Archive for June, 2007
The Giants are fading fast on a road trip from hell, and last night’s wasted effort by Matt Morris is a bad sign. Losing 1-0 can happen to anybody, but not if you’re gonna allow a bunch of walk-off home runs. You gotta do one or the other, win when you shut the other team down, or win because your offense can save a bad pitching day. Right now, the Giants are doing neither:
…. haven’t you noticed the 5-11 record in games determined by a single run? Or the seven straight two-run losses? Or the 3-7 record in games decided in the final inning? Or the 2-4 mark in extra innings? Or, while we’re at it, the 3-7 record with Barry Bonds out of the lineup?
How about three walk-off home runs allowed in the last week? How about going 2-2 in Philadelphia despite leading 2-0 after the top of the first in each game? How about losing a 7-3 sixth inning lead?
Finding ways to lose? That’s a bullshit cliche. This is a bad team, with a terrific rotation. See, that wasn’t hard, was it? Against any of the contenders we’re facing, there is no position on the diamond at which the Giants run out the better player. Molina’s having a great start? Yep, he sure is. You think a 32-year-old catcher who is slower than dirt, with a career OPS of .725 is better than some of the great, young catchers the rest of the NL West contenders have? Please.
How about our first base combo? 4 home runs from our first basemen all year? That’s 15th out of 16 teams. Prince Fielder has 21. Are you kidding me? The Giants have sacrificed wins and runs from first base, traditionally a power position, for going on 10 years; a decade of 8 home runs a season. For that alone, Sabean should be given his walking papers.
Second base? How about a repulsive, embarassing, almost criminally bad .303 on-base percentage, good for 11th in the NL. But wait, you say. Ray Durham is our #5 hitter, an RBI man. Well, with a .391 slugging percentage and just 6 home runs, he’s been leaving Bonds on the basepaths at a staggering rate. He’s already had 107 plate appearances with men on, and he has just 36 RBI to go with his 8 double plays and .696 OPS.
Third base? Feliz has almost all the at-bats there, so we’ll talk about him specifically. He’s already had 205 plate appearances, and made 161 outs, counting double plays. That puts him on pace for 480 outs, give or take. He’s scored 17 runs, and driven in 28. He has a .293 on-base percentage. Even though he has 11 doubles and 7 home runs –numbers which (sadly) put him among the team leaders– the Giants collective third basemen rank 9th overall with 21 extra base hits, far behind the league leaders, who have already collected 35 or more.
How about short? Forget about power, all we need from Vizquel is to just get on base, right? Well, he’s had 210 plate appearances, and he’s reached base just 61 times. Jose Reyes has reached base 111 times. His .236/.292/.287 .579 OPS tells a story; a story about a player who has reached the end of the line. He was supposed to bat second, but with a man on first, he was an absolute disaster, with just 4 hits in 33 at-bats, which translates to an ubelievable .121/.147/.121 .268 OPS line. How in Christ are you supposed to put a bat like that in your lineup. Saying that he’ll work his way out of it is fine, if the player is alive. Vizquel is 40, and he’s done. There aren’t enough defensive plays in the game to make up for 150 outs from a guy who’s score 22 runs.
Center field, with Winn and Lewis being red-hot, is at least showing a pulse. Ranking pretty much in the top six or seven in most categories, it still bears mentioning that the team OBP for a traditional on base position is an anemice .328.
Right field? .252/.303/.378 .681 OPS. 3 home runs, 20 RBI. Enough said.
Essentially, the Giants hitters –outside of Bonds– do nothing well. They don’t get on base, they don’t hit for power, they don’t hit for average, they’re not fast, they’re not patient…. This is a team of bench players, a team of Sabean’s “veterans,” a team of Neifi Perez’s, simple as that. Brian Sabean should lose his job for putting this embarassment on the field. Nothing short of a complete overhaul would make this team competitive. What, trade a young pitcher for another AJ Pierzinski, another Michael Tucker?
There’s only one answer. Get A-Rod.
A qualified GM worth anything would be harrassing the shit out of Brian Cashman. We’ve got a surplus of the one thing the Yankees need, starting pitching. Matt Morris will, arguably, NEVER BE AS VALUABLE AS HE IS RIGHT NOW. Never again. Morris and a couple of prospects so that Cashman can get rid of a headache, and Sabean can save his job. There friends, from back in the day. Call him. Again and again. I’d call him five times a day, reading him the stories in the paper about how his teammates don’t respect him, don’t like him. About how he’s leaving at the end of the season. Shit, throw in Vizquel, since A-Rod would get to go back to short. It’s a match made in heaven.
Short of that kind of blockbuster, the season’s over. There’s no move to make.
Here’s as good an explanation for Joe Morgan’s idiotic views as any:
…. we also need to give Hank Aaron major props because his record is legit in two ways… 1) we know nobody juiced back then, and 2) he had to face very tough pitching. With or without steroids, I’m not surprised to see the home run record fall, because overall, pitching has been horseshit since the mid-90s. Why? Expansion. You simply don’t see too many teams with three great starting pitchers anymore. Pitching got so bad in the “steroid era” that we had a bunch of ducks out there. It’s almost like it was hunting season.
How can I count the ways Dave Stewart is clueless here? I wonder how people can kep themselves alive.
UPDATE: I have already been asked to detail the ways in which Stewart channels Joe Morgan, but before I could, reader Paul Rice comes through in spades:
…. It’s sadly typical of the kind of misinformed garbage you see from supposed “experts” in print.
How many ways is Stewart wrong? Good lord. For starters, a quick google search turned up this article in which Tom House describes players using every steroid or performance-enhancer they could find, all in the supposedly clean and sacred era of the ’60′s and ’70′s.
As for the claim that pitching talent is diluted: pure malarkey. If there really is such an influx of crappy pitchers when new teams are added to the majors (disputed in several circles), then there should be a coinciding influx of bad hitters. Plus, with players from the Domincan Republic and Japan (not to mention black players that weren’t allowed in the league in the pre-expansion era) being scouted more often, there should naturally be more talent out there to choose from.
Add in the 40 or 50 years of accepted amphetamine use, and there is no player, from any era who can reasonably claim that the game they played was any more or less “clean.”
The month of June marks the five-year anniversary of OBM. As part of a month-long celebration, I have invited many of the finest writers in the blogosphere to write testimonials, cross-post, and join in the celebration in any way they desire. Skip Sauer, of The Sports Economist, has come up with the idea of a cross-posting a Barry Bonds piece. Here goes….
This week’s Chronicle of Higher Education has a piece worth reading by historian Warren Goldstein, on the simmering feud between Barry Bonds and his critics in baseball and the media. Goldstein sees an analogy between Bonds and the black superstars who were run out of sport in the 19th and 20th Century as racism became institutionalized in American society. The list, borrowing from William Rhoden’s recent book, $40 Million Dollar Slaves, includes Isaac Murhpy, a three time winner of the Kentucky Derby, Major Taylor, the top cyclist exiled to France, and boxer Jack Johnson. Since watching Ken Burns’ documentary on Johnson a few years ago, I’ve viewed Bonds and Johnson as soul mates of a sort. So I am predisposed to both Goldstein and Rhoden’s take on this.
Bonds plays in an era where overt racism is much diminished, and banishment akin to his predecessors seems unlikely. But he is caught front and center in the anti-drug witch-hunt, and he — like just about every other player of his cohort — is unapologetic. Indeed, I sometimes wonder if Bonds would not mind being immortalized in a manner similar to Murphy, Taylor, and Johnson. Just as Bud Selig and various members of the media shrink from celebrating Bond’s pending achievement, it is likely that Bonds finds the prospect of sharing the moment with his detractors to be repulsive. For reasons both valid and perhaps a bit petulant, he’d rather figuratively hang with his homies Murphy, Taylor, and Johnson. I can see his point: they’re an accomplished group.
Warren Goldstein is the author of Playing for Keeps: A History of Early Baseball. I’ve not reprinted anything from his Chronicle essay to sample here; just take my word for it that it’s worth a click and a read.
This piece has been cross-posted at The Sports Economist, in honor of Only Baseball Matter’s fifth anniversary. Skip has always supported OBM, and stood by me, something especially noteworthy as my defense of Barry Bonds has caused OBM to become somewhat marginalized.
Thanks to Skip for joining in the celebration of my anniversary.
I’m wondering if the time has come for a change. Go here and help decide the future.
For now, here’s a taste of the present.
The Giants have been on some rollercoaster this past week. After the balk-o-rama, the Giants blew the Phillies off the field, (13-0), listlessly lost 5-2, and then blew a 7-3 lead today, as Special Agent Jack Taschner failed spectacularly. The 9-8 loss keeps the team reeling, even as GM Brian Saban made the (right) move to dump team-destroyer Armando Benitez. Forgotten in the Benitez disaster is the fact that the relievers have been pretty medicore for most of the last four seasons; mostly because Sabean keeps building the pen out of spare parts.
The team is reeling, and there’s no rhyme or reason. Currently 3 games under .500, and 6.5 games behind the Dodgers, Padres and D’backs, something needs to change, and fast. The Giants are scoring about as well as everyone else in the NL West, and they’re preventing runs just about as well as everyone but the Padres, (who really should be running away with the division, by the way). But the Dodgers and D’backs are winning more than they should, and the Giants are winning less. They’re flailing right now, and Bochy needs to right the ship. Here’s how:
Bonds needs an extended rest, since he’s the most consistent offensive threat when he’s right. So does Cain, who has hit some wall or something. Give Cain’s next start to Ortiz, or even better, Correia, let the kid get two weeks off, and send Bonds back to San Francisco, and let him take an extended break too. We’re not winning with either player, so there’s no reason not to let them each take the break they need.
Tachner’s last three outings have been a disaster, he needs to take a break, too. With Hennessey installed in the closer’s role for now, give the eighth inning to Ortiz, the seventh can bounce around, and stop going righty-lefty so hard for a bit. If a guy gets the first two guys out, leave him in. Take the heat if he fails, but stop chasing a percentage you can never catch. The platoon advantage just isn’t worth that much in the short-term. Sure, it makes sense to build your lineup to have lefties against a righty; but batter to batter, it’s just foolish for Bochy to keep running one guy afetr another out there, they’re not that good anyway! If someone’s going good, stop fucking up the machine. Let him pitch.
On the offensive side, other than Feliz, we’re getting nothing from our infield. Aurilia, Vizquel, Durham…. they’re all absolutely destroying us. We don’t have enough guys to even build a real lineup, for crying out loud. Durham is once again killing us at the start the season. With only 13 extra-base hits –and 7 double plays grounded into– in his first 183 plate appearances(?!) he has started slow for the fourth straight season; and with him in the cleanup slot, he’s been more disastrous than ever. He’s ninth among NL second basemen in OPS, 12th in OBP, and 11th in extra-base hits. That’s atrocious.
The team on-base percentage is .313, (Are you kidding me?), and starting with Molina’s .328, we’re running out at least 5 starters under .330. 5 starters? How can a team win with that kind of rally-killing consistency? Bonds has 56 walks, fully one-third of the team’s 161. I mean, what more do you need to know about our hitters? No team, no staff, no pitcher thinks twice about going after any hitter on our team other than Bonds. They throw strike after strike after strike, knowing that no one else on this team is a threat in any way. Sabean’s inability to see this is part and parcel of his failure to take advantage of Bonds superhuman efforts the last 6 years; and why we’re seeing one great pitching performance after another wasted, time and again.
Over at Prawsblawg, Matt Bodie says that baseball is inherently unfair:
…. Sports are supposed to be played on an even playing field. For example, every team should have an equal chance of making it to the playoffs. But there is one league that defies this logic. In this league, 20 teams have a 20% chance of winning their division, 4 teams have a 25% chance, and 6 teams have a 16.7% chance. In addition, 14 teams have a 7% chance of winning a wild card entry to the playoffs, while 16 teams have only a 6.25% chance of winning it.
I read the whole piece, and there doesn’t seem to be any explanation for how Matt got these numbers, but for the record, in the last ten seasons, there have been 8 different World Series representatives from the NL, and 6 from the AL, making it 14 of 20 possible WS representatives.
Looking at the teams that have qualified for the postseason over the last ten years, in the AL, you’ve got Detroit, Cleveland, Texas, Baltimore, Anaheim, NY, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Minnesota, and Oakland have all made it at least once. In the NL, you’re looking at San Francisco, Atlanta, St. Louis, NY, Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Arizona, Chicago, and Florida. That’s 21 teams out of 30 have made the postseason at least once in the last decade. If you go back to 1995, you can add Cincinatti and Colorado to the list.
In fact, it’s easier to list the teams that haven’t made it in the last decade, Colorado, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Washington, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. Washington was the Expos, who were almost contracted, Milwaukee and Kansas City have been decimated by the greed of their owners, who have made it their business to operate on a shoestring budget, trading their talented players as soon as they reach the point where they have to pay them, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have been hit by bad luck and bad management, Colorado has been trying to figure out how to build a pitching staff at 5,000 feet above sea level, and Tampa Bay has been criminally mismanaged.
Only Toronto could legitimately complain that they have been shut out of the postseason due to financial imbalance, because the Yankees and the Red Sox have monopolized two postseason slots in the AL East for going on a decade, in large part because of their enormous payrolls (although the Yankees are well on their way to about a four-year run of mediocrity due to the terrible free agent deals they are tied to).
All in all, I find it hard to see what Matt’s talking about.