Saturday, June 21, 2003

The Flagrant Fan is in sunny Florida. I don't know why I do everything the opposite of everyone else. I go to Florida in the summer and freeze to death in Maine in the winter. Strange. To top it off, I'm at my mom's place for a week and she's 76 with an old Gateway with Windows 95 and a dialup modem. I feel like I've gone back twenty years. It's funny how spoiled we get.

The big news in Florida is the debut of Miguel Cabrera, the Marlins' 20 year old phenom whose first hit was a walk off homerun against the Devil Rays last night. Granted, he was only 1 for 5 on the night, but still, what a way to start your career.

Cabrera is the Marlins' best prospect and was hitting .365 in the minors. He is also a third baseman which leads all the Florida papers down here to speculate that Cabrera will take over for Mike Lowell when Lowell is traded. Cabrera played left field last night and played it flawlessly.

I would hate to see Lowell traded. He is the franchise player and it would be similar to Kansas City trading Mike Sweeney. Both are fan favorites and in cities struggling to recover their fan base, it seems stupid to trade them away.

The Marlins have already done that once when they traded Jeff Conine to Baltimore. Conine was a fixture down here and a big fan favorite. He has proved to be the same in Baltimore. It hurts a franchise beyond repair when such moves are made for the money element. It says to the fans that the owners don't care about the fans and who they like to root for.

Lowell has been an inspirational story from the beginning with his testicular cancer and the battle he won just playing in the major leagues. Now he is a star with 21 homers and 60 RBI. The Marlins should keep him and continue to play Cabrera in Left.

The other big story down here is Dontrelle Willis, their rookie Vida Blue-like pitcher. Willis is now 6-1 with a 2.65 ERA along with 51 strikeouts in 51 plus innings.

The Vida Blue comparison comes from the fact that the throws from the left side and has the same high leg kick that Blue was famous for. In a nice story, Blue, who works for Giants, said he's like to meet Willis and Willis is very excited about that prospect.

Willis seems to be a great kid and also seems to have a great future ahead of him.

That's all from Florida. I have to...umm...go swim in a pool now. What a bummer huh?

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Baseball fights are fun. There I said it and I admit it. As much as we admire Star Trek, we haven't yet become as civilized as we'd like to think. We gawk at accidents. We watch hockey hoping the gloves will come off. We shout when a big hit happens in football. And yes, we are very interested when baseball players fight. This time the fight involved two pitchers. Now that is very cool. Don't let the little leaguers hear that, but pitchers fighting is almost as much fun as when Brent Favre starts mixing it up with a 320 pound defensive lineman.

In the Red second fight of the week (putting them high on the uncivilized-yet-fun list), pitcher Paul Wilson was trying to bunt. Kyle Farnsworth, who throws 200 MPH, threw his fastball up around Wilson's chest. Wilson apparently didn't like that because he whirled around and shouted at Farnsworth. Farnsworth, who must not like hearing that his mother wears army boots, actually rushed towards home to take on Wilson. Wilson took up the gauntlet and threw his bat down and met Farnsworth a quarter of the way to the mound. That was his big mistake as Farnsworth piledrived him into the turf with his shoulder. Wilson was seen leaving the field with a busted up nose and blood spatter on his jersey.

Can you say, "Suspension"? The only question is whether the Red players who brawled in two games will all serve their suspensions together.

It's time to look at the Flagrant Fan's favorite boxscore players and their last seven days:
- Hank Blalock. It's not been a good week for Blalock as he hit .227 for the week with only one homer and two RBI. His average has dropped from the .350s down to .333.
- Mark Teixeira. Blalock's teammate hasn't done better as he hit .208 for the week with a homer and three RBI. Teixeira is now batting .234.
- Sean Burroughs. Jeff's son had a good week as he batted .321 with a couple of RBI. Burroughs' average for the year is up to .297 and though the power is not there yet, it will be.
- Rocco Baldelli. Rocco also didn't fare well this week as he only batted .250 with no homers or RBI. He did walk three times which in one week gave him a quarter of his yearly total. That stat makes you wonder if he has started listening to his critics who complain that he is too much of a free swinger. It's funny that no one has every criticized Vladimir Guerrero for that. Guerrero's OBP improved every year and Baldelli's will too. Just have fun, Rocco. It will be cool.
- Pat Burrell. Burrell, who is still down in the .209 range for the year (ugh!) is starting to hit a little. He batted .333 for the week though with no power. Personally, I think Abreu should bat third, Burrell in cleanup and Thome in the five slot. Then Burrell will get more fastballs.
- Turk Wendell. The crazy ex-Met didn't give up any runs this week and so his ERA is down to .076!
- Alfonso Soriano. Soriano has had a poor week, only hitting .194 for the week. But he did bloop the winning hit in the 12 inning, 1-0 win.
- Mike Lowell. Mike only hit .234 for the week for the Marlins. But he did hit three homers to lift is amazing yearly total to 21. He also had six RBI to raise his yearly total to 57.
- Ken Griffey. Junior sat out a game or two with soreness in his right shoulder but apppears to be fine. He did manage to get three hits in twelve at bats with two RBI.
- Adam Dunn is still doing the Dave Kingman thing as he is batted .150 for the week. But two of this three hits were homers so now he has 22 homers to go with his flashy .202 batting average.
- Larry Walker. I've always loved Walker and his personality. He's starting to hit now and batted .333 for the week with a homer and four RBI. He's up to .282 for the year.
- Shane Spencer. Spencer only batted six times but did get three hits to bat .500 for the week.
- Coco Crisp. My new favorite batted .238 for the week but is OBP wasn't too bad at .333. He did score four runs and stole two bases.

Some quick thoughts:
The infield of Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada are batting .249 and .221 respectively for the year and both were under .200 for the past week. There is no way the A's are going to make the playoffs this year unless the Red Sox and Toronto both fold.

Greg Maddux is still only 5-6 with a 4.44 ERA. That doesn't look very good for $14 million dollars.

Speaking of the Braves, in what seems like reality warping, Mike Hampton pitched his second great game in a row and Smoltz blew the save and lost the game!

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

There are two no-hitters in the works as the Fan writes this. Both Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood have no-hitters into the sixth innings of their respective games. The Yankees haven't scored yet for Clemens but Sammy Sosa has hit his first homer in more than a month to put Wood up by three runs. The last time I wrote that two no-hitters were underway, the Astros no-hit the Yankees. So we'll see what happens.

The National League AllStar Pitchers should be:
- Kevin Brown. A no doubter as he is 10-1 with a 1.97 ERA. The NL is only batting .209 against him and he has only given up 76 hits in 100+ innings.
- Hideo Nomo. His record is only 7-6 but he has a 2.66 ERA and has only given up 74 hits in 109 innings! He has already thrown two shutouts and if it weren't for walks, the guy would be nearly perfect this season.
- Woody Williams. While his teammate, Morris, has been hurt by the homerun, Williams has only given up 5 homers and has a 2.66 ERA along with his 8-2 record.
- Jason Schmidt. Schmidt's record with the Giants is only 5-3 despite his 13 starts. His record and the quick hook they have in San Francisco is the best argument for Clemens being one of the last to win 300 games. Schmidt has struck out 100 in his 91 innings.
- Mark Prior. Prior and Kerry Wood have been dominant at times but Wood just can't seem to get away from that .500 record he always has. Prior on the other hand is 8-2 with a 2.77 ERA. Prior has struck out 106 in 96+ innings.
- Randy Wolf. Wolf has only pitched 90 innings in his 14 starts as Larry Bowa also has a quick hook. But in his 90 innings, Wolf has only given up 64 hits as the competition is only hitting .198 against him (the best for starters in the NL). His ERA is a little high at 3.30, but he is 8-3 and you can't beat success.
- Shawn Chacon. Chacon has an ERA of 4.21, but consider that stat is from pitching in Coors Field in Denver. He is 9-3 and is having a great season.

For my setup men and closers, I'm going to break my own rule stated in my post concerning the AL pitching Allstars. Two setup men and two closers are so clearly having overpowering and unbelievable years, all of them deserve to go. The set up men are both from the same team:
- Octavio Dotel. 6-2 with 2 saves, a 1.59 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 39 plus innings show you how dominant he has been.
- Brad Lidge. Right behind Dotel (or right in front!), Astros teammate Lidge is 4-0 with a save and a 1.49 ERA. He has only given up seven earned runs in 42 innings.

The two best closers in baseball are so far in front of everyone else, you have to take both:
- Eric Gagne. Gagne is having the most unbelievable season by a reliever. The season rivals one that Goose Gossage had years ago. Just 15 hits given up in 37 innings, a WHIP of 0.64 and 67 strikeouts in 37 innings are surreal numbers. They look more like stratomatic numbers.
- John Smoltz doesn't strike out as many (though more than one an inning). He is one save behind Gagne and has an ERA of 0.72. That number may not even make sense to you. Let me put it another way: Smoltz has given up only three runs in 37.2 innings. Unbelievable.

If the American League is behind going into the seventh inning, the game is over.

Clemens gave up his first hit in the eigth inning so the no-hit bid is over. The game is still scoreless and it looks like Clemens won't get #301. Wood's no-hit bid in Chicago just ended in the seventh inning. He is still leading the Reds, 4 to 1.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

John Olerud notched his 2000th hit tonight. The hit got some play at the baseball sites. It wasn't big news and Olerud's career won't be considered big news either. He had one "career" season in 1993 when he flirted with .400 for a large part of the year and ended up hitting .363 with 54 doubles, 24 homeruns and a .476 OBP. The rest of his career (except for 1998 when he hit .354) has been what people would call, "steady." There would be little mention of him as a potential Hall of Famer.

But Olerud is one of those unsung players. A few stats can't tell the full picture. Sure, he has a lifetime batting average of .299 and a remarkable lifetime OBP of .403. You have to put all of his stats together to get the picture that Olerud has always done one simple thing: He's always made his team better.

One way he's done that is with his fielding. He doesn't make the highlight shows with flashy diving stops (though he'll make a few). What he does is make all of his infielding teammates better. Back in his Toronto days, when they had Tony Fernandez at shortstop, Fernandez was the whiz kid and a sensation. Olerud helped make that happen. I know as I watched nearly all of those games. Fernandez never duplicated those days, though he was a good player.

Olerud then went to the Mets and the last year that he was there, the Mets set a major league record for the fewest errors. Olerud somehow gives his infielders confidence that whatever they throw over there, he'll find a way to catch. The biggest telling factor for those Mets is how badly their infield defense collapsed when Olerud went to Seattle and Zeile took over as Mets first baseman (no knock on Zeile).

Now he is with Seattle and it's not an accident that the Mariners are touted for their first class, high powered defense. What a surprise that the defense is anchored by John Olerud at first base.

I'll give you my National League AllStar pitchers tomorrow. You can already mark down that Kevin Brown is going to be on my list.

Monday, June 16, 2003

I just finished reading Peter Gammans column on The man just flat out can write baseball. Every time I read his stuff, I wonder why I'm playing around with this. I play and he performs. The funny thing is now that he has been on Baseball Tonight for a few years, when I read his column, I read it in his voice! Peter Gammans reads his column to me personally. Pretty cool stuff.

I have poured over the MLB stats and have come up with my AllStar pitchers. First of all, let me say that I totally disagree with recent year selections where Torre and Cox (or whomever is the National League manager) select four or five closers. Closers pitch an inning. They can throw as hard as they need to because they only throw an inning. The AllStars should be those starters who pitch six to eight innings better than most of their rivals. Then pick one closer (the one with the hottest hand) and one setup man.

Okay, now that I have blown that off, here is my list of American League pitchers (how many can I pick anyway??):

- Estaban Loaiza. What a great start now that he's 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA. Only Mike Mussina has a better WHIP (walks+hits per innings pitched).
- Kyle Lohse. He has the second lowest ERA in the AL and the third best WHIP.
- Jamie Moyer. 40 years old and 10-3 with the league's third best ERA.
- Mike Mussina. He's been a bit streaky, but he is 9-4 and leads all AL starters with a .99 WHIP aided by his lack of walking people. One of only four AL starters with an ERA under 3.00. He leads AL pitchers in strikeouts.
- Barry Zito. Leads AL starters with the AL hitters only batting .198 against him. Only walks keep his ERA and WHIP up a little and that might be more a result of umpires giving up on the curve more than any other reason.
- Tim Hudson. Zito's teammate is right behind him in most pitching stats. more starter...
- Gil Meche. Meche would have made it with his 9-3 record but outpitching Greg Maddux and beating the Braves lands him on MY team!

We need a closer...and my winner is?
- Eddie Guardado. Surprise! But he shouldn't be. He leads the AL in saves, has a WHIP of an incredible 0.94 and has only walked four batters in 28 innings! Supurb.

My setup man is:
- Brendan Donnelly. The Anaheim Angel pitcher has been unbelievable and leads all relievers with a WHIP of 0.87. His ERA is 0.24 and he has struck out 41 batters in 34.2 innings! The league is batting a rediculous .153 against him.

And my emotional pick would be Roger Clemens. He isn't far from deserving it. The forty year old has struck out 97 batters in 89 innings. He has only pitched poorly in 2 of his 14 starts and his 3.73 ERA is greatly inflated by relief pitchers bringing in Clemens' inherited baserunners.

That's my American League pitching staff. I'll go through the National League tomorrow.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

I've already decided that I made one AllStar vote mistake but I think I've covered my bases (pun intended) pretty well on the rest of my selections.

Starting in the National League, I went with Richie Sexson of the Brewers as my first baseman. There really wasn't anyone else to select. Bagwell has too few RBI. Thome has good power numbers but is batting .248. Helton is having a good year but I can't justify anyone who plays half their year in Colorado. Sexson has 21 homers and 47 RBI. Great numbers.

Second base goes to Jeff Kent. He makes the Astros better and has the most RBI of anyone at his position. The only other contender (and I hope he makes the team) is Aaron Boone (the non-arrogant Boone) who is having a very good year.

My pick at shortstop has been one of the best fielders for many years. Now he knows how to hit too. His name? Edgar Renteria. Renteria is among the NL leaders in batting and leads his position in RBI. Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins and Rafael Furcal of the Braves are both having good years but they come short of Renteria.

Mike Lowell is my easy choice for third base. He is having a tremendous year and gets the nod over Scott Rolen who is has good numbers too.

The NL catcher should be Javey Lopez who is having a career year and seems all the way back from his dark last couple of years. His only competition is Lo Duca of the Dodgers.

The NL outfield seems pretty easy to pick this year as Sheffield of the Braves, Pujols of the Cardinals and Andruw Jones of the Braves stand out against the rest of the league's outfielders. If I could have chosen five outfielders, I would have chosen Bonds--who is coming on fast--and Austin Kearns.

The American League is a little closer at several positions and is where I made my one mistake (No I will not vote twice--even if they let you). My first basement in the AL has to be Carlos Delgado. He already has a bazillion RBI and lifted that team up to great things. He is also the first legit contender for the triple crown baseball has seen for a long time.

Nomar Garciaparra easily surpasses Alex Rodriguez of the Rangers this year. The stats are no comparison. The worth to their respective teams is enormous, but Nomar is having an MVP year. Today alone, Garciaparra hit three doubles and a triple. He then laid down a sacrifice bunt that set up the winning run. I haven't seen him play lately. Is he still trying to pull everything? His average has risen sharply since I wrote that observation weeks ago.

Oh yes, second base. A tough call here. I took Boone over Soriano because he has more RBI and is a better fielder. But Boone is better this year and Soriano had the better year last year. Boone's RBI this year are also helped by him batting third whereas Soriano has batted first all year (except for three games). Boone's a jerk too so that certainly entered my thoughts as I was voting. Well, I gave it to Boone this one last time. Soriano will be there for the rest of his career.

Third base was easy for me and I went with Hank Blalock. He is still among the leaders in batting, has a lot of RBI and it would be exciting to see him at the AllStar game. He is going to be a great player for a long time.

My mistake, I think, was in selecting Jorge Posada at catcher. He leads all catchers in RBI and is having a better defensive season and I believe him to be one of the best clutch hitters in the game. But the Twins A.J. Pierzynski is having a great year and easily beats Posada in average while only being five RBI behind Posada. He is also one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. My bad. I made the wrong choice here.

The outfield was difficult as more of the AL outfielders are bunched up. I ended up going with Manny Ramirez, Garrett Anderson and Vernon Wells. All three are solid picks and all of their stats are right up there with everyone else's.

Edgar Martinez is the easy pick for the DH, though it's weird that the AL gets this pick while the NL does not.

So there you have it: The Flagrant Fan's AllStars. I'll pick my AllStar pitchers tomorrow.