs and allowing 4.5. Based on runs created and allowed, it would seem the Twins should be better than a game over .500, so that's a concern.

Another concern: The Twins have played 25 games against the AL East (going 6-19). The Tigers and White Sox both played only 14 games against the East (with Detroit going 4-10 and the Sox going 5-9). Detroit still has 22 games vs. the East, with 12 at home.

The Tigers are 27-13 at home.

One advantage for Detroit, the Twins have played 48 games at home (28-20) and they are only 17-24 on the road.

Detroit has 42 starts with Game Scores of 50 or better (going 34-8). The Tigers have 24 starts with Game Scores of 40 or worse (going 4-20).

Chicago has 48 starts with Game Scores of 50 or better (going 35-13). The Sox have 26 starts with Game Scores of 40 or worse (going 5-21).

Minnesota has 47 starts with Game Scores of 50 or better (going 34-13). The Twins have 26 starts with Game Scores of 40 or worse (going 5-21).

To break it down a bit more, Detroit pitchers have 25 starts with Game Scores of 65 or better ("gem" territory) while the White Sox have 26 and the Twins have 16.

This would seem to indicate that Detroit and Chicago will need to get solid pitching in the second half, or they might struggle. The Twins would appear to have a more consistent offense and with any improved pitching could be most dangerous.

Detroit has 3 regular starters and 5 relievers with ERA+ of 100 or better. Chicago has 5 regular starters and 5 relievers with ERA+ of 100 or better. Minnesota has 1 regular starter and 4 relievers with ERA+ of 100 or better.

The Tigers top of the rotation, with Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson, is better than the White Sox, but Chicago has gotten good production throughout the rotation. The keys for the Tigers, other than hoping Verlander and Jackson continue to shine, will be how rookie Rick Porcello fares deeper in the season and whether Armando Garlarraga can pick up any slack.

Winning Ball for 30 Days

In 27 games over the past 30 days the Baltimore Orioles are 15-12, 9-6 vs. NL teams and 6-6 vs. AL teams.

Over the same time period, the team ERA is 9th in the AL at 4.24. O's pitching has issued the 6th fewest walks and 4th fewest HR during the stretch.

The offense was 5th in BA, Runs, Walks and Number of Pitches. They were 12th in HR and Slugging.

The leather was 10th in Fielding Pct and committed more errors than all but two AL teams.

So, what to make of a winning record over the course of 30 days? 15 of the 27 games against the NL East, who, as a division, spent the month of June in a funk, was a big help and is also where the 3 wins to the plus side came from.

However, winning 6 of 12 from AL teams, including 3 of 7 on a west coast trip made the last 30 days prior to the All-Star break look promising. The O's had a winning stretch in interleague play and followed it up with a break even stretch rather than a losing stretch.

The hitting and defense, although not performing poorly, has performed better in the past and it is not unreasonable to hope for better in the 2nd half. The bullpen has performed well thus far and for the first season in quite a few, they are not "cooked" already. The starting pitching has been competitive over the last month and here's hoping the youngsters continue to get hitters out.

A little rest over the All-Star break and onto July, August and September, where we find out if these O's really are Major Leaguers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"If on-base percentage is so important, then why don't they put it on the scoreboard?"

The author of those words of wisdom, twenty-five year old Jeffrey Braden Francoeur, is now a New York Met and I can hardly believe it. I can't even muster the energy to be sarcastic about this. Jeff Francoeur is terrible at playing baseball. And now he's going to be in right field every day.

Francoeur is hitting .250/.282/.352 this season for an OPS+ of 68. This makes him the new worst hitter in the Mets lineup, by a decent margin. Yes, even on days when Omir Santos is starting. There are only three hitters in the National League with enough at bats to qualify for the batting title and a lower OBP than Francoeur's .282. And while the fact that one of them is Jimmy Rollins is hilarious, it doesn't change the fact that Frenchy is having a truly terrible year at the plate.

And there can be no argument that this is some kind of slump that he might be ready to bust out of, because he had an almost identical line last year. The only difference seems to be that he's walking even less this year. Even when he was "good" in 2006 and 2007, he wasn't actually good. He may have driven in 100 runs both of those years, but he also put together a combined line of .276/.315/.446 and an OPS+ of 95. Yes, even in his best days, he was a below average hitter. Not exactly the stuff that corner outfield stars are made of.

Francoeur does apparently play very good defense, or at least have a very good arm, but then so does the man he's been traded for. Ryan Church can play right field well. He can also play center field, saving the Mets from playing Angel Pagan or Jeremy Reed every day. And, oh yeah, he can get on base every once in a while. Church is by no means a great player, but the one thing Francoeur can do, Church can also do. The fact that he is also not completely hopeless with a bat in his hands is just an added bonus.

There's been talk of Jerry Manuel and/or others in the Mets organization not liking Church for a long time and I guess this just about confirms that. Church didn't always live up to expectations and he had some bad luck with the concussions last year, but when he was able and allowed to get on the field, he was a solid contributor. It would certainly have been possible for the Mets to upgrade the right field position, but they did not do that here. They traded a decent player for one of the worst hitters in the game. And they're going to play him every day. I don't know how much more of this season I can take.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tonight's the night

Things don't look good for the Mets right now. The team is four and a half games out of first place, losers of fourteen of their last twenty games. Sixty percent of the team's core is on the disabled list and not coming back any time soon. David Wright's OPS has dropped over a hundred points in the last three weeks. But tonight, things start to turn around. Tonight, the Mets have hope. Tonight, the Mets begin the run that will carry them back to the top of the NL East.

Oliver Perez is back!

I'm excited!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Scoreboard watching

The Phillies are 1-0 this season in games in which they've scored 22 runs.

The Phillies are 2-0 in games in which their pitchers allowed 11 earned runs.

The Phillies are 37-7 when scoring 5 or more runs.

The Phillies are 2-26 when scoring 3 or fewer runs.

The Phillies are 4-4 when scoring 4 runs.

The Phillies are 17-7 when leading after the first inning. (A .708 win percentage compared to the MLB average of .692.)

The Phillies are 35-6 when leading after the eighth inning. (An .854 win percentage compared to the MLB average of .955.)

The Phillies are 9-26 when trailing after six innings. (A .257 win percentage compared to the MLB average of .138.)

Inge-ing toward the All-Star Game

Looking at the Wins Above Replacement rankings on and the top 3 players in the AL are Rays -- Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford. That trio is followed by Tigers 3B Brandon Inge, who is battling for the final AL All-Star spot in online voting. Vote for Brandon. A vote for Brandon is a vote for goodness.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Fun from Jayson Stark

This note from Stark's ESPN column:'s Marty Noble inspired me to look this one up. The Mets just managed to go two straight games without an extra-base hit in Citizens Bank Park, on Saturday and Sunday. So how many other teams have done that since this hitter's palace opened in 2004? How about zero -- in either the same series or even the same season.

Happy birthday to the One Dog

Lance Johnson, the first player to lead both the American League and National League in hits for a season. And he did it in consecutive years, 1995 with the White Sox and 1996 with the Mets.

Johnson once was traded for Jose DeLeon, who had one of the more unusual careers in recent memory. DeLeon twice lost 19 games. He had a losing record in four of six seasons in which he primarily was a starter and posted an ERA+ better than 100 (including going 4-5 with a 2.96 ERA and 5-9 with a 2.71 ERA).

But back to One Dog. In additon to leading both leagues in hits, he was the third player to lead each league in triples and set a record by topping the AL in three-baggers for four consecutive years. And I liked his nickname.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

NL Least

The Phillies lost tonight in Atlanta, pulling the Marlins into a tie for the division lead. As a side note, Jair Jurrjens was the winning pitching on Wednesday night and on Thursday night scored what proved to be the winning run (as a pinch runner). I wonder how often a pitcher has won a game and scored the winning run on back-to-back nights?

Anyway, here is a look at the starting pitching in the division, using our favorite stat, the Game Score. Remember, last year teams with a score of 50 or better won at a .683 pace. The first number below is the Game Scores of 50 or better, followed by the team's W-L record in those contests.

Philadelphia 33 (20-13 .606)
Florida 39 (28-11 .718)
New York 44 (30-14 .682)
Atlanta 46 (30-16 .652)
Washington 33 (16-17 .485)

Interesting that Philly and Washington have the same number of 50+ starts. Phillies fans can hope improved starting pitching. Such would seem reasonable, except the longer the season goes on, the more one wonders whether Hamels and Co. will flip the switch. The Fightins have won 19 games in which their starter's Game Score was below 50, which one would figure cannot continue. The Mets and Braves have only won 8 and 7, respectively.

The Mets, for all their woes, have a better Score total than I expected.