Archive for the ‘Off-Season’ Category

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My Favorite Players for 2010

March 10, 2010

Am I the only person who finds themselves randomly attached to players and teams that have nothing to do with your own fan base? I don’t mean rooting for guys who have moved on from your own team, like Chien-Ming Wang and Jason Giambi. Just players who seem genuinely likable for one reason or the other; they’re exciting players, they seem underrated, or they just plain seem like nice guys. Every year there’s a couple of players and teams I find it hard to root against, even if the Yankees are involved. Last year for me was the Upton brothers. This year there are a bunch more, but the three in particular that I plan on watching religiously are Brett Anderson, Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Kemp.

As you may or may not be aware of depending on your level of reading comprehension and attention to my blog, I have been spending the better part of my time in northern California. Between that and my fiance being a A’s fan the team has begun to grow on me (the same could be said for the Giants, and who could resist Tim Lincecum and his luscious hair). I watched a lot of Brett Anderson last year. I heard a lot about him in the minors, both before and after he was traded for Dan Haren from Arizona. I’m sure a lot of you know him, but you really need to watch him pitch. Just look at his stat line, it is a thing of beauty: A 4.06 ERA, a 3.69 FIP, 7.70 k/9 against 2.31 bb/9, all as a TWENTY-ONE YEAR OLD ROOKIE. Absurd. Oh yeah, and he’s a lefty. Bold Prediction: Brett Anderson will start the all star game this year.

Troy Tulowitzki is a bit more seasoned than Brett Anderson, and probably much more widely recognized. Appearing in a World Series as a rookie will do that for you. I have liked Tulo’s game since he came up, and even my A’s loving lady has had an obsession with him since his rookie year, one matched only by Tulowitzki’s own obsession with Derek Jeter (by the way, since I have mentioned her twice, her list of favorite non players would probably be topped by Tulowitzki and Nick Swisher). Jeter and Tulowitzki make for a fun comparison. Discounting Tulo’s injury plagued off-year of 2008, the two match spot on in wOBA, and the small difference in OBP is made up for by an inverse difference in slugging and speed.

Tulowitzki’s defense was vastly superior to Jeter’s early career, but Jeter’s immense improvement has closed that gap and each can now be considered a good defender.

My explanation for Matt Kemp is a lot simpler. He has a cool twitter page. He is dating Rihanna. And this picture is awesome:

I'd wear my jersey EVERYWHERE if I were in the big leagues.

For an almost creepy amount of Matt Kemp photos check this out.

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The Mark Buehrle Rule

March 8, 2010

Do you ever read one of Ken Rosenthal‘s foxsports articles just to get a glimpse into the mind of a madman? Insane? Maybe. But fun? Definitely. Don’t you enjoy concocting crackpot scenarios in which the Yankees end up with Bonds and Griffey, and we wouldn’t have to give up that much? Do you pop in MLB The Show or Baseball Mogul and take pride in the ability to swindle the Giants out of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain with a package of 5 star low A relievers?

Now, the differences are obvious. Ken Rosenthal works for a national sports company. He is on TV. He writes for a major website. So maybe it is strange when he suggests realigning baseball with little logic or reason (the last one is my favorite, move the A’s into the Yankees and Red Sox division in a format that groups teams by payroll, then plunk them in New Jersey). These are the kind of ideas I expect to hear from my friends after a fine afternoon spent huffing paint and watching PTI. This is not what I expect from a national sports writer. But maybe that is a good thing. If Ken Rosenthal can do it, so can I! So I hereby grant myself license to both make up news and write about inane ideas. The best part is that unlike Mr. Rosenthal I can’t have my articles pulled by the big bosses, as so frequently happens to him.

Here is what I propose as my grand change to baseball: speed up the games!

Groundbreaking, eh? I guess perhaps I am not as creative as my fellow writer, but I really don’t see the need or benefits of realignment, of eliminating or standardizing the DH, of changing the mound height, or of putting a salary cap in place. Baseball is great because of the oddities and differences between the leagues and between teams.

Every team operates with a different strategy. Depending on your league, your home field, your budget and your personnel your team will develop an independent persona. The cap seems unnecessary because in spite of the issues of “unfairness” any team can be competitive with competent management. I’ll save any further arguing against a cap for another day, because it will inevitably come up as a national topic at some point during the summer and I will turn to this screen to rage against the man on TV.

But back to my wholly unoriginal but entirely important idea. I see no issues with the mechanics of the game, so the efforts should be turned to streamlining it. Faster games would mean several things: You can watch more of them (hooray for mlb.tv), the playoffs won’t end so late on the east coast, and casual fans will be more inclined to watch something with a less boring pace.

The Hardball Times has a list (from 2008, mind you) of the fastest and slowest paced pitchers in baseball, and if you’ve seen him pitch (especially during his perfect game) you’ll probably see just the man you expect to be at the top of the list: Mark Buehrle. Another article from the same site mentions baseball’s rulebook, which states that the ball must be delivered within 12 seconds, with timing beginning when the pitcher has the ball and the batter is in the box ready to bat, and ending when the ball is released. Not only is that not the norm, but it is pretty rare to see the ball delivered that quickly.

So it seems to cure for this issue isn’t to change a rule, but to simply enforce a rule that is already in place. Even extending the rule to 15 seconds would work, and would allow for pitcher to move briskly without being rushed. Small fines (such as the fines handed out to Jonathan Papelbon last year) won’t cut it. On field penalties are the only way to make sure the rule is followed, and the rulebook itself calls for a ball to be added to the count whenever there is a violation. It would be simple for the umpire to enforce, it can be counted off the same way several violations are counted off in basketball, or they could use a watch/scoreboard clock.

Barring putting the Mark Buehrle rule in place I suggest something a little more… extensive.

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Yankees Will Miss Wang (in 2011, Anyway)

February 28, 2010

On February 19th the Nationals made one of the more underrated moves of the off-season when they signed Chien-Ming Wang to a one year, $2 million deal (potentially worth $5 million with incentive bonuses). The Yankees reasoning for cutting ties with Wang seemed to be that they hit their monetary threshold for this off-season, and their other needs were more pressing than a guy who would likely be 7th on the starting rotation’s depth chart. The latter can’t be argued, it was definitely more beneficial to the team to bring in Curtis Granderson and to add depth with Randy Winn. This does support an argument that, as ludicrous as the Yankees payroll is, even they have limits. But what was even stranger than the fact that the Yankees couldn’t go slightly over their payroll to bring Wang back is that he received (at least publicly) so little attention and pursuit.

Wang had one of the worst 40 inning stretches in baseball history last year. 2009 was a mix of awful results and injuries. I wrote last April about what I thought was wrong with Wang, and I still think that the foot injury he suffered in ’08 was the cause of his issues last year and ultimately his shoulder injury. I will never approve of Dave Eiland after everything that went on with Wang last year. He was clearly favoring the foot on the mound, whether because it was still injured or because he was afraid of re-injuring it. Either way that is something that should have been addressed and corrected.

My point with that is that I don’t think Wang simply fell apart because he lost the ability to pitch. He just needs to get back into pitching shape and re-establish the mechanics and ground ball ability he had shown since the Yankees called him up to the majors. $2 million dollars is a paltry investment when the potential is there to receive 3-4 months and possibly 100+ innings of above average pitching. Wang is throwing off of flat ground, and should be moving on to a mound rather soon with the hope that he will be back in the majors by sometime in May.

Someone like Wang would have been a perfect investment for a team like the Mets, who lack quality pitching and have the money to spend. As bad as they were last year, most of their issues are injury related and with good health they could make a serious wild card run. Half a season of league average pitching, a reasonable expectation, could potentially put them over the other wild card contenders. However, my gripe with the Yankees not signing Wang has more to do with the fact that Andy Pettitte will (probably) retire after this season. There is of course plenty of time and resources to be acquired between now and the 2011 season, but bringing Wang back on a test run for 2010 could have been a perfect set up to round out the rotation next season.

Wang is only 29 years old (he’ll be 30 March 31st), so his age as of next season is no concern. Bringing him back and finding him to be healthy could have left the Yankees with a guarantee of at least five quality starters:

1. C.C. Sabathia

2. A.J. Burnett

3. Phil Hughes

4. Joba Chamberlain

5. Wang

2010’s ballclub of course has the newly acquired Javier Vazquez, but he is a free agent after the season and it remains to be seen if he will want to stay a Yankee past that time (and if the Yankees will want him back). Retaining both Wang and Vazquez also could have made Hughes or Chamberlain expendable in a  trade. That’s not to say that I favor trading either of them, but the more options the better.

DNE wishes Chien-Ming Wang success and good health in Washington. The Nats are definitely on their way up and have made a ton of great moves the past two off-seasons (just look at how their outfield was put together with the steal of a signing in Adam Dunn and the steal of a trade for Elijah Dukes). Losing Wang most likely won’t result in any major set backs for the Yankees but any time you can retain talent (especially homegrown, popular talent) for a minimal price it probably should be done.

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Roarin’ Good Times

February 15, 2009

Here is the outlook for the coming season: I will of course be on top of everything the Yankees do, and will probably post/bitch/gloat at least once a week, depending on the course of the season. Also, more importantly, every post title from here on out will be dinosaur related. Think I can come up with upwards of fifty dinosaur jokes? WE SHALL SEE.

Now, onto real baseball related musings. Even after the expected departure of Bobby Abreu (to the Angels) last week, the Yankees have quite a bit of depth in the corner outfield positions. Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon are still around, and each is still more than capable of putting up better than league average numbers in left field. If he doesn’t end up in center field, Brett Gardner also provides a great glove and incredible speed, a similar skill set to Jacoby Ellsbury. Last year’s mid-season pickup Xavier Nady is a starting caliber player, and newly acquired Nick Swisher has a career OPS+ of 112. The Nady trade was at best questionable last season, and after picking up Swisher only seems all the more unnecessary. Damaso Marte, also picked up in the Nady trade, could have at least fetched a pair of first round picks (should the Yankees have offered him arbitration and he turned it down), but I will save complaints about that debacle for another evening. Instead, while Nady and Marte are serviceable players, they cost the Yankees a promising and (very) young player in Jose Tabata, who after recovering from a hand/wrist injury finally started putting together a solid string of games in Pittsburgh’s minor league system. The presence of Swisher and the dearth of bullpen arms in the Yankees high minor leagues only further cement the notion that the trade with Pittsburgh was unnecessary. Considering Marte and Nady each got new contracts and raises, and you really wonder what Cash was thinking last Summer, other than that it was time to panic.

Of course, all of that leads to the Yankees current situation, which in all honesty is a good one. Depth is a plus, especially with several players past their prime in the outfield. However, the best course of action at this juncture would be to make a trade to essentially “undo” last season’s version. Sending Nady to a team like Atlanta, Cincinatti or even the Mets (any of whom would likely require eating much of the raise Nady got this season) for a prospect or two would go a long way in repairing the Yankees minor leagues, which suffered in the last year due to a poor draft. Adding an offensive prospect via trade, followed by a strong June draft (the Yankees still retain a first round pick, even after their spending spree on Type A free agents, because they failed to sign last year’s number 1 pick Gerrit Cole) would do a world of good for a system scarce in hitting after Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero.

The Yankees are certainly not in any offensive trouble this season, but Jeter, Posada Damon and Matsui are all going to be gone or displaced to new positions in the next several years, and the way the team handles the minor leagues in the next season and a half is going to be a huge determiner in how the A.L. East standings look for the next decade.

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Fresh Start

October 20, 2008

Hello again, anonymous internet readers,

Somehow you’ve managed to make your way back here. I must have been sidetracked by the entire major league baseball season, because the last time I updated was the first week of April. That was way back when I triumphantly declared the Rays a greatly improved team, on the verge of breaking out (while also declaring they would finish fourth and around .500). Half correct, right? I also decided the Yankees starting rotation was stronger than anyone else seemed to think, and perhaps I was half right on that too, particularly since most of the problems came out of injuries to everyone not named Mike Mussina. So, one half plus one half equals one, meaning I was 100% correct, as usual.
To complete the circle, I’ve come up with a new title for this whole setup. I initially wanted “Whitey Whackers,” but the google results were more than unwholesome. I feel the new one full grasps both my appreciation of insane baseball players and my love of dinosaurs.
So as for news in the stick and ball sport, the Rays and Phillies are about to begin a series that Bud Selig will likely describe as a lethal injection to baseball’s tv ratings. This is hardly the proper attitude! There are three wonderful things that came out of the LCS results heading into this World Series. First, bandwagon Rays fans are a wonderful concept. Second, Charlie Manuel and Joe Maddon prove that managers are overrated, and either team could have been led just as well by a fairly intelligent primate or Deep Blue. And most importantly, it proved the existence of God by preventing the media shit-storm that would have ensued if the L.A. Manny Ramirez’ had to play Boston in the series.
If all goes to plan I will add to this contraption at least once a week, starting sometime before Wednesday night with a thought provoking and intelligent World Series Preview. If the plans go to hell as usual I’ll just copy and paste a Skip Bayless article and pass it off as satire. Taking everything he says as sarcastic makes him seem almost intelligent.
Enjoy ELECTION FEVER everyone.