Saturday, February 07, 2009

Randy Wolf a Good Deal for Dodgers

The Dodgers spent wisely in signing Randy Wolf to a one year contract worth $5 million with another $3 million in incentives. Wolf, on the other hand, lost a bunch of money when he turned down a three year deal from the Astros right after the 2008 season ended.

Wolf is essentially a league average pitcher. His graph shows a few years below league average, a few years above but they all average out to...well, average. And that's not a bad thing for a rotation. Just throw the guy out there every fifth day and you know you'll have a chance at a win and the same chance for a loss. Many rotations in baseball would love to have that.

Wolf pitched with the Dodgers in 2007 and was 9-6 with them for the first half of the season. But he developed shoulder problems and had surgery. His health seems fine as he made 33 starts last year, going 12-12 overall with, yes, you guessed it, a league average ERA.

Wolf also will benefit from pitching in the ball park he will play in. His Home run to fly ball ratio was a career best in 2007, which means that more of his fly balls stayed in the park with the Dodgers than at any point in his career. He is tough on lefties with a pretty decent strikeout per nine innings rate. He is also a pretty good hitter (over the years, not so much recently).

The Dodgers made a good deal with little risk for a pitcher who should be solid, if not spectacular, as a rotation regular.

A Pun-through of This Week's Transactions

The FanDome used to do an obscure transaction wire signing of the week every Saturday, but puns, like the Three Stooges seem to be more popular. The Fan knowing his audience and bowing to its needs brings you another installment of punning through the transaction wire covering the last seven days:

- Negotiations between Boston and their captain catcher were Variteknical, but they finally got the job done.

- The Twins never believe there is enough pitching. They figure the more the Guerrier, so they signed Matt for another year.

- The Padres apparently don't believe that Floyd's skills have fallen off a Cliff, so they signed the former DH of the Rays.

- The move by the Padres was unfortunate for pitcher, Matt, as he was demoted back to the Bush leagues.

- Toronto doesn't believe the lowly Pirates know personnel very well and that their scouts are not on the Beam about pitcher T. J. so they claimed him off waivers.

- Kansas City fans won't be railing at the Royals since they signed Bannister.

- Going from the Brewers to the Yankees for Chase Wright, future star catcher, Eric, went from the Fryer into the frying pan.

- The Rockies went to the Matt for Murton in a trade with the Athletics.

- Speaking of Wright, the Yankees couldn't Chase their pitcher out of the organization fast enough.

- The Blue Jays have been active on the waiver wire and figured that the Orioles had a Burres on their butts about pitcher Brian, so the Jays claimed him off waivers.

- Ever on the search for pitching, the Indians Chulked up another one on the pitcher's side as Vinnie was invited to camp with a minor league deal.

- Though largely discredited, the Rockies stayed on the Atkins diet and signed Garrett for another year.

- The Rockies also hope that pitcher, Josh, will come out of his two year Fogg and become a decent pitcher again.

- Apparently the Rangers thought they were going to sign a pitcher but found his elbow was three Sheets into the wind.

- Hearing about the Ranger's plight, the Dodgers signed a Wolf in Sheet's clothing and brought their old pitcher back for a year. Alternative: Randy figured that major league teams weren't crying Wolf when they said they had no money, so he signed for what he could get.

- The A's found the Cubs in a Sellers market for pitchers and traded Justin and to the Cubs for a pitcher who couldn't be Weurtz than what they had before (probably a cheat to use the same pun two out of the last three weeks, but the guy keeps showing up on the transaction wire.)

And there you have it folks. Tune in next week. Happy sailing and Manny happy returns.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Bottom Feeding

The Reds signed Daryle Ward and Jacque Jones to minor league contracts and Cliff Floyd joins his eight major league team in San Diego. These are typical end of the cycle type deals with teams looking for a genie in a bottle. Floyd is actually decent, but is now 36. Jones? What happened to him anyway? And Ward? He's only a pinch hitter, a position that never made sense to this old Fan.

Jones wasn't that bad a player. His Win Shares were always in the middle of the pack of major league outfielders. He had more Win Shares than Pat Burrell in 2006 when he hit 27 homers for the Cubs. Then he had a season last year that paralleled Andruw Jones. He started with Detroit and had 13 hits in 90 official at bats (.165). They released him and he hooked up with the Marlins where he was even worse. He had five hits there in 44 at bats (.105). This is from a guy with a .277 career Batting Average who hit over .300 twice when with the Twins. Is he washed up at 33? This year will tell.

Daryle Ward is also 33 and doesn't have a position because he's a pretty lousy fielder. So he has become a pinch hitter, a National League anachronism where you hire a guy who has had some nominal success coming off the bench to hit for the pitcher in the middle of the game. It has always seemed to the Fan to be a waste of a roster position. Any of your bench players can be that pinch hitter and you simply run up the guy who's had the hottest hand. Ward is another of those players whose reputation for doing this specialized job has prolonged a career beyond the curve. He's been below league average for Batting Average, On Base Percentage and OPS for his entire career. Oh, but he's a good pinch hitter.

Cliff Floyd, on the other hand, has been above league average in all those categories which makes him a decent pickup as a hitter for the Padres. The only problem is that he was a DH in Tampa for a reason. He has been below league average as a fielder for his entire career. So what is he going to do in San Diego? Don't tell the Fan that he's the new pinch hitter! Argh!

In other news, we now know why Ben Sheets wasn't signed by anyone. It turns out that he has a torn something or other in his elbow. The poor blighter. He's been as good as any pitcher in baseball and he can't get a break with his health. Oh well. Hopefully the Brewers will pick up the tab for his surgery and maybe we'll see Sheets in 2010.

Best Pitching Years Since 1956

There was a discussion on about which pitchers have had the best years of all time. Several websites have done the same thing (in fact, it seemed as if one of the MLB analysts searched such a site for his observations). One site is here. And here is another. While both sites make good arguments, the Fan wasn't quite satisfied.

First of all, baseball has changed too much since 1900 and how can you compare a year when pitchers were starting 40 plus games a year compared to the 30 they start now? It just seems too difficult to compare. The sites mentioned base their arguments on how the pitchers fared compared to league averages. That seems fair and logical, but it still feels like apples and oranges.

There are other problems with making such a list. For example, Pedro Martinez was a seven inning pitcher. He rarely finished his games in this age of setup men and closers. Can you compare his great years with Sandy Koufax, for example, who finished at least half his games? Or conversely, can you compare Martinez facing teams with a DH compared to Koufax who only faced eight hitters each game? How do you account for Koufax and Gibson and a much higher pitching mound?

The Fan supposes that the Win Share logic and other logistical opinions such as the two sites listed above account for such anomalies by comparing the stats to those of their present year. Which makes sense and seems to alleviate the Fans concerns. But is it still apples and oranges to compare a year like Guidry had in 1978 when his year helped turn a Yankee team around and took them to the World Series compared to Steve Carlton, whose team did not even contend. And that comparison can go either way. For example, Carlton's season could compare more favorably BECAUSE his team was terrible.

Saying all that, it's always fun to make lists so what follows is the Fan's List of the best pitching years since 1956. Win Share data copped from an old Rob Neyer piece:

  • 1. Steve Carlton - 1972: 40 Win Shares. 27-10 (on a team that lost 91 games!). 1.97 ERA. 30 complete games! 8 Shutouts. 310 strikeouts. 0.99 WHIP.
  • 2. Gaylord Perry - 1972: 39 Win Shares. 24-16 (his team lost 84 games). 1.92 ERA. 29 complete games. 5 shutouts. 0.98 WHIP.
  • 3. Bob Gibson - 1968: 36 Win Shares. 22-9. 1.12 ERA! 28 complete games. 13 shutouts! 0.85 WHIP
  • 4. Fergie Jenkins - 1971: 35 Win Shares. 24-13. 2.77 ERA. 30 complete games. 1.05 WHIP. Only 37 walks compared to 263 strikeouts.
  • 4. Sandy Koufax - 1966: 35 Win Shares. 27-9. 1.73 ERA. 27 complete games. 0.98 WHIP. 317 strikeouts.
  • 5. Sandy Koufax - 1965: 33 Win Shares. 26-8. 2.04 ERA. 27 complete games. 0.86 WHIP. 382 strikeouts.
  • 5. Denny McLain - 1968: 33 Win Shares. 31-6. 1.96 ERA. 28 complete games. 0.90 WHIP.
  • 5. Wilbur Wood - 1971: 33 Win Shares. 22-13. 1.91 ERA. 22 complete games. 7 shutouts. 1.00 WHIP.
  • 5. Dwight Gooden - 1985: 33 Win Shares, 24-4. 1.53 ERA. 16 complete games. 8 shutouts. 0.97 WHIP.
32 Win Shares: Koufax and Dick Ellsworth (1963), Dean Chance (1964), Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson (1969), Roger Clemens (1997).

31 Win Shares: John Hiller (1973), Jim Palmer (1975), Ron Guidry (1978),

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Great Players on Bad Teams

Every generation has players that are great who wind up playing most of their career with losing clubs. Players like Ernie Banks, Frank Howard and Don Mattingly play their entire career and never get a World Series ring and play most of their careers on bad clubs. It's harder to do that now for players as they tend to get traded or file for free agency after they get too expensive for their losing club.

But there are still some of them out there. Here is our current All Star Team of good players on non-contending clubs. Of course, as the Bay Rays did last year, a perennially bad team can become a contender and Texas and Kansas City have long shots to be the next team to make the leap. But this All Star team, now playing in the FanDome, is based on this past season and on never playing for a winner:

  • Catcher - Ryan Doumit. Pittsburgh. Batted .318 last year with a Slugging Percentage of .501.
  • First Base - Adrian Gonzalez. San Diego. Has hit 66 homers and driven in 219 runs in the last two years.
  • Second Base - Ian Kinsler. Texas. Third among all second basemen in Win Shares last year, first in batting Win Shares.
  • Shortstop - Christian Guzman. Washington. Had 183 hits last year and batted .316.
  • Third Base - Melvin Mora. Baltimore. All the top third basemen play on contenders. Mora is the best of the rest with solid production over the last five years.
  • Outfield -
  • Josh Hamilton. Texas. Went from the Reds to the Rangers. Had a fantastic year. Didn't matter because Texas can't pitch just like the Reds couldn't.
  • Nate McLouth. Pittsburgh. Has become a star for the Pirates. A no win situation that Bay knows all about.
  • Nick Markakis. Baltimore. An up and coming star just signed to a long term contract on a team that seems to have a tall mountain to climb.
  • DH - Aubrey Huff. Baltimore. There aren't as many good DHs as there used to be. Somebody should sign Dunn.
  • Starting Pitcher - Roy Halladay. Toronto. This one was easy. The man is 64-20 over the last four years. Poor guy.
  • Closer - Joakim Soria. Kansas City. Soria had a 1.60 ERA last year with a WHIP of 0.86

The Yankees Chase Wright to Milwaukee

The man behind the most surreal moment in the long rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers for Eric Fryer on Wednesday. Much like the Cleveland Browns winning a 3-0 football game, there was nothing pretty about Wright's 2-0 lifetime record with the Yanks.

It all started innocently enough when Wright was drafted right out of an Iowa high school in the third round of the 2001 draft. Wright pitched two years in the Yankee's rookie league, walked too many batters and was shipped to the Class A level. Wright wasn't much better his first two years in Class A. Then he seemed to come into his own in 2005. He was a combined 23-7 in 2005 and 2006.

Things started well in 2007 for the Yankees Class AA Trenton team as he started 5-2. Then Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano went on the disabled list and the Yankees needed an arm. Wright got the call.

The 2007 Yankees were floundering in April and were 5-6 despite A-Rod hitting seven homers in those first eleven games. Whispers were already starting in the papers and the Joe Torre watch had already begun. The Cleveland Indians started a little better that April and were 6-3. Jake Westbrook would pitch for the Indians and Chase Wright was set to make his major league debut at home for the Yankees.

For those of us who watched that game, we looked at each other and said, "Who?" We'd never heard of the guy. Wright gave up a run in the first inning on a ground out, but he pitched out of trouble. The Yankees scored two in the bottom of the first on an A-Rod single and a Posada sac fly. Wright got through the second without problems and the Yankees exploded in the bottom of the second to win a laugher.

The Fan remembers the Yankee announcers talking about how poised Wright looked on the mound. Don't announcers say that about every rookie pitcher? In any case, Wright wasn't spectacular, he threw 106 pitches in only five innings, gave up 5 hits, three walks and three runs. On that night, it was good enough for his first big league win. But the walks were indicative of his entire pro career.

The Yankees then headed to Boston and five days later, Wright made his second start. Boston had started hot at 12-4 and the Yankees were still scuffling at 8-8. The guys at Baseball Tonight on ESPN were starting to wonder if the Yankees just weren't going to be any good. But, no matter the records, it was the Yankees/Red Sox and the game was on.

The Yankees got their first look at the new Red Sox pitcher from Japan, Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Yankees didn't seem impressed and took a quick 3-0 lead. They would eventually score six runs on Dice-K. Even Douglas Andrew Mientkiewicz hit a homer off of him in what was one of the longest named event of the season.

Wright survived the first two innings without a run. He walked two in the first but got two fly balls and a strike out to get out of the jam. Wright got out of another jam in the bottom of the second after giving up a walk and a double. Fortunately for him, Lugo came up with two outs and that was the end of that.

The Yankees scored two runs in the top of the third to make it 3-0 and Wright would take his balancing act out for the bottom of the third. It started okay but scary. Youkilis led off and hit a deep shot to right that Abreu tracked down. Ortiz then flew out to left. Up came Manny and the rest is history. Manny is just that kind of player.

Manny took two balls and then fouled off the third pitch. And then BOOM. He hit a monster shot to left over the Green Monster. After a little posing, he ran slowly around the bases. Next up was J. D. Drew. Drew swung through strike one, took a ball, swung through strike two and then BOOM, a homer to deep right center over the bullpen.

Next up was Mike Lowell. He took a strike and then a ball and then BOOM, another homer over the Green Monster. Then Varitek came up, took a ball and then BOOM, the fourth consecutive homer, this one also over the Green Monster.

Wily Mo Pena was up next and in youthful exuberance was probably swinging as hard as he ever had and mercifully struck out to end the inning. But by then, Chase Wright had done something that had only been done once before in Major League history, giving up back to back to back to back homers.

Wright was relieved the next inning by the immortal Colter Bean (and you wonder why the Yankees spent a gazillion dollars on Sabathia and Burnett?)

What few remember is that Wright wasn't really the goat of that game. The Yankees came back and took the lead and Torre brought in his favorite pitcher, Scott Proctor, in the seventh inning. Proctor didn't get anyone out and Lowell hit a three run homer to ice the game.

Wright went back to the minor leagues where he had a good season. But he wasn't done with the Yankees yet. He pitched one more time on September 30 in one of those games where there isn't a starter available, so the game is pitched by all relievers pitching an inning or two. Wright was the second guy out. He gave up a run in two innings on two hits and he struck out one. He got the win.

Now Wright's feat could have happened to anyone on a bad day. Pitchers have bad days. But it was the Red Sox, it was on major television. It would be reported in every newspaper and blog the following day. Wright made history that night.

Wright never got out of the minors in 2008 and now takes his major league dream to Milwaukee. Bad nights can happen out there too, but at least fewer people will be noticing.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

How Bad Was Verlander Last Year?

Justin Verlander just signed his first arbitration-eligible contract and the Tigers are hoping to get the pitcher they had in 2007 and 2006 rather than the one they had last year. Were there any signs that last year was a statistical fluke?

There were two really negative statistics that stand out for Verlander when looking at last year. First, he walked 87 batters, which is 20 more than the previous year. This naturally led to an increase in his pitches per at bat (P/PA) from 3.9 to 4.0. Both his walk percentage and his P/PA have increased in the last two years.

But there were positives that indicate that perhaps Verlander wasn't quite as bad as it seemed. Certainly, the more base runners you have, the more trouble you can get into and he gave up more base runners. But there is also a statistic labeled, "FIP," which stands for Fielding Independent Pitching. The statistic, as the Hardball Times describes it, "helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded." Verlander's FIP was right in line with last year and better than it was two years ago.

Another positive is his Line Drive Percentage (can you believe people track all this stuff?). Verlander's LD% was significantly better than any of his years so far. If he is giving up significantly less line drives, the batters aren't squaring up as much and it would seem that he was a bit unlucky with the amount of ground balls and fly balls that got through for hits. Verlander also gave up fewer homers than in previous years.

It would seem that Verlander's lack of success last year was a result of more walks, worse fielding and less luck than in previous years. The first two can be improved (and the Tigers should have a better shortstop at least). The latter should be subject to the law of averages. Bottom line: Expect Verlander to get back on track this year and post positive numbers for the Tigers.

Bob Costas Joins MLB Network

Bob Costas has 19 Emmys. Bob Costas loves baseball. Bob Costas is short. Bob Costas is celebrated for what he does. And as the story indicates, now he has another job in addition to his NBC gig. He is joining the new MLB Network as a host for special events and as a play by play guy.

The Fan is trying to get a grip on his emotional response to all this news. The first emotion is: "What the heck is the MLB Network? What is it going to be and what will it be replacing?" Looks like a Google Search is in order so at least this blog can sound educated.

The second emotion is about Costas and the emotion is: "Meh." Costas just never seems real to this sports Fan. He seemed out of kilter as the straight man in the NFL host job as he was paid to look amused by all the goofs around him. He seemed rather wasted in the job actually. He just isn't a host that commands the attention of this viewer. He is either uber-serious or tries to wax poetic and neither seem to work as the Fan watches. In other words, he doesn't reach this viewer.

He is better served as a play by play guy and it seems to be what he does best. But even then, he tries to build up his games almost to the point of hyperbole combining a mix of styles from other announcers who must have been his idols. Perhaps it is his baby face or his youthful appearance, but that doesn't seem to be quite it. Although they are aptly mentioned for the simile the Fan is reaching for here. Costas seems like a kid pretending to grow up to be an announcer. He seems relaxed and natural, but he tries too hard and it doesn't feel natural.

At least not natural in a Vin Scully or Jack Buck sort of way. He is more of the same type of announcer that Joe Buck is. It's like they grew up immersed in the feel of a broadcast, both as big fans of the sport and announce like they think they should announce but it just comes across as pretty pretense.

The only way to describe it is like a writer has a voice. At least that is what we learn in university when we study this sort of thing. A writer has to find his or her own voice in order to write genuinely and movingly. But the danger is in imitating writers that influenced the young writer. Too often young writers find trouble reaching beyond their own writing heroes and never get beyond imitation to find a genuine voice. This writer (whose voice may or may not be his own) sees a parallel with Joe Buck and Bob Costas.

Skip Carey avoided that problem though he followed in Harry's footsteps. He had a unique voice and if the listener did not know of his famous father, the listener never would never have linked the two. Joe Buck and Bob Costas simply sound like an amalgam of what they grew up hearing.

Perhaps time will change that along with age and wisdom. But for the short term, Costas doesn't inspire at least this corner of the world to want to work too hard to figure out if the MLB Network is worth whatever it is they are doing for whatever it is they are going to charge for it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Fingers Crossed for Griffey

Among the Manny rehashing and Torre bashing that continues in Buster Olney's column on, at least the blog started with some genuinely encouraging news about Junior Griffey. Let's hope that the news about the shape Griffey is in translates to a job somewhere.

Let's face it, the Fan is a fan, and it is impossible to be a fan of baseball and not want to see Griffey succeed someplace for one more year at least. Griffey has that smile and that ease and that class that would leave too big a hole if he didn't get a shot somewhere.

Griffey has been exemplary his entire career. There have been no whispers, no talk of ego, not talk of steroids or HGH or battles with management or other players. There has just been a joy about playing baseball and doing what he loves to do.

It doesn't really matter for how history will perceive Griffey on whether he continues playing or even if he does well if he plays. His career is already first ballot Hall of Fame. Man, we're talking about a guy with 611 career homers and over 1700 RBI. We're talking about a guy who, for a four year span between 1996 through 1999, averaged 52 homers and 141 RBI and a .618 Slugging Percentage. That is a stretch that even the great Alex Rodriguez hasn't matched.

And all the while, he was a star who knew how fortunate he was and smiled and enjoyed every minute of it. He was and is a star for everyone and fans everywhere have to hope he has one more year in him and if he does, some team will understand the fans enough to give it to him.

And sweetest of all, it would be great if that team would be Seattle, or if not there, a contender that would put him on the grand stage one more time.

Not Sold on Perez

The Mets finally got what they wanted and signed Oliver Perez for $36 million over three years. While the Mets feel that Perez is the guy who will take them to house with a reworked bullpen, the Fan has big reservations.

According to the Hardball Times (THT), Perez had 8 Win Shares last year as a starting pitcher. Looking at THT's list, there were 32 starting pitchers in the National League alone that had a better year. Perez walked 105 batters last year and hit 11 more with pitches. His WHIP was a pretty hefty 1.40. He's just not that good a pitcher.

Perez has a lifetime record of 55-60 with an ERA of 4.39. In his eight big league seasons, he has had five seasons with an ERA over 5. Perez has also consistently pitched with a high pitch count and has a very steady average of only 5.7 innings per start.

While the Fan can see Perez as a better option than a Randy Wolf, Ben Sheets would have been a better move with more possible impact. Frankly, the little interest in Sheets has been surprising. Sheets made 31 starts last year. His WHIP of 1.20 and his 6.4 innings per start far surpasses anything done by Perez.

The thing with Perez is that he is a tease. He can have a game where he is just brilliant and make the hitters look foolish. He might even have two of those games in a row. But he is just as apt to make two starts after that where he has walked five batters by the third inning and has to be bailed out by the bullpen.

The Mets can't and couldn't resist the tease and have been enticed to pay $36 million over three years to pay for Salome's dance. That gives the team three years of hoping for a peak at glory through fabric every once in a while.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Catching is in the Vowels

A little blurb of a story caught the Fan's eye on on how the Reds got some catching depth by signing Humberto Cota to a minor league contract. The name is what struck the Fan the most. It seems suddenly fashionable to have catchers with two syllable names that end in a vowel.

There is now Cota, LaRue, Jaso, Soto, Bako, Coste, Blanco and Budde. Is that weird or is the Fan just off his rocker? Just to be stupid, here is a full list of catchers with vowels at the end of their names. It seems that Posada started this craze:

  • John Jaso - Bay Rays
  • Geovany Soto - Cubs
  • Paul Bako - Cubs
  • Ramon Castro - Mets
  • Jason LaRue - Cards
  • Chris Coste - Phillies
  • Chris Iannetta - Rockies
  • three Molina brothers
  • Miguel Montero - Arizona
  • Paul Lo Duca - Nationals
  • Mike Rebelo - Marlins
  • Henry Blanco - Cubs
  • Mike Rivera - Brewers
  • Raul Casanova - Mets
  • Johnny Estrada - Nationals
  • A. J. Perzynski - White Sox
  • Dioner Navarro - Rays
  • Kenji Jojima - Mariners
  • Mike Napoli - Angels
  • Miguel Olivo - Royals
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia - Rangers
  • Jorge Posada - Yankees
  • Dane Sardinha - Tigers
  • Sal Fasano - Indians
  • Adam Melhuse - Rangers
  • Ryan Budde - Anges
  • Humberto Cota - Reds

The Cubs Dump Some Pitching

While most teams are constantly scrounging for pitching, apparently the Cubs felt they had too many pitchers. They made two separate deals today sending Rich Hill and Michael Wuertz to the Orioles and Athletics respectively.

Rich Hill is an interesting pick up for the Orioles. According to the source reporting the story, Hill will be reunited with his former minor league pitching and bullpen coaches, now with Baltimore at the major league level. Hill was pretty good just two years ago and it seemed like he got in Lou Piniella's dog house real early in 2008. A loss of control will do that to a manager.

Hill lost the plate in his early appearances, walking 18 in only 19+ innings. But in 2007, he posted a WHIP as a starter of 1.19 and 1.23 the year before that. If the Orioles can find the flaw that Hill developed (unless it's a mental problem), they could have themselves a pretty good pitcher.

Michael Wuertz has been a consistent, if not dominating, relief pitcher for the Cubs the past five years. He's never been terrible and was occasionally very good. His five year Win Share total is relative to Farnsworth. This is he kind of deal the A's are famous for and they get a guy they can count on out of the bullpen for only $860,000.

The Cubs did not pick up any value at all in the deals and this appears to be a straight roster dump.

In an unrelated note, the Fan's goal in life (singing: To Dream the impossible dream...) is to make it to the first page of the daily listing of blogs on The Fan has been generating about 28 hits a day from that site and the leaders around 45 to 50. Today was a good day and the morning post hit around 38. This pleased the Fan until he noted that the link site has gone crazy today and the leaders came in at around 120 hits, still leaving the Fan lurking back out of the top dozen pages of links.

Oh well, the Fan does appreciate his readers and will keep plodding along until that inevitable breakthrough occurs.

Can the Royals Compete?

What the Tampa Bay Rays did last year gives hope to all teams and their fans who have been stuck in losing ways for a long time. The Rays were the worst team in the A.L. for a long time and rose spectacularly to the top this past year. For a team like the Kansas City Royals, can such a hope be possible for them? It seems unlikely.

The poor Royals have been bad for a long time. Teams relished the opportunity to play them and for good reason. But some small signs have been floating up to the surface in recent years, notably in starting pitching and a good young infield. But there are some glaring holes.

The most glaring hole for the Royals is their bullpen. Yes, Soria is a stud of a closer and should be one of the best in the game for a long time. But how do you get to him? The Royals hoped to make that easier by signing Kyle Farnsworth. But that is certainly a wing and a prayer. Farnsworth gave up a homer in every four innings of relief last year. He has a big time fastball, but it's a straight fastball and he doesn't bring it over 100 MPH anymore. The rest of his bullpen mates all had ERA's over five last year.

Let's look at some of the bright spots. Miguel Oliva is a terrific defensive catcher who throws a lot of base runners out. He's not that bad a hitter either. Buck is a reliable backup. Alex Gordan is going to get better at third. He's a good young player and if he can get his batting average up, can be a star. Mike Aviles burst into the majors last year and looks like a terrific shortstop with good range, good patience at the plate and batted over .300. The Royals also had another kid named Gallaspo who also played some short and batted over .300. That combination seems to end the hopes of Tony Pena (after a disastrous year at the plate) of any regular playing time.

Mike Jacobs adds some pop as the new DH and Shealy has a lot of star potential at first. Greinke and Gil Meche are a legitimate one, two in the rotation and Bannister has the potential of being very good. The club seems to have the talent to have a decent rotation.

The outfield will get a boost from Coco Crisp. Crisp is excellent in center field and can get the bat on the ball. His experience with the Red Sox should help the young team a lot. David DeJesus has turned into a really nice player as well.

The weak spot seems to be Jose Guillen. Another Dominican with substance whispers in the past, Guillen just seems like one of those players that coasts on his abilities. Yes, he has a big time arm. Yes, he has some pop in his bat with a slugging average over .500 (47 doubles and 27 homers are good numbers). But he only walked 23 times in 600 plate appearances. 23 times! His lack of plate discipline gave him an OBP of less than .300 last year.

Teahen seems to be the odd outfielder. He regressed at the plate last year and has too low a slugging percentage to be a star out there. There has been some talk of moving him to second base, but he is 6 foot, 3 inches and that seems like a stretch. The Royals would be better off moving Gallaspo to second.

The A. L. Central is a relatively weak division. Each team has some holes and if the Royals have five or six guys have career years, stranger things have happened. But a leaky bullpen could sink them more than anything else. At least the team looks much better on paper than they have for a long, long time.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Grandstanding Happens More Than Just On a Football Field

Besides stewing over how many ticky-tacky penalties the refs called on Arizona during the Super Bowl, the Fan has been stewing over this news story from earlier in the day. If you read the story, two congressmen have decided to do some grandstanding and complain to President Obama about Citigroup sponsoring Citi Field. Either these yahoos don't understand law or they do and they still want their constiuents to think highly of them for their daring stand.

First of all, the beleaguered Citigroup signed this contract with the Mets three years ago. It is a binding contract. Both parties signed in good faith when no one (except maybe Nostradamus) saw this current situation coming. The Mets made this deal for the revenue and expect to get their money. And rightly so. The contract is in the bag as they say.

Citigroup could bow to pressure and ask the Mets out of the deal, but then the Mets can sue and the litigation will cost as much as the dang sign does on the new stadium.

To step a little beyond the zone of this blog (that the story was about a baseball stadium gave the Fan a good excuse), it's all good and proper to trumpet a foul when bailed out financial institutions give their executives bonuses despite the bailout and the need of it due to mismanagement. But it's lunacy to stop public and private companies from spending capital on things like advertising and jets for that matter.

One of the ways out of this mess is for companies and people to spend money. That's one of the problems right now. Everyone is scared to death and nobody is spending money. Therefore, the auto industry is hurting, retail is hurting and all sectors of the cash economy are at a standstill.

Take the jet thing for instance (to refresh your memory, click here), the politicians scored a political victory by having Citigroup (again) stop from buying a jet they had already ordered and paid for. Great. What about the company and its employees that made and marketed the jet? What about the salespeople that brokered the deal? Now they all take a financial hit at the worst possible time. Who knows what financial problems this will now cause the maker of the jet and its employees. Again. it will take people spending money to start this economy flowing. That's the whole purpose of the stimulus package. Give people some of their tax dollars back and they will spend it.

So what does it serve to stop a sale and hurt an airplane manufacturer in the process? What tax dollars will be saved when those employees are laid off and go on the dole? And the deal will cost Citigroup millions anyway for backing off the deal and they (and the taxpayers that are funding them) get nothing for it.

Bottom line: politicians should pick their battles smartly. Yes, don't let Citigroup execs get fat when their stockholders are getting hosed. But for gosh sakes, let them have the sign they already signed a contract for three years ago and let them make a purchase here or there for the benefit of the economy.

The Gonzalez Brothers of San Diego

The odds of becoming a major league baseball player are already astronomical. How much more so is it when brothers can both make it to the majors? It actually has happened over 350 times with some families providing three, four and even five (Delahandy Brothers) brothers to the major leagues. For a really cool list of such occurrences, see here (Don't you love the Internet?). The list is a lot of fun. For example, did you know Tom Glavine had a brother that had a cup of coffee with the Mets? The latest example is the Gonzalez Brothers of San Diego, Adrian and Edgar.

The story caught the Fan's eye because of a post concerning the brothers playing together for Mexico in the WBC. How wonderful it must be to have a brother sharing the major league experience with you.

Check out the link and the list at the Baseball Almanac site. It's a lot of fun to peruse and you'll see some interesting tidbits (such as Eddie Murray having a brother play in the majors). You can also find brothers that played on the same team, father and son combinations and more. Have fun!

And enjoy the Super Bowl tonight.