Sunday, June 29, 2008

The 2008 Music "All-Stars", If You Will

2008 is half over, so I think it's a good time to stop and reflect on the albums released thus far (that I've heard). The roughly ordered top 10 so far (because I like making lists) with links to some videos:

10. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
"To be sure, In Ghost Colours is a triumph of craftsmanship rather than vision--a synthesis and refinement of existing sounds rather than anything dramatically new and original--but it is an unalloyed triumph nonetheless, and one of the finest albums of its kind." - All Music Guide
I don't really listen to dance music, but these guys did such a good job with it that it got my attention.
NT: Feel The Love; Lights And Music; Hearts On Fire

Lights And Music

9. Destroyer - Trouble In Dreams
"Though it has its strong and weak points, Trouble In Dreams will no doubt receive well-deserved commendation. As a whole, however, it is the result of a grand but imperfect design (which, as we all know, has merit of its own)." - Lost At Sea
The second half still isn't very good to my ears, but the first half is growing on me. Definitely not some of his better work, but it's still Destroyer.
NT: Blue Flower/Blue Flame; Dark Leaves From A Thread; Foam Hands

Foam Hands

8. Islands - Arm's Way
"Arm’s Way is a detailed, richly-rewarding album. These are undeniably melodramatic AOR songs--but they’re nuanced in form, graced with melody, and any obvious tropes are usually subverted." - Tiny Mix Tapes
The first track is very good - the guitar and the violin backing it are extremely catchy. After that it's a bit hit-or-miss. It's a step down from Return To The Sea, but it's not bad.
NT: The Arm; Creeper; Vertigo (If It's A Crime)

The Arm

7. Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
"Hutchison and his bandmates reward patience as well as repeated listens, and they deserve credit for unearthing a unique chunk of the Scottish heart, raised on equal parts American punk and traditional folk and bleeding beautifully." - Slant
The Scottish accented vocals are more interesting and less grating than The Twilight Sad's. It's not the most original thing in the world, but it's extremely well crafted.
NT: The Modern Leper; Old Old Fashioned; The Twist

The Modern Leper

6. Liam Finn - I'll Be Lightning
"Liam has an ear for hooks and a predilection for melodic craft...a richness in lyric and music uncommon to young singer/songwriters. The arrangements are slyly inventive, too." - All Music Guide
Finn has been compared to Elliot Smith, but I find this album to be catchier than any of Smith's, if not quite as good as some of them. Neil Finn's (of Crowded House) son has inherited some impressive talent.
NT: Better To Be; Second Chancel Energy Spirit

Second Chance

5. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
"It’s seamless in its construction, poetic in its songwriting and moving in its aesthetic impression." - Delusions Of Adequacy
Great sparse folk album in the vein of Iron & Wine's earlier work.
NT: Flume; Creature Fear; For Emma

Skinny Love

4. The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead
"Even when it fails, Keep Your Eyes Ahead has a refreshing maturity and presence, old enough to admit that folk jamboree and synth-rock can coexist, hopeful enough to think "Joshua Tree," or at least "Ocean Rain," was a really good idea." - Pitchfork
Maybe I'll get tired of it later, but for now I enjoy it thoroughly every time I listen to it. It sounds just different enough from other things I've been listening to for it to be interesting.
NT: Can't Say No; Keep Your Eyes Ahead; Hallelujah


3. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
"Bring any baggage you want to this record, and it still returns nothing but warm, airy, low-gimmick pop, peppy, clever, and yes, unpretentious--four guys who listened to some Afro-pop records, picked up a few nice ideas, and then set about making one of the most refreshing and replayable indie records in recent years." - Pitchfork
It's still just as catchy and fun as it was a few months ago.
NT: Oxford Comma; Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa; Walcott


2. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
"The sense of wonder in Fleet Foxes' songs is matched only by the discipline and talent that created this adventurous, evocative record. One which is already shaping up as an album of the year." - Mojo
The harmonies are fantastic, and the production is clean and adds to the music without overshadowing it a bit. If I had to pick any album on here to recommend to someone it would be Fleet Foxes.
NT: White Winter Hymnal; He Doesn't Know Why; Oliver James

White Winter Hymnal

1. Stephen Malkmus - Real Emotional Trash
"Real Emotional Trash conjures a virtuoso meld of folk rock, prog and cosmic blues tropes, all filtered through the ex-pavement frontman's trademark arch surrealism." - Mojo
It's kind of unfair - Malk makes a flawed album with songs that drag on too long, and there's still nothing else I've heard that I'd rather listen to.
NT: Hopscotch Willie; Cold Son; Gardenia

Hopscotch Willie

So that's it for now. There are still a lot of albums that I just haven't gotten around to listening to yet (like the new Wolf Parade and Notwist). There have also been a few releases this year that have really disappointed me. I'm a big Silver Jews fan, but Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea falls kind of flat - it's a bit boring, and doesn't have the guitars that picked Tanglewood Numbers up. The new My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges, is just upsetting. I don't know how they can go from the guitar-riffic, Jim James yelling excellence of "What A Wonderful Man" (and co. on Z) to the over-produced and falsetto fronted "Evil Urges". After the initial bad-ness, the album does have some actual MMJ on it, but even that isn't their best work. There isn't much that I know being released later this year that I'm excited about - unless, of course, The Wrens finally get around to finishing the follow-up to The Meadowlands. That would be awesome.
Read more ...

O's-Nationals, Weekend Series Handicap The Team

Fresh of a series win in Chicago against the Cubs, the Birds went to DC to finish up this year's Beltway Series. The Orioles went 2-1 against the Nat's in Baltimore, and will need to do like-wise (at least) to finish with a winning roadtrip (they're 3-3).

June 27th: O's - 2, Nationals - 4

The Good: The team walked 7 times, to 6 K's; Adam Jones went 3-3; Daniel Cabrera extended his record for most career at bats with all of them ending in K's (it's at 14 now).

The Bad: Cabrera gave up 4 runs and 12 baserunners in 6.1 IP; the offense got shutdown pretty well by Odalis Perez and the Nat's bullpen.

As soon as the O's went down 2-0 in the first I stopped following the game. I had some things to do and just assumed that is was going to be on of those games where the O's had some chances to score but wouldn't.

June 28th: O's - 9, Nationals - 1

The Good: The offense scoring nine runs on 14 hits, including homers by Luuuke and Ramon; Garrett Olson only giving up one run despite allowing 9 baserunners in 5 IP; Lance Cormier shutting down the Nat's for the final four innings to pick up the save.

The Bad: Olson throwing 99 pitches in five innings.

June 29th: O's - 3, Nationals - 4

The Good: Jeremy Guthrie pitched well (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K); JJ, Bradford, and Sarfate pitching a total of four shutout innings from the pen; Luke Scott hitting another homer; Adam Jones driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the 12th inning.

The Bad: It was Sunday, though they made it close this time; the offense only getting that one solo home run against Jason Bergmann; George Sherrill giving up a walk-off two-run home run to Ronnie Belliard.

The O's drop the series to the Nationals, and end up with a losing roadtrip. They're still above .500 though at 41-39, and are coming home to host the Royals. Read more ...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Who's Between Second And Third?

Ken Rosenthal has some O's trade rumors:
"The Orioles, desperately seeking a shortstop, have engaged in substantive conversations with the Nationals about a trade for infielder Felipe Lopez, according to major league sources.

The Nationals reportedly are close to signing shortstop Cristian Guzman to a two-year contract extension for an unknown dollar amount and are unlikely to retain Lopez as a free agent after this season.

In return for Lopez, the Nationals likely would receive a marginal minor-league prospect.

The Orioles have been looking for help at shortstop ever since trading Miguel Tejada to the Astros last off-season.

Lopez is hitting .247 with 25 runs and 20 RBI.

If a deal is completed, it likely would not be announced until after the completion of the Orioles-Nationals series this weekend in Washington, sources say."
Really? The O's think Felipe Lopez will solve their shortstop problems? The guy is hitting 247 / 321 / 331. His EqA is .232, and his career high (three years ago) is just .286. He has a negative VORP (-0.6). Oh, and his defense is not good. He's -2 Win Shares Above Bench this year, and was -2 last year. Compare that to Alex Cintron, who's hitting 268 / 293 / 357 with a .221 EqA, a and 0 WSAB. He plays worse defense. Yes, Lopez is better, but the upgrade isn't worth $4 million (well, $2 million for the rest of the year). And it's certainly not worth anyone who could ever sniff the majors.

If I'm AM, then shortstop is a necessity as part of the veteran trades I make before the deadline (Bradford, Walker, Sherrill, Roberts, etc.) - maybe more than one SS. Read more ...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

High-Risk, High-Reward

Starting July 2nd, teams can begin signing international players. It's a great time to supplement the talent acquired in the draft, and good organizations use it to their advantage. The Orioles (surprise!) haven't been particularly active in the international market (they might not have known that Asian players were allowed in MLB), but it seems that may be changing with Andy MacPhail. What I would like to see the team do is use some of their payroll savings to take risks with some of the top players that will be available. Number one on the list is Dominican right-hander, Michael Iona. The guy is a 6'7" pitcher with a good low 90's fastball, curve, and change, and solid control for a 16 year-old kid. His demands are reported to be in the $4 million range - the A's are currently the front runners for his services - but that isn't unreasonable. It's mid-first-round money for a mid-first-round talent. Plus, if Oakland's doing it then it's at least worth looking into. There are many other such (well, lesser) players of course, and I would like to see the O's sign a few of them. As always, it isn't my money and so it's easy for me to say "hey, just give him an extra 10K so he'll sign". I still think it's a strategy that the Orioles (who have less money than the Yankees or Red Sox but still more than many teams) should employ. Don't spend unwisely, but leverage your advantage when you can. Read more ...

Isn't That Backwards?

The Brewers are implementing a strange practice for their minor league pitchers:
"Beginning this week at Class A Brevard County, relievers will start games before turning it over to the "starters" in the third or the fourth. By starting the starter later in games, the Brewers hope their young players develop a "nine-inning mindset" by the time they reach the Majors."
It seems to me that this is basically a psychological ploy, as it doesn't actually help the pitchers to throw nine innings. I don't think it will work very well, and it may actually be problematic as the pitchers will sometimes come into games with their team behind. That has the flip effect of taking away the "this is MY game" mentality. Like a lot of things, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. If it works (gets the pitchers deeper into games as the progress through the system) then I wonder if other teams will start doing it. The Brewers are a smart organization so I'm sure they put a lot of thought into the decision. Read more ...

O's-Cubs, Unexpected Blowout

After a long day I came home excited to watch (or at least follow) the O's-Cubs series finale. To my surprise, I saw that they had played one of those Wrigley day games I've heard so much about. Even more to my surprise, the Birds cruised to an 11-4 victory. That definitely calls for a watching via MLB TV. [I'm going ot pretend that I don't know what happened - you know, to keep that excitement level.]

Coming off his disappointing outing in Milwaukee, Radhames Liz tries to get back on track against Jason Marquis, who has been disappointing Cubs fans from the minute he signed his contract.

Alex Cintron is batting in the two-spot today. He strikes out to follow a Roberts' groundout. Markakis pops out, and Marquis is being booed yet.

Liz starts out well also, striking out Eric Patterson swinging. Theroit singles to Payton in left. I guess you don't take a guy out of the line-up after a two-homer game. Liz gets Lee and Ramirez to end the inning.

Aubrey Huff pulls a one-out double into the right-field corner. He's left stranded though.

Jim Edmonds walks on a close 3-2 pitch to start the second. One out later Liz hits DeRosa. Fontenot fouls off a bunch of pitches before singling to right to load the bases. Marquis, who's actualyl a pretty good hitter for a pitcher, grounds to first - Millar throws home to get the force. The bases are still loaded though for E-Pat. Liz gets him to pop-out to third and leave the runners stranded.

Quiroz, getting another day-game start, draws a lead-off walk. Liz can't get the bunt down and strikes out. O's pitchers have been awful at the plate this year. Roberts doubles to right-center and the Birds have something going. Cintron grounds back to the mound - Q can't score. The Cubs intentionally walk Markakis. That's some respect in the second third inning, even with Millar up next. Kevin draws a walk to force in Quiroz, and the O's are up 1-0. Huff doubles into the corner in right again, scoring two. Payton singles to left to make it 5-0. Jones grounds out, but it was a big inning for the Birds.

Liz puts Derrek Lee on his behind with a high fastball, and comes back to get him swinging on a splitter/change-up. Aramis walks, but Edmonds pops out to leave at first.

Quiroz gets on again, this time with a single up the middle. Liz does worse than strike-out this time. He gets the bunt down on 0-2, but Q is forced at second. Now he has to run the bases. Roberts singles. Maybe it'll be another five-run inning. Markakis misses a homer by about 10 feet down the right-field line, and then doubles down the left-field line. Both runners score, and the O's have a 7-0 lead. Millar pops out to end the inning.

A DeRosa single is all the Cubs get in the fourth.

Huff has his third double of the day - this one to dead center-field off of Jon Lieber. With two outs Quiroz gets another single to bring him in. Liz actually has to swing the bat this time. He grounds to short, but Theriot can't handle it. Roberts strikes out, but the lead is now 8-0.

Liz is really looking good - "effectively wild" I guess you can call it. He K's Patterson, and then gets a double play after a Theriot single.

Lefty Scott Eyre in and gets Cintron to ground out. Markakis draws a walk and Millar singles to end Eyre's day. Wuertz comes in to face Huff, despite losing the lefty-lefty match-up. Huff only gets a single this time - the bases are loaded. Payton singles to bring in Nick. Jones, with a sac fly, brings in Millar. Quiroz with his third single of the day brings in Huff. Liz strikes out, but this relentless Orioles attack has staked him to an 11-0 lead.

Ronny Cedeno pinch-hits for Ramirez and draws a lead-off walk. He goes to second on a wild-pitch, and then Edmonds draws a walk. That'll be it for Liz, who pitched really well through five innings (5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K) but lost control in the sixth. Brian Burres comes in from the pen for the first time this year to face Henry Blanco (hitting for Soto). Blanco singles, and the shutout is gone. Burres retires DeRosa and Fontenot, but Daryl Ward brings in the Cubs second run with a single. A Patterson single to left makes it 11-3. Burres finally ends the inning by getting Theriot to ground out.

The O's go down 1-2-3 in the seventh.

Chad Bradford comes in to face Matt Murton, hitting for the pitcher. He gives up a Cedeno single, but keeps the Cubs off the board.

Bobby Howry relieves Wuertz and retires the O's in order.

Bradford stays in and gives up singles to Fontenot and Ward before a Patterson sac fly cuts the lead to 11-4. That's all they get though.

New pitcher Neal Cotts strikes out Jones and Quiroz, and gets Oscar Salazar to ground out. Chicago will need at least seven in the ninth.

And they'll have to get it against Jim Johnson. Not even close; groundout-groundout-K.

The O's are 40-37 and 3-3 on the road trip, with a series in Washington against the National up next. If you had told me earlier today that the final score would be 11-4 with Liz on the hill, I would have given big odds that the Cubs would have come out on top. Baseball is a crazy game sometimes.
Read more ...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

World Curse-Word Usage Drops 2%

George Carlin passed away (or "died" as he probably would prefer it to be said) yesterday at the age of 71. I missed out on a lot of the cultural significance of Carlin's work, but he was pretty damn funny - I especially like his appearance in Dogma, where he introduced Buddy Christ.

One of his favorite bits of mine was about the differences between baseball and football.

So long George - I imagine you're looking up at us with contempt right now. Read more ...

O's-Cubs, Lovable? Maybe - Losers? Yes

The O's take their first trip to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field to face what may be the best team in baseball - the Chicago Cubs. Jeremy Guthrie goes up against Sean Marshall - a guy who was talked about in those off-season Brian Roberts trade rumors. The ivy does look nice, but I don't know if I'd want to play in the outfield there.

Marshall retires the side in the first. Guthrie will need to be on his game against a very good Cubs line-up.

Kosuke Fukudume singles to start the Chicago attack. Eric Patterson (who I am a fan of and is hitting 318 / 375 / 500 in limited time this year) flies out, and then Huts gets Derrik Lee to ground into a double play. Six pitch inning for Jeremy.

Kevin Millar strikes out looking at a fastball inside. Ramon continues hitting well, singling up the middle. Luke Scott (starting against a lefty?!?!!11) strikes out looking at a curveball. Adam Jones flies out to the resurgent Jim Edmonds in center to end the inning.

Guthrie throws a few more pitches, but sets the Cubs down in order.

Roberts hits a two-out single, but Markakis grounds out on the first pitch he sees.

Ryan "The Riot" Theriot singles with one out, but Razor makes a nice play on Marshall's sac bunt attempt and turns it into a double play.

Millar fouls off a few pitches and ends up drawing a walk. Ramon then hits another line-drive single, this time to left. See, Scott can hit hit against lefties. His triple to right scores both runners and the O's have a 2-0 lead. Jones can't get Luke in from third with one out as he K's, and then so does Cintron.

Fukudome does his thing a works the count - six fastballs runs it to 3-2, and the seventh gets deposited into the center-field seats. 2-1 now. E-Pat draws a five-pitch walk. Guthrie is able to retire the 3-4-5 hitters without incident.

Jeremy tries to bunt for a base-hit (I assume) twice but fails, and then takes the third pitch for strike three. Roberts picks up his second hit - a single to center. Kakes brings him home with a double to left; goes to third on a flyout by Mora; and then scores himself on a single by Millar. 4-1 Orioles, and Marshall is being taken out of the game. Michael Wuertz comes in and finally retires Ramon for the third out.

Guthrie finally has some runs to work with - hopefully he can make them stand up. Mark DeRosa singles with one out, but is erased on the third double play of the day. Millar turned it himself, snagging a liner off the bat of Theriot and stepping on first.

Luke doubles off of Patterson's glove in left. He's brought in one out later by an Alex Cintron double. 5-1 O's. Guthrie strikes out again, but Roberts picks him up with an RBI triple to center. That makes it 6-1. Wuertz is done, with Neal Cotts coming in to face Markakis. That sure doesn't work - Nick's infield single scores Roberts. Mora is retired, but not before the O's extend their lead to 7-1.

Former O's farmhand Mike Fontenot (went to Chicago in the Sosa trade) hits for Cotts and strikes out. Fukudome grounds out on the first pitch, and then Guthrie K's E-Pat on three pitches. Nice job by Jeremy to set the Cubs down quickly to get the O's back to bat.

Control specialist Jon Lieber comes in for mop-up duty. Scott hits a two-out single and is now a homer away from the cycle. Jones leaves him stranded though.

Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez both single to start the seventh. Jim Edmonds homers, and suddenly it's a 7-4 game. Jim Johnson relieves him, with Trembley pulling the double-switch and substituting Jay Payton for Scott in left. He walks Geovany Soto, but gets DeRosa to ground into the Cubs fourth double play. JJ then retires The Riot to keep the lead at three.

The O's go down 1-2-3. Six more outs for the bullpen before the Cubs score three.

Pinch-hitter Daryl Ward fouls off several pitches and draws a lead-off walk. A single by E-Pat two batters later brings Chad Bradford in from the pen. A single by Aramis Ramirez scores the fifth Cubs' run, and Trembley calls for closer George Sherrill to face Edmonds. Lou Pinella counters with Matt Murton, but Sherrill gets him to fly out.

Mora gets hit by a pitch, but is caught stealing. The O's can't add any insurance runs.

A Soto walk and a DeRosa single brings the potential winning run to plate. Theriot then singles to load the bases for pinch-hitter Ronny Cedeno. Sherrill strikes him out swinging. Then he does the same to Fukudome. Henry Blanco pinch-hits for Patterson, and he does goes down swinging. Sherrill loads the bases with no outs before striking out the side. That was unnecessarily exciting, but George likes to keep things interesting.

The O's go into Wrigley and take game one of the series 7-5. Cubs - definitely the best team in the NL - were just swept by the Rays and drop this one to the Orioles. I guess the talk of the NL being the stronger league has died down some.
Read more ...

The Bright Spot In A Sea Of Awfulness

What an up-and-down day (yesterday) for Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. First, King Felix hits a grand slam against Johan Santana. Then, while cruising along with two outs in the fifth inning, Hernandez sprains his ankle covering home. The M's won the game 5-2, but Felix is the only real reason to watch this team right now (sorry, Erik) and they will be in some real trouble if he is out for any significant amount of time. Luckily, the initial reports don't sound that bad, and he may only miss a start or two, if even that. Read more ...

Monday, June 23, 2008

You Have To Swing Sometimes

I was completely unsurprised to learn that Daniel Cabrera holds the major league record for most at bats with a strike-out in each one. 11 AB, 11 K's. After seeing him hit the other day in Milwaukee - in between pitches he looked at the bat like he wasn't quite sure what it was he was holding - I almost expected it to be worse, somehow. Read more ...

That's Not How The Reals Are Ordered

Why would someone bring up stats that are blatantly wrong to support a counter-intuitive conclusion? Because they hate base-cloggers, that's why.
""Everybody's wondering why I didn't pinch-hit for Corey," Baker said. "Corey, in his career, has been better against left-handers than right-handers."

Corey Patterson, career:
Vs. RHP .260/.302/.423
Vs. LHP .240/.273/.375" - FJM
Rarely do they make it quite this easy to make fun of them. Thanks, Dusty.

By the way, the last Joe Morgan ESPN Chat was basically 90% people asking Joe questions about Gary Sheffield and consistency and the like - Joe Baiters, if you will. Why even bother wasting everyone's time then? I am disappointed about losing that weekly source of amusement. Read more ...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

O's-Brewers, Double Plays Are Super Unclutch

The Orioles finish out their series with the Brew Crew.

Back-to-back doubles by Roberts and Markakis and an RBI groundout by Millar give the O's a 2-0 in the first. Garrett Olson takes the mound to try to make it hold up, and win this series.

Things start off well as the Brewers go down in order.

Alex Cintron getting the start against lefty Manny Parra. He's got good stuff, but also some control issues. True to form, he walks Cintron on five pitches. Ned Yost doesn't like the strike-zone Olson is getting at the plate and comes out to argue. I was expecting him to get tossed, but it didn't happen. With two strikes on him Garrett actually gets the bunt down fair, and Fielder bobbles it, allowing him to get to first. Ryan Braun robs Roberts of a hit with a nice sliding catch in left. [Correction: Cintron isn't playing because of the lefty; he's playing because Freddie Bynum was designated for assignment with current starter and former hard-throwing reliever Ryan Bukvich getting called up. Apparently, Oscar Salazar will be the back-up at short. Interesting; the team went from all "field" and not hit to all "hit" and no field.] Markakis draws a walk to load the bases. DiFelice - who looked good a couple days ago - is warming up for the Brewers. He won't be needed quite yet, as Mora grounds into a double play.

Fielder doubles just passed Adam Jones in center. The ball bounced around out there, but Prince just wasn't thinking "triple" coming out of the box. For the second time in as many days Corey Hart hit's a two-run homer. The game is now tied. Olson settles down after that, getting a couple of groundouts and a K.

Millar draws a lead-off walk in the third - that's the fifth free-pass by Parra. The left-field platoon continues with Payton in there for Scott. That's fine - it's working OK so far - but stop playing Jay against righties. Double play erases Millar. Rickie Weeks shows some range getting to Jones' grounder up the middle, but he couldn't make a throw on it. Quiroz grounds to short for the third out.

Another easy inning for Olson.

Cintron starts the fourth with a line-drive single to center. Unfortunately, Olson's bunt attempt results in another double play. Roberts bounces back to the mound. The O's have had their chances, but haven't come through very often.

Three flyball outs in the fourth.

Nick draws his second walk (Parra's sixth) to start the fifth. Mora flies out to the warning track in deep center. Millar reaches out and pulls a pitch into the left-center gap. Nick comes all the way around from first to score, and Kevin goes into second with a double. Payton grounds out on the first pitch, and then Jones strikes out.

And the game is tied again. Bill Hall sends one into the Brewers' bullpen for a homer. Gapler gets grazed by a pitch and sprints to first. Kendall bloops one into short right-center, but Jones charges in and makes the catch. He was almost able to double up Kapler at first, but his throw got away from Millar - good thing Q was backing up the play. Parra's night is over, as Joe Dillan pinch-hits for him. Dillan is retired, by Olson loses the zone against Weeks and walks him on four pitches. Hardy singles just passed a diving Cintron at short, but it gets through and Kapler comes in to score (Payton's throw was way off-line). The Brewers take a 4-3 lead. Olson gets the dangerous Braun to flyout to right, but he may be done with Bukvich warming in the pen.

The O's go donw in order versus DiFelice.

Bukvich is in there after Olson was pinch-hit for. A mammoth homer by Prince Fielder makes it 5-3. Bukvich loads the bases with a single and two walks before Lance Cormier comes in to retire Richie Weeks.

David Riske relieves DiFelice, and allows a lead-off single to Roberts. Brain steals second, while Markakis gets ahead 3-0. Is this an unintentional intentional walk situation with first-base open? A strike and then a ball high, and the O's have something going in the seventh. The way this game has been going, Mora will probably ground into a double play. Melvin goes around on an 0-2 pitch, but the first-base ump says he checked it in time. Fastball on the outside corner gets him looking though. The runners take off as Millar hits a bullet to short. Hardy throws him out at first, but they stay out of the double play. Jay "He Sucks" Payton is up. He works the count full and hits a hard grounder up the middle, but Weeks is able to get to it and throw Jay out at first. Two more runners left stranded.

Chad Bradford coming in. I had no idea he had a 2.16 ERA - that may fetch something nice at the trade deadline. Hardy falls behind 0-2 but inside-outs a fastball to right-center for a ground-rule double. Braun fails on a bunt attempt, and then hits a rocket right at Roberts at second. That's it for Bradford - with Fielder coming up we'll see Jamie Walker. Oh man; another big swing from Fielder and out it goes to right. Prince's second homer of the day makes it 7-3. At his current rate of getting murdered by lefties, Walker probably won't bring anything nice at the deadline. Jamie gives up a single to Hall, but picks him off to end the inning. It's big-inning time if the Birds want to get into this game.

Adam Jones singles to start the eighth, but is erased via a double play by Quiroz. Cintron grounds back to the mound for the third out.

New dad, Dennis Sarfate is in there. He sets Milwaukee down in order. It'll take at least four in the ninth.

Luke Scott bats for the pitcher and flies out. Roberts gets a generous strike-zone and works a walk - that's good, since they need baserunners. Markakis up. Nick has been on all four times today - three via the free-pass. Make that four, as Mota doesn't have his control today. Milwaukee's closer, Solamen Torres, will try to finish it. Mora grounds into another double play to end the game.

The O's waste a lot of opportunities (they walked 10 times in the game) and lose 7-3. I don't know what I was expecting, as it is Sunday. At least they're still over .500 at 38-36. [I mention .500 a lot because even though it isn't a goal that the team should be shooting for (that is, the shouldn't say "hey, lets make our decisions so that we can get to .500") it is still a level that the team will eventually need to pass if they want to contend. If they can do so - or get close - in what is supposed to be a rebuilding year, then that would be fantastic.] Read more ...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

O's-Brewers, Swing & A Miss At A Slider...

Daniel Cabrera will try to turn his slump around against a resurgent Seth McClung, and continue the O's four game winning streak.

McClung throwing hard as he strikes Brian Roberts out swinging at a high fastball. Markakis gets ahead 3-1, but pops up and then slams his bat in, well, some sort of emotion. Aubrey Huff, promoted to the third spot in the line-up, grounds out to second.

Craig Counsell starts the Brewers' attack with a single to right. JJ Hardy then singles to left, with Counsell motoring to third. At least he didn't homer this time. Cabrera gets the dangerous Ryan Braun to pop out to second. A double play would get him out of the inning. Daniel does get a groundball, but Roberts' only play is at first-base. Counsel scores to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead. Grounder to Huff at third ends the first.

Easy 1-2-3 inning for McClung. He's showing the ability to get the breaking-ball over for strikes to go along with the mid 90's fastball.

Russell Branyan strikes out swing at a slider on the inside corner - Daniel set him up with four fastballs between 94 and 96. Infield single by Gabe Kapler on a slow roller to third. It's possible that Mora may have made that play. Jason Kendall singles passed a diving Bynum to put runners on the corners again. Nice to be in the NL, as Daniel gets McClung to strike-out on a slider in the dirt. Counsell also goes down swinging at the slider. I look that he's using the breaking-ball with two strikes. It's possible that his rough patch was the result of teams adjusting to his all fastballs approach.

Adam Jones becomes the O's first baserunner with a lead-off walk. Bynum goes down looking at the curveball. Cabrera comes to the plate and fails to put down the sac bunt - he ends up striking out when he fouls off the third attempt. Roberts flies to left for the third out.

Hardy can't check his swing on another slider and becomes Daniel's fourth strike-out victim. Cabrera's getting ahead of the hitters and it is working out well. Braun looks at a 3-2 fastball and heads back to the bench. That's five straight out's via K. Fielder singles in front of Markakis in right. And Corey Hart extends the Brewers' lead to 3-0 with his 11th home run of the year. It was a good pitch - a fastball down and in - but Hart put a good swing on it. Branyan grounds to first, with Daniel covering. That's it for the third, but the O's are going to need some runs now.

Nick gets ahead in the count again and lines a pitch up the middle. Unfortunately the Brewers have been playing Markakis with an infield shift, and Hardy was standing right where he hit it. Huff grounds out and Millar strikes out, and the O's still don't have a hit.

3-2 fastball down below he knees; swing and a miss by Kapler. That's 6 K's. Kendall swings at the first pitch and grounds out to third and then McClung flies to right to end the inning.

Luke Scott draws a walk to start the fifth. Razor works the count to 3-1 and gets the O's first hit, pulling the pitch into left-field. Adam Jones dribbles weakly in front of the plate - Scott can't score from third. Alex Cintron comes up to hit for Bynum. I'm not sure why, but he strikes out on three pitches - big out for McClung. Stupid National League rules. Cabrera strikes out on three pitches too. The Orioles threaten, but they can't score.

Counsell draws Cabrera's first walk of the day, and then promptly gets caught trying to steal second. Hardy then walks. Braun grounds out - two down and Fielder coming to the plate. Another slider in the dirt. That makes seven strike-outs for Daniel.

Braun makes a valiant effort in left, but his slide comes up short and Roberts has a lead-off double. Markakis gets ahead for the third time today and pops out - he's oh-for-three. Huff flies out, and Millar draws a walk to put two on with two out. Scott can't come through though. Still 3-0 Brewers.

Hart looks at a fastball for strike three. A single and a walk, and Matt Albers is warming up in the bullpen. Daniel gets Kendall to ground into a double play to get out of it.

Ramon flies out to right, and there is action in the Milwaukee pen too. Jones draws his second walk of the day - that's an encouraging sign. Alex Cintron grounds out to second, with Jones just barely avoiding a tag on his way to second. Oscar Salazar pinch-hits for Cabrera. Way back... way back.. and gone! Home run, and the lead is down to 3-2. Cabrera will be in line for the win if the O's can put another couple of runs on the board. Roberts draws a walk, and that'll be it for McCLung. Lefty Brian Shouse is coming in to face Markakis. Nick grounds right back to the mound for the third out. Cabrera's day ends at 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 8 K, but it was a very good performance. He had both the fastball and the slider working, and, despite the homer, he didn't really make any bad pitches.

Albers comes in to work the seventh, and gives up a single to Bill Hall. Then he walks Counsell. Groundball to Cintron allows him to turn two. Braun draws a walk - he has shown better plate discipline in this series than usual. Fielder strikes out swing to leave the runners stranded.

Huff goes down swinging against Shouse. Millar puts a charge into one, but Kapler tracks it down at the wall in deep center. Shouse falls down as he delivers to the plate, but Scott swings and misses the pitch for strike three.

A Kapler double is all the Brewers get off of Albers in the eighth. The O's will need at least one run in the ninth.

Ramon flies out to center - one down. Jones strikes out - two down. Melvin Mora pinch-hits for Cintron, and doubles to deep right. Jay Payton pinch-hits for the pitcher with the tying run on second. He doesn't come through this time - a pop-up to short ends the game.

Cabrera pitched well, but the offense couldn't do much with Seth McClung and drop to 38-35 with the loss.
Read more ...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Now That's Some Good Pitching

Really interesting game in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates beat the Blue Jays 1-0 in 12 innings. Roy Halladay and Zach Duke combined to pitch 14 scoreless innings, giving up 12 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 11. The winning run actually scored on a fielding error by the usually reliable John McDonald. This was the first game with new Jays manager Cito Gaston at the helm - he took over after John Gibbons was fired. The loss drops Toronto to 35-40, in what has been a disappointing season for the major's lone Canadian team. Read more ...


In the amateur draft the Yankees selected an ambidextrous pitcher, Pat Venditte, in one of the later rounds. Here's a clip of him facing a switch hitter in the minors.

That's so funny I wish the Orioles had drafted him themselves. Read more ...

O's-Brewers, Better Than The Cycle

Fresh of their sweep of the Astros, the Orioles travel to Wisconsin to face the Brewers. I'm excited to see these games, as I'm a bit of a fan of the Brew Crew. With the lack of a DH, Kevin Millar will start on the bench and Aubrey Huff will play first. I imagine we'll see Miller pinch-hit at some point, though.

Brian Roberts falls behind 1-2, but gets a pitch up in the zone and lines it to right for a single. Nick Markakis falls behind 1-2, but lines a low-and-away pitch to center for a single, advancing Roberts to third. Mora decides to cut to the chase and lines a 1-0 to left for an RBI single. Aubrey Huff falls behind 1-2 and Jeff Suppan finally gets an out, as Huff flies to center. If Soup keeps getting ahead, he should have a pretty good night. Ramon Hernandez grounds slowly towards the left side - Suppan grabs it, spins, and throws it away. Nick scores and there are runners on second and third. Luke Scott hits a sac fly to deep center to make it 3-0. Adam Jones battles Soup, fouling off several pitches and then lining a 3-2 pitch into left-field. Razor scores and the lead is now 4-0. Freddie Bynum grounds out to finally end the inning. Radhames Liz has a nice cushion to work with.

And Liz might need it. His front shoulder is flying open a bit and he walks Craig Counsel on four pitches. The lead is cut in half, as JJ Hardy homers to deep center-field. Ryan Braun gets sawed off, but beats out the slow roller to third. Braun then steals second as Ramon's throw is way off-line. Prince Fielder walks. There are still no outs, and this one has all the makings of a high-scoring affair. Corey Hart grounds the first pitch up the middle - Roberts steps on the bag but his throw to first is not in time. Hart leans towards second though, and Liz is able to pick him off. Russell Branyon takes the next pitch for a called strike-three, and the O's are out of the inning.

Liz comes up for his first major league at bat, and lines out to center - he put a pretty good swing on it. Roberts' line-drive to center won't be caught, and he cruises into second with a double. Nick strikes out, chasing a fastball way up and out of the zone. Mora walks on four pitches. Huff comes through, singling to left-center to score Roberts. 5-2, O's. Ramon singles to make it 6-2, with Mora coming home. Mark DiFelice is warming in the Milwaukee bullpen. I have absolutely no idea who that is. Scott walks on four pitches, and that will be it for Suppan. Ned Yost is going to the pen with the bases loaded and Adam Jones coming up. DiFelice K's Jones to get out of the jam.

Jason Kendall draws a one-out walk, and is (eventually) sacrificed to second by the pitcher. Counsel lines a single to right to bring him in. That's starts Lance Cormier warming in the Baltimore pen. Liz strikes Hardy out looking for the third out.

With two outs the top of the order is at it again, with singles by Roberts and Markakis putting runners on the corners. Mora flies out though.

Braun walks to start the third - that's just his 14th base on balls on the year. You know Liz is missing pretty bad if Braun isn't swinging at it. Deep and gone. Fielder send one way out to right-center, and it's now 6-5. That big swing will end Liz's day - 2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 2 K, 2 HR. He's trying to develop control at the major league level, and so there will be some growing pains. On the bright side, he can't get the loss despite pitching quite poorly. Corey Hart hits it hard to left against Cormier, but Nick tracks it down near the wall. A flyout and a groundout end the inning.

"I can do that too" says Aubry Huff to Prince Fielder. His 13th homer extends to lead to 7-5. Adam Jones singles with two outs, and then Bynum strikes out but gets on as the ball gets away from Kendall. Cormier tries to head to first on ball three (to the amusement of the O's dugout) and strikes out swinging on the next pitch.

The Brewers threaten with a hit and a walk, but Cormier keeps them off the board.

The the pinch-hitter batting for him in the previous inning, DiFelice is out and Carlos Villenueva is in. Brian Roberts lines out to a leaping Russell Branyon at third. 1-2-3 go the Brids.

Lance Cormier is still out there, and still pitching well. Branyon doubles, but is left stranded.

Huff is 3/4 of the way to the cycle, as he starts the sixth with a double - all he needs is the triple. Huff is also left stranded.

Dennis Sarfate comes in and walks a pair with a sac bunt by the pitcher in between. Sarfate then walks the bases loaded, and Jamie Walker will come in to face Fielder. Walker is able to get the double play ball, and the score is still 7-5.

The O's go down in order in the seventh. After the fast start, the scoring has really fallen off (not that the pitchers have been all that great).

Walker stays out there and retires the Brewers in order.

Forget the cycle - Aubrey Huff decided it's too hard to leg out a triple and just hits it over the fence instead (to left-center no less). That's his second of the game, and he is just two away from matching last year's total. Ramon scorches one, but it's right to Braun in left. That ends the inning, but the lead is back to three runs.

JJ's getting the night off, with Chad Bradford coming in to work the eighth. He doesn't have his usual control, and issues a lead-off walk to Kendall. A grounder back to the mound results in an out at second, but the relay to first is not in time. He gets out of it though, and it will likely be George Sherrill time in the ninth.

The Brewers bring a lefty in to pitch, and so Oscar Salazar pinch hits for Luke Scott. How are the O's ever going to see if Luke can be a full-time player if they never let him face a left-handed pitcher. It's not like this is a high-leverage situation - let him take his cuts. Salazar and then Jones are retired. Freddie Bynum gets to hit for himself though. How does that make any sense whatsoever? Bynum looks bad in striking out swinging.

A slow roller down the first-base line that just stays fair results in an infield single for Braun. Fielder then walks to bring up the potential tying run in the person of Corey Hart. Sherrill walks Hart also to load the bases. Bill Hall pinch-hits, and goes down swinging at a letter-high fastball. Groundball to second - Roberts steps on the bag and throws to first - double play. Sherrill pulls the Houdini, and the O's win 8-5.

Great job by the bullpen to pick Liz up, as the team moves to 38-34 on the season.
Read more ...

O's-Astros, Dig Out Those Brooms

The past six times the O's were in a position to sweep a series they have been unable to follow through. Well that changed against the Astros. Brian Burres fell behind early, giving up single runs in the first and second innings (the latter on a Hunter Pence home run). He settled down after that - retiring 11 of 13 at one point, with a Miguel Tejada homering as the 14th batter - and ended up going 5.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 K. Matt Albers and Jim Johnson both kept Houston off the board, and Dennis Sarfate was brought in for the ninth. His control wasn't good, as he walked two, but he could have gotten out of the inning if Alex Cintron hadn't misplayed a couple of balls (one for an error). George Sherrill came in with the bases loaded - and let a couple of the runners score - but retired Lance Berkman as the potential go-ahead run to seal the victory and move the O's to 37-34. Though the ninth didn't look good, Cintron was better at the plate going 3-4 with a home run (the first by an O's shortstop this year). Aubrey Huff also homered as part of his 2-3 day - it was his 12th, which ties him with Nick Markakis and Luke Scott for the team lead. Ramon Hernandez only had one hit, but it to was a round-tripper, and he added a walk, while Jay Payton and Kevin Millar each drove in a pair. The O's won another close one, 7-5. Read more ...

From A Grilled Cheese Sandwich To Your Dreams

Josh Hamilton is crushing the ball for Texas, and he is going to begin seriously negotiating a long-term contract with the team in the very near future. He's in for a big payday, and so one would assume that his agent - the guy who supported him in his return to baseball in Cincinnati and set the groundwork for the deal with the Rangers - should be very pleased. Well, that's not exactly the case. Without going into the specifics (It Is About The Money, Stupid was some great stuff about the situation), Hamilton has fired his agent (who is Jewish, and seems hurt on a personal level by this). The reasoning behind the decision was basically "I had a dream where Jesus told me to switch agents." That, too me (and I'm not trying to insult anyone's religion), is ridiculous. It also seems to be - ironically - a pretty un-Christian thing to do. I assume that his former agent will still be compensated for the work he has done on the impending contract, but I don't think it will make him feel any less insulted. Read more ...

It Was A Very Good Year

I was setting up a playlist of music to listen to as I fell asleep yesterday, and it struck me how much good stuff was released in 2005. It was kind of like the Rays' farm system - great at the top but also a lot of quality depth. I still find myself listening to a lot of these albums. I couldn't find the song I wanted for all of them, but I put something up to give an idea of each artist's sound. [They're videos by the way, and I don't know for how long the links will work.]

25. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & Matt Sweetney - Superwolf
"Soft and subtle, Superwolf is the kind of record that unwinds slowly, and is best enjoyed over multiple listens and, unsurprisingly, many glasses of wine." - Pitchfork
Very soft and subtle.
Notable Tracks: My Home Is The Sea - Lift Us Up - Rudy Foolish

I Gave You

24. Clem Snide - End Of Love
"End of Love is.. as whip smart, goofy, and satisfying" - All Music Guide
The first Clem Snide album I listened to, and I only bought it because it had a sticker that said "Try if you like the Silver Jews" and some other bands. They're a lot more pop oriented than the Joos, though.
NT: End Of Love - The Sound Of German Hip-Hop - Jews For Jesus Blues

This is from a previous album, but gives an idea out what they're about

23. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
"The disc is disjointed, lacks much in the way of cohesive musical character, and ultimately never really reaches to be anything more than a bunch of decent songs held together in the semblance of an album." - Coke Machine Glow
I agree with that assessment. I think they went over board with the production, as it kind of drowns out the music. Still a decent bunch of songs.
NT: 7/4 (Shoreline) - Major Label Debut (though the more rock oriented version of the song from the To Be You And Me [EP] is better) - Fire Eye'd Boy

Fire Eye'd Boy

22. Magnolia Electric Co. - What Comes After The Blues
"Molina's retro-countrified songs of American redemption are not academic and studied, but human." - New Musical Express
I didn't really start to appreciate this album until I saw Molina in concert. It's not his best, and it's a bit inconsistent and short, but there are still some good songs on here. Most of the album is fairly mellow, but opener is pretty rockin'.
NT: The Dark Don't Hide It - Leave The City - Hammer Down

Leave The City

21. Jens Lekman - Oh You're So Silent Jens
"The real glory of this record resides in the way in which Lekman blends his bottled sunshine melodies with droll and romantic word play." - musicOHM
There are some boring lulls, but overall it's quite good and he has a very enjoyable voice.
NT: Maple Leaves - Black Cab - The Wrong Hands

Black Cab

20. Immaculate Machine - Ones And Zeroes
Fun, energetic, power-pop. Not really anything more than that, but I find it very catchy.
NT: Broken Ship - No Such Thing As The Future - Statue

Broken Ship

19. The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree
"It's a gloves-off catharsis occurring in real time for the gifted singer/songwriter, and it leaves a mark on the listener as well." - All Music Guide
An acoustic guitar and and emotional (though well crafted) lyrics.
NT: Your Or Your Memory; This Year; Lion's Teeth

This Year

18. Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins
"The Sunlandic Twins is a dizzying, exhilarating, and almost endlessly fun ride, breezy almost to a fault, romantic and lighthearted." - Delusions of Adequacy
Fun, slightly off-kilter, pop music.
NT: Requiem For O.M.M.2 - Forecast Fascist Future - So Begins Our Alabee

Requiem For O.M.M.2

17. Iron & Wine - Woman King [EP]
"Woman King subtly opens the sonic palette up to include more percussion, piano, and wait is that an electric guitar?" - Amazon
This EP started the shift from his lighter folk sound (Our Endless Numbered Days, for example) to the richer folk-rock on his latest album (The Shepherd's Dog). It's only six songs, but they're all good to great.
NT: Woman King - Jezebel - Freedom Hangs Like Heaven


16. John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt
"Some might wish this gift for fastidious arrangements would carry over to the lyrics, which feature a bevy of look-it-up references and descriptions that might stymie attempts at easy listening. It doesn't hurt to do a little research or, like, pay attention to lyrics worth a damn." - Pitchfork
There's a reason this guy is known for his studio work. Another album that got a bump after seeing him live (he was great both times).
NT: Exodus Damage; Continuation; Angela

Exodus Damage

15. Silver Jews - Tanglewood Numbers
The more I listened to this album, the less I liked it, relatively speaking. It's still has David Berman's songwriting, but there is a little too much twang and not enough memorable songs for me. Stephen Malkmus' guitar work on the opener is what keeps it this high.
NT: Punks In The Beerlight - Animal Shapes - The Farmer's Hotel

Punks In The Beerlight

14. Animal Collective - Feels
"Feels is a highly rewarding journey into pop music's most primal, earthy, esoteric and ultimately beautiful places. And it's unlike anything else you will hear this year." - Pop Matters
I can see why people think this is a really great album, but it's still a little too weird for me to like it that much.
NT: Did You See The Words - Grass - The Purple Bottle


13. Voxtrot - Raised By Wolves [EP]
Top to bottom, front to back, song-writing to instrumentation, this is very good (though rarely great). If only they could make a full album like this.
NT: Raised By Wolves - Start Of Something - Missing Pieces

Start Of Something

12. The Lucksmiths - Warmer Corners
"The Australian band's trademark winsome optimism, clever heartbreak and bittersweet cuteness are in classic form here, only lusher and more layered." - Splendid
Witty lyrics and warm pop music makes for a very enjoyable listen.
NT: A Hiccup In Your Happiness - The Music Next Door - Sunlight In A Jar

Sunlight In A Jar

11. Architecture In Helsinki - In Case We Die
"Think what you want about its theatricality, its twee --- at base, it’s a technically accomplished album, and if you’re willing to give yourself over to it, or do lots of drugs, a charming ride." - Coke Machine Glow
It might actually be too cute, but boy is it fun and catchy.
NT: It's 5; Wishbone; Do The Whirlwind

Do The Whirlwind

10. The National - Alligator
"Tonally and lyrically somewhere between L. Cohen, Aidan Moffett and David Berman, Berringer’s cynical, world-worn love-letters and resigned croon work perfectly with the band’s rock steady rhythm-section." - Coke Machine Glow
They were just warming up for 2007's fantastic Boxer, but this album is almost is good, if not quite as consistent.
NT: Karen - Friend Of Mine - Mr. November

Daughters Of The SoHo Riots

9. My Morning Jacket - Z
"It's hard to argue with any album that possesses the virtues Z does: James' voice, one of the most astonishing instruments in rock; a band who, turnover notwithstanding, play like they've been doing this for decades; a sense of delight that often eludes young men with guitars; and songs that let you use the descriptor “rocks” without fear or shame." - Stylus
They were fantastic live - it was Columbus Day, and they had been partying hard (as they told us several times throughout the show). It's a little less straight-forward than previous albums, but might be all the better for it.
NT: Wordless Chorus - Off The Record - Anytime

Wordless Chorus

8. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
"Is it their best album? Maybe not. Is it still the best pop album of the year? Of course." - Coke Machine Glow
The super-group takes full advantage of Carl (AC) Newman's knack for catchy hooks, but somewhat less so Neko Cases' amazing voice and Dan Bejar's song-writing. Still, having three such talented people working together is kind of unfair.
NT: Twin Cinema - Jackie, Dressed In Cobras - Sing Me Spanish Techno

Use It

7. Spoon - Gimme Fiction
"Even the most direct songs here have a precision craftsmanship rarely heard in something that is still, at heart, a rock album." - Pitchfork
The end of the album sags a bit, but this is what it is - another Spoon album. The thing that amazes me about Spoon is that (now) five albums into their catalog, each one is very good (not just good, though not really great) and sounds exactly like Spoon, without them all sounding the same.
NT: The Beast And Dragon, Adored - The Two Sides Of Monsieur Valentine - I Summon You

I Summon You

6. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
"With Black Sheep Boy, Okkervil River have made the kind of minor classic that will inspire obsessive-compulsive love affairs with the lucky people who stumble upon it." - Coke Machine Glow
Will Sheff's song-writing is very good, and while his voice isn't the best, the conviction with which he sings more than makes up for it.
NT: For Real - In A Radio Song - Black

For Real

5. Wolf Parade - Apologies To The Queen Mary
"On paper this all could sound average, but Wolf Parade's true talent is transforming the everyday into the unprecedented." - Pitchfork
"Each song is either a seismic death rattle or aftershock." - Coke Machine Glow
This is the only thing Spencer Krug has ever done that I really like - it may be because he doesn't go to far overboard. Catchy, rockin', and kind of weird; what's not to like? Plus, some of the song-writing is really top-notch.
NT: We Built Another World - Shine A Light - Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts

Shine A Light

4. Sufjan Stevens - Come On, Feel The Illinoise
"These are adventurous pop songs with intricate arrangements and sophisticated chord structures." - No Ripcord
That is a low-key way of saying this album is fantastic. This is the second in his 50 part series of albums about each state. The word "beautiful" actually springs to mind. Plus, who can't love an album with song-writing like "Stephen A. Douglas was a great debater, but Abraham Lincoln was the great emancipator"?
NT: Come On! Feel The Illinoise!; Jacksonville; Decatur, Or, Round Of Applause For Your Step Mother!


3. Stephen Malkmus - Face The Truth
"Malkmus has the same fractured pop sensibility, but his music is more expansive than it’s been before." - Dusted
You know, objectively, it's probably not nearly as good an album as several that come before it. It's the Malk though, so the catchy lyrics, rockin' guitars, and a little bit of added weirdness are all there - and that's what keeps me coming back to it time after time.
NT: Freeze The Saints - No More Shoes - Post-Paint Boy

Baby C'mon

2. Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production Of Eggs
"It's a densely melodic place composed of layered instruments so intricately intertwined with each other and Bird's lyrics that repeated listenings inevitably reveal a hidden but grandiose vision of what a pop record can be." - Pop Matters
It doesn't often happen that I'll listen to something for the first time and really like it. It took about 2 1/2 songs with this album. The voice, the lyrics, the violin, and that whistling makes for a truly exceptional listening experience.
NT: Nervous Tick Motion Of The Head To The Left - Measuring Cups - Skin Is, My

Nervous Tick Motion Of The Head To The Left

1. The Decemberists - Picaresque
"For fans of chiming, literate, lovelorn pop, Picaresque is an absolute treasure trove." - Gaurdian
Every song is a different story that draws you into it. There's a couple from opposite sides of the tracks that take the (literal) leap (We Both Go Down Together); failure on the (soccer?) field (The Sporting Life); espionage (The Bagman's Gambit); politics (Sixteen Military Wives); and an epic tale of revenge by a sailor on an old "friend" (The Mariner's Revenge Song). I'll be honest - I don't know a lot of the words Meloy uses. That makes listening to the album a learning experience too.
NT: Eli, The Barrow Boy - The Sporting Life - The Mariner's Revenge Song

The Mariner's Revenge Song

The half-way point for 2008 is coming up soon, and I'll look at some stuff form this year. It pales in comparison to '05 though.
Read more ...

Hey, It's Dusty

I haven't poked fun at Dusty Baker in a while, and it is one of my favorite pastimes. When talking about moving Joey Votto (278 / 348 / 483) up in the order from the seven spot, he said:
“I pulled some stats on Joey and he is hitting better seventh than anywhere,” Baker added. “He is hitting .333 in the seventh hole. .186 in the six-hole, .267 in the five-hole and .154 in the four-hole. So maybe he might not quite be ready to move up in the order like we all want him too.”
At bats: 4th - 13, 5th - 30, 6th - 43, 7th - 123. (Issue 1) He's using batting average (Issue 2) with very small sample sizes. Batting 5th, Votto actually has a 1.105 OPS, compared to .894 in the seven-hole. Heck, he's hitting .333 (1.051 OPS) in 12 at bats form the ninth spot. At least he finally realized that "Corey (Patterson) wasn’t getting on base" and so he got him out of the lead-off spot.

At 33-40, the Reds are in last place in the NL Central, 12.5 back of the Cubbies. Read more ...

Well That's Uncalled For

Toronto's General Manager, JP Ricciardi, did a call-in radio show where he was asked about the possibility of trading for Adam Dunn (227 / 395 / 514, 18 HR, 134 OPS+):

“Do you know the guy doesn’t really like baseball that much?” Ricciardi said to the caller. “Do you know the guy doesn’t have a passion to play the game that much? How much do you know about the player?

“There’s a reason why you’re attracted to some players and there’s a reason why you’re not attracted to some players. I don’t think you’d be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here …

“We’ve done our homework on guys like Adam Dunn and there’s a reason why we don’t want Adam Dunn. I don’t want to get into specifics.”

...“He’s a lifetime .230, .240 hitter that strikes out a ton and hits home runs,” Ricciardi said.

“Yes, he hits home runs, which none of the Toronto Blue Jays are doing,” the caller replied.

That retort triggered Ricciardi’s shot at Dunn as a player who “doesn’t really like baseball that much.”

While it's true that Dunn isn't really a big fan of the game, Ricciardi’s actions are pretty inexcusable. The Blue Jays are in last place in the East, and could use a guy who can get on base and hit for power (like, say, Frank Thomas - maybe they can work out a deal for him with Oakland). I don't think JP will have to worry about tampering (which is basically what this was - he's depressing Dunn's value as a player) much longer - I doubt he keeps his job past the end of the season. Read more ...

Cleaning House

John McLaren is out as M's manager. About time, I think. Richie Sexson and Jose Vidro (and others?) are next up on the block. Maybe they'll fire/release someone every few days for the rest of the season - that may talk some attention away from the Mariners actual play on the field. Read more ...

O's-Astros, Typical Game

Another day, another come-from-behind one-run victory for the Birds. Jeremy Guthrie was once again excellent (8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K) but didn't get much help from the offense. A solo home run by Luke Scott is all they managed against Brian Moehler (really). To extra innings they went, where Chad Bradford pitched a second scoreless inning. The O's then put up three straight singles against 'Stros closer Jose Valerde, with Kevin Millar driving in Melvin Mora with the winning run in the bottom of the tenth. Oh, and Miguel Tejada went 0-4. The O's go for the sweep tonight, with Brian Burres opposing Shawn Chacon. Read more ...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What A Fearsome Line-Up

Poor guys. I can feel your pain. It didn't stop me from laughing, though. Such moves are so mind-boggling that there is speculation that the M's are actively trying to ensure that they'll get the #1 pick in the 2009 draft so they can select dominating pitcher (he had 23 K's in a game last year but still thought he could have done better) Stephen Strasburg. Read more ...

O's-Astros, Now With Minimal Gloating

I didn't watch the game, though I followed the updates online. While it was going on, I was talking (via the intertubes) to a friend of mine who has relatives in Houston, and a cousin who's an Astros fan, who was apparently talking to him also. This naturally led to a little bit of extra commentary on my part.

Garrett Olson started for the O's and had an excellent stretch, retiring 12 straight 'Stros from the first to the fifth innings. Unfortunately, it book-ended two not-so-good parts of the game. In the first, a lead-off single, two wild pitches, and an RBI groundout gave Houston an early lead. With two outs in the fifth (after the O's had gone ahead 3-1 on a two-run homer by Aubrey Huff (who is hitting a solid 266 / 332 / 466 on the year so far - the average is down, but the walks and homers are up just like a certain blogger predicted they would be) and an RBI single by Freddie Bynum to plate Ramon Hernandez, who looked bad behind the plate (again - from what I've heard) but did reach base three times) Olson lost it. Single-single-single-passed ball (thanks, Razor)-double-walk and the Astros are ahead 4-3 and Olson is out of the game. I'm disappointed by how it ended, but I think he actually pitched pretty well. Sometimes those kinds of innings happen.

At this point, my friend was saying that the Orioles were going to lose ("hey, they're a come-back team... it's not over yet"). Former 'Stro Matt Albers came into finish the inning. After the O's went down in order, Carlos Lee started the sixth with a solo home run to make it 5-3. "They're's over... have they lost yet?" - "This team won't give up... they've been come-back kids all year". It looked like it started to happen in the bottom of the frame, when Ramon walked and Adam Jones doubled with one out. Bynum struck out meekly though, and former Orioles Tim Byrdak got Brian Roberts to end the threat. Albers pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, and ended up having a pretty good night.

"KAKES"-"KAKES?!" was the reaction to start the bottom of the seventh. Nick's opposite field home run (his 12th) cut the lead to 5-4. Markakis, by the way, is up to 287 / 384 / 483. I can't wait till he really starts heating up in July and August. A Huff double and an intentional walk to Luke Scott had the O's in position to jump back ahead, but Ramon struck out (check) swinging to end the inning. Jim Johnson took over in the eighth (Trembley is kinda using his pen as if he were ahead 5-4 instead of behind) and gave up a single and a walk, but K'ed two and kept Houston off the board. Running out of time, guys - time to score some runs.

Adam Jones led off with a single to left, and then was sacrificed to second by Bynum. (Trembley praised the bunt after the game - it wasn't a horrible move with his poor hitting and the top of the order coming up, but it would be nice to have a guy on the bench who can pinch-hit in that situation.) Roberts walked, and everything was set up for Nick to be the hero tonight (with all of the comebacks the team has had, they're best player doesn't seem to be the hero very often - maybe he needs to do some clutchness drills). Too bad the Astros know Markakis has some trouble with the high heat as they brought in closer Jose Valverde, who blew Nick away on four pitches. Melvin Mora likewise found himself down in the count, but he battled back and eventually hit one into deep left-center field. Jones scores... and here comes Roberts! ("I told you they would come back.") Another big hit for Mora puts the O's ahead 6-5. That's all they would get, and it was George "Tired Arm Just Two Days Ago" Sherrill in for the save. No problems today, as he set the Astros down 1-2-3. I "knew" the whole time that the Orioles would win this game. It's the same feeling I've had time and again this season, and it's much nicer than the "how did they lose this time?" from past years.

The O's win gets them back above .500 to 35-34. Houston falls to 33-38 (haha). Miguel Tejada went 0-3 with a walk and a K in his return to Baltimore. Luke Scott went 1-3 with a walk, and Albers did a fine job as the long-man in the game. Apparently, the Astros don't want to rebuild. All they need to do is look across the field to the other dugout (or to Oakland) to see that rebuilding != losing.
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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

That "Dumbass" Has A Wicked Curveball

It sounds like Erik Bedard isn't too popular in Seattle. The trade that brought him over was supposed to catapult the Mariners into the playoffs, but instead it just helped get the GM fired. One of the main reasons is Bedard's stamina - he tires after throwing around 100 pitches.
"I asked Bavasi on Monday about Bedard's pitch-count threshold. After bouncing between defending and explaining Bedard, the axed GM — clearly exasperated — said I needed to ask the pitcher.

"You gotta ask him," Bavasi said. "You gotta ask him. Good luck. And he's gonna have some stupid answer, some dumbass answer."

Bavasi went on to marvel over Bedard's talent, to soften the insult, but he made his point. His great acquisition had turned into a great headache.

At least Bedard is no longer his problem. Sometimes, there is an upside to getting fired." - Jerry Brewer, Seattle Times reporter
I actually like the way Bedard deals with the media - I find it very entertaining. The press should be thankful in a way, as his "unfriendliness" gives them about as much to write about as they'd have if he just gave them the usual sports cliches. Read more ...

More Disfunction In Seattle

[Bavasi has received complements from everyone commenting on his firing for his non-GM actions. He was willing to talk kindly with even his harshest critics, and I respect that. Still... horrible General Manager.]

I was looking at a list at all of Bill Bavasi's moves as the M's GM, and a couple struck me as funny:

April 3, 2004
Acquired infielder Jolbert Cabrera from the Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Aaron Looper and LHP Ryan Ketchner.

April 12, 2004
Acquired RHP Aaron Looper from the Los Angeles Dodgers for LHP Glenn Bott.

He traded a player away, and then traded to get him back a week later. Now none of these guys are (or were) particularly good, but this is not the kind of move a good GM usually makes.

I'm also pretty surprised that manager John McLaren still has a job. He is the one who keeps playing Miguel Cairo at first for some reason that has very little to do with how baseball teams actually win games. Now he's going to move Ichiro - a guy who handles center well and whose bat is an asset there - back to right-field. Ichiro is a good hitter, but his lack of power is not what you want from a corner outfielder. Plus, it's much easier to find a guy who can hit and play right, than a guy who can hit and play center. Willie Bloomquist (who isn't very good, but has still expressed interest in leaving the M's and going to an NL team) takes Ichiro's spot for now.

“I’ve been thinking about it for over a month. It’s nothing against Ichiro in center field, of course. I just think he’s a great right fielder and I want to see his zest and smile and everything going,” McLaren said. “What I remember is just spectacular things and I want to try that. I’m not sure it’s going to work or make any difference whatsoever, but I’m going to try it.”

If by "work", he means the team will start winning games then no, it won't work. Making personnel decisions based on zest and a smile - that's quality baseball.

[I know I've been really hard on Seattle, but it is a multi-million dollar organization run a little worse than a five year-old's lemonade stand. If they admitted that the lemonade wasn't very good (Brian Sabean in San Fransisco is pretty bad too, but at least he didn't say that his team was in a position to make the playoffs) then it would be fine. The problem is, they say it's the delicious, even though it sucks because they have no idea how to make lemonade. Seriously, lemon juice, water, and sugar is too complicated for this team.] Read more ...

Things Aren't Great In NY Right Now

It's been in the making for weeks now, but Willie Randolph was finally fired by the Mets in ridiculous fashion. The team flew out west to play the Angels, and after the they won the game, Randolph was fired at 3 am EST. The players found out via text messages from the media. The thinking was that doing it at that time would keep it quieter, since it was after the day's stories were done. In any case, this move was deserved, but handled extremely poorly by the Mets. All of Willie's managerial problems aside, he definitely didn't deserve to be let go this way. A lot of Mets fans are embarrassed by the news. Also, firing pitching coach Rock Peterson isn't likely to help the team - the guy is good at his job. His comments afterwards make the Mets look even worse:
"I appreciated the opportunity (the Wilpons) gave me," Peterson said. "They welcomed me into their home, and sometimes homes go through renovations... I am the hardwood floor that is being ripped out and replaced with Tuscany tile. Hopefully, the Tuscany tile will do better than the hardwood tile... I am walking out of here in peace."
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Monday, June 16, 2008

AL West Rivals Shed A Tear

Bill Bavasi is fired, and a great cheer erupts from the Pacific North-West. It was well deserved too (despite Bavasi being a pretty good guy from what I've read). This Seattle club was extremely poorly constructed - they saw 88 wins last year and thought that it was the team's true talent level.

Some of the bad moves made by the team (Bavasi) include: signing Carlos Silva (5.79 ERA, first year of 4 year, $48 million deal), Jarrod Washburn (5.83 ERA, third year of 4 year, $37.5 million deal), Miguel Batista (6.18 ERA, second year of 3 year, $25 million deal), Kenji Johjima (.579 OPS, 32 year-old catcher given $24 million extension through 2011); playing Richie Sexson (.675 OPS, making $14 in last year of deal - didn't let another team claim him on waivers last year, which would have freed his salary), Jose Vidro (.600 OPS as the DH - 5 HR this year, 6 last year), Raul Ibanez in the outfield (he hits OK - .758 OPS - but is horrible in left), Miguel Cairo (.529 OPS, mostly at first-base); not playing Jeremy Reed (.339 OBP - second to Ichiro on the team - and a very good defensive outfielder), Jeff Clement (1.137 OPS in AAA this year); and failing to realize that the team didn't have 88 wins worth of talent and trading way too much for Erik Bedard (4.14 ERA).

Now I know that a lot of this stuff is on the manager too, but if the GM thinks that Ibanez should be the DH (or 1B), then he should tell the manager so. That was just some things from 2008 too - there are a whole lot more bad moves made in past years. The Mariners are basically where the Orioles were a couple of years ago - low on talent with a bunch of overpaid veterans. They have an aging Ichiro and King Felix, but that's about it. (The chances of Bedard signing an extension with the team are probably about as low as they were with the Orioles, if not lower.) No OBP, no SLG, and not much pitching when the ballpark is taken into account. They now have a chance to really turn things around by hiring a smart, progressive GM. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen - I'm leaning towards the latter.

And finally, from USSMariner, "Right now, the M’s are on track to win 57 games and pay $118m (rounded!) to do it, for a cost of $13m/marginal win. The next-highest is the Yankees at $5.6m...The average is about $3m." (The Orioles, by the way, are on pace to be pay about $2 million per marginal win. Good job, Andy.) In a similar vein, Tom Tango and David Gassko developed a rough relationship between a team's payroll and expected winning percentage: winning % = (Payroll + 2 * League Average Payroll)/(Payroll + 5 * LAP). The Mariners are an astounding 28 games below where they should be - next worst is Detroit at -14. The Orioles are 5 games better than expected, with the Rays leading the way at plus 22. Lot's of money - bad result. Maybe try another profession, Mr. Bavasi.

[As a side note, I think there is a pretty good chance that the M's try to trade Bedard now. I really can't wait to see what kind of return they get - that is, how much less it is than what they gave up just a few months ago.] Read more ...

A Little Pay-Back For '79

I only caught one full inning of baseball this weekend - the bottom of the ninth and top of the tenth of Sunday's game. The two-out game-tying two-run homer by Brian Roberts was very exciting, but George Sherrill (who apparently had a tired arm) didn't look good in extra innings and took the loss.

June 13th: O's - 9, Pirates - 6

The Good: 10 hits and 9 walks (to 4 K's - every starter except Bynum had at least one of the two) leading to the 9 runs (six different players had an RBI); Luke Scott making that Tejada deal look good with another home run; Jim Johnson and George Sherrill pitching three perfect innings to close it out; after trailing 6-1, the team pulling out another come-from-behind victory. Also, a special mention of Jeremy Guthrie pinch-running for Kevin Millar in the eighth - he didn't do much after that, but it was pretty awesome that volunteered to help the team that way.

The Bad: Brian Burres getting rocked again (6 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 4 K). That's pretty much it - the Orioles where great otherwise.

June 14th: O's - 8, Pirates - 7

The Good: The offense, with Brian Roberts (3-5, 2 RBI, 1 run, SB) and Adam Jones (3-4 with a double and two runs scored) leading the way; more home run power, with Nick Markakis hitting a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh and Oscar Salazar tying the game at 7-7 leading off the bottom of the ninth; Liz pitching OK, giving up 4 runs but striking out 5 while only walking 1 in 6.1 IP (if had left the game after 6, his line would have been 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K); yet another come-from-behind victory.

The Bad: Melvin Mora left the game after fouling a ball off his knee in the first; Matt Albers hanging a curveball to Jose Bautista; George Sherrill blowing the save, giving up a two-run homer to Adam LaRoche before his teammates got him off the hook (and got him the win).

June 15th: O's - 4, Pirates - 5

The Good: The home runs keep coming, with Quiroz, Huff, and Roberts all going yard; Jim Johnson continued dominating in the pen (2 IP, no walks or hits, 1 K), lowering his ERA to 1.17; clawing back from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game in exciting fashion in the bottom of the ninth.

The Bad: Daniel Cabrera's wildness continued (6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 2 hit batters) - that he kept the damage to 4 and got through 6 innings was somewhat impressive; Adam Jones (0-4, 3 K); George Sherrill being ineffective for the second day in a row; it was Sunday - the team has lost 10 straight Sunday games, which is about as amazing as Atlanta's 0-14 record in one-run games on the road.

When Radhames Liz is the control specialist of a series, you know things aren't that good on the starting pitching front. The team is back to .500 again at 34-34. It's pretty much where they have been hanging around all year. I don't know if this is correct, but off the top of my head I'd say that they've been within 3 games of .500 for almost the entire season. If they keep this type of consistency, then maybe there won't be a late-summer swoon this year. Whether or not that's a good thing is another question. (If the team wins, say, 78 games, then that is a plus from the common fan's perspective. On the other hand, losing a few more games will net the O's better draft picks and may encourage Andy MacPhail to trade off veterans sooner (and thus for greater return). Some people really are of the mind that if your team can't contend, it's best that they lose a ton of games. I personally would be happy to see the team finish at .500, if only because it would be good from a credibility stand-point. That's contingent on MacPhail not holding on to trade-able pieces to make it happen, though.) Read more ...

Friday, June 13, 2008

I Think It Was A Mammoth HR - 400... No, 500 Ft

I know I said I was done for the weekend, but I was taking a break from packing and saw that in the 38th round of the draft, Arizona selected Jesse Orosco Jr. I played against Orosco one summer in the Elrod Hendricks baseball camp, and I believe I got a hit off of him (from now on I will stick to the story that I did, which I'm ~72% sure is true). I remember thinking that he was OK, but not as impressive as I imagined the son of a major leaguer being. I hope he does well in the minors and gets to the big leagues at some point. Read more ...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Was The Starting Pitching Actually Ugly?

I haven't written a post in a couple of days; I also haven't seen any of the last three O's games. I know the results, but not what went down, so I'm gonna recap now and then take another break for the weekend as I move out of my place (that I'm renting) and back home until I can find something for myself. Next week I will begin blogging from my mother's house - no word yet on whether or not it will be from the basemen.

June 10th: O's - 10, Red Sox - 6

The Good: Nick Markakis (3-5); Aubrey Huff (4-5, 2 RBI); Brian Roberts and Freddie Bynum each hitting clutch two-out 2 RBI doubles in the four-run O's second; really the whole O's offense putting up 10 runs on 15 hits against Josh Beckett and co.; 4 very good scoreless innings from the pen.

The Bad: Daniel Cabrera (5 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 3 K, 2 HR) continuing his recent bad stretch. Hopefully some extra work with Kranitz will turn him back around.

June 11th: O's - 3, Red Sox - 6

The Good: Luke Scott homered; the offense made a semi-comeback in the ninth; Dennis Sarfate (1 IP, no runners, 2 K, 12 of 15 pitches for strikes).

The Bad: Garrett Olson (5.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 0 K, 2 HR). That looks familiar - too bad the offense was shut down by Bartolo Colon again.

June 12th: O's - 2, Red Sox - 9

The Good: Uhhh...

The Bad: Jeremy Guthrie (4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 BB, 1 K, 1 HR) has the third straight very poor outing by a starting pitcher; Dennis Sarfate giving up a two-run homer to Youkilis; Jamie Walker giving up a two-run homer to JD Drew (lefties are hitting .388 with 4 HR against Walker this year; no one wants to trade for a LOOGY that can't, you know, LOO); both Kevin Millar (in the first) and Oscar Salazar (in the eighth) having to leave the game due to injury.

Wow did this series go down hill fast. Hopefully a weekend set with the Pirates can turn that around. Still, it was a winning roadtrip (5-4) and the O's are just one game below .500 (32-33). Every time they drop below that line I wonder if it will be the last the Birds will see of it; and every time (so far) they have fought their way back to at least get even. There's no quit in this team. Read more ...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

So Long, Steve - Thanks?

Steve Trachsel has finally been designated for assignment by the O's. Assuming that no one picks him up, Trachsel's solid career is over. It may not have looked solid recently, but the guy pitched in the big leagues for 16 years. He had a string of five straight 200 inning seasons and was even an All-Star once (1996). He may not have been fantastic, but his 99 ERA+ shows him to be about a league average starter. While I admit that I always hated seeing him on the mound for the Birds, he did net them three OK prospects last year and seems like a pretty good guy. He just never developed the control that you need when you get older and your stuff goes away. I wish Steve all the best in whatever he decides to do now.

In related news, the team brought up Oscar Salazar from AAA to provide a righty bat off the bench. They guy is hitting well this year (311 / 355 / 486) but is already 30 and somewhat defensively challenged. Read more ...

Monday, June 9, 2008

600 For The Kid

Congratulations to Ken Griffey Jr. on becoming the sixth member of the 600 home run club. Griffey's two-run shot off of Mark Hendrickson wasn't done in Cincinnati like he had wanted (the game was in Florida) but I'm sure he's happy to have the pressure let off a bit. I was going to talk about how Junior is a shell of his former self, but instead I just want to acknowledge how great of a career he has had - even if it wasn't quite what it could have been. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer and was one of my favorite players for a long time. I don't know if he'll keep playing after this year, or if he may even retire in the middle of the season, but it has been a pleasure to watch him over the past 20 years (well, less for me).

Griffey swinging the bat is one of my enduring baseball memories. Read more ...

It's Hot Outside And That's A Truth-A-Tute

When I woke up this morning, I turned on the TV as I usually do, to check the weather and traffic reports for the day. Morning – 86 degrees, Day – 94 degrees, Evening – 99 degrees. My first thought was “man, that is really frakking hot.” (That was exactly it. While somewhat sad, I have taken to sometimes using “frak” when talking to myself. Stupid jerk writers.) Then my mind drifted to vague ideas about 99 being a very high speed for a fastball.

That is indeed true, as a guy who can even just touch 99 mph on occasion has a very special arm. But much like the heat, there is so much more to it than that. Summer weather is actually a very good parallel to a pitcher’s scouting report.

How’s the heat?

First thing to look at is the easily quantifiable: how hard does he throw and what’s the temperature?

A 92 mph fastball is about average, and a temp of 92 degrees (Fahrenheit) is what I would think of as about average for the summertime. If it’s down at 88-90, then that pitch still has some giddy-up (and it’s still pretty warm out); if it’s 85-87 then that’s not that great (mildly warm); and if it’s all the way down at 82-84 then it’s batting practice (easy to handle). In the other direction, 94-96 is a guy that can really bring it (officially hot out) and 97-100+ is some serious heat (yup). (The fastball speeds are more "player X throws up to Y" as opposed to average speed. Dustin McGowan leads the majors in average FB velocity at 95.0 mph this year.)

Fastball movement is also important. We’ll go with clouds / shade for this one. A lot of movement is like a lot of direct sunlight – it makes the temperature feel so much worse. A day with high temperature readings is a lot easier to deal with if you’re in the shade. Being out on the blacktop in the sun on a 97 degree day is like trying to hit a fastball that’s dropping a foot – very unpleasant. This is more about situation than the actual weather report but… eh.

It’s not just about velocity (temperature) and movement (shade), it’s also about command (wind). A guy that can really command his stuff (there’s no wind at all – let’s say you would have no trouble controlling a deck of cards if playing out by the beach) will make things a lot harder for the opposition. On the other hand, if the pitcher can’t find the zone (you can’t keep the cards from flying away) then he (the heat) won’t be able to hold you down. This can be taken too far however, as a guy that is really all over the place can make things uncomfortable for you, even if he isn’t succeeding himself. A really windy day can keep things from getting too hot, but you may not want to stay out there anyway. Hey, that wasn’t so bad.

Then there is one more thing to consider: the off-speed stuff / humidity. This (like high school) is what “separates the least from the beast”.

[So, in my first couple years of college, one of my roommates had a habit of saying things that were… well, I don’t really know how to describe them. In any case, we would keep track of them. Now these things fell into several categories, from dumb to silly to confusing. Luckily, Ian really isn’t any of those things (well, occasionally confusing). I’d say he is generally a pretty smart, upstanding individual who just didn’t get nearly enough sleep for a year and a half - he's also a great graphic designer with a nice website of his own. He has given me permission to post some of these things here. I read through them about once every six months and laugh so hard I cry. Here you go:
"High school separates the least from the beast."

"I'm from idiot Congo, where monkeys walk upside-down."

"And the glass shatters in our glass heart... together."

"I keep on building a hole."

"We have an exuberant amount of food."

"I was ridin' along in neutral, and you guys want to go into four-wheel drive, and honk the horn, and spit on people in other cars. It's like a biscuit with a touch of honey."

"That's a sad willy of a wonka."

"Should and could are adjectives of the same barn."

"I'm surprised by my own lack of discompetence."

"In doth cherry childrens crile."

"I don't want to put myself up on a ladder."

"I woke up on my own virgilante."

"First there was the big bang, and then the bald-headed guy on the ship was like, "I know physics." And then some guy got hit on the head with an apple, and was like, "There's gravity." And then Hume said "I hearth pigs... art thou?" And that's philosophy."

"Sean, is that a truth-a-tute?"

"Bob, you're a gregarious error."

"Machine man... he plays keyboard Rubik's cubes in his pants."
Alright, back to the dumb, silly, and confusing things that I say and put online myself.]

I think this is what makes the analogy work OK. A guy with a really great change-up can get by with a mediocre fastball – he makes 91 look like 96. Likewise, humidity can turn a mild temperature into a horrible day to be outside. Some young kid throwing a straight 98 mph fastball that is the only pitch he has, isn’t going to be that hard to handle for quality hitters with experience, though the really young (who haven’t seen many guys who can throw 98) and the old (who can’t catch-up to it anymore) may have some trouble.

I think it would be “cool” (no pun intended there, I just put it in quotes because I think it highly likely that I am the only one who would actually think it’s cool) if summer days were referenced by a pitcher that represents the weather.

So Daniel Cabrera would be a 96 degree day with (finally just) a mild breeze but not a lot of humidity. That doesn’t sound too bad, but the sun is beating down on you. Now it may not be so easy to handle.

Brian Burres: 88 degrees, nice tree to lounge under, mild breeze, not much humidity. No wonder he’s been getting rocked lately. He really needs to cut down on that wind to give him a chance to make hitters even a little uncomfortable.

Jeremy Guthrie: 95 degrees, some cloud-cover, not much wind, OK humidity. Guthrie’s results make you think the batters aren’t getting enough water, but he hasn’t been all that great.

Steve Trachsel: 85 degrees, some cloud-cover, nice breeze, not much humidity. Not something you sweat over.

Brandon Webb: 89 degrees, no shade within miles and miles, very slight breeze, mildly humid. Most of it isn’t that bad, but there is just nowhere to hide from the sun – that’s what gets you.

Greg Maddux: 85 degrees, no clouds, no breeze (negative breeze?), quite humid. I guess it would be like if it was nice and breezy all week without any humidity, and then this guy showed up the day you were supposed to have a picnic. It just knew that it would be your day out, and decided to ruin it while not even giving you a warning – you checked the weather report earlier in the week and thought “Hey, 85. That should be nice.”

Jamie Moyer: 80 degrees, a cloud here and there, very little wind, tons of humidity. You’re miserable, but you don’t know why.

Randy Johnson (in his prime): 98 degrees, no clouds, small breeze, very humid. I wouldn’t go out there left-handed either. Jeff Reboulet is strutting around like “why is everyone inside? It’s beautiful out!”

Today it’s 93, partly cloudy, mild breeze, kind of humid, which is 93 mph, some movement, fine control, pretty solid off-speed stuff. Sounds like a slightly above-average starter to me. Gil Meche, maybe?

I’ll try to do this every once in a while, and if anyone has further comps, feel free to leave them in the comments.
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