September 2007

Sweet Home Colorado.

     For all of you who think Colorado has been affected greatly by those humidors, here are the differences in Home OPS compared to road OPS, among the eight everyday players in the Rockies lineup.

Torrealba:  +.177 (percentage points greater than that of their road OPS)

Helton:  +.132

Matsui:  +.224

Atkins:  +.146

Tulowitki:  +.243

Holliday:  +.199

Taveras:  +.54

Hawpe:  +.174 

     This is an average, of a player in the starting lineup’s OPS being 168 percentage points higher at home, than on the road. 

     As far as the whole offense is concerned, the difference between the cumulative (team) Home and Road OPS’ are greatest in Colorado.  It is .119 points at higher at home in Colorado than that of in the away games.  The next highest team is Arizona which is a difference of .83.  The average difference is .48, meaning that Colorado’s split is .71 points higher than the average. 

     Not to mention the staff ERA at home is 4.29, and on the road it is 4.39, which isn’t a huge difference, but still it is better on the road.  They are fourth in ERA in the NL on the road, but fall to 12th at home.

     Just take this into consideration when the balloting takes place. 

Two more games…

     The New York Mets are collapsing, and there is going to be blame placed on someone if it ends the way it has been going.  I have thought this about the Mets since before the season began…they needed pitching.  I actually thought that with the money they had and the talent in place already, that they should have made a serious push at Zito this past offseason.  Now Zito commanded an absurd amount of money, and I know that teams were smart to shy away from that kind of contract.  But still, Zito may not be the ace that he [appeared] to be in Oakland, but he will be better than he has been this season, that is almost certain.  So anyway, without pitching, the Mets have faltered.  I am not going to comment on Willie Randolph, because I don’t see his in-game management.  Simple as that.  But as Buster Olney points out, Minaya should be taking a lot of the heat.  He had everything in place, but needed to make a few additions.  I liked the signing of Alou, but I thought that a starting pitcher was much more important of an issue.  The trading of "arms" that has taken place during the course of this season is on Minaya though.  I did not know enough about the guys being traded (Bannister, Bell, etc.) at the time of the trades.  But Minaya had a much, much better understanding of what he had.  He has his scouts to describe them, he has minor league performance to look at, etc.  So I really do not know what should be done, but this team should have won over 90 games.  And even if the Phillies won the division, the Mets still should have been in position to win the Wild Card. 

     The good news in New York?  The Phillies are throwing Adam Eaton today, who has been BAD this year, and Jamie Moyer tomorrow, who has been getting hammered lately.  In four of Moyer’s last eight starts he has given up 5+ earned runs.  And Eaton has an ERA that sits at 6.33.  The Mets counter in New York with John Maine and Tom Glavine.  On paper it looks as though the Mets have a good opportunity to force a one game playoff, but we will see how it plays out. 

     I have been hearing an endless amount of praise for that of Troy Tulowitzki.  I have had an understanding that he has had a fine year, all year long.  But ever since the Rockies began winning games as though they were taking place against little league teams, Tulo has been idolized.  He is tied in "Win Shares" with that of Derrek Lee and Ryan Howard.  However, his offense has been significantly better at home than on the road.  Colorado is still a "Hitters park" everyone.  Maybe not to the same degree, but still benefits hitters.  His home OPS is .962.  On the road it is .719.  And people seem to want to ignore this.  That is a huge difference.  He has been great on the defensive side I have heard, and his "RZR" is fourth among NL SS’s.  And he seems to have those Jeter-like intangibles and at such a young age to go along with great insticts.

    

     With all this said I clicked on the Rockies/D’Backs game last night.  And this was the second time I had done so, but this time as I arrived, a ground ball was being hit directly up the middle by, I dont know who.  But Tulowitzki made a very nice play ranging up the middle, and I was able to see some of that defense for the first time live.  I have seen highlights, but had not seen anything great in the one game sample of him earlier in the year against the Red Sox. 

     In addition to watching this clip of possible future greatness, I also had the Brewers/Pads game on ESPN.  I saw the Brewers fail to stay in contention, but the fans in Milwaukee still had a very good season.  Maybe they are more mediocre than they are good, but they have plenty of young stars and have the chance to be better next season.  So it wasn’t a lost cause of a season by any means.

     As soon as the Yankees game went into the bottom of the ninth, I clicked over to that also.  No offense Yankee fans, but I expected a little excitement with Rivera on the mound.  I didn’t expect what happened to take place, but I thought maybe the tying run might come to the plate, or something like that.  And when Jay Payton came up, I thought the game was over.  I just didn’t feel he would come through.  But he did, and the game was tied.  The Orioles ended up winning the game as all of us know. 

     Note:  I would have watched some of the Mets game had they not been blacked out.  Devil Rays and Marlins games are blacked out in my area, and neither of them are shown on my local cable network.

     So the playoffs are set in the AL.  Home-field throughout has not been decided, but the four teams are there.  And the Red Sox get the Angels for round 1, otherwise known as the ALDS. 

    

Four games to go…

     Today I went with the "Grande" coffee from Starbucks, rather than "Tall," which is actually the small version.  It was a difficult choice, but I made it, thinking in terms of how much coffee I had been drinking lately.  And I think that I am satisfied with my final decision.  After all, I have more coffee to enjoy, and now the paranoia can be even greater when I am all hopped up on caffeine.  But at least I will [feel] as though I am blogging better.   

     So yesterday’s blog was a little confusing I must say, and there were 25 comments from a combined four readers.  Well, three readers and a proof-reader.  I want to make this clear however.  I think that after a 162 game season we should know which team in the division was the better team over the course of the [entire] season.  And if they win by one game on a walk off homer on the final day it may seem close, seeing how they were separated by a single game.  But that should ultimately be how it ends for that second place team.  And as my Dad pointed out, they should not have to play them again.  However, the fact that there is no salary cap, means to me, that it should stay until they fix that first.  Because many fans will turn their heads from the game, with their respective teams having even less of a shot, and more importantly, an unfair shot at postseason play.  So I don’t mind the inferior teams getting a shot with the way the financial situation is.  But I feel both situations can be fixed, which is why I discuss [both] on the topic of the "Wild Card."  But anyway, I am finished with that topic for now.   And there are positives and negatives to it, which is why I explored both. 

     Johan Santana, the best pitcher in baseball, has given up 33 home runs this season.  Which is really unbelievable.  He is the best pitcher in baseball, definitely not this year, but before next season starts everyone will be referring to him with this label once again.  I mean really, this is last year’s Josh Beckett territory.  He gave up 36 homers but finished with a 5.01 ERA.  Santana gave up just about as many, yet managed a 3.33 ERA.  I would like to see the stats on players who had ERA+’s of 130 or more, but gave up 30 or more homers.  But my prediction was wrong, as at the break I predicted he would win the Cy Young, and he will not. 

     Congratulations to the Yankee fans that read this blog.  I never counted that team out, and you can read my past posts for proof if you must.  They had too much talent.  Although, chasing the Tigers and Red Sox made it seem unlikely at times, but they overcame this.  Of course, they had plenty of resources to work with, but still they had a nice comeback.

     Which leads me to…the fact that this is where these teams should be.  At the top of the American League.  Or within striking distance at least.  Everyone spoke of a Red Sox collapse, while it was mostly a Yankee resurgance.  The Red Sox were not playing great by any means, but the teams are where they should be, in the playoffs.

     The National League Wild Card has a lot of intrigue down the stretch.  Now we can argue whether some of these teams are even playoff quality teams, based on the old two divsion format.   But I imagine many fans are having an exciting time with this right now.  And I believe the Padres will prevail, but I believed this much more so a week or so ago, before there players were stepping on each others toes, and tearing their ACL’s due to unacceptable behavior.  Maybe Milton Bradley will turn around and sue Bud Black or whoever it was, for restraining him, and ultimately being part of why he was injured.  And Bradley was out of control, I know he probably isn’t being paid much, but should the Padres have to pay him while he is injured? 

     In my video game, "MLB 2K7," I am nearing the All Star break.  I was sitting behind the Orioles by twelve games in the standings.  When in doubt, just lower the difficulty.  I just cannot find a difficulty to have consistent competition.  So I am going to destroy everyone on this setting until I get near the top of the division, then I will mess with it again.  This seems to be what the Yankees did this season. 

     Cleveland has the most improved bullpen according to This is Where You Go To See For Yourself.  But, the big question mark they have, as Rob Neyer discussed in his blog today, is Joe Borowski.  He has been awful this season, yet has 43 saves.  So don’t tell me that the "Saves" stat is not overrated.  Of course, Rafael Betancourt has been as good as Borowski has been bad.  While Borowski has an ERA over 5, Betancourts is below 2.  Actually at 1.49.  He has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season.  And has been relatively unnoticed while doing it.

      

    

    

The Playoffs Are Near and Our Health Meter is Rising.

     Some fans are starting to give Drew some praise for his recent success, as he has been on base 24 times in the past 11 games.  After I had to listen to numerous shots at him for the first part of the year, the Bostonians are coming around while he is playing well.  What a surprise…Red Sox fans.  The fourteen million doesnt, and never did help the situation, as a player making that much money will be expected to contribute immediately.  But Drew did not, and simply had to listen to the boos and sighs that come along with playing in Boston.  The guy is a pretty good player, and will prove it throughout the contract, at least when he is on the field.  But getting on him all year has been a little unnecessary.  The walk is not exactly an exciting feat from the bleacher seats.  And many Red Sox fans may never embrace him because some may think that drawing a walk has nothing to do with the hitter, as they believed in the very early 1900’s and did not even include them in the box score (as I learned in James’ Historical Baseball Abstract).  He may never be embraced because he doesn’t roll around in dirt and rub it all over his face intentionally (Trot Nixon).  And he may not be embraced because he will probably never be worth $14 million in a single season.  That does not mean that he will not be a pretty good player, but that he probably will not be THAT good.  I know this, if JD Drew is not the focal point of this offense it will be ok.  But if Ortiz and Manny decline some more, and the team does not go out and sign someone who will help the offense, then it will put even more emphasis on Drew, and that is not a good thing.  It is fine if he is the fourth or fifth best offensive player they have during the remainder of the contract.  But I don’t like relying on him.  Pretty good player, great at getting on base, has all five tools, but he is not great, and I never thought he was [great]. 

    

     An excerpt my Dad sent me in an email, formulated by Bob Costas:

            "Wild Card Playoff – Bob Costas says kill the wild-card and give the best record in each league a first-round bye. His argument revolves around the importance of pennant races to the game of baseball. The wild-card spot negates any pennant races, since second place wins a post-season spot, too. He says that the end of the season is more exciting without the wild-card."

      "This is some of what is in his book called "Fair Ball".   The Wild Card does nothing more than let 2nd place teams (which have already proven that they are not as good as the team above them) a possible shot at playing in The World Series.  For 95 years no 2nd place team ever played in The World Series.  A bunch have in the last 12 years.  This down grades the integrity of the World Series and kills pennant races forever.  This all came about after the strike to ****** in "uninformed fans" to watch more games and have more teams still hanging around at the end when they shouldn’t be just to bleed every last dollar from fans that they can get to make up for the greedy players and owners 1994 strike that took steroid home runs to fix.  Yes. THIS year it looks like the Red Sox will take 1st place.  The 2nd place finisher sould be done.  But this also applies the 2004.  I was on the field at Fenway Park in 1967 when the Red Sox clinched the American League pennant.  Nothing has come even close to that in the last 40 years.  I can’t imagine how I would have felt at the end of the day if they would have said " Hey.  You guys have to go and  play the Twins again tomorrow and beat them again to see if you can go to the World Series".   The 2 BEST teams should be in the World Series every year.  If it is the Yankees every year because they spend more money then so be it.  MLB should fix THAT separate issue but not allow subpar teams in as a cheap way out to keep fans (and Donald Fehr) happy."

(Edit: The second quote is actually my Dad’s as he has carried this opinion ever since the Wild Card came into play.  He actually said he was driving down 125 (road in NH) I believe and they announced it on a sports talk show.  From what I could gather from the way he described it, there were fast food napkins strewn across the interior and ketchup packets entangled with mustard packets.  And the air freshener became best friends with the open road.  Ok, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but he was disappointed.  Originally, I had thought the entire email was Costas’ opinion, but my Uncle informed me that the second part was my father. 

    

     I agree with this, and Costas makes many valid points, but the financial situation in my opinion needs to be taken care of first. 

     If clutch doesn’t exist to some, do not tell that to Padres fans as Brian Giles hit a magnificently clutch home run last night. 

     Eric Gagne was not as miserable last night as he has been at times since being acquired by the Red Sox.  But he still let two base runners reach, and had to be relieved by Papelbon with two outs in the 8th.  Papelbon came in and threw one pitch getting out of the jam.  The Red Sox built the lead up to 7-1 in the bottom of the inning, and Papelbon was given the rest of the night off.  They brought Papelbon in to get out of the most critical situation.  They did what they should have done.  No one could have foreseen that they score more runs later in the inning, but regardless, Papelbon could have put down four A’s batters if necessary. 

     I was watching the "Gameday" version of the Yankees and Devil Rays last night, and was wondering where Joba Chamberlian was.  Farnsworth pitched the 8th.  Ok, I mean someone had to pitch it and it was against the 8, 9, and 1 hitters.  The ninth went to Veras who did not give up any runs, but still Joba was the better option.  But in the 10th, in a tie game, Torre turned to Jeff Karstens over Joba or Rivera.  Why?  Torre has the most dominant arm coming out of the pen in Joba Chamberlain in all of baseball lately.  Now this could be because no one is familiar with him, but still he is mowing hitters down.  So why did they not use him?  They could have used Joba in any single inning, whether it was the 8th, the 9th, or the 10th.  But they didn’t, and if some huge collapse took place, and I mean huge, then this would be the biggest reason why.  But Francona likes to mismanage the bullpen too, so it is familiar territory.   

    

The end is near, and so the beginning of the end begins.

     I predicted the Yankees to lose today (to a coworker), not just because I wanted them to do so, but because AJ Burnett was on the mound.  After all, he had been nothing short of dominant lately.  Eight straight quality starts for a team that is out of contention, which may take away some of the recognition, but not when he directly affects one’s team (Red Sox, Yankees).  He has good stuff, no question about that.  But does not make enough starts, due to injury, to earn the money that he makes.  Which, by the way, is too much for a guy that has made 21 starts in year one of his contract, and 23 as of now, in year two.  Could be worse, I guess.  It isn’t as bad as Pavano’s problems, or someone like Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, etc.  But if he is healthy for a full season the Blue Jays may actually be in contention until the last day of the season.

     Burnett didn’t end up pitching today, Jesse Litsch did though.  And on paper, had I known Litsch was starting, the Yankees would have been expected to win this matchup.  They were throwing their "Big Game" pitcher in the form of Andy Pettite, and were at home in addition to their pitching advantage.  Now, it wasn’t really that big of a game, but they haven’t clinched yet.  And although I, and many others expect them to do so, they haven’t.  So in a sense the game does have meaning, because the future is unknown.

     The Red Sox had a dramatic win on Saturday, followed up by a disappointing loss on Sunday.  They got to Al Reyes once, and could not do so the next time.  They ended up taking two of three from the lowly Rays, a team who I really want to be the general manger of.  I feel as though there are obvious moves that could be made to improve this team, and a lot of other people feel the same way.  It isn’t that difficult to understand, they need pitching, they have plenty of bats.  Make a trade.  And I understand that they have some young impact pitching that isn’t quite there yet, and still working in the farm system.  But I don’t know exactly how good these pitchers are, as the GM does.  But really, if nothing else, Rocco Baldelli should have been traded, and still should be.  Even if it is just for some questionable arm to throw in the pen.  An arm that may help some, or may only be average at worst, not questionable as in possibly terrible.  They should also get rid of Elijah Dukes.  Do it now!  Intangibles do matter.  A player doesn’t necessarily have to bring his teammates up to have value, but bringing them down is not acceptable.  He is in the minors now, but just rid of this nuiscance.  Send him to the Padres to hang out with Milton Bradley so they can wallow in their own internal asylums.  But I am not one to pass judgement on this.  Hopefully they can get help with whatever problems they are encountering.  But I would rid of Dukes if I had control of this team. 

     Speaking of Bradley, what he did was something he has done before, and that is lose control of his emotions.  No matter what the umpire said, he didn’t need to react like this.  And he has had breakdowns before, so it isn’t unfair to place blame on him.  No one knows exactly what was said, but we saw Bradley act like, well…himself.  But the topic has exhausted itself already. 

     Coming soon…My awards.  I am going to wait until the end of this season of course.  But have an idea of whom some of these are going to go to already. 

     Bill Simmons does not have confidence in this Red Sox team.  I listen to his podcasts and read his articles regularly.  And if that is the way he feels, then fine.  And he knows a good amount about baseball, he is NO expert though.  And I detect a little more bias then I like to, from someone that is writing articles that I read.  But without this bias, he wouldn’t be the same, entertainment wise.

       Anyway, Simmons seems to be basing this off "feel" rather than knowledge.  I am not saying that I have no doubt this team will win it all, because that would be a lie.  I have some confidence though.  But after Beckett and Schilling, which starter steps up?  Matsuzaka [might].  Wakefield [could].  And is the offense going to be [completely] shut down against great pitchers?  I honestly do not want to see Sabathia.  I fear him more than any pitcher that will be in the postseason.  And after watching Carmona destroy us earlier in the year, I am not entirely confident about facing him either.  But Beckett counters CC better than any other pitcher that will sniff a postseason roster.  And I definitely have confidence in Schilling giving us a good chance to win. 

     I actually am not as worried about the bullpen as a lot of fans seem to be either.  I think we have enough capable arms out there that they should be effective.  Maybe not as great as they should or could be.  But Papelbon is still out there.  Delcarmen is good.  Timlin is decent.  Corey has been pitching well.  Okajima is the question mark.  And Gagne too, but we don’t need Gagne as much as we do Okajima.  I guess I just like run differential.  But that isn’t where my confidence has come from.  It will be a fun postseason that is for sure. 

     Donovan McNabb was incredible yesterday.  And the way he performed was impressive no matter how bad the Lions defense played.  And they were bad, trust me, I watched.  The spacing the Eagles receivers had was a little ridiculous.  The Redskins and Packers did ten times the job, then that of the Lions.  I expected to win this game though, maybe not like this, but still expected to beat this Lions team.  I wasn’t sold on them.  Detroit may have some offensive potential there, and they showed that in the passing game.  But to be fair, we were without Lito Sheppard again, and Brian Dawkins.  Not to mention the fact that our tight end LJ Smith was absent also (making the blowout even more impressive).  But the Lions were pathetic.  And maybe they will win eight games, but eight games in the NFC does not make a team "good."  However, the Eagles are still in a hole, and need to beat the Giants on Sunday to even their record at 2-2. 

    

The Wild Card.

     I am so tired of hearing all this "Red Sox Nation is in a state of Panic" stuff.  It is not true over here at least.  Not only to I dislike the unoriginal phrasing of "Red Sox Nation," but I also understand that this team has a seven game lead over that final American League playoff spot.  This is a large downside to the Wild Card fellas.  It has always been.  To the casual fan the Wild Card brings hope, it increases the odds that a team can make the playoffs.  And it increases revenue, I would think anyway, for Major League Baseball. 

     Just imagine if there was no Wild Card and the AL East was in the same position as it currently is.  These final ten games would come with an endless amount of excitement.  But for example: Do you think Francona leaves Gagne in with 2 outs and the bases loaded in the 8th when they could have gone to Papelbon, asking him to get only one extra out?  Because I sure don’t.  It would have been bad management had the game been significant and Francona not turned to his best available arm.  Papelbon has had the past three days to rest, so it wouldn’t really be a question of overworking him.  The Red Sox could have used him today and then tomorrow is a scheduled off day.  The game is played differently in the situation that the Sox are currently in.  It is the downside to this "Wild Card."

     I have stated my position on the Wild Card in the past, but am going to do so again.  I think it is good for baseball since there is no salary cap currently.  It is hard enough for small market teams to have a chance to experience postseason play, but if there was no Wild Card then it would be that much more difficult.  The small market teams would be even more poor, in respect to the rest of the league.  And the casual fans would turn away much quicker.  Heck, even serious fans may turn their head, knowing the truth in cities like Kansas City, etc.  They would understand that the playoffs are a pipe dream.  Why should they support this league if my team doesn’t have a real, or fair shot at success?  It is an unfair game when compared to football, especially. 

     How to solve this?  Implement a salary cap and rid of the Wild Card once the finances level out some.  Or even keep the Wild Card if the MLB wishes to do so, as the lack of a salary cap is the larger issue here. 

     And the Wild Card really isn’t THAT bad.  It just takes away from some of the late season intensity at times, and lets teams in the playoffs that may not be all that good, giving them an opportunity to win a World Series ring.  It isn’t as if more than half of the teams in the league get a postseason ticket (NBA, NHL).  My Dad makes a good point, a 162 games season should separate the good teams from the slightly above average teams.  It isn’t a 16 game schedule.  It is 162 game schedule. 

     I also have another theory.  That the Wild Card has teams take chances on their personnel more so.  Because there is that extra spot for the postseason a team can wait until midway of the season or beyond to make roster improvements.  They can say, "Well this team is pretty good, it will be tough to take the divsion, but we can make a few moves at the deadline to insure we make the playoffs as a Wild Card."  If the Wild Card wasn’t there and they had to make the playoffs through a division win, especially in the AL East where the top two teams are so good, then these teams would have made sure they could put the best team imaginable on the field before the season starts, or early in the season.  There would be more urgency all year long. 

 

     "Oh, and just one more thing!"  The MVP discussion.  Some believe that if a players team does not make the playoffs, then they did not do enough to be worthy of the MVP award.  This may not be the best example, but some did not think that Ryan Howard should have been MVP last year because the Phillies didn’t make the playoffs, but that Pujols should have, because the Cardinals made it.  Those people that used this theory, well, are wrong.  The Phillies had to chase the Mets.  The Cardinals had a very weak division and needed only 83 wins to make the playoffs.  The Phillies actually won two more games than that of the Cardinals.  So the people who used this argument were way off base.  I know wins cannot be compared straight up between divsions, but look at the quality of teams if nothing else.  Howard ended up winning.  I chose Pujols, but it was not because of the fact that his team made the playoffs.  It probably had something to do with the Gold Glove and the higher OPS.  But that is another argument.  But the point is, the best regular season team in the NL last year [were] the New York Mets.  And the Phillies, not the Cardinals had to chase them. 

     This is where another positive aspect of the Wild Card comes in.  If a great team is running away with a division, the 98′ Yankees, etc.  Then is is realistic that the second best team in the league could be in second place.  This could very well happen.  And don’t we want the two best teams in the league playing for a chance to represent the AL/NL in the World Series?  This insures that the two best teams make the playoffs in each league, so is there some positive to these extra playoff spots I guess.

     But anyway.  Gagne is still a questionable choice coming out of the pen, I can’t deny that. 

Fly Eagles Fly, right into the cellar of the NFL.

     The more I watch Donovan McNabb, the more I want his tenure to end in Philadelphia.  I like Mcnabb, don’t get me wrong.  But I don’t believe he is a Super Bowl quarterback.  He threw a ball several feet away from a wide open Kevin Curtis that would have been a touchdown with under two minutes left.  He doesn’t have the mentality to get it done in the largest of situations.  Peyton Manning would have completed that pass.  Tom Brady would have completed that pass.  And sure the Eagles receivers dropped some passes tonight, but once again Donovan McNabb threw errant passes on multiple occasions.  And once again he could not get the ball in the end zone when he had to.  Anyone reading this who watches football, please tell me the last time Mcnabb put the ball in the end zone when he needed to tie or win a game.  He can’t do it.  His athletic ability will always  be on the decline and his mentality may never change.  So I understand if the Eagles organization want to go in a different direction at Quarterback.  I haven’t given up on the season, but my feelings toward McNabb have been developing for several years now.  Hopefully, he can at least help keep this team in contention.   

     The Red Sox dropped a game to Toronto, against what may be a very good pitcher in Dustin Mcgowan.  It was somewhat meaningless, because of the Wild Card, but I would rather them win, no matter what the situation is, of course.  Mcgowan has good stuff, the Red Sox hitters seemed lost at times, and the box score backs me up on this.  I don’t know how good Mcgowan is projected to be, but he seems to be headed in the right direction. 

     This is Tim Wakefield.  Any of you analysts trying to sound like that of a genius, trying to include Wakefield in the Cy Young race, seem to be oblivious to the sport that is baseball.  Then, his base ERA was 4.22, but he had those precious wins that all of the voters seem to justify as, well, meaningful.  They may mean something because the better one pitches, the greater the chance of earning a win.  But aside from that, Wakefield now has an ERA of 4.73.  He wasn’t terrible tonight by any means.  But he is an average starter, whose value increases because he is our [fourth] starter.  But with this type of payroll, we can upgrade in the future.  Or try and find an upgrade of a personal catcher for him, and as our backup, that can hit the ball with some regularity, as far as backup catchers are concerned.  How a backup catcher works with the staff is more important, but I am sure they can find someone who will be more productive on the offensive side of the ball than Doug Mirabelli or Kevin Cash. 

This is What I want in a Quarterback.

The ability to throw short passes with consistency…in a west coast offense. 

The ability to manage the clock at the end of either half. 

The ability to be somewhat accurate during the entire game, rather than just in a single half.

McNabb may come out and destroy the Redskins in the second half, but he may not.  He is good, but not great. 

Sox vs Yankees.

     Josh Beckett was dominant yesterday against one of the best offenses ever assembled.  This is the first time that I can say that a starting pitcher on the Boston Red Sox dominated the New York Yankees this season.  The Starters have pitched very well all year long, but have not had much success against this lineup.  It matters more what they do against baseball as a whole, rather than against a single team, even if that single team is the Yankees.  But it is a very good sign knowing that it is possible to shut this lineup down. 

     I was content with the way Dice-K threw the night before, as he held the Yankees to only two runs in just under six innings.  He was in trouble somewhat, but it was the first time I felt comfortable with him on the mound this season.  The first inning was not all his fault, as Damon led off with what could have been an out, had Youkilis held the bag and Matsuzaka fielded the ball, but it didn’t work out.  Jeter flied out.   Then Abreu hit a routine ground ball that should have at least been the second out, possibly the third if they could have made the transition to first too.  But the exchange was dropped by Lugo and there was still only one out with men on 1st and 2nd.  Then ARod was hit, loading the bases.  And then Dice-K did something that he doesn’t normally seem to do.  He did not give up a run in the inning.  I thought for sure we would be looking at a 2-0 deficit going into the bottom of the inning.  But the next two batters were retired without a run crossing the plate.  The second inning he faced only four batters.  The third inning was 1-2-3.  But it was the fifth inning that I developed that sense of comfort that I referred to.  He led off the inning with two quick outs, and then walked Abreu.  It was the ARod at bat that the comfort really kicked in.  I felt as though Rodriguez was going to fail, meaning that Matsuzaka was going to succeed.  Granted, the called third strike was a little inside, but it was a nice looking pitch.  And I would rather him miss inside than over the plate.  Location, location, location.  Something he has trouble with.  But I was satisfied with his performance, outside of the five walks.  And of course that four of the six innings that he started resulted in the leadoff man reaching. 

     I am a passionate football fan (NFL), do not think otherwise.  But I am so much into baseball that the excitement of the new NFL season is well, lackluster.  I will watch the games today, but I am really waiting for the Red Sox and Yankees to square off later on.  That Chargers-Pats game should be a treat too, as I will definitely switch between the two.  Tomorrow night, my team plays anyway, as I am an Eagles fan.  So I will be able to concentrate on that, while watching the rest of the Sox-Jays game on my computer. 

Blown game, and Jeter vs. Mauer

     I would have to say that I was a little disappointed last night.  Had there been no Wild Card, I would have had the same face that many of those fans at Fenway displayed.  But as angry as I became, I made myself take a look at the big picture.  And that picture being that the Red Sox have an eight game lead over the Tigers for that final playoff spot. 

     The Yankees earned every bit of that win though.  They beat the two best bullpen arms we had to offer.  And beat them quite well.  Okajima has not been the same lately.  He does not command his pitches anymore it seems, and deception alone is not going to work on its own, the second time around the league. 

     Papelbon came in when the game was on the line.  This is the great sabermetric debate.  Sabermetricians want to use there closer when the game is on the line, whether it be the 8th or 9th inning, or even the 7th in some cases.  The closer role has been defined improperly.  They seem to be saved until the 9th, and some only want them to come in with the lead at hand.  I disagree, and lean toward those guys running the Saber-conventions on this particular issue.  We also had Manny Delcarmen if we needed him for the ninth inning, and Eric Gagne crossing his fingers out in the bullpen also.  Had Papelbon held the lead in the 8th, and either Gagne or Delcarmen  had come into blow the game, it still would have been the right move.  It was difficult enough, as shown by the game itself, for arguably the best closer in baseball to handle this situation.  So why would I want Delcarmen (young/inexperienced) or Gagne (not reliable of late) to come into this.  Starting them fresh in the ninth with the lead would have been more logical I would think. 

     The Yankees are not in Papelbon’s head, I don’t think anyway.  They may be in Okajima’s head though.  Or it may have been the fact, as mentioned, that he was not locating his pitches, and has not been.  Or he could just be [this] pitcher.  Teams have seen him more now, and they have grown a little more comfortable, especially Robinson Cano.  Cano seems to like to crush balls to straight away center off Okajima in crunch time.   

    

     "Heartland" and I were having a friendly little debate as to who the MVP should have been last season.  He of course was on Jeter’s side, and I, as I have spoken of in past blogs, was in defense of the great Joe Mauer.  It isn’t as if I think Jeter would have been a bad choice, because that is definitely not the case.  Morneau was debatable, and it was definitely a close race.  But let me state a few reasons why I thought Mauer deserved it. 

     The catcher is the most important position on the field.  Can we all agree on that?  Eliminating the current pitcher for this discussion.  There is one thing that cannot be measured accurately from a catcher, and that is game calling skills.  We can browse various statistics such as "Catcher ERA," etc.  But with a pitcher like Johan Santana throwing to you, it may not be all that imperative, as he may command control of his repertoire.  But he did work with young pitchers as well, Liriano, and others.  But based on reputation, he is a good caller of a game.  I do not see him much, so I am going to listen to the experts more so on this one.  There are a few things I don’t like to touch on; managers and game calling skills.  Without a large sample for either, I don’t feel I have enough information to come up with an accurate conclusion.  But let me just say, it matters how much one values the ability to call a game.  And it matters how well one thinks Joe Mauer in particular did it. 

     Statistically, both were great offensive players, especially in respect to their positions.  Mauer had an OPS+ of 144, which fell in at 7th in the AL, actually three slots ahead of his MVP teammate Justin Morneau.  Jeter was at 138 in this category, right outside the top ten.  Mauer only had 8 stolen bases, which is little compared to Jeter’s 34.  Jeter stole them at an incredible rate of 87%, Mauer was at 73%.  And remember, we statisticians value OBP more than Slugging.  Sabermetricians to be more accurate.  I enjoy all statisitics, not just the ones that the average person has no idea of (Win Shares).  But the OBP battle was very close, with Mauer at .429 and Jeter at .417.  RISP went to Jeter as he batted .381 to Mauer’s .360.  Jeter was second best in this category in the AL, Mauer was fourth.  Michael Young somehow batted .412 in these situations.  The one large advantage that Jeter has over Mauer on the offensive side of the ball is in "Runs Created."  Jeter "Created" 138, while Mauer "only" created 106. 

     There are a few other things that I believe in, when discussing the very debatable (in most years anyway) MVP award.  One being intangibles.  Both seem to display positive intangibles.  Jeter’s are definitely magnified as he plays in the city of New York, and rightfully so.  His leadership qualities should be praised, but at times he gets a little too much credit as a winner.  I don’t know how to put this, but Jeter is a winner.  He seems to produce when it matters most, as much as anyone in the game.  But he has also had plenty of help, having the most talented team in baseball surrounding him most years.  So while he, the veteran who has more experience gets the edge in this category, it isn’t some huge advantage on Jeter’s part.  If it was Jeter vs. Milton Bradley or Elijah Dukes, he would blow them away.  Barry Bonds might blow Dukes away in this category, and that is sad.  But Jeter and Mauer are both good guys who seem like they want to lead.  But then again I have seen Jeter  a lot more than I have seen Mauer play, and I am not in the dugout, so it isn’t easy to compare these intangibles. 

     As I mentioned Jeter has had a lot of help in the past and currently.  And once again sabermetricians don’t believe in protection much.  While I do!  And Mauer had one of the best hitters in baseball behind him, but he did not have the same kind of overall protection up and down the lineup that Jeter had, not even close.  Any Yankee has an advantage in this category over any other player in baseball.  First, I find it hard to believe that sabermetricians could find a study that could accurately give them enough information to see whether protection does exist through statisitics.  It is more left up to the naked eye, and even that is tough to see at times.  But my logic says that if there is a guy on base and Manny Ramirez is coming up that I am going to try and pound the strike zone a little more than if the bases are empty.  And Jeter comes across these situations more so than Joe Mauer, right?  Protection is still left up to the imagination a little, as to how valuable it is, but I believe it should be valued more highly than the likes of Rob Neyer and Bill James do.  Anyway, Jeter has a rather large advantage in this category, meaning Mauer has a large disadvantage, so Mauer gets the edge, seemingly having slightly less of an opportunity to succeed.  Or at least is not put in the same position to succeed as Jeter. 

     But this award could have gone to a few different participants.  While everyone is a participant I guess, but there was more than one worthy of the award.  And this isn’t because I dislike the Yankees.  As of now, I would give [this] seasons MVP trophy to ARod.  I am staying objective, I think anyway.  But my defense of Mauer went on a little longer than I had originally planned.  So I must conclude, only with the possibilty of starting another blog. 

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