Archive for August, 2006
This has nothing to do with baseball, but I wanted to put it out here anyway….
Season 3 of the HBO series Deadwood just finished, and apparently HBO has cancelled the show’s Season 4, re-upped it, and then decided to let David Milch do two movies to finish the very incomplete story. Looking around on the web now, there are sketchy reports as to whether there will be any further Deadwood anything coming from HBO. I am a huge fan of the show, in fact, I think it is arguably the best show in television history.
I put up a link to a site called Save Deadwood over there on the right, and ask anyone who agrees with me about the show to go there, and do what you can to let HBO know they need to reconsider their decision.
Here is the email for the Chairman and CEO of HBO, Chris Albrecht. I am cancelling HBO in an effort to make them see the error of their ways.
I guess I’m about three or four months late. This issue has already been settled, apparently; though there was talk of a National Cancel HBO Day on September 6th. I will look to see whether it is still planned, but I’m gonna cancel one way or another.
Backtalkers unite against the common enemy! ;-D
I’m not gonna sit here and research the entire league to discover who has a better rotation of starting pitchers. You wanna make a point here, you do it. I made mine, and I did my research. The idea that Cain is the best rookie pitcher in baseball is laughable. He is nowhere near as polished as Jered Weaver or Francisco Liriano, just to name two rookie pitchers who do the one thing that matters more than anything else -strike guys out while not walking them- better than Cain.
Are we now going to conclude that this 15 game stretch is the true indicator of who these pitchers really are, or that the body of work they produced over the first 100 games was? I mean, what the hell are we talking about here? They just posted a 2.34 ERA over the last two weeks?! That’s why they’re the best in baseball?
A quick look at ESPN’s statistics index……
OK, the Giants starters have the second best ERA in all of baseball. Excellent. They have the second best OPS allowed, which is also excellent.
A good question would be why they’re starters have a 46 and 46 record? I’ll tell you why I think so. They rank 12th in strikeouts, which is not so excellent. They have allowed the fourth highest total of walks, which is bad, and the combination of the two means that they rank 22nd in strikeouts to walks ratio. The best starters in the league, the Twins, have a 3.31 K/BB ratio. The Giants are about half that, (1.76). They rank 18th in strikeouts per 9 innings, and again, I’ll remind you that strikeouts are the single most important thing a pitcher can do to prevent runs from scoring. The Giants starters have a defense independent score (DIPS) of 106, which I believe means that the Giants defense, (led by Vizquel) pushes their ERA 6% lower than it would be with a league-average defense; which is just a different way of saying that, because they strike out so few batters, they rely more on their defense to get outs than a team like, say, the Twins or the Tigers.
Seems to me that this puts more pressure on the team behind them, and watching them these last couple of years, we can all remember many, many games that were lost because of a bloop hit, or a long at-bat that, instead of ending in a strikeout, ended in a walk that extended the inning, resulting in a loss.
Two of these guys are fairly advanced in their careers (Schmidt and Morris), meaning that they are way more likely to be worse next season than to be better. Hennessey is a 26-year old with 37 strikeouts in 83 innings, who just now finally got out of the minors. Lowry has alternated between very good, very bad and injured for two years now. Cain looks like a star, sure. He’s really young (21), has 144 strikeouts in 150 innings, and seems to flirt with a no-hitter every three or four starts. Fine.
I’m not saying they’re the worst group in the league. But I’m not gonna concede that they’re among the best, either. The Twins, the White Sox and the Tigers are in a class by themselves. The young rotations that impress would be the Brewers, Rockies, and maybe the Reds. The established rotations that are expected to lead their teams to the promised land include the Yankees, the Mets (when healthy), the Astros and perhaps the Red Sox, (mostly because of Schilling, really). I’d say the Giants rotation falls somewhere in this list. Good, solid, sure. Electric, dominating, best in baseball? No chance. The best starting rotation in baseball would have to belong to the Twins.
As in, someone else’s, not mine. Here’s a Dodgers fan:
If you will let a Dodger fan in here, let me admit that it is a no-brainer that the Giants are going to win the NL West. You can imagine how painful that is for me to say. However, I donít let my passion for my team overrule my analysis Ė which you, sir, are guilty of, in spades.
The Giants have the best starting rotation in all of baseball. Schmidt, Lowry, Cain, Hennessey, Morris. Better than the White Sox, the Tigers, the Twins, you name it. Your ludicrous analysis Ė ďThe Giants are in last place, and thatís where they are going to stayĒ Ė has already been proven wrong. You let your emotions carry the day.
The Giants have just enough offense, combined with their talented rotation, to carry them all the way. The other front-runners, the Mets, the Yankees, the aforementioned teams, are ripe for the taking in a series.
You pretend to have expert knowledge about matters baseball, yet you somehow have minimized the terrific asset that SF has in their starting rotation. Even when their starting rotation struggled earlier in the season, a dispassionate observer could see the signs of greatness, given an opportunity at establishing something resembling consistency.
I guess you missed the lesson on how important the starting rotation is in baseball. As a fan that enjoyed World Series championships on nothing more than Koufax, Drysdale, and a wing and a prayer, let me give you my prediction Ė
2006 World Series Champions Ė the San Francisco Giants.
Put this on your blog in August, so the dim and the depressed can holler and shout, and then put it back up in October to acknowledge my prescience.
With all due respect, Dodger-boy, the Giants have, perhaps, the 9th or 10th best starting staff in the game, according to what they’ve actually done. Low strikeout totals, lots of walks, age and inconsistency are only a few of the reasons why you’re wrong. Of course, don’t let my “expert” opinion be the only one you consider. You could look at those funny little numbery things called “statistics.”
Just in the NL, the Giants starters have allowed the fifth fewest runs, rank 9th in strikeouts, have allowed the third highest total of walks, rank 12th in K/BB, and 12th in K/9IP. And that’s just in the NL. In their defense, they have the lowest OPS against, and rank second in WHIP. No matter.
Cain is just as likely to become Kerry Woods as he is to become even as good as Jason Schmidt. Lowry and Hennessey have to run off a nice 50 start stretch of something resembling consistency before you could consider them a dependable 3rd and 4th starter, and Schmidt looks like he’s coming to the last big payday, one that he won’t earn. And then there’s Morris, who owes the Giants two 20 win seasons to make up for his horrible first season.
Best rotation in the game? Please. They’re good, sure. They don’t strike enough guys out, and that’s why their perpherals don’t add up. They are in no way an elite staff.
As for the World Series….. well, I’ll be cheering them the whole way, but at this site, I don’t engage in fan favoritism, or unrealistic views of the team. I am negative because the negatives outweigh the positives with this team, at this point in time.
Thanks for the email.
In other news….This sounds like fun, no?
…. Vintage base ball is a fast growing sport (225 clubs from 32 states), which features amateur clubs adhering to the rules, uniforms, equipment and gentlemanly competitive play of baseball’s 19th century roots. Until recently the game has been mostly a local phenomenon, with clubs playing weekend games in open parks under a variety of rules.
The game is marked by an array of historical details that are enjoyed by both players (“ballists”) and fans (“cranks”). Players in baggy uniforms wield fat handle bats at lemon peel stitched balls that are caught with what appear to be gardening gloves. Above all, it’s a gentleman’s game in which there is no showboating or taunting, and the umpire is always addressed as “Sir.”
HT to the NY Daily News.
Well, that was an interesting little chat. ;-D
In the real world, Noah Lowry pitched a sweet, two-hit shutout for his first win since July 20th(!), and the Giants beat former teammate Livan Hernandez 5-0. Bonds also hit his first home run into McCovey Cove in a long, long time.
Of course, the season is essentially over, the Giants are far too old, far too often injured, and far too inconsistent to muster any kind of real charge, (you know, sort of like what the Dodgers are doing); the only thing left this year is to see whether Bonds is gonna be healthy enough to warrant an invitation to come back; and whether Cain and Lowry can get their shit together, can demonstrate some semblance of consistency so that there’s actually a reason to watch next year.
As for the GM, it must be painful to see his protege pulling a fast one down there in hated Dodgertown, and all of a sudden having a team that no one (as in, the Mets) wants to play in the postseason.
Somebody is paying attention.
It surprises me that there was no post today about The Chronicle reporters being forced to testify. Come on, these are the guys who brought the whole shitstorm down on your man-crush Bonds, and you’re not even gonna mention one little blurb about it. Aren’t you happy, John?
According to you, it’s people like these two guys that have blown this whole steroid thing way out of proportion. Guys like these that have only tarnished the game with their self-serving diatribes about steroids and baseball, and now they will probably go to jail. You should be celebrating John. This has gotta be like Christmas in August for you.
What’s really sad though, is that the two guys who helped expose the truth about that Giant lying cheater, and the other lesser lying cheaters throughout the game, will probably spend the next two months in jail, barring some unforeseen court ruling, while the Giant Barroid himself, the lying cheater to trump all lying cheaters still gets to march his old weak body out onto the field to chase a record that he has no right even being near; and the whole time his team continues to lose and lose and lose. It’s a sad state of affairs out there on the West Coast. Cheers.
Well, I was busy this morning, Tim.
Actually, you’re wrong, I see no reason to celebrate. This whole GJ bullshit should be over already. In a world with unimaginably more important issues for our government to concern themselves with, the millions of dollars and years of manpower have been thrown away trying to find a way to get at a guy that some IRS agent didn’t like, to what end? Conte spent, what, six months in jail for his heinous crimes? Anderson’s likely to spend more time in jail for contempt of court than he did for his role in the BALCO scandal. Doesn’t that mean anything to you? Doesn’t it make you wonder, just a bit, what exactly the fuss is all about?
Bonds is, in fact, being singled out and persecuted far beyond anything you or I would be. For you not see that is a clear indication that you have no idea what the hell is going on in the first place.
As for these two reporters, I could care less whether they testify or not. Did they break the law? Yes. It works for you to condemn Barry, right? He broke the law, he cheated, so he should be put in jail, kicked out of baseball, stripped of his records…. It’s simple, right? Just like the way you look at the world.
You write like you have some magic access to the TRUTH about the “way that it is” that the rest of us can only hope to one day attain. Only someone committed to being blind to the realities of professional baseball could imagine a world where he could see things so black and white. Thanks for stopping by.
Lots of comments about the possibilities for the Giants next season, prospects-wise, as well as who we could get in trades or draft choices. Over at Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein has this to say about the Giants farm system:
…. How bad is the Giants organization when it comes to offensive prospects? 25-year-old first baseman Chad Santos, who started the year in Triple-A, has 14 home runs overall and that’s good enough to lead the entire minor league system. Despite the impressive record, this is not a good team for prospects.
That’s right, the Giants very best hitting prospect is a 25-year old. The future’s not looking too bright when your best hitting prospect has been in the minors for 5 or 6 years. Kevin also has some info on the Shea Hillebrand acquisition:
…. Once the Giants acquired Shea Hillenbrand, it made Lance Niekro expendable, so all he’s done since getting sent down is hit 10 home runs in 12 games. Meanwhile Hillenbrand is batting a useless .230/.240/.378.
Watching last night’s game, I saw that Hillebrand is now 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position since he got here. Useless, indeed.
The Dodgers swept the Giants out of town, winning in the bottom of the 10th with, you guessed it, a walk-off home run. Schmidt’s 8 shutout innings were wasted, as the Giants hitters refused to allow Greg Maddux to work up a sweat. Maddux needed just 68(!) pitches to get through eight innings of shutout ball himself. The loss, the Giants 16th in their last 19 games, brought this stunning admission from Felipe Alou:
…. Three weeks ago Sunday, the Giants had won five in a row and had come from behind to take an eighth-inning lead against San Diego. But Terrmel Sledge homered off Armando Benitez in the ninth, the Giants lost in 12 and nothing has been right since then.
Asked if the last three weeks might have been different had the Giants won that game, (Felipe) Alou said yes.
“That was a momentum killer,” he said. “That was the beginning of the killer losing streak. Things have never been the same. I don’t know if we’ve saved a game since that night, maybe one. It looked like the whole wheel fell off. Everything was happening, saves, coming from behind, walk-offs. After that, everything died.”
Usually, I’d be ripping Alou up for admitting that he was unable to right the ship after that devastating loss, but he actually was able to get the team through it fairly well. The problem was, Benitez proceeded to blow the save in the ninth inning the next night as well, and then two days later, he did it again!.
How many games has Mariano Rivera blown like that for the Yankees? I can remember two, the Sandy Alomar home run in the ’97 playoffs, and the Dave Roberts’ Game Four comeback against the Red Sox in ’04. That’s in ten years. Benitez has probably done this to his team about twenty times, maybe more. It’s the one thing everyone was worried about when the Giants signed him. Sure, he’s a big-time power pitcher. Sure, he’s got the look of a closer, he’s a huge, intimidating guy. He also has the baseball IQ of a walnut; failing time and time again to understand that just throwing hard ain’t enough.
Then again, some might argue that the Giants GM has a pretty low baseball IQ. In this age of baseball enlightenment, we field a group of players who do virtually none of the things that have been established as part and parcel of winning baseball. Taking pitches, working walks, getting into a team’s bullpen early, avoiding the double play, striking out hitters, preventing walks; these are aspects of the game that this Giants team does as poorly as any team in baseball, things that are the stated goals of winning teams.
Command of the strike zone, on both sides of the plate, pitching and hitting. The greater your command of the strike zone, the greater your chance of success. The Giants treat the strike zone like the Bermuda Triangle, a mystery for the ages.
Giants pitchers have combined to strike out 693 hitters this season, one of the worst totals in the league. They’ve also walked an alarming 428, which means that they have struck out the fourth fewest hitters in the NL, while walking the fourth most; an astoundingly poor combination. No combination of stellar fielding statistics can overcome the fact that your pitchers are not doing their job.
Many of you have commented that the Giants field a very good group of starting pitchers. You’re right, sort of. The Giants starting pitchers are ranked 9th in the league in strikeouts (which is to say, they are mediocre), but third in walks allowed. (Which means, of course, that our relief pitchers are atrocious, ranking dead last in all of baseball with only 224 strikeouts in 311 innings)
On the other side of the plate, Giants hitters have earned a walk only 374 times, also the fourth worst total in the league, but have proven to be the most difficult team in the league to strike out (just 615 times). Unfortunately, this free-swinging ability to make contact has contributed to the Giants leading the league in grounding into double plays, something they’ve done an amazing 115 times this season. To put that in perspective, the league-leading Mets have grounded into a double play just 69 times, but then again, the Mets are young and fast, while the Giants are old and slow.
Any way you slice up this team, you see no reason to expect them to be any better than they are. They’ve accumulated the fourth fewest extra-base hits, they’re 43 for 66 stealing bases, they don’t have many extra base hits…. I could go on and on, but I gotta get my day started. The Giants are in last place, and they’re gonna stay there.
David Pinto links to an article about a Yankee pitching prospect tagged with a 50-game suspension for failing a drug test. He also notes, rightly, that far more pitchers have failed drug tests than hitters. In an piece last season, he seems to have an answer as to why pitchers might use steroids and similar PED’s. Here’s a quote from Tony LaRussa:
“I think at the heart of the issue is, everybody is always seeking a competitive edge,” said Tony La Russa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. “It just doesn’t mean pitchers or hitters. If that gives you an edge, then everybody is going to seek to do it. So it probably shouldn’t surprise anybody.”
Doesn’t that mean that McGwire or Bonds or Sosa or whoever else the sportswriters think did use PED’s deserve some kind of a pass, given that they were facing many pitchers who were also on the juice? Just wondering….
UPDATE: This NY Times piece confirms that it’s the pitchers, not the hitters:
…. With less than four months remaining in the calendar year, 34 players ó two in the major leagues and 32 in the minor leagues ó have tested positive. At this time last year, 86 players had failed tests, and by the time the year concluded, the number had reached 93, with 81 in the minor leagues and 12 in the majors.
While the number of positive tests has decreased, the statistics also show that two trends that emerged last year continue to hold form: many of those testing positive are from Latin America, or are pitchers, or are both. Of the 34 players who have tested positive this season, 22 are from Latin America, with 13 from Venezuela and 8 from the Dominican Republic. In addition, 24 of the 34 who failed tests are pitchers.
UPDATE: The Broken Cowboy adds his two cents to the disappointingly one-sided debate, and since I so frequently seem to be alone in my opinions about the issue, now you get to read Hank’s:
…. Why does the media and the public turn so quickly on these fallen athletes?
Itís simple — we turn away because we donít like what these men and women reveal about ourselves. We canít bring ourselves to admit that collectively we are the Frankenstein that has created the monster, so instead we grab a torch and join the mob, screaming indignantly all the way.
Really, how could we possibly expect that all these athletes would be clean? Iím not the first to imagine this scenario, but I think it helps to illuminate whatís going on. Letís say you take twenty of the best race car drivers in the world and set them up for a road rally. The pre-race instructions go like this: ďGentlemen (and Danica), youíre going to race from Los Angeles to San Francisco along Interstate 5. The federal speed limit on this stretch of highway is 75 mph, and even though we wonít monitor your speed and there will be no policemen along the way and all we really want is for you to get there as fast as possible, we hope that you donít exceed the posted speed limit. And by the way, those racers who get there the fastest will be richly compensated with higher salaries, more product endorsements, and greater fame.Ē
The shocker would be if any of the drivers drove below the speed limit. And while that seems extreme, we have essentially the same situation with professional sports. We ask our athletes to do whatever it takes to reach the top of their professions, beginning earlier and earlier all the time.
Our entire culture, and Iím not just talking about what goes on between the lines, revolves around the American Dream, an ideal which reminds us that in this land of opportunity, we have a responsibility to do whatever it takes to reach our goals. When this tenet bleeds into the athletic world, it might start to blur a bit, but the spirit remains the same.
Allow me to finish this thought:
To expect, to demand, anything other than a “do anything to win” approach from these athletes is absurd, and to be frank, patently unfair. The idea that there is a higher standard for Barry Bonds than there is for the President of the United States is, well …. I hardly need to finish that sentence, do I?
The venerable David Pinto notices what we’ve been lamenting for the last two seasons:
…. The Giants decided that after the 2003 season they would build a team to help Barry Bonds win the World Series. They signed old players, and the young hitters they brought along were not very good. There was talent, but with age came injuries and the spare parts weren’t available to fix what’s broken. By catering to a superstar rather than the fans, San Francisco not only won’t win a World Series for their star slugger, they’ve set themselves up to be poor for years to come. The talent on their aging team isn’t going to bring much back in trade. This isn’t the Marlins or the Athletics, where prime talent can bring back prospects. The Giants will need to either stay on the free agent treadmill or start a long term plan to build through the draft. Neither is going to result in any short term benefits.
I don’t think the Giants were catering to Bonds so much as I think Sabean became (blindly) enamored with his “veterans” approach to building a team. Or perhaps more accurately, he came up with his own undervalued commodity, the 40-year old. Whatever. However we got here, here is where we are now, in last place, staggering through the dog days of August.
Less than a month ago, as the trading deadline approached, I wondered whether the Giants were positioned to make a run, or whether they were about to collapse:
…. Should they make a move, or should they play it out? Who can tell. Bonds’ recent stolen base spree could be an indication of an improvement in his health, which in turn, might be an improvement in his bat. It also could be a precursor to a career-ending recurrence of his knee woes.
Again, the age of the team puts management in a very difficult position. Knowing that older players tend to decline as the season progresses, and knowing that these old-timers have had a hard enough time staying in the lineup as it is; makes projecting what’s going to happen from this point forward damn near impossible. So how can Sabean trade anyone? He could trade away more prospects, (perish the thought!) only to watch the Giants lose 12 of 15 over the next three weeks.
Sabean did trade another very young pitcher for another very old pitcher, and then the wheels did fall off. (You can call me Nostradamus) After reaching first place on the strength of their season-best five game winning streak (how weak is that, by the way?) Armando did what Armando does best; he took the sails out of his team, in devastating fashion. Now in the midst of a season-worst 1-11 stretch, Sabean finds himself in the same place he was when I wrote the previous piece; four games back in the one of the weakest divisions in recent baseball memory.
And as bad as that is, another five or six-game winning streak would, in fact, put the Giants right back in the thick of it. Just look at the Dodgers, who lost something like 12 of 15 (sound familiar?) are now riding an 8-game winning streak right back into it. Hence Sabean’s dillemma.
The division is so bad that the Giants actually still have hope. However, the team is so bad that, even if it made the postseason, it would take a miracle to make any noise. They would be underdogs, in some cases, huge underdogs to any team they faced. But, and it’s a big but, anything can happen in a seven-game series. Any team can beat any other team.
All that’s left for Sabean to do is to scour the waiver wire reports in the hope that somebody makes a big mistake and leaves a decent hitter or pitcher or whatever out there for him to scoop up on the cheap….. AAA–HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!
Hope is a ship that sunk off the coast of Florida.