I have moved my blog

Posted on June 24, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

If you like what you read here, please join me at Sports In-Depth: Baseball Edition

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The Yankees are Back

Posted on June 4, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

In the blink of an eye, the Yankees went from underachievers to world-beaters. They have the best record in the American League, and 2nd best in the entire league behind the Dodgers. What happened? Pitching. In April, the team ERA was 5.79. The team ERA was still 5.78 a few weeks into May, until they began a 10 game winning streak and the pitching finally improved. Today, the team ERA is 4.88 and around 3.00 in the last week. The new ace, C.C. Sabathia, went 4-1 in May with a 2.56 ERA.

Really, though, none of this will mean anything if they play poorly in the next couple of weeks. They have a 4 game series at home against the Rays and a 3 game series against the Red Sox in Boston. So far this year, they are 0-5 against the Red Sox. They are playing much better than in April, so they will probably win at least one. Then, they have the much anticipated (at least it was 10 years ago) and sure to be overhyped Subway Series against their cross-town “rival”, the Mets. This year, it looks like the Mets are capitulating to the Phillies in June as opposed to September. It’s probably smart, and will make losing easier to deal with.

The Yankees might just run away with the division, although Boston should not be counted out. It does not bother me like it used to. Part of it is that they actually missed the playoffs last year and the playoffs were not the same with the Yankees. It was probably good for a year, but baseball needs the excitement of having the heavily favored Yankees get beat by a young upstart team (Angels, Tigers, Indians, Marlins). Admittedly, watching the Yankees be eliminated at Yankee Stadium has been watered down a bit because it has happened so often, but it is still always exciting.

It looks like they will be back in the playoffs again this year, as long as their pitching can be halfway decent. As much as I would like to see the Blue Jays chase them down on the last day of the season, I doubt it will happen. My dream scenario for the first round: The Rangers avenge their 3 defeats in the 90’s and beat the Yankees in 5. In fact, the best World Series matchups would involve the Yankees too: Dodgers-Yankees, Cubs-Yankees, Brewers-Yankees, Cardinals-Yankees. Of course, these would have to go at least 6 games, which has not happened since 2003! I am embracing the Yankees winning ways for now even though I am not a fan, because I know it will set up some great October entertainment.

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Putting the Dodgers in perspective

Posted on May 29, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Just how good are the Dodgers?  Let’s assume they keep up their current pace, which is to win 115 games.  Keeping up an incredibly hot pace for the entire season is rare, but it does happen.   For instance, the 2001 Mariners were 37-12 through their first 49 games.  They ended the season 116-46.  They were on pace to win 122 at the 49 game mark, so they only slowed a little bit.  Their positive run differential was +300.  To put that in perspective, since 2001, only 2 teams have been better than 200: the 2002 LA Angels of Anaheim at 207 and the 2007 Red Sox at 210 (they both won the World Series, too).  Right now, the Dodgers are on pace to win 115 games and have a run differential of 294.   The next best pace right now is the St. Louis Cardinals at 96 wins for the season.

Right now, the 2009 LA Dodgers are only slightly behind the legendary 2001 Mariner team.  The 2001 Mariners did not win the World Series of course, so they are considered a disappointment.  But, winning 116 games is still an incredible achievement.  Another amazing stat is that the run differential for the Dodgers is 2x that of the next best team, the Detroit Tigers at a mortal +44.  Since 2002, the biggest difference between the 1st and 2nd ranked team was 33 for the 2008 Cubs over the Red Sox.  Even that was only about 18% higher.

The Dodgers will probably come back to earth a little bit, but these are still staggering numbers through 49 games.  It is exciting to realize that we could be witnessing true greatness, along the lines of the 1954 Indians or the 1998 Yankees.  They could also end up winning 95 and making it to the World Series.  They have been winning with a patchwork starting rotation and without their best hitter.  They need Chad Billingsley, who is currently 6-2 with a 2.82 ERA, to stay healthy and continue to be an ace and hope that Manny doesn’t cause a disruption if they are still rolling when he is scheduled to come back in July. 

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Cubs are losing a race they always win

Posted on May 28, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Ok, they’re only losing by 3 strikeouts.  I find it to be an amazing stat that the last time the Cubs did not win the MLB strikeout race was 2000.   Bill Clinton was President the last time the Cubs failed to lead MLB in strikeouts.  They have often won this by over 100 strikeouts over any other team.  It has not translated into any important, like a championship, but it is still a very impressive stat.  As of right now, the Florida Marlins are leading this important race by 3 strikeouts.  They have also eeked it out several years, like 2008 when they won over the Giants by 4 strikeouts.  The Giants may not have even realized it was a race, but I bet the Cubs knew. 

The Cubs rotation has changed personnel over the years, although they have obviously been looking for a particular type of pitcher.  Carlos Zambrano has been a mainstay and ranked in the top ten in the NL from 2004-2007.  Of course, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood were major contributors when healthy.  What other names might you have forgotten that were factors?  Matt Clement, Rich Hill, Jason Bere, Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz, Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch, Carlos Marmol and on and on.  They have continued with this strategy despite mediocre results.  Yes, they have made the playoffs the last two years and came close to the World Series in 2003, but the results have still not been pretty.  They have been barely over .500 since 2001, but that includes several 90 loss seasons.

Strikeouts are wonderful and exciting.  Dominating pitchers often do great in the postseason, such as the 2001 Diamondbacks.  But, I think the Cubs should let this streak lapse and see if getting some more non-fireballers in the rotation improves their lot.  It’s not the cause of all their problems, but it is a continuing reminder of past failures.

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What’s wrong with the Yankees pitching?

Posted on May 27, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The Yankees are on pace to give up over 900 runs.  This will probably not happen because they are the Yankees and not the Colorado Rockies or the Texas Rangers.  Chen Ming Wang will finish with an ERA better than 25.00 if at all healthy, Jonathan Albaladejo (who?) will finish with a better ERA than 6.00, Edwar Ramirez will improve (uhh..not sure about this either).  It is a little odd that a team with a 2.3 billion dollar payroll (fine 200+ million), would be using so many no-names and unproven pitchers on a regular basis.  The Yankee bullpen was the core of their success during their last championship run, with Mike Stanton and Jeff Nelson nailing down the later innings before Mariano came in for his automatic save.  That stability really helped during the postseason too, where the Yankees have struggled recently.

Its not like they’re using these guys because they are pitching well, either.  Albaladejo, Edwar and Jose Veras (who did pitch well for them last year) all have ERA’s over 5.00.  I know putting together a bullpen is the toughest thing in all of sports, but it shouldn’t be this tough.  I mean, they have unlimited funds at their disposal.  They should have paid K-Rod twice what the Mets offered and put him in the 8th inning with a promise of Mariano’s job when he retires.  I’m only half kidding here, folks. 

Here is some perspective:  How many Yankee teams have allowed even 800 runs in a season?  The answer is 5: 2004, 2000, 1930, 1912 (as the Highlanders) and 1902 (as the Orioles).  2000 turned out ok for them and 2004 was fine until Dave Roberts and Big Papi.  They will probably improve: Sabbathia is already turning it on, Joba and A.J. have unbelievable talent and Phil Hughes can’t be this bad (right?).  Actually, though, Phil Hughes is pitching just like he did last year, when he went 0-4 with a 6.62 ERA. 

In fact, the numbers overall are already improving, although there is no guarantee that it will hold.  Over their last 12 games, they went 10-2 with a much more Yankee-like 3.60.  Even with a positive trend, there are reasons to be concerned.  The first major reason is the bandbox that is the new Yankee Stadium.  Last year, their home ERA was 4.11, this year it is 5.48.  It could be that the pitchers are only now adjusting to the Coors-like home run totals.  It might be tough to “adjust” to a bandbox, look at Colorado.  Another thing messing with the overall numbers is a few huge individual run totals allowed, like 22, 16 and 15.  Not good, but localized in a few really bad games. 

I am not a Yankees fan, in fact quite the opposite.  I do expect them to at least compete for a playoff spot this year and probably import some high priced talent at the trade deadline if the Albaladejo experiment doesn’t work out.  All in all, the numbers are deceiving right now because it still puts them at the bottom.  They’re not a top flight pitching staff now, although they have plenty of talent.  They’re more middle of the road, like Seattle or Oakland.  I doubt that will be make Yankee fans jump with joy.  If I were a Yankee fan, I would feel ok at the starting pitching, uneasy about the stadium, nervous about the relief corps and wondering a little bit why this is all we got for a half trillion dollar spending spree this offseason by Hal and Hank.

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Why are the Texas Rangers winning?

Posted on May 27, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The Rangers are not known for winning.  They have had one winning season since they last made the playoffs in 1999.  That’s not quite the Pirates, but it’s pretty bad.  Right now, they are 26-17, second best in baseball.  Are they scoring runs? Sure, but they always score runs.  Last year, they scored more runs than any other team in baseball and still lost more games than they won.  That happened because they allowed more runs than any other team.  In fact, they “won” that race by 80 runs over the runner-up, Pittsburgh.  Their team E.R.A. was 5.37.  They had a few bright spots in their rotation, such as Frank Francisco (3.13 in 58 games).  They also dealt with the performance of Luis Mendoza (8.67 in 25 games and 11 starts).  The 2008 Rangers are as easy to diagnose as any team you will ever find.  Offense was not the problem.  It was pitching, terrible pitching.

The real question is how did they become a middle of the pack pitching staff.   A few obvious suggestions are that its early and pitchers will wear down over time in Texas.  Both are certainly factors, but there is more at play.  The biggest turnaround for the starting rotation is Kevin Millwood, who has certainly had a fine career.  He is only 4-4, but with a 3.12 ERA.  The rest of the starting rotation looks OK, and similar to last year’s performance.   Another obvious bright spot in Frank Francisco, who has an ERA of, get ready, 0.00!  That is over 15 innings, too.  It goes without saying that this will not continue forever.  He will give up a run, everyone does at some point.  If he reverts back to his excellent form from last year, that obliterates part of the reason for their improvement in their team ERA.

Any hope their pitching can at least keep them in it and have a team ERA under 5.00?  Yes.  Brandon McCarthy pitched a complete game shutout on Sunday, first of his career.  He has been hyped for a few years, and maybe that was his break out.  If not, when Francisco and Millwood slump, the team pitching will suffer greatly.  The Rangers are easy to diagnose, much moreso than other teams.  I will continue to do that for the remainder of the season.

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1.000 OPS as measure of success

Posted on May 26, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the more interesting stats in baseball is who is above 1.000 in OPS during and at the end of the season. It is a stat that generally includes only the true hitting elites and is becoming more difficult to attain as power numbers slide backward. Typically, players who accomplish this feat are patient at the plate and accumulate walks that boost their OBP. First of all, OPS is the combination of On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage. There are only nine players ever with career OPS higher than 1.000. Two are active: Pujols and Ramirez. There are a few other guys on the list, named Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, Bonds, Foxx and Hornsby. It is a Hall of Fame level caliber of play, but many can only stay there for a year and never return.

For some historical perspective, there were 13 players who finished 2000 over 1.000 and only 3 in 2008. Since 2000, 31 players have combined for 67 instances of it. The leaders since 2000 are Manny Ramirez (7) and Albert Pujols (6). For the most part, the number hovered between 5 to 8 players per year. There were some who only broke through for a year, such as J.D. Drew and Magglio Ordonez. These are very quality players, but they only reached this milestone one time.

All of the players who made it only a few times this decade show how difficult it is to do. That is what makes it so interesting to check it out at this stage of the season. Right now, there are 17 players over 1.000. With the exception of Albert Pujols, they would all be new. Some of them have been great players for a while, such as David Wright and Miguel Cabrera, but never been over it for the whole season. Some of the others are surprised, such as Russell Branyan and Jason Bartlett. It is interesting how some players, like David Wright, are doing this without much power. He has a very high OBP and that is sustaining him with only 3 home runs. The leader is Raul Ibanez, who has been come closer than 130 points from it. If history tells us anything, the list will shrink to between 5 and 8 by the end of the year and many of these players will have fallen back a bit. The players who do stick around above 1.000 the whole season (Adam Jones, Joey Votto?) will have proven themselves capable of greatness. Just don’t expect them to repeat too often unless they are an all-time great.

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Hello world!

Posted on May 26, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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