Monday, August 31, 2009

ESPN Guest Tortures Mike and Mike With Actual Insight and Information

Buster Olney must have eaten his Wheaties this morning because he was bringing the smarts to a show that generally revels in stupidity. Buster has never really impressed me, perhaps because he goes by the name “Buster”, but not only did he attack the concept of “pitcher wins” this morning (with some attitude, I might add), he also basically called John Kruk an idiot, and made Mike and Mike very uncomfortable.

The first topic discussed with Buster was whether Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals should/could win the AL Cy Young award even though he “only has 13 wins.” Buster answered with an emphatic “yes, of course.” Lowest ERA, lowest WHIP, 202 SOs to only 40 walks, AND he mentioned that over the past month and a half, CC Sabathia is getting, on average, 3 more runs worth of run support per game.
Mike Greenberg responded with the following:

“Of course, the pitcher’s job primarily is to win, and if your team scores 1, your job is to give up zero.”

Your job is also, apparently, to be psychic and to develop super human abilities to pitch better when you psychically know that your team won’t score much.

Buster then reiterated the run support point, compared all of the non-win stats to the Halladays and Sabathias of the world, and left the dumb duo silenced, as there was really nothing else to say.

They then played a clip from John Kruk criticizing the many ways the Yankees have used Joba Chamberlain, and the fact that they are now severely limiting his pitch count. I’ll paraphrase:

John Kruk: First they use him in the 7th inning, then the 8th inning, then all innings, then some innings in the middle of the game, and now the first 3 innings. How is he supposed to develop as a pitcher if he doesn’t know which innings he will be pitching, after all, in the 7th they add the fireball, and the 5th is played completely underwater, and in the 2nd they fill everyone’s shoes with Jello, and you have to get used to all of these variations and be able to prepare for the fireball if you're going to be playing in an inning where the fireball is on the field. What’s that Karl? All of the innings are exactly the same? And there is no fireball? Or underwater inning? And I'm a delusional weirdo who got into Lenny Dykstra's medicine cabinet one too many times? Well, you never played the game, so what do you know?

Buster basically called Kruk a moron, and while he didn’t use the term, he went on to explain the Verducci Effect, and how the Yankees see Chamberlain as a long-term asset and are being very forward-looking in how they are handling him. In fact, while Kruk asserted that they have no plan for Chamberlain, their plan is smart and obvious and makes sense given everything we know about young pitchers.

Some Mike asked “But they’re only doing this because they’re the Yankees and have a huge lead and can afford to be all crazy and experimental, right?” Buster replied that, “No, if they were tied for the division lead or 20 games back or 20 games ahead, they would be doing the same thing. This is a long term plan for Chamberlain that makes perfect sense.”

Again, silence.

Nice job Buster.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dear Dan O'Donnell

Dan O'Donnell is one of the sports talk radio hosts on 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee. I consider him to be one of the smartest sports talk hosts in existence, and I'm not just saying that because he's a friend of certain blog writers here.

Two days ago on his show I heard him wondering why so many people seem intent on getting rid of Prince Fielder. I called in too late, so instead I wrote this:

Dear Dan O’Donnell,

I heard you on the radio late on Wednesday night while I was driving home from my fantasy football draft. You were wondering why many people seem intent on getting rid of Prince Fielder in spite of his historically great season, and in spite of the fact that he is one of the most talented and productive Brewer players in franchise history. I have an answer for that question.

Certainly there are those that simply think he’s a weirdo for being a vegetarian, or too fat, or lousy on defense (who cares? It’s first base), or quiet, or some other reason that the rubes like to talk about when they call in to talk radio, but there’s a better answer, and his name is Boog Powell.

Old Player Skills

Bill James, back in pre-Moneyball era, coined the concept of “Old Player Skills.” What James found was that young, athletic players tend to age gracefully and remain productive for a long period of time. They tended to see an increase in power over time, combined with a loss of speed and athleticism. Young players who already possessed above average power along with a lack of speed and athleticism, on the other hand, tended to decline very rapidly after their peaks. As these players possessed the skill sets that athletic players tended to age into, James dubbed them “old player skills.”

PECOTA and Boog Powell

Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA system is, perhaps, the most widely respected player projection system ever. Designed by Nate Silver (now a highly regarded political commentator and researcher at, it compiles a list of player attributes, and compares a current player to historically similar players in an attempt to determine how their careers will progress. I’ve been a Baseball Prospectus subscriber for many years now, and if you’re a power hitter hoping for a long, prosperous career, there is one player who you do not want on your list of comparable players. That player is Boog Powell.

Boog Powell was a fantastic slugger for the Baltimore Orioles, winning the MVP award in 1970 at the age of 28. He was big, unathletic, and struck out a lot (for the time). He was inconsistent in his younger days, belting 25 and 39 HRs in his age 21 and 22 seasons respectively, and flip-flopping between big seasons (39 HRs in 1964, 34 in 1966) and lackluster seasons (17 in 1965, 13 in 1967). Most players peak around their age 27 season, and Powell was no exception. Here are Powell’s lines from his age 26 season through his age 30 season:

1968 – 249/.338/.411, 22 HRs
1969 – 304/.383/.559, 37 HRs
1970 - .297/.412/.549, 35 HRs
1971 - .256/.379/.459, 22 HRs
1972 - .252/.346/.434, 21 HRS

You probably see a nice bell curve here, and that is no illusion. At age 30, 1972 was the last time that Powell would play over 135 games. Despite a brief resurgence in 1975 with Cleveland, after his age 30 season (in which his imminent decline was already clear) he would average only 100 games a season for the rest of his career. By the age of 34 he was no longer productive in any way, hitting 215/.305/.338. In his final season at age 35, the once mighty Powell would slug only .244 over a 50 game span.

Powell had a fantastic peak, but he declined quickly, and was mediocre to terrible, and frequently injured after his peak.

Just Like Boog…

In 2006 Travis Hafner was debatably the best hitter in baseball. Most would describe Pronk as a big, slow caveman type. He hit .308/.439/.659 with 42 HRs that year, in only 129 games. He was also 29 years old. His top 3 PECOTA Comps going into 2007 were as follows: Willie McCovey, David Ortiz, and Boog Powell.

In 2007 Hafner declined significantly, hitting only 24 HRs (in 152 games), losing 50 points of OBP and 200 points of slugging. Entering 2008, his top PECOTA comp was now Boog Powell. From that point forward, Travis Hafner basically ceased to be a viable major league player.

Mo Vaughn has the same story. Kent Hrbek too. So did Richie Sexson (Top comp – Cecil Fielder). I don’t have Cecil Fielder’s comps available due to his age, but if Boog Powell isn’t on there I’d be shocked. Surprised about David Ortiz’s collapse? Boog Powell is there too. Oh, and Ryan Howard. Boog is lurking around the 29-year-old’s comp list as well, along with Cecil Fielder and Mo Vaughn and David Ortiz and Travis Hafner.

Prince Fielder is still just 25 years old, and PECOTA is not destiny. While Powell is his top comp by a large margin (a similarity score of 51, his next closest comp is only a 30), there are some players on his list who were either great into old age (Barry Bonds) or should be (Mark Teixeira).

But you definitely do not want to sign a player like Fielder for big money into his 30s, and for an organization like the Brewers with a limited payroll, and a need to constantly develop from within, you definitely have to err on the side of parting with Fielder too early. Failing to get a king’s ransom for the Prince would be an organizational disaster.

The Brewers should definitely attempt to sign Prince Fielder for 4-5 more years. I might try to sign him for 6-7 and front load his contract in an attempt to make him more valuable on the trade market in 4-5 years. But under no circumstances should he remain a Brewer on his 30th birthday (unless steroids become legal).

SABRmetrics has been seeping into the general baseball knowledge repository for many years now, and I suspect that the concept of old-player skills undergirds some of the anti-Prince rhetoric you’ve been hearing. Prince is a fantastic player right now, and all the praise that he has received is well deserved, but that was also true of Powell, Vaughn and Hafner. And while the Brewers should not be in a hurry to get rid of their most valuable player, they should also be very cautious with the hefty lefty.


Paul Noonan

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sophist obsessed with Sapphist or…

Jay Marotti looks to new Cubs ownership to provide hot girl-on-girl action.

Jay writes this column once a year. It’s the standard “The Cubs are horrible and always will be and we should fire everyone” column. However, in this year’s vintage, well…check this out. Let’s start where normalcy ends:

"Now we can go get Roy Halladay," Ramirez said.

That is Cubs’ 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez talking about the upsides of having settled ownership. The Cubs have, to some extent, had their hands tied with regard to spending money due to their pending sale. Ramirez thinks that a splurge of free agent spending is now on the way. So far, so good. A baseball player is talking about baseball. Now, on to the next paragraph (seriously, this is the next paragraph), where normalcy is savagely murdered in favor of this…

Maybe, maybe not. But there is this twist: One of Joe Ricketts' kids, Laura, is a lesbian. Technically, then, she will be one of the Cubs owners. "If that's not enough of a reason to buy a bleacher seat to a Cubs game, I don't know what is," wrote Trish Bendix as part of her "L-Blog" page on Chicago Now, the Tribune's blog site.

At this point, Cubdom doesn't really care who owns the ballclub. If Laura Ricketts can produce a championship, hundreds of thousands of fans surely will show up for the next Gay and Lesbian Pride parade.

Now, I urge you to read the entire thing, just to prove that I did not take this out of context. Such a thing would be impossible, as Jay Mariotti actually wrote it out of context. In the paragraph before this one he’s urging the new ownership to steal Theo Epstein, and in the paragraph after this one he talks about the Cubs aged roster.

And this sentence:

“One of Joe Ricketts' kids, Laura, is a lesbian. Technically, then, she will be one of the Cubs owners.”

makes it seem like she will be an owner because she is a lesbian. I also think he’s implying (hopefully accidentally) that free agents (like Roy Halladay) may be attracted to the team by the owner's lesbian daughter. Observe:

1. Aramis says “now we can get Roy Hallady.”

2. Jay says “Maybe, maybe not, but there’s a twist.

3. The Shyamalanian twist: Laura Ricketts is a lesbian.

4. Jay quotes someone saying : “If that's not enough of a reason to buy a bleacher seat to a Cubs game, I don't know what is”

I don’t know what Jay Mariotti was thinking when he wrote this. I suspect that our friendly rivals at Wrigleyville23 (hat tip) are correct. He wanted to write the word “lesbian” on the internet. Now that’s some good ole professional column-writin’ there. Maybe he’s angling for a move from Fanhouse to KSK or something.

Nah, he could never cut it there.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Don’t Have A Problem With Derrick Rose. I Do Have A Problem With the NCAA.

Derrick Rose was too dumb to go to college. Derrick Rose is a fantastic basketball player. The established system of getting paid to play basketball requires that you go to college, even though college has little or nothing to do with one’s ability to play basketball. (Yes, you can play in Europe, but most people go through the NCAA. And Europe is far away and may be difficult for some people to adjust too, and involves its own red tape. And the NBA shut off early entry, so that is no longer an option).

What should Derrick Rose have done? Some of you, I’m sure, will claim that even an idiot can score high enough on the SATs to get into college. Maybe that’s true, but I doubt it. Have you met people?

Jay Mariotti wrote a self-righteous diatribe about Rose and Calipari. He claims this will tarnish Rose forever. I think that Rose’s cheating will allow him to be famous enough to be tarnished forever. What if Rose goes to Europe? First, his family has to have the wherewithal and ability to send him to Europe. Then he has to crack a lineup, get noticed, etc. Or, he can stay in the states where he’s comfortable, go to college, contribute millions of dollars in ticket and merchandise sales to his university all while not getting paid, get out, get to the NBA, and make millions of dollars. But we’re going to look down on him because he cheated on a test that might have kept all of that from happening, and that he might not have been able to pass, and that has nothing at all to do with his career. Sure, that makes sense.

And did I mention that he can’t be punished? The NCAA can try to wipe their names from the record books, but people will still remember. And it’s not like Rose’s test had any effect on the game. And I doubt Rose really cares. He’s rich and famous and has cool cars and stuff.

The NCAA isn’t about punishing offenders. It punishes people who had nothing to do with the scandal in question. New recruits? Punished. Students who were looking forward to Memphis basketball? Punished. People who benefitted from the revenue generated by the basketball team in the form of grants and scholarships? Punished. Derrick Rose? Rich and famous. There’s some deterrent for you.

Derrick Rose did what he had to do to make the most of his life. A bunch of busybodies concerned about the false nobility of amateurism tried to stop him. He beat them and rubbed their faces in it.

Kudos to him.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

He Is Risen! Praise His Return

I think [my return is] great for football. I can't see how you wouldn't think it would be.

In His mind He transcends football. He is the endzone and the half time show. He is all that ever was and all that ever will be, the Punt the Pass and the Kick. He is a living breathing touchdown, come down to the Gridiron to grace us all with His presence.

Oh yes He is the Packers, but He is so much more. He is the NFL, He is America, He is the Creator of slingin' and slangin'. Brett has deemed us worthy to be graced by His presence, turn not your unclean eyes when He appears in all his Glory on your plasma, lest you be struck down by a frozen rope from He.

He is truth, He is justice, He is The Quarterback.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fuck You Favre

At least now I don't have to stretch to defend the guy anymore.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

looking to the offseason...

i was bullish on the brewers coming into this season. joke is on me, i guess. my thought was that braun/fielder would do about what they're doing, and it would be nearly impossible for a team not to contend, if that happened. the pitching really sunk this team.

last offseason, i advocated the "stand pat" strategy, based on the fact that i thought the cubs were such a strong team that they'd be impossible to catch talent-wise, but would be much weaker in 2010. doug melvin apparently felt similarly, as he made just a few low-impact moves.

some might say that it's too early to start worrying about the offseason already, but i disagree. once you've conceded the season (and i have), you can use the games left that season to help flesh out your offseason plan. the brewers have a lot to figure out, and the next month and a half could play a big part in helping with that. so here's the approach i think the brewers should take this offseason, and what they should do in the last 50 games to support this approach:

a) trevor hoffman-- he's pitched great, and will likely be a type A free agent. i'd offer him arbitration. if he accepts, great, he's exactly the kinda guy you'd love on a 1 year contract. if not, you save $6 million and get the draft pick (unless he retires).

b) mike cameron-- same thing. offer him arb. if he accepts, you have solved your cf problem for the next season. if not, you save $10 million and probably get the draft pick (he should be at least type B).

c) jason kendall-- there are no circumstances under which he can be offered arbitration. if he accepted, it'd be a disaster. under the mysterious system that classifies free agents, it's possible he could be a type B, but evenso, the brewers cannot be tempted. save $5 million.

d) felipe lopez-- i offer him arbitration, while making it clear that if he accepts, he's going to be a utility player. lopez will probably be a type B, and i'm assuming that he'll be looking for a 2 year contract somewhere. given that he made $3.25 million this year, he'd likely get $4 million or so in arbitration if he accepted, which is more than you'd like to pay a utility infielder, but not a total disaster. especially since lopez would make for a pretty good utility infielder.

e) braden looper-- i decline his option for $6 million and hand him the $750k buyout. it's not clear to me if you can offer a player arbitration after declining his option. if so, AND if he's a type B (unlikely), i offer the arbitration. he might accept, and again, that wouldn't be a disaster.

f) david weathers-- i pickup his $3.7m option. it's overpaying him, but he's one of the few relievers in the game, from whom you know pretty much what you're getting every year.

g) frank catalanatto-- love the guy, but he's not worth anything really, so i'm letting him go.

h) craig counsell-- see (g). if lopez does not accept arbitration, i explore bringing him back on the cheap again.

i) mike rivera-- happy trails big bopper.

this leaves some obvious holes for next year's team-- centerfield, catcher, and the rotation. but, we've got 2 shortstops and about $25 million to work with after prince, hart, and bush get their raises.

the first thing i'm gonna do is trade jj hardy + prospect(s) to a team desperate for a shortstop and get a starting pitcher in return. i'm going to target the boston red sox and minnesota twins, since alex gonzalez's option seems unlikely to be picked up and orlando cabrera is a free agent. plus, both teams are deep pitching-wise. i don't expect to get a total stud in return, but someone like scott baker seems like a reasonable return. i'd also free up some cash with a move like that.

the next thing i'm going to do is sign a starting pitcher. there are some interesting guys out there this year, but the 2 guys i'm gonna focus on are rich harden and brett myers. both players come with some risk, but considerable upside. i'll go ahead and offer rich harden $39m/3 years and/or $42m/4 years to brett myers. i'd pay a little more for either, if necessary. another interesting guy out there is erik bedard. he's an obvious injury risk, but a damn good pitcher when healthy. i'd love him coming to the national league. john lackey would be awesome, but i just don't see the brewers ponying up for him. there are some safer, older guys i might use as a fallback position-- doug davis, jarrod washburn, randy wolf. additionally, i'd like to sign one or two cheaper, high-risk/high-reward starters. guys like-- jose contreras, chris capuano, john smoltz, etc.

with starting pitching addressed, i'll turn to the catching. the two internal candidates have some promise. both angel salome and john lucroy had abysmal starts to the season at AAA and AA respectively, but have been very good in the second half. salome displays good contact skills and moderate power, with limited plate discipline. lucroy has patience and a bit of pop. both are a little suspect defensively. i don't want to go into camp with those 2 as my only options, so i'd like to sign a defensive-minded catcher, who i wouldn't mind starting if i had to, and who i'd like to have as a backup if one of the youngsters pans out. as usual, the free agent market for catching is pretty terrible, but there's one guy out there that
fits the bill-- yorvit torrealba. i don't see the rockies picking up his option with ianetta established. i'll throw $6m/2 years at him.

centerfield is a bit of a conundrum. there is very little out there on the FA market. the brewers could mostly only add guys who are somewhat similar to the internal trio of lorenzo cain, jody gerut, and jason bourgeouis. guys like corey patterson, rick ankiel, endy chavez... so, i'm gonna make a trade here. what i'm looking for is a decent fielding cf with some upside, who another team undervalues or can't use. i think there are a few situations like this out there, but an idea i really like is trading casey mcgehee to the baltimore orioles for felix pie. the orioles need a 3b, and pie is just a 4th outfielder for them. he can pick it in center, run a bit, and still has some tantalizing upside. i think the orioles make this trade in a heartbeat, and i'm not hesitating either.

with the starters, catcher, and centerfield addressed and about $7-8m left to spend, i'm gonna perk up the bullpen a bit. with coffey, villanueva, stetter, mcclung, colome, riske, defelice, and weathers on board, i actually feel pretty good about where i'm at. however bringing in at least 1 stud arm and another solid guy couldn't hurt. with only 1 lefty on board, i might focus on mike gonzalez. failing that, rafael soriano and jose valverde are both out there. interesting cheaper options might include chad cordero or kelvim escobar. let's say the brewers sign soriano for $15m/3 years and kelvim escobar for $2m/ 1 year.

i know not all of these moves will end up being possible necessarily, but i don't think any of them are impossible, and many similar-type deals could be found. so let's say for the sake of argument that the brewers make the hardy trade for scott baker, the mcgehee trade pie, sign doug davis, sign yorvit torrealba, and sign rafael soriano. this is the team we'd be looking at for next season:

2b rickie weeks
ss alcides escobar
1b prince fielder
lf ryan braun
3b mat gamel
rf corey hart
c angel salome
cf felix pie

bench: yorvit torrealba, jody gerut, jason bourgeouis, hernan irribaren, craig counsell

1) yovani gallardo
2) doug davis
3) scott baker
4) manny parra
5) jeff suppan

bullpen: rafael soriano, todd coffey, mark defelice, mitch stetter, carlos villanueva, david weathers, david riske

aaa/dl guys: john lucroy (c), lorenzo cain (of), tim dillard (p), jesus colome (p), seth mcclung (p), dave bush (p)

honestly, i think that team contends in the nl central with a payroll about the same as the teams in 2008 and 2009. the offense should be just as good, if not better. a drop in production in cf should be offset by the possible return of rickie weeks, the arrival of mat gamel, and the basically guaranteed better hitting catcher. i don't think that much of escobar offensively, but he won't be worse than jj hardy was this year. defensively, this team has some questions at 3b and c, but is fairly strong up the middle and in the outfield. starting pitching is solid, if unspectacular-- this is where you can see how the quality of the FA pitcher they pick up is very important-- pop rich harden into that spot instead of doug davis and i'm starting to feel good. the bullpen is certainly serviceable and versatile, if a bit short on lefties.

there is, of course, a big question about rickie weeks' ability to return from injury effectively. if he can't, this changes the plan, and maybe it's an argument for re-upping with lopez. it's also why i don't mind offering him arb. also, if cameron or hoffman accepts arb, it changes things a little bit. in general though, this is the model the brewers should follow, with the idea that they can make a big pickup before the deadline next year if necessary.

the brewers can start figuring some of this out right now. i like the idea of letting rivera play more, to see if you maybe want to keep in the mix at catcher for next year. on september 1st, jason kendall must be dfa'd. they need the 40-man roster spot for john lucroy. lucroy and salome should get as many at bats as possible in september, in order to get a headstart on next season's position battle.

carlos villanueva should remain in the starting rotation for the rest of the year. he's been decent of late, and i'd like to see if he's really an option in the 5th spot or not. plus he can be showcased a bit in case any team wants to take a shot on him as part of one the trades.

jody gerut should immediately start platooning with mike cameron in cf. of course he's not as good, but the brewers need to see if he can handle cf defensively and possibly be part of a platoon solution for next season.

mat gamel needs to get called up and play 3b almost everyday. on days he doesn't play 3b, mcgehee plays there. all other days, mcgehee starts at 2b. i want to find out if mcgehee can play 2b, in case weeks can't come back, or in case it increases his trade value. if gamel really can't handle 3b, i want to know before the offseason. he looked shaky to me, but not awful when he was up earlier this year.


so, those are my ideas for your 2010 milwaukee brewers. thanks for bearing with the ultra-long post, and i'd love to hear what you think of these ideas and any alternatives that you have.

Friday, August 14, 2009

8 runs off Wandy in the 1st

See what getting rid of Bill Hall can do.

Tanking Their Way Into My Heart

Holy hell, either Mark Attanassio has to always be deeply involved with player management or the Brewers need to play bad baseball more often. They DFA Hall, make the cutthroat but necessary decision to relieve Castro (you were in way over your head my man, wish you had stayed in the pen) and send Hardy packing. Now, it looks like Jason Kendall's days as the iron horse of underachievement may be coming to an end:
The fans who have been pining for Brewers backup catcher Mike Rivera to start more often will get their wish on Friday. Manager Ken Macha intends to start Rivera for a second straight game when Yovani Gallardo takes the mound against the Astros at Miller Park.

And why not? Rivera, who has been with the Brewers all season but only had 63 at-bats before Thursday, belted a pair of home runs and drove in four as Milwaukee beat up on, then held off the Padres to salvage a win in the series finale. Macha wouldn't commit past Friday, but the sense was that Rivera, who provides some pop to an offense that, outside of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Mike Cameron has little, could see more playing time over the final six weeks.

"It's great," Rivera said. "I've been waiting for this for two years so I'm trying to do my best every time that I'm out there."
Nice to see his success in ludicrously difficult circumstances finally rewarded, albeit two years too late.

Call up Salome and let Hall and Kendall charter a private jet with all the money they stole from this organization.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Relaxing...apparently Hardy's main priority

If you can read this post from McCalvy and not hope Hardy is never in a Brewers uniform again I don't know what's wrong with you:

"Maybe I'll come by to pick up my stuff tomorrow," Hardy said. "I'm going to take today to relax a little bit.

"I think these next couple of days are going to be really nice. Just having three days off, that's going to be exactly what I needed. Triple-A, whatever, I'll go down there and do what I'm supposed to do, but I'm pretty excited about getting three days to rest."
Ugh, talk about lack a giveafuck. I would not want this guy anywhere near my ballclub. You get demoted you show some fire or you show you don't care. Pathetic response from a man with a child's name. JJ...weak. Getting demoted is going to be "really nice?" Can you fathom a more pathetic response than that? Christ I hope Melvin can get a competent reliever for this pile of worthless.

"It's a prolonged slump that's lasted four months for me, and I haven't been able to slow it down," Hardy said. "In the past, when I would have a few bad games in a row, I would get a day off to slow the game down and come back strong. It just hasn't happened this year. A couple of days off will be nice, and then I'll go down [to the Minors] and do what I need to do."
ESK's verdict: juicer

Holy Crap

In the immortal words of Popeye:

"I've had all I can stands and I can't stands no more."

The Brewers went, for lack of a better word, apeshit this morning and made a whole bunch of moves. They are, in short:

1. Firing Bill Castro.

2. Sending JJ Hardy down.

3. Promoting Escobar to the big club.

4. DFAing Bill Hall and calling up Jason Bourgeois.

I am fine with all of these moves.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

MLB Now Streaming Over Roku

If you're an out-of-market fan like I am, you should probably buy a Roku. What's a Roku? It's a little black box that streams high quality Netflix On-demand and Amazon Unbox programming to your TV. It costs like $100 bucks and as long as you already have Netflix, there is no additional fee. Amazon movies and shows cost a bit, but I've actually never used the Amazon part before.

Anyway, you can now stream MLB games on your Roku if you are signed up for the streaming package.

I often watch Brewer games by hooking my laptop up to the TV. This is cumbersome and kind of ugly. (I use an s-video cable). I'm really looking forward to getting home and trying this out.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

2009: Year of the Ump

Blown call after blown call after blown call after blown call...

This is the worst year in recent memory for umpires, lets make 2010 the Year of the Computer Ump.

Monday, August 3, 2009

It’s A Shame About Jay

Jay Mariotti wants the Pirates to be respectable! Jay Mariotti does not want the Pirates to build up the farm system! Jay Mariotti wants to stick with Nyjer Morgan, because Nyjer Morgan was 1/3 of the best outfield in baseball and you don’t break up the best outfield in baseball, no sir. You see, Jay knows that the problem with the Pirates is that they aren’t playing well, and need to play better, and the players they traded away are capable of magically playing better, but the farmhands aren’t. Or something. Let’s just jump right in to the incoherent drivel.

The other night in Pittsburgh, where the city really is named after William Pitt and not its pits-of-the-world baseball franchise, a phenom named Andrew McCutchen hit three home runs. He joined a trio of titanic names in Pirates history -- Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Ralph Kiner -- among those who have achieved the feat. It's the sort of drop-dead brilliance envisioned when they summoned the dreadlocked stud from the minors in June.

He’s a nice looking rookie outfielder. Doubles power that might translate into home runs later, and only 22 years old.

"He's got tremendous bat speed and the ability to drive the ball," said his manager, John Russell.

"He's a great athlete," raved Washington manager Jim Riggleman, who was victimized by McCutchen in an 11-6 loss. "You've read about him for a year or two, and now he's here and he's going to be a force to deal with."

The Pirates farm system has been terrible, but they may have a keeper here. Plus he will be cheap for quite some time.

"He's a special breed, one of the most special talents I've seen since I've been in the game," said Washington outfielder Nyjer Morgan, McCutchen's former teammate and close friend. "For a kid that young to have bat speed like that and patience at the dish, there's something there that the Pirates will be enjoying for a long time."

Sounds like the kind of young, promising player that you’d want to open up space for on your major league roster. Especially if you can land a few prospects for the guy in front of him.

"He's ridiculous," Pirates reliever Evan Meek said. "And you know what? He's just going to get better and better."

Yes, fine he’s good. Let’s not go crazy though. Scott Fletcher is on his comps list after all…

Yet rather than quiver in anticipation, fans of this ballclub -- assuming any are left -- sit paralyzed in fear. Because when it comes time to reward McCutchen with a contract commensurate to his abilities and numbers, or when it's clear the Pirates still can't win even with his everyday presence, won't management coldly turn around and trade him away?

Well, first of all, as I’m sure any good sportswriter knows, MLB teams get to pay players a substantially reduced salary and control their rights for their first 6 years of service, so this won’t happen for a long time, and by then it depends on how they’re doing and if he is worth it. I mean, this is a small market team and you can’t go throwing big contracts at the Juan Pierre’s of the world if you want to win, right?

Just as the Pirates did with Morgan, Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Ian Snell, Xavier Nady, Jose Bautista, Ronny Paulino, John Grabow and, dating back to earlier this decade, the likes of Aramis Ramirez, Jason Schmidt and Giles? If Clemente were alive, he'd want his statue removed from the premises.

Quick, how old and expensive is Jason Bay? Think he’s a young buck, just coming into his own, do you? Jason Bay is 30. He’s a good player, almost certainly the best of this sorry lot, but there is no chance that he would be a Pirate at this point even if they had not traded him. None.

Nate McLouth is a nice 4th outfielder who can give you a few innings as a non-credible center fielder. Jack Wilson is terrible at baseball and it’s amazing that they turned him into any value. Freddy Sanchez is 31 and his value is all tied up in an empty batting average.

Here are the names of NL first basemen with higher VORPs than Adam Laroche:

Albert Pujols
Prince Fielder
Joey Votto
Adrian Gonzalez
Lance Berkman
Todd Helton
Derrek Lee
Ryan Howard
Nick Johnson
Jorge Cantu
James Loney
Carlos Delgado
Casey Kotchman
Then you have Laroche, narrowly edging Fernando Tatis. Also, he can’t hit lefties.

Ian Snell has shown promise, but has yet to put it together, and is about to get expensive.

The rest of these guys aren’t worth talking about.
I don’t really see how the moves of the past GMs are relevant. Certainly, no one would claim that giving up Aramis Ramirez was smart.

They aren't operating a major-league franchise in western Pennsylvania. They're running the Quittsburgh Pirates, a perpetual surrender shop, a feeder system for legit teams, a bush-league train wreck in a waterfront ballpark much too beautiful for such a vicious, endless cycle of consumer fraud.

Jay Mariotti: Hmm…Pitts..Pit..Qu…Quit…Quittsburgh! That brilliant. I think I’ll right an entire column based on that pun.

It's hard to believe a city that demands and receives excellence from its other two pro organizations, the Super Bowl champion Steelers and Stanley Cup champion Penguins, has been subjected to what will be a 17th consecutive losing season by the Pirates -- the longest such futility run in MLB history. But that's the sad reality of baseball in a town that won two World Series in the '70s, gave us the "We Are Family" fun bunch and enjoyed success with Jim Leyland and the pre-steroids Barry Bonds before downshifting into quit mode. If Clemente were alive, he'd want his statue removed from the premises.

Two World Series victories? I would kill for two World Series victories. But anyway, Jay, what do you suggest?

The general manager of this fiasco is Neal Huntington, who was hired late in the 2007 season from the Cleveland organization -- which, by the way, has traded away back-to-back reigning Cy Young Award winners in successive summers (Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia) and is the American League's version of Quittsburgh.

What? Neal Huntington somehow managed to trade away every Pirate while simultaneously dealing two Cy Young award winners on a different team? That’s amazing? What’s that? My editor is whispering something in my ear. He’s telling me that Neal wasn’t actually on the Indians staff for those trades. And that Huntington was in his highest position on the Indians in 2007 when they won their division and beat the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. If only Jay Mariotti had my editor. Or as I call him, common sense.

His plan is to rebuild a bad farm system, but in the process, he has traded off a group of respectable, and, in some cases, quality major-leaguers.

Excuse me. I hate, hate, hate it when people who get paid to write for a living write garbage like this. Let me fix this sentence:

"His plan is to rebuild a bad farm system, and in the process, he has traded off a group of respectable, in some cases, quality major leaguers."

You cannot rebuild a farm system without giving up some quality. Typically, that quality will take the form of older players who are already, or are about to become too expensive for their current club, and who may be on the downside of their careers.

Bay, McLouth and Morgan would comprise one of the best outfields in the game if still together.

That’s nice, but Jason Bay is in the last year of a contract that currently pays him 7.5 million. He is expensive and about to get more expensive, though he is very good. McLouth isn’t a bad player, but he is a bad defensive center fielder, and in the NL ranks 12th in VORP behind Matt Kemp, Carlos Beltran, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Scott Hairston, Mike Cameron, Aaron Rowand, Kosuke Fukudome, Nyjer Morgan, and Cody Ross. Oh, and Andrew McCutchen.

Nyjer Morgan is behind all of those guys too, except for Ross.

That is hardly one of the best outfields in baseball. The Brewers are better. Any outfield containing Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp is better. Note also that for the VORP list the Pirates have 3 players or former players ranked as center fielders, which is great except that you only can play one center fielder at a time, and the baseline for replacement level is lower with center. As soon as you plug McLouth or Morgan into right or left, their value plummets.

Wilson and Sanchez were huge fan favorites and best friends who worked well as a double-play combination.

1. Fans are stupid.
2. Jack Wilson is a terrible baseball player. He had one good year in 2004, and ever since then he’s had this stellar reputation. In the last 4 years his OPS+ has never cracked 86. He’s only been better than average offensively twice in his career, and at 31 years old his defense I slipping.

Snell was a 14-game winner at one point.

Oh. My. God. First of all, wins are a ridiculous, idiotic, terrible, brain destroying statistic. But second, 14 games? 14? Games?

Jeff Suppan won 16 games twice. Esteban Loaiza won more than 12 games in a season one time, in 2003 when he won 21. Carl Pavano is a former 18 game winner. Juan Nieves won 14 games. So did Tom Gorzelanny. Any idiot can win 14 games in major league baseball in any given year.

I actually think Ian Snell has a lot of potential, but he has some mental health issues, has only one above average year under his belt, and probably wasn’t going to turn it around in Pitt.

Yes, Pittsburgh is a smaller-market club. But so, for instance, is Minnesota, which at least milks its best homegrown players and remains highly competitive until they leave for monster money (Johan Santana, Torii Hunter). Huntington is dumping his best players prematurely, without any thought of offering long-term contracts. Hence, the fear that today's young stud -- McCutchen -- becomes tomorrow's McLouth.

Tori Hunter, with Minnesota, put up OPS+s of over 100 every season he was with the Twins except for 2003 when he put up a 98. He was stellar on two occasions (2002 and 2007), and played some of the best defensive center field in all of baseball. Nate McLouth, while valuable, struggles in center and his bat probably doesn’t play in the corners. Where Hunter consistently hit over 20 HRs a year, Mclouth has done so once. The Pirates have not had a Johan Santana to sign long term, because the Pirates did not do this kind of thing:

“After the 1999 major league season, he was left unprotected by the Houston Astros and eligible in the Rule 5 draft. The Twins had the first pick that year, the Marlins the second. The Twins made a deal with the Marlins: the Twins would draft Jared Camp with their first pick and the Marlins would draft Santana. The teams would exchange the two players with the Twins receiving $500,000 to cover their pick.[1][2]”

-From Wikipedia.

"We don't feel like we've broken up the '27 Yankees," Huntington said. "It's not like we've taken something on the rise and tore it down."

But how would he know if he doesn't give it all a chance, if he refuses to augment talent with more talent, if he dumps all but four of the 25 players he inherited in 2007?

As previously mentioned either by me or Mariotti,

1. The Pirates have been terrible for 17 years.
2. All of the players in question are older, and have therefore been “given a chance."
3. Jay Mariotti is stupid.

Owner Robert Nutting was supposed to be an upgrade from the Kevin McClatchy era but despite being helped by revenue-sharing from major-market ballclubs, he sits atop a franchise that has cut $21 million in payroll from an absurdly low $50.8 million since opening day.

Will the Pirates be any worse now than the version that currently sits at 14 games under .500 and 11 games out of first? Doesn’t it make sense to cut payroll in this situation?

Nutting runs a newspaper chain, not a good business position in 2009. Nutting also runs a ski resort in Pennsylvania, not exactly Vail or Park City. If the guy can't run a major-league franchise without an annual fire sale, he should sell the team to someone who wants to win the right way.

By overspending on over-the-hill free agents?

And who is the man to deliver that news? Our Mr. Magoo commissioner, of course. Bud Selig is slow to the switch on everything, from the steroids crisis to the slow demise of a sport that isn't turning on younger fans.

Isn’t this last statement just not true? I have to admit ignorance on baseball’s younger demographic, but isn’t baseball attendance holding up relatively well? Steroids? Sure, whatever. But it’s hard to accuse Bud of doing wrong with regard to popularity.

But he owes it to the people of Pittsburgh -- and the competitive integrity of his sport -- to investigate the Pirates and force the sale of the club if necessary. There is precedent, not that Bud ever follows it. In 1976, Charlie O. Finley, crackpot owner of the Oakland Athletics, tried dumping three of his stars -- Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi to the Red Sox, Vida Blue to the Yankees -- in one swoop. This came after he let Catfish Hunter flee in free agency, which effectively proclaimed the end of a dynasty that included three straight World Series titles. So commissioner Bowie Kuhn responded by utilizing the "best interests of the game" clause and voiding the deals. And the courts backed him when Finley attempted a restraint-of-trade lawsuit.

This happened a year before I was born, and it’s possible that baseball was justified in this action. I wouldn't know. Rollie Fingers obviously had many productive years after 1976. But from the stats it sure looks to me like Joe Rudi (OPS+ under 90 from 1979-retirement) and Catfish Hunter (threw over 600 combined innings in 1975-1976 and was never effective again after that for some reason…), were close to finished.

No, these Pirates aren't exactly those A's. But integrity is integrity. Know how the fire sale impacts the National League pennant race? The Pirates still have nine games left against the Chicago Cubs, seven against the Los Angeles Dodgers and six against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Well, the Cardinals and Cubs, who are actually competing with each other, have a 2 game difference, which might be significant. Of course, it’s not as if the old Pirates were any good. The Dodgers still have a 7 game lead over their nearest competitor. They continue to dominate their division. So it won’t actually have much of an effect on the pennant race. Plus this happens every year.

If they were a respectable team, they could be a factor as a spoiler.

That’ll get the fans out! Hey everyone, let’s spoil the Cubs’ season! It’ll be great! We can put up a banner that says “Pirates 2009, number one spoilers!” and no one will laugh at us because we have integrity!

No chance of that now.

Pirates record since trade deadline – 2-1. (Admittedly, against the Nats.)

It's no wonder the Pirates have the third-lowest attendance in the majors, despite playing in a wonderful, top-three ballpark.

So the Pirates fans were not coming out to see all of the Pirates that you wanted them to keep?

And it's no wonder some players couldn't help but spouting off against management before leaving.

"There ain't a guy in here who ain't pissed off about it," LaRoche said after McLouth was traded to Atlanta. "They might be trying to hide it or whatever, but hey, you get a guy's loved by everybody, not just in this clubhouse but in the community, who does everything you could want a guy to do, a perfect guy to be a leader. It's kind of like being with your platoon in a battle, and guys keep dropping around you. You keep hanging on, hanging on, and you've got to figure: How much longer till you sink?"

"I'm beyond tired of such moves," said Wilson, who later apologized for the comments before being traded to Seattle. "It's tough for the guys who have been here and seen these trades happen and absolutely do nothing. I've seen these trades two or three times a year and we still haven't had a winning season."

Baseball players are funny creatures. What they seem to be saying here is that they would rather have been replaced by expensive free agents rather than young, cheap talent. And that community service is a good reason to keep people around.

It's no longer his problem, but the sickness remains. When Wilson shed tears the day he was traded, Pirates fans surely wanted to join him. There is no present. There is no future. So why have a team in Pittsburgh if there is no hope?

There is no future? You know that the Pirates got players in return right? They’re called prospects? They’re supposed to be better than Jack Wilson in 2-3 years. Most of them probably are now.

"We know these moves are going to be incredibly unpopular," Huntington said after the Wilson and Sanchez deals. "But this is how we're going to rebuild this franchise. We're trying to create a winner. We have no interest in getting to .500 once and then losing for five years."

"People might wonder what we're doing, but if you keep looking at all the names we're getting and all the premier talent we're getting, it's going to equate to a very solid, very good ballclub in Pittsburgh," Russell said. "We have big names all over the diamond. That's where we're headed."

Sounds reasonable.

Until everyone wakes up some summer day and sees one of those names, Andrew McCutchen, traded for two or three prospects. That will be the day when baseball in Pittsburgh dies, assuming it hasn't already.

Instead, let’s go with Jay Mariotti’s plan where a bunch of light-hitting center fielders make too much money, the team still finishes 20 games under .500, and McCutchen rides the pine all year.

You sir, are an idiot.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Braden Looper is a misearble failure

Evidence (scroll to run support):

The Brewers are giving Looper almost 6 runs per game (5.96) yet he only has 9 wins. Marginal pitchers like Josh Beckett turn that kind of support into 20 win seasons and Cy Young runner up finishes. Extremely bad pitchers like Braden Looper turn it into a 9-5 record.

Looper has 22 starts, on average he is getting 6 runs of support, he hasn't even been able to complete half! HALF! What a fucking joke.

The Brewers have scored 7 or more runs in 10 games. Looper hasn't even been able to convert all of those! Are you God damned serious? As you can probably imagine, he also has yet to make it into the 8th inning. He is averaging under 6 innings per start.

Braden Looper has been a God awful pitcher on a God awful staff assembled by an increasingly questionable Doug Melvin. My pre-season predictions of 80ish wins may turn out to be far too generous.

The wheels have completely come off the 2009 season, does anyone really expect Claudio Vargas to fix this wagon?