Saturday, August 19, 2006

Free Baseball III: Friday Night Sights
By Ben Valentine

Author’s note: To any Yankee fans, you might want to disregard parts of this, which will seem like a long winded rant on them. It’s not all about them, but large chunks of it are. I suppose you can just take issue with me at the end, but again, you have been warned….

As usual, it’s Friday night and I’m catching up the baseball scoreboard instead of going out. Not that I have anywhere to go. Long Island is a dull place, best suited for people with kids to look after. Since that’s not me, I’m pretty much bored silly out here. So what else is there to do but write, especially after I’ve already played three games of MLB 06’?

Up next are the some observations from looking at the scoreboard tonight. Naturally since I’m in New York, it’s Yankees/Red Sox first.

Game 1: Yankees 12- Red Sox 4
Game 2- Yankees 14- Red Sox 11

-It’s hard to call a team three and a half back with over a month to go done, but mark it down: Boston is toast. They cannot pitch and no help is on the way. While I do believe Josh Beckett will turn it around, I have far less faith in Jon Lester. Tim Wakefield is a question mark due to injury, Matt Clement has to deal with injuries and ineffectiveness while David Wells is old. Real old. I’m not a believer in momentum, but the Sox just got swept in a double header where Chien Ming Wang was giving up flyballs like nobody’s business and Sidney Ponson was the starter in Game 2. Why? Because somehow they managed to find starters worse than that, something not even the Orioles and Devil Rays could do. Boston, you need pitching to compete. But none’s available anymore. You are done.

This, by the way, is why Jonathan Papelbon is infinitely more useful as a starter. He didn’t pitch in either game of this double header. Why? Because he’s reliant on his team to get him a lead to protect and they couldn’t do that. If Papelbon were in the rotation, then he’d be guaranteed to see the Yankees in this series in a meaningful situation. He probably will see the Bombers everntually, but there’s no guarantee it’s in a save situation, where he’s actually valuable. He’s the Sox best answer to their pitching woes. Unfortunately, it’s way too late in the season to stretch him out.

Oh and finally, since this series is everywhere, maybe now people can realize that while David Ortiz is an excellent player, he’s no Manny Ramirez.

-Meanwhile, the Yankee offense rocks. It’s the best group money can buy and certainly weeds the mediocre pitchers from the good quickly. How on earth do you stop Damon/ Jeter/ Abreu/ A-Rod/ Giambi/ Posada and *grimace* Cano? The lowest OPS in that bunch belongs to Posada at .822. Overall, the lowest one in their everyday lineup is either Bernie Williams at .747 or Craig Wilson at .745. Their worst hitters are essentially OPSing .750.

Of course I have to do this because it really is “bought” in everyway imaginable:

Damon 13 mil
Jeter 20.6 mil
A-Rod 25.68 mil
Abreu 13.6 mil
Giambi 20.42 mil
Posada 12 mil

That equals 105.3 million in those hitters alone. That doesn’t include Sheffield and Matsui, who are both making well over ten million.

For the record, there is one team in all of baseball with an entire payroll more than that; the Red Sox. (So don’t feel too bad for them) But six ninths of the Yankees’ lineup makes more than an entire Mets team that has to pay Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner and Tom Glavine! Three guys on that Yankees’ list make more individually than the Marlins entire team does.

Yankee fans don’t want to hear it and it might sound like sour grapes, but this is a disgrace. There is no other sport where one team has this much of an advantage, with the possible exception of Chelsea in the EPL. The Yankees are not well run in terms of evaluating players, they just buy their championships. By the way, I know it’s been said, but the Yankees lineup with those guys minus Abreu was 91.7 million, which is still more than 20 teams’ entire payroll. Seriously, the only people who thought the Yankees were doing it with feel goods players like Melky Cabrera and Andy Phillips are people who live in New York.

Anyway Yankee fans, enjoy it. The division is yours. While the rest of us might complain about that astronomical payroll, that’s not your concern. Just don’t wonder why everyone is cheering for the Yankees go down in the postseason.

Game 1: Royals 7- A’s 1
Game 2: Royals 5- A’s 3

-There’s a reason the AL West doesn’t have a clear favorite; because none of the teams are very good. The A’s just got swept in a doubleheader by the Royals… the freaking Royals! Now I understand it was Joe Blanton and Esteban Loiaza, which is scraping the bottom of the barrel for Oakland, but I mean come on. It’s the Royals! And the worst part for the A’s is that both Justin Duchsherer and Huston Street gave it up in game two. They’ll still probably win the West because the rest of the teams stink. And of course they’re the team no one wants to face in the first round because it’s entirely possible Barry Zito and Danny Haren shut you down in games one and two putting you behind the eight ball.

Of course if you beat one of them, you’re basically home free.

Still the Mariners have to be wondering what things would be like if they could actually win a game against Oakland. Aw heck, let’s check up on them while we’re at it.

Angels 3- Mariners 0

-Next year some fantasy owner is going to take Jered Weaver in the first six rounds of his/her draft and end up shocked when he posts a 4.50 ERA. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a solid young pitcher. But he’s got a GB/FB ratio of .64 and has surrendered just four homers in 78.1 IP. That’s a rate of .45/9. Can you say “utterly unsustainable?”

Meanwhile his opponent tonight was young Felix Hernandez, who lost again. He’s got a 4.50 ERA. But don’t sell yet. He’s going to be a great one. I’d take him high in my fantasy draft next year, but Zach has him. It’s a keeper league and he’s not letting him go. Why is the King destined for better things than Weaver? Because his K/9 is better (8.27/9 vs. 7.47) and while his K/BB is less (2.62 to 3.25) Hernandez’s GB/FB ratio is 2.25 meaning he gives up far less fly balls. And ground balls don’t leave the yard. Yet despite that, his homer rate is over twice as high as Weaver’s at 1.09.

I don’t think they would, but if I were a general manager I would call the Mariners and see what they wanted for the kid. Maybe they’d be down on him after a “so-so” season. I’d pretty much do it for anyone on my roster, so long as they were not producing at the big league level under the age of 25. (Makes it rather moot otherwise) It’s a long shot, but this is a team that employed Carl Everett for over half the baseball season.

Giants 7- Dodgers 3

-Speaking of terrible western divisions, the National League aien’t too pretty out there either. The Dodgers lose game one to the resurgent Giants (winners of five straight), who last week were falling apart at the seams. Two weeks ago, that was the Dodgers collapsing. Everyone in the NL West is a series of hot and cold streaks. The Phillies would fit in perfectly there. Some people call it exciting baseball. I call it mediocrity, AKA, the bottom rung of playoff teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

I take that back. Similes like that are best saved for Bill Simmons, and I model myself on trying to avoid being like him.

Brewers 3- Astros 2

-I could get into Brad Lidge, but I won’t. There’s been enough negativity around here. So instead I’ll just say this:

Bill Hall- 27 homers. Who saw that one coming? He could be the next Alfonso Soriano.

Twins 7- Chi Sox 3

-If you want a feel good story, look up the Minnesota Twins. They were left for dead at the start of June and rallied behind Francisco Liriano to shoot up into playoff contention. Then when Liriano went down to injury, many, myself included, again figured they were toast. And yet it’s the 19th of August and the Twinkies are 71-50 and just one game back of the Chi Sox for the Wild Card lead.

And for all those people who are calling for Derek Jeter to be MVP (sorry, but I know that’s going to be argued for after his bases clearing double in the second game of that doubleheader), please check out Joe Mauer. The Twins catcher has an OPS of .954. Jeter has a mark of .887. (heading into tonight) Mauer is one of the best defensive catchers in the game. Jeter at short is average at best. Oh and Mauer’s entire team’s payroll is 63.81 million. Not that either one should be MVP but please, tell me who’s more valuable to his team?

-The Chi Sox are like the Red Sox, all hitting, no pitching. They also have their best arm sitting in the pen, Brandon McCarthy, but he’s being blocked by something I like to call “veteran obstinace.”

That’s when a manager refuses to give a young player a chance because the veteran is more experienced. Never mind Mark Buehrle’s getting bombed on a routine basis, Freddie Garcia hasn’t had a good season since 2001 and four runs in six innings qualifies as a good start for Javier Vasquez these days. They’re veterans dammit so Ozzie Guillen believes in them more than Brandon McCarthy! “Hey Jon Garland never loses. So what if it’s because we score 6.55 runs a game for him? And who knows? If Javy Vasquez didn’t pitch so poorly, we’d never be able to motivate ourselves to score 8.13 runs per game for him!” Yep, got to stick with the proven guns Ozzie. Just disregard that these vets are pitching the Sox right out of the postseason.

Ah veteran obstinace, coming to a manager near you, very soon. (If it hasn’t already)

And of course I have to mention the Amazins:

Mets 6- Rockies 3

Steve Trachsel won his 12th game tonight. He surrendered 3 runs in seven innings, so this qualifies as a good start for him. (Even if he did allow an RBI single by the opposing pitcher) Meanwhile Byung Hyun Kim didn’t do anything to help his road totals- six runs allowed tonight. I know the Mets are pretty much assured a playoff spot, but you don’t feel safe until you’re actually in the postseason.

I also am a little disappointed the Mets have decided to use Dave Williams instead of Oliver Perez this Saturday. I know it’s one start, but part of me wonders what would have happened if Perez came up and threw six innings, allowing a pair of runs while striking out eight. Maybe he’d be the answer to the Mets’ rotation woes. At this point you just throw it all against the wall and see what sticks. What have you got to lose?

Well this concludes this random stream of consciousness for the evening. Hope you enjoyed this edition for “Free Baseball” with the next installment coming whenever one of us at Sportszilla gets too much time on their hands, which in my case, might be tomorrow.

For those that liked this, check out the precursors: Free Baseball and Free Baseball II: The Doubleheader.


Blogger Joseph P. said...

Ben, we absolutely love it when everyone gangs up against the Yanks.

My only criticism of the payroll issue is this. For the past few years, the argument has been that money can't buy championships. The Yankees have spent upwards of $200 million, and it hasn't won them anything past the ALCS. And people take great joy in that.

But now that they're poised for a World Series, everyone is crying foul about payroll, saying that the Yankees are buying a championship.

So which is it? If you believe everyone from the past few years, money can't buy a championship. But this year, according to the media, it might.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Well the playoffs are a crap shoot, so once you get in you can win. The Yankees could have and probably should have won a championship in 2004 if not for some freak plays that 99 out of 100 times don't happen. They were unlucky in 2003 that the Marlins talented arms all caught fire at the same time.

There's certainly no guarentee the Yankees will win anything this year, especially if Mussina is hurt badly and/or Wang is wearing down. But their huge payroll does give them an edge because they're in every year.

And it also gives them a greater margin for error. Can you another team that could survive the losses of two 100 RBI guys? Even the top payroll teams, the Red Sox and Chi Sox, Mets and Angels would be pretty much done if they lost two guys like that.

So does having a 200+ million dollar payroll guarentee a championship? Nope. But does it substantially increase their chances? It sure does.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

1. it's "obstinance"

2. for all of bavasi's faults (almost entirely on the free agent side), it's well-known that felix is virtually untouchable. the offer to get him would probably even have to surpass the ridiculous package the angels were willing to give up for tejada.

1:27 PM  
Blogger June said...

the a's are like an uncoordinated spider... when they have all their offense going (which has been rare), the pitching is nowhere to be found, and/or everybody's on the DL... they still don't feel to me like they've found a rhythm. and i haven't checked the latest on huston street but he seemed to have hurt himself the other day...and he was wavering there for a while in any case....

11:56 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Thanks for the correction on spelling Jason.

I don't think the King will be dealt, but one never knows. (I'd have never thought Scott Kazmir would be traded for Victor Zambrano either) And I'm no expert on M's affairs but after this recent collapse, is it possible both Hargrove and Bavasi get it? A different regime could have a different outlook.

I don't think it will happen. I'm just saying I'd explore it if I were a G.M.

The A's offense has been wrecked by injuries and poor performances; Chavez by the former, Mark Ellis and Jason Kendall the latter and finally Bobby Crosby by a mix of both.

I'd still be scared of them in a 3 game series with Zito and Haren and terrified of them in a seven game series if they've got Harden back. Just think: Zito, Haren, Harden, Blanton, Zito, Haren... If they played their cards right, they could have those three guys start every game of those series I think. Unless they're facing the Twins, that will give them the pitching advantage every single game they play. That's downright scary.

Street is hurt as Duchsherer is currently closing games for them. Their pen actually is very good, outside of Street, who's been mediocre this year.

12:17 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

i'm a grammar/spelling nerd; can't help it :)

what i'm hearing is that hargrove is definitely gone, and it was only that mini winning streak in june which kept him from being fired before the all-star break. a lot of m's fans were hoping they'd just get it over with during yesterday's off-day to see how dan rohn (tacoma mgr the last few years) would finish out the season. no luck.

it also sounds as if bavasi was never that high on hargrove from the start, and it was very clear this season that hargrove wasn't willing to use the pieces bavasi gave him, anyway. the everett signing was at hargrove's request, and he finally had to have his (broken, veteran, worst DH in the league) toy taken away. the men really in charge, lincoln & armstrong, seem inclined to give bavasi at least one more year. finishing around .500 would have guranteed it, but hargrove's annual collapse is making it a question. also, those guys are not going to hire a beane/ricciardi/shapiro type, so bavasi may be the best option. devil you know, etc...

the biggest fear m's fans have of bavasi being fired is that bob fontaine will go with him. one of the few reasons the m's have a chance at becoming competitive again is the stellar drafts fontaine has put together.

1:21 PM  

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