Baseball history, analysis, and commentary from John J Perricone; born in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Oh, and Barry Bonds. Lots of Barry Bonds.

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Only Baseball Matters

First visit? Drop me an email @ John J Perricone, or pin my Guest Map.

.... Travelling man

I'll be away for most of the next week or so, so take advantage of my absence and spend some time with your families ;-) Or, bang away at all of my links there in the left, pin my guest map, or send me an email telling me how much you miss me.

Comment on this   [10]  »  February 28, 2003

.... Stats that matter

I finally found the expected runs scored tables I was using (from memory, mind you), when I ran those stolen base diatribes earlier this week. Thanks to John Bonnes for directing me to the correct Baseball Prospectus article, and thansk to BP for publishing the data.

In The Hidden Game of Baseball, Pete Palmer and John Thorn did a study of potential runs for two dozen base-out situations. They analyzed a team's potential for run scoring, given the number of baserunners relative to outs in an inning. The study was published in the early 1980s, so it's not the freshest research, but it was based on more than 75 years' worth of data. Using the years 1961 to 1977 to represent the modern age, this is the probability chart they generated:

0 outs1 out2 outs
Bases empty.454.249.095

Runner on 1st.783.478.209

Runner on 2nd1.068.699.348

Runner on 3rd1.277.897.382

Runners on 1st & 2nd1.380.888.457

Runners on 1st & 3rd1.6391.088.494

Runners on 2nd & 3rd1.9461.371.661

Bases loaded2.2541.546.798

OK, that's a nice looking table there. Looking at the expected runs scoring table, we can see that the cost of failing to steal second succesfully is more than half a run, while the advantage gained by stealing second succesfully is less than a third. Meaning, you better steal at a high rate of succes if you're gonna do it a lot. Bam!

We'll do more with this bad boy later.

Comment on this   [8]  »  February 28, 2003

.... Hall of Fame

So, the newly configured Hall of Fame Veterans Committee, which failed to come up with any new inductees earlier this week. Ray Ratto, Rob Neyer, Jayson Stark and Dave Anderson all seem to feel that the new system works just fine. Me?

I don't know. Seems like Neyer puts it best when he says that most of the players who should be in are in, with the exception of a handful of marginal candidates. Is it really neccessary to have 81 guys go over the list of players who have been gone over for at least fifteen years already? For that matter, can 61 guys out of 81 agree on any candidate? That seems like a longshot, again, given that most of the candidates we are talking about are marginal. Like Roger Maris.

Roger Maris' friend was just in the paper saying how disappointed he was that Maris didn't make it this time. I mean, come on. Maris is not a Hall of Famer, regardless of 61 home runs. Look at these numbers:



Now, I know Mattingly played more games, but I also know that I am in the minority in holding Donnie Baseball up as a Hall of Fame candidate. Maris isn't even in the same league as Mattingly, 'nuff said.

Comment on this   [1]  »  February 28, 2003

.... Well said

Mike Carminati has a take on the ephedra issue in today's Baseball Rants. It's worth your time, because he spells out all of the ambiguities so clearly. Here's a taste:

.... again, it’s not so simple an issue as the media portrays it, but negotiations are never about easy solutions. For a union that had once seemed morally and intellectually superior to the owners in the woebegone days of Marvin Miller, they have apparently lost the capacity to lose some battles to win the war—something for which Miller was famous. They don't seem to remember what the war is and have lost sight of it as each new issue appears. After being fleeced by the owners in the last negotiations, the union now looks more disorganized and misdirected than the Democratic party.

The "war" for the players' union is to get the best working and living conditions for its constituency, the players. That means ensuring that they receive salaries commensurate with their talents, that they have a healthy working environment, and that they don't die from over-the-counter drugs. When the union treats a drug-related death like a complaint about player accommodations or lost per-diem checks, it is not doing its players a favor. So, Donald Fehr, take the required time to make a decision, but when you make it, be certain it is the right one. Otherwise, you may not be making decisions for the players for much longer.

I know that's a big quote, but damn, it's good.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 27, 2003

.... Quickies

The Betting Fool is pissed. Some great rants this morning. Here's a few highlights:

When you hear Chris Townsend's smarmy, frat boy voice on KNBR 680, don't you just wanna pop him right in the kisser? Must be me.

Felipe Alou and Dusty Baker? You guessed it, different. Did you know that Dusty has moved past his IRS problems? You do now.

Jeff Kent said bad things about the Giants and likes his new team better. Jeff Kent has the IQ of a golf ball. Have fun in horrid Houston, nimrod.

Hear hear. And that link to Townsend is an email. Tell him if you think the Fool is right.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 27, 2003

.... Two fat guys

Here's some NY info. In this article, we hear how Joe Torre and David Wells met to discuss the pitchers comments about ephedra, and his own use. Here's the punchline:

"He seems to have a grip on it as far as what he knows he can do,'' Torre said. "That's all you ask for. Just as long as you know what you're doing.'' Bechler died Monday, a day after collapsing at spring training with heatstroke. While ephedra is banned by the NFL, the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee, use of the substance, which is available without prescription, is allowed in baseball. Torre said it's hard to tell someone not to do something when you can go into a drug store and buy it. "He just told me it's something that he does from time to time,'' Torre said.

So, basically, Wells told Torre to blow it out his ass, and mind his own business. And that's pretty much where anybody can stand on the issue anyway. The product is still legal in the United States. Not to be insensitive, but people die from all kinds of things everyday. They die from squirting lighter fluid on an already lit fire, they die from working in the garage with the car running, they die from taking too many of one kind of pill or too few of another, or drinking or driving. Banning this that or the other thing won't prevent deaths. It won't. Death is part of life. If Wells wants to risk his life for whatever reason he feels is important enough to do so, who should be able to tell him he can't? Just wondering....

The other fat guy is Mo Vaughn, who apparently has been hanging out with Jared from Subway. Anyway, Vaughn is on a mission to get his weight under control for the 2003 season, in an effort to return to the glory days. Here's Vaughn's last four seasons, (you know what the numbers are):

1998 .337/.402/.591 .993 OPS

1999 .281/.358/.508 .866 OPS

2000 .272/.365/.498 .863 OPS

2002 .259/.349/.456 .805 OPS

That, my friends, is the decline phase of a players career. On the one hand, he is still better than league average, but not by much. Lee Sinins has him with 8 Runs Created Above Average last season. That's more than JT Snow, but it still is nowhere near his peak of 50-plus for three years in a row. He's got a lot of work to do to resucitate his career.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 26, 2003

.... News and notes

Continuing on our lineup string, read this and this, two short and sweet articles on the first lineup combinations of the spring for Alou. He says that he might consider Aurilia third after Durham and Cruz. Interesting thought, you'd like to see somebody get the huge advantage hitting in front of Bonds who can really crank it up, I guess Aurilia is as good a bet to do so as Cruz, at least based on performance if not hype. Also included in both pieces were comments on JT Snow's work with new hitting coach Jim Lefebvre. If all he does is get JT to hit .270/340/470, Lefebvre will be getting rave reviews from OBM:

San Francisco Giants hitting coach Joe Lefebvre has been working with first baseman JT Snow on his swing, and there's been a noticeable difference. "He's really swinging the bat well," said Giants manager Felipe Alou. "His ball has more carry; truer flight off the bat." Lefebvre suggested that Snow shorten his swing to generate more bat speed. "It's only been a couple of days but it feels good so far," Snow said. "With the shorter swing it gives me more time to see the ball and my hands can work better. There's always something you can work on."

Snow has hit 14 homers with 87 RBIs in the last two years combined for the Giants, following a season in which he hit 19 homers and drove in 96 runs. Snow did rebound with a big postseason in which he hit .333 with three home runs and nine RBIs. He was the only Giant to hit safely in all seven World Series games.

First of all, what the hell does Alou know about Snow's ball carrying or not, or how his swing looks good? And second, anything is better than his last two seasons, so kudos to Lefebvre for anything positive he accomplishes with the Outman.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 26, 2003

.... Doh!

You know, I just discovered that I do not have a link to the incomparable Baseball Primer. I am an idiot, I really am, because I have been going there forever, but I have been using the Don Malcom link to get into their site. Anyway, Baseball Primer is up now, right there in Everyday Links.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 26, 2003

.... Baseball been Barry Barry good to me

As a follow up to my earlier post on the Giants lineup question, I'd like to also add that in addition to the guaranteed first inning plate appearance Barry will have by dint of batting third in the lineup, you also have the added bonus of several plate appearances at the end of the game. It's impossible to figure out exactly how many appearances we're talking about, but it could be as many as, say, twenty.

I don't know all the answers here, but I know that teams have had their best hitters third in the lineup for a long time, unless they have two players so evenly matched (Ruth and Gehrig, Gehrig and DiMaggio) as the best on the team that it's essentially a toss up. Did it really matter to Kent that he was switched to third in front of the big guy? I don't think so. I mentioned at the time that Kent had been surging at the plate for almost a month prior to the switch, (information that is fairly easy to get your hands on, by the way), but that hasn't stopped countless writers and broadcasters from repeating over and over that the move helped Kent get his swing back.

Actually, countless writers have told us that "protection" in a lineup matters for so long that no one realizes that it's never been proven to do so. It's sort of like clutch hitting. Whenever we see a guy have repeat success in a tough spot, everyone starts in about what a clutch hitter he is. But virtually all attempts to substantiate clutch ability come up empty. The reason these types of things are so hard to quantify is because hitting baseball safely is so complex, all of the elements of succesful offense or defense are tremendously difficult to predict accurately, because they are made up of so many interlocking elements.

I guess I'm rambling here a bit, so let me get back to my point. The first inning is an important scoring inning. Not to the detriment of every other inning, but no matter how you look at it, even just a one-run lead makes a difference. Barry Bonds is being pitched to as no other hitter in baseball history. Were I manager, he would get to the plate in the first inning, every game. It's the only time in the game when I have the chance to build the inning exactly the way I want, so I would build it with him guaranteed to be a part of it.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 26, 2003

.... Friends

By the way, did anyone notice that I am listed third among the Hall of Fame site over at Aaron's Baseball Blog? I think I'm blushing. Thanks Aaron, you certainly are in mine.

Meanwhile, over at Bronx Banter, I found a link to a guy who refers to himself as the Old Professor, running something called The Pinstripe Bible. Yummy.

Oh, I almost forgot. To my reader and friend who sent me the Dave Matthews CD's, thanks, they are awesome, and I have lost your email (sorry, I am an idiot), so send me another.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 25, 2003

.... Read and learn

I just finished reading my advance copy of Lee Sinins Player Comments Book 2003, which you can get at his Baseball Encyclopedia site.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lee's work, he's a sabermetrician, his roots trace back to Bill James and Rob Neyer, and he primarily relies on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS, as well as Runs Created (RC), Runs Created Above Average (RCAA) to evaluate hitters, and Runs Saved (RS), and Runs Saved Above Average (RSAA) for pitchers. One of the things that stand out in his work is that by ignoring the standard counting stats, he is able to focus on how a player was or wasn't productive in a new and fresh way.

He does a terrific job of telling us something interesting, important, obvious or hidden about just about every player in the majors, and he holds nothing back. He looks closely at Alfonso Soriano's "historic" 2002 season, reminds us what an awesome player Carlos Delgado is (regardless of his monster contract), looks into whether or not the 4 year, $39 million dollar contract the Yankees gave Mariano Rivera was the right move.... well, it's a great book, really.

Those of you already getting his ATM Reports know what I'm talking about. As I said before, if you're gonna pay for something, it'd better be something you can't get for free. This is one of those things. It's a great book to have sitting next to you when you're watching a game, and it's small enough and easy enough to use that it'll be the definitive answer to any argument.

That's my two cents.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 25, 2003

.... Changes

I had planned on attending one of the Baseball Prospectus Pizza Feed's tonight in Sacramento, but I am on the front end of a very nasty flu/cold/pnuemonia/bubonic plague deal, so I have decided to protect all of my friends and stay in bed.

In the meantime, I was pondering the batting order/Bonds conundrum we were discussing yesterday, and I ran some Simple Simon numbers for all of us to consider. Here's what I was thinking. First of all, the only time a batting order really matters is in the first inning, as it is the only time during a game when you get to determine who bats in what order. So, essentially, the batting order comes down to a 162 first inning experiment. However, since it has been shown that scoring first correlates with winning a higher percentage of your games, it is an extra important inning, so perhaps it's twice as valuable as any other inning.

How do we determine what percentage of the time your order should be succesful? Well, I am a dunderhead, so I did some dunderhead calculations, using the following as my premise: Durham, Aurilia and Cruz all will be held to be able to reach base approximately 35% of the time they go to the plate. So, if you run that out in reverse, looking at out-making percentages, you would see that 65%x65%x65%=28%. That means that 28% if the time, or 45 games or so, Bonds will not bat in the first inning at all. The inverse should be that something like 72% of the time, he will come to the plate with at least one man on in the first inning, or 117 times, (4% of the time, or 6 or 7 times, he would come to the plate with the bases loaded). These are rough calculations, but I'd say that on first glance they look OK. So, with Bonds batting fourth rather than third, you trade 45 first inning appearances for 117 or so men on base opportunities. What about when he bats third?

Well, using the same simple numbers, you get 65%x65%=42%. 42% of the time, or 68 games or so, Bonds should bat in the first inning with 2 outs and nobody on. The converse would be the 94 games or so he'll come to the plate with at least one runner on.

So, with Bonds batting third, you are guaranteed 162 at bats in the first inning, 162 times when your absolute best hitter comes to the plate in the first inning, the most important scoring inning of the game, including approximately 90 times when he'll bat with men on base in that first inning. With him in the cleanup slot, you're looking at 45 games or so when he will miss the first inning completely.

Batting 3rd 94 games with at least one man on in the first inning, 162 games batting in the first inning

Batting 4th 117 games with at least one man on in the first inning, 117 games batting in the first inning

I'd much prefer the extra 45 first inning appearances to the 25 or so more chances of batting with a man on. If he bats .350 with men on base this season, you're talking about an advantage of perhaps 8 or 10 runs batted in traded for the 23 times out of 45 appearances he should reach base in the first inning, the most vital scoring inning of the game. Looking further, he hit a home run 11% of the time last season, so that's 4 or 5 runs right there. That doesn't seem worth it, does it? Anybody want to take a stab at telling me how stupid I am?

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 24, 2003

.... The Great Train Robbery

Alou and Bonds are agreed that Barry will hit cleanup. And JT Snow is apparently engaged in contract extension talks with the club. Ugh.

Meanwhile, Alou continues to express his desire to add the stolen base to the Giants day to day strategy. I've read more than a couple of writers debating the value of the stolen base, and it really seems to boil down to one thing, success. In other words, you should never trade a base for a possible base, since the hardest part of scoring has already been accomplished once you reach first. Without getting into a long and detailed statistical analysis, (I will stand on the shoulders of those who have come before me; Bill James, The BP guys, Pete Palmer, among others) and state that it is fairly well established that a man on first and no outs is worth more than a single run, and not worth a whole lot more than a man on second and no outs. In other words, the man on first is likely to score given the odds that the players behind him can hit a sacrifice, or a hit, or an extra base hit; but more importantly, the man on first with no outs increases the odds that someone else behind him can also score, for a variety of reasons, the whole between first and second, the pitcher pitching from the stretch, etc..

The risk of turning a man on, no out situation into a no one on, one out situation is indefensible over the long haul. Simply, you must steal bases at or near an 80% success rate for it to be worth it, except in the rare situation when you are down to your last at bat or inning needing a single run to tie or win a game. So, indiscriminate base stealing will hurt more than it will help. However, if Durham can get on base and steal second 80% of the time, with Bonds hitting fourth, perhaps it will be a help. I guess that woulld mean we'd see a Durham, Aurilia, Cruz one through three... Well, we'll see. I am not in favor of the stealing or the Bonds batting cleanup, but I'm willing to be wrong.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 23, 2003

.... New and improved

I found a new blog, (new for me anyway) called Braves Beat while bouncing around at David Pinto's Musings. They're headlining More Baseball on the left. Wow. You gotta see their site. Talk about having it all. Great stuff. I'm gonna send them an email, and if they want, I'll do a guest piece on their new pitcher, Russ Ortiz. I'll let you know what they say.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 22, 2003

.... Washington Blues

Thomas Boswell writes about some of obstacles Washington faces in their efforts to build a ballpark and land the soon to be relocating Montreal Expos. Mostly, he's writing about the costs borne by the public, through taxes, wherever a ballpark is built:

To build a new park, you borrow money. Say $400 million. It's similar to buying a home. You don't pay it off in a lump sum on the day you walk through the front door. You take a mortgage. Then you must meet the monthly payments. New ballparks are financed the same way. The issue is not "How do we come up with $400 million?" The question is "How do we create entirely new taxes -- taxes related to baseball, which would not exist unless baseball came to town -- to pay the mortgage on our new stadium?"

For example, estimates are that, to finance a new ballpark in the District, you would need $25 million to $39 million a year in new taxes to, in essence, cover the mortgage. Not existing taxes, mind you, that pay for schools and roads. But new ones.

What am I missing here? What is stopping an ownership group in DC, (or anywhere else, for that matter) from contacting Peter Magowan and asked him to go over his excellent plan to keep the Giants in San Francisco? Magowan and his group are handling their $20 million dollar debt service pretty well, wouldn't you say? And since they own the park when it is paid off, they are looking at an investment that will probably triple in value, minimum, by the time they're done paying it off. Not to mention, after ten years or so, they probably will be looking to refinance the remainder and lower their payments, especially since the value will more than likely be twice what they owe then. All of this seems obvious to me, and I know virtually nothing about buying and owning real estate.

Is it the risk that scares owners away from following the Giants lead, or is it the leadership [or lack thereof] of Bud Selig? Why even ask the taxpayers to get involved? Build it yourself, control the location, the design and the costs, and you control everything. Again, what am I missing here? Could the Giants be any more of a success story, and any more ignored?

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 22, 2003

.... Steinbrenner, again

Mike Lupica touches on some of the latest Steinbrenner crap in today's column. Lupica is the guy who started calling him General von Steingrabber, back when he was benching the great Don Mattingly for having his hair too long, or asking the gambler and felon Howie Spira to investigate whether Dave Winfield was really putting all of that money into his foundation.

Basically, Lupica is reminding us that Steinbrenner, who likes to say he's a bad loser, is also a bad winner. He is a greedy, arrogant, pushy and mean Boss, and he is essentially clueless and classless. There was a time when I swore off the Yankees simply because of him, and it took the wall to wall class of Jeter and Torre and O'Neill and the rest of that 1996 World Series team to win me back. But now that Steinbrenner's team isn't winning everything every year, he's back to the same old crap. He goes after Torre, who doesn't blink. And then he goes after Jeter, who is just a winner in every sense of the word, a player and a person the likes of which hasn't been seen since DiMaggio.

Steinbrenner shows us, [every time he opens his mouth], that he has no idea what he's talking about, no idea how lucky he's been these last seven years since Jeter arrived, and reminds us that being a good guy has nothing to do with success.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 22, 2003

.... Lawyers, drugs and money

On the heels of Steve Bechler's ephedra-related death, Selig plans to meet with the Players Association to discuss a possible ban of the supplement. OK, good idea, but what about the FDA. The Food and Drug Association absolutely has to get involved, as pointed out by Jayson Stark. Sports supplements are a billion dollar industry, and they are able to escape any real scrutiny under the current FDA regulations. So, while a ban of ephedra is a terrific idea, advertisements showing athletes benefiting from using any of these types of products will always hold sway in the court of public opinion. As long as it is legal to buy it, people will always rationalize their own situation, much like David Wells does here.

Actually, whether or not it is legal, people will rationalize, depending on their needs and desires. One of the breakdowns in America's 'War on Drugs' is that Washington has failed to argue convincingly that drugs are so terrible, that they are responsible for all of the things they say they are. Coincidentally, they have made it next to impossible to legitimately study the effects of any illicit substances scientifically. So, they rely on hyperbole, with their insulting drug money fuels terrorism ads, stupid campaigns to convince us that marijuana creates murderers and the like; and so to any informed individuals, they render all of their positions moot.

I'd hate to see that happen in the case of these supplements, but a ban is almost always the first step. And the bottom line is and always will be results. If people tell each other that they have used and gotten improvements from something, people will find it and use it. People are using ephedra today because somebody out there is using it and getting better or stronger or faster or leaner or whatever. The product must have some level of effectiveness to account for its popularity. Scientific study, independent and without connections to the companies that produce the product, could help create a greater sense of understanding as to how or why it works. Maybe the end result is the same for most of us, but at least we'd have more information, and information is good.

.... Giants among men

As I worried back in this post, Neifi Perez still thinks he's a starter, (he's not) and part of it is Sabean's fault, because the deal he gave the absolute zero is pretty much a starter's deal. Now he's a "delicate' issue for Alou. Terrific.

Perez is not moping, but he is here under different circumstances than he envisioned.

"I'm a conservative guy. I don't want to say anything about it," he said. "Let's see what happens. There's a long way to go. I signed here because I thought I was going to play second base. But let's see what happens in spring training."

On the one hand, I'm not too concerned, he hasn't hit his weight in three years, (forget about his batting average, his on base percentage was in the .200's over his last 1700 at bats!), so he's not likely to do anything that might force Alou's hand during the spring. On the other hand, the Giants once again have a player who, partly because of the money they are throwing at him, thinks he's better than he really is. The manager's job is unnecessarily complicated by bullshit like this, but that's apparently OK, because Perez is a 'ballplayer,' and we all know how important that is. Jeez, even Perez deserves to have the right attitude, and wanting to start is the right attitude (i.e. Shawon Dunston). Blah blah blah.The right application of the talent at hand is Alou's job anyway, so Felipe, welcome to San Francisco.

In the same article, Sabean addresses the sour grapes heard from Jeff Kent recently.

"God bless him. The pressure's on him," Sabean said. "Obviously he's not a Giants fan anymore. I wouldn't expect him to be. I don't care what Jeff Kent says. Jeff Kent is long lost."

Here's where Sabean's at his best, dealing with the media. He really does a fantastic job handling the pressure, controlling the flow of info, and he never seems to start the arguments and back-biting. He sure gets the last word a lot, though.

And apparently, Joe Nathan is reminding everyone what a nasty SOB he was before surgery in 2001. Here's one Giants fan who hopes he makes it all the way back.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 22, 2003

.... Dear Mr. Fantasy

For those of you who will be in a fantasy league this season, (I will not), check out the newly redesigned @ the Ballpark, run by my friend Chris Hartjes. Yummy.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 21, 2003

.... Will Carroll

For those of you wondering how to make the jump from being a hobby blogger to a paid sportswriter, you should follow the example set by the spectacularly well-informed and intelligent Will Carroll. His latest work, an extensive review of the Baltimore Oriole's Steve Bechler heatstroke death, is, quite frankly, astounding. In the world of sports writing, it should be considered ground-breaking, in both it's scope and clarity. Rarely will you read something so well-written in any major publication, in sports, with writers like Rick Reilly polluting the page, it's virtually unheard of. Kudos to Will, and to the Baseball Prospectus team for their commitment to such excellent work.

I have said it before, so many of you know this, but I feel that being informed is one of the most important things we can do as people. Intelligent discourse is so integral to growth and learning, and how can you do that if you don't know what you are talking about? Will has taken the challenge of learning about sports medicine, injury reports, team health practices and all of the related issues, and melded it all with his ability to communicate so eloquently. Terrific stuff, and good for us.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 21, 2003

.... Thanks

.... to my good friend David Pinto. Since being featured in his inaugural Blogad, I have seen my readership increase by a full 25%, almost immediately. Any of you out there who are looking to do the same, get in touch with David asap. By the way, David gets close to 500 hits a day, on merit.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 21, 2003

.... Minute Maid Moron

In this SF Chronicle article, Jeff Kent says he's confused by some of the moves made by the Giants, and that he feels the Astros have a better chance of making the World Series than the Giants do. Right. The only part he's right about is him being confused. This is the guy who thinks he is in the same class of hitter as Bonds.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 21, 2003

.... emails and details

Our good friend Travis Nelson sent the following hilarious email:

Hi John, I see I'm batting tenth these days, which I guess is fair, if I'm only gonna post something every three weeks. I'm trying to get back to more consistent posting. Anyway, I noticed your post about the big money that guys like JT Snow have gotten, without ever leading the majors in much of anything but appearances, and it reminded me of a Phils/Yanks game I saw in '99. Rico (Suave) Brogna came up in the first, and on the Jumbo-Tron (or whatever its called at the Vet) they announced "Rico is 6th in the major leagues with 225 At-Bats" I thought that this was pretty darn funny, that the best thing they could think of to say was "Boy, that Rico sure goes to the plate a lot, eh?" While I was pointing the humor of the situation out to my girlfriend, Rico took Andy Pettitte deep off the right field foul pole. So I stopped laughing. I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes. Thankfully, Brogna never made the money that Snow's getting, but whether it's $4.25 mil or $6 mil, still seems like a lot of scratch for someone like that.

Great stuff, Travis. You're right, even a blind squirrel won't starve. I was sitting there watching Game Six of the World Series last season, and I had hardly finished ranting and raving about Baker's inexplicable (and indefensible) decision to start Dunston over Sanders when he went yard. I seem to remember Shinjo slamming two home runs against Colorado last year, about ten minutes after I posted a raving lunatic piece about Baker's complete inability to stop him from swinging for the fences. Thanks for the email, and hey, you're still in my everyday links. ;-)

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 21, 2003

.... What else is going on

Lee Sinins has the following cemments in todays ATM Reports:

Cubs manager Dusty Baker says he might move SS Alex Gonzalez into the #2 spot in the order.

Gonzalez has a .306 career OBA, compared to his league average of .343. It's a really bad sign when -8 RCAA is a player's career best for a full season, which was Gonzalez achieved in 2002, when he also posted a .425 SLG, .312 OBA, .737 OPS in 142 games. Gonzalez has a .697 career OPS, compared to his league average of .776, and -157 RCAA in 1032 games.

These 2 stories are just more signs of the out making good, getting on base bad mentality that has inexplicably entrenched in the minds of so many of the baseball establishment.

Lee brings up a point, (albeit, confusingly) about Dusty Baker that I went back and forth about with the estimable Professor Jim Abrams, way back in September of last year, starting with this post, (keep scrolling up if you want to continue with me and the good Doctor). Basically, Baker uses stats when they suit him. When they don't, he relies on the same tired cliche's about hustle, or speed, or gumption, or a guy being a 'ballplayer'. While this was and is a pretty big weakness, at the same time, he often does it after he has come to the conclusion that whatever he is doing is his only option.

Check out Christian Ruzich if you care enough about the Cubs to learn whether that's the case here, (I don't, but I'd say it's a 50/50 proposition). All I know from Baker's time with the Giants is that he would put Shawon Dunston or Tuyoshi Shinjo at leadoff if they played instead of Lofton, regardless of the fact that under no circumstances should he have done so.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 21, 2003

.... One more time

Here's an article in the SF Chronicle on Russ Ortiz's situation in Atlanta. I think it's interesting in that it does address some of the issues we've been bouncing around, including pitch counts, possible pitching mechanic questions, and the like.

The Giants didn't publicly complain about Ortiz's high pitch counts or walk totals and were grateful he averaged 33 starts and 209 innings over four seasons, but there were whispers inside the organization about his mechanics and the possibility that he could break down. "I've never missed a start," Ortiz said. "(Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti) and the trainers said they never worried about me. (Righetti) will be the first to say that I feel just as strong in the seventh or eighth inning as I do in the first. All that stuff about breaking down and that I'll hurt my arm, I never understood it."

Apparently, Leo (Obi Wan) Mazzone has already helped him with his ability to hit the outside corner, after one workout. I'll say it again, so everyone will remember; there is at least an outside chance that Ortiz will win more games over the next three seasons than Rueter and Moss combined, regardless of injuries.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 20, 2003

.... Woody, ad infinitum

Reader Eric Chabot chimes in:

Hi John ... it's been a while since I've written, but I've remained a loyal reader.

A couple thoughts on your comments about signing Rueter to the extension and trading away Ortiz. Based on the numbers (and ages) you showed, on the surface it doesn't look like it makes a lot of sense, but I think there is another factor which you didn't highlight. Mainly, I think Russ Ortiz is a major arm injury waiting to happen.

Simply, because of his control problems, he is the anti-Woody when it comes to the number of pitches he throws each outing. Whereas Rueter can go 7 innings on 85 pitches, Russ needs that by the middle of the 5th on a consistent basis. As a result, he's thrown more pitches than almost anyone in baseball over the past two seasons. And no matter how old you are, that eventually takes a toll (see Hernandez, Livan).

Last season, Ortiz threw the 4th most pitches in the NL (3576), coming off a season in 2001 where he threw the 5th most (3519). He averaged 108.4 pitches per start in 2002, very close to his career average (107.7). By comparison, Rueter threw 3260 pitches last season, an average of 98.8 per start, and even that is way above his career average of 91.9.

Over their careers, those extra 16 pitches Russ throws every time out have to add up. And if Russ goes on the DL next season with a bum shoulder or elbow, then suddenly the decision won't look so bad. And even if Russ is healthy, the parts aren't interchangeable ... maybe the Giants could have kept Ortiz traded Rueter, but would it have landed them Damian Moss?

So, my long way of saying I think the miles on Ortiz's arm were enough of a red flag to justify Sabean trading him at this point, even if they were keeping a slightly older pitcher (Rueter) with lesser numbers.

As for your points on the Snow and Benard contracts, those are still valid. But I wouldn't be so quick to lump this signing in with those mistakes. Only time will tell ....

Great work, Eric. Pitch counts are an important indicator when making these kinds of decisions, but keep in mind the work done by the Baseball Prospectus guys, which show that pretty much all of the pitchers with high pitch counts are also the ones with the most wins and strikeouts and are usually the best pitchers in the league. The leaders in pitches per start in the NL over the last several seasons are essentially the two Arizona aces, Ortiz, Hernandez, and one or two other guys who pop in and out.

Last season, every pitcher we're discussing managed to be among the leaders in pitches per inning, Glavine, Rueter, Ortiz, Moss, Hernandez... add in Ryan Jensen and Jason Schmidt, and you have all five of the Giants starters, three of the Braves starters, three of the Diamondbacks starters, and pretty much every quality starting pitcher in the NL other than Schilling, who missed the top forty by a hair. Kerry Wood, Randy Johnson, Vincent Padilla, Matt Morris, Kevin Millwood, Hideo Nomo, Al Leiter....

That said, your point is valid. The diffference between Ortiz and Rueter per start is striking, but both of them were in the top twenty in pitches per inning, and keep in mind that Rueter has a reputation as a six inning starter. With the Giants able to trot out Worrel, Rodriguez and Nen every day, his value may be greater to them than to another team without such strong relievers.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 20, 2003

.... Woody, Part II, the emails

Many readers have already chimed in on my last piece on the Rueter versus Ortiz decision the Giants have made. Reader Jon Corcoran sums it up best:

John, your piece leaves me unconvinced on one question - Do you really believe that the Braves do the Moss deal in exchange for Reuter? If you do, then your arguments make perfect sense.

I don't think the Braves do that deal precisely because of the arguments you present: Ortiz has more upside and is arguably the better pitcher today as well. So, I guess I'm saying that you're mixing apples and oranges by linking the Ortiz trade to the Reuter resigning. If the Giants trade Reuter instead of Ortiz, I don't think they get a Moss in return. Without a Moss in return, the Giants are potentially left with one more hole to fill in the rotation. Granted, they've got a deep bench when it comes to pitching, but I think the Ortiz deal made sense when it was made on its merits. I don't see why inking Reuter changes that.

The two deals have to be seen as linked, simply because of the way the Giants have presented them, we have to cut costs, so we're trading Ortiz. Then they sign Woody to a deal that Ortiz almost certainly won't better with the Braves, or anyone else, for that matter:

Ortiz $4.4 million for 2003, 28 years old

Rueter $4.75 million for 2003, 31 years old

One of these guys got traded, the other got a contract extension. Sure, Ortiz has the better upside, HE'S THE BETTER PITCHER. Here's what Lee Sinins had to say about Kirk Rueter in today's ATM Reports:

Rueter's been all over the place in the past 5 years, ranging from a high of 3.23 ERA/13 RSAA in 2002 to a low of 5.42 ERA/-27 RSAA in 1999. The only time in his 10 year career that he put together consecutive years with a positive RSAA was a 3 year streak from 1995-97. Rueter has a 4.07 career ERA, compared to his league average of 4.31, and 2 RSAA in 260 games.

So, no, the Braves would never have traded Moss for Rueter. But if you don't trade Ortiz, you don't have the same hole to fill. So, really, I think the important question is whether the Giants got real value for Ortiz. And that question just can't be answered for at least a year or two. What do we know about Damian Moss? Well, he walks a couple of more guys than you'd like, gives up quite a few home runs, and he's young and cheap and left-handed. Can he repeat his 2002 debut season? Will he be able to harness his ability? Let's take a look at the ESPN scouting report:

2002 Season

When Greg Maddux went on the disabled list in early April, the Braves received an unexpected boost once Damian Moss stepped into the rotation. The lefthander became the first Atlanta rookie in 19 seasons to win at least 12 games, a total that tied for fourth among first-year pitchers in the National League. He allowed two earned runs or fewer in 19 of 29 starts.


Moss' emergence can be attributed to his improved command. He led the Triple-A International League in walks in 2000 and had difficulty finding the strike zone early last season. But he worked hard on spotting his high-80s fastball. Moss didn't trust his pitches early in the campaign, before several teammates convinced him that his fastball and plus changeup had enough movement, and his curveball was sharp enough, to get hitters out. Instead of trying to be too fine by painting the corners, Moss began challenging hitters. As a result, he limited opponents to a .221 average while allowing only 7.03 hits per nine innings. He throws across his body, which gives his pitches a natural cutting action. He also will throw a changeup at any time.

Defense & Hitting

Moss holds runners better than any Atlanta pitcher. He has a couple of different pickoff moves and an excellent hesitation that freezes baserunners. The lefty picked off nine runners, and only eight basestealers were successful in their attempts. Despite having good quickness around the mound, Moss is only an average fielder. His success at the plate also is no better than average.

2003 Outlook

A native of Australia, Moss had been considered a top prospect after signing as a 16-year-old in 1993. He developed slowly before undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery in 1998. He has made incredible progress since then and enters the 2003 season as a key part of Atlanta's rotation. While he must keep making adjustments, Moss has shown he has the savvy and ability to build on his rookie campaign.

Well, that doesn't make my knees go all wobbly. Reconstructive elbow surgery in '98? He's 26 now, so he took nine years to get out of the minors. High-80's fastball? From a paper standpoint, this combination of moves is really perplexing. I'd say that there is at least an outside chance that Ortiz has more wins the next three seasons than Rueter and Moss combined.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 20, 2003

.... Woody

The SF Chronicle reports that Kirk Rueter signed a two year, $12 million dollar contract extension with the Giants today. The deal calls for a $1 million dollar bonus to be paid out each of the next three seasons, and will pay 'Woody' $4 million dollars in 2004, and $5 million in 2005. Here's some of what he and the team had to say:

"I thought this was the perfect situation," said Rueter, who played for new manager Felipe Alou in Montreal. "I think this is a lot of money. I'm not out to prove to anybody what my total worth is. My family and I are very happy in San Francisco, very comfortable with all the people."

"Kirk came to us this winter to tell us that he was interested in staying with the club long term and even possibly finishing his career as a Giant," general manager Brian Sabean said. "While not attracting much attention on the national stage, he has quietly become one of the winningest pitchers in baseball, and we want to reward him for that. We're ecstatic to have Kirk with us for the foreseeable future."

As Rueter has become this consistent winner, he has frequently been referred to as Tom Glavine-lite, a pitcher who lives on the outside corner, relies on his infield, and rarely gets a lot of strikeouts. But is he really that similar to Glavine? lists Tom Browning and Schoolboy Rowe as the two most similar pitchers to Rueter, but I'd like to look at Glavine and Rueter side by side. I think that a last three seasons comparison between the two (and a secret mystery pitcher) has some merit:




Now that's an interesting comp. First of all, Rueter is Glavine-lite. He does all of the things Tom does, just not quite as well. Glavine's OPS against is .701, Rueter's is .764, and our mystery pitcher posted a sterling .696. In fact, overall, I'd say the best pitcher of the three is our mystery man, no? More strikeouts, fewer hits allowed, fewer home runs allowed, a few more walks, and, of course, he's the youngest of the three, which means a lot when talking about contract extensions and the like.

Of these three, isn't it odd that the 37 year old would get a three year, $30 million dollar contract, the 31 year old get a two year extension (through 2005) worth $12 million, while the 28 year old got traded? Seems kind of strange to me. The 28 year old, as many of you probably already knew, is Russ Ortiz. Now, I wonder.... if Sabean is talking about someone who has quietly evolved into a winner over the last several seasons, he must have missed the stats sheets in his team magazine. If he's talking about who is the better investment over the long-term, well, I think Bill James put it best when he said that ignoring a pitchers raw strikeout totals is kind of like ignoring height when evaluating basketball players. Sure, some tall people aren't great basketball players, and sure some guys don't need to strike out ten guys every night to win. But if you do strike out ten, or eight, or even six guys per nine innings, you have a hell of head start.

This must be one of those situations where the stats don't tell the whole story, because the math doesn't work, the stats don't work, the ages don't work. Rueter is slated to earn $4.75 million this season, more than the $4.4 million the Giants were on the hook for to Ortiz. Now, the Bay Area media hasn't told me any of the story, and neither have any of the national publications really come forth and explained just what the hell is going on here. Back when the trade took place, Sabean termed his decision to trade Ortiz a "brutal" but necessary step to reduce payroll after retooling the offense. I have been listening to the Giants for about the last month and a half now saying the reason they traded Ortiz was because they knew they'd be unable to get him to sign an extension, but jeez, you're saying he wouldn't have stayed for $6 million per? Who the hell is gonna pay him more than that in today's baseball economy?

I know they've done an awful lot of good, but some of the deals that Colletti and Sabean put together are just unfathomable. Loyal readers know that I've harped on and on about some of these contracts that the team is burdened by, but it bears repeating. The contracts they signed Marvin Benard and JT Snow to, the money they threw away on Shawon Dunston these last two seasons, the money they are flushing down the toilet on Niefi Perez, I mean, come on. These are not well-researched contracts. There is no way you pay JT Snow the kind of money he got three years ago, there is just no way to look at what he ACTUALLY DOES and then say, yeah, he's worth $24 million dollars over the next four years. Not at 30 years old, with his track record of offensive production, I don't care if he has four arms and a vacuum for a mouth! Are you kidding me, when that deal was signed, it brought Snow into John Olerud's neighborhood. It's only a hair below the cash Jeff Bagwell was earning! It's more than twice what Todd Helton was earning, for crying out loud, (Snow still out-earns Helton, according to Major League Baseball Player $6 million dollars per season, for a guy who's never cracked the top ten in any category other than games played, walks (once) and strikeouts(twice), in his whole, freakin' career! Aaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!!

Sorry. I'm back. Anyway, I look at this Rueter extension, and I see a choice made by the Giants brass. They chose Rueter over Ortiz, and frankly, they did so in the face of what appears to me to be overwhelming evidence that they should have gone the other way. I'm not saying Woody isn't a terrific player to have on your team. I'm just saying that I would take Ortiz over him, not by a ton, but it wouldn't be too hard to pick the younger, bigger, stronger guy; who gives me more innings, strikes out more hitters, gives up fewer home runs, and who won as many or more games each of the last four seasons.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 20, 2003

.... The Boss

Bob Klapisch has a special to ESPN in which he talks about the pressure to win Joe Torre is under this season. It's interesting, most teams would kill to be able to say they've made the postseason the last seven years in a row while winning four titles, but in NY, Torre's job is pretty much on the line. And that's too bad, because I don't know if I like the Yankees chances as much as even the SF Giants.

Sure, they have one of the great offenses in the game, but they have a mediocre defensive team, with little going for them in the outfield other than Bernie's glove and Mondesi's arm. We know essentially nothing about Matsui, and face it, he's not gonna play a key defensive position anyway. Their infield is solid at third, weak up the middle, (listen, I love Jeter as much as anyone, but there are far too many statistical ways of looking at defense that suggest he is not a top-tier defender, and Soriano has been playing second for exactly one year), and Giambi won't make anyone think of Mattingly. Or Martinez. Or even Chambliss.

That defensive slippage will more than likely prove to be the hidden breakdown that derails this team again, much as it did against the Angels. I can still see the balls dropping between Soriano and Mondesi, skipping just out of Jeter's reach, or under Giambi's glove. I can still see Erstad and Kennedy taking third on Williams. The Yankees did virtually nothing about these problems, as they did virtually nothing about the fact that they have a pretty old pitching staff, (signing Contreras was a big publicity move, but he, like Jon Lieber, is almost certainly slated to be a starter in 2004), and they let two more of their championship-caliber middle relievers go.

In fact, I'd argue that General von Steingrabber has forgotten what it was that brought him back to the promised land in the first place; a team full of quality, heads-up, hard-nosed players doing their jobs. In the glow of their most-wins-ever season and a new Yankee dynasty, he decided that he would reward everyone, (a good thing on the surface) and buy the best players out there to replace whoever he felt was either too old or not quite good enough. Trouble is, the best players out there are usually the stats guys, and this Yankee championship run wasn't built on those type of players.

It was built on Jeter, O'Neill, Brosius, Girardi, Leyritz, Boggs (at the end of his career), Fielder, Martinez, Bernie (when he was younger and could still throw). Hell, Knoblauch was a key contributor even as his ability slowly and mysteriously dissipated. This is a team of All Stars now, and they just aren't very good at defense, which means they leave their old pitchers out there too long, which means they will be relying on their relievers too much, and those guys are just not that good anymore. Even the immortal Mariano Rivera is showing signs of wear and tear.

I think Torre will guide them to the playoffs, but they won't win it all, and he'll almost certainly be on ESPN talking about baseball next spring instead of preparing to defend his fifth title. You heard it here first.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 19, 2003

.... Preview

That's the second damned preview my blogger pro has eaten on me. Blogger Pro sucks!

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 19, 2003

.... Big news

I recorded an interview Baseball Prospectus Radio with Will Carroll, talking about the Giants chances in the upcoming season. Thanks a million to my good friend Will. It will be broadcast in March on the web, and on Fox Sports Radio nationwide. Excitement galore.

New bloggers abound. Another email introduced me to Jonathan Leshanski, who runs a site called At Home Plate. It focuses primarily on fanatsy and rotisserie league owners. Check him out, and let him know I sent you. Oh, if you're wondering, I did edit this entry after I posted it. ;-)

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 19, 2003

.... emails and details

Got an email from Michael Blake, who has started a Philadelphia Phillies blog called View from the 700 Level. He's in the top slot over there in More Baseball.

Also in the mailbox, this came in from Doug Purdie:

John, you haven't heard anything specific from the Giants about Livan's spot in the rotation, but we have heard from Brian Sabean that after the "reloading" they're a little over their self imposed salary cap, and that we shouldn't be surprised to see more deals whose primary purpose will be to off-load salary. They don't mention any names, but Livan is due to make close to $4M in 2003. Giant fans are also watching to see what J.T. Snow's ($6M) and Marvin Benard's ($4M) fate will be.

If Livan is on the trading block, it may be that the Giants don't want him hidden in the relative obscurity of the bullpen. What other team is going to want him if they don't see him on the mound 6-7 innings every fifth game?

Although I agree with your assessment of Livan's pitching and off-field character, I want to point out a couple of his redeeming qualities. He defends his position with great skill and can wield a bat (which includes the consistent ability to sacrifice). Those skills are not a pitcher's primary responsibility, but many pitchers seem to feel they are not at all their responsibility. Livan is not one of them. He's a total baseball player, and when he's in the game, that's where his mind is. When he's pitching, the Giants at least have nine defenders on the field and nine hitters in the batting order instead of only eight.

Regarding Ryan Jensen, I heard a rumor that Alou considered the 5th spot in the rotation to be his to lose. His view is that Jensen earned that distinction by his performance in '02. As a rookie, he did a fine job and proved he is capable of filling the last spot in almost any major league rotation. Ainsworth, Williams and Foppert, however, are touted to be 1st, 2nd or 3rd starters and therefore deserve a shot. Any team that can fill the number 5 spot with a number 3 starter has an advantage over most other teams. I like Jensen but the Giants can do better.

Doug, thanks for the email. While you make good points regards Livan's defense and hitting, it is his neglect of his primary responsibility that I feel makes him such a tough trade. His poor conditioning renders all of his "total baseball player" stuff much less valuable. Sure, he's a great athlete, but baseball is a marathon, and great athletes are required to prime themselves for the season by getting, and staying in top condition, year round. The only thing round about Livan is his stomach. And frankly, a pitcher's defense isn't that important. What does he make, three or four plays per nine? So, if he was worse, he'd make two or three. You don't see great pitchers losing many games because of poor fielding or hitting. You do see mediocre pitchers losing games because they have no physical strength or mental reserves.

As for Jensen, he obviously did well enough as a fifth starter, but for Alou or Sabean or anyone to suggest that he doesn't have to prove himself again is foolish, sort of like the way they treated Marvin Benard. Whenever a player takes until his mid-twenties to make the show, you can bet he is a marginal talent, and will always need two or more turns through the league before he can be counted on to produce consistently. Benard was rewarded with a big, multi-year contract after a little over 1100 at bats, and look what we've seen. He has shown that his early performance wasn't indicative of his true ability, and now he's a very over-paid bench player.

I'd hate to see Jensen be given 20 starts of 5.00 ERA before we give these ultra-talented youngsters an opportunity. After awhile, Triple A ceases to be challenging, regardless of how young or old you are.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 19, 2003

.... Falling stars and superstars

I have been getting the Lee Sinins Around the Majors reports for about a month now, and man, he is prolific. The thing that most impresses is the way he keeps his hand on the pulse of the whole league, and he doesn't miss a trick. He goes into great detail explaining how Greg Maddux is one of the greatest modern pitchers ever. I won't spill the beans, sign up and get it yourself, IT"S FREE.

Sad news. I am afraid I will be removing the great Allan Barra from my roster of Smart Guys. Apparently, Salon has limited his exposure to subscribers who pony up large cash ($30 bucks). While I regret having to deplete my roster of terrific writers, I am not interested in paying more to read one writers occasional opinion than I would for a whole book, nor should any of you be.

It's still unclear where all of this free blogging stuff is headed, but for the time being, there is a bounty of terrific writers out there, working their asses off, FOR FREE. Check my links. Read Christian Ruzich or Mike Carminati or David Pinto or Alex Belth or John Bonnes or Jay Jaffe or Aaron Gleeman or David Levens or Edwards Cossette or an almost limitless number of other writers out there doing it because, as my friend and singer Eddie Davis is wont to say, they have to. You could read all day long, as I have, and never finish reading everything interesting that's been written.

Corporations who feel that they have discovered another revenue stream in web publishing will doubtless drive a wedge between the reader and the writer in the coming years. However, there will always be writers writing out of a love for the word, or a passion for a topic, and they will seek an audience. You, loyal reader, will never pay to read Only Baseball Matters unless you want to (Go to my bookstore and donate a couple of bucks if you feel the need). There will be a way to reward all of this hard work so many of us are putting into this, but I just don't think the intelligent readers are going to appreciate subscriber fees on the internet, especially since we already pay to get on it.

Now, I know that some of you are paying subscriber fees for things such as Baseball Prospectus or Lee Sinins Sabermetric Encyclopedia. Stuff like that is different. These guys offer hard analysis, an almost constant stream of stats, updated and revised and frankly, spectacularly organized into a cogent overview of players and teams and leagues. That's a quantum leap from an editorial writer, like me, for instance. If you feel the need to KNOW about baseball at that level of detail, whether because you hate to lose an argument at the bar, or because you have a fantasy team or whatever, you are paying for a service that isn't available for free, pretty much anywhere else. That is a different animal. In my humble opinion, anyway.

So, if you look there on the left, you'll see a new feature in my links, Pay per View. I will post a limited number of fee-based links there, right now it's the two I just mentioned. What I can assure you is that I use and enjoy the services these two sites provide, and I won't put anybody up there if I don't. As I said, I don't know where this whole blogger thing is going, but I do know that I will contyinue to affiliate with excellence, regardless.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 18, 2003

.... Giant kids

The San Francisco Giants are heading into the season with just one area of real competition, apologies to Niefi Perez, and it's at the bottom of the rotation. While Ryan Jensen won thirteen games last season, it isn't too much of a stretch to consider the fifth spot wide open. Jensen's peripheral stats were nothing to write home about, as he posted a 4.51 ERA and he allowed 183 hits in 171.2 innings pitched; numbers that are definitely in Livan's area code. His home and away splits suggest that he was one of the players who benefited most from PacBell's run-suppression, he posted a 3.66 ERA at home and a 5.32 ERA on the road, and he allowed 14 of his 21 home runs on the road as well.

There are three young pitchers who bring more to the plate, both literally and figuratively, in camp right now, Kurt Ainsworth, Jesse Foppert and Jerome Williams, and that's without mentioning the fact that Joe Nathan is apparently healthy again. That would seem to be a pretty stiff fight for one spot in the rotation, but shouldn't these guys be fighting it out with Jensen and Livan Hernandez, for two spots? Seriously, I am amazed that I haven't heard anyone from the Giants say that Livan's job is on the line. Forget about his weight and his off the field bullshit. How poorly does a guy have to pitch around here for someone to suggest he might be replaceable? He's been a bust for three of the last four seasons, and even in his one good year, 2000, he was crap for the whole first half. In New York, Derek frickin' Jeter is being hounded to death about spending too much energy on his charities, and out here Livan Hernandez gets one free pass after another? What am I missing?

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 18, 2003

.... Friends and family

My blogfather, David Pinto, has a new feature called blogads, and I am happy to say I am invited to try it out. David is the reason I am here, so to speak, and I could never thank him for all the support and kind words he has given me. Always go and read him, he's a genuine good guy.

Also counted as one of my good friends is the illustrious and prolific Aaron Gleeman. He has done it again, with a simply staggering piece of writing on the great Rickey Henderson. Aaron wonders how Rickey could be without a job while slouches like Niefi Perez are already complaining about playing time while stealing $5 million dollars from the Giants.

And congratulations are in order to David Pinto for passing the 100,000 visitor mark. I have also reached a milestone, having seen my 40,000th visitor yesterday. Please help me catch him soon ;-)

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 18, 2003

.... Sunday blues

Here's one, two three stories on Livan Hernandez, who, letting everyone know what a stand up guy he is, showed up in camp yesterday in essentially the same shape he was in when the season ended three months ago (which is to say, fat), bitched and moaned about what a tough time it is being famous in America, complaining that he was framed by a 65 year old man looking to take advantage of him because of his incredible fame, and said that he shouldn't be the one to shoulder all the blame for the Giants World Series loss. Oh, and his right knee is screwed up too. Here's some of his all-important utterings:

"If I had hit the guy, he would never come back," Hernandez said. "He says I swung a golf club at him. If I had swung at the guy, trust me, I never miss." Miami police arrested Hernandez for felony assault. An arraignment is scheduled later this month, but Hernandez is not planning to return to Miami for the proceeding. A spokesman for the state's attorney said the pitcher is not required to appear. "My head is clear, because I didn't do anything," Hernandez said. "I sleep every night. If I had done something, I would not be here today for the first day of spring training. "There is a problem in the United States if you are a baseball player, basketball player, football player, a singer or an actor. People on the street can say whatever they want to say, and that's it. You go to court. That's something I don't like here. I didn't do anything, and I'm in trouble for no reason. It's a problem that has to be fixed."

As I said earlier this year, he is a child, an immature, irresponsible, unprofessional baseball player and person; and he is a detriment to the team. Listening to him talk, I get the feeling that I may as well be listening to Dennis Rodman, or Tonya Harding or any other clueless athlete who just doesn't get it that they are among the most privileged people on the face of the planet, and that no one gives a rat's ass how tough it is being them.

He continues to make it impossible to trade him, and he is clearly demonstrating that he is going to be little more than an inning eater for the Giants. if Alou is lucky, two of the young guys will be so impressive that it will be an easy decision to relegate Hernandez to long relief, and the team can avoid another season of momentum-derailing two inning-eight hit starts from the big baby.

Here's the Giants Spring Training Schedule. Their first game is against the Chicago Cubs.

Daniel Brown writes the fifty-first Alou is gonna have a tough time melding all of the new players with the old article; and he suggests that because of his fondness for the sacrifice bunt, Alou has an earned reputation as an aggressive manager. We'll see about that. Bunting is no more an indicator of an aggressive approach than swinging away at 3 and 0, but since I have almost no knowledge of Alou's style, I will be watching very closely to see just what type of approach he does bring to the team.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 16, 2003

.... News and notes

Reggie Jackson was impressed with Hideki Matsui's first workout, as the Japanese star sprayed line drives all over the field. I guess it's too much to ask Matsui to improve the Yankees infield defense too.

And in a move destined to impress fans all over baseball, Edgardo Alfonzo has bought ad space on the tops of yellow cabs all over New York thanking the fans for their support during his stay with the Mets.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 15, 2003

.... Guestmap

Quick announcement. Only Baseball Matters now has Guestmap pins from friends in Germany, England, Australia and Canada, as well as over sixty in the US. Get there and let me know where you are. Even the great John Bonnes, aka the Twins Geek, has posted a pin in frigid Minnesota.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 14, 2003

.... Must be something in the air

Anytime you're wondering about the difference between being a baseball player or manager in NY versus, say, the Bay Area, today offers a perfect reminder. While the SF Giants, who played in the seventh game of the World Series last season, who have fielded a team with the National League's MVP for the past three seasons in a row, who have a new manager, right fielder, center fielder, second baseman and third baseman, as well as two new starting pitchers and oh, yeah, that guy Bonds..... that team has local media coverage offering a single article, just the fiftieth gee, new manager Felipe Alou is gonna have a tough time melding all these new pieces into a team article.

Meanwhile in NY, the Yankees, on a Friday morning, before they've played a single spring training game, before regulars are even expected to report to camp, we see not one, not two, not three or four or even just five articles on the team. No, the Yankees are featured in eleven separate articles in the NY Daily News, the NY Times and NY Newsday.

Think Art Howe is gonna be in for the ride of his life? For crying out loud, the NY Mets are featured in four articles that I could find (although I have to admit, I didn't look to hard). Here's a quickie on David Cone's comeback attempt with the other NY baseball team.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 14, 2003

.... News and notes

Mike Lupica says Derek Jeter needs to pick it up this season, needs to add more "tangibles to all those intangibles," he's so famous for. He also points out the obvious, that comparing Jeter to A-Rod is no longer a viable option. Yeah, well, you really can't compare anyone to A-Rod right now, as evidenced by the AL MVP vote, which inexplicably went to a shortstop who A-Rod out-produced by about a half an extra hitter. But actually, Lupica is right when he says Jeter's production is in a bit of decline now for the last three seasons. He's right to suggest that Jeter's defense and hitting and everything else can get better for 2003. Jeter makes the kind of money only a few players in the game do. He needs to do what those players do, get in the kind of shape Barry Bonds does, and stay away from these nagging injuries that seem to have been hampering him for the last few years.

And our good friend Matthew Durham has gotten the Southpaw back up to speed. Take a peek. Also in need of a visit is Alex Belth's Bronx Banter, where he continues to impress. His most recent noteworthy efforts include an interview with Ken Burns, whom everyone should know is responsible for the breathtaking and deep Baseball documentary.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 11, 2003

.... emails and details

Got this in the mailbox this morning, from Joe:

John, If you don't mind, I'll skip the standard paragraph of compliments about how much I love your site (I do) and how it is one of the first ones I visit whenever I have the free time to sit in front of my PC (it is).

I have to disagree with you, at least partially, on Glavine.  I agree that the Braves could have been a bit more tactful in their dealings with him, but I also believe that they felt he would not accept their contract offer above all others.  And I believe they were correct in that assessment.  Glavine, as head of the Player's Union (and we both know how seriously he feels about being in that position), felt duty-bound to accept the biggest contract offered him.  The Braves knew that merely by not guaranteeing the third year (as at least two other clubs were willing to) that they were essentially out of the running.  Why pretend?  Why waste the club's time, the agent's time, and the player's time with a wasted effort?

Besides, I'm not sure what's going on with Scheurholz this winter, but I am baffled by his moves -- the Millwood trade, Maddux's "surprise" acceptance of arbitration, the public dismissal of Glavine, the team's continued ignoring of their seeming perpetual lack of offense at 1B...

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I feel that even if Schuerholz called Glavine morning, noon, and night begging him to come back to the Braves, Glavine would've said no until the Braves agreed to a guaranteed third year and made the money at least identical to Glavine's best offer.

Joe, thanks for writing. Look, we're just speculating, right? Well, I try to follow a simple rule of thumb whenever I try to figure out why someone does what they do, whenever I speculate like this. I ask myself what is the most likely scenario, based on my underlying belief in human failings. See, I don't think the best about people, I think the worst. I think most people are like me, mistake-prone, a little selfish, a little greedy, maybe a little slow on the uptake sometimes. I don't think many people are like soap stars, deviously manipulating others for their own gain. They are just stumbling along, making the best of what they've got. I mean, isn't that why being polite is so important? Because if you act like the bitch all the time, it's gonna bite you in the ass eventually, because eventually Johnny, everybody's gotta suck the pipe.

I don't think that Schuerholz thought it through to that degree. I don't think the Braves have made many moves that make me feel like they have a plan or some underlying awareness of how people will react to them and their actions. They make me feel like they are flailing around in the dark, hoping to get lucky.

Here's what I would have liked to see, using your scenario, that Schuerholz knew he wouldn't get Glavine without the third year. The Braves hold a press conference to announce that because of budget restrictions they will be unable to offer him more than a two year guarantee, but that they are hoping he'll be able to see the way to take it and try to earn a third with incentives. If not, they'll be sad to see their best home-grown pitcher to come out of their system in fifty years leave, but that they wish him well. Hell, they could even retire his number.

Again, my issue isn't with the underlying question of whether Glavine should get three years or $30 million or whatever. The team that had the best chance to sign him was Atlanta, regardless of all the hoopla, and they treated him like garbage, in my view. They could have offered him the same deal, but done it in a classy way, and they would have made themselves look like an organization that gave a shit. They didn't. Instead, Schuerholz came off like the Heat Miser. Booh, hiss.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 10, 2003

.... Changes

Check out the rolls on the left. There's a new sheriff in Everyday Links, and his name is Alex.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 9, 2003

.... Pitchers and catchers

Spring Training starts today in Seattle! Need I say more.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 9, 2003

.... Odds and ends

Peter Gammons previews the NL, and says the Giants are sort of the team to beat. Or something like that.

Jayson Stark, in his Useless Information column, let's us know that Livan Hernandzez has the most losses in the 2000's. He also mentions Lee Sinins outstanding Baseball Encyclopedia. Well, he should. It's awesome. And Hernandez is not.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 8, 2003

.... Take a look around

You know, Mike Carminati has entered the stratosphere lately. His writing is consistently excellent, but my goodness, he is pounding many, many words out there. Go. Now.

Aaron Gleeman is also doing a real bang up job of attacking not only current baseball topics, but he also takes on history in his recent articles comparing Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson. Want to know who comes out better? Read and learn.

I got an email asking about my lineup, and all I have to say about it now is wait for my preview piece.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 7, 2003

.... News and notes

Major League Baseball announced that PacBell is a strong candidate for the 2005 All Star Game. All I have to say about it is: It's about time. PacBell is the jewel of the National League, one of the most beautiful and fun places to watch a baseball game ever created. It should be showcased on baseball's biggest stage, and it absolutely should happen before Barry Bonds retires.

Meanwhile, Felipe Alou, in an interview with local radio host and NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry, said that he thought he would have Edgardo Alfonzo bat behind Bonds, meaning either fourth or fifth. I think it's a terrific idea, simply because Alfonzo has the second highest on base percentage (to Bonds, obviously) on the team. The two of them back to back will be very difficult to deal with. Funny, I was putting the finishing touches on my lineup preview when my daughter hit the on/off button on my computer, erasing everything. To summarize, Durham, Aurilia, Bonds, Alfonzo, Cruz, Grissom, Santiago and Snow would be the best possible lineup, and would be one of the strongest in baseball. I'll re-do the preview stuff and get it posted in a day or two.

And SBC has decided that PacBell will keep its name, for at least one more season. I am stunned, to say the least. A corporation doing the right thing? Not really. The Giants complained that all their tickets and paraphernalia is already been printed.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 7, 2003

.... My friend Mike

Mike Carminati did care enough about that ridiculous Jayson Stark rule change column to write something. Something very long and detailed and funny.

The boys over at Elephants in Oakland, [The boys being David Levens, but I digress] have been a constant Stark foil, and they too have jumped on the bandwagon with Mike. Take a peek at their opinion on Mr. Stark's work.

David Pinto takes a poke at that Felipe Alou lineup article, and he summarizes my feelings as well when he says that having Cruz bat third in front of Bonds is a terrific way to have Barry lead off a lot of second innings.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 5, 2003

.... Odds and ends

I was running through my online reading this morning, and I noticed something had changed. It happened while I was reading that Jayson Stark column. At first, I bookmarked the page, because I said to myself that I had to comment on it. But then I noticed that I just didn't want to. This subtle change, something that had been ongoing for a little while now, was no longer subtle. It started with the realization that I was a little irritated that Stark would write something that would be so similar to another writer's work without any reference or comment. But then I realized that it had nothing to do with Stark. Simply, I realized this morning how different I had become in relation to how I was just a short time ago.

Back when I first began to roll through the internet reading virtually everything, I would find myself impatiently waiting for Peter Gammons or Rob Neyer or Mike Lupica to post a new column. I would bounce into and roll right down to the columnists, hoping to see something I hadn't read before. [Authors note: I am blessed with the gift of speed reading. Not Evelyn Wood's stuff, but honest to goodness, born with it, speed to burn. Like on the order of over 130 words per minute, sometimes more if I am really into a book or a column] So when I say I am impatient for a column, it probably means I've read everything else that's available.

I don't feel that way anymore. It's not that I don't enjoy reading Peter Gammons as much, it's more than that. I think it's that the men whom I used to respect and even look up to for their ability to make me think or feel or wonder are no longer so different, so far away. Because of OBM, I have met and continue to meet many of these men, and as I continue to make inroads into the world of writers, the world of being a reader seems to be fading. It's not a bad thing, I'm not worried or anything. It's just different. Life is like that, even my Mom said something the other day that I would never imagined hearing from her. She said that every time a door closes, a new one opens. I think the door on John's life as a reader is coming to a close, while I am slowly, (or quickly) walking through the door to John's life as a writer.

Thanks to all my daily visitors and supporters for making this phase of my life possible. Stick around. I promise to remain cantankerous, sarcastic, cynical and demanding. Oh, and smart funny, too. ;-)

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 4, 2003

.... News and notes

Henry Schulman reports on the festivities at the SF Giants Fanfest 2003. Felipe Alou seems excited, perhaps a little too excited, but hey, he is miles from the purgatory known as the Expos, so maybe he can be give a little slack. Here's Ann Killion's take on the new team we'll be seeing out at King street.

I was gonna comment on the Jayson Stark rule changes, but I just don't feel like it. I will say this, he should have put in a note or a reference to Bill James, because every change he proposed that made sense he got from James' New Baseball Historical Abstract.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 4, 2003

.... News and notes

John Shea has a piece on the potential lineup the Giants may use on Opening Day. Before we get too excited about how fast the 35 year old Grissom is, let's keep in mind that the team will have at least four guys and maybe five who will post much higher on-base numbers than the Marquis de Swing at everything. Unless, of course, Alou reads my upcoming Giants preview and decides to follow the advice of the galactically aware OBM. ;-)

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 3, 2003

.... emails and details

I got this email from Jay Watson. I'm gonna include all of the nice stuff, as well as the meat and potatoes:

John, first off, thank you for running a great baseball site.  I love to read your commentary, but just this once I need to say something of my own in regards to the January 31 comment about the Astro's signing of Biggio, and the Brave's non-signing of Tom Glavine:  To me, these events represent the divide between good decisions and bad. On the one hand, the Astro's paid too much for too little, and on the other, the Braves made the tough decision that will help them in the long term.  I assume you followed Rob Neyer's commentary on the subject, so I'll just sum up his main point. 

Doing the right thing, in cases like these, is not about keeping old players to the bitter end (because it usually is bitter), but making the best decision possible.  As a Braves fan, I'm glad they didn't sign Glavine to a 4 year deal just to keep him out of Shea.  If I were an Astro's fan, I'd have to worry about the dollars lost on Biggio. Thanks again, for running a great site and for putting up with baseball fans like me who run their mouths.

Jay, you seem to be saying that these type of situations are similar, but are they? Biggio has been on the decline, no doubt, but he is a good bet to post a more reasonable .800 or so OPS for these next two seasons, he has been a true franchise player for going on 15 seasons now, and there can be no doubt that only the most cynical and hardened fan would prefer to dump him for his last two season, especially considering the deal he got was pretty moderate (at least it was moderate compared to what he might have gotten two seasons ago). A $3 million dollar contract with a club option and some incentives isn't going to hurt the team, regardless of how much of a decline he's in. For crying out loud, that's less than the Giants are paying Marvin Benard. I'd say Astros fans are happy to have him, and I would be too. There are many, many players who bring less to the table than Biggio, and he deserves to stay there and finish his career with the team, something he desired as well.

The Glavine situation is not really the same. Sure, he's gonna be 40 in that last season, but don't you think Atlanta fans would like to see him win his 300th game (if it happens, of course) as a Brave? And he never got that fourth year anyway, so the difference for the Braves was a guaranteed third year. That's it. Even if he declines 10% each season, he'd still be a pretty effective pitcher, and he would have had a chance to play his whole career with one team, something that does matter to players like Glavine and Biggio and Bagwell. The thing that stood out in the Glavine case was the sort of take it or leave it stance taken by the team. Glavine has been one of the three or four greatest pitchers ever to wear a Braves uniform, he has been an integral part of the greatest run of consistent excellence in the history of the franchise, and he has been an absolute model of consistency and professionalism himself during that time. In short, Tom Glavine is worth far more than the sum of his parts. The Braves treated him like he was Reggie Sanders.

In my mind, the way each of these stars were handled made me think the exact opposite of you and Mr. Neyer. The teams aren't getting shortchanged by keeping Biggio, and Atlanta wouldn't have should the Braves have kept Glavine. But the way management treats its historically important players matters. It matters that Biggio be made to feel like his professionalism and character made an impact in Houston. It matters that Glavine left Atlanta feeling bitter and unwanted. It just does. The reason baseball resonates with me is because it has the feel and rhythm of life. In life, how you treat people matters. How you treat people who have treated you well is a way to see what kind of character you have, what kind of fortitude and intelligence you have, and more importantly, what amount of respect you deserve.

In my mind, the Astros just went up a notch, while the Braves went down.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 3, 2003

.... Pay attention

My good friend Christian Ruzich takes on the establishment in this Phil Rogers smack-down. Basically, he's saying Phil Rogers is one of the reasons guys like Christian and I have an audience. I agree.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 1, 2003

.... Tragedy

Our friend and sort-of-mentor, David Pinto, attended the shuttle launch a couple of weeks ago, and he has a personal and heart-felt tribute to the astronauts who lost their lives. My thoughts, prayers and appreciation go out to the families and loved ones of those men and women.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 1, 2003

.... I did not know that

Rob Neyer points out that the American League East has seen the same final standings five years in a row, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles and Devil Rays. That's odd enough, but as he explains, it might even happen again.

And while it might be a pretty slow time for baseball fans as we wait for pitchers and catchers, Alex Belth continues his prolific run of writing over at Bronx Banter. What I like about Alex, besides the fact that I consider him a friend, is that he weaves baseball and non-baseball ideas and comments together, almost like a jazz riff. Go scroll through his hoo-how and let me knwo if you agree.

Checking out some bloggers out there, Gwyn Price takes ESPN to task for conveniently forgetting to include the SF Giants outfield in their best of in the majors. He points out that Bonds alone is better than essentially every other outfield in baseball.

Comment on this   [0]  »  February 1, 2003

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