the dump's sportslog - baseball analysis
Tooting My Own Horn
Let's compare Jayson Stark's midseason awards to my predictions before the season:
NL MVP of the Half-Year - SCOTT ROLEN, CARDINALS -- It's almost impossible to make the argument that any player is more valuable to any team than Barry Bonds is to the Giants. But we'll make an exception in Rolen's case.
Reports of Mark Mulder's Death are greatly exaggerated. - And so continues the predictions. As you can tell, the prediction for American League Cy Young is the always "Foxy" (boo) Mark Mulder. He's the black sheep of the staff, caught between the established starlight of Tim Hudson and Barry Zito and the rising star-dom of Rich Harden. But even as a "solid 3," he's got a hell of a lot more talent than lots of other pitchers in the American League.
Followed by a non-descript announcement of Rolen as my MVP pick.
I'm having some trouble with the rest of my picks, but the get three like that? Damn, it feels good.
Classic Home Run Derby
ESPN Classic has been showing the classic home run derbies all day today, and they're absolutely spectacular. I was able to watch Harmon Killebrew, Willie Mays, Jackie Jensen, Mickey Mantle and many others take vicious cuts for the sole purpose of knocking the ball out of the park.
Mantle is on right now, and batting right handed against the righty batting practice pitcher. This is especially odd since he hit almost 200 more home runs as a lefty (372/164) (perhaps due to more right handed pitchers?).
The show is filmed in 1959 (or 1960) in Wrigley Field of Los Angeles - the former home of the Angels' farm team and the Angels' first home in the majors. The dimensions of the park are about even: "Dimensions: Left field 340 ft..; power alleys: 345 ft.; center field: 412 ft.; right field: 338.5 ft.;" I can't find year by year splits, but I'd imagine that he had about 2 left handed homers for every one homer.
Oh well, he beat Jackie Jensen anyway.
Alternate Universes Part II
Baseball Prospectus (premium content) asks an "alternate universe" question about the Thursday night - July 1st game between the Red Sox and the Yankees. In the top of the 13th, Gary Sheffield moved to third after Derek Jeter left the game with bruises on his face. The first batter, Kevin Millar, hit a hard ball down the line which was snared by Sheffield, who made an awkward throw to first. BP then poses the question:
An obvious strategic question presented itself: could the Red Sox run up
The pitcher at the time was Tanyon Sturtze - not exactly known for his defense presence. Millar was followed in the order by Dave McCarty and Cesar Crespo who had come in for Kevin Youkilis earlier. I can't say I know how good of a bunter either McCarty or Crespo are, and Crespo certainly has some speed, as he was put in as a pinch runner. It would have been interesting to try a bunt and see what happened. Maybe you don't get it over enough, and Sturtze or Flaherty get there. Maybe you push it too hard, and the Yankees are watching and A-Rod is able to get there from short - definitely something they'd do if they knew a bunt was coming to the left side. If you were certain you could force a play on Sheffield, you almost have to put him on the spot. It's akin to waiting for a pitcher to throw a strike before you start hitting. You make him prove that he can pull it off.
The defensive switching in that game was absolutely brilliant, and the delays for switching gloves just added excitement to the contest. The Yankees are in a bit of a slump now - which is mostly pitching related. I see them making a change and bringing someone in - as even a healthy Kevin Brown won't sate an angry Steinbrenner from doing something after these recent outings.
I had the pleasure of going to the Wednesday night game between the Yankees and the Red Sox. While Thursday ended up being more exciting, I still had a blast. Even though the Yankees ended up winning the game, I still didn't like two managerial decisions made by Mr. Joe Torre. It's a little tough to fault him for stuff that ended up working extremely well, but it made me a little jumpy at the time.
The first instance was when he brought in Bret Prinz and Felix Heredia in the top of the seventh - first with two on then with the bases loaded - both with no outs. Of course, Heredia did a great job - getting an infield grounder, a short fly and a clutch strikeout. When the call was made for Prinz, I remarked that in some alternate universe where this game was being played, bizarro Joe Torre brings in Mariano Rivera. Your best pitcher in the most important spot - thats how it could work. Heredia closed the door anyway, which I guess is the purpose of having a good bullpen, but even so.
Secondly, after scoring two runs to tie the game in the seventh on zero hits, Kenny Lofton started the eighth by getting to second on a Nomar Garciaparra error. Derek Jeter is up next. And he bunts. I almost started crying. Derek Jeter - one of the hottest hitters in the league over the last month - giving up an out. The Yankees had only three (well, or six) outs to give for the whole game, and they were ready to just pass one up. Taking the bat out of Jeter's hands in that situation is absolutely ridiculous. The next at bat - one for the ages by Sheffield - was a double anyway, so even if Jeter got out without advancing the runner, Lofton would have scored. Jeter might have been bunting for a hit, but its a bad move that was eventually erased by a great Sheffield at bat.
ESPN 25: Worst Teams
ESPN 25 has the show of the "worst teams" of the past 25 years on tonight. I'm probably not going to watch, but I've been amazed by the commercials, which note the 1996 Detroit Tigers as a possibility for the worst team, and then to some football team. But every time I see it, I hope the next team they say after that one is, "The 2003 Detroit Tigers" when they were 10 games worse than that 1996 club, who were worst in the league in almost every batting and pitching stat. I'm not sure if they're the worst of the last 25 years, but they're definitely close - and much worse than the 1996 club.
Grimsley to Baltimore
Baltimore Orioles get: Jason Grimsley.
Kansas City Royals get: Denny Bautista.
Grimsley's going to be a welcome addition to the Oriole bullpen. He's an experienced righty reliever who is having a decent season (3.38 ERA in 26.2 innings over 32 appearances and allowing 24 hits (1 homer) and 15 walks while striking out 18). He'll bring some stability to a bullpen that has been inconsistent, crappy and young thus far. He's not making ridiculous money ($1 million for the season, and considerably from this point forward), so that doesn't appear to be much of an issue. Grimsley supposedly signed a one-year extension with Baltimore upon being dealt, though it's unclear how much that's for - though it seems unlikely that it'd be far off this year's salary.
The question then is whether or not a year and a half of Grimsley is worth as promising a young arm as Denny Bautista. Young pitchers, of course, are fraught with an awful lot of risk - there's no guarantee that Bautista is ever going to be a succesful major league pitcher. In spite of his inauspicious debut (allowing 8 earned runs in two innings to start his major league career), Bautista's a highly thought of prospect who won't be 24 until the end of August. He hasn't exactly torn it up at AA Bowie (going 3-5 with a 4.74 ERA over 62.2 innings, allowing 58 hits (5 homers), walking 33 and striking out 72), but he's a young pitcher with promise. While the Orioles are dealing from a position of strength (as they're not without other promising young arms), this is a move that could easily look bad in the near future.
The question then is whether or not having Grimsley is going to make a significant difference for the Orioles. Looking at the AL East, it seems highly unlikely that Baltimore is going to be in position for a division title or wild card berth in either of the next two seasons (which is how long Grimsley's going to be around for). I can see a contending team making a move like this, adding a veteran for a young player or players down the stretch (Bautista was dealt last year from the Marlins to the Orioles last year in such a move - it allowed the eventual champions to reacquire Jeff Conine). I'm not sure I understand it from a team in the Orioles' position.
Our one reader may remember my quest to find my favorite baseball poem of all time, Steve Rushin's ode to the Mets' Third Basemen throughout history. Using the magic of Lexis, I was able to locate it, and now, for your pleasure:
The Ballad Of Joe Moock: and other Mets hot cornermen who weren't so hot
And in honor of the rain-delayed series between the Expos and Royals, a Jim Baker poem about a similarly painful series from a few years ago:
One for the Ages
I just finished reading Jim Bouton's second book, Foul Ball, about his fight to save Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, MA.
Basically, Wahconah Park is very old, and teams keep pulling out, holding the city hostage. The "city" (meaning the mayor, the newspaper [Berkshire Eagle] and parks commisioners/city council) wanted to build an 18 million dollar new stadium in Pittsfield, effectively getting rid of Wahconah Park.
There were only a few problems:
But as Bouton writes (on 333):
Imagine George Steinbrenner insisting that New York City not build him a new stadium, but rather allow him to invest private funds to renovate the existing Yankee Stadium in exchange for a long-term commitment from the city. Dozens would be hurt in the stampede to get his signature on a lease before he changed his mind.
So despite the obvious choice and the overwhelming support of the Pittsfield community, the leaders gave the park to Jonathan Fleisig - who really had no idea what he was talking about in any baseball field. Bouton provides a comparison of the two plans (PDF). Fleisig has operated the Berkshire Black Bears for two years, and people haven't turned out - perhaps because the team stinks, but also due to the fact that Fleisig has done nothing for Wahconah Park, hoping that he'd get a new one. Of course, Fleisig fled, taking his team and going home to Lynn, MA, changing the name of the team to the "North Shore Spirit".
So in 2004, Wahconah Park will have no team again. The band-aid "solution" of Fleisig's team did not work, and they're back where they started, all because the city was too stubborn to realize a good thing while it was going on. Bouton is still in the mix to save Wahconah Park, and now the city leadership may be ready to accept him, after everything Bouton said about Fleisig's plan came true.
This is an interesting one to watch, and if their bid is successful, it could revolutionize minor league baseball ownership.
There's a lot of other great things in the book, part of which is Bouton's excellent writing, and another part is Bouton just does weird things which are great to read about.
So pick it up if you get a chance, and I'll stay updated on things we can do to save Wahconan Park.
Back in Time!
The history of baseball is very complex, and the place of birth continually changes - from Cooperstown to Hoboken, and now a new home: Pittsfield, Massachusettes:
BACK TO the dugout, Cooperstown and Hoboken -- two pretenders to the honor of being the birthplace of baseball back in the 19th century. It turns out that the game was played so vigorously in the 18th century in Pittsfield that officials banned it within 80 yards of the Congregational meetinghouse. A baseball historian's discovery of a 1791 ordinance drawn up to protect the new building's windows has brought a glow to the Western Massachusetts city
I came upon this by accident, as I'm currently reading (I've got about 20 pages to go) Jim Bouton's "Foul Ball", about how Bouton and two partner's tried to renovate the old stadium in Pittsfield (not where they played ball in 1791 - just the 1900s) - against the wishes of the mayer, the town's board of commissioners and the local newspaper (The Berkshire Eagle). I'll have a deeper discussing of this book in a little bit when I finish it, but basically Bouton and his friends offer to renovate the stadium with their own money and have the city of Pittsfield it through stock - even though which team it would be was never explored. It was pretty much a no-brainer for everyone, but for a couple nasty reasons, the politicians in power blocked it.
That Boston Globe editorial also says:
Plus, of course, they're not sure if that game played in 1791 relates at all to the current game of baseball, but its still an interesting development.
Oh, and I saw a game at Wahconah Park in 1993. I don't remember what happened in the game, or who the Pittsfield Mets faced that day, but hopefully I'll get a chance to go back and enjoy the history.
I'm watching the Met's game right now, and Piazza is playing first. There was a man on and someone (I wasn't watching that closely, as I just want to see Clemens pitch) drilled one to third, which was caught on a fly by Todd Zeile, who fired back to first, where Piazza made the catch with his foot on the bag as the runner was sliding in, and then went to apply the tag - on the force play. He was laughing about it, and old habits certainly die hard, but come on.
P.S. Roger looks great.