Friday, June 30, 2006

Today's Reading

It's looking like there won't be a full post today. I began work on one of those "My All Star Team" articles, but Cliff over at Bronx Banter not only beat me to it, but did a much more thorough job than I could have imagined.

Today's reading comes from Sportzilla and the Jabber Jocks (bonus points if you know where the name comes from). Their resident Mets fan, Ben Valentine, has posted what I believe the most encompassing A-Rod and Jeter comparison I've yet seen. Certainly worth your time.

While you're there, browse around their archives. The World Cup dominates the main page and most of the last few week. If you're a soccer fan, there's no reason for not visiting and reading up. Few places offer more in-depth commentary.

As for the weekend, I think it's time to punish the Mets for getting swept by Boston.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Yanks 4, Braves 3 - Being Clutch Is All In Your Head


(What's this?)

We need an outfielder; we need a starting pitcher; we need bullpen help. The preceding three statements are very true. However, we may have needed that A-Rod walk-off homer just as much. Yes, a game like this will leave me prone to hyperbole. But seriously, is there a soul out there who didn’t enact some stupidly spontaneous celebration? Because if you didn’t, I have to question your motives for Yankees fandom.

With another stellar outing by Wang, our rotation situation is beginning to unfold. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to doubt the long-term (i.e. the rest of the season) success of Mussina, Johnson and Wang, as they’ve done little (recently) to prove that they’re in it for the long-haul. But judging from how they’ve pitched lately, it looks as if we’ve got the base of a ::gasp:: top-notch starting rotation.

[MORE]However, we’re not quite there yet. Let’s take a look at the best three pitchers from the AL contenders. I’m using RA+ here, just because it’s easy to find I’m too tired to use anything else. Remember, the higher the better and 1.00 is average:

1. Verlander, 1.37
2. Bonderman, 1.33
3. Robertson, 1.33

1. Contreras, 1.54
2. Buehrle, 1.29
3. Garcia, 1.05

Red Sox
1. Schilling, 1.38
2. Wakefield, 1.13
3. Beckett, .095

1. Zito, 1.40
2. Haren, 1.34
3. Blanton, 1.00

1. Mussina, 1.34
2. Wang, 1.10
3. Johnson, 0.92

Detroit is way out in front, especially considering Kenny Rogers is fourth on their team at 1.32. If pitching wins championships, the Tigers are going a long way. They vastly outperform Chicago’s pitching staff, though the displayed numbers aren’t telling the whole story: Chicago’s next two guys, Javy Vazquez and Jon Garland, are both below 1.00.

The Yanks and the Red Sox look evenly matched to this point, but once again the numbers are playing some tricks here. Wang’s 1.10 doesn’t account for yesterday’s gem, and Randy’s 0.92 is horribly burdened by those six straight atrocious starts, which for now are looking like an aberration. The same can be said for Beckett, though, as he’s been the victim of two or three terrible losses. He’s winning otherwise, though, and is probably better than his RA+ indicates. After all, he did hold those Amazins in check last night. The Athletics have a similar situation in Joe Blanton, but he doesn’t have nearly the track record to convince me he won’t go stink it up in the second half.

The trade rumors have been a swirlin’, and everyone has been talking about the Yankees need for an outfielder. I don’t disagree necessarily, though pitching should be taking priority. I’m still confident that we’ll get one of Sheffield or Matsui back for September, so surrendering a coveted prospect for Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soriano shouldn’t even be a consideration. Rather, why not put together a competitive package for, say, Craig Wilson, a guy who can fill in for the injuries and transform into a threatening bat off the bench for the playoffs? That is, unless Cashman knows for sure that we’ve seen the last of Hideki and Gary for the season. But before he swings a trade based on that information, I would hope he’d share it with the public.

NoMaas had a couple of offensive-minded ideas yesterday, including a question about the return of Dioner Navarro. He was shipped by the new Dodgers GM (not as good as DePo) along with Jae Seo (MAN, I bet they wish they never traded Duaner Sanchez) to Tampa Bay for Mark “Luck Has Finally Done Me Well” Hendrickson and Toby Hall. DePo would have never made that trade, because it’s we-tall-did on the Dodgers part. They may prefer youngster Russ Martin to Navarro, but to let him go for next to nothing is a big mistakey. I’m wondering along with NoMaas: why couldn’t Cashman have come up with a plan to re-acquire Navarro? Not only is he young, but he possesses the potential to start for the Yanks one day, and certainly is a better backup catcher option than Kelly Stinnett.

Their other musing involves Erubiel Durazo heading to the Show, though I don’t see that happening. He’s immobile, relegated mainly to DH duties. Unfortunately, that spot – along with his “position,” first base – are occupied by two guys that aren’t going to be sitting any time soon. I realize that the offense is stalling a bit, but they’re getting plenty of production out of the position(s) that Durazo plays. Unless, of course, Andy Phillips could slide over to second, but as I’ve said, that’s way too out-of-the-box for Torre’s liking.

While options and rays of hope exist for the offense, the same can’t be said for the pitching. Thankfully, the return of Octavio Dotel will act as the figurative mid-season deal, and he will – in theory – upgrade our bullpen. The rotation, however, remains like an old Chevelle: has the potential to be great but needs some major work, and parts are hard to come by. After browsing the list of pitchers with an RA+ over 1.00, I’ve seen that there truly are slim pickins. John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Jake Westbrook, and Paul Byrd are the only ones that could even possibly become available, and beyond the likely-expensive Smoltz, I’m not too keen on any of them, especially for the price they’ll fetch. Since it makes no sense to trade for a dude with an RA+ below 1.00 (i.e. below league average), it’s either finding another diamond in the rough, or figuring out how to glue together Wright, Chacon, and Rasner to form two decent starters.

This is the point that I begin hating Carl Pavano even more, if that’s possible. To riff off Bill Simmons, I think I’ll go gouge out my eyes with a rusty spoon.

I used to really dig trading season, but that novelty has worn off in years past. This is mainly due to writers and blog commenters thinking they can piece together “the deal” for the Yanks (or any other team) that will put them over the top. While I appreciate well thought out approaches to the available market, the majority of opinions contain trades so one-sided that it makes me wonder how other fans evaluate talent, if at all.

Have a trade idea? Toss it in the comments section. Beware, though; if it sucks I’m going to go Simon Cowell on you.

Who the....?

Renaldo Balkman? Seriously? The Draft is supposed to be the one aspect of the game in which Isiah doesn't look like a floundering idiot. And I realize that this draft wasn't the deepest, but surely he could have come up with a better selection than Renaldo Balkman.

This is what had to say about our newest draftee (emphasis mine):

Based on his statistics (9.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game) and relative obscurity, his filing early-entry papers with the NBA office didn’t elicit much in the way of response in April. But his relentless approach and non-stop aggressiveness at both ends of the floor created a definite buzz for Balkman during the Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando and he’s now considered a possibility for the second round.

So let me get this straight. With Josh Boone on the board, Isiah opted for Renaldo Balkman The only way I could be more livid is if I actually knew who the guy is.

Not a single draft ranking service had him higher than 60th. This demands an explanation. What does Isiah see in him? Is he truly running with the “negative and a negative is a positive” idea? Because that' the only thing that seems to make sense following the draft.

The worst part of it all: there is little doubt he'd have been around with the 29th pick. Why waste the 20th pick on an undersized power forward, especially when you end up taking a point guard 29th? Is there a person out there who wouldn't have rather drafted Marcus Williams or Jordan Farmar with the 20th pick? Josh Boone? Anyone not named Renaldo Balkman?

The possibilities were endless. Several NBA role players were available, and Isiah passed on all of them for a gamble. The only line of reasoning is that he thinks Balkman can step in this year and make a difference. Because if he can't this year, Isiah may not have control of him next year.

Does anyone else sense the impending trade of Channing Frye in a deal for Allen Iverson? And if you do see it, does it make you sick to your stomach?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Dust Has Settled: Now I Speak on Isiah

Horray for convincing the boss to allow me to sit in front of my computer all day and work on my five stories that are on deadline for Friday (anyone want to read about farmers markets or ambulatory surgery centers? Or better yet, a local chamber of commerce?). So I'm taking this opportunity not to pound out these stories (hey, deadline's Friday, not Wednesday, jackass), but to comment on an issue I've left untouched for a few days.

Over the winter, I made no attempt to hide my fanaticism for the New York Knicks. Despite their overpaid, underperforming roster, coach with an unbudging philosophy, and GM who judges the value of a trade by the best player on paper, I couldn't just turn off the Knicks. Being a fan in 2005-2006 was comparable, I think, to being a Los Angeles Dodgers fan: your team usually does modestly well, sometimes they crank it up, and it's a shock to see them in such a terrible way. Apropos, the Dodgers also hit a bit of a slump in 2005, but that's beyond the point.

Anyone who follows the NBA knows that the Knicks problems lie within Isiah Thomas, and therefore within the man who signed off on his silly transaction, James Dolan. Everything from the surrender of valuable draft picks to the acquisitions of undesirable players has been the fault of Isiah and his enablers. He is inarguably the most despicable executive in all of sports, and as a reward has been handed the head coaching job of my beloved Knicks.

[MORE]One would expect an outcry from my general direction, but I've been silent to this point. When big, media-friendly news like this breaks, I like to sit back and watch the spectacle for a few days. What good does it do to speak on this issue when everyone is shouting at the top of their lungs? I don't dig the whole, “the louder the argument, the better” mantra that has ruled the media, so my path was to sit back and wait for the dust to settle. This way, I can speak reasonably and at a normal volume.

The season hadn't been over for 48 hours before the first rumblings about Larry Brown's job security made their rounds. Though, job security may not be a wholly accurate term; it's tough categorize someone as insecure when he is guaranteed $60 million. It's widely understood that Larry Brown wasn't going to succeed with this assemblage of players, so cutting the cord wasn't the worst idea in the world, provided you're willing to eat a wad of cash. But it's not my money, so I advocated the move.

What inspired a perturbed phone call from a buddy was the coupling news: Isiah Thomas was the speculated successor. Even though it was just a rumor at the time, my buddy was livid. “You know it's going to happen. It makes too little sense to not happen!” I agreed that it was a near certainty, but my opinion of the move was quite different.

I'm thrilled that Isiah is coaching this team. My reasoning stems from a very basic principle of mathematics: multiply a negative by a negative and you get a positive. The Knicks roster is a negative, as is Isiah. Maybe they can prove so vastly incompetent that they'll excel.

Of course, the above statement is made in a facetious manner, but I honestly do wonder about this combination. Has there ever been a group of players this bad coached by a man equally as terrible? Do we have a precedent here? If not, how can anyone speculate as to how horrid this season will turn out?

The easy and most common reaction from Knicks fans is that Isiah will learn a valuable lesson: he's a horrible GM and coach. This camp puts the over/under at roughly 12 wins, and predicts that Isiah will be fired once the Knicks officially fall out of the playoff race. While I don't necessarily agree with this model, I can't say it's without merit. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to see the Knicks begin and end the season in the cellar.

Then you have my, “a negative and a negative is a positive” camp, in which I believe I'm the only member. There's no substantial base to this claim, so I'm just going to pass it by and allow you to think me an idiot.

The final camp is the one that scares me the most. What if Isiah manages to do what he did in Indiana? What if he employs an offensive scheme that can bond these incompatible players? What if they end up winning half their games and squeak into the playoffs? This will surely save Isiah's job and leave us with a few more years of misery. In fact, this is the worst thing that could possibly happen.

Any true fan of the team must pray for the most horrible season in NBA history. Any improvement upon 2005-2006 and Isiah might keep his job. And honestly, who wants to sit through year after year of mediocre play, an 8th seed in the playoffs, and a first-round exit? I'd much rather see a 2-80 season, the severing of ties with Isiah, and a fresh start.

Then again, when we all called for Scott Layden's ouster, we got Isiah.

Braves 5, Yanks 2 (That was Embarassing Just to Type)

Happy Birthday from Chipper*.168J-Wright.149

*That was totally an error on Chipper, first for booting the ball and second for the lame-ass throw.
(What's this?)

Offense goes on; offense goes off; offense goes on; offense goes off. And so the story goes as the Yankees embarrassingly drop a game to the Atlanta Braves. The offense looked revved up, as Jeter and Giambi both hit the ball hard – albeit to a fielder – following a Damon walk. But they never got it going, and dropped a game to a mediocre-at-best starter.

That they didn’t put up runs for J-Wright’s fine performance disappoints me the most. And, when it comes down to it, yanking him after the sixth was the worst decision of the game – in hindsight of course. You really can’t fault Torre, but I do wonder how Wright would have fared in the seventh. I’d say that I hope he goes longer next time, but I’m not quite sure at this point if he’ll be good enough next time to warrant pitching the seventh. No, I don’t think I’ll ever really trust J-Wright.

In order to avoid loquaciously complaining about the lack of offense, I’ll just talk about Melky’s 3 for 4 (really 2 for 4) night. I know his home run was late and meaningless, but he got hits off guys against whom his teammates faltered. With his average having dropped to .250 (and not having even drawn a walk in his past six starts), he’s in need of an offensive boost. Hopefully he can build off tonight, or some tired cliché like that.

Coming tomorrow: Stinnett, Cairo, and possibly Bubba in the same lineup. You thought our offense had problems tonight? Check out this Cano-less crew. The scariest scenario:

Damon – CF
Jeter – SS
Giambi – 1B
A-Rod – 3B
Williams – DH
Cabrera – LF
Crosby – RF
Cairo – 2B
Stinnett – C

That’s good for .2, maybe .3 runs against John Smoltz. I swear, if we drop two of three to the Braves…

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Cano's Out; This Could Get Ugly

This is what I heard on the way home from work today, prompting me to slam my head into the steering wheel. Then the guy in front of me, thinking I was honking at him, slammed on his brakes, stuck his arm out the window and extended his middle finger (the Jersey horn). This, coupled with the Cano news, was nearly cause for me to ram the guy into oblivion (I drive a Jeep, he a Neon). Thankfully, reason kicked in at the 11th hour.

This news has two ramifications. First, Miguel Cairo will become an everyday player, a scenario that scares most Yankees fans with a working knowledge of baseball. His .230/.294/.300 line is atrocious by any measure, though a (weak) argument can be made as to a relatively small sample size (100 AB), and inconsistent playing time. Those same people will harp back on Cairo’s 2004, which was an aberration to end all aberrations. If he was hitting out of the nine hole, this problem wouldn’t be so egregious. However, Torre has made a habit of batting him second, which defies all logic. Even amidst a slump, Melky Cabrera has still managed a .341 OBP, which is much more impressive when attached to his .250 BA. The translation is that even when he’s slumping and not getting his hits, he’s still finding ways to get on base.

The second ramification is the team’s offensive production. Despite the injuries, the Yankees still boast one of the finest offenses in the league. However, they’re going to have to rely on a guy named Rod to step up and make up for Cano’s bat for a couple of weeks. That, my friends, isn’t a likely scenario. I’d love nothing more than to be proven wrong, but Rod doesn’t seem like the kind of guy you can count on consistently. This is why many people – the most persistent of whom being my father – think Rod will never win a championship. I beg to differ. He’ll win one if he just so happens to catch fire late in the postseason. It’s almost as if he can’t turn it on and off at will like other players faced with dire situations; rather, his intensity and production comes and goes at random. The only thing working in Rod’s favor now is that absent a few sweet-ass games lately, he’s been cold as can be. He is proverbially due.

So we’re replacing Cano’s .325/.353/.439 with Cairo’s .230/.294/.300, which is demonstrably terrible. Worse yet, however, is that we’re replacing Cairo’s .230/.294/.300 with Nick Green’s .077/.200/.077. Yes, that’s a health 3 for 39 with zero extra base hits. His six walks, however, is just short of Cairo’s eight, and in 61 less at bats.

What baffles me, however, is the linear thought process employed by Cashman and Co. on this one. Nick Green hit .208/.316/.292 at Columbus, which I can say with all certainty will not translate into any degree of Major League success. Carlos Pena, however, has belted the ball to the tune of .258/.402/.431 (.173 ISO). Why not call him up (he’s been itching for another shot), and slide Phillips over to second? He can’t be much worse than Cano with the leather, and is light years ahead of Cairo with the stick. This would allow Giambi to DH and Pena to get a shot at first base. And when Cano returns, you have a few options, one of which is including Pena in a trade should he heat up. Hopefully this move is made after a few days of Cairo’s predictable ineptitude.

Thankfully, the Braves are still on the schedule, and they’re just plain terrible. Even without Cano, anything less than a sweep would be a disappointment.

(Well, it appears that Jeter is batting second. My foot is tasty.)

Giambi 5, Proctor 2

No graph again today. The fatigue I hinted at yesterday was not aided by another trip to the Stadium last night, and I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open. But I’m going to tough it out under one condition: you can’t get all up on me for typos and indiscernible grammar. There’s no way I’m reading this back after it’s done.

(In case you were wondering, yes, I will link to the Fan Graphs WPA graph once I get into work. The Sporting Brews will return to its regular lineup slot on Wednesday, promise.)

Tonight’s excursion was a work event. This, of course, presented a few minor problems, the first of which being that I’d have to carefully monitor my alcohol intake. Thankfully, the Yankees do a fine job of deterring me from drinking by pricing their beers at $8. Couple that with the lack of a pre-game (I instinctually took a few steps towards Stan’s as we arrived), and I figured there was no way I could get drunk enough to make an ass of myself.

The second issue was with my rabid fanaticism. Yes, I like to make my own calls on the balls and strikes, and I fistpump for big strikeouts. It’s all just routing for my team, but it can be perceived by non-baseball freaks as a little over the edge. A little self-control was the remedy there, but my baseball obsession extends beyond a few childish pantomimes.

You see, I like to flaunt my baseball knowledge upon those who don’t know. I’m not showing off or trying to be a jerk or anything. Rather, I just think it feels good to have the answer. This problem presented itself as the lineups were announced, and I became furious over Cairo’s lineup spot. Why Torre bats him second is beyond me, but my co-workers were curious as why I was so livid. I mentioned the obvious: his OBP and SLG are in the shitter. Then they asked me why I always quoted a player’s OBP rather than his average, but there was no way I was starting that conversation/argument.

Settled in, we watched Randy’s first delivery from Section 29 in the upper deck, about eight rows up and just to the left (from our vantagepoint) of the foul pole. Twelve pitches and a dinky single later, and Randy walked back to the dugout amidst cheers from the Yankees Faithful.

After Damon and Cairo went down, the Birthday Boy stepped up and did what he so often does when batting third: laced a two-out single. It seems like a common occurrence, though this is one of the situations where your eyes lie to you. I’m sure if I looked it up (and if anyone else wants to, post it in the comments, because I’m just not taking that on tonight), Jeter’s number of first-inning, two-out singles will be something like three or four.

And then a blast. Giambi turned on one and sent a line drive to right. I was pretty sure it was gone, but the overhang of the upper deck was obscuring my view. No worries, as the crowd reaction kinda gave it away. 2-0. I was keeping score, and it delighted me to note that Tim Hudson had tossed 31 pitches in the first frame. It’s just like the formula goes.

The second inning looked eerily similar to the first, right down to the frame’s sole base hit, a grounder to the left side, directly opposite the first-inning hit. Jorge took care of business, though, gunning down…must have been Bettemit (don’t have my score card in front of me).

I have to say, I did a mighty fine job of scoring the game for the first four innings. I noted the type of batted ball, where the hit landed if it fell in, and even two-strike fouls, making for an accurate pitch count. However, after the fourth my boss led us down to the tier level, where he had found six seats in close proximity. Enjoying the view, I sat down with my trusty score book, and made the mistake of looking left.

About four seats to my left and one row ahead sat a simply smokin’ blonde. Best of all, she was with three of her girlfriends, which is a rarity in the Bronx. New York/New Jersey women are gorgeous, but they always seem to have tooly boyfriends hanging around. My interest was piqued, and I waited for the opportune moment to say something:

You’re with me, busty blonde.

This, of course, led to her swooning and melting in my hands. She gave me a blowjob under the right field bleachers by the Yankees bullpen. It was about the sixth or seventh inning. I have a pulled groin and couldn’t fuck at the time.

It was during this time that Randy exploded, recording five strikeouts over his final two innings. With Giambi’s two homers spotting the Yankees a healthy lead, and with Randy’s pitch count having eclipsed the 100 mark (the Braves made a habit of fouling off a ton of pitches from the fourth inning on), Torre called on Scott Proctor. This wasn't a terrible move, but everyone who regularly reads this here site knows that I would have rather seen Beam or Smith pitch.

The decision to leave Proctor in for the ninth I felt was fairly reasonable, though I didn’t see the need to further tax his arm. The guy needs rest, and working two innings in a game that should have been sealed doesn’t facilitate that notion. And in hindsight, it was a terrible freakin’ move, because it meant the lead was reduced to three, and you know what that means. IT’S A SAVE SITUATION! MUST USE MARIANO! Just ridiculous.

I have now been to five games in which Andy Phillips has started. In the first three, he homered. In the last two, he’s tripled. Someone want to get me tickets to the next game he starts?

It must have been the sixth inning when I noticed something peculiar down by the dugout. Shawn Chacon was up on the railing, as is his norm. That’s one reason I have a hard time bashing the guy; he’s uber-competitive, thrives on pressure, and is very into the game. But I digress. Standing next to him was a player wearing the number 27. Now, you may remember the most recent use of this number from my favorite overlooked Yankee, Kevin Thompson. I thought maybe, just maybe they had called him up prior to the game. However, my hopes and dreams were crushed when I realized that he has not spent the requisite 10-days in the minors subsequent to a demotion. Much to my dismay, it seems that Thompson and Kevin Reese are sharing laundry.

But it all worked out in the end, and we scored a victory over the Braves, plowing through their second best pitcher in the process. Best of all, Randy is proving Gene Michael right in that he’ll pitch better in the warmer weather. I’m still reluctant to say I’m convinced, but I mean, he was on fire tonight. When guys weren’t swinging and missing, they were hitting dinky pop ups and routine ground balls (some of which found holes, but that’s the luck of the game). I think, at very least, we can slot him into the No. 3 hole in the rotation for the time being.

Now it’s up for Chacon and Wright to play rocks, paper, scissors to see who has to pitch more than five innings his next time out.

And it looks like 800-some-odd of you have viewed this very post already, thanks to the already-linked-to Deadspin. If you've made it this far, I'd like to invite you to take the tour. Look around. See if anything tickles your fancy. I know it's a boring Yankees site, but there's plenty of non-baseball stuff lying dormant in the archives. Once my computer is out of plain view at work, I fully expect a more broad range of subject matter -- but for now I'm confined to my one post a day, two if the boss steps out for an hour.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Why Do You Build Me Up, Buttercup Baby

Sheffield confident of return.

"My doctor told me that once [the cast] comes off, [I'm] not going to realize the injury was there. That's the words I wanted to hear."

Encouraging? Yes. A set up for disappointment? Probably.

What? No Graphs?

It's been quite the weekend, full of 100 percent, pure awesome. As such, I didn't really get around to graphing yesterday's games. Thankfully, the good people over at Fan Graphs have been tracking the WPA for every Major League game this season. They'll be pinch hitting for me today.

Marlins 5, Yanks 0
Yanks 2, Marlins 1
Yanks 6, Marlins 5

I'll quickly say this: Friday night's game was stellar. We had to brave two innings of rain, but it was all worth it. Kyle Farnsworth gave me a headache, as per usual, but it was nice to see him pitch out of it. Also, seeing the Marlins commit three errors in an inning was quite the spectacle.

I'm out to the Stadium again tonight, and I'll try and take notes for a story tomorrow. For now, I'm just going to try avoid passing out on my keyboard.