Friday, April 11, 2014

Pining for an Explanation

Amidst all the debate about whether Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was using a substance like pine tar to add some "life" to his pitches last night against the Red Sox, one item seems overlooked.
The first four letters of his last name are PINE. And while it is widely assumed that his name should be pronounced pin-yay-dah, what if it's really pronounced pine-da? Because I heard a lot of Boston accents last night saying that the Yankees are using "pine dah" when they pitch. Were they talking about the substance or the pitcher? Will he approach his next start with hands clean? Oooh, this could get messy.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Catching at Ceti Field

The Wall Street Journal had a good article today on the three catchers vying for time with the Mets. Included in the article were pictures of the three, Rod Barajas, Josh Thole and Henry Blanco. I've been struggling all year to figure out who Henry Blanco looks like. Today's picture helped jog my memory.

This is Ceti Alpha Five! Citi Field exploded six months after we were left here. The shock shifted the orbit of this stadium and everything was laid waste. 'Admiral' Minaya never bothered to check on our progress. It was only the fact of my genetically-engineered intellect that allowed us to survive. In the NL East, two hundred years ago, I was a prince with power over millions...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Settling a Score

The Wall Street Journal's daily sports page features a set of projected scores from AccuScore. Today's scores had the following two college men's basketball games:

NCAA Basketball: (5) Duke 77.1, Iowa St. 74.4

NCAA Basketball: (10) Michigan St. 68, (17) Wisconsin 63

I don't know how AccuScore makes projections, though I intend to find out. But I find it curious that Duke, the 5th ranked team in the country, is projected to beat unranked Iowa State by a mere 2.7 points, while 10th ranked Michigan State is expected to beat 17th ranked Wisconsin, its Big Ten rival, by 5.0 points. So Michigan State is projected to beat Wisconsin by a wider margin than Duke is projected to beat Iowa State, even though Michigan State is ranked lower than Duke, and their opponent, Wisconsin, is ranked higher than (unranked) Iowa State. As I said, I don't yet know how AccuScore makes these projections (or why one game has decimals in its projections, while the other does not). But something doesn't figure.

One Hall of a Problem

Later today, the inductees for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2010 will be announced. I have long wanted to cover this upcoming ballot and discuss the pros and cons of several candidates, but time, like youth, has escaped me. So what I will do instead is share a few brief thoughts in advance of the announcement, and revisit this topic later with some more depth attached.

Before starting with mentions of individual players, one topic that I'd really like to explore is that of the extremely good player vs. the best-in-class player. The Hall of Fame has both types, and I'm not sure there's necessarily a mathematical relationship, but there's certainly an implied relationship between those players who get in on the first ballot, and those who make it on their eighth, twelfth or even fifteenth try. The latter group appears to be judged differently than the former, and I think there are inconsistencies between how people vote for those late ballot players and how their statistics compare to those who got in on early ballots. This distinction will frame some of the discussion in the more in-depth follow-up to this post.

Quick thoughts on players:

Fred McGriff: I always liked McGriff, but I don’t think he’s a first ballot guy (more because of the way the voting is done, than as an indictment of his worthiness, though I do think first ballot guys should be Lou Gehrig-esque, no doubters). I do think he belongs in, because his career numbers are really, really good. His numbers are reasonably comparable with Reggie Jackson’s and Reggie got in on the first ballot with over 93% of the vote. McGriff never had the signature moments Reggie did, which always seems to hurt candidacies of the long-term producers like McGriff. The Crime Dog should get in, maybe in year four.

Edgar Martinez: I think Edgar Martinez is a Jim Rice-type candidate. A guy who was a feared hitter for 10+ years, whose numbers look a lot better post-juice. I think he won’t get in now, but will someday, just because some writers will scoff at his DH role. But you give me a near .420 career OBP over that many years, and I give you my vote (or will should I get one).

Andre Dawson: Now that Rice is in, Dawson should be in, too.

Roberto Alomar: No doubter for Hall of Fame, but will need another year. Voters will hold the spitting incident against him, and say, "he's great, but because of that, I'm not letting him in on the first ballot." Ty Cobb's voters had lower character standards, perhaps.

Tim Raines: I think Tim Raines is a Hall of Famer, coke vials notwithstanding. He was dominant in his time, AND he was a compiler. He’s Rickey-lite, but Rickey was first ballot. And Rock had a better stolen base percentage than Rickey, by 4 or 5 points. Also lacks signature moments, which of course, is partly a reflection of being on some non-playoff teams.

Dale Murphy: I think Dale Murphy should be in. He won’t be, because his numbers look so bad cumulatively. But when he played, he was neck-in-neck with Mike Schmidt statistically for the bulk of his injury-shortened career.

Bert Blyleven: Blyleven is a compiler, and the compilers have gotten in (Don Sutton, for example). He was never the most dominant pitcher for even one season. To me, his strikeout/walk ratio is his most truly outstanding stat. I think there are other compilers who shouldn’t be in, but since they are, Blyleven should be with them.

Barry Larkin: I think Larkin was/is underappreciated. He’s not noticeably that much worse in terms of total career package than Yount or Ripken, both of whom were first ballot guys (Yount not by much). Taking 3 straight Gold Gloves while Ozzie Smith was still in the league is no small feat either. I’m amazed how many All Star teams Larkin made, and I know that carries weight with some voters. The Hall of Fame really isn’t for just the Piazzas of the world, based on prior votes. It appears to also include the consistently really good. Larkin was that, and I find it hard to prove that Larkin doesn't belong in the same general category as Yount and Ripken. So while he's not likely a first ballot guy (or even second or third, based on how Raines has fared these past two years), he could be an eighth or ninth ballot guy.

More to come.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I'm Just Getting Warmed Up

I'm not saying it's never happened before, I'm just too tired to look right now. But have you ever seen a team use its Game 3 starter AND its Game 4 starter during the sixth and seventh innings of Game 2 of a playoff series, let alone a five game playoff series? Well, if you saw today's Phillies-Rockies game you did.

Phillies' starter Cole Hamels pitched five unspectacular innings, giving up four runs on seven hits, though he did strike out five and didn't walk anyone. One of those hits was a 2-run, 2-out home run to catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who had two home runs all year. Could Hamels have used more focus? Well, he left the stadium right after he left the game for a pinch hitter in the 5th inning, because his wife was in labor. Certainly understandable why his focus might not have been sharp.

But what happened next should give Phillies fans pregnant pause. Manager Charlie Manuel used Game 3 starter Joe Blanton for an inning. Fine, you say, he's just getting in work that he would have gotten in during a bullpen session anyway. Ok, I guess, but he is starting in two days, so you better hope he doesn't get hurt. Which brings us to the next decision, to use Game 4 starter J.A. Happ in the 7th inning. One line drive off the leg later, and the Phillies starting pitching is suddenly as iffy as the back end of their bullpen has been.

So now you have a team that doesn't know who's getting the ball to close games (Lidge? Madson? Bueller?). You don't know whether Happ will be able to go in Game 4. You don't know whether Hamels will regain his on again, off again crispness. The defending World Champs now head to Colorado, with the series tied 1-1, and Manuel has burned his ships to stay in the New World. As Lt. Colonel Frank Slade would say, "Now here's Charlie. He's come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path...Let him continue on his path."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Schill Out

Fitting for a guy who made a lot of noise, yesterday's retirement announcement by Curt Schilling has generated a lot of discussion about Schilling's place in baseball history. I have only read a few pieces today, and heard some radio chatter this morning, but I think the whole Hall of Fame debate is being viewed too narrowly. There are a lot more guys he needs to be compared to besides John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. I think Schilling's career numbers are very good, but if his candidacy is to be based on his career, then I think you have to ask: Is Kevin Brown a Hall of Famer? Is Orel Hersheiser a Hall of Famer? Is David Cone? Is Dwight Gooden? Chuck Finley? Bob Welch? Vida Blue? Not to mention another bunch of guys viewed as being light on the win totals (Jimmy Key, Frank Viola, Dave Stewart and Bret Saberhagen). And a bunch who are still going (Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, Jake Peavy, CC Sabathia and Josh Beckett).

I'm not including Andy Pettitte because he's much closer to the end than the beginning relative to these other current guys, and I don't think he's got a shot (unless it's being administered by Brian McNamee).

And then compare Schilling to the guys you would say were more dominant #1 pitchers during the same era: Greg Maddux gets in before Schill. Pedro Martinez does too. Randy Johnson gets in before. Ditto John Smoltz, and he wasn't always a #1, courtesy of being teammates with Maddux and Glavine (nor always a starter, with his years of brilliance as a closer). Roger Clemens would have, but he's more likely at this point to be incarcerated than inducted. Mariano Rivera, elite closer, will also get in before Schilling. Glavine likely gets the nod with that group. So that's six, maybe seven, before Schilling. The Hall has 63 Major League pitchers (not including Satchel Paige, who is in with eight other Negro League pitchers), over 140 years of history. So that's roughly a new pitcher every 2.2 years, and there are six or seven that will go in very close to each other. Seems like a crowded field.

And the one that seems to keep getting overlooked in terms of comparison: Mike Mussina. Schilling, to me, was certainly not "better" than Mussina for the lengths of their careers. Schilling had more BOOM! TAKE THAT! moments than Moose, and he outshone him in areas like WHIP and Strikeout/Walk Ratio, but Moose still had excellent numbers in those categories. Moose clearly dominates in wins, 270 to 216. In general, I don't like basing pitching success on win totals because of the role that the offense plays in determining whether a pitcher has enough run support to win the game. But part of the reason why Moose has more wins than Schilling is because he was a great starter from day one. The first part of Schilling's career is filled with blech: he had a few years coming out of the bullpen and a bunch of single win years that seem to have been glossed over like the early topless roles of current A list Hollywood stars. So his total numbers, particulary when it comes to wins, are just not there, Hall-wise (though it makes his strikeout totals particularly impressive). And suffice it to say, when Schilling puts up supporting video on his website for his Hall candidacy, he will probably leave out his brief stint as Red Sox closer. Yeesh.

Now some may say, well Sandy Koufax had some stinkers for the first bunch of years, too, and is really a Hall of Famer because of his last four years. But oh, those four years were the best four consecutive years EVER for a pitcher, and they brought his otherwise non-extraordinary (though better than ordinary) career numbers the benefit of averaging down. And despite his late career success, no one would confuse Schilling for Koufax. Schill never even had one truly dominant, all-time great season, but he had a few really good ones.

Anyway, the Class of 2014 will have Maddux and Mussina eligible for the first time (oddly, though Schill got paid for last season without playing, he will be eligible in 2013, a year before two guys, Maddux and Mussina, who retired before he did). Maddux will likely challenge Tom Seaver's all-time voting percentage (98.84), perhaps getting in on 100% of ballots. The baseball writers may hold back votes on Mussina to give Maddux the day to himself, but Moose will get there. Also eligible in 2013 with Schilling? David Wells...a larger, less disciplined, lower strikeout version of Schilling. And Wells won't come anywhere close to getting in. And really, on the baseball greatness spectrum, is Schilling closer to Maddux or Wells?

Looked at 10 years from now, I think Schilling will be grouped with Dave Stewart and Jack Morris, two guys with fantastic postseason memories, but whose careers were shy of sustained greatness.

Friday, March 13, 2009

You Orange Going to Believe It

Any basketball game that goes to six overtimes is likely to have its share of "can you believe that?" moments. The UConn-Syracuse quarterfinal last night (and into this morning) at the Big East tournament certainly did. The Huskies and Orange played the second longest game in Division I history, trailing only Cincinnati's seven overtime victory over Bradley, 75-73, in December 1981 (while I haven't seen the box score from that game, I have to believe that part of the reason why that score in seven OT's is so much lower than yesterday's six OT game is because the three-point shot wasn't introduced until the 1986-87 season).

Any game that goes on as long as the UConn-'Cuse game will have its share of shocking numbers, simply because they continue to accumulate throughout the game: points, minutes played, players who fouled out, etc. But the one that really stands out: Syracuse, which won the game 127-117 in the sixth overtime, never led once in any of the first five overtimes. Not for one second. Of course, UConn's inability to score in the waning seconds of a few of the overtimes gave Syracuse that chance, but nonetheless, can you believe that?

Friday, February 27, 2009

A More Perfect Union

If the media rumors are correct, we wish congratulations to Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen on their marriage (the Brady Bundchen?). May he have better success in love than he did with this union: