Cody Ross, Pitchers with Long Hair, and Other Baseball Thoughts

  • I‘m going to miss this guy…oh wait, he’s going to be my neighbor now! So glad Cody will be on the Sox (wearing his sox high) and not, say, the Rockies. I will buy a seat in right field just so I can scream “thank you cody ross” at him 100 times during the game.
  • There’s been a lot of goodbyes from the 2010 Championship squad, as Grant has pointed out, and I think Cody (along with Pat Burrell) represent just how special that season was..but then so does Andres Torres, and Juan Uribe, and Edgar Renteria, and it goes on and on.
  • I run into a lot of Philly fans out here on the East Coast and hands down the two guys people hate the most: Cody Ross and Tim Lincecum. It’s a toss-up who is hated more. They hate Ross because he symbolizes how “lucky” we were in 2010, and they hate Timmy because he symbolizes how awesome we are at pitching how weird San Francisco is (his name is usually followed by a joke about weed, loose morals, or something along those lines…like the Phillies have been full of such solid dudes over the years).
  • Speaking of Tim, I’m pretty pleased with the contract he signed. The 5 year, $100 million deal would have been the best case scenario for the Giants, but I really like being able to take two years and see what he’s got before going all in. Especially if the Cain rumors are true.
  • So this is it, pretty much, for the off-season. Here’s your 2012 SF Giants. They could have done better, they also could have done worse. I still think that while it would have been great to see Beltran return, in the end, the shortstop situation is the big miss of the winter. Maybe the Giants brass know something about Crawford, or Panik, or someone else, but I this and sorting out the OF/1B as the two big issues of the early season.  

(-SB)

Advertisements

Playoff Thoughts…

So, that squirrel thing was kind of funny. Other than that, despite the three game 5’s, I am not finding these playoffs to be super enjoyable thus far. Last October was so awesome, such an experience, and this year just can’t match that.

Some thoughts:

  • While there is a lot of evidence that pitching was better overall in 2011 than 2010 the post-season is not supporting that. Verducci writes about it here, but that would have been my top observation anyway. Again, it highlights the tragedy of Posey: I really think the Giants could have run this table if they had made it back.
  • Not surprised to see the Yankees go down to Detroit in a short series. I don’t think Detroit has enough to get past the Rangers, but in 5 games with Verlander and Cabrera and company, Detroit had plenty of weapons to deal with a Yankees team that had a nice regular season, but was always way too thin to inspire tons of confidence.
  • For a second there I believed that Tampa might be on the verge of something magical, but that was quickly erased by three nice, efficient games from the Rangers. There’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind seeing them win it all. Feels vindicating in some way for Giants’ fans. My ALCS prediction: Rangers over the Tigers in 6.
  • Tonight’s games: Still think the Phillies pull this out. They’ve been exposed by the Cardinals a lot more than I expected, but they should get out of this and on to the next round (and the World Series for that matter). Phillies over Cards 4-2. The other series continues to be a total coin flip in my opinion. I guess I’ll go with the Brewers since they are at home and that seems to really matter in this matchup. Brewers over D-Backs 5-4.
(-SB)

Playoffs and Pitching

We’ve established the importance of pitching to winning championships on this site this year. So, with that in mind let’s look at the pitching performances of the 8 playoff teams and see if that lends any insight into what might happen in October.

American League:

1) New York Yankees: 2010 7.2, 4.06, 1.31, 106 2011: 7.5, 3.71, 1.32, 120 Somehow the Yankees have the best pitching staff in the AL (based on ERA+). I still don’t really buy it. I do not think they have the depth of starting pitching to make it all the way through (which may just mean they lose to the Phillies in the World Series), but the numbers wouldn’t make it a surprise. Sorry Detroit, the Yankees make it out of round 1.

2) Texas Rangers: 2010 7.3, 3.93, 1.31, 114 2011: 7.4, 3.81, 1.24, 118 The Rangers improved nicely this year even without Cliff Lee and I had them going head to head with the Yankees in an all out 7 game brawl in the ALCS until the Rays pulled off their miracle last night. Now, I’m not so sure.

3) Detroit Tigers: 2010 6.6, 4.30, 1.37, 97 2011: 7.0, 4.04, 1.32, 102 Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball right now (my apologies to my boy Timmy). But, in this day and age a team needs more than one stud to make it through the three rounds of the playoffs. I think they could pull off an upset in the short first round, but I still think the Yankees prevail.

4) Tampa Bay Rays: 2010 7.4, 3.78, 1.26, 103 2011: 7.1, 3.58, 1.22, 105 The Rays have created a love/hate situation for me. Love that they proved me right in making the playoffs, hate that they knocked the Sox out and that they have now really messed up the playoff picture. They have the kind of staff that can make a deep playoff run. My main argument against them though is that they have not had the ability to line up their rotation for the short opening series. I’m going to reluctantly pick the Rangers, but I’m rooting for the Rays and will not be surprised at all if they move on.

National League

1) Philadelphia Phillies: 2010 7.3, 3.67, 1.25, 111 2011 7.9, 3.03, 1.17, 128 No team in recent memory has so perfectly followed the model I’ve been touting this year as the 2011 Phillies. The addition (Lee) and emergence (Worley and Madson) of excellent arms has the Phillies poised for a deep run. As long as Halladay doesn’t pull a groin throwing a first round no-hitter this team is going to the World Series and anything less would be one of the great baseball upsets of all time.

2) Milwaukee Brewers: 2010 7.9, 4.58, 1.44, 88 2011 7.9, 3.65, 1.24, 107 The Brewers also masterfully followed the pattern by adding pitching and have seized the moment presented to them this year (likely the last with Prince Fielder). Timing, however, is everything and I am not sure they will even make it out of the first round, let alone take down the mighty Phillies. Before St. Louis overtook the collapsing Braves, it was a no brainer the Brewers would take out Atlanta. Now, they are in the most intriguing first round match up with…

3) Arizona Diamondbacks: 2010 6.7, 4.81, 1.43, 89 2011 6.6, 3.78, 1.29, 105 Arizona’s improved bullpen has gotten a lot of press, but the emergence of Ian Kennedy and Josh Collmenter, and a full season of Daniel Hudson have been just as, if not more, important. In fact, they are so improved I can actually see them beating Milwaukee and giving Philadelphia a huge test. So, for now I am saying D-Backs in 5.

4) St. Louis Cardinals: 2010 6.8, 3.57, 1.30, 109 2011 6.7, 3.81, 1.31, 96 So, the Cardinals have defied the pattern before (see 2006), but that team didn’t have to face the 2011 Phillies in the first round. Sorry, Cards, fun story, but time to get on with re-signing Pujols.

By the numbers I see the Phillies taking the title by beating the Yankees in 6. However, the romantic side of me will say this: don’t be shocked if the Rays and Phils meet in a replay of 2008, only this time the little team from Tampa takes it all.

(-SB)

Guide to Post-season Cheering: NL Edition

So the Giants are on the doorstep of shattering all of our hopes and dreams for a repeat. Die hard baseball fans will still watch baseball, but it’s always better when you have a team or a couple of teams to root for. There are some important protocols and criteria for choosing your “adopted” baseball squad.  Choose carefully.  If you pull for a wrong team, you could be guilty of baseball blasphemy.

First lets discuss the rules.  They are very simple rules.

  1. They can’t be the Dodgers.  (That is easy.  LA sucks and won’t make the playoffs ever again).
  2. They can’t be the Braves.  I’ll explain a little more later, but seriously, does anyone question this rule?
  3. The team must possess minimal former Dodgers. (Former Giants are a bonus but not essential).
  4. The team must not have beat us (Giants) in any critical postseason events.

Arizona:

We will start here because this one is easy. On the surface, the novice fan may want to root for the D-backs because if they win it all, we automatically get second. That is a faulty amateur theory. Let’s dive in. Look at the manager of the team. Kirk Gibson is the skipper and that immediately eliminates the team from our rooting choices. Nobody wants a postseason filled with highlights of a gimpy, former Dodger Kirk rounding the bases, rockin’ a pathetic mustache and Jack Buck complaining how he can’t believe what he just saw. Get some glasses Jack. It’s a home run. I believed it, I just hated it granted I was 8). Rule 4 is safe and in addition, Arizona isn’t a great rival of ours even though if they play in our division. They only have 2 former Dodgers, but they are eliminated by their manager. They could be in the running if they would fire Gibby and hire third base coach Matt Williams. Oh yes, I said Matt Williams. Breathe in the nostalgia.

Arizona Out!!!

Atlanta Braves:

Another easy decision. Ok seriously, in the National League, the Braves fall a very close second to the Dodgers in the hate category. Do you really want to watch a postseason with that stupid tomahawk chant? Nope. But let’s talk about the rules.Obviously, they violate rule 2. Amazingly enough, the Braves have never knocked the Giants out of the post-season. That is, in part, because the Giants didn’t make the postseason a whole lot in the 90’s. In addition, in 2002 and 2010, the Giants had to go through the Braves to get to the World Series and the Braves rolled over like well-trained poodles (and we are grateful). So why the hate? Did I mention the chant?  Or the fans. Second worst fans in all of baseball. (Seriously who would willingly DO that chant?) I guess the rest of us got sick of them in the 90’s and the rest is just a bad hangover.  The only thing the Braves have going for them is that they aren’t the Dodgers. The Braves have a decent Dodger ratio with 3 players being former Dodgers. Not bad, but rule 2 is in effect. It’s the rules… it’s science.

Atlanta Out!!!

Milwaukee Brewers:

Ok this is another tricky one. The Brewers are always terrible and who doesn’t love a good underdog story. Next year, they will probably break apart the team so this is pretty much their shot. Let’s break it down by the rules. Rule 1 and 2 are off to a tremendous start. They aren’t the Dodgers and they aren’t the Braves. Fab! They have 3 former Dodgers on the team which isn’t bad. But they have K-Rod. Ok, so this is a tricky part to rule 4. Technically the Brewers never beat the Giants….But K-Rod did….In the freakin World Series. Ask yourself this: if he were to play in a game you were watching, how would you deal with the emotional trauma you are bound to encounter. Are you ready to deal with that? I’m not. Especially with the way this season is ending, I need happy thoughts. K-Rod brings back angry thoughts… sad thoughts.  It wouldn’t be baseball blasphemy to pick the Brewers, but I just can’t do it.

Brewers Out!!!

Philadelphia Phillies:

Philly is my pick for the National League. They satisfy all of the rules. I am not usually a Philly fan. In fact, I have never pulled for them in a post-season. However, they satisfy rule 1 and 2. They have 2 players that are former Dodgers which is better than all the other teams that are in. Yes, Charlie Manuel played for the Dodgers but he wasn’t that great. He definitely never made it to the infamous status of Kirk Gibson. Therefore, they are a much better pick than Arizona when it comes down to rule 3. Rule 4 should be a tie because no team has really kicked us out of too many playoff games. However, I prefer the Phillies for this rule because last year we beat them to win the NL. This year, we will be sitting in our libraries that smell of rich mahogany, drinking our finest scotch, smoking our best pipes, and we can confidently say “They aren’t that good, we owned those guys last year.”

Go Philly!

(-JS)

Evaluations and Ruminations Part II

Yesterday we looked at teams that added pitching (which has a strong correlation to postseason success), and today we will look at teams that added hitting (no correlation to postseason success but very helpful in getting to the postseason).

  1. The Giants: The Giants got the big fish in Carlos Beltran but also added middle infielders Jeff Keppinger and Orlando Cabrera. Considering the Giants have had black holes at 4-5 positions this season and have had to deal with several injuries including two season enders, it made to sense to acquire all that they did. And they did it by surrendering only one legitimate, top of the line, prospect. Still, it feels like ultimate success for this team will only come when parts they’ve had all season (Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff, etc) start producing. B+
  2. The Braves: Atlanta added excellent center fielder and leadoff man Michael Bourn. They fixed the only real problem they had (other than injuries) without giving up any of their “untouchable four”. There is really no way to say this move was not worth it. Well done Braves. A
  3. The Phillies: Hunter Pence is a nice player. He hits some and he fields some and he does it in a very unorthodox fashion. The Phils get bonus points for the fact that Pence will be around for a while (and is a lot cheaper and younger than Jason Werth who he is essentially replacing). That said, and I know this is a crude evaluation tool, I never have Pence on any of my fantasy teams. Bourn I would take, Beltran I have, but Pence I generally avoid. Doesn’t mean he’s a bad player, nor should that have any bearing on real baseball, but it does say something about a player that I actively avoid having him on a fantasy team. There just always seem to be too many other better players. C+
  4. The Red Sox: The Sox added Mike Aviles and I only put him on here to say that he is the guy I wanted the Giants to get. All indications seem to be that the Red Sox overpaid to get him so that makes me feel better. However, I’d take this guy over O-Cab every time. C+
  5. The Pirates: Pittsburg acquired two vets who are in decline but hopefully have something left in the tank. This team could have really used a Bedard-type strikeout pitcher, but they needed some offense too. I don’t know how much Derek Lee and Ryan Ludwick help, but the real story here is Pittsburgh bought and did not sell at the end of July. That’s a win all by itself. C-
  6. The Cardinals: The Red Birds gave up Colby Rasmus and acquired Rafael Furcal. I know that’s not the actual deal, but as their line up goes that’s what happened. Hopefully Edwin Jackson pitches like a monster and Rasmus is never allowed back in the US. I have no idea what this team is thinking. F
Still a lot of baseball left and much will happen with these teams in terms of slumps, hot streaks, waiver claims, minor league call ups, and injuries. Given that, I like the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, and Rangers in the AL with the Rangers making it back to the World Series. In the NL I have the Phillies, Braves, Brewers, and Giants, and I think the Braves might get it done. However, the NL playoffs are going to be epic if those 4 teams make it. It’ll be some amazing October baseball, and anyone could walk away with the pennant and probably be World Champions.
(-SB)

Contenders vs. Pretenders

Earlier in the year I wrote a series of articles that attempted to show the best indicator that a team would win the World Series was a spike in a pitching proficiency. (You can read those articles here, here, and here). My point was, and is (especially in Part 2), a good team sees a measurable jump in the quality of their pitching, leading to a championship. This jump can come from importing talent, seeing its own pitchers improve, or from the emergence of a young arm or two over the course of the season. Due to injuries, fatigue, or simply the inability to add more quality arms no team has been able to produce back-to-back championships in a decade marked by parity, the eradication of PEDs, and the rise of young talented players (especially pitchers).

According to BaseballReference.Com here are the top 10 pitching teams in MLB as measured by ERA+

  1. Phillies
  2. Oakland A’s
  3. Braves
  4. Yankees
  5. Giants
  6. Angels
  7. Seattle
  8. San Diego
  9. Colorado
  10. Pittsburg

Interesting. Oakland is surprising (that they are that high, not that they are good), as are the Yankees and Colorado. Texas is 12th, the White Sox 13th, Boston 14th, Tampa Bay 16th, after Tampa everyone is considered below league average. That includes such contenders as Arizona (17), Cleveland (18), Milwaukee (20), the Reds (22), St. Louis (25), and, very surprisingly, Detroit at 26th.

Keep in mind though, that the goal is have a big jump not to necessarily be the best pitching team in the league. So, who has made the jump? Let’s have a look:

  • 2010 Phillies: 7.3 K/9, 3.67 ERA, 110 ERA+, 1.25 WHIP
  • 2011 Phillies:  7.6 K/9, 3.02 ERA, 128 ERA+, 1.16 WHIP
That certainly profiles like a team on the Championship march. We’ll skip the A’s since they are quite out of it at this point (demonstrating that you do need offense to win games in MLB).
  • 2010 Braves: 7.8 K/9, 3.56 ERA, 112 ERA+, 1.27 WHIP
  • 2011 Braves: 7.9, 3.12, 123, 1.19
Again, all excellent improvements for the Braves making them a serious contender. Not that we didn’t know that all ready but both these NL East teams fit the profile to a T.
  • 2010 Yankees: 7.2 K/9, 4.06 ERA, 106 ERA+, 1.31 WHIP
  • 2011 Yankees: 7.0, 3.54 , 117, 1.30
The Yankees are interesting. They certainly have seen improvement, but how lucky has it been? How long can Colon and Garcia and the rest keep this up? Their BABIP is right in line with the league average, but something tells me they are in for a correction (see last night vs. the Blue Jays).
  • 2010 Giants 8.2 K/9, 3.36 ERA, 121 ERA+, 1.27 WHIP
  • 2011 Giants: 8.1, 3.18, 116, 1.22
Bottom line: the Giants are still nasty. One thing that is interesting to me is that it appears they’ve cut down a bit on the walks/baserunners. Anecdotally that doesn’t seem true (thank you Jonathan Sanchez) but there you go. It’s not a dramatic improvement, but they didn’t need one (and keep in mind they didn’t actually improve dramatically last year either…this is a three-year run of greatness).
  • 2010 Angels: 7.0 K/9, 4.04 ERA, 99 ERA+, 1.37 WHIP
  • 2011 Angels: 6.8, 3.26, 115, 1.24
Another team that fits the profile well. Interesting that their team strikeout rate is down (their best pitcher, Jered Weaver, is up). The Angels are going to be tough the rest of the way. I’m going to skip Seattle, San Diego, and Colorado since none of those teams are in serious contention right now (although I might regret that decision later in the month).
  • 2010 Pirates: 6.5 K/9, 5.00 ERA, 80 ERA+, 1.49 WHIP
  • 2011 Pirates: 6.2, 3.46, 109, 1.32
How about that for a dramatic improvement…from well below average to nicely above. There are a few things to worry about here: they still don’t strikeout a ton of guys and they give up too many baserunners. They have solid defense and guys that keep the ball on the ground (less than one HR per 9 innings). But, I wonder how this will hold up over the last two and a half months.
That’s it for now. Next post I’ll look at some of the other division leaders/contenders to see who else has improved, but for now it seems like everyone is chasing the Phils and the Braves.
(-SB)

Forecasting the Future (or something like that)

The All-Star game helped to highlight the one truth that we know from 2011. The National League has some good pitchers. Sure, the AL had 4-5 great arms unavailable for various reasons, but so did the NL. Pitching has been the story of the season all around, but I am still amazed at how deep the NL is with pitchers. Soon I’ll have a post up regarding how my pitching ideas factor in the pennant races, but for now here is my gut level feel about the rest of the season:

AL EAST

I’ve been touting the Rays all year and by all appearances they are done but shouldn’t have what it takes to finish in the top 2 in a strong division. Disagree. Still think the Rays have a better shot than the Yankees over the full schedule. Red Sox and Rays as division winner and wild carder, respectively.

AL CENTRAL

So, I picked the Twins at the beginning of the season, then the White Sox, and it makes a ton of sense to choose the Tigers at this point (all the while the Indians remain very much in the hunt and they are the team I’d love to see win it, but I still don’t believe). I might be back in on the Twins, though. 6.5 out. The next two weeks are super important for them. If they tank, they’ll trade some guys and regroup for next year. If they get close to .500 look out, it may be another Minnesota Miracle. I’m going to go out on a very precarious limb and say I’m on the Twins bandwagon. They just might get healthy and hot and take this thing after all.

AL WEST

A minor subplot here is a bet I’ve had since opening day with my friend Kevin. If the Angels win more games than the A’s he gets to write a guest post telling the world what an idiot I am. Right now he’s got to be feeling pretty comfortable. He might even be on his third or fourth draft. The Angels aren’t terrible and I need to look at the pitching numbers to confirm some suspicions I have that they may end up winning this division. Today, though, I’m predicting a slide by Weaver and Haren and the Rangers hold on to win the west again.

NL EAST

Told you the Braves were pretty good right! A lot has gone wrong with the offense and a ton has gone right with the pitching. (This might be blasphemy on a Giants blog, but pitcher for pitcher is there a better staff top to bottom than the Braves? The Phillies have a slight advantage in a couple of statistical areas but that’s a top-heavy staff…I think it’s a good debate: Giants vs. Braves for deepest/strongest staff in all of baseball). Nice work by the Mets and Nationals to be at .500 and the Marlins are coming back a bit after being punished for the sins of Scott Cousins. Best division in baseball? Yes. Phillies win, Braves take the Wild Card easily and have the second best record in the NL.

NL CENTRAL

Here’s a good one. The fourth place Reds are only 4 games out. Anything can happen here and this is the division that might be the most affected by a trade. (Nice job by the Brewers getting K-Rod. He’s a nut job but I think he’ll behave himself, prove he can be a good citizen, and pitch great as a set up man in order to get a big contract this offseason). I don’t think the Brew Crew can pull off much more in the trade market, so we’ll have to see what the other teams do in response. None of these teams have three starters like Grienke, Marcum, and Gallardo and so I still believe Milwaukee is the team to beat in this four horse race. 

NL WEST

Giants win the west, simple as that. More importantly, despite all the rumoring and posturing over the last few days, I don’t think the Giants get Beltran and if they do make a move it will be a minor move (or moves). Even if I’m wrong and they do get Beltran, the fact remains: the Giants need improved production up and down the lineup, especially out of the leadoff spot and at SS, 2B, and C. Carlos Beltran solves none of those problems, so ultimately, big trade or not, the G-men must look internally to get some kind of sustainable offense going.

More to come in the near future as I examine which teams fit the pitching model for a run at the World Series.

(-SB)