Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Baseball Grab Bag

Or should I say, baseball copout/mail-it-in post. I'm having a little trouble finding full, intact awful articles right now. That doesn't mean there aren't snippets of dumbassery and wrongness floating around though.

Tuesday on Baseball Tonight, after the cast finishes watching highlights of the Royals' 9-3 dismantling of the Indians-

John Kruk: Can I change my pick to win the AL Cental?
Karl Ravech: Did... did you have the Indians?
Kruk: Yeah. I need to change that.
Karl: Wow, John, that was pretty ballsy of you. (See what he did there?)

OK, Karl didn't really say that last one. That would just be mean. But the first three lines are legit. Really, Kruk? The Indians? I mean, I understand the division doesn't have a clear favorite. But you might not want to go with the team that limped to a .500 finish last year even after getting an unbelievable, certainly unrepeatable performance out of a random usually-crappy pitcher. You might also want to pick a team which can actually play defense, and which has a decent bullpen. Just my thoughts.

Earlier tonight, during a discussion about Jackie Robinson's career and accomplishments, the usually-reliable Ravech talked about how Robinson died tragically in a plane crash. No, Karl, pretty much any decent baseball fan knows that was Roberto Clemente. Close, though. (He corrected himself after a commercial break just a few minutes later.)

This is extremely old, but since this is a lazy post, I might as well reach all the way back to the weekend. During Sunday Night Baseball everyone's favorite quasi-racist analyst, Joe Morgan (has he mentioned what an undeserved raw deal Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield get from the media recently?) was praising Alfonso Soriano for Soriano's ability to hit home runs. At some point the following tumbled out of his confused mouth:

I mean, even though he's in the leadoff spot, I like his power. He led off the game with a solo home run tonight. That's a run, right there!

That is correct. Good.

I mean, I would rather have that than a run-scoring single when a guy is on second base.

Well, in one case you get a run and the bases are empty. In the other you get a run AND you get another guy on base. So I can totally see why you'd prefer the former. Obviously, Joe's brain is too small to think through and compare those two scenarios. I guess what he was trying to say is that he likes home runs. Can't disagree there! Someone give Joe an ice cream or a box of popcorn or a shiny thing to keep him busy for a while.

Our favorite ESPN grit-loving analyst, one Jerry E. Crasnick (the "E" stands for Eckstein, his favorite player of all time) has a new article out about guys you've never heard of who had to scrimp and scrap and grit their way onto major league rosters. Jerry has a little bit of TMQ in him in that regard. Who gives a shit about good players? I want to hear more about shitty players who are just barely teetering on the brink of being employed as professional athletes. Here is a collection of choice snippets from that article.

-According to the Seattle Times, Jakubauskas sold Christmas gifts at Nordstrom and worked for a cement company to pay the bills while playing independent ball. Judging from his performance in the Cactus League, his department store clerking days are history.

Someone get Rick Reilly on this story. This guy doesn't know the meaning of the word "quit!" Except when it comes to quitting his cement company job. Or maybe he's still holding that down to make a couple bucks on the side, who knows?

-"My legs were shaking a little bit," he told Tom Krasovic of The San Diego Union Tribune.

That's what Albert Pujols said, referring to when he- oh wait, no, Albert Pujols has never said that. Only guys who know full well that they shouldn't be in the bigs say this kind of stuff.

-He violated minor league baseball's drug policy with Triple-A Buffalo, and achieved a degree of notoriety as a Rochester Red Wing when he lost a 50-yard match race with that lovable thoroughbred loser, Zippy Chippy.

More fodder for Reilly.

-"He called his dad and his wife, and I had to get away from him because it looked like he was close to tears," manager Dusty Baker told the Dayton Daily News.

How'd this get into the article? Crying isn't gritty.

-He struggled with the elements and had a rough outing defensively in center field. But he went 3-for-9 at the plate in his first five games in Cincinnati, and he's still hanging around.

Not for much longer, because he (I don't care who it is, if he's featured in a Crasnick article he probably sucks) probably sucks.

-It appeared his playing days were over in October 2007 when he severed the thumb and three fingers on his throwing hand in a table saw accident while making a window frame in his garage. A hand specialist reattached the four digits, but not without complications: There was a difference of opinion when Hill insisted he would be ready to play by spring training of 2008, and the doctor tempered his euphoria with some distressing news. "Right before surgery, the doctor told him the tendons near his pinkie finger might be a problem and delay his return," said Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. "So Koyie told him, 'If you get in there and that's an issue, just cut the pinkie off. I can play without it.' True story."

His pain threshold is also off the charts.

He should be well suited for MMA fighting then. Oh, what's that? He's a baseball player? Hmm, that probably won't do much for him.

-In eight big league seasons, Miller has established himself as a walking Jayson Stark blog item for his ineptitude with a bat. The nadir came from 2004 through 2006, when he endured a 1-for-55 funk with Cincinnati, Minnesota and Boston. For those keeping score at home, that's a batting average of .018.

For those keeping score at home, here's a guy who almost definitely has no place playing major league baseball.

-But all the starters are right-handed and he's a lefty, so manager Ken Macha should find a way to work him in here and there.

Ah, the essence of the subjects of this article- their ceiling is to play occasionally, possibly because of a lineup idosyncracy.

Finally, I thought this was pretty hilarious. Jayson Stark writes a somewhat entertaining column throughout the baseball season called "Useless Information." It's a collection of just that, all kinds of weird stats and factoids (based on events that happened in games during the previous week or so) you'd never know how to find on your own. So naturally this week, re: the Dodgers' Orlando Hudson, and the cycle he recently hit for by the 6th inning:

But the only cyclist we know of who completed his cycle any faster than that was Gregg Jefferies, who went cycling by the fifth inning on Aug. 25, 1995. (Andy Van Slyke's great quip after that game: "He could have done it twice. He could have had the bi-cycle.")

But here's our question: Was Jefferies the quickest cyclist in history? If you can help, let us know at

Dude. You're the one writing the column, who presumably has access to a stats department and at least a couple of interns. I'm going to leave this one to you.

And of course, watch me look like an ass when next week's column features twelve diligent readers who did the research and wrote in to help Jayson out with his question.

OK, that's all for now, I'll be less lazy next time! Maybe! I hate to beg for tips, but if you've got 'em, send 'em. Also, if anyone knows where the other guys who write for this blog are, let them know that I could use a hand around here every fucking other week or so.


Slade said...

All fairness, the Indians were a little unlucky last year (their Pythagorean W-L was 85-77), they bolstered one of their clear weaknesses by replacing Joe Borowski with Kerry Wood, and went 40-28 after the All-Star break, much better than the Twins' and the White Sox's 35-33 mark. Most did figure that Cliff Lee would not be nearly as good as last year, but many (myself included) figured at least Fausto Carmona would.

It's still early, but boy do I look dumb right now.

Elliot said...

Rockies in October

Andy said...

Why must you constantly remind my how bad my favorite baseball team is? I realize they only have 2 wins right now, but they'll turn that corner.......right?

Tonus said...

"Crying isn't gritty."Those weren't tears, that was blood.

Angelo said...

Joe Morgan doesn't love home runs. Remember: he would rather have a lead-off walk than a lead-off home run. What? You're more likely to score more runs in the second case? I can't believe it.

Maybe he learned from that mistake but is now applying it incorrectly to this new scenario.

Larry B said...

Slade/Andy- My comments are a bit overstated. The Indians certainly aren't horrible. I just don't see them making their way to the top. I admit that Wood is an improvement, but one fragile closer does not a bullpen make. And that infield D... woof. And yes, if Carmona doesn't get his act together, you guys are fucked. (And that's assuming Hafner and Martinez are healthy and hitting.)

Gelo- Yes, he's really not usually a home run guy. Maybe he's turning over a new leaf. Or maybe he's just slipping further into dementia.

Anonymous said...

I'm not one to agree with John Kruk, but making fun of the Indians pick is just ignorant. PECOTA and several (most) models had them winning the Central this season.

Angelo said...

we're only 10 games in, so it's tough to say any call is a bad call right now (unless you picked Washington to win the NL East)

But assuming the Indians continue to struggle, why is it ignorant to make fun of that pick? If it's wrong, it's wrong, whether PECOTA and other models picked it or not.

Results matter, not predictions.

Martin said...

PECTOA and several others picked them to win, which I and several others questioned openly on a couple blogs. Apparently they were predicting another outstanding season for Lee and Carmona returning to 2007 form or something. Two guys who each had one great season are not the basis for a statisitical prediction one would think, because other then the fact the Central appears overall mediocre, we couldn't see any reason why the Indians were such an over the top pick this year. They just aren't that good.

And Larry, Jarret retired, that's where all your help went. That and they are still in mourning over the Ombudswomans retirement.

larry b said...

Martin- My girl Le Anne! Come back!

Anonymous- I am a "serious" baseball fan with a firm understanding of sabermetrics and a hatred for the Joe Morgans of the world. That said, nothing infuriates me more than preseason projections of PECOTA's ilk. They are, IMO, completely useless, and less than completely useless when being used to call an "up for grabs" division like the AL Central. I'm not being "ignorant," I'm stating an opinion which I've considered carefully.

Andy said...

I actually don't think the Indians are terrible, either. They certainly aren't good though.

I was happy to see Lee be lucky enough to only give up one run today. And I'm praying for an absolutely lights out performance from Carl Pavano on Saturday...just so some Yankee fans' heads explode in fits of rage.

Cornelius Talmidge said...

The Indians were a stupid pick. The reason? John Danks.

Jeff said...

Angelo - I think that was McCarver who was surprised that a leadoff homer lead to a multi-run inning more frequently than a leadoff walk. I'm assuming that's what you're referring to.

On a separate note, why the fuck did I just have to endure 5 minutes of Eric Young and Orestes Destrada showing me baseball drills on Baseball tonight? I and others don't watch the show to see ex-mediocre big leaguers show me how to practice baseball.

Slade said...

For the record, I'm not an Indians fan. I root for the OTHER AL Central team that was considered to be a lock for one of the top-2 spots and who has started 4-7 so far and has looked absolutely terrible in doing so, los Twinkies.

Angelo said...

jeff- yeah, that was what I was referring to. I thought it was joe morgan, but I can easily see that tim mccarver could have said it too. I stand corrected.

pnoles said...

Larry, the Indians are absolutely not a ridiculous pick to win the AL Central. I was debating between them and the Twins. Consider the following.

1) The AL Central is crappy. You really think the Twins with that offense, the Tigers with that pitching, the White Sox with that essence of "meh" surrounding every part of their team, or the Royals without one plus offensive player at any position are THAT much better?
2) The Indians are not a bad defensive team. They were around league-average in Defensive Efficiency last year. Although they lost their best defensive player, Franklin Gutierrez, Choo isn't bad either, and a little shuffling of their infielders would make them a very good defensive team.
3) The Indians DO have a decent bullpen. Wood, Betancourt, Perez, and Lewis are the definition of "decent" in the back end of the bullpen, regardless of Betancourt's down 2008 or whatever's happened in the first week of the season.
4) Although a little dependent on a Hafner bounceback, the Indians' offense is respectable to say the least.

It'll take MAAAAAYBE 85 wins to take this division. Are you really going to slam Kruk for thinking that's very possible for the Indians?

Chris W said...

I would. I love that the Indians are the popular pick. Any shortcomings you can (and you personally HAVE) ascribed to the, for instance, White Sox can be doubly attributed to the Indians.

Lousy rotation full of more holes than swiss cheese? Check.

Lineup full of aging, unreliable sluggers and question-marks at key positions? Check.

The Indians pick becoming the popular one is, imo, examples of groupthink and over-reliance on PECOTA personified.

Was it dumb of Kruk to pick the Indians? Well, not especially. No dumber than Neyer, Sheehan, SI, etc. etc. etc. But it's a dumb pick. Kind of like how the Lions have been picked to win the NFC North the last three years because of Jon Kitna, Calvin Johnson, "it being a weak division" etc. etc.

Twins is the smart money. And the Royals for a sleeper. I don't see the Cleveland "Sizemore and 24 others" as anything but a threat for second place.

Chris W said...

I mean, let's take a look at all the things you PRAISED the Indians for.

1.) The division is weak so they have a chance? Well the division is weak, in part, because a lousy team like the Indians plays in it.

2.) The Indians are not a bad defensive team? Well, no. But guess what: Every team in this division is "right around average" in terms of defense. With the possible exception of the Tigers. Also "being a tolerable defensive team" is a pretty poor recommendation.

3.) The back end of the Indians's bullpen is good? Um. Maybe. It's certainly not BAD, but it's probably the third best in the division behind Minnesota (Nathan, Crain, and Guerrier) and Chicago (Jenks, Linebrink, Dotel, and Thornton)

4.) Their lineup is "pretty solid" whereas, say, the White Sox is full of "meh"?

Well let's see what they trotted out there yesterday:

Grady Sizemore (Stud)

Mark De Rosa (he of the career OPS+ of 97)

Victor Martinez (who hasn't been a good hitter since 2007 and is on the wrong side of 30)

Travis Hafner (whose struggles are well-documented)

Ryan Garko (in the five-spot :-|)

Shin Soo Choo (a guy with very little track record besides a good half season in 2008)

Ben Franncisco (:-\)

Tony fucking Graffanino

and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Now, to be fair, Peralta's a solid SS and everything but that's far from an intimidating lineup. Which is, you know, something you need when you have the worst rotation in the division. By far.

In fact, this lineup is essentially one plus player, a very solid offensive SS, and a bunch of "we need them to return to form or develop as prospects". Which is fine. But it's hard to expect a lineup like that to win games for a shit pitching staff.

So let's sum up: The Indians' lineup is probably #1 or #2 in the Central. Maybe. But certainly not significantly better than the White Sox or Tigers's.

Their starting pitching is probably the worst in the division. You might be able to argue that the Tigers' or Royals' is worse, but that's not pleasant company. And the Royals have Meche and Greinke.

Their bullpen is among the best in the division, but certainly no better than the White Sox or the Twins.

And this is the consensus pick to win the division? Blugh.

Larry B said...

My thinking in a very simplified nutshell (because I only have 30 seconds to write this):

Net effect of Cleveland's moves since April 2008: probably slightly negative. DeRosa + Wood < Half season of Sabathia + Half season of Blake

Likely effect on 2009, based on progression/regression of 2008 stats: very negative. Lee's regression >>>> Any other factor here.

They won 81 last year, pythag 85. They probably have a net effect from factors above of 3 or 4 fewer wins. Even if it only takes 85 to win the division, it's not happening for them. Period.

But... but... but PECOTA said-!

I don't care. Essentially useless. Look at it, historically:

I'm unconvinced that a monkey throwing darts at a piece of paper with the logo of all 30 teams on it couldn't do better. (Mild exaggeration.)

pnoles said...

Larry, I am not basing my thinking on PECOTA. I'll be the first to tell you that they fucked up the AL Central hardcore this year. I already told you, the Twins were my pick to win the divison.

I just don't think it's out of line to think the Indians will do it. The way you reacted, you acted like he picked the Tigers or something. Kerry Wood was a very, VERY necessary addition. No, he doesn't directly replace half a season of Sabathia or anything, but another thing to consider is, no matter how high Cliff Lee was above his career norm last year, the Indians underperformed a season ago. They weren't healthy the entire year. They were under their pythag. Their bullpen was infinitely worse than expected, and much worse than it will be this year. Hafner and Martinez may be in decline, but their contributions will be much greater this year than last. This isn't a great team, but it's definitely good enough to win a division where 2 teams have no offense, 1 team has no pitching, and the other team trotted out DeWayne Wise as the starting CF and leadoff hitter.

Chris W said...

I'll take the two teams with adequate starting pitching (Twins and perhaps the White Sox) or the team with two stud frontline starters (Royals) over the team with absolutely no one who gives a baseball fan any reason to think they are solid, reliable pitchers (Jndjans)

But time will tell

Larry B said...

They scored 20 runs today- I take it back, I take it all back!

Jason B said...

Jesus Lord almighty. Everyone to their corners.

The Indians look like a .500ish team (much like a lotta other teams in the AL Central), so they're about as likely to win 85 as 75. Win 85, you've got a good shot at winning a thoroughly mediocre division. Win 75, you've got a good shot at being in the cellar. I don't think anyone is really disagreeing on any of this, no?

It's not a laughable pick by any means. Overly-trendy, perhaps. But perfectly sane people could pick 'em for other reasons than following the PECOTA-worshippers.

*Hops offa soapbox*

Larry B said...

Your calm and reasonable attitude is not welcome here, Jason. All comments must contain excessive hyperbole and at least one drastically overstated opinion.

Jason B said...

My humblest apologies, good sir.



(I feel right at home now!)