Friday, December 31, 2004

A Critique of Pure Nonsense

You all know that the Crankees seemed to have a deal in place for the Big Ugly. If the details of the trade are as reported, then it is actually a good baseball trade for both teams. Responses have been predictable, ranging from the “Yankees are destroying baseball by spending astronomical sums on their payroll” to “God bless George Steinbrenner for doing everything possible to make his team a winner.” Also predictable is the reaction of the media and “baseball people” who view all moves made by the Crankees as divinely inspired. Randy Johnson is awesome. That cannot be denied. Reporters and Crankee sycophants (is there a difference?) can shout it from the rooftops with no criticism from this little corner of Metropolitan land. Randy Johnson is a stone cold stud, an all-time great, and damned close to still the best pitcher in baseball.

What then, you ask, has instigated what is sure to be an oncoming rant against injustices perpetuated against the Metropolitans? Simply this – the idea that Randy Johnson is more likely than Pedro Martinez to stay healthy over the next several years. This seems to be the conventional wisdom in the media: The Mets got bamboozled by a broken down pitcher on his last legs (or last labrum) and the Cranks went out and got a pitcher in the full bloom of health and well-being. Take today’s Newsday, for example. Two veteran major league scouts reveal their opinions on the RJ deal. Under the category of “Durability”, one of these sage gurus opines of the Big Ugly that “He’s more durable and stronger than Pedro.” Oh, really? And what is this based on? Well, based on actual data, this opinion must spring from a combination of the following foundations of logical thought:
1) Pure whimsy
2) Unadulterated nonsense
3) Hallucinogenic Drugs

Aside from the obvious – Johnson is 41 and Pedro is 33 – let’s blow some holes in the gospel according to two anonymous scouts. And, as an aside, let me add this. Sometimes I deal with scouts. Overall they are typically uninformed dullards who possess very little baseball acumen. Read Moneyball, if you haven’t already. That’s a very accurate description of how scouts think (apologies to the word “think”). Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. Over the past two years, here’s a look at the two shiny new acquisitions for Gotham’s two baseball clubs.

Pitcher Games Started Innings ERA Record
Randy Johnson 53 359 3.43 22 & 22
Pedro Martinez 62 403 3.05 30 & 13

Hmm. Yep, them thar scouts sure know their stuff. The much older guy who has been hurt much more over the past two years is far more durable than the younger pitcher who has been much healthier in recent years. Seems highly logical to me. I wonder what other pearls of wisdom dropped from the lips of these baseball prophets. Jose Reyes will play more games than Miguel Tejada? Joe McEwing will gather more hits than Ichiro? David Ortiz will steal more bases than Juan Pierre? These predictions all are about as logical as the ruminations on Randy and Pedro.

We all know that the health of every pitcher is tenuous. Each pitcher is one thrown ball from career oblivion. But here’s a guarantee you can take to the bank. Pedro Martinez will start more games next season then Randy Johnson. Any logical analysis of the question would yield the same answer.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Gag Order

Today’s entry is a list of sentences that should be banished from the language for evermore:

1) “Hey, the Mets should get Doug Mientkiewicz to play first base.”
No, they shouldn’t. Not unless the rest of the lineup improves dramatically. Mientkiewicz is not the answer. Well, I guess he’s the answer to some questions, such as “What’s the name of that banjo hitting, slick fielding first baseman who didn’t start for two different teams last year?”, or “Who is that guy who plays a power position and hits about 8 home runs per year?”. Yes, Doug M. can pick ‘em with the best of them, guys like David Segui and JT Snow. Guess what? I don’t want them either. A first baseman basically has three jobs. In no particular order they are hit, hit, and hit. The Red Sox won the World Championship with Kevin Millar at first. He’s not exactly a Gold Glover, and, he’s really not a big time thumper either. And Mientkiewicz couldn’t beat him out. The Twinkies moved Mientkiewicz to make room for a rookie. He’s a luxury in a great lineup. The Mets can’t, as currently constituted, afford this luxury.

2) “Wow, that Chad Pennington is a brilliant guy.”
I do not root for the Jets. I do not root against the Jets. When it comes to Gang Green, I’m basically objective and neutral. Pennington seems like a nice guy. After this week, he also seems like a dumb guy. His press conference last Monday was embarrassing. For him, that is. He came across as inarticulate and immature. OK, you’re all thinking that I’m way off base because he was nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship. By the way, he was not a Rhodes Scholar, although he is sometimes referred to as one. He was nominated. And do you know what it takes to be nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship? An application. There is no other requirement – no minimum grade point average, no qualifying exam, nothing. I’m sure Chad was a good student at Marshall. He probably had a good GPA, after all he majored in journalism (how ironic) - not quantum mechanics, not microbiology, not even physical education. One of the qualities looked for by the Rhodes committee is involvement in “sport”. It doesn’t take a forensic detective to figure out what happened here. Someone in the Athletic Department at Marshall nominated Chad for a Rhodes Scholarship. Good for them. The Rhodes Scholarship Committee didn’t award one to Chad. Good for them.

3) “Pedro Martinez is basically a 100 pitch pitcher at this point in his career.”
This is the whole line of thinking – or non-thinking – that says that Pedro is a broken down, labrum frayed, disaster waiting to happen. Three pitchers in the American League averaged more pitches per start than Pedro last year. Five threw more innings. Pedro started 33 games and the league leader started 35. Wouldn’t you say that this paints a picture of a durable pitcher? In terms of innings pitched, batters faced, and starts he was most similar to Brad Radke last year. I don’t recall the great concern over Radke’s health. He started 6 more games than Tim Hudson. He threw 29 more innings than Hudson. Yet, Hudson is a young workhorse and Pedro is a pitch away from his arm blowing up. Go figure.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Omar's Watching

Just a few days ago I posted about the possibility of adding athleticism to the Mets outfield. Two suggestions were Eric Byrnes and Randy Winn. Lo and behold, Byrnes shows up in the papers as a possible trading target for the Metropolitans. You do the math. The Mets' front office is obviously closely monitoring my posts and using my ideas to run the organization. That's OK with me, but let me qualify the idea of acquiring Byrnes. Do not, I repeat, do not, give up a top prospect - Milledge and Petit have been mentioned. Offer Heilman and listen carefully to hear if Billy Beane laughs or not. If he doesn't, then we may have a deal. Throw in something as equally useless as Heilman if you have to - say, Jason Philips. Yes, Omar, do that. Trade Philips and Heilman for Eric Byrnes. Then sign Delgado and Magglio. On the first day of the season, bring this list to Willie Randolph and tell him to tape it on the wall in the dugout under the sign "Today's Lineup".

Matsui - 2b
Reyes - ss
Ordonez - rf
Delgado - 1b
Piazza - c
Wright - 3b
Byrnes - cf
Valent/Diaz - lf
Martinez - p

When Cameron comes back, the hottest hitter of the Byrnes, Diaz, Valent troika gets the left field job. The others become very useful bench players. And, Omar, one more thing. Wrap up the Delgado thing this week sometime. I need a fix of off-season excitement for the holidays.

On another front, some reports are saying that Moises Alou is signing with the Giants. While this will thrill many Met fans, I'm not one of them. Alou is a very good hitter and the list of corner outfielders is dwindling daily. The Giants interest in Alou is somewhat vindicating, however. Brian Sabean is a great GM. If he wants Alou, then it's probably a good move to sign Alou. Met fans are funny. When evaluating a guy who hit 39 homers, drove in over 100 runs, and has a lifetime batting average of .300, they say he's old or that his home and away splits were overly skewed. Both of these are true, but why is this a poor reflection on Alou? He stays in great shape and he hits well at home. We can't have that on our club, can we. The last thing the Mets need is a veteran hitter in excellent shape who hits well in hitter's parks. Whew! Thank God we dodged that bullet. You know what? Hitting behind God (the player formerly known as Barry Bonds) in the SF lineup, Alou will have an awesome season.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

What's Next?

Omar has really created a buzz among Met fans about the next big move. If the papers are to be believed, Alou seems very close. I have always thought that this would be an excellent move IF it were just one in a series of moves to upgrade the team. Alou by himself makes little sense, but along with Delgado it is a great move. Moises is a very good hitter. I know his home and away splits last year showed a Wrigley boost to his numbers, but he is a lifetime .300 hitter who has good power. How many of these guys are there? On the Metropolitans he should go about .280, with a good OBP, and hit close to 30 HR's. Which, by the way, is about what Carlos Beltran would do to, only with a lower BA and OBP. Of course I'd rather have Beltran due to youth, defense, and base stealing, but the point is that in the short run Alou will be a good addition to the offense.

Delgado is the key. From the start of the off-season he has been the key. Simply put, Delgado is the best hitter available via free agency. By far. Not even close. He is a stud, lefty power hitter. On top of this, he posts eye-popping on base percentages, in the .400 range. The Mets are lucky that the market for him is not that great. They need to take advantage of this and steal him, now. Delgado plus Alou makes the offense very formidable.
If these two things happen - and indications are that they will - then Floyd probably has to be traded. This lineup just doesn't seem to work:

Matsui
Reyes
Alou
Delgado
Wright
Piazza
Floyd
Cameron

Am I right? It just doesn't seem balanced. I'd rather replace Floyd with a more athletic, speedy type like Randy Winn or Eric Byrnes. Valent might work in this lineup, too. Push Cameron up to 7th and put Valent 8th. That provides a little better speed/defense balance. It also allows Alou to play left and the more athletic outfielder to play right.

Now, if I were managing this team, the lineup would look like this:

Wright
Reyes
Alou
Delgado
Piazza
Valent
Cameron
Matsui

Or:

Matsui
Reyes
Wright
Delgado
Alou
Piazza
Cameron
Valent

This is a pretty good lineup no matter how you slice it. And, amazingly, it seems like these will be the players Willie Randolph will be working with. Bring it home, Omar. And, while you're at it, drop a dime on Billy Beane and see what a Zito is going for these days. Offer Zambrano or Trachsel, packaged with Milledge, Valent, and cash. You never know.



Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pedro Ponderings

Well, this is an interesting turn of events, isn't it? Even with the Mets' public overtures to the mercurial Dominican I never expected him to actually join the Metropolitans. But now that he has, every precint is being heard from. And much of what they are saying, as usual, makes no real sense. Let's take a look (with sanity added, courtesy of this blogger):
  • Pedro is a shell of his former self and a bad gamble at this point - Are we likely to ever see the Pedro of 1999 again? No. But this hardly makes him washed up. The fact is that he has 50 wins and 17 losses over the past 3 years. He won't be 33 until next September. And guess who's aged 32 season most matches Pedro's historically? I'll give you a hint. He also played for the BoSox and just won the NL Cy Young Award.
  • Pedro's labrum is 90% torn - Wow, so with a labrum 10% attached, Pedro dominated a great lineup in a World Series game a couple of months ago. And also threw in the mid-90's all game. Very impressive. This torn labrum myth is a great one. Guess what, fellow orthopedic surgeons? Your labrum is torn. My labrum is torn. Randy Johnson's labrum is most definitely torn. I love when idiots on the radio become medical doctors.
  • The Red Sox didn't want him back - Three guaranteed years at 40 million dollars total doth not a rejection make. I'm not real intuitive about the subtle communication skills of baseball executives, but I'm guessing that a typical blow-off does not have that many zeroes in it. And, by the way, doesn't this offer also tell you a great deal about the torn labrum theory. Ya think that maybe the Red Sox medical staff knows a thing or two about this guy?
  • The first year or two will be fine, then Petey will fall apart - Or maybe the second and fourth years will be great, and first and third not so great. Or maybe the first part of year two will be mediocre, and the middle part of year four will have some down spots, but he'll pitch great in June of year three. You get the picture. This type of prognostication has a name - it's called idiotic, uninformed nonsense. Nobody knows what will happen over the next four years, but the best guess based on something called data is that it will be pretty effective.
  • The Pavano signing was better - On what planet do these two pitchers get to be mentioned in the same sentence? Before I mentioned that the most similar pitcher historically to Pedro in their aged 32 year was Roger Clemens. Pavano just finished his aged 28 year, and his most similar pitcher was also a Red Sock. Oil Can Boyd. Oil Can Boyd. Oil, friggin' Can, Boyd. And for their careers Pedro's best match is this guy named Koufax. Pavano's is this guy named Paul Byrd. The interesting debate is Kris Benson compared to Carl Pavano. When you get a chance, go to baseballreference.com and check out their careers. Virtually the same, slight edge to Benson.
  • The Mets overpaid - Apart from the notion that all athletes are overpaid, let's just look at the market value. Well, actually we can't, because no pitcher in this market is comparable to Pedro. But, since the Mets offered the most, let's assume Martinez is overpaid. OK, we are the Mets and we have stunk for 3 seasons. We have to overpay. Hell, it works for everybody else. My experience is that it's not the superstars' contracts that are most heinous. It's the Steve Karsay type middling contracts that really suck.
  • Pedro is a jerk who will make life difficult for Willie Randolph - Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Curt Schilling, Nomar Garciaparra, Jim Edmonds, Sammy Sosa, Armando Benitez, JD Drew, Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, Juan Gonzalez, Ken Griffey, Jr., Scott Rolen - All of these - and many others - have been accused of jerkiness to some degree. I work with jerks, you probably do too. Big deal.

Don't get me wrong about this signing. It's not the greatest thing to ever happen to our Metsies. I just think it's a pretty good idea to sign an all-time great pitcher who is still very effective, coming off of a year where he threw the 6th most innings in his league and was 2nd in the league in K's. Now, put him in a pitchers' park, while he is still relatively young, in a much less imposing league offensively. Add the familiarity factor, always in favor of the pitcher. Any objective look at the real data indicates that Pedro Martinez will pitch effectively for the Mets.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Sexson Thoughts

Over at Sabermets (use link on sidebar) is a very good article comparing Richie Sexson and Carlos Delgado. I, too, have been a strong advocate of Delgado over Sexson. He's simply been a much better offensive player. If you don't know it already, you will find that I invest very little importance in the nebulous concepts of:
1) Chemistry
2) Defense (in all sports, not just baseball, but especially baseball)

The idea of "chemistry" in team sports is a farce. Great teams can be riddled with division and tension. Lousy teams can get along wonderfully.

Don't even get me started on the concept of defense. True story - John Wooden is doing a basketball clinic for high school coaches. By show of hands he asks how many coaches spend more time on offense than defense. Not one hand shoots up. Then he asks how many spend more practice time on defense. Every hand hits the sky. Wooden shakes his head and admonishes the coaches, "Why would you spend more time practicing defense? Offense is so much harder to play." Well, I'm with the Wizard on this one. When the Mets say they are emphasizing defense, I interpret that as saying "We are going to be really cheap and sign some bad players." Pitching and defense DO NOT WIN baseball games. Pitching and offense do. Which team would you rather field?

Catcher Victor Martinez Mike Matheney
1b David Ortiz JT Snow
2b Alfonso Soriano Pokey Reese
3b Aramis Ramirez Bill Mueller
SS Derek Jeter Alex Gonzalez (the Marlin)
OF Manny Ramirez Mike Cameron
Hedeki Matsui Andruw Jones
Vlad Guerrero Darin Erstadt

Of course the team on the left is a team of very poor defensive players who mash. The team on the right is comprised of excellent defensive players. Which team would you choose to play a season with? Pretty easy, isn't it? Oh, and for those of you who think Vlad is a good defensive player, think again. He has a great arm, but he is an awful defensive outfielder. Not Matsui awful, but that would require a significant physical handicap. Matsui is probably the worst defensive outfielder in the game, much worse than Manny, who actually is not completely terrible out there. But I digress. My point is that offense is much more important than defense in sports, especially in baseball.

So what is the point of all of this defense bashing. Simply this. Those who prefer Sexson to Delgado typically tout his supposedly superior defense as well as Delgado's questionable clubhouse presence. As stated, I prefer Delgado, yet I am a straddling the fence a bit. I'm simply not sure if Delgado is a New York type of player. He seems very quiet and sensitive. And Sexson is a damned large target for the Mets young infielders to aim at - or more accurately perhaps, not aim at. So as you can see, my feet are firmly planted in mid-air on the Sexson/Delgado question. I can see the merits of either.

But whether the Mets sign Delgado or Sexson, they also need an outfield bopper. Magglio, Magglio, wherefore art thou Magglio?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Week That Was

Some inane musings on this past week:

Notre Dame fires a football coach - Who cares? Let's all hope that the Irish never fire their coach during the same week as a presidential assassination, world war, or alien invasion. Then the media will have a difficult decision regarding their lead story. A mediocre college football program fires a coach with a mediocre record, and the media reacts with the same intensity as if, oh, I don't know, pigs were flying.

Some baseball players are taking steroids - Shocking, stunning news. It seems that some sluggers have been taking performance enhancing drugs. And the really crazy thing is that Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi have been doing it. Who the hell saw this one coming? Yes, ladies and gentleman, this is the literary device known as sarcasm. I know this will be grossly unpopular, but I really can't get too worked up about this story. On my list of baseball villains steroid users don't rank very high. Oh, really, you say? Then who does rank high on this list? I'm glad you asked:

1) Performance destroying drug users - Why are we angrier at the enhancers than the destroyers? I have much greater contempt for those who pissed away their talent on drugs that ruined their careers - Gooden, Strawberry, Howe, et. al., then for Barry and the 'Roid Heads ( which would be a great name for a rock band). At least the 'roiders are helping their teams.

2) Lazy Bastards - Memo to Nick Johnson, Edgardo Alfonzo, Shane Spencer, any catcher with the last name Gil, Karim Garcia, Randall Simon, and Dmitri Young; you are professional athletes. Hit the weight room, cut back on the carbs, and buy a treadmill. No professonal athletes should look as soft as you guys do. I'm a middle aged schmoe and I'm in better shape than these clowns. Again, the 'roid heads get the nod for at least having pride and helping their teams.

3) Roger Clemens - Did anyone else chuckle when they read about Roger being on the major league baseball tour of Japan? Mr. Family Man needed to be at home for his boys, and then he hightailed it to Japan as soon as the season ended. And also refer to number 2 on this guy as well. If I have to hear about his rigorous workout sessions one more time I'm gonna puke. He's fat. Yes he's big. Big and fat. The YES network did a special on his workout sessions a few years back. It was pretty tame, actually. Some free weights, some crunches, and some jogging. Not nearly the Navy Seal type workout that Clemens talks about ad nauseum. During this show a moment occurred which summed up Clemens perfectly. As he was driving to the gym his cell phone rang. He answered it with, "Rocket here." What type of middle-aged man answers his phone by referring to himself by his own nickname? Only the most self-important, pretentious clown on the planet.

4) Politicians who threaten to police baseball - Hey, Senator McCain, I voted for you this year as a write-in. Don't make me regret it. Americans are dying in Iraq. Half the world hates us. Job growth has slowed down. Medicare is too expensive. There are real issues to be dealt with. Stay out of the candy store and deal with important stuff. I love baseball. You love baseball. That doesn't make it important.

5) Nostalgic buffoons - You know these guys, the ones who lament the lack of talent today as compared to the good old days. The truth is that the players of today are vastly superior to the players of the past. Now, it's entirely possible that if the oldtimers had the same training advantages as today's players that they would be as good. But they weren't as good. Not even close. Take a lousy player of today, Joe McEwing will do just fine. Transport him to 1925 as is. I guarantee that he bats .400. You've seen the film of the oldtimers. Next time look at the pitchers. They were mostly chubby guys lobbing the ball over the plate. The next time a nostalgic buffoon tells you that expansion has diluted the talent pool, punch him in the stomach. Hard. In 1930 the talent pool was white Americans. Today the talent pool is everybody in the world. It's called math.

The winter meeting start this week . . .Let's hope Omar brings home the bacon. Magglio, a slugging first baseman, and a pitcher.