Saturday, March 27, 2010

Odd Sports Day With the Law

To show how much we are screwed up in this country, Gilbert Arenas was wrist slapped with 30 days in a halfway house for brandishing several guns in an altercation with a teammate (no less) and some poor kid was sent home by the Braves because he got caught in a sting trying to hire a hooker.

Duente Heath was the Braves prospect and granted, he wasn't a highly regarded prospect, but still. This is just a dumb kid who wanted a little action and was willing to pay for it. Color this Fan jaundiced, but we are talking about the world's oldest profession. And the only reason it's still illegal is that people are offended by the notion plus, the nations' law enforcement communities like the income these busts bring in the door. At most, this should have been a counseling session with the kid saying not to be so stupid and get caught.

We are so mixed up on which issue is more dangerous. We have bloody stuff on NCIS and all the CSIs and Bones and all those other television shows and nobody complains. Yet, if a show gets a little out of hand sexually, the networks can be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. How did we get so confused on priorities? Well, the Fan knows, but we don't have time for the entire Puritan, gun rights, wild west education series.

All the Fan is sure of is that Arenas deserved jail time and this Braves' prospect deserved the wrist slap. Here's a new/old idea. Let's stop wasting our valuable law enforcement energy on a "crime" that is older than time and tax the crap out of it. Want to pay for health care? Tax the hookers and the pimps. But for gosh sakes, if a guy who has it all doesn't have enough of a sanity base to wander around with an arsenal of guns that could have killed somebody, then lock the guy up and show that this is truly a crime that we cannot safely tolerate.

This country is stupid some times.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How is This Different Than HGH?

The advance in sports medicine churns so rapidly that it seems impossible to determine any kind of moral compass. HGH is bad. At least that's what they tell us. Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and others have been in some sort of trouble or other because of HGH. Now we hear that there is a new test that can detect HGH. This became a major story and many wondered if MLB would try to get the union to allow baseball to use the test on players.

Many, like this Fan, have wondered what the heck HGH was. Well, here is one internet definition so who knows how accurate it is. Apparently the web site sells the stuff?

What is HGH (Human Growth Hormone)?By definitions: A peptide hormone seecreted by the anterior pituitary gland in the brain. HGH enhances tissue growth by stimulating protein formation. A recombinant (genetically engineered) HGH, called Serostim, has been approved by FDA as a treatment for AIDS wasting syndrome.

HGH is Human Growth Hormone, a natural hormone produced in the pituitary gland of the brain. HGH is considered "the key" hormone because it controls so many functions. It's responsible for youth, vitality, energy and all of the health benefits we associate with youth. Dr. Daniel Rudman's study in the New England Journal Of Medicine demonstrated the remarkable ability to reverse the effects of aging upon the human body with the employment of HGH - Human Growth Hormone! Due in part to his efforts, Dr. Rudmans's study saw the effects of HGH upon overweight men between the ages of 61 and 80 years of age.

Okay, that sounds like a natural kind of derivitive or it can be synthetically made. Now compare that with a recent article about how they are treating Cliff Lee of the Mariners:
The Mariners are treating Lee with platelet-rich plasma injection therapy. The first session came last week. In the relatively new procedure, a tube of a patient's blood is taken and put in a centrifuge and spun, producing concentrated platelets. Those contain growth factors that accelerate tissue repair and regeneration. The platelets are then injected into the injury site. The treatment gained notice in 2008 after Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward used it on his sprained right knee to help him play in the Steelers' Super Bowl win over Arizona. Pitcher Takashi Saito avoided surgery on a partially torn ligament in his throwing elbow by using platelet-rich plasma injection therapy during the 2008 season. He was able to come back in time to pitch late in the Los Angeles Dodgers' playoff race.

Is the Fan wrong to think Lee's procedures are remarkably similar to HGH? Isn't the problem that most people have with HGH is that it gives users an unfair and unnatural method of getting well? Isn't what Lee is getting the same thing? Isn't it the same thing that this doctor in Canada did for A-Rod and Jose Reyes and others? But the Canadian doctor is in trouble for transporting HGH over the line. Makes no sense.

It seems funny that big time writers haven't picked up on this paradox. If HGH is bad, then this platelet spinny thingy is bad. Or conversely, if this platelet spinniy thingy is okay, then HGH must be okay.

The only truth the Fan knows is that this is just a start of what medicine is going to do in the next 20 years or so. And that truth means that there will be a whole spectrum of methods that MLB is going to have to sift through to determine where they fly on the good and evil scale. Since it seems they can't even figure that out now, then good luck to players, teams and trainers.

Carlos Pena - Continued Force for Rays?

By most standards of today's new statistics, Carlos Pena had a productive and valuable year last year. He had an OPS+ of 130 and hit 39 homers and drove in 100. PECOTA projects him this year to have a line of: .252/.366/.532. If he does that and hits the 35 homers PECOTA projects, then he will be a valuable player again. But those projections look a bit hopeful to this writer.

For one thing, Pena batted .227 in 2009 after batting .247 the year before. His batting average has dropped nearly 60 points since his big year in 2007. His OBP has dropped two years in a row too and he finished out at .356 last year. After batting .247 and .227 in the last two years, is it realistic to think he's going to hit .252 this year? If Spring Training is any indication (and it usually isn't), he won't hit .252. He's been awful this spring with a batting average below .100. He is a year older at 32 and it just doesn't appear as if he will get better as PECOTA predicts.

There are a couple of factors that could alter that feeling. First, Pena is in the last year of his contract and will have even more motivation to produce. At 32, Pena will want to score one more good deal before all is said and done. The problem for him will be that most teams are set for first basemen/DH types. He might be a good fit for the Dodgers who have Loney at first and he is not that productive. Seattle is another possibility. It will be super unlikely if the Rays sign him to continue his career there...not at over $10 million a year.

The other positive on his side is that his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was pretty low for the year (.250) last year and really low in the second half (.221). Plus, his power has been consistent no matter how many base hits he has. Nearly half of his paltry 107 hits last year were for extra bases. So there is every reason to believe his power numbers will continue. Plus, Pena walks a lot. He walked 87 times last year. But then again, that number dipped for the second year in a row too.

According to most fielding stats the Fan looked at, Pena isn't that impressive in the field. His RTOT are in the minus numbers and PECOTA has him a a negative 1. That isn't terrible, but it isn't great either. The Fan watched a number of Rays' games last year and Pena seemed pretty nimble and effective over there, but the numbers don't back up the observation.

The Fan's gut says that Pena will drop off some more this coming year. Meanwhile, Zobrist is the next great player in the league and can play anywhere and this kid, Sean Rodriguez, has been outstanding at second base for the Rays all spring. It seems the best scenario for the Rays would be to play Pena against right-handers and when a lefty starts for the other team, put Zobrist at first and Rodriguez (who bats right-handed) at second. Those latter two could take over after the trade deadline if the Rays can find a suitor for Pena to get a little value out of him before free agency.

Pat Burrell looks done too with a terrible spring. The Rays should cut their losses and release him.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jimmy Rollins - Overrated?

There is a real nice analysis of the year Jimmy Rollins had last year on Crashburn Alley by Bill Baer. The Fan is a real Fan of Mr. Baer but it seems here that the astute composer of baseball prose has fallen into the allure of a player that seems to have been over-hyped for years. Jimmy Rollins is a player of value and little can detract from the results the Phillies have enjoyed in recent years with Rollins ensconced as its shortstop. But Rollins has a knack due to his speed, his gaudy triples numbers, etc., to garner more respect than he probably deserves.

The purpose of Mr. Baer's post was to expose that Rollins wasn't as bad last year as his numbers indicated. Those numbers were abysmal. With a final line of .250/.296/.423 good for an 86 OPS+, those numbers are cringe-worthy. The final analysis comes down to Rollins having a hard luck year with BABIP or batting average for balls in play. Sure, that's a valid point. But if you assume that Rollins should have had a BABIP of his career average of .293, and then subtracting out his IFFB rate (infield fly ball) which increased dramatically, you can assign him 20 more hits for 2009.

Even if you give Rollins 20 more hits, that would bring his line up to .280/.324/.447. Sure, Mr. Baer proved his point that Rollins was better, but he still wasn't good enough to lead off for the Phillies. Even with better luck, a .324 OBP doesn't get the job done for a lead off batter.

Jimmy Rollins has a career line of .274/.329/.439. He's never had a higher OBP for a season than .344. Luis Castillo, forever in the doghouse with writers and New York fans, has a career line of .292/.369/.354. Rollins has more pop, but who would you rather have leading off? And yet Rollins seems to be high on everyone's list as a great player. For those of you who would argue that his fielding gives him great value, the Fan wouldn't disagree...up until last year. For the first time in his career, Rollins had a negative UZR in 2009.

Want another example? Juan Pierre is ridiculed as a player that teams always seem to overpay for. He is a favorite ping pong ball for writers to bat around. While this Fan is no fan of Juan Pierre, the guy has a career line of: .301/.348/.372. Again, Rollins has much more pop, but which one gets on base more?

Rollins seems to get a pass on all of this. He is the face of his franchise. He made bold predictions which came true for the Phillies in their remarkable run. But Rollins' contribution has been overrated in this Fan's eyes and it doesn't seem like most major analysts view him with passivity. Rollins would be an eighth person in a batting order on most teams, certainly on American League teams. Or he should be. According to his numbers, not just last year, but for his career, Rollins is more of a drag to the line up as a lead off batter than he is an aid.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Enough With the Joba - Hughes Thing

Who is going to the the Yankees' fifth starter? Will it be Joba Chamberlain who was groomed for the position last year with the famous "Joba Rules?" Or will it be Phil Hughes, the once top prospect who was so effective last year as Rivera's setup man? To be fair to the process, we can't forget Serge Mitre, who has looked good this spring with 14 strikeouts and only three walks in fourteen innings of work. To round out the competition, thrown in also Chad Gaudin, who has seemingly blown his chances with a miserable spring and Alfredo Aceves, who doesn't possess the arms of Joba and Hughes, but seems to just have a knack for knowing what to do.

Aceves got wrecked his last outing and seems more valuable as a versatile guy who can fill any role in the bullpen as his 10-1 Draconian record last year seemed to indicate. Gaudin can look good at times (as he did in a fill-in role last year after the Yankees took him off of the Padres' hands). But in the end, for his career, Gaudin doesn't strike out enough batters and walks far too many over the long haul. A guy like that will kill you in the end.

So that leaves us with Chamberlain, Hughes and Mitre. Mitre's spring numbers are alluring. They are much more alluring than the two young guys. But they are deceiving when looking back over his career. He has never come close to 9 strikeouts per nine innings in his career, why would it suddenly happen in the spring? Well, it would happen because a lot of non-major league hitters participate in spring games while regulars do whatever it is they do in the spring.

Which opens a whole other subject that probably shouldn't be broached to muddy this post, but looking at the Yankees' spring numbers, their big four starters have had remarkably little work logged in spring games. Is that normal? Don't know. But the Fan notices in other box scores that starters are starting to log in four and five inning stints around baseball. Hope the Yankees know what they are doing.

Anyway, to get back to the topic on hand, this writer would have to dismiss Mitre. The spring numbers look like a fluke compared to his career numbers and his starts last year were just flat out scary bad to even consider. That brings us back to Chamberlain and Hughes.

Both have been quoted quite a bit over the spring about the competition. Chamberlain usually says something like, "I'll do whatever they ask me to do. I just want to help the team." Hughes on the other hand says things like: "I'll be real disappointed if I don't get the fifth starter job." Which would you rather trust the spot to then?

The Fan watched a lot of Yankee games last year on MLB.TV. Joba just isn't the same pitcher when he starts. He looks tentative. He looks like he is just trying to survive. He seems to have less control and certainly, his MPH goes down. It's like he is trying to keep it under wraps more so that he'll have more at the end. The trouble is, Joba without the big heater is hittable and he's not around at the end. Plus, he is remarkable at how fast he piles up the pitch count.

But put Joba in a one inning position, and he seems to come out smoking, both in stuff and in demeanor. There isn't any tentativeness and he has more of a "let it fly" attitude. Maybe the guy just doesn't have the head for starting. Maybe he's much more comfortable in a one inning situation.

In fairness, the same could be said for Hughes. He looked a lot better last year as a reliever than he ever did as a starter. But if you throw out his disastrous 2008 season when he and Ian Kennedy (who may become the best starter of all) were forced into the breach and fell flat due to injuries and whatever, and Hughes has performed better as a starter in his career than Joba Chamberlain. His homers per nine are better, his WHIP is better.

While fully understanding that this is hardly scientific, the Fan just believes Phil Hughes has a better makeup as a starter than Joba Chamberlain and should get a full season to see what he can do. But whichever gets the nod, one thing is certain: Both pitchers need to approach their starts with efficiency in mind. Throw more strikes, less pitches and forget nibbling around. They need to somehow figure out how to be as aggressive as starters as they are as relievers.

But the scary bottom line is that neither may ever be effective as starters. If they Yankees can be a .500 team out of whoever starts the majority of it's fifth starts, they will be fortunate.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mauer Signing Great For Baseball

The Minnesota Twins have signed Joe Mauer to an eight year extension worth big bucks meaning Mr. Mauer will be a rich man for a long time. The Twins' fans get to keep their home town guy and the face of the franchise. All of this is great for baseball as it wasn't long ago that the Twins were speculated about concerning contraction. The signing should also stifle a little bit of the talks about the inequality in the majors for at least a little while.

Of course, the Twins are taking a huge gamble signing a catcher for that long a period of time. The contract will take Mauer into his late thirties and that's a huge risk. It also means that for a significant amount of time, the Twins will have a large portion of their budget tied up in one guy.

But for now, the signing is wonderful news for people in Minnesota and for those that like to see franchise players continue playing for their original franchise.

Tripping Through The Transactions

Today we ressurect a long-time tradition here in the FanDome. Every spring begats an irreverant trip through the week's transaction wire. Warning, that means puns galore. If you're not a Fan of puns, you may want to look away quickly. For everyone else, here we go:

  • The Cubs dictated that Castro will be Starlin in the minor leagues instead of the majors. Whoo boy, two puns in one sentence. Off to a fast start!
  • It is Embreeonic and far too soon for Boston fans to think LOOGY Alan will be much help this year.
  • The Indians told Hodges to go Wes young man and they sent him to the minors.
  • The Fogg cleared for the Mets' brass that Josh wasn't going to help them this year and they released the pitcher.
  • Holy Toledo! The Tigers sent Alfredo Figaro Figaro Figaro to that city's minor league team. The same team also gave pitcher Cody a Satterwhite wash on a sad Satterday for that young man.
  • The Nationals were busy. They decided on Storen pitcher Drew in the minors for the time being. They also decided that Chico wasn't the man and Matt was sent down. And of course, we all know by now that they made a burgermeister out of Stephen Strasburg when he was sent to Harrisburg.
  • The Cubs decided that pitcher Thomas wasn't a Diamond in the rough and sent him down.
  • The Indians knew Mills wasn't their Beau no matter how much he batted...his eyelashes.
  • The Marlins had a busy Friday. They decided there wasn't enough oil in Taylor Tankersley so they sent him back to port and they told him to bring his Cousins with him--Scott that is. They also decided that Vinnie, a catcher, will have to Rottino the minors. In the most suprising move, considering it's south Florida, Jai "Alai" Miller didn't make the big club. And finally, they also felt that Danny Richar didn't have the "D" it takes to be their infielder.
  • The Brewers had a cut day of biblical proportions as a Cain, a Salome and a Zachariah all got sent down. And Loe and behold, Kameron was sent down too. Perhaps the oddest part of the day was when their manager called young pitcher, Estrada, into his office, he said, "Marco," and the pitcher answered, "Polo," and the manager then said, "Nashville."
  • Meanwhile, at the Yankees' camp, Romulo was remiss when he didn't make the big club. And in a real switch of protocol, Ryan Pope kissed Joe Girardi's ring before he was sent down.
  • At the Pirates' complex, the team sent outfielder, Jonathan, down so he could play Van Every day. And Tyler Yates wasn't in the mood for poetry when he got sent down.
  • Down at the Texas camp, Justin was Smoak-ing that he didn't make the team.
  • On Thursday, there was a Reynolds wrap as the Diamondbacks locked up Mark for three years.
  • That same day, the Reds told infielder, Alonso, that he will have to go play off Yonder. To his credit, pitcher, Bill, wasn't a jackass and didn't Bray when he was sent down.
  • The Tigers gave Galarraga the Armondo hammer. The same day, the Tigers decided that Jay wouldn't Shorz up their bullpen.
  • At the Texas camp, Justin Souza marched to Midland and that minor league affiliate.
  • The Nationals sent a Rule 5 pick back to Toronto when they felt that Zech taste just like Zinicola, c-o-l-a cola.
  • Tough day on Thursday in the White Sox camp as there were no ifs, ands or Botts for Jason as he was released. And Viciedo was Dayan to make the team, but he didn't.
  • For the Astros, Fernando wasn't that Abad, but he got sent down anyway.
  • The Rangers are hurting for a catcher but decided that candidate Emerson was a Frostad flake.
  • And finally, last but not least, Pirates pitching prospect, Jeff Sues, will be a cat in a different hat after he was sent to the minors.

Have a great week everybody.

Two Weeks Away From Opening Day

When there isn't any reality to the games being played in Spring Training, the normal things to do is to pour over the box scores anyway to see who might break out or who might be the next big thing. The other thing to do is to watch the transaction line to see what phenom is going to get a chance and which won't and perhaps which veteran is going to make one last cut or which is going to go on the scrap heap. Yesterday wasn't much different. Here are some observations:

  • Aceves probably hurt any chance he had to become the fifth starter for the Yankees yesterday with a poor performance.
  • The Padres played two games with split squads and won them both. In 18 innings of work, their pitchers only gave up two runs. Latos and LeBlanc were particularly impressive. The Padres could be surprising as some of the players they got in the Peavy deal look good.
  • The Royals played two games with split squads and scored zero runs on 15 hits. It's going to be a long year for Royal fans again.
  • Ben Sheets had a good outing for Oakland, which after a brutal spring has to give the team hope.
  • Already wrote about the transaction wire yesterday, so will not write further on that frustrating subject.
  • The Angels finally scored some runs yesterday but still lost 11-10. And those runs were scored by very few of their regular players.
  • Todd Wellemeyer, given up on by the Cardinals is having a great spring for the Giants. If he can keep that up and give them a good year behind Cain and Lincecum, the Giants could have a better year than expected.
  • Cervelli, the Yankees backup catcher, has had a great spring and is going to be a major upgrade over Molina. Dare the Fan say that he likes Cervelli back there more than Posada?
  • The Fan keeps seeing this "C. Curtis" in the Yankees lineup in left field and can't help thinking about Chad Curtis. Remember him?
  • Tim Wakefield just keeps rolling along and threw five scoreless innings yesterday. He's got to make the rotation for the Red least as long as his aged back holds up.
  • Liriano looks great for the Twins and his three scoreless innings should end all closer talks about the guy. He could be the Twins' best starter this year, why put him at closer?
  • Hafner is mashing the ball for the Indians. Could he be back?
  • Spence is having a great spring for the Astros. Their problem though is that only he and Lee can hit on that team.
  • Vernon Wells seems poised to have a comeback year. He's having a very good spring. And Aaron Hill is still hitting homers which may prove that last year wasn't a fluke.
  • Phenoms Austin Jackson and Jason Heyward were hitless yesterday. Uh oh.
  • Ike Hill should be the Mets' starting first baseman when the season starts, not Murphy.