Monthly archives: April 2005
Random AL Stats After the First Month
I decided to look at the American League statistics through April 28 games. These are the stats that jumped out at me for each team.
Baltimore has 3 of the top OPS' in the AL, with Roberts (1176), Tejada (1032), and Lopez (1005).
The two pitching heroes of last season's playoffs, have been the two worst pitchers for the Red Sox this year. Schilling's ERA is 7.13 and Foulke's is 7.20.
The left side of the infield has statistically been carrying the Yankees offense. Derek Jeter's OBP (.464) and SLG (.465) are virtually the same. Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada have similarly terrible stats, which add up to OPS' of .639 and .655, respectively.
Who would have guessed at this point that the best hitter for the Blue Jays would be Shea Hillenbrand, with a .951 OPS, while Vernon Wells would be sitting with a .248 OBP?
Devil Ray Starting Pitchers ERA's: Brazleton (5.53), Nomo (6.58), Rob Bell (9.18). Are we sure they're accurate enough to hit anyone on purpose?
Up in Minnesota, Jacque Jones OPS is 1.107, while on the other end, they have Micheal Cuddyer (.594) and Luis Rivas (.440). Johan Santana has 45 K's and 3 walks.
The White Sox have had a lead in all 24 games they've played, despite Jermaine Dye scuffling away with an OPS of .517. Jon Garland is 4-0, with an ERA of 1.80. 9 of 11 on their pitching staff have ERA's under 3.90.
Unlike last season, the Indians have gotten off to a terrible offensive start. 7 in their starting lineup have OPS's under .691, with Aaron Boone sporting a .123 BA. Their bullpen has been great, except for closer Bob Wickman, who has an ERA of 7.36.
Detroit has 6 starters with SLG averages over .490. In case you missed it last year, Carlos Guillen is really good. (1.005 OPS)
Kansas City Royally Sucks.
Allegedly the Rangers have the best young offensive team in baseball, but so far their team OBP is .325. Richard Hidalgo has really been awful, with an OPS of .515. Kenny Rogers has walked more hitters than he has struck out (12 to 11), but still has an ERA of 2.67.
The Angels' Steve Finley has a .237 OBP. Francisco Rodriguez WHIP is 0.58, which happens when you have 16 K's and no walks.
Outside of Scutaro and Kotsay, the A's have no starter with an OPS above .671.
The biggest offensive, off-season free agent move was the Mariners signing Adrian Beltre. Beltre's OPS is .644 and is slugging .153 points less than Ichiro.
Yes, I'm fully aware it's just one month of the season, but there are some players with some serious uphill climbs to crawl out of some major holes.
The Juice Blog- All Politics, All the Time
As some of our more veteran readers have commented on, it would seem like our blog has been fairly silent in regards to political issues. Well, it's time to tell the truth behind why this has happened. I am only speaking for myself, when I write that I was silenced by a right wing conspiracy led by Powerlineblog.com and baseball writer George Will, who had discovered that I also work as a male prostitute, much like former White House reporter Jeff (Bulldog) Gannon. These righteous men told me they would expose my very lucrative, lubricative business, if I didn't stop my political postings.
Well, I will no longer be silenced. I feel no shame, as my job has pleased so many wives of ultra-conservative men, who needed to know what life is like outside the missionary position. Sure, many of you just want to read about baseball, but dammit, I'm a man with a diversity of interests and sometimes I will need to illuminate on the political world. Here is my first installment in quite sometime.
It's a joke that our country cares so little about conserving energy. Sure, SUV sales have slowed down slightly, because of higher gas prices, but we are still gluttonous in our thirst for the crude, crude. The savior to our desperate oily desires, according to the Republicans is drilling in the Alaskan wilderness. Now, I'm someone who believes in protecting our enviroment at (almost) all costs. I say almost, because sometimes you need to be pragmatic, especially when you have little political power. (see Democratic party)
If I would have been sitting on the Senate Energy Commission, I would have offered a compromise. I, Mr. Liberaltarian, would support your new drilling in Alaska, as long as part of the bill, we mandate raising our average fuel standards 3 mpg over the next 5 years. Now, would this have passed, considering the strong lobbies of the oil and automoblie industries? I don't know, but it would have made for a great political issue for the Democrats to have on their side.
Americans are selfish pigs, who love to consume and don't want to be told they can't. This is a human trait, not just an American one. If Europeans had as much wide-open space in their countries, I have little doubt a majority of them would be driving Suburbans to their soccer practices. The Democrats have been the more responsible of the two parties on the issues of fuel and enviromental conservation, but they lose out on getting a majority of American voters on their sides, because they don't frame the issue, pragmatically.
Are you better off, just because you feel righteous indignation over your bought and sold gaseous enemies, when they are the ones who are getting their agenda pushed through? It's time for some classic Bill Clinton triangulation of Republican concepts, taking pieces of their proposals and then adding important things to them, which make sense to the voters. Ideological stances are good in debates, but have left the Democratic party in the sorry state it finds itself in today. The only way extremist will lose their power is if the moderates in both parties come together on issues like this which are generally what the vast majority of what Americans desire.
So should I be bothered that some genius at Amazon - where they still don't have the correct cover or ship date - put "Alan Schwarz (foreword)" - in such a way that now, even on my own page, it looks like Alan Schwarz wrote the book?
I'm eternally grateful to Alan for writing his introductive essay and there's also a part of me that whispers "this might sell more books." So it's an interesting psychological battle between the id and the ego, which could end up on pay per view.
Getting The Juice: Update
Thanks to everyone that's emailed with updates. Here's what we know:
Online: All three majors are shipping.
Offline: Looks like things are moving slowly westward and southward. NYC and DC on Tuesday, Indy and Chicago on Wednesday, and a Nashville report today. Please be sure to email if you see it locally.
Lots of media starting to hit now, so we'll see. I'm trying not to obsessively watch the Amazon rankings. And failing.
I've NEVER been convinced that Jack LaLanne didn't juice -- and I don't mean the juice crap he sells on infomercials. The stuff was available back then and when you look at some pictures, as David Pinto did, it's pretty astounding. Maybe he has an unnaturally high level of testosterone naturally. Maybe he got those hair plugs for pure vanity. Who knows? Who really cares?
This article is pretty amazing and works as a nice companion piece to the history of drugs chapter in "The Juice." Pay special attention to this:
"To put the size in perspective, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a huge athlete back in the 70s competing at 235 pounds at 6 feet 2 inches. In the 2003 Mr. Olympia contest, Ron Coleman stood under 6 feet and weighed 287 poundsand he was even leaner than Schwarzenegger!"
Things are ALL bigger today, even when back then, they admitted to using massive doses of steroids. (Don't argue better drugs now. While true, Arnold was using deca and testosterone.)
White Sox breakdown- Dye to Widger to No Chance?
OK, I've tried to stay quiet on the subject of the White Sox for a couple of weeks, realizing that the season is early, but here are a few things you should know if you haven't been paying attention.
As I mentioned in my pre-season preview, the White Sox have great pitching. I rated their staff only behind Boston and New York in the AL and that might have been slighting them. Jon Garland is pitching way better than I suspected, but considering he was the team's 5th starter, I still don't see what the experts who said Cleveland and Detroit had a better staff were thinking. The bullpen is really good, as the depth of having 4 former closers on staff makes up for not having one shutdown hurler.
This kind of pitching is the reason the White Sox have had a lead in every game they have played in 2005. Yes, the ridiculous record of winning 9 of the 11 one-run games will balance out, but when you start 16-4, it's hard not to be a factor in the playoff race right down to the end.
The defense is the best the White Sox have ever had, since I've been watching them, as Uribe is a bit unorthodox, but makes all the plays, while Iguchi is very solid. Kenny Williams made two great moves in picking up this double play combination, over the past two off-seasons. Crede has always been good, while Konerko doesn't hurt you, so the infield defense is above average. Add that the outfield is slightly better with Podsednik covering more ground in the outfield than Carlos Lee and Pierzynski calling a better game than Olivo or any of the other catchers the Sox have had in the past and this is just a different squad on the field.
Now to the offense. The naysayers who questioned the team's ability to get on base have been proven right. The offense in the infield is better than average, but Posednik and Dye are just not good enough as everyday outfielder's. (Williams made a bad move in signing Dye for the money he did.) As I mentioned prior to the season, if Frank Thomas can bounce back to his 2004 first half numbers, the team can overtake the Twins, but that is a big if. Baseball Prosectus Prospect #32, Brian Anderson should be playing now, instead of the wasted at bats that Timo Perez is given. The missing outfield production is there with a rotation on the corners of Everett, Podsednik, Anderson, and Dye, with Rowand playing everyday in center.
If you didn't hear about today's game with Oakland, their one major depth problem was exposed, as Uribe was unavailable, battling a groin injury and with Iguchi out, as well, the White Sox had to move Crede to short and put Chris Widger at third. I'm not joking. Then to add to the circus, Crede was thrown out, after reacting to a poor call by the homeplate umpire, so in the ninth, the Sox had Dye at short. Somehow, the team almost won the game, as Garcia pitched another great game.
Ultimately, I still suspect the Twins will win the AL Central, as pennant experience and superior managing will make the difference, but both will be in the Wild Card race, considering the strength of their pitching staffs. Cleveland and Detroit just can't compete, as their oveall staffs just don't measure up. Sure it's too early to be certain of anything, but when you have had a lead in all 22 games you've played, you're looking at more than a fluke.
Not Work Safe
I know we don't talk politics here.
I know this site isn't work safe.
Heck, it's not even good writing.
But just for the URL, I've got to link it.
I was on a net-based radio show last night called Sports Bloggers Live. As a guest following Peter King and leading into a 12-year old, I'll say I probably was the middle guest in almost every way. It's an interesting show and very fast paced. I'm used to the same type of host (unless it's Dave Cokin in Vegas) with the same types of questions. Lately, many have had trouble figuring out that my father and I have similar names, but are different people and read both bios in introducing me! Oy!
Anyway, I did my homework on SBL after being invited on and their archives are solid. It's worth a listen for a different take and they have a VERY high quality podcast. Wish I had the bandwidth to pop up a 70 meg, 128k feed!
Your assignment ...
Dewon Brazelton can't win on the road.
Is there a way to set up a four- or five-man rotation so that a pitcher would pitch ONLY at home? Has this ever been done?
Quick Juice Update
"The Juice" ...
Amazon? (See link to left.) Still showing "not released."
Barnes & Noble? Three days or less!
Your best bet might be Books a Million, who is listing it as in stock.
Again, I hope everyone will use this thread and the occasional others (or email) to let me know when you see it on your local shelves.
Many of you know that I'm a gadget guy, loving the latest and greatest tech toy that's out. I have my Sidekick II, my iPod and iPod Shuffle, my Tivo, but there's something different about XM and it evokes something. While sometimes I prefer my iPod - if I'm moving around, jumping in and out of the car doing errands, etc - the XM is one of the most amazing things I've experienced and it truly changes the metaphor on radio.
For someone who works in radio, this is important. XM changes *all* the rules and is truly a disruptive technology to a couple industries. First, for radio stations (largely a small group of conglomerates such as Clear Channel, Infinity, Cumulus, and a handfull of others), it's instant competition that drives people from their ad-based model. For car companies, it changes how they design cars. Acura is the first to showcase XM's traffic technology that not only alerts the driver to problems, but works with the GPS system to select the best alternate route. It's amazing.
XM does have competition in Sirius, but most of what I have to say about XM holds true for Sirius. The difference is in content. Where XM has focused on original content, Sirius has gone for the big name like Howard Stern or Martha Stewart. I'm not sure which will be more successful, but I don't think this is an either/or situation. Both can exist and at some point, there's likely to be some kind of convergence if they can't hit critical mass as two entities.
I chose XM because it came standard in my best friend's car with 3 months of service. We took a quick road trip and by the time we got back, I was hooked. Hundreds of channels, coast to coast? Music you don't hear normally? Niche channels that give everyone a bunch of things they'll like? Add in the MLB package and wow, wow, wow.
What's most interesting to me is that I don't listen to XM like I listen to radio. Partially, that's a function of choice - I can't switch between hundreds of channels of normal radio - but it's also a function of how I think about the freedom of XM. Need some charging music? Fred (44) has the alternative stuff. Need to tone down? XM Cafe (45) is only one click away. News? Sports? Baseball? Top 20? Alt.country? Whatever mood strikes, there's a channel for it and my moods can change quickly. Of course, there's some default channels like XM Comedy (150) where I know I'll likely stay a while.
It's not perfect, but XM deserves a close look by you, the consumer, if you haven't already and by us, the analysts. Scott and I are both XM enthusiasts and two people that aren't satisfied with great. We'll be looking at XM with our unique lenses more often here on The Juice, so hopefully, you can tune in.
Now, back to the baseball, music, porn and steroids ...
Ordonez, Garciaparra, Slump Busting, and Terry Tiffee
With the first month of the season coming to an end, let's look back at the major stories so far.
Since injuries continue for Magglio Ordonez, the Tigers' management has started singing a song getting ready for the obvious court case that will ensue, at the end of the season, when they try to break their contract with the outfielder. "The left knee is connected to the viral infection bone. The left knee is connected to the hernia bone."
Speaking of injuries, Nomar Garciaparra's ruptured tendon in his left groin could be a season ending one on the diamond. No word yet on how long he will be on the disabled list at home, as this injury is week to week in regards to how it effects his Hamm-bone.
In what must be considered some very cloudy logic, the Rockies have picked up Byung Hyun-Kim, hoping that pitching in Coors Field will help with his pitching control. In a related story, the Rockies have hired in their hot dog quality control department, Kirstie Alley, predicting it will help her with her eating control.
Things have gotten so bad for Andrew Jones during his 0-24 slump that the only slump buster that could get him out of it is an intimate date with Howie (Stump the) Schwab. Good luck with that Andrew!
Twins' Terry Tiffee was sent down to Triple A, not because he hadn't swung the bat well, but because his name is so ridiculous. You know your name is silly when Kiko Calero mocks it.
The White Sox have drawn only 25 walks in its first 16 games. It's official; they are more free-swinging than Nina Hartley in the Playboy grotto.
Jose Lima has an ERA of 8.05 so far this season. Actually his wife is the only Lima the Royals turn their juggs gun on for.
After signing John Rocker earlier in the month, the Long Island Ducks have added Pete Rose Jr. Next, look for the Ducks to go after John Henry Williams' cryogenic remains, as they value the frozen ropes he could produce for their lineup.
The inside story behind the Sheffield fight with the Red Sox fan is that it was pre-staged, as the footage will be used in Fever Pitch 2.
Thanks again and enjoy Bill Scheft.
It's always strange to 'be the story'. I knew that the excerpt run in Sports Illustrated this week would dial it up a notch beyond what we saw for "Saving The Pitcher"; I just wasn't sure how much.
The answer? A lot. Not Pete Rose big, but more along those lines. Let's face it, it's a "sexy" story. I know at least one other major journalist has been working on this -- and now feels I stabbed him in the back on this. For that, I'm sorry, but life moves on.
One of the great things about this blog is being able to get out my ideas and reactions. It's something I wish more writers would use. So, here's some bullet point thoughts in the wake of the SI piece:
* Why does everyone think BALCO is a singular event? I'll admit "The Creator" does give a primacy to "Dr. X" that he doesn't deserve. In original form, it was going to be "The Chemist" but Jose Canseco's book came out and I didn't want anyone mistaking that I'd spoken to Canseco! Still, the idea that BALCO was the only place selling designer steroids is simply naive. That others in the field wouldnt pick up on a successful product, one that was well known in the underground and in the track and field world, is ludicrous.
* I didn't intend for the chapter to sound like a James Bond/Mickey Spillane piece. I was aiming for paranoia, to show the lengths to which some of these guys go to protect themselves. It's not just a cat and mouse game with testers; it's a cat and mouse game with the DEA or FBI.
* A lot have asked about my disclaimer, that Dr. X could be a fake. It's possible, but as I said, I believe him to be what he purported to be. I didn't check ID or ask for a sample of his wares. I'm not sure if they teach this kind of thing in journalism school, but I didn't go to journalism school. Even if X were a fake, it says a lot that someone in the supplement/steroid community would go to lengths to have some people believe that he was this.
* Yes, I know names -- and more than just Dr. X. No, I'm not going to be telling them, but it's one hell of a story.
The book hits store shelves very soon, shipping from BN early next week. Amazon doesn't give any indication on when they'll ship. Hopefully, you'll let me know when the book gets seen in various places.
Constantine and Clay Aiken Cagematch
Ok, I'm not a regular viewer of American Idol, but I try to catch a couple episodes each season, so I know what's going on in our Pop Culture. (I do a lot of radio, so I've got to keep up. Comedy homework.) My experience with the show has been that I am very underwhelmed by the talent on the show. Finally there is someone who has real ability this season and Constantine is his name.
Last week while watching the American Idol contestants were doing rock and roll songs and one after another of them turned out stuff I could hear at my local Kareoke Hut. (Kareoke Hut is TM of Scott Long) My favorite part was when some American redneck did his version of Freebird, which Randy gave a good job dawg to. (surrealllll) Then Simon mentioned in all his knowledge of American rock music that he should have chosen a song more recognizable than this. I'm paraphrasing this exchange, but I think this was the juxt of it and I would just suggest Mr. Cowell not make a trip to Alabama, where Free Bird is played instead of the National Anthem, anytime soon.
Now back to this Constantine cat. I had a friend tell me he had caught this guy do Bohemian Rhapsody on AI and he had knocked it out of the park. (baseball analogy for you not familiar.) So I watch, because it takes a full jockstrap to do this song on live television and while I didn't think it was as good as the one of a kind Mr. Mercury, it was a good effort. What stands out about the guy is that he has a great rock look and is kick ass performer. Finally someone on the show who has the 3 quintessential elements of being a rock star. Talent, performing ability and the look in the eye which says lock up your daughters.
As readers of mine have noticed in the past, the same things that makes me dislike Clay (my ears are) Aching is what makes this Constantine so good. Aiken has a decent High school musical voice, but to be able to sell out arenas with his talent, uh, don't get it. Aiken is Barry Manilow without Manilow's greatest talent, songwriting. I don't know if Constantine can write songs, but he has great versatility of ability and commands a stage. Sorry Clay-nation, but Aiken has all the rock chops of a Sunday school teacher. His act should be on the stages of the 700 Club opening for Stephen Michael Chapman.
Now, since I've only seen parts of two programs this year, I asked another friend to give his capsule on the season, so far, as he has watched much more diligently. This man Will go nameless, but to give you a hint on his identity let me mention he is an expert on medical and political issues, so of course he has great insight on reality television programming. Here is his review of AI 2005.
"It's been a demographic nightmare as each week's had the pretty girls
Ozzie's (Smith) kid - renamed Nikko by the show - was an Usher knockoff. A very
Seriously - everyone in this competition is easily explained away in
Good analysis, UTK. My thoughts on what would really kick the show up a notch next season would be to demand that each person have to perform an orignal song. Make sure that at least the lyrics would be written by the contestant and give more points to any person who came up with the music, also. You see, the biggest flaw with American Idol is that there are so many talented young people who do these things, but sadly are unknown in comparison, because they're not promoted on a national TV each week. Check out Rufus Wainwright, John Legend, Joss Stone, Jaime Cullen, etc. and then you will have no need for AI, unless you want to catch Simon eviscerate someone with his snotty English 'tude. And think if this show went off the air, no more Ryan Seacrest. Late.
At risk of post-storming -- and please, be sure to read down; there's been a lot of good stuff lately - this classic from The Superficial is worthy of praise and wonderment:
Serpiente. I see that one coming back.
Through A Window, Darkly
John Perricone is keeping the heat on MLB to release the in-hand results of the Florida spring training tests. I've heard for a couple weeks about the numbers and the pending release, yet we're still waiting.
I'll say it again. MLB needs a "drug czar" - someone who the press can go to for straight answers on these things and that can step out from behind the skirts of the Commissioner to up the transparency and trust.
The Line and Where It's Drawn
Darren Everson has a must read piece in the NY Daily News today on Brian Roberts. (I keep starting to type Dave ...) Roberts is using legal supplements to give himself the best shot to succeed.
So, why is the line drawn here instead of there. It's an arbitrary thing and the quicker we acknowledge that, the better. It reminds me of what we called the "magic summer" in high school. A couple friends of mine were seniors and they dated sophomores, the first year in the high school (HS was 10-12, Jr high was 7-9). None of them would be caught dead kissing a ninth grader, but once that magic summer past, they were fair game. There was no good reason for this, but drugs/supplements are much like teenage girls: the reasons we have laws prohibiting it is because people want them!
Rockin' Mower: Metal Blade edition
Along with baseball season starting, another thing that denotes Winter is over in the Midwest is getting the lawn mower out. Now, I'm not a handy guy and don't really like doing much in regards to landscaping, but I've always like mowing my yard. On a nice day, it gives me a reason to catch some rays and listen to some tunes. In a new feature to The Juice Blog, I will list the songs I listen to on my MP3 player (Creative Nomad Jukebox), while pushing my green Yard Man on my half acre.
Now many of you might think is this guy really going to write about this on a regular basis? Yep. I figure if former Florida Senator and 2004 Presidential nominee Bob Graham kept a daily diary of his life, including what he ate every day, I could indulge the world in what my MP3 player's random button would offer. To kick this experiment off, I chose the Metal genre, as I like to rock out when pushing the grass cutting sled.
74 Jailbreak- AC/DC- Good start. By the way, I split my Bon Scott years from my Brian Johnson years, as the two shouldn't not be intermixed. It's kind of like keeping your mashed potatoes away from your cranberry salad. They are both good, but when they blend together, they don't taste right.
2 Minutes to Midnight- Iron Maiden- Ok, if you are listening to a lot of Maiden, but not worthy of being on a mix tape. I should take the genre off this song, so if I hit Metal again, I won't have to listen to this.
Snortin Whiskey, Drinking Cocaine- Pat Travers Band- Many social critics lament the depravity of our current society. Well I haven't heard a recent song on radio with a title like this one. Eric Clapton sang sweetly about "Cocaine", well where is Clay Aiken's "Crank"? (For new lurkers, I'm talking about the drug, not his so-called Milton Berle-like appendage.)
Round and Round- Ratt- Never cared much for this band, but this one was is pretty catchy. The video featured Milton Berle, who was known as having the biggest schlong in the history of entertainment. Can you imagine the commotion Uncle Milty would have caused if he would have worn some 80's metal spandex. Youch.
All Night Long- Rainbow- This was done during the in-between time of Ronnie James Dio and Joe Lynn Turner. This is one of their better songs, discussing the life of picking up barely of age groupies from the stage. "Don't know bout' your brains, but you look alright." Metal misogyny at it's best."
This is Effective?
According to documents available on their own web site, the US Anti-Doping Association (USADA) performed 8,051 doping control tests (what you and I call urinalysis). If you page down far enough, you'll find that there were 41 failures. These include three "non-analytical positives". This term is the circumstancial evidence of the drug testing world, as detailed here by Dave Kindred. Three other failures were refusals and one was a simple no-show.
If this is the gold standard they want to put onto baseball and other sports in the so-called "Unified Drug Policy", I'll say no thank you. You do the math and tell me which policy is more effective.
Duff Strikes Again
Duff Wilson, if you're reading this, I'm your biggest fan.
The NY Times and reporter Duff Wilson have been doing some of the best reporting on the steroids in baseball issue anywhere. The SF Chronicle may be getting more meta-press due to their connections and Deep Throat tactics, but Wilson and his colleagues are doing the hard grunt work, following the story and simply not letting go.
Wilson's latest piece focuses on the government's complicity in the problem. Orrin Hatch isn't going to like this one and someone really needs to start calling this type of bald-faced conflict of interest into question.
Great work and the rest of the Times coverage deserves more attention, even if Fainaru-Wada gets the Pulitzer.
99 Minute Games: Mark Buehrle and White Sox Pitching
Just finished watching Mark Buehrle take a shutout into the 9th and despite one of the three hits by Ichiro (the only 3 Buehrle gave up) the White Sox won 2-1. And no that wasn't a misprint, the game between Buerhle and Ryan Franklin took all of 1:39. The White Sox are 8-3 to start the season and have gotten quality starts 10 of these 11 games. Garcia 1.93, Buehrle 2.22, Garland 3.46, Contreas 3.55, and Hernandez 3.76 are the ERA's for the starting 5. Sure it's early and there is no way these ERA's aren't going up, but what in the name of PECOTA were people thinking when analyzing this staff, prior to the season.
Buehrle has been consistently good since he started with the Sox when he was 21. Over the past 4 seasons the left-hander has put up ERA's between 3.29 and 4.14, in a hitters park. He has been between 221 and 244 innings each of the last four years. Is it any wonder he has been compared to Tom Glavine? So at the age of 26, without any past history of arm trouble, PECOTA had his 2005 ERA at 4.47. As I wrote before the season, PECOTA just didn't seem to make any sense when it came to the White Sox's starting pitching.
Further PECOTA analysis had 29 year-old Freddy Garcia at 4.55 and 25 year-old Jon Garland at 5.05, which also seemed way too high, considering they had have consistently pitched around 200 innings annually without serious injury issues and had never had an ERA that high in the past. With these 3 pitchers having demonstrated they can consistently pitch around 200 innings annually, plus being between 25 and 29 of age, it didn't take much of a leap of faith to expect at least a slight improvement statistically, but instead PECOTA and many of the experts looked at this staff as average at best.
Add off-season pick-up Orlando Hernandez, who has a career ERA of 3.96 and you have four quality starters. The wild card is Jose Contreas, who can give you 200 innings plus, albeit inconsistent results and this starting staff was the best in the AL, outside of the Yanks and Red Sox. Even if Hernandez has another injury plagued season or Contreas starts giving too many starts away, the Sox have the most ready for primetime minor league starter, Brandon McCarthy just waiting to bring his phenomenal strikeout to walk rate up to the Majors.
The White Sox offense, which has serious OBP issues, will determine if this team is a playoff contender or not, but the starting pitching and bullpen depth are so superior to the Indians and Tigers that White Sox still look to be the Twins best competition. I don't go as far as thinking the White Sox will be the AL's Wild Card representative, like Yahoo.com's Ryne Sandberg and Playboy magazine's Tracy Ringolsby did, but the 70 win season some predicted is between 10 to 18 games off.
Two Great Stories You Should Catch
The thing that ties me to my childhood baseball memories more than anything are baseball cards. I've been meaning to post something on this subject for the past year, but 2 of the writers here at Baseball Toaster have beaten me to it. I'm going to link them, as they are both outstanding.
If you are like me, reading about the Yankees isn't a priority, as I have a hatred/jealousy of them. Even if you fit this demo, you should check out Alex Belth's Bronx Banter anyway, as his stories and interviews are top-notch. A great example is the piece he did on cards back in January.
When we all came together to create Baseball Toaster, a lot of what brought us here had to do with the technological skills of Ken Arneson and his vision is something we wanted to be a part of. What sometimes gets lost is that Ken is also an excellent writer. Check out his Catfish blog, when you get the time. His latest is a wonderfully nostalgic look at baseball cards.
On the subject of things you should read, it's time to order my blogmate's (that sounds a bit unseemly doesn't it?) book. I've read some of the stuff, when Will was putting it together and as the blurbs for the book mention, it's the real story of steroids in baseball, not the load we are served in the newspapers, radio talkshows, and television reports.
Also, if you haven't done it yet, mention to your friends how this place called the Baseball Toaster is something they should check out. You don't have to just be a baseball fan to enjoy it, though that is our focus. The Toaster, it's not just for breakfast anymore.
The Juice is loose, heading for book stores on Tuesday and nationwide by the following week. It was an amazing job by my publisher to turn a book around from manuscript on March 1 to glossy, great looking book in my hands on April 15.
Now the book is in my hands and just as fast its out of my hands. Releasing a book into the wild is nearly as scary as wondering if it's good enough, whether you're done, whether you should tweak just one more thing. It's your book now.
Sometimes, the jokes write themselves.
Two Hit Wonders?
There are plenty of stories and TV shows celebrating the 1-hit wonders like Wild Cherry, Modern English, Primitive Radio Gods. (3 of my favorites from each of the last 3 decades) Well, how about the artists who have doubled that output. The six I have listed have had other good songs, but only 2 would hit the charts. I'm sure there are others I'm missing; so feel free to list them in the comments section. Remember, only classic rock selections.
Gerry Rafferty- Is there a better saxophone solo on a classic rock song than "Baker Street"? The mellow sounds of "Right Down the Line" are almost as good.
Stealer's Wheel- Ok, this is kind of cheating, as the voice and main writer of this band is Gerry Rafferty, but the band does have a different sound. "Stuck in the Middle with You" is my favorite song of all-time and I felt this way before I heard it played while Michael Madsen slices an ear in Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs". The other song that charted by this band is an overlooked gem entitled "Star", which is as good as anything Badfinger or the Rasberries did in emulating The Beatles.
Gary Wright*- Now what says the 70's better than Dream Weaver? It practically shines a strobe light on the decade. Off of the same album, came a white funky gem entitled "Love is Alive", which matches anything Steve Winwood did during his solo career.
Al Stewart- Sure Al is no Rod Stewart, but I would match his 2 best tunes with anything bleach-blonde streaked Rod the Mod ever put out. Has there been any singer sound like a bigger British poofter than Al Stewart? I say listen to "Year of the Cat" or "Time Passages" and then try to tell me that the current band Keane wasn't heavily influenced by his singing style.
Golden Earring- "I've been drivin' all night, my hands wet on the wheel". Now name me a song that kicks ass driving at night more than "Radar Love"? You can't do it. 8 years later, this Dutch band came back with an equally unique rocker "Twilight Zone". Actually they have a couple other good songs like "Clear Night, Moonlight" and "Devil Made Me Do It", but the 2 that charted stand out above all the rest of their work.
10CC- How a band can come up with 2 incredibly great songs like "I'm Not in Love" and "Things We Do for Love", but not have anything else on their greatest hits release that is even listenable is a complete mystery. Band members Godley and Crème broke off and had a minor hit "Cry", which was played a lot on MTV because of it being the first video to morph human faces. (The same effect was used later by Godley in the video he directed of Michael Jackson's "Black and White" video.)
****** PLEASE LOOK AT THIS DEFINITION OF CLASSIC ROCK.******
I'm sure there's more out there. Name 'em in comments.
Instead of a post, I just want to start a debate. In New York, a guy is being prosecuted for impersonating the media. I'm not sure where this reaches the level of prosecutable fraud, but I'm no lawyer.
Where this does interest me is in the ongoing question of "who qualifies as media in the internet age?" I worry that this guy - if guilty or even not - will be used as an example of why net-based writers don't get credentials. If we say that it's the job of the team's media relations staff to check references, it will be much easier to simply issue it to the representatives of known entities like newspapers, tv and radio.
I've long been an advocate of some form of Internet Baseball Writers Union or some voice that speaks to setting standards and helping net based writers get the same treatment that other writers and journalists recieve.
My question to you is: how?
Gyro: Mowin' Em Down
Bill Burke checks back in with a report on the second start for our friend, the gyroballer Joey Niezer. To answer a question from last time, no, Niezer hasn't been signed or even scouted by a major college, though he has his eyes on a nice small school where he can ply his craft. That could change.
From the pitcher's point of view, he needs to record 21 outs in a regulation Indiana high school baseball match. On the evening of Friday, April 8th, our Gyroball case study, Joey Niezer of tiny Oldenburg Academy (Indiana), sat down 17 opposing batters without any help from his defense. That's right, 17 strikeouts in a 7 inning one-hitter. Oh yeah, and he walked nobody.
Lots of strikeouts usually come with lots of pitches and, of course, Will would have my head displayed on a pike in Monument Circle for all to see had I run Joey out there for 160 pitches (give or take a few). No, probably the most amazing part of the game was the pitch count.
Eighty-two pitches was all it took. That averages to a little less than 12 pitches per inning. The inning-by-inning breakdown looks like this: 12 14 10 12 12 6 16. Do you see that 10 pitch inning? That was one ball followed by nine consecutive strikes!
There was only one hit in this game as well, a bunt single in the second inning (the first four batters had all struck out). That batter eventually scored on an error, however that was also the only run of the game which ended with a score of 8-1.
The only real trouble of the game came in the 7th inning, when our defense allowed two baserunners to reach on errors. Joey shouldered the burden (so to speak) and proceeded to strike out the side, leaving both runners stranded.
Joey's line for the game: 7ip 1r 1h 0bb 17k
For those of you keeping track at home, that's 25-1 K/BB on the season so far.
Joey comes back on short rest to take on a strong opponent Monday night. The tale continues as the gyroball revolution marches on ...
White Sox, A's, AL Central, and my baseball blasphemy
When you are someone who believes in the sabermetrical approach to baseball, but are a White Sox fan, you are put in a difficult position. You see, most of my favorite writers in the SABR world have a negative view of the Sox. GM Kenny Williams has been portrayed as one of the 2 or 3 dumbest people in his job, which the book "Moneyball" highlighted. In the past, I've discussed my thoughts on Williams, which I would describe as mixed. Just having a mixed view on him is something most who check in here feel is pure stupidity, as Williams is Public Enemy No. 1 on their list.
I've been a big fan of how Billy Beane has run the Oakland A's, but I feel there has been a lack of critical analysis in looking at this year's team, while the biases these same experts share about the White Sox have created poor expectations for their season. Now I know this statement is something the baseball blogging community sees akin to blasphemy, so let me demonstrate why like Peter Frampton, I feel like I do.
To begin with, both teams have much in common on the surface, as they play second fiddle to more popular teams in the same market (Giants and Cubs). The cause and effect of this situation being they have salary restraints that are more akin to smaller markets. There is no doubt that the A's have done a spectacular job in being one of the top 5 teams in baseball over the past few years, despite these financial issues. My focus though, is on 2005. "
You hear players talking about 'the spike' a lot in baseball. Not cleats, but the shot they get, filled with cortisone or in some cases stronger pain relievers, to be able to go out and play. All these are done under doctor's care, the injections given in the training room before games.
Emily Badger of the Orlando Sentinel writes about the problems of these injections, equating them with other performance enhancers. While there's certainly a case to be made - and Badger makes one of the more convincing ones I've seen - I remain unconvinced.
There's an ethical line somewhere that separates PEDs from drugs that should be available. If cortisone is over the line, how do we leave Vioxx/Celebrex behind? How many Aleve does a player take before he's over it? Is Tommy John surgery performance enhancing?
It's good to think about this line. I have no idea where it's drawn for me, though I do know it's different for everyone and that I don't have a problem with that.
Rachael's Trivia Corner
For those of you that go back to UTK 1.0, you'll remember that Rachael Reid used to come in on Saturdays and fill in. One of her most popular features was trivia and I'm happy to say it's back as a semi-regular feature here. No prizes - yet - but bragging rights are always good as well.
Her question for this week:
Sorry for the long stretch between posts. Simply put, I didn't have much to say. It's the time of the season where I'm finding my rhythm, hooking back up with regular media gigs, and of course prepping for book release for the second year in a row.
Last year while I was in New York, I spent time with Steven Goldman. Goldman, I'm proud to say, is not only a friend, but the heir to the throne of best baseball writers of his generation. As Angell, Kahn, and Koppett fade, as Barra, Pluto, and Kornheiser age, there's a new generation of writers that are finally getting their due: Alan Schwarz, Alex Belth, and Goldman all have first books out or coming soon.
It's odd to know all of them. I can imagine having dinner with them, something I can't do when I read Murray Chass or Richard Justice.
Anyway, last year, Goldman graciously gave me two books. One was a collection of New Yorker humor and the other was a collection of great essays. I read one a moment ago, reminding myself that Goldman gave me the book as not only a gift but as an education. Steven Jay Gould's "The Creation Myth of Cooperstown" is amazing stuff and important.
So much of baseball is myth and steroids are just one more. Yes, people use steroids and baseball players are people. That syllogism works. What people are doing is mythologizing steroids, using Jose Canseco's "Chemist" persona to point to the eating of the apple. 1998 wasn't just McGwire and Sosa 'saving baseball' it was a collection of myths now being rewritten as the great achievement of a tainted era.
It was evolution, not revolution. Steroids are a small part of the game, of society, of culture, and trying to make myths forgoes our chance at finding the truth. We're too worried about cause, ignoring effect.
Gyro In Action
Friend and BP tech guy Bill Burke also has a gig as pitching coach for an Indiana high school. I've had the chance to work with some of his pitchers and mentioned that I taught the gyroball to one. It debuted this week and Bill checks in with what will be a regular feature following the kid, the pitch, and a high school baseball season.
Opening day 2005 was on March 31st this year. No, obviously not Major League Baseball - that happened the evening of April 3rd. I am talking about the opening day of the Indiana High School baseball season, and more specifically the opening day for the Oldenburg Academy Twisters. Oldenburg features Joey Niezer, an 18 year old pitcher who throws the Japanese breaking ball called "Gyroball".
Niezer, a Senior this year, has been a force over his entire high school career. He has been the team's main starter since his freshman year and has led the Twisters to sectional titles in each of the past two seasons; all this for a school that has only fielded a baseball team for 5 years. Joey has has struck out about a batter per inning pitched during his high school career.
He has featured four-seam and two-seam fastballs in the mid-80's with a nice change-up, however he has lacked a killer "out" pitch. The type of pitch that leaves batters with nothing to do but wade back to the dugout to in a pool of their own urine, knees shaking, muttering to themselves about the phantom pitch that started behind their head and ended up in the strike zone.
Opening day 2005 wasn't just another start for Joey, it was the debut of a new pitch - an "out" pitch. Joey spent part of last fall
The debut was an unqualified success. Four of the the first six batters of the game watched strike three go by and no batters reached base until the third inning. Ultimately, Joey was no longer needed after five innings with his team up 9-1, so he ended the game with a nice line of 5IP 8K 1BB 2H 1R. He had thrown 80 pitches, but not more than 21 in any inning. Joey's next start is scheduled for Saturday, April 9th against another strong offensive team and rival.
Yes! The gyroball works, people. We'll try to get some video soon.
Starting a baseball season is like writing checks. You spend the first part putting the wrong month on the line, checking yourself as it goes. Things seem as much last year as they do this year, expectations still settling themselves.
How many times will we say "Montreal" or put a player on the team they used to be on? At least today we can get the rest of the teams going. Somehow this 'staggered start' isn't as satisfying to me. I realize baseball was willing to adjust to avoid the NCAA Finals, ratings monster that it is. (Oh, let me wipe off some of that sarcasm.)
So far we've had a nice, nice start. Pedro went well in his first start in baby blue but Dunn and Randa went one better. Dmitri Young reminded us that it is possible to hit one - or three - out of Comerica. The Cubs scored all their April allotment of runs in one inning.
I'm still surprised at the public/media response to Alex Sanchez. It's getting covered but is hardly the type of outcry that I expected. It *is* Alex Sanchez and not Alex Rodriguez, a story that would get "War Declared" kind of fonts in every NYC paper. Still, I expected more outrage. A player - I think Dave Roberts, but can't find the quote - said that the first player to test positive would have his career ended by it. That's certainly possibly with Sanchez but the Rays don't really seem concerned. It will be interesting to see what happens once he returns and what crowd reaction will be. For Sanchez, I think it will be more joke than animosity. We'll see.
If nothing else, it proves my idea right, that no story this year will overshadow steroids unless Dmitri Young keeps up his 400 HR pace. Maybe not even then.
Not looking good for tonight's game, so here's some light reading, courtesy of the N.C. State student newspaper and former BP intern Austin Johnson. One of the better mainstream pieces I've read and one of few times you'll ever see quotes from Jeff Dugas.
It's Prediction Time Everyone
I would love for everyone who lurks around here to post your picks, as I'm all about bragging rights. Just so you know what to include, here are my choices, if you couldn't figure out from my rankings post.
On the subject of picks, let me mention that I put my picks out here for ridicule, so if I do well, expect to read me proclaim it from the rooftops. I picked the Red Sox to beat the Cubs before last season. (not bad) I picked all the baseball playoff series correctly before they started. (Rack me) I chose the Colts to beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl. (okay) I had Illinois, Georgia Tech, Okla. St, and Michigan State as final 4 teams before the year. (not too bad) Before the tourney I had Illinois and North Carolina playing in the final game, with Michigan State and Wake Forest joining them in St. Louis. (pretty f-ing good.) I'm in 2nd out of 32 in The Juice Blog tourney pool. (congrats to Vogon Poet)
I was told I was idiot in the comments before the playoffs for saying that the NL winner wouldn't compete with the AL winner. On the college b-ball front, I was told by many that the West Coast and Big East teams would do a lot better than I predicted.
Let me finish by mentioning, I welcome these comments, as scoreboard is a bitch. By the way, I know that my luck is going to run out soon. Having said that, a poster named onetimer mentioned in my last college b-ball post(Nirvana) that 95% of pickers chose Illinois and N Carolina and Michigan State was just luck. He proceeded to mention that a blind monkey could have produced my results. What a load. Hide behind your psuedonym, stoopid. Second out of 32 is damn good and I'm winning my money pool. Now, watch my bright red ass shake at you. This monkey is the big banana until you show me you can do better. Sorry to the rest of you for my less than diplomatic behavoir. I guess you could say I went apeshit.
We did some schwag about a week ago. I was able to contact one winner, but not the other. Would "alsep73" please email me? Thanks to all that participated - we'll do this from time to time. (This post will self-destruct once alsep73 responds.)
I haven't had a post in a while, first to honor Scott's heartfelt post and let people read it, but also because it's the lull. There's nothing really happening in baseball that I have the primacy to add something to the discussion.
Yet this made me think about how the last four years have changed the way I look at baseball. Instead of being "just a fan" - to me, still the highest calling in the game - I've started thinking of the game as areas, represented by people. Sure, I could write about something more than injuries (and do here) but when it comes to what's happening right now, there's better people. If I want to know the latest scuttlebutt (Gammons, Rosenthal), I know where to go. If I'd like to know what the players are thinking (Stark, Crasnick) or who got sent down (Kahrl, Ruzich), then I know where to go. I check in on the teams I like (Ciepley, Smart, Miles) and the teams I don't (Leach, Miklasz). I check on players that I have on my fantasy teams (Sherman, Belth, Gorman, Perricone, Olson). I look for original thought (Sheehan, Neyer) and original numbers (Woolner, Silver, Click). I know there's prospects coming (Callis, Goldstein, Sickels, Smith) and fantasy things I need to know (Erickson, Shandler).
Somehow, it's always been about people for me. Why should baseball be any different?
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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