Friday, December 02, 2005

Juan Pierre?

The New York Post is reporting that the Marlins have asked for Sean Henn and Scott Proctor as compensation for center fielder Juan Pierre, and the Yanks haven't said no to the proposal.

Look, I like Proctor and all, and Henn didn't exactly wow all of us in his two appearances this year. Personally, I would jump on this.

Then again, I said the same thing when those identical players were sought after by the Rockies for Shawn Chacon, and he ended up coming much cheaper. But something tells me this is the bargain price for Pierre.

I know some people don't like him, but considering 1) the Yanks are running out of options and 2) That's a doable price tag.

Everything I have written thus far is contingent, however, on him not taking Jeter's leadoff slot. Preferably, I'd like to see him in the nine slot, but I wouldn't throw a hissy fit if he batted second.

Sans Stats

Hello, and welcome to Sans Stats, the weekly column dedicated to ridiculing the increasing absurdity in the world of sports.

We here at the Sporting Brews would like to extend a “thank you” to Mike Holmgren for providing ammunition this week. In the days following the Seahawks 24-21 overtime victory over the New York Football Giants, news leaked that the NFL had found two touchdown decisions – both reviewed by the referees on the field – were, in fact, incomplete passes. Apparently, reviews like this by the NFL are not uncommon, but leaking them into the public forum isn’t considered acceptable behavior.

The prevalent question here is: why would Holmgren leak this information? The first thing he should have asked himself was, “have I ever seen any other coaches make any remarks like this?” If he had done his homework, the answer would have been “no.” The second question he should have pondered was, “what will I accomplish by bringing this to the public?”

Quite frankly, this seems like an effort to quell the thought that the Giants should have won the game on three separate instances, all of which were botched by kicker Jay Feely. Many Giants players, as they had following an embarrassing loss to the Vikings, declared after the game that despite the results, they proved they were the better team. Apparently the New York media can ruffle feathers as far away as Washington, and Holmgren brought forth this information as his trump card.

But in the end, all it cost him was a few thousand in fines ("Now, because of the potential fines, my kids won't get Christmas stockings," quipped Holmgren, making me hate him just a little bit more) and a bit of dignity, of which little is remaining.

Justifying his beach of a confidentiality agreement, Holmgren said that, "there were some mistakes that took place, which we felt at the time." No shit, Holmgren, you thought that a close call on a touchdown for your opponent was a mistake? Of course you did, just like Jeremy Shockey thought Feely’s initial field goal was good. But that’s no reason to come out with this sort of information that is not only confidential, but a certain PR mess for the NFL.

Mike Holmgren: I’d rather have an offensive lineman coaching my team.

To the NBA now, where there’s always a supply of FAAAAAAAAAAN-tastic stories. This week’s top billing: Portland Trailblazers forward Ruben Patterson has demanded to play 25 minutes a game, or he shouldn’t be played at all. Coach Nate McMillan retorted by saying that 25 minutes were “starter minutes,” and that Patterson was inhibited by the guys above him, Darius Miles and Zach Randolph.

Now, I know it’s hard for an egomaniac like Patterson to understand, but when you’re 30 in the NBA, you don’t exactly have a lot of leverage. Add to that the two guys ahead of him in the rotation, and you have the equivalent of Nelson De La Rosa trying to pull a 10-foot lever.

This also brings into question the learning ability of Patterson. I wonder if he noticed a guy named Latrell Sprewell sitting at home, unable to even attain a veteran minimum contract because of his immature outbursts. And really, a multi-millionaire talking about having enough money to feed his family is about as ridiculous as a 30-year-old who has averaged 23.5 minutes a game demanding more playing time.

Hello, Ruben, and welcome to the inactive list. Your waiting time is estimated as indefinite.

Back in the land of the gridiron, where we know there’s at least one guy who understands the value of absurdity. Chad Johnson has become infamous for his elaborate touchdown celebrations, which have been frequent this year because, well, he and Carson Palmer simply kick ass. He is currently prepping a steel-themed celebration for this Sunday as he and the Bengals march out onto Heinz Field. Oh, if only there was a way to make a football resemble a ketchup bottle.

Showboating is not normally shone in a favorable light, but Johnson is so creative and downright hilarious with his antics that they’re hard to downplay. I think the biggest difference between T.O.’s touchdown antics and those of Chad are that we know Chad is joking. He’s merely having fun, and his demeanor reinforces that. T.O. on the other hand seems to have the implicit message that he’s better than everyone when he celebrates a TD. Maybe that’s just me being biased, but I feel that due to their between game comments, it becomes clear that T.O. is being arrogant and Chad is just having fun.

I don’t normally like to do this to fellow Internet writers, because we are all entitled to our opinion. But a biiiiiiiiiiig F.U. to the folks at nyynews.com, who reported on Tuesday night that Kyle Farnsworth had signed with the Yankees. You know, guys, signing means putting his name on a contract, which means that he would have taken and passed a physical. Without pen to paper, they are said to have come to terms, but these negotiations haven’t even gotten that far.

ESPN (you know, a news source that has journalistic credibility) is reporting that the Texas Rangers are now in on the Farnsworth bidding. So let’s see here: no contract signed, no terms agreed to, and of course no apology from the folks at that site. They’ll just keep dancing along as if nothing happened, which is the beauty of having no accountability.

I will now shapeshift out of my “guy who is trying to be funny” body and back into my “Yankees nerd” mold. Please, Cashman, please (and I know if I scream loud enough, you can hear me) don’t go batty bidding for Kyle Farnsworth. Yes, I defended him in this space yesterday, but that doesn’t mean committing more dollars to a relief pitcher, the shakiest of all signings. In fact, the only way I would advocate further bidding on Farnsworth is if George Steinbrenner uttered the following words:

“Brian, you have unlimited funds for the duration of your contract. I don’t care if you spend $800 million on players. Get them and win.”

(Which I would react to by offering John Henry $200 million for Manny, straight up.)

And who knows, George may be crazy and senile enough at this point to pull such a stunt. But it’s highly unlikely, which means that the Yankees still need to fit into some unknown budget. That budget would be quite burdened by a reliever making $7 million a season. And since the Yankees should be very familiar with the volatility and uncertainty of relief pitchers (Hammonds, Karsay, Quantrill, this one’s for you), bidding higher than the current deal of 3 years, $17 million should basically be out of the question.

Yet, I have this feeling that I’m going to click on ESPN.com today and see “Yanks and Farnsworth agree to 4-year, $26 million contract.” I will then commit hari kari with the nearest sharp object.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Kyle's Mom Is A Bitch

When I clicked over to my friends at Replacement Level Tuesday night, there was a link to a site dedicated to Yankees news (nyynews.com) that was reporting (“this is not a rumor!” the site exclaimed) the Yankees had come to terms with reliever Kyle Farnsworth. This obviously led to me clicking through ESPN.com and FoxSports.com, but to no avail. Apparently the guys at this site are more connected than anyone in the print media (or are just making a bold statement on an issue they feel will come to fruition, in order to boost street cred).

(Update: more sources are rolling in on the issue, but over 24 hours after this was posted on nyynews. I still think it was just a good guess.)

At first, I was enthralled with this news, even rushing to boast to my buddy Jon about the new acquisition. Of course, I inundated him with Farnsworth’s defensive independent statistics from last year, which are all astounding. Yet, an article over at Baseball Prospectus calmed me a bit on young Kyle.

It’s not that Joe Sheehan’s article was groundbreaking, but it simply reminded me that judging a player in his contract year is a bad habit. I’ve been on the record saying the same thing about Bengie Molina, that it is suspect that his first solid year came 1) when he was 30 and 2) in a year he was playing for a new contract.

After perusing the news today and seeing nothing other than “Yanks intensify talks with Farnsworth, Gordon” in the headlines, I decided to do my duty (heh, duty) and try to put this Farnsworth situation in perspective. Let’s start at the beginning, 1999, when he was called up as a starter for the Chicago Cubs.

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
130.05794.8512.093.601.941.355.05


Not exactly promising. Of course, he was a 23-year-old rookie, but even so his numbers didn’t look like those of a future star. So, disenchanted, the Cubbies shipped him off to the bullpen in 2000.

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
77.03718.6519.955.841.641.486.43


Some modest improvement there, though his ERA did not reflect it. True, his move to the bullpen provided a smaller sample size, but I doubt that he was averaging 8.65 strikeouts per nine at any point in 1999. It would appear that Farnsworth began rearing back and hurling the ball with all his might in 2000, since strikeouts weren’t the only category in which he saw an increase. His walks per nine rose by 62 percent to go along with his 56 percent hike in strikeouts per nine. Notice the subtle hike in percentage of batters faced that he struck out. That will come into play later. But for now, Farnsworth’s breakout year in 2001:

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
82.033911.7431.563.180.883.692.74


Talk about going from mediocre to superstar. The first indication of Farnsworth’s success: less batters faced over more innings pitched than 2000. He saw drastic hikes in his strikeouts per nine and percentage of batters stuck out, as well as dips in his walks and home runs allowed, which all translated to a nifty 2.74 ERA. It seemed, for the moment, that he had solved his control problems, which led to the boost in the rest of his statistics.

But what kind of story would this be if Farnsworth didn’t get injured in 2002?

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
46.22138.8721.604.631.731.927.32


During this season, his numbers regressed to resemble his 2000 marks, with slight but negligible improvements in strikeouts and walks (and therefore the ratio), but with more home runs allowed, leading to a higher ERA. The easy assessment was that 2001 was a fluke. A more detrimental view was that his injury set back his career considerably. But what could the Cubbies do but give him his normal allotment of innings in 2003?

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
76.331210.8529.494.250.712.563.30


If the kid had a decent head on his shoulders, this would have convinced me he was in it for the long haul. A full year in reliever’s terms, Farnsworth once again showed improvement in every category over the previous year. While this was no 2001, 2003 certainly was a bright spot in his career, most noticeably in his home runs per nine, which dropped nearly one per nine. His walk total was still suspect, but it constituted an improvement over 2002.

Poised for another breakout year in 2004, Farnsworth would be his own undoing. Yes, I’m referring to his stint on the DL, which was caused by his kicking of an electric fan. S-m-r-t move, Kyle, right up there with Lew Ford trying to iron a shirt that he was wearing. Despite this bout with his own psyche, Farnsworth didn’t show regression to the degree he did in 2002.

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
66.729810.5226.174.451.352.364.47


See, slightly worse than 2003. Really, it could have easily been chalked up to the injury, had the injury not been self-inflicted off the diamond. But apparently the Cubs had enough, sending him to Detroit (and anyone who has seen Kentucky Fried Movie should be giggling right now) for three nobodies. He didn’t pitch badly for Detroit, but seeing that they were out of the race, they dealt him to the needier Braves to recoup some of the prospects they lost in acquiring him. His 2005 sheet, combined:

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
70.027711.1931.413.470.643.222.19


And here he is, looking like 2001 again. That 2005 was his walk year makes him suspect, but it’s not like this year was out of the blue. He was less effective in years tainted by injury, but showed improvement in years he stayed healthy.

Should he stay healthy in 2006, I would imagine his numbers would resemble those from 2003. As we’ve all learned over the years, expecting superstar performances from new acquisitions just isn’t realistic. Now, I know that his 2003 numbers don’t warrant nearly $6 million per season, but remember, there’s always the potential down the line for him to put up a monstrous season again, and maybe that will come after Mo retires and the team really needs it.

His mental stability is a factor, but it was with Paul O’Neill as well. Problem is, there is no way for unconnected people like you and me to figure out where his problems stem from. Is it that he just wants to perform well and help his team like O’Neill, or is it because he’s a little crybaby like Kevin Brown? Only time can tell, and considering the current market, I have to say that the Farnsworth signing makes more sense than the Ryan signing.

Or maybe that’s just my Yankees bias.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Big Hurtin' At DH

This is quite a unique off-season for the Yankees. Quite unique, indeed. It appears as if they won’t be nailing down any of the marquee free agents, which hasn’t happened since the Dynasty. It also appears that the biggest trade they’re poised to make is the acquisition of Jason Michaels from Philadelphia, but that’s far from a certainty. But let’s assume for a minute that they will, since it would provide a better balance and would avoid the risk of playing Bubba in center daily.

In this scenario, the lineup would look a bit like so:
1) Jeter 2) Cano 3) A-Rod 4) Giambi 5) Sheff 6) Matsui 7) Posada 8) DH 9) Crosby/Michaels

Notice the one unknown there is DH. There are two road to take with the DH position. First is to find a guy who can play there nearly every day, but that is compounded because Giambi surely can’t handle 162 games at first base. He’ll need some time to recoup his back, so finding a full-time DH isn’t exactly the best option, unless said DH can play first base. The second option is to spread the DH among bench players, in order to get them some playing time. But we all know how Joe handles his bench (like they’re a group of pariahs, unless named Rueben Sierra).

This presents quite a conundrum. The easy answer is to bring back Bernie as a fourth/fifth outfielder and part-time DH. But realistically, will Bernie be able to put up numbers deserving of a DH? They have this DH up in Beantown who hits the crap out of the ball, allowing the team to put a few fielding-heavy guys out there on a daily basis. Why can’t the Yanks do that?

Well, they can, and his name is Frank Thomas. Okay, so he’s going to turn 38 next season, but that’s only going to drive his price down, as well as keep his contract limited to one year with an option. At a time when the Yankees are itching to develop some prospects, Thomas provides a stopgap for a year.

The problem, of course, is the injury risk. Signing Thomas could blow up very fast, meaning a complete loss of investment. In the last five years, Thomas has managed only two full seasons, and has combined to play 128 games in the other three. Not very promising. Not very promising indeed.

But in the seasons he was healthy, his averages were .252/.361/.472 (ISO of .220) and .267/.390/.562 (ISO of .295). Okay, so his ability to hit for average has declined considerably, but the guy still knows how to draw a walk to compensate, and he can still hit the tar out of the ball. And what more does a DH need to do?

Of course, playing him at first base shouldn’t be an option, since it will only increase his risk of injury. Fine, so the Yanks have to carry another first baseman to spell Giambi. That shouldn’t be a problem, however, due to Torre’s aforementioned disdain for his bench. Assuming they carry 12 pitchers, that leaves 13 spots (duh) open for position players. Nine will be filled by the guys I mentioned up above, so there are four utility positions left. The team has done well with carrying only one backup infielder in years past, and I don’t expect any change in that for 2006. For now, we’ll say Felix Escalona (I wanted Jeff Cirillo, but he re-upped with Milwaukee). The team already has four outfielders with the platoon, so carrying one more will be adequate. Two left. Thomas and a backup first baseman? Sounds logical to me.

This isn’t “THE” answer that will take the Yankees all the way. More accurately, it’s an idea that takes advantage of a relatively weak market. And if Thomas re-ups with the ChiSox despite their desire to use Thome as the DH? Fine. Just move on to the next option, so long as it doesn’t involve multi-year, multi-million dollar deals for mediocre talent.

(Doesn’t that sound quite logical, to avoid doling out large contracts to run of the mill players? And yet we always fear the Yankees will do just that. They say that routing for the Yankees is like routing for US Steel, but US Steel never had to deal with Raul Mondesi.)

The Yankees surely have the money to toss at Thomas for a one-year deal with an option year. And with the market looking bleaker by the day, this alternative is becoming more and more attractive. Thomas is relatively low-risk, in that there would be no long-term investment involved. Of course, this would mean having a solid contingency plan in place, but I’m sure Cashman is creative enough to come up with one. What exactly that contingency plan would be, I have no idea at this point. That’s why Cashman’s the GM and I’m just a guy typing away in my boxers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Look At Me, I Can Be...

Everyone is talking about it, and since my main focus today was on those blasted New York Knicks, I think I’ll have my try at this whole lineup shakeup that’s been in the news this morning.

In case you get all your news from this here site (you’re missing out on a lot, I have to say), here are the developments we’ve seen thus far:

Torre is thinking about moving Jeter or A-Rod to center.
This is probably in reaction to reports that the Blue Jays are poised to offer Brian Giles a 5 year, $55 million deal (no link to this because it’s mere speculation at this point).
It is also relevant to note there that Carl Pavano reportedly is unhappy in New York and may ask the Yankees to trade him (though they are in no way obliged to do so).

The initial reactions in the Internet community have been swift, and have covered just about every angle imaginable. This is what you get when you present such a situation to guys with a lot of time on their hands.

Normally, I try to avoid these issues – especially when they involve the Yankees – until the dust settles and the situation can be viewed more clearly. But I’m bored, and this has morphed into something much larger than it actually is, so why the hell not throw out a few ideas? Please note that none of these constitutes the solution, or even a practical idea for that matter. It’s just a course of action the Yankees could take given these new developments.

(Further note that the most likely course of action is the status quo. Keeping A-Rod and Jeter at their current positions and trading for Jason Michaels for a platoon with Bubba in center seems the most likely/doable scenario. But this wouldn’t be the Yankees off-season if we weren’t thrown bones like this.)

Scenario One: dish Pavano to Arizona for Troy Glaus.
Why It Would Work: Arizona is still hungry for pitching, especially considering their obligation to deal Javy Vazquez before March. Plus, they have Chad Tracy ready to go at third, so Glaus becomes a bit more expendable. Glaus at third, A-Rod at short, Jeter in center. Sounds good to me.
Why It’s 100 Percent Unfeasible: Remember a year ago when the Yanks dished Arizona a pitcher following the frist year of a multi-year deal? And remember when he demanded a trade a few weeks ago? I’m sure Arizona won’t want that headache two years in a row.

Scenario Two: sign Furcal, move Jete to center.
Why It Would Work: Furcal is one of the most valuable free agents on the market along with one of the youngest. Sure, he’d come at an inflated price tag, but if you’re going to overpay, you might as well overpay for youth rather than geezers. Not only would Furcal provide more than adequate defense at shortstop, but he is a viable leadoff hitter, moving Jeter to the two hole where he is not only more comfortable, but more of a threat.
Why It’s 100 Percent Unfeasible: Because Jete ain’t moving to center field. Sorry, it had to be said at some point or another. There is a much better chance of A-Rod going there, but even then I don’t see a move happening. In addition, I don’t think Furcal would be too keen on playing shortstop in the Bronx. He said he wants to play for a winner, and surely the Yanks could offer him significant monetary compensation as well, but he has more ideal scenarios in Chicago and Atlanta.

Scenario Three: NOMAH! for third, A-Rod to center (or A-Rod to short, Jete to center).
Why It Would Work: IF Nomar can stay injury free, IF he can demonstrate bat speed near his prime years, IF he hasn’t lost a step defensively, then maybe this would work. Plus, what would be a better knife to stick into the side of the Red Sox than a healthy, happy and effective Nomar?
Why It’s 100 Percent Unfeasible: I capitalized the ifs for a reason. This is a transaction that has the potential to blow up right in the face of the Yankees right away. The positive is a high-risk, high reward situation, but if I was a Vegas odds maker, I’d give Nomar a 10-1 chance of playing 140 games this season. Not very promising. Plus, even if he does play those 140 games, there’s no guarantee he is still nearly as effective as the Nomar who faced the Yankees in a Boston uniform.

Scenario Four: Bill Mueller to third, A-Rod to center (or A-Rod to short, Jete to center).
Why It Would Work: The Red Sox and the Yankees have similar philosophies in building teams that boils down to plate discipline. Mueller fits this mold perfectly, and in addition plays a solid third base. A long-term investment wouldn’t be necessary due to Mueller’s age. Once again, if he has a good season, it’s just another knife in the side of the Red Sox.
Why It’s 100 Percent Unfeasible: The whole age thing and injury history. This is another gamble similar to the Garciaparra scenario above. And if I have to mention it again, I will: I just don’t see Jeter or A-Rod moving to center.

Scenario Five: Pavano, Jorge, and Eric Duncan (maybe Aaron Small) to Philly for Bobby Abreu, Mike Lieberthal, and Jason Michaels
Why It Would Work: Another huge bat in the Yankees lineup with Abreu. Two large contracts that expire following the ’06 (Lieberthal) and ’07 (Abreu) seasons. Sheffield out of the outfield and to the full time DH. The center field platoon that everyone has been talking about (Bubba/Michaels). Pavano’s sorry ass out of New York. Trading Eric Duncan at what could be the height of his value.
Why It’s 100 Percent Unfeasible: I’m still not so keen on giving up Duncan at this point, and I’m not sure Cashman is either. But that’s about it on the Yankees side, which makes the unfeasibility of this deal clear: why would Philly ever consummate such a transaction? Maybe Gillick is just a secret Yankees agent in the Phillies system? Anyway, I would hesitate on this one, but ultimately jump on it, which means it’s obviously not going to happen.

Notice how exactly zero of these ideas mention the names Wang and Cano. That at least brings some semblance of a smile to my face. Still, the only scenarios that I find remotely appealing are Two and Five, which coincidentally are the least feasible ideas here. It is nice, however, to see the Yankees getting to work in ways that don’t involve swallowing huge contracts in free agency.

At this point, if Giles is in fact playing the Yanks, simply acquiring Michaels from Philly may be the best option, especially if he can be had for J-Wright (I’d rather ship him off than Small). And as much as some of you will vehemently disagree, signing The Big Hurt for DH purposes might not be the worst option in the world. However, that is an issue that needs a bit more exploration, and I certainly can’t get that done by the end of this paragraph. Better to save it for another day.

Your New York Knickerbockers

I don’t think it is humanly possible to put together a more entertaining and accurate assessment of the New York Knicks than Bill Simmons did a few weeks ago. But I’m a frustrated Knicks fan, and I’m starting to become a bit perturbed.

After reading the last sentence, most Knicks fans probably thought, “you’re just starting to become perturbed NOW?” Yes, I realize the Knicks haven’t been good for quite some time now, but I’ve come to grips with that. They’re suffering through their second straight incompetent GM, but that’s a fact that I just can’t change so I begrudgingly accept it.

I could take this space to nit-pick Isaiah’s trade portfolio, but 1) it’s been done countless times and 2) let it suffice to say that they were ALL bad. I feel as if he’s playing a game of NBA Live rather than actually GMing the Knicks.

There were a few (just a few) issues heading into the 2005 NBA off-season, and for some reason I thought that Isaiah might have learned from his past mistakes and actually addressed these critical issues rather than overspend and bring big names to the Garden. Alas, I overestimated Isaiah’s ability to learn. You can teach a dog to stay in your yard, but you can’t teach Isaiah how not to screw up an NBA team.

The first indication that Isaiah doesn’t have a clue came when he acquired Jamal Crawford at the two to complement Stephon Marbury at point. But he neglected one minor detail, however: his two starting guards were shooters who are highly ineffective without the ball, and they don’t play defense. Thankfully, Kurt Thomas was still at the low post with his sweet shot and tough defensive capabilities.

And a few months later, Thomas exchanged Thomas for another guy who chucks up a lot of shots and is ineffective without the ball in his hands. But Mike Sweetney was still on the roster to anchor the defense…until Isaiah traded him for a center who – guess what – chucks up a lot of shots, is ineffective without the ball in his hands, and doesn’t rebound.

Look on the bright side: Isaiah got rid of Tim Thomas and his uber-inflated contract, right? That would have elated me under normal circumstance, but Tim’s contract expires after the 05-06 season, which would have freed up some valuable cap room. Instead, the Knicks are locked in long term with Eddie Curry.

More evidence of Isaiah’s inability to learn: he also sent a first-round pick to Chicago in the Curry deal. This has been the biggest headache of the Isaiah Era: having perpetually crappy teams but no draft picks to compensate because they keep getting dished. There was a glimmer of hope this year, when Isaiah didn’t deal the first round pick away, and actually acquired another one from Phoenix in the Kurt Thomas deal. With the Curry deal, all hope that Isaiah would learn to be smart with the draft would be eliminated.

Adding to the headache is the recent ESPN Insider rumor that Kevin Garnett is on the trading block. Isaiah wouldn’t be Isaiah if he didn’t throw his name into the hat for every superstar available, and this is no exception. The rumor has the Knicks sending Channing Frye, Penny Hardaway (whose inflated contract expires after this season), and a first rounder to Minnesota, and I don’t think Isaiah would blink an eye before pulling the trigger on that one.

But who could blame someone for acquiring Kevin Garnett? This guy, right here. There are three chips the Knicks would be sending off in this deal, and each presents a problem that KG can’t solve. In Frye, the Knicks have a young man who is currently exceeding expectations, proving that he can play an adequate power forward under Larry Brown the rookie hater. His status at adequate has the potential to rise, and while he’ll most likely never be on the same level as KG, he’s also a good seven years younger and has plenty of room for development.

In Hardaway, the Knicks have cap relief following the season, an invaluable asset when the team is inundated with crippling contracts. Every penny counts at this point, especially when there is way too much money tied up in the likes of Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Eddie Curry, Quentin Richardson, and Allan Houston, not to mention Malik Rose and Maurice Taylor. It’s not as if dumping Penny’s salary (along with Antonio Davis’s) will get the Knicks enough cap room to make a signing. In fact, it’s likely they will still have the highest payroll in the NBA next season. But he is merely the first step in creating flexibility under the cap.

And finally, the first round pick is an aspect that should be more coveted by Thomas and Co., especially considering the cap situation. No matter what your team salary is, you’ll always be able to sign your draft picks. So considering the dismal fiscal state of the Knicks, it is only logical to save up draft picks and build the team that way, since free agency beyond a mid-level exception won’t be an option until 2010.

Garnett is signed through 2009, meaning more long terms dollars for the Knicks. And it’s not even as if he would be a guaranteed solution. Actually, the only thing KG guarantees is a commitment to more dollars in the future, which means considerably less flexibility (what is considerably less than shitty?).

Oh, and the trouncing by Miami sans Shaq made me feel a whole ton better.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Rutgers To Play In Insight Bowl

I know I've seldom talked about college football in this space, but that doesn't mean I'm sitting idly on Saturdays. I follow the sport avidly, even though Rutgers has this whole history of sucking.

But today, amid expectations, Rutgers formally accepted a bid to the Insight Bowl.

It is only fitting that my alma mater will appear in a bowl the year after my graduation. I sat through years of watching losing football, and all the sudden they decide to play closer to expectations and make the bowl they were supposed to make for the past two years. You know, while I was still there.

I do, however, have family in Phoenix, the site of the Insight Bowl. And, accordingly, my uncle that lives there is an Arizona State alum, which would make for quite a crew should I go to the game.

Bah, who am I kidding? I'm broke as a joke who had a stroke. I guess I'm just worked up over this whole scenario.

My official prediction: ASU 47, RU 8.

And Now A Word On Beckett

I’ve waited a bit before commenting on this whole Beckett to Boston transaction, mainly because I wanted the dust to settle before doing something no major newspaper columnist will ever dare try: bring in statistics for analysis. I know, I know, that makes me a “stathead,” and I’m just putting up arbitrary numbers to make a point that apparently doesn’t exist. Obviously, stats are inferior to the observations of Mike Lupica, (for example) because he surely watched all of Beckett’s starts and can provide a better assessment than statistics can provide.

I will now switch the sarcasm meter to “light” and continue with some analysis.

YearIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
2002107.29.453.681.092.574.10
2003142.09.633.550.572.713.04
2004156.28.733.100.922.813.79
2005178.28.362.920.712.863.38


Notice the most prevalent trend here is that Beckett has progressively pitched more innings each year, and has seen, other than 2002-2003, a decline in his strikeouts per nine. For further analysis:

2004AprilMayJuneJulyAugSept
K/910.587.9319.63*10.28*6.699.27


2005AprilMayJuneJulyAugSept
K/99.558.335.89*11.9*6.939.28

* indicates a month he spent significant time on the DL

Right away, we can throw out the argument that he burns himself out with longer innings, since his K/9 ratio doesn’t dip come September. When graphed with the injured months removed, his trend would resemble a dilapidated reverse bell, as he always seems to start strong in April and finish strong in September. Both years he has had a bad August in terms of strikeouts, but in both years he was pitching his first full month after two marred with injuries.

This trend even goes back to 2003, when his best months (in K/9 terms) were April and September, with August being the low point. His injuries actually can be used to explain these trends. Of course, pitchers are fresh in April, and Beckett shows it by hurling a dominant month. He continues along a normal trend until he gets injured. But in being injured, he isn’t putting more wear and tear on his arm, therefore giving him a bit more firepower in September, when hitters are showing signs of fatigue after a long summer. The August dip makes sense in this scenario, since he is usually coming back off an injury and taking time to adjust. When this is combined with hitters still going full speed, it translates to an off month.

Beckett’s seasons have been cut short due to shoulder and blister problems. Now, I can’t say much for the shoulder problems, but I can remember a player who had constant blister problems early on in his career: Nolan Ryan. While I hate making such a comparison, I just can’t ignore this kind of data from Ryan’s first few years with the Mets.

YearIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
1968134.08.935.030.811.773.09
196989.19.235.310.301.743.53
1970131.28.546.630.681.293.42
1971152.08.116.870.471.183.97


Sure, there are a few discrepancies, but it looks like Beckett actually holds the upper hand in these comparisons. It should also be noted that Ryan and Beckett were just about the same age over the course of the four years evaluated. Ryan’s statistics for his fifth year, after being traded to the California Angels:

YearIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
1972284.010.434.980.442.102.28


Ouch. There are two factors that separate Beckett and Ryan at this point (other than the fact that Ryan was MUCH wilder). 1) Ryan moved from neutral Shea to pitcher friendly Anaheim Stadium, while Beckett is moving from pitcher friendly Pro Player Stadium to hitter friendly Fenway, and 2) it’s not a given that Beckett can solve his blister problems the way Ryan did.

So this was a risky move, yes, but a calculated one. There was no way the Red Sox would escape this transaction without sacrificing a pitcher, and thankfully for them the Marlins bit with Anibel Sanchez and didn’t demand Jon Lester. Hanley Ramirez was semi-expendable, since the Red Sox still have three years and $30 million committed to Edgar Renteria. The most interesting aspect of this deal may be in Mike Lowell, whose aberration in 2005 made his contract (2 years, $18 mil remaining) seem ridiculous. But he’s not likely to repeat the dismal performance of 2005. Still, he presents a conundrum for the Red Sox, since his acquisition means that Bill Mueller certainly won’t be retained, and more importantly a decision will be imminent on prospect Kevin Youkilis, who was slated to take over for Mueller in 2006.

In his Ten Things I Like About Josh Beckett column, Bill Simmons declares that it’s always a good idea to dish prospects for proven stars, citing Peter Gammons’s past positive assessments of prospects that didn’t work out. The problem with this statement is that most of us don’t know what Gammons was basing these comments on (and I’m sure Simmons doesn’t either). With modern technology, we have newfound access to a plethora of statistical evidence. Here is the main chip the Red Sox dealt over his minor league career:

ABAvgOBPSlgISOOPS
1268.314.362.463.149.825


He’ll only be 22 when the season starts, and is reportedly going to be slated as the Marlins starting shortstop. Yankees fans can only hope that he’s the monster that he has the potential to be. The other chip in this deal, Anibel Sanchez, split time between Advanced A Wilmington and AA Portland. His 2005 season:

IPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
13610.462.650.793.952.85


Not too shabby. Now let’s compare him to the guy that could have been in the trade, Jon Lester:

IPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
148.19.893.460.612.862.61


Barring a few minor inconsistencies, these guys were pretty equal in 2005. I’m not making a bold prediction on either prospect, but it seems like they have similar potential. Once again, as a Yankees fan, I’m praying the Sox traded the wrong guy.

I could comment on the rest of the players involved, but they are two low-level minor leaguers from the Red Sox, and Guillermo Mota and Mike Lowell from the Marlins. The only thing I can say about Mota is that he had exactly one good year, and former Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta made the smart move by dishing him while he still had value. Mike Lowell’s 2005 was such an aberration that he’s going to have to re-prove himself in 2006. As of right now, it’s really a coin flip.

This was a deal of potential, which are the riskiest deals of all. Beckett has the potential to be a dominant ace, Ramirez has the potential to be a superstar shortstop, Sanchez has the potential to be a solid top of the rotation starter, and Lowell has the potential to bounce back from 2005. Peter Gammons must be frothing at the mouth for the upcoming season, since he’ll be able to gratuitously use his favorite word, “if.”

That’s all I have for today. Join me tomorrow when I bitch about the Knicks (probably more so after tonight’s game with the Heat). Here it is, your moment of splits:

Josh Beckett
Year/SplitIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
2002/Home48.010.884.311.312.525.25
2002/Away60.28.163.120.892.623.17
Year/SplitIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
2003/Home84.19.822.560.532.712.67
2003/Away58.29.203.370.612.733.59
Year/SplitIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
2004/Home91.19.263.550.792.613.45
2004/Away65.18.002.481.103.224.27
Year/SplitIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
2005/Home91.08.703.070.502.842.47
2005/Away88.27.922.740.912.894.31


Nolan Ryan
Year/SplitIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
1968/Home7810.155.191.151.963.58
1968/Away567.234.820.321.502.41
Year/SplitIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
1969/Home38.110.574.460.702.374.23
1969/Away518.296.000.001.383.00
Year/SplitIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
1970/Home66.29.996.070.671.642.70
1970/Away657.067.200.690.984.15
Year/SplitIPK/9BB/9HR/9K:BBERA
1971/Home79.17.266.580.791.103.97
1971/Away72.29.047.180.121.263.96


Take from that what you will…