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Archive for October, 2005

…. World Series

Heading into the bottom of the second…. Two home runs, neither pitcher has thrown a pitch that made a hitter swing and miss…. I’d say Game One could be on its way to a slugfest.

UPDATE: Slugfest? Only one swing and a miss, Clemens’ last pitch of the bottom of the second. 6 runs total after three innings.

UPDATE: The scoring continues. The hits continue. Neither pitcher(s) have done much to fool the hitters. After all the BS about the possibility of these teams scoring the fewest runs in however many years, the hitters are dominating. White Sox up 4-3 after 4 innings.

…. Pitching rich

The World Series starts tomorrow night in Chicago (those words haven’t been written since 1959), and pitching is the name of the game. Interestingly enough, ex-Yankees make up much of the stars of the rotations for both teams. Pettitte and Clemens for the Astros, and Contreras and El Duque for the White Sox.

You could argue that if the Yankees had just kept those four, things would have been a lot better in NY the last two seasons. I mean, given the failed experiments that Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and the rest of the Yankees starters have been for the last two seasons, they could hardly have done worse. Many baseball writers thought that Clemens and Pettitte leaving was a foregone conclusion, but I don’t believe that for a minute.

Pettitte was never made to feel wanted, and a real power push for both of them would have probably worked. The problem was that the Yankees, these Yankees, don’t seem to realize that they no longer have the ability to just want a player for that player to come here. They are no longer the World Champion New York Yankees. They are the Yankees, and while, for any player, that still holds some sway, things have changed.

The dynasty is over. Derek Jeter must feel terrible watching all of his old teammates in the Series while he is hanging out with starlets.

…. Bang

Wow. Watching that game, I called “mistake” as soon as I saw the top of that slider Lidge threw to Pujols. I mean, before Pujols swung, I saw the pitch, shoulder-high, dropping into Pujols’ happy zone, just before he hit the game-winning home run. Essentially, I called it. (I have a witness, my friend Mike Brown)

Amazing. Hard to fault Lidge for making a mistake, as the Cards really battled in that 9th. Tough at-bats prior to Pujols, including Edmonds drawing the walk after Eckstein got the “who cares, you got a single with two outs in the ninth” hit. I guess you could fault Lidge for the 1-2 pitch to Eckstein, (a slider that didn’t slide), after Eckstein looked like he couldn’t hit the fastball with a tennis racket. But, really, Lidge looked a little off, but only a little. Maybe he should’ve just pounded fastballs, but other than that, what are you gonna complain about? Pujols could have missed that pitch, as dead center as it was. He didn’t, and the Astros now face the Cards in St. Louis, which is hardly what they were hoping when they were one strike away from the Serious.

Point of fact, the Astros history of futility dwarfs just about any team’s, as they’ve never, ever been to the Serious. Last season, they had Clemens on the mound with a lead in Game Seven, and lost, and as horrible as it sounds, they could very well be in the exact situation again this year. Allowing the Cards to get off the mat tonight, in just about the worst possible way, puts them in a strange situation; the team with the 3 games to 2 lead might feel like they’re the ones behind.

Harold Reynolds, on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight at 10:35 pm Pacific Time, just said that he thinks the pressure’s on the Astros. I guess I’ve just said that I agree.

Over in the AL….

Talking to my friend Brown about his hometown Chicago White Sox, I was surprised to learn how little he knew about how different it is pitching in the NL vs. the AL. I showed him some of the Giants pitchers, including Lowry (who isn’t too bad), and compared their production to the worst ninth guy Guillen could trot out there…. Geez, Louise. I couldn’t imagine that even a casual fan (and Brown certainly qualifies as a casual fan) would fail to recognize the impact of the DH, but I guess if you follow the AL exclusively, you must take it for granted that everybody in the lineup is expected to hit, (to some degree).

Our mutual friend Pete convinced me of the superiority of the NL game (about four years ago), and I think I may have made some progress towards convincing Brown. By the way, Brown is 42 years old, from the South Side of Chicago (no Leroy’s in his family), and is suitably blown away by the first WS appearance by his home team in his lifetime, a statement that has blown me away as well.

To consider that the Sox haven’t won the whole shebang in his father’s lifetime either, (what?!?) is but another simply stunning fact to add to the excitement. Far worse than the Red Sox were, (but not much worse than the Cubs are), the White Sox have hardly even sniffed the Fall Classic, with just one appearance since the Black Sox scandal, (1959). That makes their ALDS win against the Red Sox in the first round their first postseason series win since 1917!? And so, I find myself happily rooting for the underdogs now.

I wanted to see the Astros get to their first, and was both excited and dissappointed by Pujols’ blast. It’s hard not to root for the big hit, especially in such a penultimate situation, two outs, ninth inning, home run or go fishing…. Tremendous, amazing, all of the above.

Can the Cards ride Pujols’ momentum to the comeback? Mulder vs. Oswalt on Wednesday. Oswalt’s been better in the playoffs, (and the season, for that matter), but if the Cards bats have come alive, we could see Clemens for another Game Seven. Yummy.

Oh, and might I mention…. David Eckstein? 1-2, a strike away from the off-season…. At this point of his career, maybe, just maybe, you might have to consider him a tough, clutch postseason hitter. Just maybe.

Oh, one more thing. Back in July, when the White Sox were something like 30 games over .500, and the Cards were right there with them, I told Brown that, barring miracles, major injuries, or the end of the world, the World Series would be his White Sox against the Cards. I’m almost right.

…. Cardinal failure

Having Jason Marquis at the plate in this type of a game situation, down 2 games to one, down a run, leadoff man on, 8th inning, is just inexcusable. That’s a terrible, terrible decision, and Marquis compounds the error by fouling out attempting to bunt.

Normally, I’d accuse Tony LaRussa of being cute, but he’s been ejected, right?

The difference between 3-1 and 2-2 is, oh, I don’t know, just the difference between your season ending and not. Wow.

…. Just the facts, ma’am

Over at Baseball Musings, I found a link to Arthur Devany, who explains that there haven’t been any more home runs hit than expected over the last several years, that steroids couldn’t possibly be the reason for the feats of McGwire, Bonds and Sosa, and that our fearless leaders in Congress couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag without a pair of scissors and an instruction booklet, in this paper. The paper is long, very statistics-heavy, and dense with references and calculations. His conclusions and relevant arguments can be found here. Here’s a taste:

…. I went through the last Senate hearings on steroids in baseball and had thought that at least Jim Bunning would have some understanding of the issues. He is, after all, a Hall of Fame player from the not-too-distant past.

Here is what he had to say in his opening remarks to the hearings. I quote only part of it.

Senator Bunning’s statement puts it this way: “I remember when players didn’t get better as they got older. They got worse. When I played with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and Ted Williams, they didn’t put on forty pounds of bulk in their careers, and they didn’t hit more homers in their late thirties than they did in their late twenties…I’m willing to trust baseball, but players and owners have a special responsibility to protect the game. And they owe it to all of us to prove that they are fixing this terrible problem. If not we will have to do it for them.”

He doesn’t define the “terrible problem” but presumably it is the pace at which new records in home runs were set over the 1999 to 2001 period. It turns out that he is wrong on even the simple factual assertions he managed to make, aside from the leap to a conclusion and the speculation he states in other parts of his testimony. Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth did not go into a steep decline; they sustained a high level of home run hitting far beyond modern hitters like Maris, McGwire, Sosa, and perhaps even Bonds, though we have yet to see how his career goes. Nobody, so far as I can discover, put on forty pounds, except players of the past many of whom drank rather than trained as modern players do.

On this shallow basis, he is ready to write laws that dictate how a player may treat his body. A strict violation of the Constitution and the rights that any person should possess, irrespective of profession. For what? Because he feels he must “protect the game.”

The other evidence in the hearings was garbage. The Chairman of the meetings, Tom Davis had this to say: “After the 1994 MLB players strike, rumors and allegations of steroid use in the league began to surface. Since then, long standing records were broken. Along with these broken records came allegations of steroid use among MLB’s star players. Despite the circulating rumors of illegal drug use, MLB and the Players Association did not respond with a collective bargaining agreement to ban the use of steroids until 2002.”

He wants to legislate because there were rumors and allegations. That is no evidence. Where is the evidence? There is none in the record of the Committee hearings.

This is Senate reasoning, an Orwellian blend of puffery and demagoguery. If this is how the Senate reasons on a relatively simple matter, the laws they pass in more complex areas and the governance of this country are in question.

…. I take up the matter of steroids more directly and also such possible influences as “hotter” baseballs, altered ball parks, smaller strike zone and find them all to be lacking. They do not stand up to verifiable tests or statistics. And they shouldn’t because no explanation is required. There has been no increase in MLB home run hitting. Three home run hitting geniuses appeared in a brief time span and will soon be gone. Enjoy them and don’t look for explanations when none are required. The law of home runs and extreme human accomplishment that I develop tell us that we never know when this kind of genius will appear, only that it will be rare and intermittent.

On the matter of steroids, it turns out that body builder muscle hypertrophy induces a change in muscle fiber composition that reduces speed and power. Steroid-aided muscle hypertrophy would be conterproductive to home run hitting. More mass is helpful since kinetic energy is proportional to mass. So, the trick is to add a bit more mass without shifting muscle fiber composition from FTb/x to FTa or ST fibers or messing up swing mechanics and timing. The latter are clearly far more important, as illustrated by Babe Ruth’s last home run.

The Babe hit one of the longest home runs of his career in his last game, when he was already weakened by the cancer that would eventually kill him. He hit it all the way out of Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, over the roof of the upper deck in right field. No one had ever done it before. I am trying to find out if anyone has done it since. If you know, let me know.

For those of you who don’t want to read the whole paper, here is the conclusions section.

…. There is a lot of speculation about steroid use in MLB, but the evidence is mostly anecdotal, misleading and incomplete. It is surely not an adequate basis for public policy to 1. assume that there is an increase in home runs, and 2. to assume that steroids are the explanation. The first statement is incorrect, there has been no increase. That makes point two vacuous. There is no need to invoke an external explanation like steroid use when there is no change to be explained.

The same law of home runs holds now that held 40 years ago. Year to year differences in home runs require no explanation; they are all within the variation of the outcomes under the stable probability distribution of home runs. The burst of new records does not require an external explanation like steroids; they are part of the pattern that comes from the nature of the law of home runs.

The pace of new records in recent years is due to the extraordinary accomplishments of three prodigious hitters. We have lucky enough to see three Babe Ruth’s in this generation. Hitters such as these may never appear again. You cannot take an ordinary player and turn them into home run hitters of the accomplishment of Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa by dosing them with steroids. It may even be harmful. Home run hitting of that magnitude is human accomplishment at its highest, as incomparably rare as the work of Einstein or Wagner.

Even greater performances are possible because the long upper tail of the law of home runs gives them positive and non-vanishing probability. The law of home runs says that the probability that Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs would be broken is 0.0109, about one in a hundred. Given enough time and hitters, it was almost sure to fall. Barry Bonds’ record of 73 will be harder to break. The probability that his record will be broken is 0.007206, about seven in a thousand.

I have just started reading the whole thing, anything pertinent or revealing will follow. But just read his conclusion; “The same law of home runs holds now that held 40 years ago. Year to year differences in home runs require no explanation; they are all within the variation of the outcomes under the stable probability distribution of home runs.” His paper goes to great lengths, at one point explaining how the same number of home runs per at-bat were hit during 1961 (Maris) and 2001 (Bonds).

He also explains that during Ruth’s home run explosion, the HR record was broken several times in a short span of time, demonstrating that once a record is breached, it becomes more available, much like what happened when Roger Bannister finally broke the four-minute mile barrier. Another factor that needs mentioning is that the game conditions that make it favorable for a record to fall also make it possible for it to fall several times.

He goes on to look at home runs per hit, a measure that he feels has the most importance:

…. I chose home runs per hit to get a sense of whether or not current hitters hit with more power than earlier hitters. Home runs per hit strikes me as a good measure of this; if hitters are more powerful, then of the hits they do get, more of them should be home runs. I want to note that technique has improved markedly over the years. Now, most players have well-schooled and soundly technical swing mechanics and that is a factor in generating power. Ballparks have changed too. And, to some extent, so have bats. Even though they are still made of wood, they can be made of denser wood and their design can alter the moment of inertia, a factor in power production. So, whatever you read into the statistics reported in the paper regarding power, technique, or steroids you must keep those factors in mind.

…. The stellar performer is Mark McGwire from the very beginning of his career in 1987*, nearly a third of his hits were home runs. *(italics mine)

…. Why do all the attempts at explaining an increase in MLB home runs seem to fail? I think it is because they are attempting to explain something that has not happened. There are no more home runs in baseball than before when the problem is properly analyzed. Once the number of games and other variables are factored into home run productivity and the random nature of home run hitting is taken into account, there is no change.

Excellent, detailed, and dense, Devany’s work is a must-read for anyone who wants to engage in this debate. Which means that no one in Congress or the mainstream media will read it, of course.

…. Out

I thought that Pierz(lots of vowels) was right, in that he, and the Giants were the victim of that same call last season.

More importantly, FOX showed a replay with the ball stopped right before it appears to hit the ground and bounce into Paul’s glove. They showed it a couple of times, and then stopped showing it. That replay makes it clear that the ball did touch the ground, meaning Paul had to tag Pierz(lots of vowels) or throw to first.

David Pinto has a bunch of posts and comments on the play, (I’m not gonna be posting a comment in a sea of hundreds), but he doesn’t seem to have mentioned the bounce-replay. Neither has anyone at the NY Daily News or the NY Times.

I thought it was strange that FOX would show what appeared to me to be a definitive replay of the event, and then stop showing it. More strangely, the announcers watched the bounce-replay and still insisted that the ball was caught, even though it was clear as a bell that it was bouncing into his glove.

Anyway, too bad for the Angels. The White Sox took advantage, and now they’re tied.

…. The end

After a season of discontent, injury, recovery, and redemption, the NY Yankees are finished. All the talk about goats and failure are mere window dressing for a $200 million-dollar team so poorly constructed.

The Yankees had terrible pitching all season long, pretty much no one but Mariano Rivera, Randy Johnson for his last 8 starts, and Tom Gordon had much of a season on the mound for the Bombers; but the second-best offense in the league was enough for them to win the AL East.

Once in the playoffs, all of their weaknesses were exposed. Giambi is a poor defensive first-baseman, A-Rod is a better shortstop than Jeter, Jeter would be a better centerfielder than anyone they have, Robinson Cano seems to be a bit thoughtless and casual at times at second, and their outfield, whoever they put out there, is slow and lacks a power arm, which translates into more doubles, more men on base, and more pressure on the pitchers….

The Yankees need to get younger, faster, and better. They are a beer-league softball team, and have been for quite a while now.

Giambi needs to go, regardless of his bat, he is the wrong guy at first for this team. I’ve suggested the Giants could take him off Brian Cashman’s hands, if the Yanks would pay about 75% of his remaining salary. The Giants need his offense real bad, and his defensive flaws could be hidden by keeping Snow around as a late inning defensive replacement.

If they are going to leave A-Rod and Jeter where they are, they’ve got to get a young, fast, centerfielder with a gun for an arm (you know, like, say, Carlos Beltran).

As for the pitchers…. Mussina was a bum this year, and a bum last year. You don’t make $15 million a year for a 4.50 ERA, and that’s what he’s posted the last two seasons. Johnson? Who knows. He looked like himself there for a while, but he bombed miserably in Game 3. Chacon looked terrific, Wang looks like a middle reliever to me, and Small’s success (10-0) needs to be understood in context; his ERA was pretty much the same as Mussina’s.

The Yankees had no reliable middle relief all season. Gordon did a terrific (albeit overworked) job all season handling the 8th inning, but innings 6 and 7 killed the team. Actually, in a lot of ways (except for Mariano), the Yankees relievers were a lot like the Giants; inconsistent. And what is the real cause of inconsistency? Lack of real talent. The Yankees relievers, other than Mariano, don’t strike guys out, (just like the entire Giants pitching staff). An inability to strike people out is the first, and most important indicator of a pitchers possibillity for success.

Just look at the relievers Mike Scoscia kept trotting out there, one guy after another with better than a strikeout per inning. You can’t strike guys out, you can’t be a middle reliever, (unless you have some freaky groundball deal like Scott Munter), you aren’t going to have consistent success game after game, season after season.

Anyway, the Angels were better, they go to Chicago, where the White Sox are looking to end a curse of their own. The Yankees go fishing.

…. History

Watching the Astros-Braves, bottom of the 17th, longest playoff game ever.

Shouldn’t ESPN be showing us highlights of 1986?

Clemens has been awesome.

UPDATE: That was an error on the first baseman.

UPDATE, Part II: Wow. Clemens has really been awesome.

UPDATE, Part III: Wow.

UPDATE, ad infinitum: So Clemens does the impossible, the Yankees come back against the Angels, and baseball has one of the great nights in the last five years. What a tense, amazing, improbable 27 innings. Hooray.

…. Big Moron

Jason Giambi won the new, fans choice, AL Comeback Player of Year Award. I made just that Nostradamus-like prediction over at Baseball Analysts in March, (I also predicted that Randy Johnson would win 30 games in NY, so, you know, I got that going for me).

Stephen Cannella thinks that Giambi winning the award is somehow a bad thing:

…. to those fans who bother to log on to the Web and cast ballots for awards bankrolled by erectile dysfunction aids, steroids are no big deal.

…. It’s also possible that Giambi — and every other major leaguer, for that matter — isn’t reformed. Baseball’s drug testing policy (especially its ignorance of the human growth hormone problem) simply isn’t strong enough to guarantee that the sport is clean.

Someone tell Jim Bunning: Fans don’t seem to care about that. For all the talk about scarlet letters and black marks on the game, fans are remarkably willing to welcome confirmed cheaters back into their good graces.

Let’s see….. How many ways is Cannella off-base here?

First, Giambi has never failed a drug test, and when he was using steroids, it wasn’t against baseball’s rules to do so, so he wasn’t cheating.

Second, in what country do we live in right now, Communist China? People make mistakes, all the time. People get opportunities to make things right, to change their ways, to amend, overcome and succeed in the face of previous failure, mistakes, lies, everything. Giambi managed to overcome the pressure of being the face of steroids, particularly when every asshole like Cannella was beating the drum of baseball in crisis because of the horror of someone having big muscles, in the center of the media world.

He handled himself with grace under pressure, and he succeeded. I thought he would, because I figured someone able to go from a 15th round draft pick to an MVP probably had some serious cojones. For Cannella to be bitter about someone’s recovery from such a setback is absurd, and sad.

Oh, and third, for Cannella to write that he thinks the drug testing policy isn’t strong enough, or has enough loopholes that someone in the public eye like Giambi could still be using undetected, well, that just lets me know that Cannella’s a moron, and a publicity-hound. His “disappointment” in the American public is laughable.

…. Big Nothing

Randy Johnson showed up for work last night, punched his time clock, and got busy destroying the Yankees season. In the kind of game the Yankees got him for, he was a complete bust, allowing two home runs in the first three innings, allowing the Angels offense to get started, and once they got started, they were impossible to stop. After last night’s 11-7 loss, the Yankees find themselves hoping and praying for a second shot at Bartolo Colon.

The vaunted Yankee offense, except for a two-inning stretch, did nothing. A-Rod, Sheffield, Giambi, Jeter, pick a player. Nothing when it counted.

If Robinson Cano doesn’t hit that three-run double in the first inning of Game One, the Yankees season would be over. At one point, Benji Molina had out-homered the whole Yankee team, which says it all.

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
None of the opinions expressed should be construed as being endorsed by the
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