Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny Being Traded

What a crazy, crazy day of Manny Ramirez rumors.

I'll skip to the big one, which was a three-team deal.

Boston got:

Jason Bay (from Pittsburgh)

Pittsburgh got:

Jeremy Hermida (from Florida)
OK prospects (from Florida and Boston)

Florida got:

Manny Ramirez (from Boston) + cash
lesser prospects (from Boston and/or Pittsburgh)

This seemed like a pretty bad deal for the Marlins, so I'm glad it didn't go down.

That didn't mean that the Pirates and the Red Sox gave up though. They worked right up until the deadline to get something done. It was still a three-team deal, but the third team changed.

Boston got:

(from PIT) Jason Bay, 29 year-old LF, hitting .282/.375/.519 this year. He has a team option at $7.5 MM for 2009.

Pittsburgh got:

(from BOS) Craig Hansen, 24 year-old RHRP, 5.58 ERA in 30 IP this year, with 25 K's, 23 BB's, and a 1.70 WHIP. He's making $0.7 MM through the end of this year. He doesn't have a full year of ML experience, so I don't know what happens to him.

Brandon Moss, 24 year-old OF, hitting .295/.337/.462 this year in limited time. He's in his first ML season.

(from LAD) Andy LaRoche , 24 year-old 3B, hitting .293/.452/.439 in Triple-A this year. He's still a rookie.

Bryan Morris, 21 year-old RHP, 3.20 ERA in 81.2 IP in A-Ball, with 72 K's, 31 BB's, and a 1.29 WHIP.

Los Angeles got:

(from BOS) Manny Ramirez, 36 year-old LF, hitting .299/.398/.529 this year. He's making $20 MM this year and has club options at $20 MM for the next two years.

The Red Sox came out pretty well, as they not only showed that no one player is more important than the team, but they picked up a player in Bay who (when including defense) is worth about as much as Manny to the team. Plus, they have control of him at a very cheap rate for 2009. Neither Hansen nor Moss is worth that much to a team like Boston, as they are just back-ups and filler.

The Dodgers finally set LaRoche free, uniting him with his big brother (Adam) in the Steel City. LA already had a pretty large set of outfielders, so Joe Torre will have to pick and choose from Manny, Matt Kemp, Andre Eithier, Andruw Jones, and Juan Pierre (sorry Matt and Andre, you're not "veterans"). I don't know if this will be enough to catch Arizona, but it does improve the team (probably) by around a win. On the plus side, Boston is picking up the rest of Manny's contract for 2008, and he has agreed to decline arbitration (so LA will get two draft-picks) and the team options were removed. Not great, but not bad.

Pittsburgh didn't get three top prospects, but six years of Andy LaRoche is probably going to be more valuable than 1 1/3 years of Bay. Hansen and (particularly) Morris are live arms, and Moss should be a serviceable (and cheap) outfielder. Also, it was interesting that it seemed for a time that a deal had been done to send Bay to Tampa in return for a couple of prospects. Nice job by Neal Huntington to play the two AL East contenders off of each other. Looks like things are turning around for the Pirates. Read more ...

Seattle Did Something Right

The Mariners finally started their rebuilding (reloading?), while the Marlins, unable to get an impact player (MannyBeingManny, for example), just picked up that lefty reliever they've been after.

Florida got:

Arthur Rhodes, 38 year-old LHRP, 2.86 ERA in 22 IP this year, with 26 K's, 13 BB's and a 1.36 WHIP.

Seattle got:

Gaby Hernandez, 22 year-old RHP, 7.24 ERA in 64.2 IP in Triple-A this year, with 54 K's, 26 BB's, and a 1.86 WHIP before being demoted to Double-A (4.30 ERA, 1.09 WHIP there).

Rhodes has been very effective as a LOOGY, holding lefties to a .195/.327/.244 line this year. Hernandez was hurt part of the year and has struggled, but he's still young and has three quality pitches. The deal is fine for Florida, but I especially like it for Seattle. They have no use for Rhodes, and turned him into a a cheap and potentially effective starter. Good job Mariners? (I'm sorry, but it's hard to say that definitively this season.) Read more ...

"Huh?", Part II

I have no idea what Ed Wade is thinking. Does he actually believe that the Astros (13.5 back in the NL Central, 9.5 back in the Wild Card) have a chance at the play-offs this year?

In another perplexing move, Houston traded second-base prospect Matt Cusick to the Yankees for LaTroy Hawkins. Now Cusick is no great shakes (he’s hitting .285/.356/.462 in A-Ball, but is already 22 years old), but Hawkins isn’t good either (5.71 ERA) and he’s a free agent at the end of the year, and likely won’t net any draft-picks. Even with the Yankees picking up a good bit of the money he’s owed for the rest of the year, it still doesn’t make sense. Ed, for the sake of the fans in Houston, please stop trading cost-controlled years of even mediocre players for crappy veterans who are going to leave at the end of the year. There will be no late season surge – you aren’t making the play-offs. The longer it takes you to accept that, the longer it’s going to take for the franchise to dig itself out of this hole. Read more ...

Another Solid Move For The Highlanders

With Jorge Posada out for the rest of the season, the Yankees needed an upgrade at catcher over Jose Molina. Luckily for them, the Tigers are having bullpen issues this year.

New York got:

Ivan Rodriguez, 36 year-old C, hitting .295/.338/.417 this year. He’s making $13 MM and will be a free agent.

Detroit got:

Kyle Farnsworth, 32 year-old RHRP, 3.65 ERA in 44.3 IP this year, with 43 K’s, 17 BB’s, and 1.35 WHIP. He’s making $5.5 MM and will also be a free agent.

The Tigers solidify their pen a bit and can plug Brandon Inge in behind the plate without a major loss in production, and the Yankees will need to find some relief help somewhere but are in a better position with Pudge at catcher. Though the Yankees are picking up more salary, they’ll get two draft-picks once Rodriguez leaves at the end of the season (he’ll be a type A free agent) while Detroit may only get one (if the Farnz is only a type B). Of course, the Yankees have to offer Pudge arbitration to get those picks, and he might just accept it (which wouldn’t be that horrible for one year, since they could just move Posada to first-base). The Yankees got the better of this deal, as they likely pick up a win at very little cost and get the extra pick. The Tigers may have been able to get more from Florida, but it isn’t horrible for them. I doubt Farnsworth has an ERA below 4 for the rest of the year, though. Read more ...

Junior Joins The Race

The trade deadline has come and gone, and I'm just happy that there's no O's game today so I could keep track of everything. Let's get started.

The Reds finally dealt their defensively-challenged power-hitting outfielder, but it’s not the one that was expected.

The White Sox got:

Ken Griffey Jr., 38 year-old OF, hitting .245/.355/.432. He’s making $12.5 MM this year with a club option for 2009 at $16.5 MM ($4 MM buyout).

The Reds got:

Danny Richar, 25 year-old 2B, hitting .262/.321/.427 in Triple-A this year.

Nick Massett, 26 year-old RHP, 4.63 ERA in 44.7 IP (mostly relief) with 32 K’s, 21 BB’s, and a 1.70 WHIP. He’s in his second ML season.

The Pale Hose are apparently going to try Griffey in center (the outfield corners are currently occupied by Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin). Junior hasn’t played there regularly in a while, and isn’t exactly a Gold Glover in right-field this year. He’s only about a 1 WAR player with the bat, so I don’t see this as a significant upgrade for Chicago. The Reds picked up a couple of cheap players and rid themselves of at least some of Griffey’s contract. Richar, in particular, has some pretty good pop for a second-baseman, though the Reds already have Brandon Phillips entrenched there. At least it gives Griffey another chance to get a World Series. Read more ...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tex On The Move Mid-Season Again

Another big-time deal going down, with Atlanta finally deciding to become sellers and the Angels upgrading for the play-offs.

The Angels got:

Mark Teixeira, 28 year-old 1B, hitting .283/.390/.512 this year. He's making $12.5 MM in his last year before free-agency.

The Braves got:

Casey Kotchman, 25 year-old 1B, hitting .287/.327/.448 this year. He's making $1.45 MM and is under team control through 2011.

Stephen Marek, 24 year-old RHRP, 3.66 ERA in 46.2 IP in AA this year with 57 K's, 21 BB's, and a 1.29 WHIP. No major league experience.

The updated Marcel projections for Teixeira has him at .289/.382/.524, while Kotchman is at .281/.343/.444. Lets take their value one at a time.

Teixeira is projected to have a .385 wOBA, making his bat worth about 2.2 WAR. He's a first-baseman (-1) in the NL (+2), but a good defensive one (+1). Add it all up and adjust for playing time, and he's worth about 3.8 WAR a year, which costs around $17 MM. That means the Angels will get about $1.5 MM in excess value ($17 - $12.5 times the portion of the season that's left).

If the Angels don't sign him after the season (and they very well may now that they'll have a spot open at first) then they'll also receive draft-pick compensation. Those picks would be worth (based on research done by others on average draftee value) about $16.6 MM in excess value. LA was already almost assured of a play-off spot, so Teixeira doesn't get any credit for improving their chances.

Casey Kotchman is projected to have a .342 wOBA, making his bat worth about 0.3 WAR. He's a first-baseman (-1) in the AL (+2.5), but also a good defensive one (+1). He's not that healthiest guy around, so he gets docked a little playing-time. Add it all up and he's worth about 2.3 WAR a year. Assuming some improvement as he approaches the normal peak years for a player, about 10% salary increases from the $4.4 MM per WAR teams pay this year, and arbitration rates of 40%, 60%, and 80% of what a player's worth, the Braves should get in the neighborhood of $20 MM in excess value from Kotchman.

The Braves also received an OK bullpen prospect in Marek, who I will consider a bonus for Atlanta. He has good stuff, but is old for his level and I don't want to project how much he may be worth (I'd say about $5 MM for the years that Atlanta controls him, but that's just an educated guess).

That means that, assuming LA lets Tex walk at the end of the year, the deal is pretty close to even. The Angels get $18.1 MM in value (and probably improve their chances a little once they actually get to the play-offs) and the Braves get $20 MM in value from Kotchman and whatever Marek ends up contributing. In any case, I think the Braves did pretty well, replacing Tex with a younger and cheaper (though not as productive) first-baseman. If the Angels win the World Series as Tex hits 10 homers in the play-offs, then I don't think they'll have any regrets.

The other thing to consider is what happens to the O's chances of signing Teixeira in the off-season. The Angels will now be major players for him, and they've shown in the past that they are willing to open up the check book. That he probably isn't going to be worth very close to what he's likely to get is an issue for me, as I'd like to see him in the middle of the O's line-up. The chances of the bidding being below $20 MM a year are remote, and so I recommend Andy MacPhail steer clear. Read more ...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Take That, Sunday

Congratulations to the O's on finally ending their Sunday skid with a 5-2 win over the Angels. I haven't written much about Orioles games recently for a few reasons: (1) the games have mostly been on MASN instead of MASN2 like they were earlier in the year, so I don't see very many of them live, (2) I haven't felt like writing quite as much anyway, and it's not much fun writing about losses, and (3) a 162 game season is a grind - there are only so many times I can write that Brian Roberts doubled, or Nick Markakis took a close pitch for a ball, or Daniel Cabrera walked a guy, or Ramon failed to effectively block a pitch or threw a ball into center on a steal. Anyway, to the game:

On the face of it, this didn't seem like a game the O's should have won. The Angels have the best record in baseball while the Orioles have been struggling mightily lately. Brandon Fahey, Juan Castro, Jay Payton, and Guillermo Quiroz were all in the starting line-up, and the pitching match-up was Ervin Santana (11-4, 3.37 ERA) vs. Garrett Olson (6-5, 6.11 ERA). Well, that's why they play the games, as they say.

Things got off to a great start, as Olson retired the Angels in order and the O's bats got to work in the first. Markakis doubled in Adam Jones for a quick 1-0 lead, and then Santana hit Luke Scott with the bases loaded to force Nick in. Payton and Quiroz were retired to leave the three stranded, though.

Olson rolled through three giving up just two hits and getting a double play. In the meantime, the O's extended the lead to 4-0 as they loaded the bases again and this time Q came through with a 2 RBI single.

In the fourth, Olson ran into a little bit of trouble giving up three singles and a walk. The Angels only scored one however (on a groundout).

Quiroz picked up another RBI in the sixth, singling in Payton after his lead-off triple.

After a pair of singles to start the seventh, Olson has removed in favor of Chad Bradford, who allowed on of the runners to score. That ended Garrett's line at 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K. That's the best start he's had in almost a month.

JJ pitched a scoreless eighth (1 BB, 1 K) and George Sherrill pitched a perfect ninth for his 30th save of the year.

The Birds are now 49-55, and firmly in last place in the AL East. The team travels to New York to face the red-hot Yankees for three.
Read more ...

Top 5 System By Year's End?

The O's recent struggles just serve to remind us that this is a rebuilding year. With that in mind, lets take another look around the farm.


Mike Costanzo: 24 year-old 3B, 262 / 333 / 402, 10 HR, 124:38 K to walk ratio
Norfolk isn't the easiest park to hit in, but he's not showing much power on the road either. If he had been able to handle catching then his line would be OK. As it is, those strike-outs would be a lot easier to handle if it came with some power.

Scott Moore: 24 year-old 3B, 248 / 317 / 409, 7 HR, 66:22 K to BB
He actually is hitting better on the road (255 / 324 / 459), but it's still not great. Still has a chance to turn into a solid utility guy.

Hayden Penn: 23 year-old RHP, 5.17 ERA, 5.07 FIP, 10.1 H per 9 IP, 5.9 K/9 3.4 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9
His walks are up and his K's are down. Penn is still young, but he's running out of time to earn a place in the O's rotation.


Matt Wieters: 22 year-old catcher, 333 / 423 / 567, 5 HR, 15:14 K to BB since his promotion from A-Ball where he hit 345 / 446 / 576.
Right now, Wieters could probably outhit Quiroz and catch better than Ramon, and maybe vice versa. He's one of the top 5 prospects in all of baseball.

Nolan Reimold: 24 year-old OF, 292 / 363 / 504, 18 HR, 55:44 K to BB
He's hitting for average and power, and showing a good eye at the plate. May end up as a top 100 prospect by the end of the year, and should get at shot at LF in Baltimore before long.

David Hernandez: 23 year-old RHP, 2.63 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 6.9 H/9, 10.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9
He's having another very good year, and may end up on some prospect lists soon. His low HR rate won't likely continue with as many flyballs as he allows, but #3 starter upside is there.

Bradley Bergesen: 22 year-old RHP, 2.91 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 8.6 H/9, 4.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9
A groundball pitcher with very good control, Bergesen will need to up that strike-out rate at least a little to be more than a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Chris Tillman: 20 year-old RHP, 3.44 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 7.8 H/9, 9.2 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9
Still walking a few too many, but he's very young for his level. Top 20, maybe even top 10, prospect.

Jason Berken: 24 year-old RHP, 3.51 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 9.1 H/9, 7.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9
He's old for his level, put pitching quite well. Another interesting back-of-the-rotation arm.

Chorye Spoone: 22 year-old RHP, 4.57 ERA, 4.97 FIP, 8.7 H/9, 7.0 K/9, 5.9 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9
He's still getting the groundball, but everything else has regressed. He's been injured though, so hopefully things will get better in the second half. Those walks definitely have to go down, but I'm still confident about his long-term prospects.


Brandon Snyder: 21 year-old 1B, 294 / 332 / 468, 9 HR, 60:18 K to BB
He's hitting pretty well again for the first time in 3 years, but the walks are still low. Maybe not an impact prospect anymore, but he still has time.

Billy Rowell: 19 year-old 3B, 239 / 313 / 356, 4 HR, 70:28 K to BB
Every time he gets promoted a level, he gets worse. He's still very young, but that will only work for so long before some actual production is required.

Jake Arrieta: 22 year-old RHP, 2.87 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 6.3 H/9, 9.6 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9
He's moving up some prospect lists pretty quickly, though it would be nice to see fewer free-passes. I'm excited to see how he does against stiffer competition in the Olympics.

Pedro Beato: 21 year-old RHP, 4.48 ERA, 4.56 FIP, 10.0 H/9, 4.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9
More groundballs and fewer walks is good, but his K rate is plummeting.

Brandon Erbe: 20 year-old RHP, 4.55 ERA, 4.46 FIP, 8.5 H/9, 10.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.5 HR/9
He's giving up a lot of home runs, but everything else looks pretty good. He's almost cut his walk rate in half, and is back on the prospect radar.

Tyler Kolodny: 20 year-old 3B, 270 / 391 / 426, 3 HR, 32:16 K to walk
It's not a big sample, but it's hard to dislike that OBP. Maybe not a star in the making, but someone to keep an eye on.

Ryan Adams: 21 year-old 2B, 294 / 351 / 428, 7 HR, 72:25 K to BB
Not a base-stealer (4 for 9) but he's producing pretty well. I'd like to see him against some more advanced competition.

Zach Britton: 20 year-old LHP, 2.82 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 7.3 H/9, 6.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9
Has improved both his strike-out and walk rates, and is still getting a ton of groundballs.

Luis Noel: 20 year-old RHP, 3.72 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 7.8 H/9, 7.9 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9
I know next to nothing about him, but those numbers aren't bad.

Tony Butler: 20 year-old LHP, 4.42 ERA, 4.15 FIP, 9.7 H/9, 7.2 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9
So much for control problems. I'm excited to see what he can do at a higher level, despite the so-so ERA.

The system pretty much shakes out as Reimold, Wieters, and a bunch of pitchers. It has come a long way in the last couple of years though, and should look even better once the draft picks get some significant playing time. Read more ...

Getting Close To The Deadline

Three more trades going down this weekend, with two contenders picking up some pieces for a play-off push, and another team re-tooling for future contention.

First, the Pirates finally put a stop to the constant rumors, sending both of their best trade chips to New York.

The Yankees got:

Xavier Nady, 29 year-old OF, hitting 330 / 383 / 535 this year and 281 / 337 / 456 career. He's making $3.35 MM this year and has one more year until free agency.

Damaso Marte, 33 year-old LHRP, 3.45 ERA with 47 K's and 16 walks in 46.7 IP, and a 1.15 WHIP. He's making $4.7 MM this year and has a team option for 2009 at $6 MM.

The Pirates got:

Ross Ohlendorf, 25 year-old RHP, 6.53 ERA in 40 IP out of the pen this year, with 36 K's, 17 BB's, and a 1.73 WHIP. He's in his first ML season.

Jeff Karstens, 24 year-old RHP, combined 5.56 ERA in 57.3 IP split between starting and relieving in 2007 and 2008, with 21 K's, 20 BB's, and a 1.52 WHIP. He has just one year of service time.

Dan McCutchen, 25 year-old RHP, 3.58 ERA in 70.1 IP in AAA this year, with 58 K's, 11 BB's, and a 1.19 WHIP. He has no ML experience.

Jose Tabata, 19 year-old OF, hitting 248 / 320 / 310 in AA this year. He has no ML experience.

I have to say that this is a good deal for the Yankees. Nady is clearly playing above his head this year, but he is still a quality outfielder. His updated Marcel projection has him at 281 / 329 / 450, and I have him worth about 1 WAR a year. Marte is a very good LOOGY (.585 OPS against career) and isn't half bad against righties (.717 OPS). Both guys will be helpful to New York (about one wins worth combined) as they continue their run (14-6 in July) towards Boston and Tampa Bay. They also should net some draft picks for Marte.

I don't really like the trade from the Pirates perspective, as the three pitchers are more #4/5 starters or middle-relievers. McCutchen might be interesting, but he's already 25. How this deal will be looked at will depend almost entirely on how Tabata turns out. The kid is talented and young for his level, and has shown the ability to hit for average and some plate discipline. The power is still lacking and he is said to have some attitude problem. There's a lot of risk there, but also a lot of upside.

The Rauch deal really may have depressed the reliever market, since I thought Marte and Nady were both quality trade chips - the return for both wasn't that close to what I thought they would bring back combined if dealt individually. The Pirates probably will end up getting value out of the deal, but I assumed they would get a little more back.

Second, the Dodgers - a game out of first and a half-game below .500 - picked up a versatile and underrated player from the very busy Cleveland Indians.

Los Angeles got:

Casey Blake, 34 year-old 3B/1B/OF, hitting 293 / 368 / 470 this year. He's a pending free agent making $6.1 MM (which the Indians are covering).

Cleveland got:

Jonathan Meloan, 23 year-old RHP, converted to starting this year and has a 4.97 ERA in 105 IP in Triple-A with 99 K's, 60 BB's, and a 1.70 WHIP.

Carlos Santana, 22 year-old C, hitting 323 / 431 / 563 in high A-Ball this year.

LA picked up a pretty good player (about 2.25 WAR a year, so the Dodgers get about a win) in Blake. He is probably only a little better than Andy LaRoche right now, but is less risky (especially for the salary cost; 0). I think they should have just gone with LaRoche's upside, but LA has been blocking their youngsters for years. They got some value, but also gave up a couple of quality prospects - a lot more than having Blake for the rest of the year is worth, even with the one or two prospects he might net (if LA offres him arbitration).

Cleveland continued to retool, and decided that throwing in $3 MM was worth getting back better players. Meloan could probably be an effective reliever right now - he has very good stuff. He's still young too, so if he can successfully make the transition to the rotation, then it's a bonus. Santana is old for his level, but he's hitting very well and is solid behind the plate. Both players should have at least some impact in the majors, though neither are likely to be stars. Very good deal for the Indians.

The third trade involved a contender not actually improving itself.

St. Louis got:

Luis Perdomo, 24 year-old RHRP, 3.52 ERA in 15.1 IP in AA this year, with 17 K's, 7 BB's, and a 1.24 WHIP.

Cleveland got:

Anthony Reyes, 26 year-old RHP, 3.25 ERA in 52.2 IP at Triple-A this year, with 47 K's, 21 BB's, and a 1.37 WHIP. He's in his second ML season.

The Cardinals never committed to giving Reyes a long-term chance to start for them, and didn't get a great return for him. Perdomo is projected as an OK middle reliever, but he's pretty old for his level.

Reyes still has some up-side, and it's likely that he'll be in the Cleveland rotation next year. I don't think he'll set the world on fire, but he's still cheap and could turn into a 1-2 WAR player. His mechanics leave a little to be desired, but it was another good trade for Mark Shapiro. The Indians haven't drafted well in recent years, but Shapiro has done a good job of restocking the system with the team far out of contention this year.

I think there will be a few more deals going down in the next few days - if I was the Twins GM I'd seriously look into trading for Adrian Beltre. I'm also interested in seeing if the O's make any deals (which they should). Fun times. Read more ...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hahaha... Oh, That's Actually His Name

I just want to say that no matter how well he pitches (9-3, 1.79 ERA, 2.06 FIP, 9.82 K/9, 1.51 BB/9, 0.28 HR/9 in A-Ball as a 19 year-old), I will never be able to take Madison Bumgarner seriously as a prospect, or later, as a player. I have no idea why this popped into my head as I read about Pirates trading Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees (which I'll cover tomorrow, probably), but it did. At least since he is in the San Fransisco organization, Bumgarner will have to play second fiddle to at least Tim Lincecum. Also of note: regardless of current evidence, I am not actually 9 years old. Read more ...

Sometimes You Go La Di Da Di Da Di Da Da

I feel like listening to a bunch of music today, so here's another year-end list. 2007 broke the streak of ridiculously good odd-numbered years, but there were still a lot of quality releases. With special mentions of LCD Soundsystem (Sound Of Silver), Blitzen Trapper (Wild Mountain Nation), Iron & Wine (The Shepherd's Dog), Bat For Lashes (Fur And Gold), and St. Vincent, who was great in concert (Marry Me), lets go to the top 10.

10. Menomena - Friend And Foe

"Now that Menomena's technique feels less jarring and daring, though, the group has done a decent job of pouring its euphoric weirdness into bruised, beautiful songcraft." - The Onion
Menomena continues to be one of the most unique bands out there, crafting more interesting pop songs with their experimental style. I don't find myself in the mood to listen to it that often, but when I do I also enjoy it tremendously.
Bonus points to them for writing a song about Luis "The Pelican" Hernandez (not really, but it still made me laugh when I realized the connection there). I mean, come on:
"Don't you feel it when I start throwing stones?
I guess some birds never learn;
One day these tides will turn and leave you nothing!"
It even kind of fits for him. Good ol' Pelican; giving me amusement even while in Triple-A.
Notable Tracks: Muscle'n Flo; Wet And Rusting; Air Raid

Muscle'n Flo

9. Okkervil River - The Stage Names

"The Stage Names is much more of a balls-out rock album than most of Okkervil River's oeuvre, and also more orchestral and layered, with arrangements that include everything from non-sissy glockenspiel to metronome percussion. The complexity is the perfect counterpart to Sheff's dense writing." - NOW
The video is a live recording, but I think it conveys the energy they put into their music. I don't think I've been quite patient enough with the album, as some of the songs kind of bore me. Every time I listen to it I like it a little more, so a year from now it might be closer to the top of the list. It kind of hits me how good Okkervil River is, when they put out an OK album and it's still this good. The surprising ending is pleasant and very well done - the transition is natural and it feels like it should be there.
NT: Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe; Unless It Kicks; Plus Ones

Unless It Kicks

8. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha

"Andrew Bird has thrown down his gauntlet brimming with post-structural imagery, swirling entropy, a truly floral arrangement of genre pieces and genre mixing." - Coke Machine Glow
"Imitosis" - my top song of the year - stands up well with the best tracks from The Mysterious Production Of Eggs. Much of the rest of the album is missing a bit of energy to me. It's still very well done - the lyrics, vocals, and violin are all up to Bird standards - but after listening to the first half I just want to start at the beginning again. Or go back to Eggs.
NT: Fiery Crash; Imitosis; Heretics


7. Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala

"Night Falls Over Kortadela is witty, pretty, silly, and wise; and filled with instantly memorable melodies, thrilling moments of surprise in the arrangements, and laugh-out-loud lyrics." - All Music Guide
I couldn't find a good non-live video of "A Postcard To Nina", so I put up one of him playing at the Pitchfork Music Fest from 2006. I was there, at it was awesome. The problem was, I had to wait over a year to get the recorded version of the song. The album is full of strings and horns and sappy (but well crafted) lyrics, and that song just blows the rest out of the water. I know it sounds kind of stupid to laugh-out-loud at a song, but I really do. That it's based on a true story makes it 10 times funnier.
"Nina I can be your boyfriend
So you can stay with your girlfriend
Your father is a sweet old man
But it is hard for him to understand
That you wanna love a woman"
And it just gets better from there.
NT: Sipping On The Sweet Nectar; The Opposite Of Hallelujah; A Postcard To Nina

A Postcard To Nina

6. Pale Young Gentlemen - Pale Young Gentlemen

"Pale Young Gentlemen are damn good, and I'm not certain why more people aren't talking about them. Here's the best band you don't know about." - 5 Acts
Thanks to Mr. Shivers for bringing this back with him on a visit home from school in Madison, Wisconsin. A cross between Koufax and Andrew Bird (both circa 2003 or so), these gentlemen (and ladies) have crafted some catchy tunes. The album is short, and some of the slower songs are a bit weak, but I still can't wait for them to come play a show in Maryland. Best self-released album of 2007.
NT: Fraulein; Me & Nikolai; Clap Your Hands

I couldn't find an even OK video, so here's their myspace.

5. Metric - Grow Up And Blow Away

I first heard this album almost five years ago (it was originally recorded in 1999) but there wasn't an official release of it until 2007. Emily Haines' voice and the electro-pop backing it still hold up. Now, it's not really fair that I rank it this high - the album as released isn't exactly the same as the version I have (there are a couple of differences in track choice and ordering) but I actually like the old one better and so that's the one I'm keeping. Nothing too complicated here; just a fun enjoyable listen.
NT: Grow Up And Blow Away; On The Sly; Soft Rock Star

Soft Rock Star

4. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

"Despite a somewhat stifled mix, and the fact that Butler’s romanticism has been replaced by moments of bitterness, and in some instances petulance, what makes the new CD a worthy successor is what made us fall for this band in the first place: the music’s unflagging passion." - Pop Matters
How do you follow an instant classic like Funeral? By recording the next album in a church, and giving it a Gothic feel. The band does go a little over the top, but there's no denying the quality of the work - even if it fails to compare to their best work. My favorite track from the album, "No Cars Go", was actually written a few years before and released initially on their EP. They added some instrumentation and made an already great song that much better.
NT: Keep The Car Running; Intervention; No Cars Go

No Cars Go

3. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

"Frustrated by the choices we’ve made, limited by our own personalities, we begin tweaking our own identity to regain the illusion of control. Not only have Of Montreal created the perfect allegory for this kind of crisis, they have done so against the backdrop of pop and funk songs so perfect that they ought to become classics." - Tiny Mix Tapes
This isn't your typical sugary pop record, but it's still really catchy, if sometimes a bit odd. As soon as I heard it I knew it would end up being amongst the year's best albums.
NT: Suffer For Fashion; Reject The Frequency; She's A Rejector

Suffer For Fashion

2. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

"There's plenty for everyone to love here, actually, and despite the silly title, Spoon's latest is worth going ga-ga over." - Hartford Courant
It's more of Spoon doing that thing they do so well (with a couple of extra tricks thrown in). The horns on "The Underdog" make it one of the most up-beat songs of the year, and Britt Daniel's delivery and the bass playing make "Rhthm & Soul" one of its catchiest. The album is short, but that's OK - just listen to it twice.
NT: Rhthm & Soul; Eddie's Ragga; The Underdog

Rhthm & Soul

1. The National - Boxer

"To be succinct and frank, Boxer is superb. Not only did The National create a startling, astonishing work of genius but they also crafted an album that is one beautiful piece of art." - Delusions of Adequacy
It was no contest for the #1 spot. Like 2005's very good Alligator, this album is somewhat dark in mood and a bit of a grower. I almost never really notice the drum-work in music - it's there and I hear it, but rarely do I say "hey, that's some good drumming". Well, Bryan Devendorf got me to notice. The lyrics are very good and the extra touches of piano, strings, and horns are excellent. Add Matt Berninger's vocals on top of that, and you get a fantastic album, even if it takes a few listens to get into it.
NT: Green Gloves; Slow Show; Ada


No all-time greats this year, but some very good stuff. There's something for (almost) everyone here.
Read more ...

2003 Was Pretty Damn Good Too

I went through my 25 favorite albums from 2005 a little while ago, so I thought I would do it for another year. I'm only going to go to 15 for 2003 because, well, I didn't feel like writing up an extra ten. I skipped 2004 because it only has a couple of albums that I really liked, and I may do those individually at some point.

15. The Postal Service - Give Up
"Like any worthy match, the coming together gives each aspect assets that they'd be wont to find otherwise, the eletroclashy bursting with depth and the indie-croon thankfully adrenalized. " - Pop Matters
A "classic" electro-pop album. Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard blends his usually strong song-writing and voice with the intricate production of Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello, and they may have made something better than either has produced independently. There has been talk for years of them getting back together, but it hasn't happened yet.
Notable Tracks: The District Sleeps Alone Tonight; Such Great Heights; We Will Become Silhouettes

Such Great Heights

14. The Long Winters - When I Pretend To Fall
"When I Pretend To Fall is a mature and nuanced work, full of well-crafted songs and superior musicianship." - Pop Matters
Catchy and filled with hooks, but the second half falls a little flat.
NT: Scared Straight; Shapes; Cinnamon

Blue Diamonds

13. The Decemberists - 5 Songs [EP]
Colin Meloy and company can do more with 6 songs than a lot of artist can do with whole stacks of albums. The songs are simpler and less imaginative than their later work, but still very enjoyable. "I'm really sorry Steven, but your bicycle's been stolen…" is the first line of "Apology Song" - even if it's not based on a real story, it's still amusing.
NT: Oceanside; Angel, Won't You Call Me; Apology Song

Apology Song

12. Stephen Malkmus - Pig Lib
"What makes these songs really special is their ability to maintain a pop coherency, whilst being genuinely quirky and experimental." - Dot Music
Easily my least favorite Malkmus album but some people swear by it, and it does have some great songs. The Malk is like Albert Pujols - even at 85% he's still hitting 280 / 360 / 520, and not a lot of people can top that. "Animal Midnight", which I could sadly not find a good video of online, has been stuck in my head for a couple of weeks now. The guitar solo about half-way through the song is awesome, and the lyrics are classic Malkmus.
NT: (Do Not Feed The) Oysters; Animal Midnight; Dark Wave

Dark Wave

11. Songs: Ohia - Magnolia Electric Co.
"Magnolia Electric Company is a watershed album, an artistic breakthrough, and the first album to fully realize Molina's potential." - Delusions Of Adequacy
Jason Molina decided to back up his song-writing and singing with some rock music. "Farewell Transmission" is over 7 minutes long, but it still ends too soon every time. It's only 8 songs - and there are a couple I skip once in a while - but overall it's a clear success. I would really have liked to see him live while he was touring for this album.
NT: Farewell Transmission; I've Been Riding With The Ghost; Hold On Magnolia

Farewell Transmission

10. Okkervil River - Down The River Of Golden Dreams
"These sentimental, acoustic tracks do feel like old friends... Songs this poignant and easy to digest will always have relevance. - Pitchfork
Will Sheff writing and singing with conviction, but a little more laid-back musically than Black Sheep Boy.
NT: It Ends With A Fall; Blanket And Crib; The War Criminal Rises And Speaks

It Ends With A Fall

9. Menomena - I Am The Fun Blame Monster
"While the production techniques are so ingenious as to occasionally outshine the melodic content of the songs themselves, these are first and foremost pop songs." - Under The Radar
This album was recorded using computer software that the guys designed themselves. It's really unlike anything else I've ever heard, but the songs are more than good enough to make up for their unconventional nature - even on the first listen.
NT: Cough Coughing; The Late Great Libido; E Is Stable

Cough Coughing

8. My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves
"The faster, moonshined rock epics border on the kind of indulgent radio classics that leave you banging your head in the car, singing out of your range, and drinking with more swagger than your body can actually handle." - Pop Matters
The first half of this album is what I associate with MMJ - melodious southern rock with big guitars and and an even bigger voice (Jim James'). The second half drags on a bit too long, but that's easily forgiven.
NT: Mahgeetah; Dancefloors; One Big Holiday


7. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Hearts Of Oak
"Insanely hooky and tortuous." - Pop Matters
If Ted Leo isn't the best guitarist around, then he's got to be in the conversation. He puts as much heart and energy into his music as anyone, and the punk-influenced indie-rock that comes out is something to behold. And just for the hell of it, he goes ahead and adds great lyrics too.
NT: Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?; I'm A Ghost; The High Party

Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?

6. The Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?
"Those without a stomach for a little humor in their music will surely thumb their noses, but for everyone else, this is essential listening: a whip-smart band of originals, living with death, throwing coconuts at the rest of us from greener pastures." - Delusions Of Adequacy
This is pretty weird pop music, but I've maintained that by the time you listen through the whole thing you'll be caught by one of it's many hooks.
NT: Tuff Ghost; Sea Ghost; Jelly Bones

Jelly Bones

5. The Decemberists - Her Majesty, The Decemberists
"Meloy's words stir your insides like good poetry, his imaginative tales climb into your mind, set up camp and stay awhile. But without the enchanting, heart-wrenching and totally affecting power that is the consequence of The Decemberists' music, the words would not have ever found life." - Neumu
More stories in musical form.
NT: Billy Liar; The Soldiering Life; Red Right Ankle

The Soldiering Life

4. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
"Not simply an excellent album, Chutes Too Narrow is also a powerful testament to pop music's capacity for depth, beauty and expressiveness. " - Pitchfork
Yeah, what they said. It doesn't have the singles of Oh, Inverted World, but it is more consistently excellent throughout.
NT: So Says I; Young Pilgrims; Saint Simon

Saint Simon

3. The New Pornographers - Electric Version
"Tremendous craft, winning enthusiasm." - Village Voice
Just ridiculously good power-pop, with everyone firing on all cylinders. Dan Bejar's lyrics and Neko Case's voice backed by Carl Newman's hooks are dangerous.
NT: The Laws Have Changed; Testament To You In Verse; Ballad Of A Comeback Kid

The Laws Have Changed

2. The Wrens - Meadowlands
"A fascinating, brokenhearted mess of a record." - ShakingThrough
I thought this album was kind of "meh" until I saw then live - they absolutely blew me away. They haven't released an album since this one, but still have a following based largely on their shows. These guys can seriously rock, even though it's sometimes difficult to get the impact of the very good lyrics with the fuzz.
NT: She Sends Kisses; Faster Gun; Everyone Choose Sides

Everyone Choose Sides

1. Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
"The painstaking arrangements, dynamic shifts and tempo changes of Dear Catastrophe Waitress equal or surpass the chamber-pop perfection of the group's earlier work." - Pop Matters
Yes it's twee/pop, but of the very best kind. Their sound is becoming richer, but the strong song-writing is still there and Stuart Murdoch's voice is still soft and pleasant. Plus, this album has my favorite B&S song - "Piazza, New York Catcher". It's pretty much just Murdoch and an acoustic guitar, but the line "Piazza, New York catcher, are you straight or are you gay?" is funny every time, though the song isn't not really all about baseball.
NT: Dear Catastrophe Waitress; Piazza, New York Catcher; I'm A Cuckoo

Piazza, New York Catcher

Many of the same names as 2005, but there's a reason for that - these artists put out very good work. 2003 is the first year I actually started listening to "good" music, though I didn't hear most of these until later. Thanks, Sean, for playing "Big Dipper" while I was in the room.
Read more ...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What A Pleasant Surprise

A couple days ago the Royals were losing to the Tigers 19-4 in the ninth inning... and then something magical happened. KC brought Tony Pena Jr. in to pitch. That's shortstop Tony Pena Jr.

Here we go:

He touched 91 with the fastball, and struck Ivan Rodriguez out looking with a curveball. He had a low arm angle that's though on righties, and threw strikes. 1 IP, no baserunners. Now normally this would just be your typical blowout sideshow, but considering the way Pena "hits" (152 / 174 / 201, which isn't much better than the average NL pitcher at 140 / 181 / 177) a move to the mound - even as a situational righty out of the pen - may be more valuable to the team than putting him in the line-up at short. Heck, he can even do both; pitching sometimes and being a defensive replacement.

Maybe my new favorite tool, WAR, will provide some insight.

As a position player:

I know Pena isn't as bad as he's looked this season (probably) so let's use his updated Marcel forecast. [Marcel is a relatively simplistic projection method that just looks at past stats, weighting the recent ones more heavily.] Using Excel, using Excel, and... done. Pena is projected to hit 240 / 274 / 337 for the rest of the year. His stats translate into a very poor .262 wOBA. That means that if he only plays about 60% of the time (which is about what's happening), he will be worth -2 Wins Above (which is actually below) Replacement with the bat. He gets +0.5 for being a shortstop, and lets say another +1 for being good with the glove. Then there's the +2.5 for playing on the AL. All that adds up to a WAR of about 0.5 (once the other parts are also adjusted for playing time). Tony Pena Jr. is just a little above replacement level as a shortstop.

As a pitcher:

For the switch to be worthwhile, Pena would need to be able to maintain an ERA of about 4.40 if he gets around 50 IP a year in low leverage situations. That would also make him about a 0.2 WAR player. Can he do that? Maybe. Is it worth finding out? I certainly think so. Maybe once he actually, you know, trains to pitch, he'll become a quality (3.50 ERA) reliever. Then the Royals can use him in the 7th and 8th innings to set up Joakim Soria, and he'd be worth over 1 WAR a year. At the very least, it'll give Royals fans something interesting to follow. Read more ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Talented Mr. Jones

Nice post by Dave Cameron (of USSMariner) over at Fan Graphs about Adam Jones:
"When the Mariners caved in to Baltimore's demands and agreed to build a package for Erik Bedard around outfielder Adam Jones, most of the Mariners blogosphere was livid. I personally wrote that I wouldn't swap Jones for Bedard straight up, much less adding in George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Tony Butler, and Kam Mickolio. Our response to the deal was a combination of exasperated frustration and resignation to rooting for an organization who just didn't understand how valuable Jones was.

Not everyone saw it the same way we did, though. The local media was especially supportive of dealing prospects for a proven all-star starter, and were quick to point out that Jones hadn't established himself as a major leaguer yet. When, at the end of May, he was hitting .242/.292/.351 with just two home runs and an 11/46 BB/K rate, they gladly patted themselves on the back and reminded everyone that Jones wasn't as good as we thought, and trading him away was justified, even if Bedard had been a disappointment.

Since June 1st, however, he's been on a mission to justify our faith, hitting .327/.364/.484 and getting promoted to the #2 hole in the O's line-up. Still just 22-years-old, he's raw as can be (5.2% BB%, 23.2% K%, .130 ISO), but is still producing quality results without putting all his physical skills to use.

When Jones adds a bit more selectivity to his approach at the plate and grows into his power, he's certainly got potential as a .290/.340/.470 type of hitter, and combined with his defense in center field, he's a star in the making. Don't let the early struggles fool you - Adam Jones is one of the best young players in baseball."
Adam's line-drive rate was been going up, and is now right around league average, though they have come at the expense of his flyballs. He needs to hit the ball on the ground less to get to the home run numbers some envisioned for him, but his unlucky HR rate (6.2% of flyballs) should go up. He won't continue to be this lucky on balls in play, and so his average is going to go down. Still, I have to echo what Cameron said - "Don't let the early struggles fool you - Adam Jones is one of the best young players in baseball." Read more ...

Wheeling & Dealing

A couple of smaller deals going down yesterday.

First, the Houston Astros, still trying to stay in contention for some reason, traded for some pitching help.

Houston got:

Randy Wolf, 31 year-old LHSP, 6-10 with a 4.74 ERA (82 ERA+, 4.28 FIP) this year, but has an ERA of 3.17 in his home (extreme pitcher's) park, and a 6.63 ERA on the road.

San Diego got:

Chad Reineke, 26 year-old RHP, 5-9 with a 4.41 ERA in 20 games, 19 starts, for AAA with 8.01 strikeouts and 2.80 walks per nine innings and a 1.31 WHIP.

It's not a great haul for the Padres, but I find it amusing that Paul DePodesta got Ed Wade to bite (maybe) with the bit of propaganda that he posted on his blog (It Might Be Dangerous, You Go First):
"Randy Wolf - Randy has a limited no-trade provision in his contract, so there are a number of designated teams to which Randy does not have to accept an assignment. Randy is another guy who is on the collective radar of the buyers at this point and for good reason. After having a shoulder cleanup in the middle of last season, Randy has had a very good year to date. His average fastball velocity is the highest it has been in any of the past six years (which is the timeframe of the data set) and his strikeout rate is as high as it has been since 2001. His ERA currently stands at 4.38, though almost a full run of that is due to two starts in Colorado and Chicago during which he gave up 14 runs in eight innings. His collective line of 109 innings, 109 hits, 42 walks, and 100 k's is one of the better lines you'll find during this deadline, but his line of 101 innings, 95 hits, 33 walks, and 94 k's (3.48 ERA) without those two starts is even more indicative of the pitcher he has been. In fact, his 12 quality starts ranks 7th in the NL behind Haren, Lincecum, Hudson, Santana, Webb, and Volquez."
No way do a Billy Beane or Theo Epstein (or several others) take that seriously, but Wade just might have (even if he didn't read it, I imagine a similar argument may have been presented to him). Fine job by San Diego to turn nothing of much value to them (Randy Wolf, who is a free agent at the end of the year) into a cheap (probably) bullpen arm. And they saved some money to boot.

From the Houston side, this is just dumb. They didn't give up that much (but it was still one of their top prospects - oh, what a bad farm system), but they are 12 games out in the Central (tied for last with the Pirates) - spending any money or resources to improve (by maybe a game or two) this season only makes almost no sense. Wolf likely won't result in extra draft picks after the season, but perhaps there's a small chance it helps the Astros sign him a little more easily. I guess that's worth perhaps $3.5 million and an arm to them.

The second deal made more sense as the first place Diamondbacks upgraded their bullpen in a trade with the Nationals, who correctly are trying to sell.

Arizona got:

Jon Rauch, 29 year-old RHRP, is 4-2 with 17 saves and a 2.98 ERA while averaging 8.19 strikeouts and 1.30 walks per nine innings to go with a 1.01 WHIP.

Washington got:

Emilio Bonifacio, 23 year-old second baseman, is hitting .302/.348/.387 in AAA.

Rauch is a good reliever with two years (well, one and a team option) left on a relatively cheap contract. He immediately becomes the D'Backs best option out of the pen. I don't know if they'll install him as the closer, or leave protecting 3 run leads to Brandon Lyon (and his ERA of over 8 in the last month) and let Rauch and Chad Qualls shut things down in the higher leverage situations. I assume that this means Arizona will make a stronger push to sign Orlando Hudson after this season, but they shouldn't miss Bonifacio much. Good deal for them.

At first blush, I thought this was an OK deal for Washington. Thinking about it (and really looking at Bonaficio's stats), I think they could have gotten more. Bonaficio was one of the D’Backs top prospects, but he's a fairly light-hitting (some average, but no OBP or power) second baseman with a lot of speed and good defense. That's not bad (and considering the Nat's just gave Christian Guzman $16 million over 2 years, they seem to value that skill set) but it doesn't seem worth using the team's best trade chip. Considering the Rockies are asking for an Ian Kennedy type prospect in return for two months of Brian Fuentes (and draft picks), either they have their sights set unrealistically high, the reliever market isn't going to be crazy this summer, or Bowden made a bad call. This likely lessens what the O's could get for Bradford, Walker, or Sherrill though. Read more ...

Gibby's Back

In an act that probably makes Barry Bonds pretty angry, the Milwaukee Brewers have signed Jay Gibbons to a minor league contract.
"The 31-year old Gibbons met with assistant general manager Gord Ash and special assistant Jack Zduriencik at the All-Star Game to interview for a contract. And with some injuries hitting Huntsville's roster, Gibbons was a good enough fit after hitting .280 with five home runs in 27 games for the independent Atlantic League's Long Island Ducks.

Gibbons, a career .260 hitter in seven seasons with Baltimore, was named in the Mitchell Report and admitted to using human growth hormone, and he later wrote letters to 29 teams to apologize for his mistake.

"He was just a guy that we looked at, a left-handed bat," general manager Doug Melvin said. "Gord's familiar with him from Toronto. He's come across as a guy that wants to get back and playing. I don't even know exactly what his issues were, but they weren't anything serious enough to not give a guy a second chance.""
Be bad at baseball, take PEDs, and not be a jerk - you get a contract. Take steroids and be a jerk, but have the potential to actually improve a team by 3 wins or so? You sit at home. The Brewers aren't in need of a guy like Bonds (the positions he plays are taken) but that last part that Melvin said would have irked me if I was in his (Barry's) position. Oh well. That Gibbons might actually get to the postseason this year is kind of upsetting to me, but I don't hate the guy or anything and wish him luck in putting his career back together. Read more ...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Baseball's Perfect Knight

In discussions about the all-time best ballplayers, I think Stan Musial rarely gets the attention he deserves (outside of St. Louis, at least).

The guy was a career 331 / 417 / 559 hitter. He never had an OPS+ of even 100. Not in the 12 games he played in as a 20 year-old (179 OPS+); not in his last season as a 42 year-old (101 OPS+); and not any year in between. He had a career mark of 159 (good for 15th all-time), and cleared 150 eleven times. He won 3 MVP awards and came in second four other times. He was a 20 time All-Star. Musial won 7 batting titles; hit 475 career home runs, but also lead the league in doubles 8 times and triples 5 times; and just for good measure he had over twice as many walks as strike-outs. His nickname says it all; he was Stan “The Man”. (And that was given to him by opposing fans.)

Beyond his exemplary baseball accomplishments, Musial was, by all accounts, one of the classiest players to ever grace a field. This is a great story recounted by Joe Posnanski:
“There was this game, in ‘52, that year the Today Show came to television and the Diary of Anne Frank was published, and the Musial’s Cardinals trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers by two runs in the ninth. The bases were loaded. There were two outs. Musial faced pitcher Ben Wade. The two battled briefly, and then Musial connected — a long home run to right field. Grand slam. Everyone in the stadium stood and cheered wildly — what could be bigger, a grand slam in the ninth to beat the hated Dodgers — and Musial started to run around the bases in his own inimitable way, not too fast, not too slow, all class. And it wasn’t until he rounded first and was closing in on second when everyone seemed to notice at once that the third base umpire was holding up his arms. A ball had rolled on the field just before the pitch. The umpire had called timeout.

Home plate umpire Tom Gorman realized he had no choice. He disallowed the home run. The stadium went black. The fans went mad. St. Louis manager Solly Hemus raced out the dugout, got into Gorman’s face and called him every name he could think of — finally Gorman had no choice and threw him out of the game. Peanuts Lowrey came in like a tag-team wrestler and picked up where Solly left off — Gorman tossed him too. Before it was done, Gorman threw out six Cardinals. He felt like a cowboy in one of those old Westerns clearing out the saloon, throwing out people through plate glass windows.

And then Musial, who in the confusion had not been told anything, walked over to Gorman. He calmly asked, “What happened Tom? It didn’t count, huh?” Gorman nodded sadly and said the third base umpire had called timeout.

“Well, Tom,” Musial said, “there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Stan Musial stepped back in the box while fists shook and boos and threats echoed around him. He promptly tripled off the top of the center field wall to score three runs and give the Cardinals the victory anyway.

“Stan,” Tom Gorman said after the game ended, “is in a class by himself.””
That is so beautiful, I get a little teary-eyed when I read it. Here's another one from a commenter at Baseball-Fever:
"A high school buddy of mine was at Cooperstown with his folks back in the 80's. Musial and some other HOF'er were there for some event, and they come walking in to the restaurant that my buddy and his parents were eating at. The place stops as the legends get seated. My buddy's father about sh1ts down both pant legs with excitement. "That's Stan the Man! Stan the Man!" he could not believe it and was stammering like a little kid. Growing up in the midwest, he knew all about Musial, as he was about 10 when Stan was in his prime. He tells his son (who knows who Musial is as well) to go get an autograph.

So my buddy goes over, and asks Musial. Musial promptly pulls out a chair and tells him to sit down.... asks him where he's from.... does he play ball.... etc. My buddy tells Musial that its' his fathers Birthday, and they are enjoying the HOF. blah blah blah. The father is about in tears, watching with the biggest grin possible on a human beings' face as his own son sits down at Musial's table for about 5 minutes. Stan eventually gets around to signing his ball, and sends my buddy back to his family.

Musial and his group finish their lunch before my buddy and his family do, and instead of leaving, Musial walks over to their table. The father is stammering all over again, and can barely extend his hand to shake Stan The Man's hand, such is his excitement.

Musial pulls out his HARMONICA, and proceeds to play Happy Birthday to You for the father. After the tune, Stan waves and walks out.....

The family finishes their meal, one they will remember for the rest of their lives (I'm proof of that, having heard the story about a dozen times)... and they ask their waitress for their check. The waitress says....

"Sir....... Mr. Musial took care of it. Have a nice day!""
Read more ...

Brew Crew Really Going For It

The Brewers kept their push for the play-offs going by acquiring second-baseman Ray Durham from the Giants for a couple of minor-leaguers.

The Brewers got:

Ray Durham, 37 year-old 2B, was hitting 293 / 385 / 414 this year. The switch-hitter isn’t a great fielder, but then again, neither is the guy he’ll be replacing in the line-up (Rickie Weeks and his 216 / 326 / 365 line).

The Giants got:

Darren Ford, 22 year-old OF, was hitting 230 / 322 / 303 in A-ball this year, with 48 steals in 59 attempts.

Steve Hammond, 26 year-old LHP, 0-4 this year, with a 7.41 ERA and a 1.71 WHIP in Triple-A, after going 7-4 with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in Double-A.

The Brewers don’t give up much of value - Ford is really fast and a good defender, but he’s probably limited to being a 4th outfielder at best, and Hammond may not even be a back-of-the-rotation starter, though long-man isn’t out of the question – and get a definite (current) upgrade at second. The Giants save some money and get rid of a guy they have no use for. It’s really a win-win, but the potential reward for Milwaukee is higher. Read more ...

Cupcakes Sent To Philadelphia

Billy Beane has shipped out another starting pitcher, Joe Blanton, to the Phillies in return for three prospects. That makes 40% of their starting rotation that's been sent packing (and yet the A's can still field a pitching staff - the O's lose a couple of guys to injuries, and they have to sign Victor's Zambrano and Santos).

The A’s got (courtesy of Baseball Prospectus):

Josh Outman, 23 year-old LHP, was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen early this season and went 5-4 with one save and a 3.20 ERA in 33 games, five starts, with a 1.49 WHIP and 8.45 strikeouts and 4.73 walks per nine innings in AA.

Adrian Cardenas, 20 year-old 2B, was hitting .309/.374/.444 in A-ball.

Matt Spencer, 22 year-old OF, was batting .249/.317/.367 in A-ball.

The Phillies got:

Joe Blanton, 27 year-old RHSP, is 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA in 20 starts this season with 1.42 WHIP and 4.39 strikeouts and 2.84 walks per nine innings.

Outman has a shot of becoming a decent mid-rotation starter, or at least a swingman; Cardenas probably won’t set the world on fire, but he does have the ability to hit for average, get on base, and knock out some doubles – that he’s 16-16 in stolen base attempts this year is just a bonus; and Spencer probably won’t amount to all that much, but isn’t awful as a throw-in.

Blanton is a hittable innings-eater that has survived by limiting the long-ball. Considering he doesn’t get that many groundballs, and played in a pitcher’s park, the move to homer-friendly Citizen’s Bank may well do more harm than good (even considering the switch to the NL). Philadelphia will have control of Blanton through 2010, but it’ll his arbitration years instead of as part of a long-term contract, so he won’t be getting that much less than his market price.

I like this deal a for the A’s. They don’t really hurt themselves much by giving up Blanton; get a guy that may eventually replace him in Outman; and add another talented middle-infielder to their system. With the Angels 9 games ahead of them in the AL West, and clearly the better team, it was smart of Beane to start moving pitchers when few are available (with Erik Bedard being the notable exception, but he’s apparently out until August anyway). Huston Street may find himself in a different uniform in the coming weeks also (perhaps the Mets, with Billy Wagner experiencing some shoulder pain). The Phillies do strengthen their rotation a little, but I don’t know if it’ll be enough to hold off the Mets. This is the kind of deal I could have seen given Blanton’s value before the season started, but with the way he’s pitched this year I didn’t think a team would give up this much for him. Read more ...

The Savior Has Arrived

The Baltimore Orioles finally found their franchise shortstop, acquiring Juan Castro from Colorado in return for minor leaguer Mike McCoy.

The O’s got:

Juan Castro, 36 year-old SS, hit 180 / 211 / 236 for the Reds in 2007, and is a career 229 / 268 / 334 hitter.

The Rockies got:

Mike McCoy, 27 year-old IF, hit 276 / 355 / 368 in Triple-A this year.

The merry-go-round at short continues for the Birds. I like Castro better than Bynum, but that’s primarily because I haven’t seen him play much yet. In a couple of weeks I’ll probably be back to hoping Luis Hernandez gets another shot. At least The Pelican provides some extra entertainment for me. This is about as close as you can get to a “who cares?” trade. Read more ...

From Throwing Pitches To Hitting Them

Big Adam Loewen news – the injury that sent him to the DL again was a second elbow fracture. Surgery would cause him to miss over a year, and Loewen will instead try to take a page out of Rich Ankiel’s book and return as a position player. I actually thought about this a couple of weeks ago, as Loewen was considered a pretty good hitter and at only 24 he still has some time make the transition. I’m extremely disappointed that such a potentially talented pitcher’s career is over, but on the other hand, I’m very excited to see what he can do with the bat. Ankiel’s hit 22 home runs for the Card’s this year, so Adam can still be a part of the next winning Oriole team – maybe even protecting Nick in the line-up. It’s doubtful, but a long-shot is better than nothing. Best of luck to him. Read more ...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Where I Stand

I hadn't heard of WhereIStand before, but it did a neat little thing:

"Before the 2008 MLB season began, members and researchers tracked predictions of 42 sports media personalities for which teams they picked to win each respective division. Three months into the regular season, we’ve determined their accuracy, by rank, based on the standings as of July 1...

Scores were based on team standings as of Wednesday, July 1. Picks for a first place team were worth 12 points; points for second, third, fourth and fifth place teams were estimated on a sliding scale of depreciating value based on how many games back they were on July 1. The rankings above are based on the accumulative scores of each team per division that a person or media organization picked"

Where I stand:
5 points for picking the Yankees in the AL East (they were in third)
1 point for picking the Indians in the AL Central (last)
12 points for picking the Angels in the AL West (first)
8 points for picking the Mets in the NL East (third)
12 points for picking the CUbs in the NL Central (first)
12 points for picking the D'Backs in the NL West (first)

50 points total, which would tie Jonah Keri for 19th out of the 42.
Sean McAdam and Jason McIntyre each have 64 points (both picked Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, Phillies, Cubs, Dbacks) for the lead, and Buster Olney, Bill Madden, and Mike Greenberg are bringing up the rear with 33 points (all three picked the Mariners to win the AL West, and received no points for that one). Read more ...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What A Game

George Sherrill, the O's only All-Star representative, got absolutely no reaction from the crowd. I imagine many of them thought "who is that guy, and what's up with his hat." The NL has the better team I think, with the far superior line-up (Ryan Braun is hitting 7th) and the better starting pitching. If the game stays close into the later innings, then the K-Rod, Nathan, Soria, Rivera back-end of the AL pen gives them the advantage.

Before the game, a bunch of Hall of Famers are introduced. Rollie Fingers still has the awesome 'stache. Eddie Murray doesn't look happy to be there. I wonder if Wade Boggs had some fried chicken before he showed up at the stadium? I also wonder if Ozzie Smith still has more range than Derek Jeter at shortstop? When Tommy Lasorda was introduced, it looked like he had been dosing off. Was Earl Weaver always five feet tall? Funny how he looked at his watch as Joe Buck was talking, though.

Ben Sheets is starting for the NL, with Cliff Lee going for the AL. One of those guys had a 3 to 1 strike-out to walk ratio last year, and the other had a 6.29 ERA. Guess which one's which.

Tim McCarver said no one in the Bartolo Colon to the Expos trade paid bigger dividends than Cliff Lee this year. Um... how about fellow All-Star and current AL home run leader Grady Sizemore (107 career Win Shares, 17 this year to Lee's 48 career, 13 this year)?

Hanley Ramirez strikes out to start the first. Chase Utley goes down looking on a nice pitch on the inside corner. Lance Berkman flies out to Hamilton in center, and Lee is off to a good start.

Ichiro pops out to right to bring up Cap'n Jeter. Apparently, Jeter (and not the Yankees as a team) has (himself) done nothing but win. He hits a weird short-hopping blooper to second, where Utley can't quite corral it. Jeter is the game's first baserunner and, considering yesterday, is already in scoring position for Josh Hamilton. He gets there himself anyway by stealing second, but Sheets gets Hamilton swinging at a change-up. A-Rod pops out to the catcher in foul territory, and the AL fails to score.

Albert Pujols grounds out to A-Rod at third. This will be Lee's last inning, with Joe Saunders warming up in the AL pen. Chipper Jones jumps on the first pitch and lines a single up the middle. Matt Holliday grounds to Youkilis at first. Ryan Braun goes down swinging to end the second for the NL. Nice job by Cliff Lee to keep the powerful line-up off the board.

Manny Ramirez fouls off a couple of pitches, but Sheets eventually gets him swinging. Milton Bradley works the count full and draws a walk. Bradley steals second - it looks like the AL wants to run on Soto. Youkilis strikes out on a 3-2 pitch. Joe Mauer also runs the count full, but he draws a walk. Dustin Pedrioa flies out to end the threat.

The lefty Saunders is in to face Fukudome. A groundout, and a flyout by teammate Geovany Soto, brings Hanley up for his second at bat. Ramirez singles to right, but Saunders gets Utley to ground to first.

Ichiro leads off with a single against Carlos Zambrano, but Jeter erases him with a double play. Hamilton grounds out to end the third. Still 0-0.

Roy Halladay relieves Saunders on the mound, and gets Berkman swinging. I hope someone told him he wouldn't have to finish this game. Pujols falls behind 0-2, but reaches out and pokes a hit off the wall down the right-field line. Albert tries for second, but Ichiro throws him out (well, not really - Pujols, who's a very good baserunner, got his foot to the bag before the tag was applied. The ball beat him, and so he was called out). Chipper bounces out, and this game is zooming along.

Big Z K's A-Rod with a high fastball to start the fourth. Zambrano starts Manny off with a big looping breaking-ball that goes over his head. Ramirez grounds out to second, and last year's AL starter Dan Haren is throwing in the bullpen. Bradley grounds to short, but Hanley's throw is high and pulls Berkman off the bag. Hey, the guy isn't in there for his glove. Youkilis comes to the plate, but won't get a chance in this inning as Milton gets picked off first.

Grady Sizemore comes in to play center, and Ervin Santana is the new AL pitcher. Matt Holliday takes a fastball up and out over the plate into the right-field bleachers for the first run of the game. The NL takes a 1-0 lead. Braun grounds out to second, and Santana makes Fukudome look silly on a slider for the K. Then he gets Soto looking.

Russell Martin and Dan Haren are the new NL battery, and they get Youk to fly out to right. Mauer bounces one up the middle off of Haren's glove, and Joe Sideburns has an infield hit. Ian Kinsler (23 of 24 in steals) pinch runs for him. Kinsler takes off and is safe at second despite a good throw by Martin. The AL is out NL'ing the NL, while the NL is the team with the power. Pedrioa walks, and the AL has a rally going. Ichiro has a fastball thrown by him, so it'll be up to Mr. Clutch. Jeter works the count full, but bounces back to the mounds for the third out.

Kinsler stays in to play second; Justin Morneau is in at first; JD Drew in right; Jason Varitek behind the plate; and the major league ERA leader Justin Duchscherer is on the mound. Hanley lines a hanging breaking-ball to left for a lead-off single. Ramirez takes off for second as Utley singles into right to put runners on the corners. Ol' Flat Brim is warming up for the AL. Berkman flies to deep center - Sizemore tracks it down but Ramirez scores to make it 2-0. Michael Young comes out in the middle of the inning to replace Jeter at short; that lets the Cap'n leave the field to the applause of the crowd. Pujols singles up the middle, and Duke isn't fooling anyone. Larry chases a fastball up and away for the K - two down. Holliday pops out to end the inning. The AL is still within striking distance.

Adrian Gonzalez in at first; Dan Uggla in at second; Miguel Tejada at short; Aramis Ramirez at third; Nate McLouth in center; and Corey Hart in right. Josh Hamilton lines a single to center to bring up Joe Crede (who is on the team for unknown reasons). Crede pops up to second. Hamilton steals the AL's fourth base of the night. Sizemore takes a fastball down the middle for strike three. Bradley hits the first pitch to center, but McLouth is there.

Carlos Quentin comes in to play left, and Joe Nathan is the first AL closer to take the mound. Braun can't check his swing on a slider in the dirt. McLouth and Martin each fly out to center. Time to stretch.

Ryan Ludwick in left, and the NL ERA leader Edison Volquez is the new pitcher. Morneau doubles passed Hart in right-center to bring up Kinsler. A groundout to Tejada moves Morneau to third, and Dioner Navarro hits for Varitek (that's kind of embarrassing for Tek to have his own manager hit for him with another catcher in this type of RBI situation). Volqeaz tails a 95 mph fastball back over the plate to K "Bandwagon" looking. J.D Drew. Laces one over the short porch in right for a game-tying two-run homer. With Papelbon, Rivera, K-Rod, and Soria (and Sherrill for lefties), the AL is in a good position now. Young strikes out, but we've got a brand new ball-game.

Papelbon starts the eighth with a fastball on the outside corner to Tejada. Miguel bloops the next pitch into right for a single. Papelbon strikes out Uggla with a high fastball to quiet the crowds chants of "OVER-RATED". Tejada steals second, and then advances to third as Navarro's throw goes into center. Adrian Gonzalez flies to left, but it's deep enough to score Tejada, and the NL takes back the lead. David Wright hits for Pujols, and strikes out looking to end the inning. With the NL up 3-2, Giants' closer Brian Wilson will take the hill.

Quentin flies to deep center for the first out. Carlos Guillen hits for Crede - he has a good at bat but chases a high fastball fro strike three. That'll be it for Wilson, with Billy Wagner coming in to face Sizemore. Grady pokes a single to the right side, and Evan Longoria (the last player on the AL bench) hits for Bradley. Talk about a pressure situation for a rookie. Sizemore steals second without a throw. That's five for the AL. Longoria reaches out and hooks a slider into the left-field corner for a game-tying RBI double. Morneau grounds out on the first pitch, but man was that awesome. Likely the first of many memories for Longoria in the All-Star game.

K-Rod will try to keep the score at 3-3 in the ninth. Aramis Ramirez walks, and Christian Guzman comes in to run for him. Hart flies out to right, and that's it for Rodriguez. Mariano Rivera comes in the cheers of the crowd. Mo gets Ludwick swinging, and Guzman gets caught trying to steal second. They go to the bottom of the ninth tied at 3; both teams have 8 hits and have committed an error.

Ryan Dempster comes on and gets Kinsler swinging. As does Navarro. And Drew.

To extra innings we go - will this one end in a tie? McLouth takes an outside corner fastball for strike three. Martin has a good at bat and lines a single passed a diving Kinsler into right-field. On a hit-and-run, Tejada singles up the middle to put runners on the corners. If the NL wins this game against Mariano Rivera in Yankee Stadium I don't even know what will be in the papers tomorrow. It won't happen, as Mo gets Uggla to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

Aaron Cook gets his usual groundball off the bat of Young, but Uggla can't hold on to it and Young is safe at first. Oh man. Quentin grounds one hard right to Uggla now, and it goes right through his legs to put runners on the corners with no outs. What a horrible, horrible sequence for the second baseman. Guillen is being intentionally walked to bring up the AL HR leader with the bases loaded. Sizmore grounds to a pulled in Uggla who makes a very careful throw to get the force at home. The relay to first wasn't in time, with Gonzalez making a nice pick to save the game. That brings up Evan Longoria. He grounds to Guzman at third, who likewise gets the force at home. Morneau hits a slow roller to short, and Tejada makes a nice play to charge it and throw him out. Great job by Cook to pull the Houdini in the bottom of the tenth in the All-Star game.

Joakim Soria takes over for Mo and gives up a single to Adrian Gonzalez. Hahaha. George Sherrill and Scott Kazmir (who the AL is trying not to use) are the only pitchers left in the AL pen. I can see it now... the only O's rep comes in to blow the game for the team. For now it's Soria, who gets Wright swinging. Guzman flies to short center. Hart flies out to short right. Someone please score.

Kinsler bloops a single into center. He takes off for second but the NL saw it coming and pitched out. Tejeda never actually tagger him, but the ball beat him to the base and so the ump called him out. Brandon Webb makes his way from the dugout to the mound - they didn't want to use him, but it might be needed. Drew singles up the middle to bring up Michael Young. The NL, if they get out of this inning, will be in a better position, pitcher-wise. Michael Young; "Professional Hitter." They're quoting bad stats (BA, RBI, BA with RISP), but fine. "Professional Player - hitting, baserunning, and defense?" Uh, no. Come on guys, stop deceiving the American (and international) people. Young singles to center and they send Navarro. McLouth makes an OK throw that beats him to the plate, but the tag is applied up his leg as he slides, and his foot got in there. Needless to say, he was called out. The game continues, with Quentin at the plate and two outs. Groundout to third, and we'll go to the 11th.

McLouth hits a slow roller to the right side and beats Morneau's flip to first. Martin lays down a bunt to would have gone foul, but Morneau fields it and throws to first. Miguel Tejada will get the intentional pass to bring up Dan Uggla, with Brad Lidge warming in the NL pen. Soria gets him to go too far on a big 67 mph breaking-ball. With lefty Adrian Gonzalez coming up, it'll be George Sherrill time with the bases loaded and two outs. I can hardly bare to watch. Fastball for a called strike one. Fastball for a swinging strike two. Fastball down and away for strike three. Wow. Go George Sherrill. If the AL scores he'll get the win.

Carlos Guillen hits a drive deep off the wall in left for a lead-off double. Sizemore hits a hard grounder to Uggla, who knocks it down and throws him out a first. Guillen does get to third with one out though. Evan Longoria with another chance to win the game. Cook gets him swinging and a nasty sinker down and in. Morneau gets the free pass and takes second on defensive indifference. Kinsler grounds out to Guzman at third (he's looked good over there, by the way) to end the 12th.

David Wright shatters his bat but ends up with a bloop single. Guzman drops down a sac bunt, but Sherrill throws to second to get the force. Hart goes down swinging for the second out. Ludwick gets ahead 3-0, but Sherrill ends up getting him to pop out. To the bottom of the 13th.

Carlos Marmol will try to keep the ball in the yard against JD Drew. He has nasty stuff, but some gopher-ball issues. Drew grounds to the right side. Man, Dan is Uggla at second-base. He can't handle the tricky hop and is given his third error of the game. And he didn't even come in until the 6th. Young takes a called strike three, but Drew steals the AL's 6th bag of the night. Quentin strikes out, and the marathon continues.

George Sherrill will come out for another inning. This should be it for him. McLouth hits a high flyball to deep right, but Drew is there at the wall and makes the catch. Yikes - that was close. Martin hits it hard to right also, but Drew gets to that one as well. Tejada grounds out to short. Great job by Sherrill, going 2 1/3 IP. If the AL doesn't score, Scott Kazmir (who threw over 100 pitches on Sunday) will have to come in. At that point it'll be a matter of time before the game is over, as he probably can't go more than two innings.

Brandon Webb, who also pitched Sunday, is in for the NL. Guillen lines one to the left side, but Tejada makes a nice sliding catch for the first out. Sizemore goes down swinging. As does Longoria. Still tied at 3-3 going into the 15th.

Kazmir blows Uggla away with a high fastball. Gonzalez flies out to short left. Wright draws a four pitch walk - Kazmir needs to throw strikes if he wants to win this thing. He is on a strict pitch-count, and isn't usually efficient. That helps, as Guzman grounds the first pitch to Morneau at first.

Brad Lidge somes in to pitch to new catcher Brian McCann. That's the NL's last pitcher. Morneau reaches down and serves a good pitch into center for a single. Don't listen to Tim McCarver, Ian Kinsler. Bunting the slow Justin Morneau to second isn't a smart move. It doesn't matter that it hasn't worked for the previous 15 innings - "changing things up" and giving away an out is bad. Kinsler hits a line-drive to left, but Ludwick makes a diving catch to rob him of a hit. Navarro singles into short center, and Monreaus rightfully stops at second. If JD Drew wins it here, will the NY fans cheer him? Drew draws a walk to load the bases for Michael Young. If he grounds into a double play I may cry. Pop-up to medium depth right-field. Hart has it and here comes Morneau... he just gets his foot in before McCann can apply the tag, and the AL wins it 4-3.

Wow. What a game. I thought that giving the winning league home-field advantage in the World Series was supposed to eliminate ties, but this one was an inning or two from ending in just that way. What would they have done? Does MLB even have a back-up plan? Thankfully it wasn't necessary.

JD Drew was the MVP of this one, going 2-4 with a walk and the two-run homer. He had .583 WPA. Our boy George led all pitchers with .460 WPA. He went get a win for his trouble, but boy did he pitch well in a tough spot. Miguel Tejada was also quite impressive; at the plate, in the field, and on the bases. Dan Uggla was awful, going 0-4 at the plate with 3 K's, making 3 errors, and totaling a - .634 WPA. Aaron Cook led the NL pitchers in WPA with .428 - he gave up 4 hits and 3 walks in 4 IP, yet kept the AL off the board. I'm not sure how he did that. I'm just glad this thing is over. It was a great game, but I need to get some sleep.
Read more ...

The Natural

Josh Hamilton put on the most impressive offensive display I've ever seen in the first round of the Home Run Derby. A record 28 home runs, including three over 500 feet (giving him three of the top 10 all-time Derby homers by distance). He crushed the ball... destroyed it. I'm kind of amazed the cover didn't come off some of them. There was one pitch that was a bit inside that he hit with one hand - it went around 450 ft, half-way up the upper-deck in right field. Nobody else hit 28 all night, and the next closest in the first round had 8. It was amazing, with the crowd cheering his name and the players looking on in awe. Unfortunately, he only hit 3 HR in the final round, and lost to Justin Morneau. What people are going to remember though, are all of those baseballs flying deep into the New York night.

[Excuse the poor music backing it, but this is the best video I could find.]

FJM had some interesting observations about the event:
"Not only did Erin Andrews snub Justin Morneau for Hamilton immediately post-Derby, but during the trophy presentation she clearly pronounces his name as "Mar-neau," Executive Vice President of MLB Rob Manfred goes with something like "Myrrh-neau," and Boys and Girls Club Giant Check Giver Guy just flat out insults him with "Jason." We get it, guys: Morneau didn't do heroin. So he's bo-ring!

The lesson, as always: it's better to do heroin and then stop doing heroin and then lose the Home Run Derby after an impressive first round than it is to not do heroin and then keep not doing heroin and then win the Home Run Derby after a pedestrian first round. Of course, I'm not telling you anything you haven't heard a thousand times already."
It reminds he of a Simpsons episode where the family is having money trouble, and Bart says something along the lines of "I'll take up smoking and then quit," and Homer thanks him. It's ridiculous but true - Andy Pettitte is a hero for (eventually) admitting to taking HGH, but Mike Mussina is a scrub until he got his ERA below 4.50, despite being a (generally) smart, upstanding individual. Read more ...

Mid-Season Review

The All-Star break is a little passed the half-way point of the season, but it provides for a nice opportunity to look back at the pre-season projections/predictions.

First the team records: Projected Wins (win pct * 162) - My Predicted Wins - Whether the Over/Under call was right

NYY - 85 - 95 - I said Over 93.5; Wrong - they've been improving, but have actually been outscored by the Orioles - they're 3rd-order projected record (calculates equivalent runs scored and allowed (like EqA) and adjusts for strength of schedule) is up to 89 so they still may make a run at this thing

BOS - 95 - 94 - Under 94.5; Wrong - best team in baseball with projected 104 3rd-order wins

TOR - 80 - 83 - Under 85; Correct - may end up wrong, as they've played better than their record indicates based on RS/RA (85 wins) and Eq.Adj. RS/RA (90 wins)

TBR - 95 - 79 - Over 73; Correct - second best team in baseball with projected 98 3rd-order wins

BAL - 78 - 72 - Over 66; Correct - have to go just 22-47 (play like a 52-win team) to seal this one; I'm pretty confident

CLE - 71 - 90 - Under 90.5; Correct - they've been unlucky (82 wins based on RS/RA) but the team has Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and not a whole lot else left to contend this year - that's why it was a good move to trade CC Sabathia

DET - 81 - 89 - Under 94.5; Correct - improving, but still a mid-level team

CHW - 93 - 75 - Under 77.5; Wrong - they haven't been lucky; they're riding one of the better run-prevention units in the league to a strong record, just like they did when they won the World Series

MIN - 90 - 74 - Over 73; Correct - 78 win team by Eq.Adj. RS/RA, but a pitching staff that never walks guys goes a long way towards helping a team stay competitive

KCR - 73 - 72 - Under 72.5; Wrong - they're playing at about their talent level (sorry - Brian Bannister too)

LAA - 97 - 89 - Under 92.5; Wrong - quite lucky based on RS/RA (85 wins) and Eq.Adj. RS/RA (82), but their actual record makes it hard for the A's to really go for it this year

OAK - 87 - 77 - Over 73.5; Correct - the best team in the AL West should be on pace to win 94 games in a "rebuilding" year

SEA - 63 - 77 - Under 84.5; Correct - must go 48-19 (116 win pace) to make this one wrong; must go 58-9 (140 win pace) to get to the 95 wins some predicted - they have been a bit unlucky though

TEX - 84 - 73 - Under 74.5; Wrong - who expected Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, and Milton Bradley to be three of the four best hitters in the AL at this point? They'll have to keep it up, as the pitching staff has given up easily the most runs in baseball

NYM - 87 - 93 - Under 93.5; Correct - don't look now, but the Mets are just a half-game out

ATL - 77 - 88 - Over 85.5; Wrong - RS/RA (88 wins) and Eq.Adj. RS/RA (87 wins) agree with me - poor Braves

PHI - 88 - 85 - Under 88.5; Correct - they're better than I anticipated, mostly on the pitching side (4th fewest runs allowed in the NL)

FLA - 85 - 73 - Over 68.5; Correct - best hitting middle-infield combo in baseball

WSH - 61 - 71 - Under 71.5; Correct - wow have they been bad; they've even been a bit lucky

CHC - 97 - 89 - Over 87.5; Correct - the class of the NL at this point

MIL - 89 - 87 - Over 84; Correct - adding Sabathia may make them the second best team in the league

CIN - 78 - 77 - Under 78.5; Correct - they've been lucky (should have about 72 wins) and things aren't looking up with Harang on the shelf

STL - 89 - 73 - Under 77; Wrong - it's been over three months and I still don't get it

HOU - 75 - 73 - Under 74.5; Wrong - it's gotten much closer though, as the team has really fallen off; are some of their veterans on the block? (probably not, but they should be)

PIT - 76 - 71 - Over 68.5; Correct - the team's being led by a great outfield, but the 3rd-order wins paints a different picture (should be on pace for 62)

ARI - 80 - 86 - Over 87.5; Wrong - boy have they ever played down to their competition; I'm pretty sure they'll still win the division (and get over .500) but this is kind of embarrassing

LAD - 78 - 86 - Under 87; Correct - same things here; the team has too much talent to be this bad

SDP - 63 - 85 - Under 84; Correct - hey, at least they have Adrian Gonzalez (22 HR already, playing half his games in that giant park)

COL - 66 - 83 - Under 83.5; Correct - it'll take an even more impressive run this year to get them back to the play-offs, even in the NL "Worst" (you see what I did there? - that's funny stuff)

SFG - 68 - 71 - Under 71.5; Correct - Tim Lincecum is awesome... just really, really awesome - he may win 20 games for a 90+ loss team

That's 20 out of 30 Over/Under picks that are correct so far, with an average difference between my predicted record and the projected finish of about 9 games (it was 10 at the one-quarter point, and is only about 7 off when using RS/RA or Eq.Adj. RS/RA instead of the actual records). Ironically, for the two teams I was most right about record-wise (Boston and KC), I've been wrong about the O/U. Crazy game. Of the 10 incorrect picks, I think only Boston, the Angels, and maybe Arizona have a good chance to end up right. The Phillies and Reds may switch the other way. In any case, I think it looks pretty good at this point.

Now, the O's:
(Pre-season projected line, actual line, predicted line from the Hardball Times based on batted-ball data - PrOPS, and the like)

C: Ramon Hernandez
Proj: 267 / 333 / 437
Act: 238 / 285 / 379
Pr: 296 / 338 / 455
Razor's not been playing that well, but he has been unlucky.

1B: Kevin Millar
Proj: 263 / 355 / 416
Act: 239 / 339 / 391
Pr: 277 / 370 / 458
Millar's has been fairly productive anyway (not really for a 1B though), but he's been unlucky also.

2B: Brian Roberts
Proj: 285 / 370 / 430
Act: 296 / 375 / 489
Pr: 288 / 369 / 424
He's having a great year, but his predicted stats are right in line with where they were expected to be.

3B: Melvin Mora
Proj: 268 / 336 / 402
Act: 233 / 301 / 387
Pr: 284 / 347 / 455
It looks like Mora's collapsed, but he's actually hitting the ball pretty well; more bad luck for the infield.

SS: Luis Hernandez
Proj: 245 / 279 / 309
Act: 241 / 295 / 253
Pr: 271 / 326 / 335
If he had been able to play defense well enough to keep his job, then the predicted line would look OK.

LF: Luke Scott
Proj: 269 / 367 / 511
Act: 254 / 334 / 474
Pr: 267 / 346 / 488
Luke's been a mild disappointment for me, but he's still been a productive player.

CF: Adam Jones
Proj: 269 / 327 / 464
Act: 281 / 324 / 408
Pr: 249 / 297 / 362
Jones' lack of power is very disconcerting for me, as it was the only thing I thought he'd do well on offense. He's been pretty lucky, so I'm afraid that his stats will actually get worse after the break.

RF: Nick Markakis
Proj: 297 / 365 / 500
Act: 299 / 401 / 492
Pr: 295 / 395 / 488
I think I went a little overboard with the power, but the extra 35 points of OBP is a very welcome trade-off. Sign the man!

DH: Aubrey Huff
Proj: 273 / 336 / 447
Act: 284 / 349 / 526
Pr: 290 / 353 / 512
Nobody is boo'ing Huff now, eh? Will he still improve in the second half?

C: Guillermo Quiroz
Proj: 237 / 288 / 344
Act: 203 / 276 / 304
Pr: 238 / 305 / 375
A step up from the Paul Bako's of the world. And cheaper, too.

OF: Jay Payton
Proj: 273 / 319 / 403
Act: 243 / 283 / 370
Pr: 264 / 300 / 427
He's actually been worse than even I expected. Maybe they should stop playing him against righties when they can help it.

UTIL: Brandon Fahey
Proj: 246 / 304 / 309
Act: 230 / 254 / 344
Pr: 271 / 293 / 340
Fahey showing more power than could have reasonably been expected. You know the shortstop situation is bad when a .344 SLG has you excited.

Total (includes others): Projected; 269 / 337 / 427, 789 runs, 4.9 runs / game.
Actual; 258 / 327 / 421, 439 runs (764 pace), 4.7 runs / game.

The average AL line has dropped from 271 / 338 / 423 to 264 / 332 / 411 so, relatively speaking, the Orioles offense is about where I thought they would be.
I said their BA would be 0.7% worse than league average, and it's been 2.3% worse (largely due to poor luck for the infielders not named "Roberts"); their projected OBP was 0.3% worse than average, and its 1.5% worse; and their projected SLG was 1.4% better than average, and it's been 2.4% better (thanks, Aubrey). Projected OPS: 0.7% above the league average - Actual OPS: 0.7% above the league average. Not bad, if I do say so myself. Now if only they can get their pitching straightened out... Read more ...