Thursday, May 28, 2009

Injury of the Year

Hip injuries are apparently, well, hip.

I'd never heard of a baseball player tearing his hip labrum before. I mean, I didn't even know hips had labrums, I thought they were in your shoulder. And now we have Brett Myers joining the list of guys with hip injuries. Just last year Justin Duchscherer hurt his hip and I didn't hear any talk of labrums... but now we have Mike Lowell, Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Delgado, Alex Gordon and now Myers. WTF, people? Did they start putting some hip-weakening agent in infield dirt? I really don't get it.

Anyway, the Phillies are discussing who will come up to replace Myers. In addition to the usual suspects -- Kyle Kendrick and Carlos Carrasco -- some think they'll call up Antonio Bastardo, who was 2-2 with a 1.82 ERA and 0.81 WHIP (7 BB, 39 K) in 34.2 IP in Double-A, and then struck out 11 in his first start in Triple-A.

Judging from those numbers he looks like a really good prospect. But if I were the Phillies I'd call him up for the jersey sales alone. The entire population of South Philly would line up to buy a jersey with BASTARDO across the back of it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Breaking My Cherry

Finally getting my first look at the new Yankee Stadium today.

The good news is Andy Pettitte is on the mound, which makes for a nice combination of the old and the new. (No offense, Andy.) Pettitte's always been one of my favorites and it'll be nice to see him on the mound again. If this is the last time I see him pitch in person, it'll be a nice bookend with the first time I saw him -- in the snow on Opening Day in 1996. The weather should be better this time.

The bad news is the Yankees are facing J.A. Happ, who they've never faced before. Gulp. The good news is his numbers this year are pretty good (2.49 ERA, 1.06 WHIP). If he had a 7.00 ERA, he'd be a lock for a two-hitter.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Captain Confidence

This is just about everywhere, but if you haven't seen it yet you will be amused...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What the hell do I know? 2009 edition

I have no idea who this cute kid is, but he sums up my feelings perfectly.I think I've conclusively proven that the answer is "not much." In 2007 I had three of the four A.L. playoff teams, but just one out of the four teams in the N.L. Last year I had the A.L. wild card right (Red Sox) but like everyone else blew it on the Rays. I got the Central wrong and the West right. In the N.L. I had two of the four, with the Cubs and Dodgers (although admittedly I thought the Dodgers were getting in as a wild card, not the West champs).

So two years in a row, I got half the playoff teams right. It's never good to have the same winning percentage as a coin flip.

Let's try a little harder this year, shall we? Yeah, whatever.

A.L. East: As usual, give me the Yankees. Yes, lots of things could go wrong -- the Brewers treated C.C. Sabathia like a rented mule last year, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte are always an elbow twinge away from the D.L., Joba Chamberlain is on a strict innings count and Chien-Ming Wang, foot issues aside, has always been an injury risk. If they get 150 starts those those five pitchers, the Yankees have the best rotation in baseball. I realize that's a big "if." And even without their third baseman for the first six weeks of the season, the Yankees will have the best offense. As I do every year, I will pick the Red Sox for the wild card, followed by the Tampa Bay Rays returning to reality. The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles have a lot of rebuilding to do.

A.L. Central: I'm finally going to not pick the Cleveland Indians, so bet the house on them. But their pitching staff is atrocious. The Detroit Tigers are a mess and the Chicago White Sox have too many holes in their lineup. The Kansas City Royals will be a fun team this year. I love Trey Hillman, they have a nice one-two punch at the top of the rotation with Gil Meche and Zack Greinke, and assuming the ugly finish to his spring wasn't a harbinger of things to come, an exciting closer in Joakim Soria. If I had any guts I'd pick them. I'll be a wuss and take the Minnesota Twins behind a resurgent Francisco Liriano.

A.L. West: Even with Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey and Ervin Santana out for the beginning of the year, even without Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez and Garret Anderson, I still think the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will continue to annoy people by winning the West. The Oakland A's and Texas Rangers just don't have the pitching, while the Seattle Mariners don't have anything.

A.L. Awards: I might as well be a total homer and predict Mark Teixeira will be the A.L. MVP. For those who do not live in the New York area and care about such things, John Sterling's ridiculous home run call for Teixeira is "There's a 'Tex' message in the upper deck (or wherever the ball landed). You've made your mark, Teixeira!" Yes, two puns in one home run call. It is only slightly less annoying than "an A-BOMB... from A-ROD!" Do you know Sterling has been calling Yankee games for 21 years? That means anybody under the age of 25 or so knows no other radio voice for the Yankees. That is just appalling. As for the A.L. Cy Young, I guess I have to go all-in on the Twins and give it to Francisco Liriano.

N.L. East: Am I the only one sensing disaster with the New York Mets? It's hard to realistically gauge this team as I am constantly exposed to WFAN, where every host except for Mike Francesa is a huge Mets fan. I will concede Johan Santana is likely the best pitcher in the N.L., but let's not forget it was just a year ago everyone was whispering about how he might be hiding an injury. He wasn't exactly dominant last year -- his K/9 went from 9.7 in '07 to 7.9 last year, and that's with the pitcher hitting. Ut-oh. If Santana goes down, it's going to be a very ugly inaugural season at CitiField. And even if he stays healthy, he'll have to win 25 games. I just don't see it. I'll take the Philadelphia Phillies -- Cole Hamels is just missing one start, right? Gulp -- followed by the Atlanta Braves, and then the Mets, followed by the Florida Marlins and the Washington Nationals.

N.L. Central: I really can't imagine anyone catching the Chicago Cubs. I know the Cincinnati Reds are everybody's dark-horse favorite at the moment thanks to all the promising young guns in the rotation, but it's never a good idea to entrust an up-and-coming pitching staff to Dusty Baker. I think the St. Louis Cardinals will make it a race, but in the end they'll settle for the wild card. The Milwaukee Brewers just lost too much, the Houston Astros are heading in reverse and the Pittsburgh Pirates are still trying to get out of park.

N.L. West: The Wild West should be a fun division again. The Los Angeles Dodgers have a terrific lineup but no pitching. The San Francisco Giants have a nice rotation but no offense. The Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks have a little of each. (The San Diego Padres will challenge the Pirates and Nats for the worst record in baseball, and just might catch them if they trade Jake Peavy before the deadline.) If the Giants had just a couple more hitters, I'd pick them to win it, but come on -- can a team with Bengie Molina as its clean-up hitter win a division title? I'm guessing, just like last year, the Dodgers will win it with a winning percentage just north of .500.

N.L. Awards: Oh why not, let's give the MVP to Manny Ramirez just to piss off Red Sox Nation. And I will continue to pretend that his elbow is sound and give the Cy Young to Cole Hamels.

A.L. Playoffs: Yankees over Angels, finally; Twins over Red Sox. Yankees over Twins.

N.L. Playoffs: Cubs over Dodgers; Cardinals over Phillies. Cubs over Cardinals.

World Series: In a rematch of the first-ever games at the new Yankee Stadium -- not to mention the '38 and '32 World Series -- the Yankees finally pick up No. 27 and sweep the Cubs. Hey, I've predicted the Yankees will win the World Series every year since birth; so far I'm 6-31!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Are You Prepared For the Milano Effect?

D.Isaac pointed me to this and I just had to be the millionth guy on the Internet to write about.

Alyssa Milano: You can effect me any time, babyForget about performance enhancing drugs. MLB might have to ban Alyssa Milano.

The little girl from Who's the Boss is now all grown up. (Man, is she ever.) And apparently she has a thing for baseball players, particularly pitchers: Carl Pavano (2003), Barry Zito (2004-2005), Brad Penny (2005) and Tom Glavine (2006-2007). (The Who's Dated Who website claims she also dated Greg Vaughn -- but he was an actor, not the baseball player.)

And, as Beanster on The Hardball Times noted, Zito, Pavano and Penny all were mediocre while dating Alyssa, then pitched much better immediately after the break-up (the "Milano Bounce") but then later crashed (the "Milano Meltdown").

Beanster doesn't include Glavine in his study, probably because Glavine doesn't follow the same neat path of mediocre while dating, good soon after, and then awful. He was good while dating her (2006), mediocre after the break-up (2007), and then awful (2008). Maybe it was true love. But, c'mon. Glavine? You're like a hundred years old, dude. Stay away from my sweet Alyssa. It's bad enough Pavano spilled his ragu on her.

Milano is supposedly swearing off baseball players and is now engaged to agent David Bugliari, so maybe we've seen the last of the Milano Effect. Or will it be distributed to all the people David represents?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Paging Richard Simmons...

Until they start playing Spring Training games later this week, there's really not much for reporters to do in Florida and Arizona. After you've filed your daily quota of A-Roid stories, what else is there to write about? There's the occasional elbow twinge and shoulder tightness story, and maybe if you're lucky you'll find a pitcher who tells you he's developing a new pitch or found a new grip for his change-up or what-have-you.

But if all else fails, write about weight.

Homer Bailey, Travis Hafner and Chase Headley each lost about 10 pounds. Bill Hall lost about 15. Jose Guillen lost 15 to 20 pounds. Oddly enough, Met infielders Luis Castillo and Marlon Anderson each lost exactly 17 pounds. Ryan Howard lost 20 pounds, while Aaron Harang lost 25. Brett Myers beat them out by losing 30, as did Jose Contreras -- even though he won't pitch for at least a few more months with a ruptured Achilles. It's so bad that one reporter noted that Lou Whitaker had lost about 20 pounds over the last two years. Great news for those looking at Whitaker as a deep, deep sleeper in your 50-and-over league.

But if you're serious about writing a weight story, there's just one man to talk to. Prince Fielder is "trimmer" this spring but won't say how much weight he lost.

"I don't like scales," Fielder said, chuckling. "Scales are not cool."

No advice from Prince as to how he lost the weight, except he says he's a vegetarian. But he also said he was a vegetarian last year, and he admitted he "got huge" last season. The man can scarf down broccoli like no one's business.

If you're looking for weight loss tips, just talk to Heath Bell. The newly annointed Padres closer says he lost 25 pounds thanks to his Nintendo Wii.

"It said I was obese," Bell said. "If you're obese, it makes [your character on screen] obese. I was disappointed that I was that big. I literally took the game to heart. I did the work but I kind of credit the Wii Fit."

The "biggest loser" I've found so far this spring is Carlos Silva, who reportedly lost 35 pounds. His secret?

Now, after painful yoga training and a nutritionist fine tuning his diet — cutting meals from two steaks to one; prohibiting meals after 7 p.m.; encouraging him to go to sleep by 9:30 instead of midnight—Silva has lost 35 pounds.

Dude, just one steak per meal? That is harsh!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

What is quality?

You don't have to listen to a lot of sports talk radio to hear someone disparaging the quality start as a useless stat. "Three runs in six innings is a 4.50 ERA! If you have a 4.50 ERA that's quality? Sandy Koufax blah blah blah."

Well, if you consider the average ERA in the A.L. last year was 4.78, yeah, 4.50 isn't too bad.

But I think the problem is the word "quality." People want quality to mean "good" or even "great," not average or even slightly above average.

Yet if you argue with the very same guy ridiculing quality starts, ask him: What's a "winnable" start? I believe most baseball fans, even the ones who find the quality start a laughable statistic, would believe that if your starting pitcher gives up 3 runs or less in the first six innings, you have a chance of winning that game. Not a guarantee, but a chance. If your team loses a game 3-0 or 3-1 or 3-2, do you blame the starting pitcher? Or the offense? If a pitcher leaves the game with the score tied at 3-3, and the closer gives up a home run in the 9th, do you blame the starter for the 3 runs, or the closer for the one?

"Winnable" start. You immediately know what I'm talking about. Hey, that was a winnable start, but we didn't score enough runs, or the bullpen blew it.

Semantics, yes. But words matter.

Bill James once argued that fans and sportswriters don't pay enough attention to outfielder assists because of the word "assist." It sounds like he just sort of helped out while someone else did the work. Nick Markakis led the league with 17 assists last year. That's 17 baserunners he took off the bases -- not to mention all the baserunners who held up instead of testing his arm. That's pretty impressive, but how many people know he led the league in assists? He didn't even win a Gold Glove. James argued that people would pay more attention to outfielder arms if the stat had a cool name like "baserunner kills" instead of "assists."

I feel the same way about quality starts. People think it's a misleading term because, well, it is, because "Quality Start" shouldn't be used to describe what is essentially slightly above average. So they don't like the term, and then they don't like the stat, and they ignore it.

"Winnable Start." Try it on your friends.